Five feel good minutes of universal connected’ness. Highlights include North Korea, Solomon Islands, and Matt’s own backyard.
Blurred faces from Syria that remind us of better times.
Five feel good minutes of universal connected’ness. Highlights include North Korea, Solomon Islands, and Matt’s own backyard.
Blurred faces from Syria that remind us of better times.
KARACHI, Pakistan — Can celebrity and fashion save Pakistan from its dark image? That’s the proposition of Hello! Pakistan, a glossy new magazine that has opened a new window into the lives of the country’s gilded elite, and rekindled an old debate about their role in a troubled society. Hello! Pakistan is the local edition of the British celebrity magazine Hello!, famous for its soft-focus interviews with movie stars and lavish photo spreads of aristocrats and minor royalty. But the Pakistani publishers promise something different: an emphasis on their country’s “soft side” that cuts across the relentless Western focus on burqas, bombs and the Taliban. “We’re not out to save the world,” said Zahraa Saifullah Khan, 29, the magazine’s Pakistan-born, England-educated publisher. “But this is a starting point, to show that we’re not all a bunch of terrorists with beards.”
This story in NYT reminds me of the contentious debate about the “real” Africa that all too often blames mainstream media for stories of famine and warfare, or, on the flip side, celebrates African economic growth and opportunity.
One critic quoted in the article brings up an interesting point about the actual ramifications of a bad reputation:
Ms. Sultan Khan, the literary critic, said the magazine should concentrate on what Hello! does best — celebrity tittle-tattle and glowing photography. “The idea that it should be about Pakistan’s image irritates me,” she said. “It’s not as if the scores who die violently every day are perishing from our bad image.”
I also write all this as a novelist and story-writer: I am sensitive to the power of narratives. When Jason Russell, narrator of the Kony 2012 video, showed his cheerful blonde toddler a photo of Joseph Kony as the embodiment of evil (a glowering dark man), and of his friend Jacob as the representative of helplessness (a sweet-faced African), I wondered how Russell’s little boy would develop a nuanced sense of the lives of others, particularly others of a different race from his own. How would that little boy come to understand that others have autonomy; that their right to life is not exclusive of a right to self-respect? In a different context, John Berger once wrote, “A singer may be innocent; never the song.”
One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of “making a difference.” To state this obvious and well-attested truth does not make me a racist or a Mau Mau. It does give me away as an “educated middle-class African,” and I plead guilty as charged.
Thanks to Aaron Leaf, I spent just over four glorious moments this morning watching a video of Jean-Bédel Bokassa‘s coronation. Bokassa, who was the head of the Central African Republic from 1966-1979. The rich visual culture of this video deserves noting — the over the top signs of European monarchy translated to a central African stage, the young prince in his white gloves (don’t miss his epic yawn around the three minute mark), and the complete lack of anything wider context that might give you a glimpse of Bangui.
And, by far best line in the Wikipedia entry on him: “Although Bokassa was formally crowned in December 1977, his imperial title did not achieve worldwide diplomatic recognition.”
Here are a couple of epic screenshots in case you don’t have time to watch the whole video.
Crazy news about the first female African head of state and Liberia’s sitting president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, huh? Announcing her candidacy for 2011 so soon! Wow. What do you think of her chances? I think she’s a shoo-in, but I’m admittedly a bit concerned about Prince Johnson making some last minute strides, especially amongst the Gio people in the Nimba region. I’m thinking of launching a letter writing campaign on behalf of EJ-S or at least cold calling potential Nimba voters over Skype.
Oh, how gauche of me! I’ve just been chattering away incessantly like some kind of boy or girl who talks a lot. I haven’t even properly introduced myself. Although, one often gets the uneasy sense that patriarchy dictates a learned and ultimately damaging order of events with men taking an unearned lead. My name is Terri, with a heart over the i, instead of a dot. I have a heart, is what that says, and I’m not afraid to wear it on my sleeve.
Super interesting post from Beth Dickinson about the rise in African born immigrants in the USA and this demographic shift:
We’ve known for some time that the numbers of African-born immigrants coming to the United States are on the rise. But new data published by the Migration Policy Institute offers an incredible new look at the shape of the new communities across America. Over the last 30 years, the African born population has grown from just 200,000 people to 1.5 million. And while Africans still make up just 3.9 percent of the total foreign-born population, that share is growing fast. In 2010, for example, nearly 10 percent of new green card recipients were born in Africa… Compared to native-born Americans, African immigrants are more likely to hold higher degrees. They’re more likely than the foreign-born population overall to speak English. And they live in urban areas—including nearly a quarter who live in the New York and Washington D.C. metro areas. In other words, they are educated, organized, and right next to the centers of power.
