I did some photos for One Mango Tree, a group that empowers women in Gulu, northern Uganda, by providing them with a market for their products in the USA. Check them out!
(Remember the Happy Lady in Gulu? She's an OMT tailor.)
Halle Butvin and One Mango Tree: Marie Claire, Czech Edition
(Here's the text in English)
And check out the One Mango Tree website.
And the One Mango Tree blog...
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I did some photos for One Mango Tree, a group that empowers women in Gulu, northern Uganda, by providing them with a market for their products in the USA. Check them out!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
From the file of strange things printed in local newspapers that may or may not be true.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Andrew Mwenda, journalist and activist, has started a blog - mainly a collection of things written about him at this point, but a space to watch.
Saudi Arabia's first girl rock band. Great story - wish there were a photo....
A story on BBC questioning pitfalls of aid. It's stirring up quite a bit of badly needed discussion.
An article on mobile phones and poverty in Tanzania, in Guardian UK.
Great compilation of (sometimes contradictory) advice to young photographers on the Magnum blog: wear good shoes.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
These are most of the notebooks I've used while I've lived in Uganda. There are a few missing. I left one behind at the Nsyambya Youth Center when the power went out in the early evening and I didn't see it on the dark table when I left. I dropped one in a puddle when I was reporting on floods in eastern Uganda, fall 2007. Another notebook was left behind on a matatu.
I finally put up a website on www.glennagordon.com, with several dozen photos. As I snap images, my camera keeps track of them by number, counting as I click. It starts at zero and goes until 10,000 and then back to zero.
In the past year alone, I've gone from zero to 10,000 several times.
I will soon be leaving Uganda. In about two weeks, I'm off to the USA for a month and then I'll pop up in West Africa in January. I'll keep blogging here for a bit, and then next year maybe at a new url, but the lion will come with me.
Some people don't get the lion. When Tumwi saw the lion in person last week, she was surprised. He's kinda ugly. And scrawny. And hollow. And the paint's chipping off him.
But I found the discarded toy on a day I was looking for something about two years ago. I didn't know much about lions or about Uganda, but I knew I liked this guy, and I had a feeling things would work out.
So I went with it. And I documented it on this website. Here, you'll find where I've gone, what I've read, what I've done, and what I've thought. Creating this kind of content has helped me process and understand these things in a way that recording always does.
Creating records is not something I just want to do. There's a level of compulsion, a level of expression, and a little something, well, feline.
So, thanks for reading here what started as several dozen notebooks, tens of thousands of photos, two websites, and a scarlett lion.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Congo, Obama, Pirates, and the Internet: a collection of links of no immediate relation to each other
This is Africa’s resource curse: The wealth is unearthed by the poor, controlled by the strong, then sold to a world largely oblivious of its origins.
And if Obama were an African and an candidate for the presidency of an African country? His opponent (any of Africa's George Bushes) would find a way to change the constitution to prolong his mandate beyond the expected term... being a candidate of the opposition party, he would have the opportunity to campaign. They would threat him, for example, as in Zimbabwe or in Cameroon: he would be physically attacked, arrested again and again, have his passport withdrawn. The Bushs of Africa do not tolerate opponents, do not tolerate democracy.According to the WSJ, we just need better (American) policy to stop pirates in Somalia:
As Somalia falls apart and the pirates proliferate, it's been left to the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world to police them... Though relatively small, the pirates are a challenge to established authority in a way understandable to all. If the high seas are allowed to degrade into a no-man's land, the world's thugs will notice and press forward elsewhere. It's going to require an exercise of U.S. power to push back, or allow global piracy to flourish.
Need internet where there is none? Get one of these nifty guys:
This device, called a Network Relief Kit, weighs less than four pounds and “is a grand slam invention,” Mr. Lopes said. “It’s portable, light and brings the outside world to the most remote, disconnected places."(As a side note, I've used a similar device called a BGan when filing photos and text from remote areas to editors in Nairobi. It's an amazing device, but quirky. It has to be pointed east or west, not north or south, have a direct and uninterrupted line to the sky to pick up satellite signals, and disconnects if someone walks in front of it and interrupts the line to the sky. It also gives said interrupt-er a low dose of radiation. Regardless of these quirks, it was pretty awesome to update my Facebook status from the bush on the Sudan-Congo border.)
