Category Archives: Postcards

Postcard from Senegal

Senegal’s constitutional council ruled in early March that President Macky Sall was re-elected with 58 per cent of the vote – but opposition groups and other critics say they neither acknowledge the result nor will appeal against it. They’ve already moved on, says local journalist Ngoundji Dieng in Dakar.

Instead, controversy centres on the arrests of activists who supported runner-up and former prime minister Idrissa Seck, who received 21 per cent of the vote.

The security chief of Seck’s party, Rewmi (The Country), was arrested for encouraging people to oppose the result in the event of a first-round victory for  Sall. He was subsequently released under legal supervision, which Rewmi claims is part of a witch-hunt against party activists. An unconfirmed number of people have received conditional sentences for disturbing public order.

While the election result passed unnoticed, this is something that engages the people on the streets. Many have condemned the actions and called for dialogue and calmness.

“I don’t see the point of these arrests. Macky Sall won by a large number, so why fan the flames?” says Ngouda Fall in a conversation with friends.

/Ngoundji Dieng, Dakar

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Postcard from Nepal

The Himalayas are home to ten of the world’s 14 mountains above 8,000 metres. But how high will the peaks be in 80 years?

According to a new report by two mountain monitoring organisations (ICIMOD and HIMAP), two-thirds of Himalayan ice will disappear by 2100 if global warming continues unchecked.

Nepal is directly affected by this and other changes in the mountain environment. Climate change has been affecting the Himalayas for years through receding glaciers, water problems, migration to lowlands and increased weather extremes. But the report released in the capital, Kathmandu, in March secured scarcely a mention in the country’s media: the people hit hardest by the impact of these destabilising changes have little knowledge of why their living conditions are changing so quickly. 

Mani Nepal, an economist with the Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, agrees that “media have an important role to play in raising awareness”. 

Other environmental activists agree: it’s time to shout about it from the mountain tops.

/Sewa Battarai, Nepal.

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Postcard from Bangladesh

A curious form bobs its snout among cargo ships on the river Rupsha in Khulna in southwestern Bangladesh. It’s a boat shaped as a River Dolphin,  fashioned out of palms from the world’s largest mangrove forest, the nearby Sundarbans. The craft  was made to dramatise the importance of dolphin conservation to people in the wetlands.

The globally endangered River Dolphin – shushuk in Bangla – is under threat from overfishing, entanglement in nets, and increasing pollution caused by uncontrolled development. The latter has also made it difficult for fisherfolk to earn their living. Livelihoods and dolphins are both at risk, and conservationists believe local people can play a crucial role in saving the dolphin. 

The boat acts as a gallery for exhibiting photographs of dolphins, as a makeshift stage for puppeteers, and as an arts and crafts classroom. The chance to paint and make attracts villagers otherwise weary of NGO workers coming from the cities to “teach” them how to lead their lives.

/Sushmita Preetha,  Khulna.

The postcards from journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot  website.

Postcard from Haiti

With its shanty towns and unplanned growth, Port-au-Prince gives a chaotic impression. The lack of urban planning is one of the city’s major flaws.

That’s why the theme for the Haitian and foreign artists taking part in the third graffiti festival Festi-Graffiti was “The resurrection of the public space”.

In Haiti, graffiti mainly expresses political views. During the dictatorship in 1957-1986, the lack of freedom of speech made graffiti a way of shocking those in power and criticising society – a tradition that is still alive, especially during elections.

Some artists in the graffiti festival highlighted the recent and increasingly loud demand for transparency in government spending. But above all, the artists were given the opportunity of conveying their aesthetic visions for the city.

“We want to turn graffiti into an art form just like any other, and show that it’s about more than just criticising or flattering politicians”, said Widler Resonance, chairman of the collective for urban and modern art.

/Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, Port au Prince..

The Postcards from journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot  website.

Postcard from Nepal

When we woke  on 27 November, Kathmandu had changed overnight: every street light pole and advertising space featured the face of Prime Minister K P Oli. “A new era begins” proclaimed the posters promoting a new social security scheme. 

Social media was soon flooded with ironic memes about the new era. Critics attacked the publicity campaign’s huge expense and the showy display that took the focus away from the scheme itself.

Many journalists and political scientists are also concerned about this and other signs of megalomania. The communist government has recently passed laws that criminalise aspects of investigative journalism, photography and satire, and strengthen actions against slander and libel. The message is clear: the government will take no criticism.

The PM’s speech at the inauguration of the scheme was explicit about the intention to control. “For those who say they do not see the government’s presence, do you still not see it? If you don’t, you won’t have to wear spectacles to do so. In future you will be forced to see it, whether or not you want to!”

/Sewa Bhattarai, Kathmandu.

The postcards by journalists in our network are published on the Blank Spot Project website.

Postcard from Ivory Coast

Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, is recognised for its grand buildings and its business district. But  Adjamé market, the biggest in the country,looks rather chaotic, with vendors occupying the pavements because they claim renting a shop in the market is too expensive and that  pavement pitches attract more customers.

The authorities want to banish the vendors, arguing that the streets should be kept clear for traffic and emergency vehicles and that street stalls detract from the modern urban image the administration wants to cultivate.  They try to impose order, even resorting to the use of bulldozers.  Pavement stallholders can only stand and watch as their displays are crushed, but those who have placed their wares on a blanket can quickly scoop tjhem all up when the crawler trundles towards them.

A few days later, the blankets and stalls are back in the same spot, and the next round begins in the battle of Adjamé .

/Nesmon De Laure, Abidjan.

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Postcard from South Sudan

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I attended ‘Take Tea Together’ (TTT), an initiative organised by Salaam Junub (‘Peace South Sudan’) to counteract hate speech and negative tribalism.

Struggling against these tendencies is really needed in South Sudan, where warring parties in the civil war have deliberately played on and exacerbated tribal differences. Members of the Nuer group in President Salva Kiir’s administration have been labelled ‘Nuer wew’ – betrayers and sycophants. In Juba, the country’s majority tribe, the Dinka, is referred to as ‘MTN’ – a play on the slogan of the giant South African company Mobile Telephone Network: “Everywhere you go”. The Dinkas are traditionally nomads but today  are also scattered around the country partly because of the persistent  conflict.

Such epithets may sound harmless, but in South Sudan’s tense political atmosphere they fan the flames of conflict by inciting difference, dislike, animosity and hatred. Tribal affiliation has become key to getting a job: Dinka, Nuer or Equaotoria people can’t work in a state outside their state of origin.

The recently signed peace agreement  gives some hope. Political reconciliation is the goal. The question is whether ethnic harmony will follow.

/Daniel Majack, Juba

This is the first in a series of postcards from journalists in our network, published on the Blankspot Project website.