I'm going to start putting some posts on the side with a kind of "best of" but for now, here are a few old good posts....
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Some interesting things popping up on Idi Amin in the papers and on the web.
First, this editorial from Monitor:
And then this from Iwaya, with selective added highlighting:
there is a lot of revisionism is Amin’s rule. It is not uncommon for people to say that Amin’s regime was “better” than both Obote II and President Yoweri Museveni’s today. Granted, during Obote II Uganda was still in the throes of what, at that time, was called “Aminism” but even with its many shortcomings and failings (and even some elements of continuity like the torture houses) surely Amin’s rule cannot have been better than Museveni’s.
I can understand that some people might think Amin did this country a great favour by robbing and kicking out Asians, and to be sure Amin had a far more principled position on things like the rights of Palestine than subsequent leaders. But that should not blind us to the excesses of his regime.In this regard is the contention by some that not even 1,000 people were killed by Amin’s regime (that most of the people were killed by either Museveni or Obote’s guerrillas infiltrating from Tanzania and Kenya in order to discredit Amin).
Our governments, on the other hand, are very lousy at keeping records. In the absence of the official record of the hundreds of thousands of Ugandans killed in the last 40 years, only the record of private citizens exists. And they are not about to come out and present the list of the victims. At least not yet. In their own good time, they might.
Like every African dictator, he was confusion's masterpiece
Idi Amin, who died on Friday, was not an idiosyncratic murderous buffoon but rather a typical representative of the new African elite that came to power in the wake of decolonisation. His antics, that half appalled and half amused the world, were not by any means unique.
He carried within his breast all the confusions and complexes of humiliated colonised people who both admire and hate those who rule them, and who are suddenly translated, through no virtue of their own, to the pinnacle of power.
Amin's ambivalence towards the British was one of the keys to his character. A semi-literate of cunning but little formal education, he was always aware of the condescension of British approval of him while he was a soldier at their command in the King's African Rifles. He was a "good chap": that is to say, he was obedient, reliable, loyal, strong, unconsciously amusing, but - in the word of one of his commanding officers - a bit short on the grey matter. In summary, he fitted the colonial stereotype of Africans in general: physical giants but mental dwarves.
The natural authority of his British officers impressed him, as did their punctilio, and the spit-and-polish organisation of the army. Amin's favoured uniforms were British, and his love of fruit salad on his chest was but a form of mimicry. Mimicry become satire. His problem was that he admired what he could never be. Admiration and resentment co-existing are very dangerous, especially when you are in a position to act out your ambivalence.
Amin's ambiguous relations with Britain and with all things British (even at the height of his dispute with Britain, he was importing British consumer goods by airlift) were not unique. Mobutu of Zaire wanted the love and admiration of the Belgians, and to teach them a lesson they would never forget.
The Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic was utterly loyal to France, but provoked it frequently at the same time. A fierce nationalist like Hastings Banda of Malawi, once imprisoned by the British for his anti-colonial activities, ended up looking like a city gent of the old school.
Many of Idi Amin's antics were ascribed to his lack of education. It is certainly true that he was sensitive on this point: when he addressed the students of Makerere University and they laughed at him for the bumpkin that he was, he took a swift revenge. The university, which had until then been one of the leading universities in Africa, was comprehensively destroyed. Amin taught the students to laugh on the other side of their faces and very soon, many of them were dead.
Amin's sensitivity about his level of education was again by no means unique. Macias Nguema, the first (and democratically elected) president of Equatorial Guinea after independence from Spain in 1968, harboured deep doubts about his own educational achievements and intellectual ability.
He had everyone who wore spectacles murdered: for spectacles equalled short sight, and short sight meant intelligence and having read too much. When Samuel Doe, the semi-literate master sergeant, came to power by coup against a semi-colonial Americo-Liberian government, he lost little time in obtaining an honorary doctorate from South Korea in exchange for some timber concessions. Thereafter, he was always known as Dr Doe in the toadying press and other publications, for how could a man with a doctorate truly be illiterate?
It is not true, however, that Amin's bloodthirstiness, incompetence and idiocy were the consequence of his lack of formal education. Africa has had many educated leaders whose effects upon their countries were just as disastrous as Amin's, and who were every bit as brutal.
