Friday, 24 December 2010

postcard from beijing...

Beijing, China: Visitors look at a tour pamphlet in the Forbidden CityFotoCredit: Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

Do They Know It's Christmas in your local Louis Vuitton, Bono?

All credit to @AngryBritain on Twitter for the line. 

Background info if you don't know: Edun is an ethical clothing label was founded by Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson in 2005 to encourage trade with Africa, and in 2009 which Louis Vuitton took a 49% stake, hence Bono & Ali flossing with $1200 bags in the savanna in SA. Beyond the noise of how Edun assists Africa farmers in September of this year, Edun closed down their factories in Tunisia, Tanzania and Uganda and relocated to a China. Bono might just wanna change the strapline from Every Journey Begins in Africa to Everything is Made in China.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Dear Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Galleway & Sotheby's, Selling Stolen Goods is A Crime!

fisttap Naija Blog & Bombastic Elements

A 16th-century ivory pendant mask from the ancient city of Benin is to be put up for sale at Sotheby’s London. On 17 February 2011, the mask is to be auctioned for an estimated £3.5m-£4.5m (US $5.4m-$6.9m). The mask is said to have been belonged to the monarchy of Benin and was worn by the Queen Mother (Iyoba (Female) Oba  (Male)) as ceremonial headgear. Apparently there are four other masks from this era which are held in museums outside of Nigeria because well, they're world history and while this is 100% true, it is sometimes used as code speak for Mother Empire of the West can look after them better than not-yet-civilized, corrupt Nigerians. 

According to the advert for the sale:

The mask and the five other Benin objects will be sold by the descendants of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Lionel Gallwey (in 1913 he changed his name to Galway) who was appointed deputy commissioner and vice-consul in the newly established Oil Rivers Protectorate (later the Niger Coast Protectorate) in 1891. He remained in Nigeria until 1902 and participated in the British Government’s “Punitive Expedition” of 1897 against Benin City. The faces of the five known pendant masks have been interpreted widely by scholars of Benin art as that of Idia, the first Queen Mother of Benin.

That the objects are described as belonging to a 'collection' are not considered stolen goods is disturbing, in the least and Jeremy Weate at Naija blog has picked up on the 'polite violence of the language.' Truth! The colonial exploit is described as some clean and legitimate process, absent of the violence that characterised the takeover of Benin which was it what the Punitive Expedition really was. This clever dressing up of things is reflective of a deeper inability within everyday citizen and media discourse that Britain has with accepting the truth of imperialism, it is not some glorious tale of journeys to 'exotic' lands and world domination, it is a long history of murder, pillage and plunder!!! I live very near to one of London's well-known museums named after an 'anthropologist' who had a 'personal collection' of stuff from Africa and south Asia that fills up two massive rooms equivalent to the size of two small halls. It's interesting that in it's brochures the museum the descriptions smoothly glide over how this vast collection was stolen...ahem, I mean acquired. After all the man had the distinguished occupation of being an anthropologist and explorer so it's perfectly natural for him to have had large 'personal collections' from the 'indigenous tribes' of Africa and south Asia.

But back to this matter of stolen property; the Galleway family are following precedent in setting their asking price at a few million quid because in 2007, an Oba bronze head stolen by another collector was sold for $4.7 million. Clearly, selling stolen goods is a very profitable business, but only when an auction house does it and when it belongs to a colonizer...ahem, I mean explorer. But fear not help/objection is on the way, the Financial Times has (sort of, impartially ...ahem) reported about it, Sahara Reporters in Nigeria are on the case and have a petition  going and some Nigerian bloggers are upset about it too. Apart from Naija blog mentioned above, Bunmi's take on the subject of returning or not returning stuff is that, while he appreciates that returning artefacts may not always be a good thing, he writes:
...I didn't hear the part where the Galleways said proceeds from the sale are going back to help develop Benin and raise the standard of living to the point where their museums and private collectors will be able to lovingly guard and care for million-pound artifacts and, perhaps, build a few art preservation and restoration schools as well.


Now hopefully the Nigerian government will hear about this and care enough to make some noise along with the British government who should do the right thing and say something on this matter, maybe even ask The Met to have a word because if the theft of Jewish Polish paintings by Nazis is grounds for arrest* then surely a certain family has a case to answer.

