31 dic. 2011

Rough Magic

ROUGH MAGIC MOVIE REVIEW 

Title: Rough Magic 
Year: 1995 
Director: Clare Peploe 
Writer: James Hadley Chase, Robert Mundi, William Brookfield, Clare Peploe 
Cast: Bridget Fonda, Russell Crowe
Running time: 100 minutes   
Country: USA 

Plot summary of ROUGH MAGIC: 

Set in the 1950s, Rough Magic tells the story of what happens when a pretty apprentice magician goes to Mexico to escape her fiancé, a wealthy politician, and to find a Mayan shaman who will teach her ancient principles of magic. She is being trailed by a detective hired by her fiancé. He's a former photojournalist traumatized by what he saw in Hiroshima. The photojournalist joins her in the search for the Mayan shaman, and falls in love with her; the feeling is not reciprocated. When she finds the shaman, she drinks a potion which empowers her to do magic. The potion has life-changing effects on her and her relationship with her companion. They have strange experiences which are brought about by magic. 

© Text and image: Wikipedia and IMDB 



Although set in the maya region of Mexico, the movie shows some footage filmed in the lava fields of PARICUTIN volcano in Michoacán State. You can read more about this volcano on this blog entry [in spanish].

27 dic. 2011

Art of the Dogon

The Art of The Dogon, ETHNIKKA blog for human cultural knowledge
BOOK REVIEW 
Title: Art of the Dogon 
Author: Jan Baptist Bedaux 
Year of publication: 2012 
Paperback: 368 pages 
Language: English 
Synopsis(Some information by the author himself): 
My name is Jan Baptist Bedaux and I would like to tell you something about my new book  Art of the Dogon. A private collection of Dogon material culture, Bedaux Art Editions, Brussels 2012, 368 pp, 745 ills. in full colour, hard cover 30 x 30 cm, ISBN/EAN 978-90-818531-0-, that will appear in January 2012.
In the summer of 1975 I had my first encounter with the cultures of the Dogon and Tellem. This was at Utrecht University’s Institute for Human Biology, whose exhibition represented over ten years’ research by the institute’s staff in the Republic of Mali in the area where the Dogon live and before them the Tellem.
The exhibition showed a wealth of items that had been placed in the caves as grave gifts for the Tellem dead – artefacts that were a constant inspiration to me when I founded my collection. In the same year, I acquired my first Tellem neckrests, which were included two years later in the Tellem exhibition in the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal. These were soon followed by the first statues, which I bought in Paris from Michel Huguenin, Félicia Dialossin and Robert Duperrier.
My 35 years of collecting since then have created a collection that gives a broad view of the material culture of the Dogon and Tellem.
In my view, the value of the collection lies not just in its breadth, but also in the sheer variety of items. For, when compiling it, I was always guided by my ongoing fascination with the wide diversities within the Tellem and Dogon cultures.
The book contains 745 illustrations and descriptions of 650 objects spread over 368 pages. The cost is 95 € (without shipping).
Almost none of the items were ever published before. I am sure the collection will surprise you.
For a taste of Art of the Dogon click here (pdf).
As a bonus you get a signed copy when you buy through the website www.bedauxart.nl
©Text: Bedaux Art

25 dic. 2011

Mazu belief and customs

Mazu belief in China, Ethnikka blog for cultural knowledge
UNESCO CULTURAL HERITAGE   
As the most influential goddess of the sea in China, Mazu is at the centre of a host of beliefs and customs, including oral traditions, religious ceremonies and folk practices, throughout the country’s coastal areas. Mazu is believed to have lived in the tenth century on Meizhou Island, where she dedicated herself to helping her fellow townspeople, and died attempting to rescue the survivors of a shipwreck. Local residents built a temple in her honour and began to venerate her as a goddess. She is celebrated twice each year in formal temple fairs, when Meizhou residents, farmers and fisherfolk temporarily suspend their work to sacrifice marine animals, venerate statues of Mazu and enjoy a variety of dances and other performances. Smaller worship ceremonies take place throughout the year in the other 5,000 Mazu temples around the world and in private homes; these may involve floral tributes; candles, incense and firecrackers; and evening processions of residents bearing ‘Mazu lanterns’. Followers may implore the god for pregnancy, peace, the solution to a problem or general well-being. Deeply integrated into the lives of coastal Chinese and their descendants, belief in and commemoration of Mazu is an important cultural bond that promotes family harmony, social concord, and the social identity of these communities.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


© Text: UNESCO, Image: First Mazu Temple of Meizhou

17 dic. 2011

Hotel Rwanda

FILM REVIEW 
Title: Hotel Rwanda 
Year: 2004 
Director: Terry George 
Writer: Keir Pearson and Terry George 
Running time: 121 minutes   
Country: USA, UK, Italy, South Africa 
Plot summary: 
The true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda--and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees, by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages.

