Monday, 31 May 2010

Bank holiday with a gay activist..

It was an absolutely brilliant day today. Last evening when we arranged to meet up at around noon today, neither Davis MacIyalla nor I knew how enjoyable our day together was to be. Unknown to me, Davis had arranged for a friend, Margaret, to join us, so it was three of us that set out on this remarkable outing. The usual thing as a time like this is to go for lunch, which is what we did, at this lovely place in Hendon that I introduced them to. The place in Tottenham that Davis had wanted to take us to was closed because its a bank holiday.

Margaret is a heterosexual African woman with adult children who are doing very well in their respective fields of endeavour. She came across as highly intelligent, was very articulate and she cares passionately enough about the plight of Africa and gay Africans in particular, to have become involved in the struggle for equality and recognition that gay Africans have on their hands. The discussion was lively and very interesting indeed and in the process, I gained an insight into the inner workings of the activist movement, something that I had always sought. I have been made to realise that I am in fact an activist myself and that I have been involved in gay activism without actually knowing it.

This company was exciting and invigorating, as we sat in a French bistro in Islington over glasses of wine, rubbing minds on the way forward in this struggle that we are all involved in. There was talk about the need for more material support for our brothers and sisters in Africa by Africans living in the West. The consensus was that many of us are shirking our responsibility to our brethren back in Africa and leaving the bulk of the work to Westerners, who because they are removed from the reality on the ground in Africa, are susceptible to scams by unscrupulous individuals. There was discussion about the situation in Africa, including the story of the Malawi gay couple, the anti-gay bill in Uganda and of the need for the empowerment (economic and otherwise) of same-gender loving African people. There were ideas and thoughts expressed, including the idea that gay people too can sometimes be guilty of intolerance and that more should be done to see that we are all-inclusive in our approach. So watch this space...

This is a photo of Davis taken this evening. I have his permission to use it.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

On that Ship in a Bottle..

Since I heard that Anglo-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare's artwork was the next commission for the Fourth Plinth at London's Trafalgar Square, I've been itching to go and have a look at it. It was entirely impossible during the week, I simply could not squeeze out any daylight time to visit Trafalgar Square and yesterday was a typical bank-holiday-weekend Saturday, since it rained practically all day.

This morning I was on my way to church, but I made a detour and drove to Westminster with my fingers crossed, in the hope that I might find a place to park the car in order that I might physically walk unto the Trafalgar Square itself, take a close-up look at the artwork and perhaps some photos too. But it was not to be. Its interesting how on Sundays everybody in London suddenly becomes a tourist, especially when the sun is out. First of all, even those sky-rocket Westminster Council parking charges do not deter visitors, so of course, there was nowhere to park. Then the crowds! Right before my eyes as I sat in gridlocked traffic, I could see the mass of humanity emerging from the Underground and everywhere else, heading towards the square.

I soon realised that there was no hope whatsoever that I would accomplish my mission and still make it in time to church. So I pulled out the camera, as I sat in the car and took photos of the artwork while struggling to maintain control of the car. The photos that I've posted are the best ones... :)

What is important about this artwork is that it is the first commission on the Fourth Plinth to address the historical symbolism of Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square was built in the 1840s to commemorate the death of the great Admiral Horatio Nelson at the famous Battle of Trafalgar. Atop the tallest structure in the square is a statue of Nelson himself and this structure is known as Nelson's Column.

Within a shell of thick glass, Shonibare's ship is intended to depict Admiral Nelson's ship, HMS Victory, but the 37 sails of the ship-in-the-bottle are made of richly patterned traditional West African fabric, textiles that are commonly associated with African dress and symbolic of African identity and independence. According to the Fourth Plinth commissioners, "the history of the fabrics reveals that they were inspired by Indonesian batik design, mass produced by the Dutch [in Indonesia] and sold to the colonies in West Africa. The work therefore deals with the complexity of British expansion in trade and Empire, made possible through the freedom of the seas that Nelson's victory provided."

