Inter Press ServiceArts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:36:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 From Brahms to Brahminshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/from-brahms-to-brahmins/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-brahms-to-brahmins http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/from-brahms-to-brahmins/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 07:00:57 +0000 Jawed Naqvi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158797 Between silence and music lies imagination. The unspoken rule should apply to every realm of human art. Consider the quandary of a painter who could stare endlessly at his easel in absolute seclusion. But if he or she hadn’t walked the busy street or the green or arid field to get to the studio, there […]

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By Jawed Naqvi
Nov 20 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Between silence and music lies imagination. The unspoken rule should apply to every realm of human art. Consider the quandary of a painter who could stare endlessly at his easel in absolute seclusion. But if he or she hadn’t walked the busy street or the green or arid field to get to the studio, there would probably be a blank canvas, with nothing to stir the brush.

Jawed Naqvi

Imagination is thus nothing if not a rephrasing of our daily experiences that open the door to exhilaration or discovery, and which occasionally lead to an unexpected point of departure. Mirza Ghalib in the 19th century had a word of caution (with a sense of discovery) about the world, the entire universe, in fact. “Aalam tamaam halqa-i-daam-i-khayaal hai,” the poet-philosopher wrote in a verse about the limitless dimensions of the world we live in. In other words, as Ghalib says, one’s capacity to think and imagine could be likened to a fisherman’s net. The universe would then fit, with room to spare, into just one hole of our vast web of imagination.

Ghalib’s notion of imagination is shared by T.M. Krishna, a terrific singer in the Carnatic genre of Indian classical music. Their idea of imagination, however, has been under stress of late by a mushrooming pursuit of self-limiting identities on all sides of the globe. The 42-year-old singer, who rejects the idea of borders, sees patriotism too as a jarring invention of human deprivation. Fellow musician John Lennon had offered a similar idea in a different song he called Imagine. As a social activist, apart from being an unusually gifted musician, Krishna finds himself inevitably rejected by the Hindu right. The singer’s upper-caste roots notwithstanding, his criticism of Hinduism, in his famed essays and through his music, makes him a Hindu apostate, if such a category is conjured. Other critics of Hindu nationalism — such as Gauri Lankesh, and at least three upper-caste men opposed to a deliberate spreading of blind faith by right-wing groups — have paid with their lives.

Krishna’s greatly stimulating theories on music and life and art are predicated on his rejection of patriotism — a holy cow for India’s burgeoning nationalists. And he reminds us of how the word itself derives from ‘patrice’ or ‘pater’, which points to the patriarchal origin of the idea of nation, therefore, of nationalism. In our society, patriarchy is pervasive. It drives practically everything, and music is among its main charges. But Krishna is a trenchant critic of patriarchy, including in music.

Krishna’s greatly stimulating theories on music and life and art are predicated on his rejection of patriotism, a holy cow for India’s burgeoning nationalists.

Indian classical music in particular shares this unsavoury feature with its Western counterpart. In the West too, major professional orchestras have historically been mostly or entirely composed of men. Some of the earliest cases of women being hired in professional orchestras were in the position of harpist. The Vienna Philharmonic did not accept women to permanent membership until 1997.

The so-called Western classical genre, however, was historically clothed in religious jargon by powerful usurpers of extant traditions. It was no surprise that Western classical music emerged from the jostling for cultural spaces between Protestant and Catholic churches, although the repertory of music that is exclusively Lutheran seems relatively small. Heinrich Schutz, a leading Lutheran composer of the 17th century, wrote music that was strikingly in the idiom of Catholic composers active around 1600. His point of departure came in the use of the vernacular German text. The Lutheran tradition peaked with Bach and waned with a few church pieces by Brahms.

Yet, the term ‘classical music’ does not appear until the early 19th century. The earliest reference to ‘classical music’ recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary is from about 1829. Subsequently, ornate baroque art, music and architecture was spawned by the Catholic Church to overwhelm Protestant simplicity. However, it was not before the rise of the middle classes, spurred by colonialism, that great composers detached themselves from their powerful patrons and embarked on a journey of their own.

As the precursor in classical genre of Western music was the handiwork of Catholic monks who diligently notated and codified music from 11th century on, Indian classical music (translated with a purpose perhaps as shastriya sangeet or liturgical music) was codified as recently as the 20th century. Some claim, however, that Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1937) had sought to re-codify ancient Indian music, which they allege was disrupted by Muslim influence.

At any rate, Bhatkhande is credited with the introduction of an organised musical system, as did the Catholic monks, which reflects in much of the current performance practices. As I have indicated, there is a growing belief for better or worse that the historical tradition of music in India was destroyed during the mediaeval times. The claim may seem exaggerated, but it persists nevertheless. “Since then, music in India has changed so considerably that no correlation or correspondence was possible between Sanskrit musicological texts and the music practised in modern times,” says the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, considered by many to be an authentic platform of musicians and musicologists.

Krishna’s questioning of the Brahminical hold on India’s music has disturbed his detractors and he is getting dire threats. His efforts to recast classical music into a non-Brahminical milieu has met with obvious resistance from the Hindu right.

Imagine this. We can date the advent of the piano to the advance of metallurgy. We can divine Amir Khusro’s qawwali before the arrival of the harmonium in India with the Europeans. Thus, according to Krishna, there could be more imaginative ways to appreciate music and other arts than to relegate them to an obscure origin with an insidious intent. In Bertolt Brecht’s imagination, on the other hand: “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it”.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
jawednaqvi@mail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Caribbean-American Artist Blazes in New Showhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 18:02:41 +0000 SWAN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158053 When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings were shown in France a few years ago, a visitor overheard a teenager remarking that the artwork seemed to have come from “a very angry little boy”. Now, that sense of artistic fury or frenetic energy is put into context in a stunning new exhibition that comprises more than 120 works […]

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The works of Caribbean-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured here) are on display in the the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. It presents Basquiat in a new light, emphasising his status as a major figure in the history of art, 30 years after his death at the age of 27. Credit: CC by 2.0

By SWAN
PARIS, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings were shown in France a few years ago, a visitor overheard a teenager remarking that the artwork seemed to have come from “a very angry little boy”.

Now, that sense of artistic fury or frenetic energy is put into context in a stunning new exhibition that comprises more than 120 works displayed in the remarkable setting of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris  –  the museum and cultural centre designed by the architect Frank Gehry and launched in 2014.

The Foundation’s spacious galleries present the Caribbean-American artist in a new light, emphasising Basquiat’s status as a major figure in the history of art, 30 years after his death at the age of 27.

“The Foundation spotlights an artist I personally consider to be among the most important of the second half of the twentieth century,” said Bernard Arnault, president of the Foundation, and CEO of global luxury-goods company LMVH, which sponsors the museum.

In a foreword to the exhibition, Arnault, an avid art collector, added that the “complexity of Basquiat’s work is equalled only by the spontaneity” of the feelings it arouses.

“He figures among the origins of my collection and I owe him a tremendous amount for inspiring my passion for art in general, and for contemporary art in particular,” wrote Arnault, whose collection has contributed to that of the Foundation.

The exhibition comprises an impressive range of huge paintings and drawings on canvas, wood and other materials. They are shown in a thematic fashion that takes viewers into Basquiat’s thoughts and feelings about issues such as discrimination and inequality, and one can’t help being impressed by the immense number of works he produced in his short life.

The show runs in tandem with an exhibition on Austrian painter Egon Schiele, who also died in his twenties – 70 years before Basquiat, in 1918. Both artists are “signal figures in the art of their time, the early and late twentieth century respectively,” says Suzanne Pagé, artistic director of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Although their art is presented separately, in different parts of the museum, the artists are linked by “their breath-taking, youth-driven work” which has made them “icons” for new generations, according to Pagé.

The “Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition certainly addresses his iconic stature: his work is easily identifiable from his graphic style of painting, his use of vibrant colours and the subjects he addressed. As viewers walk through the eight galleries, over four flours of the museum, the works form a searing biography of the artist.

Born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a mother of Puerto Rican descent and a father from Haiti, Basquiat grew up with a love for art, as his mother took him to museums in New York and enrolled him in art lessons.

His childhood was marked by an accident in 1968 when, at the age of seven, he was hit by a car as he played in the street. While recovering from a broken arm and internal injuries, his mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a book on human anatomy with illustrations of body parts, skulls and skeletons.

More than 120 works of Caribbean-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are on display in the the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Pictured here is his work Taking Venus. Credit: Thomas Hawk/CC by 2.0

According to biographers, this book would have a great influence on his work; indeed, a theme in the current exhibition is Basquiat’s preoccupation with the inner functions of the body and with dying.

As a child, Basquiat also experienced his parents’ separation and his mother’s mental illness, as the family moved between New York and Puerto Rico. He dropped out of high school at age 17 and was homeless for a while, producing postcards and other items to support himself. But his precocious talent soon caught the eye of gallery owners, collectors and fellow artists including the influential Andy Warhol.

“With a natural instinct for openness, linked to his twin Haitian and Puerto Rican roots, Basquiat absorbed everything like a sponge, mixing the lessons of the street with a repertoire of images, heroes, and symbols from a wide range of cultures,” Pagé said in a text introducing the exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

The sequence of his works at the show begins with the 1980 painting Untitled (Car Crash) and ends with Riding With Death – a striking painting that depicts a figure on a horse-like skeleton and which Basquiat produced shortly before he died in 1988 of a heroin overdose.

In between, visitors can view the works portraying boxers such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali, and see Basquiat’s artistic and political commentary on exploitation and the slave trade through paintings that include Price of Gasoline in the Third World and Slave Auction.

“Basquiat mirrored himself in his figures of black boxers and jazz musicians, as well as in victims of police brutality and everyday racism,” said Dieter Buchhart, curator of the exhibition, in an interview published by Le Journal de la Fondation Louis Vuitton.

“He connected the Black Atlantic, African diaspora, slavery, colonialism, suppression and exploitation with his time in New York in the 1980s, always keeping his own circumstances in view as well as those of humanity in general.”

For Basquiat, who was a forerunner of hip-hop culture, music and musicians were an essential part of the diaspora experience, and he paid homage to jazz artists, particularly Charlie Parker, with Horn Players, Discography and other works in his signature style of skulls, teeth, frantic figures, and text that send cryptic messages.

His collaborations with Warhol also form a significant part of the exhibition, with huge mural-type paintings that they jointly produced. The painting Eiffel Tower illustrates their respective styles as they playfully depict the most symbolic structure in the French capital. It’s a fitting inclusion in this Paris-based retrospective.

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Migrants Bringing Melodies to the Streets of Rome: Traditional Music Returns to the Eternal Cityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/migrants-bringing-melodies-streets-rome-traditional-music-returns-eternal-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-bringing-melodies-streets-rome-traditional-music-returns-eternal-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/migrants-bringing-melodies-streets-rome-traditional-music-returns-eternal-city/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 15:51:28 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156029 During the past recent years, the city of Rome has experienced a rise in the presence of musicians in its streets and in particular those playing traditional sounds. It does not take a long time, while walking in the streets of Rome, to see a band playing joyful traditional sounds in Piazza Navona. The group […]

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“Colosseo band” is a music street-band performing in Rome since years. Credit: Maged Srour / IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 1 2018 (IPS)

During the past recent years, the city of Rome has experienced a rise in the presence of musicians in its streets and in particular those playing traditional sounds. It does not take a long time, while walking in the streets of Rome, to see a band playing joyful traditional sounds in Piazza Navona. The group renamed itself “Colosseo Band” but they are all from Eastern Europe. A double bass, violins, guitars and a xylophone: this unique assortment gives rise to an explosion of pleasant sounds that make people dancing in the same square.

