2/22/2013 12:30:25 PM
ethnic tensions over the coming Kenyan elections, one filmmaker sends his
message of healing through a well-established network of DVD pirates.
"Before the 2007 post-election violence occurred
my country was seen as an island of stability in a region of conflict,"
says Patrick Mureithi in his recent documentary, Kenya: Until Hope is Found. The election results he refers to—which many have since agreed were flawed—resulted in clashes that killed more
than 1,200 people and displaced another 500,000.
At the time, Mureithi had been filming a documentary, ICYIZERE:hope, about
a reconciliation workshop in Rwanda
that brought together survivors and perpetrators of the country’s 1994 genocide.
But in the years since Kenya
became the site of its own ethnic conflict, Mureithi has turned his attention
closer to home. With a new vote just a week-and-a-half away, tensions between
tribes have been rising. While many groups are taking steps to make sure the
elections are peaceful, the threat of violence looms.
Part of the problem, according to Mureithi, is that
people have not had an opportunity to heal from the trauma of the last election.
"In a country that has one psychiatrist for every half-million of its
citizens,” he says, “one of the most pressing issues to be addressed is that of
unresolved psychological trauma. As a nation, how can we heal in order to avoid
repeated cycles of violence, in order to ensure that our children have a secure
Hope is Found documents a three day
workshop called "Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities," with severely
traumatized residents of Kibera, a neighborhood that Mureithi describes as
largest slum and the epicenter of the violence."
But it was not enough for the men and women included
in the workshop to experience healing—Mureithi wanted every Kenyan to have
access to the same process. So when he finished his documentary last December, he
handed it over to his local DVD pirates. "My reasoning was that since they
have the most efficient distribution system in Kenya, then they would be able to
get the film into as many hands as possible," writes Mureithi. "As I
type, their vendors are selling the film country-wide for less than 80
shillings (approx $1)."
Video: Kenya: Until Hope is Found
To make a
tax-deductible donation to Patrick's February trip to Kenya and the continuation of his
work, visit http://josiahfilms.com/donate/.
10/31/2012 4:03:51 PM
A school lunch in Argyll, Scotland. Martha Payne, a nine-year old student there, started taking pictures of and blogging about her food in April of 2012.
This post first appeared at Solutions Online and is licensed under Creative Commons.
When nine-year old Martha Payne began a food blog last year,
chronicling the paucity of her school lunches, she was not prepared to
become a social media star. Payne’s blog, entitled “NeverSeconds,”
began as an innocuous school project that showed pictures of her
cafeteria meals in Argyll, Scotland, along with a “Food-o-meter” rating their healthiness on a
scale of 10. Suffice it to say, not many got close to 10. The school
was initially supportive of Payne, an aspiring journalist whose dad
helped her construct the website. Within a week, however, NeverSeconds,
was being posted on social networking sites and receiving 100,000
visitors a day, earning her a congratulatory tweet from celebrity chef
Jamie Oliver. National media was soon running headlines like “Time to
fire the dinner ladies,” with Payne and her school identified.
A few weeks after the blog started, Payne was ushered into the head
teacher’s office and told she could not take any more photos of school
dinners. It transpired that Payne’s local council, Argyll and Bute, had
reacted to the adverse publicity by imposing a ban. As ever, the
cover-up proved to be worse than the crime. The council’s censorship
provoked an even greater backlash. Two hours later, a shamed council
leader, Roddy McCuish, appeared on national radio to announce the
immediate reversal of the ban.
"There's no place for censorship in Argyll and Bute council and
there never has been and there never will be,” told McCuish on BBC Radio
"I've just instructed senior officials to immediately withdraw the
ban on pictures from the school dining hall. It's a good thing to do, to
change your mind, and I've certainly done that."
Let’s hope that contrition extends to improving the school meals in
his schools. In the meantime, Payne has raised enough money, through her
charity, Mary’s Meals, to build a new kitchen at a school in Malawi. Her blog continues at NeverSeconds.
2/27/2012 3:01:41 PM
Remember those historical maps of European languages in the decades before World War I? They’re pretty common, especially buried in the Bargain Books section of Barnes and Noble. Anyway, the premise was that, by the middle of the 19th century, Europeans were beginning to identify more with their own nationality and language than with their imperial governments. Anachronistic states like Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire had a hard time dealing with passionate nationalist movements erupting in places like Greece and Serbia, and a lot of this had to do with language.
The maps themselves are pretty telling. The boundary between, say, Russia and Austria is a single red line, thin and elegant. But large colored sections with labels like Ukrainian and White Russian straddle the borders, and form large, amorphous blobs across much of Eastern Europe. Because people are less predictable than countries—or at least less tidy—there seems to be little rhyme or reason. Pockets of Finns and Estonians color northern Russia, Greeks go as far east as the Black Sea, and Germans are everywhere.
