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.
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.
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.
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.
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.