It was created by NetHope, a collaboration of nonprofit organizations and technology companies working to improve humanitarian aid around the world. Founded in 2001, NetHope, which is based near Washington, has engaged in relief efforts after natural disasters like storms and earthquakes, as well as armed conflict.
And from xkcd:
Monday, November 17, 2008
When Annette Onsha, 25, saw the five-year-old daughter of her neighbor being raped by rebel soldiers in their shared garden on the outskirts of her village in eastern Congo, she decided to leave Congo. Forever.I have to ask more than a dozen questions:
- What's your name?
- How old are you?
- Where in Congo did you live?
- When did you leave?
- Why did you leave?
- You saw your neighbor's daughter being hurt?
- What were people doing to her?
- Who were those people?
- Why were they doing that?
- Where was she at the time?
- Where were you at the time?
- When did you come here?
- Why did you come here?
- How long will you stay here?
- Are you sure?
- Could you ever see yourself going back to Congo?
Last week, I went to a town on the Uganda-Congo border called Ishasha. There were about 5,000 Congolese refugees there, give or take 1,000. That's nothing compared to the 250,000 who are displaced internally in DRC, but it's a lot of people for one small transit camp without any sanitation facilities, food, or other resources.
I'm pretty accustomed to arriving in a situation, taking half a second to look around, and then asking questions and taking photos in a whirl-wind of activity that results in published material just a few hours later.
But it's hard to ask questions about five-year-old girls being raped. It's hard to intrude into someone's life, into someone's story, and demand information that even when shared, doesn't directly or immediately help the person sharing it. It can re-traumatize them, it can embarrass them to say these words in front of their friends and relatives, it can make them another name in another wire story, forgotten before it has even been published.
I talked to about ten people at the border, and not one woman told me that she had been sexually assaulted, but every woman and every man told me that they had seen someone else being sexually assaulted.
You can do the math - some of them were probably assaulted too.
But I thought I had asked enough questions.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I'm off to the Uganda-Congo border for good times with some refugees but will be back blogging next week.
While I'm gone, check out...
- Wronging Rights because they're pretty and funny (okay, I've never met them so I don't know if they're pretty or not)
- Blood and Milk because development doesn't always work, but it could work more effectively than it does now
- An article called Reading the Wounds about how doctors who treat torture victims seeking asylum are redefining how we think about torture by Jina Moore
- Another Great Map of Africa
- When Only the Child Soldier Matters
- Lunch at Luzira Prison
- Ugandans spend $18 million per annum on internet
- Or, read my Walrus blog
From the Walrus, This is Not a Safari
Most textiles and clothes are made in Asia, sold to the West, discarded in the West, and donated to charities who have too many dresses to know what to do with them. Then the charities send them to Africa. For example:
Fictitious Original Owner: Cindy Showalker’s 8th birthday party in Miami, 1993. Cindy and her mom went shopping at the local strip mall and found this doozy on sale. Cindy really loves the color pink, especially when there’s an iridescent sheen involved. Mrs. Showalker thought it was expensive, even on sale, but she swiped the plastic anyway since Cindy only turns eight once. Cindy only wore the dress once, and then Mrs. Showkalker gave it to their Hispanic maid, who already had so many party dresses that she passed it on to Goodwill.
Actual Current Owner: Lucy Mugisha, Gayaza District, one hour east of Kampala, Uganda, 2008. Lucy loves this dress when she rides bicycles with her friends. She wears it everyday since it’s her only dress besides her school uniform. Lucy just turned seven, and was getting a bit old to be running around the village without any pants on. Her tata (dad) bought it at a used clothing market in Kampala when he went to find the family a new frying pan. Incidentally, he is color blind.
