Art in Zaire, the Congo of Africa

Comments Off on Art in Zaire, the Congo of Africa

The Zaire School of Popular Painting emerged as an artistic movement in the 1970s and has tracked the vibrant life of its capital, Kinshasa, ever since. The work of its members, leading African artists Chéri Samba, Moké, Chéri Chérin and Bodo, boldly displays the challenges of modern sexuality, conflict and politics in what is now DR Congo.

Bright blocks of color depict crowds, nudes, bars and car crashes with little regard for perspective or depth, while spidery words crawl over entire sections of some paintings. This is the work of the DR Congo’s School of Popular Painting, which sprung up in the wake of the country’s independence to offer a gritty and joyful depiction of life in the country’s capital.

 

The School was founded by Chéri Samba in the mid 1970s in Kinshasa, the capital of what was then Zaire. He was joined by fellow Kinshasa artists BodoChéri Chérin, Moké and later his own younger brother, Cheik Ledy, and the group became one of the most influential African art movements of the 20th century.

 

The group’s style reveled in the colorful and bold, using text and contemporary reference points to make pointed political statements. Their founding ideology was that art can influence national history and identity, and the work acts as a document of the city’s development through the 1980s and 1990s to the present day.

 

The term ‘popular’ was taken on as a badge of the School’s mission: to reflect day to day life and popular art. At the time, they were viewed as subordinate to more traditional, Western-influenced fine artists, but their roots in poster painting, street art and advertising signage became their trademark and contributed hugely to their growing popularity. From the 1980s Chéri Samba began signing his work ‘Chéri Samba: Artiste Populaire’ as a defiant testament to his work’s popularity with and focus on the people of Kinshasa, as opposed to art critics and academics.

With the exception of Chéri Chérin, the artists were largely self-taught, which further explains their disengagement with the mainstream art world. Cheri Samba began his career as a sign painter for an advertising company in Kinshasa, and the craft’s block colors and textual elements survive in his later work. His paintings often feature commentary, painted over the work’s surface in a mixture of languages (French, English, Lingala and a French patois). He was inspired by the use of text in comic strips and the interaction of speech, figures and commentary.

 

Samba once said he included this commentary as a way of ‘not allowing freedom of interpretation’ for the viewer — unlike other 20th-century artists (the Expressionists or Cubists for example) Samba felt his work had a directed focus or meaning. This urge to control the way a work was received may have roots in the turbulent political situation in the country, and the desire of the School as a whole to communicate a specific message that could not be commandeered by proponents of other ideologies.

 

In 1975 Samba opened his own studio in the city, and became influenced by the work of local artists Moké and Bodo. Moké, born Monsengwo Kejwamfi, moved to the city as an orphan when he was ten, and made his living by painting on pieces of cardboard. While he made his name in 1965 with a depiction of General Mobutu on Independence Day, Moké’s style was, in general, less political than Samba’s. The two share their use of bold colors (and Moké arguably influenced Samba heavily) but Moké’s work followed the daily life of Kinshasa, generally avoiding social conflict or political content. Compositions painstakingly pick out every face at an outdoor bar, or show women in extreme, playful outfits.

 

Pierre Bodo (usually known as ‘Bodo’) left high school to move to Kinshasa in 1970. His work, unlike that of the rest of the group, engaged with sorcery (known as ‘Ndoki Zoba’ in DR Congo). His style evolved over time to become more and more surreal, often depicting scenes from his dreams or imagination.

 

Chéri Chérin (born Joseph Kinkonda) gravitated towards the group after studying at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Kinshasa. Even during his studies, he was attracted to the city’s poster-painting and popular artists, rather than the fine art of his training. His busy, people-filled pieces were often painted as murals around the city, allowing the work to interact with the community it depicts.

 

While the School remains based and largely influenced by life in Kinshasa, increased international recognition has lead to a subtle shift in the artists’ themes and subject matter. Chéri Samba’s international breakthrough came when he exhibited at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, in 1989. Les Magiciens de la Terre was an exhibition of contemporary art which aimed to confront colonial stereotypes perpetuated by previous exhibitions in internationally renowned galleries (Primitivism at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, was particularly controversial). Samba exhibited ‘L’espoir fait vivre’ (‘Hope enables us to live’), a biographical self-portrait which uses painting almost as collage or documentary to narrate his own path as an artist.

Samba’s work, from that point onward, became more self-reflexive, examining the experiences of a world-renowned African artist. He features in many of his works as a presenter of his surroundings, perhaps displaying a consciousness that the School’s art, while reflecting the everyday and the ‘popular’, was always viewed through the eyes of individuals.

 

Bodo, too, expanded his focus beyond Kinshasa, delving more and more into dreams and fantasy to make his work appeal more broadly. He said: ‘I express everything that happens to me, so that I am no longer focused on specifically African topics and can address myself to the entire world’.

Moké died in 2001, but three members of the group (Bodo, Chéri Samba and Chéri Chérin) still work and live in Kinshasa today.

The Contemporary Africa Art Collection (CAAC) holds the single largest collection of the group’s art, and regularly lends out collections to galleries internationally. In 2008, London’s Tate Modern held a display of eight paintings from the school, which was the first time the gallery had hosted a collection from artists living and working in Africa.

 

Art and Culture in Kenya

Leave a comment

In Kenyan art, as in all African art, themes are based on the representation of daily life and African culture; and reveal the importance behind some of its most beautiful art. The common themes are: a couple, a woman and a child, a male with a weapon or animal, an outsider or “stranger”; but most African traditional societies placed great significance on decoration of both functional and ritual objects, and the body as well. In some tribes this was raised to the form of high art.

The  Maasai use decorative beading and jewellery to emphasize social status.

 

The  Samburu place great significance on physical beauty and adornment, especially among warriors, who take great care of their physical appearance, using hair styling and ochre body painting.

 

The  Turkana people take great care and attention to decoration of the body and objects such as ostrich egg waterholders, wrist knives and clubs.

Other Northern nomadic tribes such as the  Boran Oromo and Gabbra extensively decorate functional items, including water gourds, stools and neck pillows.

 

 

 Wood carvings 
The  Kamba people are considered the best carvers, and have long been known as skilled woodworkers. Carving on the coast was centred on the island of Lamu, where the local Bajun tribe is believed to have influenced Arab craftsmen to create a unique hybrid of styles.  [ See also our Photo-Gallery ]

 Soapstone carvings 
Soapstone carvings also known as Kisii stone, are a beautiful way to adorn your home with a smooth, eclectic look. Made of soapstone found in western Kenya, the  Gusii and Abigusii ethnic groups individually hand carve each of these one of a kind pieces. They first mine the soapstone from the hills around the village of Tabaka and then, using knives or handmade tools, the craftsman individually carve each piece. After the carving the figure is wet sanded and then polished, all by hand. To form the colours they dye the stone and then incise it with the patterns the individual artist desires.

