Amelia Edwards, British lesbian Egyptologist


This 2009 video from Britain says about itself:

Amelia Edwards: Egyptology’s Greatest Woman (at London’s Petrie Museum)

Heritage Key enters the Petrie Museum in London to talk to the curator Dr Stephen Quirke, who explains the importance of one of the co-founders of the Egypt Exploration Society – Amelia Edwards.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Frosty’s Ramblings: Amelia Edwards: lesbian and Egyptologist

With Pride month beginning tomorrow, PETER FROST tells the remarkable story of the author of A Thousand Miles up the Nile

AMELIA B EDWARDS was a Victorian English writer of the Arthur Conan Doyle School. Like Conan Doyle — who didn’t think Sherlock Holmes was his best writing — she made her not inconsiderable fortune from the books she didn’t rate as her favourites or her best work.

Perhaps her best-known work was a collection of ghost stories including the famous The Phantom Coach. Her novels included Barbara’s History and Lord Brackenbury.

But it was two travel books including A Thousand Miles up the Nile, and Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: A Midsummer Ramble in the Dolomites, both written and illustrated by her, that were her proudest works.

Edwards was born in London to an Irish mother and a father who had been a British army officer before becoming a banker.

Home educated by her mother, she was already showing considerable promise as a writer at a very young age. She published her first poem at age seven, her first story at age 12.

She had work published in a large number of magazines including Chamber’s Journal and Charles Dickens’s Household Words, as well as the Saturday Review and the Morning Post.

Her first full-length novel was My Brother’s Wife, published when she was just 25. Her early novels were well received, but it was Barbara’s History, a novel about bigamy, that solidly established her reputation as a novelist.

It is hard today to understand just how popular she was. Her last novel, Lord Brackenbury, for instance, ran to no less than 15 editions.

The wealth these books brought her allowed her to write about what really interested her — travel and particularly Egyptology.

In the winter of 1873-4, accompanied by several friends, she toured Egypt, discovering a fascination with the land and its cultures, both ancient and modern.

She hired a dahabiyeh — a houseboat with a huge sail and an Egyptian crew. At this time Egypt and its many ancient sites had become a popular tourist destination with the well-to-do from England, Germany and other parts of Europe.

These tourists were often keen amateur archaeologists and they fell into two distinct camps. There were those who thought that all the best artefacts and works of art should be shipped home to the huge museums of Bloomsbury and many rival city museums of Germany or, even worse, into private collections.

Others took the view that the art should be left where it was in Egypt. Edwards sided with this view. A keen artist, she mostly sketched rather than collected what she saw.

She and her friends visited Cairo, Philae and ultimately reached Abu Simbel. Edwards’s description of her Nile voyage, A Thousand Miles up the Nile, was the outcome of this trip. The book was illustrated by beautiful and accurate wood engravings taken from her hand-drawn sketches. It became an immediate bestseller.

The book led, in 1882, to her co-founding the Egypt Exploration Fund, which still exists today as the Egypt Exploration Society.

Edwards’s travels in Egypt had made her aware of the increasing threats directed towards the ancient monuments by tourism and modern development.

Determined to stem these threats by the force of public awareness and scientific endeavour, Edwards became a tireless public advocate for the research and preservation of the ancient monuments.

She worked closely and supported the English archaeologist and Egyptologist Flinders Petrie. He became the first Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London, taking the chair that was set up and funded in 1892 by a bequest shortly after her death.

She had instructed that Petrie should be its first incumbent. He continued to excavate in Egypt after taking up the professorship, training many of the best archaeologists of the day.

One of his students was Howard Carter, who went on to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun.

With the aim of advancing the fund’s work, Edwards largely abandoned her other literary work to concentrate on Egyptology. She wrote the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Egyptology.

As part of her efforts, Edwards embarked on an ambitious lecture tour of the United States in the period 1889-90. The content of these lectures was later published as Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers.

As well as writing ghost stories and travel books, Amelia seems to have made no secret of her unconventional sexual orientation. Some modern biographers have tried to hide this aspect of her life but Edwards never did.

Her friend, the author and critic John Addington Symonds, told Henry Havelock Ellis that she made no secret of her lesbian lifestyle.