“People used to think that traditional and working-class music had no place in urban context and that it was more related to rural areas,” said once Alessandro Portelli, a historian who, together with the musicologist Sara Modigliani created the project “Roma Forestiera” (“Foreigner Rome”). ” A few years ago, Romans started to walk around the city and seeing musicians at almost every corner and they realized that those musicians were not Italians but Nigerians, Romanians and Senegalese: people realized that music had come back to the streets of Rome and those who brought it were foreigners”.

The project “Roma Forestiera” (“Foreigner Rome”) was created in 2010 by the cultural association ‘Circolo Gianni Bosio’ and it is only one of the many other initiatives that want to bring together migrants and Italians through music. The aim of the association is to study and spread the music performed by migrants in Rome and the rest of Italy. The founders of the project –Portelli and Modigliani – went on a tour to the streets, the mosques and the schools of Rome, and they were amazed by the variegated sounds coming from Bangladesh, Senegal, Ecuador, Kurdistan. Today they boast the biggest auditory archive of migrants’ music in Europe.

Thanks to this initiative, the association could also promote the creation of the multi-ethnic chorus “Romolo Balzani”. The latter, promoted by the ‘Iqbal Masih’ school of Rome, gathers adults and minors singers once a week, in the neighbourhood of Torpignattara, one of the most multicultural hubs of Rome. The chorus, founded by Sara Modigliani, today is directed by two migrants women: Roxana Ene from Romania and Sushmita Sultana from Bangladesh.

Two street-musicians playing in the famous square of Piazza Navona, in Rome. Credit: Maged Srour / IPS

Only a few kilometres from there, in the heart of the Esquilino neighbourhood – another crucial melting pot of the city of Rome, known for its high rate of migrants – the association Apollo 11 created in 2002 the “Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio” (OPV, “The Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio”).

In a neighbourhood where Italians are definitely a minority group, two Italians – Mario Tronco and Agostino Ferrente – imagined and created this Orchestra. The OPV gathers musicians coming from ten different countries and speaking nine different languages. Together, they transformed their cultural roots in one unique language: music.

The OPV became in the past recent years one of the best examples of positive integration of migrants in the city of Rome. Through a self-managed system of auto-taxation carried out by some citizens, the OPV was able to create jobs and related residency permits for talented musicians from all around the world.

“Music is a world within itself, it is a language we all understand,” said the singer Stevie Wonder once. Amongst the many forms of art, music has always been characterised by contaminations and borrowings between different peoples: it always represented one of the main vehicles for integration among different cultures. Without a doubt, the language of music is universal. Everyone can understand it regardless of the city, country or culture of origin.

However, at the same time, music is also a banner of each country’s identity. Therefore, it should not be a surprise finding Greek people being so proud of their traditional music or Egyptians loving so much to listen to their cheerful melodies in their microbuses and taxis.

This is the real value of music, which contains at the same time individualism and collectivism. It has its unique shape and identity and its own role in our societies. Music represents an individual experience diverse from person to person. On the other hand, music is also a collective experience because ears of people from throughout the world can enjoy it indifferently: melodies are able to unite people in concerts and celebrations or at the angle of a street while listening to a street musician. Therefore, music can be a tool for individual meditation or a tool to bring people together: different facets of the same coin.

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“Outsiders” in Focus at French Film Festhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/outsiders-focus-french-film-fest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outsiders-focus-french-film-fest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/outsiders-focus-french-film-fest/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 21:10:30 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155838 The usual big-name directors were absent this year from the Cannes Film Festival in southern France, creating space for cutting-edge films from Asia, Africa, small European states, and the Middle East. Most of these films put the focus squarely on stories about outsiders, highlighting issues of exclusion, disability, racism and gender inequality (including in the […]

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A scene from the film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

A scene from the film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

By A. D. McKenzie
CANNES, France, May 19 2018 (IPS)

The usual big-name directors were absent this year from the Cannes Film Festival in southern France, creating space for cutting-edge films from Asia, Africa, small European states, and the Middle East.

Most of these films put the focus squarely on stories about outsiders, highlighting issues of exclusion, disability, racism and gender inequality (including in the film industry). The result was a festival with some of the most engaging movies in the last five years, alongside the trademark glitz.

The winners in the two main categories of the event, which ran from May 8 to 19, exemplified the concentration on the underdog. Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters) by Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or top prize, from among 21 films, while Gräns (Border), by Iranian-born Danish director Ali Abbasi, was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize, beating 17 other movies. The latter category recognizes films that stand out for their originality, and many critics agreed Gräns was remarkable.

“We feel that out of 2,000 films considered by the Festival, the 18 we saw in Un Certain Regard, from Argentina to China, were all in their own way winners,” stated the jury, headed by Puerto-Rican actor Benicio Del Toro.

“We were extremely impressed by the high quality of the work presented, but in the end we were the most moved by … five films” (including Gräns), the jury added

Full of suspense, Abbasi’s movie tells the story of a “strange-looking” female customs officer who has a gift for spotting, or sniffing out, travellers trying to hide their contraband and other secrets, and it takes viewers on her journey to discover who she really is.

We see her experiencing verbal abuse from some travellers, and we slowly discover the exploitation she and people like her have suffered, while also learning about her origins, and seeing her fall in love and deal with appalling crime.

Based on a short story by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, and with superb acting, the film combines romance, dark humour and the paranormal to deliver a subtle message about the treatment of people who are different and society’s behaviour towards those most vulnerable, among other subjects.

A second film that won a major award in the Un Certain Regard category also dealt with “difference” and the acceptance of one’s individuality. Girl by Belgian director Lukas Dhont is a first feature about a boy who dreams of becoming a ballerina, exploring the journey of a trans-teen with a passion for dance. Victor Polster, the 15-year-old actor who plays the title role with poignant credibility, won the best actor award, while Girl also won the competition’s Caméra d’Or prize for best first film.

A scene from the film Girl. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

However, Rafiki (Friend), a movie that some critics expected to receive a prize, had to be satisfied with the extended standing ovation it received from viewers at the festival. The film – about love between two young women – is banned in Kenya, despite being the first Kenyan film selected for screening at the festival.

Director Wanuri Kahui said she was moved by the appreciation the film received, telling reporters that people are eager to watch a “joyful” and “modern” African movie, away from the stereotypical images of poverty and disaster.

Regarding the ban, she tweeted in April: “I am incredibly sorry to announce that our film RAFIKI has been banned in Kenya. We believe adult Kenyans are mature and discerning enough to watch local content but their right has been denied.”

Apart from the Palme d’Or winner (about a family of shoplifters), the films that generated widespread buzz in the main competition included Arabic-language Yomeddine, directed by Cairo-born A.B. Shawky, and featuring a leper in Egypt, and BlacKkKlansman, by African-American director Spike Lee, which won the Grand Prix, the second highest honour at the festival.

A scene from the film Yomeddine. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

Yomeddine stood out for its choice of subject and for portraying and employing persons with disabilities. Viewer and British actor Adam Lannon called the film “beautiful and brilliant”, adding that it was “excellent” to see “actors with disabilities working on screen”.

The film’s main character, Beshay, is a man cured of leprosy, but he has never left the leper colony where he has been placed by his family since childhood. When his wife dies, he sets out in search of his roots, with his loyal donkey. He is soon joined by an orphan boy named Obama, whom he has been protecting, although he would rather have been alone.

What follows is an uplifting road movie across Egypt, with a series of tear-jerking encounters on the way and echoes of “Don Quixote”. Shawky’s first feature has some flaws in that certain elements seem too predictable, but he scores overall with his appeal for humanity and inclusion.

The director Spike Lee on the set of his film BlacKkKlansman. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

The director Spike Lee on the set of his film BlacKkKlansman. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

For Spike Lee, anger at racism comes across clearly in his latest film, which is the story of a real-life African-American policeman who managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Lee incorporated recent events in the United States in the movie, particularly the killing of Heather Heyer as she protested a white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.

At his main Cannes press conference, Lee slammed the current U.S. administration, in a speech full of expletives. “We have a guy in the White House … who in a defining moment … was given the chance to say we’re about love and not hate, and that (expletive deleted) did not denounce the Klan,” he told journalists.

Gender issues were also raised at the festival, with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements never far from movie-watchers’ consciousness, as is the global scarcity of female directors. Only one film directed by a woman (The Piano by Jane Campion) has ever won the Palme d’Or, and women have long been underrepresented at the directorial level.

During the event, 82 women working in the movie sector took over the famous red-carpeted stairs to protest that inequality. Their number was an indication that since the Cannes festival officially began in 1946, following World War II, just 82 movies by women directors have been selected for competition. In contrast, 1,645 films by male directors have been chosen.

Led by the five women on this year’s competition jury, including jury president Cate Blanchett and American director Ava Duvernay, the protest coincided with the screening of Les Filles du Soleil (Girls of the Sun), a movie by French director Eva Husson about a group of female fighters in Kurdistan.

This was just one of several protest events. A few days later, black women working in the French film industry also denounced the lack of quality roles. Sixteen women who have contributed to a book titled Noire n’est pas mon metier (Being black is not my profession) made their voices heard on the red carpet.

“We’re here to denounce a system that has gone on too long,” said Senegalese-born French actress Aïssa Maïga, who described how black actresses tended to be cast only in certain roles.

Among the three women directors in the main competition, Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki took home the biggest award – the Prix du Jury for Capharnaüm, about a boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world.

In a moving speech, Labaki called for everyone to do more to protect children and ensure their education. “A loveless childhood is the root of all suffering in the world,” she said.

By the time the festival wrapped up with a performance from singers Sting and Shaggy on May 19 (the same day as the Royal Wedding in England), it seemed that both filmmakers and the public were yearning for lasting change, and different stories.

Follow A. McKenzie on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

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Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:29:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155650 Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges. And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.” Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent. Far […]

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By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges.

And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.”

Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent.

Far too often, he said, the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.

“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NAI Director Iina Soiri. Credit: NAI

With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

In an interview with IPS, NAI Director Iina Soiri and NAI head of research and governance specialist Victor Adetula, provided an assessment on the current situation in Africa.

Adetula told IPS the UN Secretary-General was right when he expressed the view that Africa has a vast potential for success.

“We are happy that world leaders are beginning to appreciate Africa in positive terms. We at the Nordic Africa Institute have always pointed out that there is hope for Africa despite all the challenges. Our knowledge production processes and outcomes, as well as other forms of intellectual engagement on the continent, run against the Afro-pessimism that is chanted in some quarters. For us, our knowledge of Africa makes us to have hope for Africa.”

Soiri pointed out that diversification of Africa’s image and promotion of the notion that Africa is “so much of everything” rather than just reduced to one image, this is our mission at NAI.”

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Do you think that most African countries would succeed in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hunger and poverty alleviation, by the 2030 deadline? What would be the reasons if they falter in their goals?

NAI Head of Research Victor Adetula. Credit: African Peace Building Network

Adetula: First, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusively for Africa. Admittedly, the risks are far more for African countries due to a number of challenges. It is interesting however that the lessons of MDGs are being addressed in the SDGs, and there is hope there would be significant improvement in the performance of the African countries, particularly those that have made concerted efforts to synchronise the SDGs goals with their national development plans.

Soiri: The SDGs are global goals that oblige the whole global community. I would also like to point out that Africa on the continental level has its own Vision 2063, as well as national SDG plans. It is important that all countries are given support to enable implementation of the SDGs using their own strengths and analysis.

IPS: What is the biggest single political problem facing African nations? Lack of good governance or lack of financing for development?

Adetula: It is not so much a good idea to reduce the challenge of African countries to two issues, or to label them as political, economic, social etc. based on the historical experiences of other regions. However, it suffices to point out that the challenges in Africa have their causes in both the internal systems in the various African countries that are not supporting good governance, and the international environment which has become increasingly unfavourable to Africa.

Soiri: Again, countries in Africa differ greatly when it comes to governance systems in place. We again need to go into national level and address specific challenges. But as regards to financing for development, that is a problem shared by many African countries, as well as the whole global community.

