Friday, 28 January 2011

Silence


And still the President will not speak. And still the African Union and the Arab League will not speak. How many prayers, how many battles, how many suffocating from the fumes of tear gas and many more injured people will it take before someone says something? How can our Kenyan brother in the White House call Mubarak a friend while women are raped, men beaten, journalists arrested and a country is shut down from communication? Does Joe Biden know what it's like live in a state where one cannot protest or speak out against the government in fear of persecution. Does he know what it's like to live under a self-imposed curfew for fear you may be raped as a woman by government thugs during times of political unrest? 
I do. 
My country is a dictatorship, just like Egypt. 
Mubarak is Mugabe-lite.
But still no one will speak.
Presumably 10 Downing St taken a vow of silence as scenes of violence in Cairo, Alerxandria and Suez are streamed out across the whole world. It's taken three days, eight corpses and counting for Ban Ki Moon to finally find his voice, if only a faint whisper about human rights and the internet shutting down. People have been killed, tortured and maimed for three days now, but it was internet that stirred him to speak. Meanwhile the Dalai Lama is still in silent meditation caressing his Nobel peace prize as ordinary people battle against repression. 
What 
will
it 
take
to
speak
?
fotocredit:  @LobnaAkrab (Twitter)



Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Miss Doctor Remixed

Miss Doctor Remixed by Akwaaba Music
From Akwaaba Music:
Miss Doctor was one of the biggest hits this year in Ghana. Appietus’ tight production has been booming throughout the entire country since last spring, so six months later it’s a special treat to see the vocals land in the hands of an army of young producers throughout the globe. On this EP we present some of our favorite submissions to the Miss Doctor remix contest. As usual choices were difficult and most likely quite imperfect. But we hope this small sample helps to propel 4X4 into new club stratospheres, and helps to turn new heads onto Ghanaian beats. 

The first remix featured in this blog post is called Dance Kill Move:

Dance Kill Move – Sweden/Colombia: we instantly loved this cumbia/reggaeton/dancehall rework by this young Swedish duo. Funny how it came about: last summer Ricardo – the beatmaker in this duo – spent a few weeks in Colombia, where his family is from, soaking up the cumbia, vallenato, porros, champeta and reggaeton. Then upon his return, stumbled upon the remix contest. Luckily for us, his summertime love affair brought Miss Doctor that much closer to the Colombian coast. Escucha fuerte!
 
To read the summaries on the rest of the remixes and find out how to access the music, please visit Akwaaba Music.
In DOPE Music We Trust


Mhlobo Wami




This is Teargas. A South African kwaito group that raps and sings in Zulu, English and Sotho comprised of two brothers and a friend (plus background musicians?). The main members consist of Ntokozo “K.O.” Mdluli from Piet Retief in Mpumalanga, and two brothers Ezee “Ma-E” Hanabe and Bantu “Ntukza” Hanabe from Soweto, Johannesburg. Teargas was signed to Electromode Music in 2005, and subsequently released their debut album, K’shubile K’bovu. They fell off my radar, being in the Diaspora its easy for one to be out of the kwaito loop, so I've only just discovered this song. (I thought it kind of weird to discover a band called Teargas at a time when Egyptian and Tunisian forces are using gas to crush civilian uprisings (upcoming blog post).) ...Anyway, Teargas are an established band in SA, having been nominated for a SAMA Award (SA Music Awards) for the 2007 album 'Wafa Wafa' (Due or Die). They've since released another two albums, their latest being Teargas 101 that dropped in December 2010. They seem to be doing big things at the moment and may it stay that way. Sky's the limit.


About this song, Mhlobo Wami is Zulu for My Close Friend / Relation - in other words his wife who cheated on the video's actor/singer with his good friend called James. The song basically relays how he got played out, and expresses his pain and disappointment. I'm sure the video is quite clear on what the song is about for those not conversant in Zulu. Lovin' the Mzansi style Dougie dance towards the end!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Farewell Mutambara, Hello Welshman Ncube.

all pics jacked from the net, y'know how we do.
It is with great sadness that I announce, Deputy Prime Minister, sometimes-Comrade, ever-esteemed Professor of Robotics Arthur 'Agostino,' 'Ago' Guseni Oliver Mutambara, is no longer head of the opposition faction, MDC-M (Movement fo Democratic Change under Mutambara as opposed to MDC-T under Morgan Tsvangirai). Professor Mutambara will also no longer bear the title Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe as this now belongs to Welshman Ncube, the newly elected leader of MDC-M. Mutambara's bombastic words that used to dazzle us in (informal) addresses to the nation, shall be sorely missed. His long winded, rhetoric-laden answers in interviews shall no longer be televised. Or transcribed. Or recorded. 
The man has been shafted. But no one dare questions, for this is how 'democracy' works in Zimbabwe.Like a never-ending Animal Farm, jobs change hands in the middle of the night so that by morning a new Snowball is in charge managing and manipulating the slogans of 'democracy' and 'change' for their own ends.
Two weeks ago Welshman Mabhena said, “Professor Mutambara will continue to be the Deputy Prime Minister. We have agreed that we are not going to redeploy him, as we want to continue tapping from his skills,”
But in recent days has said, “The feeling of the committee was that the office of the DPM should be occupied by the party’s most senior official...This should not be viewed as a demotion. It’s only that we are new to democracy. It happens in a democracy. If at one time you lead, the next you follow.”
But now is not the time to ponder why and how the party affairs crossed into the realm of national politics or inquiring whether the Unity Agreement permits a change of leadership or whether's Ncube's self-appointment is legitimate and procedural (See S.20(1.3)(3 k, p), S.20 (1.5)(7) of Unity Agreement). No, mourning Ago's loss is a far worthier emotional cause than the travesties of democracy that by every Zimbabwean should be used to by now. Words cannot describe the heaviness in the hearts of many who bid adieu to the sometimes-Comrade, backstabber/opportunist (delete as appropriate), oft-power-hungry ever-pompous Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Mutambara.
We wish him well in his new, modest backroom post as Minister of Regional Integration and International Co-operation. We also hope that his intelligence will shine through the bottom ranks of the party where he now sits 'ordinary card-carrying member'...It was only just a dream
Shem!


