South African poetry


This video says about herself:

musical theatre with singer/songwriter Niki Romijn and bassplayer Erik Robaard based upon the poetry of the South African writer Ingrid Jonker.

From Poetry International:

Editorial March 2008

In March we welcome South Africa back into the fold – Liesl Jobson has put together a fascinating issue of classic and contemporary. We’re delighted that Ingrid Jonker, an iconic James Dean/ Sylvia Plath figure due to her talent and early death, is finally featured on the site. André Brink summarises her work thus, “In one way or another most of these poems concern an underlying awareness of a relationship – between woman and man, child and parent, you and I, ego and alter ego: and from this ‘double game’ arises a persistent impression of a life left incomplete, broken, shattered, condemned forever to search for the magic word, or the magic potion, which may restore the lost wholeness of the primal couple.”

We can also now read the very impressive Nontsizi Mgqwetho, active in the 1920s, “one of the greatest literary artists ever to write in Xhosa, an anguished voice of an urban woman confronting male dominance, ineffective leadership, black apathy, white malice and indifference, economic exploitation and a tragic history of nineteenth-century territorial and cultural dispossession.” Nor to be missed is Mazisi Kunene, said to have reconstructed the identity of the African continent, and Rustum Kozain, an accomplished prize-winning young poet.

Love poetry of ancient Egypt: here.

Caribbean-British artist Barbara Walker in South Africa: here.

Smoking causes psychological damage to children


This video is called Quit Smoking.

From Leiden university in the Netherlands:

‘Children who, during pregnancy, have been exposed to nicotine, have severe trouble in adapting their behaviour to circumstances if emotions are at work’, says Hanna Swaab in her inaugural lecture as professor, of today, 4 March.

See also here.

Coot and buzzards


In this video from near Schiphol in the Netherlands, coot parents protect their young against a grey heron.

Today, from a bridge over a canal close to me.

An old shelf, drifting in the water, has been provided by coots with branches and leaves for a nest.

Talking about birds: I still remember the two buzzards, circling each other above the Sint Pietersplein in the city center of Ghent in Belgium, on 27 February.

Special fungi on Dutch island


Hygrocybe coccinea and Hygrocybe virginea, in Wyre Forest in Britain, photo by Rosemary Winnall

From #1 in 2008 of the magazine of Zuid-Hollands Landschap in the Netherlands, page 13:

Every year, the fungi research group of Voorne island does research on a part of the Duinen van Oostvoorne.

This autumn, mycologist Anneke Hoekstra was surprised by a strong rise in numbers of Hygrocybe mushrooms.

Anneke said: “Already in 2006, we discovered, on a dune meadow near the visitors’ center, a big group of Hygrocybe coccinea.

In 2007, a group of yellow-orange Hygrocybe, butter waxcap, and Hygrocybe pratensis, entered the scene; while Hygrocybe virginea and Hygrocybe russocoriacea were present in big numbers.

Hygrocybe coccinea was present now in five groups.”

Some of those species are on the Red List of threatened fungi.

See also here.

Bush’s bombs kill Somali civilians


This is a video of a Somali peace demonstration in London, England.

From the BBC:

Three missiles hit Dhoble town early on Monday, reportedly killing four people and wounding 20.

People are fleeing the town, fearing more strikes. Residents say planes could still be seen flying overhead on Monday morning. …

US Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman refused to give the identity of the target, whether the strike had achieved its goal or how the strike had been carried out. …

Dhoble resident Fatuma Abdullahi told the BBC they were woken up by “a loud and big bang”.

“When we came out we found our neighbour’s house completely obliterated as if no house existed here,” he said.

Another resident said: “Right now – in full daylight – the planes keep flying over us. They are so low that we’re deafened by their engines.”

“We are poor civilians living in a simple town – what have we done to deserve this bombing?”

Local official Ali Hussein told the BBC that many people were fleeing the town.

The border with Kenya has been closed for the past year. …

The US bombed the area a year ago and residents said the same plane was again involved. …

Last month, a senior UN official told the BBC that Somalia was the worst place in the world for children.

See also here.

US missile strike kills women and children in Somalia: here.

See also here. And here.

And here.

British anti war artist Peter Kennard


Poster by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips about the occupation of Iraq

This is a poster, called ‘Blairaq’, by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips about the occupation of Iraq.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Montage with a message

(Monday 03 March 2008)

Uncertified Documents: Peter Kennard
Pump House Gallery, London SW11

CHRISTINE LINDEY is moved by a striking collection of ‘photographic sentences’ by long-time political designer and teacher Peter Kennard.