*the the site where I found this story is quite content to advertise the 'sale' of the Oba mask...oh the irony.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The ZANE Appeal

This appeal brings to light how both Britain and Zimbabwe shamefully treat their people. In the case of Britain, people of British descent who fought for the Empire now live off of a small pension that the government refuses to increase yet WWII is such a big part of British national pride in their many monuments and numerous days of remembrance of battles, victories and bombings, it's embarassing that the country can't even take care of these 'veterans of Empire.' 10000 Whites, Coloureds and Blacks fought in World War II from colonial Zimbabwe - the largest contingent from Africa fighting for the British. While wars were fought in the name of Empire and continued to serve in the British army's outpost, only the Whites with British ancestry were entitled to pension which today is a pittance, while African soldiers received as little as £10 or nothing at all.

In the case of Zimbabwe, there is little care offered to the aged or ophaned of society so the vulnerable largely rely on family for care. Some of the elderly that ZANE takes care of had savings and like many other Zimbabweans, these funds were wiped out when the change to a multi-currency system was announced in the beginning of '09. 
The government's been so high-drunk on the struggle for land and anti-colonial (read regressive) economics that the multi-currency switch was done in a clumsy manner and no financial compensation was offered to those who had billions, trillions and quintillions locked up in the banks. A lot of people lost everything and had to start again. Even if the West was at fault and was ruthlessly plotting against our Cde Leader, no interference from the West has stopped our beloved Leader Ministers from profiting from the Chiadzwa diamonds or the land re-distribution exercise so there's nothing stopping the (anti-British) government from ensuring "indigenous" people don't die from cholera in infancy or poverty in old age.

Putting aside the ZANE project and Zimbabwe's social ills and Britain's failings for a loooong minute, there is also something to be said about this video. I found myself asking a million questions; can stories about poverty ever be told right? How do the tellers of these stories want them told? What do those to whom these stories belong want? Locating oneself as a Zimbabwean, how does one interpret an advert such as the one above? How different is it to what a British person sees? Does race or age matter? Does it matter that the appeal was not made for me but for a British person? (Presumably of White British ethnicity since the speaker talks of 'our relations' at the beginning)  Whose agenda does this story fit? 
I've no issues with this project, but it's how its filmed and how the narrative of Britain's long lost relations is constructed that lead me to ask the questions above. Sure neither Zimbabwean or Western media focusses much on the experiences of elderly Whites living in Zimbabwe so telling this story is a good thing, but something about the framing of this is problematic.

And to confirm there is something wrong with this video is the accompanying article which plays on the Mugabe bogeyman/White victim that is characteristic of 'I had a farm in Africa' discourse as Brett Davidson calls it. Take this, it attempts to give these people some dignity but seems to draw attention to other issues:
"Many have had their homes and farms taken from them. With great dignity but little to eat, they are barely surviving."
Sure it's a charity plug, I get that, but tugging at the heartstrings by misrepresenting reality and reinforcing a one-dimensional image of starving Zimbabwe has to be questioned because reality tells a different story. How many is 'many' of the many impoverished elderly White folk who lost farms in 2000? Out of the 8 000 elderly people that this charity takes care of, there are not many. One, two hundred tops and even that is being quite generous, but since stories of land repossession dominate the headlines, dominance now translates to 'many' which implies a majority.
Here's a second example that draws on the stereotypes of lawless, corrupt Zimbabwe:
"Operating in Zimbabwe is difficult and dangerous. Money could easily go astray, but ZANE has an unblemished record. Not a single penny raised since 2002 has been lost to corruption. Its brave workers operate "under the radar", as Benyon puts it, dispensing money directly to those who need it most."
...Umm where is it deadly dangerous in urban Zimbabwe? Where most of the Black, Coloured and White elderly people helped by ZANE live? In the retirement homes and houses in the suburbs? No. In the ZANE offices in Zimbabwe? In Harare, Bulawayo, Kwekwe - in which city is it so dangerous for them in 2010? Honest question.

These may be small quibbles, considering the work that this charity has done, but as I'm in the business of critiquing and exploring how narratives are constructed through visual or written forms then it's perfectly legit to de-construct this. And hey I believe in fairness; if Bono gets ripped, so does everybody else!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Chidamoyo Story

The New York Times has this story on rural Zimbabweans from the Makonde valley having to barter peanuts and other agricultural produce for medical treatment from Chidamoyo Hospital. Parts of it are quite good and informative but other parts of the report are laden with all the typical cliches of abject poverty and desperation with saviour America on a mission and it's irked me. Take this gem for example: 
'The hospital’s cavernous chapel is now filled with what looks like a giant sand dune of unshelled nuts.'
or this:
'“It’s very difficult to get this famous dollar that people are talking about,” said Esther Chirasasa, 30, who hiked eight miles through the bush to the hospital for treatment of debilitating arthritis. Her son, Cain, 13, walked at her side carrying a sack of peanuts to pay for her care.'

