Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Mi Piace Le Nero - NOT!


Black nativity angers Italy's "White Xmas" party

Is anyone really surprised? Certainly not me after having lived in Northern Italy for a few months. Beautiful country, met some great people I love and came up against some of other kinda racism.

ROME (Reuters) - A nativity scene featuring a dark-skinned Jesus, Mary and Joseph that has gone on display in a Verona courthouse has created heated debate in a city with strong links to Italy's anti-immigration Northern League party.

The nativity's appearance coincides with the League's controversial operation "White Christmas," a two-month sweep ending on Christmas Day to ferret out foreigners without proper permits in Coccaglio, a small League-led town east of Milan.

The Christmas scene -- featuring a dark-skinned baby Jesus dressed in a red shirt and lying in a manger -- was the idea of Mario Giulio Schinaia, the chief Public Prosecutor in Verona.

"History teaches us that baby Jesus and his parents were very probably dark-skinned," Schinaia told Reuters. "This nativity belongs to a universal Christmas tradition that brings together the whole of Christianity in celebration."

The nativity has caused heated reactions in the rich northern town, where resentment toward foreigners has spread as the number of immigrants, particularly from north Africa and eastern Europe, continues to rise.

"It is a useless act of provocation, just like the suggestion not to have a nativity scene at all, in order not to offend Muslims," Northern League farm minister Luca Zaia told one paper, referring to proposals in recent years that town halls and stores should no longer sponsor Christmas scenes.

"Magistrates have other problems to deal with: I hope they spend as much time thinking about lawsuits and trials," he said.

The Northern League, an ally of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with key cabinet posts including the interior ministry, has used its growing political clout to secure tough new laws including making illegal immigration a crime.

League proposals have ranged from separate buses and trains for immigrants to banning new mosques and forbidding the serving of Chinese food and kebabs in towns under its control.

Schinaia defended his black nativity scene, saying it was not intended to be polemical but to encourage debate.

"There shouldn't be a white or black Christmas, only a merry Christmas for everyone, of every skin color, ethnic background and nationality."

(Reporting by Ella Ide; Editing by Stephen Brown) thanks to AfroEurope for the heads-up.

Music Monday

One of the Best Unsigned UK Indy Bands:
The Thirst
Listen to I'm Falling and You're My Everything on YouTube
and tell me you don't feel them!



One of the Best UK Indy Bands of the Moment
Pic: Lead Singer Shingi Shoniwa [yea she's from Zim ; )]

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Why is this man not standing trial at The Hague?


The Guardian UK
The former UK prime minister, Tony Blair made a confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
"If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?" Blair was asked. He replied: "I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]".
Significantly, Blair added: "I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat." He continued: "I can't really think we'd be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it's incredibly difficult. "
  • Omar Bashir of Sudan is still at large for his crimes, Charles Taylor of Liberia is languishing in the cells of The Hague for gross human rights violations. But +1 000 000 Iraqis are dead because of Tony Blair's false case for war; why is Tony Blair a free man and posing as a peace negotiator?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Plantation has
confined our people with memes.We need to learn how to manufacture and
distribute memes that move people
...
Everything else is talk.
- Denmark Vesey, 2009

Speaking In Tongues

Every once in a while it hits me, BLAM! I miss Shona; hearing it, speaking it and being in the presence of it. It's a craving that no other tongue can satisfy and no amount of phone calls home can quite quench. It's suffocating to primarily think and speak in one language if all your life you have been used to speaking and hearing more than one language. In moments like these hearing people speaking Chinese or Portuguese on a bus doesn't speak diversity to me, but alienation. I don't understand thus feel even further from home. I feel like I am out of sync and need to have the language part of my brain taken apart and re-organised so I can think and dream in Shona again. There is only one brain surgeon enough with enough skill and heart to do this; no surgery neccessary just get me on flight.
Mama me waaan' come home!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Feenin' Foodies


lard-filled IVF tubes flow down the oesophagus
like the nation were breeding geese for foie gras;
but the grease breeds disease
and mickey dees' the dopeman
fat feens pay for hits
of e's in numbers and coke,
till the heart's diseased and death's end increased.
while the coroner examines this fat feen,
on another corner a brand new crackhouse opens
selling deep fried chicken to more comatose walkers.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

On World Aids Day

This post is in rememberance of all the family and friends I've lost to this terrible disease and to the ones still living positively in spite of it.

Light and Love.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Three Muslims & A Rabbi


Three Muslim pilgrims run for cover as heavy rain streams down a road in Mecca.
Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images


Mumbai, India: Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz climbs a flight of stairs during a visit to Nariman House which was the site of one of the terrorist attacks on the city a year ago.
Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

The Black Pack



These are some of the Fiercest Minds on the internet who get down at DV.Net
(CopyRight Denmark Vesey; the Blackest Man on the Internet)

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Obama Honours WOZA: Women Who Stand Up For Change



WOZA: Women Of Zimbabwe Arise is a women's activist group that leads peaceful demonstrations for regime change in Zimbabwe. Countless times they have been harassed, jailed and their demonstrations disbanded by the police. I've seen these women in the streets on Valentine's Day dressed in red and white giving out red roses to people encouraging them to build a nation of love not brutality. For anyone who thinks that this poses a threat that warrants them being jailed, they are sorely mistaken. I've seen them in court, their case being dismissed as the charges were said to be superflous and rightly so. The way in which these women have been rounded up and thrown into jail speaks volumes about the level of intolerance the Zim govt has for any voice of dissent regardless of the non-violent, non-partisan nature of a movement.
Needless to say the women honored in this video, Magodonga Mahlangu and Jenni Williams (who represents WOZA) deserve this award as token recognition for their tireless efforts to stand up and speak out.
Makorokoto, Tinotenda vanaMai veNyika, Amhlope boMama Siyabonga,
Congratulations and we thank you, Mothers of the Nation.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Thanksgiving Gives Thanks For What Exactly?


Is this not to whom thanks and apologies must be given in the American imaginary's conception of a nation?




Tuesday, 24 November 2009

From New Cross, With Love

The 2nd noisiest pub/club that kept me awake on weekends when I lived in New Cross, London, UK


Saliva churns in my stomach at the thought of today’s excursion to the School of African Studies in Russell Square. I have to return, yet again. But instead of the complicated and congested route color coded by the London Tube Map, I will take the bus. I imagine with dread, haggling, as I have before, with the random bus inspector who insists my ticket has expired, yet we both know that in bad traffic, it takes over an hour from New Cross to Holborn Station.

This thought makes me hesitant of other things too, perhaps I should not penetrate the city, and in turn, the city will not penetrate me. I will stand on its edges discovering more of me in its great libraries, but my tongue will never yield to Brit intonations forgetting my own, as though it were a rite of initiation into the 'English way of life'. The Shona stays in my tongue, reverberates in my ears shielded with double-glazing from losing its rhythm. My ears never stopped hearing its showered inflections of zvi’s and r’s wrapped and rolled in memories of home. Missing l’s in its linguistic frame, missing hot morning porridge with lemon and peanut butter slurped with my father on tall stools around the kitchen counter, I scratch off the code from the card and call my mother.


