Tuesday, 26 July 2011

WeaverBirds from Uganda


One of Uganda’s current most exciting arts initiatives, Weaver Bird International Artists Residency (WEBIARE) was started as an inspiration from artist Collin Sekajugo’s mission of bridging the gap that exists between the arts and our communities here in East Africa.

Under the influence of brains like artists, Sanaa Gateja, Rose .N. Kirumira, Ronex Ahimbisibwe, Sheila Nakitende, Enoch Mukiibi, Donald Wasswa, Hassan Mukiibi and few more with a major objective of promoting the development of the Arts from community level in Uganda, WEBIARE came together under a brick house that was constructed in Ndegeya - Masaka purposely to host the first international artists residency which would be run as a community based program.

The Weaver Bird Artists Residency is synonymous with the ongoing efforts to establish the first Artists Village in Uganda which is strategically situated in a small community called Ndegeya; Luganda for “Weaver Bird”. Ndegeya is located only 5 miles from Masaka Town Center or 2.5 Miles off Masaka - Mbarara bypass highwayAs a community based initiative, the Weaver Bird Residency is aiming at developing a new image of Ugandan art as related to the society and social transformation while fostering development in our communities.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation - Deadline 31st July.

Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, in partnership with three of the world’s most influential
multilateral organisations has launched the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships programme.
Working with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic
Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) the
Fellowships Programme will help to prepare the next generation of outstanding African
leaders by providing them with unique mentoring opportunities.
Having identified a lack of opportunities for aspiring leaders across Africa to gain critical
 experience at the highest levels of multilateral organisations, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation
has worked with these partners to create the Fellowships. The AfDB, UNECA, and WTO
will each host an Ibrahim Fellow in their executive offices. The expectation is that Ibrahim
Fellows will go on to play a major role in the governance and development of the African
Ibrahim Leadership Fellows will be selected by the institutions in conjunction with the
Mo Ibrahim Foundation and will take part in a 12 month fellowship with one of the
participating organisations. They will be young professionals, mid-career and new
executives under the age of forty, or forty-five for women with children. The Fellows
will be nationals of an African country with 7-10 years of relevant work experience
 and a Master’s Degree. They will support the work of the institution to further
promote the economic development of the continent.
The deadline for applications will be 31 July 2011.
Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships

Uncensored: France's erotic art

Source: Sunday Times
February 10, 2008

Uncensored: France's erotic art

For centuries, the French coyly seized
licentious art and locked it away in a library
they called Hell. Now this secret archive of
erotica has been opened up to the public.
So has the anticipation been worth the wait?
Lesley White heads off to Paris to sneak a