© Text and image: Wikipedia and IMDB

14 dic. 2011

Un segle de l'arribada al Pol Sud


Avui fa un segle de l’arribada de Roald Amundsen al Pol Sud, finalitzant així la cursa que havien mantingut Noruega i el Regne Unit (amb Amundsen i Scott al davant) per a ser els primers en arribar-hi.
L’aprenentatge de les tècniques esquimals i dels trineus de gossos que Amundsen va realitzar durant el seu viatge de descoberta del pas del Nord-Oest uns anys abans van resultar ser vitals per a poder aconseguir l’objectiu en menys temps que Scott que, equipat amb animals deficients (els ponis de Shetland queien com a mosques al clima antàrtic), va acabar havent d’arrossegar amb tracció humana el seu pesat trineu.
La cursa del Pol Sud representa, en major grau que la cursa entre Peary i Cook pel Pol Nord (vegeu Último Grado al Polo Norte per a més informació), la competició de l’obsessió, ser el primer en entrar als llibres d’història, en aportar prestigi al país i en plantar una bandera.
Com els antics conquistadors espanyols en arribar a Amèrica, Amundsen plantà la bandera Noruega al bell mig de l’Antàrtida un dia com avui de fa cent anys, donant fama mundial a la recentment independitzada Noruega (com ho havia fet el seu predecessor polarista Fridtjof Nansen).
Robert Falcon Scott arribaria al Pol Sud 33 dies després. Desil·lusionat i sense un bon equipament, tot el grup d’Scott moriria durant el retorn. Les anotacions al seu diari posen la pell de gallina. El Regne Unit ho va viure com una humiliació nacional.
Amundsen retornà a Noruega triomfant. Per sempre més va quedar lligat a les zones polars, i participà després en expedicions al Pas del Nord-Est i al Pol Nord sobrevolant-lo amb el dirigible Norge.
Va desaparèixer el 1928 quan participava en una missió de rescat dels membres de l’expedició d’Umberto Nobile.
La base americana al Pol Sud, Amundsen-Scott, va ser batejada en honor dels dos expedicionaris que van competir pel Pol. 
Per sempre més, quedaran units allà on el destí els va separar.

11 dic. 2011

Manas

Manas epic songs of the Kirgiz people in China, ETHNIKKA blog for human Cultural Knowledge
UNESCO CULTURAL HERITAGE  
The Kirgiz ethnic minority in China, concentrated in the Xinjiang region in the west, pride themselves on their descent from the hero Manas, whose life and progeny are celebrated in one of the best-known elements of their oral tradition: the Manas epic. Traditionally sung by a Manaschi without musical accompaniment, epic performances takes place at social gatherings, community celebrations, ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and dedicated concerts. Regional variations abound, but all are characterized by pithy lyrics with phrases that now permeate the everyday language of the people, melodies adapted to the story and characters, and lively parables. The long epic records all the major historic events of greatest importance for the Kirgiz people and crystallizes their traditions and beliefs. The Kirgiz in China and the neighbouring Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan regard the Manas as a key symbol of their cultural identity and the most important cultural form for public entertainment, the preservation of history, the transmission of knowledge to the young and the summoning of good fortune. One of the ‘three major epics of China’, it is both an outstanding artistic creation and an oral encyclopaedia of the Kirgiz people.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Xinjiang Cultural Heritage

3 dic. 2011

N'Diangane

FILM REVIEW 
Title: N'Diangane 
Year: 1974 
Director: Mahama Traoré 
Writer: Mahama Traoré 
Running time: 100 minutes   
Country: Senegal, France 
Plot summary:
Mame is six years old child, living happily at home with his parents and playing in the fields, forests and nearby rivers with friends. Loved and well fed, he leads an idyllic life. In one fateful decision, all that changes.

© Text and image: Wikipedia and IMDB

27 nov. 2011

Hua'er

Chinese Huaer festivals, ETHNIKKA blog for human cultural knowledge
UNESCO CULTURAL HERITAGE 
In Gansu and Qinghai Provinces and throughout north-central China, people of nine different ethnic groups share a music tradition known as Hua’er. The music is drawn from an extensive traditional repertoire named after ethnicities, towns or flowers (‘Tu People’s ling’, ‘White Peony ling’), and lyrics are improvised in keeping with certain rules – for example, verses have three, four, five or six lines, each made up of seven syllables. Songs may tell of young love, the hard work and weariness of the farming life, the foibles of men and women or the joy of singing. The songs are also a vivid oral record of recent social developments in China as singers comment on the changes they observe around them. Hua’er singers may have little schooling, but the most successful and widely respected singers today have become household names, performing widely and even creating their own institutes to pass on their art to apprentices. Whether it is being sung spontaneously by rural people working in the field or travelling or performed more formally at one of more than a hundred traditional Hua’er festivals held annually in these provinces, Hua’er is an important vehicle for expressing personal feelings in a social setting and cultural exchange across ethnicities, as well as a popular rural entertainment.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Text: UNESCO, Image: Linxia prefecture

19 nov. 2011

Komal Gandhar

Komal Gandhar film review, Ethnikka blog for cultural knowledge
FILM REVIEW
Title: Komal Gandhar (A Soft Note on a Sharp Scale)
Year: 1961
Director: Ritwik Ghatak
Writer: Rabindranath Tagore, Ritwik Ghatak
Running time: 134 minutes  
Country: India
Plot summary:
Komal Gandhar (English title: A Soft Note on a Sharp Scale; literally: E-flat) is a 1961 Bengali film written and directed by noted film maker Ritwik Ghatak. It was part of the trilogy, Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Komal Gandhar, and Subarnarekha (1962), all dealing with the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 and the refugees coping with it, though this was the most optimistic film of his oeuvre. The film explores three themes juxtaposed in the narrative, the dilemma of Anusuya, the lead character, divided leadership of IPTA and the fallout of the partition of India.
The title was taken from the line of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore that meant a sur or note, E-flat. As in other films by Ghatak, music plays a pivotal role in the movie.
Through the microcosmic perspectivising of a group of devoted and uncompromising IPTA workers, Ghatak with his signature style touches on varied issues of partition, idealism, corruption, the interdependence of art and life, the scope of art, and class-struggle. Unlike his other films, this one runs along an upbeat mood with the lead pair of lovers (Bhrigu and Anusuya) being reunited.

