Stories from Quick Reads and Arts & Culture
If you believe that nothing good can come from a rifle, then you have to get to know the “escopetarra”—a hybrid that transforms two “lethal” weapons (an AK-47 and a guitar) into an instrument of peace. “Escopetarra” is a Spanish blend that combines the words “escopeta” (shotgun) and “guitarra” (guitar).
In his Spanish-language podcast, Colombian musician César López talks about how he created the instrument, tracing it from the moment of its conception to all of the technical issues he faced creating it, as well as its characteristic sound.
There are more AK-47s in the world than any other gun, thanks to how unusually cheap the weapon is to make. It is estimated that there are 35-to-50 million AK-47s in existence, not counting those that are manufactured illegally each year.
“Primero, el AK 47 es el arma que más muertos le ha causado al planeta Tierra en toda su historia. Es el arma que se ha usado en Sudáfrica, Medio Oriente, Centro América, en Colombia”, dijo López en entrevista con la cadena estadounidense Univision.
“First of all, the AK-47 has caused the most deaths by any weapon on the planet. It's been used in South Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and also in Colombia”, stated López in an interview with the American television network, Univision.
The first “escopetarra” was made in 2003 using a Winchester rifle and a Stratocaster electric guitar. The rifle is taken apart in a way that it is no longer considered a weapon and cannot be used as such.
Currently, about 20 “escopetarras” have been presented to prominent musicians and international leaders who stand for peace, including the Colombian band, Aterciopelados, Argentinean musician Fito Páez, and UNESCO.
After years of promotion and reviews of documentaries devoted to social change, the site Films for Action released a list of what they consider to be the 100 most influencial and provocative. From critiques to manistream media to the corporate world, passing through the ideas and solutions proposed in and by the majority world, this list of films present a wide view of ideas that many consider crucial to discuss.
Documentaries have an incredible power to raise awareness and create transformative changes in consciousness both at the personal and global levels […] All of the films have been selected because they are either free to watch online, or can be rented online. There are several films we would have loved to add to this list, but they currently don't have an accessible way to view them. As that changes, we'll be updating this list over time. Enjoy!
The Thai Film Archive has been uploading historic films and vintage news reports on YouTube.
One of the films is Chok Song Chun (Double Luck), which is Thailand's first feature silent film produced in 1927. Only 55 seconds of the film have remained featuring a fight scene and car chase.
Another rare film is Payut Ngaokrachang's Hed Mahassajan (The Miraculous Incident), which is the first Thai animated film released in 1955. Payut is known as the “Walt Disney of Thailand”. In the animated silent film, Payut witnessed a traffic incident in Bangkok.
Liese Van Der Watt, a South African art writer based in London, writes about 53 Echoes of Zaire, exhibition of popular painting from Zaire that is going on in London:
The exhibition was curated by Salimata Diop from the Africa Centre in London in cooperation with the Sulger-Buel Lovell gallery. It comprises 53 paintings by artists Louis Kalema, C. Mutombo, B. Ilunga, Ndaie, and Tshibumba Kanda Matulu, belonging to the Belgian collector Etienne Bol whose late father Victor Bol collected these works while spending time in Zaire in the 1970s.
The artists are all self-taught and the exhibition shows a series of works all executed in a style similar to what is sometimes called the Zaire School of Popular Painting. The most famous of this so-called school is probably Chéri Samba, who shot to fame after he was included in the Magiciens de la Terre (Magicians of Earth) show at the Pompidou in 1989. These works are painted on flour sack rather than canvas, often with a limited palette of poster paints and with thick brushes.
Sabelo Mkhabela blogs about Swaziland's growing poetry movement:
Swazi poet and visionary Themba Mavuso speaks with a humble, unrehearsed tone. He looks nothing like a poet – his hair is neatly combed and he spots a corporate office-ready white shirt and black chinos. Adding street to his attire is a pair of black Chucks.
