Cultural Voice eZine

Friday, 29 June 2012

Speaking Beyond Stereotypes!

Derefe Chevannes

How many times you heard folks referring to Africa, not as a continent but a country? It’s, “are you African?” rather than “are you from Kenya? Or, Uganda? Or, the Congo, even?”     

Or, how many images do we see daily with starving kids with big bellies lying in the dirt waiting to die? Or, how many times do we see lions, giraffes or hippos being the image of the African animal? Also, let’s talk honestly about images of corrupt politicians and bankrupted, poor nations that seem to represent all countries on the continent. How many times have we heard those narratives? And, it’s not that they are untrue, but that they are NOT representative of Africa’s vast diversity.

This is the problem winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Binyavanga Wainaina is having.The 41 year old Kenyan journalist and author has been in the news of late, with his published piece entitled, How to Write About Africa. Wainaina speaks to this issue when he says, “In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or, it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.”
Wainaine expatiates about the ignorance and God-complex that often embody the Western writer who believes his particular account of the African ‘dilemma’ is not only accurate but also vital to the development of the continent.
Wainaina is asking us to use other colours to paint Africa, because things are just not black and white. And, I think that’s fair. He laments the prolific display of negative images about Africa and its people as helpless victims who are to be pitied and are emasculated of any sense of self-determination.
So, the next time, when you discuss Africa, for heaven’s name, be specific. And, when you talk about Africa, try to mention things other than “starving Children [with] flies on their eyelids and pot bellies.” Now tell me, what else can you say about the continent of Africa that most people don’t know? What, dare I ask, are some of its redeeming qualities?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Anush Hayrapetyan, Embracing History to Create Cultural Harmony...A hero for youth around the world!

Here are a few things you may not have known about Anush Hayrapetan, Manager of a project of youth action for change promoting intercultural dialogue and one of Cultural Voice's partners.
Anush Hayrapetan: Founder, Forgotten Diaries

Nationality: Armenian

Anush has won the following awards:
  • Hero of Millennium 2011, 2nd World Summit for Youth Volunteering
  • EUNIC 2010 European youth competition winner,category “Democracy and Politeia”
  • World Youth Summit Award 2010, category “Pursue truth” (Forgotten Diaries project related)
  • Intercultural Innovation award 2010, Marketplace of Ideas of the UNAOC 3rd forum, (Forgotten Diaries project related)
  • World Aware Education Award 2009, North-South Centre of Council of Europe (Forgotten Diaries project related)

Favourite City: "My favorite city is Riga, the capital of Latvia. I lived there for almost a year and love it for its unusual charm, warm people and relaxing atmosphere."

 If Anush could choose to be any other nationality she would be: "I am proud to be of Armenian nationality and if there would be a passport definition of global national/citizen, i'd definitely like to attain it."

Views on World Peace: "World peace is attainable if each of us, the world's inhabitants, thinks globally while acting locally."

Cultural Icon:" Charles Aznavour, a French Armenian singer"

On Overcoming History: "History cannot be ignored. It's always existing and reminding. Meanwhile, life continues and progress shouldn't be compromised with history."

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Should Kurdish be an elective course in Turkey?

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan announced Kurdish indeed will be taught as an elective course, putting an end to all the rumors about the issue 2 days ago in his party’s group assembly in the Parliament.

Kurdish had been taught in universities since 2009, however with this step there is a chance to learn it at a younger age in school. In the assembly, RTE said “For decades, Turkey has witnessed times where minorities dominated majorities with its non-democratic decisions and their suppressive implementation. Those who have been ostracized for years are becoming equal citizens and this should not be misinterpreted. What we are witnessing in Turkey right now is a process of normalization and normalization only.” He added that Kurdish will be taught on condition that a certain number is reached.

Kurds make up around a fifth of Turkey’s population. Some see this move as a privilege given to a minority, some as a natural right, some as a reaction too little too late. I had mentioned in my previous articles that most BDP members are not satisfied with the decision, however some beg to differ. Leyla Zana, one of the most famous and influential Kurdish politicians in Turkey, declared her support to the decision; while Gokhan Gunaydin, Vice President of CHP (the main opposition party) declared it a “natural process.”

Zana, who saw the move as a step forward, also talked about the Kurdish issue stating “I believe Erdogan can solve this. i have lost neither faith nor hope in him doing so, and I do not want to either.”

 Shared via. our project partners forgotten diaries

Author: Merisa Sahin

Merisa is from Istanbul, Turkey. She is currently studying Political Science & International Relations in Bogazici University. She is very much interested in Human Rights and wishes to build a career in that field.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Caribbean Americans to be honoured in South Florida

MIAMI - In the first event of its kind, ICABA Media Holdings, LLC, (ICABA) will celebrate some of South Florida's most accomplished professionals and entrepreneurs with heritage spanning 14 different Caribbean nations. One hundred corporate executives, educators, entrepreneurs, entertainers and community leaders will be honored at the ICABA Salutes South Florida's 100 Most Accomplished Caribbean Americans program, Friday, June 29, 2012, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts: 201 Southwest 5th Avenue in Ft. Lauderdale.