Amin's expulsion of the Ugandan Asians was only the putting into practice, in a rather literal-minded way, of ideas that were widely accepted by many development economists of the time. Wealth was regarded as the mirror image of poverty: in other words, the rich were rich because the poor were poor. In Uganda, as in East Africa as a whole, the Asians were rich: it followed that they had enriched themselves by exploitation of Africans, whose poverty was dialectically attributable to the Asians.
The solution to the problem of African poverty in Uganda was obvious: get rid of the "blood-sucking" Asians.
So the Asians were expelled. But Amin only did by brutality what his neighbour, the much-adulated but deeply sanctimonious Julius Nyerere, did by stealth, making it impossible for them to continue to live in Tanzania. But his and Amin's idea of the role of intermediaries in the economy was fundamentally the same: they were dishonest profiteers.
The tragedy of Idi Amin goes far deeper than is often allowed. His behaviour was not the product of tertiary syphilis as was sometimes alleged. He was sanguinary. Amin's tragedy, like that of so many Africans, was to have admired a civilisation whose external trappings he strongly desired, but of whose internal workings he had no idea, while at the same time he was partly enclosed in the mental world of a primitive tribalist.
He was a product of multiculturalism, African-style, able to use relatively advanced methods to achieve brutal, primitive ends. Like every African dictator, he was confusion's masterpiece.
Anthony Daniels is the author of Monrovia Mon Amour and has written extensively about Africa for many years
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
And can we please stop calling them homos??
Here's what Cheri had to say:
I think we should give these homos the freedom they so need.Unfortunately, like many Ugandans, she fears that all the "homos" are going to try to convert her:
They will form pressure groups and try to “convert” us the right sided fellows. They shall form umbrella organisations uniting all gay groups. They already have 1 or 2 bars so chances are that we shall see more gay bars and clubs pop out of the wood work. And then soon after that, they will take over the world and we straighties will become the persecuted one advocating for freedom to do who we want to do. Don’t u see?She (sort of) redeems herself when she says:
I think they are humans, just like u and I. They have a right to live and not to be stoned by Sempa and Buturo. They have every right to demonstrate. They have a right to life and to a particular way of life. Only if it doesn’t physically of mental harm others. And they don’t harm me in anyway, so they are not entirely a waste of human space. They just like one thng and we like the other. Like moslems don’t eat pork and Christians eat it. It’s okay. I think they should be left alone.But then the redeeming stops when she follows up this comment with:
They should also keep those masks on so we can identify them easily and run for dear life when we see them. And they should be quarantined….or taken to Kampiringisa…or somewhere far away from our children!
Obviously, I’m anti homosexuality. But I’m not anti homosexuals.
Big difference. That’s why I can be in the same room with one.
Why quarantine them if they can be in the same room as you? Homosexuality is not contagious! The number of misconceptions about homosexuality here do not fail to amaze me. I wish there could be some kind of rap session where Ugandans could be paired with gay people so they could realize they aren't all that scary. They don't eat children or cause outbreaks of marburg virus, nor will they cause the end of the human race's ability to reproduce.
Take Cheri's advice and try being in the same room with one. It's not that bad.
Chances are, in fact, you've ALREADY been in the same room with one and you just don't know.
This article from BBC is too good to be true:
Earlier this month, local MP Paul Muite urged the Kenyan Wildlife Service to help contain their aggressive behaviour.
But Mr Muite caused laughter when he told parliament that the monkeys had taken to harassing and mocking women in a village.
But this is exactly what the women in the village of Nachu, just south-west of Kikuyu, are complaining about.
They estimate there are close to 300 monkeys invading the farms at dawn. They eat the village's maize, potatoes, beans and other crops.
And because women are primarily responsible for the farms, they have borne the brunt of the problem, as they try to guard their crops.
They say the monkeys are more afraid of young men than women and children, and the bolder ones throw stones and chase the women from their farms.
Nachu's women have tried wearing their husbands' clothes in an attempt to trick the monkeys into thinking they are men - but this has failed, they say.
"When we come to chase the monkeys away, we are dressed in trousers and hats, so that we look like men," resident Lucy Njeri told the BBC News website
"But the monkeys can tell the difference and they don't run away from us and point at our breasts. They just ignore us and continue to steal the crops."
In addition to stealing their crops, the monkeys also make sexually explicit gestures at the women, they claim.
"The monkeys grab their breasts, and gesture at us while pointing at their private parts. We are afraid that they will sexually harass us," said Mrs Njeri.