Mosi-O-A-Tunya/The Smoke That Thunders

This piece is an extract from a longer work in progress: copyright konwomyn 2009


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

'Raisin' Illusions or 'Raisin' Revolution?

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry uplike a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

- Harlem, by Langston Hughes 1951

None but ourselves can free us...

Monday, 2 November 2009

I Just Had to Post This...

Picture by Oleg Popov from Reuters in The Guardian UK


Even though I'm vegan and all, I just had to post this, because this is Afghanistan's ONLY known pig. Khanzir lives in Kabul, Afghanistan at the Kabul Zoo and the masked zookeepers are watching it eat. I was fascinated by that they only have one known pig in the whole country. Imagine that! Or even better, a world where people did not have to commercially rear animals for food and for profit, killing Mother Earth...Imagine.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I Have No New Poems by Iskandar Langalibalele and KonWomyn

The Great Warrior: Iskandar Langalibalele


This is a poem co-written by one of my good brothers and I. He has passed on to the next life, but one night he updated his status to say he had no new poems in him and then it turned into a conversation with another friend DK about our colonial history. So I played around with his comments and made them into a poem - the first verse are all his words, I just edited out a few things to illustrate that he had the gift of rhyme naturally. Unfortunately he passed on and at the time of his passing I decided to add my voice to his poem, and this is it below:

By the great, ever-present Iskandar Langlibalele and KonWomyn

I have no new poems in me,
they stole those longhorns from Uganda and Southern Africa
and raised them in Texas!
I have no new poems in me,
no words to bury the fallen
no tongues to utter foreign forms,
No;
The prophet Kakara-ka-Kashagama was right
I have no new poems in me
only revolution,
only prayers,
We will defeat the conquerors and restore our Motherland to unity and peace.

Fambai Zvakanka/Journey Well Brother Langa
I have no new poems in me,
only tears.
I have no new poems in me,
only memories of you;
a Lion roaring of revolution
and now you walk among the pride of past Lions
as a Dread Warrior Sun.

Fisttap
Samora Machel
Kwame Nkrumah
Patrice Lumumba
Julius Nyerere
Malcolm X
Amilcar Cabral
Chris Hani
Steve Biko
Fela Kuti,
when you see them
and tell them
you have no new poems,
no verses and no rhymes,
only revolutions.

beat the drums
of the past
to sound the future.
beat the drums
and ignite in us your
rhythm of revolution
to play in duet with the rhythm of our own,
and let's drum sky high,
hard and fast
united as One,

UHURU,UHURU,UHURU,
for we have no new poems in us
no rhyme for seasons
until Mama Afrika's Children are free.
Tatenda
Siyabonga
Asante sana
for the Sun/Langa*.

A'she, A'she, A'she.

*Langa means the Sun in several Nguni Languages.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Loving Side Of The Angriest Africans In America

The orignal picture with Sister Betty, Brother Malcolm, Muhammad Ali and the Shabbazz Family.
Jacked from thuglifearmy.com & thanks kzs.

At first I had posted the pic below of Malcom X and Muhammad Ali and the Shabbaz Family and my good friend KZS brought my attention to the fact that this picture had been cropped. There was someone who'd been axed out of this picture that has become the well-known picture. I don't know for what reasons Sister Betty was edited out or who did it or when and where - but reading this from my position in 2009, I can't help but be inclined to think about the dominance of patriarchy in both the public and private realm in Black life. There could obviously be a simple reason as to why Sister Betty was cut out and why this cropped pic became more popular than the original version...I'm on it.


El Hajj Malik El Shabbazz, Muhammad Ali & the Shabazz family
Jacked from goatmilk.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Human Development - On Whose Terms?

jacked from earthtrends.wri.org - not 2009 map

The Human Development Index stats for 2009 have recently been released by the UNDP. By definition the Hum Dev Index refers to:
"a development paradigm that is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests."

According to the UNDP, the countries that provide the best enviroment for the opportunity to reach one's full potential (GDP per capita, life expectancy, education etc) are: Norway, Iceland and Australia. At the other end of the scale are Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Niger. Sadly, there are no stats for Monaco, Palau, Korea (Dem Rep of), Nauru, Kiribati, San Marino, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and more importantly to me there is no data on Zimbabwe, Iraq and Somalia. What would it mean if the data of these countries were to be added - in terms of global politics it would mean alot - the same thing that it means that Sierra Leone, Aghanistan and Niger are at the bottom of the scale yet they provide the natural resources to those in the Top 21. What does it mean that the French colonies oops, I mean territories, of Guadeloupe and Martinique are not included in this list? Are they counted in with France who rank 7th?

And what about the fact that Iceland was a offshore investment bubble waiting to burst and its economy was reliant on foreign investments from European govts and corporates. In my untrained economist mind and in hindsight, I would pose the question that is Iceland's wealth is built on the oversupply of international credit to nationals which is now bust; how does it claim the number 2 spot? Last year, this time, the krona was in freefall at the same rate as the Zimbabwe Dollar; football club Westham and children's store Hamley's in the UK were in financial danger after its Icelandic owners went bust - but this is rated as the second best place to live in the world? Not to say this volcanic island isn't one of the most beautiful places in the world, but in financial terms something is not quite right -somebody needs to explain that to me...
And what about America whose greenback is built on value in trade of paper because it makes more economic sense than material wealth in gold? But other countries use the gold system so is this not a skewed economic advantage to the US? With the bust of the dollar has the greenback not been a receipe for problems; problems which have been staved off bec the US is the successful & hegemonic US - look at what happened to less successful, non-hegemonic Zimbabwe, Zambia and Russia...In its own history of the US being the US, the greenback was legitimated and all criticism died a silent death in 1879...130 years later, the dollar's tumbling - can it still hold at HDI position 13 in ten years time? Can it; given that the Arab oil countries along with France, Russia and China are plotting the demise of the Dollar as the single global currency to replace it with multiple currency trade & the Euro as King?

...But just what is HDI anyway? With all of its Darwinian insinuations? Development on whose terms? If France propped up corrupt governments in Gabon and Sierra Leone for lucrative timber and mineral deals, whose development is this when France as a nation and the political elites of said African states benefitted from this? Nevermind that France has a 300 year advantage of free or cheap labour and still has colonies -I mean territories to this day...If the US makes truckloads of money from sending out US military contractors to Afghanistan who profit from the war. Or if the US is the prime market for Afghani opium - does this put a dent in the code of ethics by which astute economists developed the HD Index? Yea I know, I know, opium is illegal (legal) drug money and arms trade revenue is a pittance in the US economy, but the same method of inquiry applies to bigger things like oil trade, the car industry etc or the monopoly 'corporate nations' have over the global economy.

....Finally, here's a startling comparison I picked up from Yahoo News;

"A child born in Niger can expect to live to just over 50, which is 30 years less than a child born in Norway. For every dollar a person earns in Niger, 85 dollars are earned in Norway."

