Sonntag, 19. Oktober 2014

Moving!!! Ich ziehe um...

Now that am moving to SAN FRANCISCO, I also change adresses in the virtual world - after 10 years of blogging and sharing articles on chessocampo.blogspot.de. Please visit my new portfolio (in four languages) here: www.christina-felschen.com
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Kurz bevor ich nach SAN FRANCISCO ziehe, wechsle ich auch virtuell meine Adresse. Nach 10 Jahren verabschiede ich mich von meinem Blog chessocampo.blogspot.com. Von nun an teile ich meine Artikel und Blogeinträge hier mit Euch (in vier Sprachen): www.christina-felschen.com!
Die wenigsten Artikel sind in anderen Sprachen übersetzt, daher lohnt es sich zwischen den verschiedenen Versionen herumzusurfen. Freue mich über Eure Besuche und Euer Feedback!


Still working on some improvements, but you can have a look already. I would cherish your feedback!

Mittwoch, 6. August 2014

Second birth

Thrilled to hear that Estela de Carlotto finally found her grandson yesterday.. 37 years after his mother was murdered by the militares. "I won't give up until I find him", she told us, when Peace Boat visited the Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo last year
Guido Carlotto is N° 114 in a long line of children who "regained their identity" as the Abuelas say. But according to "Hija" Catalina there is more to that: What if you discover that your would-be-parents are actually the murderers of your real parents? Leaning the truth about the sufferings of your parents and the lies you were brought up with are a traumatic experience for most "Hijos".
What will the remaining 400 hijos "out there" feel, when they read about Guido Carlotto these days? Do they have the slightest idea? And if they do, what keeps them from coming out? 



Montag, 10. März 2014

Tomohiros Schweigen


(Kolumne in der taz, veröffentlicht am 14.3.2013 >>)
Als in Japan vor genau zwei Jahren die Erde bebt, halten Ayako and Tomohiro Konno kurz in ihrer Arbeit inne. Mehr nicht. Sie produzieren und verkaufen Backsteine – ein florierendes Unternehmen. Viele Großstädter bauten Häuser in Fukushima, um ihren Lebensabend in der idyllischen Provinz zu verbringen. „Wir sind es gewohnt, dass die Erde zittert. Das passiert eben alle paar Monate mal. Aber dies –“, Ayako nimmt Tomohiros Hand. „Dies war kein normales Beben. Es dauerte viel zu lange.” Das Paar sitzt mir gegenüber auf dem Panoramadeck der Ocean Dream, Wind und Sonne auf der Haut. Fukushima ist weit weg, doch das Thema immer da. Seit wir auf See sind, erreichten uns drei Erdbebenmeldungen aus Japan, jede bringt den Schrecken des 11. März zurück. Die japanische Nichtregierungsorganisation Peace Boat klärt seit dreißig Jahren über die Risiken von Atomkraft auf; nach 3-11 hat sie in den zerstörten Präfekturen Häuser aufgebaut und Hunderttausende Suppen verteilt. Als die NGO auf ihrer Fahrt um dieWelt eine taiwanische Bürgerinitiative besucht, die gegen einAtomkraftwerk kämpft, lassen die Tonnos eine Botschaft überbringen. Sie selbst machen statt dessen lieber eine Sightseeing-Tour. „Wir brauchen Abstand.“
Wer selbst nichts dergleichen erlebt hat, kann sich die Risiken kaum vorstellen”, sagt Tomohiro Tonno. Atomkraft, das ist für viele Japaner die „gute” Energie; das Wort dafür – „genshi” – hat etymologisch nichts zu tun mit „kaku”, der zerstörerischen Kraft, die für Nuklearwaffen genutzt wird. Das suggeriert einen Unterschied, der wissenschaftlich nicht existiert. Beides setzt die Spaltung von Plutonium und Uran voraus; ein Land, das Atomkraftwerke hat, kann auch Atombomben bauen. Die Liberaldemokratische Partei, die bei den Wahlen am 16. Dezember die Macht in Japan zurückerlangt hat, hat jegliche Diskussion über einen Atomausstieg um drei weitere Jahre verschoben.
Die Tonnos glaubten an die Mär vom guten „genshi”. Sie rissen sich nicht um ein AKW in der Nachbarschaft, aber dagegen protestieren – ach wo. „Wir sagten uns: Irgendwo muss die Energie ja herkommen”, erinnert sich Tomohiro. Und im März 2011 dachten sie erst recht nicht an das Daichi-Werk, das 30 Kilometer von ihrem Haus entfernt an der Küste stand. Sie hatten Wichtigeres zu tun. Onigiri-Bällchen rollen zum Beispiel. Denn mit der ersten Tsunamiwarnung füllte sich ihre Firma mit Flüchtlingen, die ihre Häuser an der Küste verlassen mussten. „Wir brachten sie im Pausenraum unter”, erzählt Ayako. „Sie mussten ja irgendwo hin, einen Evakuierungsplan gab es nicht.” Also bereitete sie Reisbällchen und ihr Ehemann servierte – an ihren guten Sitten als Gastgeber sollte das Erdbeben nicht rütteln. Damit waren sie so beschäftigt, dass sie nicht einmal den Fernseher anschalteten.
Abends kam meine Freundin zu mir in die Küche und flüsterte: 'Ich habe Decken in den Kofferraum gepackt. So können wir jederzeit losfahren.' Erst da ahnte ich, dass wir vielleicht doch nicht so sicher waren wie die Regierung uns glauben machte.” Als die Tonnos sahen, dass die Familien der TEPCO-Arbeiter flohen, verließen auch sie ihre Stadt. „Wir nahmen nur die Klamotten mit, die wir trugen, denn wir wollten ja bald zurück kommen. Alle dachten so.” Doch ihre Odyssee hatte gerade erst begonnen. Sie blieben nie lange an einem Ort, Flüchtlingsunterkünfte gab es nicht und ihre Verwandten hatten nicht ausreichend Platz. Nach sieben oder acht Umzügen landeten sie in Tokio, wo die Regierung einige Wohnungen zur Vermietung an die Fukushima-Flüchtlinge reserviert hatte.
Die Tonnos kehrten noch zehn Mal ins verstrahlte Gebiet zurück, um ihre Firma zu schließen. Jetzt würde hier niemand mehr Backsteine brauchen, das wurde Ayako gleich klar. „Die Straßen unserer Stadt waren schon immer schmal”, sie lacht beim Erzählen, aber ihre Augen füllen sich mit Tränen. Noch einmal sieht sie Tsushima vor sich – die Geisterstadt, die nur noch in der Erinnerung existiert. Die überwucherten Straßen. Die halb zerfallenen Häuser. „Wir hatten eine Katze.” Tomohiros Mundwinkel zucken, er schiebt seinen Barhocker zur Seite und geht ohne ein Wort hinaus. Ayako nickt. „Als wir im April zurückkamen, sahen wir sie noch lebendig.” Sie flüstert jetzt fast. Die Stimme der Übersetzerin zittert. Ich halte die Luft an. „Sie sprang zu uns ins Auto. Als wollte sie sagen: 'Lasst mich hier nicht allein.' Aber in unseren Unterkünften gab es keinen Platz für sie. Wir sahen sie nie wieder.”
Tomohiro kommt zurück. „No nuke”, sagt er auf Englisch. Viel zu spät sei diese Erkenntnis gekommen. „Wir haben die Atomenergie passiv unterstützt, weil wir geschwiegen haben.” Seit sie in Tokio wohnen, versuchen sie alles nachzuholen. Gehen auf Demos. Arbeiten als Freiwillige für Peace Boat – und bekamen dafür die Reise erstattet. „Zusammen haben wir eine Millionen Yen (Zehntausend Euro) von der Regierung erhalten, doch um unseren Verlust zu kompensieren, reicht das nicht”, sagt Tomohiro. „Wir haben keine Arbeit und kein Zuhause mehr.”
Die Loungemusik aus den Lautsprechern geht in die dritte Schleife, der Barkeeper mixt Cocktails und im Pool platschen Teenager. Tomohiros Blick verliert sich in der Ferne. Der Ozean ändert sich täglich. Es ist nicht so sehr die Form der Wellen, sondern all das schon Vergessene und noch Erhoffte, das aus ihm auftaucht, wenn wir ihn lange betrachten. Für einen Moment wirkt Tomohiro unendlich verlassen.