Havelock Ellis was in 1897 co-author of the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality and he also published works on a variety of sexual orientations and inclinations.

She told both Symonds and Ellis she had formed a menage a trois with an English woman and her clergyman husband. Symonds said she told him that one day the husband had married Edwards to his wife at the altar of his church.

This unconventional bisexual couple were almost certainly John Rice Byrne and Ellen Byrne who the 1871 census shows as living at 7 Cambridge Park, Bristol. He was a clergyman and school inspector. When they moved away from Bristol, Edwards told Symonds it was like a death blow.

Edwards died of influenza on April 15 1892 at Weston-super-Mare. She is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Henbury, Bristol, and her grave is marked by a distinctive Egyptian obelisk and stone ankh — the ancient Egyptian symbol of life shaped like a cross with a loop at the top.

Buried beside Edwards is her lifetime companion, partner and lover Ellen Drew Braysher, with whom she shared a home for 30 years. Historic England designated her grave as Grade II listed, celebrating it as a landmark in English LGBT history.

Today many of Edwards’s books, now long out of copyright, can be downloaded free from the internet.

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Pro-peace poem


This 6 Match 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Sen. Chris Murphy: The U.S. Is Exporting Violence & Killing Civilians in Illegal War in Yemen

On Capitol Hill, three U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would force Congress to vote for the first time on whether to continue U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. The measure was introduced by Republican Mike Lee, Democrat Chris Murphy and Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, who noted that the Constitution gives Congress—and not the president—the power to declare war. For more, we speak with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

From the blog of Rick Rozoff, this poem by 19th century British author William Stokes:

The peace of nations to destroy

To the Genius of War As Embodied in the Warrior

Forbear, thou man of blood, forbear,
To claim a birth Divine;
No Son of Heaven can be the heir
Of passions such as thine.

Thy boasted trade, thy sole employ,
Is death to deal around
;
The Peace of nations to destroy,
Wherever man is found.

The wide-spread earth, through all her lands,
Has mourned thy kindred tread;
And widows raise their pray’rful hands,
For vengeance on thy head.

In Europe’s polished courts, the seeds
Of hatred thou hast sown
;
And yonder Southern island bleeds
With sorrows all thine own.

In thronging East, or far-spread West,
Or where the Niger rolls;
Thy murd’rous train has proved the pest
And curse, of human souls.

No sex, no nation, and no clime,
Has ‘scap’d thy cruel rage;
Thy plague has flow’d throughout all time,
And spread through every age.

And shall that plague, with curses rife,
Pass down to other times;
And spread around the seeds of strife,
To poison other climes?

Shall men be found for wealth or gain,
To doom a world to woe?
And all that earth can feel of pain,
Give earth that all to know?

Learn, then, man to murder given,
Note thou the mandate well;
“The work of Peace came down from heaven,
The work of War from hell.”

New German film Transit on refugees


This video says about itself:

Transit – Christian Petzold Film Clip (Berlinale 2018)

When a man flees France after the Nazi invasion, he assumes the identity of a dead author whose papers he possesses. Stuck in Marseilles, he meets a young woman desperate to find her missing husband – the very man he’s impersonating.

Director: Christian Petzold
Writer: Christian Petzold
Stars: Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese

By Stefan Steinberg in Germany:

Christian Petzold’s Transit: The condition of refugees as hell on earth

9 May 2018

Written and directed by Christian Petzold, based on the novel by Anna Seghers

A number of films at this year’s Berlin Film Festival dealt with the plight of refugees.

Forced to abandon their homelands—and everything familiar to them—to escape war, famine or the lack of any economic prospects, refugees are rendered stateless for at least the period of their flight. In transit they are deprived of the rights due to them as citizens of a nation. They are at the mercy of the state or maritime waters they are crossing, and are then equally at the mercy of the state they have chosen as their new home, and its repressive apparatus. They also run the risk of becoming the targets of right-wing demagogues seeking to divert attention from the disastrous state of life under capitalism.

