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February 24 2014

Celebrating Puerto Rican Poet Julia de Burgos on the 100th Anniversary of Her Birth

Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos. Screencap from video.

Poem titles given in English correspond with dual-language collection Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos.

February 17th marked 100 years since the birth of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953), considered by many be the country's national poet. Although her body of work was relatively small, consisting of some 200 poems, the poetry of Julia de Burgos has succeeded in capturing readers’ imaginations and touching their hearts ever since her first book of poems, Poemas exactos a mí misma, was published in print in 1937.

De Burgos only published three books of poems during her life: the aforementioned Poemas exactos a mí misma [Exact Poems to Myself], Poemas en veinte surcos [Poems in Twenty Furrows, 1938], and Canción de la verdad sencilla [Song of the Simple Truth, 1939]. A fourth book, Mar y tú y otros poemas [The Sea and You and Other Poems], was published in 1954, after her death at age 39. The high quality of de Burgos’ poetry has earned her work a permanent place among the best Latin American poetry of the 20th century.

Julia de Burgos was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and was the only one of 13 siblings to attend university. Although she did not graduate, she succeeded in obtaining a teaching certificate at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1936 she joined the women's branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, The Daughters of Liberty, who advocated for Puerto Rican independence under the leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos. She spent time living in Cuba and in New York, where she died of pneumonia in 1953. Because she carried no identification at the time of her death, she was buried in an anonymous grave in New York. Her remains were later transferred to a burial site in Carolina thanks to friends who were able to find the grave and claim her body.

De Burgos has become deeply imbedded in the collective imagination of Puerto Ricans living on the Island, as well as those of the diaspora. In the following video, Puerto Ricans of New York read excerpts from one of de Burgos’ most famous poems, “Yo misma fui mi ruta” (I was my own route).

According to José Gómez Biamón in his article for the online publication El Post Antillano [es], most of the activities commemorating de Burgos’ centennial took place outside of Puerto Rico:

[...] En el ámbito del Caribe Hispano, ha habido actividades, que demuestran un gran interés por el centenario, según se ha visto en la prensa recientemente. Específicamente, en la República Dominicana han develado un busto en honor a Julia de Burgos, en una plaza de la capital dominicana. Además, en Cuba la editorial Casa de las Américas ha expresado comunicados de júbilo, por la celebración del centenario. Igualmente, en los Estados Unidos ha habido varias actividades culturales, específicamente recuerdo ver en la prensa las fotos de un vistoso mosaico en una Calle del “Barrio” en Harlem, New York. Cabe mencionar, que en España, durante los últimos meses, también ha habido actividades y varias publicaciones relacionadas con Julia de Burgos.

[...] Judging by what has appeared recently in the media, there have been activities in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean that demonstrate a great interest in the centennial. Specifically, in the Dominican Republic, a bust in honor of Julia de Burgos was unveiled in a plaza in the Dominican capital. Furthermore, in Cuba, cultural organization Casa de las Américas has shared messages of celebration of the centennial. Likewise, there have been various cultural activities in the United States; in particular, I remember seeing photos of a remarkable mural on a street in “El Barrio,” in Harlem, New York. It should also be mentioned that in recent months, there were various activities and publications related to Julia de Burgos in Spain.

However, it should be noted that a large number of commemorative and celebratory events [es], like lectures and concerts, have taken place in Puerto Rico as well.

In an article on 80 Grados [es], Puerto Rican singer and composer Zoraida Santiago remembers Julia, who has been one of her great inspirations:

Este año hay mucha celebración de centenario. Sinceramente, me alegro. Pero espero que nos sirva para algo.

Que la celebración del centenario de Julia de Burgos nos sirva para rescatar la poesía. La suya y la de todos y todas las poetas.

This year the centennial is being widely celebrated. I'm sincerely happy. But I hope that it will serve a purpose.
I hope the hundredth anniversary of Julia de Burgos’ birth will serve to rescue poetry. Her poetry, and that of all poets.

Juan Camacho, in his blog post about Julia de Burgos, warns about the danger of her memory being reduced to the stereotype of the bohemian poet who lived a tragically short life:

Como cualquier ser humano de su época y de la nuestra, Julia enfrentó problemas e inconvenientes en el transcurso de su vida. Unos los pudo vencer, otros no. No obstante, entendemos que es injusto que se le recuerde, más allá del consenso de su calidad como poetisa, como la mujer fracasada, alcohólica, excesivamente romántica y pasional, enajenada de la realidad.

Julia fue más que un poema romántico; fue más que una relación amorosa; fue más que una mujer que enfrentó problemas.

Es hora de rescatar, sin que tengamos que reescribir la historia, a la otra Julia. A la otra Julia que también reclama la joven escritora Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro cuando escribe:

“Quiero conocer a la Julia revoltosa y desobediente; a la Julia de la rebelión, la que se codeó con Don Pedro Albizu Campos; que escribió cartas a favor de la excarcelación de Juan Antonio Corretjer; aquella que sostenía reuniones con grandes pensadores y libertarios como Juan Bosch…”

Like any human being of her time, or ours, Julia faced problems and obstacles over the course of her life. Some, she could overcome; others, she could not. Regardless, beyond the consensus about her excellence as a poet, it's unfair to remember her as a struggling alcoholic, excessively romantic and passionate, estranged from reality.

Julia was more than a romantic poem; she was more than a love affair; she was more than a woman who faced problems.
Without rewriting history, it's time to rescue the other Julia. The Julia sought by the young writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro when she writes:
“I want to know the unruly and disobedient Julia; the Julia of the rebellion, the one who rubbed shoulders with Don Pedro Albizu Campos; the one who wrote letters advocating for the release of Juan Antonio Corretjer from prison; the one who met with great thinkers and libertarians like Juan Bosch…”

Puerto Rican writer Luis Rafael Sánchez [es] has perhaps best articulated the reasons why we remember Julia de Burgos and, furthermore, how we should remember her:

Alargada en el espíritu de cuantos admiramos su hembría insurgente, enroscado su nombre en los labios de a quienes nos deslumbra su universo hecho de verso, a Julia de Burgos la llamaremos Poeta ahora, después y siempre. Y no porque la recordemos. Y sí porque la sentimos. Que como un grito integral, suave y profundo, estalló de sus labios la palabra.

Embedded in the spirit of all those who admire her rebellious femininity, her name entwined on the lips of those stunned by her universe of verse, we call Julia de Burgos a Poet, now, later, and always. Not because we remember her, but because we feel her. Like a primal cry, smooth and profound, her words burst from her lips.

You can find more information on Julia de Burgos here [es].

February 21 2014

Interview With Fula-Language Blogger Balde Mamadou Tafsir for Mother Language Day

Fula is the language of the Fula (Fulani) people. Few African ethnic groups exhibit such a wide range of political and economic integration in the West African region. Fula people number among Africa's greatest writers, professors, filmmakers, artists, politicians, and businessmen. Yet Fula nomads, representing the largest migratory ethnic group in the world, live in extremely precarious conditions as they travel with their livestock in the Sahel savannah. They are called Fulɓe (singular Pullo) in the Fula language, Fula or Fulani in English, and peul in French. The geographic distribution of the population extends from West Africa to Central and East Africa.

The Fula language varies significantly between countries:

Le peul, ou peulh ou fulfulde, ou pularpulaar, est une langue parlée dans une vingtaine d’États d’Afrique occidentale et centrale, des rives du Sénégal à celles du Nil. C'est la langue maternelle des ethnies peules, et aussi une langue seconde employée régionalement comme langue véhiculaire, par d'autres ethnies.

Fula (also known as peulh, fulfulde, pular, or pulaar) is a language spoken in some twenty West and Central African countries, from the banks of the Senegal to those of the Nile. It is the native language of ethnic Fulas and is also spoken as a second language and lingua franca by members of other ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, this language, despite being taught in several universities outside of Africa, is rarely taught in school systems on the continent.

African culture and languages researcher Balde Mamadou Tafsir writes two blogs in Fula, his native language. For the first, Misiide [ful], he uses the Latin alphabet, and for the second, tafsirexpress.blogspot.com [ful], he posts using the Arabic alphabet. His goal is to promote all facets of Fula language and culture. For International Mother Language Day, a UNESCO initiative celebrated every February 21st since 2000, he agreed to answer a few questions for Global Voices.

Balde Tasfir facebook photo profile with his permission

Balde Tasfir facebook photo profile with his permission

What do you think of International Mother Language Day?

Balde Mamadou Tafsir (BMT): C’est un moment de partage de joie, de satisfaction, de se sentir intégré dans la diversité culturelle. En ma qualité de développeur web de langues et cultures africaines je considère la Journée Internationale de la Langue Maternelle comme une merveilleuse occasion de maintenir ce noble objectif.

Je pense qu’il faut soutenir la résolution de L’UNESCO [ résolution 37 adoptée en 1999 par  la Conférence générale de cette institution du système des Nations Unies basée à Paris] qui affirme cette reconnaissance de la diversité culturelle de par le monde, cette journée nous encourage à multiplier nos efforts dans le développement de nos langues nationales.

Balde Mamadou Tafsir (BMT): It's an occasion to share joy and satisfaction, to feel integrated in cultural diversity. As a web developer working on African languages and cultures, I consider International Mother Language Day to be a wonderful occasion to further this important objective.
I think we need to support the UNESCO resolution [resolution 37 adopted in 1999 by UNESCO's General Conference of the United Nations System in Paris], which reaffirms recognition of cultural diversity throughout the world. This day encourages us to redouble our efforts in the development of our national languages.

What do you blog about?

BMT: Je blog le plus souvent sur la culture, les langues africaines, tout comme sur les activités socioculturelles.

I blog mainly about African culture and languages, as well as social and cultural activities. 

What do you find gratifying about blogging?

BMT: Tout d’abord, ça me rassure que bon nombre de mes lecteurs apprécient mes billets, mais aussi les questions/thèmes que j’aborde sur mes blogs. Ça m’encourage à plus écrire dans ces domaines.

First of all, it's reassuring that a good number of readers appreciate my posts, as well as the questions and themes that I bring up on my blogs. That encourages me to write more on these subjects.

What have you been working on since starting the blog Misiide?

BMT: Quelque mois après sa création, Misiide a lancé une version en arabe du blog pour ses lecteurs utilisant les caractères arabes. Tout récemment,  j’ai enregistré un album de poèmes poular (ou peul) qui sortira bientôt. Actuellement, je travaille sur la traduction des logiciels en peul. J’ai aussi traduit pas mal de livres en poular comme j’ai réalisé un petit lexique (poular-français, français-poular, et poular-arabe). D’autres projets sont en route.