IPS: Has there been a failure on the part of Western nations to fulfil their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa?

Adetula: The ability of Western nations to meet up with their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa cannot be the root cause of Africa’s development challenge. New knowledge has proved this assumption to be wrong that aid can produce autonomous development in Africa. Of course, we should admit that effective global partnership a way to go to promote global development. This needs to be influenced and driven by positive values of equality, fairness, and justice.

Soiri: At the moment, it is clear that financial commitments to match with the requirements of SDG agenda are still lacking drastically behind. Here, I would like to point out that instead of focusing only on ODA and other financial flows to Africa, more effort needs to be done curb illicit financial flows out of Africa and support domestic resource mobilisation. We need to rethink the whole structure of financing for development which has been dominated by ODA reported to OECD-DAC and open up the debate on all financial flows and transactions, to continue the so called Beyond Aid –debate.

IPS: Guterres recently warned that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across two agendas—the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – there are “significant gaps that persist”, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. Do you agree with this assessment?

Soiri: It is no news that huge gaps persist. What is most important is to facilitate knowledge and analysis capacity, strengthen countries’ own systems and capacity to own the development processes and allow national debate on the priorities. When a lot of things are missing, we need to first decide where we start to look for and for what – thus national consensus is essential how to go about national development plans.

And reach quick results to keep people satisfied and engaged. Global challenges in sustainable resource utilisation –water, energy, clean air, land, minerals – are huge and connected to sustainability of the whole planet.

And as there exist wide sentiments of grave inequality in how the resources have been used and overused until now, Africa needs to get more say when the future agreements on resource utilisation are made.

IPS: The UN says the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in conflict-affected countries, where hunger is almost twice as high when the crisis is protracted – advocating for stronger commitment by governments, the AU and the UN to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development? Any thoughts?

Adetula: The world is witnessing increase in violent conflicts and some new forms of violence, including those associated with globalisation processes. At the individual country level, good governance in terms of effective service delivery can help scale down the level of violence in Africa. Global governance and global partnership such as cooperation between the AU and the UN is a useful way to go.

Soiri: Many research has shown that there is a strong causality between conflicts and underdevelopment. Therefore most important is to solve the conflicts in order to create conducive environment for development efforts. But how conflicts are solved and peace agreements signed has a paramount importance for how the post-conflict development will succeed. Most important is to allow inclusive peace process which translates to inclusive long lasting state building.

IPS: What key role can the Nordic Africa Institute play in helping advance the political and economic transformation of Africa?

Soiri: During its 55 year of existence, the Nordic Africa Institute has been both the sign of and key for Nordic countries continued engagement in development of Africa. We embody our societies’ interest to continue investing in betterment of African peoples. Via our research and knowledge production and dissemination, we enlarge understanding of African key development challenges and their solutions and deepen decision-makers’ knowledge on best practices to contribute successfully for the development and conflict resolution.

We also build Africa’s own knowledge production capacity with our guest research programs, partnerships and joint research and conference activities, and translate and disseminate African aspirations and analysis for Nordic audiences. We are the only Africa research center in the whole world that surpasses national borders and bring together the whole Nordic region to study, analyse and develop Africa with a specific policy relevant mission – to contribute for the improvement of African people’s lives and educate our own citizens on importance on Africa.

Our library is the biggest resource hub for African social sciences literature in Northern Europe, and by using modern technology some of its resources can be accessed almost everywhere in the world, alleviating the chronic lack of academic and development related resources in the African continent.

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Kenya- Overcoming Rivalry & Conflict Through Cultural Diplomacyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 12:54:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155510 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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First Lady Margaret Kenyatta (centre) with host Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok (second right) and Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki (second left). Credit: Jared Nyataya | NATION

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

Cultural diplomacy is a soft power that promotes the exchange of ideas, information, art, and culture to strengthen friendship and cooperation among nations and communities.

One of the best examples of such cultural diplomacy is the American education airlift programme of the early 1960s – a programme now considered a good example of successful cultural diplomacy – which benefited many young Kenyans, including a young Kenyan scholar who married an American. Their son went on to become the father of the 44th President of the US.

The son of this Kenyan scholar, – US President Barack Obama, presided over a fundamental shift towards public and cultural diplomacy, that was credited with milestones such as limiting Iran’s nuclear energy programme, in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Barack Obama, 10, and his father, also named Barack Obama. Obama’s father left the family to study at Harvard. Credit: The Associated Press

He often defended this approach as a successful diplomatic mission “committed to increasing people-to-people contacts and paying more attention to differences in cultures and values”. Unlike previous administrations, President Obama chose to persuade others through values and ideas, as opposed to flaunting military might.

A similar approach is being used in Kenya’s northern frontier, where the charm of soft power is slowly replacing the aggressive and violent conflicts among traditional adversaries. For a long time, a recurrent and perennial conflict has existed, especially during dry seasons. Neighbours in the arid region have continued to clash over access to key water and grazing resources.

In the meantime, the proliferation of small arms and ammunition trafficked into the country have escalated cultural practices such as cattle raids, turning them into deadly confrontations, while the re-drawing of administrative and electoral boundaries have provided more flashpoints for ethnic conflicts.

Now leaders in the area are taking a cue from history, with the interaction of peoples, the exchange of cultural practices, language, religion, ideas and arts being identified as a pathway towards improved relations between the ethnic groups. Through the annual Turkana Cultural Festival, former enemies are bonding relationships and realising that their differences are simply artificial.

The Turkana cultural festival, is a colourful 3-day event showcasing the region’s art, sports and music. Among the regular visitors to the festival are governors, minister and members of legislative assemblies from the neighbouring counties, a positive move not just towards building cultural bridges, but finding common ground and shared desires for the region’s economic prosperity and national cohesion.

This year on 19 April 2018, the border communities and their leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, which was branded Tobong’u Lore(Turkana for welcome home) by the county government.

“I was honored by the presence of Her Excellency The First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta and the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr William Ruto. Their presence gave a very special touch to the event” said Turkana County Governor Honorable Josphat Nanok.

Recent discourse from leaders has noticeably moved from belligerence, to forging of trade relationships, and unifying the region’s populations. No less than seven Governors, elders, ministers, some from counties previously seen as rivals of the Turkana, attended this year’s edition of the Turkana Festival.

“This festival is to celebrate peace. These are neighbors who have been fighting over pasture for their livestock and boundaries, but since we started this festival we have seen peace gradually return,” added Governor Nanok.

The festivals are providing the communities with a forum to embrace the different values and needs of diverse cultures. Gradually, each festival is seen as a peace-building and soft power tool in communities previously marked by ethnic conflict and isolationism.

There is also another crucial initiative, which is drawing former foes together in the border region between Kenya and Ethiopia. The Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia have a shared vision of turning this once violent and fragile region into a prosperous & peaceful area. Moyale-07 Dec 2015. Credit: UNDP Kenya

The populations in Marsabit County, and the Borana/Dawa are largely pastoralists and their movement transcends national and international boundaries. This movement has often led to clashes over resources, pitting people who share a common cultural background against each other.

Early successes include the strengthening of peace communities with members from across the two countries, which have gained wide legitimacy.

As the Cross Border Programme activities gain traction and the communities engage in legitimate business, their inter-dependence will slowly erode the temptation to fall back on the safety of tribal enclaves.

Advances in communication continue to render physical barriers irrelevant, there is no better opportunity to move cultural diplomacy out of the periphery, and into the forefront of diplomacy. As the true window to the soul, culture must now be the premier option for solving conflict around the globe.

The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta underscored the need to preserve the diversity of the country’s rich cultural heritage, saying it enhances Kenya’s identity at the global arena. She said in promoting culture, focus must be placed on positive values that boost peace and harmony.

Kenya is showing the way.

The post Kenya- Overcoming Rivalry & Conflict Through Cultural Diplomacy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Exhibition of Artifacts Stolen From Ethiopia Revives Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:01:08 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155390 A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest. The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle […]

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A manuscript from Maqdala now at the British Library. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
LONDON, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest.

The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868, when a British force laid siege to the mountain fortress of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros.  “We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard.” -- Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library

After their victory, the British force was at liberty to take what it wanted. The scale of the treasures stolen by the army isn’t widely known—inside the British Library are hundreds of beautiful Ethiopian manuscripts taken too.

While the argument for returning such artifacts appears strong, and perhaps obvious to most, legal issues surrounding a museum’s responsibility as a global custodian, as well as how best to make items available to the public, make the matter more nuanced than it seems.

“Museums have a global responsibility to better understand their collections, to more fully uncover the histories and the stories behind their objects, and to reveal the people and societies that shaped their journeys,” says Tristram Hunt, the Victoria and Albert museum’s director. “To this end, we want to better reflect on the history of these artifacts in our collection – tracing their origins and then confronting the difficult and complex issues which arise.”

The V&A website describes the museum’s collection of Ethiopian treasures as an “unsettling reminder of the imperial processes which enabled British museums to acquire the cultural assets of others.”

Hence efforts over the years by those like Richard Pankhurst, recognised as arguably the most prolific scholar in the field of Ethiopian studies, who helped found the Association for the Return of the Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET), and focused his efforts on the roughly 350 Maqdala manuscripts that ended up in the British Library.

“It is not widely known what happened,” said Pankhurst before his death in 2017. “The soldiers were able to pick the best of the best that Ethiopia had to offer. Most Ethiopians have never seen manuscripts of that quality.”

Tewodros had the country scoured for the finest manuscripts and collected in Maqdala for a grand church and library he planned to build.

“They are so lavish as they were made for kings,” says Ilana Tahan, lead curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient studies at the British Library, whose staff take their duties of guardianship as seriously as those trying to get the manuscripts returned to Ethiopia.

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“It’s true that the level of care and quality in Briton is much better than ours, but if you come to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies where we have a few Maqdala items previously returned you can see how well they are kept and made available to the public,” says Andreas Eshete, a former president of Addis Ababa University—which houses the institute—and another AFROMET co-founder. “These manuscripts are among the best in the world and one of the oldest examples of indigenous manuscripts in Africa, and they need to be studied carefully by historians here.”

Tewodros had actually admired Britain, even hoping they would help develop his country. But a perceived snub when Queen Victoria didn’t reply to a letter of his, led to him imprisoning a small group of British diplomats, resulting in General Robert Napier mounting a rescue mission with a force of 32,000.

On Easter Monday, 13 April 1868, with the British victorious in the valleys surrounding his mountaintop redoubt Maqdala and about to launch a final assault, Tewodros bit down on a pistol—a previous present from Queen Victoria—and pulled the trigger.

In Ethiopia today, Tewodros remains revered by many for his unwavering belief in his country’s potential, while the looting of Maqdala continues to spur the efforts of AFROMET and others continuing the activism of Richard Pankhurst.

“Though Richard was unsuccessful with the British Library manuscripts, there was the return of a number of crosses, manuscripts from private collections,” says his son, Alula Pankhurst, himself a historian and author.

Alula Pankhurst notes that the family of General Napier recently returned a necklace and a parchment scroll to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

“My father would have argued that the items should be returned as they were wrongly looted,” Alula Pankhurst says. “There is now the technology available to make copies [of the manuscripts] that are indistinguishable from the originals and microfilms mean that copies could be retained.”

But such technology is also seen by those at the British Library as a reason why the manuscripts can remain where they are.

“We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard,” says Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The British Library is continuing its efforts to make the manuscripts accessible to the public through new exhibits. And during the next two years the library plans to digitise some 250 manuscripts from the Ethiopian collection, with 25 manuscripts already available online in full for the first time through its Digitised Manuscripts website.

“The artwork suffers when it is digitalised, plus many of the manuscripts have detailed comments in the margins—there are many reasons scholars need to attend to the originals and which are not met by digital copies,” Andreas says.