© Text and image: Wikipedia and IMDB

13 nov. 2011

Grand song of the Dong

Grand song of the Dong people, ETHNIKKA blog for Human Cultural Knowledge
UNESCO CULTURAL HERITAGE
A popular saying among the Dong people in Guizhou Province in southern China has it that ‘rice nourishes the body and songs nourish the soul’. Their tradition of passing on culture and knowledge in music is exemplified in the Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group, multi-part singing performed without instrumental accompaniment or a leader. The repertoire includes a range of genres such as ballads, children’s songs, songs of greeting and imitative songs that test performers’ virtuosity at mimicking the sounds of animals. Taught by masters to choirs of disciples, Grand Songs are performed formally in the drum-tower, the landmark venue for rituals, entertainment and meetings in a Dong village, or more spontaneously in homes or public places. They constitute a Dong encyclopaedia, narrating the people’s history, extolling their belief in the unity of humans and nature, preserving scientific knowledge, expressing feelings of romantic love, and promoting moral values such as respect for one’s elders and neighbours. Grand Song is performed widely today, with each village boasting various choirs divided by age and sometimes gender. In addition to disseminating their lifestyle and wisdom, it remains a crucial symbol of Dong ethnic identity and cultural heritage.

© Text: UNESCO, Image: China Ministry of Culture

9 nov. 2011

Reo Franklin Fortune

ANTHROPOLOGISTS OF THE WORLD 
Reo Franklin Fortune (1903 - 1979) 
Reo Fortune was a New Zealand social anthropologist. 
Originally trained as a psychologist, a Cambridge graduate (1928–1935), Fortune was a lecturer in social anthropology at the Cambridge University, and a specialist in Melanesian language and culture.
He was married to Margaret Mead, with whom he undertook field studies in New Guinea, from 1928 to 1935.
He is also known for his contribution to mathematics with his study of Fortunate numbers in number theory.

His works
As an anthropologist, his Sorcerers of Dobu remains the locus classicus of eastern Papuan anthropology.
Fortune was a student of Malinowski, the famous Trobriand ethnographer. He spent five months with the "fourty odd souls" that inhabited Tewara Island (north of Fergusson Island), in the hamlet Kubwagai, one month with the people of Basima on Fergusson, and some months later he concluded his field work with a one month stay on Dobu Island itself. During his stay he aquired a good knowledge of the language "by contagion", as he claims.
His classic book Sorcerers of Dobu contributed strongly to Massim ethnography and, according to Malinowski in his preface of the book, demonstrated the value of participant observation as a method of field work: "The present book may be regarded by the Functional Method as one of its triumphs in the field". In fact, Sorcerers of Dobu is a well written account of the social organisation of Tewara Islanders in the late 1920s. It covers many topics that are related to social life with a strong focus on economies (gardening, mortuary exchanges, kula exchange) and interpersonal relationships (marriage, conflicts within and between social groups, structural animosities and the effect of matrilineality).
The highlight of his ethnography however is Fortune's information on male sorcery, called by him "the black art". He collected an extraordinary amount of spells and techniques although this knowledge is regarded as amongst a person's most precious possessions. Perhaps partly due to his quite grizzly main topic his impression of "The Dobuan" was very negative. According to his former wife, Margaret Mead, he stated later on that he did not like them at all. His experience was that it was "an individualistic and quarrelsome society".
Fortune's work can still be seen as a historically interesting account of the Dobu language area.

© Text and photo: Wikipedia and New Zealand Library

5 nov. 2011

Mead Film Festival 2011

Name: 35th Margaret Mead Film Festival
Dates: 10th to 13th November 2011
Entrance fee: Ticket fees per film
Place: Entrance for screenings is on 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, New York
Commentary:
The Mead showcases the best in non-narrative filmmaking, encompassing a broad spectrum of work including international documentaries, experimental films, animation, hybrid works, and more.
The Festival presents documentaries that increase our understanding of the complexity and diversity of the peoples and cultures that populate our planet.
The Margaret Mead Film Festival is the longest-running, premiere showcase for international documentaries in the United States, encompassing a broad spectrum of work, from indigenous community media to experimental nonfiction. The Festival is distinguished by its outstanding selection of titles, which tackle diverse and challenging subjects, representing a range of issues and perspectives, and by the forums for discussion with filmmakers and speakers.

Opening Night with Grande Hotel (directed by Lotte Stoops)
The Grande Hotel in the East African seaside town of Beira, Mozambique, was once the most opulent resort on the continent. Now, it is home to an estimated 3,000 squatters. Living in this shell of former luxury, those on the margins of society create a self-enclosed community as the place they call home crumbles around them. As one voice in the film says, the history of the hotel is the history of the country itself.



