The Community Issue
FREE MAGAZINE ISSN 2056-919X1
#13. March 2017
Anyone can make a currency of prognostication; astrologists, polling companies, clairvoyants, The dictionary definition of ‘community,’ is a “group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” Artefact’s community issue proves that people from complete different ends of the spectrum can come together gracefully and create a whole new meaning of the word.
The lure of Highgate Cemetery Lea Vitezic
The girl who cried rape Ruth Fajemirokun
Community is bigger than being part of the same race, the same social group or living in the same area. Here at Artefact, community is coming together and connecting with each other. This issue of the magazine is the last one produced by 2016/17 journalism students and over the course of creating this final edition (and the previous three) we have come together and formed our own little community, where we help and guide each other to shared success. In the community issue, Dayna McAlpine reports on the lesser known community of drag kings through speaking to Ari Rice who explores the ideas of toxic masculinity through her performances. Admiring the feminist community, Abbey Pallett attends a press conference for Laura Marling’s sixth studio album, ‘Semper Femina.’ Diversity in this issue is widely spread. Iman El Kafrawi has written a piece on the Dubai’s famous artistic and cultural landscapes by talking to director of Alerskal Avenue and co-founder of The Third Line gallery, Sunny Rahbar.
Cover image Photography: Alicia Streijffert and Jozef Wardinski
10 Why I went to war in Syria Joe Skirkowski 14
Paris. the drug addict Aurore Kaddachi
Molly Crabapple Tanviya Sapru
Trafficking migrant children Sasha Fedorenko
Rusbridger reports Alice Grahns
24 An artistic desert?
Iman El Kafrawi
The strangeness of Switzerland Alicia Streijffert
30 The guides of nature Jozef Wardynski
Aurore Kaddachi researches the drug community in one of the world’s most romantic cities, Paris. Aurore digs deep to find out what the metropolis hides darker sides to its terraces and canals.
32 Can you be black, Christian and woke? Cheyanne Ntangu
Cheyanne Ntangu focuses on the black and Christian community. ‘Can you be Black, Christian and Woke?’ questions whether people of colour should reject Christianity as a relic of slavery.
34 Britain’s bargaining chips Cecilia Medina Medoni 36
The beauty of decay
Sadly, our time with Artefact has now come to an end. We hope that our readers have enjoyed the content that we’ve produced. We wish luck to the next Artefact community!
Laura Marling: semper femina
40 Can you live in London on £20 a week? Ella Wilkinson
Artefact is produced by third-year BA Journalism students at London College of Communication Magazine Production: Alfia Ahmed, Rachel Atkinson, Francesco De Vito, Michelle Fatou Ndow, Matt Ganfield,, Mia Heavens-Lang, Deek Hussain Jama, Victoria Kamila, Henry Kenyon, Rabia Khan, Amy Latham, Tinodiwa Maposa, Tyisha Maynard-Outing, Dayna McAlpine, Cecilia Medina Meloni, Saloni Saraf, Penelope Sonder, Alicia Streijffert, Jozef Wardynski, Ella Wilkinson Social Media: Zenab Bukkar, Jeremie Crystal, Fabiana De Giorgio, Iman El Kafrawi, Nicole Gheller, Julius Jokikokko, Solen Le Net, Ryan Macklin, Cheyenne Ntangu, Denise Paganini, Naveena Patel, Alex Riches, Pietro Santorsola, Tanviya Sapru, Adelina Shaydullina, Chloe Smith
Website management: Nike Akintokun, Ieva Asnina, Nana-Akua Baah, Davide Cantelmo, James Cropper, Ruth Fajemirokun, Sasha Fedorenko, Alice Grahns, Charlie Howes, Aurore Kaddachi, Csilla Kuti, Cotney Ngobe, Iliana Olymbios, Abbey Pallett, Lowri Redmond, Joe Skikorwski, Dylan Taylor, Lea Vitezic Tutors: Simon Hinde, Russell Merryman, Rob Sharp Website: artefactmagazine.com Facebook: artefactmagazine Twitter: artefactlcc Instagram: artefactmag Contact: email@example.com
Drag kings and being a man Dayna McAlpine
42 Our virtual future Cecilia Medina Medoni 43
World of Wicca Deek Hussain Jama
44 From Ellis Island to Trump’s travel ban Pietro Santorsola 45 Folk meets electronica Victoria Kamilat 46 Reviews 50
Last word Alfia Ahmed
Art Direction and Design Oswin Tickler/Smallfury 3
Centrepoint: Rescuing the young and homeless The London Evening Standard has collaborated with Centrepoint to launch a helpline for young people aged 16-25 who have nowhere to live. Abi, who is 18 years old, currently lives in a hostel after her parents asked her to leave home: “I had to go to the council and declare myself homeless. The housing team placed me in temporary accommodation,” she said. Abi says that if she had known about Centrepoint she definitely would have used it. She believes that there is a lot of information that is hard to access as a young person, like how to claim benefits and which ones she needed to claim, she says that people her age need to know more about where you can get food stamps or donations such as toiletries. “I currently live in a hostel run by the Kingsarms project, which helps support people who are homeless for the first time and helps them sort out their benefits.” When a young person approaches their local council for assistance, they are assessed and given support, which usually starts with emergency accommodation. Abi described her current situation: “I currently live in a small hostel where there’s only five residents, we are only there for four-to-six months and then are made to move on into supported living or moved into a shared flat which may also be temporary. Currently I’m very happy, I feel my anxiety levels are settling a bit, but I am still anxious over the future.” A child in need is someone who has no money for food, nowhere to live or has problems that affect their health or education. Most don’t know where to go or who to talk to. Abi says that the advice she would give them is: “Don’t waste time sofa surfing, go straight to your council and sign a declaration of being homeless, inform them you have nowhere to stay.” Words: Chloe Smith Image: Sebastian Raskop via Flickr CC
Child exploitation in South East Asia Another night out in South East Asia. At around 11PM every evening the beach is filled with young travellers, but on this particular night I chose not to drink. I noticed a girl around 10 years old crying. Concerned for her wellbeing, my friends and I tried to gently coax her into telling us what was wrong. She gestured over to the left where a group of men were watching what we were doing; it became clear that this child was being pimped out.
“Sometimes we worked with police and other times we worked independently from them. We would go from brothel to brothel on any given night to look for children that were underage. We would pose as customers in these dark places. One challenge we faced was building trust with a girl because these kids have been forced, tricked or coerced, or worse yet, their own parents knowingly sold them into a brothel to pay off a debt or drug habit.
This child, like many others, was a victim of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, something not uncommon to South East Asia. A report carried out by the United Nations office on drugs and crime reported that it is estimated 50 per cent of the 2-4 million individuals trafficked worldwide every year are children.
After spending several days or weeks building up trust with the victims, they would finally be able to tell the children who they were and what they were going to offer; their freedom. “Usually with tears streaming down their faces, they say, ‘Yes, please help me!’ We gladly gave them a brand new life,” Nickols recalled.
Every 26 seconds, a child somewhere in the world is being exploited. Modern day slavery is undeniably a very profitable business, making $150 billion a year as estimated by the 2016 US Department of State report: Trafficking in Persons. Children are naturally more vulnerable targets for sex and human traffickers due to their easily manipulated innocence.
What is obvious from speaking to him is his passion and commitment to helping as many children as possible. “I travel around the United States speaking at high schools, universities, churches, bringing to light the issue child sexual slavery and inspiring people to join us [...]. It will take an army of us to stomp this evil off the face of this planet. I’m committed to seeing this happen!”
Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher has recently been in the media relating to his work for Thorn, an organisation set up to help contribute to combatting the issue of child sex trafficking worldwide. It was reported by The Independent that the organisation, co-founded with Demi Moore, has identified 2,000 child victims of sex trafficking in six months. We spoke to Cory Nickols, the national director of development for the charity Destiny Rescue. “Awareness alone doesn’t work. It’s when our hearts have been stirred to action by the information we’ve heard that we can overcome evil,” he tells us. Destiny Rescue was established in 2001 by Tony Kirwan as a “recognised Christian non-profit organisation dedicated to rescuing children trapped in the sex trade.” The organisation, which has 300 staff worldwide, provides rescue, after care and prevention work across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, The Philippines and the Dominican Republic. The charity raises awareness and funds from countries such as Australia, the USA and New Zealand. Working to help young victims in dangerous situations can be risky for those who work for the organisation. Nickols recalls what it was like to operate as an undercover agent in this environment in Thailand. “Some of our agents have received multiple death threats, guns pulled on them [...], but we know the risks of being a rescue agent and are willing to put those feelings aside so that another child can dream again,” he said.
Since 2011 the team have rescued 1,830 children, the youngest to date are two four yearolds, who were rescued from a brothel. The largest raid Destiny Rescue were involved in, with the help of the Thai police, took place in Bangkok, in which they rescued 22 girls, predominantly underage�the youngest being just 13 years-old. After the children are initially rescued they are taken back to one of Destiny Rescue’s safe homes. It is here they will be supported emotionally through counselling, educated and taught a vocation, so eventually they can stand on their own two feet and lead a normal life. The organisation then continues to support the children for a further two years so they can thrive and have the life they deserve. We finished by asking Cory what he thinks needs to be done in order to finally combat this industry. “We need to rescue and restore those that are currently enslaved. We need to prosecute those exploiting others and shut down brothels known to traffic people and create stricter laws in countries around the world. “We need to educate those at risk to being trafficked. Volunteer and find out ways you can volunteer with organisation. Most importantly be a voice�people have to be informed if they are going to make a decision to act, so getting educated on this issue and inspiring others to get involved is huge.” Words: Mia Heavens Lang
Nobody works here: London’s DIY Print Collective Tucked away in the backstreets of Southwark stands a 3,300 square foot building project that started as a fundraiser in 2012. Three years and £20,000 of donations later the renovated space has opened to the public. The space is buzzing, as it is the fundraising night for the print collective, one of the many collectives that operate in the space – one of the founding members, Roy, says that the collective has been in the works for about a year and a half. An example of DIYSFL Print Collective’s work Roy tells Artefact that one of the initial ideas was to create a printing space that is accessible to everyone. “Lots of other courses are fifty quid or so and we’re running them here at like ten, six pounds so it’s a lot cheaper,” he says. Print collective members can also subscribe to a low cost access to using the printing space on their own time. The print collective has clear goals: it’s set to be accessible and provide
a place for its members to learn printing and teach each other. “Providing a welcoming space for everyone, including those whose voices and contributions are not always heard or appreciated, is a top priority for us,” says DIY Space’s website. The sense of community is strong, and the group relies on skill sharing and collaboration. “I think it’s just nice to do stuff with other people where you’re all mates and you just have a laugh together while you’re being productive at the same time,” says George, who has been a member of the collective for about a year. “And I think you can tell that everyone cares about each other and that’s nice.” One of the first principles is the low risk approach to printing. “You can go to a day workshop where you can just do a couple of prints,” says Roy. “If you come and you’re not good it’s not a problem.” “I’d only done screen printing once when I came here,” tells Dorothy, who joined the col-
lective to learn new art skills. The collective is currently working on preparing a printing rota for its members and opening the studio space for the members to use outside of workshops, as well as working on setting up the equipment for using the photo motion technique. George says they need to focus on creating their own work. “We haven’t done that much of just doing our own projects,” he admits and says he’d like to work on creating zines in the future. DIY Space for London is a social centre that runs as a members’ club co-op, meaning that all of the members can get involved in the way the space is run and anyone can join. It has its own collective for each of the space’s functions: the bar collective manages the bar and cafe, and the maintenance collective keeps the space in good repair. As written on the wall of the Space Bar: “Nobody works here,” everyone is a volunteer. Words and image: Julius Jokikokko 5
Luck of the draw
Sofar Sounds: private gigs in your neighbour's living room
The FA Cup third round draw is always a notable date on the footballing calendar; the Premier League and Championship teams come into the picture, and a handful of non-league teams have a chance to play on some of the most prestigious grounds in the country.
Concerts are expensive, bars are distracting, and let’s face it, Spotify without premium really doesn’t get you anywhere. After many failed attempts of trying to discover new music in the cheapest, most authentic way, I was introduced to Sofar Sounds. A private concert in a secret venue. It’s been eight years since the events began and they’ve extended into over 300 cities around the world.
Fans of the Premier League heavyweights looked to avoid an early exit by being drawn against a fellow Premier League club. For fans of nonleague minnows, they looked to gain a potentially significant scalp with a match-up against a footballing giant. But for many football fans once the draw has been made, their focus turns to an important question—will my team’s fixture be televised? This is a question met with frustration more often than not—with many fans suggesting that the relative size of the various clubs involved in fixtures has too great a bearing on whether or not the BBC will choose it as one of their televised games for the weekend. This was the case again on the weekend of the FA Cup third round 2016/17. European Giants Manchester United have infamously had every one of their FA Cup fixtures televised over the last 11 years, and not all of them considered noteworthy in the context of seasons gone by. Some would ask why fans would want to watch Premier League clubs compete in the Cup when they can already do this week in week out in league football? This season the third round draw took place on December 5, with several ‘all prem’ fixtures played on the weekend of January 7 and 8. There were few upsets, in terms of the results. However, fans were critical of the decisions to televise many of the fixtures that were considered ‘standard’, and heads quickly turned to the result of the fourth round draw. Notable match-ups included a West London derby at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea took on Brentford for the third time in four years. They managed to take the Premier League giants to a replay after a 2-2 draw at Griffin Park, before being swept aside 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately for them, it was much for straightforward for the current Premier League leaders this time as they hit them for four. Unfortunately for fans of ‘smaller’ clubs, there were few signs of change from the regular favouritism of the ‘bigger sides’. Many fans again questioned the decision to televise Manchester United’s fixture at home to Wigan, whilst overlooking Leeds United’s trip to nonleague Sutton, and Wycombe Wanderers matchup with Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Will the fanbase of the ‘bigger’ clubs continue to have an impact on these decisions? We will have to wait and see. Fans will continue to make their voices heard. Words: Ryan Macklin Image: Henry Gordon
The way it works is that you find your city, your preferred area, and a date which suits you. Apply for a ticket, add a plus one, pay how much you think is appropriate, and wait. The venue will be emailed to you the day before the show, and the lineup won’t be disclosed until you’re there. Three artists, any genre of music, no distractions. You go to Soho one evening, ready to see a live music show, excited to enjoy the music and a couple of drinks, but what ends up happening more often than not, is the drinks start to speak louder than the company, and eventually drowns out the music. You’ve enjoyed your drinks but forgotten about the music. Sofar Sounds changes that completely. You get to experience three new artists each event, in a venue as intimate as someone's living room, in silence. Respecting the musicians, and the people around you, and everyone is there for the same reason. The events started in London in March 2009, by Raffe Offer, Rocky Start, and Dave Alexander, thanks to their absolute horror watching people talking over a live band in London. A couple months ago I went to a Sofar Sounds in Chalk Farm. Tucked away in someones living room, I found a corner and got lost in two singers and a spoken word artist. As much as I can explain how wonderful the experience is for an audience member, I was curious to know how the musicians felt. I approached one of the singers from that night, Pierrot, who performed with his band Queens Troubadour. After doing around six shows with Sofar Sounds, Pierrot explains how the whole idea is fantastic, and really useful for musicians. “There’s so much talent in London and not enough people give it the time it deserves.” He refers back to a story when he did a gig, and everything went fine until the music came down and he heard people talking. “Just give me ten minutes to show you what I’m about, and I’m sure you’re going to like it. That’s what Sofar does, it gives you twenty minutes to prove that your music is good.” He got his first show with Sofar during a phase when he was emailing a lot of people hoping for a response. Close to two months later, he was approached and found himself in a warehouse flat in Manor House performing for a small audience. Considering this is such a great opportunity, it’s interesting that it’s still so unknown, despite being active in over 300 cities globally. I enquired further to see if it was just as unknown amongst musicians. Pierrot reaffirmed my good faith and told me that it was quite well known. “What’s brilliant about it, is that despite being so international, Sofar manages to keep quite an underground story line. The minute it goes mainstream, it’ll lose its essence and charm. Everyone that participates and works for it are volunteers, they do it because the believe in the music.” Not only is it fun to perform at, but Pierrot feels he’s been given a whole new world of opportunities because of it. “I just released an album recently and one of the biggest reasons I could do that, was because so many people at Sofars would come and really appreciate my work. I really enjoy it, I like the whole storytelling aspect of presenting a song and getting to talk about it, it’s very direct. At least i know that they’re listening to me” Words: Saloni Saraf
Bees playing ball Bees are an important part of the world’s ecosystem but they’ve also recently shown ‘unprecedented learning abilities‘ by scoring goals in a game that resembles football. In a study published in Science journal scientists have concluded bees are able to learn new skills under ecological pressure. Whilst bees have previous proven ability in performing advanced tasks, this study looked at how well the insect could perform tasks they don’t naturally do. Scientists at Queen Mary University conducted an experiment that encouraged them to move a ball to a specified location in reward for food.
Technology and Activism Protesting has always been a healthy part of a democracy; any country that has protests can be said to have a fair and equal society, at least to the level that people are free to disagree with their authority without fear of attack. The earliest recorded evidence of social protest is unsurprisingly murky, but there is evidence that there was a sit-down protest by craftsmen who worked on tombs in imperial Egypt as far back as the 12th Century BCE, on the 21st day of the second month in the 29th year of the reign of the pharaoh Ramses III, because they had not been given food rations. In 2014, when Spain made it illegal to gatheroutside government buildings in protest, with a law carrying a fine of £430,000, a group naming themselves No Somos Delito (We are not crime) protested. They used 2,000 projections to create a hologram of a sea of protesters outside of Spanish parliament. Using the internet to create groups and pages, protest groups can essentially have their own public relations (PR) that was never available before. Far from the days of running around London with a piece of paper hoping for a couple hundred signatures, petitions can be viewed by millions, in their hands within minutes of posting. Reaching people directly without media influence, meaning often a growing sympathy and solidarity with movements. However, with the rising left wing community in Europe, activism is growing, with the internet at the centre. Activists use social media platforms to connect directly with politicians and figures of authority that they wish to hold to account; this direct
contact means quick answers and a historic barrier between the authority and the people being broken. The future of protesting can be found with using new technologies hand in hand with the internet, representing the views and needs of minorities, placing issues in the spotlight and forcing the western world to face their actions. The website 360syria.com uses 360-degree cameras to map the destruction of Syria from the bombings of western countries and the attacks by Daesh and militant rebels. There is also the option of using a virtual reality headset, now commonplace, to see Aleppo as if it is around you. This type of immersive experience is perhaps the first time in history countries can see the undeviated reality of their countries choices in a very clear way, giving more power to the people who disagree with their government's actions. Shia LaBeouf has created a live-stream, named He will not divide us in order to protest Donald Trump’s presidency. He promised it will go on for the full four years of his term, with celebrities getting involved such as Jayden Smith. LaBoeuf was arrested after scratching a man and grabbing his scarf and for shouting “he will not divide us” slogan in the face of a white supremacist after he made Nazi statements. As technology evolves, as do political views and stand points, and as the world gets more and more divided strongly on issues, hopefully future tech will keep us balanced. Words: Alexander Riches Image: 360syria.com
To teach them the technique, bees were trained under three different stipulations. Some were made to observe an already trained bee moving the ball to the centre. Others received a ‘ghost’ demonstration whereby a magnet was concealed under the platform and used to move the ball. The third group received no such demonstration but found the ball already in the centre alongside the reward. The bees that had live or model demonstrations learnt the task more competently than those who observed a ghost demonstration or none at all. Lead joint author of the study, Dr Olli J.Loukola, revealed: “The bees solved the task in a different way than what was demonstrated, suggesting that observer bees did not simply copy what they saw, but improved on it. This shows an impressive amount of cognitive flexibility, especially for an insect.” The scientists put three yellow balls at different distances from the centre of the platform, i.e. the ‘goal’. The study found that the ‘demonstrator’ bees always moved the ball most far away from the centre, from the same location in keeping with their training which taught them that the closest balls were immobile. The untrained bees got to watch a trained bee complete the task three times. In subsequent tests sans a skilled demonstrator, bees would move the closest ball to the goal as opposed to the furthest as they had been previously taught. In another experiment, bees would choose a different coloured ball to the yellow they had been tested with before. Summarising the findings, Dr Loukola said: “It may be that bumblebees [...] have the cognitive capabilities to solve such complex tasks, but will only do so if environmental pressures are applied to necessitate such behaviours.” So will bees become more efficient at football than, and replace our beloved star strikers anytime soon? We’re sure Zlatan can rest for now… Words: Abbey Pallett 7
Words: Lea Vitezic
The lure of Highgate Cemetery Karl Marx is buried there. George Michael may soon be too
There is something magical about cemeteries and people visit them for various reasons. Not just because their loved ones are buried there but also because they love the atmosphere, they are interested in the history and the cultural importance. Cemeteries are in many regards relevant when it comes to the architecture, if we are interested in a certain period in past or also if we just want to have a quiet walk and an escape from the city noise. North London’s Highgate Cemetery is a perfect place for all those reasons. It is one of the most well-known cemeteries in the UK and it attracts many visitors. The poet John Betjeman described Highgate as Victorian Valhalla as the monuments are full of Victorian symbolism such as angels that rise from graves and the trees and ivy create a magical charm. They form a different landscape from the scenery visitors would have seen in 1839, the year the cemetery opened. ** “Most ornate Victorian cemeteries are wonderfully atmospheric and can be perceived as everything from contemplative to magical to eerie—even romantic,” Sam Perrin, historical biographer and a former tour guide at Highgate Cemetery told Artefact. She was a tour guide at Highgate for 12 years and has great knowledge and passion for the cemetery. She also said that the mood of a cemetery can change dramatically depending on the season and the overwhelming sense of history inspires poets, authors, photographers, musicians and film makers to visit and feature such places in their work. Victorian London became so overcrowded that it soon faced a massive problem: a lack of space for both the living and the dead. Thanks to an act of parliament, seven large commercial cemeteries opened outside the city to help alleviate the problem. Collectively known as the “Magnificent Seven”, Highgate was the third to open and was large, privately owned and designed to impress.
more money is being spent on catering for tourists than it is on restoring monuments, that line has well and truly been crossed,“ Perrin told Artefact. Karl Marx, the German philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist whose writings formed the basis of modern international
ror films who filmed many of their Dracula films there in the 60s and 70s." "Tales from the Crypt, The Body Beneath, Taste the Blood of Dracula and Dracula AD 72 are some examples. These were syndicated all over the world and the cemetery landmarks, especially the vaults would have been easily recognisable,“ David Farrant told Artefact.
Victorian symbolism such as angels that rise from graves and the trees and ivy create a magical charm
Farrant is President of the British Psychic and Occult Society (BPOS), which was established in 1967 to look into the cases of unexplained phenomena.
that the West lacks. “It's home to more radicals, dissidents and rebels and, from a historical perspective, I find the people interred in the East far more interesting,” Perrin told us. Highgate is a popular place that attracts many visitors�a lot of them come to see the resting places of some of
the most famous residents such as Karl Marx or Michael Faraday and soon people will probably come to visit the grave of the recently deceased George Michael. The famous pop singer had close ties with the local area and his mother is buried there. Cemetery management haven't confirmed anything yet but there is speculation that the singer will most probably be buried at Highgate. “Will he eventually be included as one of the 'big draws' on the cemetery's guided tours, just like Christina Rossetti or Michael Faraday now are?” Perrin questions. **
Due to the high number of “celebrity” residents, Highgate has become very touristic that some even argue that the cemetery is at risk of becoming a “Disneyland of Death.”
Highgate Cemetery is divided into two parts�East and West. East is the “younger sister” of the two and doesn’t have the same architectural grandeur boasted by the West, however it is definitely more cosmopolitan and has a cultural diversity
“There's no denying that Highgate is a tourist attraction. But it’s also a working, operational cemetery and grave owners need to be consulted more before the balance between cemetery and tourist trap is tipped too far in favour of the latter. If
communism is one of the famous residents at Highgate. He fled to London in 1849 because of his political beliefs and lived in nearby Kentish Town. Two years after his wife died, he was buried with her in the family plot in the east cemetery. His friend Engels took care of the funeral arrangements but the family grave was later moved to its current spot in the 1950s. ** Marx as being one of the most internationally recognised 'celebrities' at the cemetery, attracts many people to visit his grave and the cemetery is making a profit on it. “I find it hilarious that the face of Karl Marx—the poster boy of anti-capitalism—is printed on the labels of the £10 jars of honey sold at the cemetery. Perhaps they're just being 'ironic',” Perrin said. Aside from having famous residents some think that the main ingredient that attracts tourists are the mystical stories of a Highgate Vampire. “These stories obviously began because of Hammer Hor-
He was born in an old Victorian house in Highgate, not far from the cemetery. In the same year when BPOS was established the society started an investigation into a tall dark specter that had been seen by many witnesses in and around London’s Highgate, Farrant told us. “As I passed the top gate of the cemetery, something caught my eye and, staring through the dimly illumed bars of the gate, I saw a tall black figure standing motionless on the path inside,” he said. ** He personally thinks that the fact that the cemetery is popular because of the Highgate Vampire is not a good thing: “I think this is a bad thing because it encourages the literal belief in ‘blood-sucking vampires’ which most people – or most sane people�know is just pure fiction,” Farrant said. Perrin shares his opinion: “Even if they existed, I can't see any self-respecting vampire surviving for long in a cemetery that's covered in wild garlic and containing thousands of crosses. Vampires belong in the fiction section for a reason.” ** Whether it’s due to its haunted reputation, the ties with popular culture or the number of ‘celebrities’ buried there, Highgate is for sure an iconic and interesting place so it’s no wonder it attracts a lot of attention. It is a fascinating insight into Victorian Britain and a peaceful oasis, just a step away from all the hassle of Central London. Highgate Cemetery is open seven days a week from 10am–4pm. Swains Lane, London, N6 6PJ. The nearest underground station is Archway.
