Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My new project

Well maybe project isn't the best word, more like obsession. I've jumped on the microblogging bandwagon and started a Tumblr site--African Media--to bookmark and document my adventures (so colonial I know) in consuming, well, African media.

So far there's a lot of stuff on African literary journals, glossy magazines and the launching of high-speed internet in the east. Use it as a list of bookmarks for rad stuff from around the continent.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The arrest of the Post's editor should be condemned

From the VOA
Zambia's Government Criticized for Harassing Journalists
20 July 2009

The International Press Institute has expressed concern over the arrest and upcoming trial of Zambia Post newspaper Editor Chansa Kabwela.

The group reportedly said the Zambian government is using trumped-up criminal charges as a tool for intimidating and harassing journalists critical of the government.

Kabwela, whose trial is to begin August fifth, is charged with distributing obscene materials in order to corrupt what the government called the morals of society.

She reportedly sent pictures to government officials of a woman whose baby died while giving birth outside of a hospital during Zambia’s long nurses’ strike this year.

Read the rest of the article

Some background: The Post was highly critical of president Rupiah Banda during the election campaign last year. They published daily editorials against him accusing him of corruption among other things. Many Zambians, regardless of political affiliation, saw the tone as unnecessarily harsh and too focused on his personality.

That said, The Post was the main opposition voice in a media landscape skewed towards the ruling party and was, amidst the mudslinging, responsible for some valid reporting, including the story about gifts of food and sugar given to traditional leaders to secure rural votes. During the campaign there was open declarations from the ruling party apparatchiks and from the candidate himself talking about how The Post would be dealt with once Banda took power.

Many saw the government allowing the collapse of the country's main carrier Zambian Airways earlier this year, a business majority-owned by The Post, as a move against the paper. The details there were rumours at best. This recent arrest, however, is clear political manipulation and should be widely condemned. These are such outrageous charges--counstruing photos of a woman giving birth outside a hospital due to a labour dispute, the height of good journalism, as pornography--and I'm disheartened to see, at least from this vantage point, that Kabwela isn't getting more public support.

Here's a similar statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Post Editor Arrested

From ZNBC via Lusaka Times

Police have formally arrested Post News paper Editor, Chansa Kabwela, for circulating obscene materials.

Ms. Kabwela who was briefly detained has however been released on police bond.

Post newspaper lawyer, Sam Mujuda, told ZNBC that Ms. Kabwela will m in court on Tuesday.

The arrest of Ms. Kabwela comes barely two weeks after police recorded a warn and caution statement from her for being in possession of obscene pictures.

President Rupiah Banda at the last press conference ordered investigations into the circulation of pictures of a woman giving birth at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.

The incident took place during a strike by nurses and other health workers.

Whoa this is a completely baseless arrest and a clear case of media intimidation by the Banda government.

Monday, July 6, 2009

MLK BLVD Project

For about five months I lived in a flat on Martin Luther King Road in Lusaka. I immediately associated it with the Martin Luther King Jr boulevards, streets and ways that I'd been to over the years: Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Oakland, New Orleans. In the US, naming a street after MLK is about creating a symbolic connection between black neighbourhoods and a city; a repudiation of centuries of apartheid policies.

In Lusaka, Martin Luther King Road is in affluent Kabulonga, home to a disproportionate number of white expats, NGO workers and upper-middle-class Zambians. Our neighbour had cousins, sons and nieces spread across the world studying or running businesses in Australia, Texas and the UK.

In the style of many southern African neighbourhoods, MLK Road Lusaka is completely surrounded by glass topped walls, heavy metal gates and underpaid security guards from nearby townships. Most of the landscaped area between the walls and the drainage ditches that abut the tarmac is kept immaculately trimmed by a squad of blue-coverall wearing young men. They cut the grass, bent over double, with blunt scythes.

The MLK BLVD project is a blog of crowdsourced photos from different Martin Luther King roads, boulevards and ways from across the US and the world. It's really worth looking at.