 Masks 
Ancestry is very important to the African people to show honour to their ancestors. Masks are designed and decorated with elaborate hair and jewellery to show great wealth and honour to their ancestors. Masks are greatly revered in African culture Many masks are used in ceremonies generally depicting deities, spirits of ancestors, mythological beings, good and or evil spirits, the dead, animal spirits, and other beings believed to have power over humanity.  [ See also our Photo-Gallery ]

 Jewellery 
Much of African culture places great emphasis on appearance and therefore on jewellery. African jewellery has been given tremendous attention for centuries. Each piece of African jewellery is an imaginary journey through the rituals and culture of an African tribe. These unique items captures the mystery and fashion of Africa. African ethnic jewellery designs such as earrings, necklaces and pendants are often hand made and have the latest animal print designs. Alan Donovan of the African Heritage fame still produces five lines of jewellery. Besides the original African Heritage Jewellery created from elements from across the African continent, and the Jungle Safari and Nala lines, there is ‘Endangered Art’, a workshop using mostly silver and gold elements with semi precious and precious stones and ‘Malaika’ created mostly from brass sheets and local material, a workshop started for poor people in one of the large slums of Nairobi. For more on African Heritage Jewellery visit  www.africanheritage.net

 Graphical art 
Graphical art in Kenya is derived from rock art patterns, but also heavily influenced from the Swahili and Arab culture. Kenyan painting has gradually developed incorporating traditional designs with modern technique. At the National Museum an independent trust, called the Kuona Trust, has been established to foster and encourage Kenyan artists. Kenya with its many art galleries has an invaluable artistic wealth.

Today, most art and craft production is for the lucrative tourist market. Items produced for the tourist market include sisal baskets, Maasai bead jewellery, musical instruments, and silver and gold jewellery, soapstone sculptures, wooden carvings, tribal masks and Maasai figurines. paintings, prints and sculptures, batik cloth, and kangas—women’s wraparound skirts with beautiful patterns, and often Kenyan proverbs printed on them and kikois – type of sarong for men that comes in many different colours and textiles. There are arts and craft markets and shops throughout the main tourist centres – each with a great diversity of items offered and quality available.  [ See also our Photo-Gallery ]

 Literature 
The first published writing by Kenyan authors was born out of the experience of colonialism and the struggle for independence. One of Kenya’s best known authors is Ngugi wa Thiongo an idealistic and skilled author whose work, published in both English and Kikuyu, is rich in themes of social, political and personal liberation. Probably his most accessible work for Western audiences is Weep Not Child a moving account of young Kikuyu men whose lives are changed by the struggle for independence. This novel provides an interesting alternative perspective to the mass of Kenyan colonial literature.

The colonial experience in Kenya prompted a great deal of literary output, from the accounts of the early explorers onwards. JH Patterson’s sensational tale of his battle with The Man-eaters of Tsavo became a major bestseller and prompted a new genre of safari and hunting literature. Among the annals of Kenyan big game hunting, one of the best known is Ernest Hemingway’s The Green Hills of Africa, an account of his days hunting throughout Tsavo and the Chyulu region.

One of the best loved accounts of Kenyan colonial life was written by acclaimed Danish author Karen Blixen. Out of Africa, written under her pseudonym Isak Dinesen, is a lyrical tale of her life on a coffee plantation outside Nairobi. Full of rich descriptions of the country and its wildlife, the book also says a great deal about the emotional isolation and uncertainty of her life in Kenya.

Kenya’s reputation as a haven for eccentrics and bohemians attracted many independent spirits to Kenya, and produced an interesting body of literature. Beryl Markham’s West with the Night is an adventurous and evocative account of her flying, hunting and travelling through Kenya in the first half of the 20th Century. Joy Adamson’s Born Free was one of the first real calls for conservation of Kenya’s great bounty of wildlife, and sparked a great deal of international attention.

The autobiography of Italian born Kuki Gallmann, I dreamed of Africa, is a major bestseller. The book is a lyrical account of her life on a ranch in Laikipia, filled with vivid descriptions of natural beauty, the pain of emotional loss and the joy of freedom.

The American photographer Peter Beard has spent a great deal of time in Kenya, and produced several books about the country. The best of these is undoubtedly The End of the Game a beautiful and important book about wildlife conservation, which manages to be both a brilliant work of modern art and a serious ecological commentary.

 Music 
Popular music in Kenya encompasses a wide range of styles of both local and international origin. Among Kenyans, language is one of the crucial factors in defining their music. Instruments used for traditional must include the African Sistrum Great which is used for rituals or a fun rhythm instrument, creates an excellent sound two are used at the same at a time.

One of the musical architects of Kenya’s burgeoning recording industry of the 1960s, was Daudi Kabaka, Kabaka’s music and lyrics captured the spirit of a newly independent Kenya and chronicled daily life and the changing social environment. His music would be instantly recognizable to most Kenyans and those in the larger Swahili speaking region within Eastern Africa. Sadly, very little of Kabaka’s music is known outside of Africa today.

Another of Kenya’s pop music legends was Fadhili William who recorded in 1963 the now world-famous song Malaika (Angel). Although Fadhili’s claim of authorship of the song is disputed among several Kenyans and Tanzanians, there is no argument that it is one of the best known songs throughout Africa. Miriam Makeba had a lot to do with spreading Malaika beyond the bounds of East Africa. Her performances of the song brought it to the attention of such famous names as Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte, pop groups such as Boney M, and scores of African artists including Angelique Kidjo and the Mahotella Queens. It’s even covered by Djeli Moussa Diawara and Bob Brozman on their Ocean Blues CD.

While once young Kenyans were devoted fans of American rap and R and B artists, today Nairobi’s airwaves and club scene are almost completely dominated by local artists. This musical revolution has been spearheaded by a unique Kenyan hip hop sound- combining infectious rhythms with a lyrical mix of sheng (a hybrid urban street language) and Swahili. This sound was driven to the top of the charts by artists such as Nameless (whose massive hit Ninaoki was easily the most played song in Nairobi last year), Mr Googs and Vinnie Banton (whose Wasee (Githurai) became an anthem for urban Nairobians) Poxie Presha, K-shaka, Deux Vultures, Nyota Ndogo, K-rupt, Redsan and many more.