Words: Ruth Fajemirokun
The girl who cried rape
Nigeria urgently needs to address issues of gender equality, misogyny and rape
It was just nine months ago that Nigeria was seen as a force to be reckoned with. We toppled South Africa as Africa’s leading nation in 2014 and continued to light the way till August of last year. We are the home of Africa’s best known film industry, though the home of the Super Eagles, crippled infrastructure makes big budget filming a hard task and we had the world singing Ojuelegba, harmonising with Wizkid, Skepta and Drake. The epidermis of Nigeria is a spectacular one. Shiny to the eye, glistening with stars in film, fashion, literature, music and trailblazers in industry. But take a closer look and one will see that the country is falling apart at the seams. Nigeria is the capital of the hustler. She (Nigeria) has come a long way. ** But delving deep into the underbelly of a country that is barely 56 years old, we see through the thick Lagos smog that there is a jungle of issues we are all too happy to sweep away into the gutter and pretend don’t exist. But it’s all coming to a rousing head now. The last couple of years has seen, on a global scale, gender inequality, rape culture and women’s rights brought to the mainstream. From #bringbackourgirls, He for She, the wage gap to #beingfemaleinNigeria. Many of the talking points and hashtags were centred in Nigeria. So why is there such an archaic viewpoint of the female being in a country so desperate to be a true world power and not continue to be on the cusp? Nigeria is like a beautiful 56-year-old lady, eager to be seen as vibrant and young and popping even at her age but is so stuck in her patriarchal and ancient ways that just don’t work in 2016. Did you know that in 56 years, Nigeria has only 18 rape convictions in legal history? While in six months, Lagos recorded 181 rape cases last year. The maths just don’t add up. On the back of the successful global Women’s March in January, it’s no surprise that no such march was organised in a country that truly needs it. Rape and paedophilia are so prevalent. From being taken advantage of by family members, friends and even bosses and government officials, to the ritualistic beliefs that sex with a minor will bring riches or cures to ailments and diseases. It’s all too clear why Nigeria is 118th out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Index.
As I turn the cogs in my mind and mull over what it is to be Nigerian and proud, I am left with a broken heart and a bitter taste in my mouth. We need to get real and have open and honest dialogue about human rights. With 42.4 per cent of women in the labour force, one would
The culture does nothing to alleviate the pressures of womanhood in Nigeria nor does it help the perception of women from the male gaze point of view. We are meant to be more than sexual objects, jollof rice cooks, wives and mothers. I spoke to Umma Amadi Rimi, the exec-
The culture does nothing to alleviate the pressures of womanhood in Nigeria nor does it help the perception of women be forgiven for thinking the country was on the up and up when it comes to women. But only 5.6 per cent of women make up parliament, compared to South Africa’s 41.8 per cent and Cameroon’s 31.1 per cent. 49.7 per cent of females over 15 years old can read and write, while 69.2 per cent of males can. ** These numbers are nothing short of embarrassing. It’s a dagger to the chest, absorbing the institutional misogyny within the country I love. In a time where black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the world, it’s truly a blight on Nigeria’s already harrowing human rights that this is the case. But why wouldn’t it be the case? We’ve been conditioned over and over again to believe that a huge commotion of a wedding day, with the multiple outfit changes, the obligatory R&B or Afrobeat performance and an arena of guests followed by married life and becoming a mother, in that specific order, is the be all and end all of a woman’s life. And if she strides from that rigid plan for her, she’s a useless, unwanted failure.
utive programmes officer at WRAPA, a charity founded by Hon. Justice Fati L. Abubakar in 1999 to protect the rights of women throughout Nigeria.
heard, has been the court whereby victims battle through their trauma and tell the world about their ordeals. Many have been called liars, blamed and laughed at. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can break minds. Victim blaming, a byproduct of patriarchy is a real problem on social media, especially in the realms Nigerians fall into on the worldwide web. Where one looks for help and support, they are met with pointed fingers, while others are met with support that’s confined to the just their computer and phone screen. ** Much like celebrities and charity endorsing and supporting, which is not about empathy but about looking good to others, being part of a movement and raising their profile. Nigerians do the same thing. The internet and social media have made it so within the blink of an eye, one can become social media famous. That notoriety is addictive; who doesn’t like getting triple digits in likes on Instagram? Social media activism in Nigeria further projects the image that Nigerians are docile. #bringbackourgirls didn’t bring back the girls. There wasn’t a totally united front like there was in France after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
She said that for there be to dire need for WRAPA in the nation almost twenty years after in inception how much further Nigeria has to go. “The Nigerian government do its female citizens a huge disservice.”
Having knowledge of suffering points to an obligation to give assistance. Why else present a spectacle of suffering human beings to unconcerned people if not to draw their attention to it and so to direct them to action? However often times in Nigeria, the spectacle of trauma catalyses zero action and thus zero change.
“We are marginalised when we who keep the country ticking over,” she explained. “We are often silenced and bullied into submission.” Rimi’s words show that it’s all interlinked. The plight of women, human rights, rape, education, unemployment, parts of Nigeria’s culture and freedom of speech and expression.
The potential of Nigeria is clear for all to see. Even in the midst of that tangled vegetation there is a glimmer of blistering sunlight and as we traipse through the mess a clear path can be forged. As long the country does it as a united front.
Once they are tackled, unpacked and improved upon Nigeria will move from being a “nearly there” to a true world force. Nigeria wants its voice to be heard on international platforms, but why should it be? When the voices of women and men—everyday people—victims of violence, abuse and oppression have been muffled like raucous children in a quiet library. Social media, a place where any and everybody’s voice is allowed to be
It starts with education; girls and boys need to be educated compulsorily until the age of 18. Routes to high education need to be easily accessed including internships, apprenticeships, trade schools, junior colleges and universities.Culturally, the pressure to be wives and mothers needs to be eradicated. This can be done by allowing people to fall in love and marry when they deem fit. Women in politics needs to be a huge focus for the government and for the opposition parties. 9
Words: Joseph Skirkowski Images: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty images and Martyn Aim/Corbis News/Getty Images
WHY I WENT TO WAR IN SYRIA A British student reveals why he joined the Kurdish militia in their fight against Islamic State
The bitter and bloody conflict in Syria is approaching its sixth anniversary. The biggest active war in the world has pulled in the combined forces of America, Europe and Russia, cost the lives of nearly half a million people and exacerbated a refugee crisis the likes of which has not been seen for generations. At present, the country is divided among the four main protagonists; the Assad government, a loose collection of rebel groups, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which in Britain is more commonly called ISIS) and the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG (People’s Protection Units).
homeland from Daesh after the Syrian army abandoned the region to the terrorists in 2014.In their wake they have begun to forge an autonomous and democratic homeland that now acts as a place of relative sanctuary amidst the chaos that has engulfed the rest of the country.
The latter, having managed to halt the seemingly endless advance of Daesh (the Arabic term for ISIL) at the battle of Kobane in 2015, have proved to be the most effective fighting force on the ground.
The YPG also prides itself on having an exceptional level of race and gender equality – the most famous example of this is the YPJ (women’s protection units) who fight alongside their male comrades on equal terms.
The YPG are not like the other warring factions in Syria: situated in the North East of Syria, they call their land Rojava (a word meaning ‘west’ or ‘sunset’ in Kurdish). In Rojava, the Kurds have fought to liberate their
Over the last 18 months, this ideology and the opportunity to fight against the tyranny of Daesh has encouraged hundreds of western volunteers to make the journey to Rojava and join the YPG.
The YPG have adopted a form of socialism known as Democratic Confederalism – the policy runs on decentralised power, meaning most decisions are made by bodies such as village assemblies and are taken up to higher bodies if needs be.
Salahattîn Deniz is one of those volunteers. A British national, he asked us to use his Kurdish nom de guerre for his own safety. Salahattîn has no obvious connection to Syria. He is in his mid twenties, atheist and has no ancestral links to the middle east at all. He has a family and an active social life in the UK with a wide group of friends. He appears to be just an ordinary man and does not come across as a fighter; he does not have an aggressive temperament and does not have the type of physique you would commonly associate with a soldier or fighting man. Despite this, Salahattîn still believed that it was necessary to abandon his university course and his life in Britain and make the 3000-mile journey to help others in their struggle for freedom.
always the thought in the back of my mind that this could all be a scam. What with going into a country through cloak and dagger methods, I did wonder if everything was legit. There was one American with us who was paranoid literally until we got into Rojava that at some point they were going to pull over the car and say ‘Right, now we’re gonna sell your organs!’ and at one point he actually said this to our driver who spent the next ten minutes laughing at him.” Crossing the border from Iraqi Kurdistan to Rojava is not as easy as it might sound. Despite sharing a common enemy in Daesh, the Iraqi Kurdish authorities
“It’s something that I wanted to do for years… I was following what was going on in Syria then I found out about the YPG and looked into what they were about... I’m a socialist so naturally I supported their ideologies and began to follow them more closely” At the time Salahattîn was in his second year of university. For a while, commitments in the UK put him off going, but eventually he decided to defer his studies and make the journey to Syria. “I still enjoyed my subject and everything, but it got to the point where I felt like I was just talking about history while history is being made. Soon enough it will all be over and I will have done nothing.” Western volunteers commonly have to apply for permission to join the group through the YPG run Facebook page ‘Lions of Rojava’. “I wrote to them and told them a bit about myself, I told them what I study and explained that I understand and support their ideology and I told them what I thought I could offer them. They get a lot of people that just write in and tell them ‘I hate ISIS, I wanna kill ISIS’ and this isn’t what they want,” he said.
“It got to the point where I felt like I was just talking about history while history is being made.”
The YPG have had problems with some foreign volunteers in the past and have even had to ask them to leave. Now they are more selective about who they accept, not only because of people who are ignorant of the ideology, but also because of the threat posed by enemy sympathisers. “I had to be a bit persistent, but after a few messages I got a reply along the lines of ‘Ah, you are most welcome!’ I was then put in touch with a guy who gave me instructions on what to do next.” Salahattîn was told to fly to Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan on a particular flight on a particular day. He flew via Turkey and spent a week in Istanbul before travelling on. “Turkey have their own conflict with their Kurdish population and they consider the YPG a terrorist organisation. I figured that my chances of getting into Turkey after would be pretty slim so I had to make the most of the opportunity while I still had the chance.”
do not share the same ideologies as their counterparts in Syria and view the revolution in Rojava with suspicion. “In the past, they have stopped supplies getting through and it depends on how they feel on that particular week how much gets through. Getting people through can be especially difficult, so it’s easier to just smuggle you across,” Salahattîn told us.
When he arrived in Sulaymaniyah, he was picked up by a middle man who took him to a local safe house where they confiscated his mobile phone and other devices. He was told to sit tight and not stray too far from the safe house. He spent four days there, during this time several other volunteers from around the world came and went, including the American volunteer Jordan Matson, who was one of the first western volunteers to head to Rojava and was returning for a new tour.
The smuggling process involved driving for miles through the desert, trekking along a large trench that marks the border line, crossing the river Tigris and sneaking past the numerous security patrols. “When we were crossing the river there were so many of us we had to take two trips. We were waiting in the long grass when we heard a Peshmerga patrol coming with a dog. We could hear them getting closer and closer and everyone went quiet, we could see the soldiers helmets over the grass,” he said.
“The locals in Iraq were very friendly, I got the impression that they all know why you’re there. Everyone wants to shake your hand and in the shops everyone wants to give you a discount,” he says. “But there was
“As they got nearer, the dog started barking really loudly, our armed escort was getting ready for action when the patrol just carried on past us… We could hear them getting quieter and quieter and then one of our
guides muttered ‘stupid dog’ and it was over.” When they finally got into Rojava, Salahattîn and the other foreigners were passed on to a new escort and taken to the YPG academy. “The academy was set up for the foreign volunteers. You spend about a month there and they give you a basic grounding in Kurdish, learn about the revolution and its ideologies, learn about local history and receive some very basic military training. “At first the YPG had trouble with western volunteers coming over and not fully understanding what it was all about. One American volunteer that left the group later told the press he left because they were just ‘a bunch of damn reds’. “The academy gives these people time to understand the culture and what’s going on there and as a result these people feel more included and what could’ve been quite reactionary people can find that after the academy they can fit in a lot better.” Salahattîn was at the academy with 16 other foreigners, including people from Britain, America, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and Iran. “You get a lot of ex-military volunteers but also a lot of civilians. I think the largest group are German communists. They estimated that there are about 130 Germans in Rojava, before I went I didn’t even think there would be 130 foreigners,” he said. The academy also aims to educate locals who may have had little or no education prior to the revolution. The people in these classes can range from 18 year old kids to people in their 30’s, but it is all part of the way the YPG want to conduct their revolution. “They fully understand that to have a democratic society you have to have educated citizens. When they’re not fighting, YPG units can be given classes to attend. This means that instead of doing nothing they’re learning about philosophy and sociology and if a foreigner can understand these things as well, then everyone is more on the same page.” Teaching people about local cultural norms is also very important: the YPG put gender equality at the very forefront of their policy and this can lead to problems with foreigners. “When someone joins the YPG or YPJ they’re then forbidden from having relationships. There have been a few occasions where someone, normally a foreigner, has made an advance on a YPJ member. This happened once when I was there and the YPJ don’t tolerate this at all.” The YPG have their own way of serving out justice. It is 100 per cent democratic and punishment is decided once every member of the relevant unit agrees. “When the foreigner tried it on with the YPJ member, her and a few of the other fighters wanted to shoot him. Luckily this is more an example of their dark sense of humour than of what actually happens. “In the end it was decided that the man’s punishment should be to stand there and say nothing while the YPJ ‘explained’ why what he did was wrong. This involved a lot of insults and lasted for about six hours. “Another example was a guy who got to choose between not speaking for three days or going without tea and cigarettes for three days; over there tea and cigarettes are life, so that’s quite a big deal! When they think you are ready to leave the academy, you are given a Kurdish name, a weapon and assigned to a role. “You can suggest where you would like to go and what you would like to do, but it’s basically where they send you, if you have a specific skill they’ll send you somewhere accordingly. But I’m not the strongest guy, more of my skills are information and language based, so I offered to help with things like western facing propaganda. They then decided to send me off to Kobane to further my Kurdish and after a while I sort of become by default a translator for other foreign fighters.” 11
After around three months Salahattîn was attached to a mobile fighting group. He was still effectively a translator but was armed and had stated that he was willing to fight if needed. “There are practical limits to the amount of training they can give you, we have some shooting practise and some tactical training in the sense that sometimes we’d be out jogging and the instructor would fire some shots in the air and we’d all have to hit the ground and we would have to help out with guard duty but that was more or less it.” Due to opposition from Turkey (a NATO member) the YPG have had difficulty obtaining high quality weapons, with a large percentage of their arsenal still coming through the black market. “I had an old Serbian Kalashnikov from the academy but I gave that to another British volunteer halfway through and three weeks later some American special forces gave me a new one.”
sympathisers or newbies. “The effectiveness of their tactics varies. I was in one village where they would fire mortars at us every hour or so and after several days they had only managed to hit the entire village once. It definitely makes them less scary when you see that.” Coalition air support means that Daesh’s ability to make advances is very limited. Their main strength now lies in urban fighting, they recently put up a fierce fight in the town of Manbij which cost the lives of an estimated 300 YPG soldiers. The reports about the brutality of their tactics coming out of other areas are confirmed by Salahattîn. I saw them shoot at me from behind human shields. A guy fired at me and then used a family for cover so our sniper wouldn’t shoot at him. Another time it looked
There are several hundred US and other coalition special forces deployed on the ground in Rojava to assist with training and some basic combat support. The exact number of personnel is undisclosed. “I went to an area where the special forces were training the YPG. I never asked them who they were because one, I knew they wouldn’t answer and two, because I didn’t want to know. “One Canadian guy I was with was asking them what flavour of special forces they were and the only response he could get out of them was “spicy”. They’re normally in civilian clothing and they carry themselves very professionally. They’re clearly the best of the best.” Despite being armed and being attached to a fighting unit, Salahattîn never had to fire his weapon in anger. “The way I put it is I saw action, but I never took part. What normally happened was I was in a position that got attacked and I’d just have to shout to someone who was on a better weapon to deal with it and tell them where Daesh were, I only had a Kalashnikov while the man next to me might have a sniper rifle or a machine gun that could deal with it better.”
“What surprised me most when I was actually there is just how much everyone wants to be free from these people.”
“The first time I got attacked I was in a compound that was hit with suicide bombers, armoured cars, snipers, rocket propelled grenades, all the craziest stuff. “While that was all going on I was manning a section of wall where literally nothing happened, I was looking out across the no man’s land and there was nothing, It seems crazy but it happens.” “You get over the fear of a firefight quickly. The first time you’re nervous and for the first 30 seconds everything’s moving too fast. But then you realise that you’re being shot at and being scared isn’t going to help. You have a job to do and the best thing you can do is just do it.
like they were keeping families in buildings around a position we knew they were firing mortars at us from, we had to fire warning shots at the civilians to get them to scatter before the American planes came and blew everything up.”
“The second time you’re shot at you’re still nervous but over time it becomes normal. It got to the stage where we would be playing volleyball and bullets would be whizzing above us and we’d just carry on.
“For me, this shows the difference between us and them. When the YPG move into a village and that village then becomes the frontline, all the civilians there have to leave.
“Another time I was on a roof during a battle while the fighting was raging a few streets away and me and this other guy were on the roof and all I could think about was how bored I was,” Salahattîn said.
“When Daesh occupy a village, they keep as many of the locals there as possible, but then as soon as the fighting starts those civilians just leg it for the YPG lines, luckily most of the time Daesh are too busy shooting at us to bother shoot at them.”
“The boredom in war is real. For 90 per cent of the time you are doing nothing. You’re sitting around smoking cigarettes and drinking tea or you’re guarding some building somewhere and there’s nothing going on at all. Fighting only happens very occasionally.” Since Kobane, Daesh has lost most of its experienced fighters. Salahattîn says that what’s left are mostly local 12
Stories of ethnic tension between the advancing Kurdish forces and local Arab populations have begun to surface in Western media. While Salahattîn does not insist that incidents have not happened, he is keen to stress that everyone is happy to be liberated from Daesh. “I have heard of some incidences where a house or small hamlet has to be blown up because Daesh has
rigged it all with IEDs and it is the safest solution. Obviously this pisses off the locals who might then blame the YPG,” Salahattîn admitted. “But when we advance into an area, the joy is real. People hate Daesh. When we advance into a town, all the civilians come out waving and the women pull off their black burkas and underneath they’re wearing their beautiful bright coloured hijab’s, people are shaking your hand and offering to cook you dinner, the children are giving you the peace sign and playing with you. “Girls see members of the YPJ and it just blows their mind, suddenly all that was impossible seems possible. Seeing It makes everything worth it,” Salahattîn said with a smile on his face. “Some of the YPG’s best intelligence comes from civilians in Daesh controlled areas. In one situation we had moved into a new village and a guy in the next village noticed that the YPG had moved in, called his friend in the YPG and told him ’I can see you’re in the next village, if you come here now all the Daesh fighters are asleep and they’re in one house, if you get here quickly you can surprise them!’ Lo and behold we moved in, captured three prisoners and killed three other fighters.” “This is what surprised me most when I was actually there, just how much everyone wants to be free from these people.” However, Salahattîn does admit that this is a war and there has never been a side in war that has been completely blameless.“From what I know, the YPG have arrested three of their own guys for abusing civilians. It is not in the YPG's mantra to take part in ethnic cleansing and they certainly do not advocate. If you are caught doing anything wrong you would definitely be punished but obviously it is impossible to catch everything.” After two years of bitter fighting, the YPG now have one eye on the end of the war. Unfortunately, the YPG's progressed has alarmed neighbouring Turkey. All of Rojava’s north borders Turkey and in August of 2016, the Turkish army launched an offensive in northern Syria with the goal of installing pro-Turkish rebels along a stretch of border. While doing this, the Turks have made no secret of regularly bombing and shelling YPG positions, creating a messy situation for the west and NATO where our allies are fighting our allies while both are fighting our enemy. “After the war, the YPG’s biggest fear is not the Assad regime, but Turkey. They fear that when Daesh is gone, the west will lose interest and the protection from Turkey will stop. Do you really think President Trump is going to care about a bunch of socialist Muslims in the Middle East?” “This is one of the reasons the YPG take so many foreign volunteers. If people from Europe and America can go there and see the society they are trying to build then they can go home and promote the ideas in the west. “Let’s be honest, everyone in the west just thinks it’s another bunch of ragheads in the Middle East shooting and killing each other, but it’s not. “They are genuinely fighting for democracy and all they want is to live in a society with freedom and equality and they see people like us as their best chance of being able to keep that when the war is over,” Salahattîn said. Unfortunately, it was getting caught up in a Turkish bombing that convinced Salahattîn that it was time to come home. “I was basically the only one who didn’t need medical attention. I was the only one who always wore a helmet and it saved my life. I was on guard duty and the bomb went off as soon as I clocked on, the
explosion threw me against a wall but I was able to get straight up after. “I realised later that I was dizzy but at the time the adrenaline just kicked in. All around me ammunition and grenades were exploding because of the fire and a water tank that Daesh had spiked with petrol went up, shooting 20 foot flames into the air. The planes hit several times, but luckily I escaped relatively unharmed.” Salahattîn spent the night pulling his comrades from the rubble while making sure Daesh didn’t seize the opportunity to strike and also protecting the local commander who had survived the attack. Most of his comrades were wounded, including British volunteer Ryan Lock, and some had been killed. “I was in the hospital the next day later and I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise the person looking back at me. I had just been identifying the bodies of some of my friends and I thought my time was up. “I had been there for six months at this point, I spoke to my commander and he agreed that maybe now was a good time to call it a day.” Salahattîn then began the process of returning to the UK. “The whole thing took around two weeks. You get moved along place by place, avoiding minefields and things like that and then you stop and wait at places etc. Then when the moon’s right and the winds right and the YPG decide it’s the right time, you cross the border back into Iraq.”
Despite helping the United Kingdom's allies in their fight against a listed terrorist group, Salahattîn was arrested upon returning to the UK. To his surprise he was charged with ‘suspicion of commission, preparation or assisting terrorist acts’, he had his laptop and mobile phones confiscated and was placed on bail for three months and is now waiting until the police decide whether to proceed with or drop the charges. Salahattîn later told me that after being back in the UK for around six weeks, things were starting to feel normal again, but he was still finding certain parts of life at home hard to readjust to.
their homes and in some cases have lost their lives for the revolution. These included Ryan Lock and Canadian Nazzareno Tassone, who were both killed fighting alongside each other during a push into Daesh territory on December 21, 2016. “I knew it would have been that way,” Salahattîn told us, but as the Kurds say, ‘martyrs never die’.
The process of readjustment was also not being helped due to the terms of his police bail. Salahattîn is not permitted to leave the town where he was living before he left, which is 130 miles away from his family and closest friends, meaning he hasn’t seen them since the first week he got back.
But the Rojava revolution will not be complete when the last shot is fired. When the fighting stops, the people of Rojava then have to try and rebuild in the wake of a war that has left thousands of people dead and cities in ruins. Then they have to fulfil their vision of the society they want to build.
Despite this and despite all that happened, Salahattîn admits he would one day like to return to Rojava. “Ideally during peacetime; the emotional and mental relationship with a place and a situation like that is a very strange one and there is a part of me that misses a lot of the hardship and the people and the places. I would love to be able to give up everything else to go and help their revolution and I’m glad that I was a small part of it.”
The Kurds are not fighting for the Kurds; they are fighting for an ideology and it is an ideology that places inherent good at its heart. “I saw Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Atheists, Arabs, Turkmen, Kurds, men and women all fighting together and all trying to build a better society that all of them can share and they’re actually doing it.”
Since leaving Rojava, many of the other volunteers that Salahattîn fought alongside have since returned to
The YPG have come a long way since Kobane. They now have one eye on Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital. When that battle is won, the war, and Daesh, will effectively be over.
This is where people like us are needed. When more people realise what this revolution is about, the better chance it has of succeeding and a better chance the people of Rojava have of living their lives in peace. 13
Words and image: Aurore Kaddachi
PARIS, THE DRUG ADDICT Behind the romance and nostalgia of the city of Paris, the metropolis hides darker sides to its boulevards, terraces and canals
Often regarded as chic and stunning, many forget that Paris is also known as the capital of decadence. At night, The City of Lights becomes a terrain for excess, but the French, no matter their age, inherited this from their ancestors. Paris, The City of Love for many, also hides a heavy drug-related past and present. I remember the exhaustive analysis and the counting of alexandrines from Charles Baudelaire’s poems for my French literature exams. Despite his work, I remember thinking that there was something special about the poet. Yes, he knew the secrets and codes of the French language, but his writings would somehow leave me bewildered by his changing emotions and moods. The explanation then came, like many poets and writers from the second-half of the 19th century; Baudelaire was an opium and hashish user. “Opium magnifies that which is limitless, Lengthens the unlimited, Makes time deeper, hollows out voluptuousness, And with dark, gloomy pleasures Fills the soul beyond its capacity” Poison, Les fleurs du mal (1857), Baudelaire Translation: William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954) Inspired by Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821) by Thomas de Quincey, Les Paradis Artificiels, (Artificial Paradises) was fully published in 1860. In this book Baudelaire shared the state of being under the influence of opium and hashish, which led him to discuss the way drugs enable mankind to reach what he
called ‘ideal’ world. Romanticism, the prevalent literature movement at the time, largely influenced the poet. Like many writers, poets or painters from the movement, Baudelaire joined the ‘Club de Hachichins’ (Hashish Club) where Alexandre Dumas, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo and many others, used to meet at the Pimodan House (Hotel Lauzun) situated on the Ile de St. Louis, central Paris, to swallow large doses of hashish after a meal. Théophile Gautier, a famous novelist and journalist at the time, created the Club after meeting Dr Jean Jacques de Moreau, who started to develop interest in hashish for its medical benefits. According to Mike Jay’s essay Opium and the Symphonie Fantastique, in the nineteenth century opium was uncontroversial and often used as a form of anaesthetic or as a physical remedy against gastric illnesses like cholera. More than a medical remedy; both opium and hashish�considered as drugs today, were both part of Parisian lifestyle at the time. Debauchery and decadence was commonplace in the French capital. Heavy drinking, radical politics and sexual freedom— with the presence of cabarets and brothels, were part of many writers’ lifestyles. “You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it” as Baudelaire once wrote. As we know today, the side effects of hashish and opium on the Romantics were often translated into brilliant writings, with some regarded as masterpieces of literature today and still taught in school. With its first poems written at the Pimodan House, the volume of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) by Baudelaire, or A
Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud, are believed to have been produced under the influence of drugs, particularly opium.
some straight from the street.” In 2015, over 120,000 syringes and almost 27,000 crack kits were distributed only in the region of Paris.
“Among the drugs most efficient in creating what I call the artificial ideal, the most convenient and the most handy are hashish and opium” wrote Baudelaire while largely under the effect of hashish.