It's also making me really regret not taking better pictures. I basically have only a photo of my gate during a hail-storm. If anyone has better photos I suggest you upload it to the MLK BLVD project Flickr pool. Also, I seem to remember many African cities having MLK roads, photos of which would probably ad great perspective to the project.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My first attempt: Little Mountain, Nat Bailey and the new Olympic curling centre

Inspired by the way some newspapers are using the web to tell a story I decided to try my hand at internet video. This doesn't really have a narrative and is basically me dumping my photos into iMovie and imperfectly scoring it with a Fennesz song but I kinda like the way it turned out.

The greater issue though is the arrival of the Olympics, the lack of housing in Vancouver and, in particular the plans for the demolition of the Little Mountain homes. These plans, to turn Vancouver's oldest housing project into mixed social and market housing, comes at a time when homelessness is going up and there's a great deal of insecurity around joblessness and closing shelters.

The rumours are that despite no plans to start the development until after the 2010 Olympics, residents have been evacuated early so the site can be used as a parking lot for a nearby venue. Photos of the curling centre are at the end. I actually managed to take photos of the game from an upper level of the, yet unfinished, curling centre's fire escape.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Doing online journalism right: grape picking in the Coachella Valley

This article from the LA Times on the grape industry of Southern California shows how little it has come from the days of Cesar Chaves and the sixties' grape boycotts. Especially well done is the audio slide show that accompanies the piece.
The work is hard, dirty and dangerous. It begins at dawn when the air is sweet and moist and stretches until midafternoon, when temperatures can top 120 degrees and the sun feels like a steel-toed boot to the head.

The pay is $8 to $9 an hour, less than it was 40 years ago when adjusted for inflation.

"Nothing changes," says Arturo Rodriguez, an attorney in the Coachella office of California Rural Legal Assistance. "It's the same harvest of shame."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

South Sudanese Political Cartoons

These are cartoons from The Juba Post, South Sudan's English Language newspaper. Unsurprisingly they mostly concern Bashir. See all the cartoons,with text, at the Pulitzer Center. Unfortunately there's no mention of the artist and the Juba Post's website is currently down.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Magazines West and the Western Magazine Awards

I've been attending Magazines West for the last two days as a reporter for Masthead Magazine. Despite seminars like Surviving the Great Publishing Meltdown of 2009 this year's conference seems less gloomy than last year's with more emphasis on the role magazines will play in the new media landscape.

Unfortunately, people are still pretty confused about the role of social networking. "Go be a video blogger" has been the sarcastic punchline of the day" as editors, writers and publishers talk fearfully about the fast pace of online evolution.

I'm actually going to do this though. Watch out for my new video blog launching sometime next month. I'm going to leave the conference's highlights for the articles I'm writing which will appear on Now I have to get ready for the Western Magazine Awards gala taking place in an hour or so. Being in central Africa all this year means I haven't read a single article or magazine nominated.

Burning questions: Can Tyee Bridge pull of a hat-trick again? Will Goats Across Canada win Best New Magazine?

Here's last year's coverage.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Three relevant links on African photography

On Assignment: Hard Lessons in Somalia
By Michael Kamber

I learned more about Somalia through this list of photography tips from this New York Times photographer than from most feature articles on the region. Note on anarchy:
In other places, clans or religious groups have created islands of stability and progress. We passed through towns where the residents had built schools, hospitals and even a library, with no help from any central authority.
How I take pictures
by Scarlett Lion
aka Glenna Gordon

Instructions for not so casual picture taking. Note on why:
It’s also important for me to explain why I want to take the photo. There’s certainly a misconception that photographers make tons of money selling photos of Africans abroad. I tell people I don’t make money off of the majority of my images – which is 100 percent true – and that I’m here to take a picture to tell a story. In Liberia, I tell people that I want to share photos with the outside world to show that Liberia is no longer at war, that people are living their lives, that things are getting better. This appeals to a lot of people who innately understand how misunderstood they are.
Africa the 'land of bones', says Oprah
by Verashni Pillay

South African journalist, and my good friend, asks if the Oprah-penned introduction to this photo book is a joke?
But no, oh no. The Queen of chat and purveyor of pseudoscience medicinal quackery is as ever all the more terrifying because she's sincere. She really does take herself so seriously that she would dedicate 80% of the foreword to an amazing photographer's work with the most self-indulgent and vainglorious crap - and throw him a bone of congratulations at the end for "crystallizing" her connection. Er, actually the book is a treasure box of gorgeous images from across the continent - not a tribute to your confused sense of identity.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Are biofuels the answer to Zambia's petrol problems?

