Saturday, December 19, 2009

The New Yorker: Gorongosa National Park

The December 21st issue of the New Yorker has a great article about Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The story is mostly about American Greg Carr's efforts to use his personal fortune to restore the eco-system that was lost during Mozambique's Independence and Civil Wars. He is bringing back the large animals that could increase tourism and give the people of the area jobs. But he is facing some cultural problems as the Régulos and fetiçeiros of the mountain do not trust his intentions. At one point the author talks to Mia Couto, who came to speak to my Peace Corps training group. And he told us the same story he tells the author, about the monkey and the fish. The short version is this: A monkey passed by a stream and saw a fish swimming. But the monkey thought that surely the fish was drowning and he took the fish out and placed it on land. Even as the fish suffocated, the monkey felt that he had saved the fish. The point is, some people don't need outsiders, who don't understand the situation, to come and "save" them. But the author pointsout the contradictions of placating to a culture that has only emerged since the civil war. The people who live on the mountain now were not there before the war. Their traditions of slash and burn agriculture do not work on the mountain and will likely destroy it.

ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about philanthropist Greg Carr and the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Back in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, Greg Carr made a couple of hundred million dollars developing and marketing voice-mail and Internet services. In 1998, he quit all his for-profit ventures and decided that he would become a full-time philanthropist. He didn’t just want to give his money away; he also wanted to give himself to his projects—body and soul. Tells about Carr’s involvement in the Market Theatre in Boston. After just two seasons, he shut it down. He had fallen in love with a national park in Africa. Gorongosa National Park is a wilderness the size of Rhode Island at the southern tip of the Great Rift Valley in central Mozambique, and when Carr showed up there five years ago, it had been all but abandoned. Tells about the history of the park, which was established in 1960, by Portugal, which had dominated Mozambique for five hundred years. The park was the scene of much of the heaviest fighting during Mozambique’s sixteen-year civil war. Many of the wildlife species in the park were severely depleted. In 2004, Carr said, you could walk or drive all day without seeing any other living thing but some birds. That was when he committed much of his fortune and much of the rest of his working life to resurrecting the park. Carr’s idea is to use his philanthropy to create conditions that will attract for-profit ecotourism businesses to the park, insuring its economic self-sufficiency. He has already spent twenty million dollars on revitalizing the park and its environs. Describes how he is restocking the park’s animal populations. And how he has created hundred of jobs in and around the park. In 2007, Carr signed an agreement with the government of Mozambique to run the park and manage its buffer zone for the next twenty years. Tells about Carr’s childhood, and his business, Boston Technology. Describes studies of the park done by the South African naturalist Ken Tinley. Tinley advocated expanding the park to include nearby Mt. Gorongosa, which was a key part of the park’s ecosystem. By then, the park was a civil-war battleground. Writer describes Carr’s attempts to negotiate with the leaders of the mountain’s two administrative zones, one of whom has been more coöperative than the other. Tells about deforestation on the mountain. Discusses the difficulties of balancing economic development and ecosystem preservation with respect for the traditions and authority of the local peoples. “I’m a human-rights guy and a conservation guy trying to do both at the same time,” Carr said.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ms. Lohan in India

Here's an irritating story: a former actress, who has aged herself beyond belief with alcohol, drugs and partying thinks it's a good idea for her to go to India to "save children" from human trafficking.

As if she could save anyone. As if she could find India on a map of India.

Why do celebrities think that their mere presence has the power to change all the evil in this world? Are people really going to stop wearing fur because Pamela Anderson likes to be photographed nude for PETA? Would a man really stop buying sex from child prostitutes because Lindsay Lohan says it's wrong? And because she said it while sporting a bhindi?

I imagine the total irony of her chosen charity case is lost on the actress; in some ways, Lindsay Lohan is probably so messed up because she
was a child prostitute. Her parents earned a lot of money from whatever talent she used to have. Have you seen the "music" videos she made when she was still just a teenager? Tell me that's not a child being prostituted by her own parents.