 

Tatoos in Kenya

Comments Off on Tatoos in Kenya

Walk in the Nairobi CBD on a weekend and you’ll realize that the number of young people getting tattoos is increasing. Once an activity associated with hard-core hip hop artists, children from the ghetto or thugs on the streets, now has spread to high school and university students regardless of class or tribe. “It’s cool to have a tattoo” that was the response I received from one Josh, a student in one of the local universities. Don’t be fooled though. Tattoos are not restricted to the male gender only. Nowadays, even females have tattoos. Some of the regions these females have their tattoos are on the breast, lower waist, ankle and back regions. Due to the conservative nature of some professions, most people tend to get their tattoos in areas where their official attire will hide the artwork and their party outfits will reveal their coolness. Of course not everyone gets a tattoo to reveal how cool they are, some other reasons include:

  • tribute to a dead relative or friend
  • For the memory of a special time, place or event
  • To express their passions e.g. having a G-clef to represent love for music
  • As a symbol of a relationship between a boyfriend and a girlfriend.

Are you thinking of getting a tattoo? Well here is the procedure they use:

  • The tattoo design is drawn or outlined on the skin.
  • An electric machine injects ink underneath the top layer of the skin.
  • The needle on this machine moves up and down from 50 to 3000 times a minute. With every puncture, ink is left in the skin.

Of course it is a painful procedure especially when it is your first time-the needle is puncturing your skin. The pain varies with the part of your body you are getting the tattoo on. Some body parts are more sensitive than others. Some places in the body where getting a tattoo is likely to be more painful than in others are the neck, hands, spine, feet and inside of arms. The sensitivity is due to the fact that the skin is thinner in these areas, which causes a heightened degree of pain. Even after you experience this pain, life after a tattoo may not be all bliss. There are associated risks too:

  • Infection –Dirty needles can pass diseases such as Hepatitis or HIV.
  • Allergies – Allergies to various ink pigments in both permanent and temporary tattoos have been reported and can cause problems.
  • Scarring – Unwanted scar tissue may form when getting or removing a tattoo.
  • Granulomas – These small knots or bumps may form around material that the body perceives as foreign, such as particles of tattoo pigment.
  • MRI complications – People may have swelling or burning in the tattoo when they have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This happens rarely and does not last long.

Tattoos don’t look the same when you’re 20 and when you’re in your 50’s or 60’s.Research findings have shown that 50% of the people who get tattoos want them removed at some time in their life. Laser removal treatment is expensive, painful and might not remove the tattoo in entirety. In addition, tattoos haven’t been fully accepted in our society. Having a tattoo is associated with unruly behaviour; loss of focus in what one wants in life and you might not get a job because you have a tattoo. So if you really want to get a tattoo, think before you ink.

New laws do not change provisions on freedom of worship and religion

Comments Off on New laws do not change provisions on freedom of worship and religion

Source: Daily Nation

What does the proposed constitution say about freedom of worship and of religion?

Section 78 of the current Constitution states that unless a person consents, he shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience.

This includes freedom of thought and religion, freedom to change one’s religion or belief and the freedom, either alone or in conjunction with others, to manifest and propagate one’s religion through worship, teaching practice and observance.

The right is, however, limited to any law that may seek to regulate such freedom in the interests of defence, public safety, public morality or public health or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons.

Article 32 of the proposed constitution states that every person shall have the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.

It adds that every person shall be entitled to exercise that freedom through worship, practice, teaching or observance of a day of worship alone or with others.

Article 32(3) seeks to prevent discrimination based on religious belief by stating that no person shall be denied access to any institution, employment or facility, or enjoyment of any right because of belief or religion.

It protects the individual from compulsion into participating in any act that is contrary to that person’s belief or religion.

In short, the proposed constitution’s prescription on freedom of conscience and belief is not radically different from that in the current Constitution although it is put in more explanatory language.

The only marked difference is that it expressly prohibits discrimination or denial of employment or access to facilities on the basis of religious faith.

 

We don’t have to marry circumcised girls – Maasai Morans

Comments Off on We don’t have to marry circumcised girls – Maasai Morans

 

He was determined to continue nurturing cultural practices he learnt from his father and grandfather during his transition to manhood.

It was very important for him to marry a girl who had undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“The work of a moran is to continue the traditions. We were trained on how to perpetuate what our fathers and our forefathers were doing. Marrying a girl who is circumcised was our tradition and we in Maasai stick to our practices. I did not want to violate our culture.”

“That’s why I planned to marry a girl who is cut,” says the 26-year-old now a university graduate.

David Sayianka, a community elder spent most of his 63 years ensuring that no girl passed teenage without undergoing the cultural cut.

“I was very passionate and I was among the top crusaders of FGM. I never missed any single celebration of girls cut. I attended parties to celebrate.”

“I would never marry a woman who is not circumcised. I got a wife who is cut.”

Sayianka has four daughters.

Two of them underwent the outlawed cut whereas the others were lucky to escape the knife of agony.

Today, Kutanya’s and Sayianka’s thoughts on FGM have changed.

Thanks to the massive campaigns launched across the country to fight the dangerous cut. They now wander from corner to corner of the hot land of Magadi stopping those cutting girls and warning them of legal consequences should they make any attempts to cut girls.

At the age of 26, Kutanya would have been a father of several children and husband to many wives.

But education has changed his perspective of life and culture.

“I feel I am a young man. I don’t have to marry at this age. I will marry when I am ready. I will marry a girl who is not cut,” Kutanya explains.

His turning point was on the day he saw a young Maasai mother die while giving birth.

“During trainings by AMREF Kenya, I heard that FGM can cause death. But I still didn’t believe that.”

“It was until I witnessed such a case. There was a mother who was being rushed to hospital and because of obstruction of labour, the woman passed away.”

“That’s when I believed that seriously this practice can kill. It really shocked me and it made me think of campaigning against it,” he recalled during an interview with Capital FM News.

Kutanya is now the Executive Director of Enlighters Youth Institute in Magadi which comprises of Maasai morans committed to standing up against the girl cut.

Sayianka as well attended a series of FGM sensitisation workshops but he shrugged them off as lame excuses meant to frustrate the Maasai culture.

“I kept on wondering what their interest was on stopping our girls from getting the cut. They kept on saying it was bad, but I didn’t see it.”

It was only after watching a video demonstrating the gruesome process of removing the female genitalia from young girls that Sayianka vowed to start protecting girls.

“I couldn’t watch the entire video. I shut my eyes maybe half of the five minutes long video. It was painful to see the small girls screaming and blood oozing out, I almost cried as I watched the video,” Sayianka recalled.

“I didn’t think it was that awful. I thought it was only a small cut.”

He as well learnt that FGM leads to birth complications, can cause tumors in the genitalia and even lead to death due to over bleeding.

“Girls over bleed, they get wounds and tumors. We are now telling people the dangers of cutting girls. It is a dangerous taboo. Many people don’t know or don’t want to accept that our taboo is bad. So we really have to show them what we saw on that video.”

Oldoinyo-Nyokie Assistant Chief Joseph Kayioni explains that it is not easy for Maasai men to stand up against a culture that is still widely viewed as important in transition of girls to women or making of wives.