Posted by Scarlett Lion at 9:52 AM
Monday, August 27, 2007
I posted Uganda Responds - and Doesn’t - To “Stop Trying To Save Africa”on Global voices a bit ago and I just wanted to highlight some insightful comments.
Nathan Flack said:
And Jared said:
There are a lot of great arguments that Uzo could have made, but I was disappointed to see that he didn’t make them. Instead he relied on these ad-hominem attacks on blond, blue-eyed US co-eds. The truth is that most aid is disastrous, and that, not too far from what Comrade 27 says, I think Uganda would do a lot better (in the long run) if all the Westerners here packed up and went home. Not that all Westerners here have a negative impact–the ones doing business, especially, I think are beneficial. Most Western aid is a palliative, though, intended to ease our discomfort at the inequality of the world. Glossy celebrity causes and overly-simplistic “save Africa!” campaigns serve this purpose, and for this reason, they offend me: they do little good (and sometimes quite a bit of harm) while fooling us into thinking we’re being good Samaritans. That’s what allows us to go to the club after school or work without being bothered by those nagging truths: wouldn’t my money be better spent on something worthwhile? And those thoughts, it must be said, are a real downer.
You can see all of the comments here.
The article, I think has been misquoted and misread in a number of whats. Consider this quote from the article which has been ignored by many readers:
“There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one’s cultural superiority.”
For the record, he does not ever say that anyone should stop caring or stop trying to improve the world. He is merely questioning HOW we should try to help. If one understands the history behind the African situation, it becomes quite clear that the West has been instrumental in destroying many aspects of African society THROUGH humanitarianism (for example religious missions that helped co-opt converted Africans).
The “nonprofit industrial complex” has truly become problematic for Africa. And anyone who does not understand it, is ignoring the linkages between so-called charities and the organizations and governments who continue to hold Africa back (through neocolonialism). The recent move by CARE to renounce US Food Aid is a case in point: they took a bold move in the right direction. But most large NGOs still continue their Food Aid distribution with considerable negative effects on local African farmers, traders and traditional communities.
Of course we should try to help anyone in the word in need. But ‘doing good’ is not an easy thing. At every step of the way, one should scrutinize and challenge how we try to do good. We should always ask: Are we addressing the symptoms or trying to get to the root cause of the issue? What kind of dependency are we creating? Are we helping give an unjust society a human face rather than seeking to change it? What are the ulterior motives behind aid? How is aid imposing values? How is aid preventing recipients from thinking for themselves? So thank you Uzo for complicating the issue.
*”If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life…for fear that I should get some of his good done to me” (Thoreau)
Friday, August 24, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Since my blog hasn't had enough controversy lately, let me speak out in defense of Katherine Roubos, whose story is all over the net, here on Forbes.com, here on the Gaurdian, here on MSNBC, and about million other places if you google it.
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) - Hundreds of people held an anti-gay protest in Uganda's capital Tuesday, denouncing what they called an ``immoral'' lifestyle and demanding the deportation of an American journalist writing about gay rights in the deeply conservative country.I wonder what will come of all this. A lot of hot air? Perhaps nothing? Perhaps serious consequences? We'll see. (I keep telling her that if she actually gets deported than she'll get a book deal out of it, easy.)
The protesters gathered at a Kampala sports ground holding banners with anti-gay messages and posters demanding the deportation of 22-year-old Katherine Roubos.
Roubos, from Minnetonka, Minn., was assigned to cover gay issues in Uganda as part of a three-month internship with the Daily Monitor newspaper, which is owned by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of 20 million Ismaili Muslims. The Ismailis are a part of the Shiite community.
But the bigger question here is whether she was catalyzing something already in the air or casing something to start that wasn't there. My guess is that she wasn't starting from nothing, so it had to be there already. LGBTI people want to talk about what they're experiencing, want to speak out, and they were just waiting for someone to speak to.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Sunday Monitor, Page 5, AND NO, I DIDN'T WRITE THAT HEADLINE (in fact, my original version was quite different)
“I CARE about Ugandan writing, and especially good Ugandan writing. I’m relentless and even ruthless when it comes to defending it, said a blogger who goes by the pen name Mr Iwaya. “I cannot stand pretenders, fakes, and postulating experts about a topic and part of life that is dear to me.”
Mr Iwaya was reacting to comments in the August 6 2007, Daily Monitor article titled Ugandan Women Writers Shine But Where Are the Men?
The article highlighted the recent accomplishments of several female authors and writers, including Ms Monica Arac de Nyeko (below), who won the Caine Prize for Literature this year.
