Thursday, 21 April 2011

Liberate Tate Shames BP

From Liberal Conspiracy
Yesterday at the Tate Britain [gallery in London], Liberate Tate (website) staged another of its headline-grabbing performative protests in the Duveens Hall of Tate Britain. A naked man lay down in the foetal position while several veiled figures covered him in an oil-like substance. The performance lasted for 87 minutes to commemorate the 87 days over which oil was spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, beginning exactly one year ago today.
According to the TelegraphBP spends over £1m per year sponsoring the Tate Britain, the British Museum, the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery.

If the London School of Economics could be shamed into cutting ties with the Gaddaffi regime, then the same should apply to the Tate and BP- not just for environmental reasons but for political reasons too. Unsurprisingly it has big stakes in Libya. Up to $900m (£545m) worth of initial investment deals was facilitated by Tony Blair when he renewed British relations with the Brotherly Leader of the Arab Jamaharihya. BP also promised to invest up to £20 billion over the next 20 years, in 2009, at a time when 200 Nigerians were on death row in Libya for immigration offences (and later released after diplomatic intervention by the Nigerian government) while Libyan citizens faced persecution or repression for various acts of civil disobedience.

Following the Brotherly Leader's threat to nationalize all the oil fields, its in Britain and BP's interests to ensure the Libyan revolutionaries topple Gaddaffi. But can the Tate, as a site that hosts creative expressions of cultural and political resistance in Britain and the world (like Ai WeiWei), really be associated with a corporation that operates on a profits before all else policy?

(As for the British Museum, well its a place that harbors stolen items so more than just cutting ties with BP, it needs to return the stolen goods, like the Rosetta Stone, on which the museum markets itself as a repository of 'world history'.)

copyright Immo Klink
see more pics here.

Dadaab: The City that Shouldn't Exist (?)

fisttap texasinafrica
As if to conicide with other (month-long) events commemorating the 20th anniversary of Dadaab Refugee Camp, the world's largest and oldest refugee camp on the Kenya-Somali border, the Danish Refugee Agency launched this Facebook game. First named 'The Worst Vacation Ever', some clever creative renamed it 'The City that Should Never Have Existed' - much better right? Not quite. According to Reuters Africa News Blog, the game was "pulled from the internet just days after the launch amid claims that it is in bad taste and dehumanizes refugees." 

Descrbing the game, Reuters reports, 
It’s a race against time to “drag” refugees to three safe areas in the camp (cue applause) before vital resources run out and refugees are reduced to piles of bones.
Bizarrely, the Facebook poster for the game shows what looks like a World War Two-era bomber flying over a fort emblazoned with the ECHO logo and surrounded by aid tents.
“How do I win?” someone calling himself “Sirak Prince” and claiming to be from near-by Kakuma refugee camp wrote on ECHO’s Facebook page. “Visiting Dadab from Kakuma is like Bagdahd from Mogadisho ! (sic) Hell we need new safer life not new fake projects!”
Overcrowding, lack of sanitation, poor shelter and sweltering heat make the 20-year-old Dadaab camp renowned for health hazards, insecurity and general squalor.
Julie Laduron, ECHO’s communications officer, confirmed that the European humanitarian body had removed the game from its Facebook page and main site on Thursday, by which time it had attracted 139 “likes”.
“Of course everyone has some different sensibilities about the game so for the moment it is suspended,” she said.
Despite suspension of the game there are those working in the refugee sector who felt this dumb idea was actually a good idea:

Anders Knudsen, DRC campaign coordinator,
“We want to reach young people and that cannot be done through reports, policy statements and information videos,” Knudsen said. “With this campaign, we meet the young people through their own media."
Rob Schofield, disaster management director at TearFund,  
"We think the game is a great way of introducing young people to the realities of humanitarian work.”
Jan Kellett, programme leader at aid watchdog Global Humanitarian Assistance,“The game is sort of positioned right for what it is trying to do,” he said. “It’s not very complex but it does show the challenge of matching resources to people.” 

