From the Himalayas to the Pacific Islands

Nepali´s living under palm trees and close to long white sand beaches? A contradiction in terms, one would think. Yet 10,000 Nepalis live on an island in the Pacific, Viti Levu, the largest island in the Republic of Fiji.

The accompanying article on Nepalis in Fiji is based on information provided by Charoiette Ram Padarath, a 70 year old Fijian of Nepali descent. She was an English teacher near Suva, until retirement a few years ago, when she immigrated to Vancouver, Canada.
Mrs. Padarath´s father, Ratan Bahadur Singh, was a soldier in the Nepali army at the turn of the century. He heard that the British were recruiting labourers in Uttar Pradesh for the cane plantations in the Pacific. The Rana Prime Minister had asked the British not to recruit Nepalis, Ratan Bahadur left disguised as a sadhu and changed his name so as not to give himself away.

The immigrant workers left by ship from Calcutta. Conditions on board were subhuman and many died during the passage to Fiji. When they arrived, the island was far from the paradise that the British had promised. Life was hard and the rewards few.


Nepalis immigrated to Fiji in large numbers around the turn of the century. Fiji was then a British Crown Colony and the English overlords were looking to populate their farflung empire with subject people slated for work on the plantations and in menial labour. Although a few Nepalis came as free settlers, most were part of the “girmit”, the indentured labour system. At the time, however, the authorities in Kathmandu ruled against the recruitment of its citizens for such purposes. Those who wanted to join the British work force had to do so clandestinely.
The Nepalis settled first in Suva, the capital of Fiji, and then moved around the island to Navua, another large town, and eventually to Kavanagasau, now home of the largest Nepali community in the islands.

It is not difficult to understand why the trail ended where it did. Situated in the “Sand dunes of Singatoka”, Kavanagasau is the one place in Viti Levu with mist-shrouded hills and valleys, landscape guaranteed to appeal to anyone homesick for the Himalayan foothills. Ironically, like much of the Nepalis´ home country, Kavanagasau is not favoured with large tracts of productive land. Here they lease farmland from the native Fijians and grow sugarcane and vegetables for the market. Most children end their studies after getting a basic high school education and the majority follow in their parent´s footsteps as peasant farmers.

Far from their country of origin, the Fiji-born Nepalis hold on to their way of life. They celebrate Dasain with particular gusto and keep their khukuris sharp. The only contact they have with the old country is through Hong Kong based Gurkhas who come to Fiji for jungle warfare training. During their off duty hours, these Nepali soldiers head for Kavanagasau to enjoy the unfailingly warm hospitality, Nepali talk and perhaps a sip of ram in the middle of the Pacific.

Read more here: http://old.himalmag.com/himal-feed/53/3329-FOCUS-ON-KAVANAGASAU.html

Update: it is believed that some of the free settling Nepalese were indeed women, like my own great great grandparents.

Nigerian-born scientist wins award for his cancer-seeing glasses

Samuel Achilefu, has won the prestigious St. Louis Award for 2014 for creating cancer-visualizing glasses.

Dr. Achilefu, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, and his team developed the imaging technology in cancer diagnosis into a wearable night vision-like goggles so surgeons could see the cancer cells while operating.

“They basically have to operate in the dark,” Bloomberg Businessweek quoted Dr. Achilefu, 52, as saying.

“I thought, what if we create something that let’s you see things that aren’t available to the ordinary human eye.”


Ed’s Note: “What if” are the two most powerful words in creation.

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Interview: Somali Photographer Amaal Said Uses Her Lens to Create Beautiful Portraits Of Inspiring Young WOC.

After catching sight of her beautiful portraits of fellow women of colour, on instagram, I felt compelled to send Amaal a message gushing at the beauty of her work. Centered on capturing women of colour, or ‘small beauties’ as she refers to them, each portrait is as delicate as it is striking. Not only a poet with words, but through the fruit of her lens, my 'fangirling’ led to intrigue and curiosity. With that, it only made sense to get to know Amaal and her equally inspiring project a little better.

Can you tell us a little bit about you - who is Amaal Said in a nutshell?

I’m a Danish-born Somali girl. I was born in Denmark and I lived there until I was eight. I’m nineteen, I’m a writer and I’m also a photographer. Growing up, Iwas the kid in class constantly scribbling something in the back of her book and I guess it stuck. I live in London now and I call it a home.

You fell on my radar after I happened upon your photography on instagram. It’s always so refreshing for me to see Africans in and from different parts of the globe and continent producing work in the creative arts. Have you always had an interest in photography and the arts in general? How did your venture into photography come about?

We have huge family albums and I can’t remember a time growing up where my father didn’t own a camera. Sadly, he doesn’t believe in photography very much anymore. When I brought my first film camera home a couple of months ago he said, ‘what’s the use of that now?’

I remember the excitement of getting the prints of film back when we were kids. We moved from town to town and house to house so my parents took all the pictures they could to root us someplace.

I also remember being fascinated with water. I’d get super excited. I’d hold the camera too close to the water and cry when it broke. I don’t remember how many family cameras I’ve broken. I’ve been an arts/photography lover for a long time. I dwell in galleries and spend a lot of money on books.