But the return of the manuscripts is actually out of the library’s hands. New legislation would have to be passed by the British Parliament for the manuscripts, or any artefacts held in British museums, to be returned.

“While some restitutionists may grumble that the majority of items have not been returned, much has been done to spread knowledge of their existence – and great artistry – to Ethiopian scholars, and to the world at large,” says Alexander Herman, assistant director of the Institute of Art and Law,  an educational organisation focused on law relating to cultural heritage. “This has been made possible by the willingness of the British Library to invest in this once-overlooked part of its collection.”

The complex issue of repatriating looted objects has rumbled on in Europe and the United States for years without much resolution, though now there appears an increasing openness to engage with the issue, both on the part of major Western museums and governments.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said in November that the restoration of African artefacts was a “top priority” for his country, and at a speech in Burkina Faso said that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.”

In the meantime, other options treading a middle ground are beginning to be talked about more openly. Hunt says he is “open to the idea” of a long-term loan of the objects to Ethiopia, a move Alula Pankhurst says “would be a step in the right direction.”

But that’s still not good enough for others.

“The restitution of Ethiopian property is a matter of respecting Ethiopia’s dignity and fundamental rights,” says Kidane Alemayehu, one of the founders of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center, and executive director of the Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause.

“Looting another country’s property and offering it on loan to the rightful owner should evoke the deepest shame on any self-respecting country.”

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Fashion Paradigm That Does Not Pollute the Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 13:52:29 +0000 Kaya Dorey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155081 Kaya Dorey* is one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth

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By Kaya Dorey
VANCOUVER, Canada, Mar 29 2018 (IPS)

Fashion is meant to be trendy. It’s fast-paced: in one season, out the next. If you want to keep up, you had better update your wardrobe – that top you bought last summer is already outdated. While things may have been built to last a life-time a generation ago, today they don’t even last a year.

But the world is finite, and so are the resources in it. What we wear is every bit as important as what we eat when it comes to environmental sustainability. If we’re serious about preserving our world, we’re going to have to shift our current linear fast-fashion paradigm to a slower more circular one that doesn’t pollute the planet.

When I learnt about fast-fashion and textiles waste, it was the ‘make, consume, scrap it’ attitude that made me think. I realized that most of our clothing is produced in a linear production line where we take from nature, consume and throw away when we are done. But nothing is ever really “away”. Even if it’s natural, nothing biodegrades in a landfill. I had to do something.

Synthetic clothing is petroleum-based – just like plastic. That means it’s part of our global plastic problem, which is clogging our oceans and damaging our ecosystems. More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute.

But sustainability as a concept doesn’t work when you guilt trip people into it. It also doesn’t work when you force it on people. The sustainable choice has to be cool, and undeniably the best option in terms of quality and style – sustainability aside. It also has to be accessible and affordable compared with other options.

As a young person, I thought at first that my voice was a drop in the ocean. How could I possibly make a difference? Yet, the more I studied and the more I learned about the fashion industry, the more I realized: we are the ones who need to change this. Every time we shop, we are making a choice. If we have the right information, we can make more conscious decisions, and bring about real change.

If we work together, we can make a difference. Since I started my sustainable apparel company, I’ve found people who share my passion, values and vision to make apparel that is truly sustainable in terms of materials, dyes and the people making it. I have sourced organic cotton and hemp fabrics, inks that doesn’t have any PVC or heavy metals in them and all my product is made ethically in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

Yet a major hurdle we keep encountering, is that we need bigger players on board to truly make an impact. Big brands have the buying power and the economies of scale to bring down costs associated with truly sustainable apparel. The global fashion industry can still be trendy – we can still change our wardrobes. But when we do, we will do it without killing the planet.

A major shift is needed to turn this thing around, starting with embedding sustainability into school curriculums and design programs. We’re looking at the problem of waste from the wrong angle: at the end of the process. We should be looking at it from the very beginning: before the design process even starts.

Designers – and not just clothing designers – need to design with the end in mind. We need to start innovating, coming up with new ways to eliminate waste from production and taking full responsibility for the products we’re making and what’s left over.

Consumers need to ask more questions and learn about where their clothing is from: what it’s made of; who’s making it? Just as we have started doing with food. If we vote with our dollars, and buy from brands that are more transparent with this kind of information, brands will be forced to improve their supply chains and sustainability practices out of sheer competition to stay in the game.

We also need policy makers to get behind the sustainable agenda. For example, dying processes, and fabrics that contribute to climate change and cause a lot of waste could pay higher taxes. We must create solutions, which pave the way for our societies to change.

Last year, I became one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth – an initiative that has supported me to actively make a difference. You can apply now for 2018, or find other initiatives which champion and support your idea to create real environmental change.

Some days it’s tough. Fighting an environmental cause, especially as a young person and within the fashion industry, means looking for solutions which may not be the most lucrative, or appealing to the mainstream. But by joining other designers, fabric suppliers, manufacturers and other fashion industry players, we’re using our networks, speaking up, and finding solutions.

For our fashion industry to be truly sustainable, we need everyone on board. We need big brands to support sustainable innovation within their companies. We, as consumers, need to seek out more natural and organic fabrics when shopping for new clothing, or buy second hand. And we, as designers, need to design with the end in mind and develop closed-loop and zero waste production lines.

I believe that together we will create change, just like Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If we start small and set big goals, we will make a difference. We can shift this fast-fashion paradigm forever, without sacrificing a trendy wardrobe.

*Kaya Dorey is founder of Novel Supply Co, a conscious apparel company that creates, designs and supplies fashionable products that shift the stigma of sustainability, using minimalistic design, natural fabrics and sustainable inks with a focus on zero waste.

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Excerpt:

Kaya Dorey* is one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth

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Tourism Should Be Regulated, Before It Is Too Late…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tourism-regulated-late/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tourism-regulated-late http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tourism-regulated-late/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:19:12 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153779 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 8 2018 (IPS)

This year, we will have 3 million tourists each day wandering the world. This massive phenomenon is without precedent in human history and is happening (as usual), with only one consideration in mind: money. We should pause and take a look at its social, cultural and environmental impact and take remedial measures, because they are becoming seriously negative if things are left as they are.

Roberto Savio

Sameer Kapoor listed for Triphobo Trip Planner a list of 20 places that have been ruined, due to excess of tourism. Antarctica is getting an alarming level of pollution. The famous Taj Mahal, a monument of love from the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to the memory of his wife, Mumtaz, has changed its shining milky white marble into a yellow shade. Mount Everest is strewn with trash from invading visitors.

The Great wall of China has been so mistreated by the massive invasion of tourists that it has begun to crumble in places The famous beaches of Bali are littered with trash; traffic is in a gridlock and roads and footpaths are in a dangerous state of disrepair.

Macchu Picchu has a such large number of visitors that archaeologists are worried about preservation of the site. Once there was a train to a small village, Aguas Calientes, to then continue by foot or mules. Now you can reach the enigmatic and sacred Inca citadel by air conditioned bus, and Aguas Calientes is now a town of 4.000 people with five star hotels. The famous Australian Coral Reef Barrier, has lost already one third of the corals.

The Galapagos islands, where Charles Darwin conceived his famous theory of natural selection, has so many visitors impinging on his fragile eco balance that in 2007 UNESCO placed it on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites but to no avail. The Parthenon has many visitors taking pieces of rocks and ruins, and drawing or carving on ancient pillars, that special police squad had to be created.

The wonders of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, is suffering the same fate, together with the Colosseum in Rome, where every week somebody gets caught for chipping away pieces of columns, or graffiting the pillars.

But maybe the best example of the negative impact of tourism is Venice. The town has now officially 54.000 residents. They were 100.000 in 1970. Every year 1.000 residents leave for the mainland, because rents and cost of life keeps going up, and the hordes of tourist make life impossible for the residents. The number of sweepers and cleaners employed by the city has to go up continuously. Giant ships continue to go over the delicate microsystem of the lagoon and their lobby is very strong. They insist that without their megaships landing at the centre of the town, 5.000 jobs would be in danger.

There is now a clear conflict between those who live off tourism and those who have other jobs. Like in Barcelona, residents now stage demonstrations against mass tourism. Venice will become a ghost town, like the village of Mont Saint Michel, the medieval village in Normandy, jammed by thousands of visitors, to see the famous high-speed sea tide. At night, 42 people sleep there.

What is impressive is the speed of the phenomenon since 1950 when the total tourist numbers were 25 million, two thirds to Europe meant 29.76%of the tourists , Africa a mere 1.98% and the Middle East 0.79%, like Asia and Pacific. 66 years later, tourist numbers rose to 1.2 billion, Europe is down to 50%, Americas to 16.55%, Africa is at 4.52%, while the Middle East is at 4.7%. And Asia Pacific? It is now at 24.2%.

What is more impressive is to look further – at 2030, for which we have all the data (from the United Nations World Tourism Organization). Well, in a short time, we will go up to 1.8 billion: 5 million tourists every day. Europe is again down, to 41%, Americas down to 14%, Asia up to 30%, Africa to 7% and Middle east to 8 %. A totally inverted world in respect to 1950.

Tourism is already today the largest employer in the world: 1 person every 11. China has surpassed the US as the largest nationality. In 2016, they have spent 261 billion US dollars, and they will spend 429 billion in 2020.

UNWTO points to the fact that in 2025, China will have 92.6 million families with an income between 20.000 and 30.000 dollars per year; 63 million with an income between 35.000 and 70.000 dollars per year; and 21.3 million, with an income between 70.000 and 130.000 dollars. A large part of them is expected to travel and spend money. How many people speak Chinese and know anything about their idiosyncrasis ?

But any other consideration beside money, is totally absent in this debate. For instance, a large part of the jobs is in fact only seasonal, and poorly paid. Most of the money does not stay in the place where it is spent, but goes back to big companies and food imported for the tourist’s habits.

It is calculated that in the Caribbean, a full 70% goes back to US and Canada. Culture and traditions are influenced as outsiders come. Local culture and traditions become just a show for foreigners, and can lose roots. Hotels are built just for tourism in the most beautiful spots, degrading habitat and nature.

Price increases in local shops, because tourists are often wealthier than the local population. It is sufficient to go to a town which is out of the tourist’s circuits, to see the difference. In fact, now there is a growing search for “intact” places, different from “tourist’s places.

Tourist restaurants have become synonymous with poor food and high prices. And a tourist place is one that has lost its identity to conform with the demands of tourists. It has been the proliferation of Mc Donalds, Pizza Huts and other fast food joints, often in the most beautiful parts of towns, that pushed Petrini, in an old village with gastronomic tradition, Bra in Piedmont, to start a movement called Slow Food movement. The movement defends the freshness of materials, that must be local, preserving the original and traditional cuisines, and defending local products form the ongoing homogenization. It has now over 100.000 members in 150 countries, which defends identity against globalization.

Florence can well be a good example of how tourism is uprooting the locals’ identity and tradition. It was since the Renaissance, a place of art and culture. It was a must for cultured tourists and the forebearers of today’s tourists: German, British and French visitors, until the Second World War. A city of elegance, antique dealers, art shops, handcrafts and a very recognized Florentine cuisine.

Now it is full of tourist’s shops, jeans places, cheap standardized handcraft, a lot of pizzeria and tourist restaurants. The concierge of the classical Hotel Baglioni, when questioned about the decay of the town, had a simple answer: “Sir, we are a town of merchants. We did create the letter of change, the banks, and the international trade. Here come people who looked for art and antiques. Today we are awash with people who want to buy blue jeans and cheap stuff. We provide with what people want.” And for those living, in Rome, the main street via del Corso has suffered the same transformation.

It is scary to think what will happen when in the not so far 2020, 100 million Chinese will travel worldwide, with Europe as their first destination. Anybody who had a Chinese visitor (or from a different culture),knows how difficult it is for him to understand what he sees.