The French have finally come clean. For years their collection of dirty books has been filed away in the state’s sprawling archives. Now these once illegal works are on show at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; visitors who make the journey are rewarded with prints and engravings of tumescent aristocrats, knickerless royals, not to mention the excretions of Salvador Dali (of which more later). As might befit the national library, the collection also has literary merit – included are works by Baudelaire, de Sade, Apollinaire and Diderot.
Since 1840 over 2,000 works have been marked with the special code “Enfer” (Hell), the hiding place for the library’s under-the-mattress stash of pornography – sorry, erotic art. Until 1968 these books and prints were hived off to protect public morals, but after the uprisings of ’68, in which the slogan was “it is forbidden to forbid”, the library was no longer imbued with the moral authority to bury the works of which it disapproved. Yet it was so proud of its unique archive – which over the years has accrued a reputation for crude and shocking pleasures, a fetish joint for the stay-at-home literary classes – that it couldn’t bear to let it disperse.
Erotic literature no longer needs to be hidden: one of the last entries into Enfer via the traditional route of public prosecution was the novel Le Château de Cène in 1969, but the contents of Enfer have never been revealed before. Why now, I ask the curator Marie-Françoise Quignard. She shrugs. “Why not? Later could be too late.” At first I think she means that in a highly sexualised society, eroticism will lose its pulling power; or that in a world where nobody reads for pleasure, books won’t fetch a crowd. But no, Quignard’s fear is that such an exhibition will fall prey to the moral strictures of the religious right, the new puritanism that sees only damnation in pornography but is, perversely, its most effective catalyst. “Sex is banal today,” she reflects, “but at the same time there are little groups of people, these virtuous leagues, high on moral principles.”
Since the show opened in December there hasn’t been a squeak of disapproval from censorious ministers, or the church, or the right-wing press. The new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has defined his guiding principles as “authority, morality and respect”, but the money-making, deregulated France he dreams of is not a place to waste time fretting about saucy books and prints. The days of the old paternal president successfully preaching one moral code and practising another ended with the demise of Papa Mitterrand – family man and father of a “secret” love child – after whom this library is named. Who is fit to be custodian of public morals any more? A modern literary pornographer, Catherine Millet, author of The Sexual Life of Catherine M, talks on tape at the exhibition about the “warm, encouraging” public response to the publication of her infamous (and bestselling) adventures.
Besides, outside the grandiose, modern edifice, France is in the grip of a real sexual frisson as its new president parades his supermodel, Carla Bruni, like a totem of middle-aged virility, his citizens unable to decide if they should condemn or admire him. Inside, with the dimmed bordello lighting and the hush of a sedate reading room, there is also evidence of Gallic double standards. France may be in the mood to display its dirtiest secrets, but how shocked are we? The language of the works is explicit, but the act of writing is in itself a daring subversion; this is a world of pseudonyms, false publishers’ addresses, subterfuge and anonymity. All of the exhibits from Enfer were suppressed, judged by the library to run “counter to good morals”, often gifted by the public prosecutor, having been used in obscenity trials. In the conservative Catholic France of Napoleon III, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, the most poetic case for depravity, had six poems suppressed, though they were published nine months later. Between 1947 and 1970 the publishing house of Jean-Jacques Pauvert was the subject of serial obscenity trials. In 1947 he published Sade’s Juliette, was prosecuted and won.
Enfer was created in 1840, during the reticent reign of Louis Philippe, paradoxically the beginnings of photography and lithography, which would turn pornography from niche leisure pursuit into an industry. Once locked away, Enfer’s contents were restricted, released on written application to those finding favour with the library’s committee, as if the dirty habits described might be catching.
On a wet Wednesday morning I’m given a tour by Quignard, a small, cheerful woman whose cheeks do not colour as we pass obscene offerings stored away for dusty years in the parallel Enfer departments of books and prints and photography. One of the earlier exhibits is the 16th-century Ragionamenti of the lewd satirist Pietro Aretino: Nanna, a former prostitute, and her friend Antonia compare the lives of a whore, a married woman and a nun, concluding that the oldest profession would offer the best chance of happiness for Nana’s daughter. “In the 17th century,” laughs Quignard, “you can do whatever you want as long as no one knows.” And as long as you are a member of the leisured classes, of course. The libertine novels of the next century were protected in private libraries alongside travel and religious titles, discreetly locked away from servants in little cabinets that usually included a version of the 1748 underground bestseller Thérèse Philosophe, by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens. If the 18th-century enlightenment was the golden age of French eroticism, Thérèse is its conflicted, provocative heroine, aspiring virgin and rampant sex fiend. Still uninitiated at 25, she is not naive, has lived with a prostitute, and witnessed a priest sinning wildly with a penitent. Her protector the count tires of her refusals, finally lending her his salacious library of fiction and images for one year on the condition that for 15 days she must resist self-gratification. After a short time contemplating Jupiter impaling Juno with a giant phallus, randy satyrs and super-endowed athletes from a guiltless pre-Christian Arcadia where pornography flourished unfettered by law or conscience, Thérèse calls for her triumphant lover. The oldest exhibit is the 13th-century