Best Wishes to Welshman Ncube (Wikileaks hysterics, acid tests and all), the new Deputy Prime Minister and head of the MDC opposition faction led by sometimes-Comrade, Prof. Arthur Mutambara. Shall the first order of business be to re-name MDC-M (MDC Mutambara) to MDC-N (MDC Ncube)? And when the urgent business of re-naming is over and done with, could the honourable leader do something about the ZANU youth who've started on their trigger-happy shooting sprees again alongside the war veterans' who've chosen holiday resorts as their invasion target? It's an election year and we all know what that means. Let's hope (self-announced) Deputy Prime Minister (in-waiting!) Ncube will be more pro-active in preventing the needless deaths of Zimbabweans, unlike in previous years when the MDC has basically buried its head in western tissues and wept, as ZANU militia butchered innocents. And when peace was to be negotiated, it was dictated and the opposition accepted. And when the truth was sought for justice to victims of the violent past, amnesty was granted and the opposition accepted. Strong words, I know. Hyperbolic/Flippant (delete as appropriate) in places, but nonetheless true...
Ho-hum.
 In this final, already-turbulent year of the unity government is it wishful thinking to ask whether it's possible that the leaders of the nation can actually steer Zimbabweans, despite the impending violence of the elections, towards greater political and economic stability? We simply cannot have another 2000 (farm invasions), 2005 (operation cleanup), 2007(destructive price controls) or 2008 (election violence & tanked economy) again.

Friday, 21 January 2011

postcard from lamu...

Lamu, Kenya
jacked from mahala.co.za
fotocredit: Sydelle Willow Smith

jacked from: http://xkcd.com/850/
'The world according to a group of Americans who turned out to be unexpectedly good at geography, derailing our attempt to illustrate their country’s attitude toward the rest of the world.'

Frames: Youssou N'dour


This short film is part of Al Jazeera's series called Frames that showcases six 2-minute films from around the world. (2 x 6 = 12 minute. Sit. Watch. Please.) Youssou N'dour was made by Matt Rogers, a freelance web designer and film maker currently based in Australia. His animation of Youssou N'dour's words is such a simple but effective concept that brings out the humour, sincerity and depth in the speaker. World renown musician, Youssou N'dour talks about his love for Senegal and his choice to live in Dakar rather than places like Paris or New York. Hearing N'dour speak so fondly of his county comes as no surprise as N'dour is Senegal's AU Peace Ambassador and UN Goodwill Ambassador and he has been involved in various aid and development projects for Senegal. In May last year, Africa's a Country blogged that N’Dour created a new political movement called “Fekkai maci Bole” which means “because I am a witness (or present) that I am taking part.”



Thursday, 20 January 2011

Where Are The Women? Cont'd

Here are a few more pictures of Tunisian women in protest, they're still under-represented but at least there are a few pictures and stories starting to come out now.

jacked from Al Jazeera (Front Page Image!)
jacked from coalitionofresistanceuk
Tunisian women take part in a protest calling the former ruling party the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) to withdraw from the newly formed interim government in Tunis, Tunisia, 19 January 2011.
from Novinite

From the BBC:
Switzerland's foreign ministry has confirmed that a woman who had dual Swiss-Tunisian nationality was killed in the north of Tunisia. Swiss Radio said she was hit in the throat by a stray bullet while watching a protest late on Wednesday in the town of Dar Chaabane.

A foreign ministry statement said the Tunisian ambassador had been summoned, and called on the Tunisian government to "respect dialogue, fundamental liberties and human rights", including freedom of assembly.
French diplomats have also reportedly informed the family of a French-Tunisian academic, Hatem Bettahar, that he was one of two protesters killed by the police on Wednesday in the central town of Douz.
Also see:
Clip with Mohamed Bouazizi's mother

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Where Are Tunisia's Women?

foto credit: Beirut Spring

Since the Tunisian uprising became global news in the last few days, I've wondered to myself where are the images of protesting Tunisian women across Tunisia? This is not a man's uprising, it is a people's uprising so why are the voices and pictures of women absent from this significant political process? Despite the fact that Tunisia is a modern society where gender equality is legislated by law, women are still marginally represented within the political sphere, because of the patriarchal nature of Arab and Berber culture. However the marginalisation of women from the public and the political does not mean that their voices as citizens of the nation are non-existent, thus as this story of national transformation unfolds, everyone in the country is a part of that story. Everyone has some experience of it, whether as a demonstrator, a bystander, a member of the armed forces or a child. 
Why is it then that the pattern of reporting by dominant international media sources tends to focus on the voices of men ranging from about 21 and upwards, while very little is heard from women, children and the elderly? On Twitter I rely on male and female tweeters in Tunisia for updates and most of the tweets are genderless because most of them are describing what they see or they're calls for solidarity among Arabs. I can understand that. 
But what I can't understand is why the media has focussed on a masculinist narrative? In times of civil unrest it's often the case that because women are not on the front-lines of the battle, their voices are silenced and because they are vulnerable (but not necessarily weak) their bodies become the battleground for discipline and control by warring factions. Their experiences often go unreported or untried by courts of law - and Tunisia has been no exception.
The Guardian reports of police raping women in the poor areas in and around Kasserine, west-central Tunisia:
"Sihem Bensedrine, head of the National Council for Civil Liberties, said: "These were random, a sort of reprisal against the people. In poor areas, women who had nothing to do with anything, were raped in front of their families. Guns held back the men; the women were raped in front of them." A handful of cases were reported in Kasserine and Thala last Monday. Rape was often used as a torture technique under the regime; opposition women report they were raped in the basement of the interior ministry, as were men, too."
In these protests, rape has been used as a tool to cow women and men into fear, to enforce the power of the state and to destroy the community. Whether the perpetrators will be punished or not, remains to be seen. But if the rapists are part of the police that are crushing dissent sanctioned by the newly-forming government then the chances of them being brought to justice are not that high, in my opinion. And how can the stories of women being physically or mentally abused by a variety of rogue and state forces in Tunisia be told if men’s faces and voices dominate the discourse? To what extent is the international media being implicitly complicit with the silencing of women?

