Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Walking the walk

It was daunting to be a keynote speaker amidst so many big names at the Oslo North-South Forum, held at Oslo Town Hall on August 28, 2004. Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the crown prince of Norway, the mayor of Oslo, Hilde F Johnson, the Norwegian minister of international development, and other dignitaries graced the occasion. No one meant more to me than Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  It was not because he was a Nobel Laureate, or a celebrated archbishop, not even because of his role in the anti-apartheid movement, though that was very important to me. It was because he was such a wonderful human being.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Shahidul Alam. August 28, 2004, Oslo.  Photo: Kenneth David Kaunda.

Continue reading “Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Walking the walk”

We will not be silenced

By Mike van Graan

Let us remind you”

They say

These new tyrants

Grown deaf with their own propaganda

Drunk on the spoils of incumbency

And their patrons’ gifts

Blinded by the arrogance

Of too-long

Too-much power

It is us who brought you freedom

If it were not for us

You would not have the right to write

What you like

To say as you please

To insult us with your poems

Your naked paint

Your twisted tunes and

Crass cartoons

Show some respect”

They say

These bloated 1994 pigs

Ten years late to the Orwellian trough

Fast having made up for time lost

Caricatures of that which once they said they loathed

Would have us silent

In the face of betrayal

Would have us genuflect

To them as lords

When first they promised they would serve

Hear this

You thieves of dreams

You robbers of hope

Who seek to balaclava your looting

With radical rhetoric

That springs hollow from

Your empty hearts

Your false smiles

Your crooked tongues

Ours are freedoms we carry in our hearts

They were not yours to give

They are not yours to take

The freedoms written in our hearts

Will find expression

On the streets

In our workplace

On our stages

In the voting booths

So make your hay

While your sun goes down

For soon our onward march

Will footnote you to history

Mandela’s First Memo to Thomas Friedman

Arjan El Fassed

The Electronic Intifada

29 March 2001

Editor’s note, 28 June 2013: This article was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed’s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire and has never been presented by EI as anything other than satire. El Fassed has written this history of the piece and how it subsequently was mistaken for a real letter, on his personal blog.

Memo to: Thomas L. Friedman (columnist New York Times)
From: Nelson Mandela (former President South Africa)

Dear Thomas,

I know that you and I long for peace in the Middle East, but before you continue to talk about necessary conditions from an Israeli perspective, you need to know what’s on my mind. Where to begin? How about 1964. Let me quote my own words during my trial. They are true today as they were then:

“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Today the world, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. In South Africa it has been ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. That mass campaign of defiance and other actions could only culminate in the establishment of democracy.

Perhaps it is strange for you to observe the situation in Palestine or more specifically, the structure of political and cultural relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, as an apartheid system. This is because you incorrectly think that the problem of Palestine began in 1967. This was demonstrated in your recent column “Bush’s First Memo” in the New York Times on March 27, 2001.

You seem to be surprised to hear that there are still problems of 1948 to be solved, the most important component of which is the right to return of Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established “normally” and happened to occupy another country in 1967. Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa.

In the last few years, and especially during the reign of the Labor Party, Israel showed that it was not even willing to return what it occupied in 1967; that settlements remain, Jerusalem would be under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and Palestinians would not have an independent state, but would be under Israeli economic domination with Israeli control of borders, land, air, water and sea.

Israel was not thinking of a “state” but of “separation”. The value of separation is measured in terms of the ability of Israel to keep the Jewish state Jewish, and not to have a Palestinian minority that could have the opportunity to become a majority at some time in the future. If this takes place, it would force Israel to either become a secular democratic or bi-national state, or to turn into a state of apartheid not only de facto, but also de jure.

Thomas, if you follow the polls in Israel for the last 30 or 40 years, you clearly find a vulgar racism that includes a third of the population who openly declare themselves to be racist. This racism is of the nature of “I hate Arabs” and “I wish Arabs would be dead”. If you also follow the judicial system in Israel you will see there is discrimination against Palestinians, and if you further consider the 1967 occupied territories you will find there are already two judicial systems in operation that represent two different approaches to human life: one for Palestinian life and the other for Jewish life. Additionally there are two different approaches to property and to land. Palestinian property is not recognized as private property because it can be confiscated.