*Kick in the head, teeth, ribs and all*

This puts the severity of global iniquity into perspective doesn't it? But then I ask what does life expectancy mean? What would it be without the number 1 killer AIDS? ( I always find this problematic - long story) On the other hand the US, UK and Canada are the fattest nations, the ones consuming the most resources and the ones competing for the biggest carbon footprint. And this is called development? On whose terms? Norway might be the top country in economic terms, a great urbankultcha global convergence zone but African immigrant real talk - life is not cheap there, the Norwegians are far from the happiest and SAD is not uncommon. The quality of life in terms of racial relations between Africans and Norwegians isn't the best. Nor is life in Australia the greatest for the Aboriginies. But somehow they're 1st and 3rd...If it were up to me; HDI would mean something else all together and different terminology would be applied to economic matters.
Apologies if this post isn't as tightly written as it shld be & if I make sweeping statements; plse take me to task on them so I can clarify what I mean.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Bob Speaks

"You smoke herb in Zimbabwe?
Yeh, One night we go to a soldier place and
a guerilla call out to me an' give me a touch of sumtin'…
and that was it.
No wonder they won the war!
Tell ya boy, dem mon smoke some good herb mon!
De tell me they smoke dat herb an' feel brave.
Them tell me it make them; invisible!"
The Legend, Bob Marley on his visit to Zimbabwe.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

GodSpeak

I was having a li'l rhyme battle this wknd on my boy DV's blog. We were talking about God v Evolution; I take a theistic scientific position that the earth was made through intelligent design by God whereas some peops are atheist and take a Darwinist position. So we went back n forth arguing, then somehow it became a rhyme challenge. That was the fun bit and this was one of my responses to this guy, K who is an atheist, like the Richard Dawkins type..... He's a li'l crass though:

K rhymed:
Intelligent design of the human race
Cant explain the flaws of the human face
Cant explain the flaws of the human spine
Only a fool would believe this is God's design
But consider evolution cuz the cause is blind
I'm throwing natural selection dead at your direction
Tell eve a fig leaf cant cover my erection

Kon Womyn replied:
boy you so lame,
viagra gon' make you insane,
if you believe in flaws
then you's a flaw,
pity, the fool who knows
not his own beauty,
pity the fool who knows not
that science is God's design.
While you still evolvin',
I've long been revolvin'
round the universe spittin'
verse of my birth,
see this urban Cushite's a star;
the imperfect perfect constellation
of a celestial Love Divine,
my face is His Grace
my spine, 33 spikes
of skeletal craft
ivory encased in ebony
the envy of a crackkker,
while crack fiends feen
for this cocoa cure,
even darwins don't stop gawkin',
I got them converted,
hurrying to confession
n 'fessin no big bang
coulda made
sumthin' this Fine,
Father Forgive;
son best believe,
I Am the I Am;
The Creator's Creation.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Burning Floods

CONELLEY POPULATION

I'm rhyming for the seasons & with reason
battling Malthusian confusions
to set right the illusion;
numbers don't equal consumption,
its obsessive possession of the material
that's material and critical
so let's not war over the biological,
its illogical let's talk abt p.o.w.e.r.

The power I possessed
and you re-possessed
I now seek to re-repossess
and I won't desist,
from shaking in my bones
making rain from praying palms
and quaking thunder as they clap
in streaks across the sky,
so that clouds give birth to floods.

FLOOD the toxic ships that defecate on somalia's horns
and drown the drones, bleeding burkhas in helmand,
in the hope of turning blood to oil,
like water was turned to wine,
so lesswillhavemore.
....
so lesswillhavemore.

FLOOD the profiteers from their ponzi temples,
conning penniesfromthemany tomanygivetothefew,
FLOOD the oxygen thieves in carbon plants,
stealing life from tomorrow's babies,
BURN the poison vaccines and monkey viruses
killing themanythathavetheleast
so that thefewwillhavethemost,

BURN the maps that divide and rule,
makin' each one kill one the law of the jungle.
europeanskillafricans,
it's savagery in reverse.
africanskillafricans,
is this the reverse?
europeanskillarabs,
it's terrorism in reverse.
arabskillarabs,
is this the reverse?
europeanskilleuropeans,
fromhastings1066 to kosovo1999
is this the reverse?
is blood the reverse,
for statisticians who hunger
for lessmouthstobefed
while thefewwhohaveplenty
givenot but taketake,
and kill, and kill, and kill.
there is no reverse,
for a dying universe
of greedythugs and emptyguts.

BURN.
to be published in a forthcoming anthology on poetry now! copyright konwomyn, 2009

Thursday, 27 August 2009

One Thousand Tiny Suns

One, two, three suns rising on Eritrea's horizon
four, five, six sun-steps across the sky,
seven, eight, nine shining bright in noon's high,
ten years and rising
even in dusk's bullets;
the infinite light
of dreams
burns bright.


Heaven is under the feet of children
dusty from play,
some bruised, some tired,
all soles cracked with laughter.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

"I am a Girl" Caster Semenya

CASTER SEMENYA, SOUTH AFRICA'S 'GOLDEN GIRL'

This past week has seen South African athlete Caster Semenya hit the headlines, in part because of her incredible talent but also because of questions surrounding her sex and gender raised at the IAAF World Championship Games currently held in Berlin. I have had discussions about this issue with my good friends on Facebook and these are my thoughts on the matter. Firstly, this case teaches us that we've also got to interrogate ourselves as people and ask what do we mean by the word man or woman; there is no 'standard', a strict division between the two, but they are fluid, continuous terms who biological and sociological meanings are more similar than it is different. The socially constructed lines we have carved up have always been in contestation and in this instance again they are again challenged.