They are first viewed as betrayers of dreams of their fathers and forefathers.

Despite the resistance, Kayioni says having men taking the lead in the war against FGM is realising results. He says the number of girls undergoing the cut in Magadi has declined same way the number of girls dropping out of school has reduced.

The number of girls joining school has also increased compared to previous years when FGM was rampant.

“It’s not easy to tell Maasais not to cut their girls. But it doesn’t matter how long it will take but we can see many people can hear what we are saying and have stopped cutting their girls,” the Chief explained.

According to AMREF, in Kenya, the ratio of girls to boys in Oldonyo-Nyokie Primary School who sat for the 2015 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education was almost equal.

There were 21 girls and 25 boys.

Due to interventions of subjecting girls to the Alternative Rite of Passage, the number of girls staying in school has increased compared to previous years.

In the year 2008, there were only two girls in a class of 16 pupils.

“If we fight FGM, we will have our girls succeed in school and in life. But if we allow it to continue, our young girls will get married when they are only adolescents,” Kayioni advised.

 

Dialogue with Shailja Patel

Leave a comment

A conversation with poet-activist Shailja Patel about art, identity, and Kenya’s ICC Witness Project.

Shailja Patel is a third-generation Kenyan poetplaywright, theater artist, and political activist. Her work examines humanity through the lens of migration, diaspora, and the struggle for justice. She published her first full-length bookMigritude in 2010, based on her one-woman show of the same name. Migritude examines the experience of migration, colonialism, and the stories of women who have chosen to no longer be silent.

Using art as the foundation of her activist work, Shailja will be sharing her insight at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival. In this interview, we discuss the role of poetry and art in global justice.

Sonya Renee Taylor: In the United States, we have such a binary perspective of race and culture, often white and black, or white and other. How does your work press against that binary?

Shailja Patel: My work is the politics of intersectionality and global justice. Identity is a discussion people engage in when they have given up on justice, equality, and equity.

Conflicts over identity are often predicated on notions of scarcity, actual or perceived, which trigger the need to draw lines of inclusion and exclusion. The agenda behind conversations on identity is always about access. Access to tangibles—power, spoils of office, physical resources, necessities of survival, a place at the table, material rewards for belonging. Or access to intangibles—to civil rights, to being heard, to telling the story, to ownership of the story, to speaking from a certain platform. A discourse of identity is necessarily exclusive. It tends toward ever-narrowing definitions of who belongs, who is “in.”

A discourse of justice and equality is inclusive. It tends towards ever-expanding definitions and applications. Its value is directly proportional to its universality.

I’m with June Jordan, who wrote: “I will call you my sister, I will call you my brother, based on what you do for freedom, what you do for justice, what you do for equality, not on who you are.”

And with Eduardo Galeano: “Our identity lies in action and struggle.”

I’m a third-generation Kenyan East African of Indian descent. I read as “Asian” phenotypically, but I am “African” by birth, geography, and worldview. My book,Migritude, carries a timeline that traces migrations between Asia and Africa back to 800 CE. If we use the term “African” to signify “black,” we must logically exclude many light-skinned communities of North Africa, as well as millions of coastal peoples of East and Southern Africa. If we measure “African” by darkness of skin, it would be logical to include millions of inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, whose skin is often darker than that of many Kenyans.

Gender and sexuality are fluid, multiple, and performative; so too is race and culture. I invite my audiences and readers to replace the reductionist question of what boxes people fit into with the far more empowering question of how we “do” identity. And similarly, how do we “do” gender, sexuality, struggle, class? What informs our performances of the daily roles we play in all our movements for justice? What do we have to learn from observing our performances? How do we continue to enlarge and challenge ourselves, and to make the spaces we inhabit larger for all voices?

As a political thinker, I place myself and my work in the lineage of centuries of progressive struggle that bequeathed us the invaluable awareness of ourselves as firstly human beings, in radical solidarity with all humans on the planet who share a vision of peace, justice, and equality.

SRT: How was the International Criminal Court (ICC) project birthed? What do you hope it achieves for Kenyans? What do you hope it achieves for those of us in the United States who read it?

SP: The ICC Witness Project is an ongoing collaboration between Kenyan poets to imagine and amplify the voices of some of the missing witnesses for the ICC Kenya trials. Most of the witnesses have been silenced by threats, assassination, or bribery. The poems are unattributed for a number of reasons, discussed at lengthhere.

I have been told that this is our secret.
Our secret is shameful and should not be shared.
Shared instead is the feeling of being one.
Being one is more important than the truth.
—Witness #85

The project is an act of solidarity with the victims and survivors of Kenya’s post-election violence, an act of resistance against the erasure of our history, a reclaiming of voice for ordinary people against the violence of the state. We hope it moves everyone who reads it to stand first with the victims, to support their quest for justice through the ICC, and to reject the global campaign for impunity by African leaders who consider African people disposable.

SRT: You have had a wide arc of artistry from slam/spoken-word, to one-woman show, to full-length book. How did that arc unfold? Did you always know you wanted to work in a multitude of mediums or did that reveal itself over time? How?

SP: As an artist I move toward the forms that move me. I’ve been a poet from childhood. When I migrated to the United States and discovered slam, it blew me away, so I immersed myself in it. When I began to write pieces that were too long and complex to slam, theater was the natural space to move into. Now I’ve come full circle to writing again, making work—books, poems, political essays—that migrates freely across continents and languages, independent of my physical body.

SRT: How can the work of poets promote global justice and peace? Do you feel like your work has a unique role in that effort? If so, what? 

SP: My job as a poet is to tell the truth. To tell it, as Audre Lorde wrote, with as much beauty and clarity as possible. I want my work to enter listeners through the heart and gut. My job as a poet is to wake myself up and take responsibility for learning the truth. That means doing hard work, looking beyond headline stories, being willing to interrogate data, structure, systems. Then, it’s my job to create the conditions, in my poems, where others can wake up to those truths. It may not feel good. I’m not here to make people feel good. When we open ourselves up to really feeling—both deep happiness and deep pain, as well as genuine, unmanipulated awe at the beauty and violence of life—we emerge larger. More human. More porous, more connected to everything.

SRT: In 2012 Melissa Tuckey asked poet Homero Aridjis, “Do you ever despair? And if so, what gives you hope?” How would answer that question?

SP: Despair and hope is another binary I work to dismantle, in favor of direct engagement with reality. The roller coaster of despair-hope-despair distracts us from the extremity of our global crises. My commitment is to seeing and working with the largest possible truth. Hope is a kind of Viagra—it needs constant replenishment. The truth doesn’t care how we feel about it. Reality is unmoved by either our hope or our despair.