“Almost ten years ago, when we first told our ‘regulars’ about opening a self-injection room, they all said that they wouldn’t be going. However, on the first day in service, one of them came. Today we have an average of 200 people coming on a daily basis,” says Céline Debaulieu, coordinator of the self-injection room in Paris.
However, the connection between drugs and creativity isn’t just applicable to Baudelaire’s era. In more recent years, artists of our times have also been using drugs on a regular basis, from methadone to cocaine, heroin or LSD. Billie Holliday, Jackson Pollock, Nan Goldin, Jean Michel Basquiat, Stephen King or David Bowie, are just a few examples of the contemporary artists who used drugs. Whether we like them or not, the writers from the 19th century and the artists from the previous and current centuries have one thing in common: their use of drugs, if not addiction to them. However today, the drugs have changed; the opium poppy has been turn into heroin, a much stronger form of the substance and its accessibility has never been so widespread. Known to be expensive, heroin, a form of opiate, is a highly addictive drug which can rapidly get people hooked. There are many ways to take heroin but the most common way is to intravenously inject the drug in its liquid form. Apart from being one of the most destructive drugs, the catch is that many heroin users share injecting equipment which often result in catching or spreading a virus. This is what happened in the Paris. Between the 1970s and 1990s, the use of heroin was so common that it almost became ordinary to find used syringes in public places. The banlieues of Paris were also meeting points for dealers and for consumers, making business and bringing the drug to the city. It is estimated that 30,000 people died between 1983 and 1995, known as “les annees sida”, or the “AIDS years”, 24 per cent of these deaths from the disease were directly related to drug injections. “The thousands of deaths from AIDS have drastically changed the conceptions of healthcare assistants. The situation has progressed in a good way thanks to the risk reductions as well as the development of treatment of substitution,” Aurélie Wellenstein and Dr. Mario Blaise, Head of the Marmottan Hospital told us. In 1970 a new Bill gave drug addicts basic rights to be voluntarily, anonymously treated and free of charge. The government at the time asked Dr Claude Olievenstein to open an establishment for the needs and treatment of addicts as a result of a public movement following the deaths of young people due to overdoses. Popularly known as the “shrink for addicts”, the psychiatrist was a pioneer in the fight against drug addiction and opened the Marmottan Hospital in 1971, a time when addicts were still considered as parasites, damaged and rejected by the society. The result was a large decline of contamination and overdose rates in France following the “AIDS years”; a report published by the French National Public Health Agency in 1999 said deadly overdoses has been reduced by 80 per cent. However, the use of heroin and class ‘A’ drugs is still very significant in the capital and it’s also easy to find. Charles, 33-year-old, former addict, told us: “It’s very easy to find heroin in Paris, certainly less that in the 80s but in the neighbourhood of the Goutte d’Or, especially in Chateau Rouge or in Barbès, it’s easy to get
The room popularly known as the “shooting gallery” opened in the French capital in October 2016, a project run by GAIA Paris. The charity, created by Doctors of the World, has been around since 1989 in order to socially and physically help addicts. Since 1998, GAIA Paris has been taking a van around the areas most affected by drug taking in order to distribute sterile syringes and crack kits, as well as a mental and social support. In 2015, more than 120,000 syringes and almost 27,000 crack kits were distributed in Paris. However, the opening of the room has led to many controversies and debates amongst the charity, residents and politicians whom claim it is “encouraging drug addiction.” A woman on a Facebook post sarcastically wrote: “Well done! We are now going to have professional drug addicts around!” The self-injection room is located in the Laribroisière Hospital, situated right in the middle of Gare du Nord and Barbès, areas both known for their high crime rates and drug-related issues. It’s only a few miles from the notorious Seine Saint Denis banlieue, where many young people died in 80s and 90s from overdoses. “We’ve been in the area for about ten years now because we know that this is where most users come to buy heroin and consume it so it was logical for us to settle our centre here,” explains Debaulieu. The centre wasn’t hard to find, across the street from the building was a banner hanging from someone’s balcony stating: “Petition sur change.org/ Non a la salle de shoot” (“Petition on change.org/ No to the shooting gallery”). Despite such opposition, the project gained support from the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago and the local council. When I met her at the centre, Debaulieu explained that the room’s first aim is not to stop addicts from using drugs but instead to guide them medically and socially and provide them with support. “They need to be their own trigger. It’s for them to say ‘ok I am ready to stop’ and wish to do it. We are here to provide them with a balance and guide them through a process of re-appropriation of themselves.” The centre includes a smoking room where crack smokers can smoke and an injection room where addicts can stay for up to twenty minutes to consume heroin. A nurse and two doctors are always present on site in case something goes wrong but they do not intervene with the injection process. All the room’s attendees are addicts, some for a very long time, Debaulieu explains that the staff already knew most faces from the van. The sterile syringes and injecting equipment is free of charge and provided by the centre, in this way the transmission of HIV and contamination is massively reduced. One rule: the addicts must come with their own drugs, the centre does not provide any substances. The consumers can spend as much time as they wish in
the “resting room” where books, pencils, or the Internet are available as well as a kitchen for them to use. A psychologist is often on site and addicts can openly talk to the professional if they need social help. “Most users have lost everything, they do not have a job, a place to stay or even someone to rely on, so a lot of them live off begging from the streets. Our objective is to be the bridge between the street and healthcare,” Debaulieu explained. Open seven days a week from 1.30pm to 8.30pm, the self-injection room, is a place where addicts can create links�an important task for people whom usually suffer from social exclusion. “Public opinion regarding drug addiction varies depending on the actual drug […] Globally in Paris, drug addiction is stigmatised and it’s clearly excluding,” Charles told us. He knows the domain, he smoked his first joint at the age of ten, took heroin until he realised that it was becoming uncontrollable and became addicted to crack. In a series of fifteen podcasts broadcasted for ARTE Radio, an online radio platform created by the national broadcasting public television company ARTE, Charles talks about the infamous underworld of the drugs business in Paris. Crackopolis is an autobiographic series of podcasts which teaches the audience how to behave, love or get by with crack and the overall addiction of drugs. From the ‘Club des Hachichins’ to the ‘shooting gallery’, the use of drugs in the French capital has a long, romantic and creative past but a debatable present. In both cases, the users are looking to enter the ‘ideal’ world where the sadness and boredom of reality do not exist. From this era or from the past ones, some of most the respected and talented writers, painters, artists, musicians or singers were taking drugs. Opium provided the Romantics with dreams which they would then use to write their masterpieces. Cocaine or heroin provides current artists with an overall blissful feeling. Many people ask themselves if there was a link between creativity and the use of drugs. In Western societies today, popular artists, writers, actors or painters have stereotypically accentuated the use of drugs and its relation to creativity. Despite the fact that drugs, particularly opiates, make the consumer enter a world of ‘fantasias’, as described by the Romantics, and have been used to improve artistic techniques and enhance creativity, no scientific explanation has supported the statement. In 2014, in an interview for VICE News, Dr Alain Dagher, neurologist at the Montreal Neurologist Institute and Hospital, explained: “Part of creativity is being original. So drugs like cocaine, and perhaps heroin, have that ability to make you have original thoughts.” The original physical, psychological and emotional experiences that drugs offer, provide the consumers with original thoughts, which can then be translated and reproduced in an art form. Dr Dagher believes that originality is one of the keys to art; perhaps the use of drugs is a tip for creativity but it is certainly not its trigger. Drugs remain deadly and can easily set apart users from reality and society. As Baudelaire himself explained: “Wine makes men happy and sociable; hashish isolates them. Wine exalts the will; hashish annihilates it.” 15
Words: Tanviya Sapru Images: Molly Crabapple
MOLLY CRABAPPLE: ‘AS THE WORLD CHANGED, MY ART CHANGED WITH IT’ The American journalist and illustrator explains the political context of her work
Building bridges between art and journalism is a rising movement in the world of expression that uses drawings and words to tell stories. This collaboration is commonly known as “illustrated journalism”.
he once said to her. Her parents’ advice always resonated with Molly but it was only until later in her life that she found a way to put those sometimes contrasting influences into a singular practice.
New York-based artist, journalist and author, Molly Crabapple has established a marriage between the two that has not only been visually captivating but greatly impactful too. This 33-year-old has gone from being a naked model to being called “Occupy’s greatest artist” by author, Matt Taibbi. For more than 10 years, she’s been using her work to show the world how much strength art can have.
When she was in high school and went by her given name Jennifer Caban, she’d be the girl who’d sit at the back of the classroom wearing headphones that were blaring the tunes of Nirvana. Thinking back to her teen-years, she explicitly describes herself as being, “a rebellious edgy girl” who was a bane to her teachers. It might be safe to say that Molly during the days of her youth was flying by the seat of her pants.
“Drawing gives you the permission and the extreme skill at looking. To draw well, you have to look hard, you have to look in a way that’s destructive of everything you knew, you have to look in a way that burns clichés into the ground. And that is powerful, that ability to see truly and freshly, that’s destructive to all the bullshit-isms, that’s destructive to all of the clichés that enslaved people, just looking and giving yourself permission to look can be a revolutionary act” says Molly.
She detested being a student and raced towards graduating at the age of 17. The moment school hit its due completion; she embarked on a journey to Europe, and found herself working the cash register at the Shakespeare & Company bookstore located next to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame De Paris.
As the year of 2016 was coming to an end, my family and I had the pleasure of hosting Molly in Bangalore, India at Bose Compound. Aside from slightly nervously photographing her drawing a gorgeous mural of a cat under a canopy of trees encircled within a 150-year-old bungalow, I also had the unforgettable chance to learn more about some of the many adventures she’s explored in her recent memoir, Drawing Blood. Molly’s creative life began at the age of four when she was living in Queens, New York. She didn’t think she was particularly talented when she was young, but that it was the ‘monomania’ inside of her that kept the fire burning the more she continued enhancing her passion. Genetics and upbringing both play a role in understanding the roots of her artistic talent. Her father is a Marxist professor and her mother is an illustrator too. Apart from being inspired by the art her mother produced, she showed Molly that art isn’t just a “high in the sky ideal but that art was often a prosaic job that put food on the table." Her father taught her to pay attention to the representation of what art can mean, “Always question authority and always be interested,”
George Whitman, the owner of the bookstore eventually invited her to live upstairs with other backpackers and intellectuals. “It seemed like this magical paradise, like something out of Hemingway,” she told the NY Times. The luxury of time and the freedom from responsiblities gave Ms. Crabapple the the inspiration to draw. She’d clutch onto a leather-bound notebook specially gifted from an ex-lover, and filled it with vivid illustrations of what she discovered as she explored Paris, Lisbon, Seville, Spain, Marrakech and Morocco. But Paris, she admits, was the city where she began to draw seriously. Once she returned to America, she initially attempted to work a conventional job while living in Long Island, and she can’t help but laugh as she thinks back to that time, “I just couldn’t work a real job, man! I don’t know what I could do, I’m certainly not hardworking or clever enough to wait tables or do retail. Dear god, I don’t know, maybe I could sign up for medical testing.” Instead, she’d hustle money by pinning up flyers in local stores to draw portraits of family pets and children. She mainly drew dogs and earned at least $20 for each drawing. It worked, for a while, until her determination to draw drove her to the Big Apple—New York City.
“New York was my muse. It was one of the first things I was thinking about, NY, sex and class�and the intersections and the way those things would rub up against each other and transform each other,” says the half Puerto Rican, half Jewish illustrator. At 19, she began working as a burlesque performer and naked model for places like Society of Illustrators and SuicideGirls. In interviews in the past, she talks highly of being photographed by artists like Aron Hawks and Amy Rivera. During our discussion, Molly also openly touched upon the not-so-pretty experiences of being photographed, “I want to be very clear, I wasn’t a fancy Playboy model. It was much more something where guys would hire me to go to their cheap motel room and the camera was an excuse. They just wanted a naked girl there.” No matter what the scenario though, she protected herself and her self worth, she writes, “I was a sleek machine for extracting money. Untouched.” “I was the one who should be making images, I thought, not selling mine” she realised when she was 23, just as she was heading towards being financially stable enough through the art jobs she worked alongside her early endeavours. For years, she worked as the in-house artist at a Manhattan Burlesque club The Box, in Soho New York, where she’d draw the performers, design curtains and t-shirts, and cover the walls with her illustrations. “That was my artistic coming-of-age” she writes in her book. In 2005, Molly and illustrator A. V Phibes founded the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti- Art School, which combines cabaret, vaudeville and sketching. Within the depths of this burlesque-themed bar a number of artists, designers,
It’s important to note that when Molly was working as a naked model in her early twenties, she also had an opportunity to strengthen her political views. She credits a lot of her early understanding of politics to her time as an illustrator for Spread, a publication by and for men and women in the sex industry. “So when I was doing this work it was an incredible moment in New York, America, where women who worked either in the sex industry or jobs that were kind of like the sex industry like mine was collaborating with each other.” She worked with a lot of tough individuals at Spread who nevertheless weren’t taken seriously by most of larger society. Despite some of the hardships that came with working there and being underestimated, the experience helped her find a political voice that had developed and grown powerful enough to propel her to the forefront when The Occupy Wall Street Movement happened in 2011. “By working with these incredible, tough, smart, vocal people and of course that was not seen as serious because it was like girls in G-strings. That’s not serious, they’re girls and then they’re in G-strings—dear god. It’s like bargain basement. It [Spread] was seen as frivolous and then when Occupy happened, it gave me space, I think it gave a lot of people space to be political in a broader way,” she explains. The Occupy movement protested against social and economic inequality worldwide. Molly felt the urge to do something as she saw it unfold outside her apartment at Zucotti Park in New York. Many of her friends were arrested. She saw an opportunity to engage her art in politics and started to draw posters that
“I wasn’t a fancy Playboy model. It was much more something where guys would hire me to go to their cheap hotel room and the camera was an excuse. They wanted a naked girl there.” students, cartoonists and hipsters have been coming together to merge old-fashioned life-drawing sessions with a new and unconventional form of cabaret. Molly takes pains to point out that in this institution, “the model, not the artist is that main focus of the night.” Today, this school has branches in more than eight cities across the globe. But that was just the beginning of her many art projects. Another well-known project of hers was when she turned 28. In celebration of her birthday, she raised $25,000 dollars on Kickstarter to lock herself in a rented apartment, that she says, “put her insanity to test”. She covered the walls with paper rolls, bought approximately 200 Sharpies and called it ‘Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell’. Musician’s muses and miscreants accompanied her whilst she decorated the apartment with intricate scribbles of tarts, squid beasts and multiple other fictional characters that were pouring from her imagination. For the five days that she was there, the process was live-streamed to all the backers who sponsored her. Those who followed her during the ride were also given the choice to buy, by the square foot, the pieces of the ‘Walls of Doom’. 18
were used extensively at the demonstrations. One of her posters, a drawing of an octopus with, ‘Fight the Vampire Squid’ written on its belly, resonated with the disparate people involved in the movement and started to appear extensively in protests across the country. "With my work for Occupy I am not just producing a cool, pretty image that decorates things, I am producing a functional and persuasive piece of work that's going to be pasted on buildings and held up by demonstrators” she told to BBC during the time of the movement. From that point on her art became increasingly political. By 2012, she successfully raised $64,000 on Kickstarter to exhibit her art show, Shell Game that depicted the world financial collapse and those who were fighting against authoritarian regimes worldwide. She created nine enormous paintings that incorporated the essence of the movement accompanying her own brand of burlesque, surrealism, satire and symbolic animal sketch’s. The author, Matt Taibbi, described her as being “Occupy’s greatest artist.” Together, in 2014, they collaborated to publish, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, a novel that explores the gap in the justice system between the rich and the poor. “I use my art like a photojournalist might use their camera”
says Molly when she began describing her involvement in illustrative journalism in recent years. She’s had the opportunity to report on issues in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Dhabi's migrant labor camps, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Unlike other journalists Molly uses her drawings as a way to enter these places that are often very difficult to gain access to. “My drawings work across language, culture, social boundaries. While I’m sure in ways my art has been underestimated, I also focus on the strength and the power that it gives me and I focus on how it can sneak you into places, how it can work as a lock pick. It can also be like a fancy gift-wrap you put around a bomb!” She goes on to describe how, “Guantánamo bay, Cuba likes to pretend that it’s just an ordinary naval base in the middle of the Caribbean, nothing going on there”. But Molly’s articles and illustrations are proof that there’s plenty that hadn’t made the headlines. In 2013, Vice commissioned her to report on Guantánamo bay. She was one of three artists who visited the US Military Naval Base Guantanamo, which has been used as a detention centre since 1898. Her first visit was during the pre-trials hearings of, 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators. During the hearings she was permitted to only have art supplies, but those helped her look past three layers of bulletproof glass. According to Molly, Guantánamo is one of the ‘most frustrating’ places to be a journalist because of the elaborate rules that the Guantánamo prison system calls “operational security”—“The pressroom was filled with soldiers watching our laptops, listening to us talk. US cell phones don't get service at Gitmo” she wrote in an illustrated essay for Vice upon her return. Her second visit in September later that year focused on the staff she spoke to and the detainees she saw
from afar. “Through the mirror's dark glass, the detainees seemed preserved in amber. They were middle-aged, bearded, skinny—joking with one another like they've had no one else to speak to for the last decade” she explores in an article for Vice titled, Inside a Guantanamo Prision Tour�Molly Crabapple returns to Guantanomo Bay. Even during her second visit journalists were not allowed to take pictures of people’s faces and of entire rooms. She said they were all taken on what she described as a “Potemkin tour” where they saw dozens of men being force-fed or tortured. She also mentions discovering prisons ‘gift shop’ that was filled with “Caribbean Kitsch that has Guantanamo Bay on it.” She wanted to show the world what it was like being there and once again, she found a way to break through resistance: “What I could do with art is that I could draw around censorship. As an artist I had the option of drawing around that. This is an advantage of art being underestimated because photographs are seen as logistics and as proof, photos are so monitored but art, people don’t care about art, I could draw anything.” In 2014, she turned photographs of war-ravaged regions in Syria into illustrations that accompanied words expressed by a Syrian writer who works under the pseudonym, Marwan Hishaw. ISIS forbade foreign journalists from reporting in cities like Raqqa, Aleppo and Mosul under their rule. Since the war, most of these city’s neighbourhoods have remained undocumented, but this collective series between Molly and Marwan published in Vanity Fair marks their place in history, depicting some of the truth of what lay within rebel held areas. A year after the collaborative series Vice commissioned her to draw and report in a suburb called Shuja’iyya in Gaza City. It was flattened by Israel during a destructive campaign that included bombs, tank shells and bulldozers – an absolute ground invasion. There, she
witnessed a level of decimation that forced residents to live in smashed rubble and what she describes as being an “open air prison”. When asked how she chooses exactly what to draw amongst the vast array of sights she’s confronted with at the time, Molly describes a moment she recalls from her memory of being there, “I saw these guys who were taking the rebar and they were straighten it by hand basically with rocks and primitive tools and I had to resell it and I thought my god if there’s a better image that sums up the resilience of this place its this—it’s taking this rebar, this twisted metal that people died on and turning it into a construction material, because there’s no other way to get materials but you’re going to build anyway and so I drew that scene.” Molly’s reportage focuses on her experiences in places like Guantanamo or Syria. For the audience, she draws a window into the harsh realities of what she sees. She illustrates what it’s like to be in the shoes of those who are vulnerable, “When I decide who I want to draw and what stories I want to tell, what I’m always interested in is pushing against cliché and pushing against what people think they know, in showing that the world is far vaster than people might’ve ever imagined, especially in pushing against the narrative of the victim.” In a world where trust in the traditional news cycle has eroded, where fake news stories can have global consequences because of the emotional chord they strike, illustrative journalism and the art of people like Molly are poised to capture both ends of the spectrum. Her art can show truth while also capturing a subjective emotional experience, an ability that has already managed to connect with an audience that have backgrounds as varied and colourful as her own. Molly was circumspect about her next project but whatever it might be, it is guaranteed by its own nature to look beyond boundaries and through bulletproof glass, to paint the emotional truth. 19
Words: Sasha Fedorenko Images: Bengin Ahmad and Freedom House via Flickr.com
TRAFFICKING MIGRANT CHILDREN:
SOMEBODY ELSE’S PROBLEM Refugee children are falling into slavery at the hands of human traffickers because of a lack of support across Europe
Bao* was smuggled into the UK when he was only 15. He was discovered in the back of a lorry in Sussex in 2010 and taken into local authority care. Two weeks later, he escaped from foster care feeling isolated and misunderstood because of the language barrier and a loss of trust in officialdom.
that when Bao was arrested he was not under the control of traffickers but their partner in crime. Lawyers managed to secure his release from detention, however he again went missing from an adult safe house in 2015, and has not been found. It is thought he has once again fallen into the clutches of ruthless traffickers.
He later confessed to the non-government organisation (NGO) ECPAT UK that following his disappearance, he was taken by traffickers to a cannabis factory and had to pay the price of coming to the UK with his own labour. He was occasionally beaten and received death threats.
“Refugee children often feel like they are nobody in this country,” Andrea Simons, Campaigns Officer for ECPAT UK, told Artefact. Simons held two discussion workshops with young refugees in which she had spoken to Bao and passed on his story to us. She has said that only during those sessions children were comfortable enough to confess their deepest thoughts on the antagonistic effect of shelter homes.
Four years later, Bao was prosecuted by police for cannabis cultivation and recommended for deportation to Vietnam, despite telling the officers that he had been threatened and was in debt bondage. He was released from prison into immigration detention where he was referred by an NGO to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK’s framework that provides an appropriate safeguarding response for victims of modern slavery and trafficking. Three months after his referral, instead of the recommended five days, Bao received a negative first-stage NRM (reasonable grounds decision), which claimed 20
“During their stay [at foster centres] children experience a lot of stress by going through nerve-wracking procedures, such as age assessments and official interviews that require great deal of psychological stamina, which a young person merely doesn’t have,” Simons said. “They often escape the foster homes for several reasons. First of all, they are fed up of telling their story all over again and secondly they are not trusted in their experience being credible,” she says. As a result, they conclude that going on the streets is more welcoming and a safer place to stay. While unaccompa-
nied asylum-seeking children continue to be treated as somebody else’s problem, the migrant crisis continues to serve as a vicious circle creating anxiety, fear and rejection – a fuel for trafficking gangs to take hold of vulnerable minors, and new opportunities for criminal exploitation.
states. Even when a child gets appointed with a guardian or independent advocate there is no guarantee that they have the relevant skills, as the ECPAT UK study revealed. The smallest indicator of mistreatment from carers can have significant consequences shaping a child’s future, either resulting in them integrating successfully into a community or winding up with traffickers or even worse, becoming traffickers themselves. The special concerns raised by unaccompanied asylum-seeking children led to the government’s creation of Special Guardianship guidance legislation in February 2016.
The European Union (EU) has been one of the key players in the development of international systems for refugees, but even they have failed to give an immediate response to protect unaccompanied refugee children. The arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants in 2015 gave an impression that the EU dealt inadequately and inhumanely with the challenging, but certainly not unmanageable, circumstances�leaving people who had survived traumatic journeys in terrible conditions. Filippo Grandi, the head of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has brought EU to account by presenting a letter in which he criticised the union for “leaving refugees in the hands of those who want to turn them into scapegoats” on December 5 2016. Mr Grandi, who took over as UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2016, emphasised the urgent call for action to help unaccompanied refugee minors: “Children need to be treated as children first. We must end the detention of children. It is never acceptable.” “Most have been exposed to appalling risks – separated from their families, detained, exposed to sexual violence, exploitation, trafficking and severe physical and psychological harm,” he said. “We must move away from the immediate channelling of children into asylum systems. Instead, we must ensure a common age assessment methodology across Europe and that children have immediate access to a guardian to help them find a solution that is in their best interest.” The logic of ‘once deemed deceptive, always deceptive’ is due to the predominant misconception that some children are trying to double-deal the system by lying about their age and claiming to be younger so they would have more chances to enter the UK, where they can get free support and accommodation. Thus, the trend of tarring children with the same brush became a barometer of criminality over vulnerability at foster centres. As a result, the deficit of connection and indisposition to trust coming from adults assigned with safeguarding minors who have been victims of trafficking underlines isolation, which is the decisive key for children who go missing.
The new reform aims to provide a firm foundation on which to build a permanent relationship between the child and their carer, so children will no longer be looked after by a local authority. It will include an appointed guardian who takes into consideration their religious and cultural differences and at the same time a youngster will enjoy the benefits of “support services, including where appropriate, financial support”.
“Most have been exposed to appalling risks— sexual violence, exploitation, trafficking” once. Of these 760 young people, 207 had not been found. “People are often unaware that the majority of trafficked children go missing within the first 72 hours of being placed in care and that’s the biggest issue we face right now,” said Rachel Leather, development manager for the Unseen, an anti-trafficking charity. “There is currently no provision specifically for children who have been trafficked.”
This ‘culture of disbelief’ and scarcity of responsibility was reflected in a recent study Heading Back to Harm launched by ECPAT UK in partnership with Missing People on November 15 2016. Based on information gained from Freedom of Information Act requests, the report scrutinised data from 217 local authorities to examine links between identification, treatment and the monitoring of trafficked and unaccompanied children suddenly deserting care homes in the UK.
The study paid close attention to the lack of training, low awareness and inconsistent recording practices by frontline workers. As a result, young people may not be recognised as being in danger or disbelieved if they disclosed trafficking indicators. The importance of allocation of a life-long guardian for a refugee youngster could be a significant help for their future integration into a community.