Le Roman de la Rose, a medieval French poem surviving in illuminated manuscripts whose message is clear: even monastic life will not protect a woman from the overwhelming urges of the flesh. The illustrations here include a nun picking a ripe phallus from a tree which groans with an abundant crop. Next to it is an edition of The Black Forest, by “Merryland”, a journey through the inside of a woman’s sex, translated – it claims – from English, though this is mere hide-and-seek: if such works were tracked down they were destroyed, their authors punished. Careful disguise had proved the key to survival for a teasing genre. Licentious 17th-century sonnets are illustrated with charming daily scenes, a woman being fitted with new shoes, though in the verses underneath she is enjoying a different indulgence. The chaste packaging was partly tease, partly precaution. Among the titillating engravings sits stark reality: a letter from an agent of the crown detailing his capture of a printer of a work whose author escaped the Bastille only due to influential contacts. The work in question, Memoirs of Dom Bugger, is the story of a sexual adventurer’s travails –catching the pox, being castrated, living in nunneries (seemingly the era’s equivalent of the Playboy mansion) – becoming so addled that the only thing to revive his libido is copulation with a pious Catholic. Later there would be a list of priests discovered in flagrante with Parisian tarts in the ancien régime, taken from papers kept at the Bastille, the names and addresses of the women and details of what they did included.
Some of the authors of early soft-core thrills were respectable citizens with public lives: the statesman Mirabeau, a moderate of the revolution (though he was condemned to death for seduction and abduction) published his obscene Ma Conversion (1780) under the initials MDRCDMF, the tale of a male prostitute who specialises in servicing the old, fat and ugly. Mirabeau’s contemporary Andrea de Nerciat, a secret agent of the French government, secretly penned Le Diable au Corps, “oeuvre posthume du très recommendable Dr Cazzone”. Nerciat is keen on animals, but not as keen as his bawdy heroine Felicia, with her boudoir penchant for dogs and donkeys. It’s not so much the bestiality that shocks as her horrific comparison of black men and animals: the blacks are good as lovers but can rebel, the animals are more predictable, easier to manage for a women with needs.
The fictional 18th-century courtesan had fun. For all its ribaldry, this is popcorn porn, full of lifted skirts and expressions of eye-bulging ecstasy, and innocence. It’s like the contents of the confiscated-items cupboard at a boys’ school; naughty but nothing you’d get the authorities involved with. That changes as you turn a corner into the darkly criminal world of the Marquis de Sade, the black star of a dubious bunch, who spent 32 years in prison for his outrages against propriety. On the wall nearby are painted the names, addresses and prices of Parisian prostitutes of the time, taken from the small but essential almanacs (maybe the first Rough Guides) published in the capital. One “petite sauvette” wanted 15 louis for her attentions; another describes herself as “folâtre” (wild, baby) and does it for nothing; another wants a hat. Their likenesses, powdered and pink-cheeked, tumbling over laps and bedsteads with sturdy legs akimbo, are reproduced on jokey calling cards, the original dirty postcards.
And such pornography maps the undulations and secret pathways of French history itself; through its changing forms one glimpses the hesitant and then brutal birth of a republic. At the time of the Frondes (1648-52) the uprisings against royal power that would simmer into revolution, pornography assumed a political, pamphleteering role. Marie Antoinette was portrayed as a treacherous, incestuous whore, obsessed with sapphic orgies, low-born men, and her trusty dildo; apparently because of Louis XVI’s minute member. Priests and aristos are shown as sexual grotesques, seducing animals, vegetables, anything to sate their insane lusts; the venerable Abbé Maury, cardinal and archbishop of Paris, was insulted as voracious homosexual. The best weapon against deference was sexual attack; a satirical viciousness that was as effective as a tabloid sleaze scandal at ending political careers. While the tumbrels were prepared, the withering satire continued, the annals of Enfer piled with confiscations from ecclesiastical libraries, and those of émigrés and the condemned. The artist Dominique Vivant Denon, who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt and became the founding director of the Louvre, engraved in 1793 “Le Roi Phallus, Malade et Défait”, which mocked Louis for his vapid masculinity. The king’s phallus, sick and undone, receives a visit from doctors who are incapable of offering help.