Sonya Renee Taylor is an award-winning poet and activist. Founder of The Body is Not An Apology and the creator of the RUHCUS Project, her poetry appears in numerous journals and anthologies including Spoken Word Revolution: ReduxGrowing Up GirlOff Our BacksBeltway Quarterly, Just Like A GirlX Magazine, and On the Issues Magazine. Her first collection of poetry, A Little Truth on YourShirt, was released by GirlChild Press in 2010. She sits on the board of directors of Split This Rock. For more, visit www.sonya-renee.com

Promoting Freedom of Artistic Expression

Leave a comment

Project paper by Jeff Chang,

Creativity is the primary human force that has driven change in and across diverse communities, cultures, and states. Particularly in the past three decades, forms of creativity have accelerated the global economy. The rise of the networked communications environment has unleashed creativity and innovation. At the same time the rise of the neoliberal economic order has concentrated culture industries and increased pressures on the public commons.

In the networked world, culture pours through national boundaries, diverts the desires of the body politic, and subdues the urgencies of the state. In the irrationally exuberant market for Chinese art, we see one mood of the time. Capital
from around the world floods auctions for artists barely a generation removed from Maoist centralism. In a short period of time, artistic expression has skipped from artifact to “content” to pure speculative object—and, in the process, its value has soared. We have entered a period in which the market-dominant view of arts and culture and the market-dominant view of the networked world are converging.

The networked world enables more fluid and efficient distribution and exchange of artistic and cultural expression across borders and cultures. But their value—reduced to “content” to fill the new channels created by technology—has largely been left to the marketplace. Aesthetic production, Jameson reminds us, is now increasingly important to commodity production.1 Markets, in this sense, treat arts and culture like “information”, the basic unit of the networked world.

But markets do a poor job of representing the true value of artistic and cultural expression. Performance-based arts tend to be less valued than arts that can be mass-produced. Many cultural expressions have no transactive value at all, but are necessary to the functions of a community or people. Culture industries may value a certain amount of diversity of expression; the demand for new sensations never ceases. But in the marketplace, expressions that enhance social status via scarcity or facilitate the sale of other commodities accrue the most value. Arts and culture are thus reduced to expressions of a lifestyle economy.

Can global policy balance competing values? Many alarmed with the velocity and direction of change have returned to the right to freedom of expression articulated in Articles 19 & 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to guide new agendas to address growing inequities between peoples and nations. The important 1995UNESCO report, Our Creative Diversity, affirmed culture’s central role in national development, but also strongly warned against understanding development as serving only material improvement. “Culture’s role is not exhausted as a servant of ends,” Javier Perez de Cuellar wrote in the report, “…but is the social basis of the ends themselves

He continues, “Cultural freedom guarantees freedom as a whole. It protects not only the group but also the rights of every individual within it. Cultural freedom, by protecting alternative ways of living, encourages experimentation, diversity, imagination and creativity. Cultural freedom leaves us free to meet one of the most basic needs, the need to define our own needs. This need is now threatened by both global pressures and global neglect.”2 The cost to peoples and nations of a market-based view of culture may be the homogenization of cultures and the destruction of cultural diversity. Unchecked market power over artistic and cultural expression may undermine the right of self-determination and the basis of social coherence.

“Freedom of expression” is often described as a positive right to receive and disseminate information and ideas, as well as a negative right preventing curbs to their flows within society. But “freedom of expression” may also describe aspects of artistic and cultural expression that encompass their inspiration, production, dissemination, and reception. In recent discussions organized by the Ford Foundation and Global Partners, the imperative has been to expansively reaffirm and articulate an expansive notion of freedom of expression that includes foundational rights such as cultural rights,communication rights, human rights, and moral and legal rights.

Over the past two decades, consensus has emerged in international circles on the need to assert freedom of expression to protect cultural diversity. In the early 1990s, as transnational media consolidation and free-trade agreements began to tie together national markets into a new global system, many began to discuss the need to devise a counterbalancing system of agreements and instruments that would protect and promote cultural diversity at the local, regional, and national levels. In 2005, UNESCOpassed the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The existence of cultural diversity is now widely recognized as crucial to the realization of human rights, minority rights, freedom, and peace. A rich and broad range of artistic and cultural expressions often signals the presence of unfettered creativity and healthy societies. Clearly, our current rethinking of freedom of expression can converge with this ongoing project of recentering cultural diversity.

If we understand artistic and cultural expression in the networked communications environment only as “content” for the global economy, we apprehend only a part of their true value and misapprehend how market pressures distort, marginalize or eliminate many kinds of expressions. While the networked world provides unprecedented opportunities for intercultural understanding and respect, it may also create more inequities and exacerbate tensions. I argue that our reconsideration of freedom of expression must include a commitment to the fostering, protection, and promotion of the diversity of artistic and cultural expression if we are to realize a brighter future.

Artistic and Cultural Expression In The Networked Environment

By the late 90s, it became fashionable, even clichéd, to argue that “content is king”. Technological change demanded a vast amount of artistic and cultural expression, and gave new power to what were formerly considered mere “niche markets”. In popular music, formerly marginalized genres such as hip-hop and country were suddenly validated, and a wide range of new artists spread into the mainstream.3 In the arts world, a new flattening of hierarchies and a do-it-yourself aesthetic seemed to proliferate. Visual artists, now given more tools to distribute their work, were more empowered than ever to critique the role of the curator as a career-making or -breaking “gatekeeper”. At the same time, by affording broader access to artistic expressions than ever before, the networked environment also helped create bullish art markets and reinforced the role of the curator to fabricate new superstars.

Creativity is now seen as the engine of the new global city, the linchpin of 21st century urban economic development. A new body of literature argues that successful cities receive an “artistic dividend” and the multiplier effects of vital culture industries.4 But many suggest the effects go much further. In documenting the rise of what he calls “the creative class” in America, Richard Florida correlated social tolerance with innovation and development. He found that metropolitan areas that allowed gay communities to flourish also tended to boast a strong presence of “creatives”.5 In other words, a city’s cultural diversity spawned expressive diversity that, in turn, bred success in the new global economy. Florida’s thesis is now accepted in many policy circles, although more research needs to be done on what specific types of policies are most effective, especially given uneven development around the world.6 But the new literature suggests that policies that foster expression in the networked world hold promise for overturning unjust power structures, empowering marginalized individuals and communities, reinforcing values of tolerance and innovation, and advancing economic development.