Foto: Christina Felschen/ Peace Boat 

The invisible threat


Voices from Japan two years after the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima
(written for the Peace Boat website on March 11th, 2012 >>

A year ago, I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with Peace Boat, a Japanese NGO that has been promoting reconciliation and a nuke-free world since the 1970ies, starting from Japan's own painful experience. We passed close to Mururoa and Fangataufa, learnt from Polynesians about how to recognize a contaminated fish (blood in its tail and eyes) and listened to workers who are afraid to pass on the radiation in their genes for generations to come. But on March 11th, we realized that we didn't have to go that far: The nuclear disaster of Fukushima still affects many Japanese people.

The Japanese language has two words for nuclear power: "genshi", the "productive" nuclear power that drives power plants and "kaku", the destructive power used for nuclear weapons. This suggests a difference that scientifically does not exist. A country that has nuclear power plants can also create atomic bombs. Both involve the fission of plutonium and uranium. The Liberal Democratic Party, that regained power in Japan in the December elections, has postponed any discussion about whether or not to phase-out for three more years. Six participants of the Peace Boat voyage share their experiences and opinions after Fukushima.  

Arai Toshiko, Miyagi prefecture: After the accident, many families from Fukushima moved to our prefecture, Miyagi, so that their children could attend schools in a safer area. But many parents continue to travel to Fukushima to work, because they have to support their families. Furthermore they feel attached to their home town and feel they cannot leave it so easily. At school their children are traumatized for the second time: Their new classmates often treat them badly and avoid them, claiming that radiation was contagious. This has gone so far that the children ask to return to Fukushima, saying that they don't mind the radiation, if only they could have their old life with friends and family again. After the accident there was little food left to eat, so they started to share the little they had. Many scientists say that children should not eat agricultural products grown in Fukushima, but it is these products that school meals are made of. So mothers travel far to find some food which has not been grown in the contaminated area. The worst is: People in Fukushima are discouraged from freely talking about the danger, although they can see it on their Geiger counters every day. I never did anything to change the situation in my prefecture. It wasn't until the tsunami happened that I realized: By not speaking out against it, I have silently agreed with nuclear power in my home region. 3-11 changed a lot for me. Now I have also participated in a protest.

Suzuki Tsuneo, Nagano prefecture: After my retirement I started to visit the affected regions. I realized that the nature of the destruction is very different. We could clean the town from the destructions of the tsunami and restart our living there from the next day, but we will never be able to remove the nuclear pollution. But still people keep living in the radiated areas. Unlike in Chernobyl evacuation is not compulsory because by giving that order the government would admit that it is dangerous. Also they would have had to pay compensation. The unclear orders and the unstable status quo makes the situation even worse for the people of Fukushima.

Ariyama Yoko, Jogo prefecture: I have been teaching science at a junior high school until my retirement in March this year. In our textbooks little was described about the dangers of radiation. Instead they emphasized the advantages of nuclear energy as allegedly "clean" energy, because it does not produce CO². "And there is a problem with waste", the book added – without specifying. That was it. I felt that this representation was incomplete, but I did not add more information. After the accident at the Daihatsu power plant, I fully realized that our whole educational system supports nuclear energy. Since that time I regret what I used to teach to my students. After 3-11, I had one year left until my retirement. So I used this year to tell the truth to the children. I brought newspaper articles to my class and explained to them what had happened. I asked my colleagues to join me in this – and many did. However others refused stating that nuclear energy was important to maintain our standard of living. In April 2012, the government released a new version of the textbook. But still, it hardly mentions Fukushima and presents nuclear energy as something substantially different from nuclear bombs. As a reaction, a teachers' association from Fukushima published its own textbook, which elaborates about the dangers more in detail. But this book is not for sale throughout the country.