The report revealed that in the year to September 2015, 28 per cent of trafficked children and 13 per cent of unaccompanied children in care went missing at least
Children who have been through a long journey of migration fleeing from conflict and who are plunged into a completely alien world have very fragile psychological
Children from refugee backgrounds will have a chance to regain a family whom they’ve lost or been separated from, which will help to heal some of the deepest wounds brought by ‘living in limbo’ during their childhood. “There needs to be an input of good quality of child focus, where a child can develop a relationship with a carer,” says Andrea Simons. “Having a life-time guardian as a support system, who would genuinely care about them. I saw some positive results of good guardianship where [trafficked] children grow confident, successfully graduate and get job qualifications,” she told us. The migrant crisis has directly led to the emergence of criminal activity through the absence of necessary governmental action, harming refugee children on a global scale. Though the driving factor of an influx of migrants was determined largely by the scarcity of prospects of a political resolution of the war and dramatic overstretch of humanitarian resources, and in some cases weakening of hospitality in terms of human rights and support. Nonetheless, events in Europe taught us a universal lesson that we should have learned from and developed collective measures to tackle a humanitarian crisis on a scale not seen since World War Two. Yet again, we shouldn’t forget the same experience and values that shaped the European support for refugees after the Second World War by adopting the 1951 Refugee Convention�the right to seek asylum�as part of the Chapter of Fundamental Rights. As history has a tendency to repeat itself, Europe and its member states, as the largest humanitarian donor, has to reconcile interests of refugees and those communities hosting them. On a local level, to ease the suffering of a distressed migrant youth generation, the government must re-consider ‘the support system’ offered by the local authorities, in order to build trust, promote wellbeing and prevent more children going missing or ending up enslaved by traffickers. *This is an assumed name 21
Words and image: Alice Grahns
RUSBRIDGER REPORTS The former editor of the Guardian on Snowden, the digital revolution and why Trump is good for journalism
While on the train on my way to meet Alan Rusbridger in Oxford, I struggled to disregard the feeling of meeting an intimidating giant. Appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian in 1995, Rusbridger has lived at the centre of British media ever since I was born and had learnt how to walk. As he’s now the Principal at Lady Margaret Hall, a constituent college of Oxford University, I felt as every other child feels when they’ve been disobedient in school and consequently sent to the principal’s office. In other words; I was a bit nervous. The interview with one of the best newspaper editors of our generation and principal at what was last year ranked as the world’s best university, had turned out to be somewhat of a ‘big deal’. However, when his personal assistant walked me into his big office and I was greeted by the giant himself, any feelings of worry were quickly swept aside. As a friendly Rusbridger showed me the way to the sofas, I was more relaxed than ever before. Rusbridger, aged 63, stood down from his role at the Guardian in May 2015, and a week after his resignation was announced, his appointment at Lady Margaret Hall became official. After many years at the helm of Britain’s globally famous newspaper, he was to leave the metropolitan 22
bustle in London for the tranquillity and peacefulness of an Oxford college. I was keen to find out how “a very average English student at Cambridge University”, had transitioned into one of the most important newspaper editors of present time. During his period at the Guardian the journalistic industry changed drastically, while Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and the phone-hacking scandal made numerous headlines. Given Rusbridger’s long stint at the newspaper, it was pretty clear to me what I would ask him early on in the conversation. What accomplishment is he most proud of ? “The single story that was the most complex and had the biggest ramifications, was Edward Snowden. Someone said at the middle of it, that we would have to be better than we had ever been in our lives in order to do the story properly. And I think we did,” Rusbridger says. And he was right. Later on, the Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize for public service together with the Washington Post for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Snowden. However, editors at the Guardian also found themselves to be in a rather strange posi-
tion, when they received threats of legal action by the government in the UK. One day, in a deserted basement of the Guardian’s offices in King’s Cross, a senior editor accompanied by a computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverise hard drives and memory chips on which encrypted files by Edward Snowden were stored. Technicians from the Government Communications Headquarters were watching them while also taking notes and photographs, but they eventually left empty-handed. Ironically, Rusbridger had earlier informed them that they had the material on the other side of the Atlantic as well, and that they would “report it from America”. “We were faced with a government whose patience was sort of running thin, and wanted to do something or wanted to be seen as to be doing something. And the solution; they basically threatened us and said ‘unless you destroy this material we’ll come and either arrest you or restrain you’,” Rusbridger recalls. “It [destroying the hard drives] was the most effective way to continue reporting. If we had allowed them to injunct us which I think is what they would’ve done, we would have had a two-year long legal battle of not being able to report it while the Washington Post would have had the field
to themselves,” he continues. From one whistleblower to another; many people compare Snowden with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The first few leaks by Assange in 2007 exposed governments and powerful companies around the world by displaying confidential documents and films. While Snowden exposed the extensive surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, WikiLeaks initially displayed horrifying video footage showing 15 people being shot dead by a US Army Apache helicopter gunman, as well as revealed controversial operating procedures at Guantánamo Bay. “The material with Assange was more sensitive. The logistics around Assange were very complicated because there were so many people involved,” Rusbridger says. “Assange didn’t believe in what we would call editing and he might call censorship. So his general view was to put it all out there,” he continues. While the main source for Assange and WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning, was pardoned by Barack Obama just before Donald Trump took over, Snowden is still residing in Moscow. Recently, government advisers in the UK were accused of proposing a ‘full-frontal attack’ on whistleblowers following plans to drastically increase prison terms for revealing state secrets and to start prosecuting journalists who obtained the information. It prompted concerns from whistleblowers that severe punishments could discourage officials from coming forward in the public interest. One critic took it further and said the changes were “squarely aimed at the Guardian and Snowden”. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, whistleblowers are facing similar issues. “America hasn’t been great on whistleblowers lately. Under Obama, more whistleblowers have been prosecuted than ever before so it’s not a great time to be a whistleblower,” Rusbridger says. “I suspect, if Snowden went back to America they would try to jail him. I think that’s unsatisfactory because the Espionage Act allows him no real distinction between spies and whistleblowers, and it wouldn’t have allowed him to give a defence,” he continues. As the conversation moves on with Rusbridger, we always tend to come back to his time at the Guardian. He was the 11th editor of the paper since its establishment in May 1821, hence it is clear that the position is a longterm commitment. Upon graduating from Cambridge University, Rusbridger got a job at Cambridge Evening News, and later joined the Guardian as a reporter. As time passed by, he became a prominent figure at the paper by being promoted to more senior roles. After 20 years in the role as editor-in-chief, he resigned “to let other people have their go” and was replaced by Katharine Viner, the first ever female editor at the newspaper. “I was perfectly happy to leave. I had done a long stint, we had achieved a lot and we had moved the Guardian into a position where it was briefly overtaking the New York Times as the biggest serious English language digital newspaper in the world,” Rusbridger says. Considering the amount of time Rusbridger spent at the Guardian, it is clear that he was appreciated. But after his resignation, critics started voicing concerns over the financial state the Guardian was in. While other competitors now have put up paywalls and have started charging readers for their digital journalism, the Guardian remains a free news source. So I ask Rusbridger; does he still believe that was the right thing to do? “At the time, everyone had the same model. After time, one or two newspapers started putting up paywalls. And it wasn’t something that was tremendously ideological, the commercial team thought it was better to have a large international audience. They thought at the
time that you could then get sufficient revenues from digital advertising from a large audience to make the sums work,” Rusbridger says. “We had this paradox where we were the smallest paper in print in the UK and we were the largest paper online. So the strategy agreed by all was that we would see how large we could grow the digital version. And as I’ve said for a long time, that looked like a very sensible strategy,” he continues. I continue by asking him about the Guardian’s finances; and he tells me that when he left there were around £1 billion in the fund and they also had £80 million a year coming in from digital, so that wasn’t “such a bad state to leave a paper in”. Addressing the criticism, he claims that during his time in the role “the commercial directors, the chairman and the CEO all said that we’ve got the paper into a very
“Assange didn't believe in what we would call editing and he might call censorship. So his general view was to put it all out there.” safe and satisfactory position”. But in the 18 months that has passed since Rusbridger resigned, Viner has announced several redundancies and the paper is reported to be suffering from big losses and debts. But then again, digital developments have created challenges for the whole journalistic industry. “In hindsight it’s a very wonderful thing to say. We didn’t realise as the people who were commercially responsible for the paper that the wind would change. […] There will always be people who will want to point at and blame someone else, but that is human nature,” Rusbridger says. In the age of dumbing down, the Guardian carries a torch for serious newspaper journalism�more now than ever as the Independent’s printed edition has passed its expiry date. If I was to believe Rusbridger, print journalism is doomed. “I’ve spent most of my career in newspapers, and I love newspapers and print. I still get the Guardian every day and spread it out on my kitchen table and read it, but I also get it on my mobile phone and my iPad,” Rusbridger says. “As I’m travelling around I find myself more and more reading it on a phone. But my experience doesn’t matter. The experience in nearly all developed countries is that people are buying papers less and less, and consuming them more digitally,” he continues. In the last two decades, journalism has evolved in many ways and directions. Rusbridger talks about the transition from one print deadline a day to continuous deadlines, which hasn’t always been an easy road: “It’s now commonplace but it seemed quite surprising or controversial at the time, you would have to write stuff
as soon as you could and there were great battles in the newsroom with people who were saying ‘we don’t want to do that, that’s going to make us like newsagents’,” Rusbridger recalls. Today, the digital world and its users require articles to be updated constantly. And while Facebook provides a “massive challenge and a massive opportunity”, Rusbridger wonders whether the distributor provides any financial return for news organisations or whether it is all about marketing. “They [Facebook] have the money clearly, and they’re going to get the advertising, they have the data, all the chips are on their side of the table. But I’m not seeing many news publishers saying that they don’t want anything to do with Facebook” he says. The shrinking pot of advertising income available for journalism is affecting the whole industry. Competition a has sometimes resulted in, in retrospect, horrible decisions. In 2011, the closure of the British newspaper News of the World following the phone-hacking scandal sparked a public debate about the working ethics of modern journalists, and helped “clean up what was quite an ugly situation” in one of the most competitive markets in the world, Rusbridger tells me. Six years after its closure, news organisations are faced with other dilemmas. With the recent inauguration of Trump in the US, the president has started somewhat of a war with the press. While some people may say that we shouldn’t encourage him by reporting on it, others mean that news is more important than ever before. “It’s impossible to ignore him. He is the most powerful man on the planet, and he is speaking to 25 million people very directly through tweets. […] I think Donald Trump will be rather good for the news business,” Rusbridger says. Although this interview was destined to be about his long and astounding career, I was curious to find out about Rusbridger’s spare time, if he had any at all. I imagined his life as editor of the Guardian being dictated by the constant demands of the 24-hour news cycle. But impressively, apart from editing the newspaper, he has also written three children’s books, he has authored dramas and an animation film script, as well as a play about Beethoven among many other things. While still in his role at the Guardian, and as a keen amateur pianist he decided to learn one of the most demanding one-movement pieces on piano, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1. So where did his interest in music come from? “I’ve always since I was a little child, sung or played one or more instruments. And it came a sort of moment in mid-life when I felt that I needed something other than work and family,” he tells me. “When you edit, you don’t get much time to write. You’re editing other people, you’re thinking about strategy and you’re sitting in a lot of meetings and you meet a lot of people, and you’re always on the go,” he continues. Rusbridger’s interest in writing seems obvious, and he says that he prefers that before lying on the beach. Simply, when the busiest family years were over, he strived to be able to find 20 minutes of time every day to do something else rather than work. In our busy working lives of modern time, who is to blame him? As the hour I’ve been given with Rusbridger draws to a close, our conversation is heading towards a friendly tutorial. For me, a soon-to-be graduate in journalism, his career advice is invaluable. And when I later leave his office and walk through Lady Margaret Hall’s peaceful and beautiful grounds I hear the birds chirp, and I cannot help but think that Alan Rusbridger is in his element. 23
Words: Iman El Kafrawi Images: Connor Rycroft
AN ARTISTIC DESERT? Dubai is known for its luxurious lifestyle options, but a thriving arts and cultural scene is developing too
Sky-scrapers, champagne, yachts and supercars: this is how most of us view Dubai. However, with the Louvre and Guggenheim opening in Abu Dhabi, it is clear that the Gulf is witnessing a shift in its artistic and cultural landscape. Initiatives such as Sharjah Foundation, Sharjah Bienniale, Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art have significantly strengthened the country's maturing art scene. There are international auction houses; Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams. There are many independent initiatives opening public spaces such as Art Jameel. There’s a design fair twice a year and an entirely new design district called D3. This has all come to exist in the past 11 years. The region's first-ever Bachelor of Design degree will be available at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) and is expected to open in 2018. As a result, Dubai has seen the emergence of infrastructure and systems that are centred on providing support for the local arts scene by encouraging self-driven projects, including pop-ups, informal exhibitions, impromptu performances, collectives, and so on. Artefact explores how Dubai has become the Middle East’s art hub, we speak to Director of Alerskal Avenue and co-founder of The Third Line gallery, Sunny Rahbar to discover how the city has constructed an arts district of their own. Alserkal Avenue – the region’s foremost arts 24
hub, located within Dubai’s industrial quarter, Al Quoz was founded in 2007 by Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal. Al Quoz: on one side you see sand covered waste-land, dust, grey, car garages and abandoned factories and on the other side you see Dubai’s creative quarter. Alserkal Avenue was once a marble factory owned by the Alserkal family, today it is the largest art district in the region. Founder of Alserkal Avenue, Abdelonem Alserkal explains: “The industrial area of Al Quoz is a mix of old and new, where car warehouse meets renowned art gallery. Alserkal Avenue has grown in the past eight years and developed a synergy of creative organisations within the industrial context, which progressed to become a hub for unconventional ideas and cultural initiatives.” Alserkal Avenue has become a leading hub for contemporary art in the region, housing the most prominent homegrown galleries. This includes, The Third Line, Carbon 12, MOJO and New York's Leila Heller Gallery. Director of Alerskal Avenue, Vilma Jukute has spent the last decade developing creative industries across New York, Chicago, London and Dubai. She joined Alserkal Avenue in 2011 and in her time with the organisation, she has been instrumental in its evolution and responsible for overseeing the Avenue’s physical expansion in 2015. The same year, she launched Alserkal Program-
ming, affirming the organisation’s commitment to the development of art and culture, positioning it as an arts organisation. She has also been a vocal supporter of growing a creative economy, and a strong advocate for its importance in social development and identity within the MENASA* region. “It’s been really interesting to witness the incredible growth that has occurred in the field of art and culture in the city. That growth is reflected quite tangibly in the achievements of the galleries, artists and UAE-based art professionals in the UAE, who have helped to propel the regional art scene to international acclaim,” says Jukutre. Jurkute explains that, “Five years ago, the commercial art scene had begun to take root in Dubai, but had yet to fulfil its potential. At the time, Alserkal Avenue had six art concepts; today, we have developed an expansion project with the support of our founder Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, that houses over 60 art, design and creative spaces, including foundations, private collections and community concepts. That in itself is an indication of the exponential growth that the creative sector has seen.” Alserkal Avenue is situated in the industrial district of Dubai�like London’s Shoreditch, or Paris’s NorthEast arrondissements�Alserkal focuses on building a home for creative industries. “Industrial areas across the world in multiple cities develop to become creative spaces, where artists begin a movement of creation, followed by galleries, design and other creative industries to form a cluster, which is essential within emerging markets,” Jurkute explains. Despite the rapid commercial growth that Dubai has seen, Jukurte believes that the city’s art and culture scene is still young. She believes that Dubai’s artistic and cultural potential is continually growing: “We need only to look at the growth that has been generated over the last decade to realise that this momentum will continue to pick up pace”. Alserkal Avenue introduced a “programming” sector in order to support artists living and working within the region. Jurkute says the purpose was to engage new audiences and the public at large, making it imperative that the work is “collabortative, participatory and ephemeral”. In 2016, the art’s hub commissioned artists including: Ellen Carroll, Mohammed Kazem, Jessica Mein, Vikram Divecha, Fari Bradley, Chris Weaver, Farah Al Qasimi and Karim Sultan. All work that was commissioned was produced in Dubai and the artists developed extensive programming around their artwork. Alserkal Avenue’s
home-grown programme is supporting the vision of Dubai being the hub for cultural production. The Alserkal Residency launching this year, will be a continuation of this support and will also contribute to developing an understanding of the MENASA region. Jurkute explains that The Alerksal Residency will “not only help foster artistic practice locally, it will extend the platform for artists based internationally to understand and research the MENASA region and its cultural landscape”. Dubai is experiencing a growth in the creative community. Alserkal is supporting this growth and creating a platform for new audiences to explore art. Alerskal Avenue’s gallery opening nights underpin the avenue’s art programme�these have been key to attracting the public and engaging new audiences. The annual Quoz Art Fest and Area 01 are community, home-grown initiatives that are open to the wide artistic community of Al Quoz, which Jurkute believes are playing an important role in developing the arts ecosystem within Dubai and the MENASA region. Dubai’s arts ecosystem started with only a few commercial art galleries but has grown to become a holistic art scene. “We’ve witnessed the development of robust education programmes, not-for-profit spaces with active community programming and the emergence of new collectives and homegrown concepts within creative industries”. Dubai is often viewed as a garish, flashy and almost artificial city�which it can be. However, Jurkute believes that “The UAE has become a cultural capital for the region, and internationally, developing a strong visual arts infrastructure in over a decade through the commitment of various Emirates”. The Director explains that having worked in cities such as New York and London, she realises the one thing Dubai has is: potential. “Gallerists, artists, writers, creative entrepreneurs, we are all a part of the same ecosystem, who strongly believe in talent in this region”. “We are building an arts infrastructure with many ‘firsts’ along the way”. Among the warehouses within Alserkal Avenue, is The Third Line�a gallery that was the first in Dubai to specialise in contemporary and Middle-Eastern art when it opened in 2005. Co-founded by Sunny Rahbar, Claudia Cellini and Omar Ghobash, they saw the need to create a platform for contemporary Middle Eastern artists who otherwise were not being supported in the region or internationally. “The Third Line was born out of necessity to create a
“We need only look at the growth that has been generated over the last decade to realise that this momentum will continue to pick up pace” dialogue between artists from the region,” says Rahbar. The contemporary art gallery works with artists across the Middle East region and its diaspora. Rahbar believes it’s important to support these artists. She explains that the gallery took a number of artists under their ‘wings’ and helped nurture their career and contributed to the ever-growing art scene in the UAE. Within Dubai, there is also a lot of back and forth between different people; people with a western background and art education merge their views with the Middle Eastern art scene when they arrive. There will always be a difference in perspective, a different angle to someone’s work and vice versa. The Third Line encourages ‘cross-border’ collaboration between regional and international artists. Rahbar believes this “enlightens artists, adds value to their practice and the general discourse”. This so-called ‘cross-border’ collaboration offers different takes on the East and West. Artists are able to shine a different light and challenge the status quo, she says. Rahbar explains that at the core of the Dubai art scene there is a relatively small group of people that grew up in Dubai. They feel very close to the city and are keen to shape Dubai’s creative identity. She is a part of this generation. Rahbar’s parents are Iranian, but she grew up in Dubai. After studying art in New York and working in London, she returned to Dubai in 2001. She explains that the generation after her that have stayed in Dubai, or have returned are ready to make a difference. She believes that “compared to the other—older and larger—cities in the world, where you have to be established in order to have an impact, Dubai welcomes the youth and their ideas”. She explains that when The Third Line opened 11 years ago there were only three art galleries in the city, no
public institutions and very little discourse. Today, there are over 20 galleries, Art Dubai invite 80 international galleries every year alongside and organise a programme of talks�The Global Art Fourm�inviting people for discussions an dialogue. Dubai is also home to international auction houses; Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams. Dubai being the epicentre for arts and culture within the region means that the city has the power to create change. I ask Rahbar if she believes Dubai’s art scene has the power to change conceptions of the region. “I do believe that art speaks the truth and that artists from the region speak their own truth”, she says. She explains that if more people are aware of these truths there’s the power to change the stereotypical views on the region. Without a platform, the artists lack a voice, she says. For a long time art from the MENA region has been overlooked. However this has changed over the past couple of years and is now progressing. It shows through increase of international exhibitions such as: But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa that was shown at The Guggenheim New York. The 4-day exhibition of the Barjeel Art Foundation at Whitechapel Gallery in London and Sophia Al Maria’s exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Dubai has built an arts ecosystem from scratch and is still continuing to grow and is becoming “The Cultural Desert’ of the Middle East. “Dubai has been views as flashy and artificial, which is a very simple way of looking at the city. You only need to scratch the surface to find an exciting, engaging and entrepreneurial energy, which is what Dubai has been build on.” *MENASA: Middle East North Africa South Asia *MENA: Middle East North Africa 27
Words and image: Alicia Streijffert
THE STRANGENESS OF SWITZERLAND At the centre of Europe, yet not in Europe: what does it mean to be Swiss?