A few months after its creation, Misiide launched an Arabic version for its readers who use the Arabic alphabet. Just recently, I recorded an album of Fula language poems, which will be released soon. I'm currently working on translating software into Fula. I've translated quite a few books into Fula and have also created a little glossary (Fula-French, French-Fula, and Fula-Arabic.) Other projects are on their way.

What kinds of difficulties do you come across?

BMT: Ce sont entre autres les mêmes difficultés que rencontrent nombre de bloggeurs à savoir : Problèmes financiers et techniques, l’entretien du blog… Sauf que nous avons plus de difficultés que celui qui blogue dans une des langues les plus utilisées, qui ont facilement accès au web. En outre quant à nous bloggeurs en langues africaines, le nombre de nos lecteurs est rès limités par rapport aux bloggeurs dans les langues les plus courantes. 

For the most part, I encounter the same difficulties as other bloggers, such as financial and technical problems and blog maintenance issues. However, we face more difficulties than bloggers who write in more widely spoken languages and who have easy access to the internet. Plus, African language bloggers have a very limited number of readers compared to bloggers in more common languages.

What do you think about teaching native languages in the school system?

BMT: L’enseignement des langues nationales dans le système scolaire mérite d’être encourager comme stratégie pour une amélioration de la réussite des élèves. Car elle joue un grand rôle dans la formation et l’affirmation de l’identité culturelle des individus, par conséquent leur valeur comme instruments de communication.

D’après les études, notamment celles menées conjointement par l’UNESCO et l’UNICEF, les élèves des pays où la langue maternelle est aussi la langue d’enseignement, surpassent les autres dans la plupart des secteurs d’étude.

Teaching national languages in the school system should be encouraged as a strategy for improving students’ success. It plays an important role in the formation and affirmation of individuals’ cultural identity, and, therefore, has value as a means of communication.
According to research studies, especially those conducted jointly by UNESCO and UNICEF, students who are taught in their native language outperform other students in a majority of subjects.

What are the results of mother tongue education in schools in Guinea?

BMT: La Guinée a mené une expérience originale dans l’enseignement des langues nationales a l’école ; comparativement aux autres pays de la sous région, mais elle a obtenu des résultats critiques et peu déterminants, dont le plus important a été la baisse du niveau des élèves dans les langues d'importance mondiale (arabe, français, anglais).

Compared to other countries in the subregion, Guinea has led an original experiment in teaching national languages at school. But Guinea has seen disappointing and inconclusive results, most importantly a decline in students’ performance in major world languages (Arabic, French, and English).

What caused this failure?

BMT: A mon avis, cet échec est dû au manque de préparation de l’opération, mais aussi au fait que les langues nationales étudiées à l’école étaient trop nombreuses par rapport à un petit pays comme la Guinée. Sans oublier le manque de motivation de parts et d'autres (enseignants, élève et parents d’élèves).

In my opinion, this failure is due to a lack of preparation for the undertaking, but also to the fact that the national languages studied in schools are too numerous for a small country like Guinea. Not to mention the lack of motivation of the various parties (teachers, students, and parents).

At what age do you think mother tongue education should begin?

BMT: Les études nous ont toujours démontré que l’introduction des langues nationales dans l’enseignement permet incontestablement d’obtenir une plus grande scolarisation des enfants de bons résultats scolaires. Cependant, la scolarisation en langues nationales doit absolument commencée dès les premières années de l’école.

Studies have always shown that the introduction of national languages in education unquestionably allows children to perform better in school. However, mother tongue education absolutely must begin in the first years of school.

Do you use your native language every day? In what context?

BMT: Oui ! Cela dépend de mes activités journalières, mais étant un étranger dans le pays ou je vie, l’utilisation de ma langue se focalise le plus souvent sur les moyens de communications (téléphone, internet…).

Yes! That depends on my daily activities, but as a foreigner in the country I live in, the use of my native language mainly revolves around means of communication (telephone, internet…).

What do you predict for the future of your language?

BMT: En se basant sur les différents travaux réalisés pour cette langue afin qu’elle soit plus intégrée dans la vie publique en général me rassure que celle-ci sera un jour l’une des langues de science et de technique.

Judging from the various projects undertaken to better integrate this language in public life, I generally feel reassured that one day it will become one of the languages of science and technology.

Anything else you would like to add?

BMT: Je profite de cette occasion pour saluer la résolution de l’UNESCO qui affirme que la reconnaissance et le respect pour la diversité culturelle dans le domaine du langage inspirent une solidarité basée sur la compréhension, la tolérance et le dialogue, et que toute action qui favorise l’utilisation des langues maternelles sert non seulement à encourager la diversité linguistique et l’éducation multilingue. Cette résolution, vise aussi à sensibiliser davantage à la multiplicité des traditions linguistiques et culturelles dans le monde.

Je lance un appel a tous mes amis bloggeurs à travers le monde, à s’associer à cette Journée pour prendre part à cette journée pour bloguer dans les langues nationales parce que nos langues sont  menacées d’extinction.

I'll take this opportunity to acknowledge the UNESCO resolution, which affirms that recognition and respect for cultural diversity in language inspire solidarity based on comprehension, tolerance, and dialogue. This resolution advocates that any action promoting the use of native languages should serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also to increase sensitivity to the multiplicity of linguistic and cultural traditions in the world.
I urge all my blogger friends across the world to take part in this day by blogging in their native languages, because our languages are at risk of extinction.

 

February 16 2014

What Happened to Creative Writing in Malawi?

Steve Sharra discusses the reasons behind the fall of quality of creative writing in Malawi:

Of the many private universities that are mushrooming across the country, very few offer humanities courses where people can study languages and literature, creative writing and literary criticism. The University of Malawi has been operating without a university bookshop for some eighteen years now. Funding problems in the universities mean that even the university libraries are unable to stock new literature.

January 27 2014

Prominent Kenyan Writer Binyavanga Wainaina Comes Out as Gay

Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. Photo released by Wikipedia user  Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).

Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. Photo released by Wikipedia user Binyavanga Wainaina at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. CC BY 3.0

Kenyan novelist and short story writer Binyavanga Wainaina has released a chapter that was left out from his 2011 memoir “One Day I Will Write About This Place” titled “I am homosexual, mum“. Wainaina, who is the founding editor of the East African leading literary magazine Kwani?, is an award-winning author whose memoir made the reading list of Oprah's book club in 2011.

Wainaina recounts events prior to his mother's death and his struggle to reveal his sexual orientation to the people he cares about. In what he calls a lost chapter from “One Day I Will Write About This Place”, he revealed:

I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother’s death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl’s Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

The revelation came shortly after Uganda's parliament passed legislation that would jail homosexuals and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria approved a new law that criminalises homosexual relationships and imposes prison terms of up of to 14 years.

Wainaina is quoted by Kenyan newspaper The Star saying that the anti-gay law in Nigeria was one of the things that made him decide to come out.

He has also released a six-part YouTube video titled “We Must Free Our Imagination” discussing his decision to come out, homosexuality in Africa, the church and anti-sodomy laws on the continent. Below is the first part of his video series:

Following his public declaration of his sexual orientation, Cal Advocacy blog asked, “Where are the voices of African lesbians?”:

Can lesbian women publicly and proudly raise their voices without fear of reprisals from conservative, patriarchal systems of silencing and oppression? And if we can- then why aren’t we? What systems of oppression still keep us muffled and quiet? When homosexuality is spoken about in Africa, the voice, rhetoric and overall emphasis on either affirming or disputing the rights of non-heteronormative people is more often than not the voice of gay men. Binyavanga is a gay man and he has ‘come out’ and publicly said so. But what does this mean for bisexual, trans and lesbian women? Does Binyavanga’s coming out also give us a voice and a space to claim our rights to exist in spaces that are hostile to our otherness? Can a lesbian woman in Africa copy-paste and edit his letter as a telling of her own story? Has he, in essence, spoken for us all? Women’s sexuality as a whole is a completely side-lined and unacknowledged part of womanhood, where societies, cultures, traditions and religions refuse to recognize women’s sexual rights and bodily autonomy. In this light, lesbian women struggle for legitimacy in a phallocentric world, where the absence of the penis means the absence of sex and sexuality. It can even be argued that colonial laws never took lesbian relationships to account because the very thought that two women, or women alone, could have sexually gratifying relationships was seen as ludicrous, and therefore unaffected by any kind of laws.

The post continued by praising the writer and pointing the way forward for African lesbians:

Binyavanga has helped push an already happening conversation into a public, heterosexual space. The energy around unapologetically and honestly stating our sexuality should not lose momentum. And the voice he uses in planting, firmly, his homosexual identity, is admirable. He makes no apologies, and offers no explanations. And neither should we. We need more lesbian voices, and the voices of gender non-conforming women, asserting ourselves and owning our place on the continent. It doesn’t have to be a coming out story, and you don’t have to be a literary giant. It just has to be your truth as a lesbian, bisexual or transgendered woman, but it has to be spoken out loud, because like Audre Lorde said-your silence will not save you.

On Twitter, many people praised his courage, while a few voices condemned him for his choice:

January 23 2014

Vargas Llosa's ‘Conversation in The Cathedral', 140 Characters at a Time

The anonymous Twitter user behind the handle @EnLaCatedral is determined to share [es] the whole content of “Conversation in the Cathedral“, a novel by Literature Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, 140 characters at a time. The novel by the Peruvian author begins with these words republished by @EnLaCatedral:

FROM THE entrance of [newspaper] La Crónica, Santiago looks at Tacna Avenue, loveless: automobiles, uneven and washed out buildings

 

January 19 2014

Saudi Arabia Jails Palestinian Poet for “Atheism and Long Hair”!

Saudi Artist Ahmed Mater shared this photograph on Twitter in support of Fayadh

Saudi Artist Ahmed Mater shared this photograph on Twitter in support of Fayadh

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is in a Saudi prison, allegedly for spreading atheism – and having long hair. The poet, raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested five months ago, when a reader submitted a complaint against him saying that his poems contain atheist ideas. The accusations were not proved and he was released only to be arrested again on the 1st of January 2014. The case of Fayadh is making the rounds in media and on social networks, with condemnations coming from Arab writers from across the region. Some of his friends wrote online that the real reason behind his arrest might be due to the video he filmed 5 months ago of Abha's religious police lashing a young man in public. Currently, the poet is still in jail with no evidence to the accusation or details of a coming trial. The following reactions clarify his case and express condemnations from Saudi writers, artists, and others standing in solidarity.