Little has also been said about women working as part of the state's security or as government officials, although Leila Ben Ali Trebalsi has become a world reknown femocrat (female autocrat). There have been other female figures important in shaping the events in Tunisia. It was a police woman who mocked and slapped Mohamed Bouazizi as he was refused a permit to sell his vegetables. To date not much is known, within international mainstream media, about the policewoman or Bouazizi's mother, to whom he wrote a suicide note. Only  his sister  has given an interview to a local paper but for non-Arabic speakers, making sense of this Google translated script is somewhat difficult.
 These voices, like the other female voices are absent from most of the news reports outside of Tunisia. From the Middle East to Europe to North America and it's all the same. Men tend to dominate the footage and narrative. What’s surprising is that journalists on location in Tunisia who've had training in equal representation, continue to build on this narrative by letting the stories and images of men become the voice of the people in their reports.
Frustrated by the lack of coverage, I did a search on Google for 'protest Tunisian women' and all I've found so far is the picture above of Tunisia's Revolution Babes (yes, babes, young, pretty ones too!) and this commentary by Tasnim that compares how Neda Soltani became the face of the Iranian movement and how women are absent from this 'jasmine revolution.' The author suggests that this is due to an over-reliance on social media for information:
"What explains this disparity? This was very much a media event, and perhaps this in itself was part of the reason. In the Arab world, and to a lesser extent in French media, there has been a month of in-depth coverage of a developing story, but in English-language media, the real coverage began only as Ben Ali began making concessions. Consequently, there was no narrative to frame events, so a disproportionate amount of the analysis has focused on the new media’s role in the uprising, from Wikileaks to Twitter." 
To me, this is unconvincing. Foreign reporters from all parts of the world have flow in and are booked up in hotel rooms across Tunisia reporting, photographing and tweeting each day’s events. There’s been an overnight role change since the demonstrations have caught mainstream global attention. The 'professionals' have become the primary and the citizen journalist reports published through social media has become a secondary source for news agencies and many international readers.
 The truth is, inadequate coverage of women is a negative symptom of a construction of masculinity embedded in the media that within a male-dominated situation like that of civil protest and political change, tends to silence women.

Rioters carry a woman crying during clashes with the police in downtown of the capital Tunis January 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Zohra Bensemr)
Apart from women, I also wondered about the Black Tunisians (less than 1% population), but I don't know how I'd even begin framing such a question if in Tunisia itself everyone's seen as Tunisian. Having said, that I know that the likelihood that many of the Black migrants and citizens are among the poorer people of Tunisia, so race becomes implicated in class. Perhaps the issue will emerge if there are reports of state violence against Black Tunisian men and women and prejudice is part of the cause for that violence. Other than that I don't know how thinking in terms of race would enrich my understanding of this situation. I've only heard of Mohammed Bouazzizi being referred to as Black on one Rasta website but, I don't know if he identified himself as such. Also, class-race dynamics in Tunisia don't necessarily work the same way as in other parts of Africa or the Arab world so I wouldn't jump to label someone a 'Black Moor/Muur' without knowing how they're perceived in their society and championing his protest immolation as a 'Black thing' yet it's a 'Tunisian struggle thing'. I think I'd prefer to assume that in times of collective stuggle against political oppression, everyone's united across racial, religious, tribal, generational and social lines.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Lumumba's Last Letter

My dear companion [Pauline],


I write you these words without knowing if they will reach you, when they will reach you, or if I will still be living when you read them. All during the length of my fight for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and myself have consecrated our lives. But what we wish for our country, its right to an honorable life, to a spotless dignity, to an independence without restrictions, Belgian colonialism and its Western allies-who have found direct and indirect support, deliberate and not deliberate among certain high officials of the United Nations, this organization in which we placed all our confidence when we called for their assistance-have not wished it.


They have corrupted certain of our fellow countrymen, they have contributed to distorting the truth and our enemies, that they will rise up like a single person to say no to a degrading and shameful colonialism and to reassume their dignity under a pure sun.


We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country. To my children whom I leave and whom perhaps I will see no more, I wish that they be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects for each Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of our independence and our sovereignty; for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.


No brutality, mistreatment, or torture has ever forced me to ask for grace, for I prefer to die with my head high, my faith steadfast, and my confidence profound in the destiny of my country, rather than to live in submission and scorn of sacred principles. History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.

Do not weep for me, my dear companion. I know that my country, which suffers so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty. Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!