While the IAAF claims that they are going to test her, I find our quest for absoluteness and exactness in science very questionable. If science decrees she is sexed as a man or a woman; do we accept it because science says so? Is our truth value determined by science alone? What about her lived experience; gender in itself is a sociologically constructed meaning which can contradict the biological definition as in the case of transgendered people. Judith Butler in her conception of gender performance theory argues that gender is performed; it is "a relation among socially constituted subjects in specifiable contexts." Rightly so, gender is not a fixed but fluid identity that undoes the patriarchal conception of a male/female binary. Gender should be seen as a variable; but moreso as performatively constituted as it depends on how one performs their gender rather than ascribing to socially fixed ideas. Gender placed within the gender-sex continuum identity is about biology as much as it is about one's lived experience and Caster Semenya was born female and has lived as such. If because of a chromosomal imbalance, Semenya 'fails' their testing will the "scientific experts" be the ones to dry her tears and deal with the psychological trauma of declaring her more genetically male than female?
Eva Klobukowska of Poland was eliminated from the 1966 European Games in Budapest because she had one too many male chromosomes with a rare makeup of XXY but she went on to have children! (Pity I couldn't find any images.) Maria Jose Martinez-Patino, was stripped of her medals when it turned out she wasn’t genetically female because of a rare condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS). Patino 'failed' a DNA test before the 1985 World Championships in Kobe, Japan and was asked by Spanish officials to fake an injury to bow out of competition. She refused, competed, and won gold in the 60m hurdles. After her test results came back, she was stripped of her medals, but after a long battle she proved her faulty receptors actually made her resistant to the additional testosterone in her body and thus did not give her a competitive advantage. She was allowed to represent Spain and went on to have a successful career. Santhi Soundararajan is the Indian athlete who 'failed' a gender test in 2006 after the Asian Games, attempted suicide and although she survived and her story has a happy ending; she was shattered when she 'failed' and her silver medal was taken away. Caster is 18, young and has the world to conquer and because of a chromosomal imbalance she like these other women is forced to prove and defend her femininity.
For argumentsake I could say that Michael Phelps because of his low blood lactate level which allows him to recover faster than other competitors, has an "unfair biological advantage beyond the reach of others" but there are no quibbles there. Or the argument against the sprinter Oscar Pistorius of SA who had a prosthetic leg and it was claimed this was an unfair body enhancement. *???* Yes, the mind boggles at that one. And it does so on this one too. Gender testing in itself is a sexist practice; how do we know there are some men who are more female than male in their genetic makeup and so they do better at archery or badminton as these are sports women are naturally better at than men. The IOC ruled in 2000 that gender testing was to be abandoned, and in 2004 ruled transgendered people could partake in the Olympics. JL Simpson writing in the Journal of American Medical Association (2000) states,
"gender verification tests are difficult, expensive, and potentially inaccurate. Furthermore, these tests fail to exclude all potential impostors (eg, some 46,XX males), are discriminatory against women with disorders of sexual development, and may have shattering consequences for athletes who 'fail' a test."
Given these developments; why is the IAAF still holding onto an outmoded, invasive rule? And if it's apt to question chromosomal imbalance as unfair advantage, its also important that we question how international sport can ever be fair when economic and political advantage athletes from richer countries have over those from poorer and/or politically unstable countries who do not have access to training facilities as good as other competitors.


The Head of the ASA, Leonard Chuene has described this as "racism of the highest order". When an 18 year old South African girl's gender is questioned in front of the whole world, it certainly stirs up feelings and I myself in emotion had shouted 'racism, racism'; but rescinded once I read up on what other athletes had been through. In a no-holds barred criticism, Chuene lashed out,
"who are these White people to question the makeup of an African girl"
That was classic! Despite that I now disagree with him; this was a very bold statement that got people, talking about Caster, applauding Chuene and jeering the IAAF. And, while I as a private individual had the freedom to rant on Facebook on a shaky historic burden of proof, Chuene is a public figure who as the country's sports ambassador bears a much heavier, more specific burden of proof. In hindsight I do wonder what implications that statment might have for South Africa's image considering next year they host the World Cup. Was he playing the race card? Maybe, but I'm still laughing at his outburst.... Nonetheless, what I am in full support of is this remark by Chuene,
"If gender tests have to take place, they should have been done quietly. It is a taboo subject. How can a girl live with this stigma? By going public on the tests, the IAAF has let down this young child, and I will fight tooth and nail to protect her."
The insensitive and unethical manner in which the IAAF has handled this issue is unacceptable and the ASA is in the process of filing a complaint of violation of personal rights to the UN. Regardless of the previous attempts they'd done to handle this matter in confidence, to publicly announce their intent of further investigation 4 hours before her race is morally unjust and they ought to apologise to Semenya and her family for the damage caused.
Coming back to the issue of race/racism; I think the racial component makes things even more complicated and it can be a dangerous invocation if the parameters are not set out right. In my view, taking into account the history of gender testing in sport as outlined above; a framing for race rather than racism as a critical standpoint can be made, in the wider historical context of the Black gendered body in sport. It is not a pretty history and Black women have struggled against racism, sexism, oppressive tradition in their quest for sporting glory. The stories of these pioneers tell this all too well: Alice Coachman the first African American to win Olympic Gold, Berlin 1948, Althea Gibson of the US, the first Black woman to win Wimbeldon Singles, 1957, Helen Kimaiyo of Kenya who first competed in the Olympics in 1984, LA at just age 15 (!) and Derarte Tulu of Ethiopia the first Black African, but not the first African, to win Olympic Gold (see pic). Salut!
When I saw Caster Semenya I thought of the Williams sisters and champion runners, Maria Mutola of Mozambique, Amy Mbacke Thiam of Senegal and Samukeliso Moyo of Zimbabwe who have had their gender questioned on numerous ocassions; if not by official bodies then by fellow athletes or inquisitive members of the public who couldn't accept someone different to their narrow conceptions of normative female beauty and physique. For charges of racism to be levelled against the IAAF would be treading into murky waters. One would have to look at its handling of other similar cases in the past post-1966, after the Press Sisters' case, as an appropriate temporal comparative. It would also have to be asked whether the IAAF has acted on rumours/complaints about White/Asian/South American/Arab athletes from Black athletes. So far, I've found no solid evidence pointing to that, the only thing is that Caster Semenya is the first Black female athlete to my knowledge, to have her sexed identity questioned in this particular manner.

What is unquestionably racist and heartless though is the way some bloggers have described her as animalistic or like she were some half-evolved person. Trashy tabloids like The Sun have have been sniggering at this with tasteless headlines. Places like Paddy bookmakers in the UK are taking bets on the outcome of her test and I find this despicable and morally reprehensible. While these organisations are profitting from cheap headlines and foolish betters; and bloggers are taking stabs at Caster; they forget that she is a person. A human being with feelings and deserving of dignity that the faces behind these screens might one day demand when they have become the subject of inquiry. Same goes for the IAAF and its inappropriate handling of the matter. Further to this, were science to decree that she is biologically more male than female, what would be gained? A returned medal? So what? Personally, I hope she will be able compete in 2012 come the London Olympics. And if she does I hope she runs her heart out and smashes those records to claim medals upon medals; she may not be feminine by narrow normative standards but she was born a woman and a gifted and talented one at that!
Thatha Sisi, thatha! The world is yours!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Illusionist, The Puppet or The Joker?

B.O AS 'THE JOKER'

Around the world, in its many variations; street art has historically be a form of political expression for the disenfranchised and marginalised and this was the first thought that came to mind when I saw this montage of President Obama as 'The Joker'. However, this poster has become an overnight controversy along partisan and racial lines. The poster first appeared in LA and Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the LA urban policy unit has said, "Depicting the President as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery." In my opinion, to label this, "demonic" goes beyond political hysteria and is spoofery in itself! Its a gross misinterpretation of the image and where it comes from; its The Joker character acted by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008). Obama's Stans (obsessive fans) in the blogosphere have claimed; this is reminiscent of the minstrel show and have described it as racist. Steve Mikulan was quoted in the UK daily, The Telegraph as having stated, "The only thing missing is a noose". This is a far stretch of the imagination, methinks.