Otozu Hiroko, Miyagi prefecture: I was concerned with nuclear energy even before Fukushima. I try to lead an ecological life in the countryside. It might look as if I am living in the 50ies, but it is fun to cook your own food in an open fireplace, make compost and reuse rain water. It's a bit inconvenient, but I like it. People say that we can do this in the countryside, because we have so much space. But they are wrong. Everybody could make a step towards a more sustainable life. Solar energy has for example become a lot more popular in Japan since 3-11.

Konno Ayako and Konno Tomohiro, Namiemachi-Tsushima, Fukushima prefecture: Our house is located only thirty kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but we never worried about that. In the morning after the 3-11 earthquake, parts of our village were evacuated. We started to house several dozen people in the recreation room of our enterprise. No evacuation plan existed, so everyone depended on friends, relatives or helpful strangers. We were so busy housing the refugees and making rice balls for them, that we didn't even have time to watch TV. But our relatives and our children in Tokyo called us – they worried a lot about us. Information from the media and the government was very contradictory. The only source we trusted were the families of the TEPCO workers, who were the first to flee the place. That was a bad sign. Two days after the earthquake we also left our house. We just took the clothes we wore with us, because we thought we would return soon anyway. We moved to seven or eight different places, the houses of friends and relatives, before we ended up in Tokyo, where the government has reserved some apartments to rent to Fukushima refugees. Whenever we return, we feel sad. We had a cat. When we arrived in April we still saw her alive. She climbed into our car as if to say: "Don't leave me here." But we couldn't take her with us, because in our temporary settlements there was no space for a cat. We never saw her again. The streets of our village used to be narrow anyway, but now they are overgrown with grass. Few people remain – mainly elderly people fled the city to have a peaceful retirement in the countryside. But these are just rumours. Whenever we go back, we have to hurry up and cannot wander around, because everything is contaminated. In Tokyo we both started to volunteer at the Peace Boat Center (P-cen), preparing posters which other volunteers later distributed. As a family we received about one million yen (ten thousand Euro) in compensation, but we are still hoping to receive more. We lost our house and our jobs. Before the government settles the compensation issue, we cannot decide where to go. Now Peace Boat is our home.

Photos: Christina Felschen/ Peace Boat

Mittwoch, 22. Januar 2014

Rice Farming on the Atlantic - Peace Boat Retrspective #13 (?) - NOCH FOTOS U KOMMENT Ü JAPKULTUR/ AUS ANDEREN PBBLOGS INMA AARIS..

Peace Boat participants celebrate the Japanese Summer Festival
(written for the Peace Boat website, Jan 22, 2013 >>)

Playing the traditional Japanese taiko drum requires physical strength and a good sense of rhythm
If other ships had come close to the Ocean Dream recently, their passengers would have heard the calling of the taiko drums (picture) from far. Approaching they wouldn't have believed their eyes, seeing people in yukatas dancing the Bon Odori in full summer heat, mimicking rice farming, fishing and hunting in the middle of the Atlantic. But, as usual, there were no other ships around. So we just share these moments with our readers - for you to marvel.

This Bon Odori dancer imitates movements which relate to local heritage
While Japan was covered with snow, Peace Boat participants held a summer festival on the Atlantic. For many particpants, the majority of whom come from Japan, Peace Boat, is an opportunity to learn about cultures and traditions around the world in the in-port programmes organised with local partners. As one of the biggest annual festivities all over the country, the "Natsu Matsuri" (Summer Festival) onboard is a time for the young and the old alike to immerse themselves into regional heritage and learn more about the diversity within their own country and to share that with participants and staff from countries other than Japan. This Bon Odori dancer (photo) imitates movements which relate to local heritage and natural phenomena like wind and waves, volcanoes and the sun. The tradition of the Natsu Matsuri started during the Obon period as an occasion to honour the ancestors. Subsequently, in the Edo period, it became a popular festival to relieve summer fatigue.

During the Summer Festival the sisters Mizuno Megumi (left) and Ayumi played the Yo-yo tsuri with water balloons
The two sisters Mizuno Megumi, 19 (left), and Ayumi, 26 (right), can always be seen onboard the 78th voyage together. "We enjoy this occasion to travel together a lot" Ayumi said. "We haven't seen each other for a long time." Since 2009 she has been working in Hokkaido, Cape Town and Barcelona, while her younger sister Megumi finished school in their home town of Nagoya in Honshu. During the summer festival they played the 'Yo-yo Tsuri' with colourful water balloons, which they had fished out of a pool with a rod.

Voyage Director Hirayama Yuuki (left) and his jury awarded the prize for the most beautiful yukata to Arimasu Shoko (right)
During Natsu Matsuri, young women enjoy displaying their yukatas, a light summer version of the traditional kimono. Arimasu Shoko (right) won the prize for the most beautiful costume. "My mother dyed the material herself" the 21-year-old told the judges in the Best Yukatta Competition. "She managed to finish it just two days before we left Yokohama." Her story moved Voyage Director Hirayama Yuuki (left) and the other judges. "Please tell your mother about this prize once you are back" he told Shoko. The competition also allowed the participants to experiment with different personas and identities; in one event, young men dressed up in women's yukatta with full make-up and blond wigs (background) and in the Accessory Yukata Contest, participants highlighted their personality with fans, guitars or a sumo look.