This is the first work of public art by an African artist prominently displayed in a public place in the United Kingdom. When asked how he managed to get the ship inside the bottle, Shonibare would not tell. The work was sponsored by Guaranty Trust Bank, a Nigerian Bank.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Hurray! Tiwonge & Steven are freed

I reject the word "pardoned", because I do not accept that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza had done anything for which they needed to be pardoned! These two innocent gay men were victimised because they are poor, and that is the truth of the matter. It was assumed that the men lacked influence and were to be scapegoats. Therefore the Malawi government must have indeed been very bewildered at the world's reaction to the unjust incarceration and unfair trial to which it subjected the couple.

The country's president "pardoning" the couple publicly after a meeting with the UN Secretary General although intended as a publicity stunt, in reality exposes the deliberate persecution of these men for what it really was. Now the time has come for all African countries that retain 19th century sodomy laws in their law books to have a rethink about whether they need to retain these laws at all, since these are laws that can never be successfully enforced.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Obasanjo on homosexuality...

In this article in The Guardian newspaper of Tuesday 25 May 2010 are the remarks of Olusegun Obasanjo, twice Nigeria's head of state. For completeness, I have chosen to reproduce the full article here:

An African statesman who shares a political platform with Kofi Annan, Tony Blair and Bob Geldof has condemned homosexuality as an "abomination", dismissing individuals' right to privacy with the riposte: "You want to make love to a horse?

Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, indicated his support for the sentencing last week of a gay couple in Malawi to 14 years in prison with hard labour, insisting that countries have the right to enforce their own laws.
The remarks, coming at a time of huge sensitivity around gay rights in Africa, have the potential to embarrass Obasanjo's colleagues on the Africa Progress Panel, a respected body that monitors development across the continent. Chaired by Annan, its members include Blair, Geldof, economist Muhammad Yunus and Graca Machel, the women's and children's rights activist and wife of Nelson Mandela.
Annan, the former UN secretary-general, and Obasanjo, a UN special envoy, appeared united on stage yesterday at the launch of the panel's latest report in Johannesburg.
But whereas Annan described last week's imprisonment of Malawians Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza as "very regressive", Obasanjo, a devout Christian, offered a very different view in an interview with the Guardian.
"I believe that God who created man, male and female, is a wise God, is to me a God who doesn't make a mistake," he said. "If he wants sexual relationship between man and man, and between woman and woman, God will not have created them male and female. For me it is an abomination in my part of the world and if anybody practices it then he must be unbiblical, and anything that is unbiblical for me as a Christian is not right."
He continued: "If a country makes it a law then he should be punished according to the law of that country. If a law in my country says we shouldn't shake in public, that of course would be ridiculous, but let's say that is what the law says, until you can get that law repealed, you must not shake in public. If you say you will defy that law and you shake in public, and the law says if you shake in public you go to prison for three months, then you have to go for prison for three months."
Obasanjo, whose human rights record was questioned during his two separate spells as president of Nigeria, denied that consenting adults have a right to privacy in their own homes. "What is the privacy of your home? Why don't you take an animal and say look, the privacy of your home, you want to make love to a horse? Bestiality. You say that is right? No.
"If the privacy of your home means a socially condemnable act, then you have no privacy. You have done what you should not do and if the law says you should be punished for it, whether you do it in public or the privacy of your home, you have breached the law and you must be punished, according to the law."
Immediately after the interview, Obasanjo could be seen discussing the difference of opinion with Annan. Later, on his way out, Annan smiled and told the Guardian: "I'll work on him."
David Smith in Johannesburg
Now tell me, which well-educated, intelligent person living in the 21st century will read what Obasanjo said and not see it for the drivel that it is? Is it a wonder that Nigeria as a country continues to teeter on the brink of chaos and collapse and the quality of life for the citizens has deteriorated from year to year, when since independence from Britain fifty years ago the leaders that the country has been cursed with, (save for current President Jonathan), are of this calibre?
The difference is clear between Obasanjo on the one hand and Kofi Annan on the other, who is a prime example of the cultured, sophisticated, educated African. In my view, Obasanjo's simplistic, puerile arguments and reasoning, are redolent of the drunken banter of a beer parlour in Ajegunle!
I have some difficulty in figuring out what qualities this man possesses that qualify him for membership of this distinguished panel. African countries have for too long been in the grip of greedy reactionaries of which Obasanjo is a good example. He is an embarrassment to me as a Nigerian and I see him as of the ilk of Mugabe!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

On religion or not...