The sweetest things here are the 19th-century divertissements; the phenakistiscope, an 1835 animation device showing a close-up coitus, a roundel of penises disappearing into furry fruits; the childish little drawings French Windows, which open to reveal such saucy surprises as Napoleon with a dishevelled mademoiselle on his knee. The pretty “English scene” engravings were meant to be held to the light to reveal what was really going on behind the pastoral haystack; a theme of voyeurism that runs through the exhibition, all countries, all tastes, all centuries.
One corner is dedicated to spanking, “le vice anglais” (though all the books gathered here eem to be French), but we are sorely under-represented as a nation; maybe we should be thankful for the neglect. Some aspects of Eros are distinctly unsavoury. The stain left by Salvador Dali on his engraving for the front of Georges Hugnet’s poem, Onan – dedicated to masturbation – is best not contemplated too hard. Dali, creator of The Great Masturbator, was obsessed with the subject; his surrealist compatriots were more wary about the use of pornography. They preferred to use sex in a more veiled way as they set about discrediting reality; but the Spaniard was relentless, and by 1934 he had been excommunicated by the movement. As Realism takes a fumbling hold in the fin de siècle, enthusiasts were treated to Jean-Jacques Lequeu’s (Johnny the Cock) engravings of a women’s genitalia, delicately executed, but anatomically wayward. With photography, however, came accuracy, the meeting of the fantasy and the flesh that would dominate and enslave the imagination the way no drawing ever could. The pornographic photographs of Auguste Belloc, graphic, unprimped, daring, ended up in Enfer after being seized in a police raid, many hidden inside hollowed-out books. Belloc was an enormous influence on his contemporary Gustave Courbet’s shockingly realistic female nude, L’Origine du Monde of 1866, both blatant and mysterious. Contrast Belloc’s provocative female sitter, sex revealed, eyes covered or averted, with the jolly workaday photographs of a brothel on the Rue Saint-Lazare in 1900, commissioned as part of a police report, which records a respectable-looking Mademoiselle Nini charging five francs for the girl and five francs for the house.
By this time, the names associated with Enfer are the big hitters of modernist French Lit; it was the age of the iconoclastic artist and the publisher with a taste for a fight with the state. August Poulet-Malassis published Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. The first printed catalogue of the contents of Enfer was edited by the symbolist poet Guillaume Apollinaire in 1913, the same year he published his controversial anthology Alcools. He also championed libertine texts, wrote but never publicly acknowledged authorship of a 1907 erotic novel, Les Onze Mille Verges (Eleven Thousand Penises), which was banned until 1970, and edited an anthology of Sade. Another pioneering publisher, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, published the complete works of Sade, after winning a public prosecution case, which makes our own Lady Chatterley trial look like a fight to publish Bambi. Pauvert also published Georges Bataille, a conservator at the Bibliothèque National and author – though he never admitted it – of L’Histoire de l’Oeil, the story of two teenaged lovers and their accelerating perversions, in which exhibitionism and soft-boiled eggs play a supporting role.
In 1969, Enfer closed. The system changed: if salacious works were judged of historical interest, they were placed in a special reserve, though not a hidden one. The rest had no special sanctuary. This distinction soon revealed the snobbery surrounding pornography as art: the 1969 novel Le Château de Cène, by Urbain d’Orlhac, was considered vulgar porn, until it emerged that its author was the esteemed Bernard Noël, and its status upgraded. In 1983, Enfer staged a comeback, reopened because, as Quignard says, “it had meant something” and transformed from a hellhole to a treasure chest, bursting with beautiful words of erotica such as Francesco Clemente’s lithographs for Harry Matthews’s Singular Pleasures (1988), one of the few examples of more recent addictions to the stock. According to the organisers, works continue to arrive, gifted by private collectors, but new titles are rarely extended the compliment of a place in Hell.
Can a library exhibition about sex be sexy? Though under-16s are barred, the exhibits are harmless enough. They are in the most part antique books about spent passions, old drawings, dusty relics of someone else’s fetish. Until, that is, you turn a corner and see the grainy monochrome film – jerky as a Chaplin comedy walk – L’Atelier Faiminette, which was shown in the waiting rooms of Paris brothels in the early 1920s. A cross between slapstick and hard-core, the look on the only male client’s face as he services a small harem is one of fierce concentration rather than the po-faced mask of ecstasy demanded of the modern porn hero. In its quaintness the home movie is endearing, and yet it is also drawing the sort of interest one might expect at a porn show.
Most of the visitors today are women, but I watch one man, smart, middle-aged, circling the glass-topped cabinets, returning again and again to that vaudeville scene of real, moving flesh, clearly unable to stop looking, and reminding us that the point of all this refined, sometimes exquisite, high art was voyeuristic pleasure.
As the rumours swirl about “Sarko’s” marriage and his girlfriend’s reported pregnancy, you can see that, for snatching the attention of the immoral majority, the celeb-mags and gossip rags have it over the porno-lit any day.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Chinwe Azubuike | Essay | Death of a Husband