From this information, it’s clear in hindsight that big changes were in store for Europe.
Today, borders are a lot less important. Innovations like the Schengen Area have made a ghost of centuries of European warfare, and trade pacts around the world further delegitimize official boundaries. A lot of this change is based on communication. By the numbers, Facebook is the third largest country on earth, and Verizon is (economically) bigger than Peru.
Aside from their sheer size, it’s also clear that social media networks, like European languages, are making political boundaries even less significant. Two maps on Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps blog come to mind. The first is a visualization of Twitter languages across Europe, which looks something like a multicolored “Europe at night” photo. As Jacobs notes, the maps illustrate not only that Twitter has expanded well beyond the English-speaking world, but also that languages are no more tied to national borders than they were in the 19th century.
In the U.S., language is a little more homogenous. But patterns of communication are just as messy and unpredictable as in Europe. Another Strange Maps creation superimposes pockets of cell phone “communities” on U.S. states, which, surprisingly, changes their layout quite a bit. Because people in southern Illinois are more likely to call St. Louis than Chicago, Missouri has grown in size, even taking parts of eastern Kansas. Minnesota has taken western Wisconsin and connected with Iowa, and one of the Carolinas has annexed the other.
Boundaries, even between states, still profoundly influence our lives, and it’s especially hard to deny their importance during a federal election cycle. But the way we connect with one another is not so clear cut, and that’s likely to inspire ever more complex ways of viewing the world around us.
Strange Maps, BBC, The Economist, Mongabay.com.
Image by Andrei Nacu, licensed under Creative Commons.
8/25/2011 2:32:13 PM
Talk about a traffic jam: Globally, there are now 1 billion cars on the road.
Lori Adorable offers women 8 ethical tips in her guide to feminist erotic modeling.
A travel guidebook writer achieves transcendence on a 30-hour van ride across Mongolia.
French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s indictment may have been dismissed, but the case still shed light on the sexual assaults suffered by hotel housekeepers.
Advice from the world’s oldest investment banker, the 105-year-old Irving Kahn: “There are a lot of opportunities out there, and one shouldn’t complain, unless you don’t have good health.”
Get ready for “The Missing Piece,” a forthcoming documentary which chronicles the 1911 theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre.
Eight movie clichés illustrated.
“It’s all too easy to divide the world into people like us and outsiders,” writes Tom Jacobs at Miller-McCune. “Newly published research points to a surprising factor that exacerbates this unfortunate tendency: Boredom.”
Apparently John Huntsman thinks the GOP presidential candidate should try to appeal to more than just 10 percent of the population. Interesting strategy, sir.
If Frida Kahlo’s most memorable physical features were her eyebrows, then her most forgotten was her weak spine, a condition which required her to wear plaster corsets for most of her life. They were, unsurprisingly, another sort of canvas for the idiosyncratic artist. Paris Review’s Leslie Jamison writes that Kahlo decorated her corsets “with pasted scraps of fabric and drawings of tigers, monkeys, plumed birds, a blood-red hammer and sickle, and streetcars like the one whose handrail rammed through her body when she was eighteen years old.”
Every year Beloit College releases a “Mindset List” that gives a snapshot of the “cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college” on a given year. The list for the class of 2015 includes factoids like “Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents,” “Life has always been like a box of chocolates,” and “Women have always been kissing women on television.”
Even after decades of study, neuroscientists find the brain a mysterious thing. The posterior cingulate cortex—sometimes called “the dark energy of the brain”—uses more calories than any other part of the brain (which burns 20% of the calories you eat), but scientists have no idea what it does.
Popular Science explains how to make crop circles and offers up a gallery of the phenomenon.
7/12/2011 4:48:45 PM
Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, doesn’t think News Corp.’s antics in Britain—hacking phones, interfering in a murder case, bribes—were restricted to the British Isles. No, that just doesn’t add up to him, given the back-and-forth travel across the pond of some of Rupert Murdoch’s executives and editors. But that’s just Spitzer conjecturing, and it’s not the reason he’s calling for News Corp. to be investigated in the U.S. by the Department of Justice. According to Spitzer, the media company has already violated a U.S. law—the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “Indeed,” Spitzer writes, “the facts as they are emerging are a case study for why the FCPA was enacted.” The law was put in place in the 1970s in an attempt to give some sort of ethical boundaries to international business. And even if infractions take place completely overseas, companies based in the U.S. can still be held accountable here. “So,” writes Spitzer, “acts in Britain by British citizens working on behalf of News Corp. creates liability for News Corp., an American business incorporated in Delaware and listed on American financial exchanges.”