About the Mead Film Festival:


30 oct. 2011

Gesar Epic Tradition

UNESCO CULTURAL HERITAGE
The ethnic Tibetan, Mongolian and Tu communities in western and northern China share the story of the ancient hero King Gesar, sent to heaven to vanquish monsters, depose the powerful, and aid the weak while unifying disparate tribes. The singers and storytellers who preserve the Gesar epic tradition perform episodes of the vast oral narrative (known as ‘beads on a string’) in alternating passages of prose and verse with numerous regional differences. Tibetan masters carry bronze mirrors and use facial expressions, sound effects and gestures to enhance their singing, while Mongolian performers are accompanied by fiddles and intersperse improvised, melodic singing with musical storytelling and oral narrative. Epic performances, often accompanied by rituals such as offerings and meditation, are embedded in the religious and daily lives of the community. For example, when a child is born, passages about King Gesar’s descent into the world are sung. The hundreds of myths, folktales, ballads and proverbs handed down as part of the tradition not only serve as a form of major entertainment in rural communities but also educate listeners in history, religion, custom, morality and science. A continuing inspiration for thangka painting, Tibetan opera and other art forms, the Gesar epic imbues audiences both young and old with a sense of cultural identity and historical continuity.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Text: UNESCO, Image: IEL of CASS

28 oct. 2011

The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves

EXHIBITION 
Name: Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves 
Dates: January 13, 2012–May 9, 2012 
Place: National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall, Washington, DC 
Comments: 
This exhibition brings together rare works of art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline of the popular Twilight films. Interpreted by the Quileute people of coastal Washington, Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves offers an intimate look into the tribe's artwork and wolf creation stories, which are central to the Quileute world view. The exhibition includes two wolf headdresses from different regions, as well as replicas of items used on the Twilight set; a paddle necklace symbolizing the "canoe culture," and a necklace made from Olivella shells. A 12-minute video illuminates the history and oral and cultural traditions through interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the phenomenon and effect of the Twilight films in their own words.
“Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves” is an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian that brings together rare works of Quileute art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline depicted in the popular Twilight books and movies. Opening Jan. 13, 2012, the exhibition will be on view through May 9, 2012, in the museum’s second-level Sealaska Gallery.
The exhibition showcases 23 objects, including elaborate wolf headdresses, rattles, baskets and a whale-bone dance club. Historic drawings created by Quileute teens who attended the Quileute Day School at Mora, near La Push, Wash., from 1905 through 1908, depict activities, including wolf ritual dances and shamanistic performances, house posts that were part of the Potlatch Hall and a whaling scene that shows a crew of eight men coming alongside a whale in their cedar canoe.
Visitors will be able to learn more about Quileute ritual life and the five secret societies that maintained balance between the human and spirit realms, including the Wolf society for warriors, the Fisherman’s society for fisherman and sealers, the Hunter’s or Elk society for land-animal hunters, the Whale Hunters and the Weatherman’s Society, who predicted the weather. Whaling was an important but dangerous endeavor as the giant sea mammals where hunted on the open ocean from 35-foot dugout canoes.
The exhibition also includes a map of Quileute language place names of the modern village and the vast aboriginal territories stretching from the ocean to the Olympic Mountains, a timeline of Quileute history and a 12-minute looped video that illuminates the history and oral and cultural traditions through interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the phenomenon and effect of the Twilight films in their own words.
Replicas of items used in the Twilight films include a paddle necklace worn by the character Emily portrayed by actor Tinsel Korey, a traditional Quileute hand drum that hangs in Emily’s house, a shell necklace of Olivella shells that was on the wall of her house and the dream catcher that Jacob gives to Bella as a gift.
During the exhibition’s opening weekend, Quileute tribal member and one of only two fluent speakers left in the tribe, Chris Morganroth III, will tell traditional stories for kids and families in the museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center at 1:30 p.m. as well as presenting Quileute culture and stories in the Rasmuson Theater at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the Native Storytelling Festival, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14 and 15.
This exhibition was organized by the Quileute Nation and the Seattle Art Museum, where it was on view August 2010 through August 2011.