What’s worse than voluntourism? Voluntarily hanging out with the rebels in Libya. From the National:
Chris Jeon, a 21-year-old university student from Los Angeles, California,shrugging cooly, declared: “It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels. This is one of the only real revolutions” in the world…
Only a few friends back in Los Angeles knew his true plans, he admitted. His family? Well, they thought he was going on a different trip.
As he recalled that deliberately vague version of his itinerary, it dawned on Mr Jeon that he might be blowing his cover by speaking with a reporter on a far-flung stretch of desert more than 11,200 kms (7,000 miles) from home.
Interesting analysis in the Economist on the current famine in the Horn of Africa and what has, and hasn’t changed since the 1980s:
IN THE worst hunger crisis the world has seen this century, in the Horn of Africa, 29,000 children may already have perished. More are certain to. But apart from hand-wringing, what have been the reactions to the famine?
The world might think it has moved on since the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85. But charities are using the same emotive photos they used then to pitch for money. Television cameras are just as intrusive—perhaps more so. Camera crews have been thrown out of a hospital in the Dadaab refugee camp, in Kenya, in an effort to preserve the dignity of the patients. “Without pictures it is difficult to get action,” laments an Ethiopian government official…
For better or for worse, the famine is useful platform. Many of the world’s development ministers have made the trek to Dadaab, in part to boost the profile of their ministries. Deborah Doane of the World Development Movement, a lobby for “fairer world trade”, points out that donor money only buys half as much food as it did a decade ago. The steep rise in food prices, she argues, is the result of speculation in the futures markets; the famine is a chance for stricter financial regulation. In the end though, everyone looks to the sky. As one World Food Programme official notes, “aid cannot make it rain.”
Yesterday, Ciara Leeming over at Duckrabbit linked to an audio slideshow in the Guardian about male rape that accompanies a long written feature ont he same topic. It focuses on Congolese refugees in Uganda who were raped – some in DRC and others in Uganda. The audio includes many gruesome details, a practice all too common in journalism about rape, but I do think that photographer and writer Will Storr avoids sensationalizing the stories these men have shared with him. I felt uncomfortable watching the piece — which is certainly the point. Storr doesn’t leave us with any hopeful narratives or mutterings about how strong the Congolese are. Instead, there are just these men and their families and their tenuous futures.
Yet, the written piece begins,
Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour.
Several photo essays of the conflict and aftermath of the post-election violence in Ivory Coast are worth seeing. While the conflict received some (but not much) coverage from the mainstream media, the aftermath is already off the radar as some celebrate a supposedly successful intervention, and the results of atrocities committed by both sides are swept under the rug.
Chris de Bode’s story When Guns Fall Silent via Panos focuses on the aftermath in Western Ivory Coast. The first photo, of the crowded Catholic mission at Duekoue, shows the scale of the displacement, while many of his other photos show the individual impact.
Jane Hahn was on assignment for the New York Times during the conflict. She’s interviewed by the Lens blog here about the challenges of working in Abidjan and being one of the few foreign correspondent covering the conflict. Many of the images on her site show the gory reality of conflict, others show the intensity of political allegiances.
Peter di Campo went to Ivory Coast for the Pulitzer Center. He did a series of portraits that don’t reveal individuals’ identities, as well as images that document the severity of need for medical attention.
Stefano di Luigi’s photos on VII show a clear narrative of conflict, aggression, and a victor’s assent. John Ediwn Mason wrote a great post awhile back about di Luigi’s work and satire that’s worth reading, though I think the straightforward nature of this series keeps the photographer from lapsing into unnecessary visual cliche.
The men pictured in this series are members of the Dinka Rek sub-tribe and self-identify as a “brigade.” In this exceptionally remote area of southern Sudan, there are no signs of the region’s soon-to-be-independent government. No army. No police. No civil servants. In this void, communities are wholly responsible for their own security in an environment of extreme risk and hostility. The ubiquitous presence of weapons creates a deadly and delicate power balance between the competing pastoralist groups. If the government moves to disarm one sub-tribe, they will face immediate threat of raiding from neighboring groups that retain their weapons.
In addition to be technically superb photographs, what I really like about these images is the individuality and identity that each of the subjects has. And by viewing a series of portraits, I get a sense of a textured community of discrete individuals, rather than a sort of pre-historic and stereotypical horde of angry men with guns and cows. It’s difficult to make the same sort of sweeping statements all too common in media coverage when you as a viewer are offered the chance straight into the eyes of a young woman or check out a dude’s awesome aqua and pink shirt. These images aren’t of a “tribe,” but of specific people with specific personalities who make specific choices.
Pete uses a similar method in a series of portraits of women in DRC all of whom were among “the nearly 50 women who described their brutalization and rape by a unit of Congolese soldiers who attacked Fizi, D.R.C. on Jan. 1, 2011.”