The fate of refugees is the subject of the latest film by German director Christian Petzold, Transit, which screened at the Berlinale and is now on public release in Germany. This is Petzold’s third historical film, following Barbara (2012), set in East Germany in 1980, and Phoenix (2014), about a concentration camp survivor in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Born in 1960, Petzold has made eight feature films in total since 2000. One of his mentors was Harun Farocki, the left-wing German filmmaker and theorist.

Transit is based on the novel of the same title by German author Anna Seghers (1900-83). Seghers joined the German Communist Party (KPD) in 1928. Her novels were subsequently burned by pro-Nazi students in the notorious action in the middle of Berlin in May 1933. Like many other left-wing intellectuals, Seghers was forced to leave National Socialist Germany and fled with her family through several countries. Her novel Transit appeared in 1944 and mirrors her own flight from the Nazis through France to Marseilles and then eventually on to Mexico.

In her book, Seghers describes the refugee’s feeling of helplessness and frustration with bureaucracy: “Everything was on the move, everything was temporary, but we didn’t know whether this state would last until tomorrow, a few weeks, years or even our entire lives.” The fictional character in the novel wonders if the Nazis in Paris “a tough and dreadful enemy (…) were in fact better than this invisible, almost mysterious evil, these rumours, this corruption and fraud.”

Petzold decided to locate his film adaptation of Transit in the present day. Germany is run by Nazis, who have also overrun most of France. The main character, Georg (Franz Rogowski), a Communist, is sent by a comrade with an important letter to the writer Weidel. In a hotel, Georg finds a few belongings of the writer who has killed himself. Georg takes the papers of the deceased, including visas and a ship’s passage to Mexico, and travels to Marseilles.

In Marseilles, he encounters and becomes friendly with a small boy and his mother. Having assumed the identity of the dead writer, Georg begins the laborious process of securing his passage to South America. At the embassy, he chances to meet and is captivated by an enigmatic woman, Marie (Paula Beer), who is waiting for her husband. She proves to be the wife (or widow) of the very man whose identity Georg has assumed. Trapped between states, she is also unable to choose between the husband she left behind, her current companion, Richard (Godehard Giese), or her new acquaintance, Georg.

There are moments in both film and novel that recall Franz Kafka’s novels, The Castle and The Trial —flight and transit as a permanent, meaningless, incomprehensible state. In one memorable section of her novel, Seghers writes: “He waited in the hereafter to learn what the Lord had decided about him. He waited and waited, one year, ten years, one hundred years. Then he finally begged for the decision. He was told: ‘What are you waiting for? You’ve already been in hell for some time.’”

While Seghers essentially preserves the historical context of the massive exodus from Nazi-dominated Europe, Petzold unsettles the viewer with abrupt changes of perspective and mysterious encounters (and failures to encounter).

In his film Barbara, Petzold effectively portrayed the oppressive nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany). His Phoenix dealt with the consequences of the fascist mass murder of the Jews. Nazi rule in Transit remains nebulous, but Petzold’s film transmits the coldness and cruelty of the French bureaucracy, which insists that all protocols are adhered to before further passage is possible.

Observing the growing disorientation and despondency of Transit ’s central characters, one is reminded of the fate of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig—who committed suicide with his wife in 1942 after reaching South America—and that of German philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin who—convinced he was in danger of immediate arrest by the Gestapo—killed himself on the French-Spanish border in 1940.

Petzold was motivated to make his new film by his sympathy for the plight of refugees and uneasiness at the growth of far-right radicalism in Germany and Europe. In an interview, the writer-director noted that he played badminton regularly in a sports hall close to the large refugee camp in Berlin that features in the documentary film Central Airport THF (2018, directed by Karim Aïnouz).

Transit is clearly an attempt to provide some context for the dire situation confronting refugees in Germany and Europe today. At the same time, it points to the real dangers of the re-emergence of fascist movements in Europe. Far-right governments and coalitions involving neo-fascist forces are already in power in Poland, Hungary and now Austria.

In a recent interview with the Berliner Zeitung, Petzold made a number of interesting and correct points regarding the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which emerged at the last general election as the main opposition party in the German parliament.