The black-tie event will begin in the Amaturo Theater at 7:30 p.m. with the recognition program and be followed by a reception and traditional Caribbean fete. The signature ICABA coffee table book showcasing their diverse accomplishments will be unveiled at the event and include the honorees' bios, features and advertorials from a noted list of corporate sponsors.

Web_rudolph_moise"As our nation's gateway to the Caribbean, South Florida has long-been a cultivator of successful migrants and talented natives," said Jerome Hutchinson, Jr., president & CEO of ICABA Media Holdings. "The contribution Caribbean-Americans have made to our region is extraordinary, and I am thrilled that ICABA will be the first entity to celebrate their excellence in such a unified way."
"The Caribbean-American community is an important demographic," shared Marlon Hill, Esq., managing partner at delancyhill, P.A., who wrote the foreword for the event's  publication. "Our culinary, musical and religious traditions are undeniably present in every aspect of life in South Florida. It is timely that we share our community's accomplishments and celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit."

The Salute will also include official recognitions from the White House, offices of Florida Governor Rick Scott, Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, along with Miami-Dade and Broward County Mayors. The list of honorees spans multiple professional categories including health care, law, media and spiritual leaders. Notables include Pauline Grant, chief executive officer at North Broward Medical Center (Jamaica), Dr. Rudolph Moise, medical director at Comprehensive Health Center, LLC (Haiti), Yolanda Cash Jackson, shareholder at Becker & Poliakoff (Bahamas), Joseph Bernadel (US. Army, Ret. Major), founder of Toussaint L’Ouverture High School (Haiti), Garth Reeves, founder of the Miami Times (Bahamas), and Bishop Henry Fernandez, founder and senior pastor of The Faith Center (Jamaica).

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Pictures From Paradise: A new book featuring Caribbean emerging photographers

The cosy bookstore Bookophilia, located in Kingston, Jamaica provided the ideal location for the launch of the book 'Pictures From Paradise' on Saturday, June 9, 2012. The book features works of photographers from around the Caribbean and introduces inspiring emerging talent. The evening consisted of great discussion, the signing of books and mingling.

'Pictures From Paradise' captures everyday Caribbean life. Published by Robert & Christopher Publishers, a publishing house in Trinidad & Tobago, the art book is edited by Melaine Archerand Mariel Brown and features a critical essay by O’Neil Lawrence, assistant curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica, 230 images from 18 artists. The book artists are: Gerard Gaskin, Abigail Hadeed, Alex Smailes, Rodell Warner, EwanAtkinson, Marvin Bartley, Terry Boddie, Holly Bynoe, James Cooper, Renee Cox, Gerard Hanson, Nadia Huggins, Marlon James, Roshini Kempadoo, O’Neil Lawrence, Ebony Patterson, Radcliffe Roye and Stacey Tyrell and are either based in the Caribbean or have ties to the region.

Perhaps what’s most refreshing about 'Pictures From Paradise' is the welcomed departure from the contrived idyllic images of Caribbean landscape that often bombard tourism billboards and commercials.The techniques employed by the photographers engage the reader's many senses and forces us to rethink what is "Caribbean".

 Pics from the event:

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Signs of the Times - El Général - Cultural Influencer

We're going to be exposing you to what's happening with some of your fav Cultural Icons from around the Globe... 50 Icons, in celebration of Jamaica's 50th year since independence... but don't worry the focus is still Global :)

CULTURAL ICON # 50: 'El Général'

He is a Tunisian born rapper who is not afriad to speak out. Now with a permanent place in history... we're anxious to see where this goes.

'When I became a rapper, I wasn't looking for love. I was looking to rap for the good of the people.'

He took to facebook and the 22 year old Hamada Ben Amor performed the tune “President, Your People Are Dying,”. In the clip originally in Arabic, the rapper speaks firmly and directly to now-former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali about the unemployment and hunger ravaging the country while Ben Ali’s family lived in excess. This was a brave step for the young rapper, and became fundamental to many of the movements that evolved last year. Throughout the world inequality remains a sticking point with less to be desired governance practices widespread...

He has put out another song since that time "Ode to Arab Revolution"and was featured on Time 100's most influential people in the world.

History tells us that good music time and time again can be good for social change as well! Musicians have privilages and responsibilities as the influencers of lives!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

UNESCO celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the 1972 World Heritage Convention: Caribbean Training Course Launched

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention launched the Caribbean Training Course in the Preparation of Nomination Dossiers for World Heritage. The Training Course which is being held from the 5th -15th June in Kingston, Jamaica serves to build the capacity of cultural agents from across the Caribbean in the preservation of Cultural Heritage.

The morning started with a welcome by Dr. Kwame Boafo, Director and UNESCO Representative, UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, followed by an address by Mr. Ron Van Oers, Programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit, UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
His Excellency Ambassador Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize gave background to the long history of the Japanese with UNESCO, stating that UNESCO was one of the first international organisations that Japan joined after World War II and that being a member of UNESCO empowered the rebuilding process. The Government of Japan, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the 1972 World Heritage Convention has pledged US$1Million to ACP Countries towards to preservation of Cultural Heritage Sites.  