#أشرف_فياض التحرش بالذات الإلهية وتطويل الشَعر…فقط عندما تتوقف هذه التهم المضحكة/المبكية يمكننا أن نبدأ الحديث عن الحقوق والحريات ووو

@reem_tayeb: Ashraf Fayadh is accused of ‘harrasing the Godly self and letting his hair grow long.. when these laughable-sad accusations stop, we can start talking about rights and freedoms.

#أشرف_فياض اعتقاله ليس الا اعلان اننا وصلنا الى ما وصلت اليه اوروبا في العصور المظلمة !!

@MohammdaLahamdl: Ashraf Fayadh's arrest is an announcement that we have reached what Europe faced in the dark ages.

هل تعتقد أن إيمانك حقيقي وأنت تعتقد أن الله كائن قابل للتحرش به ؟! #أشرف_فياض

@WhiteTulip01: Do you think your faith is real when you think God can be harassed!!

أشرف_فياض معتقل بتهمة الالحاد!!وهل الكفر تهمة!! وهل الايمان إجبار!! هذا اذا افترضنا صحة التهمة أصلا

@MusabUK: Ashraf Fayadh is detained for atheism. Is atheism a charge? Is faith enforceable? That's if we assume the charge is true.

إن وجود #أشرف_فياض في السجن، مع المجرمين، والقتلة، لأنه شاعرٌ فحسب، لا يعنى سوى أن العدالة مسألة ترفيّة لدينا، سلطة وشعبا

@b_khlil: The fact that Ashraf Fayadh is now detained with criminals and killers just because he is a poet, tells us that justice is only a privilege to us, both as people and the regime.

15 تهمة ملفقة للشاعر والفنان #أشرف_فياض تبدأ بالإلحاد وتنتهي بإطالة الشعر، لماذا ؟ لأنه قبل 5 أشهر صور هيئة أبها وهي تجلد شاب أمام الناس

@turkiaz: The poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh is imprisoned for 15 charges, including atheism and long hair. Why? Because he filmed the religious police as they were lashing a young man in public.

#أشرف_فياض الى اعلامنا ، هل ننتظر ، القليل من المهنية ستفي بالغرض. قضية اشرف فياض علي وشك ان تكون في صفحات كل المحطات العالمية قريبا

@AhmedMater: To our media: should we wait? Some professionalism would do. Ashraf Fayadh's case is going to be on the front pages of international media soon.

تحولت التحقيقات مع الشاعر أشرف فياض بعد عجز المحقق أن يثبت شيئا من الاتهامات إلى أسئلة حول لماذا تدخن ؟ ولماذا شعرك طويل قليلاً ؟

@mohkheder: When the interrogator couldn't prove any accusations against Ashraf Fayadh, he started asking him why he smokes and why his hair is long

December 29 2013

Iran: Two Poets Arrested

Poets Mehdi Mousavi and Fatemeh Ekhtesari disappeared in Iran. News reported that the two have been detained since early December. More than two hundred people signed an online petition and called on the UN to take action about the situation of cultural activists particularly the case of these two young poets in Iran.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

December 12 2013

5 Influential People from Madagascar Who You Should Know

In the current polarized political atmosphere of Madagascar (after elections last month, a presidential run-off is scheduled for December 20, 2013), there are very few personalities who are unanimously revered by Malagasy citizens. Take a closer look at five modern figures from Madagascar who have made a difference in the African island country.

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga, the Scientific Pioneer 

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga via arom asso

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga via arom asso CC-BY-2.0

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga [fr] is by far the most renowned scientist from Madagascar. He was made famous by his extensive work on better understanding the healing properties of the unique endemic flora of Madagascar. He is credited with about 350 scientific publications on topics ranging from the function of the adrenal gland to natural remedies for diabetes.

He said the following about the interplay between nature and the Malagasy population [fr]:

Nous devons avancer à notre rythme, nous devons avant tout avoir confiance en nous-mêmes et dans les vertus thérapeutiques de la nature. Car la nature et l'homme ne font qu'un.

We need to proceed at our own pace, we need to trust ourselves and the healing virtues of nature. In the end, nature and man are nothing but one and the same entity.

In the following video in French, Ratsimamanga explains the body of his work and his passion for research:

The interview notes :

(Rastimamanga) a mis au service de son pays le fruit de ses connaisances modernes conciliées au savoir empirique des guérisseurs malgaches 

(Ratsimamanga) served his country by combining his modern scientific methodology with the empirical knowledge of Malagasy healers. 

Still, his scientific achievement is only half of his life story. He was also a major contributor to the Malagasy movement for independence from France as the co-founder of the the Association of Malagasy Students (AEOM), one of the pioneer organization in the struggle against colonialism.

Cover of Gisele Rabesahala biography via ocean editions CC-BY

Cover of Gisèle Rabesahala's memoir via ocean editions CC-BY

Gisèle Rabesahala, the Patriot 

Gisèle Rabesahala was one of the leaders of the struggle for Madagascar's independence. She was a journalist and political activist who founded the newspaper Imongo Vaovao. She was also the first Malagasy woman elected in 1958 as a representative for the city council of Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. She died in 2011, and the Internet was flooded with many tributes saluting her memory.   

Gradiloafo blog noted [fr] her many caritative efforts and her political activism: 

Dans le social, Gisèle Rabesahala a été la fondatrice de l'ONG Comité de solidarité de Madagascar ou « Fifanampiana malagasy » qui œuvre, en l'occurrence, dans l'aide aux démunis [..] Militante engagée dès son jeune âge dans la lutte pour la souveraineté du pays, elle était de tous les mouvements de jeunesse solidaires de la libération des pays sous la tutelle coloniale 

In her community work, Gisèle Rabesahala was the founder of the NGO “Fifanampiana Malagasy” [Solidarity for Madagascar], which strives to help the very poor [..] She was a committed activist at an early age in the struggle for sovereignty and was part of all the youth movements for the country's liberation from colonial rule.

Jean-Luc Raharimanana, the Guardian of Memory 

Raharimanana on flickr by Gangeous CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Luc Raharimanana. Photo from Flickr user Gangeous CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Luc Raharimanana is a Malagasy writer. By the age of 20, he had already won the Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo Poetry Prize for his early poems. His writings were recognized for their portrayal of the beauty of nature in its native home, but also its poverty and squalor, especially in the shanty towns. In his work, legends and old superstitions are juxtaposed with contemporary political events.

Catherine Bédarida, a literary critic from France, wrote about Raharimanana and his book “Nour, 1947″ [fr]:

 ”Nour, 1947″ son premier roman, est à la fois livre d'histoire, oratorio, récit poétique, pages battues par les vents, l'océan, le sel, le sang.  1947, c'est l'heure de l'insurrection malgache. La colonie française voit le retour de ses tirailleurs, enrôlés dans la deuxième guerre mondiale, qui rêvent de selibérer à leur tour de l'occupant. La répression fait des milliers de morts. [..] ” Les mots s'en sont allés et nous ont laissés sans mémoire “ : reconstituer la mémoire de Madagascar, telle est l'obsession du narrateur. 

“Nour, 1947″ is his first novel. It is all at once a historical fiction, an oral history, a poem battered by wind, sea, salt and blood. 1947 is the year of the Malagasy insurrection against the colonial period. French colonizers in Madagascar saw the return of the Malagasy legion that battled in France during WWII and now wanted to free their own nation from the settlers. The French repression killed thousands [..] He writes, “Words have come and gone and left us without memory”: this author's obsession is to reconstruct the memory of Madagascar 

Erick Manana, the Cultural Icon
Erick Manana is a singer and a songwriter described once as the “Bob Dylan of Madagascar”. His professional career as a musician began in 1982 as a member of the band Lolo sy ny Tariny. Manana is the recipient of several awards, and he performed at the historic Olympia venue in Paris to celebrate the 35th year of his career in 2013.

Uli Niebergall writes the following about Manana:

Manana's repertoire gracefully alternates between lyric ballads (e.g. “Tany niaviako”) and pop tunes with irresistibly wild and intricate rhythms (e.g. “Izahay tsy maintsy mihira”), and a grateful audience responds enthusiastically to every tone and syllable. Manana's lyrics often deal with the everyday life of Malagasy people. [..] Manana, however, doesn't limit himself to influences from his home country, but displays a distinct eclecticism in his choice of songs by other artists, both geographically and stylistically. For example, in reverence to Air Madagascar flying the distance between Paris and Antananarivo, he has remodeled “Amazing Grace” into a song called “Vorombe tsara dia” (The plane that flies well). He sings a Malagasy version of Leonard Cohen's “Suzanne” which sounds surprisingly fresh.

Here is a video of one of his most celebrated songs, “Izaha tsy maintsy mihira”:

Jacques Rabemananjara, the Political Prisoner  

Jacques Rabemananjara was a Malagasy politician, playwright and poet. Rabemananjara was born in town on the Bay of Antongil, on the Eastern Coast of Madagascar in 1913. Rabemananjara was recognized as the one of the most most prolific authors of the Negritude genre [fr], the literary and ideological movement developed by Francophone black intellectuals that rejected French colonial racism. Senghor, the famed Senegalese writer turned president, is the pioneer of the movement. He was suspected of being involved in the instigation of the failed 1947 Malagasy Uprising against colonial rule, despite the fact that he had urged the rioters to be calm. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour.

Green Integer blog recalled his life's achievements

After leaving school, Rabemananjara became an organizer of the first union of Malagsy civil servants, and co-founded La Revue des Jeunes de Madagascar, a journal which expressed nationalist sentiments at odds with the French rulers, who forced the magazine, after 10 issues, to cease publication. During the war years in France he met members of the negritude group, including Léopold Sédar Senghor and Alioune Diop, who contributed to the African journal Présence Africaine. [..] In 1947, however, Malagasy revolutionaries attacked a French military installation. The authorities retaliated by killing or wounding eighty thousand Malagasies. And, although there is no evidence that his Mouvement democratique de Renovation Malgache party was involved, Rabemananjara was threatened with death, suspected of having organized the uprising. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. His Antsa (Song), published in France in 1956, made him a national hero, and associated him even more closely with Senghor and Cesaire.

Rado, the Poet  

Georges Andriamanantena [mg], better known as Rado, is a renowned Malagasy poet who died five years ago. Yet his work has endured the test of time in Malagasy culture, including the Malagasy blogosphere.