Themba, along with Lusolotja Ginindza and Sicelo Shabalala, is a founding member of Swaziland’s prominent poetry movement, Rooted Soulz. The collective has helped unearth prominent poets such as Qibho Intalektual and The Last Man, among others. They’ve also showcased their roaster at one of Swaziland’s biggest arts festivals, Bushfire.
According to Mavuso, perhaps with the exception of typically elder praise poets (timbongi), “The poetry genre in Swaziland was previously non-existent prior to the birth of Rooted Soulz.” The group’s poetry sessions started out in a venue in the Swazi capital, Mbabane, where they were held until their audience became too big for the space and relocated to the Swazi Theatre.
Below is a YouTube video of poet and emcee Qibho Intalektual and his music partner Sands:
French designer Isabel Marant has made a name for herself in the world of fashion, owing to her eclectic style, which blends materials and ethnic influences together in her designs. These creations carry a price tag starting in the hundreds of dollars.
However, for the authorities and citizens of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, a Mixe community in Mexico, they were more than just a source of inspiration. They accuse Marant of selling her creations as if they were her own take on the traditional dress of the territory.
— Letra.Digital (@LetraDigitalMx) June 5, 2015
“Tlahuitoltepec defends its embroidery; accuses Frenchwoman Isabel Marant of plagiarism”.
The famous dressmaker sells this piece for $290, close to 4,500 Mexican pesos, while the price of the garment in the indigenous community is around 600 pesos ($40).
Marant is “hijacking a cultural heritage for commercial benefit, which puts indigenous communities at risk, as well as the originality of the fashion industry”, maintained the mayor, Erasmo Hernández González, who stated that they will be taking legal action.
Cowing wrote on her Facebook page (which is private, but quoted with permission below):
Woaaa, talk about “it's a small world” moment. I had a suspicion the girl opposite me was taking a sneaky phone picture on the Eiden the other weekend. Sure enough, that photo appeared on Instagram, and now, a friend of mine living in Beijing sees it and says he's sitting opposite the Taiwanese girl who took it.
Cowing's friend in Beijing then posted a photo on Facebook of Instagram user tammytu, who snapped the photo during a recent sightseeing trip to Kyoto.
The two women are now friends, according to Cowing.
Zachary Rosen interviews photographer/poet Amaal Said. Amaal was born in Denmark to Somali parents and is currently based in London:
AIAC: Your photographs are remarkable in how they challenge and evolve notions of beauty in mainstream Western media by featuring intimate portraits of melanin-rich young people – with piercings, in headscarves and with natural hair. What experiences inform and shape the content of your photographs?
Amaal Said: I try my hardest to keep close to beauty. I grew up in a neighbourhood referred to as a ghetto in Odense, Denmark. I went back two years ago and all I can remember is how many shades of green I saw. I wish I had captured more of it. My own memories of Odense are at odds with what I read about it and hear from family. It’s always been a beautiful place to me, which doesn’t mean that a lot of sadness and tragedy didn’t happen there, it just means that both elements can exist at the same time.
I’ve spent most of my life in London and I’ve had the pleasure of being in communities with other artists who are doing really important work in the world. I never felt alone in that case. Negative opinions of the countries we came from and the communities we lived in existed. I was in classrooms with other children who claimed that people that looked like me were dirty immigrants who stole jobs and cheated the system. I feel like I spent a lot of time at secondary school fighting people’s opinions. And I’m not in those particular classrooms anymore, but I’m still trying to combat those negative portrayals.
I never saw the documenting I did as particularly hard work. I asked to take people’s pictures because I found them beautiful, because I recognised myself in them. I realise now how important the work is and how necessary it is to push against the images that do not represent us in our best light.
She points out:
As you might expect from a troubled nation with relatively little modern literary output, there aren’t many translations of Yemeni work available in English. However, there are some, as several Yemeni authors have received regional and international acclaim.
Qualey was inspired to write about those Yemeni writers by an article published in Yemen Times on March 23, 2015, entitled “Political Crisis and Yemen's Literary Insurgence”. The article mentions other renowned authors such as Marwan Ghafory, Mohammed Algharbi Amran , Habib Sorori, Safa’a Al-Habal, Ahmed Al-Sakkaf or Samir Abdulfattah, Ramzia Al-Iryani.