If she wants to go to India, fine. If she wants to donate large sums of her fortune to Indian charities, who would I be to criticize?

But what she is really doing is something different from charity work. She is using the poverty of India as rehab. She is hoping that by going on this "mission," she will somehow become a better person, in the public's eyes and her own. She probably hopes that in India she will be able to purge herself of whatever it is that has made her so crazy. Here's what she has said about karma:

“I am all about Karma… what goes around comes around.” this, published in the Hindustani Times. I wonder what Indians think about her summation of Hinduism. I bet they wish she'd go home.

It bothers me when celebrities do this. It trivializes both the problem and those who are working hard to actually improve the lives of those living in whatever developing world the celebrity has decided to claim as their own. Why is it that this child trafficking NGO didn't get press before Lohan graced it with her coke-saturated self? Why aren't the local Indian employees highlighted in any of the stories about her trip? A big part of the problem is that Lindsay Lohan is no Angelina Jolie and she doesn't know how to spin the news of her trip into true awareness and education about child trafficking. She's a drug addict with a lot of money on what is essentially a poverty-tour. How is that going to help anyone?

For more on this thread read: Ms. Hilton in Africa and commentary on MTV's Exiled.

Here's an extremely biting article called What has India done to Deserve Lindsay Lohan?

Monday, December 7, 2009


WHO Anti-Malaria Campaign in Lusophone Countries.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sara Tavares: Balancê

I love this song, but I also really love the video. Want to know why? It's like a little dance-tour of Lusophone countries. I see kuduro, samba, capoeira, kizomba - and Sara even dances passada with her guitar!

Did I miss anything? Are there any dances you see that I didn't list?

Monday, September 7, 2009

People in Need Campaign

I don't know what to think about this ad campaign by People in Need.
I guess if I'm still thinking about it and even posting the provocative images, then it must be successful in the advertising world.
(I wish I could make images bigger, just click to enlarge.)

Each of the images shows an African (though I'm not sure where the photos were taken) holding some luxury item in a high-fashion-model pose. Each image also quotes the price of the item alongside the price of something the developing world needs. For example, the first image shows a woman holding a pair of sunglasses and states:


Text 'aid' to 2255 and donate 1.50 euros

Clearly, the ad is drawing on the guilt of the wealthy for donations. My little family is not the target of this campaign. My husband would never spend 35 euros on aftershave and I cringe if I have to pay more than 3 dollars for a beer. (We're also not European and don't pay in euros for anything.) But we would donate a few dollars and this ad makes it very easy...just text your donation while you have that pint. You don't even have to think about it too much.

The images are a little disturbing to me. I feel like the ad is also drawing on the misplaced feeling of the models in positions and poses often reserved for younger, whiter models. I would like to have been a fly on the wall at this photo shoot. That last image especially is such a classic way to sell a purse...but we're not selling purses here. It seems like the ads are making fun of luxury ads, but they're just not quite ironic enough. The models, to me, don't seem to be in on the joke. In fact, I almost mistook the image for an actual fashion spread - you know Vogue does that sometimes...uses real people in exotic places to sell outrageously expensive junk.

I'd like to hear the reaction of Africans to this campaign. They are not the target audience, but rather the subject matter. Is it offensive, creative, brilliant, annoying? I feel like it's all those things.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tintin au Congo

Fascinating. I found these images in a New York Times article via Racialicious. The story's main focus was library censorship based on patron complaints. Especially difficult is the idea of pulling out books for racist content. Most literature was written in the context of a racist society. Most literature can be critiqued and criticized for racist and sexist content. But are children's books different? Children are impressionable and might not understand that children's books from 50 or 100 years ago were written in a certain context that should be kept in mind when read. Maybe they just shouldn't be read by children? This is similar to my previous post on Babar the Elephant.

I found these accompanying illustrations the most interesting aspect of the article. Tintin au Congo has already been banished to the backrooms of New York libraries, available only upon request. But, curiously, the author Hergé Moulinsart had already tried to mitigate the offensive elements of his book back in the 1940's:

"This classroom scene in “Tintin au Congo” initially had Tintin teaching the natives about their colonial rulers in Belgium."