The article quoted newspaper columnist and writer Mr Austin Ejiet saying women writers were clever when they started Femrite to articulate women’s writing and have their work published.
Mr Ejiet said the women got a lot of money and support which support has evaded men writers.
“The men are too busy running after money, politics, drinking beer in bars in the evening,” he said. However, Mr Iwaya dismesses Mr Ejiet saying many men writers are often consumed by chasing money, because they are the heads of their families.
“Uganda’s writing isn’t being dominated by any one gender. Men and women are writing together. One group [men] has a harder time getting published,” wrote Mr Ernest Bazanye, a newspaper writer. “You have more published literary work by women because the people who publish literary work publish women, not because men don’t write.”
Mr David Kilama wrote from Gulu: “Men in Uganda are serious, creative and I suggest we[ men] come out with our own group like Femrite to promote men who talented writers. We can do it much better than women.”
But Ms Hilda Twongyeirwe, the director of Femrite, said women writers formed the organisation because they were not being received as well as men writers which enabled them to shine.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
...but I'll get back into the swing of things.
I hate it when my blog becomes a forum for people to attack me. I guess you don't go into journalism to make friends, but some of the comments here were really unnecessary. Even if I made mistakes, it isn't right to call me a liar. I do take it personally, because it's my work. I'm not lying. I'm not an expert. I never claimed to be one - nor does any journalist. That's not our job.
There was a joke we heard in journalism school. It goes something like this:
I want you all to know (and this is mainly Iwaya and Baz) that there will be a follow up article in the DM this Sunday, hopefully. I'm working on it as we speak. And some of the quotes will be pulled from my blog. (I won't pull the nasty ones, nor will it be my-blog-centric.) But I am a responsible journalist, and that's why there's a follow up.
How does a journalist count?
One, two, trend!
By the way, compared to some of the crap published in the Daily Monitor, I think my work isn't too bad... I'm not tooting my own horn, but just saying, that I think that if you're holding me to these ridiculous-must-be-familiar-with-everything-that-has-ever-happened-in-Uganda standard, you should look at some of the other things being published here. The accuracy level of the media here, if put through your fine toothed comb, wouldn't stand up to much.
Anyway, enough of this! I'd like to move on...
So, some interesting things from the blogosphere today....
Gap-year 'voluntourists' told not to bother
Some 200,000 British people - of which 130,000 are school leavers - take a gap year each year, spending on average $9,500 each. Unsurprisingly, some report unrewarding placements provided by unscrupulous companies who fail to fulfil their promise of a meaningful role at the heart of a grateful community.Afrokicks
VSO UK's director, Judith Brodie, doesn't pull her punches in condemning such sharp practice. Young people who want to make a difference, she says, "would be better off travelling and experiencing different cultures, rather than wasting time on projects that have no impact and can leave a big hole in their wallet".
Shoes with African flags on them!
From Israelity, and interesting take on the Sudanese refugees in Israel.
The refugees are fleeing genocide, on the one hand, but are predominantly Moslem on the other.
That's it for today, but I'll try and post more later if I have time, now that I'm trying to get back in the swing of things after being burnt.
Posted by Scarlett Lion at 9:24 AM
Monday, August 13, 2007
Iwaya has decided to dedicate most of his free time to commenting on my blog. While I'm happy that my blog is getting the attention, I feel that the negativity is killing the lion. I mean really. Dave put up a comment in my defense and then he attacked Dave.
I could go on all day in regard to how misleading this article was. But it seems to me you have not really read it.Iwaya says. However, DAVE IS MY BOYFRIEND. OF COURSE HE READ THE ARTICLE.
I could do another post nit-picking your comments apart, but then you'd just respond again. So, the buck stops here. This is my blog. I don't want to go to moderated comments, but really, this is too much.
Iwaya, you even said:
she was flat out lyingLook, if I don't know every last piece of Ugandan literary history, I'm sorry. But I DO NOT lie. I am not flat out lying. I reported the story. I have my notes. You can see them. Everyone said absolutely everything that was in the story.
I'm sorry the story upset you. But that doesn't necessitate the kind of response that you've given. I'm ending with these brief notes about your responses:
A) it certainly won't help you get published.