No, probably not. Elaisha discusses the issue along with the threat of land grabs over at The Earth Feed.

Was going to be snarky

I was prepared to write about the absurdity of "protecting African wildlife" when budgets for helping human beings are getting slashed but then I read the article and realised they're talking about one of my favourite NGOs: COMACO. I like them because they're quite explicitly a pro-human organization that links fighting poverty to ecology and, yes, wildlife.

Norway grants Zambia 8 mln USD
in wildlife conservation support

an indication that the project had impacted well in uplifting livelihoods of communities living around South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia.

LUSAKA, (Xinhua) -- The Norwegian government has given Zambia’s Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) 8 million U. S. dollars to support its project of empowering local communities living near game parks to prevent them from killing animals, the Times of Zambia reported on Friday.

Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia Tore Gjos said during a signing ceremony in Lusaka that his country will not stop supporting Zambia’s wildlife sector.

The Norwegian envoy said the support to WCS’s Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) project was an indication that the project had impacted well in uplifting livelihoods of communities living around South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia.

He said the project had been able to improve rural livelihoods around the game management area and had helped to protect the biodiversity and ecosystems in the area.

COMACO Country Director Dale Lewis said the initiative had helped to conserve more than 5, 000 wild animals annually, as the community had turned to farming and abandoned poaching, which was prevalent before the introduction of the project.

Under the project, communities are encouraged to give up snares (for trapping animals) and firearms. They are instead empowered with skills to tap other sources of earnings such as farming. The project has so far helped 30, 000 households in the area.

Wonderfully vague Zambian political website

Nice website with an eloquent Obama-ish manifesto. I wonder why it's so secretive though. It doesn't, on first glance, seem like something that would invite repression but you never know.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hot new Zambia links

Short BBC piece about politics and music in Zambia (begins at 6:12) featuring reggae artist Michael Zulu. Also includes interview with Mathew Thembo. Some great messages and whatnot.

That said, I don't like the majority of Zambian reggae music. Like a lot of Zambian rappers who have fake American accents and appalling flows, a lot of Zambian reggae sounds like a mockery of 80s Peter Tosh.

A few weeks after news of the Lujo virus was splashed around the world Zambia has made the international news again.

“Going after big fish hasn’t worked,” he said. “The fish will not fry themselves.”

Zambia recently won rare convictions against former military commanders and Regina Chiluba, the wife of its former president, on corruption charges. Frederick Chiluba, president from 1991 to 2001, will himself face a verdict in July on corruption charges. His sumptuous wardrobe — Lanvin suits, silk pajamas and handmade Italian shoes of snakeskin, satin and ostrich — became an emblem of greed in one of the world’s poorest countries.

But anticorruption leaders say they sense less commitment to tackle corruption since the election of President Rupiah Banda. “I’m inside,” said Maxwell Nkole, who leads a task force set up to investigate the Chiluba-era abuses. “The tempo, the intensity to tackle corruption is dropping.”

The Banda administration vigorously denies that charge, and says it will prosecute officials who stole $2 million from the Ministry of Health. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation that Zambia is eligible for. On a recent afternoon, ambassadors from rich nations, the United States and Britain among them, mingled at a party on the lawn of Mark Chona, the first chief of the Zambian anticorruption task force. In welcoming them, he issued a sharp warning.

“Your money is being stolen,” he said. “Don’t sit silent. You don’t know how much influence you have.”

Unfortunately it's part of a trend article talking about corruption in Africa in general with lines like

The broader anxieties about Africa’s resolve to combat corruption have emerged from troubled efforts in several countries.

I don't understand how Africa can have "resolve" to do anything. As if "Africa" has a will-power problem that a little life coaching couldn't cure. Maybe a support group and a 12-step program is what's needed.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Onion answers my question

Last post I wondered about the potential of a vast worldwide collection of insipid party photos. The Onion has the answer. Thanks Chad.