It’s interesting to hear about your personal relationship with photography and how it impacted your childhood. But now it seems that you’ve crossed over to a point of taking it more seriously, especially with your portrait photography project focusing on talented and inspiring Women of Colour (WOC) you know. Where, when or how did the idea for this project come about?

I was standing in the photography section of the Tate Modern bookstore with a friend. I remember asking her, ‘imagine if we opened a book up and saw women that looked like our mothers and aunts?’ There is something so warm about looking at a picture and being able to recognize yourself in it.

My initial idea was to capture black women in a gallery space. I wanted to make them part of the art, to take up space in an institution that wasn’t speaking to us. It ended up becoming a much larger project and I wanted to involve the subjects more. So I asked what their favourite scarves or pieces of jewelry were, and which things connected them to their homes.

That is so inspiring and such an important perspective. How do you go about choosing subjects for this series?

The women are mostly my friends, women close to my heart. I’m a poet and being part of collectives has brought brilliant women into my life. I also do this thing where I send messages to random women who have something warm about them and ask to take their portrait. We end up going to tea and becoming friends. The photography has made me braver. So being engaged in the process of the work has introduced me to the most amazing women as well.

Why is it important for you to photograph (talented) women of colour specifically? Does it relate in any way to your experience as a WOC in the UK?

My work is absolutely about filling a void. I keep asking myself, ‘if you don’t take the pictures then who will? Who’s going to photograph the women you love in a light that is fair to them, in a way that they recognize themselves?’ There was the realization that I had to take the pictures, that I couldn’t afford to wait around for someone else to represent us.

It also has a lot to do with my identity. There’s a lot I’m working through when it comes to pinning myself down somewhere, whether that be country or town. I’m coming from a specific place. I’m a Londoner. I’m the eldest daughter of parents who are immigrants. I’m Somali. These factors are all specific to me, but what ties me to the women I’ve photographed is that we are all British WOC.

I’ve noticed that a lot of your portraits feature flowers - is there any significance to this?

I’m drawn to flowers. The initial reason for opting for flowers was to put the person I was photographing at ease. I think it’s easier when you have something in your hand, or at the side of your face. Then I was doing a shoot with my friend Belinda Zhawi. She had such beautiful braids and I stuck a few flower pieces in her hair. We’re never seen as delicate things as black women. Putting those flowers in her hair meant something. It was more than just beauty, but what beauty meant being a black woman. Every shoot is different. Sometimes flowers work and there are times when other things are more suitable, but I ask 'what things do you like? What makes you feel beautiful?’ And we just go from there.

Who and what are some of the people and things that influence you and/or your work?

I have to start with Alfredo Jaar. He said, ‘images are not innocent.’ I’ve always known that photography is political but his work showed me how important it was to be conscious of what you were photographing and in which way you were portraying your subjects, which stance you were taking.

I’m also in love with Malick Sidibe’s work. His portraits are incredible and they make me want to hold on to and keep old pictures of my parents safe. Most recently, the photography of Hernan Diaz has my heart. I feel something when I look at his pictures. I don’t know which words to use yet. I’ll just say that I felt like I knew Cartagena when I was flicking through his collection, ‘Cartagena forever’.

Then there are photographers whose work I follow: Andre Wagner, Sanaa Hamid, Nadine Ijewere, Jalani Morgan, Emmanuel Afolabi, Alex Webbe, Krissane Johnson, Rog Walker, Matt Eich, Dexter R. Jones, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson. There are so many more. I’m constantly falling in love with photography and finding inspiration in so many places.

You write poetry too, can you tell us a little bit about your writing and the subjects you explore?

The writing came out of nowhere. I don’t remember when I started. It’s my way of trying to understand why things happened in my family and why there was so much silence growing up, why so much shame came with womanhood. I keep writing about my mother. I keep writing about my father too. I have a lot of questions in mind, like what they were like before they had children. I’ve been making up their former lives in my head.

I’m working with a couple of amazing poets on a project about translation. I finally get to sit down and ask my parents about particular stories. I’m looking at what’s lost in translation, what’s gained, what we make up and what we try our hardest to forget.

I came off the stage recently and a woman told me, ‘that was so violent.’ I found myself wanting to apologize, to take back the words, to give her something lighter. But I’m discovering a very violent history and I’m writing through it. I keep having to remind myself that there are people who have died because of their writing, who might also have been imprisoned or beaten. There is so much to write about, so much to document and I realize now that I shouldn’t apologize for the work.

Find more from Amaal on instagramtwitterfacebook on tumblr.

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If a latinx tells you they don’t speak Spanish, leave it at that. Don’t say “but I thought you were ___” “aren’t your parents ___” “you’re not a real latinx!” It sucks for some of us that can’t connect to our culture through language; please don’t make us feel anymore crappy than we already do

5

Mississippi Masala is probably not the first film dealing with India’s diaspora (in the movie’s case a double diaspora) but one amongst a clutch of much discussed diaspora films of the 1990s (X, X). It is also well documented on tumblr so the images are a bit superfluous. Except to say that Mina’s wardrobe is very much 1980s influenced “ethnic chic”, kind of a Gurjari in Greenwood aesthetic. With a dash of Janpath market (pic 3). It combines this with 1990s American fashions (that denim…) and a nod to Africa in some of the prints Mina’s parents wear as well as the African wax print furnishings in Mina’s room (pic 5).

