Archive for September, 2007

It is seems appropriate that the New York Times Book Review asked Joseph Stiglitz to review Naomi Klein’s new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Stiglitz was once a World Bank golden boy and was as much responsible for the ‘Washington Consensus’ that has ruled macro-economic policy since the end of the Cold War. Stiglitz has now reinvented himself as an ivy league leftie.

The Shock Doctrine has taken the mainstream media by storm. The pundit class, has mostly condemned Klein. But Stiglitz’s review has been an exception. (Klein, by the way, knows the noise machine and it is almost as if she anticipated the back-draft: Parts of the book has been serialized in Britain’s Guardian newspaper while the book’s thesis is summarized on YouTube.)

As Stiglitz writes, South Africa features prominently in the narrative:



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These two images are from the New York City Barcelona-based photographer Adriana Lopez Sanfeliu‘s photo series “Life on the Block.” This series is currently part of an exhibit Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art at the Brooklyn Museum in Park Slope.

The subjects of the photo series are a group of Puerto Rican women and their families living in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan.

[You can see the detail in the photographs above, taken off Lopez Sanfeliu site, if you click on the images. The full series — 34 images — can be viewed at Lopez Sanfeliu’s home page (see the link above)].

I like the series for reminding me so much (of the memories) of my own childhood in 1970s Cape Town.

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Paris Hilton will travel to Rwanda (apparently ‘a troublespot of notorious proportions,’ according to one celebrity magazine) in November this year. When asked why she’s going, Ms Hilton responded:

There’s so much need in that area, and I feel like if I go, it will bring more attention to what people can do to help … I want to visit more countries where poverty and children’s issues are a big concern …

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Mia – Jimmy (full length video)“, posted with vodpod

M.I.A., the postmodern Guerrilla Goddess, queen of pastiche, based her single ‘Jimmy’ from her second, and latest, album “Kala” on her briefly falling for an aid worker in Liberia (as she told Spin magazine earlier this year).

In the video the songs origins are overshadowed by the striking images of the video, as M.I.A. channels the Indian pop of Pharvati Khan. But the first verse recalls its (rather odd) inspiration:

“When you go Rwanda Congo
Take me on a genocide tour
Take me on a truck to Darfur
Take me where you would go
Got static on ya satellite phone
Gotta get you safe at home
Gotta get you somewhere warm
So you get me all alone.”

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The American-born photographer Fazal Sheikh is exhibiting his ‘… two most recent Indian projects. LADLI (“Beloved Daughter”) explores the lives of girls and women facing perils that include infanticide, bride sale, prostitution, and “dowry death.” MOKSHA (“Heaven”) focuses on the city of Vrindavan, home to a community of outcast widows’ from throughout the India‘ at the Princeton University Art Museum.

The exhibit is set to open next week (October 2) and a panel, including the historian Gyan Pakrash, will discuss the work. According to the Museum publicity, Sheik’s work centers on ‘… the experiences of displaced and imperiled people in Kenya, Somalia, Pakistan, and India, supersede political abstractions and remind us of the central importance of human rights in a volatile and changing world.’ If you are in the greater New York City area it may be worth the one hour train ride from the city.

So my main reason for posting though is also to point Africa-watchers to that earlier work photographing Somali refugees, mainly women, over a decade in refugee camps in Kenya’s northeast. You can view A Camel for the Sun (the product of that work) in its entirety either online or downloading it as a ZIP file, at Sheik’s website.

* The image above, from A Camel for the Sun, is taken from his website.

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Britain’s Channel More 4 (a part of Channel 4) this week broadcast a documentary by South African-born actor Anthony Sher. The film, ‘South Africa: Murder Most Foul‘ was billed apocalyptically as Sher visiting South Africa to:

“… investigate why post-apartheid South Africa is tearing itself apart in an orgy of violent crime. Has the dream of the rainbow nation inspired by Nelson Mandela just 13 years ago disintegrated?”

I don’t live in Britain and Channel 4 has not discovered the joys and benefits of streaming its content online, so I had to ask a friend, media academic Herman Wasserman (he’s at the University of Newcastle) what he thought about it. Herman usually has some sensible things to say on politics and media culture.