One of the main artistic European buildings are churches, and for a totally different religion they are strange places. It makes no sense to a Chinese what is Romanesque or Baroque, as they do not have any equivalent at home. And the classical tourist tour is now for about a week, in which they see at least 5 towns. This is the equivalent for a European to visit the temples in Tibet, without having studied Tibetan Buddhism, which is very different from other branches of Buddhism. Or, for that matter, visit the Egyptian temples without some knowledge at least of the Egyptian cosmology, the reigns of death, and the Pantheon of Gods. What will be remembered is the size of the pyramids, the smell of the incense in Buddhist temples, and other mere esthetical impression. That has nothing to do with culture and art.

To talk about the negative impacts of tourism, opens inevitably the question of classism. The more cultured you are, the more you can get from your travels. Does that mean that only cultured people (that until the second world war, also meant affluent: today the two concepts have split, may be for ever), should travel? Is tourism not a way to enrich and educate, so it should be on the contrary an important tool for the less cultivated?

I do not think that there is an easy answer to this issue. What I know, is that only a small minority of those visiting the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or the Potala Palace in Lhasa, or the valley of the kings in Egypt, have a book in their hands, that they have bought to prepare themselves. They depend on their tour guides, who confess that they do not even try to teach, but only to show what their tourists can all understand. That means that when you are in the Sistine Chapel, you are nearly unable to move, while the custodians try to move people on, so to make space for the waiting line of visitors. Among that crowd, there are some people who can place the difference between Michelangelo and Matisse, and would certainly benefit from some more time, while this is irrelevant for others.

It is clear that we cannot let 1.8 billion people wander in the world, without introducing some global regulations on how to limit the negative aspects of tourism, and relating it not only to money, but to education, culture and personal development.

To come in touch with different cultures, civilizations, foods, habits and realities should be an occasion that should not be left only to money. A paradox is that we are fighting against immigrants, because of different cultures, but we accept gladly the same people if they come as tourist and not as refugees. And the other paradox is the two parallel words which coexist: one, the real, about poverty and violence that we read in newspapers; and another of the same place, which exists only for tourists, about the beautiful beaches, wonderful nature, and fantastic hotels.

Right now, you can visit the Vatican after its closing, with a modest fee of 100 Euro per person, in quiet and small numbers. Is the future of tourism made with two tracks, where money will be the dividing factor ?

It is obvious that we should link tourism to education and culture. A proposal is simply to ask every tourist, when he buys a tour, an airline ticket, or asks for a visa, to buy and read a very simple and schematic book (they do not exist until now), which can be read and understood in no more than 10 hours about what he or she is going to visit.

A small commission formed by one teacher of history, one of geography, and one of art, is established in any small or large cities, where now lives the large majority of the population. In all of them there are schools with these studies. They conduct a small exam, and charge a small fee for a certificate, to justify their extra work.

Tourists can choose to go to the commission or not. Few extremely simple questions such as – which is the capital of the countries you are going to visit ? Is the country independent ? Is it a monarchy or a republic ? How does it makes its money ? Its monument and art have different moments in history? The commission would give two certificates. One would give access to museums and monuments for the first two hours of the day, and only those with the certificate could then enter. After those two hours , everybody with the two certificates can enter. But this would enable those who can understand and enrich themselves, to have some time in peace and quiet.

This would make two tracks of tourism, not based on money. And this could generate a demonstration effect, where tourists would probably dedicate sometime to prepare themselves. I asked one former director general of UNESCO what he thought of a such proposal. His answer was – it is a great idea, but where is the political will to support this or, for that matter any international agreement ?

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Festival Spotlights African Women Filmmakershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/festival-spotlights-african-women-filmmakers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=festival-spotlights-african-women-filmmakers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/festival-spotlights-african-women-filmmakers/#respond Wed, 02 Nov 2016 14:11:05 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147599 At the Bioscope Independent Cinema in Johannesburg’s trendy, gentrifying Maboneng neighbourhood last week, the two-day HER Africa Film Festival showcased films and web series from across the globe, including Mali, the U.S., Burkina Faso and elsewhere. Hosted by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), it was the first ever all female […]

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Literature Professor Probes Novels of the Anthropocene Agehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/literature-professor-probes-novels-of-the-anthropocene-age/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=literature-professor-probes-novels-of-the-anthropocene-age http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/literature-professor-probes-novels-of-the-anthropocene-age/#respond Mon, 22 Aug 2016 01:41:17 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146626 Dan Bloom is a climate activist in Taiwan. He blogs at cli-fi.net

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"The industrialized North looks with nostalgia and admiration at the false image of the people whose labor and resources fund its comfort, imagining them to be somehow closer to nature." -- Nick Admussen. Photo Credit: Arun Shrestha/IPS

By Dan Bloom
TAIPEI, Aug 22 2016 (IPS)

A literature professor at Cornell University in upstate New York, Nick Admussen, has recently published an online literary essay about writing novels in the Anthropocene Age.

Titled “Six proposals for the reform of literature in the age of climate change,” the 1500-word essay will change the way you think about how modern novelists need to change they ways they try to tackle climate change themes.

Admussen is an assistant professor of Chinese literature and culture at Cornell and has an MFA degree in poetry. In the essay, which has reached a larger audience of literary critics and writers worldwide via social media, Admussen uses the negative poetics of an an early 20th century Chinese writer to outline some habits he feels that fiction writers need to break in order to make culture more responsive to climate change. It might be one of the most important literary essays of the 21st century, and whether you agree with all his six proposals or not, Admussen’s piece deserves an international readership.

"Vast disparities in income, as well as vast differences in the intensity of social and political systems from region to region, drive climate destruction in the present day and fundamentally restrict our ability to conceptualize the global ecosystem of tomorrow," -- Nick Admussen

One of Admussen’s themes is that global culture has not just failed to adapt to the climate change challenges we now face in this age of global warming, it actively prevents us from facing those challenges. That’s a tall order, but the author has his talking points and they’re all worth paying attention to.

Admussen says he wants to speak to those ”who feel an intense responsibility for our shared future on Earth, those casting around for means and methods by which that future might be improved.”

“Today, global cosmopolitan culture [is creating massive ] chaos,” Admussen, 45, opines. “Power is concentrated in the hands of a few independent corporations and states, each strong enough to escape environmental regulation, none with the will or mission to provoke change in themselves or others. Day after day, human activity fills
the atmosphere with carbon, transforming Earth’s climate, melting the polar ice caps, already destroying the homes and habitats of the planet’s many creatures — including ourselves. Yet we lack the ability to visualize these problems, to locate their source in our own actions and lives, to tell and transform the stories of the interactions between our behaviour and our biome.”

“This is not a failing of science, the science is quite clear: it is a failing of culture,” he adds, noting: ”The single most influential artwork of climate change remains former U.S. Vice President Al Gore standing in front of a Powerpoint presentation 10 years ago. Global culture has not just failed to adapt to the challenges we now face: it actively prevents us from facing those challenges. To change this, we need to break with our existing traditions of art and media, even if that means rejecting some of the works we love most.”

Admussen says that the current way that novelists worldwide try to tackle global warming themes is ”a destructive and atomizing act of imagination” that ”erases our radical dependence on each other and on the environment.”

And he doesn’t stop there, adding: ”Reducing literature to a procession of isolated actors (or authors) belies the responsibility readers have to see the disastrous paradigm in which a focus on individuals occludes acts that harm the broader community.”

Admussen goes from despair to hope. While he maintains that ”the humblest grammatical formulation all the way up to the way we conceptualize our most cherished ideals, the English language is choked by metaphors of possession and exchange, and sorely lacks metaphors of membership and interrelation,” he also champions what he calls perhaps the greatest hope for fiction today, that young people are participating now in fiction.

“They write a fanfic or attend a book club or play Quiddich on the college campus green,” he writes. “They dream themselves into capacious and novel systems. This gives them the power and vision to build futures.”

Building on his variou themes and proposals, Admussen notes that in the last 20 years, advanced economies in the North have taken pride in their modest decreases in carbon dioxide emissions per capita, while at the same time completely ignoring the way in which this is possible because of the exportation of manufacturing to the global South.

“Vast disparities in income, as well as vast differences in the intensity of social and political systems from region to region, drive climate destruction in the present day and fundamentally restrict our ability to conceptualize the global ecosystem of tomorrow,” the Cornell professor writes. “These types of inequities are almost always accompanied by moralizing fictions. The industrialized North looks with nostalgia and admiration at the false image of the people whose labor and resources fund its comfort, imagining them to be somehow closer to nature.  Full partnership for everyone in a global ecosystem means redistributing the rewards that the developed world has already incurred by harming it.”

Like I said, this is all a tall order, and not everyone is keen to accept it.

“I’m circumspect about calls for systemic ‘reform’ of any art form,” a published novelist told me by email. “Calls for art or literature that portray or reflect an under appreciated truth are useful but I think that proposals like these are more likely to emerge as trends naturally, from the culture at and not likely to vault forward because
an academic or critic has articulated them.” Said another novelist, also via email: “Admussen’s essay is interesting, but ‘prescription’ for artists is not a good idea, and ‘reform’ in relation to the arts is always pretty sinister.”

The entire essay is published by The Critical Flame here.

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Excerpt:

Dan Bloom is a climate activist in Taiwan. He blogs at cli-fi.net

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Rickshaw Painting in Digital Agehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/rickshaw-painting-in-digital-age/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rickshaw-painting-in-digital-age http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/rickshaw-painting-in-digital-age/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2016 10:37:16 +0000 Khalid Hussain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146512 With the advent of the digital printing press, Riskshaw painting a previously well known art form is on the verge of extinction. Many painters had to switch their profession to survive the “digital revolution”. few of them continue to endure the struggle and have managed to keep the art form alive. Rickshaw painters Rafiqul Islam […]

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By Khalid Hussain Ayon
Aug 11 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

With the advent of the digital printing press, Riskshaw painting a previously well known art form is on the verge of extinction. Many painters had to switch their profession to survive the “digital revolution”.

few of them continue to endure the struggle and have managed to keep the art form alive. Rickshaw painters Rafiqul Islam and Sayed Ahmed are among one of the artisans.

They have participated in different international exhibitions and have received national and international recognition. But they say, the demand along with prices are in steep decline.


“My work was exhibited and sold in many countries like, Germany, England, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada among others. But in my own country the demand continues to fall every day,” said Rafiqul Islam.

Strangely, the unique art form now survives with the help and financial support of foreign art enthusiasts.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Museums Taking Stand for Human Rights, Rejecting ‘Neutrality’http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/museums-taking-stand-for-human-rights-rejecting-neutrality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=museums-taking-stand-for-human-rights-rejecting-neutrality http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/museums-taking-stand-for-human-rights-rejecting-neutrality/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 09:54:39 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141672 An exhibition on modern-day slavery at the International Slavery Museum in this northern English town is just one example of a museum choosing to focus on human rights, and being “upfront” about it. “Social justice just doesn’t happen by itself; it’s about activism and people willing to take risks,” says Dr David Fleming, director of […]

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A visitor looking at a panel at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
LIVERPOOL, England, Jul 21 2015 (IPS)

An exhibition on modern-day slavery at the International Slavery Museum in this northern English town is just one example of a museum choosing to focus on human rights, and being “upfront” about it.

“Social justice just doesn’t happen by itself; it’s about activism and people willing to take risks,” says Dr David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, which includes the city’s International Slavery Museum (ISM).

The institution looks at aspects of both historical and contemporary slavery, while being an “international hub for resources on human rights issues”.

It is a member of the Liverpool-based Social Justice Alliance for Museums (SJAM), formed in 2013 and now comprising more than 80 museums worldwide, and it coordinated the founding of the Federation of International Human Rights Museums (FIHRM) in 2010.