PPW Q&A | DarkMatter and Movement Building

Photo By Nerdscarf Photography | Interview By Lissa Alicia 

DarkMatter is a femme, non-binary South Asian poetry duo based out of Brooklyn.

What advice do you have for young people who are struggling with gender identity, and may not have a fostering and understanding support system?

Young trans people, especially trans people of color, experience constant invalidation and erasure in the most intimate spheres of our lives.  We just want to extend love and affirmation for all the things young gender nonconforming and trans folks are doing to survive and thrive. There is no one way to be trans and everything you are experiencing is valid.

Read more

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In Conversation with Brandon Stanciell - The Man Who Loves Flowers.

One of the first-ever photographs I came across involving a black man tenderly clutching flowers and gazing into the lens of the camera was a self-portrait by Cameroonian visual artist Samuel Fosso. 

Taken in 1977, the image is titled “L’amour c’est a tendresse.” As much as I appreciate the slightly mystical nature of black and white photographs, I can’t help but wonder how striking such a seemingly simple image would have looked like in colour.

Almost four decades later, photographer Brandon Stanciell’s series, though unrelated to Fosso’s work, beautifully and unexpectedly fills that gap - and so much more. Armed with a deep sense of curiosity and awe, I briefly chatted to Brandon about his work. 

On his relationship with photography:

In April 2014 I decided to put my foot down and really pursue photography.
With a hand-me-down DSLR and a $12 film camera, that I still use to this day, I began to pursue and express my photographic vision.

On the beginnings of his series “The Man Who Loved Flowers”:

My work in my series “The Man Who Loved Flowers” expresses the love I have for flowers and color. It is evident in the different photographic mediums I use. You can see it with my digital work and feel it with my film work.

What I do, is for the love of flowers.

On the inspiration behind the title and concept of this series, and the overall significance of flowers:

“The Man Who Loved Flowers” began as a name I adopted from a short story by Stephen King. I feel a lot of how I go about my work relates to that story, with the exception of the serial killer portion. Flowers play a huge role in my work - they’re my staple. More often than not, my concepts hit me out of nowhere, almost as though they are an epiphany I’ve been waiting for all week.

For my new portrait series, my main focus has been on color. With a plain white wall as the constant background, I place my subject in front of this deliberately. This is done in order to portray the subject as the source of all color. This draws the viewer’s eyes directly to them. Though many have mistaken a couple of the photos of Kristopher Young (the model in Thinker of Tender/Exquisite Thoughts) as me, it isn’t. However, that particular series is a representation of my thought process on my work so I guess it’s good they think I look like him. Most of my subjects are close friends, people I’ve met through social networking. There isn’t really anything in particular I look for when I recruit and shoot my subjects. Most have this calming cool quality about them that I want to portray with flowers so I do so.

On the impression and portrayal of black men’s sensitivity in his series:

I can see how some can get that feel from my work. You don’t see a lot of black males being photographed, let alone photographed with flowers. I think what I’m really trying to portray/say in this series is that black is beautiful and has always been beautiful, and the flowers are a compliment to that beauty.

Written by Funke.

On the Oppression of Diaspora Peoples

This is a bit off theme for this blog, but it needs to be said. There is not enough attention paid to the treatment of diasporas in Social Justice. I’m not just talking about Jews. I’m talking about the Romani, I’m talking about the various African diasporas, and, most specifically in this case, I’m talking about the Kurds.

The Kurds had their land conquered by the Ottomans, and when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after WWI, the Sykes-Picot agreement divided Kurdistan between four other countries, dividing the people and putting them under the rule of other countries. What has been done to them? Here are just three highly simplified examples.

1. Saddam Hussein gassed the Iraqi Kurds, killing thousands of them.

2. Turkey tried to destroy their ethnicity, forcing Kurds to be re-educated. When they refused, Turkey began violently attacking them. This led to the 30 year conflict between the Turkish government and the PKK, which lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds.

3. ISIS is murdering Kurds by the thousands RIGHT NOW.

I follow several Kurdish blogs. I see their posts. I see their frustration with the apathy their plight receives. I see more posts criticizing the fact that the US is supporting the Kurds than I do criticizing ISIS for killing them. This pattern reflects what I’ve seen with regards to anti-semitism, anti-romanism and other oppressions faced by diaspora peoples.

So just to express my point further, Diaspora peoples, IE people with no safe home country, tend to be treated as unwanted aliens in the countries where they live. Without a safe place to go back to, they are FORCED to live at the sufference of majority cultures that consider them outsiders. Diaspora peoples usually face three basic forms of destruction from the majority populations:

1. Forced assimilation. In the United States, for example, White Jews are offered conditional white privilege in exchange for assimilation. The more we abandon our Jewish identities, the less Jewish we look and act, the more easily we are accepted and given a piece of the White Privilege pie. This is not a violent extermination, but it is an attempt to destroy us as Jews. This is what Turkey attempted to do to the Kurds in a much less subtle fashion.

2. Expulsion. This is another common tactic. Diaspora peoples are not welcome and are driven out. This has happened to the Jews several times as well. England expelled its Jews in 1290. Spain expelled its Jews in 1492. Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa expelled their Jews between the 1940s and the 1960s.