Fictitious Original Owner: Marsha Osmond wore this lovely get-up to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. She loves figure skating and even has her own pair of skates! She was so happy when Sara Hughes won the Gold Medal that she spilled her orange soda all over her dress. After some scrubbing, her mom still couldn’t get the remnants of the stain out so she passed it on to Salvation Army.
Actual Current Owner: Michelle Odihambo, refugee camp in Busia, on the Kenya-Uganda border, January 2008. Michelle loves the silver trim and delicate faux-pearls on this party dress. She hardly noticed the soda stain while she was playing in the mud near her village in Kenya. When fighting over the contested 2007 Kenyan elections erupted, she and her family crossed the border quickly, Michelle of course wearing her favorite dress!
Fictitious Original Owner(s): N/A. An NGO that tries to reach lost Jewish communities worldwide was so happy to find some Jews in Uganda, that they bought them some brand new clothes.
Actual Current Owner(s): Babwire and Nakato Asiimwe are twins. Babwire means “came first.” Nakato meaning “came second.” They wore these dresses on Rosh Hashanah in Fall 2007, during which they greeted everyone in their lovely new dresses and a resilient “Shabbat Shalom.” It should be noted that Rosh Hashanah fell on a weekday in 2007. Mazel Tov, girls!
Fictitious Original Owner: Kristen Knudson wore this dress for her Christmas dinner in 2006 in Olso, Norway. She enjoyed singing with her family and twirled in circles to show off her dress to her old brother Oyvind. Her favorite part of the dress was the fabric rose. She wanted to cut it off and use it as a hair ribbon when she outgrew the dress, but her mother convinced her that another little girl would enjoy the dress intact.
Actual Current Owner: The dress ended up with Farida Ramathan, who lives in a Kampala slum called Naguru and wore the dress on a recent Saturday to prayers at her local Mosque. Farida’s favorite food is chicken and her father is a famous, amateur blind boxer . She likes the dress because her favorite color is blue. Her mother purchased a dress too big for Farida in hopes that she could wear it for several years before passing it on to her younger sister.
Fictitious Original Owner: Sarah Beth Stetson wore this dress to her first Communion in Des Moines, Idaho, in the spring of 1997. She looked so lovely, but almost tripped on the bow at one point, and almost choked on the Communion wafer. The chocking is of no relation to the qualities of the dress, which was, truth be told, stunning.
Actual Current Owner: Winnie Aol changed into this no-longer-exactly white dress after she finished school in Gulu, Northern Uganda, on a warm day in May of this year. The sleeve is torn and the netting not quite what it once was, but that’s what happens when you wear a Communion Dress every single day for months on end, wash it by hand, and wring it out, and leave it to dry in the dusty Northern Uganda air. She’s still thinks the dress is pretty!
Fictitious Original Owner: Tea Party 2003!!! When Sasha Mason went to her very first formal tea at the mansion down the street in Dallas, she felt as light as a spring flower and as yellow as the sun. She ate sandwiches with cucumbers and no crusts, and drank tea with lots of milk and sugar. She soon thereafter hit puberty and found the crisp taffeta unaccommodating to her burgeoning womanly parts.
Actual Current Owner: Agnes Okello wore this dress in Kampala, since coming to Kampala is a special occasion when you come from the rural northern parts of Uganda. Her flip-flops (called “slippers” in local parlance) broke, but a piece of string and a stapler and some ingenuity helped fix the broken strap, and Agnes enjoyed her trip to a suburb of the bustling capital very much.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Matthew Green for Financial Times writes about the rebel's systematic attempts to chip away at Monuc forces.
Michela Wrong writes for the Guardian about Congo in comparison to other conflicts in Africa, and Congo's own history.
Aid workers for IRC tell a chilling story of their encounters with rebels in Rutshuru.
Fred at Frontline writes a few months ago about Congolese Cliches that seem all to pertinent today. (Hat tip: Maneno on Twitter).