This is it not another article on the worrying trends in politics around Europe this past decade. Neither is it an autobiographical feature recounting what growing up in Switzerland is like. This is rather a piece trying to understand where Swiss people have come from and why it matters�or not. So firstly, what is Switzerland? Switzerland’s image for anyone unfamiliar with the country can be very stereotypical, and sometimes far from the truth. It is however an intriguing country, often even for its inhabitants themselves, and for several reasons. For example, apart from the false depiction of us all living in chalets with pet cows in the middle of the Alps wearing a traditional costume on a daily basis, something that many from abroad retain is the fact that Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world. While being a true statement, it seems that in a lot of people’s minds, living in Switzerland looks like being the heir of an extremely wealthy business tycoon, spending your life sipping cocktails sat on a long chair on the balcony of your huge house overlooking the lake and the Alps�a very seldom accurate representation of life in Helvetia. Geographically speaking, it is located in the very centre of Europe, although we often hear things like: “but Switzerland is not officially in Europe…!” given its posi28
tion in relation to the European Union; not a part of it, while still maintaining important relations with it so as not to be completely isolated. Despite being very small in terms of surface, Switzerland numbers 26 cantons (what would be the equivalent of UK counties) and its eight million people population speaks four different languages: German (63,5%), French (22,5%), Italian (8,1%) and Romansh (0,5%�a language that remains a complete mystery for anyone that is not a mountain dweller of the Grisons canton). Other singular facts include Switzerland’s army; national service is compulsory for every man despite the country being neutral and not having taken part in a war in 170 years. If deemed unfit for service, young men have to choose between doing community service or paying military tax. All men who choose to do national service are then entitled to keep their guns at home, making Switzerland the 3rd highest level of gun ownership in the world (behind Yemen and the USA), with 45,7 weapons per 100 inhabitants. Nearly half the population owns one. And let’s not forget the fact that women have only been allowed to vote since 1971, after men decided so in a referendum�way after countries such as Azerbaijan (1918), Turkey (1934), Lebanon (1952) and even Pakistan (1954). None of these facts has ever sounded strange to me, but whenever I try to explain this to someone
who is not familiar with the country, I am greeted with confusion. Switzerland is confusing indeed, and its identity is much different from what is found in other countries. It seems there is no “nation” so to speak, no single communal identity each individual shares with the rest. I had a closer look at my own life and that of those around me to understand. I was born in Geneva to a mother from Quebec and a half-Swedish, half-Peruvian father. When I was a child, I used to tell every kid who’d mistakenly think my hard-to-read surname from Sweden was Swiss-German that I was not Swiss. It wasn’t until I moved out of the country that I started to recognise my ‘swissness’, mainly due to cultural differences and ways of thinking. Before then, at most, I felt Genevan. Like London, besides being a major city in the country, Geneva is also a canton. It numbers 13 inner cities in total, which no local has ever considered as such, but merely as neighbourhoods. The canton’s only link to the rest of Switzerland is a 4.5 km strip of land; more than 95% of its borders are shared with France, which is probably why the rest of the country likes to call us ‘the French from the other end of the lake’ or ‘the Parisians of Switzerland’. In 1815, Geneva was one of the last cantons to join the now 725-year-old country of Switzerland. Before that,
it was known as the Republic of Geneva, a European state in itself founded by Jean Calvin in 1541, and was then briefly annexed to France after the French Revolution, from 1798 to 1813. Much of our culture is, logically, mixed and remixed between some French aspects and other more Swiss/Germanic ones, which is what makes Geneva so unique. Yet, a strong Genevan identity remains which can be reflected in its history. Take for example the events of L’Escalade (the climb) in 1602. The Republic was much coveted by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. In the night of December 11 and 12 of that year, he sent his troops to Geneva in the hope of claiming its name. A battle he was sure of winning ensued, with soldiers climbing the city’s ramparts on gigantic ladders�hence L’Escalad�to reach what is today the very small old town of Geneva and, naturally, we won. Every citizen left their homes in the middle of the night, still in their pyjamas, and helped defend the Republic. Legend has it La Mère Royaume (Mother Kingdom) threw her boiling cauldron onto a soldier who died instantly. To this day, she is still a hero of our heritage. As if winning wasn’t enough, Genevans have made this historic victory a traditional celebration on December 12 every year. To celebrate La Mère Royaume’s act, we eat a chocolate cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables. The eldest and youngest hold their fists together to break the cauldron to pieces after chanting: “Ainsi périrent les ennemis de la république!” (“Thus perished the enemies of the republic!“). Although not a proper holiday, the tradition is that all educational establishments, from pre-school to secondary school, take the day off teaching to celebrate on school grounds (if the date is on a weekend, celebrations are held a day or two before or after). Everyone comes dressed as anything; I have in the past been a siamese twin and seen someone dressed as a gift box. While primary schools usually serve a traditional soup made with vegetables the pupils have brought to the kitchen, some secondary schools organise themed-parties with loads of activities and food stands, and, once students hit the tender age of 15, a questionable amount of booze is smuggled in. Other secondary schools march through the city, and do lovely things such as throwing eggs and shaving foam at one another, the questionable amount of booze much present too. Genevans unite in their own ways, but that doesn’t mean it should exclude anyone whose ancestry is abroad, especially when taking into account the fact that the citizens of the Republic of 1602 probably only have a small percentage of posterity remaining in today’s city. Geneva is home to a high number of international organisations, among which the European headquarters for the UN and the headquarters for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to name a few. It is also home to the oldest International School in the world (Ecolint), where the International Baccalaureate (IB) was founded in 1968. A high number of expats also call Geneva home; they are usually employees of international organisations and students of the Ecolint from all around the world, making the city ever more multicultural. Around 60% of the population in 2011 came from a foreign background, meaning both parents of a person were born outside of the country. I asked two Genevans whose parents were born abroad what they thought of the Swiss identity. Ana, whose parents are both from Romania, and who now lives in London too, thinks there is such a thing as Swiss identity indeed. “To me, Swiss identity precisely means belonging to other identities, all the while keep-
“To me Swiss identity precisely means belonging to other identities all the while keeping Swiss values” ing Swiss values,” she says. I asked her if coming from a foreign background meant she felt less Swiss. “No, I never felt I wasn’t Swiss,” she told us. “On the contrary, I feel more Swiss than any of my other nationalities. When people ask me where I’m from I tend to say I’m 100% Swiss.” Switzerland is complex indeed, even just in terms of geography and language barriers. I have come to wonder what it means to be Swiss lately after reading about one of the latest popular initiatives. Despite a longtime reputation of being a traditionally welcoming country for refugees and despite its renowned political neutrality, Switzerland is still no exception to the tumultuous political climate of Europe. Sometimes the haven of peace that is the country gives way to darker views. On February 12, a referendum took place to make it easier for third-generation immigrants to gain Swiss citizenship. And it passed, which was good news. But with this referendum came rather shocking and provocative posters from the Swiss People’s Party�the country’s conservative and nationalist party�opposing the initiative. Funnily enough, although its German name Schweizerische Volkspartei indeed means the Swiss people’s party, its name in French and Italian means the Democratic Union of the Centre (shortened to UDC). Some might be surprised to find that the ‘centre’ puts up highly anti-Muslim posters of a woman wearing a niqab which say: “Uncontrolled naturalisations? NO to facilitated naturalisations”, when in reality, only a very small percentage of those eligible for citizenship under new rules turn out to be Muslims. Out of the 25,000 young people eligible, around 58% are Italians descended from the wave of immigration of the 1950s-60s. Other posters have included white sheep kicking black sheep out of the country with a slogan saying: “For more safety.” Although these works of art have been around for years (courtesy of Alexander Segert, a controversial advertising guru also working for Austria’s populist Freedom Party, FPÖ), they seem to hold a more significant weight recently with the events of the world, in particular Brexit, European far-right political parties’ rise in popularity and everything Trump. And we really felt it three years ago, when Switzerland had its own kind of Brexit on February 9, 2014. The
people had to vote for an initiative aiming to regulate and eventually reduce immigration by setting annual quotas according to the country’s economical interests, and so as to respect “national preference”, as the text states. The initiative, titled “Against mass immigration”, was launched by our ‘centre’ party, and a mere 50,3% of voters agreed to slow down the country’s immigration, despite the UDC being the only party in favour of it. Obviously, this led to the European Union being pretty fed up with Switzerland who, despite not being a part of it, still enjoys certain EU advantages thanks to a number of agreements, such as free movement in Europe. The referendum’s figures much resembled those of Brexit, which is the reason why I wasn’t too surprised to hear the news on the morning of June 23. The country’s most multicultural city and canton, Geneva, largely rejected the initiative by 60,9%, echoing London’s rejection of Brexit by 59,9%, which goes on to show that people who are constantly exposed to multiculturalism are indeed less scared of the unknown, and vice versa. Although the referendum took place three years ago, the text still hasn’t entered into effect. And, ironically, contrary to what the UDC had predicted, immigration in Switzerland has not exploded but rather lessened over the past three years, according to an article in the Tribune de Genève: the number of new immigrants per year has gone from 100,000 in 2008 to 60,000 in 2016… Because the growing fear of foreigners in countries all over the world is heartbreaking for anyone of mixed background, I wanted to understand what part of my country is trying to safeguard by rejecting the unknown. I spoke to Léa, who is half-Norwegian. She thinks the interpretation of what being Swiss means changes a lot depending on where you are from in the country. “The national identity from a Swiss-French point of view must be very different for a Swiss-German,” she says. She believes that, because it is not part of the EU, Switzerland is like a small island in the middle of the continent�we have our own currency and we are very rarely affected by economic crises and wars, which forces us to build our own identity, hence the rise in populism and the success of far-right parties such as the UDC, as if the country was looking to be marginal on purpose, she thinks. On a personal level, she does feel Swiss but feels equally Norwegian, which she thinks is a shared feeling among Genevans. The same way I felt mostly Genevan before moving out of the country, she says she feels more Swiss-French than anything. “It’s much easier to have dual nationality, or to have been born to nonSwiss parents, and still feel accepted in the Leman region environment than if I had to grow up in Solothurn (a Swiss-German town) for example,” she thinks, adding she knows very few people who are 100% Swiss, but that even with them, “nothing separates us”. Swiss identity varies from one place to the other, which can be hard to understand for those who have not been exposed to multiculturalism and for whom the concept of Switzerland being a terre d’accueil (welcoming land) isn’t deeply rooted in their values. These people are trying to safeguard something that doesn’t exist anymore, a ‘swissness’ that is outdated and which made sense perhaps only until one or two centuries ago. As a Genevan, my view on identity is bound to be based on the way I was brought up, with the values and traditions of my canton which might differ from other ones, as I have not travelled much within Switzerland, as well as values and traditions from my parents’ three countries. But this is exactly what makes the country so accepting, welcoming and united in the end, allowing each and every one of us to be part of the bigger picture. This is Switzerland. 29
Words: Jozef Wardynski Images: Richard Ella via Flickr.com and La Montagne Autrefois
THE GUIDES OF NATURE Mountain guides are teachers who ‘change your soul forever’
One step, two steps, three steps, four steps. One turn, two turns, three turns, four turns. One piton, two pitons, three pitons, four pitons (metal spike). No, it is not a dance, it is what a community of mountain guides have to do for living. Not only does the guide of nature have to take his client safely to the top of the mountains and down, but also make their time enjoyable too. The profession of mountain guiding has existed since the beginning of the 19th century. There is a place in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps where local highlanders unified and decided to change their survival skills into a touristic profession 150 years ago. A group of chamois (a type of mountain goat) hunters, who spent their time looking for food supplies on high altitude, started to use their knowledge to show mountaineering enthusiasts how to get around on the steep terrain. Back in those days, tracking a pray on high altitudes was challenging. Just when you think you have almost got it, suddenly it spooks and disappears into the glacier, snow and rocks. It could take days to find a new footprint of the animal. “This is where the tiredness of the hunter begins” says the chairman of the Medical Society of Geneva in 1818, 30
Andre Matthey. “Taken by the passion [ for hunting], he does not know danger anymore; he goes into the glacier without fear of what is underneath, he goes into the most difficult of routes without thinking of the way back.” With only a quarter of dry baguette and a finger piece of Beaufort (local cheese) left you go to sleep. Not under a tree like normally you would but under a sky full of stars, or if lucky enough, a cosy cave. When the animal was finally caught, after maybe seven days of loneliness surrounded only by needle-like summits, you go back to the village where you feed your family and dry meat to sell it later on. Today, the life of a guide could be compared to the one of a life-long athlete. Some are able to climb Mont Blanc sometimes more than 30 times a season. Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest mountain, was first ascended by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard in 1786 after dozens of attempts; it is now scaled more than 20,000 times a year. Guides are educated to deal with all sorts of situations. Let’s take an average person, who works eight hours a day in Canary Wharf who has never been in the mountains before, except maybe taking part in an annual ski trip. There are many reasons which push people to the extremes of mountaineering. One of them could be an
inspirational Hollywood production. Another, maybe a relationship break-up, where a challenging mountain could become a good cure to pain. Or simply an engaging passion, which drives people to experience the unforgettable. All a person has to do is call a guiding company in town, rent the necessary stuff and here we go... Usually, it is in an ‘I pay you take me to the summit’ relationship. But after a while the power of athletic emotions and adrenaline turns people into friends and rope companions. The money aspect is still present, but loose in its importance. In essence, a guide’s job is to take an unprepared person, after an evaluation, to places where you would not even think of. Needless to say, the profession exposes you to a lot of risks. According to the French mountain guide’s trade union (Syndicat National des Guides de Montagne) report, between 2003-2013, 286 major accidents took place, out of which around 70 were casualties. The mortality rate for mountain guides is 4.35 per year per 1000 mountain guides. Accidents can occur for many reasons. For instance, when a guide skis off a designated track, he or she can be exposed to avalanches or seracs (spikes of ice). Or when climbing with a client, they can be exposed to falls and other dangers. It is estimated that up to 50 per cent of mountain guides have suffered some form of physical effects after accidents and 22 per cent have had to reduce their working time as a result, meaning lower incomes for them and for their families. Artefact had the opportunity to talk with the president of the “Syndicat National des Guides de Haute Montagne”, who himself is a guide, having started mountaineering in his teens, to talk about the risks and environmental issues related to mountain guiding.
If this was not enough, the applicant has to show a list of around 39 mountain excursions done before the application process can officially begin. The mountaineers are questioned by the jury, on specific places they climbed, to make sure they are not making it up. Questions such as, where exactly did you have lunch when climbing that ridge three years ago are a normality. You have to know it by heart.
“Up to half of all mountain guides have suffered from an accident and 22 per cent have had to reduce their working time as a result”
Environmental issues also play a part in the life of a guide. Irregular snow precipitations and temperatures, can evolve the holding layers of snow or grass and can act as a slide for the incoming layers, thus resulting in an avalanche. This is what happened in January 2016 when the snow arrived late. This resulted in multi-avalanche accidents in the Les Deux Alpes resort which killed two children and in Valfrejus, where five soldiers were killed. The environmental changes also act as an income imitator for mountain guides and ski resorts.
When asked how a guide makes his clients comfortable in dangerous situations he replied: “You need to do a briefing first, explaining potential dangers to your clients... You need to explain the decisions and make sure they aren’t too stressed... Adapt your objectives if needed.” Sports linked to mountaineering have evolved over the last 40 years. Not only in terms of equipment, but also in the way climbing or skiing is practised.
These innovations include the invention of nylon ropes (which are safer to use than the natural fibre equivalents), the transition from wooden carabiners (connectors) to metallic, sun and snow glare protection, the invention of new clothing with systems such as GoreTex, sleeping gear with modernised tents and sleeping bags, avalanche beacons, portable stoves and Lyophilised food and many more. All of these have contributed to the evolution of mountain exploring, but most importantly to safety. Today, safety has jumped to the next level. The invention of helicopters allows rescue teams to reach an area in less then 15 minutes. In order to become a guide in France, you have to be a graduate of what is essentially the Oxbridge of climbing schools, “École Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme” founded in 1949 and located in the Mecca of European mountain sports- Chamonix.
Becoming a guide is a life decision, it is not a bachelor that you could finish in three years, it is something that you have to dedicate your life to. Not only for the school part, which usually takes around 70 months, but in a majority for the life experience you get afterwards. For instance, you learn the subject of nivology (the study of snow) for a long period of time, but to use this knowledge on real slopes is much different. This notion of experience over safety is well represented in the report above, stating that most of the accidents appeared to be after eight to twelve years after graduation. The obvious duty of a guide is to know the terrain where one works. Often it take ages to memorise each slope and corner of the mountain range. Guides have to know where avalanches go down and why and if they go down they have to know if it is safe to be there at this time of the day. For example, sometimes it is safer to be on a slope early in the morning rather than in the full sun and the guide has to be sure of that.
Mr. Jacquier told Artefact: “I knew the risks before going into the guiding school, I don’t like taking them though. I would rather master it making sure it is under control... Money would never influence the way I behave in the mountains.”
“The knowhow, technics and the equipment are in a constant evolution. That is why so much scientific research is taking place and students have to learn continuously” said Mr. Jacquier.
The main feature of a guide is to be versatile athletically and mentally. The school is planning to add an extra type of examination to the qualification, based on pedagogical skills. A guide is not only an athlete, but also a teacher who helps pupils to overcome obstacles. A big part of the job is to learn how to be approachable and patient with individuals who have never experienced the mountains. “What did they teach me? Everything.” said the author Michel Serres in the book Les Enfants du Mont Blanc. “Guides are at first pedagogues, whose model and words change your soul forever.”
In countries such as Poland, mountain guides are examined by an independent body led by the IFGA. Today, mountain guides in France are either members of local offices and communities, such as the two oldest guides association in the world; ”Compagne de Guides Saint Gervais—Les Contamines” (1864) and “Compagne de Guides de Chamonix” (1821) or they work as freelancers. Regardless of their status, they have to be members of the ‘’International Federation of Mountain Guides Association’’, which acts as a regulating body of all guides around the world. Among others, it determines the level of mandatory training schemes, fights for environmental causes and supports the emerging and smaller local offices. Prior to being accepted to ENSA, you have to pass a complex ten-day entrance exam. This consists of showing the level of your mountaineering skills in five particular disciplines; skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, mix (snow and rock), a timed scrambling run with big mountaineering shoes, terrain navigation tests and last but not least, a five-day high mountain trip.
The late snowing this year, starting only in mid January (compared to other years when it started towards the end of November) reinforces the argument that global warming is changing our planet. British media including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and Evening Standard are claiming, based on scientific data, that the lack of snow caused by a rise in temperature, could make many resorts in the Alps below 2500 metres (8202 feet) unusable within the next 80 years. Mountain guiding is a two season job, with summers off and winters on. Even though there is no shortage of snow enthusiasts, if one of these seasons is missed, the profession may disappear. Time will show if a strong community of mountain crafters with a history going back more than a century, will survive the crisis. When Artefact asked if global warming will change the profession of guides, Mr Jacquier replied: “The number of clients increases regularly, so the number of guides will have to increase as well. The climate changes are already perceptible. Guides are observing them very carefully, but they also adapt in their practise. The capacity to adapt and the diversification of practises is what define guides.” 31
Words: Cheyanne Ntangu Image: John H White via Wikimedia Commons
CAN YOU BE BLACK, CHRISTIAN AND WOKE? Should people of colour reject Christianity as a relic of slavery?
“White Jesus” hasn’t done anything for us, say members of black non-Christian communities. They are urging black people to put the crucifix and holy oil away because Christianity is not for them: it was, they say, brought by the slave master to Africa to oppress Africans. Black people should opt for our own African gods: and those who don’t, unfortunately, are not ‘woke’ enough. In fact, they’re fast asleep. The church is a huge part of black identity. Parliamentary research briefing files show that 56.7 per cent of the UK’s population describes themselves as Christian. Black British/Black make up 3.1 per cent of the UK’s population, according to the most recent census which indicates 69 per cent of blacks are Christian, 13 per cent are Muslim and seven per cent are of other faiths or are non-religious. Pantheist and student, Pauline Aphiaa, 20, says: “[if black people] wish to set their eyes on a higher power and bend their knee to pray to and worship something then perhaps our own African gods are the best way to go. At least we thought of them ourselves, we worship them ourselves, we tell their stories ourselves, they are gods made by us and for us and I think that's the best it’s ever going to be.” Aphiaa explains the newly coined term ‘woke’ as being “educated. I’m not talking about the education you receive, but the self-education you have taught yourself.” Being ’woke’ relates to one being aware of what is going on in community, in terms of social inequality, racism and also being aware of oneself and one’s heritage. “[It’s] the understanding of the world, and people with32
out being ignorant. The injustice, true history, racism, sexism and having the desire create a difference to change inequality and educate people,” she adds. However, this word doesn’t apply to all, as some believe that you cannot be pro-black and pro-Christian. Christianity was brought to Africa for no other reason than to lift up, glorify and sublimate the white man into a position of power over black people. "Christianity was brought to control us, oppress us and keep us controlled and oppressed long after the white man had left Africa,” says Aphiaa. She adds: “Christianity was used as a tool not only to speed up the process of slavery by getting black people to align themselves with a common belief (of something that was both above them and above the whites) but also to justify the slavery & ill treatment we suffered at the hands of white men.” There’s a famous saying by the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, that reads: “When the missionaries came to Africa, we had the land and they had the bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed and when we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” However, Olivia Masengi, 20, argues: “If you are woke and a Christian I think it should come from a place of loving everyone the same and treating everyone with love and respect. With this, the basic of valuing everyone’s opinion but knowing what the word of God says takes that oxymoron away.” The slave trade has left a bitter taste, as blacks argue that the beliefs of African gods have been demonised and replaced with the Christian God, when the slave masters imposed their religion and rules banning
Africans from worshipping African gods. In 1781 the Jamaican Assembly passed down a law calling for the death of the practitioners of Obeah, a religious practice which originates from West Africa, parallel to Haitian vodou, commonly known as voodoo. “Any Negro or other slave who shall pretend to any supernatural power,” the act states, “and be detected in making use of any blood, feathers, parrots-beaks, dogsteeth, alligators-teeth, broken bottles, grave-dirt, rum, eggshells, or any other materials relative to the practice of Obeah or witchcraft... upon conviction... [shall] suffer death.” Obeah and myalism, another folk religion, remains outlawed in Jamaica under the Obeah Act 1898 Computer animation student Dwight Okeke told Artefact: “I do believe if you are going to be religious, you shouldn’t follow a religion that was brought to you by conquest. If we were to go back in history before colonialism, Christianity was used as a tool to achieve colonialism. It was a sword out people were struck with. So to now intentionally take up that sword and continue to strike ourselves is bemusing. Slaves were not allowed to read but were given the Bible. “They were given Jesus every Sunday after a week of dehumanising torture and labour. It is plain to see what Christianity means in the context of race relations, so to continue to partake in it is nonsensical,” he adds. It is very much true that Africans were forced into Christianity during the time of slavery. However, the ideologies of Christian beliefs are not foreign to the lands of Africa. Christian communities in North Africa were among the earliest in the world dating as far back
as the first or early second century AD. Once Christianity was established in North Africa, it slowly spread east to Ethiopia. Additionally, many stories in the Bible took place in Africa. Centre of Pan-African Thought speaker Jo Dash discusses the notions of religion and spirituality, saying that: "the concepts of Christianity, concepts meaning the ideas you find in the Bible have been inscribed on tablets and temple walls since the beginning of time. What people don’t know is that both Christianity and Islam came out of Egypt, both ideologies, and at the time they weren’t called Christianity and weren’t called Islam.” So, if both ideologies were formed in Africa, how can blacks possibly be brainwashed or disconnected from their culture and history if the same forefathers who prayed to African gods, are the same ones who dedicated their time to bible these temples and tablets? They believed in these ideologies before the participation of white slave masters. Jo Dash says "the problem is you can take any piece of literature and turn it into something extreme or something that is good for the people.” However, many have turned their backs on the church and believe it is the last place for resolutions, as Christians are believed to have the simplest solution and empathetic approach disguised in religiosity rhetoric of prayer. Prayer solves everything. Indeed, the religion is faith based, however that is only half of the truth. In the Bible it clearly states that “faith without action” is void and that you must fight for those victims of injustice. “Isaiah 1:17 [NRSV]: learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” “If we don’t care about justice how can we say we have a faith that justifies?” Joseph Solomon, also known as ‘chaseGodtv’ on Youtube, asks his audience. Diamond Kelekelo, 22, explains: “My religion teaches about humility, and standing against inequality. The bible speaks of many people who died and fought for what they believe in, people who got persecuted for their beliefs and people who fought against inequality against slavery and freedom." “That’s what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about and that’s what black history has been about. It’s been about freedom to express yourself, freedom for the same rights as those who try to control you and there are many examples listed in the bible that speaks against injustice, inequality, slavery and racial hierarchy,” she says. Diamond continues to discuss how slavery shouldn’t push black people away from Christianity. “[Slavery] has nothing to do with Christianity although I do understand how slave masters used Christianity and twisted it to fulfill their greed, but there are many twisted individuals even now who proclaim to be Christians who twist the bible for their own gain. Slavery happened because of greed and the desire to have power and domination against a group of people," she tells Artefact. World renowned preacher, Martin Luther King Jr plays an important role in black history. He was an activist and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. As much as King Jr was pro-black and woke, he was very much involved in the church as an American Baptist minister. King Jr practised non-violent methods throughout the advancement of the civil rights in America and reinforced love and unity. Religious teachings had a massive impact on the movement as many major denominations supported the movement financially and intellectually. Many of the leaders were passionate church ministers who served the people. The Southern Christian Leadership conference (SCLC) formed in 1957 aimed to
yoke the moral authority and organise powerful black churches to conduct a non-violent protest in the purist of the civil rights reform. They all collectively educated and established organisations and community engagement for thousands of movement supporters. So no, they didn’t “just pray” but they took action, organised themselves and marched down the same streets they weren’t welcome in.
decision to follow the faith because it felt right. “Being a Christian is more than just a religion to me. I rarely think of the religion, it’s more about my personal relationship with God," Diamond says, "having an infinite friendship with someone who understands you, is always there when you just need to talk, cry and ultimately wants the best for you and gives you something that no human ever will."
Diamond Kelekelo highlights what Christianity tells her: “As a Christian I am taught to be fair, to love everyone regardless of their beliefs, skin colour, gender and it also teaches about fighting against injustice and that’s why I believe that you can be a Christian and be pro-black. My religion teaches me to love my neighbor and speak up when I see somebody being wronged and that’s why it’s easy for me to be woke and I’ve never struggled to differentiate the two because as a black woman, I understand the injustice I face not just because I am black but also because as a woman and there are many Christians in my position who are being persecuted every day worldwide for their beliefs and with how black people are being killed every day, I cannot separate the two,” she says.
Galatians 3:28 [NRSV]: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer man and female; for all of you are on in Jesus Christ.” The image of Jesus sometimes takes a toll on black people, believers and non-believers on how they see God. We have always known Jesus to be a gorgeous white man with bright blue eyes, long locks and a perfectly neat full beard. Many believe that this image of Jesus was used to brainwash blacks into thinking the ‘white man’s’ God is powerful and everyone else is inferior.
Olivia Masengi says: “I do believe you can be pro-black and Christian as I believe as Christians and believers of Christ, we are made in God's image. I believe that God is a diverse God and that reflects in the way he created all things. Because of this, we shouldn't be ashamed to celebrate the different ways he has created us. “Sin is not just simply not smoking, not drinking, not dating girls who smoke or drink, that’s not sin. Sin is basically the attempt by human beings to take the place of God, and that’s what racism does,” says author of Prophetic Lament Soong-Chan Rah. “Every single person is made in the image of God and what racism does is say that certain people are made in the image of God and certain people are not and that’s when we get things like slavery, genocide of Native Americans because certain people who were made in the image of God have the authority to go out and conquer and destroy, and enslave people who are “not” made in the image of God,” he adds. “That’s how the sin comes in, when human beings made the decision [that] we are going to usurp God’s rightful place in creation,” he says. Genesis 1:27 [NRSV]: “So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Through, my own personal experience with Christianity, I have realised that it cannot oppress me. My faith teaches that I am not oppressed nor lesser than my white counterparts as we are all equal as image bearers in God’s eyes. The idea of spirituality in Christianity is often disregarded, however, the faith revolves heavily around spirituality and the relationship between man and God. The concept of spirituality includes the sense of connection to something bigger than one’s self. It searches for the deeper meaning of life. For Christians, the Trion God – God the father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit – is what connects our spirits to God and each other. For believers are spirit beings, who possess a soul and lives in flesh. In the video “Is Christianity religion or relationship,” Joseph Solomon points out that “Christianity is not ultimately about a check list of dos and don’ts but ultimately loving God. God has invited us into a relationship through His son Jesus, who kept the rules so that we can have the power to do the same and practice what God calls good religion.” I have a personal relationship with God, a spiritual connection with the Most High. I do not attend a “black church” so that I can mourn over our oppressed blackness. I do not attend church because of my parents, Christian spirituality is not passed down like traditions. I made a conscious
Diamond points out that “we’re taught to believe in white Jesus. We’re taught Christianity the way the white people want us to learn it so that the white rhetoric of saviour and good is constantly in our mind. However, when you analyse history, Egypt and where Jesus grew up, the stories in the Bible and places in the Bible you’ll see that it’s all based in Africa but this is rarely ever spoken about, most just accepted as the norm and never-even- questioned geography” she says “So, yes I believe everyone, including blacks, have been brainwashed in the way that they believe, see and perceive God. However, these descriptions of Jesus have to have been created by society. They are not real, as none of these imageries correlate with historical, cultural and biblical descriptions. Jesus’ appearance is briefly mentioned and it shows that it was not of much importance,” she adds “What’s the Jesus you have in mind? Is it a white Jesus? Is it a republican Jesus? Is it a suit and tie Jesus? Or is it the Jesus of history who happens to be a Jew, and we forget that every once in a while that Jesus was actually a Jew,” says Soong-Chan Rah. Knowing from scripture that he was a Jew, we could possibly conclude that he had dark skin, dark eyes and hair. Also, he most likely wore his hair short because of the cultural principles at the time. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet prophesized how Jesus would look. He says "He had no form of majesty that we should look to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire him,” Isaiah 53: 2 [NRSV]. This suggests that his physical appearance on earth wasn’t anything special and he was an average looking guy. “The doctrine of Christology tells us Jesus is fully divine, but he is also fully human and that uniqueness in Jesus’ humanity is also reflected in a cultural, spiritual and physical dynamic and what we’ve done is extracted Jesus so much that we’ve reconstructed into a white Jesus, so we go back to the true, both divine and human so that we go deeper into the person of Jesus rather than an abstract version of Jesus we tend to follow” says Soong-Chan Rah. Christianity is not passed down, it is not something that you inherit�it’s a decision. Indeed, you can be forced to attend church and believe in God, however, that is not true Christianity. We have been given free will to believe and practice whatever we so desire and without the willingness and understanding there is no real spiritual connection. For me Christianity is beyond having faith in a higher power, it is deeply ingrained in me. It’s part of my DNA. I am as much Christian as I am black. I don’t have to choose to be Christian or pro-black as the Bible requires me to be both. 33
Words: Cecilia Medina Medoni Image: Alex via flickr.com
BRITAIN’S BARGAINING CHIPS EU citizens living in the UK fear for their future post-Brexit
After Britain voted for Brexit on June 23, 2016, the result brought a feeling of uncertainty about the conditions under which almost three million EU nationals will be going to live, and brought questions and concerns. The idea of freedom of movement within the EU was originally designed to allow people from different countries to mix, to prevent conflict between European countries and to promote social integration. It allowed EU citizens to assess their priorities and go where they thought they would be met. The main reason why EU nationals come to the UK is to find work. According to the last report from the UK’s Office of National Statistics, EU nationals are more likely to work (80 per cent) than UK nationals (75 per cent) and 5 per cent of the UK population are EU nationals.
at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham in October. Theresa May also said: “We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration.” While Brexit negotiations take place, the government must not ‘reveal its hand’ before concluding them, said May. She said she was willing to give EU citizens certainty, but it depended on Britons living in the EU receiving the same rights. Labour MP Gisela Stuart said that would be “deeply offensive” to deny the right to stay to millions of people, and that they could not be used as “bargaining chips.”
However, immigration from the EU has had bad press during the Brexit campaign. Comparing those figures with the estimates made later in 2015, there was a significant increase in the EU population, from 2.9 million to 3.2 million. The largest group are the Polish, followed by the Irish and the German, according to ONS.
However, a report from the House of Lords published in December said that there is “little, if any, effective protection” for EU citizens. Artefact spoke to people from Poland, Ireland, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Italy, France, Spain, Hungary, Greece, Austria and Bulgaria. Most were young and have lived in London for at least three years. They came to Britain in search of work or to do a university degree. Some of them asked not to be named so that their employment prospects would not be affected or attract discrimination by expressing their ideas freely.