B) I stand by my article
C) I thank Dave for defending it, and think it's unnecessary that you attack him as well
D) I got this email from Monica herself, who bothered finding my email address to say this:
Reply to all Forward Print Add Monica to Contacts list Delete this message Report phishing Show original Message text garbled?
|Monica Arac de Nyeko|
Good journalism with your piece today.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I think people don't like it when I turn their comments into posts, but I fear that comments get lost in the tiny itty bitty little bottom section of the post as I keep blogging, so this comment by Baz gets its own post. It's in response to my article Ugandan Women Writers Shine But Where Are the Men? Hope you don't mind Baz.
Your article started off suspicious. You said my friend Monica was “the first Ugandan to receive such prestigious international literary recognition of late”. But just a couple of years ago Doreen Baingana received a Commonwealth prize. Your article therefore started off sounding as if you either did not really know your material, or were willing to shoehorn facts into spaces they didn’t fit just so that you can make your agenda.I hold by my statement. The Caine prize is a MUCH bigger deal than the Commonwealth Prize. Also, it was some years ago that Baingana won the award, so this is factually true, in my opinion, on two accounts.
After reading the article, I am still not sure which of the two it is. Are you ignorant, or unscrupulous?I'd like to think I'm neither. And I'm sorry my article made you so angry, but is name calling really necessary?
Because you seem to be working hard to make the word “writers” exclude men.
Jackee (isn’t that how she spells her name?) speaks of Ugandan stories that need telling, and mentions Uganda’s literary voice. How do you make this sound as if this quote excludes all the guys who she used to write with here before she left Kampala?
I don’t believe that that is what she said, because she was right here with us – men and women – all writing, a voice in unison, without discrimination.
I don't make it sound as if Jackee (and yes, I did get the ee's wrong - I admit when I'm wrong) said that she's excluding men. QUOTE JACKEE: (not in the article, in my notes), "Men aren't writing."
“For once the women are at the head of the pack and the men are limping behind” is a patently ludicrous statement. It implies that for a long time all the piles of books that were written in Uganda were authored by men, and that even though women tried to break into this strict and rigid club, they were not been permitted to. Perhaps by institutionalised sexism.Okay, but the authors you counted on the one hand - which would probably be a pack in that they probably worked together and knew each other - were all men.
This is just not true. Uganda has never been a literary powerhouse, male-dominated or otherwise. And don’t cite the Okot P’Bitek days. The authors from those days can be counted off one hand. That doesn’t count as a pack.
If we have a rising number of Ugandans writing literary fiction today, it is not a renaissance. It is a beginning. This is not an old pack changing leadership. It is a new pack.Agree with you there.
And it is not even an all-female pack. Who told you that women are the only ones writing? Ejiet? Ejiet is talking through his ass. There are scores and scores of young male writers who spend whole nights at keyboards if they can, and, if they can’t, they stay awake scratching on notebooks with ballpens. These men are as sincere, keen and driven as Ms Batanda and Ms Arac De Nyeko (Not “Ms Arac” by the way) ever were. I know this because I know them.Okay, maybe they are writing, but they aren't winning prizes, they aren't getting international recognition, they aren't up there the way the women are - they aren't even getting published. (Which leads us to your next point...)
The reason you have not heard of them is probably because they have not been published by Femrite. The reason they have not been published by Femrite is they are not women.So, to be more correct, maybe I should have said, the men are writing, but they aren't getting the acclaim that women are getting because Fountain isn't publishing them and Femrite isn't pushing them. But then it would certainly have sounded like a Femrite puff piece, wouldn't have it?
But what other avenues do they have? Fountain? Fountain is a business, not a charity. It doesn’t get grants to publish books that don’t have a market. You spoke to Alex, and he told you.
You have more published literary work by women because the people who publish literary work publish women, not because men don’t write. You can draw out the logic and see: Femrite doesn’t prove your argument, it destroys it.
Femrite, bless them, are just trying to do what they think is right. It is their company and they can publish who they want. And reject whichever gender they don’t want. But for all the stuff they have published (some of it good, some of it crap) the fact remains that every Ugandan author who has achieved significant recognition over the past several years has published outside Uganda.Yes, you have Isegawa, but he doesn't even live in or venture to Uganda. And he's one Ugandan male author, and Baingana and De Nyeko are two women. So two against one. And there are other women too - Goretti is published outside Uganda, but I can't think of another man...
Baingana and Moses Isegawa are the best examples, Arac De Nyeko also illustrates this.