Police Slog Through 40,000 Insipid Party Pics To Find Cause Of Dorm Fire

Friday, June 5, 2009

great photography links

Do you ever stop to think about the vast numbers of digital photographs stuck in external hard drives around the world? Is it billions or trillions of aimless travel snaps, party pics and vain self portraits looked at once never to be seen again? I currently have about eight thousand on my laptop alone, perhaps an equal amount on a hard drive and a slightly smaller number lost to a hard drive crash on my former laptop. I'm not even that prolific a photographer.

I've always thought there has to be some great uses for this glut of digital images. Photosynth is a program that allows the user to collect hundreds of images from Flicker and fuse them into one large incredibly detailed photo of a place. Looking at well done photosynth is being able to see hundreds of different people's visual experience of a place. It's hard to explain. Take a look at this demonstration.

The other thing that caught my eye yesterday was this site for the 2009 World Press Photo awards. Watch the photographer's tiny head describe the context and motivations behind his or her work while scrolling through the award winning photos.

The thing that has most impressed me lately, however, is Flickriver, a Flicker viewer that allows you to scroll uninterrupted through a user's photos presented in a large format on a black background. Take a look at the Flicker stream of Howard French who at different points in his career was the New York Times bureau chief for Africa, Japan and China. It's mostly portraits of Chinese people in black and white from residents of Shanghai to Sichuanese farmers, interspersed images from Africa, New York City and various other places. The photos of old-Shanghai, in particular, bring back many memories of wandering around there as a child.

I mention Howard French because I recently finished his book, A Continent for the Taking about his time as a journalist working in west and central Africa. His insight into the practice of journalism, his deep grasp of the issues and his focussed rage at the personalities he encounters made this one of the better books I've read on the region. His account of the fall of Mobutu is particularly good.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Music: Cadence Weapon, Seperation Anxiety

This new mixtape from the poet laureate of Edmonton, Alberta is easily the best thing I've heard this year. I used to walk around Lusaka blasting his previous release, Afterparty Babies, on the mp3 player--some intensely local Canadiana is good for living abroad.

Pay what you can download here.

The video for Real Estate from Afterparty Babies:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A year's worth of Drum Magazine, Ghana 1969

Ghanaian blogger Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah managed to scan a years worth (1969 to be exact) of images from the Ghanaian edition of Drum magazine and post them on his blog with commentary. The mise-en-scène is of an affluent society interested in both socialism and mini skirts, traditional wear and sex education, international politics and the end of Ghanaian one party rule.

But Drum was actually a South African magazine (read about it here) with franchises around the continent. A quick search led to an exhibition of images from the South African edition 1976-1980 which, it turns out, is far more lurid with photo essays documenting stabbings, war, and social unrest. This is the difference, I suppose, between Ghana 1969 and South Africa during the most vicious days of apartheid.

The Munk Debates: Be it resolved that foreign aid does more harm than good

Stephen Lewis & Paul Collier vs Hernando De Soto & Dambisa Moyo

No, I did not have the pleasure of attending this and, as yet, have not watched the video. I have however read an excellent recap (with analysis!) by my good friend Louis over at Governance Village.

Noticed: everyone's trying to claim they're pals with Kagame now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Noticed: King Leopold on one hundred trillion dollar bill

No, I'm really not a fan of K'naan, believe me, but I like this recent video. Notice the Zimbabwe currency with King Leopold superimposed over the Dzimba dza mabwe which subsequently bleeds after being shot.

A decent documentary about the global arms trade

Devil's Bargain: A Journey into the Small Arms Trade
Seen at DOXA, the Vancouver documentary film festival.

If you've seen Lord of War, the largely ignored film starring Nicholas Cage as an international arms dealer, this documentary covers a lot of the same ground. In fact, Cage's character is based on the arms dealer Victor Boot who--as shown in Devils' Bargain--is simultaneously hunted by law enforcement for supplying arms to the world's insurgencies while working for the US department of defense.