The descriptions of the 'cavernous chapel' and arthritic Esther hiking through the bush leave quite an impression on one's mind: of the primitive and dreadful circumstances these people live in. Without taking anything away from the severity of Esther's suffering or the image of the chapel turned hospital as a place of refuge in a remote area, I think it's quite possible to write about that without casting Esther in the poor villager/victim role and the American hospital as the 'star-spangled saviour' stuck in the middle of nowhere in Zimbabwe. I find it annoying that the Heart of Darkness narrative continues to seep into stories in so many ways despite that it's 2010 and reportage and postcolonial* travel writing  has long moved on from this way of writing about places.

Admittedly my response to the problematic sections of this article is not impartial but I offer no apology for that. I'm tired of the aid discourse of victims and saviours. I always have a glass half-full perspective when it comes to all things Zimbabwe so I don't think the way this story is written gives much emphasis on the fact that the villages are actually able to produce crops and trade them for health care. Considering the myths about Zimbabwe's failed land project and collapsed agricultural sector, how is it that this story of agri-resourcefulness can be written in the same 'Zimbabwe is on the brink of disaster' tone? 

Barter trade has long been a part of Zimbabwean history (after all, that is how we met the Portuguese, the Arabs and the British) and has continued through the colonial and post-independence periods of modernity. Rather than go the long route of having to sell one's goods at the market (that must be travelled to!) for days or weeks to raise enough money for hospital care or school fees in some cases, this is an alternative and a short cut. In the mid-1990s when primary education for rural schools was no longer free, it was no surprise to hear stories of villagers bartering livestock for a term or a year's fees - depending on the beast. In more recent times, barter has become commonplace in the cities too, at my niece's school when fuel was in short supply in '08-'09 this well-equipped private school accepted fuel or fuel vouchers as payment of fees to keep it's fleet of cars on the road. Parents in the fuel business or with access to large amounts of fuel happily complied. Even businesses do it - trade offs of fuel or sugar happen all the time, why run around looking for US $, Botswana Pulas or South African Rands when commodities of value can be used? 

On the cultural and economic/technological front, the Chidamoyo story lacks context - I'm not in denial of the dire situation of these villagers, but context helps put into perspective the extent to which the situation is dire and how such stories of direness may be written. Peanuts are commonly used in Zimbabwean dishes so they're not 'melted into vegetables' as though that was a desperate move to shift the peanut butter to feed starving patients as the article suggests, but peanut butter is often used in Zimbabwean (mainly Shona, Chewa and Tonga) cuisine so it's the norm - a luxury in some cases to have peanut butter stew with vegetables or meat. On the economic/technological front, there have been a number of trial and error inventions of devices that can use peanut butter as a bio-fuel. If you look online, most stories suggest it can't be done, but offline there are stories that suggest it can. I remember some years ago somebody coming to my father's office to pitch his invention to him but my dad wasn't interested in buying it because we don't produce peanuts on a mass scale for the device to have been useful. As part of his pitch, the man had said that the Ministry of Education had expressed interest in the invention and they were looking it over and I don't know what's happened to it now, but if that man's idea hasn't taken off it might be worthwhile for this hospital to investigate the possibility of using peanut butter as bio-fuel for an eco-generator or using the sun as solar power. The hospital will need diesel to power the generator they're appealing for and if patients pay in peanuts and livestock, how will they raise funds to buy diesel?

So this story is not one of tragedy, but reality - were it not for the plea for funds for the hospital, there are parts of this story deserving of a so-what-that's-what-people-do-to-get-by response. I'm not dismissing this case, I'm dismissing the way the parts of the story is written. I just would like for stories to be placed in context and to move beyond the 'basket case' narrative. I'm kinda tired of always having that label stuck on me, my fellow people or my country. On the upside though, I do think the pictures of the villagers and what the hospital is doing are pretty cool. : )

(* i.e assuming the post-colonial moment began after the moment of encounter and not after political independence)

Friday, 17 December 2010

postcard from the chalbi desert...