Georges Andriamanantena via his facebook tribute page with permission

Georges Andriamanantena via a Facebook tribute page. Used with permission

Rado is a descendant of the rulers of the village of Amboanana in the Itasy Region, known as the home of the fiercest freedom fighters against French colonization. Tebokaefatra,  a malagasy blogger from Antananarivo,  wrote [mg] about how Rado's origins explained his unwavering patriotism:

“…ilay vohitra kely ao atsimon'Arivonimamo, izay nisehoan'ireo Menalamba sahy nanohitra voalohany indrindra ny Fanjanahantany teto Madagasikara. Araka izany koa dia mba nandova ny ran'ireo tia tanindrazana tsy nanaiky hozogain'ny vahiny.”

…the little village south of Arivonimamo, where the Menalamba, the fiercest and first opponents of colonization in Madagascar, originated. Rado inherited the patriotism of his forebearers who always refused any foreigners’ rule.

He valued his independence: even though he held a well paying job for a time, he resigned from that job and preferred to found his own newspaper called Hehy with his brother Celestin. He published seven books of poems, including Dinitra (1973), ny Voninkazo adaladala (2003) and ny fiteny roa (2008). Many of his poems were set to music by some of the most famous Malagasy artists. Maintikely, Malagasy blogger in Cape Town, RSA,  posted [mg] one of his poems. Here is an excerpt: 

Ho any ianao,kanefa….
Aza ataonao fantany izao fahoriako izao
Fa aoka hiafina aminy
Ny ketoky ny jaly
Nanempaka ny aiko,tanatin'ny longoa
Izay namandrihany ahy…
Ny dinitry ny foko manorika ahy mangina,
Fa sempo-tsasak'alina
Misaina ity anjarako,
Aza ataonao fantany!
[..]
Eny e ! Ampy izay.Tongava soa aman-tsara !
Dia akatony mora
Io varavarako io
Fa hitomany aho…
Rado, janoary 1966

You are meeting her, but…
Do not tell her about my suffering,
Let her ignore the bite of pain,
that is tearing up my being,
in the web she trapped me in,
My sweating heart that chokes me silently
at midnight
when I ponder my fate,
Do not let her know !
[..]
This is my message. Please do not forget.
And Adieu !
But before you go,
this hand of yours, do not touch anything with it,
until it links to hers…
Yes, that is it. Have a good journey.
And please do close that door
On my tears.
Rado, January 1996.

Mialy Andriamananjara contributed to this post.

December 06 2013

Top 4 Buzzwords that People in Japan Couldn't Stop Saying in 2013

In 2013, Japan had variety of newly introduced phrases and words. Image by Keiko Tanaka

In 2013, Japan had variety of newly introduced phrases and words. Image by Keiko Tanaka

Among the slew of new and popular words to emerge in Japan this year, only four have risen above the rest to win the honor of the 2013 New Buzzwords Award [ja], an annual distinction handed out by distance learning company U-Can and publishing firm Liberal National. 

In an unprecedented result, the four winners tied for first place out of 50 nominees. They are: 

1. Imadesho!

Meaning “how 'bout now?!”, the phrase was made popular by Hayashi Osamu, a lecturer who teaches modern Japanese at a specialized school known as a cram school, after he used it in the school’s commercial to express it is about time you start studying for exam.

2. O-mo-te-na-shi

Simply the spelling aloud of the Japanese word “omotenashi”, meaning hospitality, this buzzword was introduced to the Japanese language by Christel Takigawa, female news presenter who spoke at the final Olympic bid meeting for Japan. This word is used in the context of hospitality and warm welcomes that are deeply rooted in Japanese society.

3. Jejeje

Meaning “What? What?! WHAT!?”, the phrase entered the public's vocabulary thanks to the 2013 widely popular television drama “Amachan.” This is a dialect that is used by the main character when expressing surprise in the Tohoku region. She tries to become a celebrity idol in Tokyo, and finally returns to Tohoku to help revitalize the area after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

4. Baigaeshi

Also from a popular television drama, “baigaeshi” means “two-fold payback” or “revenge” and is the catchphrase of the main character on “Hanazawa Naoki,” a banker who stands up to his unreasonable boss.

Twitter user Yukihiro Matsumoto commented about the television link between all four of the top words:

With the Buzzwords Award, the fact that all four selected words have some basis in television just goes to show that television’s sphere of influence is larger than before.

Among others that entered into the top ten on the list announced on December 2, 2013 was “hate speech”, a word that was on the lips of many in 2013, a year that saw anti-Korea protesters, angry over the popularity of Korean products on the Japanese market, grow more vocal.

Other words in the top ten included “PM 2.5”, as it is commonly called, or atmospheric pollution in the form of particulate matter, which became a buzzword stoked by fears that neighboring China's pollution is reaching Japan; “Secret Protection Bill,” a controversial bill that would toughen penalties for leaking national secrets; and “Abenomics,” a sort of slogan for the administration of President Shinzo Abe’s economic policies.

Ascii art used to describe gekiokopunpunmaru, a new buzzword used in 2013 to express one's anger

Ascii art used to describe gekiokopunpunmaru, a new buzzword used in 2013 to express one's anger

Net Buzzwords Award

On the other hand, what seemed to garner even more interest was the “Net Buzzword Award [ja],” announced on December 12. The award, which highlights popular words from the Internet, is carried out by Japan's search engine company, and decided by users from 2chan, an online bulletin board, who cast their votes [ja] on what they think were the most well-noted phrases of the year.

The Net Buzzwords Award also awarded the top spot to “Imadesho!”, while “Baigaeshi” took third. In second place was “gekiokopunpunmaru”, a phrase that childishly expresses extreme anger in the form of an onomatopoeia and therefore is fairly difficult to translate into English.

Commenting on the similarities between the Net Buzzword and New Buzzword awards, Twitter user Katsura Igarashi wrote:

The Net Buzzwords Award and the regular Buzzwords Award were pretty much the same. This is the end of the Internet as a refuge .

This post was written by the author in Japanese and was translated by Taylor Cazella

December 04 2013

Egypt Mourns Poet of the People Ahmed Fouad Negm

Ahmed Fouad Negm: 84 Years of Revolution . A banner shared on Twitter by @i3atef

Ahmed Fouad Negm: 84 Years of Revolution . A banner shared on Twitter by @i3atef

Revolutionary Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm died yesterday at the age of 84. Netizens from across the Arab world mourn his death.

Referred to as Egypt's “Poet of the People,” Negm, whose poems were often chanted at Tahrir Square, the epi-centre of the Egyptian Revolution, spent 18 years of his life in prison. Among them were 11 years he spent behind bars for mocking former president Amwar Sadat's television addresses.

His poem, The brave men are brave, chanted at Tahrir, reads:

The brave men are brave
The cowards are cowardly
Come with the brave
Together to the Square

Negm wrote in colloquial Egyptian, and his words were immortalised in political songs, written for the poor and working class, by Sheikh Imam.

Negm maintained a Twitter account, in which he continued to voice his revolutionary thoughts to the end, often engaging with netizens.

Zeinobia, on Egyptian Chronicles, blogs:

Through his life Negm refused to be the regime's poet insisting to be the voice of the poor and the oppressed and I think this is why he will be remembered more than any poet in our time.

She adds:

Ahmed Fouad Negm has gone but his poems and songs remain as the words of the revolutionaries not only in Egypt but across the world.

On Twitter, an out pour of sympathy is seen under the hashtag #أحمد_فؤاد_نجم [ar], or Ahmed Fouad Negm.

Egyptian Mahmdouh Hamza writes:

Egypt has lost a piece. May God have mercy on the purest and most truthful of men, the poet of the continous revolution: Ahmed Fouad Negm.

Egyptian television anchor Sherif Amer tweets [ar]:

Ahmed Fouad Negm was the adversary of presidents. The next president's problem will be the absence of Negm. His poetry will be repeated by thousands in front of millions. May God have mercy on who remains and who had left.

From the UAE, writer Abdulla Al Neaimi adds:

Many accuse Ahmed Fouad Negm of being unstable. I find his views more frank than thousands of stable poets.

Palestinian Azmi Bishara notes:

He was the poet of the downtrodden and those facing injustice and he too was marginalised. When the people realised the injustice they were facing, he became the people's poet. Ahmed Fouad Negm witnessed this in his life.

And Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti says Negm will continue to annoy dictators – through his poetry – even after his death:

Ahmed Fouad Negm: You will continue to annoy them from there. Goodbye my friend

His funeral, in Cairo, was attended by thousands of people. Egyptian blogger Zeinobia compiles a Storify of Negm's funeral here.

Further reading:

Al Jazeera: Ahmed Fouad Negm: Writing a Revolution

Some of Negm's poems translated into English can be found here

December 02 2013

Blogging the simple and impossible task of literary translation

flores-azuis British writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn is blogging his progress as he translates Blue Flowers, a novel by Brazilian writer Carola Saavedra, from Portuguese into English, a process that “is both simple and impossible”:

So over these next couple of months I’m going to try to articulate what for me are the delights and frustrations of the work of translating a novel. I’m going to try to give an insight into the processes that go into that work. I’m going to try to convey what it actually feels like to live inside someone else’s writing so completely and so attentively that in time you feel capable of faking it yourself, and faking it so well – with all its joys and idiosyncrasies – that your writing voice ends up seeming somehow identical to your author’s, and that you seem to be performing a magical transformation whose magic lies in the very fact that nothing is changed at all. (Except – yes, of course – along the way every individual word has been removed and replaced.)

The book opens with a love letter to an unnamed recipient, and the simple start of a letter presents a multitude of unexpected choices. See the whole series to date here.

November 24 2013

“People That Look Like Themselves”: A Comic that Celebrates Natural Black Hair

This article is part of the a series that celebrates Black Awareness Day in Brazil (November 20). Read the first interview: Persistent Stereotypes, Latent Prejudices: Black Characters in Brazilian Comics

A Kindumba da A.N.A. (read as ANA)   ANA- Baptized this way because she was born at the breast of the group Angolanas Naturais e Amigos, a forum (on Facebook) of discussion about naturally curly hair (and not just that). Kindumba- Kimbundo is a term for a hairstyle and/or a kind of hair. I adopted the term after reading the story

Image that explains the origin of the name “A Kindumba da ANA” on her page on Facebook. ANA- Baptized this way because she was born at the breast of the group Angolanas Naturais e Amigos, a forum (on Facebook) of discussion about naturally curly hair (and not just that). Kindumba- Kimbundo is a term for a hairstyle and/or a kind of hair. I adopted the term after reading the story A kindumba da minguinha, by the Angolan writer Arnaldo Santos. Another term that he uses to define hair is Jimbumba! That's how “A Kindumba da ANA” was born. (And Chiquinha, the author, drew some little curly hairs in the word ANA)

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted.]