Like Lord of War, the film explores the intricate routes small arms take from the rusting eastern bloc arsenals into the hands of combatants from Iraq to the streets of Nairobi. What's great about this film is its visual depiction of globalization, starting in Somalia (actually I missed the first few minutes so this is where I came in) where we meet a group of young men armed with Kalashnikovs. One is giving an impassioned speech about the need to be armed amidst the chaos of post-collapse Somalia. His friend, looking bemused, says "what did you say? no, we use these to rape women."

From there we hear from Moldovan pilots, a Russian who runs an African air-cargo company, and plenty of arms salesmen as they discuss the finer points of lightweight automatic weapons. The talking heads include people from various organizations that document the global movement of arms to John Bolton who defends the US's stance against an international treaty to regulate the industry ludicrously claiming it would violate Americans' second amendment rights.

Watch this in tandem with Lord of War and Darwin's Nightmare and you'll have a pretty good idea of how it works.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just trashy TV or genocide denial?

So there's apparently a new reality show on the History Channel where contestants reenact the infamous journey where Henry Morton Stanley goes to rescue Livingstone. This is what the website says:

Twenty miles off the coast of eastern Africa, four modern-day explorers are sailing toward the unknown, the deep interior of Tanzania. They’ll travel 970 miles through African terrain that is as stunning as it is fraught with danger. Using only a compass and basic maps, they will attempt to recapture the spirit of one of the world’s most remarkable adventures—journalist Henry Morton Stanley’s perilous 1871 journey to find Dr. David Livingstone. Their historic exploration has been captured by one of the premiere storytellers of our time, Mark Burnett, for the eight-part television event, EXPEDITION AFRICA

This is not a competition or a game. It's a real-life adventure. These four explorers--navigator Pasquale Scaturro, wildlife expert Dr. Mireya Mayor, survivalist Benedict Allen and journalist Kevin Sites--will trek across a vast, unforgiving landscape of dense swamps, rugged mountains and barren deserts. They will face severe dehydration, deadly diseases, wild animals and more than 29 kinds of venomous snakes, only to learn that the greatest danger may actually be one another.

What struck me was just how much of a bubble I live in. I get that it's fun to pretend to be in rugged life-and-death situations hence the popularity of orienteering as a sport. I also realise that you need an exotic back-story to make a show interesting but, and this is my main problem: isn't about time we all just retired that sad and discredited safari/explorer aesthetic.

For one thing, Tanzania isn't all that dangerous or remote. Take this map from the website for instance:

It is entirely possible to take a train from Dar to Kigoma, which is then only a short ride from Ujiji. If you don't like trains, air-conditioned coaches go all over the country for under twenty bucks.

Also, my knowledge of the original expedition, much of it from the masterpiece of Victorian era history King Leopold's Ghost, is of a creeping massacre, starting from the coast and slowly moving inland, burning the villages in its way and viciously killing thousands including most of the porters. Stanley, some years later, would become the celebrity architect and engineer of Leopold's Congo Free State, a giant slave empire which left an estimated ten million people dead between 1885 and 1908 or half the entire population of the region.

Let me suggest an idea for season two: EXPEDITION EUROPE where we follow four intrepid adventurers dressed up in Nazi regalia as they reenact the invasion of Poland while learning about the local flora and fauna from exotically dressed locals.

Season three: Mao's Long March?

You get the idea.

Township Funk

I woke up this morning humming the riff from this kwaito track. Funny cuz I haven't listened to it in months.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Best of Lusaka Video

A lot of people are faulting me for not posting any photos that give a sense of what Lusaka is like. This video on purports to show the best of Lusaka. I'm linking to it instead because I think it shows everything that's mundane and mediocre in Lusaka. Not to fault the filmmaker at all--it's well done--it just misses the point a bit. Highlight: wounded buffalo metaphor at the Lusaka museum.

Dumb Headlines #2: The perilous Lujo Virus

Scientists identify new lethal virus in Africa

ATLANTA -- Scientists have identified a lethal new virus in Africa that causes bleeding like the dreaded Ebola virus. The so-called "Lujo" virus infected five people in Zambia and South Africa last fall. Four of them died, but a fifth survived, perhaps helped by a medicine recommended by the scientists.

