Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Saturday, 26 September 2009
As a global ambassador for Oxfam, Djimon has travelled in sub-Saharan Africa and seen the direct links between climate change and human suffering. "I've witnessed firsthand devastation with drought," Mr Hounsou told reporters after he helped to kick off the UN Summit on Climate Change. "Year after year, local farmers are still expecting rain to come pretty much as it used to. Its not coming, so they adapt, with their crops and plantings."
I share Djimon's opinion about the human cost of climate change and I too am passionately aware of the enormity of the problem that it poses to mankind and to our home, the Earth. I applaud him for the good work he has been doing as a humanitarian and as a climate activist. He has let people know what the rich industrialised nations need to be doing to help the less rich developing nations adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, a very real problem that is creeping up on us slowly but surely. "Climate change threatens to roll back years of development gains", the UN Secretary General said during his address to the General Assembly at the UN climate change summit. The entire continent of Australia has been in the grip of a drought for the best part of a decade.
Parts of East Africa have experienced successive years of failed rains. In West Africa, desertification is a serious problem in the arid Sahel regions, causing the migration southwards of large numbers of people; whereas flooding is becoming more frequent in the coastal regions. Africa is the continent that is least prepared to deal with the effects of climate change, yet the people of Africa are those who will suffer most severely from its impact. And this is already being felt in many parts of the continent.
This is a global problem, the cause for which the rich industrialised nations must accept responsibility. It is a problem that we must work together to tackle, rich and less rich nations alike. However, it is trite that because the rich industrialised nations bear a greater responsibility for the problem, they ought to be providing assistance more actively to the less well-off countries in the fight against climate change. The idea being mooted that Western nations should pay for investment in technologies designed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of emergent economies such as India and Brazil is encouraging. It is important that people recognise the seriousness of this problem that our generation has on its hands.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Monday, 21 September 2009
Sunday, 20 September 2009
The Hadzabe people of Tanzania collect honey combs from a tree
Saturday, 19 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
I came across this site during one of my forays into cyberworld. I am gobsmacked that someone has taken the time and trouble to produce something of this magnitude, a resource that goes way beyond just providing the meanings of words. This is not only a language dictionary, but information about Ijaw history and culture, present day politics and much more. It is especially relevant to me because the Ijaw language is the language of my ancestors. Ijaw (also known an 'Ijo' or 'Izon') is a language that belongs to a group of languages known as the Niger-Congo. Ijaw in turn is a family of several languages known as the 'Ijoid' family of languages. It is a large language group, the fourth largest in Nigeria and is spoken by people who are predominantly in the states located within the Niger delta in the south of Nigeria, (Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Akwa Ibom).
Click here for the history of the Ijaw as documented by the London based Ijaw Historical Documentation Project (The Ijo Genesis).
The Ijaw speak 9 closely-related Niger-Congo languages, all of which fall under the Ijoid branch of the Niger-Congo tree. The primary division between the Ijaw languages is that between Central Ijaw and Western Ijaw, the most important of the former group of languages being Izon, which is spoken by about 1 million people, while the most prominent member of the Western Ijaw group is Kalabari, which has about a quarter of a million speakers.
The Ijaw were one of the first of Nigeria's peoples to have contact with Westerners, and were active as go-betweens in trade between visiting Europeans and the peoples of the interior, particularly in the era before the discovery of Quinine, when West Africa was still known as the White Man's Graveyard because of the endemic presence of malaria. Some of the kin-based trading lineages that arose amongst the Ijaw developed into substantial corporations which were known as "Houses"; each house had an elected leader as well as a fleet of war canoes for use in protecting trade and fighting rivals. The other main occupation common amongst the Ijaw has traditionally been fishing.
Ijaw war canoe. Traditionally a fleet of these were used in protecting trade and fighting rivals (Click photo to enlarge)
Formerly organised into several loose clusters of villages which cooperated to defend themselves against outsiders, the Ijaw increasingly view themselves as belonging to a single coherent nation, bound together by ties of language and culture. This tendency has been encouraged in large part by the environmental degradation that has accompanied the discovery of oil in the Niger delta region which the Ijaw call home, as well as by a revenue sharing formula with the Federal government that is viewed by the Ijaw as manifestly unfair. The resulting sense of grievance has led to several high-profile clashes with the Nigerian Federal authorities, including kidnappings and in the course of which many lives have been lost.
Images of armed militants in Ijaw land have frequently appeared in the world's media in recent years
One manifestation of ethnic assertiveness on the part of the Ijaw has been an increase in the number and severity of clashes between Ijaw militants and those of Itsekiri origin, particularly in the town of Warri. While the Ijaw and the Itsekiri have lived alongside each other for centuries, for the most part harmoniously, the Itsekiri were first to make contact with European traders, as early as the 16th century, and they were more aggressive both in seeking Western education and in using the knowledge acquired to press their commercial advantages; until the arrival of Sir George Goldie's United Africa Company (later renamed the Royal Niger Company) in 1879, Itsekiri chieftains monopolised trade with Europeans in the Western Niger region. Despite the loss of their monopoly, the advantages already held by the Itsekiri ensured that they continued to enjoy a superior position to that held by the Ijaw, breeding in the latter a sense of resentment at what they felt to be colonial favoritism towards the Itsekiri.