But even if you use international literary recognition” as the measure of whether one gender is writing or not, you still have a problem: Over the past few years we have had our Baingana and our De Nyeko. But you also have Moses Isegawa
Everyone keeps picking up on the one quote by Ejiet, but there was a whole damn article I wrote that no one seems to pay that much attention to the rest of. I'm sorry Ejiet said the thing about politics, bars, and money, and I'm even more sorry Monitor used it as a pull quote, but I wonder if there's some truth in it.
Okay, that's enough for now.
***PS: I wrote a longer version of this article which Monitor cut, but I'm submitting it to Poets and Writers Magazine in the States (so I can't post it here until I hear back from them) which does mention Isegawa.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Glamour Magazine usually covers things like how to thin your thighs and how to make your man love you more, but this article by Eve Ensler (author of the Vagina Monologues) surprised me for many reasons, and not just its placement....
So, first of all, the title. Why does it always have to be a man trying to save women??? I'm glad there's someone out there working for women, but why would a feminist like Eve Ensler phrase it this way? I'm guess this was an editorial decision.
Women left for dead—and the man who’s saving them
Here's the first paragraph of the piece. I've put the first straight-out-of-Joseph-Conrad -sentence in bold.
I have just returned from hell. I am trying for the life of me to figure out how to communicate what I have seen and heard in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. How do I convey these stories of atrocities without your shutting down, quickly turning the page or feeling too disturbed?People SHOULD be disturbed by what's happening in parts of Congo. But saying "I've just returned from Hell" is a little much - a little too much of promoting the paradigm of Africa as the Dark Continent for my taste.
The article goes on a bit, introducing the main character, a doctor who sews up rape victims, and then says:
It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo’s women is in serious jeopardy.I can't disagree, but I think her way of going into this is a little off. Stick with me, and you'll see what I mean.
But you have to go back further than 1996 to understand what is going on in the Congo today. This country has been tortured for more than 120 years, beginning with King Leopold II of Belgium, who “acquired” the Congo and, between 1885 and 1908, exterminated an estimated 10 million people, about half the population. The violent consequences of genocide and colonialism have had a profound impact on the psyche of the Congolese. Despite a 2003 peace agreement and recent elections, armed groups continue to terrorize the eastern half of the country. Overall the war has left nearly 4 million people dead—more than in any other conflict since World War II—and resulted in the rape of hundreds of thousands of women and girls.Okay, it's great to give some background, but you can't jump from Colonial times to 2003.
The next part of the story describes the hospital and the horrific things the women have undergone; I'll leave the commentary out for this section and leave you to read it.
But then, here's where my problems with the article start again:
I stay for a week at Panzi. Women line up to tell me their stories. They come into the interview numb, distant, glazed over, dead. They leave alive, grateful, empowered. I begin to understand that the deepest wound for them is the sense that they have been forgotten, that they are invisible and that their suffering has no meaning. The simple act of listening to them has enormous impact.Yes, listening in a powerful tool of healing, and I'm sure the women were glad to tell their stories and think the world would hear them. But I think it's a little much to call them "grateful" to Ensler; they're probably grateful to have their fistulas sown up and have meals to eat. They're grateful to have company as well, but this is too much of the mzungu coming in for a week to grateful responses for my taste.
And then this gets really over the top for my taste:
I sit in on a typical operation in a clean, safe, but seriously underequipped operating room (nurses use torn pieces of a green dressing gown to tie the woman’s ankles to the stirrups). I am able to see the fistula—a hole in the tissue between the woman’s vaginal wall and bladder. A hole in her body. A hole in her soul. A hole where her confidence, her esteem, her spirit, her light, her urine leak out.It's important to communicate the seriousness of fistula - but what about instead of talking about "light leaking out" discussing incontinence, or being expelled by your village for incontinence? Or any of the other physical, psychological and psycho-social side effects that go along with fistula?
This seems more important to me than something metaphorical. But then again, if you're starting off with a metaphor of coming from hell, maybe you need to stick with the metaphorical.
My article from yesterday's Daily Monitor, about a nice trend (for once!).
WHEN Ms Monica Arac de Nyeko won the Caine Prize for literature a few weeks ago, she was the first Ugandan to receive such prestigious international literary recognition of late.
Ms Hilda Twongyeirwe, the co-ordinator of the Uganda Women Writers' Association (Femrite), was happy for Ms Arac, but her happiness stopped at a certain point.
"When someone has won an award, it is an inspiration," said Ms Twongyeirwe. "It makes us say to the other writers, 'When is your piece coming out?"