The green hair, white face, black-ringed eyes and red lips of The Joker in The Dark Knight is not the same as the image of minstrel as claimed. The minstrel was black-a-face, with red lips whose thickness was exageratted and eyes made extra wide. The picture above is not the same as those of AfricanAmericans denigrated years before; anyone who's watched Spike Lee's Bamboozled (2000) will understand what minstrel means historically and in corporate Amerikkka today. To suggest this poster has the same connotation of black-a-face is absurd and playing the race card; there are real issues of racism more deserving of social outrage than this legitimate satire of a sitting President. The same image was used of Dubya, Sarah Palin, John McCain who were indeed jokers, but not 'The Joker'.

For the Republicans who've delighted in seeing this as criticism of Obama; the joke is on them. America has had a long history of a hyperfear of socialism and anybody who thinks Obama is a socialist needs to realise its 2009 not 1962, the Russians aren't a superpower anymore and neither are they threatening to storm in on Washington. They need to take Socialist theory 101 and read the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. And to fully understand the intersection of race and class in the US; Amilcar Cabral, Angela Davis and Malcom X would be a few names on a long essential reading list of Black Liberation and Socialism 102. If they did, they'd not only realise firstly even in the warped American imagination that equates socialism to 'the death of capitalism and democracy' as Americans know it, Obama has proven to be a true blue. This Banker's President, is anything BUT a socialist proposing to nationalise everything; a man who's passed the biggest stimulus bill in American history and refused to nationalise the health insurance plan can hardly be equated to real socialist revolutionaries like Che or Castro. Secondly, returning to the lesson plan; these Socialism phobes would learn that socialism modelled on the Scandinavian system of The Third Way might actually be beneficial to America where unbridled capitalist greed and foreign aggression are the modus operandae.

In light of the current birther movement and the real racist images of Obama doing the rounds online, this image just makes the Right look even more hysterical, irrational and desperate. Its also extremely hypocritical of them; the same people who ran the country badly for 8 years. The Conservatives are the xenophobic, eugenicist, capitalist architects of social iniquity and to now take up a position of protest in solidarity with the poorer and disenfranchised people disillusioned with the Obama administration would be the real insult of this image, if that was the intended message of the unknown poster.

If Obama's PR team and Stan bloggers are young and smart enough to remember the movie, they'll realise this image was neither racist nor slander. The joker was the best character in that film. Even though everyone pretended he was the bad guy, in reality he was the hero that everyone was rooting for and he made it worth watching. This poster is probably quite accurate in that sense as people like Obama as a person; he is the articulate likeable guy who appears on TV to reassure the people and give them a renewed sense of hope so much that it elides his Bush-lite manner of handling domestic and foreign affairs. The Obama hype machine has spawned an enormous movement of mostly seletively informed (on the details of his policies), but fervent supporters who have knighted him 'the untouchable one' and it is almost forbidden to criticise him.

As a Stan of Obama who belatedly saw the light when the first air strikes left 17 dead in Afghanistan and Somali pirates were murdered at his behest; this is my li'l planet to write what I like (a la Steve Biko) and critique the administration as and when I see fit. Obama has reneged on too many of his campaign promises to deserve status of The Joker, maybe the suave Illusionist, or Wall St's Puppet titles would better suit him; so here's to better thought-out, intelligent, protest street art to come!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

A Sister SoulJah Moment on 'Good Hair*'

SOLANGE KNOWLES

Recently I was talking about US comedian, Chris Rock's documentary 'Good Hair' with some of my peoples and we were discussing what hair signifies as a cultural statement about Black identity and femininity. While in America, Black hair is an outward symbol a history of African heritage, slavery, the struggle for civil rights and institutionalised racism, it is also a historical narrative of cultural trends of the 'hip' of a generation was articulated. For me being an African who grew up in Africa my perception of Black hair is informed by my history of traditional customs, colonialism and how global Black hair cultures translated into the African setting. I don't want to take up a historical perpsective but rather paying homage to history by having stated these things from the outset. My intention is not to be in conversation with the the past but remember these roots when engaging with the everyday; the here and now. I feel inasmuch as its important to be legitimated as a historicized subject located in 2009, it is equally important for us to look at ourselves as 'just people', informed and shaped but not always trapped in historical discourse, so we can find a different way of discoursing about Black hair. So from the 'podium of the here and now' I speak my mind.

I am tired of seeing the binaries of straightened/dread = fake/natural; why must it be that being dreaded or having an afro is an automatic signifier of being deep and wise. What is it that is 'natural' about having unprocessed hair, but still living in a modern cosmpolitan world? Is hair the only artefact of 'natural living'? Is having a weave symbolic of being 'mentally shackled' and having aspirations to Whiteness or is having 16 inches of hair weaved down your back somehow 'inadequate for the revolution'? At what point are the intellectual, spiritual and personal qualities of a person chiefly defined by hair? Hair is a social construct - just as a weave is a construct of urban culture, so are dreadlocks, afros, plaits with all their of connotations that are rooted in Semitic religion, traditional custom, resistance to conformity, Black struggle and Black fashion.

Historically hair as cultural practice on the African Continent was a considered thing of beauty and the centering onf one's spirtuality like among the Yoruba of Nigeria. A. Hardraacht writes,
"The hair on the head (irun Orí) is often likened to a grove that must be well maintained to hallow the sanctuary that the physical head constitutes for the Ori Inu, the inner head. This is why Yoruba women have traditionally regarded hairdressing as a mark of honor to the inner head (Araba 1978:8), apart from its social significance" (A. Hardraacht 2001/2)
Further down south, hair is also a cultural rite as among some Shona tribes in Zimbabwe it is customary for hair to be cut when one's father or husband dies as these are the leaders of the home in patriarchal society and their death is mourned and honoured through cutting the hair.

Rooted in ancient traditions such as these, African hair in the modern sense; is as much 'sacred' as it is material and aesthetic in value. Styles of plaiting hair are continually evolving, borrowing from the past and inventing something, its hard to keep up! The art, skill and speed it takes to braid is something to be revered and is a source of income for hairdressers across Africa, in general. Given that the salon is a creative studio for hair art, it is blatant ignorance to suggest that having long braided hair is symbolic of an internal desire for Whiteness when in fact it is not about this; it's a craft very much rooted in the African everyday and that is also reflective of Black hair global trends.

There are also practical reasons why people choose to wear their hair other than fashionable or lifestyle appeal a particular hairstyle can have. And so the defence goes; its for ease of managing hair - if its braided, locked or in a weave its easier than managing kinky hair, but kinky hair means less time and money spent in the salon. But then preference can sometimes outweigh this budgetary practicality. On the dark side of it, having straightened hair that may for some women be symptomatic of an internalized complex about Black while there is also a socio-historical villification of kinky or dreadlocked hair. This prejudice continues to play itself out today when having bongo locks can prevent someone from having a particular job because of the ridiculous view in the corporate world that its inappropriate. It is also displayed in social attitudes and the marketing of images where sheen n straight is beautiful but nappy is not cute and dare I say it 'native' or 'African' (in a derogatory sense). From the snippets I've seen of Chris Rock's documentary the self-hate in US society is entrenched so deep it can cause tensions in families; its an important dimension in African-American life which shows how deep history runs. I find it very sad and deeply troubling, but I don't fully understand it and not having 'lived it', its not my place to 'speak on it'.