It speaks about how the political crisis affected the publishing sector and how, on the other hand, “what the country is going through gives writers a will to write. They try to reflect on what is happening around them within their works.” The article continues: “Ongoing political turmoil may not bode well for Yemen, but if 2014 is any indication, the outlook for its national literary scene is a promising one.”
Recovering Latin American historical memory and raising awareness of the atrocities committed in the past are crucial steps to take in order to ensure they are never repeated and that, instead, we continue to work towards strengthening our democracies. To that end, film can play a crucial role in compiling testimonies that constitute our collective memory, in this case the history of Peru.
Spanish filmmaker Luis Cintora unveiled his new documentary at the Latin American Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival. It recounts the alleged crimes committed by the Peruvian army in their fight against the militant group Shining Path from 1983-84 in the Ayacucho region. The documentary “Wecome to Los Cabitos” features testimony from survivors, relatives of missing persons, academics and soldiers, who provide moving testimony about the alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated on the former military base.
— Jorge Weston (@JorgeMWeston) March 13, 2015
Documentary filmmaker reveals that young people in #Ayacucho are unaware of the era of terror.
It is not the first time that the Spanish filmmaker has focused on this dark period in Peru's history. In 2012 he made “The footprints of the Shining Path“, which explores the shadow cast by this violent organization on the country's collective memory, one which not surprisingly elicits conflicting emotions.
#sinperos a filomena sanchez desaparecida en huanta en 1988, la encontraron en el cuartel los cabitos cuando desenterraron los cadaveres
— jose edwin velasquez (@joseedwin69) March 1, 2015
Filomena Sanchez disappeared in Huanta in 1988; they found her body among the cadavers uncovered in the Los Cabitos barracks.
Otra mas de los PROTERRORISTAS, basándose en el informe de la CVR. http://t.co/Z50AMjgyZ6
— El Majin (@Majindice) March 13, 2015
One more from the PROTERRORISTS, based on the CVR [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] report.
Fashion designer and innovator Danit Peleg, 27, is giving the world something to talk about. The creator of the world's first 3D printed clothing collection, Peleg explains:
My goal was to create a ready-to-wear collection printed entirely at home using printers that anyone can get. I've spent the past year searching for the best solution.
Just imagine the potential… if you're cold, print your own jacket. Traveling with no luggage? Just print your clothes in the hotel room. Will we soon be able to design, share, and print our own clothes directly from home?
Posted on YouTube on July 22, 2015 and on Start-Up Nation's Facebook page on July 29th, Peleg's two-minute promotional video displaying the line and explaining her process has garnered 2.8 million views and 50,000 shares to date.
The collection is made out of a plastic thread-like material called Filaflex using a Witbox printer. Three dimensional printing is done through a series of layering and binding of materials to create a stacking effect of each successive layer. Fashionista reports that each of Peleg's outfits took 400 hours to print; printing out the shoes took longer.
As 3D printing technology advances and becomes quicker and more affordable, users could download and print files at home as they do with two dimensional clothes patterns. Peleg predicts:
I think this is just the beginning. As technologies evolve, we will soon be all printing our own clothes at home.
A low-income neighborhood in Mexico was transformed in a giant rainbow by the collective Germen Crew—a youth organization of muralists and street artists formed by 15 graffiti artists, under the direction of Mibe (Luis Enrique Gómez Guzmán), who's teamed with Mexican Government.
The more than 200 homes of the village of Palmitas, in the city of Pachuca (Hidalgo State), are now connected through colors.
— Artsper (@Artsper) July 30, 2015
Another example of the collective's “urban neomuralism” is Mexico City's famous Jamaica Market, which comprises over 1,000 stands dedicated to the sale of flowers, floral arrangements, ornamental plants, and garden accessories. Last year, the crew created a mural that visualizes a symbolic ritual beginning with “Mother Earth” (Tonantzin) giving birth to a life-form that transforms into flowers on the south façade of the famous flower market.