LIBERAL democracies shout of freedom, but they control the power of radical art partly by ignoring it and partly by assimilating it, not least into the rarified context of commercial galleries.

Socialist artists have long grappled with this problem and the linked one of how to survive economically.

Peter Kennard has made his living mostly from teaching. When he was younger, he shunned the gallery system because it was ideologically impure. He now believes that it is good for the public, particularly the young, to see how his work was made.

Yet he still opposes the mainstream. He has chosen to display more than 30 years of his work at the Pump House because this is a non-commercial gallery in Battersea Park, London, a venue likely to attract mostly locals and passers-by.

A free broadsheet forms an important part of this exhibition. With an anti-war poster on one side and an informative interview on the other, it offers an astute discussion on art, socialism and possible ways in which to resist the power of the state and conventional patronage.

In it, Kennard says that the exhibition is “about communicating social and political ideas to an interested audience, but not necessarily an art audience.”

In the 1960s, Kennard studied at the Slade, a school then dominated by abstract expressionism. His involvement in the anti-Vietnam war movement led to frustrated attempts to link his political commitment to his painting. His discovery of the photomontages of Heartfield, Rodchenko and Soviet Constructivist ideas gave him the break-through that he needed.

In the early 1970s, he began to make photomontages for the left press where he valued collaborating with non-artists as part of a production process.

He explains: “It is like being a journalist, but, instead of words, I was constructing sentences from photographs; montage is about opening up what is silent in society.”

He later went on to work for progressive organisations, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Greater London Council, New Statesman, Pluto books and the Stop the War Coalition, often for free or for very little.

Kennard’s work is not made to be seen in the contemplative context of art galleries. Designed for book jackets, posters, postcards, magazines and newspapers, it aims to create a quick reaction in the often inattentive viewer. Yet his powerful visual imagination, combined with a clear understanding of social and political realities, has produced montages whose content often transgress the specific issues for which they were made and convey universal meanings.

Selecting his images with precision, he combines them in deceptively simple ways to produce devastating political and social comment. For example, the poster in which a cruise missile breaks against the CND logo.

The images often originate in a response to what people say. The montage of Thatcher‘s face superimposed on Queen Victoria’s state portrait was a reaction to that prime minister’s call for a return to Victorian values.

When Thatcher’s government sited the missile base in Constable country, Kennard’s riposte was Hay-Wain with Cruise missiles, 1980, in which the cart in Constable’s famous painting is loaded with cruise missiles instead of hay.

Many of the original working montages are hung alongside the resulting printed publications.

For example, we see small cut-out photographs of cruise missiles and a tiny gas-masked cart boy pasted on to a postcard of the Constable painting. Next to it is the double-page spread of a magazine in which this image first appeared as an illustration to an article by EP Thompson condemning the siting of cruise missiles in Britain. In turn, we see Kennard’s image printed as a postcard in aid of the anti-cruise campaign.

The 2003 demonstration against the Iraq war marked the beginning of his current collaboration with Cat Picton Phillips, a younger artist who works with digital imagery.

She initiated him into the mysteries of working on a scanner rather than with manual montage techniques. He encouraged her to “put some sense of physicality back into that pixelated medium” by dropping dust, oil or blood on to the scanner.

In 2005, they created their War on War room at the East group exhibition, Norwich. There, with a scanner and printer, they made anti-war posters and invited the public to create their own. A petrol pump becomes a gun as bullets fly from its nozzle – war for oil visualised in one hard-hitting image. …

Exhibition runs until March 30. Entry free. Ring (020) 7350-0523 for more information.

See video on this exhibition here.

Did British troops murder 20 Iraqis at Amara? Here.

Canadian insect-eating birds suffer big declines


This is a video of a sand martin breeding colony in Ostvik, Skellefteå, Sweden.

From BirdLife:

Common insect-eating birds suffer dramatic declines…

03-03-2008

New research by Bird Studies Canada (BirdLife Partner in Canada) has highlighted alarming trends in insect-eating birds. In the last two decades alone, populations of many common bug-eating species – such as Sand Martin Riparia riparia, Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor and Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica – have declined by over 70%. With many of the birds’ prey species also being important plant pollinators, the consequences may be felt by more than just birds.

See also here.

Canadian boreal birds: here. Boreal forests: here.