Chris Rock's documentary like UK singer, Jamelia's hair documentary aired in the UK also explores, where the hair comes from, and after having watched Jamelia's show and hearing how she decided not to wear human hair because of the controversial nature of how its sourced I also chose not to wear 'human hair' but synthetic hair which is made in a factory. But even then what good is that if the hair factory unfairly pays its workers? And if they do, am I conscious weave-wearer if I still wear clothes and eat food that's not been 'ethically sourced'. And even then, what is ethical about 'ethically sourced' goods when it can only be bought by those that have the money and is it really consciousness or a mindset en vogue? Evenmoreso what does it mean in a capitalist world where profit margins drive the force behind this ideology? In this frame, having dreadlocks is again cast into the spotlight by the market forces of eco-consciousness as a trope of 'ethical living' oblivious to the deeper issues of the kind of class capital this image also articulates. Why not probe that too?

And in this process of exploring; the myth of depthness and struggle in dreadlocked people needs to be deconstructed to stop judging people on their physical apparance. I've known some pseudo-revolutionaries in my time who look the part because its the trend, but they don't read the news, they've never read a paragraph of Frantz Fanon's work, only rhymed his name in the music because it sounds cool. Or the sista, Nefertitti who hardly came to the classes I taught part-time on African literature and on one occassion when she waffled her way through an interpreation one of Ben Okri's poem, she came up to me at the end of the lecture and suggested we study Sizzla's lyrics as African poetry. I had no words. Don't get me wrong Sizzla is one of my favorite dancehall artists, but no, iCan't, iWon't, not ever in this class...

.......As a once dreadlocked now (synthetic) weave-wearing fashion junkie with an Afro-conscious, God-in-heart, revolutionary mindset, the question of hair is more about exploring deeper questions within myself; my self-image and how I see others in a non-judgmental 'ethical' lens and not policing the manner in which we as Black people wear and alter our hair.
*The concept of 'good hair' translates differently in the Africa context; its refers to thick, long hair, having bushy hair is admired as having the potential to become 'good hair' when its straightened, but when its unprocessed it is not looked down upon. However, in the US its fine, straight hair and bushy hair in its natural state is considered 'bad hair'. A small difference among many others worth exploring in a longer piece to come.
COPYRIGHT KONWOMYN 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

'These Things of Race': Presence Africaine en Europe

SARA TAVARES, PORTUGUESE SINGER ORIGINALLY FROM CAPE VERDE

Presence Africaine / Presence les noirs in metropolitan Europe raises crucial questions of visibility/invisibility in public and private discourses throughout history. In present-day Europe the enslaved, segregated or colonized figure speaks of the past, but the voicelessness and alien status rendered by this sordid history is practised nowadays in more subtle, but discriminatory ways as seen in the State policies that prevent the influx of migrants, restrict their rights to civil liberties or inadequately address social prejudice. Italy's arbitrary laws against le straniere much to the delight of the far right-wing Lega Nord, the Mediterranean countries' shameful treatment of African boat migrants, Switzerland's controversial politicisation of immigration in the 2008 electoral campaign of the Swiss People's Party, France's controversial call to ban the hijab for all Muslims that includes Muslim Africans and Britain's new tougher visa restrictions are all damning indicators that we; the foreigners, the Africans are not fully welcome in Europe.

THE CONTROVERSIAL SWISS PEOPLE PARTY POSTER 2008

Discriminatory actions such as these do not affect all Africans in Europe; but all have experienced marginalisation characterized by the intersecting variables of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality and culture. This is continually and systematically implictly or explicitly expressed by Europe's 'ethnic majority' citizens, private corporations, or the State and its machinery. Regardless of the crucial labour force migrants provide, immigration control is tightening across the Fortress of Europe. For example, the UK Labour Party has since coming into power in 1997 instituted seven legislative acts in an attempt to tighten its borders and the latest being the E-Borders policy being instituted in September 2009; another of the panOpticon State's ridiculous authoritarian measures in the 'war against terror'. In Italy under Berlusconi legal immigrants are subject to the most arbitrary housing law requirements and if they fail to comply; right of stay is denied. In addition to this; in July 2009 the Italian government passed new legislation stating illegal immigrants are liable to pay a fine of 10,000 Euros and can now be detained by the authorities for up to six months.

The notion of criminalizing or preventing someone from seeking a better life is preposterous and even moreso when it is instituted by a Continent that for centuries stole whatever it could (bodies included) and now, with independent Africa, engages in both legitimate and illegitimate trade activities. Whether these laws are better than the repressive laws Africans face in their own native countries is neither here nor there; justification of policy by comparison is a crafty diversion of focus from presence Africaine en Europe to arguing Africans in Africa ought to be brimful of gratitude for their supposed better life and conditional human rights and civil liberties upon their arrival on European shores.

So wonderful are these rights that suspected illegal immigrants have the right to be denied emergency medical treatment and so wonderful are these liberties that les stranieri are free to settle in impoverished ghettos across Europe's metropoles where the State has the right to offer as little welfare as possible. So wonderful is this presence immigre, that the majority White citizens of Trento, Italy can celebrate the cultural diversity of their cosmopolitan town in exotic cuisine and 'ethnic art' shops; consuming otherness without ever having to fully engage with the non-European identities to whom these cultures belong. Racial interaction is minimal, apart from public holidays on which, as I witnessed, migrants of all racial and ethnic diversities flood the town centre as these are their days off work.

While 'crickets' might silently hiss at me, 'persona non grata' for all the liberties and modern conveniences Europe selectively offers or openly chirp, "you're an Africanist who arrived in Europe thirty years too late because 'these things of race' are subtle nowadays, therefore better"; my perspective is that whether expressly or implicitly shown, the police states of Europe make clear, non-European peoples are undesirable and unwelcome strangers and I won't stop blogging against the machine till 'these things of race' come right!

A LONGER, MORE 'SCHOLARLY' VERSION OF THIS OPINION PIECE WILL APPEAR IN A FORTHCOMING PUBLICATION.

An Injustice Anywhere is An Injustice Everywhere



The truth is finally beginning to emerge about what happened after the Chagos people were illegally removed from their island by the Brits in cahoots with the Americans.


"It pains me, then, to report on the role of the British government in the case of Saad Iqbal Madni, whose legal case Reprieve begins today. Madni was seized in Jakarta on 11 January 2002, and badly beaten. The Americans put him in a coffin, and flew him to Egypt, apparently stopping off in the British colony of Diego Garcia en route. When Madni arrived in Cairo, he was still bleeding through his nose and mouth from his earlier abuse, yet this was soon relegated to a minor complaint.


At the behest of the
Americans, he spent 92 days being tortured with electric cattle prods, before
being rendered to Afghanistan and ultimately to Guantánamo
Bay.