"Let's get to know each other" - Peace Boat Retrospective #13 - NOCH FOTOS UND STREAM

Multiculturalism in a Namibian township
(written for the Peace Boat website, Jan 17, 2013 >>)

"I have 627 children" says Bertha Kadhila, principal of Hanganeni Primary School. She feels a motherly responsibility for each of them, spending a part of her own salary on improving their living conditions.
Bertha Kadhila has her eyes everywhere. The strong woman stands in the middle of a dusty school yard in the Namibian township of Mondesa in an immaculate white blazer, multitasking by posing for photos with Peace Boat visitors, giving an interview and sharing advice and motherly hugs with the children who tug on her sleeves. While explaining the education policies of Namibia, she stops two school girls rushing by. "Johanna, Alina, please show the classrooms to our visitors." Guided by Peace Boat's partner organisation Hata Angu Cultural Tours, 46 participants visited the small township on the outskirts of Svakopmund to learn about the coexistence of different ethnicities and the legacy of apartheid and colonialism. Namibia gained independence only very recently in 1990, after having been a German imperial protectorate from 1884 until the end of World War I and a South African colony until 1990. "Before independence white people never came to the townships. We want to change that" explains tour guide Castro Shangombe, who lives in the settlement and has taken evening classes in tourism. Raymond Inixab, a Damara, and his wife Michelle Lewis founded Hatu Angu ("Let's get to know each other") in 2001. A part of the profit goes to the institutions and individuals visited as well as to community projects

The school outside of Svakopmund in Namibia receives nearly daily visits of tourists and non-governmental organisations. This provides it with some money to maintain its facilities.
Raised in a poor family in Mondesa herself, Bertha Kadhila is passionate about improving the future of "her" children as she calls them. The principal of Hanganeni Primary School acts as manager and mother, teacher and fundraiser, spokesperson and tourist guide. Her dedication and her skills in multitasking seem to keep it all together - a school with only 19 teachers for 627 children from vulnerable backgrounds. Many of them live in provisional huts without any electricity or water access in the so called "reception area" outside the township known as DRC (Democratic Resettlement Community). Many have parents who are without work and struggling to care for them. A significant number have no parents at all, lost to the HIV/ AIDS epidemic which Namibia is suffering from. "94 new learners haven't shown up yet, although we are two weeks into the school year" she says as to remind herself. "I urgently have to speak to their parents. And I need to find sponsors to buy school equipment and maintain our facilities."

"Yummy, a worm!" Most in-port programme participants tried the specialities of the Ovambo ethnicity at the local shebeen (pub) "Back of the Moon" - mopane worms as well as mahango (millet), ekaka (wild spinach) and omaluvu (traditional African sorgam beer).
Since the beginning of 2013, the Namibian government has provided free education to all students, finally implementing a law which was already passed in 1990. "Now more parents can send their children to school" Bertha Kadhila says. According to her, 90 per cent of all the children in Mondesa currently attend school, 60 per cent of those who finish primary school continue with secondary school and 45 per cent of those who pass their final exam there, start university. But whereas the government waives the school fees and provides stationary and maize plants for meals, Namibian schools are left with providing equipment, maintenance, cooks and school uniforms for poor students. What is no problem for private schools in Svakopmund, but is indeed a challenge for Mondesa. Bertha Kadhila receives donations from NGOs, fishing companies and individual visitors and pays two cooks from her own salary. "Hanganeni", the name of the school, means "Let's unite!". 'Everything is possible' is the message Bertha Kadhila tries to spread, if only we stand together. "My children speak Damara, Obambo, Herero and Afrikaans, but we can understand each others languages" she says. "Ethnicity doesn't play a role."

Agoste, a medicine woman of the Nama ethnicity, welcomed participants in her house, showing them herbs against illnesses and for good luck.
When driving along Mondesa's large sand roads in mini buses, tour guide Castro Shinbundo points at a colourful wooden shacks. "Those houses have only one bedroom" he says. "In 1960, the colonial administration gave them to the Ovambo, while Damara families received two bedrooms and Herero three. These injustices were supposed to stir jealousy, so that the groups would not unite to fight against the colonizers." But the twelve different ethnicities that have been coexisting in Namibia for centuries did not let government policies come between them. Castro Shinbundo himself is a mixture of Damara, Shinbundo from neighbouring Angola and Herero. He taught participants greetings for their visits at Nama, Damara, Herero and Ovambo houses ("Inai-tses! Matisa! Kore-e! Ongeni!") as well as the different click sounds. "Be careful" he says, laughing. "Depending on how you stress the clicks, 'nam' can mean vessel, close, hug or love. You don't want to confuse that."

Oma Lina was already 65 years old, when apartheid in Namibia finally ended in 1990. As a Damara chief she judges on domestic and community issues.
Like many Herero women, Thalida dreams of becoming a first wife. "A first wife doesn't have to do anything, while the second one takes care of the children and the third one does the cleaning", she explains to Peace Boat participants who are visiting her in her garden. Herero is the only ethnicity which allows polygamy in Namibia, but according to Thalida the number of wives per man has reduced to "only" four in recent years due to HIV/ AIDS. "There are hardly any conflicts between the wives, because the first one chooses the other wives, not the man" she says, visibly enjoying the surprised faces of the participants. "But the husband invents excuses, when he is visiting the other ladies." Not far from Thalida's house, the Nama woman Agoste lives in a poor shack. As a young woman she has been chosen and trained to become a medicine woman, but the number of her clients decline as young people increasingly consult Western doctors. "This is Xunru, it cures throat infections" she says, handing around a glass with brown seeds she has collected in the surrounding steppe. There is Xucha to revive the appetite of the sick, Xarab against chest pain, there are herbs against stress, to increase breast milk, for good luck and as an aphrodisiac. Namibians have the same choice between traditional and modern methods when it comes to jurisdiction. With minor domestic or committee issues like violence or inheritance they can either address a judge or a tribal committee. The latter usually meets at Oma ("grandmom") Lina's place. As a chief of the local Damara group, the fragile 87-year-old is an influential woman. "Once we have decided about an issue, it has to be accepted and cannot be dealt with in court again."