The Gabbra are part of the Oromo people who live as camel-herding nomads, mainly in the Chalbi desert on the border between northern Kenya and the highlands of southern Ethiopia.
FotoCredit: Beeno Neeleman

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Kilimanjaro Studio Sessions

The Noisettes deliver a brilliant cover Miriam Makeba's Kilimanjaro for Levi’s Shape Of What’s To Come campaign. The studio-session video above is of lead singer, Shingai Shoniwa covering the Miriam Makeba classic. I love that she gets the Zulu pronunciation and clicks right and she even worked in a li'l accent there, but still gives the song a modern twist. Props to the bad and backing vocals too! Very nice blend into Never Forget You and switch back to Kilimanjaro.

You can download this session from Goodies | Shape What's To Come

In DOPE Music We Trust

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

We Want Peace

Emmanuel Jal - a former child soldier from Sudan made this song with the help of celebrities and activists to raise awareness about the January 9th, 2011 referendum in Sudan that will decide whether or not Southern Sudan should remain a part of Sudan.

 In his own words....
Emmanuel Jal
Musician. Author. Actor. Advocate.
My country is on the brink of war. On January 9, Southern Sudan will vote for its independence to be free from a government who has slaughtered and displaced our people for 43 years. The country is currently led by a regime bent on controlling oil resources.  80% of Sudan's oil fields are in the south, making it a prime battleground to displace our indigenous people.  Both north and south are preparing for war, leaving innocent people at grave risk of major human rights violations. The last civil war between North and South claimed over 2 million lives, including my own mother. I have firsthand experience as a war child, forced to fight in the conflict and torn from my family. The time to prevent another genocide is now. I have a written a new single called “We Want Peace”.  It is a call for peace, protection and justice for all in my land, and also for an end to conflicts affecting innocent people all around the world.  Thank you for joining me in my struggle.
You can help avert a genocide in Sudan by taking small steps that will make a big difference. By lobbying your government MPs and representatives, educating friends and family, planning a local event, or generating coverage in the media about the crisis, and spreading Emmanuel's message by downloading "We Want Peace",  you will help build the political power needed to prevent this conflict with diplomacy and not bloodshed.  Be a voice for the voiceless. Take Action.

If you prefer the non-celeb version:

Two Cents:
This has to be said: I posted the track because I liked it (warm fuzzy feel and that)  and because the proceeds from the song go to help those in need in Sudan, whether it's preventing boy soldiers or providing electoral aid or assistance to communities in need. The real effort to preventing genocide lies in the lobbying efforts of people or getting media attention for the situation in Sudan as Emmanuel Jal clearly states up top. Please don't confuse buying this single as an action that directly 'helps prevent genocide'. Buying a song or merchandise to fund peace projects doesn't prevent conflict from breaking out and seems a gross misunderstanding of the fact that political forces that create war and the solution to a clearly complex and volatile situation in Sudan cannot be reduced to buying a song or a t-shirt. Making peace requires direct engagement with warring factions and communities. Political settlements are not borne out of music singles or merchandise - not to say that protest music does not have it's place in conflict discourse, it does, but it's important to know precisely what role music plays. Let's be clear on that so don't go  buy the single in the belief that you're actually 'preventing genocide.'  None of that 'Save Darfur' feel-good campaign stuff please. There rant over, now you can go buy the single or donate knowing you're supporting the good work Emmanuel Jal is doing.

We Want Peace is now available on iTunes & Amazon (if you still mess with that.)

Chimurenga Dreamin'

pic jacked from the fab chimurenga magazine
pic by Katlego Mogadima
its the gap in my teeth, the width of my smile
the rickets in my knees,
the wiriness of my frame
its the day i grow from a girl to woman and
my rickets shaped by time to take the curve of my hips,
its the growth of wisdom in the rear of my mouth;
its the gap in my front, outgrown by incisors,
tearing away at life,
sandwiched between the chaos and the calm;
chimurenga dreamin',
dreamin' chimurenga,
copyright konwomyn, 2009

South Africa: Few Good Men?

FotoCredit: Getty Images

by Azad Essa

"He pulled me by my hair and dragged me to the entrance of the house. I knew he was taking me to the bedroom, and I knew what that would mean. His one hand pulled at my long hair, braided to my scalp while his other hand wrapped itself around my face, choking me, his fingers digging into my eyes .... I held on to the gate and refused to let him take me in - that was when he bit off half my ear."