As to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there is an additional factor. The so-called “Palestinian autonomous areas” are bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system.

The Palestinian state cannot be the by-product of the Jewish state, just in order to keep the Jewish purity of Israel. Israel’s racial discrimination is daily life of most Palestinians. Since Israel is a Jewish state, Israeli Jews are able to accrue special rights which non-Jews cannot do. Palestinian Arabs have no place in a “Jewish” state.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.

The responses made by South Africa to human rights abuses emanating from the removal policies and apartheid policies respectively, shed light on what Israeli society must necessarily go through before one can speak of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to its apartheid policies.

Thomas, I’m not abandoning Mideast diplomacy. But I’m not going to indulge you the way your supporters do. If you want peace and democracy, I will support you. If you want formal apartheid, we will not support you. If you want to support racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing, we will oppose you. When you figure out what you’re about, give me a call.

Arjan El Fassed is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.

Waiting for My Own Mandela?

By Nalaka Gunawardene?courtesy Groundviews.org

Banner outside Drik in Dhanmondi celebrating Nelson Mandela's (Madiba) 95th Birthday The bed next to him is in Fatima Meer?s house at 148 Burnwood Road, Durban, where Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu and Tambo would take shelter in. 15th July 2009. South Africa. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World.
Banner outside Drik in Dhanmondi celebrating Nelson Mandela’s (Madiba) 95th Birthday The bed next to him is in Fatima Meer?s house at 148 Burnwood Road, Durban, where Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu and Tambo would take shelter in. (Mandela Photo taken on 10th July 2009. Beg photo taken on 15th July 2009. South Africa. This photo taken on 18th July 2013. All three photos by ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World.

I never met Nelson Mandela in person, but once listened to him live.
I watched him speak — in his characteristically thoughtful and cheerful manner ? for a few minutes, and was mesmerized. Continue reading “Waiting for My Own Mandela?”

Nelson Mandela?s greatness may be assured ? but not his legacy

Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid.

By?John Pilger

Nelson Mandela in 1990. Photograph: Getty Images
Nelson Mandela in 1990. Photograph: Getty Images

When I reported from South Africa in the 1960s, the Nazi admirer B J Vorster occupied the prime minister?s residence in Cape Town. Thirty years later, as I waited at the gates, it was as if the guards had not changed. White Afrikaners checked my ID with the confidence of men in secure work. One carried a copy of?Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela?s autobiography. ?It?s very eenspirational,? he said. Continue reading “Nelson Mandela?s greatness may be assured ? but not his legacy”

Jodi Bieber at Chobi Mela

Jodi Bieber to attend Chobi Mela VII International Festival of Photography

Photo by Jodi Bieber

Photo by Jodi Bieber

Jodi Bieber
Jodi Bieber

Jodi Bieber ? Artist?s Talk
Tuesday, 29 January, 7PM
Goethe-Institut

Jodi Bieber ? Workshop: Masterclass on Story-telling
26- 30 January
Pathshala

South African photographer Jodi Bieber will be holding an artist?s talk as well as conducting a workshop during Chobi Mela VII. She worked extensively as a photographer in South Africa leading up to and during South Africa?s first democratic elections and focused on her country of birth in her book?Between Dogs and Wolves ? Growing up with South Africa, a project Bieber worked on over a ten-year period between 1994 and 2004.
Bieber?s photograph of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan woman whose face got mutilated by her husband, brother-in-law, and three other family members, has seared itself into the memory of each and everyone. A brutal symbol of the violence that so many Afghan women face, the photograph, which was on the cover of?TIME?magazine, was selected as the?World Press Photo of the Year?in 2010.
Bieber also?works?on special projects?for non- profit?organisations, such as?M?decins Sans Fronti?res.

?Visit the website of?Jodi Bieber

South Africa Mine Killings: Thousands Protest

 

South African police reveal 34 miners died and 78 were wounded when armed officers opened fire on strikers

By KEITH GLADDIS
Link showing video of shooting and protest (graphic content)
Police in South Africa say 34 miners were killed and another 78 injured when officers fired at strikers armed with ‘dangerous weapons’.
Police chief Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega told a press conference today that her officers acted to protect themselves when miners armed with spears and machetes charged towards them.
Shocking video of the incident emerged yesterday, showing police fire automatic weapons and handguns into the crowd of strikers for about a minute.