Still, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions took care to note that “because they convey identities, values and meanings,” arts and culture “must therefore not be treated as solely having commercial value.” It stated explicitly “that while the processes of globalization, which have been facilitated by the rapid development of information and communication technologies, afford unprecedented conditions for enhanced interaction between cultures, they also represent a challenge for cultural diversity, namely in view of imbalances between rich and poor countries.”7

First World media, culture, and entertainment industries reinforce such imbalances. Brazil’s film industry, for instance, holds only a 13% market share in its own country.8Despite policies to protect and develop their indigenous film industries, countries such as France, South Korea, and Canada have often been thwarted by Hollywood’s size, which affords it economies of scale in production and lobbying powers to enforce dominance via international trade agreements.9 Over the past two decades, major trade agreements, at the insistence of France and other nations, have included the so-called “cultural exemption”, meant to treat artistic and cultural products differently from other trade goods.10 However, the World Trade Organization has often ruled against protecting countries.11 Taken together, international trade agreements and bodies favor the development of global cultural oligopolies or monopolies over the development of local, national, or regional diversity.

In this context, the networked communications environment is not neutral. Market imperatives overpower cultural imperatives. Take the example of Africa’s recent experience with media giant Viacom. For years, many African musicians—particularly younger ones in emerging styles not recognized by the First World catchall category of “world music”—had to leave the continent to be discovered. Africa was largely without a music video network until the arrival of Viacom’s MTV Base Africa. A youth-oriented music network that bridged the rich musical scenes across the continent was welcomed. Some even spoke of its potential for catalyzing a new form of Pan-Africanism. In practice, MTV Base Africa launched in 2005 in 50 African countries with only 30% African content. (Execs set merely 50% as their long-term goal.)

MTV Base Africa quickly became a staging ground for a number of companies selling consumer goods, especially, and not incidentally, cellular phone companies hoping to tap a large generation of unwired youths. In Nairobi, a British conglomerate swooped in to purchase the city’s largest pop music station. Before long, politicized Kenyan hip-hop groups were displaced from the airwaves by the likes of 50 Cent, the American rapper whose name sells not just music, but movies, videogames, shoes, clothing, and Glaceau Vitamin Water.

The rise of MTV Base Africa undoubtedly creates the opportunity for more African music to be heard in the Global North. MTV Base UK now receives packaged shows from them. But the overall effect may be one of flattening diversity and difference. Groups like Kalamashaka, Kenya’s Public Enemy, who have been displaced in favor of more consumerism-friendly acts from abroad (and indeed, from home, as MTV Base Africa plays more African music) are no better off than they were before.

The growth of the global creative economy has required new regimes of power. Intellectual property—through copyrights or “author’s rights”—is the regime by which media-culture-entertainment monopolies and oligopolies exert power over artists, culture producers, communities, and nations. While the networked environment has produced new distribution models—most notably in recent pay-what-you-like music downloads offered by artists like Radiohead and Saul Williams—the price of mass distribution for most pop musicians remains their copyright. Even publicly funded organizations, such as university publishers, routinely require an author to turn over their manuscript and copyright without compensation. Universities also compel scientists to give up rights to all patent claims in order to practice their research there. As such, intellectual property, a terrain where communication rights and cultural rights intersect, has become a primary battleground for freedom of expression activists, particularly those in the First World.

Intellectual property issues turn on fixed assumptions of individuality, originality, and ownership. In hip-hop and other African American popular musics, for instance, U.S.case law on sampling has privileged corporate copyrights over artists’ creativity, in no small part due to racialized views of the artists. An alternative reading of the case law might recognize the emergence of American music—blues, jazz, country and bluegrass, rhythm and blues, rock and roll—from out of a flurry of intercultural, intergenerational, and interracial borrowings that Eric Lott has called “love and theft” (a term Bob Dylan—whose artistry he himself acknowledges includes the skill to borrow well—has lifted without ensuing litigation). We now confront the absurd scenario that artists like George Clinton and Public Enemy—mutual admirers who believe strongly in maintaining generational continuities within African American popular music—are unable to share samples because they have been blocked by the publishers and record companies who own the rights to their music.12 In this instance, companies and courts are not just closing off paths of creativity, they are enclosing cultural legacy. What happens when a community’s body of cultural expression is no longer accessible to them?

Stated simply, there is an important difference between the market value for an expression and the non-market values embodied in that expression. Market value is preserved for corporate extraction. Over the long run, a market-dominated networked communications environment has an incorporating, not an inclusive, and rationalizing arc. But what of, say, the cultural value of “passing on” between generations of African American musicians?

Artistic or cultural movements that resist the logic of the marketplace are increasingly difficult to place. Could hip-hop—a movement that developed for almost a decade out of the eye of culture industry capital—emerge these days? Might artists, like the aforementioned Public Enemy, who push aesthetic or ideological boundaries attain the same access to distribution that was possible when the culture industries were less developed? In the most negative reading, it appears that no less than our imagination is being privatized.

Some warn that disturbing new social fissures may be the result. Former U.S. National Endowment For The Arts head Bill Ivey and scholar Steven Tepper argue, “America is facing a growing cultural divide, a divide separating an expressive life that exudes promise and opportunity from one manifesting limited choice and constraint. It is not a gap marked by the common signposts—red versus blue states, conservatives versus liberals, secularists versus orthodox. And it is more embedded than the digital dividethat separates citizens from technology. It is a divide based on how and where citizens get information and culture.”13

The cultural elite has the access to the tools and fruits of creativity, while a new cultural underclass is locked away from the new economy and its cultural past, while being superserved by niche programming. The elite minority is offered a dizzying array of cultural choices that bring them into civic engagement, while the underclass majority become passive cultural and political consumers. While they speak of the U.S.specifically, Ivey and Tepper’s warning may also force us to rethink the effects of cultural access gaps between nations or communities.

Paradoxically, the centrality of arts and culture in the new global economy forces us to reconsider their importance in freedom of expression. Focusing on the non-market value of arts and culture helps us think about how to foster, promote, and protect the diversity of cultures. How would a creative economy balanced towards protecting and promoting the diverse creativity of artists and communities instead of the marketplace values of global oligopolies and monopolies look?

The Non-Market Value Of Artistic and Cultural Expression

Although artistic and cultural expression have sometimes been conceived of as projects for political or social change, often, even within those projects, they spill past categories bound by rationality. Indeed, when political movements are exhausted, blocked, or corrupted, social attention and energy may shift to cultural movements that forge new imaginations. The best expressions, of course, carry deep meaning. They may herald a renaissance of a people’s traditions. They may give voice to previously inarticulate silences. They may cohere or fragment identity. They may encapsulate the fulfillment of human potential.