3. Annihilation. The Holocaust was an attempt to destroy two diaspora peoples by Nazi Germany. They wanted to conquer the “native” populations of Europe, but they sought to murder the Jews and Romani and were quite efficient in doing so in large part because the “native” populations of Europe were all too happy to stand by or collaborate when the landless peoples of the continent were being systematically exterminated. Nazism’s reach in that regard even stretched out to affect Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, through both direct and indirect means. 

The problem with the current SJ discourse is that it mostly views people in terms of two dichotomies: White/PoC and Colonized/Colonizer. Exiled peoples fail both dichotomies due to a lack of a land and due to the ethnic mixing that comes with being dispersed to many lands. Without the recognition for the kinds of oppression faced by diaspora populations, we are all too often ignored when we plead for help. 

In many cases, Diaspora peoples have not been allowed to exist as a people by the countries in which we live. And in those where we are it comes in the form of segregation be it the dhimmi status faced by Jews in many Muslim countries or the limitation of Russian Jews to living in the Pale of Settlement during the Czarist era where they lived in constant fear of pogroms.

These are the questions non-diaspora peoples need to ask themselves: who are the diaspora peoples living in our midsts? Are we treating them as equal citizens, unwanted guests or dangerous invaders? Are we forcing them to assimilate? Are we driving them away? Are we killing them? If we do drive them away, is there any good reason that we shouldn’t be held at least partially accountable for what they have to do to survive? 

Kumina is described as one of the most African religious expressions in Jamaica. Standing the test of time, Kumina has managed to survive the influences of Western culture. The language and the dances of Kumina are so undiluted that they can be traced back to tribes in the Congo in Africa.

The influences that shaped Kumina landed in the 1850s with the arrival of African indentured immigrants from the Congo region of Central Africa during the immediate post-emancipation period. Kumina took root in St. Thomas where a large number of the immigrants settled. However, the religious spread to the parishes of Portland, St. Mary, St. Catherine and Kingston.

Kumina rituals are usually associated with wakes, burials or memorial services, but can be performed for a whole range of human experiences. Kumina dances are used when help is needed to win a court case or for winning a lover.

The dances associated with Kumina are also viewed as an intrinsically Jamaican art form and are performed for entertainment value by several Kumina groups and even the distinguished National Dance Theatre Company.

However, Kumina is sometimes viewed with suspicion as a form of witchcraft or “bad obeah” because of the trance-like state some of the participants fall into during the ceremonies. Those that are more informed about the religious expression have rubbished these superstitions but have warned against misuse of Kumina rituals.

In this excerpt from an article in The Gleaner, a reporter speaks to the leader of a Kumina group in St. Thomas:

“When asked if the members practised obeah, Ephraim Bartley, the group’s leader gave an emphatic “No”. Obeah, he says is always for bad, while Kumina, despite being sometimes used for bad, is always meant for good.

According to the leader, persons have been healed and there are even some who have been raised from the dead.”

THE KINGS AND QUEENS OF KUMINA:

Both men and women are able to assume leadership of a Kumina sect. The men are called ‘King’ or ‘Captain’, while the women are referred to as ‘Queen’ or ‘Mother/Madda’. The leaders must be able to control zombies or spirits and assume leadership after careful training in the feeding habits, ritual procedures, dances, rhythms, and songs of a variety of spirits, from their predecessor.

Renowned ‘Kumina Queen’ Bernyce Henry balances a lit candle on a tin as she leads the Port Morant National and International Kumina Dancers at 'Falla Backa Mi’ in 2005.

PERFORMANCE AND POSSESSION IN KUMINA:

One of the distinct features of Kumina is the prominence of dance and ritual as a form of religious and cultural expression.

Dance and rituals are used to invoke communication with the ancestral spirits. The rituals involve singing, dancing, music and sacrificial offerings. All of these are used to create an atmosphere favorable for spiritual possession, known as ‘Mayal’.

One is said to “catch ‘Myal’” when possessed by one of the three classes of gods- sky, earthbound, and ancestral zombies- the last being the most common form of possession.  Each god can be recognized by the particular dance style exhibited by the possessed, and by songs and drum rhythms to which it responds.

SOUNDS OF KUMINA:

The captivating sounds of Kumina emanates from several rudiment instruments, some that were transplanted from the Congo and others that were repurposed for these ceremonies. Here is a list of the instruments and songs used in Kumina ceremonies:

Kbandu (battery of drums) - Larger and lower pitched drums, on which the rhythm is played with emphasis on the first and third beats.

Playing Cast or lead drums - The most complicated and specific ‘spirit’ basic rhythms are played on this set of drums. The drummers on the Playing Cast are respected as they must be knowledgeable and competent in playing the variety of rhythms which invoke, repel, and control the many spirits or deities.

Scrapers - An ordinary grater that is used as an instrument.

Shakas - A gourd or tin can rattles.

Catta Sticks - Used by the 'rackling men’ to keep up a steady rhythm on the body of the drum behind the drummer.

Songs - Singing is a critical part of Kumina ceremonies and is divided into two types, Bailo and Country. 