On Lightbox, Pete explains:
“Once we had established the condition of relative anonymity for the women, dozens of rape survivors were eager to pose for portraits. They moved quietly to the center of the room and waited patiently for me to work. In many instances, I was required to use my hands to make minor adjustments to their stance and location. Their faces were already covered and, given the horrible experiences they’d so recently endured at the hands of men, I felt overwhelming pressure to guide them as delicately as possible. I moved them gently by their shoulders and spoke softly in KiSwahili, a common language in eastern Congo. I felt the weight of crimes committed by fellow men and, in those moments, felt ashamed to be part of the group.”
There are many photos of women in DRC who have been raped, and many that hide the subject’s identity. But by creating a series of similarly staged portraits, Pete brings a sense of individuality to each of the women shown. I’m drawn to the bright vertical stripes the first woman wears, the slack arms of the second woman, the tender moments between mother and child. These images give evidence of the scope of the problem in a way that a one-off photograph or a more straightforward narrative photo essay on DRC does not demonstrate.
Thanks to Pete for letting me post so many of his images.
As the extractive sector has come to play an increasingly important role in the economies of sub-Saharan Africa, attention has turned to the media. Many hope that the media will play an important role in framing the policy agenda and educating the public and so support efforts to boost transparency, promote good governance and help ensure that revenues from the extractives are used well to reduce poverty and promote development. But in many of the countries where the extractive sector is important, the media is unable to play a forceful and active role. The problems the media faces include reporters and editors who lack the expertise to adequately cover this important subject, lack of resources to hire and train staff who could do the job, lack of political will and pressure from government and companies not to do tough investigative reporting.
At the same time, an increasing number of NGOs (both foreign and domestic) have begun to look at how to ensure the continent benefits from the revenues that are generated from the extractive sector.. The stated aims of groups like Publish What You Pay, the Extract Industries Transparency Initiative and Revenue Watch Institute (among others) include boosting transparency in order to prevent the funds being stolen or squandered. They hope that the projected revenues from oil, gas and mining can be used to improve the economic development of extractive countries and the income of ordinary citizens.
To this end, many of the efforts of the NGO community are aimed at capacity building and educating members of civil society, government and the media. They hope that by educating and empowering citizens, parliamentarians and the press they will be able to boost transparency and help ensure funds are well spent. A panel hosted by CGT/IMAC could discuss the role of the media in covering the extractive sector in Africa, talk about where some of the stronger reporting is taking place currently, look at digital media (sites like saharareporters.com) and its ability to get around the restrictions faced by reporters in the legacy media and outline areas for future coverage.
Check this page as the event approaches for more information about panelists.
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Media and the Extractive Sector
Arvind Ganesan, Angelo Izama, Peter Rosenblum, Ramata Soré
Moderator: Rachel Boynton
This panel will look at the role that African media is playing in covering the extractive sector. Panelists will examine how the media contributes to promoting good governance and the constructive use of revenues, as well as discuss the line between journalism and advocacy.
Transparency and Governance in Africa: The Work of NGOs
Kobina Aidoo, Ian Gary, Alexandra Gillies
Moderator: Eamon Kircher-Allen
Transparency and governance in many African countries, particularly in those that rely heavily on extractives for revenues, is notoriously lacking. Citizens, the media, and even government officials know too well the opportunities this creates for corruption, and the obstacles it presents to democratic engagement. In this panel, experts from the Revenue Watch Institute and Oxfam discuss the root causes of these problems -the politics of poor governance, the legal frameworks behind relationships with oil companies, and institutional unaccountability- and the work their organizations are doing to address them.
African Media, Social Change, and the Politics of Representation
Ben Akoh, Dayo Olapade, Saskia Sassen
Moderator: Karen Attiah
This panel will look at the role of the African media during periods of social, political, and cultural change in Africa. Panelists will discuss their experiences with the media in various African nations, as well as explore the media’s role in the changing landscape of cultural representations of Africa around the globe.
Tea and Coffee Break
How Do Changes in the Media Sector Relate to Economic Development?
Michael Behrman, Sanjukta Roy
In this session, Internews Network will present its new research that looks at how changes in the media sector in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa relate -or not- to other key aspects of economic development. Panelists will also address the issue of whether media development precedes certain aspects of economic development or vice versa.
In February 2011, more than 40,000 Ivorians refugees fled post election violence and insecurity after two presidential candidates both claimed victory. Liberians, who had been refugees in Ivory Coast just a couple of years earlier, are hosting many refugees in villages along the border and others are being relocated to camps by UNHCR.
More Ivorians are crossing into Liberia daily as violence intensifies and civil war becomes imminent.
Commissioned by UNHCR. See more photos at www.glennagordon.com.