Francisca Nzenze Meireles, also known as Chiquinha, is the author of “A Kindumba da ANA,” a comic that uses humor to promote the beauty of natural hair and naturally curly hair. She is Angolan and has lived in Brazil for a few years. The name ANA refers to the initials of Angolanas Naturais e Amigos (Natural Angolan Women and Friends), an online forum. The strips can be seen on Chiquinha's page.

Francisca Nzenze Meireles, also known as Chiquinha.

Francisca Nzenze Meireles, also known as Chiquinha: “On the street, I see it emerging bit by bit, another norm of people. People that look like themselves.” Photo used with permission.

During the week in which Brazil celebrates Black Awareness Day [en], learn a little more about this artist, her impressions of working between different cultures, and about the affirmation of one's identity. And, in the spirit of the Portuguese language, take the opportunity to learn a little more about the accent and culture of Angola.

Global Voices (GV): Talk a little bit about the setting of comics in Angola. What have you read and what do you currently read? Which ones do you recommend?

Chiquinha (CH): Eu era leitora assídua de uma tirinhas Angolanas nos anos 90. O MANKIKO, de Sérgio Piçarra, um Angolano. Era muito bom, mas já não existe. Aliás o mercado livreiro e editorial em Angola não é muito vivo. Não sei o que se produz agora. Fui convidada a participar de uma exposição de banda desenhada em Angola promovida pelo OLINDOMAR estúdios. Enviei alguns trabalhos, mas nem sei se foram expostos. Eles não voltaram a me contactar. Mas imagino que a banda desenhada, como se chamam os quadrinhos em Angola, estejam sim “vivos e bem de saúde”. Jovens talentosos lá há muitos! Problemas existem nas editoras.

Chiquinha (CH): I was a regular reader of one of the little Angolan strips from the 90s– MANKIKO [en, pt] by Sérgio Piçarra, an Angolan cartoonist. It was very good, but it doesn't exist anymore. As a matter of fact, the book market in Angola is not very active. I don't know what is being produced right now. I was invited to participate in a comic exposition in Angola promoted by OLINDOMAR studios. I sent some work, but I'm not even sure if it was shown. They never contacted me again. But I imagine that the “banda desenhada”, as comics are called in Angola, are “alive and well.” There are many talented youth there! The problems are with the editors.

GV: Your work began in Angola and now continues in Brazil. Has this changed in some way the day-to-day inspiration for your work?

CH: Em Angola eu tenho um livro infantil escrito e ilustrado por mim, mas não tinha nada feito nada parecido com ilustração em quadrinhos. Os quadrinhos A Kindumba da ANA começaram aqui mesmo no Brasil (onde hoje moro) a partir do meu interesse em cabelos naturais, curiosidade e amor aos cabelos naturais crespos. Foi quase por acaso que nasceu “a Kindumba da ANA”. Eu participava de um grupo do Facebook chamado Angolanas Naturais e Amigos, e lá se discutia muito sobre cabelos naturais.

Na conversa com outras meninas , sempre surgiam cenas do quotidiano engraçadas, chatas, polêmicas, tristes, alegres… enfim, como gosto muito de desenhar, decidi brindar algumas meninas com historinhas que teriam um final feliz e/ou engraçado. Assim nasceu a Kindumba da ANA.

O facto de estar no Brasil não mudou, porque a fonte de inspiração continua sendo cabelo crespo natural, e nada mais. Alguns episódios referem-se ao Brasil especificamente, mas sempre tendo o cabelo como protagonista principal.

CH: In Angola, I have a children's book that I wrote and illustrated, but I haven't done anything that is similar to comic illustration. The “A Kindumba da ANA” comics began here in Brazil (where I live today) when I became interested in natural hair, as well as the curiosity and love for naturally curly hair. It was almost by chance that “A Kindumba da ANA” was born. I participated in a Facebook group called Angolanas Naturais e Amigos [Natural Angolan Women and Friends], and in the group there was a lot of discussion about natural hair.

In the discussion with other girls, there were always stories of day-to-day life that were funny, boring, controversial, sad, happy… anyway, as I really like to draw, I decided to show recognition for some of the girls with little stories that would have a happy or funny ending. And that's how “A Kindumba da ANA” was born.

The fact that I'm in Brazil hasn't changed anything because the source of inspiration has continued to be naturally curly hair, and nothing more. Some episodes refer specifically to Brazil, but always with hair as the main character.

  In this strip, Ana is questioned about the time dedicated to her hair and her pity on those who straighten their kindumba (curly hair). I have concluded that now, with naturally curly hair, it's just me that styles it. (1) Ana, don't you waste a lot of time and patience on your hair? (2) No way! Before it was: (3) wait for my stylist: (4) hope that she was in a good mood; (5) that she didn't pull on my hair with force; (6) and that she didn't burn me...[Ana says (worried): careful with my ear. And the stylist responds, impatiently: I know what I'm doing!] (7) Now: it's just me. (8) whenever I want! (9) and I discovered that my hair is growing!!!

In this strip, Ana is questioned about the time dedicated to her hair and her pity for those who straighten their kindumba (curly hair). I have concluded that now, with naturally curly hair, it's just me that styles it.” (1) Ana, don't you waste a lot of time and patience on your hair? (2) No way! Before it was: (3) Wait for my stylist: (4) Hope that she was in a good mood; (5) That she didn't pull on my hair with force; (6) And that she didn't burn me…[Ana says (worried): "Careful with my ear." And the stylist responds, impatiently: "I know what I'm doing!"] (7) Now: it's just me. (8) Whenever I want! (9) And I discovered that my hair is growing!!!”

GV: How is it to work between different cultures?

Chiquinha: Eu não considero o Brasil tão diferente de Angola culturalmente falando. Aliás, Angola consome actualmente muita cultura do mundo inteiro. Principalmente os mais jovens. Nem a língua chega a ser um entrave à compreensão das tirinhas que faço. Aliás, a maioria dos fãs da Kindumba da ANA são Brasileiros. Não sei se porque a internet é mais acessível aqui no Brasil, ou se existem outros motivos para isso.

CH: I don't consider Brazil that different from Angola, culturally speaking. By the way, Angola currently consumes a lot of global culture. Mostly younger people. Not even the differences in language are an obstacle to the understanding of my comics. Even so, most of the fans of “Kindumba da ANA” are Brazilian. I don't know if it's because the Internet is more accessible here in Brazil, or if there are other reasons for this.

GV: In Brazilian comics, the possibilities of the online world and the increase in participation of authors from other corners of the country seem to bringing a greater diversity to the field, with the inclusion of other themes and world views in the comics that are available to readers. From your point of view as a foreigner, do you believe this is a trend? How was your reception?

CH: Eu não conheço muitos quadrinhos Brasileiros. Conheço a Turma da Mônica, as charges do Laerte, Henfil… mas não sou leitora assídua de revistinhas em quadrinhos. Então não saberia responder se existe essa tendência de mudança e inclusão de novos temas.

Sobre a minha acolhida, devo dizer que a resposta tem sido bastante positiva. As pessoas gostam de se ver representadas. Eu tento dar à A.N.A uma personalidade leve e agradável, um tipo abordagem que permita que crianças e adultos considerem os cabelos naturais, simplesmente como eles são: cabelos naturais. A A.N.A vem para imprimir leveza a um tema que poderia facilmente ser revestido de polêmica.

CH: I am not familiar with very many Brazilian comics. I know Turma da Mônica, the cartoons of Laerte, Henfil… but I'm not a regular reader of the little magazines of comics. Therefore, I wouldn't know how to respond if there is a trend of change and inclusion of new themes.

About my reception, I must say that the response has been rather positive. People like to see themselves represented. I try to give to ANA a light and pleasant personality that allows children and adults to think of their natural hair simply as what it is: naural hair. ANA is meant to make a theme that could easily be overwhelmed by controversy a bit lighter.

 In this strip, Ana suffers from the harassment of her boss with respect to her hair. (1) The boss says: Explain to me, your hair like that, what is it? Some problem? A pledge? Somebody put a curse on you? Is it a bet? Is it punishment? A challenge? A debt? Were you widowed? Did someone leave you? (2) Ana thinks: Ai ai... If you weren't the boss, one word would do it, but that's how it is... (3) Ana responds: it's pride, it's good sense, it's having charm, self-love, higher self-esteem, it's stylish, it's a choice, it's making myself attractive, well-resolved, free, fabulous, powerful and beautiful! Any more questions? (4) The boss thinks: Uh-oh, now I look weak...

In this strip, Ana suffers from harassment from her boss with respect to her hair. (1) The boss says: Explain to me, with your hair like that, why is it? Some problem? A pledge? Somebody put a curse on you? Is it a bet? Is it punishment? A challenge? A debt? Were you widowed? Did someone leave you? (2) Ana thinks: If you weren't the boss, one word would do it, but that's how it is… (3) Ana responds: It's pride, it's good sense, it's having charm, self-love, higher self-esteem, it's stylish, it's a choice, it's making myself attractive, well-resolved, free, fabulous, powerful and beautiful! Any more questions? (4) The boss thinks: Uh-oh, now I look weak…

GV: We live in a time of affirmation of all identities– ethnicity, gender, religion, and others. The demonstration of these identities is rather perceptible online, and one of these examples is your own work with “A Kindumba da Ana”. Do you think that this change will manage to jump from the virtual world onto the streets?

Chiquinha: Acho que sim, e devo dizer que as redes sociais permitem que isso aconteça de um modo bastante abrangente. Eu mesma consegui voltar a usar o meu cabelo natural depois de pesquisar no You Tube o que fazer com o meu cabelo, porque eu de facto não sabia como cuidar dele. Não sabia o que usar, como pentear , estilizar, lavar… Depois foi o Facebook, troca de experiências, contacto com outras pessoas iguais a mim e a cada dia eu me sentia mais encorajada a perseguir um modelo meu, um modelo que não se vê na televisão , nas revistas, na literatura.

Na rua, vejo surgir aos poucos, outro modelo de gente. Gente que se parece consigo mesma. Gente que não quer se parecer com o padronizado da sociedade pré fabricada!