Aftermath: South African protesters lie motionless on the ground as heavily armed police officers check them at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South AfricaAftermath: South African protesters lie motionless on the ground as heavily armed police officers check them at the Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg, South Africa Continue reading “South Africa Mine Killings: Thousands Protest”

Under African Skies

An Album About Healing, Made in a Wounded Land
?Under African Skies,? About the Paul Simon Album ?Graceland?

NYT Critics’ Pick

Luise Gubb

Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in ?Under African Skies,? a documentary about his 1986 album, ?Graceland.?

By 
Published: May 10, 2012
Music, politics and race: To what degree does a style belong to the people who developed it? At what point, if any, does musical fusion become musical theft? Is the greater good served by a noble project if it involves the flouting of solemn rules? And once the rules have changed, and the noise has died down, how much do these debates really matter?Those questions echo throughout?Under African Skies,? Joe Berlinger?s enlightening documentary about the making of ?Graceland,? Paul Simon?s masterwork, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. The film, by the co-director of the ?Paradise Lost? trilogy, does an excellent job of recapitulating the controversies surrounding the album?s creation without bearing down too heavily on old news, while subtly taking Mr. Simon?s side against his critics. Continue reading “Under African Skies”

Homecoming for Stark Record of Apartheid

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By?CELIA W. DUGGER

Published: New York Times November 17, 2010
JOHANNESBURG ? When he was only in his 20s Ernest Cole, a black photographer who stood barely five feet tall, created one of the most harrowing pictorial records of what it was like to be black in apartheid South Africa. He went into exile in 1966, and the next year his work was published in the United States in a book, ?House of Bondage,? but his photographs were banned in his homeland where he and his work have remained little known.
Ernest Cole the photographer. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection
In exile Mr. Cole?s life crumbled. For much of the late 1970s and 1980s he was homeless in New York, bereft of even his cameras. ?His life had become a shadow,? a friend later said. Mr. Cole died at 49 in 1990, just a week after?Nelson Mandelawalked free. His sister flew back to South Africa with his ashes on her lap.
Boy in School. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Mr. Cole is at last having another kind of homecoming. The largest retrospective of his work ever mounted is now on display at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, built in the neo-Classical style almost a century ago in an era when South Africa?s great mining fortunes were being made on the backs of black labor. It is a collection of images that still possesses the power to shock and anger.
?How could white people do this to us?? asked Lebogang Malebana, 14, as he stood before a photograph of nude gold-mine recruits who had been herded into a grimy room for examination. ?How could they put naked black men on display like that??
Mr. Cole conceived the idea of his own portrait of black life after seeing?Henri Cartier-Bresson?s book ?People of Moscow.? He got this particular picture by sneaking his camera into the mine in his lunch bag, under sandwiches and an apple, Struan Robertson, who shared a studio and darkroom with Mr. Cole, recounted in an essay for the book that accompanies the exhibition, ?Ernest Cole: Photographer.?
On a recent Saturday afternoon at the museum here in a crime-ridden downtown that long ago emptied of white people, three visitors wandered through cavernous galleries lined with Mr. Cole?s work. Lebogang, an eighth grader, had drifted in from a nearby single-room apartment that he shares with his mother, who is a maid, and his younger brother. His father is in jail. ?It?s very sad,? he said as he lingered over the black-and-white images.
Jimmy Phindi Tjege, 27, who like many young black South Africans has never held a job in a society still scarred by apartheid, had come to the exhibition with his girlfriend, Nomthandazo Patience Chazo, 26, who works for the government and has a car. They had driven from their black township, Daveyton, about 30 miles away.
Scraping previous day's porridge bowl. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Ms. Chazo was struck by a photograph of four hungry children scraping porridge from a single pot set on a concrete floor. Mr. Tjege singled out another picture, one of a serious boy squatting on the floor of an unfurnished schoolroom, clutching a chalkboard, with two tears of sweat running down the side of his face.
?I feel angry,? Mr. Tjege said, as he gestured to the rest of the gallery with a sweep of his hand. ?This room is full of anger.?
Mr. Cole?s captions and photographs are imbued with wrenching emotions.
?Servants are not forbidden to love. Woman holding child said, ?I love this child, though she?ll grow up to treat me just like her mother does.??? The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Next to a photograph of a maid holding a white baby girl whose lips are pressed to the woman?s forehead, the caption says: ?Servants are not forbidden to love. Woman holding child said, ?I love this child, though she?ll grow up to treat me just like her mother does.???
The caption for a picture of a hospital ward where the floor was crowded with sick children reads, ?New cases have their names written on adhesive tape stuck to their foreheads.?
A series of images of tsotsis, young black gangsters, picking the pockets of white men is accompanied by a caption that reads: ?Whites are angered if touched by anyone black, but a black hand under the chin is enraging. This man, distracted by his fury, does not realize his pocket is being rifled.?
Finding the unmarked trains designated for blacks involved guesswork. Passengers had to jump across tracks, and some were killed by express trains. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

