Magnified, sanctified be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified in the human frame
A million candles burning for a help that never came
You want it darker, we kill the flame
In typically somber tone, Leonard Cohen’s voice introduces a sterling effort to unpack the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in the TV series, Black Earth Rising. Flashbacks told in William Kentridge-style monochromatic sequences attempt to tie-in the lead character’s broken memories to history.
The Rwandan genocide is not a simple — nor easy — story to tell, even in documentary-style, but Hugo Blick’s enthusiasm to tell every story he can imagine in one short season distracts from the important story he could have chosen. The lead character, a complicated woman, Kate Black, unable to remember the events of her childhood or her rescue, resists any effort to question her past as a young girl, yet revels in her anger of some unknown trauma that hides behind the lies told to her. …
By Leigh Barrett, Executive Editor: Perspective Publications
Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities — Voltaire
To commit violence against another often reflects the insecurity of the perpetrator’s self-identity and, in countries where people are under socioeconomic or political pressure, there is a greater tendency to find reasons to distinguish themselves from those who appear “different”: sometimes from another country, but frequently fellow citizens and often family members, as people look for a way to express that insecurity.
Africa has played host to only a few of the genocides and wars the world has experienced over the millennia — from long before the Ottoman attacks on the Assyrians in the nineteenth century, the infamous Nazi extermination of the Jewish people in Europe, the efforts by some colonial powers to subdue or control their subjects in Asia, the Americas and beyond, the list seems to be endless. But, where does it begin? What is the catalyst that brings a group of people, often groups who have lived in peace with their neighbors for decades and even centuries, to that nadir where they rise up and are prepared to slaughter them in largescale numbers? …
by Leigh Barrett / Perspective Publications
10,000,000 — stateless people
15,000,000 — refugees
38,000,000 — Internally Displaced People
In 2015 alone, 65.3 million people fled their homes.
The statistics are overwhelming. The numbers of people who have been displaced from their homes, staggering.
Regardless of the number of digits in each statistic, it always comes down to each person, every individual, who is faced with life-changing, destructive forces, uprooting them from their lives, often forever.
Violence never stops at a country’s border, and each family impacted by the destruction others have wreaked upon their lives rarely has a choice but to find shelter away from all that is familiar. The lives every human should be leading: stable, with a job, a bank account, helping with the kid’s homework, and the mundane annoyance of bad weather, or the supermarket running out of stock of your favorite soap, is turned upside down when a government, or a group, picks up guns and wages war, and the inconvenience of the morning commute is lost in the necessity of fleeing for one’s very life. It takes extraordinary courage to pack a bag and leave everything familiar, simply to avoid the terrifying cacophony of gunfire and mortar shells, to protect one’s wife and daughters from what one knows, with absolute certainty, will be devastating violence on their bodies and souls, and to know with equal certainty, that one might never again practice one’s beloved profession, be it market vendor, cardiac surgeon, or teacher. …
By Leigh Barrett / Perspective Publications
An extraordinary life, lived ordinarily.
It was her laugh that caught me. The clear, joyous, uninhibited peel that rung out unexpectedly, belying her life of odds stacked against odds. …
by Leigh Barrett
(Note of 13 October 2019: What happened in Bosnia and the global response to it, has echoed across time to the current US-approved genocide of the Kurds in Syria. It appears that, if political leaders fail to learn history, they truly are doomed to repeat it. LB)
There’s something magical about watching a movie on the silver screen. You give permission for the story to envelop you, to get lost in the scenes, to become a character.
And then there are the films where one needs the sanctuary of home, to absorb the story without being in it, because the intensity of the experience leaves one appreciating the safe comfort of one’s home. …
“Climate change is not just an environmental issue… it is an all-encompassing threat. It is a threat to health, since a warmer world is one in which infectious diseases such as malaria and yellow fever will spread further and faster.”
- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Climate Change Conference, as delivered in Nairobi, 15 November, 2006
The earth’s surface has warmed by more than 0.8°C (1.4°F) in the last century, with about two thirds of that occurring in the period since 1980. This dramatic increase, understood and accepted to be largely as a result of human activity, is creating more extreme weather conditions, intense flooding, extended droughts, and more frequent El Nino Southern Oscillations (ENSO) as oceans get warmer. ENSO is the warning signal to the planet — once the upper levels of the oceans have warmed, El Nino activity will probably weaken, but there is little doubt that ENSO is considered a tipping point for the Earth’s climate. These oscillations of the ocean result in devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, and more extreme winters. Projections of an average surface temperature increase from 1.1°C to 6.4°C over the next century will see a shift to long-term drought conditions, melting glaciers which supply fresh water to around 200 million people in large population centers, and sea level increases which are already resulting in salt water intrusions into freshwater aquifers. As that intrusion takes place, the lack of potable water, as well as water available for agricultural irrigation becomes a devastating reality, will have a profound impact on the health of humans, animals, as well as plant life, throughout the world. …
Botswana: a country of proud history, stunning landscapes, and home to a semi-desert region that extends far beyond its colonial-drawn borders, to South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
This sparse landscape hides some exceptional diversity of life: from Africa’s largest mammals to 240 species of birds, all finding a home in the Kgalagadi, this “waterless place”. The Kalahari Desert.
The Kalahari occupies 70% of Botswana, and the only permanent river running through it is the fourth longest river system in southern Africa. Born in the Angolan highlands after the January rains, the Okavango snakes its way over 1,000 miles, forming the border between Angola and Namibia, crossing the Caprivi Strip into Botswana, where after a 4-month journey, it empties into a swamp in the Kalahari Desert. In the rainy season, the swamp becomes an extraordinary delta, a wetland that sustains the grateful life that flocks to it. …
by Leigh Barrett
In 1963, the OAU (Organization for African Unity) determined that the blueprint for a future emerging out of the vestiges of colonialism depended on strong government control. As ironic as it was, the idea was borne from the experience of the very colonial governing practices African countries were trying to rid themselves, and the idea was supported by many Western economists at that time. Certainly, politicians liked the idea of greater government control and intervention as they tried to move their countries towards industrialization — another idea adopted from the colonial rulers. …
The lasting legacy of food insecurity in South Africa’s townships
By Leigh Barrett and Marc van Sittert
(This essay is part of a series that looks at various lingering effects of apartheid in South Africa. Please contact the writers should you wish to publish any or all at email@example.com.)
Steve, the owner of a fence construction company, speaks with rising frustration, “I want to give my employees the training so they can one day go out and start their own company. Nothing would make me happier. But, there’s one guy, he’s 23 years old, and he went to high school…” he sighs. “I show him how to cut a one meter plank and instruct him to cut 10 the same size. When I come back an hour later, he has two or three the correct length, and the rest vary wildly. He can’t tell me why. So, I have to show him, again, how to use a tape measure. …
(This essay was first published on Huffington Post blog — 29/12/2016)
World history is fraught with the tales of how some used their power and privilege to rule over the unwilling, and sometimes, unwitting. Africa was the epicenter of human greed and for centuries, the continent dealt with incursions, cruelty, economic advancement, upliftment, and oppression. There is no single story of colonialism. We remain a messy and complicated continent and the fight to “decolonize” ourselves reflects the complex range of our humanity.
South Africa, with a democracy still very much in its infancy, represents that complexity like no other. We are a country of fragments, and bringing those together as a united, multi-cultural society is a challenge that is still far from concluded. …