30.7.11

A long way, baby!

By circumventing the Zambian postal system, I’ve acquired the latest edition of Nkhani Kulture, a Zambian lifestyle magazine. Although I had misgivings about the “K,” the magazine is a demonstration of sophistication and artistry. Its photography and print quality make it a perfect coffee table magazine and it’s an exemplar of what the Zambian entertainment industry is capable. Perusing the magazine, I can tell that they have learned many lessons from previous Zambian magazines that after a flitting lifespan have vanished into our uncharted publishing history. Bravo editorial team! 

Nkhani Kulture is indicative of the exponential growth in Zambian entertainment over the last twenty years. Music, television, fashion, artists are pursuing new ventures, as mroe Zambians are travelling abroad and following international arts and entertainment through satellite television and the internet.

Though I make an ambivalent follower of Zedbeats on Facebook (perhaps it’s my age) I still appreciate the efforts of the artists who epitomise the improved quality of Zambian music and videos. One must appreciate that creating literature, music and

28.7.11

Madness

One wishes that Anders Behring Breivik looked insane, that he spent his evenings painting racist graffiti on the walls and hurling faeces at black passersby. Since we cannot know what strangers who surround us think and feel by looking at them - no matter what assumptions we might make - we are left to wonder what neighbours do in the anonymity of their homes. Even in locked rooms, we now have the novelty of finding likeminded comrades online, we can create unseen secret societies, hiding in the digital world. We can confab with people who think like us and who will fertilise our imaginations and encourage us by assuring us that our ideas are not crazy.

Of course, I am not blaming the internet - a tool is what you make of it. I have found pages on Facebook with horrendous content; pages with which I would be ashamed to associate, but these pages have likeminded friends and followers who will publically declare that certain people should be raped or killed.

The awful events in Norway intrude into our lives here in Helsinki far more than the usual news we witness on TV - not just the physical proximity, but the similarity of context; the rise of rightwing parties, the relative safety and distance from most of the world’s targets and reliable security forces. While I sincerely hope justice prevails and this is the last of this kind of attack, I know that for many people such extremism is a constant reality, and I wish that for everyone we could see the end of this madness. 

Read more; Stieg Larsson and the Scandinavian right
Read more; From Oklahoma to Oslo
Read more; Norway's lost innocence 

Photograph: the Guardian

22.7.11

When we...

Once again, the world’s powers have seriously misjudged their ability to exert themselves over a “rogue” nation.

In a few years time if this war continues, just as Iraqis and Somalis and the citizens of other countries that have been embroiled in war for years or even decades, the Libyan collective memory of normality will begin to fade or be distorted. Gaddafi will once again become a hero, they will speak of the days when “it was safe to walk at night” and water flowed from the taps and there was peace. The details of that peace will become obscured and the reasons for going to war will be questioned.

A country doesn’t need a war to rewrite its collective memory. In Zambia, people are unashamed to express nostalgia for the days of KK (Kenneth Kaunda – dictator) and his successor FTJ (Frederick Chiluba – attempted to change the constitution in order to become a dictator).

Memory is a transient ethereal substance. When it is changed or changes how can we know? When in twenty years time we dispute the actions of Gaddafi, Kaunda or Chiluba where do we seek the truth? In Zambia, every newspaper tells a different story and now we choose to believe neither. We have are the opinions of thought leaders among whom impartiality is a scarce commodity in a country where “either you are for me or against me.”  When our history textbooks are written by the state, who do we trust to tell the truth, to record events as they really happened? 


Picture: The Persistence of Memory; Salvador Dali 

20.7.11

The good of the goose

After a few weeks without the motivation to blog, I came across an item in the Guardian on a spat between Germany and France on exhibiting foie gras (the fattened liver of a goose) at a German food fair.

I have very little interest in animal rights, but I do believe that our world has evolved to a state in which it can afford to treat its animals without brutality. Even if the final objective is a good meal and ultimately self gratification, I think the justification of processes such as the production of foie gras and veal are obsolete.

While in France foie gras is part of the “protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France”, in human rights speak the term “harmful traditional practice” would be used in a human equivalent, but I’m sure it applies in this case.  

Of course, one could call me unrefined, or say perhaps that my palate is unsophisticated, but the vitriol with which the French defend this practice is the same that protects other harmful cultural practices such as say underage marriage and polygamy.  

Photograph: CubaGallery on Flickr

9.7.11

A country in East Africa

If you look in Wikipedia this morning a new entry says “South Sudan, officially the Republic of South Sudan is a country in East Africa.”