And perhaps most importantly, Ushahidi has launched a DRC interface to track and map incidences of violence, diseases, riots, and other such happenings.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Monika Schnarre, who considers herself a supermodel/actor/journalist, is about to visit Rwanda. And she'll blog about it. She's so edgy. Watch out gorillas!
From Canada's National Post
Most people try to lose weight before a big trip; I decided to take the opposite approach.
I have gained five pounds as a ‘‘cushion,’’ in case I get malaria, yellow fever, or tuberculosis (although people who know me might blame one too many summer BBQs and Mojitos for the extra weight).
Anyway, I feel the less attractive I am the better. God forbid a silverback takes a liking to me, as did that emu in Australia who chased me around a wildlife sanctuary after deciding he wanted to mate with me.
Tomorrow I embark on my journey to Rwanda. I’ve resisted telling many people because their reaction usually ranges from perplexed to aghast. Some 14 years after the genocide of a million Tutsis and the widely publicized poaching of the silverbacks, they may have some cause for concern.
But I’ve been fascinated with primates since I was a kid, and I still have the book that I used to tote around as a child, The Love of Monkeys and Apes by Dan Freeman (1977). With the numbers of gorillas in the wild dwindling (there are only an estimated 700 left) I figured it was time to go before I would lose the chance.
My friend Michael Bancroft will be joining me from Brisbane. Michael’s been teaching about seven spin classes a day to pay for the trip —and, he says, to protect me from any hungry lions. Or maybe an amorous gorilla.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Shashank writes on Somewhere in Africa,
This morning as I left Congo and entered Rwanda, the immigration officer said to me and my American friend: So you'll be voting in Rwanda?
We explained that both of us had already voted in the U.S. election, by mail. But the concept of absentee voting is difficult to grasp in most of Africa, where you have to vote in person and elections are often all-day affairs...
You don't need to be a Kenyan to know that it hasn't been a banner year for democracy in Africa. But people's faith in the power of the ballot remains incredibly strong. Everyone who asks if I'm voting beams with pleasure when I explain how our system lets citizens thousands of miles away participate in the process. It's a reminder of the privilege of casting a ballot -- and that the world is looking to the United States today with even more wonder than usual.
Joe in Uganda is unsure just how far this Obamamania can be stretched:
Although I'm sure security in the Great Lakes region has crossed Barack Obama's mind, I think it is just possible that in light of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, American troops engaged in two intractable wars, a huge energy deficit and a healthcare system which leaves millions out, the New Vision might have got slightly carried away yesterday.
Tristan in Sierra Leone thinks US Embassies abroad need to get their act together and make absentee voting a different kind of experience:
Why don't American embassies have early polling abroad for U.S. Citizens? What better way to gain support for democracy abroad by having a day for citizens to come place their votes, letting the entire world see our democracy in its full glory. There could be hot dogs, lemonade and "I voted" stickers, all at probably quite minimal cost. If they're going to spend millions importing American-made office supplies that they could easily procure abroad, our embassies could at least spend a little money protecting Americans' right to democracy.(As a side note, a friend of mine said a few weeks ago, "Either this absentee ballot is too complicated or I'm too stupid to vote.")
Nairobi Notes is waiting for the musical:
And Rob Crilly found the only McCain supporter in Africa,
A soldier of the Congolese army stands inside a tent riddled with bullet holes after an intense battle at Rumangabo base, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma, DR Congo on October 11, 2008. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)
Via the Big Picture
This photo is haunting. I saw it yesterday in the afternoon, and then thought about it several times after, and several times this morning. The soldier's expression is troubled, the time of day is disorienting, the conflict unknown yet clearly implied. The different elements of the image come together to tell a quiet story of one man in a battlefield.
Walter is an amazing photographer based in Kampala. He won the British Journal of Photography Award recently and earlier this year, the World Press Photo Award. And when he's too busy, he sometimes passes on assignments to me. I'm always happy to be second choice to him.