Since its inception in 1996, Femrite has encouraged Ugandan women to tell their stories. "These girls who have won are working very hard," said Ms Twongyeirwe. "And there are stories in Uganda to tell."
In the past, says Ms Jackie Budesta Batanda, another recognised Ugandan writer who was short-listed for the Macmillan Award, "Uganda as a literary voice didn't have the same impact as Zimbabwe, Nigeria or South Africa."
According to Makerere literature scholar Susan Kiguli, "Before there was a sense there was good writing but not great writing. People cling onto one name - Chinua Achebe.
But we've been able to put Ugandan writing back in the limelight. We're establishing ourselves in the world as writers worth our salt."
Ms Arac is evidence of that as is Ms Batanda and a handful of other names, all worth their salt. The thing that's changed, however, is not just the recognition, but who is getting recognised. For once, the women are at the head of the pack and the men are limping behind, manuscripts in hand.
"The men are too busy running after money, politics and drinking beer in bars in the evening," said Mr Austin Ejiet, a published writer, newspaper columnist and former literature teacher at Makerere. "The ladies were clever when they started Femrite to articulate women's writing and have work published. They got a lot of money and support."
Ms Twongyeirwe, however, does not attribute it to the money and the support as much as the hard work and dedication the women of Femrite have given to their craft.
"Femrite began another phase of writing in which the women's voice came boldly on the scene," said Dr Kiguli, who is a former chairperson of Femrite. "Women were not going to be in margins."
Mr Ejiet said he knows lots of men with manuscripts sitting in their desk drawers, waiting to be published. "Men don't have the equivalent of Femrite. Even if they did, I don't think men would come every Monday [when Femrite meets]. They would rather go to a bar."
The manuscripts Mr Ejiet referred to are waiting in the offices of Mr Alex Bangirana of Fountain Publishers, located on the campus of Makerere University.
"The challenge is the market," he said. "We get manuscripts but we don't sell great quantities of those we have published. We print 2,000, sell over time, but it's not in one or two or even three months."
Mr Ejiet said Fountain rushes to do orders for the Ministry of Education and the forthcoming Commonwealth Summit before literature because they sell many more copies than literary books. Mr Bangirana confirmed this. "Do we have the money to buy the books? Money goes to school fees," he said.
However, everyone agrees that part of the problem is that schools are not using Ugandan fiction books as part of their curriculum. "Now the Ugandan education system needs to read their own," said Dr Kiguli. "Kids will be excited to know it's not only Shakespeare who has written - dead and male and white."
Ms Arac, however, disagrees that people are not reading Ugandan literature. She thinks the problem is that there isn't enough information about the books getting to the people who are hungry to read them. "It's easy to say people are not reading," she said. "But I think people are keen to see literature which reflects them.
Students are thrilled about books. 'This sounds like someone I know,' they say. People want to read good literature but also about themselves."
Ms Arac said it would be great if thousands of books got bought but added that despite all that, people are buying and reading.
Monday, August 6, 2007
Friday, August 3, 2007
That's right! New Vision actually uses the headline
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Some interesting news pulled from today's blogs and internet sources...
Reuters AlertNet: Will child soldier recruitment ever become taboo?
A year and a half ago I met a young Tamil Tiger fighter on the front line near the northeastern port of Trincomalee. He was 24 but had joined the rebels almost a decade earlier. Shocked, I asked him if he felt he had been robbed of his childhood.Daily Monitor: Kony is More Proof, Political Violence Pays in This Country
He thought for a minute before saying no. He said his only alternative had been a life in one of the fairly wretched refugee camps and that on balance he felt he had had more control over his life as a fighter.
He had obviously done pretty well. Smartly dressed in civilian clothes, he had one of the key sections of the front protecting a rebel enclave that gave the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the ability to strike at shipping leaving Trincomalee naval base.
Some eight months later, as I watched a government artillery and multi-barrel rocket fire slam into the very same area of the front line weeks before it fell, I wondered whether he still felt it was the right decision.