The son of a washerwoman and a tailor, Mr. Cole quit high school in 1957 at 16 as the Bantu education law meant to consign blacks to menial labor went into effect.
When he was 20, the apartheid authorities deemed his family?s brick home and the black township where it sat as a ?black spot? and bulldozed them into rubble.
Being seen in a white area was sufficient cause for a black person to be arrested. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

Somehow, pretending to be an orphan, Mr. Cole had by then already managed to persuade apartheid bureaucrats to reclassify him as colored, or mixed race, despite his dark skin. His fluency in Afrikaans, the language of most coloreds, probably helped. His ability to pass as colored freed him from laws that required blacks always to carry a work permit when in ?white areas,? and this mobility proved crucial to his photography.
Joseph Lelyveld, a retired executive editor of The New York Times who was The Times?s correspondent in Johannesburg in the mid-1960s and worked with Mr. Cole, then a freelancer, described the young photographer as a wry, soft-spoken man.
?His judgments could be angry, but he had an ironic, almost furtive nature, conditioned by what he was trying to pull off,? Mr. Lelyveld, who remained a friend of Mr. Cole until his death, said in a telephone interview. ?It wasn?t easy to be a black man walking around Johannesburg with expensive cameras. The presumption would be you stole them.?
A police officer detains a boy, who must show his pass, in central Johannesburg. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

In the mid-1970s, when Mr. Cole was destitute and homeless in New York, Mr. Lelyveld said they went together to a cheap hotel where Mr. Cole had left his negatives and the photographs he had of his mother, only to discover they had gone to an auction of unclaimed items.
For years rumors circulated that a suitcase of Mr. Cole?s prints had survived somewhere in Sweden. David Goldblatt, a renowned South African photographer, had heard they were with the?Hasselblad Foundation there. When Mr. Goldblatt received the Hasselblad Award in 2006, and traveled to Gothenburg to accept it, he asked to see them. He said he was agape paging through?the images, saying, ?They can?t lie in a vault.?
Later, when he carefully studied scans of them at his home in Johannesburg, Mr. Goldblatt, now 80, said he began to realize that many of the photographs in ?House of Bondage? had been cropped severely to enhance their impact in a powerful anti-apartheid polemic. But the full frames showed Mr. Cole?s artistry.

?He wasn?t just brave,? said Mr. Goldblatt, who has been photographing this country for more than a half-century. ?He wasn?t just enterprising. He was a supremely fine photographer.?
For example, the picture of naked mine recruits photographed in a line from behind, their arms outstretched as if they were being held up, had a water basin on the wall at the end of the line. It was almost entirely cut out in the book.
Mining recruits at group inspection. Cole smuggled his camera in his lunch bag. The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection

?Cole was careful to include the basin, and the basin is like the full stop or exclamation mark in a sentence,? Mr. Goldblatt said. ?It just brings another dimension. It makes it banal. It?s not just dramatic, it?s banally dramatic. This is the kind of thing photographers live by, these details.?
Next year the exhibition, organized by the Hasselblad Foundation, will travel to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Mamelodi, the black township outside Pretoria where Mr. Cole?s family still lives. The foundation is now planning an American tour that probably will include San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta and New York.
A version of this article appeared in print on November 18, 2010, on page C1 of the New York edition.