“The clear message from the referendum is this: we must be able to control immigration,” said David Davies
Although they said they don’t have plans to leave the country immediately, they expressed varying degrees of
concern about their personal situations post-Brexit. The Leave campaign focused on portraying immigration as a problem that has to be controlled, giving less importance to the economic costs that the country will have to face when leaving the EU. French citizen Laurent Couvelard said the decision to leave the EU “was not a rational vote based on facts.” “The campaign”, said an Austrian woman, was based on “fears about immigration and blaming ‘others’ for the financial issues the UK is in.” “British people saw [Brexit] as an opportunity to express how they really feel about migrants without being accused of discrimination,” said a Bulgarian woman. Now EU citizens wait for the resolution of the Brexit negotiations. “There is uncertainty because of the lack of information about the following steps,” according to Rosa Mallol, a Spanish citizen working in the UK. French citizen Laurent Couvelard said that the transition would give him time to re-organise in case he has to leave the UK. Others are more positive: “I work, I pay taxes and never got benefits. I think things will work out in a positive and non discriminative way,” said a Hungarian woman. “I can’t hear any voices for immigration,” said Polish
citizen Lukasz Konieczka, who is working for a charity in the UK. “Nobody seems to remember that a lot of old fragile British people have retired in Italy, France and Spain causing a burden in health services there, and Britain gets hard working committed people through immigration,” he added. Following the Referendum hate crimes have increased by 41 per cent, according to the Home Office statistics. In June, xenophobic graffiti was found in the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith. In August, Polish citizen Arek Jóźwik was killed in Essex. Lukasz Konieczka, said that he is still “in deep shock” since the attacks on his community happened. A Polish woman working in the UK said that she was “a bit scared at the beginning but now things went back to normal”. She said this is because she lives in London. “It is not the same as before though, I feel very different to how I felt before the referendum,” she added. Poland asked the British government to launch an educational campaign in the UK to inform the public of the rights of EU citizens in September. The government has a clear agenda when it comes to the control of immigration. Back in 2013 there were proposals from the Home Office to create a “hostile environment” for illegal migrants. “What we don’t want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they’re able to access everything they need,” said Theresa May, who was Home Secretary at the time.
by the National Police Chiefs' Council last September, there was a surge in hate crime in the weeks after the vote and the level has remained high since, with reported incidents up to 40 per cent up on the same period a year ago.
“If they don’t want us, we can leave. They will want us back. They don't know how much they need us.”
The last report from the ECRI said that the authorities should be careful “when developing and explaining policies, to ensure that the message sent to society as a whole is not one likely to foment or foster intolerance,” and reminded newspapers about “the importance of responsible reporting” to prevent harm done “to targeted persons or vulnerable groups.” One German woman, who works in the medical sector, said that despite being in London, which voted to remain, it now feels like there are “negative underlying feeling towards Europeans in the UK.” She also said that even though she does not fit the profile of migrants the government is targeting as unskilled, she is “as European as a Polish worker.” A Spanish citizen working in sports, Manuel Peña Garces, said he felt immigration is divided in different types. “Some people accept me but, they don’t accept others,” he said, referring to Polish workers. He said that feeling welcome depends on [a person] having “a pretty strong stomach.”
“If they don’t want us, we can leave. They will want us back. They don’t know how much they need us,” said a French woman who is working in the UK. One in ten NHS professionals are from the EU, which means the future of the NHS is also uncertain. Anna Veli, a Greek woman working for the NHS, said that it is “an extra help having staff that can speak languages other than English,” and understand different cultures. She said it can help some patients to “feel more comfortable” when receiving treatment in hospital. When asked if Brexit changed their plans in any way, most of them said their lives were not changed significantly. Their concerns had more to do with the economy. “The economic repercussions are the most devastating for this country,” said Italian citizen Lorena Zuliani. A Spanish woman working for a multinational with its headquarters in London said: “The company has activated the protocol to relocate in another country in Europe. At the moment I don’t know where my workplace will be. I thought about buying a home but I stopped the process.”
Last year, there were proposals found in leaked documents to use schools to make immigration checks on pupils. Labour frontbencher Angela Rayner recently told the BBC that is “not a British value that we have.” UK law states that every person under the age of 16 has the right to an education, regardless of their parents’ status. “It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said Christian Ahlund, the chair of The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in The Guardian.
Although most of the 25 people interviewed by Artefact did not have any racist comments directed at them after the results of the referendum, a Spanish woman said she had to make a formal complaint to the NHS about this. When asking for an alternative treatment to the general practitioner in her local surgery, she was told “If you are not happy, you can go to the doctor in your country.”
personally don’t feel too much pressure because of the geographical and political ties between the UK and Ireland,” she added. A software developer from Romania said she never met people who judged her on where she comes from, while Italian citizen Lorena Zuliani told us: “I feel very valued in my workplace. In science there aren’t a lot of British and they bring people from abroad.” Some said they felt more welcome in London, but they did not know how welcome they would feel in the rest of England. A Spanish citizen, Alberto Redondo, said that he could foresee the results of the referendum when he visited rural areas. “Sometimes there is a concern about whether to say that you are not from here because you don’t know what the reaction of the other person will be,” said Lorena Zuliani. “After the Brexit results, I think twice before speaking in Spanish on the phone when I’m on a train,” said Rosa Mallol. Two white EU citizens, who asked not to be named, said that if they were more ethnic looking they think they would be treated differently. An Italian woman studying a Masters degree, Carolina Cal Angrisani, said she was given opportunities on the basis of being an ethnic minority, so the organisation she belongs to looks more “international and diverse.”
In the light of how some EU nationals were treated and the rising number of crimes related to race or nationality, we asked them if they still feel welcome, and most said they did.
Angrisani also said that everyday little things remind her that she is a foreigner, like being asked where she is from, what she is doing here or if she is planning to stay. She said it feels that in a conversation “everything will go around that. Some people seem surprised that I can speak good English.”
“I don’t feel I belong here any less since the vote to leave,” said an Irish woman who arrived to the UK three years ago and works in the health sector. “I
Since the referendum there have been many reports of racist incidents and abuse directed against European citizens living in Britain. According to a report compiled
“As it stands at the moment I definitely won’t have children here,” said an Italian woman. “I can’t imagine them having a decent quality of life,” she added, referring to the changes in the economy. She also said: “I wouldn’t want my kids growing learning from others to be closed minded and racist.” “Why would I fight to be in a place that does not want me or just wants me as an exotic element?,” said Italian citizen Carolina Cal Angrisani. “I don’t want to be in a place where I will always be the immigrant. I don’t want my kids to be kids of immigrants.” “It is obvious that I am a foreigner,” said a Greek man working in the health sector. When speaking about his children he said they “will be fine. No one can tell where they are coming from.” When asked if they considered applying for the British Citizenship, most of them said they wouldn’t. “I will be applying for British passport, just in case. I need some security,” said a Polish woman doing a PhD, who asked not to be named. Alberto Redondo, from Spain, said he “will stay for now”, but he does not feel as safe as he did before. Most of them said they are planning to stay for a few years or on a long-term basis. Returning to the country where they were born, some of them said, is a desire. However, it may not be as easy as it once seemed to them, due to the work stability they can find here and not there. Nationalism is now strong in the UK. Other factors that may add to the will to leave the EU might be cultural and identity issues. How to restrict free movement is something to be solved. In the meantime, “considerable intolerant political discourse in the UK” is something that needs to be addressed, according to ECRI. 35
Words: Alex Riches Images: Bob Thissen
THE BEAUTY OF DECAY Photographer Bob Thissen explores a world of travel and abandonment
Bob Thissen is a 31-year-old photographer, animator and nomad, hailing from Hererlen, the Netherlands. His images of stark decay in immense and often former luxurious and influential places have been used around the internet for years. Almost every major British national newspaper has featured them, from the Daily Mail to the Express.
“During my holidays I helped my teacher with a few stop motion projects. I learned that you can animate literally everything. Water, sand, garbage, you name it! In my final year I had carte blanche to make an animation movie. So I thought: why not combine my two biggest passions, urban exploring and stop motion.
Thissen has been researching and photographing abandoned buildings for ten years: his dedication to capturing the ‘beauty of decay’ is unparalleled. “I like the unknown, not knowing what you can expect or what adventure will come. I try abandoned places nobody dares to go or go to countries no other urban explorers visit. The more difficult it is to get or get inside, the more memorable the trip will be. So I rarely ask permission to shoot.”
“I explore the most beautiful abandoned buildings worldwide and bring them back alive with stop motion. It’s raw action, beauty shots and animation techniques combined. This project was also really long and frustrating, but it was really fun travelling and shooting inside various abandoned buildings. I already miss it!” Thissen’s photos emanate with the tragedy of the locations. Places that have hours of work poured into them, places that were previously filled with people, now stand forgotten and decrepit.
“I take a lot of risks to take the perfect picture. Every weekend is another memorable adventure in another country. Two weeks ago, I was hiking to a building on the top of a mountain in the snow and freezing cold. Last week, I found myself lost in the African desert searching for abandoned places and in a few days, I will be visiting abandoned theme parks in Taiwan’s jungle. It’s an addiction.” In 2013 Thissen attended the MAD Faculty in Genk, Belgium, focusing on motion design, special effects and 3D and building his portfolio of stop motion films. He graduatied with a high distinction in a Master course of Animation with his stop-motion short movie Nothing Beside Remains. “Toon Loenders [one of Thissen’s tutors] inspired me with his stop motion lessons. Not the tiny stop motion made in studios, but real size. As I already knew how photography worked I started experimenting with filming and photographing techniques combined with animation.” 36
The fragility of human consumption is implied clearly by the degradation of such grandiose buildings. Each photograph raises the questions: Why was it left? Who occupied it? How has the building evaded the usual passage of being disposed of or being preserved? How can such edifices be simply overlooked by many people? Each holds an interesting story. A Soviet monument at Buzludzha, left to the snow, has been there since the iron curtain fell in 1989 and Bulgaria moved into a time of democracy. Now shrouded in snow, desolate atop a mountain like the ideology that left the place long ago. Thissen prefers to shoot large open spaces, “I don’t often shoot details,” he specifies. The colossal spaces he shoots adds to the air of decay, the often ambiguity of the space providing immeasurable intrigue. Large spaces in decay are more thought provoking to a viewer. We are used to seeing small things, shops or even boarded up houses.
But the scale of the decay in Thissen’s photos draws the eyes in, looking around the image as if exploring the location for themselves. Buildings such as these are often not open for access to the public, they are genuinely boarded up or they are just difficult to reach. The images provide a look into a world that not many eyes have seen and stimulates the curiosity we all have for the things we are forbidden to see. This image of depreciating cars in a forest is one with an extra level of interest. The classic cars hark back to a different time, their decay symbolises perfectly the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of civilisation’s possessions. The cars, once prized, polished and luxurious, now sit abandoned in a forest. The cars once belonged to Walter Dean Lewis’ parents, who started a general store that sold car parts in 1931. In 32 acres in a forest in Georgia, the collection grew from having 40 in the 1970s to 400 now. The cars haven’t been moved in decades with trees growing around them and often through, with some being lifted into the air. Lewis stopped selling the car parts in 2009 after realising he’d make more money using the area as a museum, providing many photographers with a muse. “Decay is a kind of art which is created by time and nature. It’s not easy to recreate. I think abandoned buildings look way more fascinating than modern ones. They have great colours and textures. Often you can find great history, beautiful architecture and antiques inside those buildings. It’s great to explore it on your own instead instead of going to a crowded expensive tour in a museum. “It’s so much more than just urban exploring. As I travel everywhere for abandoned buildings, it’s a nice way to explore the world. You visit places almost no tourists
come, you meet nice people and learn a lot about countries and history.” Thissen also creates animation, but keeps abandoned buildings as a motif in his work. Thissen took a trip through Europe with close friend Jeroen after graduating, also studying on the course. They slept, ate and animated in abandoned buildings, getting chased by ‘junkies’, police and even once getting locked in a castle. “I never take the easy way. I had a lot of setbacks.” Thissen explains, buildings were inaccessible or demolished already. Although finding it difficult to put several animations together into a story, and finding some of his work not turning out as well as hoped, the pair persevered continuing on with their distinction to also be nominated at many international film festival. After he graduated Thissen started a company called “Slammer!” with his teacher focusing on working in animation. “We did a few commercial assignments, but Toon told me he wanted to do non-commercial stuff. We started to try to sell two concepts, and both got funded. “One of them is the TV series Exitus which was broadcasted on national TV in The Netherlands and Belgium. It’s actually a follow up from my graduation movie Nothing Beside Remains.” In 2014, Thissen’s company, Slammer!, was funded by the VAF for two projects: Exitus, an eight episode TV series broadcast in The Netherlands and Belgium and Prospero, a 360-degrees short movie. Thissen also freelances at a regional broadcast TV station in the Netherlands called L1. He is also working on another short film, based on an abandoned building. Thissen also plans to become a full time urban explorer and to visit the abandoned highlights of the world. Another way for the public to experience Thissen’s
work is on his YouTube channel. for which he “visits the coolest abandoned buildings in Europe, Asia, Africa and the US and experiences crazy adventures” which is. “I bought a compact drone and stabilized camera to record my adventures in the future, like the TV series but much more daring and pure, without a film crew. The first adventure is already online on my YouTube channel.” When it comes to film the inspiration is the French-Canadian artist Patrick Boivin, who makes experimental short films. “With Nothing Beside Remains I combined my two biggest passions. Stop motion and urban exploring. “I want to show people the beauty of abandoned buildings. It’s a shame they aren’t used anymore. Those buildings were built to last forever. Great architecture and history is disappearing every day, only because of money. Modern buildings are most of the time really ugly and only temporary. “I often come across beautiful abandoned buildings, decaying and forgotten and next to it they are constructing the same kind of building, only 100 times uglier. Why not renovate the old one? I try to re-use those abandoned buildings and bring them back alive with animations or use them for settings in my film work. I also re-use these buildings as a free stay overnight or as a studio.” “With pictures I automatically document places to keep it as a memory when it’s demolished. Especially old fashioned industry landscapes are disappearing fast,” Thiessen told us. “Blast furnaces, power stations and steel plants are rapidly being closed and demolished. Most people think industrial buildings are ugly, but for me it’s a piece of art.” 37
Words: Alex Riches Image: Catherine Bebbington/Parliamentary copyright
John Bercow: hero or hypocrite? Why did the Commons Speaker take a stand against Trump?
of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.
Westminster has been embroiled in controversy in recent days, since Theresa May extended an invitation to President Donald Trump for a state visit and to speak in the House of Commons.
The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Haber Al-Sabah, was welcomed by a speech by Bercow himself in 2012. The Emir has long been accused of holding mass executions and being against freedom of speech. Bercow’s speech started with “Your Highness, it is my privilege to welcome you here to our parliament for this important stage of your state visit … your presence here today is a welcome reminder of the many intimate ties that exist between our nations and our peoples.” The Sheikh also sat on a panel discussing how to support Syria in 2016 with David Cameron.
The statement prompted several members of parliament, especially on the Labour benches, to oppose the visit due to Trump’s much-discussed travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. Boris Johnson took questions from MPs on the topic and claimed that Trump’s actions were not supported by the British government and that they had negotiated the ban to not affect British passport holders. Many MPs were outraged, some citing that the act would present to the world that Britain accepts the beliefs and actions of Trump, some also commented that many U.S. presidents were never offered visits to the UK and the ones that did arrived several months after their inauguration.
2012 saw the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, address parliament from the Queen’s Robing Room. Bercow failed to comment on Britain’s opposition to Yudhoyono’s government’s failure to prevent internal corruption and put a stop to torture by security forces.
The argument has been made that Trump has come in during a sensitive time in politics in the US and across Europe; having Trump as an ally and not an enemy is seen as being of vital importance — chiefly due to Britain’s historically close relationship with America. The parliamentary boat has now been rocked again after John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, answered an MP’s question saying that he “would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump,” to address a joint session of the houses of Parliament. However he accepted that “we value our relationship with the United States” and pointed out that the invitation to a state visit is up to the Queen and “way above and beyond the Speaker’s pay grade.” ** Bercow said his decision against an invitation to address Parliament was based on “our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and independent judiciary are important considerations in the House of Commons.” Social media quickly exploded with both opposition and praise for Bercow’s position; the Labour MP for Tooting, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (@DrRosena) tweeted: “Bold and brave move by the Speaker, doing what the Prime Minister should have had the backbone to do last week.” The debate over whether Ber38
Donald Trump’s ban on travel from specific countries is something that much of the British parliament has publicly condemned, the street protests and the widespread online outcry at his executive order has been followed by the British press and in the rest of Europe.
cow’s decision was honourable or ‘above his pay grade’ also brings up the issue of his integrity and motivations. During his time as speaker, Bercow has welcomed, without qualm, many leaders of countries who one could deem, not share British values on ‘opposition to racism and to sexism’. ** In October 2015, parliament welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping on a state visit where he addressed both houses in the Royal Gallery�he was welcomed with huge support, with the Mall outside the Chinese Embassy being filled with his supporters, drowning out any possible noise any activists could have made. He made it clear during the visit he would not take lectures on democracy from Britain, but was adamant the British-Chinese relationship was of upmost importance. Bercow commented at the time on the speed of China’s industrial
revolution but cautioned about aspiring not simply to be powerful but to also be inspirational in terms of personal freedoms of their citizens. Muslims in China, as a minority group, endure severe religious oppression. In 2014 (an entire year before the visit) the niqab was banned in many parts of China. The country has also long been criticised for human rights abuses, including torturing and imprisoning activists who speak out against China’s government. The Queen noted the importance of both countries’ activity in the UN for the ‘security and prosperity of all our peoples’. President Xi acknowledged the fact he was speaking at the ‘mother of parliaments’ but the structure of following laws and putting people first is in a Chinese legal charter that is almost 2,000 years old. The evening was a lightly passive-aggressive grandiose show
Bercow’s statement, whilst being agreed with by the majority of the British public, can also be said to be in breach of his duty to be unbiased. Although sources close to him say he only needs to be unbiased in domestic matters, many argue this is beside the point. The interjection has likely also infuriated Theresa May, the Prime Minister, who is concentrating on getting a speedy trade deal with the US post-Brexit. ** Brexit could be at the core of his decision�in the past he has been accused of bias after admitting he voted to Remain, and was heard telling a group of school children that Brexit was a mistake. His alleged pandering to the Labour opposition has angered his former Conservative colleagues. Bercow could be inadvertently self-fulfilling his own prophecy about Brexit if his actions against Trump affect an Anglo-American trade deal. Regardless of his motivations, the consequences of his actions remain to be seen.
Words: Abbey Pallett Image: Bryan Ledgard via flickr.com
Laura Marling: semper femina The singer-songwriter unveils her new album
It’s February 13 and after a slight panic as to whether or not this Southern train is actually stopping at New Cross, I find myself sitting in Goldsmiths University’s student union bar awaiting the beginning of the press conference for Laura Marling’s sixth studio album Semper Femina. A woman across the room from me is taking sips from a glass of red and a group of art students sip from bottles of beer as they smoke on the terrace. I marvel at the strong feminine turnout dispersed, though not equally, with young male journalists. All of us are on our phones or chatting about Marling and the injustice of her not having already been awarded a Mercury Prize, despite being nominated for the award in 2008, 2010 and 2013. ** We are ushered into an auditorium where a stage awaits us and we wait for Laura Marling, surrounded by signs that remind us that we are not permitted to record or take photos. Soothing, the first track on the new LP plays as the last seats are taken. A twangy bass line accompanies the main hook, with the rhythmic snare of the drums in the background. The music wraps itself around Marling’s sensual vocals and velvety tones as the chorus ensues. Walking bass fingers push you through the song whilst the sound of strings literally soothes the listener. Jen Long, of BBC Radio One, joyfully oversees this afternoon’s affair and introduces the artist to the stage. Laura emerges, dressed almost entirely in angelic white and opens with Wild Fire, the third track on the album. The seemingly effortless talent behind her voice hides in the way she performs, looking almost deadpan straight ahead whilst the music just flows from her fingertips. Hearing the track live and subsequent listens makes the hairs on my arms stand up, as if my body were syncing with my brain’s thoughts. A titillating feature of Laura’s songs is that she always seems to throw in swear words where they are least expected. People have this image of her as a dainty blonde and sweet folk singer, something she likes to contradict about herself and is aiming to achieve through the entirety of the album, a beautiful and probing insight into womanhood, by a woman, for women. The album Semper Femina draws its name from a perceived ‘two
fingers up’ at what may be perceived as a derogatory jibe found in a poem by Virgil. The Latin epic The Aeneid features the line “Varium et mutabile semper femina” which translates to “Fickle and changeable, always a woman.” Laura eschewed the fickle and changeable leaving “always a woman”�a phrase which she had tattooed on her at the age of 21. ** Semper Femina began life as a record written about the image of women from the perspective of men. Laura soon changed this after realising that she could reclaim power and also had permission to write about women from a woman’s point of view in all aspects. “We’re somewhat accustomed to seeing women through men’s eyes, naturally it was my inclination to try and take some power over that, but I very quickly realised that the powerful thing to do was to look at women through a woman’s eyes.” Listening to an album about women, sexuality, and the constructed gender of them written from a woman’s point of view is extremely powerful, especially since it is so rare. Much of Marling’s back catalogue is packed with songs that tell stories around one tale she wanted to tell. Some inspiration of which she has gleaned from literature. “I used to read a lot of fiction and I don’t any more, but I read a lot poetry. So Gothic Romantic literature used to play quite a big part in my vocabulary of emotional experience. Now that I have my own
emotional experiences, I like drawing on them and delving into poetry more,” she tells the conference. ** Citing Rainer Maria Rilke as her favourite poet she tells us that he was dressed as a girl until the age of eight, which had “a profound effect on his relationship to women”, he went on to become “somewhat of an obsessive woman-fancier” but it was his “misguided perception of felinity” that led her to investigate notions of gender and womanhood further. The record hosts a few ruminating ballads such as ‘The Valley’ and ‘Nothing Not Nearly’ reminiscent of Jeff Buckley The Valley smartly reflects with a kind of English nostalgia on broken female relationships. The vocals harmonise and glide over oscillating melodic guitar. They are melancholic yet warm and reflective—perhaps a lesson for women to be kinder to each other in a world that wants so badly to see them pitted against one another. The sixth track, Wild Once, is a simple and sweet arrangement that celebrates the archetype of the ‘wild woman’. This track is born out of the influence of the book ‘The Women who Run with the Wolves’ and her experiences of hiking a lot in the United States where she wrote the album in late 2015. “I’ve been asked a lot to have firm opinions about femininity and feminism and I still don’t know enough about either of those sub-
jects to have firm opinions about them,” she tells the conference. ** Besides the spellbinding performances Laura gave us, an insightful remark comes in response to America’s influence on the production and writing of Semper Femina. “I love America and find America very infuriating for the same reason. I love them because they give a lot of value to artists and everyone is an artists and that’s quite nice if you’ve devoted your career, inadvertently in my case, to being an artist….but it also gives a very strange over the top reverence to people who have lived very self indulgent lives and demand to be called artists.” This conflicting love-hate relationship is symbolic of her “own inner tussle”, an unrelenting one in which she ponders whether her creativity “is an indulgence or is it a compulsion?” America enabled her to create a feeling that “without self-criticism that I should be doing something more important, or more useful rather.” So where is she headed next? “I don’t know. Music has a funny way, or creativity, has a funny way of being ahead of you. So I don’t know where I am now, because maybe it’s still catching up to me.” Semper Femina is released March 10 2017 on More Alarming Records. 39
Words: Ella Wilkinson
Can you live in London on £20 a week? A writer sets herself the challenge of a frugal lifestyle in the capital
to eat quite lavishly (in regards of my circumstances) throughout the weekend and ended my week off nicely.
London: the city of dreams but the sinkhole of money. Amidst the great smog of London you find yourself divulging extortionate amounts of money for everything you eat, drink, and do. A single cocktail in Mayfair can easily set you back over a tenner, a dinner out in central can range from £20 to exorbitant amounts, and even topping up an oyster card can leave a burning hole in your pocket.
For dinners I had: • Pesto chicken with pea and onion couscous • Shakshuka (baked eggs in tomato sauce with kale) • Egg Kidney bean, pepper, tomato and onion fajita mix with toast (as I had no wraps) • Homemade carrot and ginger soup • Courgetti with pesto, peas and pan fried chicken • Lime marinated chicken thigh with pepper and onion couscous • Black and white bean burgers with homemade mayonnaise and salad.