If you were to Google the origin of religion, you will find text that states the belief in the afterlife occurred around the time that mankind began having self realization, or conscious thought. What this means is, that once man realized that he lives and dies, he separated himself from the animal world. Animals do not know that death is looming. Religion was born from the collective anxiety created by self realization? Once man realized his days are numbered and death was inevitable, the anxiety about what happens when you die became so profound, that religion was born. The story of a creator who created the heaven and the earth and all life and that after we die we are granted eternal life with our creator, is a whole lot more comforting than we rot in the cold earth. This is just a theory of the development of religion.
People want to believe and so they believe. They have faith that the creator is real. 90% of religious people follow the religion taught to them by their parents. 10% of the US population is atheist.
The rise in non believers has to do with the availability of information. From the dawn of time through to the dawn of the internet information was not readily available. For those of us who grew up before the PC, your only sources of information were your library and the world book encyclopedia.
Religious people get bent out of shape when anything contradicts or challenges the power and glory of GOD. Noetics does not refute religion. It is a study of the potential of collective conscious thought to affect matter. What does that mean, well it means that if enough people concentrate on a thought collectively, they may be able to affect a result in matter. Like in the book, [The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown], the formation of ice crystals in a nice pattern based on positive thought.
I have never witnessed evidence that prayer works to cure the sick. If all someone does for a cancer patient is pray, ignoring medical intervention, chances are the cancer patient will die. I seriously doubt that noetic science would have a different result.
As for the person who talked about being careful about venturing into a vein of science that may not be safe, referring to stem cell research. I have one question for you. Do you avoid medical intervention when you are sick or dying? If we do not allow science to progress, the vast number of medical break throughs we now take for granted would never have come about. Doctors can operate on a fetus in vitro to correct issues with the unborn. They can do surgery on a person’s brain to cure epilepsy. They can give you a pill and cure a bacterial infection, it is called an antibiotic. Many say we should not do any of these things in the name of religion. I say science is a good thing.
If you need proof to believe in GOD, you won’t, belief is a choice. Every religion believes they are right. I believe if there is a GOD, it won’t care what religion you have, or don’t have, so long as you were a moral person. Matt doesn’t believe, he feels free because of it. Let him be. Judge yourself against your beliefs not another against your beliefs. If I could prove to you that heaven does not exist, would you live any differently? If I could prove to you that heaven is a definite place and that to get in you had to change your life drastically, getting rid of any excess, could you do that? Life without religion is not pointless. There are close to 15.2% of the world’s population who do not have a religion
Some religions forbid drinking alcohol, but Jesus did not. Some religions forbid the priests to marry, but this was not always the case, in the same religion. Study religion, not just yours, but Muslim, Jewish, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Knowledge is power. Or resist knowledge and go through life believing what you have been taught, accepting it and only it. Shunning anything new or different and die hoping you are right.
(Interesting comment on noetic science and religion by Gman to be found here)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Telling Shell in London

Amnesty groups in London tell Shell to clean up its act in the Niger Delta

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I am in mourning

This evening, out of the blue came the shocking news that my much loved older sister passed away earlier today. I am devastated beyond words..

Lunch time, Fufu time..

I'm working on a project. And what is this project? Its learning how to make perfect fufu. Thank goodness for noise nuisance laws in this country, I'm protected from having to learn to pound it with a mortar and pestle as in this video. But even preparing it from fufu flour over the cooker is still a bit of a challenge.

In Nigeria, fufu is not as commonly eaten as it is in Ghana. Gari (eba) and pounded yam (iyan) are more popular in Nigeria than fufu is. And the fufu of Nigeria is different from that of Ghana, in that, as far as I'm aware Nigerian fufu (akpu) is made entirely from fermented cassava, whereas in Ghana plantains and even cocoyams are added to the cassava paste before it is pounded. And as the lady in this video says, sometimes fufu is made from cocoyam..

Not being a big fan of
fufu myself, why then am I learning how to make it? Simple, John is Ghanaian and he loves his fufu. In fact its his favourite meal... So after fufu what next? Well, next stop is kenkey and then I'll work on banku..

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Freedom without my lover is useless and meaningless..