Dr David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, which includes the city’s International Slavery Museum. Credit: National Museums Liverpool

Dr David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, which includes the city’s International Slavery Museum. Credit: National Museums Liverpool

The aim of FIHRM is to encourage museums which “engage with sensitive and controversial human rights themes” to work together and share “new thinking and initiatives in a supportive environment”. Both organisations reflect the way that museums are changing, said Fleming.

“Museums are not dispassionate agents,” he told IPS. “They have a role in safeguarding memory. We have to look at the role of museums and see how they can transform lives.”

The International Slavery Museum’s current exhibition, titled “Broken Lives” and running until April 2016, focuses on the victims of global modern-day slavery – half of whom are said to be in India, and most of whom are Dalits, or people formerly known as “untouchables”.

The display “provides a window into the experiences of Dalits and others who are being exploited and abused through modern slavery in India”, say the curators.

“Dalits still experience marginalisation and prejudice, live in extreme poverty and are vulnerable to human trafficking and bonded labour,” they add.

Presented in partnership with the Dalit Freedom Network, the exhibition uses photographs, film, personal testimony and other means to show “stories of hardship” that include sexual servitude and child bondage. It also profiles the activists working to mend “broken lives”.“Museums [in Liverpool, Nantes, Guadeloupe and Bordeaux ] hope that they can play a role in global citizenship, educating the public and encouraging visitors to leave with a different mind-set – about respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, equality, and sustainability”

The display occupies a temporary exposition space at the museum, which has a permanent section devoted to the atrocities of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the legacy of racism.

Along with the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in the French city of Nantes and the recently opened Mémorial ACTe in Guadeloupe, the Liverpool museum is one of too few national institutions focused on raising awareness about slavery, observers say.

But it has provided a “vital source of inspiration” to permanent exhibitions on the slave trade in places such as Bordeaux, southwest France, according to the city’s mayor Alain Juppé. Here, the Musée d’Aquitaine hosts a comprehensive division called ‘Bordeaux, Trans-Atlantic Trading and Slavery’ – with detailed, unequivocal information.

These museums hope that they can play a role in global citizenship, educating the public and encouraging visitors to leave with a different mind-set – about respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, equality, and sustainability.

“We try to overtly encourage the public to get involved in the fight for human rights,” Fleming told IPS in an interview. “We’ve often said at the Slavery Museum that we want people to go away fired up with the desire to fight racism.

“You can’t dictate to people what they’re going to think or how they’re going to respond and react,” he continued. “But you can create an atmosphere, and the atmosphere at the Slavery Museum is clearly anti-racist. We hope people will leave thinking: I didn’t know all those terrible things had happened and I’m leaving converted.”

Despite Liverpool’s undeniable history as a major slaving port in the 18th century, not everyone will be affected in the same way, however. There have been swastikas painted on the walls of the museum in the past, as bigots reject the institution’s aims.

“Some people come full of knowledge and full of attitude already, and I don’t imagine that we affect these people. But we’re looking for people in the middle, who might not have thought about this,” Fleming said.

A poster sign for the ‘Broken Lives’ exhibition under way at the International Slavery  Museum in Liverpool. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

A poster sign for the ‘Broken Lives’ exhibition under way at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

He described a visit to the museum by a group of English schoolchildren who initially did not comprehend photographs depicting African youngsters whose hands had been cut off by colonialists.

When they were given explanations about the images, the schoolchildren “switched on to the idea that people can behave abominably, based on nothing but ethnicity,” he said.

Fleming visits social justice exhibitions around the world and gives information about the museum’s work, he said. As a keynote speaker, he recently delivered an address about the role of museums at a conference in Liverpool titled ‘Mobilising Memory: Creating African Atlantic Identities’.

The meeting – organised by the Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) and a new UK-based body called the Institute for Black Atlantic Research – took place at Liverpool Hope University at the end of June.

It began a few days after a white gunman killed nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the U.S. state of South Carolina.

The murders, among numerous incidents of brutality against African Americans over the past year, sparked a sense of urgency at the conference as well as heightened the discussion about activism – and especially the part that writers, artists and scholars play in preserving and “activating” memory in the struggle for social justice and human rights.

“Artists, and by extension museums, have what some people have called a ‘burden of representation’, and they have to deal with that,” said James Smalls, a professor of art history and museum studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

“Many times, artists automatically are expected to speak on behalf of their ethnic group or community, and some have chosen to embrace that while others try to be exempt,” he added.

Claire Garcia, a professor at Colorado College, said that for a number of academics “there is no necessary link between scholarship and activism” in what are considered scholarly fields.

Such thinkers make the point that scholarship should be “theoretical” and “universal,” and not political or focused on “the specific plights of one group,” she said. However, this standpoint – “when it is disconnected from the embattled humanity” of some ethnic groups – can create further problems.

The concept of museums standing for “social justice” is controversial as well because the issue is seen differently in various parts of the world. The line between “objectifying and educating” also gives cause for debate.

Fleming said that National Museums Liverpool, for example, would not have put on the contentious show “Exhibit B” – which featured live Black performers in a “human zoo” installation; the work was apparently aimed at condemning racism and slavery but instead drew protests in London, Paris and other cities in 2014.

“Personally I loathe all that stuff, so my vote would be ‘no’ to anything similar,” Fleming told IPS. “And that’s not because it’s controversial and difficult but because it’s degrading and humiliating. There are all sorts of issues with it, and I’ve thought about that quite a lot.”

He and other scholars say that they are deeply conscious of who is doing the “story-telling” of history, and this is an issue that also affects museums.

Several participants at the CAAR conference criticised certain displays at the International Slavery Museum, wondering about the intended audience, and who had selected the exhibits, for instance.

A section that showed famous individuals of African descent seemed superficial in its glossy presentation of people such as American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and well-known athletes and entertainers.

Fleming said that museums often face disapproval for both going too far and not going “far enough”. But taking a disinterested stand does not seem to be the answer, because “the world is full of ‘faux-neutral’ museums”, he said.

The most relevant and interesting museums can be those that have a “moral compass”, but they need help as they can “do very little by themselves,” Fleming told IPS. The institutions that he directs often work with non-governmental organisations that bring their own expertise and point of view to the exhibitions, he explained.

Apart from slavery, individual museums around the world have focused on the Holocaust, on apartheid, on genocide in countries such as Cambodia, and on the atrocities committed during dictatorships in regions such as Latin America.

“Some countries don’t want museums to change,” said Fleming. “But in Liverpool, we’re not just there for tourism.”

Edited by Phil Harris

The writer can be followed on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale   

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Cape Verde’s Newest Voice Sends Message to Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/cape-verdes-newest-voice-sends-message-to-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cape-verdes-newest-voice-sends-message-to-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/cape-verdes-newest-voice-sends-message-to-girls/#respond Thu, 11 Jun 2015 07:05:05 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141086 Elida Almeida is Cape Verde’s newest star, with thousands of fans in Africa and Europe. She sings, dances, plays the guitar, tells jokes, and makes her audiences laugh as well as groove. But behind it all, her music carries a serious message, about the importance of overcoming setbacks, avoiding unplanned pregnancy and following one’s dreams. […]

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Opinion: Cli-Fi Film from Philippines Packs a Punchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-cli-fi-film-from-philippines-packs-a-punch/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-cli-fi-film-from-philippines-packs-a-punch http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-cli-fi-film-from-philippines-packs-a-punch/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 20:49:30 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141077 Dan Bloom is a freelance writer from Boston based in Taiwan. A 1971 graduate of Tufts University where he majored in French literature, he has been working as a climate activist and a literary activist since 2006. He can be found on Twitter @polarcityman

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A scene in Guiuan, Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, Nov. 21, 2013. Credit: Roberto De Vido/cc by 2.0

A scene in Guiuan, Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, Nov. 21, 2013. Credit: Roberto De Vido/cc by 2.0

By Dan Bloom
TAIPEI, Jun 10 2015 (IPS)

I live on a crowded, subtropical island ​nation ​in the Western Pacific, on the opposite side of the “Pacific Pond” from North America. And just south of Taiwan is the ​many-splendored island nation of the ​Philippines. We are neighbours. You can fly there in one hour, it’s that close.

So when Typhoon ​Yolanda hit Tacloban City in the Philippines in November 2013, we ​in south Taiwan ​could feel the rain and wind here in Taiwan, although the storm made its direct hit on Tacloban and ​sadly ​killed 7,000 people there."Movies like 'Taklub' present scenarios that make large events comprehensible and future possibilities concrete." -- Prof. Edward Rubin

​The Philippines has been a Catholic country for over 400 years now. People ​there ​know the Bible, people know Jesus, and people are devout and deeply religious.

So when the well-known Filipino film director Brillante ​Ma ​Mendoza decided to make a feature film about the aftermath of ​what the international community called ​Typhoon Haiyan — known as ”Typhoon Yolanda” in the Philippines — he used a quote from the ​Bible to bookend the story: “A time to tear ​one’s garments and mourn, and a time to ​mend and ​​build up.”

Mendoza’s ​powerful and emotional ​cli-fi movie “Trap” (called “Taklub” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines) was set up originally as an ”advocacy movie” financed by the government of the Philippines ​and produced by a senator from the national parliament ​to help raise awareness of typhoon readiness and the resilience of the Filipino people.

The carefully-crafted 90-minute feature has already been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and has a good chance of bagging an Oscar next year in Hollywood in the best foreign film category.

​It has also been recently been hailed by the Cli Fi Movie Awards (dubbed the ”Cliffies​”) — a film awards programme that recognises the best climate-themed movies worldwide — as the winner of the international 2015 cli fi awards for: best picture, best director, best actress, best actor, best child actor, best screenplay, best cinematography, best producer, best government sponsor and best trailer.

It’s that good, it’s that poignant, it’s that brilliant. Mendoza is a film director who is well-known in Asia, but while “Trap” is a powerful climate-themed movie with a great cast and helmed by a savvy director, whether the movie will catch on among arthouse fans in Europe and America ​it ​is hard to say.​

But for the Cli Fi Movie Awards, whose mission is to wake up the world via movie awards about climate change issues. of all the cli fi films nominated for 2015, “Taklub” took top honours in all categories this year! It is that important a movie.

“Trap” is a quiet, slow-moving, thoughtful piece of international cinema. It stars the famous Filipina actress Nora Aunor, and for her performance alone, the film is worth the price of admission.

​The quote from Ecclesiastes ​fits this movie to a T.

For me, that’s what “Trap” is about: a powerful piece of cli-fi storytelling that is about an almost unspeakable tragedy, following the lives of a group of typhoon survivors trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, but at at the same time Mendoza says after the tear​ing of garments ​ and mourning, it’s time to mend the country and get things right again. And prepare for the next big storm as well.

​I asked a professor from Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee, Edward Rubin, who is very concerned with climate change issues and the power of novels and movies to impact changes in public awareness, what he thought of Mendoza’s movie and its power to effect change.

“Written and audiovisual fiction (cli-fi novels and cli-fi movies like ‘Taklub’) can — and must — play a crucial role in educating people worldwide about climate change,” Rubin told me. “To begin with, people will watch the movie and be moved by it; they are not going to look at government charts and scientific research papers.”

Even more important, movies like ‘Taklub’ present scenarios that make large events comprehensible and future possibilities concrete,” he added, noting: “What is truly false, and belongs in the category of puerile fantasy, is to deny that climate change is occurring. The fact is that many of the grim possibilities portrayed in a cli-fi movie like ‘Taklub’ will become realities unless we take global concerted action.”​

“Trap” is not a documentary. It’s pure storytelling, pure cinema, pure magic. Can it help to raise awareness about global warming and climate change in the Philippines and worldwide?

Mendoza set out to make a touching local movie for audiences in the Philippines first, but he has succeeded in creating a piece of art that transcends borders now and has a global tale to tell.