So below follow Herman’s thoughts:

We have to understand the other to understand this country, the acclaimed journalist Pearlie Joubert says slowly and almost painfully, because we have all rubbed off onto each other. She is explaining to Anthony Sher, the acclaimed British (South African-born) actor, why it is important that he speak to the leader of the Americans gang, to gain a larger context for the documentary on crime in South Africa he is making.

Joubert’s lines are the most insightful and poignant ones in the whole of Sher’s documentary. The film focuses on the tragic double murder of two young middle class white men, Brett Goldin and Richard Bloom in Cape Town in 2006. Goldin was to play alongside Sher in a production of Hamlet in the UK, and Sher saw in Goldin’s tragic life a parrallel to his own.

Joubert’s words are lost on Sher, who exclaims that his disgust at the murder of the two young men at the centre of his documentary makes him want to say ‘fuck the other side of the story’.

Sher breaks down in tears, as he does on several occasions in the documentary, and it is left to Joubert to console him. The camera dwells on her hand patting his back, as Sher soaks up the attention and sympathy.

This short scene is representative of what this documentary is really about – Sher’s own feelings of shock, horror and outrage at crime in South Africa rather than a contextualised, indepth investigation into the possible causes, circumstances and social realities underlying social pathologies.

I am sure it was well-intentioned, but for all the crying, it was almost as if there was a curious lack of empathy. Sher’s narcissistic approach prevents him not only from really listening to those on the other side — the tik or crystal meths addicts on the Cape Flats with whom he has a wide-eyed interview are merely ‘crazy’ and belong to a ‘different planet’ — but also from turning his justifiable outrage at the devastation of crime into an informative and enlightening documentary.

Yes, there is the superficial attempt to speak to black victims of crime as well, and some luminary talking heads are trotted out (Andre Brink, John Kani, Albie Sachs, among others).

But despite all the horror and pain of the subject material, the film failed to touch me. Perhaps I’m blasé. But perhaps it’s just because I couldn’t see my country properly from where it was hidden behind Sher’s imposing self. Sher’s quote used in the marketing material for the documentary says it all: “What if the same thing had happened to me before I could realise my ambition?”

Yes Anthony. It’s all about you.

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My best achievement in competitive rugby was the semi-final of a regional high school tournament in the now disbanded, but necessary at the time, South African Council on Sports in 1987 (we lost to a more powerful team from Mitchell’s Plain, but the selfish tactics of our flyhalf also had much to do with it).

Sportswise 1987 is a more significant landmark however as it is the year the inaugural Rugby World Cup was played (New Zealand beat France. South Africa, ruled by a racial dictatorship at the time, was rightly banned from the tournament).

Since mid-September the latest edition of the Rugby World Cup is taking place in France (the final is on October 4 in Paris) and although I care less about rugby but am willing South Africa to victory (now football — and mostly the English and Spanish leagues — take priority of my ever shrinking sports obsessions), the tournament is a good time to measure change in that sport inside South Africa.

To that effect, the American news magazine Time just published a feature piece on South African rugby. Titled ‘South African Rugby: No Rainbow.’ The article pulls no punches on the lack of change in the sport.

Some highlights from the Time piece:

‘… [D]espite a 12-year hiatus since its last victory, the team does not look very different today than it did right after apartheid’s collapse. In a country where black people make up 80% of the population, the 30-man rugby squad includes only six players of color — only one more than it had fielded in the 2003 World Cup in Australia, where a white Springbok player notoriously refused to room with a black teammate. Zola Yeye, who last year became the first black team manager in the Springboks’ 101-year history, says the team’s racial makeup is an “indictment” of South African rugby, and a product of “a lot of resistance” to integration.

“Rugby was always seen as apartheid at play,” said Andy Colquhoun, a leading South African rugby commentator, in Paris this week. Even now, he adds, “it is a crucial part of the white psyche. It is South Africa.” Or, at least, white South Africa.

… Springbok manager Yeye faults the white-dominated club and provincial level rugby system for failing to recruit and groom black players. “We’ve got 40 million blacks at home and I’ve got only six of them in the squad,” he says. “I mean, Africans have played rugby in South Africa since the 1800s”…’

* The picture, above, of the South African rugby team, before their departure for France, accompanied the piece.

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