"When preparing the color version of the story in 1946, Tintin’s creator, Herg
é, turned the classroom scene from a lesson in geopolitics into a lesson on math."

** So instead of telling the students "Today I'm going to talk to you about your country: Belgium." he asks them "What it 2+2?" Much less political. Belgium wasn't their country.

"Two Africans spot Tintin’s ship as it approaches Africa in this scene, as originally drawn, but Herge has them speak French in a local patois similar to pidgin English."

"Later revisions of the scene changed their clothes but also made their French less degrading."

Artwork: Hergé Moulinsart

But Moulinsart didn't do enough, did he? In the classroon scene, he gives one more boy a shirt in the color version, but still there are two students in class without shirts on. Why not give all the students shirts? And still, Tintin's dog scowls at the students, complaining about their chatting. In children's stories, what dog sympathizes with the adult over the children?

The colonialist's dog.

How do we deal with colonialism in children's literature? Through these stories Africa filled the imaginations of many people. But the authors and the first readers of these stories were living in a context of colonialism that our children should no longer be living in. These books are interesting for understanding colonial attitudes about Africa, but not for teaching children about an Africa that actually exists.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alive in Joburg: District 9

I just saw this movie yesterday with my husband. I really wanted to see it mostly because it takes place in South Africa- and really, what better place to set science fiction movie that is really about human/race relations?

Above is a short film that was made a few years ago, maybe as a run up before the film. The aliens in the movie look different, but it's interesting in its own right.

The premise is that 20 years ago a spaceship stopped over Joburg and the aliens inside were taken in as refugees. Their refugee camp became known as District 9, and looks pretty much like the actual townships that surround Joburg. The aliens are treated a less-than humans. So obviously the filmakers are drawing connections with South Africa's past. I've seen other reviews that complain that the movie doesn't even mention the word Apartheid. And it's true that if the spaceship really appear 20 years before, that it would be interesting to know how the Apartheid government might have dealt with this fictional problem. (I doubt they would have put up with refugee camps for aliens at all.)

But what if this movie isn't about Apartheid at all? What if it is about the more recent issue of xenophobia in the townships, not between blacks and whites but between native South Africans and immigrants from elsewhere in Africa, especially Mozambique, Zimbabwe, the Congo. Though this short film was made three years ago and the actual film was at least alive in concept before the events of last year, certainly the violence errupted after years of tension. It's as if this film predicted what might happen.

The aliens in the film are dreadful to look at. They are dipicted as onry, with eating habits designed to make us recoil: raw meat and cat food. So, even though they are treated horribly by humans, they make us uncomfortable. It can make you agree with the humans who say they want the aliens to live far away from the city- and that is a scary way to feel when you realize the aliens are supposed to symbolize actual people. The movie could have done a much better job giving us more aliens with names and personalities, and more than just one character with any intelligence or ambition to improve his situation. From what I can tell, there are no female aliens, they are all very masculine - I felt the one alien wearing a bra was doing so ironically.

Even so, I think it was an interesting technique, to make the aliens unlikable. The point, to me, was that we don't have to
like the refugees in our care. We don't have to enjoy their company or appreciate their culture- it doesn't matter how we feel about refugees. It doesn't matter if they are grateful to us or if they hate us. What matters is how we treat them. To treat them poorly is to lose our own humanity. By the end of the film, the archetypal South Africa mercencary is just as ugly and dirty and animalistic in his efforts to kill the main character as the aliens appear in the first scenes of the film.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Massukos, Estamos e Niassa

Feliciano dos Santos, leader of Massukos and Estamos

Follow this link to watch a short PBS special on Santos and his band Massukos and his development organization Estamos. He spreads information about hygiene, HIV and other important themes through his music. On top of all that, his music is amazing. Enjoy:

PBS Mozambique: Guitar Hero

PBS Massukos Backround

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dia da Mulher Moçambicana, 7 de Abril

These are nice examples of girls wearing mussiro.