Patrice


Patrice Lumumba
2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961

Georges Nzongola Ntalaja in The Guardian
Adam Hochschild in The New York Times

Hochschild: "...[after the assassination] more fateful was what was to come. Four years later, one of Lumumba’s captors, an army officer named Joseph Mobutu, again with enthusiastic American support, staged a coup and began a disastrous, 32-year dictatorship. Just as geopolitics and a thirst for oil have today brought us unsavory allies like Saudi Arabia, so the cold war and a similar lust for natural resources did then. Mobutu was showered with more than $1 billion in American aid and enthusiastically welcomed to the White House by a succession of presidents; George H. W. Bush called him “one of our most valued friends.
This valued friend bled his country dry, amassed a fortune estimated at $4 billion, jetted the world by rented Concorde and bought himself an array of grand villas in Europe and multiple palaces and a yacht at home. He let public services shrivel to nothing and roads and railways be swallowed by the rain forest. By 1997, when he was overthrown and died, his country was in a state of wreckage from which it has not yet recovered.
Since that time the fatal combination of enormous natural riches and the dysfunctional government Mobutu left has ignited a long, multisided war that has killed huge numbers of Congolese or forced them from their homes. Many factors cause a war, of course, especially one as bewilderingly complex as this one. But when visiting eastern Congo some months ago, I could not help but think that one thread leading to the human suffering I saw begins with the assassination of Lumumba.
We will never know the full death toll of the current conflict, but many believe it to be in the millions. Some of that blood is on our hands. Both ordering the murders of apparent enemies and then embracing their enemies as “valued friends” come with profound, long-term consequences — a lesson worth pondering on this anniversary."

Martin Luther King on Ghana


























[Independent] Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have work for it. Freedom is never given to anybody. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.
- Martin Luther King Jnr
(1957)


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Pieces Of Paper



Am feeling this song by Tinashé, right now...in an African so far from home, always gotta hustle to live kinda way.

Our Dear Brotherly Leader

pic jacked from the interwebs...y'know how it go
Colonel, Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution, King of Africa:
Mummar Gadaffi

"I am very pained by what is happening in Tunisia...Tunisia now lives in fear ... Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms and the citizens in the street killed as if it was the Bolshevik or the American revolution ...What is this for? To change Zine al-Abidine? Hasn't he told you he would step down after three years? Be patient for three years and your son stays alive."
Gotta love him! He's just the funniest isn't he?
What a pity though! Now that Ben Ali's been ousted, Our Dear Brotherly Leader must be quaking in his camel skin boots, feeling all feverish and begging for his big boobed Ukranian nurse to wipe the sweat of his brow. Now that his very own pesky plebs have decided to go on the rampage and have housing riots for three days running now, Our Dear Brotherly Leader must not get much sleep at all. 'Will they be coming for me next?', he mutters in his sleep...or so they say. But no one threatens the Leader and get away with so, so, so there goes your YouChoob Libya! Try having your riots now with nowhere to upload your narcissistic videos of anarchy. And if anyone thinks of burning themselves like the other plebs next door, the Brotherly One will be there in a flash with his water canon! Zey do not him Big Brozzer for nuzzin'! And if any of the nation's wannabe heroes think to piss on his statue, deface a government building or even think of kicking a lamppost with thine Leader's image, may the curse of a thousand pins and needles sting them in the soles of their feet and may they leap around the city like a thousand lepers in a marathon with live bullets to make the slow ones go faster.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Yeezey Moment on #Sidibouzid

Jacked from Reuters
FotoCredit: Gulf News

Yo, Tunisia I'm really happy for you that you've kicked out Ben Ali n all and the world's started paying attention to you. I'm even a li'l jealous that we couldn't do the same thing with our Robert Mugabe, minus the 65 and rising deaths (condolences to those who perished in Tunisia)...But uhmmm I'd've preferred it if the expulsion of Ben Ali had happened without all this attention and only the forward thinking bloggers, Al Jazeera, SBZ News, Global Voices readers, connected tweeters, North Africans and Arabs in my timeline were tweeting about Ben Ali. Even though most of the non-journalists and non-bloggers who retweeted the violence, hardship and frustration experienced by Tunisians were basically ignored and the story didn't make it into mainstream Anglo Western media till the 11th hour, it was way better that way. Better when there were no self-congratulatory tweets and armchair disciples cloaked as liberal columnists writing the gospel of St Julian of Assange who released the cables that sparked a revolution. The revolution was not ignited in Sidi Bou Zid where a frustrated graduate set himself aflame in protest to the hardship and humiliation he'd suffered as a vegetable seller, no it all began because of a US embassy cable released by a suave, international man of mystery and his secret organisation. Apparently Tunisians were completely oblivious to their own government's corruption and weren't frustrated enough by the economic situation to do something about it that it took St Julian of Assange's leaks to rile up the masses. Why didn't Elizabeth Dickinson et al, jump to the broadsheets when the self-immolation of Mohammed Bou Azizi happened? What about on Day 10 when the government cut off most forms of digital communication in Sidi Bou Zid? Surely these were the moments to start tweeting and writing the New Testament of the Great Wikileaks Revolution, the Fall of the Emperor of Carthage. 


Day10 might have read: Verse 1 - The twitterwhale wept. Verse 2 - The wicked Emperor of Carthage hath declared there shall be no internet for the townspeople of Sidi Bou Zid. Yea the hand of the ruler hath been chief in this threat upon thy sons and daughters. Verse 3 - We fall upon our knees in despair and mourn with thee twitterwhale, Lord why hast thou forsaken us, our social media revolution shall surely fail! Verse 4 - Hath the Lord forsaken the scribes and journalists in bondage? The terrible Emperor hath declared not another word 'gainst him shall they write. St Julian of Assange's revelations hath made the people revolt, but the world shalt not know of this.
Verse 5 - HTTP Error 403 Access Forbidden.