That’s not even factoring in living costs; but that’s the price you pay to live in the bustling capital. I set myself a challenge to live off of £20 for an entire week in this greedy city, while still eating well and without skipping a single meal. To make my money last the full week I had to set a concreate plan, unfortunately I did not have the luxury of spontaneity and my wallet did not stretch that far, so I wrote up a list of foods that were extremely versatile. Disclaimer: I have not included oil, salt, pepper and teabags in my shopping list as I am assuming these are a crucial element of everyone’s kitchen cupboards. As I wasn’t sure exactly how much spending money I would need for the week I had to constantly think of cheaper alternatives; kale instead of spinach, spread instead of butter, honey instead of syrup. Not only did I need to use substitutes for expensive items I also needed to find alternatives within food groups. Protein was my biggest problem, chicken is my go-to protein, and it has so many uses and can be flavoured in a multitude of different ways. It’s a lean protein and contains a substantial amount of B vitamins, which are responsible for keeping the body working effectively. Although I did manage to get a large chicken breast and thigh from my local butcher relatively cheaply, I was aware that I wasn’t going to be able to afford much meat. I decided upon eggs as the next best thing with the added perk that they are dirt cheap, I got 15 for £1. Eggs can be used in dozens of different ways and are a tremendous contributor of B vitamins, whose advantages range from keeping your skin and nervous system healthy to helping form haemoglobin (aka the substance in your red blood cells which carries oxygen). When I thought of filling food my initial thought was oats. I also got cheap bulk 40
ingredients like sliced bread and couscous. Having an extensive market so close to my front door is a complete luxury, it’s amazingly good value so I was not worried about not having enough fresh food. And with a little bit of charm, I actually managed to get myself some free fruit and veg which was an added bonus. My total shop, at the supermarket and the fresh food market, came to £14.41 meaning I had £5.59 to get me through the week. Breakfasts were easy, breakfast has always been my favourite meal of the day so it was one of my priorities. With a couple extra quid I would have bought some classic breakfast foods like bacon and sausages for a Sunday fry up, or I would’ve experimented with chia seed puddings and made some gooey banana bread. Instead I made as much variety as I could, from what I had. During this week the breakfasts I had were: • Scrambled eggs on toast • Banana pancakes with honey • Apple and grapes with natural yogurt • Banana frozen yogurt with orange segments • Porridge with banana • Poached egg with kale on toast • Banana oatmeal muffins Packing an interesting lunchbox that varies day to day sounds simple, until you realise you have no sandwich fillers, no ability to keep a stuffed pepper stuffed during transit and no container that you’re brave enough to risk filling with soup. I have always had a love for egg mayonnaise sandwiches. I had plen-
ty of eggs, and thanks to the generosity of a vendor at the market I also had a free lemon, meaning there was only one thing left to do; make mayonnaise. Throughout this process I have learnt that one should never take for granted the luxury of convenience, people say money is time and I can confirm that under all circumstances this is true. When you bite into your supermarket sandwich with disgust and remark “I could do this better myself”. It’s probably true, you probably could, but would you want to invest all that time and effort? So often we go to buy £3 meal deals, but this price can quickly stack up. If someone bought a meal deal five days a week while at work, that’ll cost you £15 a week, and £780 a year. It’s far cheaper, nicer and more nutritious to cook yourself... but you will have to invest your time. For lunches I had: • Porridge with honey • Kidney bean couscous salad • Egg mayonnaise sandwich with homemade mayo and apple salad • Egg salad sandwich with grapes • Couscous, tomato and onion stuffed peppers • Italian farinata (chickpea pancake) • Homemade carrot and ginger soup
Not having the luxury of money was particularly testing towards the end of the week, I wanted to go out on both Friday and Saturday. I had to decline one and pick the cheapest option, but would’ve loved to have gone to both. I was also unable to afford any alcohol so was stuck drinking some awful leftover spirits from New Years. Nights in London are notoriously expensive but you can work the system if you do your research. Clubs offer discounted prices for events, you can chase happy hours around town with apps like “drinki” and certain places even offer free entry and drinks. As long as you don’t get too drunk and exceed your credit limit buying rounds for the whole bar you should be okay if you have a premeditated outline for your evening. I managed to get free entry to one of London’s biggest clubs and enjoyed a super discounted drink, (and a few more thanks to the generosity of my friends.) Throughout my week on a tight budget I have realised that it is not only possible to eat for £20 a week, it is possible to eat well.
Knowing very well that I only had enough chicken for three meals I started off my week with a meat dish, to ease me into my foreboding vegetarianism.
Having to make all my meals from scratch was in some way therapeutic, although we all need a quick meal here and there. I don’t think soup in a can can capture the flavour of homemade soup, I don’t think chicken in a ready meal will be anywhere near as succulent as if you cook it yourself and I don’t believe any shop can produce a packaged product the way you like it.
But by the end of the week I realised I still had healthy stocked cupboards and two sizable portions of meat in my freezer. My initial stinginess afforded me
My advice would be make it yourself, make it in bulk and freeze it. You will not only eat better, you’ll save so much money you'll even live better.
Words and images: Dayna McAlpine
Drag kings and being a man Ari Rice, the performer behind drag king Calvin Decline, explores the idea of toxic masculinity through her performances
Decline, Rice presents the impossibility in maintaining perfection through deconstructing this persona throughout her actual performances.
The lack of recognition faced by drag kings can be epitomised by a simple Google search. Appearing first is not the history, the performances or even a list of drag kings. Instead we are presented with a row of drag queens given the spotlight by drag queen superstar RuPaul.
“By looking at someone who’s fitting into the ideal you can examine how they’re not at the same time. Calvin has the body, sort of, because I can paint it on, he has the face, sort of, because I can paint it on, but I can’t paint on six inches of height or more, but I can, by removing this obvious facade and revealing that it shouldn’t have to exist in the first place.”
How is it possible that a whole aspect of drag performance can be overshadowed? Ari Rice, the conceptual performer behind drag king Calvin Decline, explores the idea of toxic masculinity and the socially constructed attitudes around what it is to be male through her drag performances.
Whether it be the breaking of her voice whilst in song, the removal of the makeup that is used to create the appearance of Calvin, or defying the notion that as a man you cannot cry, an image is shattered that up until that point in a performance Rice has committed to constructing.
** “I think that drag kings and drag queens could one day perform on the same sort of level – not in the sense that they are not performing at the same level but that they could be recognised at the same level as each other, but I don’t think it’s going to happen soon. If you think about how long it took queens to hit the mainstream and then you assume that anything perceived or assigned males do gets attention far faster than assigned females do, it’ll be a while. I think sometimes in performance you need to have the mainstream in order to have the subculture, a necessary evil, not that it’s necessarily evil though, but without a superstar like RuPaul in the drag king scene it’ll take longer just by virtue of the lack of exposure.” Before looking into the practice of drag performance it is first important to understand what drag is: the increased visibility of drag in non-queer media has created limiting definitions of what it means to be a king or queen. “A drag king is anyone who’s attempting to make a statement about masculinity through performance so that can be anyone of any gender. There’s a misconception that drag queens are men dressing up as women and then drag kings are logically the opposite, but neither of those definitions are accurate as often it’s anyone of any gender making a statement about the furthest stereotypes of the genders being performed.” ** Utilising drag as a social and gender-political tool, Rice’s performance style is a positive artistic response to society’s boundaries on gender expression. Calvin
As a performance progresses the lines between her female self and the assembled image of a man as Calvin Decline blur. She stands at the end of a performance, staring out into the crowd, portraying almost an admission of her true self. **
A drag king is anyone who’s attempting to make a statement about masculinity Decline is a hybrid of ‘concept, character and idea’ with the central concept of toxic masculinity being explored throughout Rice’s performances. “A lot of what I do is trying to touch at the emotional, or the idea of not belittling women, there’s a sense of in order to be a man – to be masculine, to be strong – that you need to take other people down, that you need to prove your strength by pushing other people aside. So the misogynistic jokes I lipsync to in my performances very much rely on the notion that women are perceived as less than men and so I think of toxic
masculinity as an extension of that belief where any time you appear to be feminine is dangerous because it means that you are becoming less than a man. There’s so much pressure to be at that high level of masculinity and I just try to chip at that.” The presence that Rice produces as Calvin is powerful. Rice graces the stage with poise, determination and self-confidence, alluding to the idea of Calvin being a male model; the pinnacle of male perfection, the masculine beauty standard personified. Through creating this image of ideal masculinity in Calvin
The character of Calvin allows Rice to oppose the double standard of sexuality in men and women, when presenting as this male model she is allowed to be sexually charged and sexually driven in a way in which women are not. Performing as Calvin, the audience are invited to witness an intimate exploration of Rice’s own masculinity. “You can put on the makeup and give yourself a six pack and make your face masculine in the assigned male sort of way, but it’s kind of performing my own masculinity as female in a way that reads more appropriately, or how society accepts masculinity.” Whilst performing as Calvin, Rice demonstrates a clear engagement with how gender is constructed in terms of societal expectation and by altering a gender norm through her performances, Rice offers an alternative from society’s heteronormativity. “I get that as a drag king I probably won’t touch that many people, but if I can at least convince one or two people that maybe it’s worth it to be allowed to cry that would be great.” 41
Words and image: Cecilia Medina Meloni
Our virtual future
VR headsets are revolutioning gaming and much else
It all started in the 1960s with a headset called the “Telesphere mask”�56 years later, images are computer-generated and can be interacted with, wearing modern headsets and hand sensors. It is also used to view films shot in 360 degrees, allowing people to choose where to look. “VR technology, [has a] unique ability to simulate complex, real situations and contexts,” according to a report about the emotional and cognitive effect of immersion in film viewing by Frontiers in Psychology in 2015. VR allows users to feel they are physically present or immersed in the digital space, even with unrealistic graphics. Facebook, Google, The New York Times, The Guardian and many others are investing in virtual reality. ** “Investments between 2011 and 2015 have returned 128 per cent of all the money invested already,” according to the last report from Digi-Capital. Since Facebook bought VR company Oculus in 2014, investments have proliferated�the industry is growing so fast that “in the next three years most homes will have some VR device,” according to VR developer Shaun Allan. If you want to experience VR, you need a headset. If you choose the cardboard option or Google Daydream, you will also need a smartphone to clip to the front of it, but it will provide a sub-par experience. High-end headsets like Oculus Rift, which cost £499, are connected to powerful computers that can run VR apps and games. You also need good headphones. If you want to interact you need hand controllers that will translate your gestures into the gestures of an avatar, or into tools in the virtual world. People tend to be reticent when trying this technology for the first time. When you are immersed in a virtual world you move your arms around, unaware of what is happening around you. “You tend to see people watching others but they won’t try it because they don’t want to look silly. We need to get past that and get more people on headsets,” Allan added. “It is key to choose a good game or film when trying VR it for the first time.” In screen games, you know you are a character but you are somehow distanced from it�removing outside distractions can make VR a better playground. Now you can be in the body 42
of the protagonist. The game Batman: Arkham VR for PlayStation calls for character building and play acting. The game has a similar length to a film, only that in the game you are the main character interacting with people and places as the story moves forward. ** Video games proved to be not only good for battling villains, but also to mediate complex stories and educate. It can make you go to places without travelling. News outlets like The Guardian and The New York Times are investing in this technology, with the potential to put the audience in dangerous places, in what are called Newsgames. Latoya Peterson, the deputy editor for digital innovation at ESPN, told the last Global Editors Network (GEN) Summit that because the gaming community understands how to work with storytelling in games, they have been the main force pushing for these kinds of projects. “Newsrooms really need to gain fluency in games and play,” starting by understanding how a game works, she said. Newsgames can be “the secret sauce to a boring story,” according to Cherisse Datu, a journalist from the American University who led the event. An example of this is the game Fix the Deficit, from The New York Times. VR films are
also used to put the user in the place of a character in the story they would not normally choose to impersonate. An example of this is UN’s Clouds Over Sidra, where a Syrian refugee girl walks the user around a refugee camp. You are surrounded by child refugees, and you observe their life as if you were one of them. “There isn’t a sector or an industry that VR and AR won’t touch on over the first few years,” said Allan. ** In art, VR experience Dreams Of Dali from the Dali museum, allows the user to experience what it is to get inside of a famous Salvador Dali painting. As the VR industry is at an experimental stage, there are many challenges to overcome. First of all, VR can make a user feel sick, as if their bodies are in conflict, a “natural response to an unnatural environment,” according to Dr Cyriel Diels, from Loughborough University. Fortunately, there are ways in which the makers of headsets can eliminate this. Little children can’t go on VR headsets yet, but when it gets to the point where they try them, “they will never look at a screen again. Why would you look at a screen after you have been immersed?” said Allan. VR manufacturers are setting age limits. This means that the minimum age to
play VR Playstations like Sony is 12. Manufacturers are being cautious; the long-term effects are still unknown. Headsets are not yet designed to be used for long periods of time. Safety guidelines advise users to take breaks every 30 minutes, even if they do not feel tired. Those users who may feel too immersed are warned about sitting in virtual chairs to avoid falling to the floor, and asked not to have pets in the room, in case they make moves that can harm them when they are not aware of what is happening outside the VR experience. There is a video on YouTube showing how a man playing a climbing game confuses the virtual reality world with the real one. ** When it comes to safety in VR, there are “more questions than answers. Regulation is more likely to come from this part of the world than the US,” said David Hoppe, from Gamma Law at VR Connects 2017. “This is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face to face�just by putting on goggles in your home,” wrote Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in 2014.
Words: Deek Hussain Jama Images: Claudia Gabriela Marques via Flickr.com
World of Wicca
A pagan faith that is often mistaken as Satanic
couraged her to mould the development of the religion.
Religion has been a significant part of British life for over 1,400 years, especially Christianity. Even though Paganism has been here for longer, it has only seen a revival more recently. A pagan religion named Wicca has recently been gaining more attention in mainstream media for both negative and positive reasons. Wicca is defined by the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry as “an eclectic religious belief system centring around gods, goddesses, and nature worship.” Wicca could be considered an umbrella term to group together different variations of the faith. Unlike many other religions, Wicca has no principal jurisdiction, which means that any interpretation based on the Wiccan foundation of beliefs is welcome. The rise of the British Wiccan community, thanks to websites such as Facebook and MeetUp, has led to calls for political action to get Wicca recognised as an official religion. Edward Davies, 28, is a member of the society, and he told Artefact that the “world of witchcraft has been under oppression for centuries,” and that European and American history tells of the medieval barbarity that revolved around witch hunts and executions. ** Darin Hayton, an associate professor of the history of science and Chair of the History Department at Haverford College, believes there could have been as many as 57,000 to 61,000 witchcraft-related executions carried out between the 14th and 17th century in Europe. It is believed that this anti-pagan sentiment paralleled the rising conservative Christian beliefs amongst western civilisation. “Thousands, if not millions have been annihilated throughout history and it’s time we took action,” Davies adds. Currently, Wicca is not a recognised religion under the UK’s laws but due to the Human Rights Act 1988, its followers are able to freely practice it. If the consensus demanding the faith be recognised increases, it is likely that it will consequently be officially recognised. Wiccans could potentially reap benefits such as tax breaks that other religions have had for centuries. Davies states: “If we become an official religion we’ll be more accepted in Britain. We’re free to do what we want but we’re still outcasts from mainstream society.” Numerous Wiccans have reported incidents where they felt that they were discriminat-
** Gardnerian Wicca is practised in the UK and is more specified to the practice of ancient Anglo-Saxon Pagan rituals called British traditional Wicca compared to other Wiccan branches. All around the UK, the Wiccans are divided into covens that are administered by a High Priestess and High Priest to accompany her. They are meant to be the physical representation of Wicca’s duotheistic nature. Wiccan believe that there are two gods, the moon goddess and the horned god.
ed against such as the case of Karen Holland who was fired from her job in 2012. Holland discussed with her boss that she wanted her shifts rescheduled in order for her to be able to celebrate Halloween. The following day, she recalled her Sikh manager being revolted by her desire to practice Halloween as a religious celebration. Afterwards, she lost her job due to her position being cut from the workforce but Holland believed the true reason why she was let go was her faith�she took the complaint to court and the judge had voted in favour of Ms Holland due to the company breaching the Equality Act 2010. “Most people believe that we are Satan worshippers, which is ridiculous because we don’t even believe in Satan,” says Davies. ** Since joining the Wicca faith, Davies revealed that he has been called every name in the book, specifically by members of other religions. “Most Muslims and Christians think we’re the enemy when in reality we’re just minding our own business and they’re the ones imposing their way of life on us,” he told Artefact. he felt that there is nowhere to go but up: “With freedom of speech and lots of people becoming less inclined to Christianity, Islam and Judaism, more people can explore our religion and find out the true meaning of it,” he says. “We promote a peaceful existence that requires a oneness with nature. Maybe there might even be a Wiccan political party in the future fighting for environmental issues, LGBT and all outsiders”. A leading member of Wicca is Gerald
Gardner, who is accredited for popularising the religion and transforming it into a contemporary pagan crusade in the 20th Century. ** Gardner, also known as Scire, his Wiccan name, was considered a pagan pioneer for his decades of work with multiple religions. Although there were other societies and faiths that he practised such as Voodoo and the British Orthodox Church school of thought, it was the material he learnt from the New Forest Coven that created the foundation for his teachings of “Gardnerian Wicca” in 1950. The pedestal Gardner was put on by the Wiccan community fell for many reasons; some members felt that with each book he published on witchcraft and folklore, the attention from the media grew, which made it difficult for them due to their preference of seclusion. Doreen Valiente, a friend of Gardner and considered the mother of modern witchcraft, criticised Gardner for welcoming that attention and the press into their private space for his self-satisfaction. The fact that the press published fear-mongering articles about the community resulted in a clash of opinions among the community. Valiente also claimed that Gardener would create new rules to suit his cause which many members refused as they were not considered as being in the best interest of the Wiccan community but she felt that he still played an important role in contemporary paganism and en-
The moon goddess is also referred to as the triple goddess. She embodies the three states of the moon that also represents the female life-cycle: the maiden (virgin), the mother, and the crone (old wise woman). The horned god is the more controversial of the two. Although in Wicca he is a god of wilderness, sexuality and nature, his origins are believed to be identical to Satan. Both entities are said to derive from the folklore of a wicked being that was part ram – as a result, this leads to many followers of Abrahamic religions believing that they are directly worshipping Satan. Although it may not seem it on the surface, there is a lot of similarity between this type of paganism and Christianity. In fact, scholars such as J. M. Wallace-Hadrill have stated the influence between the two faiths was due to inculturation. When Christianity was introduced to Britain, many Christian leaders would adopt existing pagan practices into their teachings to smoothly transition the public to their newfound religion. Many historians believe that this is why the Winter Solstice was transformed into Christmas or the Celtic festival of Samhain became Halloween. The Wicca and the greater Neopagan religion is probably the most demonised of all religions, causing the death of thousands of people over centuries, but it seems to be changing. The possibility of Wicca becoming an official religion is not too hard to believe and with the number of followers increasing it seems that that may be the next step. With society being more open to this way of life more than ever, who knows what the future will hold for this group of people. 43
Words: Pietro Santorsola Image: David Malouf via Flickr
From Ellis Island to Trump’s travel ban From a warm welcome to a travel ban; how America drastically changed in just a few days
Between the 19th and 20th century more than 12 million people were processed at the immigration station of Ellis Island, in sight of New York City, all of them hoping to enter the “New World” leaving behind Europe; a continent where wars, hatred, poverty, unemployment and discrimination were happening on a daily basis. This is how many want to remember the United States immigration policies: a country where everyone was welcome, no matter what their past was, as long as you were a hard worker with big dreams, you were more than welcome to settle and thrive in a country built by immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, England, Russia, Turkey and many more. From Woodrow Wilson to Theodore Roosevelt, some of the most notable passengers who went through this immigrant inspection station, a place remembered by Wilson as: “The gateway to dreams”. ** By today’s standards, Ellis Island represented unfair immigrant “selection”; as unfairness and bigotry were common. But it also represented hope. Even though it had some problems, in only 50 years, it welcomed more than 12 million people to the new continent. Today, the United States of America is witnessing a dramatic change, a change that may modify the face of the Western world significantly due to Donald Trump’s new immigration policies that his opponents say have taken the country back some 80 years in only the first eight days of his presidency. From the construction of the wall between US and Mexico, the Muslim ban: an irrational ban of countries that apparently are the “cause of terrorism”, the ‘privatisation’ of abortion and the revoking of the Obama Care, Trump’s policies are causing tension and hatred across the country. A few hours after Donald Trump signed the executive order of the Muslim Ban, the Islamic Centre of Victoria, a Mosque in Texas, was set on fire bringing back memories of the Kristallnacht or “the Crystal night”, a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany before World War Two. Within a week of Donald Trump’s inauguration, opinion polls show he is 44
already the most disliked president in history, even more hated than George W. Bush reached his low three years of his mandate. Only a week after his entrance in the White House in Washington D.C, the new president fired the US top federal lawyer after she bravely opposed the travel ban. “The Justice Department would not defend new travel restrictions targeting seven Muslim-majority nations as I am not convinced they are lawful,” said Sally Yates. ** The United States of America, from being known as the country of liberty, justice and opportunity, is now known as the nation of intolerance, hatred, discrimination and irrationality, making us all fear what this new President could have in mind next. Never before has such a restrictive ban on specific countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Somalia) been implemented. Until 1954, the year that Ellis Island’s immigration station closed, the country was one of the most welcoming places in the world where everyone had the opportunity to make their “American Dream” come true. That dream now seems like it is fading out in the clouds of intolerance and injustice as it is ironic to ban the entrance of all these people from these countries, without even considering the background or attitude of a person.
If you are unlucky enough to hold a passport from one of the countries listed, even if you are a University professor, entrance to the United States for the next 90 days or more will denied if the current court suspension is overturned.
utive order that has nothing to do with what Obama did in 2011 with Iraq. We still live in a democracy, therefore, I have all the rights to go out on the streets and take to account the government,” Magdalena concluded.
A few days ago, in all American International airports, while Donald Trump was signing the executive order, thousands of people were detained at border controls as they were flying just as Order was being put into effect. Thousands of people all over the States started to protest at airports such as JFK or LAX shouting “All religions are welcome in this country.”
On the other hand, Nonie Darwish responded to these protestors who accused Donald Trump for being racist by saying: “This is not a human rights issue; if you look at Muslims, there are 55 Muslim countries in this world and they are bigger than Europe; so who needs who? How come Europe is the only one absorbing all these refugees and not wealthy countries full of space like Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world?”
Magdalena Suarez is a 22 year-old sociology student at Columbia University in New York, she witnessed and participated in these protests, which were reported around the world. “It was amazing to see so many people protesting together against this absurd bill that is blocking the way to thousands of innocent people,” she told Artefact. Professors, students, family members, green card holders or even those who were holding a holiday visa were all rejected and sent back to where they came from as accused of threatening the safety of the United States of America. “Even though Mr Trump was elected with the majority, we have the duty and the possibility to protest and shout out loud that we are disgusted by this exec-
“The West feels more responsible for the misery in the Middle East. Another thing I admire about what Trump is doing is that by doing this ban on Muslims coming from radical countries, he’s sending a message to the Islamic world that we cannot accept this culture that is breeding terrorists and this ban is gonna force these governments to crack down on terrorism because they need America,” Darwish said. Whether this executive order is racist or not, the USA isn’t going through its easiest moments. Democracy is under threat and social tension is all over the streets and it is more than fair to state the fact that America has changed�from being a country full of hope and welcoming the “diverse” to a country now scared of its own shadow.
Words: Victoria Kamila Images: Longaguu
Folk meets electronica
In conversation with Singaporean musician Linying
Graduating, for most of us, marks a descent into a desperate and at times, unforgiving pursuit for job security. Amongst the lucky few to count themselves an exception to this rule, however, is Linying. Graduation (she studied history at the National University of Singapore) instead saw the Singaporean musician packing her bags and boarding a flight on to her first world tour. London is her second stop, following Seoul. The success of her first solo show late last year carries an optimistic ambience all the way through to celebratory post-show drinks. We chat briefly after her performance, and I make an overarching comment on the tone of the night, making note of the giddy synergy reciprocated from the audience to the stage. ** She responds with gratitude by way of interlacing her hands together and bringing her knuckles to her chest, exuding an innocence to the woeful substance behind her songs. And yet, this is precisely what makes her image so powerful. Her lyricism is brimming with insight and experience that demands soft femininity be taken seriously—no longer to be cast in association with naivety and fragility. “I don’t know what it was that made the show in London feel so momentous, but it really did,” she reflects. “Maybe it was that everyone who’d turned up had specifically wanted to hear my songs, or that we played with real synergy for the first time on stage that night, or that it’s one of those dream cities in my head. We all agreed that it was a very special show.” Linying composes herself in a manner that parallels her music. She moves gently, seemingly in tune with an imaginary breeze that follows the weather of the conversation. That same composure is embodied in her stage presence, particularly when she uses the short span of time between songs to comment on her ‘Paris 12’ EP. She describes the process behind it at one point as “a way of putting all [her] feelings into some kind of form [she] could access.” ‘Paris 12’ chases striking imagery of fall and winter seasons tied to heavy-hearted lyricism detailing heartbreak and personal insecurity. A mixture of folk and electronica carries us from emotion to emotion, though ultimately it’s the outpouring tenderness of her voice and lyrics that attach an addicting persona
to the EP. Having written and produced most of her music in her bedroom, to receiving a majority of her exposure via online platforms, Linying is an ingenuous product of today’s hyper-connected independent music industry. ** “The barriers to entry are so significantly lowered that the playing field is more leveled than it has ever been,” she says. “I’m certain that music from less mature industries like Singapore would have had it a hundred times harder just 10 years ago.” This, along with instant access to a resourceful online community of artists has made it easier not just for her, but for the music industry in Singapore as a whole to find its own footing. On a level that transcends her own personal success, she’s simultaneously paving the way for a growing scene of local talent in Singapore. ** Previously she’s worked with Gentle Bones and MYRNE, and has every intention of continuing to collaborate with other homegrown artists. “I’m fast becoming a fan of so many new acts coming out of Singapore—midst and Disco Hue are two of them.” She also hasn’t entirely ruled out another collaboration with Gentle Bones, who joined her on stage at Camden Assembly for a duet. “It’s a lot of fun working with him, he’s always got these crazy ideas that border
between cheesy and gangster.” If her record of past collaborations is any indicator, you get the sense that she’s eager to experiment on her upcoming debut album. Her dance track with Felix Jaehn, Shine, spotlights a youthful versatility to her voice, the potential of which would be a shame to not press further. Most of her genre experimentation at this stage has come by invitation from other artists, particularly EDM DJs. Because she’s worked with folk and electronica so elegantly in terms of engrossing her listeners in a specific mood, you have to wonder if she’ll branch out perhaps for the purpose of purveying these emotions on different terms. “It’s [the genre] only relevant to me after the songs are done and I have to try to think about where and how they fit in a broader context, so I don’t give it too much thought,” she explains. She later adds: “Folk was always the most emotional kind of music I listened to growing up, and electronica afforded me freedom in getting a sound I heard in my head.” ** It’s hard to imagine how lyrics like, “honestly leave it be to make my pitiful peace that I was something else before / giddy in the morning tearing through the columns at the grocery store”, would fit better with any other genre, though it could also have more to do with her discernible soft-spoken delivery of such hard-hitting lines. Whether or not her
lyrical content will keep in tune with its melancholy essence, she comments. “It’s so difficult to say—these songs really write themselves. I doubt they’ll ever be impersonal, though,” she adds. Personal experience wise, her tour has hit just the right balance of educational and surreal. “Experience is the one thing I’m certain I’ve gained from this tour that I would never have been able to in any other way.” Sometimes, however, the biggest takeaway from our experiences are as cut and dry as the experiences themselves, which Linying illustrates in plain detail as ranging from, “playing half a set with no sound, [to] sharing a bill with Radiohead, [to] a concert hall one day and a library the next, [to] a sea of unseeable thousands to 15 faces including the venue owner.” At this stage in her career, timing certainly held its influence over her approach to such a fruitful and assorted pool of encounters. “Touring this early on provided so much variety that I think really prepared me for a spectrum of situations.” The end of her tour takes her full circle, back home and back to the drawing boards that make up her bedroom walls. “We’re closing it off in Singapore,” she concludes, “I’m really looking forward to playing the very last show of the year and to kinda bring every city from the past few months back on home soil.” 45
Two new series with sinister twists
The latest phone development
Santa Clarita Diet
Zombie movies and television shows take us to a world where the undead eat the living and the ones who manage to escape need to run for the rest of their lives. Netflix’s new original show, Santa Clarita Diet, takes on a new light on the zombie subject. In its promotional Instagram videos, viewers got a peak at what the ‘diet’ consisted of when Drew Barrymore was seen snacking on human fingers as if they were McDonald’s French Fries. Barrymore makes her TV debut as Sheila, a typical suburban mother, who tries to balance work and family life.