I think so, and I must say that social networks allow this to happen in a rather comprehensive way. I myself have returned to wearing my hair naturally after researching on YouTube what to do with my hair, because I really didn't know how to take care of it. I didn't know how to wear it, comb it, stye it, wash it… After that I went to Facebook, exchanged experiences, and made contact with other people just like me, and every day I feel more encouraged to pursue this new version of myself, one that isn't seen on television, in magazines, or in literature.

On the street, I see it emerging bit by bit, another norm for people. People that look like themselves. People that don't want to look like the standardized norm of a pre-fabricated society!

Interview with A.N.As (read as Anas) (1) Why the decision to wear your hair naturally? (2) Ana, dressed in African clothing, says: Because I wanted to

(1) Why the decision to wear your hair naturally? (2) Ana, dressed in African clothing, says: Because I wanted to “connect” with my ancestry. (3) Ana, with glasses, sitting at a desk, with a cup of coffee in hand. She says: What a silly question! (4) Ana in a short skirt, blouse, big earrings, giving the middle finger with a mischievous smile. She says: Because I told “fashion” to screw yourself! (5) Ana in a flowered dress and a candid smile. She says: Because I think its beautiful!

This article is part of the a series that celebrates Black Awareness Day in Brazil (November 20). Read the first interview: Persistent Stereotypes, Latent Prejudices: Black Characters in Brazilian Comics

 

November 22 2013

PHOTOS: Dhaka's Beautiful Blue Sky Briefly Takes Over Web

White patches of cloud are drifting in the sky.

White patches of cloud drifting in the sky. A lonely bird is flying. Image by Ashraful Alam, Baily Road, Dhaka. Used with permission.

The Bengali calendar is made up of six seasons, with two months comprising each season. Now is the Hemonto (হেমন্ত), or the dry season. During this season, the sky comes alive with vibrant color, from deep blues and pristine whites to the golden shades of dusk. Snowy patches of clouds hang overhead, and the sun warms the air.

Such was the scene on 17 November, 2013, with the striking beauty of the sky overwhelming the horizon above Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka. Talk of the stunning sight spread like wildfire on social media as netizens shared their beautiful images on Facebook and Twitter, some using the #Dhakasky hashtag. Even some newspapers featured them.

Journalist and blogger Simu Naser (@simunaser) wrote:

Oh no. Looking at newsfeeds, it seems everybody is watching the sky leaving all their work. This is good.

Torongo (@ttorongo) said:

I was amazed by the sky in the afternoon, it was a combination of blue and white stretching to the horizon. Now it seems that everybody's noticing it. Even saw the #Dhakasky hashtag.

Shafiul Alam (@shafiulnub) appreciated the moon too:

During the day, the sky was beautiful, now the moon is stealing the show.

Atif M Safi tweeted an Instagram photo of the sunset:

Others also shared photos of the sky on Twitter:

Many users uploaded pictures of the #Dhakasky. Global Voices republishes some with permission:

Nice cumulonimbus cloud, ideal for kite flying. Image by Tanmoy Kairy, Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

Nice cumulonimbus cloud, ideal for kite flying. Image by Tanmoy Kairy, Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

The sky at home. Image by ahmedur Rashid Tutul.

The sky at home. Image by ahmedur Rashid Tutul.

Who has floated the white cloud boats in the sky?

Who has floated the white cloud boats in the sky? Image by Suronjona Haque.

গোধূলী রং লেগেছে আকাশের গায়ে। ছবি তুলেছেন হাসান আহমেদ খান। মিরপুর, ঢাকা।

The color of dusk on the sky. Image by Hasan Ahmed Khan. Mirpur, Dhaka

নানা রঙে সেজেছে আকাশ আজ! ছবি তুলেছেন মঞ্জু আহমেদ।

The sky has colored itself. Image by Manju Ahmed. Mohammadpur, Dhaka.

On YouTube, Abhie Zibran shared a video of the sky:

The Caribbean Review of Books Reinvents Itself Online

Regional litbloggers will be glad to know that The Caribbean Review of Books is back in publication – online – with some help from Bocas Lit Fest.

November 17 2013

Discovering the Bouquinistes of Colombo

Paris may be famous for its bouquinistes, stalls selling second hand and antiquarian books lining the banks of the River Seine, but Colombo also has them. They don’t line the banks of the Beira Lake and tourists seldom find them but they are invaluable for the traveller.

In this lovely guest post, author and travel writer Royston Ellis, a British resident of Sri Lanka, tells us where to look for the bouquinistes of Colombo.

November 12 2013

‘Censorship is Censorship': Brazil's Writers and Artists Spar Over Biography Rights

Museum of the Portuguese Language. Photo by Karlos Leonardo on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Museum of the Portuguese Language. Photo by Karlos Leonardo on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

A phrase from the walls of Paris in 1968 has come to be echoed in Brazil: “It is forbidden to forbid!” The French slogan, reaffirmed by Caetano Veloso in one of his songs, where he says “não ao não” (“no to no”), has become a line of questioning in the world of Brazilian editors, writers and musicians: to prohibit or not to prohibit the publication of biographies without the permission of the subject? That is the question.

On one side, defending the right to privacy in biographies is the association Procure Saber (Try to Find Out), formed by “a group of authors, artists, and persons connected to music”, that is dedicated to following the issues connected to the recording industry in Brazil. On the other side is the National Association of Book Editors (Associação Nacional de Editoras de Livros, or ANEL), which believes that “history is a collective property, and that to know it is a right of all Brazilians.” 

The debate began when Procure Saber came to publicly oppose a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality filed by ANEL at the Supreme Federal Court in 2012. ANEL considered that current “legal provisions as are eventually bring consequences to the freedoms of expression and information”, and hoped that the Supreme Federal Court would rule unconstitutional the need of authorization by the subject for the publication of biographies.

Headed by businesswoman and ex of famous Brazilian musican and activist Caetano Veloso [en], Paula Lavigne, the association Procure Saber is backed by well-known artists such as Chico Buarque [en], Roberto Carlos [en], and Milton Nascimento [en]. Artists that barely survived the most bitter side of the military dictatorship and were always connected to the struggle against censorship, but now are proposing a certain level of control over what writers of biographies can say. 

Today, Brazilian civil code establishes what can be censored or what is subject to censorship – every unauthorized work that “impacts honor, good reputation, or respectability, or is directed towards commercial ends” (pdf). With the change suggested by the action of ANEL, the authorizations would no longer be necessary for the publication of works that deal with personas of “public notoriety.”  

“It won't work to hide the truth”

The artistic reaction was headed by singer Roberto Carlos. On the same day of the approval of a controversial copyright law that brought some of the biggest names in Brazilian music together in a march to the National Congress, Carlos asked for a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff to express “his disapproval relating to any change in the law that regulates the publication of biographies in the country.” 

The battles between Carlos and biographies are not new. The most notorious case is that of a biography written by Paulo César Araújo. The work was published in 2006, but soon after it was removed from bookstores by a judicial order after an agreement between the “king” – as Roberto is known – and the editor. Some of the probable reasons for the prohibition would be the reluctance of the singer to talk about a childhood accident in which he lost a leg, and his involvement with the military dictatorship

While the Supreme Federal Court is divided, the appeal made by Carlos and company won the endorsment of Jair Bolsonaro, a congressman known for defending the era of the military regime. On the other hand, the editors have received support from artists in favor of the change to the law

A critical and rather humorous respose to the reaction of the artists is the Facebook page Biografia do Caetano (Biography of Caetano), described as the “most pirated and collective unauthorized biography of Caetano Veloso.” The page already has 6,683 followers- more than the page of Procure Saber, which has 5,632. 

The fight that ensues is the debate about which right is more important: freedom of expression or the right to privacy.

“Incompatibility of geniuses”

Among the arguments raised by Procure Saber, are proposition X of Article 5 of the Brazilian constitution, which guarantees the freedom of expression, according to which “the intimacy, private life, honor and image of people are inviolable, assuring the right to indemnity of the damaging material or morality derived from its violation”. For famous musician Djavan, also a member of Procure Saber, there is a risk that the exercise of freedom of expression “may open the door to injustice (…) in the sense that it favors the market to the detriment of biographees”, who end up not receiving any monetary profits from the biographies. The group proposes a monetary compensation for the people whose life stories are being written. 

On the other side, Luiz Schwarcz, editor of Companhia das Letras, affirms that “current Brazilian law allows in a unique way for the establishment of a complete business, subject to arbitrariness and corruption.” When the unauthorized biography of the famous soccer player Garrincha was released in 1996, Schwarz had to pay an agreed amount to the player's children so that the book could return to the shelves. 

The price is even more costly for the authors. Mário Magalhães, journalist and author of the biography about the guerilla that fought against the military regime, Carlos Marighella, says that when putting on paper the amounts that he received for the book sales, the sale of the authorship rights for a movie, and the expenses acccrued in nine years of research, in total he received 15 percent of the salary that he had as a reporter. In spite of its public and critical success, Magalhães did not get rich with his work. In his text, he has arrived at another big question: what kind of material can the requirement for authorization generate?

A ordem jurídica aceita hoje censura prévia. Quem gosta de censura é ditadura. Todo o malabarismo retórico que busca bloquear o conhecimento público sobre fatos e pessoas de dimensão pública sucumbe diante da seguinte constatação: se aparecer um neto desconhecido de Adolf Hitler no Brasil, teremos de solicitar protocolarmente autorização sua para publicar uma biografia em que o líder nazista seja descrito como genocida.

Só em nosso país, entre as grandes democracias, Hitler seria consagrado como herói, pois só haveria biografias chapas-brancas.

The judicial order today accepts pre-approved censorship. Those who like censorship are from the dictatorship. Everything is rhetorical juggling that seeks to block public knowledge about facts and people of a public dimension that yield to the following verdict: if a unknown granchild of Adolf Hitler appears in Brazil, we will have to solict by approved protocol their authorization to publish a biography in which the Nazi leader is described as genocidal.

Only in our country, among all of the great democracies, Hitler would be consecrated as a hero in order to ensure that there are only politically correct biographies.

American writer Benjamin Moser, the author of a biography about Brazilian writer born in Ukraine Clarice Lispector [en], published in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo an open letter to Caetano Veloso in which he ponders the working “conditions” in which Brazilian editors and writers find themselves:

É um tipo de censura que você talvez não reconheça por não ser a de sua época. Não obriga artistas a deixarem o país, não manda policiais aos teatros para bater nos atores. Mas que é censura, é. E muito mais eficaz do que a que existia na ditadura. Naquela época, as obras eram censuradas, mas existiam. Hoje, nem chegam a existir.