Onwu Di | Death Of A Husband

It is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall a woman at any point in her life - to loose her husband. No matter the length of time she spent with him in matrimony, the grief and sorrow she experiences cannot be quantified. It is an eternal loss; and so, no matter how much we try to console or encourage the truth is, she has lost her soul-mate. All we can do is give her time. For it is only time, as they say, that heals all. It is vital that she finds the right support - morally and otherwise from relatives, friends and loved ones so that she can see her way through this mournful period. Unfortunately, more often than not the reverse is usually the case.

In different parts of the world, irrespective of religion, tradition and culture, widows are victims of violence and oppression at the hands of close family members and so-called friends, especially their in-laws. The story below clearly illustrates my thoughts on this matter. The characters and locations are real.

Personally, I believe that my father allowed himself to be the sacrificial lamb for my sake. It was as if he was communicating from his grave and saying, "Here my eldest daughter… Chinwe, take it… this is your breakthrough in your course to support the widows of Nigeria... For my sake your voice and desire will be heard and accepted finally by our people," and if I tire in this campaign through my poetry and writings, then I have disgraced my father's memory. This is the only way I can appease my father's soul.

So I ask this question - Do widows deserve to have their human rights stripped from them and violated when their husbands die?

Article written by Chinwe Azubuike.
August, 2006.

Factual Story….

My father, Mr. Wisdom Azubuike died on the 8th of August 2006, aged 60yrs and was to be buried on the 24th of August 2006. He died seated while on duty at work. He was thought to be asleep on duty, but instead, he was dead…(he was a security guard at the Apapa Branch of Intercontinental Bank PLC in Lagos, Nigeria). Autopsy result stated he had suffered a sudden attack of 'Hypertension', because he did not know that his blood pressure had been rising for quite some time.

My mother, my siblings and my father's elder brother, Mr.Christian Azubuike, along with other family friends accompanied the corpse to our village on the 23rd August 2006 following the wake-keep that was held on the night of the 22nd August in Festac Town, Lagos. Before leaving for the village, my father's brothers, had collected eighty thousand naira, (the whole money) which was given to the family by the Bank, as support for any expenses incurred on the burial arrangements. His brothers said it was the fee that was to be paid to perform some burial rites for the corpse and also prepare things such as refreshments, etc for the reception of guests after the burial. My recently widowed mother was left penniless. Regardless, they heartlessly demanded for more but for the fact that she and my younger brother scolded them and argued the fact that there was no more money left to give.

On the night of the 23rd when my family arrived at the village, at our compound my Uncle, Christian suddenly and surprisingly ran into occupy the family house, (just a 2 bedroom bungalow-like house, which was owned by my late Grandparents) with his other brother, Leonard and their children, and my Aunt Mrs Rozaline - stating that my father had no house of his own therefore they would take over the bungalow. In this way my mother and her family were not even given any welcome or a place to lay their heads for the night. They actually rested in the coastal bus (donated to them by the Bank as means of transportation) and slept without food or bathing. Betrayal is an ugly word, especially in the context of family.

The next morning, the day of the burial, my father's brothers and sister, Mr.Christian Azubuike, Mr.Leo Azubuike, and Mrs Rozaline, arranged with other members of the Azubuikes of Duruigbo clan (where I come from) of Oka Village in Isiala Mbanno Local Government of Imo State to stop the burial of my father, Wisdom. My Uncle, Christian accused my mother and siblings of killing their brother,(meaning my Dad)… that they should bring out all the money my father had, because his daughter (meaning, I ) lives abroad, and seemingly has received a small fortune from me.... the accusation was that we had all, including I, planned and executed our own father's death and that it was only us, the immediate family, that would benefit from whatever came from me. Me, the pauper female poet living in London.