Commenting on the organisation, Petzold countered those who argue that the racist AfD reflects the views of ordinary workers. He said: “I don’t think the AfD can be regarded as a party of the working class. It is also not a party of the betrayed working class, as some people say…. There are judges and former CDU [Christian Democratic Union] members in it.” Petzold went on to refute claims that the party has its base in regions of heavy working class representation. Instead, he notes: “The AfD stems from the petty bourgeoisie and the professional middle class.”

Petzold is undoubtedly one of the most significant directors active in Germany today and Transit is well worth viewing. At the same time, his new film lacks the same degree of urgency and concrete immediacy that characterised a number of other films at the Berlinale dealing with refugees, such as Styx and El Dorado.

The weakness of Petzold’s approach was indicated by a comment he made in another recent interview in which he described flight “as a normal condition.”

The problem with this is that the flight of refugees today, and at any time, is not normal. Flight is not some sort of existential dilemma affecting all of humanity. Rather millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and often their own families in past years due to poverty, hunger and wars fueled by unparalleled levels of economic and political inequality, as well as definite government policies. The rottenness of the official “left” in Europe and elsewhere, which has facilitated or led the anti-refugee campaign, is at the heart of this situation.

If flight and its consequences are viewed as a universal characteristic of the human condition, then we can do little about them. This is not Petzold’s position, but the disorientation of the characters in his film, combined with a passive readiness to accept their fate, leaves open the door for those seeking to interpret the current refugee crisis as an irresolvable, inevitable state of affairs.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah on Windrush scandal, anarchism and more


This British TV video says about itself:

Benjamin Zephaniah on Windrush, anarchism and his time in North Korea

2 May 2018

Poet, writer and activist Benjamin Zephaniah talks to Krishnan Guru-Murthy about the Windrush scandal, how the political system should be torn down and why he spends so much time in China.

The Tories’ ‘hostile environment’ sees at least 1,000 skilled migrants wrongly facing deportation: here.

British police forces ‘handing crime victims to Home Office as immigration suspects’: here.

63 wrongful deportations being investigated, Home Office admits. Windrush scandal grows as activist Zita Holbourne says the number could be far higher: here.

Benjamin Zephaniah, other poetry in England


This 2007 video says about itself:

Benjamin Zephaniah Talking Turkeys

Benjamin at Hay book festival.

By Peter Mason in Britain:

Friday, May 4, 2018

Book Review: Poetic licence to thrill

Benjamin Zephaniah‘s excellent autobiography allows him time and space to take stock of a hugely engaging life, says PETER MASON

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah

(Simon & Schuster, £20)

POET, playwright, novel writer, children’s author — now we can add autobiographical skills to Benjamin Zephaniah‘s list of writing attributes.

This is a beautifully penned and highly entertaining account of an intriguing life, opening us up not just to Zephaniah‘s story but to a wide range of topics arising out of it, from death and racism to co-operativism and male infertility.

All are tackled with down-to-earth honesty and insight, not to mention an element of gentle humour and self-effacement, intermingled with a certain amount of justifiable pride at a life characterised not just by radical intent but by radical action too.

As you might expect from someone whose first love is poetry, the words are carefully wrought. Almost imperceptibly, the language changes from the childlike phrasing used to describe Zephaniah’s tough early years in Birmingham where he ran, with his mum, from a physically abusive father through to a more confident voice as he shows how he switched from the world of crime into a new and more productive world of dub poetry.

There is politics aplenty, for Zephaniah is a political man to his bones. But nothing is rammed down the reader’s throat and two of the most important touchstones of his life — veganism and rastafarianism — are mentioned almost in passing and never in any preachy kind of fashion.

On the other hand, it’s not difficult to discern where Zephaniah is coming from. Though a man of peace, he is rarely squeamish about the need to meet force with force or to take action to show the authorities that enough is enough, as he hints that he did in the context of the Brixton riots of the 1980s.

Still an angry man with a punk sensibility, identifying, he says, most easily with anarchism, he observes that, “when I see what people have to put up with from their governments, I’m surprised they don’t rise up more often.”

As with the best of autobiographies, however, the emphasis is on good storytelling and the political messages are rarely overpowering. Instead they filter through as Zephaniah tells his tales.

From his early days in Brum to the more relaxed rural existence in Lincolnshire of his later years, he has much to reflect upon and much to tell and there are a number of moving moments in this book, one especially in relation to the despair he felt after divorce.