.......Here we are 17 months later, and the [UK] government still refuses to admit whether Madni was one of the victims of this crime. Through the tireless work of volunteer lawyers, Madni is now home in Pakistan, freed when the US essentially recognised that it had relied on false information in kidnapping him in the first place. As he struggles to rehabilitate his fractured body and mind, he owes no gratitude to the British government, which appears to have sat firmly on its hands rather than take a basic step to redress an obvious wrong."


from Britain's Rendition Cover-up by Clive Stafford Smith


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Feenin' Foodies


lard-filled IVF tubes flow down the oesophagus
like the nation were breeding geese for foie gras;
but the grease breeds disease
mickey dees is the dopeman
fat feens pay for hits
of e's in numbers and coke
till the heart's diseased and death's end increased,
while the coroner examines this fat feen
on another corner a brand new crackhouse opens
selling deep fried chicken to more comatose walkers.

The Love Push



The Love Push

fading stars and
falling snowflakes
glisten
on a misty mornin'
in london town.

rhyme pushes love
through grime beats,
when i think of him;
my brixton bwoy,
missin' in this missive
written on a misty mornin'
in islington town.

copyright: konwomyn 2009

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Not In My Name

I was having a discussion on another blog with some African American brothers about the use of the b- word to describe Black sisters and they furiously defended using the term claiming that a bad word can be re-appropriated for good and can be used as an artistic metaphor in American hiphop or as re-inforcement of a woman's swagger. Bear in mind, these brothers are pretty articulate and intelligent. They consider themselves Babylon/plantation-free thinkers - though I don't know how free one is if they're still using this word. But it's all good; we all have our own right to define our mental freedom as we feel. I'm in no place to impose my opinion on anyone, just as they cannot impose their thoughts on me.

Anyway, I argued against this and here are my edited thoughts below. I hope those who freely use the b- and n- words will stumble upon my blog, read this and think twice before uttering them again. Here goes:

There is nothing swaggerlicious or endearing in calling a woman that term. There are some things you never, ever reduce a woman to. While you might say its for artsake and in the context of art to call Li'l Kim the b-word (& even to this I'd object), the same cannot be true for every other woman. No matter how good you mean it - the word cannot escape its dark meaning. It's like putting a chain around her neck and selling her off again regardless of what kind of resistance she would give to that name. Its opening the door for those who have sexualised, brutalised and raped her throughout history to come back and conquer her, yet throughout the centuries women have said no, time and again!


Black women throughout history have
said call me Queen, regal in all her splendour - why is it so hard for this word
to roll of your tongue?
Is Bablyon's lingo your default
language or sumthin'?

Really, please my people if you are emancipated and you really are tuning into what women say about themselves in a positive light then this should not even be an issue. Its like you've not re-educated yourself and become aware of how much you dissown your Black pride when you call someone n-. To call a man or the n- word or a woman b- is to me running back through history and putting on the chains of slavery. You might as well say 'yes massa' next time your friends say yo n-!

I don't have to adopt the view of the masses simply because the majority holds fort on an ideology that is predicated on a damaging and false sense of self-worth. It just doesn't fly with me. If you can choose to change the meaning of a word that to me is still the same sexist word just re-packaged - I as a woman choose to reject it and I say no!

Can you honestly look at picture of Michelle Obama, Rosa Parkes, Alek Wek, Olwuchi Onweagba or Serena Williams -women who broke down doors and made to the top of their game and call these women by that insidious word? Surely even your art knows a code of respect and honor.


As Buju says who feels it knows
it. Women feel the insult.

No matter how loving, well-meaning or artistic you may be, you'd never, ever call your Grandma, Momma, Wife, Daughter or Sister by that name - and so the application should be universal for all women.

peace

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Elegy for Michael Joseph Jackson

This is a beautiful poem by Staceyann Chin:

Yesterday the world shifted
faster than I could swallow my breath

images of you flashed from screen
to screen
every medium covered you

so I laid in my lovers arms
her hands keep me warm
even in this high June swelter
I like to snuggle

I listened while beads of her seeped through
her perfect skin

art is the canvas upon which my heart dreams
I am listening to your boyhood
fantastical
magical cliche

I wish your time here had been easier for you

I would have loved to hear
what made you smile
without the cameras

can you whisper it to me/now
have you seen Ms. Fawcett?

who would have guessed
you would exit on consecutive days

as if it were planned
the media had to double up on the coverage
Farrah went slow

you went/ta-da

as always you never never landed stealthy
Michael had to do it loud

the monkey
Lisa-Marie Presley
the boys/the beds/the dance in front of the courthouse
on top of the car

every episode of your reality TV life
thrilled us
you were bad/black boy turned pale

your African nose turned up by surgeons

your stick legs bent
ankles glittering across race
white girls in Oklahoma wept your name
your gloved response
was imitated by children in China
in Chile
in Chattanooga

I remember being so tiny
singing along with a half-pint you/Someday at Christmas

every year I play that song on repeat

I imagined you
your innocence a beacon
your voice
carried me someplace
far away from the terror of my own life
I adored you/Michael
without question/I thought you an angel

before the accusations
before your expression began to shift toward frightened
before the stories about your father
you were simply the center of a glistening constellation
right there between Orion and the Big Dipper
each point a sibling

your star rose faster than anyone could follow

how lonely it must have been to be
a god among men

you took our breath away
yesterday
we were without words

so we sang the verses you left us
all across the planet
we all stopped
and bellowed our best impressions of you

in Brooklyn we rolled down the windows
and turned your vocals up

in Harlem
they took to the streets
and walked on your moon

holding fast to the joy of memory
you in a red leather jacket
directing the world to move

blood and bones
you served us all your parts

some we digested better than others

five decades/five decades
you must have been tired, Michael

it was a long walk between yesterday
and the last time you loved the man you saw in your mirror

in your heart
you must have seen how far you had traveled from your own genius

I have a vision of you
open arms/heart breaking/you finally let go

today
I imagine you
at rest

your expression relaxed
your skin brown like the boy I remember
your feet strong
your arms muscled and holding a self you could recognize

today
I dream of you in notes of once upon a time
wish for you tales of beyond foerver
ending with happily ever after

I hope you've found your peace/Michael
if anybody looked like they needed it
it was your grin/shy
held back by all the times they cut you

in spirit
may you grin wide
without hesitation
now that you no longer have to sing
I hope you've found your voice

legend that you are/be sure
to say hello to James Brown for us
tell Luther we have missed him
for now
we'll keep playing these replicas you made
each player
exorcising the tragedies you endured
erasing the ones you created

over and over again
we'll listen

in time
all we will hear are the better parts of you


copyright Staceyann Chin

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Father of Zimbabwe or a Father of Contradictions?