The local boyband "Vocal Galere" performed for Peace Boat participants
Driving back to Walvis Bay along the oldest dunes of the world, the Peace Boat group passes golf courses and a holiday resort "for people who are so rich that the money must fall out of their mouth" as Castro Shinbundo puts it. He remembers the time when international paparazzi beleaguered the resort, because the actress Angelina Jolie had her first biological baby there. "Unfortunately the journalists have never made their way to Mondesa." Although some black and coloured Namibians have risen into middle class due to the Black Economic Empowerment programme after apartheid, most continue to live in the townships. But unlike South Africans who are struggling for the redistribution of land (maybe you could put a link to the Cape Town PoC article here - thanks!), hardly any inhabitant of Mondesa considers moving to Svakopmund. "Our township is far more lively and the social cohesion is better" Castro Shangombe explains. In the afternoon, the students of Hanganeni Primary School walk in all directions - towards the provisional huts of the resettlement area and towards the wooden buildings of Mondesa. Impossible to tell who is a Damara, a Herero or an Ovambo. Impossible also to tell whose house has one, two or three bedrooms. Their uniforms can be seen far through the dust of the streets, points of grey and red and blue, jumping and running.

Montag, 20. Januar 2014

From Asia to Africa - Peace Boat Retrospective #12 (?) - NOCH BILDER

Japanese artists and activists Hayakawa Chiaki and Masaya Onishi share their work on the African Continent
(written for the Peace Boat website on January 16th, 2013 >>)

Writer, singer and NGO activist Hayakawa Chiaki brought the spirit of Africa onto the ship, when the vessel was still far form the coast of Africa, sailing in the Indian Ocean. Her daily lectures and singing workshops were extremely popular, as she captured the participants' imagination with her photography and story-telling skills. Disappointed with Japanese society of the 80s, she travelled extensively as a backpacker in her teens and twenties. The travels ended in Kenya, where she met the man who was to be her husband and settled. The 46-year-old moved the audience when talking about her experiences in Nairobi's largest slum Kibera, where she runs the Magoso School, supplying food, shelter and education to several hundred children living in poverty. Having lived in the East African country for 25 years and raising a Japanese-Kenyan family, Hayakawa Chiaki has become a bridge between both cultures. She has published many books including "Africa and Japan", has toured Japan giving lectures on the African continent and organizes nature experience tours to visit Masai communities.

Several dozen participants, from teenage to retirement age, joined Hayakawa Chiaki's choir onboard. They practised well-known Kenyan songs like "Jambo" and learnt to play the djembe drum and the kayamba, a rattle made from reeds filled with seeds or small beads. The group finally performed during African Night, wearing colourful Kanga fabrics which they had bought on the African Market which Ms Hayakawa had organised. Fundraising activities onboard raised 100,000 yen, in aid of the Magoso School and projects in prisons in Kenya. In addition, parts of the sales of handmade textiles, jewellery and artwork will be used to support these projects.

For Hayakawa Chiaki the voyage was a real family trip. She brought her children Maya, 22, and Yuta, 16 (left) along - as well as her grandson Amari (right), 6, who always found participants willing to play hide-and-seek or to dance with him. He was said to be the "most popular man onboard". Amari's mother, Maya held a lecture about her work in a Nairobi prison, where she supports prisoners' reintegration into society.

As in previous voyages the Japanese percussionist Masaya Onishi joined Hayakawa Chiaki as a guest educator. He taught participants how to play the Ngoma drum and joined in spontaneous jam sessions until late at night. The 38-year-old became a drummer by pure chance. Originally he was just looking for a percussion instrument to gain a better sense of rhythm on the guitar - but the Ngoma drum soon became more than a means to an end. After some years as a street musician in Japan, Masaya Onishi followed the beat of his heart, which brought him to a tiny village near Nairobi, where he met Swaleh Mwatela Masai. The traditional musician taught him the Sengenya method and even adopted the young man, who has grown up as an orphan, as his 20th "son". Living in Kenya for eight years, it was only a matter of time until Onishi Masaya's paths were to cross with fellow expat-musician Hayakawa Chiaki.

One day, when Ms Hayakawa and Mr Masaya were practising for the African Night, a participant started to dance spontaneously to the quick rhythm of the drum. It was Suzuki Madoka ("Madu"), a 23 year old hip hop performer from Tokyo, who has been dancing all over the ship and in the ports of call. "Music and dance comes just naturally to African people" she observed. "In Japan many people are too shy to express themselves, because we are taught to compare ourselves with another." Asked to join in the presentation, she simply borrowed an "African" looking scarf from her friend and went on stage - no need for practice. Suzuki Madoka started ballet at the age of 3 and turned to hip hop when she was 15. "I feel that words aren't everything" she shared. "We sometimes get hurt because of words. But we don't get hurt through music, dance, or art." She worked as a volunteer in one the Peace Boat Centres in Japan for one year to gain a discount on the voyage and find an answer to the question that had been in her mind for very long: Why do people all over the world dance? During an overland tour to Soweto township near Johannesburg, she could communicate with local youths despite the language barrier - by joining in dance sessions. "I felt the power and strength of the people who had been through the hardships of apartheid" she said. "Music and dance enpower the powerless."

In 2004, Onishi Masaya started to support traditional African musicians and communities through the JIWE project. When violent riots erupted in the Kibera slum after the contested elections in 2007, it was the local children who suffered the most. As a testimony of their memories, both guest lecturers brought pictures onto the ship, which the children painted. They depicted men with machetes and machine-guns, huts set on fire and people covered with their own blood. The two grass-roots activists recorded music played by the children and sold the CDs to raise money for stationery and other items the children need. Currently Masaya Onishi is in the process of filming a documentary about the Magoso School.