 ...But that isn't what happened, St Julian of Assange's revelations weren't the main catalyst of what happened Sidi Bou Zid, so there was no interest. As Max Fisher of the Atlantic tweeted at the time, the spat between Glenn Greenwald and Wired.com over the contents Bradley Manning files was far, far, far more compelling than reporting on some unknown Arab journalists in a small North African town that had been under siege for ten days. When Anonymous Ops attacked the website of the Tunisian government, it raised a few eyebrows, but that was all, nothing to sustain long-term interest in those now falling over themselves to congratulate social media and Wikileaks on 'leading a revolution.' 

Obviously they can't explain why in this Twitter-led 'revolution', the tweeters on my followers list didn't care much for the few tweets I posted on Tunisia or RT'd, but now the #Tunisia tweets are coming thick and fast because the anglophone media corporates finally decided on Day27 that Tunisia's turmoil was worthy of serious attention as Ben Ali was on the brink of demise. If the revolution is going to be tweeted, it will only be tweeted because there is a big enough political machine behind it to make it happen. If the revolution is going to be tweeted and retweeted it is going to happen because the politically minded do it, as was the case with (forgotten) Iran, not to wait +20days until The Guardian, CNN or BBC give the go-ahead. 


During the post-Ben Ali power vacuum things seem so unpredictable. In less that 24 hours there have been 3 leader changes and the militia, looters and police are having their way harassing citizens and foreign reporters while witchunts for the most supportive members of Ben Ali's regime are being carried out in haste. It feels like an Animal Farm/Night of the Long Knives situation where Mr Jones of Manor Farm is replaced by Snowball. It happened before in 1987. President Habib Bourguiba ceded his presidency to Ben Ali after a coup supported by the military. Twenty-five odd years later, same thing different scenario. The expulsion of Ben Ali is led by the people but the army and Presidential guard now have control over Tunis, Tabarak is on the verge of food riots and according to one tweeter, @rafik from Tunis: 'trust me people of kasserine,thala ou sidibouzid (semi-arid areas) are unlikely to see jasmine [revolution], and they paid the price.' 
This is why I feel it's inaccurate to call this a 'revolution' as though things have changed and to speak of it in the past tense. Tunisia's story is still unfolding. The army wields power against defenceless citizens. Fouad Mebazza a member of the Old Guard has been interim President for less than a day, but some in the ivory towers of Foreign Policy, NY Times and elsewhere had already declared this a revolution past by Friday evening. It's also impossible for them to think that decades of poverty, unemployment, activism, state corruption and censorship could  have driven people into protes because it's too hard to give credit to the ordinary people who rose up in solidarity and to commemorate Bou Azizi's death...Wikileaks and St Julian of Assange in Tunisia make a better gospel. It does, doth it not?  


For the record, I'm team Julian Assange & Wikileaks, and I'm not mocking him, but those who are desperately trying to spin this as a Wikileaks story. And yes I do acknowledge the role all forms of social media played in this, but I think it's impact is over-emphasized and dismisses the events that took place on the ground and it also fails to understand the process of events on the ground. And there's also an over-emphasis on Twitter, it wasn't just Twitter that people used to send out messages. I've concentrated on the level of public response to critique the notion that this is a social media revolution because often when people speak of social media revolutions the scale of impact is always key determining factor and the fact that no amount of tweets, Facebook postings and You Tube videos got massive global attention yet in comparison to the Iran Green Movement of summer '09 recieved worldwide attention and Neda Soltani became the face of the cause.

Friday, 14 January 2011

postcard from jerusalem...

Ultra-orthodox Jews use a welder's helmet and a glass filter to view the partial solar eclipse
Fotocredit: Abir Sultan

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Note to the Afro-Centrists of the Sentletse Diakanyo School of Thought



When Africans migrated out of Africa to Yemen and elsewhere, my ancestors settled in the Middle East and then trekked back to Africa about 2500 years ago. We have lived there since. I am a Semite, I am a Black Jew, I am Shona, I am Karanga. I am many, many more things. All at the same time. My tribal home is near where Great Zimbabwe was built. On the outskirts of my city, Bulawayo, are the Khami Ruins, also built by some of my ancestors, but I am not African according to one, Sentletse Diakanyo. When asked by the blogger Garg Unzola whether Lemba people are African or not their conversation (see comments) went something like this:


GU: You claim that Semitic people are not native to Africa. Are you suggesting that the Lemba people, who are Semitic and black, are not African? They can't be African, according to you, because being Semitic, they are not native to Africa. Yet they are black, meaning your notion that African equals black fails yet again.
SD: The Lemba people originate from Judea. They’re not African. They may have dark skins, but they’re not African. Indians also have dark skins and they too are not African.
GU: Berber people were explicitly named by Thabo Mbeki as being African. Berber people are also thought to be one origin of the white race. They did both: migrate from Africa and remained in Africa. Does this make Berbers African or not?
SD: That Mbeki referred to the Berber people as African doesn’t make that the gospel truth. He was wrong. The Berbers like the North African Arabs do not originate from Africa. They’re said to have reached North Africa around 2000 BC or so. There was a study was done in respect of the origins of the Berber people.


You can read the rest of this interesting exchange on Garg Unzola's blog, it's a lengthy debate so make sure you have time on your hands and a bowl of popcorn and a drink within reach. I've only selected a few quotes to address what I feel personally compelled to respond to in the faulty logic of Sentletse. There have also been responses to Sentletse's claims on the Thought Leader blog, the Mail and Guardian and News 24. All of these responses have excellently dispelled the myth that Only Black = African from different angles and I'd encourage you to read them all if you haven't already.