It’s well worth seeing if it comes your way.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

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Excerpt:

Dan Bloom is a freelance writer from Boston based in Taiwan. A 1971 graduate of Tufts University where he majored in French literature, he has been working as a climate activist and a literary activist since 2006. He can be found on Twitter @polarcityman

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‘Ethical Fashion’ Champions Marginalised Artisans from Southhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/ethical-fashion-champions-marginalised-artisans-from-south/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethical-fashion-champions-marginalised-artisans-from-south http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/ethical-fashion-champions-marginalised-artisans-from-south/#respond Thu, 04 Jun 2015 06:31:53 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140967 “Work is dignity,” says Simone Cipriani. “People want employment, not charity.” With that in mind, Italian-born Cipriani founded a programme in 2009 called the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) that links some of the world’s top fashion talents to marginalised artisans – mostly women – in East and West Africa, Haiti and the West Bank. Now […]

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Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean (right) has been working with the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), using Haitian craftsmanship in areas such as embroidery and beadwork in her collections. Credit: ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative 5

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, Jun 4 2015 (IPS)

“Work is dignity,” says Simone Cipriani. “People want employment, not charity.”

With that in mind, Italian-born Cipriani founded a programme in 2009 called the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) that links some of the world’s top fashion talents to marginalised artisans – mostly women – in East and West Africa, Haiti and the West Bank.

Now a flagship programme of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Geneva-based EFI works with leading designers such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood to facilitate the development and production of “high-quality, ethical fashion items” from artisans living in low-income rural and urban areas.

The EFI says its aim is also to “enable Africa’s rising generation of fashion talent to forge environmentally sound, sustainable and fulfilling creative collaborations with local artisans.” Under its slogan “not charity, just work”, the Initiative advocates for a fairer global fashion industry.“We work with women who sometimes face discrimination in their communities, but by having a job, their position in society improves. They gain independence and respect, and in many situations they become the only breadwinner in their families” – Simone Cipriani, Ethical Fashion Initiative

This year, for the first time, the EFI is collaborating with the most important international trade fair for men’s fashion, Pitti Immagine Uomo, to host designers who represent four African countries.

Taking place June 16 to 19 in Florence, Italy, the fair will present a special edition of its Guest Nation Project, in which a particular area is designated for the “rising stars” of fashion from various countries, according to Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti.

Napoleone said that the African designers in this year’s Guest Nation give priority to manufacturing in their home countries, helping to reduce poverty, and that they are already known on the international market.

The stylists will put on a runway show, highlighting their men’s collections, in a special event titled ‘Constellation Africa’. The brands – Dent de Man, MaXhosa by Laduma, Orange Culture and Projecto Mental – have designers who represent Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Nigeria and Angola, and were selected as part of the African Fashion Designer competition launched by the EFI last December.

“This is where our global society is going: interconnectedness. Global and local dimensions brought together through fashion,” said Cipriani.

Market analysts expect the global value of the apparel retail industry to rise about 20 percent from 2014 levels to reach some 1,500 billion dollars in 2017. With such high volumes, the various sectors of the industry could be an increasing source of employment in many regions, from design to garment-making to sales.

But over the past several years, there has been controversy about the apparent exclusion of fashion designers and models of African descent in high-profile ‘Fashion Weeks’ and other international events

Tansy E. Hoskins, author of a polemical book published last year titled Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, has a whole chapter devoted to the question “Is Fashion Racist?”

She says that several decades after a renowned fashion magazine had its first black model on the cover, “all-white catwalks, all-white advertising campaigns and all-white fashion shoots are still the norm”.

Simone Cipriani, founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI). Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

Simone Cipriani, founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI). Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

The Ethical Fashion Initiative is primarily concerned with poverty reduction and ethical treatment of artisans, but Cipriani acknowledges that racism is an issue and that poverty can be linked to ethnicity as well as gender.

Still, the fashion industry does have companies that try to adhere to ethical standards, including diversity, working conditions and environmental sustainability; and 30 international brands have signed on to the EFI project. But not every company is a good fit.

“We try to work almost exclusively with brands that have a clear scheme on responsible business and social engagement, otherwise there’s always the risk of being used and having to clean up after somebody else,” Cipriani told IPS in an interview, during a trip to Paris to meet with designers.

“We’ve had our troubles and have had to work through a long learning curve”, he added. “We also tried to work with big distributors and realised it wasn’t possible for what we do, so here we are.”

Groups such as the EFI and activists like Hoskins say that their major concern is how to make the fashion industry fairer, particularly with decent labour conditions for workers everywhere.

Two years ago in Bangladesh, for instance, more than 1,100 workers died and 2,500 were injured when a factory building collapsed after safety warnings were ignored. The workers made clothing for brands including Benetton, which only this year announced that it would contribute to a compensation fund for the victims.

That agreement followed a campaign in which one million people signed an online petition calling for the company to take proper action.

“What happened in Bangladesh was a horror, and there are many situations in which exactly the same horror can occur,” Cipriani said. “The first thing about responsibility should always be people. Dignified working conditions for people.”

He said that many artisans working in the fashion industry’s supply chain also do not earn enough to live on. “They don’t get the remuneration for their work that allows them to have a dignified life,” he told IPS. “Many of them are paid in such a way that they have to live at the margin.”

In Haiti, which is known for its artistry as well as its poverty, activists say that linking local artisans with international designers can and have made some impact. The Haitian-Italian designer Stella Jean has been working with EFI, using Haitian craftsmanship in areas such as embroidery and beadwork in her collections, for example. She also employs textiles made in Africa.

Jean has been an EFI “partner” since 2013 and she sources several elements of her designs through its projects, Cipriani said. The collaboration started with a visit to Burkina Faso – one of the largest producers of cotton in Africa with an important tradition of hand-weaving – where the designer saw the possibilities of “working with these ethically produced textiles”. She incorporated them as a key feature of her women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections.

Last year, she also launched a new range of bags, produced in Kenya with fabric from Burkina Faso and Mali and vegetable-tanned leather from Kenya, “making each bag a pan-African product,” says the EFI.

In Kenya, British designers McCartney (who declined to be interviewed) and Westwood have placed several orders for fashion items, and the EFI has carried out “Impact Assessment” studies to evaluate compliance with fair labour standards “and the impact the orders had on people and the communities they live in.”

“We work with women who sometimes face discrimination in their communities, but by having a job, their position in society improves,” Cipriani told IPS. “They gain independence and respect, and in many situations they become the only breadwinner in their families.”

The Ethical Fashion Initiative has testimonials from artisans about the improvement in their lives from the income they received through the orders, with several workers detailing their new ability to pay rent and school fees, among other developments.

Hoskins says that these steps are important, but that the fashion industry cannot be fully transformed without massive, collective action. “Ethical fashion has become a catch-all phrase encompassing issues such as environmental toxicity, labour rights, air miles, animal cruelty and product sustainability,” she argues.

“After 20 or so years and despite some innovative initiatives, it holds an ‘exceptionally low market share’ at just over 1 percent of the overall apparel market.”

In an interview, she said that asking whether fashion can ever be ethical is like asking “can capitalism ever be ethical?”

“For me the answer is ‘no’ because it’s based on exploitation, it’s based on competition, and above all it’s based on profit, and that’s what in the fashion industry drives wages down, drives environmental standards down and down and down,” she told IPS.

“There are small companies doing things differently but they’re producing maybe a few thousand units every year. The fashion industry produces billions and billions of units every single year.”

Hoskins also asked the question: “Why is it not the case that all products are ethically made?”

But reform evidently takes time. With the Pitti trade fair in Italy now collaborating with EFI, the “ethical fashion” movement may get a boost. It is also up to consumers to make the right choices, activists say.

“Consumers must demand change. Consumers can’t be too docile,” says Cipriani.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Ethiopia’s First Film at Cannes Gives Moving View of Childhood, Genderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/ethiopias-first-film-at-cannes-gives-moving-view-of-childhood-gender/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopias-first-film-at-cannes-gives-moving-view-of-childhood-gender http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/ethiopias-first-film-at-cannes-gives-moving-view-of-childhood-gender/#respond Fri, 22 May 2015 18:11:45 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140769 A boy, a sheep and a stunning mountain landscape. These are the three stars of Lamb, a poignant film directed by 36-year-old Yared Zeleke and Ethiopia’s first entry in France’s prestigious Cannes International Film Festival. The film was warmly received at its premiere this week, with the director and cast receiving applause. It is slated […]

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A boy, a sheep and a stunning mountain landscape – the three stars of 'Lamb', Ethiopia’s first entry in France’s prestigious Cannes International Film Festival, a film which subtly highlights gender issues, the ravages of drought and the isolation that comes from the feeling of not belonging. Credit: Courtesy of Slum Kid Films

By A. D. McKenzie
CANNES, May 22 2015 (IPS)

A boy, a sheep and a stunning mountain landscape. These are the three stars of Lamb, a poignant film directed by 36-year-old Yared Zeleke and Ethiopia’s first entry in France’s prestigious Cannes International Film Festival.

The film was warmly received at its premiere this week, with the director and cast receiving applause. It is slated for general French release later this year, Zeleke said.“I was raised by strong and beautiful Ethiopian women, such as my grandmother ... I think that’s what made me a filmmaker … It’s an homage to these beautiful Ethiopian women that shaped me” – Yared Zeleke, director of Lamb, Ethiopia’s first film at Cannes

Shot in the highlands and forests of northern and central Ethiopia, Lamb tells the story of nine-year-old Ephraim (Rediat Amare) and his beloved pet, a sheep named Chuni. The animal follows Ephraim around like a devoted dog, and plays the role of best friend, albeit one who can only say “ba-ah”.

When the film begins, we learn that Ephraim has lost his mother in an ongoing famine and, in order to survive, his father has decided to take him to stay with relatives in a remote but greener region of their homeland, an area of intense beauty but increasing poverty. Ephraim will have to stay there while his father seeks work in the city, not knowing when he can return.

The relatives are an intriguing bunch. There’s the strict farmer uncle who thinks Ephraim is too girly (the boy likes to cook), his wife who’s overworked and worried about her small, sick child, a matriarchal great aunt who tries to keep the family in line with a whip, and an older girl cousin – Tsion – who spends her time reading and with whom Ephraim eventually bonds.

Soon after arriving in their midst, Ephraim is told by his uncle that he will have to learn what boys do: he will have to slaughter his pet sheep for an upcoming traditional feast.

The news pushes Ephraim to start devising ways to save Chuni, and that forms the bulk of the storyline, while the film subtly highlights gender issues, the ravages of drought and the isolation that comes from the feeling of not belonging. Throughout it all, the magnificent rolling hills are there, watching.

We learn in passing that Ephraim is half-Jewish through his mother, whom the relatives refer to as “Falasha people”; but Zeleke says that this is not at all meant to signal division, because Ethiopians generally do not identify themselves by religious affiliation. In fact, the Christian relatives all seem to have admired the mother.

They attribute Ephraim’s skill at cooking to her teaching, and some of the most moving moments are centred on food – feeding and being fed by a loved one.

Yared Zeleke, 36-year-old director of Lamb, Ethiopia’s first entry in France’s prestigious Cannes International Film Festival. Credit: Courtesy of Slum Kid Films

Yared Zeleke, 36-year-old director of ‘Lamb’, Ethiopia’s first entry in France’s prestigious Cannes International Film Festival. Credit: Courtesy of Slum Kid Films

The film is dedicated to the director’s grandmother, and another striking element is how sympathetically women are portrayed, although Zeleke told IPS that this was probably done more “semi-consciously” than on purpose.

“A lot of the writing process for me is intuitive,” he said in an interview. “But I was raised by strong and beautiful Ethiopian women, such as my grandmother whom I’m named after and who was known for her great storytelling. I think that’s what made me a filmmaker … It’s an homage to these beautiful Ethiopian women that shaped me.”