Bailo are songs in Jamaican creole and are less sacred, these songs are used for performances and exhibitions. On the other hand, Country involves the use of the Ki-Kongo language and is used to communicate with the spirits during mayal. 

The Queen engages in call and response with the King/Captain, singing of both Bailo and Country songs.  Call and response means one line or verse is “raised” or sung then repeated by others in response. 

In Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s examination of Kumina in the Jamaica Journal, he says that persons who perform Kumina for entertainment purposes are warned against using particular drums. It is also recommended that certain words in the songs be changed. 

Regarding the Ki-Kongo language, in the mid 1950’s Edward Seaga in the course of completing a research project submitted 48 words from Kumina Country songs to The School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Forty-one of those words were identified as Congolese.

Dances:

An article from the Jamaica Journal outlines what happens at a Bailo dance: 

“At Bailo dances, the spirits who are called make their presence known by ‘mounting’ or possessing a dancer; whose given dance style helps in identifying the spirit, but can span all possibilities of movement.  

The basic dance posture constitutes an almost erect back and propelling actions of the hips as the feet inch along the ground.  The dancers move in a circular pattern around the musicians and centre pole, either singly or with a partner.  

The arms, shoulders, rib cage, and hips are employed, offering the dancers ample opportunity for variations and interpretation of the counter-beats or poly-rhythms. Spins, dips, and ‘breaks’ on the last beat are common dance variations.”

KUMINA AS CULTURAL EXPRESSION:

Kumina has been brought popularized by several performance groups such as the Seaforth Dust to Dawn Kumina Group in St. Thomas and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC). However, Kumina was brought to the world stage by the efforts of the National Dance Theatre Company and the efforts of one of its founding members Rex Nettelford.

Nettleford, in 1971, exposed the entire company of dancers, singers and drummers to the ceremony in Seaforth. The NDTC’s interpretation of Kumina is the signature piece of the NDTC and arguably the most performed dance-work in the repertoire since it was commissioned by Carreras Limited in 1971.

In the photo above, members of the NDTC perform 'Kumina’.

Kumina is a ritualistic medium through which our African ancestors are celebrated and appeased. It’s an art form combining dancing, singing and drumming, and has distinctive movements and cadences that make it easily recognisable. The hypnotic sounds of Kumina drums is not easy to imitate, and very hard to duplicate.

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Mahdi Ehsaei’s “Afro-Iran – The Unknown Minority“ Photobook is Now Available for Purchase.

Earlier this month, we talked to German-Iranian photographer Mahdi Ehsaei about the history of Africans in Iran and his experience creating his photo series documenting Afro-Iranians in southern Iran.

After publishing his photos online, his book “Afro-Iran The Unknown Minority” is now available for purchase. The first of its kind, publication features a series of 60 portraits and mood pictures, in colour, as well as essays that explore the historical and cultural significance of an often unacknowledged minority that has shaped culture in both southern Iran and other parts of the country. It also describes the more than 500 year old history of Africans in Iran, from enslavement by traders up to their emancipation in 1928.

Support the Afro-Iran project on Kickstarter and receive exclusive rewards. You can also purchase the book directly on Mahdi’s website

Read our interview with him.

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intra-asian racism

i’m sorry, but i can’t hold back on responding to the influx of ethnic Chinese people suddenly arguing so vehemently for Filipinx identity when Chinese people rarely advocate for us & exclude us from Asian spaces?
as admins pointed out, ethnic Chinese people cannot claim the same racism & discrimination that Filipino people face just because they were born & raised in the Philippines.
OP is completely failing to see the power dynamics at play here.
this is also a matter of intraracial racism which so many E. Asians conveniently leave out of discussions of Asian oppression while rendering us invisible in AAPI spaces.
OP, as a Chinese person clamoring for Filipinx status, do you acknowledge the heavy & often blatant racism of Chinese people towards Filipinxs?
like how Filipinx migrant workers are treated like absolute garbage in Hong Kong?
or how Filipinx are so underrepresented in Asian media?
the endless nasty articles written by Chinese journalists about the “blight” of Filipinxs in China?
& how Chinese regularly (& often publicly!) label us as dirty, poor, worthless, lazy, dark, dumb, savage, ugly… the list goes on?
oh, & how about the move to ban Filipinx domestic workers from HK back in 2003 while Chinese employers abused, raped, & exploited these Filipinx women & paid them nothing?
hell, even everyone’s Azn fave Lucy Liu made derogatory comments towards Filipinxs.

OP, you as a Chinese person have privilege in that you were born in the Philippines & have been able to stay there for so long.
Many of my friends & family members from the Philippines don’t even have the means to survive in their own nation. They travel to places like China, Saudi Arabia, & even here in the U.S. where they are often underpaid & abused, & still can never make enough to return home, sometimes living an entire lifetime supporting their families but not being able to see them.
& meanwhile, as admins pointed out, China exploits the fuck out of the Philippines, from our people to our land to our resources.
China’s fight for control over the West Philippine Sea (or ‘South China Sea’ as you might know it) is one of the most recent & prominent examples of this. They’ve already caused significant damage to the coral reefs there & are threatening the stability and livelihood of Filipinx fisheries.
so yeah, the implication from an OP that Chinese people are putting resources into the Philippine economy?
that’s pretentious & arrogant as fuck & i was very uncomfortable with that.