The reclaiming of history as an ally of marginalized groups is key to their very survival. This is especially true in a colonial context such as Puerto Rico, where history has been and continues to be used as a means to justify inequalities and deny visibility.
In the spirit of doing justice to the men and women who have contributed greatly to Puerto Rico, and yet have been sidelined by years of official history, the digital magazine La Respuesta, which focuses primarily on the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States, recently published a short post titled 10 Afro-Puerto Ricans Everyone Should Know, which briefly highlights the legacy of people such as pro-independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos, literary critic and lawyer Nilita Vientós Gastón, and intellectual leader Arturo Schomburg.
“Too Black to Be French” is a documentary made by Isabelle Boni-Claverie, a French-Ivorian writer and filmmaker. Boni-Claverie's goal is to provide unexplored ideas and start a conversation on French society's inequalities and discrimination.
The documentary includes commentary and analyses from renowned Francophone thinkers such as Eric Fassin, Pap Ndiaye, Achille Mbembe, Patrick Simon and Eric Chalaye, along with testimonies from anonymous people of color. Some of the main arguments in the documentary are the conspicuous lack of minorities in the public media sphere, the lack of acknowledgment of colonial history in the fabric of the nation and the absence of quantitative data on discrimination at the workplace.
The documentary ignited a trending hashtag #TuSaisQueTesNoirEnFranceQuand (Translation: You know you are black in France when…) on Francophone social media.
Is going topless an effective strategy for reviving the Kenyan tourism industry following attacks from militant group Al Shabaab?:
Nominated Senator, Mbura allegedly asked women in the coastal region to go topless so that more tourists can visit the region. This has raised questions as to what the value of the coastal woman is. Is that all she is worth- An object of trade?
Osekre, the leader of New York based Afro-punk band Osekre and The Lucky Bastards, reveals the trials and tribulations of being an African musician in New York:
I wish I received a heads up by friends in the real world about the reality of being a musician in New York City. It is no joke! I had decided to pursue music full time, some time in 2010. I had just graduated from Columbia University, and I saw this as my time to break away from certain kinds of responsibilities, expectations and deadlines set by college, my family, my friends, and the burden of “being a migrant in Rome.” I just wanted to pause, to live, and breathe easier. The only thing on my agenda was to get my band, Osekre and The Lucky Bastards going once again.
At the time, I was inspired by an increased interest in African music in New York in general. Columbia alumni, Vampire Weekend, were heroes on campus, and had sparked debates in the world and indie music communities with their song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” as they fused what they felt were soukous licks with indie sounds. The spirit of Fela Kuti’s work was being reinvigorated in the underground music spaces, where DJs and hip hop artists were finally spinning and sampling Afrobeat. K’naan was making waves with incredibly poignant stories through rap, wit and lyricism; introducing the world to the struggles of Somalis on his album Dusty foot Philosopher. Nneka had released her song “Kangpe”, which was all over EA Sports’ FIFA soccer games, and was about to debut on Letterman in New York. I had enough sources and stories to keep me motivated about the opportunities and possibilities for young African cats doing their music thing in NYC. What no one explained was exactly how much work that was going to involve and what it meant to start from the scratch, or scratch the start.
Join Accra Technology salon that will take place on May 26th, 2015. The theme of the salon is Games for Ghana’s Development:
Electronic games are a two trillion dollar global industry. Game development in Ghana is growing rapidly, fueled by the popularity of mobile phones and climbing Internet usage rates. African game developers are increasing their share of this demand by developing culturally relevant games that speak directly to local markets.
What is the potential of the game industry to further Ghana’s development?
While games are often considered frivolous entertainment, evidence shows that games can effectively improve cognition, problem solving, and spatial skills development, with a particular benefit for science, engineering, and mathematics education. “Serious” games can also help communities explore different development scenarios to solve critical problems in society.
Please RSVP now to join the next Technology Salon Accra where we will explore questions like:
What kinds of games would excite Ghanaians and improve society?