Renowned gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has told the Guardian newspaper that he has received a message of defiance from Tiwonge Chimbalanga, one half of the Malawian gay couple who are currently facing criminal charges of 'unnatural practices between males' and 'gross indecency'. In the message, Chimbalanga stated "I love Steven too much. If people of the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless."

Tatchell who has maintained contact with the couple since they have been in prison also quoted Steven Monjeza (the other half of the couple) as saying, "We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will never stop loving Tiwonge." The couple who have been refused bail, have been remanded in prison custody since last December. The verdict of the court in the trial of this heroic couple is due next week. It has been said that currently Steven looks "thin and weak", with "jaundiced eyes".

Residents of the Machinjiri township on the outskirts of Blantyre where the couple have their home have responded angrily, saying that they will not allow the couple to return home if they are set free.

"They have given this township a bad name", said Maikolo Phiri, a local vendor.

Zione Monjeza, an aunt of Steven said, "We as a family have been terribly embarrassed to be associated with this gay thing. Its a curse and a big shame. We will chase them away if they are freed."

Nchiteni Monjeza, Steven's uncle, said: "I won't drop a tear if they are jailed. They deserve it."

For me, the couple are social revolutionaries who deserve the support of all right-thinking people. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa where more than half of the population live below the poverty line. Tobacco is the country's main export and the use of child labour is rampant. This worrying BBC World Service report elaborates on the problem of families, who due to poverty are forced to send their children to work in the tobacco fields, thereby denying the children their childhood and their right to education. There is much talk about large international tobacco companies being unscrupulous and uncaring, but my mind tells me that the government of Malawi is more directly responsible for the welfare of the child-citizens of the country than any international company is. The Malawian government, as with many other governments in Africa, continues to fail its people. Employers of child labour are not pursued and prosecuted, even though under Malawian law the employment of children is illegal.

While child labour can be defined as any work, which by its nature or employment conditions is detrimental to a child's physical, mental, moral, social or emotional development, the "Worst Forms of Child Labour" refers to the types of work for children described in Article 3 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182. Article 3 of the Convention, among other things, emphasises any work, which is "likely" to harm a child's health, safety or morals, such as, in this case the work carried out in the tobacco and tea estates of Malawi.

For statistics on child labour in Malawi you may take a look at [download] this very detailed ILO report. For the year 2000 the ILO projected 445,000 economically active children between the ages of 10 and 14 working as child labourers, representing 31.5% of this age group, 216,000 girls and 229,000 boys. The report also observed that being tender physically, children are susceptible to various work-related injuries and illnesses to a greater degree than adults doing the same kind of work, and that a high percentage of the children were physically injured or fell ill while working.

Interestingly just last evening I saw a report on this same subject on Channel 4's Unreported World. (Please click on the link and see the Unreported World report. It will be available online only for about one month from the date of this blog post). Unlike the reporter however, who apparently sought to cast aspersions on the big tobacco companies, I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Malawian government for failing to protect the children of the country. And yet it is this same government that will enthusiastically pursue and persecute harmless homosexual men. I eagerly await the verdict next Tuesday and the fallout thereafter if the couple are jailed.

The Malawi Law Society (MLS), the professional body of the country's 200 lawyers, has spoken out in favour of the couple, saying that they are "not a threat to the society" and should be freed. This is an about-turn from a few months ago when Malawian lawyers proclaimed that the couple broke the law and deserve to face justice. It is a clear example of the effectiveness of the efforts of rights campaigners worldwide, who since this saga began in December 2009, have ceaselessly stressed the injustice that is inherent in the continued detention of the couple and how unlikely it is that they will get a fair trial in the face of such massively hostile public opinion.

Friday, 7 May 2010

A fascinating few days..

It's been a while since I wrote something on this blog. Even I am surprised that I've managed to stay away from the blog for so long. Since my last post, I have tried on six different occasions to compose a post, each time failing to complete the post that I started. Having been unable to update the blog, my blog dashboard is littered with uncompleted blog posts that have been "saved as a draft". Hopefully, someday soon I shall muster the composure to complete each of them.

What has occupied my mind throughout this period is the extraordinary general election that we have been witnessing in this country. I have been engrossed in it and do intend at some stage to discuss this too on the blog. Please bear with me..

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Garuba (Part 1) is published

Garuba Part 1 is now published and to be found here.