Three weeks earlier, 46-year-old Gugu Mofokeng had left the shelter where she had been living for a year - in hiding from her abusive former boyfriend. Her rehabilitation had been fruitful; she had volunteered for a community radio station and worked to nurture dialogue between abused women. She now planned to open her own shelter for abused women and children.

But Mofokeng's ex-boyfriend tracked her down, begged for forgiveness and promised to help make her dream of opening a shelter a reality. At first things went well - he had money and a car. But Mofokeng struggled with the irony of the very man who had led her to a shelter helping her to open one for other abused women.

Then the abuse resurfaced.

"I had gone to a white Christian shelter for abused women, and so he started ... [accusing me of sleeping] with white men," Mofokeng explains. "When I told him that this won't work, it got worse."

Her former boyfriend hounded her for days before the attack outside her home.

Mofokeng's story may sound shocking, but it is not unusual in South Africa. Gender activists have long argued that violence against women in the country is at "epidemic" proportions. And despite the introduction of several pieces of legislation and the creation of the Commission for Gender Equality, few improvements have been forthcoming.

A question of numbers
A 2009 study conducted by the Medical Research Council (MCR) sent shockwaves across the country when it revealed that one in four men in the coastal provinces of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal admitted to committing rape.

But the findings of a new report, the Gauteng Gender Violence Indicators Pilot Project, released to coincide with 16 days of international activism against gender violence, suggest the situation may be even worse than initially thought.

Conducted in 1,000 homes across Gauteng, South Africa's most prosperous and populated province, which includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, the study found that 78.3 per cent of men admitted to perpetrating some form of violence - whether emotional, physical or sexual - against women.

A joint initiative by the MRC and the NGO Gender Links, the study involved in-depth interviews with men and women.

Twenty-five per cent of the women interviewed said they had experienced some form of sexual violence - but only 3.9 per cent of these reported the crime to the police. One in 13 of the women surveyed said they had been raped by a non-partner, but just one in 25 rapes had been reported to the police.

Of the men interviewed, 37.4 per cent admitted to committing an act of sexual violence at least once.

Rachel Jewkes of the MRC said the findings did not make easy reading. "I think it is remarkable that so many men are willing to say 'yes we did it'," she says, adding that the study was the first of its kind because it attempted to map the prevalence of gender violence through a household survey. The sample used was representative of the population dynamics of the province, but was randomly selected and, crucially, did not rely on police data.

Read the rest of this grim, but brilliant piece on Al Jazeera

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

TIA: The White Room

Jusa, ft. Kazz & Cynthia from ThisIsAfricaChannel on Vimeo.

This is Africa have now launched something called The White Room where African artists perform one acoustic track in a white room in any studio around the world. Every week is a new artist and first up on the 7th of December, was Jusa Dementor, Cynthia and Kazz (from the duo BKay and Kazz) doing a cover of Bob Marley's Zimbabwe. iLike, but I wish Jusa would stop ad-libbing every five seconds! It's distracting and annoying especially at the beginning when Kazz is singing. If they ever release this, somebody please tell Jusa to kill the ad-lib. Other than that, it's a good cover. 

It's Like Chunder Everywhaaar!

Filmed outside SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies), London, this li'l comedy sketch takes the piss out middle class do-gooders - it's funny but so true. There are people out there like this who think a trip to Africa or the Caribbean saves the world and they become the appointed spokespersons of other people. It reminds me of the conferences I've been to at every one of them there's always an academic or student professing to know the mystery and wonders of Afffricaaa!  (yes they drag it out like that)

From Thatcher's Children, With Love

Monday, 13 December 2010

True or False?

To perform December 18, 2010.
From ZimboJam:
Mary J. Blige is being brought into the country by Impeccable Events with the support of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. Representatives of Impeccable Events, Belinda Mutinhiri and Studio 263 Actress, Tinopona Katsande confirmed to The Zimbo Jam this afternoon that the show was going on.
“She’s landing on Friday, performing on Saturday and will be out of the country on Sunday,” said Katsande. “We are bringing her in particular in line with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. If you Google her you will see that she has been through a lot of stuff. She’s a hero for many women.”
According to Impeccable Events, only the VIP tickets for her Zimbabwe show will be on sale in advance, at US$60. The other tickets will be on sale at the door on the evening of the concert at US$30.