Who would play them? What would they learn?
How can we incentivize “good” games and improve others?
Where should we look to see the future of gaming in Ghana?
On March 5, 2015, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that the reduced value-added tax (VAT) established for printed books should not apply to digital books, considering everything distributed or delivered electronically or via Internet as a service. Amalia Lopez questions the resolution on the Blog Sinerrata Editores:
Lo que más me ha llamado la atención es que refuerzan la decisión utilizando el argumento del soporte, […] que igual tuvo sentido en algún momento del pasado pero hoy en día me resulta completamente absurdo. Es verdad, el libro electrónico es un archivo no un objeto pero, ¿es un libro menos libro porque lo guardo en mi ordenador o mi lector electrónico en vez de en la estantería? ¿Cuándo leo un libro digital la experiencia cultural es menor que cuando es un libro de papel? Es decir, lo que este tribunal ha sentenciado (o esa es mi interpretación) es que lo que hace de un libro un producto cultural y por tanto merecedor de un impuesto reducido (y un menor coste para los consumidores) es el papel en el que está impreso.
What struck me was that they used the format as an argument to reinforce their decision, […] which maybe could have made sense at some point in the past, but nowadays, I find it completely absurd. It is true, an e-book is a file and not an object, but does it make a book less of a book if I keep it on my computer or my e-reader rather than on the book shelf? When I read a digital book, is the cultural experience lesser than when a read the book on paper? That is to say, what this court has ruled (or, at least, that's my interpretation) is that what makes a book a cultural product, thus deserving reduced tax (and a lower cost to its consumers), is the paper on which is printed.
The sentence includes books downloaded or viewed online and encompasses electronic formats for computers, smartphones, e-readers or any reading devices.
Trindadian diaspora fashion blogger, Afrobella, grew up “steeped in reggae music and [with] a love for Jamaican culture” – so why did it take her so long to actually visit the island? She's not sure she can answer that question, considering that her first impression was that “Jamaica is an intoxicatingly beautiful place with unique culture and cuisine”:
Jamaican culture is appreciated around the world, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to go there, be there, and experience the lifestyle.
That said, she has posted her Top 5 reasons to visit Jamaica. Of course her list includes things like the warm weather and ambiance of the popular vacation spot, Montego Bay – but it also waxes poetic about the country's reggae music, food and drink and – no surprise for a fashion blogger – the shopping.
Not only can artists live off their work, but the Internet can actually be a lifeline for them in today's increasingly competitive marketplace. The blog RamGon looks into opportunities for painters in social media and, more importantly, into how the medium can help artists to publicize and market their work.
In an interview with RamGon, the artist known as Goloviarte — Gregorio Lopez Vicente — explains the risks and benefits that social media offers today's artists:
Para la publicación en esos canales, a grandes rasgos, ¿qué estrategia de publicación de contenidos sigues? ¿qué herramientas y criterios usas para llevar a cabo determinadas acciones?
Roughly speaking, in order to publish in these channels, what content publishing strategy to you follow? What tools and criteria do you use to complete specific tasks?
El único criterio que sigo es ser visto, por tanto, participo en todas aquellas redes sociales en momentos en los que veo que la gente esta participando más, como puede ser un evento, o un post con muchos comentarios en facebook, etc. Los hashtags en Twitter son muy importantes para tener visibilidad, y en cuanto a herramientas no uso ninguna, lo hago todo controlando manualmente todo desde el navegador.
The only criterion I follow is to be seen, so I take part in all those social networks in which I see people getting more involved, like when there is a particular event or a post that has lots of comments on Facebook, etc. Hashtags on Twitter are very important for visibility, but as for tools I don't use any—I do everything manually from the browser.
Here are a few examples of how Goloviarte takes advantage of social networking to market his work:
— goloviarte (@goloviarte) March 7, 2015
How about a mural for your hotel? or office? Talk to me
— goloviarte (@goloviarte) diciembre 31, 2014
Mi paintings are available to all my followers