On Twitter, Sentletse's claims have caused quite a stir, I've kept track of the #African conversation for the past week and although many people from all over Africa have dismissed Sentletse's claims, there are those who support him. Whether they define Black and African in the exact same narrow terms as Sentletse is unclear to me as in my exchanges with two of these supporters have not stated how far they go along with Sentletse's narrow minded views. If they're with him 100% then I'd like Afro-centrists from the Sentletse school of nativism to know that when they celebrate Africa's great history, they must not include Great Zimbabwe or any of the other ruins built during the Mutapa Dynasty, because these were not solely built by Sentletse's Africans, but by Afro-Asiatic Lemba/ Karangas descendent from Israel as well. Same as the Venda people of South Africa, they are Lemba too so they are not African. I think Sentletse should put that on a billboard somewhere in Vendaland. It would read, 'Bana baVenda, you are not from Africa so you are not African, only Black Africans are!' And just so some of those Vendas who moved to big bad Jozi also get the memo, I think Jo'burg's skyline is deserving of a billboard with the same notification. That one might read 'Dumelang, Afro-Asiatic Sothos who settled here from the Middle East +2500 years ago, you are not Africans, only Black people are! Letsatsi le monate!*' Yes, everyone has to know, it's not just Whites, Indians, Coloureds, or Arabs who aren't African, if your DNA links you to the Lost Tribes of Israel, then you are also not African. It doesn't matter how many millenia your ancestors arrived back in the Motherland after mitochondrial Eve's children's departure, you're not African! It also doesn't matter that your DNA also shows that despite having links elsewhere, you come from the same gene pool as those considered African today, you're not African! (exclamations for emphasis of course!!!)


But back to the history lesson; if Sentletse's nativist logic then the tribes of Guinea whose mtDNA shows that they undertook back to Africa Eurasian migration, means they are also not African. What has been built by the West African Guineans, possibly Senegambians and the African Jews of West Africa from the Ashanti Kingdom to Timbuktu to East Africa where the Nilotic peoples have an architectural and textile legacy to behold, is not 100% African. All Nubians who migrated from elsewhere and spread through Africa are not Africans so when people take pride in the ancient North African civilisations from Egypitian, Kushitic, Aksumite to Carthaginian Empires as African history, they should know these things were not built by Africans, according to Sentletse. No world, it is not to be celebrated as African. Not even King Tutankhamun, Horus or Isis or Makeda the Queen of Sheba are Africans. Send an email, a telegram or a tweet marked urgent to all historians and archaeologists who classify this as African history, it is not! It is Nubian, Berber, Ethiopian or Egyptian history, that has nothing to do with Africa and anyone who says Nubian means Black therefore African is incorrect. That these civilisations were later part of the land mass first called Africa (and not the whole Continent, but a section incl the Middle East) by Leo Africanus is entirely irrelevant. Okay, kids? Even His Imperial Majesty, King Haile Selassie I, descendent of King David is not an African, so by extension any Rastas who call themselves Children of JAH, are not Africans. Maybe even Marcus Garvey who prophesied the coming of this Ethiopian King is not an African, so Sentletse and friends might want to hold back on quoting him as an authority on who is or is not entitled to repatriate to Africa. 


On the plus side though, if there are any Black Indians from the Dravidian line who left Africa at least, 75 000 years, you are African! Yes you fit the two requirements: of being Black and being a modern human when you left Africa, even if it was +75 000 years ago. The Africans who left what is present-day Malawi in search of water migrated to what is today the Indian sub-continent, so if there are any Black Indians of the Dravidian line who can show their ancestors left Africa as modern humans and have moved back to Africa (150 years of Indian settlement in S.A) who read Sentletse's piece and felt offended, they need not be. They are Africans. 


Also, if Sentletse-type Afro-centrists accept that Khoi San, as the first people of South Africans, are Africans then it is those descendent from the Khoi San line who may be classified as Coloured or Black whose mother tongue is Afrikaans. It is thus worth pointing out to Sentletse that Afrikaans is not a bastard language of the Dutch only. It was first spoken by the slaves in the Cape as a 'kitchen taal' with influences from Malay, Zulu, Xhosa, French, English, Dutch, Portuguese and German as well so Afrikaans is an all-round bastard language and is just as much a part of European and Asian origin, as it is of African origin. I'd like to ask Sentletse and his co-signers if they could sift through this bastard tongue and find out what percentage of it is Zulu, Xhosa, Malay, Portuguese, Dutch and so on, just so we know what proportion of African this language really is and could they also tell us whether it's being spoken by Khoi San peoples increases it's Africanness? What %?


 Speaking of bastard non-African languages, could Swahili be taken off the rota as the universal African language of Afro-centrists, now? Anyone care to make a proposal to that effect? It's common knowledge that Swahili was cobbled together from several Bantu languages with Arabic, Indian and European influences thrown in, so it's not really an African language, is it? Those Bantu languages that Swahili sprang from belong to people who inhabit East Africa and Central Africa, some of whom like me, are Semites, not Africans. So Sentletse is wrong, Afrikaans is more an African language than the bastard tongue Swahili or Venda or Shona or Lingala spoken by Africa's 2500 year old 'foreigners'.