Read the rest of Spitzer’s argument, including calling for News Corp.’s FCC licenses to be revoked should the company eventually be found liable, at Slate.
Image by Alex E. Proimos
, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/12/2011 1:23:23 PM
In a project called National Jukebox, the Library of Congress is making thousands of recordings from 1901 to 1925 available online. Here are nine of the best.
The Navy Seals’ codename for Osama Bin Laden was “Geronimo,” and American Indians are understandably upset.
Mother Jones chronicles 33 years of Newt Gingrich’s extreme rhetoric.
National Post has published two excerpts from Jonathan Kay’s Among the Truthers, a book on the paranoid culture of conspiracy theorists. The first excerpt examines the long influence of The Protocols of Zion, and the second shows the internet as an echo chamber effect for crackpots.
Noam Chomsky weighs in on Osama bin Laden’s death.
Facebook’s smear campaign against Google…and apparently they did it because they were worried about privacy issues. Now that’s rich.
It looks like Superman is pro-immigration, saying, “That’s the idea that America was founded on, but it’s not just for the people born here, it’s for everyone.”
Ever wished you could watch a lightning storm in slow motion? Well, here’s your chance.
If you like cliffhangers, check out this vertigo-inducing Al Jazeera report on a perilous mountain trucking route in Pakistan.
In Dallas, an expensive attempt to re-engineer river rapids has gone horribly wrong.
1/20/2011 1:11:39 PM
Middle Eastern affairs and conflicts are, to say the least, mired in complexity. America’s fingers are dipped in many of the region’s interests—halting the spread of terrorism, securing oil reserves, ensuring non-proliferation of nuclear technology, and controlling the opium trade, just to name a few. Getting the story straight is difficult for seasoned reporters and exponentially harder for a blogger in the comfortable embrace of his Midwestern cubicle. After world-rattling events, newshounds balk at our country’s feeble grasp of Middle Eastern contexts and lack of strategic intelligence and foresight.
Well, that need-to-know information can’t always be collected and those highly-sought experts shouldn’t necessarily be trusted, according to Columbia Journalism Review—especially in a country like Afghanistan, where professional journalism is a fairly new institution. “Afghan journalists are relatively new to their work, and they have been criticized for lacking professionalism,” writes CJR’s Vanessa M. Gezari. “But Afghan journalists describe the world they see: a complex place, littered with overlapping, conflicting accounts. There are no reliable sources here.” The other issue faced by Afghan journalists is that their mission—uncovering truth in a burgeoning democracy—is relatively similar to that of Western military intelligence officers. According to Gezari, “For Afghan journalists, the methodological similarity between reporting and intelligence work is problematic. Journalism has little institutional standing in Afghanistan, and many Afghan reporters told me that ordinary people suspect journalists of spying.”
All solid journalism clearly requires proper training. Eager to test out the tools of their trade, journalism professor Diane Winston’s students put themselves in harm’s way and took up a religious beat in Palestine by actually reporting on the spiritual landscape from the West Bank. Winston recounts the class’s introductory experience in The Chronicle Review:
Then came the moment when the airport van left us inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Punchy after a 14-hour plane ride, we dragged duffel bags and camera equipment through narrow, cobblestone streets and winding pathways until we found our way to the Lutheran Guest House and sleep. Several hours later, jet lag proved no match for religious authority as a muezzin’s predawn chant led the call to prayer.
Being there made all the difference. The intensive preparation cohered when students, faced with breaking news, drew on multiple skill sets to report and write stories—to practice journalism for real. Students covered protests and demonstrations that could have been dangerous but were crucial for readers worldwide.
We in the magazine world know that not all reporting needs to be serious or completely objective. The nuances of obscure culture can be just as revelatory, thrilling, disheartening, or impactful. In a bit of meta-reporting, Bidoun—a quarterly, experimental-format Middle Eastern arts-and-culture magazine—interviewed two reporters from the long-running educational publication Saudi Aramco World. The publication’s editorial mission is quite different from, say, a newspaper or prime-time broadcast; one of the reporters states that“Aramco World really saw itself as a cultural interface between the Middle East and the United States. I think there was prescience in that, the idea that greater understanding of the people and the issues of the Middle East would be important in the future.”
And speaking of Saudi Aramco World, the January-February 2011 features a very different type of dispatch from the Middle East: light-hearted photography. The magazine spotlights Iraqi photographer Jamal Penjweny’s project “Iraq is Flying” (pictures all over this post), in which he captured everyday Iraqi citizens in mid-air. Penjweny’s images remind the outside world of something we often take for granted: Iraq’s diverse people can transcend their portrayal by mainstream media, even with a permanent backdrop of war.
Bidoun,Chronicle Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Saudi Aramco World
Images courtesy of Jamal Penjweny.
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