Sorry but no. If you want to create a game that gives young people a sense of what humanitarian work is about, you do it with dignity, after all human beings are the central subject of this game created by humanitarians. Dadaab is not some extreme game or dangerously exotic place for the young mind's consumption; its an actual place where people live not out of choice, but because a brutal unending conflict has made it so. There is a deeply entrenched perception of Somalia as hell-on-earth and while many humanitarian agencies and refugee have tried to deconstruct that myth, games like give credence to it. Not that there's anything wrong with games about refugee camps, just not this sort of thing.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The King Had A Dream

 Things I've Done by NattyMusic

Like country music meets reggae meets indie, this is Natty. (a guy most Londoners on the underground scene will know bec of the song ColdTown) Born Alexander Alekio Modiano to a mother from Lesotho and an English dad in San Francisco. Aged one he moved to (north) London where he grew up around African and British musical and cultural influences. According to the bio on his website (, he had the privilege of working with Mos Def, Queen and Razorlight - before releasing his own mixtape for sale. In 2007 he got signed by Atlantic records and performed at the iTunes Festival. Since then Natty's achieved chart success in the UK, Japan and Jamaica as well and has collaborated with the likes of Roots Manuva and Baaba Mal, among many others. If you're in London this summer look out for him at gigs and festivals, or follow him on twitter @nattymusic.

Anyway the song,The King Had a Dream above was produced a few days before Barack Obama's inauguration, but regardless of Obama's failings, the greater message of the song, a people's legacy of triumph against adversity, still hits home - at least with me.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Tozeza Baba

Still in Independence Day mode, I'm sitting here wishing the whole world understood Shona so I could post a playlist of all the songs I'm listening to right now. But since that's an impossible wish, I'll post one song by Oliver Mtukudzi (Tuku). It's called 'Tozeza Baba', meaning 'we are afraid of father' because the father's a drunk who beats up on the mother, as the video shows. It's also a chastening of the father by a child as Tuku's first line is 'Imi Baba imi manyanya' meaning 'you father you, you're overdoing it now.' (*insert finger wagging here*)
Depending on how much you read into Tuku's music, there's also a subversive political meaning to the song. Substitute the domestic setting for the national and this could describe the situation of the country, a nation with a political Father who unnecessarily exerts his authority on the weak and vulnerable. The genius about Tuku is that he has never openly expressed his political beliefs in his music, the listener is free to interpret his music in whatever way they wish. Both of the main political parties in Zimbabwe, Zanu and MDC, have appropriated his music because he has played at Zanu rallies so some say it suggests he supports the brand anti-colonial nationalism of Mugabe whereas the latter interpret Tuku's songs to be an anti-violence, pro-change stance, especially because of Bvuma (not the best videos) a controversial song urging someone to accept that he has gotten too old and must make way for young...

On the controversy surrounding Bvuma in 2000 (?) (year of the fast-track land re-appropriation scheme):
There was also the case of a sound engineer who worked for Oliver Mutukudzi who was apprehended after a live performance where it is said that he directed a stage light on Mugabe’s portrait when Tuku was tuning out his banned 'Bvuma' a song that has been interpreted as directed to Mugabe.
Artists such as Mutukudzi and [Thomas] Mapfumo command a huge following and their lyrical composition has always been under the spotlight. The government tried to pin down Mutukudzi for his song 'Bvuma' and he gave an excuse that he did not direct the song at the head of state. Actually it referred to his relationship with his children. Mutukudzi has been on record for making it clear that he is not a ZANU PF supporter after a series of botched attempts to align him and his music with the ruling party.
Source: Freemuse

31 Today, Makorokoto Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe turned 31 today and I decided to return to blogging after an extended break. To acknowledge, Zimbabwe's Day it was a toss-up between an inspirational song or something historic (as I did last year) but Independence Day signifies many things. It is not only a day of revolution, but also a day of celebration, so I chose a song of upliftment. It was a tough choice between 'Pane Rudo' (There is Love) by ExQue featuring the legendary Oliver Mtukudzi
and 'Mugarandoga' / Loneliness by DK Republic (posted below), but I settled on the above as the main track to partly convey how I feel today. The one below probably expresses the feelings of millions in the diaspora who for many, complex reasons left Zimbabwe.
The song is called Shaina meaning shine and its a collaboration between two well-known Zimbabwean singers; Alexio Kawara and Andy Brown. As the song title suggests, the song is about making it through the trials of life and shining like the sun after a storm. Never give up and never allow yourself to crumble because you never know what lies ahead, so despite the darkness, you are a star and you must shine, don't let your light go out Zimbabwe, happy birthday.