But if we want to settle the score over who is what, perhaps everyone should take a DNA test to find out what branches of the gene pool they are from. I'm yet to have a DNA test done and find out what groups I'm from and I have only pieced together my past from family stories and history books which tell me I have my ancestors are scattered all over Africa from southern Sudan to South Africa, as my paternal grandmother's parents were Sothos who migrated to settle in the Masvingo area of Zimbabwe whereas my father's father's tribe can be traced back a few centuries to Tanzania and to the Lemba who are said to have settled in the Masvingo area at some point during the Great Zimbabwe Empire. As the Y chromosome passes on the male lines, confirmation of Semitic identity would depend on one of my brothers or father taking a test as well. On my mother's father's side, there are Lemba ties. A little more digging through history shows that the Shona people are the southern branch of a tribe originating in Sudan. But that is only a fraction of the story as the history of my people's migration extends back further. If I stuck a swab in my mouth and scraped my inner cheek to test my DNA, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I am from one of the same haplogroups as a Sardinian or Dutch Person or an Palestinian person (see haplogroup link & quote below) I have been told I look like a Black Indian, an Ethiopian/Somali and a Jamaican so perhaps instead of rolling my eyes at the Asians and Italians who think I'm Indian and attribute their error to having lived in small towns where they've probably not many Black people like me, perhaps I should agree and say yes I am all these things because I am human. Being a member of the human family, my relations are scattered all over the globe, we're just different coloured Smarties (M&M's) on the outside, but on the inside we're all the same. It's true! Chaplin and Jablonski have conducted excellent extensive research on how we all came to be different skin colours and I would urge everyone to read it or if that's too dense then watch the TED talk, rather than swallow historical mistruths and pseudo-science as fact.

Race, like culture, class and gender is a myth. It is an arbitrary social construct used to distinguish people for both good and bad reasons based on both good and bad science. When it suits the agendas of certain people and historical contexts, people morph into different identities. A reading of VY Mudimbe's The Invention of Africa shows how, through art Africa and the Africans, as a racial group, were constructed as sameness and then difference by Europeans. Edward Said's Orientalism is another fine academic source that explains how the process of othering occurred and how othering serves to maintain European hegemonies in 'The Orient'. Not too long ago, Black in South Africa and Britain was used to refer to people of Black, Mixed and Asian descent as political solidarity against the common experience of racial oppression. If Sentletse's claims were to be applied to the political meaning of Black then Black cannot be used in this sense, otherwise it means Indians, Blacks & Coloureds are all Africans. Historians of the future, please note the previous generation was wrong to find solidarity in this one name, whereas in the post-1994 Rainbow Nation, Black meant something else so only Blacks and Coloureds are Africans. But not Black Jews! 


I have never set foot in either Israel or Yemen, I come to Judaic practices of holding Sabbath and fasting by way of Rastafari and Shona folklore, but even then, other purist Shonas would raise an eyebrow because I am a middle class Zimbabwean, despite the fact that Shona is my mother tongue, whereas not all Rastas would call me a Rasta because I don't wear locks and I'm a fashion addict, but I pray, I fast and I don't eat meat. The trouble is, I don't care much for absolutism and refuse to be bound by the practices of mankind because my relationship with the God I pray to is a personal one. I believe in plurality and hate rigidity. Africanness is such a dynamic, ever-changing concept embodied in the many lives and histories of people who live on the Continent and it's Diaspora. It's expressed in so many different ways that it's hard to keep track of what one means when they say they are African. When I am in Europe, I feel closer to home so am I more African than those living at home? When I go home do I then suddenly become less African? And what of Black people who are hesitant to call themselves African because their families left one, two, three even six generations ago and never returned? Are they more African than me because they left as modern humans and have the 'right genes'? Are they more African than some of my non-Black friends who've never set foot outside of Africa since their ancestors arrived a few hundred years ago? What if my English and Shona speaking White Zimbabwean friend has a Black grandmother somewhere along the way and my Indian Tanzanian friend who moved to Zimbabwe aged ten has a Black relation somewhere in the family and speaks a bit of Ndebele and a little non-African Swahili, is the Africanness denied, yet across the oceans, the struggle by Blacks and Asians in Europe to be called European is seen as legitimate? Does my friends' being African somehow change the violent past that has come to shape the African present or does it just simply mean we all call Africa home now? The latter is my logic, but what Sentletse's proclaimation seems to suggest is that he, as an African, can always have one-up over non-Blacks and remind them that they will never, ever, ever belong and the rest of us of Semitic origin are privileged guests.



As people, we don't all stay in our neat little boxes marked Shona, Somali, Xhosa, Mauritian, Indian or Arab, that is why there are so many mixed varieties of people across the Motherland. There are things we all share being from the same Continent; culture, values, history and in some cases language. We don't always treat each other nicely as Africans, but that doesn't change who we are. There are some Whites, Arabs, Indians or Coloureds who may not feel comfortable calling themselves African, but that is their prerogative, just as there are people in Zanzibar who see themselves as Persian or in Sudan where people who are as dark or darker than me who may not call themselves African but if I said We are All African, some of them would understand that I meant, despite what we call ourselves, we all are one people. For those of us that do recognise themselves as African challenge the politics of exclusion and singularity inherited by the legacies of slavery, colonialism, apartheid and xenophobia because being African does not mean one racial identity, nor does it have one fixed meaning. 


 Sentletse has no right to declare that some people are not African. He may have the right to his views, but not to assert them in the manner that he does because it is wrong and it is dangerous. Such behaviour is borderline racist. Yes it is. It's the similar sort of divisive rhetoric Mugabe preached in Zimbabwe (a descendant of a Malawian migrant, by the way) and in the UK it's what Nick Griffin and right wing crazies would say, but only it'd be about White British people as 'the indigenous tribes of Europe.' But, thankfully good sense, prevails over stupidity and that is why Britishness and Africanness are plural, evolutionary concepts that includes different cultural and ethnic identities in their definitions. Science trumps pseudoscience so like it or not Mr Diakanyo, all humans come from one common ancester, a female called Eve so WE are all Africans.