even going to University in the United States, groups like the Asian American Alliance & other Asian organizations on my campus ignored Filipinxs & made us feel unwelcome to the point where the handful of Filipinx on campus had to start our own separate group. (not that this was a bad thing but we certainly didn’t benefit from having the funding & resources that the exclusive umbrella Asian orgs did.)

if i sound angry, it’s because i am.
it’s because i (& many other Filipinxs i know) have actually faced significant racism from Chinese people (as well as other East, West, & even S.E. Asian people) & have internalized oppression & self-hate because of not looking “Asian” enough, or not being light enough, or having our identity ignored & brushed over by ignorant people who assume we are Chinese because China is like the representative monolith of Asia. This is even worse for Black Asians.
i also have a lot more personal reasons for coming off so strongly, mostly related to the severe oppression of my own Filipinx family members in the Philippines & the despicable treatment they’ve faced from Chinese employers, co-workers, etc. etc. etc.

intra-Asian racism isn’t something that a lot of Filipinxs i know talk about because we’re often worried about being seen as ‘divisive’ to Asian solidarity & the greater cause, which frankly, doesn’t address the unique & nuanced experiences of Filipinx people, who have a heavy history of colonization (including colonization by other Asians!)

now, i know that you may identify nationally as Filipinx & have grown up immersed in Filipinx culture, but you cannot claim the experience of an ethnic Filipinx, only that of a Chinese person growing up in the Philippines. i mean if you were born & raised in France, would that make you white?
i’m just gonna say it… Chinese people trying to claim Filipinx ethnicity is like… transethnicism. especially since some of you continued the debate after admins politely explained all of these details to you.
& tbqh it’s rude as fuck for you to try & characterize & modify the definition of 'Filipinx’ in order to fit to you so you can claim our experience. i’ve seen this happen not only here, but in many other online spheres & in real life & it just kind of hurts in this insulting way.

again, i beg you to reexamine the power dynamics at play & the heavy history & culture of the Philippines. Filipinx identity is already a weighty & complex struggle for ethnic Filipinxs. it takes years for us to come to terms with it & understand it at times, & the discrimination we face from our Asian brothers & sisters has a lot to do with this. you need to recognize that.

alright, i’m done.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Thank you so much for this submission. 

- Admin V

Dr Layla Zakaria Abdel Rahman

Tributes paid to world-renowned scientist and researcher who revolutionised sugar industry


Tributes have been paid to Sudanese-born Dr Layla Zakaria Abdel Rahman, who studied at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST).

A renowned expert in the field of biological technology, she passed away at her home in Didsbury aged 59 last Saturday after a fight against cancer.

Dr Layla, a mother-of-two, uncovered a radically new method of growing sugar cane.

The breakthrough meant the plant could be grown from seeds rather than the conventional stem cutting methods.

It led to cheaper and more productive cultivation in developing countries.

Friends said Dr Layla, who won national awards and earned global recognition for her work, was much-loved within Manchester’s Sudanese communities.

A funeral service took place at a mosque in Victoria Park yesterday (Tuesday) ahead of burial at Southern Cemetery in Chorlton.

Dr Layla, the granddaughter of a Sudanese tribal king, moved to Manchester to study in the late 1980s after completing her education in Sudan.

She had graduated from the University of Khartoum in Sudan and went on to complete a Masters degree and a Phd at UMIST.


Ed’s note: This was the first time I saw someone and thought “Hey, she looks just like me” … we need more of this.

The Ba'kongo cosmogram depicts the world as a cross with the realm of the living above the cross’s horizontal line, the realm of the dead below. At the center a circle represents water (kalunga, ocean; the deep abyss) that separates the two worlds.

The cosmogram was a core symbol of the Kongo culture. An ideographic religious symbol, the cosmogram was called dikenga dia Kongo or tendwa kia nza-n’ Kongo in the Ki-Kongo language] Ethnohistorical sources and material culture demonstrate that the Kongo cosmogram existed as a long-standing symbolic tradition within the BaKongo culture before European contact in 1482, and that it continued in use in West Central Africa through the early twentieth century. In its fullest embellishment, this symbol served as an emblematic representation of the Kongo people, and summarized a broad array of ideas and metaphoric messages that comprised their sense of identity within the cosmos

Tendwa Nza Kongo: The Kongo Cosmogram

Wyatt MacGaffey, a researcherof Kongo civilization and religion, has summarized the form and meaning of the essential Kongo cosmogram as follows:

“The simplest ritual space is a cross [+] marked on the ground, as for oath-taking. One line represents the boundary; the other is ambivalently both the path leading across the boundary, as to the cemetery; and the vertical path of power linking "the above” with “the below”. This relationship, in turn, is polyvalent, since it refers to God and man, God and the dead, and the living and the dead. The person taking the oath stands upon the cross, situating himself between life and death, and invokes the judgement of God and the dead upon himself.“ [this is taken from a work in progress shared with Dr. Thompson by MacGaffey].