Donnerstag, 16. Januar 2014

“We are treated like slaves in our own country” - Peace Boat Retrospective #10 NOCH FOTOStream

 In Cape Town's largest township the legacy of apartheid prevails
(written for the Peace Boat website on January 14th, 2013 >>)


During the first visit of a Peace Boat tour to Cape Town's largest township, Manenberg, participants and local children painted a mural together.
Shiraj Fredericks opens a photo album on a dusty car bonnet. "This is District Six. I met my wife only one street from here" he says, pointing on a black-and-white picture. It shows a wooden art-nouveau verandah in an urban setting, with people leisurely walking down a street. He frowns. "Well, this was District Six." In 1966, the apartheid government bulldozed Shiraj Fredericks' home town and forcibly moved its 60,000 black and coloured inhabitants to Manenberg, the biggest of the so called "townships" around Cape Town. These "group areas" were far away from the white "suburbs" and often cut in two by a road, river or a railway, without any bridges to cross to the other side. Two decades after the official end of apartheid, the separation is legally abolished, but in practice it continues. Few Black or Coloured South Africans have made their way out of the overcrowded townships and nearly no Whites have moved in. When a group of 30 young Peace Boat participants left the bus in the middle of Manenberg, hundreds of children came curiously running along. Upon invitation by its partner organisation, Proudly Manenberg, Peace Boat visited the settlement as part of an in-port programme for the first time.

Mario Wanza founded the civil society organisation, Proudly Manenberg in 2005 after an innocent student was killed by gang violence
"Our hopes flew high when Nelson Mandela was released from prison" remembers Mario Wanza, founder of Proudly Manenberg. He was still a child when he, too, was forced out of District Six. "After apartheid was abolished in 1994, we expected the system to be reversed. We were sure that we would finally get our land back and have equal access to social services." The start was promising. After he had been working in the underground as an anti-apartheid activist for decades, Mario Wanza could suddenly make a career at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ,established in 1994. But as the years passed, he realized that his vision of an integrated and equal society was far from being fulfilled. "People just went to sleep" he says in a low voice. In 2000, Mario Wanza quit his job and moved back to Manenberg, hoping to achieve in his old neighbourhood what he couldn't achieve at the national level. He left his well-paid regular job as a commissioner in Cape Town for a life in Manenberg, where only one out of six children were finishing high school, where the unemployment rate had reached 60 per cent and rivalling drug gangs were fighting each other.

The organisation aims to turn the township around -leading it from crime and desperation to friendship and dignity.
Believing that education is the key for change, Mario Wanza started working as a high school teacher, until 2005, when one of his students got caught in the cross-fire between local gangs and was stabbed with a knife. "That was the moment when I thought 'enough is enough'." Together with colleagues and friends he founded the civil society organisation Proudly Manenberg, which soon grew to have 1000 active members. They aim at nothing less than turning the township upside down - from crime and desperation to a "vibrant, proud and dignified Manenberg". For this goal, the group relied on idealism, private money and euphoric rhetoric. "Where there is underdevelopment we bring development" their website reads. "Where there is unemployment we create jobs, where there is crime, grime and violence, we create an environment based on caring and sharing and which is clean and green." The NGO has developed a Social and Economic Development Plan and implements programs in the sectors of youth and education, business and environment, health and sports, arts, culture and faith, safety, gender and housing. Peace Boat participants visited a cultural centre established by the NGO and bought clothes made by local tailors. But Mario Wanza and his team are still aiming higher, encouraging drug lords of rivalling gangs to talk to each other in a so-called Peace Garden and establishing sports institutions to bring people "from grass roots to glory".

The South African government built many new stadiums for the World Soccer Championship of 2010, but local children often don't have any place to play. That's why Peace Boat decided to build a soccer field in the Manenberg township.
The first step to glory was made this time, when a team from Manenberg beat Peace Boat in a friendly football game during the visit. During the 2010 Soccer World Championship in South Africa, the attention focused on professional players, whereas township inhabitants could neither afford to watch the games nor play soccer themselves. This led Peace Boat to the idea of financing and building a mini soccer pitch for the people of Manenberg. The motto of the World Championship was "Ke Nako", an expression of the Sotho language meaning "It is time!" Mario Wanza and his fellow activists feel that this is also true for uplifting the living conditions of black and coloured South Africans. "Like many other townships we have a housing crisis" he explains. "Manenberg was built for 60,000 people, but it serves 150,000. We are living on top of each other, usually with six family members in one room."

Mario Wanza fights against the invisible barriers between black, white and coloured that continue to exist, even two decades after the end of apartheid
Mario Wanza dreams of social "integration" as he calls it. "The rich people are still living in the legacy of the apartheid" he laments. "We are treated like slaves in our country. After Egypt, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. We also need an upheaval like the Arab Spring. The time has come for the wealth and the land to be shared among all. It is unnecessary for a few to be stinking rich while the rest live in poverty." On the way to a march towards the Rondenbosch Common, a public area mainly used by the white elite, 41 members of Proudly Manenberg were arrested in 2011 only to be released soon afterwards. Mario Wanza, however, was held in custody for four days. He was accused of organising an "illegal protest", but Proudly Manenberg described the march as a "summit" on land, jobs, housing and other issues relevant to Cape Town's poor. The accusation could not be maintained and the charges were finally dropped. "Instead of supporting us, the government tries to break us" Mario Wanza explains. According to him, the government ended its initial partnership with Proudly Manenberg and founded a similar institution which employs 900 of the 1000 former activists. Their regular attempts to get funding for programs have all failed.

When the Ocean Dream arrived on the South African coast at night, Cape Town and its famous landmark Table Mountain were clearly visible, as city lights illuminated the sky.
Together with Shiraj Fredericks and Mario Wanza a man called Adolphes Johannos "Dollar" Brand was expelled from District Six and moved to Manenberg. Some years later he became known as Abdullah Ibrahim, one of South Africa's most famous jazz pianists. His instrumental song "Manenberg - Where it's happening" became the anthem of black consciousness and anti-apartheid struggle. On the margins of Cape Town, so little has changed since those days that it feels as if he composed it yesterday.

