Inter Press ServiceArts – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:24:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 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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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 Hossain 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 Hossain 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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‘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

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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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