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The African Legacy of Alan Rickman and the Harry Potter Series

"Alan Rickman BAM 2011-01-11 n1" by © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

“Alan Rickman BAM 2011-01-11 n1″ by © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons. CC 3.0.

British actor and director Alan Rickman died of cancer on January 14, 2016. A well-liked entertainer, Rickman was known best for his roles as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter film series and as Hans Gruber in the movie Die Hard. Reducing the wide range of his talents to those movies, however, doesn't do justice to Rickman's career, which involved much more than acting. His influence was also felt through the charities he supported, benefiting people all around the world.

Rickman was a discreet person outside of his film work. As he stated in a recent interview, “If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work.” Yet, he was hardly shy about being active in the charities he supported, like Saving Faces (a foundation that helps the treatment of facial diseases), Anno's Africa (a charity running educational arts projects for children living in slum conditions in Kenya), and the International Performers’ Aid Trust (IPAT, a global charity created to relieve poverty where people are involved in the performing arts).

One IPAT-supported project is Pa Bobo Jobarteh, which teaches children in the Gambia the ancient and traditional instrument of the kora. Constructed using 21 fishing lines, the kora is a mandinka harp that takes hours of study and practice. It is central to the musical culture of West Africa, as the video below demonstrates:

Fans of Rickman's work and of the Harry Potter series worldwide have mourned his death.

Canaille, a resident of Dakar, Senegal, shared the following video on twitter:

#Alan_Rickman #Professeur_Snape died this morning, for fans of #Harry_Potter here is a tribute video

In Antananarivo, Madagascar,Vola Raz wrote heartbrokenly:

Mariam Diaby, a resident of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, also paid tribute to Rickman's character in Harry Potter:

British actor Alan Rickman, who played Professor Snape in #HarryPotter, died at the age of 69 #Cinema

The African legacy of Harry Potter

Rickman's role in Harry Potter clearly left an impression on fans in Africa. In fact, recent news reports have highlighted the link between Harry Potter and the African continent, following the announcement that Swaziland-born actor Noma Dumezweni will play the lead role in the much-anticipated stage production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” a play that is set 19 years after the final book.

Yet the African legacy of Harry Potter is greater than Dumezweni's role as Hermione. In the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling included the continent in many storylines. For instance, the other wizarding school, the Uagadou School of Magic, is located in Mali, West Africa. Mauritius is the home of the Diricawl, a fluffy and feathered magical bird, and Harry Potter's godfather, Sirius Black, was in hiding in Africa during the plot of the Goblet of Fire.

In the real world, the Harry Potter Alliance, an association that aims to make activism accessible through the power of story, has opened chapters in Liberia and Uganda and raised US$123,000 for Partners in Health in Rwanda.

Fans have flocked across the continent to watch Harry Potter movies, as seen here in Johannesburg, South Africa:

And children in Rabat, Morocco, were inspired to stage their favorite scenes:

In the words of fellow actor Ian Mckellen (known for playing Magneto in the X-Men films and Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies), Rickman was “a constant agent for helping others. Whether to institutions like RADA or to individuals and certainly to me, his advice was always spot-on. He put liberal philanthropy at the heart of his life.”

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