Dienstag, 14. Januar 2014

The wings of music - Peace Boat Retrospective #9 (?) NOCH FOTOS

How an orchestra spreads hope in a South African township
(written for the Peace Boat website on January 14th, 2013 >>)

The founder of the African Youth Orchestra, Kolwane Mantu (left), leaves his students great freedom. Cello player Bongani Kunene (right) has added a feel of jazz and jam sessions to the classical orchestra
"You are making noise! Go and play outside!" When Bongani Kunene started practising the cello with the African Youth Ensemble (AYE) in 1992, his family was not happy at all. He grew up in a shack on the poorer side of the Soweto township near Johannesburg/ South Africa. His mother had passed away and his father was struggling to raise him and his siblings. Food and jobs were scarce and the roof could not keep the rain outside. "Find a real job first" his father asked him. "Music doesn't pay." But it was too late, he had already fallen for classical music. Two decades later Bongani Kunene joins Peace Boat with the AYE, and is according to his teacher Kolwane Mantu "probably the most requested cello player in South Africa". The 34-year-old employs his own manager, has his own recording studio and even his own label. He extensively tours abroad and is currently working on his own album, "Skho Momo".

In 1976, Kolwane Mantu started to teach four children in his mother's kitchen; today he has 148 students who are regularly invited to play in big concert halls
Bongani Kunene's teacher, Kolwane Mantu, who came onboard Peace Boat's 78th voyage as a guest eductor with Bongani and three other AYE members, still seems to be surprised by the success of his project. When he talks on stage to Peace Boat participants about the orchestra's founding years, he occasionally falls silent, choked with emotion. "I started out of desperation" he recalls. In 1976 violent riots threw the South African township of Soweto into a state of emergency. The apartheid government intended to replace English with Afrikaans at schools, and students protested against what they felt was another attempt at isolating them from the rest of the world and imposing the colonizers' culture onto them. The police and the military fired at protesting pupils and the government closed schools for two years. "Children were idling in the streets. By then I had given up, I thought our nation had fallen apart" said Kolwane Mantu. But having studied the violin for years, he clung to his music. "I started to teach kids in the neighbourhood to play the violin in my mother's kitchen." When the room became too small for his growing number of students, they continued to rehearse in a public toilet, keeping their music a secret during the apartheid years.

In spite of their international fame the AYE musicians stick to their roots; they amazed Peace Boat participants with their modesty. The orchestra has been affiliated with Peace Boat since 1999.
When Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994, journalists from all over the world made their way to the notorious township where they "discovered" the orchestra which practiced in a toilet. "We became famous over night" Kolwane Mantu remembers, smiling broadly. "As a consequence we got assistance from sympathizers all over the world, everything that we had needed for nearly twenty years suddenly came very fast. Still, Peace Boat is the sole organisation that is responsible to have kept the AYE going for so long" Kolwane Mantu said. The NGO has been affiliated with the orchestra since 1999: Peace Boat participants have regularly visited Soweto in the past during visits to South Africa and Peace Boat volunteers have been collecting string instruments through the United People's Alliance (UPA) program. Yet after many years of collaboration, the 78th voyage was the first time for the AYE to travel with participants onboard.

Bethuel Rametsi (left) dreams of becoming a famous viola teacher. He has already started to teach AYE students and it is his main income.
"When I first saw Kolwane Mantu on TV, I was very amazed" remembers Bethuel Rametsi, one of the students onboard with him. "Wow, I thought, a black person can actually play that instrument." Bethuel joined the orchestra in 1998 and is today one of seven assistant teachers, as Kolwane Mantu can no longer meet the demand on his own. Playing the violin has become "cool" in Soweto. Today the project has 148 pupils, who are divided into a beginners', children's, junior, ladies', senior and a professional alumni orchestra. Their repertoire ranges from European composers such as Vivaldi, Handel and Grieg to their own arrangements of African music. Top world class orchestras such as the English Chamber Orchestra and many individual musicians visit South Africa to perform with the AYE. With his passion for classical music and his social visions, Kolwane Mantu has turned Soweto upside down. Everybody in the township affectionately calls him "Bro K.", short for "Brother Kolwane" - even his own daughter. He doesn't charge his students any fees; he makes a living from his work as a concert musician and his assistant teachers are paid by the South African MIAGI (Music Is A Great Investment) project.

Khothatso Mantu (right, with Neo Thekiso) leaves the music profession to her famous father. Although she is a skilled violinist herself, she studies financial accountancy. "I wanted to try something new."
"My teaching method is completely different from what I learned during my music studies in Scotland" Kolwane Mantu shares. The project has other goals than producing classically trained musicians. Many of his students have lost their parents to HIV/ AIDS and are brought up in in economic hardship like Bethuel Rametsi. "We might not produce the best string players in the world, but music helps them to calm down a little. We help people to find a direction in their lives and become good citizens. Playing the violin keeps a lot of them off the street." With his teenage students he openly talks about HIV/ AIDS, drugs or relationships. "Until now, my students have all at least finished high school and we have not had a single teenage pregnancy in all these years" Kolwane Mantu says. The fact that, of all people in the group, his own daughter Khothatso Mantu does not pursue a musical career does not seem to bother him. "I like to have a plan B for my life and try something else" the 22-year-old says. She has been learning the violin with the AYE since she was six years old, but she is now studying to become a financial accountant.

