Jo’burg Human Rights Day Music Festival – #StandUp4HumanRights

Back in Jo’burg, a town that is so rich in music, and a town that seems to have decided to accomodate me as best as she can, especially with music events. This time it was only a few hours after my touch down that Constitution Hill opened its gates for the music festival that accompanies the Human Rights Day activities here. I admire the fact that 21 March is celebrated here, a day that hardly anyone I know in Europe is even aware of, or would care about.

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Omo Valley

Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region along with the area around Lake Turkana in northern Keny arguably is one of the candidates for the cradle of humankind, as some major discoveries that have been made here suggest. Since it is also a region with an incredible diversity in tribal cultures, it has been referred to as a (live) museum of human cultures. I found traveling here truly exciting, though not free from major challenges. I don’t mean the usual challenges of logistics, food and health or such like, even though they are more pronounced here. Rather, traveling here has exposed me to significant questions concerning the role of tourism, and tourist-tribe members interaction in a region where ritual infanticide and the ritual whipping of women is practiced. I have written about this in a separate post. So here’s a first glance only.

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Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa and I may have started off on the wrong foot, but let me exercise some control over my thinking, and not be too negative. My experience is tainted through the one and only really negative encounter I’ve had on this journey with a local person. Unfortunately, Addis does not seem to have the charm that comes with age-old historical sites (it’s a rather young creation in this very old country) or such architectural attractions that could have made up for my frustration. Having said that, Addis Ababa’s orthodox churches and their communities of worshippers are something else, and truly stunning, and the spirit of one of the oldest Christian communities on earth makes itself felt. The churches, although rather new, are impressive enough, yet much of the town’s architecture reminded me of rather bleak socialist housing projects. Indeed, I recalled how back in my school days we collected money for socialist Ethiopia, under Mengistu it must have been. Except for some encounters with kids and some drunkards, people didn’t really compensate the absence of charm and joy which I had experienced elsewhere, notably in Dar es-Salaam. It actually started with a rather unfriendly immigration procedure (well, that’s not unheard of elsewhere), and then there was this guy …

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Tanga to Diani Beach, Mombasa

My last stop in Tanzania was to be Tanga, some 7 hours by bus from Dar es-Salaam. Getting closer to the equator, I still want to enjoy some tropical beach settings, I therefore decided to skip Mombasa for some of its nearby beaches. Unfortunately, my camera stopped working when I got to Diani Beach, hence there are only some mediocre pics from my smartphone (which doesn’t have a good camera).

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Bagamoyo

Its original name was bwaga moyo ‘lay down/rest your heart’, until German colonial troops invaded the East-African coast, allegedly unable to pronounce it properly. Thus it was distorted to its current form. Bagamoyo stands testimony, albeit in ruins, to centuries of global trade along the Swahili coast, with connections to Mombasa, Mogadishu, the Arabic peninsula, Persia and ultimately to China. 

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Zimbabwe

Those who know me also know that I have a special relationship to Zimbabwe, and yes, I still do, especially when it comes to music. One of my main aims this time round was to visit the tomb of Chiwoniso Maraire, who passed away in July five years ago. However, Zim more than any other one is the country that tends to create more obstacles while travelling for me, and major car issues eventually let me decide against going any extra mile. Another time!

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Size and other matters

I assume, this is the world as you know it. Do you notice where your eyes keep on wandering? 

My eyes magically seem to be drawn to the upper half of this map. The northern hemisphere. Many people have remarked on this, and how this is not pure chance. It is a good representation (supported by the Greenwich meridian and by our preference for golden ratio layouts, I suspect) of the power imbalance on planet earth.

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The Land of Femicide

When I first arrived in South Africa, just before Christmas last year, a female friend picked me up from the airport. We had met only once, three years earlier, but had stayed in touch ever since. I was happy I could stay the night at hers and leave some of my stuff there until my return from a brief trip to Germany. In the car, on our way from the airport, we were catching up, also about my four months of travelling. In this context my friend mentioned that as much as she loves travelling, it is unimaginable for her to stay in a mixed dorm. Mixed in terms of gender. She does not have enough trust in men. She is a South African woman. That was my first personal, fortunately indirect, exposure to the tragedy of women in South Africa. And I have since realized how privileged I was when my friend allowed me to stay at her house. 

If you are planning to come here, you better stop reading now. What follows may sound very discouraging. Having said that, I would like to emphasize, as many in the tourism sector do, that most victims of capital crime in the country are poor, black people in rural areas. Besides, this country has a lot to recommend it, foremost of all its people. The high rate of femicide though is not part of that. Well, this post is not about you as a tourist or me, but about South African women as victims of toxic masculinity in their own country, and worse, in their own homes.

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Identity on the Rocks: The Voortrekker Monument, the Mpumalanga stone circles and Inzalo ye Langa a.k.a. Adam’s Calendar

Rocks are patient. They happily bear inscriptions of all kinds, and stoically accept whatever tale human imagination imposes on them. Or break, but that usually happens only a loooooong looooong time after an engraving has been made. Engravings may wither away, and the rock palimpsest becomes open to reinterpretation  … 

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