Okay, so it's not thaaat bad. Like, it's basically factual but the tone is a bit off-putting. For once I'm glad for Western news media's habit of conflating all of Africa and not going for the more precise headline: Scientists identify new lethal virus in Lusaka. Similarly I find the new name for this virus, the Lujo, or the Lusaka-Johannesburg, virus quite hilarious. I want to say "Hey Johannesburg has nothing to do with this virus except for having good medical facilities for rich people." Either way I'm glad they came up with a name that has a creepy Stephen King quality to it.

I remember it mostly being a non-issue in Lusaka when this happened. A lot of people were really pissed because American super-pastor/success-guru T.D. Jakes cancelled his trip but for most it didn't register at all.

What was weird was that patient zero happened to be a white woman. At least I think she was. Nobody ever explicitly said so. The Lowdown, in it's typical insiderish fashion, published a confusing eulogy to one of their own. Then The Post had an article accusing the deceased of being an equestrian who often rode barefoot. Conclusion: that woman got what she deserved. Typical Post.

It was a far bigger deal in South Africa where the woman was airlifted and subsequently infected healthcare workers there. If I remember correctly, the whole region was put on alert for the mysterious Ebola-like virus from up-north. Or as some media referred to it, the "Zambia fever."

Here's the silver lining to all this:

The research is a startling example of how quickly scientists can now identify new viruses, Fauci said. Using genetic sequencing techniques, the virus was identified in a matter of a few days _ a process that used to take weeks or longer.

Along with Fauci's institute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Google also helped fund the research.

Since when does Google fund medical research?

thanks to Texas in Africa for alerting me to this

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A really nice album cover

There's a soft feeling I get when I'm taking public transport in a foreign city where I listen to people's conversations, check out people checking out other people, and just become part of the crowd.

This album cover reminds me of taking the train into central Cape Town after visiting a friend in the suburbs. It was full of people just off work: construction workers joking in Xhosa with that distinctive low click that somehow cuts through the noise of Afrikaans speaking kids coming home after a day at the beach.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Birthday links/rants

One good thing about the Economist magazine is the non-ironic use of words like oligopoly, used here to describe Canada's relatively stable banking system.

If Botswana is anything like Zambia then alcoholism is a major social problem. If Botswana is anything like Zambia then their new 70 per cent liquor tax is going to cause a collective organ failure from Kachasu and other styles of battery-acid moonshine.

On the topic of prohibition, the words ethereal and visceral are officially banned for being lame.

May 19 is also the birthdays of Ho Chi Minh, Malcolm X, Pol Pot and Kevin Garnett.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Best Zambian Music Video?

About three months ago while taking the TAZARA train to Dar es Salaam this video played on the TV in the lounge car and I was subsequently heart broken. Keep watching cuz it gets really good around the the 3:20 mark and then there's a giant pumpkin.

But hey, Zambian music isn't all Autotune love songs (well mostly). There's some great Youtube videos out there of a ZNBC show from the eighties showing performances of the classic Congolese influenced stuff. I'm trying to get a hold of a song that, I think, is an old-school house remix of the vocals from this song:

The song I'm thinking of was playing a lot in the Lusaka clubs for the last year but the DJ at Alpha bar had no idea what it was called. All I know is a a cab driver telling me that it was an old Tonga song. If anyone knows what it's called, or has an mp3, please please please email me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Russian president's LiveJournal and other links.

It's all in Russian but read it right here anyways. I wonder what his feelings are vis a vis his parents and the emo/goth scene?

Also, I'm sure just about everyone is familiar with Gigapixel photography but what if you could spy into every living room in Vancouver's Yaletown condo zoo? BTW you can zoom in.