The Hon. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture, and Chairperson of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO officially opened the Training Course and said that she supported the efforts of UNESCO in working to increase world heritage. Mr. Everton Hannam, Secretary-General, Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO thanked all the partner organisations for making this development possible and for their continued support.  For the Official Launch of the Poster featuring the English & Dutch-speaking Caribbean World Heritage sites, the officials present all signed as a symbol of commitment.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Dance Theatre Harlem Hits the Stage in Kingston, Jamaica

The effortless transitions, the visually stimulating scenes and the strength of well-toned bodies were poignant features of Dance Theatre Harlem’s performance on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 12:00pm. The show, presented by The Embassy of the United States of America, had the theme “Celebrating the ties that bind 50 years of friendship”.  That message was clear onstage and off. Fate smiled and landed me in a seat just beside the Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Virginia Johnson, and Founding Member of Dance Theatre Harlem, Jamaican Patsy Ricketts. Patsy Ricketts also danced on Jamaica’s Stage as a Principal Dancer of the National Dance Theatre Company for many years.

When Johnson sat beside Ricketts it was like a reunion of sisters, that sense of shared history was undeniable.  They laughed through hellos and spoke admiringly of their first interactions with Arthur Mitchell the Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of DTH.  It was schoolgirl giggles as Rickets asked Johnson her Zodiac Sign, and they recalled that this was a critical determinant if you could make the DTH cut with ‘Arthur’ or not. “Arthur was Aries”, and reluctant to work other ‘fire’ signs.
I leaned over and asked Rickets how this all began. She shared that while studying at the Graham School of Arts for two years on two consecutive scholarships Derek Williams a member of the National Dance Theatre Company knew that Arthur Mitchell, having just left the National Ballet was forming a new company. Open to exploring new techniques and styles Rickets was interested in auditioning.


The audition, she shared, was in a church building in Harlem. According to Rickets “Arthur Mitchell was taking people off the streets” and he told her “your feet are dreadful, but we’ll work on it, I like your spirit”. She started working as an apprentice in 1969-1970, after becoming a full member.
We paused as Keith Saunders, Director of the Ensemble, introduced the company and the curtains opened with a ballet titled ‘Six Piano Pieces’ choreographed by David Fernandez, performed by the dancers, to live accompaniment by piano soloist Melody Fader. Mayuko Shoka, Ashley Murphy and Rene Bharath Kim were the three dancers whose personalities stood out during this piece. Ricketts remarked as it ended that Shoka reminded her of ‘Virginia’ in her days with the company.

The audience was thrilled by the duet which followed titled ‘Episode’, choreographed by Peter Pucci, and performed by Lordes Rodriguez and Fredrick Davis. The two characters, decked in red and black, worked created illusions of oneness throughout the piece incorporating acrobatic references with striking effect. New Bach choreographed by resident choreographer Robert Garland followed, and showcased breathtaking transitions and tableau’s and gave a good sense of the style and variations that categorized DTH over the years.

During intermission Ricketts shared that she once inspired Mitchell to do a ballet, which incorporated African Dance into the classical form on Pointe. She explains how it happened telling us that one day in studio she was playing around and Mitchell saw her doing the African in her pointe shoes and was fascinated especially since Ricketts had always resisted and found it difficult to tackle traditional pointe work.

 We began talking about the culture of dance, and she highlighted that one of the big limitations was that there was a perception that dance was not something to make a living out of, citing how difficult it is for a child in society to say, “I don’t want to go to medical school but to dance instead”. This is directly linked to the lack of hours of committed dance time for many dancers who practice in after-work hours 2 to 3 times a week. Ricketts stressed that dance training needed to be 6 hours a day to gain levels of excellence. She cited Cuba as a good example of how the arts have  facilitated and the culture is facilitative to the maintenance of high standards. 

The curtains opened once more and this time on stage we see silhouettes on four men on stage, a lone female in a short red costume is visible. It was the highlight of the afternoon. The piece, titled ‘In the Mirror of her mind’, choreographed by Christopher Huggins to benefit dancers responding to HIV/AIDS featured Ashley Murphy, Alexandra Jacob Wilson, Fredrick Davis, Jehbreal Jackson and David Kim and was emotionally riveting. The audience members gasping as they experienced raw emotions signaling the battle which the characters on stage were all confronted with. 
The show was strong from beginning to end and a piece titled ‘Return’ a very lively ‘neo-classical urban funky’ piece also by Richard Garland ended the afternoons offerings. The score was a mix of the legends of funk James Brown and Aretha Franklin.  
The audience stood and clapped in appreciation of the great DTH production. We said our goodbyes though the connections, images, and discussions linger, indelibly inked in the subconscious until we meet again. Such is the nature of cultural exchange, once you’ve experienced something new, you yourself become changed.