Archive for August, 2008

No irony here. I just like this PBS Frontline The World episode and the story’s protagonist. It was aired for the first time a while ago–actually in October 2005–but which I only got to see last week via Miro, the free open source Internet TV. No snarky comments from me this time. I know. I must be getting soft.

“… Trevor Field, a retired advertising executive, had done well in life and wanted to give back to his community. He noticed that in many rural villages around the eastern Cape, the burden of collecting water fell mainly to the women and girls of the household. Each morning, he’d see them set off to the nearest borehole to collect water. They used leaky and often contaminated hand-pumps to collect the water, then they carried it back through the bush in buckets weighing 40 pounds. It was exhausting and time-consuming work. “The amount of time these women are burning up collecting water, they could be at home looking after their kids, teaching their kids, being loving mothers,” Field tells Costello. He knew there had to be a better solution. Field then teamed up with an inventor and came up with the “play pump” — a children’s merry-go-round that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time the children start to spin. Soup to nuts, the whole operation takes a few hours to install and costs around $7,000. Field’s idea proved so inventive, so cost-efficient and so much fun for the kids that World Bank recognized it as one of the best new grassroots ideas.”

Watch here.


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Been checking out these the work of this NGO for a while. Love their work. Basically a global network of architects working with poor communities around the world. And I mean working with, not for, communities. The above is their slogan.

Here‘s a PBS documentary on their work in India (I just saw this). Separately the work of architects affiliated with the group in Kenya was profiled on CNN.

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The New York Times ran one of those boring, aimless pieces about “Who is Barack Obama?” again in today’s paper. I could not figure out what the point was. I know what it was really about: Obama is black.  Just as bad was te caption on one of the pictures used to illustrate the story.  This is the picture:

And this is the caption:

“Mr. Obama’s Senate office has a tiger-beating stick from his grandmother’s village in Kenya and a guitar he received as a Rock the Vote honoree.”

There’s one big problem with the caption: There are no tigers in Africa. Unless they’ve been imported by a zoo. In fact, tigers are native to Asia (mainly China and India) and Russia.  How many editors at The Times missed this one?

BTW, where I’m from it’s called a knopkierie.


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I am on vacation until the Kenyan-American’s Denver coronation is over.

The soundtrack till then:

Billy Paul, “Am I black enough for you

Nas, “Black President

Nina Simone, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Black Uhuru, “The World is Africa

Oh. and Extra Golden’s “Obama

Till then I will be counting my houses.

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“My Super Sweet 16,” was an annoying MTV series that “revels in the excess of coming-of-age birthday parties for the rich crowd.” Now MTV have come up with an even better idea. Some of the kids have not grown up or are worse than annoying now. To teach these kids life lessons, what do you do?: Get their parents to agree to send them for “a week of re-education at the hands of the Masai in Kenya, a Thai family living off elephant tourism money, and Andean llama herders.” And film it. And of course the producers have lofty ideals. Something about helping Africans. I know.

The New York Times take here.

And if you can still stomach it, the trailer and the series webpage

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A quite lengthy book review I did on Heidi Holland’s “psycho-biography” of Zimbabwean “President” Robert Mugabe, Dinner with Mugabe, was just published in the newly established Abu Dhabi-based, English language newspaper, The National (kind of an Al Jazeera English of print in the Middle East).

The title of the book, refers to Holland’s first fateful meeting with Mugabe in 1975 in Salisbury, where she worked as magazine editor. She arranged for a lawyer friend to meet Mugabe secretly at her suburban home. Over dinner Mugabe said little, but impressed Holland nonetheless: driving Mugabe to the train station after the meeting (his ride had failed to materialize), Holland left her small son asleep alone in the house. The next day, Mugabe called to check that the child was OK.

Since then, Holland (who had moved to South Africa) watched as Mugabe went from liberation hero to tyrant. The book ends with Holland interviewing Mugabe again at his presidential office in 2007. Quite a coup given that Mugabe rarely grants interviews to foreign (especially white) journalists.  Holland’s interview, despite the hype, however, does not offer us much new information or analysis.

Nevertheless, Holland covers a lot of ground in the book. Mugabe’s roots, his rise to power, violence as political culture in Zimbabwe and, crucially, why so few in the West said or did anything when Zimbabwean government forces murdered 20,000 Ndebeles in what amounted to an ethnic purge between 1982 and 1987.

Here’s an excerpt from my review of Holland’s book:


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With the Beijing Olympics now over one thing that stood out for me, is that South Africa (stuff to do with that country, if you don’t get it by now, is a major feature of this blog) hardly featured in Western reporting from and about the Beijing Games. Other African countries and athletes, fared marginally better in the coverage stakes).

As for South Africa, the exceptions were: the pre-Games tug-of-war as to whether Oscar Pistorius should be allowed to compete and the salute to swimmer Natalie du Toit‘s tenacity.  The real reason may be the fact that in the final medal count, only one South African athlete, Khotso Mokoena, had won a medal: a silver in the men’s long jump.

That put South Africa 76th overall in the final medal table, behind a number of African countries, including suprisingly Zimbabwe (!). Finishing above South Africa in the medal table, were Kenya (15th), Ethiopia (18), Zimbabwe (38; all the work of one athlete), Cameroon (53rd), Tunisia (51), Nigeria (55), Algeria (65) and Morocco (69).

But back to when South Africa was the Olympics story.


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