In Lamb, Tsion – played by the smouldering Kidist Siyum – is shown as smart and knowledgeable, but her love of reading is considered useless by the family because it does not get the back-breaking household chores done. Ephraim’s ability to cook and sell samosas on the market is seen as more helpful, drawing attention to some of the burdens of childhood in poor countries.

Tsion is eventually pushed to make a sad choice, leaving Ephraim more alone than ever, but the film ends on an upbeat note, with the possibility of acceptance. A simple and unforeseen act of kindness towards Ephraim by Tsion’s abandoned suitor might trigger most viewers’ tears.

As a first feature, Lamb is a glowing success for Zeleke, who grew up in central Addis Ababa and went on to study film-making at New York University, after a first degree in natural resource management and an attempt at a Master’s in agri-economics at a Norwegian university.

“I always wanted to work with Ethiopian farmers, and to tackle the biggest issue facing our country, but in the end, I made up a film about them instead,” he told IPS.

With his credible story and the feel of authenticity, the director shows that he knows his culture and people, while the loving attention to the landscape and the tight focus on his characters also reveals confidence and vision.

Members of the cast equally turn in a fine performance.  Amare Rediat is affecting and sincere as Ephraim, with his huge expressive eyes, and Siyum has a coiled energy that conveys the frustration of a bright girl expected to marry and “breed” quickly because that is her only fate.

Produced by Slum Kid Films – an Ethiopia-based company that Zeleke co-founded with Ghanaian producer Ama Ampadu and which works to support the country’s film sector – Lamb was shown in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard category. This section highlights daring, innovative, off-beat works, and Zeleke’s film certainly fits the bill.

Edited by Phil Harris    

*   This article is published in association with Southern World Arts News (SWAN).

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Novelists, Directors Respond as ‘Water Wars’ Loomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/novelists-directors-respond-as-water-wars-loom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=novelists-directors-respond-as-water-wars-loom http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/novelists-directors-respond-as-water-wars-loom/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 13:50:51 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140767 Dan Bloom is a freelance writer from Boston based in Taiwan. A 1971 graduate of Tufts University where he majored in French literature, he has been working as a climate activist and a literary activist since 2006. He can be found on Twitter @polarcityman

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Paolo Bacigalupi. Credit: JT Thomas Photography

Paolo Bacigalupi. Credit: JT Thomas Photography

By Dan Bloom
TAIPEI, May 22 2015 (IPS)

Item: In a recent blog post at the New Yorker magazine, staff writer Dana Goodyear surveys the current drought impacting California and writes: “It’s hard to escape the feeling we are living a cli-fi novel’s Chapter One.”

Item: Edward L. Rubin, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, surveys the ongoing California drought in an oped at Salon magazine, writing: “As the California drought enters its fourth year, it is threatening to strangle the splendid irrigation system that transformed the previously desolate Central Valley into some of the world’s most productive farmland and the scruffy Los Angeles Basin into one of the world’s great cities.”

Item: Indian film director Shekhar Kapur is currently in pre-production for a climate-themed movie about future ”water wars” in New Delhi and titled “Paani,” a Hindi word for ”water.”

Item: Adam Trexler in the introduction to “Anthropocene Fictions,” his newly-released academic study of 150 climate change novels, by authors in Germany, Finland and Canada over the past 50 years, writes: “Perhaps prompted by [the] coinage of “cli-fi,” [media] reported that the global warming has spurred the creation of a whole new genre of fiction.”

Welcome to the 21st century, where water issues combined with climate change and global warming threaten to turn the future into something that is difficult for most of us to imagine.

But that is where novelists and film directors come in, for they can toy with ideas and scenarios and try to make sense of where we stand now and where are headed.

Meet Paolo Bacigalupi, a fifth-generation Italian American and a prose writer with a sterling literary pedigree.

While he once wrote novels that were marketed as science fiction, his new novel, titled “The Water Knife,” is pure cli-fi. The story he tells seems almost ripped from daily newspaper headlines about heat waves, droughts, water shortages and, well, “water wars.”

A Colorado native married to a woman from India, Bacigalupi has in the past written environmentally-themed sci-fi novels. ”The Water Knife,” released this month, leaves science fiction behind and ventures deep into the mushrooming cli-fi genre.

Now in his forties, Bacigalupi writes like few people can today, prose that sings, ideas that flow, musings that ponder who we are and what we are doing on – and to – this planet Earth.

He is famous for saying that one of the classic questions that resonates with him as an author is: “If this goes on, what will the world look like?”

”The Water Knife” is set in America’s near future, and it’s about “water wars” between two major western cities: Las Vegas and Phoenix. The title comes from the starring role that so-called “water
knives” – a term the author coined for his story – play in the climate-themed story.

As master storyteller Bacigalupi frames it, “water knives” are eco-terrorists, hired thugs who become major players in a near future water war in the American Southwest that he imagines and delves into.

At a recent appearance at the annual American Library Association convention in Chicago, Bacigalupi introduced his new novel this way:

“You want a drought? I’ll give you a drought!”

And that’s what ”The Water Knife” is all about: a major drought that impacts the West.

Sound familiar? This book has legs, and it is likely to make a major impact of its own upon publication.
Translations are sure to appear in at least 12 editions outside the U.S., from Brazil to Spain.

Bacigalupi has a good track record as a novelist and short story writer, and he has fans worldwide now.

An earlier novel, ”The Windup Girl,” was a major genre hit, and ”The Water Knife” appears poised to go mainstream with an even bigger impact.

“Mad Max,” “The Hunger Games,” “Waterworld,” “The Walking Dead” and innumerable other books, movies and television series portray futures where the world has been devastated by disasters.

Do we really want to assign blame to global warming?

In the famous words of the American cartoonist Walt Kelly who created the Pogo character, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Bacigalupi knows this better than most people.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The post Novelists, Directors Respond as ‘Water Wars’ Loom appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dan Bloom is a freelance writer from Boston based in Taiwan. A 1971 graduate of Tufts University where he majored in French literature, he has been working as a climate activist and a literary activist since 2006. He can be found on Twitter @polarcityman

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‘Je Suis Favela’ – Bringing Brazilian Books to the Frenchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/je-suis-favela-bringing-brazilian-books-to-the-french-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=je-suis-favela-bringing-brazilian-books-to-the-french-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/je-suis-favela-bringing-brazilian-books-to-the-french-2/#respond Sat, 09 May 2015 09:19:50 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140519 Long before the attack in Paris that inspired the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”, a young French publisher had released a collection of stories titled je suis favela about life in Brazilian slums. In an ironic twist of history, sales of the collection have taken off since Jan. 7, when gunmen targeted the offices of satirical weekly Charlie […]

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By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 9 2015 (IPS)

Long before the attack in Paris that inspired the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”, a young French publisher had released a collection of stories titled je suis favela about life in Brazilian slums.

In an ironic twist of history, sales of the collection have taken off since Jan. 7, when gunmen targeted the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 people dead.

French publisher Paula Anacaona

French publisher Paula Anacaona

Some readers apparently thought the je suis favela stories were an attempt to shed light on the situation of marginalised communities in France, but instead they learned about marginalised populations in South America, where similar forces of exclusion may push young people into crime.

“We can all learn from what is happening elsewhere in the world, because we’re all affected by similar social and economic issues,” says Paula Anacaona, the publisher of je suis favela and founder of Éditions Anacaona, whose mission is to publish Brazilian books in France.

Educated as a translator of technical texts, Paris-born Anacaona, 37, became a literary translator and publisher by chance. On holiday in Rio de Janeiro in 2003, she happened to start chatting with a woman who revealed she was a writer and who promised to send her a book.

Back in Paris, Anacaona received the book two months later and “loved it”, as she told IPS in an interview. She translated the work, written by Heloneida Studart and later called Le Cantique de Meméia, and managed to get a Canadian company to publish it.“To understand the favela, you have to understand the grandparents who came to the cities from rural areas, often with nothing and unable to read or write” – Paula Anacaona, founder of Éditions Anacaona

Studart, who died in 2007, was also an essayist, journalist and women’s rights activist, and the book caught the attention of French-speaking readers in several countries.

Other writers got in touch, and Anacaona found herself becoming a literary translator. But by sending out the works to publishing companies, she was also taking on the role of agent, a time-consuming task.

“With all that was involved, I thought why not publish the books myself?” she recalls. She set up Éditions Anacaona in 2009 and decided to focus initially on literature from and about the ghetto or favela in Brazil, because “no one else was doing it.”

The first published book under her imprint was le Manuel pratique de la haine (Practical Handbook of Hate), a very violent and dark work set in the favela and launched in 2009.

Two years later came je suis favela, published in 2011. Anacaona selected the writers for the collection, choosing authors from both the favela and the “middle class” and translating the works written in Portuguese into French.

Her motivation, she says, was to try to change perceptions of those considered to be living on the fringes of society. The cover of je suis favela features a young black woman sitting on a balcony and doing paperwork, possibly homework, with the city in the background.

“As you can see, she’s not dancing, so this isn’t about stereotypes,” Anacaona says.

Cover of ‘je suis favela’

Cover of ‘je suis favela’

The book has since been published in Brazil, with the title Eu sou favela, giving Anacaona a certain sense of accomplishment. “In Rio, twenty percent of the population lives in the favela, so the book is relevant to many readers,” she says.

In France, where there has been national soul-searching since the Charlie Hebdo attacks – with Prime Minister Manuel Valls calling the social exclusion of certain groups a form of “apartheid” – the book provides insights into the reasons and consequences of marginalisation, albeit from a distance of 8,620 kilometres.

“French readers have responded to the book because people really are trying to understand the space we all share and the reasons for radicalisation,” says Anacaona.

Now representing more than 15 authors, she has widened her company’s scope to include “regionalist” authors such as the late Rachel de Queiroz and José Lins do Rego, from the northeast of Brazil, who wrote about characters outside urban settings.

“To understand the favela, you have to understand the grandparents who came to the cities from rural areas, often with nothing and unable to read or write,” Anacaona says.

Her company’s contemporary writers include the award-winning Tatiana Salem Lévy, named one of Granta’s Best Young Brazilian Novelists, and the stand-out Ana Paula Maia, who began her career with “short pulp fiction” on the Internet and now has numerous fans.

Both writers were part of the contingent of 48 Brazilian authors invited to this year’s Paris Book Fair, which took place from Mar. 20 to 23.

Billed as “un pays plein de voix” (a country full of voice), Brazil was the guest of honour, and the writers discussed topics ranging from the depiction of urban violence to dealing with memory and displacement. Anacaona had a central role as a publisher of Brazilian books, with her stand attracting many readers.

Brazilian writer Ana Paula Maia. Credit: Marcelo  Correa

Brazilian writer Ana Paula Maia. Credit: Marcelo Correa

She has translated and published two titles by Maia – Du bétail et des hommes (Of Cattle and Men) and Charbon animal (Animal Coal) – which focus on characters not normally present in literature. Maia writes about a slaughterhouse employee and a worker at a crematorium, for instance, in an unsentimental manner with minimal dialogue and almost no adjectives.

“She really can’t be categorised,” says Anacaona, who adds that despite Maia’s fashion-model appearance, the writer identifies with those living on the margins because she grew up among people who did not fit into the mainstream.

Both publisher and writer bear a resemblance and even have a name in common, and Anacaona acknowledges that she is attracted to Brazil and its literature because of her own mixed background – her French mother is white and her South American father is of African descent.

“In Brazil, it’s possible to be both black and white, and that’s something that is important to me,” she says.

As for the books, she has recently published a boxed set of 14 Brazilian plays, with the translation sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, in an attempt to make Brazilian theatre more known in France.

There is also a second favela collection, titled je suis toujours favela (I am still favela), that includes literature as well as journalistic and sociological articles about the slums.

Between the first and second collections, Anacaona says she has found that the “favela has changed so much”, which she credits to the impact of policies to diminish inequality, launched by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva  – perhaps a lesson for France and other countries.

Edited by Phil Harris 

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