Its a kind of censorship that perhaps you don't recognize because it's not like the censorship of your time. Artists aren't forced to leave the country, the police aren't sent to the theaters to beat actors. But censorship is censorship. It is much more effective than what existed during the dictatorship. In that era, works were censored, but they still existed. Today, they don't even come into existence.

Moser questions further:

Você já parou para pensar em quantas biografias o Brasil não tem? Para só falarmos da área literária, as biografias de Mário de Andrade, de João Guimarães Rosa, de Cecília Meirelles, cadê? Onde é que ficou Manuel Bandeira, Rachel de Queiroz, Gilberto Freyre? Você nunca se perguntou por que nunca foram feitas?

Eu queria fazer. Mas não vou. Porque o clima no Brasil, financeiro e jurídico, torna esses empreendimentos quase impossíveis. Quantos escritores brasileiros estão impedidos de escrever sobre a história do seu país, justamente por atitudes como as suas?

Have you ever stopped to think about how many biographies Brazil doesn't have? Only speaking of literature, where are the biographies of Mario de Andrade, João Guimarães Rosa, or of Cecília Meirelles? What about Manuel Bandeira, Rachel de Queiroz, or Gilberto Freyre? You've never asked why these biographies have never been written?

I wanted to do it. But I'm not going to. Because the climate in Brazil, financial and judicial, makes these endeavors almost impossible. How many Brazilian writers are blocked from writing about the history of their country, just for attitudes such as this?

“The voice of the owner and the owner of the voice” 

The case is yet to be judged by the Supreme Federal Court, without a definite date. In addition to this, the debate has also expanded to the issue of audiovisual production, such that biographical films are equally subject to prohibition

In an interview on the television program Fantástico on Sunday, October 27, Roberto Carlos appeared to be more flexible, saying that he was in favor of biographies “without authorization, but with certain adjustments.” 

On Tuesday, October 29, members of Procure Saber appeared in a video explaining their position: “We don't want to silence anyone, we just want to be heard.”

 

What remains to be known is if such adjustments will prioritize “the right to privacy as one inherent to citizenship” or freedom of expression as a pillar of democracy. To be continued in the next chapters.

Each sub-headline of this post is quoted from songs by Roberto Carlos, Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque respectively.
Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Spanish Archbishop Publishes Book that Orders Women to “Get Married and Be Submissive”

[Links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Constanza Miriano interviene en el congreso «La figura del padre en las series televisivas», abril de 2013. Foto del usuario lafiguradelpadre Congreso, con licencia CC BY 2.0

Constanza Miriano takes part in a conference addressing “The depiction of fathers in TV series”, April 2013. Photo by lafiguradelpadre Congreso, under license to CC BY 2.0

Nuevo Inicio, the publishing house belonging to the Archbishop of Granada, Spain, has put out a new book entitled “Get married and be submissive”. The book, by the Italian author Constanza Miriano, is introduced on the publisher's website with these words:

…ahora es el momento de aprender la obediencia leal y generosa, la sumisión.

now is the time to learn faithful and generous obedience, to be submissive.

Constanza Miriano, journalist and married mother of four, first published the book in Italy in February 2011, where it sold 70 000 copies. On her blog, the author asserts:

el hombre debe encarnar la guía, la regla, la autoridad. La mujer debe salir de la lógica de la emancipación y abrazar con júbilo el rol de la hospitalidad y del servicio

men should embody guidance, rules, authority. Women should abandon the rhetoric of emancipation and joyfully embrace their role as attendants and caregivers. 

Constanza Miriano is inspired by the words of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, “Women, submit yourselves to your husbands.” In an interview published by Religión en Libertad, Miriano made the following statements:

San Pablo nos recuerda que a las mujeres nos gusta controlarlo todo, decir la última palabra, manipular por detrás. Ser sumisas significa, literalmente, estar por debajo para ser el apoyo de todos los miembros de la familia, para acompañar a los más débiles. Es una cualidad propiamente femenina, a pesar de lo que diga la revolución feminista.

Saint Paul reminds us that women like to control everything, have the last work, manipulate from behind. To be submissive means, literally, to be below in order to support all the members of the family, to accompany the weakest members. It is an intrinsically female quality, despite what the feminist revolution might say.

Although the book was published in Spain in July 2013, it came to the public's attention on 9 November when several news websites mentioned it. On Twitter, the words and phrases “Archbishop”, “submissive” and “get married” were trending topics throughout the day. Netizens harshly criticized the Archbishop's initiative with comments such as, ”it makes me cringe“, “It's not the 12th century, no, it's Spain in the 21st“ or “outdated and unpleasant.”

The Archbishop in tune with the times. Hoping 50 Shades of Grey isn't the only blockbuster  http://t.co/GlIQDea8Sn pic.twitter.com/9C0KNsI83r 
— Fran Martínez (@_FranciscoDavid) November 10, 2013

Tick off the box marked church so the Archbishop of Granada can publish a book that teaches women to be submissive http://t.co/zNteLmna14
— Guille #SiSePuede (@itoguille) November 9, 2013

Many tweets accused the Church of having anachronistic ideas:

“Get married and be submissive”?????? this church isn't moving ahead with life, it's being dragged along by it.
— Yolanda (@yolisanca) November 9, 2013

The Archbishop of Granada publishes a book that teaches women to be submissive!! Pathetic!! all that's missing is an owner's manual for a chastity belt!
— Arantxa Alvarez Muñi (@Aranzazucina) November 10, 2013

With news like this, I have to wonder what century we're in…
— Angelita (@AngSerr) November 10, 2013

Imagen subida a Twitter por El Caín con el comentario: «Mujer, ¡CÁSATE Y SÉ SUMISA! Misoginia subvencionada con dinero público»

[Bubble text: Get married and be submissive because the Lord said: I will multiply the suffering of your pregnancies; you will give birth in pain; you will yearn for your husband, and he will rule over you.] Image uploaded to Twitter by El Caín with the comment: “Woman, get married and be submissive! Misogyny subsidized by the public coffers.”

Others feel the book incites sexist violence: 

After, woman, learn to be submissive, comes “woman, let yourself be whipped”, no? And then the musical http://t.co/A0I5WceZG3 A real shame!
— Laura Cornejo (@lauracorama) November 10, 2013

And if he hits you, turn the other cheek, come on! The Archbishop of  #Granada publishes “Get married and be submissive  http://t.co/6NLQgbvj9Y via @andalucesdiario
— Chus Azor (@chusazor) 
November 10, 2013

Girl “Get married and be submissive.” And if he ever lays a hand on you, know that your lord and master is doing it for your own good. http://t.co/SuxXnJP6UJ
— Karloto (@KalkuMadrid) November 10, 2013

In fact, the Archbishop of Granada, Msgr Francisco Javier Martínez, who is also president of the publishing house Nuevo Inicio, is a controversial figure. In addition to being the first bishop found guilty of injury and harassment [en], he is famous for his comments against abortion, the LGBT community, and even the use of contraceptives. On 20 December 2009, the archbishop spoke these words in his homily:

El arzobispo de Granada en una imagen subida a Desmotivaciones.es por el usuario DelicateMotherFucker

The Archbishop of Granada in an image uploaded to Desmotivaciones.es by the user DelicateMotherFucker

Pero matar al niño indefenso, y que lo haga su propia madre, eso les da a los hombres, a los varones, la licencia absoluta, sin límites, de abusar del cuerpo de la mujer, porque la tragedia se la traga ella.

To kill a defenceless child, and that it should be done by its own mother, this gives men absolute license, without limits, to abuse the body of a woman, because she will have brought the tragedy upon herself.

In January of 2011, he talked about the Conquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand:

…estuvo marcada por una extraordinaria humanidad y gestos de amor a las personas a las que se incorporaba a la comunidad de la Corona española. Y ese pensamiento español fue el antecedente de los derechos humanos (…)

It was marked by an extraordinary humanity and gestures of love to all those who joined the community of the Spanish Crown. And this Spanish enlightenment was the precursor of human rights (…)

In the online press, information about the book received innumerable comments that vacillated between sarcasm and indignation. Pajarraco Blanco said the following on 20minutos.es:

Me espero mejor al próximo libro: “Monaguillo se sumiso y complaciente”.

I'm looking forward to the next book even more: “Altar boy be submissive and obliging.”

Barraca wrote in El País:

¡Qué pena, esta genial obra llega tarde a España! En efecto, hace mes y medio se suicidaba una mujer de 24 años cuyo marido la había forzado a prostituirse desde los 16. No cabe duda de que los maravillosos consejos de la Sra Miriano para asumir su condición de esclava sexual habrían transformado el calvario del ultraje continuo en orgullo de hembra sumisa.

What a pity, this great book arrived late in Spain! In fact, it was just six weeks ago that a 24-year-old woman, whose husband forced her into prostitution from the age of 16, committed suicide. There is no doubt that the wonderful advice of Mrs. Miriano to accept her condition as a sexual slave would have transformed the torment of her continued humiliation into pride at being a submissive woman.

Arros left this note on ABC.es:

Sería divertido, o incluso serio, un libro sobre el clero sumiso.

It would be entertaining, or even fitting, to have a book about a submissive clergy.

Pytykli commented on Huffington Post:

Buenooooo, yo me voy a dejar el pelo largo, para que me puedan arrastrar hasta la cueva.

Gooood, I am going to leave my hair long so they can drag me back to the cave.

And in the same publication, Juanjo Montes expressed himself like this:

Lo que más me fastidia de todo ésto es que se editen estos vergonzantes libelos fascistas y discriminatorios con el dinero de los impuestos que reciben los curillas porque alguien marca la cruz en la casilla correspondiente de la declaración del IRPF. Como siempre digo, depende de nosotros.

What angers me the most in all of this is that these embarrassing fascist and discriminatory denigrations are published with money from the taxes that the clergy receives because someone ticked off the corresponding box on their IRPF declaration [income tax form]. As I always say, it's up to us.

October 31 2013

Ballett Dortmund's Red Dream Ballet Censored in Hong Kong

The Dream of the Red Chamber, a ballet co-produced by the Hong Kong Ballet and German company Ballett Dortmund and choreographed by Wang Xin Peng, Artistic Director of Ballett Dortmund, is caught up in a censorship scandal involving mainland Chinese authorities in Hong Kong.