Many members of the African Youth Ensemble make a living out of music; some even travel all over the world - on Peace Boat for example.
As Kolwane Mantu and the four young musicians learn some basic Japanese from Peace Boat participants, their faces show the same degree of concentration and sincerity that they apply to their music with Bethuel Rametsi, to everybody's surprise, even giving a part of his farewell speech in Japanese. "Before I started to play the violin I was academically average" he confides. "But with music, my discipline and my state of mind improved and I became a better student." As for Bongani Kunene, his father passed away in 2007. But before his death he was able to see his son's success and experience the peace of mind that brought. When he heard about his tours and his financial success, he immediately wanted to hear him play. "Don't quit it any more" he told his son. "It takes you somewhere"

Samstag, 11. Januar 2014

Riots in Gandhi's neighbourhood - Peace Boat Retrospective #8 (?) - NOCH FOTOSTREAM

How a South African township is overcoming its trauma
(written for the Peace Boat website, January 11, 2013 >>)

The Bhambayi settlement has come a long way after apartheid:
In 1992 violent riots broke out between supporters of different
political parties - next door to Gandhi's first model settlement
"I was five years old, when we had the civil war in Bhambayi. I don't remember that time", Angel says.
Looking to the ground she continues "There were too many who killed each other"
- Have you seen it?
- "Not really... sometimes... many times"
- Was your family fine?
- "Yes, but... my mother died at that time. They killed her. I saw it".
The 17-year-old is sitting under a lush, green tree, her hair wrapped up with a pink ribbon, a collier of rainbow-coloured pearls around her neck. Her words come slowly. She hardly ever speaks about her past. Angel has come to meet Peace Boat participants at the Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) in the Phoenix Settlement near Durban with her friends of a local high school and the Kasturba Primary School. "We try to forgive" she tells them. "Bhambayi is a good community now, with good people". The place where she witnessed her mother's murder is only a few blocks away.

By promoting the principle of non-violence for the Gandhi 
Development Trust, Ashish Ramgobin lives up to her heritage:
She is the great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi.
It is almost a miracle. Since the riots of 1992, which shook the community for several years and which are referred to as "civil war", many traumatized children of Bhambayi turned to violence in search of revenge. Others took their own lives. Angel and her friends have, in contrast, become soft-spoken teenagers, still shy and vulnerable, but optimistic about their future. Among the many who have contributed to their development, two stand out - a man from India and a woman from South Africa. First there is the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. The GDT spreads Gandhi's message of non-violence to school children through books, workshops and collaborations with teachers, who implement his ideas in their morning speeches. Gandhi's own great-grandaughter Ashish Ramgobin works with the organisation. She summarized his message for settlements like Bhambayi "You may well fight for your rights - but don't use violence".
Bhambayi is located next to the famous Phoenix Settlement,
which Mahatma Gandhi founded as a model for a peaceful, 
non-segregated neighbourhood
It is here, in the Phoenix Settlement next to Bhambayi, that Mohandas K. Gandhi turned from a shy undecided lawyer into a powerful political leader. Shortly after his arrival in 1893, the young man was kicked out of the first class compartment of a train, although he had a valid ticket. His only error was that he wasn't white. Experiencing discrimination himself made Gandhi question the rule of the British Empire in South Africa as well as in his native India. When the humiliating Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance came into law, forcing South African Indians to register, Gandhi called on all South African Indians to resist it, non-violently. His idea of "Satyagraha" (non-violent resistance) was born, which has lived on in social movements ever since; during India's independence struggle, the protests against the Vietnam war, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine among many others. To set a sign against apartheid, Gandhi founded the Phoenix settlement as a model for a non-segregated neighbourhood, where so-called Coloured, Blacks and White could live and farm together. Phoenix became a symbolic place in the struggle against apartheid. In September 1983, the First National executive Meeting of the United Democratic Front was held here. Phoenix Settlement was a member of the UDF which united organizations against apartheid. The first call to free Nelson Mandela was made here and Mandela cast his first vote in 1994 not far from the Phoenix Settlement at Ohlange High School in Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal.
Many children lost their parents in the riots. As orphans
they are especially vulnerable to violence and poverty
Despite being a beacon of tolerance and non-violence through the Mahatma's teachings, the Settlement has also suffered violence at the end of the last century. In 1985, it was almost destroyed during the so called 'Inanda Riots' and overtaken by about 8000 informal settlers. It was then that it became known as Bambayi. The area was rebuilt again in 2000. It is the violence of 1992 when the area of Bambayi was the site of conflict between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inthaka Freedom Party (IFP) each fighting for political leadership after apartheid, that the children remember. "You could already get killed, if your neighbour suspected you to vote for the wrong party" remembers Alicia Mbuyisa, the traditional healer (isangoma) of the Bhambayi community. She used her influence and political neutrality to protect all those, who ran to her house in search for shelter. When Angel lost her parents, she raised her and ten other orphans. "We call her grandmother", Angel says, her voice full of affection. "She saved our lives". But there were many more orphans, who, without parents, lived in great poverty and were especially vulnerable. "When I first met these children, most had an inner anger that you can't control" Mbuyisa recalls. "They wanted to take revenge for their parents' death".
Thanks to Gandhi's legacy and the influence of their teacher,
many orphans of Bhambayi have turned into optimistic
teenagers, who try to forgive.
Her house soon became too small to adopt all of them, but she started teaching them. With Mbuyisa's dancing group Ubuhle Bezinkanyezi, Angel performs a powerful Zulu dance for the Peace Boat participants. Their chants represent the wild animals of the steppe and their feet raise clouds of dust from the ground. Their jewellery is made of inexpensive plastic pearls, but they have crafted it themselves using traditional techniques and wear it with dignity. Today Mbuyisa teaches 90 children, 62 girls and 28 boys, in Zulu traditions and life skills such as preventing HIV/ Aids. "I make them understand, that God and a good education come first, before they can have any relationships" Mbuyisa says. In Angel's case she seems to be successful. "I like school, really" the 17-year-old says, "Maths especially. I want to become a technical accountant or a national economist". Angel looks up for the first time, smiling. "Yeah, I am a strong woman now!"