Stories from Quick Reads and Indigenous
Indigenous people from the Munduruku ethnic group are fighting against the construction of the São Luiz do Tapajós dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam will mean the flooding of 700,000 km2 in their homeland.
The Brazilian Federal Government plans to build up to five dams in the Tapajós River, where dozens of indigenous communities live. Together with São Luiz do Tapajós, the Jatobá dam was due to begin construction in 2015, but socio-environmental difficulties may have postponed that deadline to at least 2020. The two dams will cost together US$7 billion.
The Munduruku claim they have not been consulted about the project. For years, the Munduruku people from the Sawré Maybu community, which will be directly affected by the construction of São Luiz do Tapajós dam, have pressured the federal government to demarcate their lands. The demarcation would create a legal obstacle for the continuation of the dam's project.
A documentary about the issue was produced by videomaker Nayana Fernandez.
UPDATE 09/12/2014: Together with other organizations, Nayana Fernandez has launched a crowfunding campaign to help the Munduruku pressure the government to demarcate their territory, officialize two associations, build a website and translate and dub the documentary into their native language (most Mundurku people do not speak Portuguese). Supporters can contribute with a minimum of US$10.
EarthRights International has uploaded a video about the threat posed by a mega dam construction in Laos to communities situated along the Mekong River in Cambodia. Laos and Cambodia are neighbors in the Southeast Asian region.
Without medical professionals fluent in indigenous languages or without proper interpretation services in Mexican hospitals, there is a risk that patients will not be able to adequately describe what ails them, writes Yásnaya Aguilar in her regular blog column for EstePaís. She provides examples how the Mixe language allows her to more accurately describe her pain to a nurse or doctor that can speak the same language, and how a translation into Spanish can still be somewhat limiting. She writes,
En mixe por ejemplo tengo un conjunto de palabras distinto para nombrar el dolor físico: pëjkp, jäjp, pä’mp, we’tsp… Apenas hallo equivalentes para alguna en español. Las diferencias todavía son más grandes y hay momentos en los que sólo puedo describir un dolor en español o sólo alcanzo a nombrarlo en mixe. Hablar ambas lenguas me permite tener a mi servicio un inventario más nutrido de palabras para describir mi dolor, aunque en general, cuando algo me duele mucho, el mixe toma el control de mis pensamientos.
For example, in mixe I have a group of distinct words available to me to describe physical pain: pëjkp, jäjp, pä’mp, we’tsp. I'm barely able to find the equivalent words for these words in Spanish. The differences are very large and there are times when I can only describe the pain in Spanish and there are other times when I can only describe the pain in Mixe. Being able to speak both languages allows me to have at my disposal a richer inventory of words to describe my pain, although generally, when something is causing me a lot of pain, the Mixe language takes control of my thoughts.
The universal right to health care cannot be guaranteed when the majority of hospitals have no medical practitioners that speak indigenous languages and because interpretation can only go so far since they do not have the same knowledge of the human body. And she adds that this could potentially cause misdiagnoses and without these language services, “there is no way to build bridges of empathy and to effectively understand that your ‘it hurts’ could also be the same as mine.”
The National Gallery of Jamaica is in the midst of celebrating its 40th anniversary and the gallery's blog has been sharing information about its history and accomplishments:
When the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) opened its doors on November 14, 1974 it was the English-speaking Caribbean’s first national gallery, and forty years later it is the region’s oldest and largest national art museum. [...] Since 1974, the NGJ has held over one hundred and thirty exhibitions and established an encyclopaedic collection of Jamaican art. Through the process of amassing and exhibiting the art of Jamaica it has done more than preserve and display Jamaica’s artistic heritage. What the NGJ has truly excelled at is telling a story (‘the’ story, the NGJ has at times claimed) of Jamaican art, crafting the raw material of artists, artworks and anecdotes into a coherent narrative that resonates with how Jamaicans see and understand themselves in the world.
Villa de Merlo, in the province of San Luis, was home of one of many indigenous communities that settled in the territory of what we now know as the Republic of Argentina. Wenceslao Bottaro tells us about the Theme Park Yucat Land of Comechingones, which teach us about this culture:
[el parque] es un emprendimiento familiar basado en una investigación histórica. La idea del parque es poder dar a conocer a los visitantes la historia humana de las sierras de los comechingones, rescatando la cultura, las costumbres y los saberes del pueblo comechingón, antiguos habitantes de la región del valle donde en la actualidad se asienta Villa de Merlo.
[the park] is a family undertaking base on historical research. The idea of the park is to make visitors know human history in the highlands of the Comechingones, rescuing their culture, customs and knowledge of the Comechingon people, who used to live in the region of the valley where Villa de Merlo is located today.
The park is named after Yucat, one of the caciques (chiefs), and has 18 stations that can be visited with the assistance of audio guides in Spanish and English. Thus, tourists are able to find out different historical and cultural aspects of the Comechingones’ life. Aside from learning about their culture and customs, visitors can enjoy nature and typical flora, such as carob trees, chañars, iguana Hackberry, espinillos, piquillines and molles, all part of the natural scenery there. The region also provides other leisure opportunities, such as zip-lines.
You can follow Wenceslao Bottaro on Twitter.
If we look back the history of Bangladesh, we see examples of ancient kings and land lords who sponsored cultural activities, making literature, music and art flourish in the region. In the present era, we see affluent corporations, mostly telecom companies in Bangladesh, taking their place.
They have been going the extra mile to sponsor a wide variety of cultural pursuits, including a rural festival celebrating Fakir Lalon Shah (c. 1774–1890), a popular Bengali baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker, but not always with positive reception.
Zahid Islam at the blog Alal O Dulal explains how corporations are selling the Lalon culture:
In 2007 for the first time in history, Lalon Phokir’s Dol Uthshob (Lalon's Dol Festival) was held under sponsorship, with promotion campaigns so aggressive and ill designed it disgusts me to even remember it. Since then Grameenphone and Banglalink (telecom brands) took turns in sponsoring the festivals.
He also mentions that Lalon festival is getting a modern shape under corporate banner:
The first time around, those of us who had been visiting Cheuria for many years, were shocked to find the sponsorship junks.
And the need to protect their sanctity:
There are many people and organisations, home and abroad, that feel we need to “protect” the baul way of life. I do not necessarily agree with this notion. Rather I feel our intervention is what creates most of the “problems.”
The communities, characteristically living in the mountains or their fringes, have depended mostly on plants and other natural products from the forest to prevent or treat sickness. But environmental degradation and the onslaught of lowland mainstream cultures now threaten their healing traditions.
The Canadian hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut has become a hub for videomaking thanks to the work of its Film Society. This Inuit community has also been a launching pad for some of its youth to find opportunities elsewhere to practice their craft.
One of these videomakers is Jordan Konek, once a member of the Arviat Film Society, who is now living and working in Iaqluit, where he works as a video journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation North. In addition, he is one of the founders of his own video company Konek Productions, which also allows him to highlight Inuit culture and language.
His YouTube channel is a mix of daily happenings around his community. His channel also contains music videos that he produced for local artists, many of whom cover popular songs translated into the Inuktitut language, such as this version of John Lennon's “Imagine”. The video posted above produced by Konek provides a list of some of the ways that Inuit culture can be kept alive from his point of view.