Traditional Ijaw war boats appear today only on ceremonial occasions
The departure of the British at independence did not lead, as might have been expected, to a decrease in tensions between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri. With the discovery of large oil reserves in the Niger Delta region in the early 1960s, a new bone of contention was introduced, as the ability to claim ownership of a given piece of land now promised to yield immense benefits in terms of jobs and infrastructural benefits to be provided by the oil companies. Despite this new factor, rivalry between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri did not actually escalate to the level of violent conflict between the two groups until the late 1990s, when the death of General Sani Abacha in 1997 led to a re-emergence of local politics.
The issue of local government ward allocation has proven particularly contentious, as the Ijaw feel that the way in which wards have been allocated ensures that their superior numbers will not be reflected in the number of wards controlled by politicians of Ijaw ethnicity. Control of the city of Warri, the largest metropolitan area in Delta State and therefore a prime source of political patronage, has been an especially fiercely contested prize. This has given birth to heated disputes between the Ijaw, the Itsekiri and the [Urhobo] about which of the three groups are "truly" indigenous to the Warri region, with the underlying presumption being that the "real" indigenes should have control of the levers of power, regardless of the fact that the members of all three groups hold ostensibly equal political rights in their places of residence.
Although the Ijaw are now primarily Christians, with Catholicism being the variety of Christianity most prevalent amongst them, the Ijaw have elaborate traditional religious practices of their own. Veneration of ancestors plays a central role in Ijaw traditional religion, while water spirits, known as Owuamapu figure prominently in the Ijaw pantheon. In addition, the Ijaw practice a form of divination called Igbadai, in which recently deceased individuals are interrogated on the causes of their death.
Ijaw religious beliefs hold that water spirits are like humans in having personal strengths and shortcomings, and that humans dwell amongst the water spirits before being born. The role of prayer in the traditional Ijaw system of belief is to maintain the living in the good graces of the water spirits amongst whom they dwelt before being born into this world, and each year the Ijaw hold celebrations in honour of the spirits lasting for several days. Central to the festivities is the role of masquerades, in which men wearing elaborate outfits and carved masks dance to the beat of drums and manifest the influence of the water spirits through the quality and intensity of their dancing. Particularly spectacular masqueraders are taken to actually be in the possession of the particular spirits on whose behalf they are dancing.
Monday, 14 September 2009
Friday, 11 September 2009
Two years later, he killed himself at age 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide. Gordon Brown’s statement came in response to a petition posted on the Number 10 website which has received thousands of signatures in recent months.
The external genitalia of a person can be "ambiguous". For example, the clitoris may be enlarged so that it looks like a small penis or a female's labia may be fused, resembling a scrotum. There are also chromosomal and hormonal variations and conditions.Then there is the condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a condition in which the body produces more androgen, a type of male hormone. If a girl has it, she will usually have normal internal female reproductive organs, but may not have periods and may have a male appearance. I understand that this together with a number of other conditions are recognised by the IAAF as giving an advantage to the individual, but are accepted nonetheless. There are other conditions, including polycystic ovaries and androgen producing tumours, where a woman can have higher than normal levels of testosterone which are not thought to offer any advantage to athletes. In addition, there is a condition called androgen insensitivity syndrome where someone may have internal and undescended testes - and high levels of testosterone - but look like a woman and have a vagina and a uterus. (No, I'm not an expert. I just happened to read this).
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Monday, 7 September 2009
Friday, 4 September 2009
Two Australian cities, Sydney and Melbourne make it into the top five. Sydney is rated second, while Melbourne is fifth. The Australians must be doing something right it seems. In third and fourth are Barcelona, Spain and Amsterdam, Netherlands respectively. Barcelona presumably for its coupling of European sophistication, Mediterranean sun and proud Catalan heritage. Amsterdam because in this city you and I can smoke joints whenever and wherever we wish to, lol. Only one US city makes it into the Top 10 and there are no African or Asian cities in the list at all. At 6th position is Madrid, Spain, 7th is San Francisco, USA, 8th is Rome, Italy, 9th is Paris, France and 10th is Buenos Aires, Argentina. See world's happiest cities in pictures.
What this seems to be suggesting is that those who live in cities in Africa, Asia, much of Northern and all of Eastern Europe and everywhere in North America aside from San Francisco, are less happy than those in the cities listed. Well, maybe there is some truth in this because living in London, I do not see many smiling faces. In Africa however, people tend to be happier and friendlier than this list might suggest and it may be that policy advisor Simon Anholt and market researcher GfK Custom Research North America who conducted this research by compiling online interviews with 10,000 respondents in 20 countries, (the names of which countries do not seem to have been disclosed), have placed undue reliance on preconceptions about the lifestyles of people in the Mediterranean and South America. The respondents too appear to have been swayed by their own idea of where they thought of as being the place where they would be most happy. Australia is the real surprise in these results, since history tells us that until relatively recently historically speaking, this was a penile colony to which hardened criminals from Europe were exiled.
"Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit." (Hosea Ballou 1771-1852)