Speech at the Funeral of Sarah Bartmann

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By Thabo Mbeki

9 August 2002

Fellow South Africans:
The day should be a day of celebration and joy. After all, today is National Women’s Day as well as the historic day when we return the remains of Sarah Bartmann to the land she walked as a child and a young woman.
Difficult as it may be, we must still celebrate. But we could not be human and not be deeply saddened and weighted down with grief as we reflect on the short life of Sarah Bartmann who has, at last, returned to her people.
This occasion can never be a solemn ceremony in which we bury her remains and bury the truth about the painful circumstances of her death as well.
To this day, 186 years after she died, we feel the pain of her intolerable misery because she was on us and we, of her. When we turn away from this grave of a simple African woman, a particle of each one of us will stay with the remains of Sarah Bartmann.
We cannot undo the damage that was done to her. But at least we can summon the courage to speak the naked but healing truth that must comfort her wherever she may be.
I speak of courage because there are many in our country would urge constantly that we should not speak of the past, They pour scorn on those who speak about who we are and where we come from and why we are where we are today. They make bold to say the past is no longer, and all that remains is a future that will be.
But, today, the gods would be angry with us if we did not, on the banks of the Gamtoos River, at the grave of Sarah Bartmann, call out for the restoration of the dignity of Sarah Bartmann, of the Khoi-San, of the millions of Africans who have known centuries of wretchedness.
Sarah Bartmann should never have been transported to Europe.
Sarah Bartmann should never have been robbed of her name and relabeled Sarah Bartmann. Sarah Bartmann should never have been stripped of her native, Khoi-San and African identity and paraded in Europe as a savage monstrosity.
As the French Parliament debated the matter of the return of the remains of our Sarah to her native land, the then Minister of Research, Roger-Gerard Scwartzenberg said: “This young woman was treated as if she was something monstrous. But where in this affair is the monstrosity?”
Indeed, where did the monstrosity lie in the matter of the gross abuse of a defenceless African woman in England and France! It was not the abused human being who was monstrous but those who abused her. It was not the lonely African woman in Europe, alienated from her identity and her motherland who was the barbarian, but those who treated her with barbaric brutality.
Among the truly monstrous were the leading scientists of the day, who sought to feed a rabid racism, such as the distinguished anatomist, Baron Georges Cuvier, who dissected Sarah’s body after her death. It is Cuvier who said after he had dismembered her:
“The Negro race… is marked by black complexion, crisped of woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose, The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe: the hordes of which it consists have always remained in the most complete state of barbarism…. These races with depressed and compressed skulls are condemned to a never-ending inferiority… Her moves had something that reminded one of the monkey and her external genitalia recalled those of the orang-utang.”
It was the distinguished Baron who wrote:
“The white race, with oval face, straight hair and nose, to which the civilised people of Europe belong and which appear to us the most beautiful of all, is also superior to others by its genius, courage and activity, (And that there is a) cruel law which seems to have condemned to an eternal inferiority the races of depressed and compressed skulls… and experience seems to confirm the theory that there is a relationship between the perfection of the spirit and the beauty of the face.”
Almost two centuries later, an honourable Member of the Parliament of France, Jean Dufour, sided with the truth and said:
“Enslaved, exploited, shown as an animal, (Sarah) was dissected by scientists who wanted first and foremost to confirm their theory of the superiority of a race over the others.”
A German predecessor of the Baron Cuvier, Johann Winckelmann, a priest and art historian, had stated the batter boldly, thus:
“The European, called by destiny to run the empire of the globe which he knows how to enlighten by his intelligence, tame by his abilities, is man par excellence; the others are nothing but hordes of barbarians.”
It was as one among these barbaric hordes that Sarah Bartmann was sucked into evil purposes pursued by those who defined themselves as a “man par excellence”, with a manifest destiny to enlighten and to tame.
When she died, Sarah Bartmann had indeed been enlightened about the ways and the barbarism of “man par excellence”. But she was not tamed.
Continue reading “Speech at the Funeral of Sarah Bartmann”