A decade from now, I wonder if this new country will still honour the two million whose deaths justify its existence? With oil, continuing feuds and the likelihood of North Sudan continuing to menace the new country – it’s unlikely. The UN and various donor nations have already moved in and the World Bank and IMF will soon enough make their mark with “investments.”

My wish for Sudan is that they, or rather their leaders do not follow the certain path to despotism and kleptocracy – losing their empathy for the people they lead and thus deepening the gulf between the rich and poor, and between the government and the people. I hope that the excesses of wealth and power the characterise “leadership” in many newly independent or democratic countries do not become the hallmark of this new country for which so many people have died.  

Photographs: Jose Miguel Calatayud Flickr

5.7.11

In praise of - Acaye Pamela

A friendship born in my spell in Uganda, Acaye Elizabeth Pamela is a natural poet and determined to leave an imprint in the Ugandan art scene. From before I met Pam she pursued her career in print and on stage; performing in festivals, writing plays such as “The other woman” and even creating a musical. She has published anthologies of poetry “Echo of senses” and her new album of poetry “Awecu- I shall speak” is scheduled for release.

Pam is described as a poet, playwright, television presenter and activist and has added designer and mother to her list of accomplishments

Sacred tears
These sacred tears which inhabit my sanctuary;
Springing from wellsprings of broken dreams turned fossils,
And en-flamed wounds turned sacred ground for legends of pain and betrayal ,
That once was beauty.
What say you that, I shed these tears for sentimentality
Of what should have been and still can be when I am granted the grace to be and become that,
Of whom I must become.....
The jewel and the crown within and without.

Uganda 2010
Let the thunder cry and mind not the weeping of the sky,
They are only clearing their throats to rejoice with us.
I hear the Nankasa drums in Buganda picking up in tempo,
The Njigge drums from Alur land are also sounding alongside the mournful Agwara horn for change:

The Otole and Larakaraka dances are drawing near from Gulu, Kitgum and Pader,
The wind can blow teargas into our eyes!
 It will not stop us from walking the walk of freedom.

Blame it on the wind that has seduced the song from between our lips;
Or on the birds that have joined in the chorus, singing;
‘We shall preserve our land.’

Blame it on this relentless wind that cannot stop asking our souls!
“Are you ready for the great revival that is pouring down?”
Are you ready for the great awakening that is already here?
Are you ready to exercise the power of your vote?
Are you ready? Oh! Are you ready?

The Akogo’s, Adungu’s , Ngalabi’s and Nangas  are noisily sounded yet,
 Our feet rediscover the rhythm of our journey despite the long shadows of our present?
Even if our season is short, we shall rain our land into bountiful harvest. 
 Our voices rising above the thunder and lightning!

Even if as we reach forth to claim our harvest we find wilted and rotted fruit,
We shall pick them from the ground, slice off the rotten bits and
Relish in their succulent flavors as we savor them on our tongues.
We shall cast our votes with our minds and not our hearts.

3.7.11

A touch of motivation?

As one of a crowd of seven thousand, I revelled in the atmosphere in yesterday’s Pride parade in Helsinki. I’m not referring specifically to a “gay” atmosphere; at Mr Gay Finland’s float or the men in pink dresses, but rather at the idea that the participants were there without remuneration, coercion, reward or sycophancy. 

Anyone familiar with Zambian parading will know what I mean.

Where were the government or company sponsored suits, the tee-shirts, lunch, transport and the mandatory speech by “The Guest of Honour?” Did I forget the all-important banner? And where oh where was the “motivation” (a euphemism I learned as an intern in northern Uganda)?

Yesterday, I joined in the parade because I care about LGBT rights and not because there was a reward awaiting me. I also know many people in Zambia who really do believe in the power of such marches; of people standing up in public to declare their rage, desire or discontent. However this enthusiasm is not universal - as shown in the money spent on suits/shirts/lunch/banner/etc.


















Perhaps it’s time for the organisers of our parades could ask themselves if the huge sums of money spent could be invested in other means to reach our goals. Perhaps the World AIDS Day celebrations would survive without motivation, but I’m certain the other days – Women’s, Youth, Africa Freedom, Independence etc – would be abandoned if our various forms of “ensuring participation” ceased.

We’d have to find reason to march, perhaps rediscover what Africa Freedom or Independence Day were intended to signify. But that is highly unlikely for too many people (not all) have a vested interest in these parades which have become another chance to bag a free lunch and tee-shirt.


Photographs; USAFRICOM on flickr, Mwila Agatha Zaza