As Lewis Hyde reminds us in The Gift or The Adverts in “One Chord Wonders”, artistic and cultural expression creates encounters that are more than mere transactions. Art and culture grow when shared. Hyde writes, “The gift that is not used will be lost, while the one that is passed along remains abundant.”14 By catalyzing reaction, enjoyment, or even disdain, creativity becomes the gift that keeps on giving. Artistic and cultural expression can always be said to be enacted within the space of the commons, autonomous from the logic of economics and politics. Expressions from even the most reclusive of artists become, in fact, acts of community-building. Jonathan Lethem calls these gifts “ghosts in the commercial machine”.15

In 2003, Gilberto Gil, the legendary bard of tropicalia imprisoned 35 years before by the former authoritarian Brazilian regime for his music, was appointed that country’s Minister of Culture. Upon accepting the appointment, he described poetically the primary charge of cultural policy: to locate “the area of experimentation towards new directions”, forge “the opening of space for creativity and new popular languages”, ensure “the availability of space for adventure and daring” and secure “the space of memory and invention.”16 Freedom of artistic and cultural expression means accounting for the expressions that don’t travel well, don’t sell much, don’t play nice, don’t obey rules, don’t fit in, may not even want us, but that we all need, indeed, to reaffirm and advance the very idea of “we”.

Indigenous perspectives perhaps most vex dominant conceptions of freedom of expression in the networked world. For instance, at the FOE Workshop in Indonesia, kumu hula Vicky Takamine Holt reframed the intellectual property discussion. In the instance of many Hawaiian chants, authorship is thought to be collective and expression converges with cultural knowledge and spiritual practice. To put it in Western terms, a mele (song or chant) is a performance, a database, and a prayer, all at the same time. How can an expanded notion of freedom of expression remove all barriers for the mele to do all of what it needs to do at once? Just as a mele can be considered a database of genealogies, histories, or natural resources, not all lyrics of a mele may yield all levels of interpretation. Meanings referring to sacred knowledges may be hidden in plain sight. But those knowledges are not meant for consumption or use by non-initiates. Does freedom of expression also include the freedom not to participate in the networked environment at all?

What about instances in which freedom of cultural expression requires restrictions on flows of information and knowledge? In northern Australia, the Warumungu people recently established a database of early 20th century photographs that uses digital rights management to regulate who can see what images. The Warumungu worked with a American designer to design the Mukurtu Wumpurrarni-kari Archive according to their customs and practices. Since Warumungu cultural practices restrict some from viewing the deceased or sacred objects, community members log into the database through a profile that includes information age, gender, and status, and based on their profile they are granted the appropriate level of access.17 How do advocates of freedom of expression account for the reality that, especially in the case of some indigenous peoples, not all information wants to be free?18

India’s effort to create the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is an urgent intellectual project to catalog popular scientific knowledge—an inventory of seeds, plants, remedies, recipes, and more. The government then offers restricted access to this database as an aid to foreign governments deciding whether to grant patents on medicines.19 The Library is intended to ward off corporate bio-piracy and privatization of national assets. Questions should be raised about whether nationalization of cultural assets is simply another form of theft, especially from the point of view of indigenous communities. But the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is also certainly a logical response to threats posed by global multinationals in the networked world.

Such uses of technology may vex some advocates of “free culture” who oppose any restrictions of knowledge as damaging. Yet they will likely proliferate as peoples and nations come into greater access to technology and decide to use them in ways they deem to be protective of their heritage and legacies. In the absence of policies and structures that allow indigenous peoples the right of self-determination, market and “free culture” pressures may combine to turn indigenous knowledges into the terrain upon which the goals of protection and promotion of cultural expression clash, to the detriment of larger social needs.

For if technologies like DRM and instruments like copyright are used in capitalist culture to protect monetary value, why shouldn’t we expect that they might also be used to protect different, perhaps even opposing, cultural values in different cultures? This leads us back to the question of cultural diversity. This paper’s main focus has been to unpack artistic and cultural expression. But moving forward, the questions may become: How do we define the freedom part of “freedom of expression”? Whose freedom is it and what is that freedom for? What freedoms do we protect, and what do we prevent?

Cultural Diversity As A Bulwark Against Inequity And Violence

Soon Gilberto Gil will be stepping down from his post as Brazil’s Minister of Culture, ending one of the most visionary tenures in cultural policy leadership the world has seen in recent memory. He has been among the most famous champions of ideas such as the Creative Commons license and the UNESCO convention on diversity (which he once memorably framed in terms of his country’s richly polycultural pop musical heritage). His national policy initiatives have also been notable.

One of his programs illustrates the great potential in the networked world. Called Pontos de Cultura—”Culture Points” or “Culture Hotspots”—Gil’s program made strategic grants of equipment, resources, organizers, and teachers to hundreds of hip-hop education programs in favela and ghetto schools across the country, engaging young people in music, video, and web production to tell their stories. Some documentaries made in these programs were accepted to air on national television networks. In rural and indigenous communities, Pontos de Cultura grants allowed tribal cultural practitioners to record their music onto audio and video.

“This burst of fresh air is unchaining new vital ideas, new innovative productions, generating a real empowerment process of an emerging creative society. This process is encouraging and inducing the formation of a network of new cultural multimedia producers in Brazil, a network which will soon be consolidated into a new generation of authors and artists,” Gil has said. “We have discovered that is quite easy for our grassroots communities, those still living in a 19th century reality, to understand the paradigm of the 21st century, as they can easily deconstruct the excluding features of the 20th century culture while they pass through it.”20

Vandana Shiva notes, “The word ‘culture’ in Sanskrit—sanskriti—means activities that hold a society and community together. Violence breaks societies up, it disintegrates instead of integrates. The practice of violence, therefore, cannot be referred to as ‘culture’.” She continues, “Living cultures are based on cultural diversity and recognize our universal and common humanity. Killing cultures are based on imperialistic universalism—a violent imposition of the cultural priorities of an imperial power.”21

I take the primary end of this process of revisiting freedom of expression to be the growth and spread of living cultures. As such, I have tried to elaborate on some of the challenges and opportunities that the networked communications environment offers to artistic and cultural expression. Arts and culture, like information, will benefit from policies that regain the public commons and allow efficient flows through society. But policies ensuring and advancing freedom of expression must also account for the ways arts and culture are not like information.

Artistic and cultural expressions possess a crucial but distorting value in the new global economy. Trade agreements, international trade bodies, and media/culture/entertainment company consolidation, on balance, are limiting the diversity of expressions, skewing towards commodifiable forms that expand lifestyle economies. Therefore expressions with strong non-market values must also be protected and promoted, and the aim of cultural policy should be to counterbalance market pressures.

Artist rights—individually and collectively—must be reaffirmed against corporate rights. Access to the tools of creativity must be broadened in order to close new gaps between the cultural elite and the cultural underclass, and between rich nations and developing ones. Intellectual property activists should not only pursue remedies for individual creators but recognize how cultural legacies are also rapidly being enclosed. In particular, further study is needed to dissect how racism and racialization has impacted the shaping of intellectual property law in the Global North.

Those working in arts and culture produce imagination. Artists and cultural workers often work at the margins of society, or better yet, above it on the tightropes. Autonomy is a key value to maintain healthy artistic and cultural expression, not just freedom from state and private censorship, but also public pressures to conform. In this kind of environment, artists and cultural workers can then breathe life into ideas that help produce necessary social change, not merely reproduce restrictive and outdated structures.