My Uncle Leo had hired mobs and touts who carried sticks and weapons to batter my mother and family. My Uncle Christian, and his sister, (our Aunty) Mrs Rozaline, gathered all the women of the Duruigbo clan who carried firewood and cains to beat my mother with, according to Tradition. Then, in full view of the public, including people of other tribes and some staff of the Intercontinental Bank as well, who came from Lagos to our village to witness the burial, my Uncle Mr.Christian Azubuike stripped my father's body of his funeral clothes, which had been carefully chosen and dressed by my younger brother, Chukwuma. Christian took out a large sharpened knife and to the horror of all, desecrated the body. Splitting my father's stomach open, like a gutted fish, and then started to probe inside, justifying his action by stating he was searching for some vital organs or bodyparts in the absurd thought that we, Wisdom's immediate family, would have used them for money making rituals. Eventually yet still in the eyes of the amazed public, everything was carelessly put back to the way the mortuary workers had left it but the damage had been done and witnesses had overseen this cruel barbaric act by their fellow Nigerians. Once one has witnessed such an act nothing will quite seem the same again.

My younger brother, Chukwuma Azubuike, being the first son of my Dad, insisted that he wanted to bury my father on that same day, but my Uncle refused. Three men from my village intervened and tried to make peace, demanding that the burial take place that very day yet my Uncle Christian refused. My brother again eagerly enquired when they actually intended burying his father but my Uncle told him to leave, that he had no idea about any burial anymore. They brutally chased my family away, who ran for safety, back into the coastal bus. Even while they were inside the bus, the people kept shouting and banging at the windows and doors asking them to come out of the bus. My Uncles seized my Dad's corpse along with the others, put it back in the coffin and asked the ambulance driver who had brought the coffin from Lagos to take it back to a mortuary situated near our village. Members of my mother's family, who came for the burial as well, were the ones who took my family back with them in the coastal bus to their house at Owerri where the whole family took refuge. Consequently they had won and denied us the proper Christian Mass we had wanted for our father, moreso, denied me of the speech I had written to be read at Mass for my dead Dad and (obviously) squandered the Eighty Thousand Naira they had collected from my family's benefit back in Festac. There are witnesses who can testify to the money that was given to my father's brothers.

While talking refuge at Owerri in Imo State, my family tried to see if there was a way they could get information about the burial and attend, because it is unheard of that a man be buried in the absence of his wife and children. My mother and younger brother made official reports of the case to different Police commission zones in Imo State.

On Friday 1st September 2006, my family in the company of my mother's relatives and many other people who were also armed went to what they thought was my father's funeral. They had received word that my Dad was to be buried on Friday (although none of them had actually been properly informed). On the Friday 1st September, that was thought to be the burial, my father's brothers had once again shifted the burial to the next day, Saturday in the hope that they could perform it in the absence of my family... However, this did not deter anyone because my family and all the rest of the people that accompanied them from Owerri all stayed over until the Saturday morning, which was the D-day. There was a lot of friction, initiated mainly by my father's people, but then they saw that my family too were really out for them that day. Everyone attended the funeral Mass, which to the amazement of many, had become a biased occasion, for the priest who celebrated the Mass gave a very angering and chiding speech for the benefit of my family- on hearsay from the words of my father's brothers, indirectly accused my family of being instruments of my father's death.

After Mass everyone went back to our compound for the final 'lay to rest' act. Then my father's brothers and their entourage tried to create some barriers again, by physically and morally trying to cause outright War between them and my family with her own entourage. The resistance on my mother's part was very clear to them. She vehemently refused to partake in some incongruous fetish rituals that were presented to her. It had become a matter of War if push came to shove. Lives were willing to be lost if it would eventually allow my father to have his rightful burial. Eventually my father was laid to rest, but sadly ungracefully.