© Text and image: National Museum of the American Indian

26 oct. 2011

Sir Wilfred Thesiger

EXPLORERS OF THE WORLD 
Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910 – 2003) 
Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger, CBE, DSO, FRAS, FRGS (3 June 1910 – August 24, 2003) was a British explorer and travel writer born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Thesiger was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford University where he took a third in history. Between 1930 and 1933, Thesiger represented Oxford at boxing and later (1933) became captain of the Oxford boxing team.
In 1930, Thesiger returned to Africa, having received a personal invitation by Emperor Haile Selassie to attend his coronation. He returned again in 1933 in an expedition, funded in part by the Royal Geographical Society, to explore the course of the Awash River. During this expedition, he became the first European to enter the Aussa Sultanate and visit Lake Abbe.
Afterwards, in 1935, Thesiger joined the Sudan Political Service stationed in Darfur and the Upper Nile. He served in several desert campaigns with the Sudan Defence Force (SDF) and the Special Air Service (SAS) with the rank of major.
In World War II, Thesiger fought with Gideon Force in Ethiopia during the East African Campaign. He was awarded the DSO[1] for capturing Agibar and its garrison of 2500 Italian troops. Afterwards, Thesiger served in the Long Range Desert Group during the North African Campaign.
There is a rare wartime photograph of Thesiger in this period. He appears in a well-known photograph usually used to illustrate the badge of the Greek Sacred Squadron. It is usually captioned 'a Greek officer of the Sacred Band briefing British troops'. The officer is recognisably the famous Tsigantes and one of the crowd is recognisably Thesiger. Thesiger is the tall figure with the distinct nasal profile. Characteristically, he is in Arab headdress. Thesiger was the liaison officer to the Greek Squadron.
In 1945, Thesiger worked in Arabia with the Desert Locusts Research Organisation. Meanwhile, from 1945 to 1949, he explored the southern regions of the Arabian peninsula and twice crossed the Empty Quarter. His travels also took him to Iraq, Persia (now Iran), Kurdistan, French West Africa, Pakistan and Kenya. He returned to England in the 1990s and was knighted in 1995.
Thesiger is best known for two travel books. Arabian Sands (1959) recounts his travels in the Empty Quarter of Arabia between 1945 and 1950 and describes the vanishing way of life of the Bedouins. The Marsh Arabs (1964) is an account of the Madan, the indigenous people of the marshlands of southern Iraq. The latter journey is also covered by his travelling companion, Gavin Maxwell, in A Reed Shaken by the Wind — a Journey through the Unexplored Marshlands of Iraq (Longman, 1959).
Thesiger took many photographs during his travels and donated his vast collection of 23,000 negatives to the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Obituary from The Guardian, August 27th 2003
Explorer whose mystic vision rejected the modern technological world in favour of the tribes people of Africa and the Arabian deserts
Once, in 1946, Wilfred Thesiger lay starving on a sand dune in Arabia’s Empty Quarter for three days, waiting for his Bedu companions to bring back food, and tortured by hallucinations of cars and lorries that could carry him to safety. “No,” he wrote later, “I would rather be here starving as I was than sitting in a chair, replete with food, listening to the wireless and dependent on cars to take me through Arabia.” As an explorer, Thesiger, who has died aged 93, recognised that satisfaction in attaining a goal was directly in proportion to the hardship and challenge involved in getting there.