...nice to know ZTA is making so much money that they can afford to bring Mary J. Blige. I'm not big on her, but I don't mind that she's coming, it'll be fun for those who go, but I have a little request for ZTA since they are evidently swimming in money; it'd be nice if you gave some of that money to the Ministry of Energy so we can have constant electricity and maybe a little cash to the Ministry of Education so teachers can be paid and schools properly funded and if there's still enough to round a little to the Ministry of Health so the country can afford to treat it's citizens. Oh and while Impeccable Events are splashing out on Mary J. could they also give a pot of money to the police services to send them on gender training courses so they don't disbelieve women when they come to report cases of abuse and the police themselves don't threaten to arrest every woman clubbing at night because it's assumed that during the festive season of December, a woman without a man at her side, going into a night club must be prostitute or a loiterer. It's not nice having to bribe the police not to arrest you for going out to party, what happens the night I'm broke? If Impeccable Events or ZTA could help in any way with this small matter before the 16 Days of Activism are over, it'd be much appreciated.
That is all, on with the show.

The Jody McIntyre Interview

 much thanks to latentexistence (Twitter) for putting this on youchoob
Had it been anyone else who's not anti-establishment this interview would have gone smoothly, but the reporter was grilling Jody and appeared to insinuate he'd been responsible in some small way for the police's actions, but I'm glad he stood his ground. Great interview!

Riot Another Day

Although I'm an international student close to the end of my education in the UK, today [last Thursday] I went to the march in solidarity with the home students and also to protest against the fees rise for international students, that is a less-spoken about but very real consequence of the government's yes vote tonight as this new fees structures follow. If international students are paying between £9000 - £15 000 tuition fees in cash per year, what will those of the future pay? And with university funding cuts looming, there will be serious cutbacks in grants to international researchers and fellows who contribute immensely to global academic development and research.

Anyway, I got to Trafalgar Square at about 3 p.m and there wasn't much happening there so I walked down through St James's Park to try and get to Parliament Square, but the police had formed a human barrier so there was no way I or any of the other students milling about, could get in there. One officer suggested going round the other end to see if it was open. A disparate group of about thirty of us went and happened to meet up with a larger group of protesters (maybe 300), so we marched with them to Westminster Abbey. Upon arrival the police were already shouting 'get back get back' while those on mounted horses looked on. As we got closer there were scuffles between officers and protesters, admittedly some protesters did incite the police by shoving them and shouting abuses, but the police response was disproportionate, heavy handed and aimed at everyone. There were several times I could have been struck, despite the fact that I wasn't standing on the frontlines or mouthing off. It was a tense scene but we continued chanting and dancing to music for about half an hour then decided to find another way into Parliament Square as the police weren't letting us through. 

This part of the march was kinda fun, it was like a cat n mouse game - every time the police appeared to be on the approach those at the back would blow a whistle and we ran through the streets shouting 'Whose Streets, Our Streets', Twitter was also quite good because people would post messages of where not to go or where to go. In the end we got kettled though but this came out of the blue because at that time people were chanting and some dancing to music. Like cowards, they snuck up from the back all suited up in riot gear and some on horses - all this to control an at the time, non-violent crowd. As if on cue, people fought back and threw punches that landed on the police's shields and protective headgear. Police on foot would repeatedly charge into the unarmed crowd with baton sticks in hand and force people to move backward. The more they did this is, the more irate protesters got and retaliated with some picking up the kettling fences and throwing them at the police which wasn't a wise move, because it only made the cops respond with even more violence. (Looking back at some of the pictures, I wonder if some people had been hired to stir-up trouble. It's just my feeling, but I think some people were there for the trouble not the protest. I have no proof at all, but I'm writing this here in case it can be proven, somebody post a comment below.)

I didn't want to caught up in anything so I moved to the outskirts of the crowd that was marshalled by mounted officers, but I got scared by one of the horses when I was backed up by a wall and in that moment there's absolutely nothing one can do, but pray that horse doesn't go beserk. The last thing on my mind was moving but a mounted police woman saw me by the wall and instead of telling her colleague to move, she kept shouting at me 'keep moving keep moving!' I didn't respond and I didn't move. She came towards me, still shouting at the top of her voice until I finally said, 'I can't move' and pointed to the horse in front of me. But she was insistent saying 'you can, you can, move!', this went on for about 3 minutes till the male officer on the blocking horse moved on. It was scary being caught up in that. If I were a guy and wasn't such a pain-phobe, I might have swung a punch at one of the footed officers as revenge because I was scared but also very pissed off after that. 