Since his death in 1999, the 3rd of July is a public holiday in Zimbabwe commemorating Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, a man who is named Father Zimbabwe or Umdala Wethu (Our Father) in recognition of his role in the liberation struggle. As leader of the Black nationalist movement ZAPU, he fought alongside ZANU nationalists led by Robert Mugabe, despite the ethnic tension between the two. However come 1980 when Zimbabwe gained Independence, in 1982 Mugabe ordered his the Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to crush the threat of a coup d'etat from the Ndebele-led ZAPU and this resulted in the killing of 20 000 mainly Ndebele and Kalanga people. This was called the Gukurahundi - a cleansing rain - but in truth, it was ethnic genocide. In an effort to restore peace and end suspicion of ZAPU, Nkomo agreed to a Unity Accord which joined the two parties in 1987. This effectively created a one-party state as in the years to come there was no formidable opposition to ZANU-PF; whatever opposition there was, in the form of ZUM or independents like Margaret Dongo, it was short lived. Nkomo served as Vice President of the country till his death in 1999 from prostate cancer. In life and death he was heralded Father Zimbabwe, for his part in the freedom struggle and as the figure uniting ZANU and ZAPU which in ethnic politics translated to a union between the major tribal groups; Shona, Kalanga and Ndebele people. Now while I've no wish to dispute that part of his legacy, what I am uncomfortable with is that since his death, there's been some selective memory in remembering who Joshua Nkomo was. His title of Father Zimbabwe has now been translated to mean a man who stood up for right, injustice and was a political visionary. Some skewed political opinions have gone so far as to compare him to Nelson Mandela and this is where the buck needs to stop!
At what point is his part in the construction of a totalitarian state forgotten? He was a senior leader part of the same government that used legislation to impose its power on trade unions, press freedom was heavily regulated under the archaic colonial law, POSA and the government crushed political opposition like Edgar Tekere's ZUM (even though the party was doomed to fail) and attempted killings of Patrick Kombayi and Ndabaningi Sithole. Internal silencing was marked by the suspected assassinations (officially said to be a fatal car accidents) of minister Chris Ushewokunze, MPs Joshua Malinga and Sydney Malunga. The suicide of Maurice Nyagumbo after the Willowgate scandal shows how corrupt the state was. The 1990's were marked by government corruption and controversial state programmes like the failed economic policy, ESAP and the land re-distribution exercise. Of the land appropriated under the willing buyer willing seller scheme, a significant proportion of that land was sitting between the hands of government and Nkomo was one of those beneficiares with commercial farms from Gokwe to Beitbridge.
If Nkomo was as much as visionary as he is claimed to be; then why are there all these contradictions and inconsistencies in his actions? Why did the Ndebele people feel he had betrayed them by signing the Unity Accord and for me, as someone resident in this part of the country though of Shona ethnicity, Nkomo had no real power to command development to this region of the country. Bulawayo lagged behind Harare; the building of the National University of Science and Technology and the Zambezi Water Project are sad testaments of that fact; Nkomo knew it but couldn't/wouldn't/didn't for numerous reasons challenge the government's attitude towards these projects. Perhaps the best thing Nkomo will best be remembered for in the last years of his life is his unwavering support for Econet; the mobile phone provider who battled to get an operating licence. His threat to resign from government if Strive Masiyiwa was not awarded the licence is admirable and something I will respect Umdala for. However much more he may have struggled for in private conversations with other powerful government members is unknown to me, and for that too I give respect.
If he is to be remembered as Father Zimbabwe; Umdala Wethu then I feel we need to remember the good and the bad; he is a father of contradictions and inconsistencies. It serves the Zimbabwean nationalist imaginary and propagandist agenda of Mugabe's regime to remember Nkomo as a figure of the nation. It operates on the rationale that if Nkomo's years as Vice President were glorified, then the one party state does not seem so bad and if freedom was achieved through Nkomo then ZANU PF is evidence of that freedom. But we know this to be untrue given the state of Zimbabwe 29 years later since 1980; if we as a nation willingly forget that Nkomo was a significant member of a corrupt and totalitarian regime inasmuch as he was a liberation war hero then we will to amnesia a critical part of our young nation's history. We also show how much we suffer from hero syndrome - that in death we remember the good and not the bad and ugly parts which remind us of the complexity of our past; these parts, in my opinion, should act as caution for the future so we steady ourselves, before over-zealously awarding five-star, iconic status on our leaders.

Friday, 3 July 2009

FaceOff: Stepford Wives & Russell Square

I had to work in Central London today; School Of African Studies (SOAS) Russell Square to be precise. I hadn't been there in a while and I get such a nice vibe whenever I go to the library; y'know whatever positive intelleuctual revolutions I'm plotting as an African; this is one place that's feeding my mind. However there's another side to SOAS, outside of its doors is a different world. There's Senate House, Uni of London Student Union, British Museum and the world of Russell Square & Holborn - and all of these places just have a certain feel to them that's different from the rest of London. I almost feel like I'm in a London without problems as though everyone there has these intellectual middle-class lives and is somehow insulated from the fast-pace of London, the buzz of the City; its speed, trendyness, but pollution too in all forms - litter, smelly takeaways, people and traffic. Its a feeling that is in the people; the buildings and everything is so clean, the restaurants cater to the vibe of people who don't worry about money and have that intellectual depth and world travel to back their standing in this world - Planet Organic, the restaurants of Bloomsbury Square, Goodge St design stores. All these things somehow make Russell Square distinct from other parts from Central London; it moves at its own time pace and everything is so clean and pristine - the architecture too gives off that feel - smooth tall grey buildings in good condition and have minimalist design as if resisting being pinned down to an era. The overwhelming number of American and French and Japanese speakers also add to the London-but-not-quite-London feel. In some ways this insular world is good, numbing my woes of the world, but on the other hand there's a lingering feeling that somethings not quite real, not quite what it seems. I'm trying to figure out what that thing is but I know its connected to questions of Victorian history, contemporary class structures and complex cultures of the City. And that oh so smooth n clean feeling that makes me almost a part of it but not quite and in those moments my world seems so far away only to come galloping back once I begin the journey down to Trafalgar Square. But I'm happy it does come back not that it took a leave of absence more that I'm surrounded by the challenging familiar that I must cope with and also enjoy being in the bits of The City that I love like Covent Garden & South Bank. Whereas in Russell Square I'm floating along, somehow navigating my path through such a familiar, yet strikingly different world of London.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Social Networking

I am starting to, get over the Facebook buzz. Yes I was all abt FB until recently when personal circumstances made it necessary for me to go offline and to be honest I quite enjoyed my absence. Surprisingly so for someone who was a passionate advocate for FB. While I do appreciate its benefits, at the same time its like a gossip feed. You know, who was on there, doing what, saying what and sometimes it's all just a li'l too much. It feels claustrophobic and invasive, in fact. It's not just the people you wish you hadn't befriended but also genuine good friends; I really don't want to know who they've just argued with or their ever-changing relationship status. And so to keep my friends as friends and not have an audience everytime I express an opinion (yes even though I love a gd argument, sometimes, jst sometimes silence is golden!) I think blogging is the way fwd. No one to keep tabs on the time you logged in or whose pics you liked or where you'll be Monday evening, just simply talk about the business of life and whatever interests me without rattling someone else's keyboard.

much love....one