He reserved the word “abomination” for cars and aeroplanes, and all his life resented the intrusion of any innovation post-dating the steam engine. His mystical regard for tradition was a product both of his childhood in still-medieval Abyssinia and an intense pride in his aristocratic forebears, the Barons of Chelmsford.
Born in Addis Ababa, where his father was British minister, he grew up in the barbaric splendour of an imperial court, and was privileged to see a victorious and blooded Abyssinian army marching through the city in the full panoply of war. It was an experience he never forgot.
Daydreams of Africa and the wider world were his means of escape throughout his awkward and often unhappy schooldays at St Aubyn’s school, Rottingdean, in Sussex (1919-23), Eton College (1923-28), and his time reading history at Magdalen College, Oxford (1929-33). During his first summer vacation from the university, he set off alone, working his passage on a tramp steamer to Istanbul and returning third-class by train.
So began the travels that he recorded in fine prose and black-and-white photography. On his return, he found both a personal invitation to attend the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia, and a note from the Foreign Office appointing him honorary attaché to the Duke of Gloucester for the event - where he met Evelyn Waugh, a writer of very different sympathies.
For his second vacation, he set himself another endurance test, a month with a Hull fishing trawler off Iceland. Here he learnt to withstand the need for sleep.
But Africa was his goal, and at the age of only 23 he went to explore Abyssinia’s Awash River and the forbidding Aussa sultanate with its Danakil nomads, chiefly noted for a disturbing tendency to kill men and carry off their testicles as trophies. Such practices held little horror for Thesiger, who had survived fagging and flogging at Eton, and saw at least one young Afar man, flushed from the exertion of slaughtering and mutilating four victims in a day, as “the equivalent of a nice, rather self-conscious Etonian who had just won his school colours for cricket”.
Thesiger gained his own blue, for boxing at Oxford - when he captained the university team in 1933, a victory against Cambridge was marred by the breaking of his noble nose - and like many an athletically endowed young Oxbridge graduate of the 30s, he sought a career in the country where “blues” were said to rule “blacks”: the Sudan. As an assistant district commissioner in the Sudan political service from 1935 onwards, he served in arid Darfur, and later in the steaming swamps of the Sudd, where one of his chief jobs was shooting troublesome lions that attacked local herds.
It was in Darfur that he first learned to travel by fast-riding camel with local companions, dressing as they did, eating local food out of the same bowl, and asking nothing of technology but a good rifle, a torch and a compass. During one leave he completed a long and dangerous journey to the almost unknown Tibesti mountains in the Sahara, and fell in love with the desert: “I was exhilarated by the sense of space, the silence, and the crisp cleanness of the sand. I felt in harmony with the past, travelling as men had travelled for untold generations across the deserts, dependent for their survival on the endurance of their camels and their own inherited skills.”
During the war he was a bimbashi - the most junior officer rank - in the Sudan defence force. He won the DSO in 1941 for leadership under fire in fighting the Italians, under the idiosyncratic Orde Wingate in the liberation of Abyssinia. With a masterstroke of bluff, he subsequently forced the surrender of an Italian-held fort, taking 2,500 prisoners. He later fought as a major, as second in command of a Druze legion formed to fight the Vichy French in Syria - which enabled him to visit a deserted Petra. He also served with Colonel David Stirling’s Special Air Service (SAS) in north Africa. Following the defeat of the Afrika Korps in 1943, the SAS went to Palestine, and in October of that year Thesiger left the organisation to act as an adviser to Haile Selassie in Abyssinia.
A resulting chance meeting brought him a job in what became the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation’s anti-locust unit and the opportunity to make his most famous journeys in the deserts of Arabia under its aegis, between 1945 and 1949. Arabia’s legendary Empty Quarter had been the goal of all Arabian explorers from Richard Burton onward, and although Thesiger was not the first to cross it, he was the first to explore it thoroughly, mapping the oasis of Liwa and the quicksands of Umm As-Sammim. He crossed the desert twice with Bedu companions, and his trek across the western sands from the Hadhramaut to Abu Dhabi was the last and greatest expedition of Arabian travel.
During his journeys he was caught up in inter-tribal raids, pursued by hostile raiders, and arrested by the Saudi authorities. He travelled alone in the Hejaz, the Assir and Najran, and explored the Trucial Coast and Dhofar in southern Arabia. He lived with the canoe-borne marshmen of Iraq for several periods over the seven years up to the Iraqi revolution of 1958, attaining acceptance only by learning the unusual skill of circumcision.
He still found time to travel in Kurdistan, Hunza (north-east Pakistan), Swat, Chitral (both north-west Pakistan), and Nuristan (across the border in north-east Afghanistan), where in 1956, 16,600ft up in the high passes, he bumped into a dispirited Eric Newby and friend Hugh Carless, and invited them to spend the night with him. They got on well until Thesiger saw them blowing up inflatable air-beds before retiring. “You must be a couple of pansies!” he said.
He crisscrossed postwar Abyssinia, fought on the royalist side in the civil war in Yemen (1966-67), traversed most of northern Kenya, where he spent much time between 1968 and 1994, travelled with the Bakhtiari nomads in Iran, trekked across the burning plains of the Dasht-i-Lut, the Great Sand Desert of eastern Iran, and explored inner Afghanistan. All of these travels and many more - in total tens of thousands of miles - were made either on foot or by traditional transport, be it camel, horse, mule, donkey or canoe.
Thesiger felt least at home in his own culture and with his own kind. He resented the juggernaut of western “civilisation” and its inexorable movement to squash what he believed was the colour and diversity of the earth’s peoples. His sympathies were with the indigenes, and his closest human ties were with certain of them who were his companions on his many journeys - his Zaghawa servant in the Sudan, his Bedu companions in Arabia, his paddlers in Iraq and his Samburu family in Kenya. (”Sex has been of no consequence to me, and the celibacy of desert life left me untroubled. Marriage would certainly have been a crippling handicap.”) Few other explorers of the last century have tried so genuinely to see the world through the eyes of these foreign peoples. Yet much as he despised civilisation, Thesiger was never able to forsake completely his place in it.
Had he done so, he might never have left us his unique glimpses of strange worlds, in his classic books The Marsh Arabs (1964) and Desert, Marsh And Mountain (1979), his autobiography The Life Of My Choice (1987), his portfolio of superb monochrome photos, Visions Of A Nomad (1987), and above all his description of the traditional life of the Bedu, Arabian Sands (1959), probably the finest book ever written about Arabia and a tribute to a world now lost forever.
He won the founder’s medal of the Royal Geographical Society, together with three other medals from learned societies, honorary fellowships of Magdalen College, Oxford, and the British Academy, and an Honorary DLitt from Leicester University. In 1968, he was awarded a CBE, and in 1995 he was knighted.
Yet, far more than these many honours, he valued the friendship and confidence of the nomadic peoples with whom and among whom he travelled. Thesiger’s best years were the five he spent among the Bedu of South Arabia, and one cherished companion from those days, Salim bin Ghabeisha, when a greybeard in his 60s, remembered him: “He was loyal, generous, and afraid of nothing. He was a wonderful man to travel with.” Thesiger would, I am sure, ask no better epitaph.

Copyright: Wikipedia, Oxford University Exploration Club

22 oct. 2011

Meet the Natives

TV SERIES REVIEW
Title: Meet the Natives
Year: 2007
Running time:  45 minutes each episode
Country: UK and USA
Plot summary:

Meet the Natives is a reality television show that first aired in September 2007 on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. This series included five tribesmen: Yapa, Joel, JJ, Posen and Albi, from the island of Tanna (Vanuatu) who travel to England to participate in an experiment which Guy Adams of The Independent called reverse anthropology.
The series has three episodes in which they visited a Norfolk pig farm, a Manchester estate, and Chillingham Castle in Northumberland.



Meet the Natives: USA is a spin off of the UK version of this television series in which the tribesmen travel to the United States, this time on a quest to learn more about the land and also share their ideas and beliefs. Meet the Natives: USA aired on the Travel Channel in November and December 2009.



The 6 episodes for the American series are:
1. "Montana"
For their first stop, the tribesmen traveled to a cattle farm in Montana. During their visit, they learned how Americans raise and maintain farms. The tribe did not like the fact that medicine is injected into the cows that people actually eat for the fear of "spoiling the body".

2. "New York"
The men visited New York's upper class area where they meet Bunny, who lives alone while her husband is away on business and her children are away at college. Bunny introduces them to the art of painting. The tribe starts to realize that America lives off of money. They take interest in an individual who is homeless and quickly explain how their culture would not allow for an individual to be homeless.