Open circulation of ideas is central to society. The music of tropicalia, Gil’s compatriot Caetano Veloso reminds us, was based on a foundation of bossa nova and Afro-Brazilian folk traditions, but nourished by rock, rhythm and blues, and jazz, even French pop and American vaudeville. Veloso’s hero Ray Charles once famously disdained bossa nova, yet that did nothing to weaken Veloso’s love for Charles’ music. Tropicalia, Veloso says, was a reaction against First World musical hegemony that still adopted its fruits, an encounter that meant not to reproduce hierarchy but produce mutuality.22 For that reason, a commitment to freedom and diversity of expression should also respect the right of peoples not to participate or share knowledge deemed sacred. Openness is not the end of freedom of expression. Cultural diversity, through which communities can move toward equality, is.

As Shiva writes, “Our diversity makes mutuality and a culture of give-and-take possible. Mutuality makes self-organization possible. Deeply autonomous and self-organized, yet deeply connected—with the earth, all species, and each other—humans are creating conditions for their future survival.”23 By promoting cultural diversity as its end, freedom of expression becomes the mode by which we attain mutuality, connection, and survival. Or, as Gil put it in his first hit, “Louvação”, a 1965 song that seemed then to prophesy the tropicalia movement and now feels newly resonant:

I’m praising the song that is sung
To call to life the spring
I praise those who sing or don’t sing
Because they don’t know how or don’t recall
But who will surely sing
When the certain and precise day for all
To sing finally does come our way24

THANKS TO: Roberta Uno, Jenny Toomey, Lisa Horner, Kate Wilkinson, Li Tsin Soon, and Andrew Puddephat for all the support and feedback.

Footnotes

1 Fredric Jameson. Postmodernism, Or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. pp. 4-5.

2 Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. Our Creative Diversity: Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development. Paris: UNESCO, 1995. Pp. 15.

3 I describe how the information revolution in the form of Soundscan’s data-tracking system transformed the business pop music in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, pp. 415-7.

4 Anne Markusen and David King. The Artistic Dividend: The Arts’ Hidden Contributions to Regional Development. University of Minnesota, Project on Regional and Industrial Economics, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. July 2003.
Elizabeth Currid. The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art & Music Drive New York City. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

5 Richard Florida. The Rise Of The Creative Class. New York: Basic Books, 2004. Paperback Edition. P. xxviii.

6 Aside from the earlier examples, another piece of such emerging research is Maribel Alvarez’s study of the cultural ecology of Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area appropriately entitled There’s Nothing Informal About It. (Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley, 2005). It should also be noted that all the above research examples pertain to the U.S., a fault wholly of the author’s recent engagement with the subject. Studies into diverse cities will certainly yield useful qualifications and suggest different directions that policies should take.

7 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005. Passed October 20, 2005 in Paris, France.

8 Gilberto Gil. Speech of Minister Gilberto Gil at the First Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Ottawa, Canada. December 11, 2007.
Joost Smiers. Arts Under Pressure: Promoting Cultural Diversity In the Age of Globalization. London: Zed Books, 2003. p. 190-1, 206-7.

9 Garry Neil. The Convention as a response to the cultural challenges of economic globalization.
Article from UNESCO’S Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: Making it Work / edited by Nina Obuljen and Joost Smiers. Zagreb : Institute for International Relations, 2006(Culturelink Joint Publication Series; no. 9), pp. 41-49.

10 Alison Beale, “Identifying A Policy Hierarchy: Communications Policy, Media Industries and Globalization”, in Global Culture: Media, Arts, Policy, and Globalization. Ed. Diana Crane, Nobuko Kawashima, Ken’ichi Kawasaki. (New York: Routledge, 2002.) Pp. 78-85.

11 Neil, ibid.

12 This was the substance of a panel discussion I was on with George Clinton and Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee at the Future of Music Coalition Summit in 2005.

13 Bill Ivey and Steven Tepper, “Cultural Renaissance or Cultural Divide?” The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Chronicle Review. May 19, 2006. 52:37. P. B6.

14 Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World: 25th Anniversary Edition. New York: Vintage, 2007. P. 26.

15 Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism Mosaic”, in Sound Unbound, ed. Paul Miller. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008, forthcoming. P. 39.

16 Gilberto Gil, Discurso do ministro Gilberto Gil na solenidade de transmissão do cargo. Speech at Brasilia, January 2, 2003.

17 See Aboriginal archive offers new DRM BBC News website, January 29, 2008.
Mukurtu Chatter. On The Long Road: Kimberly Christen’s blog.

18 When the story aired on BBC, some “free culture” advocates found the archive design objectionable. They missed the point; the archive functioned by and within the social framework of the community. One commentator remarked, “Unlike copyright-DRM systems, which fall back to the most restrictive state when exporting or communicating with “unsigned” devices (such as blocking all copying and breaking or lowering playback resolution on high-definition monitors), this one defaults to granting access. It’s up to the people using the system to determine how new and unknown situations should be handled. Because the Mukurtu protocol-restrictions support community norms, rather than oppose them, the system can trust its users to take objects with them. If a member of the community chooses to show a picture to someone the machine would not have, his or her interpretation prevails — the machine doesn’t presume to capture or trump the nuance of the social protocol. Social protocols can be reviewed or broken, and so the human choice to comply gives them strength as community ties.” Post from Wendy’s Blog, January 11, 2008. Mukurtu Contextual Archive: Digital Restrictions Done Right Accessed February 5, 2008. In the words of the database designer, Dr. Kimberly Christen, “(M)any social systems exist that route knowledge differently and understand knowledge not as disembodied or out there for the taking but as part of a human and other relations–so knowledge doesn’t exist apart from a set of relations.” Post by Kimberly Christen on Icommons listserve. Aboriginal archive’s new DRM: Cultural Solution? February 1, 2008. Accessed on February 5, 2008.

19 For more information, see: Sangeeta Udgaonkar, The recording of traditional knowledge: Will it prevent ‘bio-piracy’?
Also accessible here. Also, Current Science. (VOL. 82, NO. 4) February 25, 2002

20 Gilberto Gil, Discurso do ministro da Cultura, Gilberto Gil, em seminário sobre experiências acerca do tema Cultura Digital. Speech in San Francisco, California, December 14, 2007.

21 Vandana Shiva. Earth Democracy. Cambridge: South End Press, 2005. Pp. 109-110.

22 Caetano Veloso, Tropical Truth: A Story of Music & Revolution In Brazil. New York: Knopf, 2002. Translated by Isabel De Sena. P. 7, 40-1.

23 Shiva, ibid. P. 117.

24 Translation from Charles Perrone. Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989. P. 94-5

Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.