And finally, sometimes the Onion is a little too right:

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bandwagon Jumped

I could watch Dambisa Moyo all day... no, really, there's over 40 different interview videos of her on Youtube by every possible network. I'm embedding Riz Khan's interview from Al Jazeera cuz, as a radical Salafist, it's my favourite. Well, mostly I just like his intro music. Plus this one has that Bottom Billion dude on it too.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

UN Gang Violence

One thing I've been missing while living in Zambia is the spectacle of Vancouver gang warfare. Seems like the nineties media obsession with "ethnic" gangs is over to be replaced by multicultural criminal organizations that actively celebrate and encourage diversity. The embodiment of this trend is the nefarious United Nations Gang, probably not what the architects of Canada's official multiculturalism ideology had in mind but, if you think about it, still a success. Try and spot the gangsters:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Aaron: Resurrection

To all five of you, I'm very sorry to have let this blog lapse. Hopefully the photos from my trip will more than make up for my two months of silence.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dar es Salaam

According to the little web cafe ticker I have eighteen minutes to write and post this blog. The Tazara train from Zambia was lovely and I am now in Tanzania. Dar is a large cosmopolitan city that still feels manageable. The streets are filled with young guys carting around wheelbarrows full of tropical fruit and the call to prayer is blasted every few hours.

We stayed at a horrible little guesthouse called Jambo Inn which was for some reason the top pick in the Lonely Planet. I recently read some expose of guidebook writing and since I'm pressed for time I'll link to it later. I'm pretty sure there's no way the writer even went there.

My Mozambique visa is being processed and we head south in a few days. In the meantime I'm going to try all the amazing variety of street food and hole in the wall Indian restaurants that abound here.

In contrast to Lusaka's collection of suburbs surrounded by townships, Dar is a walkable city with a lot of street life and tall colonial era apartment blocks. The density drastically changes the nature of the place and in general it feels prosporous and safe.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Leaving Lusaka

I'm on the train to Dar. Next update from that side.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Packing up

I've been running around Lusaka trying to get stuff done before leaving on Tuesday. As Louis likes to point out, the Canadian International Development Agency only funds development between July and February leaving the rest of the year to the free market (jokes) and so I go. I'm taking the train east to Dar armed with a tent, a swim suit and Tanzanian multiple entry visa.

The photo is of Soweto market last week. It's one of the biggest markets in Lusaka and only blocks away from the financial buildings on Cairo road. By comparison, the week before in Harare I went to their largest street market in what was apparently a township slum (it looked like a London council estate). Not only were the streets paved but our Zimbabwean friend pointed to a three square meter puddle and gave a soliloquy on just how far our once great country has fallen.

In a different conversation, with a Zimbabwean web developer, I mentioned that it's nice to be in a country (Zimbabwe) where the cops aren't carrying guns and that in Lusaka they all carry AKs with shoelace shoulder straps. "Yeah but that's Africa," he said conflating Zambia, the DRC and Sudan into one homogeneous northern mass." I told him, you realise the entire BBC/CNN watching world thinks your country is in the middle of some Rawandodarfurian death match to which he just looked puzzled.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More hints?

The first and last two photos are courtesy of Mr. Damon van der Linde.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The hundred billion dollar contest: Where am I?

The person who can name the city I'm in based on these photographs gets one hundred billion dollars.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Style over substance and MY VOICE as a person with a disability

The New York Times Style Magazine has a story about Namibia that includes a fashion photo shoot in many of the same places I just went to in Namibia. The blog Africa is a Country rightfully points out that the article and photo shoot reinforces some of the worst colonial fantasies about Namibia and rural Africa in general as a pristine setting to view primitive cultures (see Leni Riefenstahl's Sudan photos). That said, it's always interesting to see how a professional photographer handles the same landscape.

My blog of late has turned into something of a vacation photo album, um sorry. On a completely different note I want to applaud my house mate Louis on the successful launch of his poster series MY VOICE as a person with a disability. You can read about it on his blog here. See the posters here. The program included some great and funny speeches by disability advocates, a skit by a couple soap opera stars and ended with an otherworldly gospel sing along led by arguably Zambia's top pop star John Chiti.

Why does any impromptu group singing in Zambia automatically arranges itself into four part harmonies. I don't get that. It's incredible though. The following are some photos I took at the event.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Liveblogging BBC world

It's a nice time to be alive.

Frankly I like living any time.

Something's changing in America.

As opposed to the last few hundred years of stasis.

An Obama presidency will make people give their prejudiced views a second thought.

I'm rethinking my membership in the Daughters of the Confederacy as I'm writing this.

For Paris we'll see some more wet weather.


Monday, January 19, 2009