3. "Peoria"
In Peoria, the tribesmen get the chance to experience Thanksgiving. While helping cook the meal, they have some concerns with the way in which the food had been stored. They were particularly concerned with using a plastic oven bag to cook the turkey in for the fear of being poisoned. They also were shocked that people ate food that has been stored in tin cans for months, maybe even years. They realized that the way Americans cook is very different from the way they are used to cooking.

4. "Orange County
The men travel to Orange County, California where they experience the life of being pampered with pedicures, facials and mud baths. They also play golf, observe a home Botox party, and ride roller coasters at Knott's Berry Farm. They notice that there is a lot of food available as well as the usage of cars for almost everything.

5. "Fort Stewart"
The tribesmen travel to Fort Stewart and Washington, D.C., where they learn more about the war that America is fighting and they also give advice on keeping peace. They explain that they do not agree with people fighting other people and they vigorously tried to relay the message that America should put the guns down and keep peace. They speak with Colin Powell to try to get their message across to the people of America.

6. "Reflections"
The group reflects back on the experience they had while visiting America. They express that they know there are some differences, but for the most part people in America are loving and very welcoming individuals. They also reflect back on the "big animals" of America, such as the buffalo, and their first time seeing snow. While in the U.S they loved eating ice cream and sweets such as candy. They are preparing to go back home and tell the rest of their tribe about their experience and everything they learned about American culture.

American series cast:
Chief Mangau is the chief of the tribe who is the elder and leader of their tribe. He was sent with the others by his father, the supreme chief of the tribe back in Tanna. His purpose of going on this journey with the other four men was to serve as a leader and to help keep the rest of the men on track. He is the oldest of the five men at the age of 65 years old.
Keimua serves as the "head dancer" of the group. Back in Tanna he helps coordinate dance routines and teaches the children of the tribe how to do the traditional dances. In America he brings smiles to many faces with charm and love for dancing.
Sam is the "medicine man" of the tribe and serves as somewhat of a doctor of the tribe. During his visit to the United states he was specifically interested in how Americans treat themselves of different infections and diseases. He gave advice and shared the different treatments that his tribe has traditionally used throughout the tribes history.
Kuai serves as the "happy man" of the tribe. He is known for spreading happiness and jokes. In Tanna his purpose is to help keep the tribe happy in times of sadness and also everyday life. While in the United States he kept the families that they were staying with laughing and kept the field open for memorable moments.
Namus is the translator of the group. Holding one of the most important roles of the group he helps to connect the two worlds together. Without him the experience may have been very different for the tribe and the families in America. As a young child he had gone away to school to learn English. He is also the youngest of the group at the age of 27 years old.

"Tom Navy" is one of the major reasons for the tribesmen's visit to the United States. The tribe has learned that America is at war and they want to return the message of keeping peace that the U.S had given them once before. During World War II, the Americans helped to keep the tribe at peace during a time when the tribe was fighting. "Tom Navy" is described as an African American serviceman who helped the tribe during this time. During their visit to America the tribe had wished to meet Tom Navy to thank him for his help, provided during hard times. The show's executive producer, Charlie Parsons, guessed that back during the war there was a man by the name of Tom, who was from the Navy and his name was understood by the tribe as being Tom Navy.

In the UK series, the tribesmen meet finally and off-camera, Prince Philip, who they adore as a god. The Prince Philip Movement is a religious sect followed by the Yaohnanen tribe on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
The Yaohnanen believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort to Queen Elizabeth II, is a divine being; the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit and brother of John Frum. According to ancient tales the son travelled over the seas to a distant land, married a powerful lady and would in time return. The villagers had observed the respect accorded to Queen Elizabeth II by colonial officials and came to the conclusion that her husband, Prince Philip, must be the son from their legends.
When the cult formed is unclear, but it is likely that it was sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. Their beliefs were strengthened by the royal couple's official visit to Vanuatu in 1974, when a few villagers had the opportunity to observe the Prince from afar. At the time the Prince was not aware of the cult, but the matter was eventually brought to his attention by John Champion, the British Resident Commissioner in Vanuatu between 1975 and 1978.
The Resident Commissioner suggested that the Prince send them a portrait of himself. A signed official photograph was duly dispatched. The villagers responded by sending a traditional nal-nal club. As requested, the Prince in return sent them a photograph of himself posing with the weapon. Another photograph was sent in 2000. All three photographs were kept by Chief Jack Naiva, who died in 2009.
On September 27, 2007, British television station Channel 4 broadcast Meet the Natives, a reality show about five Tanna natives of the Prince Philip Movement on a visit to Britain; their visit culminated in an off-screen audience with Philip, where gifts were exchanged, including a new photograph of the Prince.
Yaohnanen people were featured on the second season of the Spanish television series "Perdidos en la Tribu" (Lost in the Tribe), on which they cohabitated with a Spanish family during the course of 21 days, teaching them their customs and culture, and also in the first season of the same Portuguese series called "Perdidos na Tribo".