*FYI Whether you believe in human evolution or Bible - or part & part like me, the origin of humans is still in Africa.
* Dumelang - Hello, Letstatsi le monate - Have A Nice Day
*Bana beVenda - Children of Venda
*quote on Dutch origins: The Dutch are descended from a group of Homo sapiens who settled Europe during the Paleolithic (40 000 years ago) and Neolithic (10 000 years ago) periods.15 These settlers originated in the Middle Eastern and brought a discrete set of Y chromosomal and mitochondrial haplotypes, Indo-European languages, agriculture, and pottery.16
From: http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/v12/n7/full/5201151a.html 

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Falling Out of Love with Tweeting Politicos

iLove twitter. iReally Do. it's been a great way for me to connect with people from all over the planet and access the news before it makes the papers or have the news-stories and opinion delivered to you in 140 characters or less. but lately it's beginning to feel like one big orgy fest or en masse ego tripping in real time. for some well known people (and i use the term well known quite loosely here to mean anyone with over 1000 non-spambot followers and has appeared in the media counts as well known, in their respective circles), it's a rat race: some are on a mission to get the highest number of followers, while others are consistently tweeting about the highest number of retweets because they've dropped the most profound bit of knowledge of the moment. once is fine, but twice, thrice, boasting much? ...otoh, lesser known mortals tweet to trending topics to have their voice heard and up their followers. i do this too and it's fun when there's a programme everyone's watching on tv or a game is trending like #politicalfilms or #celebperfumes. i'm not sure if everyone reads the links i post or pays attention to what i say, but i'm thankful to those that do and those that engage me in conversation. for those that don't see my tweet, 10 minutes or 10 hours later someone else will post the same link and perhaps express a similar observation. so that's not so bad. depending on who you follow, there's a constant flow of information and/or opinion, empty feel-good & 'i just fed my cat' tweets, notwithstanding. however, as i use twitter more frequently, having grown tired of mark zuckerberg's orwellian tracking of one's every move on facebook, i've come to realise there is also a bad side to twitter. it's very cliquey. most people i follow are journalists, bloggers, activists, writers or politically informed people, others are friends, some celebrities, and some witty people and spoofs who are just the funniest! you'd think it would be the celebs that bug me, but it's the established politicos who have this 'i tweet you, you tweet me', among themselves. some of them are nice and respond to you, some even follow back, but there are those who don't often respond to anyone outside their circle. ironically these people tout themselves as lefties, neutrals, radicals, revolutionaries or progressives, but they maintain their exclusivity. it might be none of my business who people choose and choose not to follow, but when the ratio of followers: followed is disproportionate i.e 10 000 followers, 100 following - such glaring contradictions should be criticised. as if that wasn't enough some even make the public appeal for more followers (e.g. i have 5600 followers i need 400 more, help me twitter) WTF??? do these people ever stop to check who follows them, do they know what their followers have to say, do they even care? i'm friggin tired of some of these self-confessed lefties, radicals and progressives:
1. begging for followers. 
2. hosting in-crowd convos among themselves. as valid as their insights maybe in these back n forths, it's the ignoring of other people that irks me - ask, how i know? the new version of twitter shows who's responded on a particular tweet and how the conversation plays out. 
3. recommending each other as is the tradition of #followfriday. that's normally the biggest orgy fest of the week unless something big has happened then they'll endlessly tweet amongst themselves. 
if these people are progressives and radicals, genuinely trying to dissolve power hierarchies then surely they know that dissolution of power begins with conversation and engagement with everyone at every level. if the same names keep being hashed up in retweets or recommended follows then that sustains hierarchy rather than dismantling it. in this way twitter becomes a simultaneously segregated and joined up space of digital interaction. i may know what politico X is thinking but politico X does not necessarily know my thoughts, but we are featured together in the same hashtags and trendlists. so that's the dilemma how do people become more interactive so tweeting isn't just a futile exercise of typing letters into the ether? answer: #followback. i know of at least three well-known politically minded people who explicitly state that they operate on the principle of engaging everyone and they do it. why don't others? what's the point of having followers if you don't talk to them and you continue to regurgitate the same opinions but with new hashtags and links? funny thing is some of the celebs i follow do more talking to their followers than these progressives n radicals. the good celebs (like @noelclarke & @questlove, @lupefiasco even hosts a mini bookclub!) and even spoofs (like @katieweasel) try to have some daily discussion with their followers and although i don't often participate, it's nice to see the interaction going on. 90% of the time these people are not promoting their stuff but do it just to talk to people, so why don't others do it? even the dalai lama follows no one but he tweets about the essence of dialogue. 
on 26 december @dalailama tweeted: 'in order to create a happy century, a peaceful century we must promote the concept of dialogue.'
yea, His Holiness's great dialogue skills amount to 1 192 144 followers: following 0. numerically he's on par with @kanyewest and @chipmunk who follow no one, but the big difference is they actually TALK to people!
...if i've been sounding like some bitter, unrequited lover, i accept that might be 100% true BUT that doesn't change my point that there is presently something wrong with the concept of twitter as a forum for open, multiple conversations when only selected names continue to dominate timelines because certain people only want to talk amongst themselves and retweet each other. granted, people don't necessarily realise that this is what ends up happening and perhaps if they did, things would change. imo, it'd be nice if twitter's #followfriday was actually #followbackfriday and some of these people followed back and recommended different followers who have something interesting to say rather than just keeping it in the family. maybe an #openthreadfriday could be a possibility. #openthreadfriday would allow for anyone to tweet in the timelines of people they follow although i'm not sure how this would work for those with over 5 000 followers, it might be chaotic, but i'm sure a technological remedy out there. something has to be done for twitter or tweeters to develop a more interactive system than the one currently in place - less local orgy fest, more open conversation. #2011rules.


*i used political categorisations to encompass the different groups of people on my feed. analysing people's behaviour  by global location wouldn't really work as these people share more or less the same views and behave in similar ways.