Friday, December 15, 2006

U.N. OKs Bill to Protect Disabled Rights

Another one of those weird coincidences. While here doing this human rights training there's this piece of good news about the UN approving the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sadly and frustratingly, the same can't be said for the much delayed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which Canada has thus far refused to support. And it's been 23-years-in-the-making. And, what's more, is that those 23 years included the UN's "Decade of Indigenous People" which ended two years ago. An earlier post of mine is worth following for some wonderful speeches by indigenous people.

Culture Collective

I just received an email from some friends at Living Folklore. They're promoting an arts group that i certainly want to learn more about: Culture Collective. It was founded by the family of Dan Eldon, a young photojournalist and artist (he kept remarkable journals and my friends and family know how important journal writing/book-making is to me), who was killed in Somalia while covering the conflict there in 1993. I'm struck by some odd coincidences. Dan Eldon spent many years right here in Nairobi where i have just received my friend's email about this and from where i am currently writing this post. Also, it was only seven week ago that another young journalist, Brad Will, was killed by assassins while he was covering the teachers' strike in Oaxaca, Mexico. Who knows what coincidences signify? And i don't really believe in coincidences. This year, as some of you know, has been a remarkable one for strange and wonderful happenings in my life.

Kalahari Bushmen Victory

How remarkable that while we're meeting here learning together about human rights education that in Botswana there should be such a remarkable victory for the Kalahari Bushmen - a hunter-gatherer society that have been forcibly relocated from their ancestral lands by the Botswana government. This is a remarkable victory for indigenous peoples. You can read a couple of excellent articles about it in The Guardian: Kalahari Bushmen win land battle and Bushmen win rights over ancestral lands.

A week of workshopping

Well, things are wrapping up and winding down and the 20 human rights educators are finalizing their program plans even as i write this. We'll all be heading home tomorrow, me to Toronto and the participants to all points African. It has been a remarkable week of learning together, sharing stories, laughing, getting to know each other. this is a unique experience for me, never having facilitated a workshop made up exclusively of African participants. What a privilege it is to be able to work for such a group. And moving to consider the context of their work and the courage it takes to commit oneself to being a human rights educator. What is an choice that can be made with relative security in a north american context is anything but in these countries.

The Maasai Market and the Art of the Hard Sell

Circulating around Nairobi is he Maasai Market - a street market that moves from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. On Tuesday's it s found across the street from the Meridian Hotel where i've been staying this week. Tomorrow it will be near the Hilton Hotel and i hope to find it. I know many people will be coming to Nariobi from around the world in January for the World Social Forum and the Maasai Market will be something many will want to check out. Prepare to bargain - those of us raised in economies where virtually all prices are fixed might want to bone up on some principles of haggling. Not that i have any particular skill. The market is crowded, noisy, fascinating. There are numerous vendors and at least as many brokers - men who spot likely customers and are remarkably aggressive about selling you things. Its all pretty good natured. But it is also overwhelming. At one point i had at least five guys competing simultaneously for my attention, each pushing various goods in my arms and face. If you're white then you stand out pretty obviously as a mark for everyone's attention. I'm not sure how the brokers work, though i imagine they "represent" vendors and get a cut. But it's clearly pretty fast and loose. One fellow tried to persuade me that the young Maasai woman from whom i wanted to buy a necklace was his sister. I thought it unlikely and wished deeply that i spoke ki-Swahili so i could understand what looked, from the body language, to be a fascinating negotiation in which the broker was trying to convince the young vendor that he could get los of money out of me. The young woman was beautifully tough and clearly not giving the fellow an inch. So, to those of you coming to Nairobi in January, best of luck at he Maasai Market. The above-images are the street the day before the market and the morning of.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Downtown Nairobi

Yup, Nairobi is a big, noisy, crowded city. Fascinating, as usual. It's been a beautiful day here as well: sunny, dry and 26. Other parts of Kenya (to the north) including southern Somalia are experiencing torrential flooding and tens of thousands of people have been displaced. Nairobi is 1600 metres high, though, and generally has pretty good weather. I'm told that Nairobi has always been too high and too cool for the malaria mosquito to survive, but global warming is changing that (though i've heard of no danger at the moment). We're staying in a modest hotel on the edge of the downtown core and all the participants of the human rights workshop are arriving this evening and tomorrow from Nigeria, The Gambia, Somalia, Uganda and elsewhere from around the continent. The curriculum i'll be facilitating is one that i've facilitated a couple of times for the annual human rights school organized by Equitas in Montreal. For you educator types, i recommend looking at the Equitas manuals which are on their website. They have a unique approach to human rights education in that they are heavily influenced by popular education, Frierian thinking and such. While much human rights education is rather document-driven (i.e. everything you wanted to know about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), Equitas has a participatory approach that balances well the sharing of people's unique experience with the need to learn about the history and documents of human rights work.

The Mighty Nile - That Storied River

I saw the Nile yesterday as i flew from Paris to Nairobi. Such a storied river - the longest in the world and beside which can be found the Great Pyramids, Thebes, Karnak, Abu Simbel, Khartoum and so much more. From the Mediterranean to Lake Victoria, the Nile courses across Africa just as the Milky Way courses across our night sky - or so the ancient pyramid-builders thought.

Friday, December 08, 2006

18th Annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights

It's a rainy day in Paris as i wait for my flight to Nairobi. Whatta world. As some of you know, i'm Kenya-bound to facilitate a five-day human rights education curriculum workshop for Equitas. Meanwhile, i just checked my e-
mail and saw a workshop announcement from Red Pepper Spectacle for preparations for the 18th Annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights. I'll be posting photos from Nairobi so check back here over the next week.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Snow Queen - Dec 17th

One of the most powerful stories i read as a kid was The Snow Queen by Hands Christian Anderson. Something about it touched me deeply and alternately gave me nightmares and inspired fantastic visions. Now my friend Alon Nashman is starring in a production of Snow Queen in a few weeks. I've followed Alon's work for many years and think him (and know him) to be one of Toronto's (and Canada's) finest actors. I highly recommend taking in this show. (Thanks to Elizabeth for, as always, keeping me in the loop). You can click on the picture of the poster to get a bigger version or go to the JCC site here:

I'm gonna try and make it, if i'm not sleeping after arriving home that afternoon from Nairobi (that's right, i'm going to Kenya - details to follow).

Guilty seasonal pleasure

Quite some years ago now, Matt and i found this game Snowcraft. Since then, the first snow has always reminded me of this silly, if strangely rewarding, waste of time. What makes it memorable is the sound effects. You'll see/hear what i mean.