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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2005, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Nigerian blogger tackles taboos
By Clark Boyd
In Velez-Blanco, southern Spain

A Nigerian-born blogger living in Spain is giving a voice to African women and highlighting gay and lesbian issues on the continent.

Streets of Velez-Blanco
By the afternoon, the streets of Velez-Blanco are empty
Online diaries, or weblogs, come in all shapes and sizes. Some are intensely personal; others are very political. Sokari Ekine's blog is both, and that is just the way she likes it.

Ms Ekine blogs from Velez-Blanco, a village of about 2,500 people, which sits on the side of a mountain in southern Spain.

In the hot mid-day sun, the whitewashed houses gleam. Cars, motorcycles, street vendors, and tourists all fight for space in the town's narrow alleys and lanes.

But by one in the afternoon, the heat has forced just about everyone off the streets, and the only sound to be heard in Velez-Blanco's main square is the village fountain, where residents can get their water.

The quiet, rural life is what drew Sokari Ekine here. She and her partner own a house and a bit of land just outside of Velez-Blanco.

As she strolls on the path between the newly planted potatoes and cherry trees, Ms Ekine talks about how different her life was in London five years ago.

"I had been thinking about leaving Britain for a number of years," she says.

"What kind of spurred me on is that in 2000, I had cancer. And after the treatment and everything, I decided that now was a good enough time to make a move, get away from the pollution, the stress and everything else, to completely downsize myself."

Globe trotter

Ms Ekine has been on the move from a young age. She was born and raised in Nigeria, the daughter of a Nigerian father and British mother.

From early on, Ekine's been interested in the latest technology.

Sokari Ekine
There is nothing in this blog that says this is about Africa, or African women, but that's where I'm focusing
Sofari Ekine
"Just to age myself, the first computer given to me was something called an Osbourne," Ms Ekine says laughing.

"Then I got a Sinclair, and all those funny things that lasted about six months. In fact, you were probably still in your nappies when I was playing with my Osbourne."

Ms Ekine went to college in England. She then lived in the US for a few years, before returning to Britain, and then eventually moving on to Spain.

She has worked as both an academic and an activist, focusing mainly on feminist issues and gender issues. Ekine's also taken an interest in the violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

Those diverse interests started to gel in January 2004, just after she and her partner moved to Spain. That is when she first thought about starting a blog.

"I had been watching the technology, because one of the first things we got when we first got here was the internet, because we needed to be able to communicate with family.

"And at some point in time, I thought, well, let me see if I could do something. But I didn't know what," she recalls.

Gay life in Africa

Her first two attempts at blogging were not successful. She says they were too unfocused. But she soon figured it out.

Women in Lagos, Nigeria
Sokari Ekine blogs about the treatment of women in Africa
Ms Ekine started a blog called Black Looks, the Musings and Rants of an African Fem.

"There is nothing in this blog that says this is about Africa, or African women, but that's where I'm focusing," she explains.

She pulls no punches, especially when it comes to posts on violence in Nigeria, or gay life on the continent.

"I think it's important to talk about gay and lesbian issues in Africa," she says. "I do know that there are a lot of gays and lesbians active in Africa, and a lot of straight people working with them. Having said that, Africa is a very homophobic continent."

Black Looks has struck a chord among those hungry for news and comment about such issues in Africa. Many bloggers around the world now link to it, and readership has grown.

Surprise success

Ms Ekine admits her strong views do sometimes draw criticism from other bloggers. Nigerians often respond angrily to her posts on politics and economics in her homeland, and American bloggers sometimes take a dim view of her posts about the US.

Velez-Blanco village
Sofari Ekine moved to Spain in January 2004
"I have one particular blogger who always says, 'oh, you hate Americans,'" she says.

"And I always say, 'look, can we just get away from that?' I do not hate anybody, and I certainly don't hate Americans. I think sometimes people forget that you're criticising in order to build up and make a change, to transform."

The success of Black Looks has caught Sokari Ekine by surprise. She says she is finding it hard to keep up with the pressure to find stories to comment on every day.

And with summer here, she really needs to tend her crops, not her blog.

Still, she has started a separate blog about the use of technology in Africa. And she is trying to get more bloggers, especially in Africa, to contribute to Black Looks.

That way people might learn more about the daily lives of Africans, and she will have more time to pick the cherries that are already ripe on the trees outside.

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