Inspired by a famous novel in the Qing Dynasty written by Cao Xueqin, the Ballet Dream of the Red Chamber, is about China's modern history. As choreographer Wang Xin Peng experienced the Cultural Revolution in China and left his country after witnessing the June 4 Tiananmen Crackdown, he has injected his personal reflections onto the Ballet. Below is a video uploaded by Ballett Dormund showing some scenes from “The Dream of the Red Chamber”.

A censored ballet scene depicting the Red Guard's campaign to destroy the Four Olds during the Cultural Revolution was removed by the Hong Kong Ballet before first night. In addition, a 12 minute background projection of a scene with Pao Yu, the main protagonist of the story, reflecting on the history of Grand View Garden or Daguanyuan, a metaphor of Chinese history in Wang's Ballet, was removed after the opening show. The projection carries images from Ming and Qing Dynasties to contemporary China and it has snapshots showing the Cultural Revolution as well. Such abrupt post-production censorship has outraged the cultural circle in Hong Kong and many believe that the Beijing government is behind the scene.

Online news commentary portal site, the House News, quoted an email reply from the Ballet Dortmund on the significance of the two censored scenes:

We are not informed of any cuts on purpose made in the production – and we haven't given permisson to do so.

We have been officially informed though that there were serious technical problems in the venue, which concerned the video and text in the performances after the opening night. We sincerely hope that these problems are being solved for further performances!

The elements of the third act are important to understand the intention of choreographer Wang Xin Peng. He wants to focus on the the relevance of the story for our present age. The third act shows Chinese history from the Emperor time up to today: The cosmic stone seeks the experience of eternal love. Since eternal is the essence of life as a whole, the stone goes through not only one human life, but through the lives of 300 years in history. This time-journey through 300 years in history from the middle kingdom up to today is shown in the 3rd act as well through videos and costumes. Without any valuation but rather as a reflection of the history of Mr. Wang's home country, this final part of his work is essential and makes it complete.

The Hong Kong Ballet denied that any political censorship was involved and insisted that the decision to change the Cultural Revolution costumes and remove the projection of 12 minutes of Chinese history was based on artistic and technical consideration.

However, an audience member who had attended the pre-opening rehearsal disclosed that the Cultural Revolution scene was included in the pre-opening show. She described what she saw to inmediahk.net on the evening of 24 October 2013, just one day before the opening [disclosure - the report at inmediahk.net is written by author of this article]:

Scene of red guards denouncing the capitalist in the Dream of the Red Chamber. Screen capture from Theater Dortmund's Youtube video.

Scene of red guards denouncing the capitalist in the Dream of the Red Chamber. Screen capture from Theater Dortmund's Youtube video.

10月24日晚的彩排中,在舞劇的下半部份,舞台以天安門為背景,墻上有个很大的毛澤東頭像,台上出現了一些穿着紅衞兵的特約演員,他們手持小紅簿,向毛像揮動。然後演出『破四舊』的情節,例如把國畫切破,把舊書和一些代表封建時代思想的東西放在鐵桶裡焚繞,批鬥資本家等等。

In the rehearsal of October 24, in the latter half of the ballet performance, the background of the stage was Tiannanmen and Mao Tsedong's portrait was hanging on the wall. Some dancers dressed as Red Guards appeared on stage, they had the little red books in their hands and waved them to Mao's portrait. The next episode was “destroy the four olds”, dancers were tearing apart paintings, burning old books that represent feudalism, denouncing the capitalists etc.

Under the comment thread of the House News’ story in Facebook, Joey Kong pointed out that art groups in Hong Kong, because of the government's direct sponsorship policy, are easily manipulated by political forces:

HK ballet,以至 香港舞蹈總會,以至香港整體藝術發展資助政策:都很腐爛、很親中很紅。<明報>香港芭蕾舞團原由藝發局提供資助,2007年起,與其他八大藝團一同歸入民政事務局的資助之下,資助額明顯增加,例如07年藝發局資助1346萬元,08年民政局資助2491萬元,到2012年資助額為3158萬元,該年度的盈餘為833萬元。 〜「民政事務局的資助」??曾德成 wor! 統戰部黎架!

Hong Kong Ballet and even Hong Kong Dance Federation Limited, as well as the direct sponsor policy of arts development, are very rotten, pro-Beijing government. According to Ming Pao [a local newspaper] Hong Kong Ballet was sponsored by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC). But in 2007, it was put under the direct sponsorship of Government Home Affair Bureau among 8 other performing arts groups. The funding amount has increased under the new policy. For example in 2007, ADC only funded Hong Kong Ballet HK 13,460,000 dollars [US 1,736,083 dollars], the amount was raised to 24,910,000 [US 3,212,915 dollars] in 2008 and 31,580,000 [US 4,073,219 dollars] in 2012. The company made 8,330,000 [US 1,074,411] profit last year. – “Funded by HAB”? Tsang Takshing is in charge! It is like a defacto unit of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party.

October 24 2013

Brazilian Police Seize Activists’ ‘Subversive’ Books

Group of young women pose with some

A group of young women pose with some “subversive” literary works in protest against seizures at the house of protesters by the police. Photo from the album Subversive Books #RéuConfesso by Carina Kunze on Facebook

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages.]

In Porto Alegre, the capital of southernmost Brazilian state Rio Grande do Sul, the month of October began with police executing a search warrant on a cultural center and an urban settlement and seizing activists' books and computers.

In the early morning of October 4, 2013, a month that has become traditional in the calendar of national social movements, the Civil Police searched the two private residences as part of an ongoing investigation, which began in June, looking to identify “those responsible for the violent acts that have occurred at protests.”

The move, considered “within the rule of law” by the current governor of the state, Tarso Genro, provoked reactions in support of the activists on the web. With the hashtag #RéuConfesso (#ConfessedDefendant), social media users began to post photos in solidarity holding “dangerous” books.

Those who are currently under investigation claim that there is something more behind the operation, as the profile of the cultural center Moinho Negro, also searched by the police, reveals:

O mandado policial deixa explícito que estão investigando as organizações políticas que de alguma forma estão inseridas nos protestos deste ano, tentando identificar (leia-se: forjar) uma formação de quadrilha para provocar supostos atos de violência nos protestos.

The warrant makes it clear that police are investigating the political organizations that are somehow embedded in this year's protests, trying to identify (read: forge) a conspiracy to provoke alleged acts of violence in the protests.

Lucas Maróstica, a social science student at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and member of the Coletivo Juntos! (Collective Together!), also described on Facebook the presence of police in his home:

Acabo de chegar de viagem, no aeroporto de Confins/MG recebi uma ligação desesperada da diarista do meu prédio avisando que a Policia Civil iria invadir meu apartamento e aprender meu computador.

Ainda não entrei em minha casa, mas pelos informes panfletos e adesivos também foram levados. Uma clara perseguição política ideológica por parte de um governo que se propunha ser diferente dos anteriores. (…)

I just returned from traveling; at the airport of Confins/MG [Minas Gerais state] I received a desperate call from the caretaker of my building warning that the Civil Police was about to invade my apartment and seize my computer.

I hadn't entered my house yet, but I'd been informed that pamphlets and stickers were also taken. A clear ideological political persecution by a government which claimed that it was different than previous ones. (…)

The police seized, among other things, Maróstica's personal computer and political philosophy books. On October 4, Maróstica, whose lawyer is the former member of federal parliament and daughter of the governor, Luciana Genro, was taken to be questioned by the police. After two hours of interrogation, he had access to the process that accuses him of “conspiracy, vandalism of public property, violent acts, ‘mass agitation’.” According to the student activist, the criminal complaint against him does not present any concrete evidence against him, besides the testimony of a police officer who had identified him.

Matheus Gomes, another activist, who has also had searches conducted in his house, gave an official statement to police on October 9. Gomes vented on his profile, placing the situation of social movements in Porto Alegre into the national context:

Estamos diante da tentativa de transformar uma parcela importante dos sujeitos políticos que organizaram o Bloco de Lutas em criminosos. Eles querem dizer que somos parte de uma quadrilha, falaram que eu sou líder de uma facção criminosa. É isso que os governos e a polícia fazem com quem reivindica direitos sociais básicos como transporte, saúde e educação! Devemos nos atentar a escalada repressiva em curso no Brasil inteiro.

We are facing an attempt to transform an important group of politically active people who organized the Bloco de Lutas (Block of Struggles) [the movement that lead the protests of June and July in Porto Alegre] into criminals. They want to say that we are part of a gang, they said I'm the leader of a criminal gang. That's what governments and police do to those who are demanding basic social rights such as transport, health care and education! We must pay attention to the ongoing escalation of repression throughout all of Brazil.

This was not the first time this year that the Civil Police seized literary works during one of its operations. At the end of June, the Federação Anarquista Gaúcha had a similar experience

What's in a street name? 

General Vitorino Street became “Amarildo de Souza (1965/1966 – missing in 2013)”. Photo shared on Facebook by Defesa Pública da Alegria.

In a time when military police are dealing with protesters in violent or heavy-handed ways, collective Defesa Pública da Alegria (Public Defense of Joy) has found a peaceful and creative method of demonstrating for the demilitarization of the military police. The group was formed one year ago following a protest against the privatization of public spaces for the sake of the 2014 World Cup. In that demonstration, protesters destroyed a gigantic inflatable “Tatu-bola” (football armadillo), which is the symbol for the upcoming sporting event sponsored by Coca-Cola.

The day after the searches by the Brigade, residents woke up to find that some of the main streets of Porto Alegre, named after military figures, were reinvented with names in memory of “political activists and other victims of the repression of the state in Latin America”. Among the names were journalist Vladimir Herzog, a victim of the military dictatorship, whose assassination was recently recognized by the government; Elton Brum, a member of the Movimento dos Sem Terra (MST) (Landless Movement) who was assassinated in 2009; and the mason Amarildo [en], murdered inside a Pacifying Police Unit at the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro this year.
In such a tumultuous time for democracy, memory can be a powerful thing.

October 23 2013

16 Books on Latin American Street Art

In Latin America, street art is of major cultural relevance. The region’s traditions of social movements and revolution have allowed the form to give voice to otherwise unheard sectors of the population. Of course, not all street art is politically or socially-oriented in content, but it does often provide insight into specific objectives and ideals.

Nick MacWilliam from Sounds and Colours browsed the online store Amazon “to see what’s readily available for those who are interested in the subject of street art in Latin America.” He recommends 16 books on the subject, covering Haiti, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and more.

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