This is the simplest manifestation of the Kongo cruciform, a sacred "point” on which a person stands to make an oath, on the ground of the dead and under all-seeing God. This Kongo “sign of the cross” has nothing to do with the crucifixion of the Son of God, yet its meaning overlaps the Christian vision. Traditional Ba'kongo believed in a Supreme Consciousness, Nzambi Mpungu, and they had their own notions of the indestructibility of the soul: “Ba'kongo believe and hold it true that man’s life has no end, that it constitutes a cycle. The sun, in its rising and setting, is a sign of this cycle, and death is merely a transition in the process of change.” (Janzen and MacGaffey 1974:34). The Kongo yowa cross does not signify the crucifixion of Jesus for the salvation of mankind; it signifies the equally compelling vision of the circular motion of human souls about the circumference of its intersecting lines. The Kongo cross refers therefore to the everlasting community of all righteous men and women:

“Nzungi! n'zungi-nzila………Man turns in the path,
N'zungi! n'zungi-nzila……..He merely turns in the path;
Banganga ban'e E ee!…….The priests, the same..”

A fork in the road (or even a forked branch) can allude to this crucially important symbol of passage and communication between worlds. The “turn in the path”, i.e., the crossroads, remains an indelible concept in the Kongo-Atlantic world, as the point of intersection between the ancestors and the living.

The horizontal line divides the mountain of the living world from it’s mirrored counterpart in the kingdom of the dead. The mountain of the living is described as “earth” (ntoto). The mountain of the dead is called “white clay” (mpemba). The bottom half of the Kongo cosmogram was also called kalunga, referring, literally, to the world of the dead as complete (lunga) within itself and to the wholeness that comes to a person who understands the ways and powers of both worlds.

Initiates read the cosmogram correctly, respecting its allusiveness. “God”/the living is imagined at the top, the dead at the bottom, and water in between. The four disks at the points of the cross stand for the four moments of the sun, and the circumference of the cross the certainty of reincarnation: the especially righteous Kongo person will never be destroyed but will come back in the name or body of progeny, or in the form of an everlasting pool, waterfall, stone or mountain.

The summit of the pattern symbolizes not only noon but also maleness, north, and the peak of a person’s strength on earth. Correspondingly, the bottom equals midnight, femaleness, south, the highest point of a person’s otherworldly strength.

Drawing a “point”, invoking God and the ancestors, formed only a part of this most important Kongo ritual of mediation. The ritual also included “singingthe point”. In fact, the Ba'kongo summarize the full context of mediation with the phrase “singing and drawing [a point]: yimbila y sona. They believe that the combined force of singing Ki-Kongo words and tracing in appropriate media the ritually designated "point” or “mark” of contact between the worlds will result in the descent of God’s power upon that very point….

…The cosmogram of Kongo emerged in the Americas precisely as singing and drawing points of contact between worlds. On the island of Cuba, when Kongo ritual leaders wished to make the important Zarabanda charm (Ki-Kongo, nsala-banda, a charm-making kind of cloth), they began by tracing, in white chalk, a cruciform pattern at the bottom of an iron kettle. This was the signature (firma) of the spirit invoked by the charm. It clearly derived from the Kongo sign except that the sun disks were replaced by arrows, standing for the four winds of the universe.

 Kongo-Cuban priests activated old, important charms by singing-and-drawing a sacred point. They chanted sacred texts in Spanish and creolized Ki-Kongo while lowering a charm from the ceiling of a shrine to a chalked sign drawn upon the floor….

…In Rio de Janeiro, where there was a heavy importation of Kongo and Angola slaves, we meet simple cruciforms, chalked on the floor of shrines and altars, that have become complex signs fusing diverse Kongo, Yoruba, Roman Catholic, and other references. These signs comprise the blazons of the spirits honored in Macumba (later Quimbanda/Umbanda), a mixture of Kongo, Yoruba, Dahomean, Roman Catholic, Native American, and Spritualist allusions…

…As time passes, the ancient cruciforms are complicated by aspects borrowed from the iconography of the Yoruba and enriched by the attributes of Roman Catholic saints identified with Yoruba deities…

…Most pontos riscados, traced in chalk on shrine floors or in sand on the beaches at Ipanema, Copacabana and elsewhere in Rio, became fleeting signs of spiritual invocation and encounter. But some were permanently rendered. The collections of the Rio Museo de Policia include a calabash drinking cup (see below), richly lacquered black, which is incised with the ponto riscado of Pai Vehho, a black Kongo ancestor of special power and insight. His ponto warns the world that no one except a person in his spirit, or an appropriate officiant, can use this cup. The ponto, essentially a Latin cross within a Star of David within a circle decorated with six minor stars, compares interestingly with the “sung point” for the same spirit…this [sign] captures a complex history of cultural contact and experience in a form of geometric thought. The blending has carried us far indeed from the Kongo and from the Kingdoms of the Yoruba, but without their encounter in the richest minds of Rio this sign might never have been invented.

Barringtonsmiles: The veves of Haitian Vodou (and other Diasporic-West African faiths) can also be traced back not only the Kongo symbols and cosmogram, but the Nsibidi symbols of people native to southeast Nigeria/Cameroon). The people indigenous to the Calabar state of Nigeria contributed one of the oldest writing systems in global history in their Nsibidi hieroglyphs (date as far back as 5,000BC).