And yet even if Kony were to be bought with money or political posts, or even killed tomorrow, another war would ultimately break out elsewhere as long as the present political contradictions stay in place. According to the former British High Commissioner Mr Adam Wood, "There is a risk if you don't allow change. There might be change through violence. I am conscious of what lies in the past." ("British Envoy Advises Parties", New Vision, January 16, 2003).Daily Monitor: Genocide Suspects Hiding in Uganda, Says Govt
"We have a lot of genocide suspects who fled justice in Rwanda and are hiding here in Uganda. We want action to be taken on the Uganda government side to make sure these people are brought to justice," Mr Rugira told Daily Monitor on the sidelines of a one-day meeting of the Rwanda-Uganda Joint Permanent Commission in Kampala.BBC News: Uganda confirms Marburg outbreak
Two miners have been diagnosed with the fast-spreading Ebola-like haemorrhagic fever, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
One of them has died and about 40 other people working at Kitaka gold mine have been quarantined, officials say.Marburg has a high fatality rate. The last reported outbreak was in Angola in 2005 when some 300 people died.
Christian Science Monitor: 'Ladies' Detective' film brings Tinsel Town to tiny Botswana
Until Hollywood came to town, work was scarce for Botswana film producer Portia Molebedi Sorinyane. Her home country of dust and diamonds was her inspiration; but if she wanted a job, she had to cross the border into South Africa.
"There is no film industry here, so if you want to eat you need to move somewhere else," she says from behind a pair of trendy, oversized sunglasses.
But that, she hopes, is changing. This month, filming started on the first international movie ever to be shot in Botswana – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, a movie based on Alexander McCall Smith's hit book series of the same name.
This means that Ms. Sorinyane has a gig as an assistant producer. It also means that her country of 1.7 million, whose economy is almost entirely dependent on diamond mining, may be the latest nation to cash in on Tinseltown's Africa fad and launch a lucrative new industry.
In many ways, it is fitting that the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency should be the launch of a film industry here. Mr. McCall Smith's series is set in Botswana, and focuses on the character Precious Ramotswe, a plucky, "traditionally-built" detective who solves fraud and misdeeds in Gabarone, the capital city.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
See the full thing on the Global Voices webpage here, but here's a little little bit...
“Maybe I just go where the weather is better,” says Josh of In an African Minute.
He’s referring to why he chooses to work in Africa rather than where his family is from in Eastern Europe, but also to the current ruckus that’s been unleashed by the essay “Stop Trying to Save Africa,” in the Washington Post by Uzodinma Iweala. The American raised and Harvard educated Nigerian novelist wrote a compelling essay, one which the Expats in the Ugandan blogosphere have almost all felt necessary to formulate a response to. The Ugandans, however, have linked to the essay, and even commented on Expat blogs, but remained quiet on their own pages.
Adichie won the Orange Prize some months ago for her book "Half a Yellow Sun," and here she speaks to the Guardian for her first major interview since winning the prize.
I think people are starting to do so in a more realistic way with the popularization of fiction like Adichie's, that shows a different view of Africa. Just the fact that people are reading novels written by Africans is a huge leap - not white people coming to Africa writing novels about their time but Africans as they experience Africa. And Africans are getting recognition for it too. Not just in prizes, but in book sales as well.
Adichie resists stereotypical views of Africa. "We have a long history of Africa being seen in ways that are not very complimentary, and in America [where she has been studying for the past 10 years] being seen as an African writer comes with baggage that we don't necessarily care for. Americans think African writers will write about the exotic, about wildlife, poverty, maybe Aids. They come to Africa and African books with certain expectations. I was told by a professor at Johns Hopkins University that he didn't believe my first book [Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003] because it was too familiar to him. In other words, I was writing about middle-class Africans who had cars and who weren't starving to death, and therefore to him it wasn't authentically African."
She is determined to show an Africa that isn't one huge refugee camp - a continent with many diverse stories, not a single story of suffering and dependency. "People forget that Africa is a place in which class exists," she says. "It's as if Africans are not allowed to have class, that somehow authenticity is synonymous with poverty and demands your pity and your sympathy. Africa is seen as the place where the westerner goes to sort out his morality issues. We see it in films and in lots of books about Africa, and it's very troubling to me."
She is sceptical about the impact of western celebrities who embrace Africa. "What I find problematic is the suggestion that when, say, Madonna adopts an African child, she is saving Africa. It's not that simple. You have to do more than go there and adopt a child or show us pictures of children with flies in their eyes. That simplifies Africa. If you followed the media you'd think that everybody in Africa was starving to death, and that's not the case; so it's important to engage with the other Africa."
And the part I like, personally, is that the women are leading the pack with the men lagging behind. It's not that I think men aren't writing the books, but it's nice for ONCE to see women advancing when there's been so many fields in which they can't advance.