 Inside the kettle people were lighting flares, chanting and the mood was good some of the youngest protesters I met in the kettle were about fifteen and this was the second time that some of them had been kettled, I felt sorry for these kids especially when overhearing one officer ask another of his colleagues if there were any young kids and if they would be let out, his colleague simply shrugged his shoulders and went about his business. Perhaps students and parents should petition the government to bring in a no under 16 rule for kettling - if kids as young as 15 were held on Westminster Bridge until midnight, what does that say about a supposedly progressive nation's opinion of children and respect for human rights .The younger kids are normally not the violent ones - check the videos on The Guardian and BBC websites of all the protests if you don't believe me, I challenge you to post a link of a video where you see mobs of 12-15 year olds smashing up anything. There's no reason why they should be kettled. I asked one officer why we were being kettled and he said 'I don't know we just got orders' and he suggested I write to the IPCC to make a complaint. I will be writing to them and so should anyone who feels the same way. There was one officer who was pretty decent, he explained why we were being kettled and the law to we'd violated, he said 'I don't wanna be here here just as much as you and I don't wanna do this but I have to. I'd rather be at home with my kids.' He then asked about the vote and I didn't know what the result was and he said he'd hoped we'd won. I guess he knows his own kids' future is at stake too. I managed to get out of the kettle after seven, the police were letting out only two people at a time and me and a journalist from Amnesty International (judging by his press pass) got out because the officer said we looked like 'reasonable people'. I consider myself very fortunate to have been let out, but as I walked down to Victoria station, I felt guilty having left others there, especially after hearing that people were kettled up until after midnight.

As for Camilla and Charles, they got caught up in the moment, and this is the first time in a very, very long time that Brits have attacked the royal family - and for these students it wasn't because they were anti-royalist but because Charles and Camilla represented the establishment and birthright of privilege and they appeared at a moment when news of the lost vote (voted for by millionaires and inheritors of trust funds) and police brutality had upset enough people. While Charles and Camilla have the right not to be attacked and it wasn't wise move to poke Camilla in the ribs, I don't understand why that and Charlie Gilmour's picture swinging from a flag on the Cenotaph has dominated the news so much. There were dozens of injured protesters and officers, but their stories didn't make it to the headlines.

On Twitter Gilmour and Cenotaph have trended for two days, yet not once did Alfie Meadows make it on the trendlist - both tell very different but related stories of the protests. For me, Charlie Gilmour's image is a great picture, not because he's Pink Floyd's son, but it's a money shot, it's better than the Charles and Cam one aesthetically speaking so, kudos to the photographer. Beyond the aesthetic, swinging on the Union Jack against a national monument is the ultimate symbol of defiance and disregard for enforced collective remembrance of soldiers who died at war. Of course I'm sorry that people had to lose their lives on the battle fields, but the constant hero worship of Britain's wars is lost on me sometimes. The Cenotaph swinger and the paintballed Winston Churchill images symbolize a disaffected and frustrated youth who are the alter-face to the millions of young people who've been drafted to fight in wars not of their own making. Did the youth who lived through all of Britain's wars not stand up to their government in protest to the war and 'vandalise public property'?  History looks back on these young people as heroes of their time and today when a young person does something albeit mischieveous, but anti-establishment, the Prime Minister and all his co-signers and war romanticists are frothing at the mouth calling for Gilmour's head and the other 'feral anarchists.' For what e.x.a.c.t.l.y? Having the guts to say f- the system? Pissing on a statue and swinging from a flag? How can symbols, slabs of concrete, be more staunchly defended than the future of higher education and research? Should the police have come down so hard on Gilmour, the pisser and the paintballers that they'd end up like Alfie Meadows in need of brain surgery after being bludgeoned, is that what people want to see? Or perhaps it's so they wouldn't have to hear of student 'hooliganism' and they can congratulate The Met on a fine job while the story of Alfie Meadows gets pushed away further and further from the headlines. Camilla got a poke, Alfie got truncheoned, but the Camilla and Charles story dominates the news because they are famous people and Alfie is not. That is all.
Alfie Meadows

Winston Churchill may be Britain's hero, but he is not my hero. As an African, I see Churchill as belonging to the imperialist establishment and he was a supremacist who made sure Africans from Sudan to South Africa would submit to British colonial rule in one way or other, so seeing protesters throwing paint balls or pissing on statues doesn't enrage me, in the slightest. It's a little amusing actually. But one person's amusement is another's vandalism worthy of an arrest - even the death penalty for some of the looney right. But I think the bigger vandals are those known as the Lib Dems who pretended to defend education, but changed their minds as soon as they'd made it into Westminster. The physical mess might be cleaned up within a few days, but who will clean the mess being made of higher education by the coalition government? 