In his introduction, Zephaniah says: “I hate autobiographies, they’re so fake.” If true, then with this one he has done something to break the mould.

This 2016 video is called The pleasure of poetic pattern – David Silverstein.

By Mike Quille in England:

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Poetry Review: Collective visions of a better world

MIKE QUILLE reports on an inspiring Teesside International Poetry Festival

Middlesbrough-born James Cook set sail 250 years ago on one of history’s iconic imperialist journeys, a voyage which extended scientific, geographical and cultural knowledge of other peoples.

It also facilitated the violent economic exploitation of the globe, the political domination of those people and massive cultural theft and appropriation by Britain’s ruling class.

Working men and women in Middlesbrough, which has the most ethnically diverse population in the north east, never benefited very much from Britain’s imperialist project. It is now one of the most economically and socially deprived places in the region.

In this environment of deindustrialisation, poverty and dispossession, the Teesside International Poetry Festival which ran in venues across Middlesbrough, showcased a phenomenal variety of examples of artistic, social and political engagement from countries around the world as well as from communities in the north east.

The sheer internationalism of the event was astounding. Poets came to read and perform their poetry from Iraq, Finland, Iceland, Nigeria, Botswana, Poland, Russia, India and elsewhere.

Lev Rubinstein

And the variety of work on offer was equally astonishing, from the Russian conceptual poetry of Lev Rubinstein (pictured), with its roots in the wonderful flowering of conceptual arts in the revolutionary Soviet Union of the 1920s, to Peter Adegbie’s and Eric Motswasale’s gloriously entertaining praise-poetry from Nigeria and Botswana, interrogating the rapacious and ongoing effects of European colonialism on language and people.

Over the course of four days the festival shaped itself into a living collage of poetics, gradually building a conversational echo chamber of voices and languages that was stimulating and energising.

Diversity was expressed and celebrated through the wide range of events, including readings, cabarets, book launches and workshops. There was the launch of a book of poems by Teesside primary schoolchildren, an Urdu-Punjabi mushaira, poetic gathering, and poetry workshops in local colleges.

What binds this eclectic and multicultural festival together is its gentle, insistent and necessarily subversive internationalism, its celebration of poetry as a tool of resistance, protest and imagining alternatives to the violent night of imperialism, chauvinism and political and cultural oppression.

It’s a suggestive but quietly powerful demonstration of poetry as a fundamentally social art, which makes common cause between communities worldwide and enables a collective imagining of a better world.

Somali poetess jailed for poetry


This 2017 video is about Somali poetess Nacima Qorane reading a poem.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Somaliland: Three-year jail sentence for poet who read unity poem

POET Nacima Qorane has been jailed for three years in Somaliland after being found guilty of contempt for reading a unity poem.

She received the sentence in the self-declared republic after she called for Somaliland and Somalia to be reunited.

Prosecutors said she had referred to Somaliland as “a region” and “insulted and defamed its government” by reading the poem in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The court found that she had brought the state into contempt.

Home to about 4 million people, the area in the north-west of Somalia was formerly a British protectorate, uniting with the former Italian colony in 1960 to form the Somali Republic. It declared its independence in 1991 following a bitter civil war but is not recognised internationally, being seen as an autonomous region of the country.

In February Somaliland allowed the United Arab Emirates to open a military base to launch strikes against Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the country’s ongoing civil war.

Ms Qorane was arrested in January after returning from the Somali capital and rights groups have raised concerns over her treatment.

A number of artists and reporters have been sentenced for similar offences as Somaliland’s government cracks down on opposition voices and press freedom.

Journalists Mohamed Abdilaahi Dabshid and Ahmed Dirie Liltire were sentenced to two years in prison in January for reporting that Ethiopian militants were training in Somaliland. Others have received jail terms for spreading so-called false news.

Somaliland’s Human Rights Centre called for the immediate release of Ms Qorane yesterday and said it was “very concerned” about her conviction.

Guleid Ahmed Jama said: “Freedom of expression is enshrined and protected by the constitution of Somaliland. We urge the government of Somaliland to respect its own constitution.”