© Text and image: Wikipedia, Channel 4

20 oct. 2011

The Iban of Sarawak

Name: Iban
Living Area: Sarawak (Malaysia)
Population: >600.000 people
Language: Iban language
Comments:   
The Ibans are a branch of the Dayak peoples of Borneo. In Malaysia, most Ibans are located in Sarawak, a small portion in Sabah and some in west Malaysia. They were formerly known during the colonial period by the British as Sea Dayaks. Ibans were renowned for practising headhunting and tribal/territorial expansion. In ancient times the Ibans were a strong and successful warring tribe in Borneo.
Today, the days of headhunting and piracy are long gone and in has come the modern era of globalization and technology for the Ibans. The Iban population is concentrated in Sarawak, Brunei, and in the West Kalimantan region of Indonesia. They live in longhouses called rumah panjai. Most of the Iban longhouses are equipped with modern facilities such as electricity and water supply and other facilities such as (tar sealed) roads, telephone lines and the internet. Younger Ibans are mostly found in urban areas and visit their hometowns during the holidays. The Ibans today are becoming increasingly urbanised while retaining most of their traditional heritage and culture.

The origin of the name Iban is a mystery, although many theories exist. During the British colonial era, the Ibans were called Sea Dayaks. Some believe that the word Iban was an ancient original Iban word for people or man. The modern-day Iban word for people or man is mensia, a totally modified Malay loan word of the same meaning (manusia) of Sanskrit root.
The Ibans were the original inhabitants of Borneo Island. Like the other Dayak tribes, they were originally farmers, hunters, and gatherers. Not much is known about Iban people before the arrival of the Western expeditions to Asia. Nothing was ever recorded by any voyagers about them.
The Ibans started moving to areas in what is today's Sarawak around the 15th century. After an initial phase of colonising and settling the river valleys, displacing or absorbing the local tribes, a phase of internecine warfare began. Local leaders were forced to resist the tax collectors of the sultans of Brunei. At the same time, Malay influence was felt, and Iban leaders began to be known by Malay titles such as Datu (Datuk), Nakhoda and Orang Kaya.
In later years, the Iban encountered the Bajau and Illanun, coming in galleys from the Philippines. These were seafaring tribes who came plundering throughout Borneo. One famous Iban legendary figure known as Lebor Menoa from Entanak, near modern-day Betong, fought and successfully defeated the Bajaus and Illanuns. It is likely that the Ibans learned seafaring skills from the Bajau and the Illanun, using these skills to plunder other tribes living in coastal areas, such as the Melanaus and the Selakos. This is evident with the existence of the seldom-used Iban boat with sail, called the bandung. This may also be one of the reasons James Brooke, who arrived in Sarawak around 1838, called the Ibans Sea Dayaks. For more than a century, the Ibans were known as Sea Dayaks to Westerners.

The Ibans were traditionally animist, although the majority are now Christian. Many continue to observe both Christian and traditional ceremonies, particularly during marriages or festivals.
Significant festivals include the rice harvesting festival Gawai Dayak, the main festival for the Ibans. Other festivals include the bird festival Gawai Burong and the spirit festival Gawai Antu. The Gawai Dayak festival is celebrated every year on the 1st of June, at the end of the harvest season, to worship the Lord Sempulang Gana. On this day, the Ibans get together to celebrate, often visiting each other. The Iban traditional dance, the ngajat, is performed accompanied by the taboh and gendang, the Ibans' traditional music. Pua Kumbu, the Iban traditional cloth, is used to decorate houses. Tuak, which is originally made of rice, is a wine used to serve guests. Nowadays, there are various kinds of tuak, made with rice alternatives such as sugar cane, ginger and corn.
The Gawai Burong (the bird festival) is held in honour of the war god, Singalang Burong. (Singalang the Bird). This festival is initiated by a notable individual from time to time and hosted by individual longhouses. The Gawai Burong originally honoured warriors, but during more peaceful times evolved into a healing ceremony. The recitation of pantun (traditional chants by poets) is a particularly important aspect of the festival.

Iban music is percussion-oriented. The Iban have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles - percussion ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drones without any accompanying melodic instrument. The typical Iban agung ensemble will include a set of engkerumungs (small agungs arranged together side by side and played like a xylophone), a tawak (the so-called 'bass'), a bendai (which acts as a snare) and also a set of ketebung (a single sided drum/percussion).
The Iban as well as the Kayan and Kenyah also play an instrument resembling the guitar called Sape (instrument). The Sape is the official musical instrument for the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is played similarly to the way rock guitarists play guitar solos, albeit a little slower, but not as slow as blues.
The Ibans perform a unique dance called the ngajat. It serves many purposes depending on the occasion. Iban men and women have different styles of ngajat. The ngajat involves a lot of precise body-turning movements. For men is more aggressive and depicts a man going to war, or a bird flying (as a respect to the Iban god of war, Singalang Burong). The women's form of ngajat consists of soft, graceful movements with very precise body turns. Each ngajat is accompanied by the taboh or the body.

Known by their: headhunting
Headhunting among the Ibans is believed to have started when the lands occupied by the Ibans became over-populated. In those days, before the arrival of western civilization, intruding on lands belonging to other tribes resulted in death. Confrontation was the only way of survival.
In those days, the way of war was the only way that any Dayak tribe could achieve prosperity and fortune. Dayak warfare was brutal and bloody, to the point of ethnic cleansing. Many extinct tribes, such as the Seru and Bliun, are believed to have been assimilated or wiped out by the Ibans. Tribes like the Bukitan, who were the original inhabitants of Saribas, are believed to have been assimilated or forced northwards as far as Bintulu by the Ibans. The Ukits were also believed to have been nearly wiped out by the Ibans.

© Text: Wikipedia, Image: Kumuka 

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