Despite being contained and the news the coalition government had won the vote, the education fight isn't over, as someone said to me in the kettle that night, this is just one battle in a war. While Home Secretary, Theresa May, child of Thatcher might think water canons are a justified response to the violence, I say bring it on. One water canon truck costs £750 000 or the full tuition fees 83 students funded through uni at £9000 a pop!  (Mehdi Hassan) Or the Educational Maintenance Allowance of 580 of Britain's poorest 16-18 year olds per year, or the annual salary of 32 police constables. In this time of 'austerity' and ideological cuts, if the Brits want to pay almost a million pounds for one water canon truck to spray revolting students, I say game on, let's do this! Buy ten if you like!

UPDATE 1: Theresa May's backtracked and has ruled out the use of water cannons because it wouldn't be a popular choice. I'm a little disappointed the government came to it's senses so quickly, a few more giggles at the implausibility of this plan would have been nice. But still it's a good move, it really isn't the 1960s again.

Ki Price said: Just wanted to say thank you to the person talking about Charlie Gilmour swinging from the Cenotaph, I'm the photographer who took it Ki Price and I thought that was a nice compliment.
Thank you

Pictures jacked from The Guardian (1,6), Indy Manchester (2) The Telegraph (3, 5) Sky News (4)
FotoCred: see above
Please note this post was written over several days.

The Foot-in-Mouth President & Cabinet

"I don't want one like this one. She may fail to pass through the
 door, breaking furniture with her heavy weight
 and even break the vehicle's shock absorbers." 

That's Ian Khama, President of Botswana, commenting on one of his cabinet ministers when describing the kind of wife he'd like.
And I thought Ian Khama was a bore, turns out he's got quite a sense of humour. The image of a woman so heavy she can break a car's shock absorbers had me in stitches for a minute, but what's even funnier is that it's said by an almost 60 year old man 'bout to tip into the grave in a minute. Good luck with waiting on that Beauty Queen to come around,
I hope she can tell a joke or two about you, Sir.

This selection of quotes from a story on All Africa published today includes some real gems from members of Khama's Cabinet:
Speaking at the country’s largest diamond mine, President Khama accused the Bushmen of living a ‘life of backwardness’ ‘a primitive life of deprivation co-existing alongside wild animals’, and ‘a primeval life of a bye [sic] gone era of hardship and indignity’....

...Last month, speaking to the BBC, Botswana’s minister of environment, wildlife and tourism said he didn’t believe ‘you would want to see your own kind living in the dark ages in the middle of nowhere as a choice, when you know that the world has moved forward and has become so technological’. The vice-president has also been quoted as questioning why the Bushmen must ‘continue to commune with the flora and fauna’ when they could ‘enjoy the better things in life, like driving Cadillacs’.
(source: All Africa)
Well that's the Khoi-San told inn'it? I mean, why live in the bush, for centuries relatively unpoisoned by the evils of modernity, when there are Cadillacs to be enjoyed and the better things in life to be attained, courtesy of Khama's government, of course? I'm sure the natural ecosystem would be happy to get on without the 'primitive' Bushmen who could do with a bit of civilizing, eh? 
And to the poor, urban-dwellers of Botswana, you have been cheated by 'life'. As you are 'modern people' there is no reason why you should not have the best of what life has to offer so I encourage you to go in your numbers, go and line up at the Minister of Environment's office and demand your Cadillacs because that's what 'life' has to offer. Never you mind that Botswana has as many Cadillacs as I can count on my hands and toes or that BMWs, Toyotas and Mercedes Benzs are what you'd most likely see being driven by those who enjoy the finer things in life, while you poor folk have to fight with the government to get basic unimportant stuff like electricity, health and affordable education. 
 It's not that this rather hip Minister has watched one too many Snoop and Fiddy videos or that he forgets what  his ministerial duties towards the environment actually entail, he's just telling it like it is, homies. So, good people of Botswana, go and demand your Cadillac. It is a modern citizen's birthright!