All photos courtesy of Alex Kruzel in Angoche, Mozambique.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ms. Hilton in Africa

This picture of Paris Hilton and Chantal Biya, the first lady of Cameroon, was recently taken at the African First Ladies Health Summit in Los Angeles. It's such an absurd picture it's inspiring me to post a little piece of satire I wrote a few years ago when Paris was saying she wanted to go to Rwanda when she got out of prison. She didn't say what she wanted to do there, but she let everyone know that she was going and that she was- scared. In the end, she didn't even go. Which is too bad because, while I don't think she can do much for Rwandans, I think she could actually learn a lot for herself by stepping out of her own fake world. Unless of course, her trip turned out to be as I predicted:

Ms. Hilton goes to Africa

Socialite Paris Hilton arrived at the Hôtel des Milles Collines late Tuesday night after an 18 hour flight from JFK to Kigali’s International Airport. She arrived without the speculated loads of luggage; all ten pieces had been mistakenly sent to the Seychelles. The heiress found replacement clothing in the hotel’s souvenir shop; she wore Rwandan beer Mutzig t-shirts and colorful pagnes for the remainder of her week.

Though not well known in Rwanda for whatever it is that she does, Hilton’s name caused some apprehension in the small country. Rwandans still hold France responsible for its troubles and are not fond of French expatriates. Many learned with some relief that Hilton is American, and with some surprise that she does not actually speak French.

First on her itinerary was to visit an orphanage where she and the ministers of education and health took pictures with selected orphans. She spent around 15 minutes passing out tootsie pops, Bratz® dolls and lip-gloss to eager young girls. But when the orphans began to eat the strawberry flavored lip-gloss and play football with the Bratz® heads, it was time to go. She moved on to an AIDS clinic in downtown Kigali where her experience as a medical assistant on The Simple Life came to no use. The socialite looked uncomfortable and pensive as she spoke with dying patients about how her difficult time in a California prison had inspired her to help Rwandans by having their picture taken with her.

The wives of many ministers told Hilton that she looked fat and happy. Her eyes brimmed with tears through many interviews with local journalists who also exclaimed how très grosse she was. She was overheard whispering to her entourage that Rwandans were the rudest people she had ever met.

An interpreter explained to her that fat was actually a compliment and that it was a good thing because it meant she didn’t have AIDS. The interpreter did not explain the truth, which was that many Rwandans strongly believed that she was in fact very ill both because of her thin frame and ghostly appearance. Her spray-tan had also been sent to the Seychelles.

Before leaving for Africa, Ms. Hilton was quoted as saying she would help Rwandan children by “bringing attention” with her. She would bring the attention; others would do the philanthropy. But for once the paparazzi did not want to follow her. Her own camera crew was left with very little footage of the heiress doing anything but looking pretty. In order to get the attention such a journey deserves, Hilton has bought airtime on E! to turn her “safari” into another reality show. Rwandan orphans replace simple Arkansas country folk as extras on another season of The Simple Life.

Hilton wanted to go on safari before leaving Africa but was told that most of the big game in Rwanda had been eaten during the civil war. She concluded her trip to the motherland by making a stop in South Africa to shop for diamonds and go on a wine-tasting tour. There she experienced a terrible reaction with her mefloquine and alcohol and promptly fell over and died.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Feira de Saúde para a Comunidade Brasileira em New Orleans/Kenner

Feira de Saúde Especialmente para a Comunidade Brasileira

no dia 19 de abril, 2009

de 10:30 às 15:00

Em frente ao Brazilian Market

2424 Williams Blvd.

Kenner, LA 70062

Serviços Médicos Oferecidos:

Teste de Glicose

Teste de Pressão sangüínea

Teste de HIV

Informação Médica em Português

Intérpretes Português- Inglês

Uma Demonstração de Capoeira pelo Grupo Maculelê