Nsibidi was divided into sacred and public versions, however, Western education and Christian indoctrination drastically reduced the number of Nsibidi-literate people, leaving the  leopard secret societies (Ekpe) as the last surviving forms of the symbols today

Still, Nsibidi was transported to Cuba and Haiti via the Atlantic slave trade, where the anaforuana (Abakua), firmas (Palo) and veve (Haitian Vodou) symbols derived from the west African script.

A Brief History of Cumbia and its African Roots.

Like many dance and music styles that have emerged and have been popularized throughout Latin America, and in Latin American diaspora communities, Cumbia has its backbone and roots in the culture, traditions and practices of the enslaved Africans brought to this region of the world.

Although there are many forms of cumbia ranging from cumbia Peruana and cumbia Argentina, to cumbia Chilena and cumbia Mexicana (named after the respective countries they emerged from), the heart and origins of traditional cumbian music and culture lie mostly in Colombia’s Afro-Colombian community. Many musicians, dancers, and historians say that cumbia’s percussion represents the African influence, its melodies and use of the gaita or caña de millo (cane flute) represents the Native Colombian influence, and the dress represents the Spanish influence.

Birthed from a cultural style of music known as Folclor Colombiano (Colombian folklore music played by Afro-Colombian musicians), Cumbia has developed to become an amalgamation of musical and cultural blends that reflect the mixed cultural heritage of Colombia. The very word ‘cumbia’ is said to have come from the word “cumbé” which was (and continues to be) a dance form Guinea. In 17th century Colombia, enslaved Africans (mostly from West Africa) would carry out a type of courtship dance that, altered by various influences throughout the years, began being referred to as 'cumbia’ in the 1800s.

Where it began using mostly West African percussion and vocal styles, Amerindian and Spanish instruments, clothing and other cultural traits, as it progressed began to become a more widepsread practice, new adapations of the original form of cumbia were birthed. Cumbia has since become reinvented in both style and sound, leading it become the backbone for various other Latin American music styles. 

(continue reading at Global Conversation, Discover Colombia, Grupo Fantasia)

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Dépaysement Zine is a new zine I’ve been working on lately focused on bridging a gap between young immigrants and what their journey towards ‘home’ has been like. The zine will function as a creative platform to showcase critiques, think pieces, personal journal entries, poetry and art all centered around a theme which will be presented monthly. Monthly themes will always relate back to our experience as young immigrants, addressing the feeling of being from neither “here nor there”.

A quick synopsis of why I chose to focus on this particular topic; I was born in Venezuela, in South America, and brought to the United States when I was only seven years old. Because of a lot of issues within my home, long story short, my mother decided to stay in the country with an expired visa to attempt and gain more opportunities here. Currently, as a 21-year-old U.S. resident, I am still assessing and attempting to understand a lot of the emotions and complexities that make up what it is like being a young immigrant, feeling displaced, as if I don’t belong entirely in one culture or the other; hence Dépaysement. I knew I needed and wanted an intellectual and creative community through which I would be able to share experiences and, simultaneously, find others with experiences similar to mine, worldwide. Our experiences as immigrants cannot be overlooked and furthermore our stories deserve to be told.

The feelings you carry with you of being stuck in between two (or more) cultures is very heavy, and something which I have found is difficult to express in words, especially to people who simply cannot relate to the sensation (hence the importance of a likeminded community). 

Now you might be wondering, “why ‘Dépaysement’ and what does it mean?”

Dépaysement is a French word meaning, “the feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country—of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin [x].” As you can see, this word (which is coincidentally also not perfectly translatable to the English language) entirely defines the purpose this zine aims to fill; what is home to you? where is home? how do you cope with the mixture of cultures? what has your experience been like as an immigrant? as well as a slew of other interpersonal details which come with the experience.

Finally, why I chose the artwork for the cover; I want this zine to focus on cultural differences and how these relate to our presence as immigrants in whatever country we live in. The drawings for the covers will be created by me entirely, using the standard pencil, paper, ink and markers (for updates on my art, feel free to follow my blog guavadoodle). It started out because I wanted to get back into drawing and I figured it would be a motivating factor to create a concentration centered around what interested me; people of other cultures. I will draw a couple of people from different parts of the world, and these pieces will serve as the cover for the zine. If you have suggestions for what part of the world I should draw next, inbox me your ideas!

I am entirely new to designing zines but I am putting in all of my efforts into really making Dépaysement work, and I hope you become as excited about it as I am!

Currently, I will be taking submissions for the month of October of this year, 2015. The only requirements are that you be an individual affected by immigration, from whatever part of the world, first generation or second generation, it isn’t a factor, as long as you can submit pieces related to the theme; ‘The Diaspora’. This theme will focus on our place around the concept of the diaspora and how that affects us. Again, you can submit think pieces (political or otherwise), any form of art or personal writings and poetry, SO LONG as they pertain to the theme. For now the zine will be entirely online meaning you can expect to be able to view it through issuu.com (I’m considering printing a few but that will depend on the audience response I receive).

[ SUBMIT TO: depaysementzinesubmissions@gmail.com ]

If you have any questions, OR if you like the idea and would like to work with me and maybe form a sort of staff, feel free to contact me through this blog and the inbox, or reach me at my personal blog here [x].

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope you read and share this!

- M.K.