Archie Comics is one of the oldest comic book series on the battlefield of print which is, now dominated by superheroes. America’s Favourite Teenager celebrates 75 years of existence with a brand new TV show this year.
The story starts when she ‘dies’ and comes back to life as if nothing happened but the only problem is that she now has a deep craving for raw meat. Her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant), tries everything he can to figure out what is wrong with her while maintaining his sense of humour. Once Sheila tastes fresh human meat she can’t eat anything else and the couple are faced with the question of whether or not they should kill people in order for her to stay alive. They also try their best to keep the secret from their 16-year-old, who still finds out and decides that it’s OK that her life is now anything but normal. Barrymore and Olyphant make a good couple on screen and his cynicism complements her optimism. The two show that although they have to murder people they can try and make it something good for the rest of the world by targeting criminals. The show takes a comedic stance on zombies and makes the undead seem human, except for the part about killing and eating other human beings, of course. The series was created by Victor Fresco who is known for writing My Name Is Earl. Words: Nicole Gheller Picture: Featured image by Netflix 46
When you think of TV adaptations, Archie might not be the first thing that comes to mind but that hasn’t stopped CW from commissioning a pilot back in January 2016 with filming on the first season starting in the Spring. It’s 2017 and the first season of Riverdale�the fictional town in which Archie’s adventures take place�has dropped in the US on CW and worldwide after Netflix acquired the international streaming rights of the series. Archie’s official website says that the show will “take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring small-town life and the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.” Unsurprisingly, the pitch confirms that the series will focus on “the eternal love triangle.” After the premiere, you could confidently say that the show is likely to become much more than its pitch or its comic book counterpart. Riverdale produced by CW is a series that, from its photography to its crime like story, seems to fully belong on Netflix with its pioneered idea of binge-watching. It is kind of a pain to consume episode by episode when Mother Netflix has got us accustomed to the idea of knocking down whole seasons back in less than a day when feeling particular inspired. Greg Berlanti, executive producer of the series, is the man in charge of the whole set list, having created successful shows like Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Although it’s been around for a while, Archie Comics is a series which was extremely popular in the ‘60s and that people who are grown up adults are more likely to be fans of.
The jackless iPhone The idea of adapting the famous comic series to the small screen feels like a reboot of the story especially if we consider that Archie, the main character, recently took a bullet from a friend back in 2012. It is hard to tell the series’ comic-book origins just from watching its premiere�as the creators of the series intended: “Imagine if Riverdale were like Twin Peaks; that was a really weird small town,” explained Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creator and developer of the show. The man behind the series tried to present Riverdale as an origin story of the three main characters of the comic book by comparing it to Fox’s Gotham: “The same way that Gotham is the origin story of how Gotham became the city we know in the movies, and how Batman came into being, I in a way think of Riverdale as an origin story as well,” he says. Riverdale succeeds in presenting a compelling ‘teen drama’ full of mysteries and secrets alluded to from time to time that push the audience to be engaged in the development of the plot. Most of what entertained me as I first approached the show was the fact that it was told in a very subtle and interesting way. Cole Sprouse�best known for his major role in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody�plays Jughead Jones, a mysterious boy who tells the story of his friend from a distant point of view as if he was actually writing a novel. With only three episodes already aired and ten more on their way, it is actually too early to crown Riverdale as the next Twin Peaks but it is safe to say that it delivers on its premises and that it is a show that could keep you entertained during the cold nights of winter 2017. Words: Davide Cantelmo Pictures: Riverdale TV Series Fb Page
With the removal of the headphone jack from the new iPhone as standard, anyone wishing to use their favourite earphones/headphones from other brands will need to use an adapter to plug them in.It is notable that there is no reduction in sound quality when using this adapter, which is to Apple’s credit. However, unless you’re planning on leaving the adapter on the end of your earphones/headphones, it is very easily lost. For those loyal to the iPhone, getting used to a system where Bluetooth headphones or a splitter are required to listen to music and video whilst the device is on charge is small price to pay. However if you should find yourself wanting to watch an evening kick off or a film after a long day of phone usage, you should be prepared to do this without earphones unless you want to shell out £34.99 for a Belkin adapter that will act as a splitter. Cheaper alternatives cost between £4-10, but the 2-2.5 star reviews on many of these products tell much of the story. Apple dropped a rather ‘unsubtle’ hint as to how they think consumers should deal with a world without headphone jacks, when they announced their very own £159 Bluetooth ‘AirPods’, released in December 2016. . There are question marks over whether or not Samsung will likely follow a similar path in the production of the Samsung Galaxy S8, but Apple’s rivals have the edge after pioneering wireless charging in smartphones. Removing the headphone jack was controversial, and those less patient may see it as a final nail in their loyalty to the creators of smartphones that are often criticised for changing very little with each release. Words: Ryan Macklin Image: Cameron Macklin
Health freaks and wine connoisseurs
26 Grains From the outside 26 Grains looks quite unassuming, whilst inside a small intimate space offers a cosier ambience. The venue sits 16 at capacity, with a couple of additional tables outside for those brave enough to face the cold. The menu is humble, with a selection of porridges, warm and cold dishes, sweets, coffees and new seasonal additions offered on a monthly basis. With Neal’s Yard’s five organic-inspired businesses located within a 50-metre radius, 26 Grains is ideally located to attract those health conscious vegetarians. Our meal started with yellow splitpea Daal, served with coconut yogurt, seeds, aubergine pickle and a side of rye sourdough. The Daal was strong in flavour, well-balanced in spices and nicely complimented by a refreshing dollop of coconut yogurt. Sesame and almond toppings added a crunch to the meal, as did the small serving of boiled kale. Overall the dish was very flavoursome and appealing to the eye. The ‘Root Sandwich’ consisted of beetroot hummus, walnuts, spinach, alfalfa sprouts and yellow beetroot. This was a substantial sandwich. The beetroot hummus was the highlight: The smooth texture and more-ish flavour complimented a sweetish hint offered by the scrapings of yellow beetroot. The walnuts tasted slightly woody and added enjoyable texture, the spinach added crunch and colour. The selection of porridges on offer vary from £6 to £7, and include sophisticated ingredients such as cinnamon, coconut palm sugar and date syrup. Hazelnut & Butter porridge featured almond milk oats, almond butter, hazelnuts, cinnamon coconut Palm sugar and Apple. Well-balanced in texture and sophisticated in flavour, a generous serving of Almond butter was enough to get you
through the entire meal. the hazelnut nicely enhanced the apples. The Nordic Pear was composed of oats cooked in coconut milk, spices, seeds, cacao crumble, coconut yogurt, pear and maple syrup. The granola was the tastiest part; a combination of rolled oats and nuts roasted in cardamon. The porridge was mixed in with turmeric which gave a poignant taste to the dish overall. This was a successful attempt at combining sweet and savoury flavours. The Berry bowl combines assorted berries with banana, turmeric, cardamom granola, coconut milk, goji berries and coconut flakes. This dish would have been more successful if the base of the bowl hadn’t been so liquid. Despite a few subtle flavours in the granola this combination was otherwise plan in flavour. Butternut squash, coconut yogurt, almonds, crispy sage was another ambitious combination served on rye. The butternut squash was roasted but a touch too mushy. I’ve become wary when ordering avocado on toast due to an often overly simplistic outcome that begs price justification. The presentation was good, and at £5 the two thick slices of rye sourdough each with a half finely sliced avocado with added chili flakes. To finish, a latte with oat milk was strong and aromatic. Four members of staff manage the business; an exposed kitchen allows customers sitting at the bar to track the progress of their meals. The owner, Alex Hely-Hutchinson, uses the word “Hygge”, Danish for “cosy”, to refer to the concept, which is successfully achieved with decor and food. This was an enjoyable lunch, but the service leaves room for improvement. The price point was well justified and made the visit worthwhile. Words and image: Solen Le Net
Pomaio On December 17 2016 the first independent wine bar, Pomaio, opened its doors in the radiant neighbourhood of Shoreditch. The owners, two brothers Marco and Iacopo Rossi, fell in love with east London and decided to open their bar, serving Tuscan food and, of course, Tuscan wine. The bar takes the name from the Tuscan natural winery "Podere di Pomaio", on the hills of Arezzo. The winery is deep in the breathtaking countryside of Tuscany, where you can enjoy the landscapes of central Italy. Tuscan cuisine is strongly influenced by local history and traditions as well as by the locals and seasonal availability of the products. Pomaio is characterised by serving their own independent wine and for this reason, the wine list is mainly composed of wines that come from small independent Tuscan vineyards such as Podere di Pomaio. Since the 2000's many Italian restaurants have popped up in London, but especially in Shoreditch. Londoners are increasingly getting used to almost any flavours of Italian cuisine, especially Southern Italian dishes. Tuscan dishes, instead, did not have a strong impact in London even though Tuscany is the fourth most visited region of Italy and it is very popular among Britons, mainly for the Chianti countryside. Foods are all imported from local food shops around the winery, with a special attention on cured meats; you can enjoy the typical cooked ham finocchiona, seasoned sausage, capocollo which is bacon (without the use of preservatives). These cured meats are unlikely to be tasted in ay other London restaurant. In Italy it is very popular to have an “Aperitivo” -“Happy hour”—between 6PM and 9PM. It’s a very simple idea but socially functional for meeting with friends, having a cocktail and eating some nibbles, and enjoying hors d’oeuvres. At the Enoteca Pomaio, it's possible to enjoy an
aperitif, the same way it is done in Italy. You can order a Spritz, the real Aperitif drink made by Prosecco wine and a dash of Aperol or Campari, and tasting a mixed platter of cured meats and cheese. Tradition is the key world of Pomaio. The owners's aim is to bring a spot of Tuscany in London. Anything from food, furniture and atmosphere must reflect their region. Every table is designed similarly to one you can find in typical restaurant in the Tuscan countryside. They serve Moca caffè instead of espresso, reflecting the tradition of the most homemade cuisine. The manager told Artefact about their entrepreneurial decision: “The winery has been operative for 15 years now. We have always been trying to be up to date to the current times. We think that London is the food capital of the world right now. London is dynamic and traditional as well, which made it a unique place where you can try to consolidate your business. Our aim is any way to make Londoners try the whole experience of a typical Tuscany restaurant, making them feel like they are stepping into a very typical Enoteca in the Chianti countryside. We want our customers to imagine themselves like they are enjoying a glass of a wine in Arezzo, surrounded by the hills.” At Pomaio, nothing is forgotten and the furniture reminds of a typical Enoteca but merged with the East London edge. Stepping inside the Enoteca feels like tasting you rgrandmother's cuisine. Bringing a slice of contemporary Tuscany to Brick Lane, Pomaio is a welcome addition to East London’s ever thriving food, arts and music scene. Pomaio: 24 Brick Ln, London E1 6SA. Words: Francesco de Vito Image: Luca Degl’Innocenti 47
A killer widow and the return of Trainspotting
Prevenge In your average baby handbook, you might expect to find chapters on choosing a name, how to make the house more baby-friendly and how to deal with the inevitable onslaught of some serious sleep deprivation. What you probably won’t find are any tips on what to do if your unborn child begins to coax you into becoming a knife-wielding serial killer. This is the premise of Alice Lowe’s directorial debut Prevenge, a blood-drenched but highly amusing take on the slasher genre. As well as writing and directing the film, Lowe played the lead role whilst seven months pregnant. We meet her as Ruth�an isolated and lonesome expectant widower. Confused about the mysterious death of her partner, she glumly slinks off for scans and check-ups with a painfully smiley midwife (Jo Hartley) who patronisingly reassures her that everything is going to be ok. But Ruth’s baby isn’t idly kicking about in the womb. With a creepy high-pitched voice like one of the twins from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the demonic foetus cajoles her into killing at will. On her murderous trail, she comes across a lecherous pet-shop owner (Dan Renton Skinner) and a sleazy man-child DJ (Tom Davis). Playing his cheesy tunes to an empty bar, he mistakes Ruth for a “fat bird” and is thrilled to get her back to his place for a one-night stand. After an Inbetweeners-style vomit kiss, he ends up on the receiving end of one of Ruth’s sharpened jabs. Keeping a note of her latest gruesome outings in a twisted notebook, the distressed mum-to-be encounters a sceptical prospective employer (Katie Dickie) who stares questioningly at her belly before denying her the job. The scene may descend into predictable violence, complete with a head being 48
T2 smashed into a meeting room glass table, but it raises a recurrent issue about the fears losing worth and identity that can plague women during pregnancy. It’s an interesting and salient point that no member of the audience expects to be contemplating in a low-budget gore film �and it certainly is gore galore. Big red puddles of 1980s style horror-movie blood splatters pour out onto an array of surfaces, throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime. It’s also very funny�Lowe brilliantly encompasses some of the bizarre dark humour from previous appearances in weird cult comedies, most notably Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. The gags range from the slapstick (Ruth lobbing a shot over her shoulder into the face of another bar dweller) to Ruth complaining about the tiresome internal squealings of her baby’s bloodthirsty impulses�“Mummy I want a PlayStation, Mummy I want you to kill that man.” Kids are so selfish these days. In a previous interview for the film, Lowe cited Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver as a source for her character’s sense of vigilantism These are effectively captured with multiple shots showing Ruth stalking into the night alone, face emblazoned with Halloween make-up, weapon at her side, the resentment dripping off her in a hazy “me-against-society” style rage. The revenge aspect of the “pregnant revenge” play on the words is where the film slightly tails off, and as more about Ruth’s loss is revealed, the killings become a tad formulaic. It’s a shame the film develops an ever-so-slightly limping conclusion, but this is forgivable and is a thoroughly worthwhile watch for those looking beyond the generic Oscar nominees to get their cinematic kicks. Words: Dylan Taylor Images: Western Edge Pictures
Danny Boyle’s long awaited sequel to his 1996 cult classic Trainspotting is finally upon us. It’s safe to say that Trainspotting holds a special place in the hearts of myself and many other people my age. It’s gritty, shocking, funny, graphic, clever and shines a light on things, that even in 2017 are rarely portrayed so realistically in cinema. You can understand my apprehension then, when Film4 announced that they were making a sequel with the original cast some 20 years later. The sequel is loosely based on Welsh’s 2002 book Porno. We rejoin our old friends one by one, each has had their own ups and downs and now cast weather beaten figures, with all bar Spud (Ewen Bremner) having managed to find misery just fine without the help of heroin. Trainspotting‘s anti-hero Mark Renton aka Rentboy (Ewan McGregor), who ended the last film with the world at his feet initially appears to have carried on in the same thread. He’s well dressed, healthy and is living it up in the Netherlands. Or so it seems. Before long we realise the truth of his mid-life existence and we follow him as he reintroduces himself to his former best friend Simon aka Sickboy (Johnny Lee Miller) and the man all of Edinburgh seems to fear, Francis Begby (Robert Carlyle) who has a taste for Renton’s blood. Renton has not been home for the last 20 years and the face of Edinburgh has changed a lot. Just like everywhere else in the UK, gentrification and regeneration have transformed the city. Working men’s pubs have been replaced by trendy bars and industrial zones are being torn down quicker than the Amazon to make way for expensive new housing developments. Choosing to touch on this issue helps the film stay relevant to a modern and younger audience and the
way it’s presented to us reinforces this. Sickboy’s girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) looks on unimpressed as Simon and Renton bombard her with stories of how great things were when she was too young to remember, just like millions of fathers and uncles do over the world. The films release also comes at an interesting time for Scotland. In the autumn, Glasgow announced plans to create the first ‘fix rooms’ in the UK where heroin users can take the drug. The issues T2 touches upon are still relevant today, the storyline is gripping and has several layers to it. The characters are just as engaging and funny as before and the cinematography is exceptional. The only real annoyance for me is the way technology is portrayed. In the iPhone age, trends and themes come and go in a matter of weeks. As a film director and an older one at that; including things like SnapChat and Twitter in a film can understandably be problematic. For example, a term like ‘vajazzle’ may have been all over social media during production, but by the time the film is released X amount of months later it sounds dated and naff. You could turn that around and say that it reinforces the idea of the characters as middle aged men, struggling to keep up in a rapidly changing world but I’ll leave that for you to decide for yourself. All in all, T2 is an excellent film. Coming out two decades later and with massive shoes to fill, it was never going to trump the first one and it doesn’t. However, I believe that it was the best it could be; for me, the success of the film is a huge relief and I’m sure most of the British cinema loving world feels the same way. Words: Joseph Skirkowski Pictures: Trainspotting 2 via Facebook
News from London’s underground scene & Drake
Stormzy: Gang Signs and Prayer
Drake: Boy Meets World
Stormzy took the U.K. by storm in February when he released his debut album Gang Signs and Prayer. The Shut Up star was AWOL for the last nine months; he deactivated his social media accounts and was nowhere to be seen.
A group of us trudged up from Chiswick to discover emerging UK artists at Cargo, in Shoreditch in support of The Big Issue Foundation.
With Drake’s love for the UK, and London in particular, at its peak at the moment, Artefact were excited to attend one of the Canadian rapper’s seven sold out shows at the O2 arena.
In late January, he was active on Snapchat, where he posted pictures of billboards and projection screens around London with lyrics from his single Big for Your Boots. On February 24 at midnight, Stormzy finally released Gang Signs and Prayer. After finishing the 16-track album, I was gobsmacked, to say the least. I was worried that all of the tracks were going to sound the same, but I was proven wrong. #GSAP covers many genres from rap and grime to r&b and gospel. First Things First, Cold, Return of the Rucksack, Mr Skeng and Bad Boys had me feeling like I was the biggest gangster in south London. Listening to Blinded by Your Grace, Pt 1 and 2, I felt very emotional. I was baffled that Stormzy, creator of Shut Up and WickedSkengMan 1, 2, 3 and 4 had me thanking God at 1am for all my blessings. I then moved on to the more romantic tracks such as Velvet, Cigarettes & Cush which, had me thinking about all my ex love interests… luckily, that feeling swiftly went away. Two of my favourite songs from #GSAP were 100 Bags and Lay Me Bare. Both tracks felt very heartfelt. In Lay Me Bare Stormzy spits, “They think I went ghost to drop my tape/Not knowing that I fell and lost my faith/Like Satan please no, not today.” He continues to explain how he’d been feeling so low and it was refreshing to hear about a side of Stormzy that social media and interviews don’t witness. Overall, I rate this project a strong 10/10. I’m excited to see what Stormzy has in store next. Words and image: Naveena Patel
With support from By the Rivers and Ayishat Akanbi, the reggae-influenced band Shanty took the stage. Within moments, lead singer Ben Wills, flows in with his soft voice. The crowd slowly begins to feel the music, swaying from side to side. Wills and the rap artist of the show worked impressively in effective timing with one another throughout the entire performance, despite the evident difference in genres. Unforgettable were their captivating moments where at first, the drummer would take over the entire composition for a moment or two, soon after which the trumpeters would take their turn, and eventually all the band members had their time to embrace a solo performance in the midst of this shared collective experience. It was no surprise to discover that Shanty has made an appearance at several popular UK festivals. They’ve even recorded in Sawmills Studio in Cornwall, a studio that once occupied legends such as The Verve, Oasis, The Stone Roses and Supergrass. Not to mention they’ve shared the stage with renowned artists like The Wailers, Easy Star All Stars and Bastille (again, naming just a few)! And guess what? They’re currently getting ready to hit the road for the Strange Little Human UK Tour, and the last stop is in London on March 23 at Brixton Jamm – so don’t stupidly leave it to the last minute to buy your ticket, for there’s a high probability there won’t be any. In the meanwhile, find them on Spotify, so that you can join that lively group of people at the gig who know all the words to their catchy songs! Words: Tanviya Sapru Images: Damiano Petrucci
Drake has had unstoppable success recently. The Boy Meets World tour follows a 16-week run at number one with chart topper One Dance; viral success with catchy hit Hotline Bling and a feature on Rihanna’s Work as well as their collaboration track Too Good. This tour was much more than a live display of 2016 album Views – instead it paid homage to his faultless career and loyal fanbase. With an extensive setlist of 30 or more tracks, including a medley of his most famous verses and hooks such as Migos’ Versace and Blessings with Big Sean, the set also saw him perform tracks from across his discography, back to the beginning with debut album Thank Me Later. The minimalist stage was improved by the array of spherical lights suspended from the ceiling moving in sequence, rising and falling throughout songs and creating a magical light show. The globe which rose from the centre stage was a spectacle for the final quarter of the show. He finished with newer tracks including Know Yourself and latest hit Fake Love to which the audience sang in great force leaving Drake speechless as he watched and held the mic up to encourage the singalong. There were support acts from OVO’s very own DVSN, also hailing from Canada, and Atlanta rapper Young Thug who mumbled his way through a disap-
pointing six or so tracks before strutting offstage. If his mumbly tone wasn’t hard enough to understand already, he was clad in a balaclava which made it effectively impossible for the pronunciation of words to penetrate. But Drake more than made up for any previous disappointment. He made it very clear that this show was about him and us, frequently reminding us how much he loves London like a second home, even referring to the “peng tings” in the audience (a nice bit of London vernacular didn’t ya know!). Drizzy even made an announcement about wanting to bring his homegrown festival, OVO fest, to London this summer which was welcomed with cheers and screams from the 17,000 fans present that night. London went wild for a special guest performance from Giggs with Whippin’ Excursion, another ode to the UK grime scene which Drake has adopted as his own in recent months. Even his latest project, yet to be released, isa entitled More Life, inspired by London slang and his favourite UK artists. We got a sneak preview of a new collaboration with Giggs during the intermission whilst the globe arose from the centre. Drake’s support for UK rap culture is obvious to fans and artists alike, but he demonstrated that this was very much his show, and if he continues like this, his closing song Legend is pre-empting a rightful lifelong status. Words: Amy Latham Images: Abigail Edwards-Wigzell 49
Words: Alfia Ahmed Image: Elvin via Flickr.com
Why shouldn’t black women be angry? We shouldn’t be intimidated by a racist, sexist stereotype
If you are a black woman, then at some point in your life, you have heard of the so called black female attitude problem. Expressions like black women think they are ‘all that’ or they ‘feel sweet’ are common place these days – perhaps the most popular expression that pigeonholes and marginalises the context of the black woman is the so called Angry Black Woman (ABW).
Throughout history, women’s endeavours to stand up for themselves have been dismissed as the ramblings of angry women, whether they were black or not. A case in point example is the feminists, who are always brushed off as angry, rabble-rousing, opinionated and unreasonable women.
The expression promotes a particular vision of a tart-tongued, creatively choreographed neck twisting, finger-wagging, eye-rolling, eye-brow rising, loudmouthed, drama-filled, defiant sister in a typical Shakespearean Taming-of-theShrew style.
Sometimes the ‘angry black woman’ is the stereotype to which so many people retreat when an African-American female isn’t smiling and laughing. Experience has taught me to lower my expectations for racial sensitivity and cultural competence, but I am still often surprised and disappointed. But in a world where racism, sexism, ageism, single motherhood, misogyny, and even warped body image prevail contrasted with the objectification and fetishisation of the black body, it comes as no surprise that some black women are angry.
Are there sisters like that? Most certainly, just like there are other women of other races with the attitude that Shakespeare observed hundreds of years ago. But are all black women like that? With this in mind, it is interesting to consider how the stereotypical portrayal of black women has evolved over the years. ** At one point it was the smiling, asexual, undesirable, overweight Auntie Jemima-esque Mammy and then not too long ago the promiscuous, highly-sexed, always ready, never-say-no, crafty Jezebel who entices men with her sexual charms. Today the most pervasive stereotype is that of the angry black woman, or the attitudinal black woman. The angry black woman is seen as off-putting and a little intimidating by many males. That is understandable. You can believe that women like that are off-putting to other females as well. But is the generalisation of the term acceptable and warranted? Last month when out with friends, amongst conversation, I was so surprised to hear a grown black man say quite unembarrassedly that he prefers to date outside of the black race because he does not have to worry about attitudinal issues. He blamed black women for having attitudes and even went as far as to say that black women were ‘gold-diggers’ and ‘materialistic.’ Complaining that black women will only date men who have cars, money, and had a white collar job, he insisted that black women are too demanding and have unreasonably high standards 50
(which he obviously felt that he fell short of ) and that was why he preferred interracial dating. And when I challenged him and asked if he was saying that ALL black women had attitude, he responded that ninety per cent did. I simply wondered how he could possibly know that many women to the point where he would come to that conclusion. That sweeping statement was a disturbing one. ** In a recent interview Kesha Nichols, the star of the American TV series Basketball Wives, discussed the phenomenon, saying: “Sometimes the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype to which so many people retreat when an African-American female isn’t smiling and laughing. Experience has taught me to lower my expectations for racial sensitivity and cultural competence, but I am still often surprised and disappointed.” In general many black women have no problems asserting themselves. They have no problems showing their confidence and capabilities. They have no problems expressing themselves and speaking their minds. The only problem is that many times when they do it, especially in the work
place, they are all too often viewed as too strong. In fact the words powerful, authoritative, strong, aggressive, feisty, independent and in control all sound admirable—until they are applied to black women. ** Men are expected to be strong and assertive, traits that are aligned with being a good leader, but when a black woman falls under those descriptions, it is called having an attitude problem. In fact when they are asserting themselves, the perception becomes that you dare not mess with them. There is no denying that some black women do express themselves in a provocatively angry way, but that does not justify typecasting all of them. It is true that there are some black women who fit the above bill, but this is not a race thing. It’s a personality and character thing. Just as there are so many quiet, mild-mannered, bookish, sensitive black women out there, there are also many unpleasant to deal with woman out there. But that applies to men too. So once again one cannot generalise and conclude that all black women have attitude. In any case, what is wrong with a little anger?
The truth is some women are angry because they are exhausted or they have been ignored and dismissed or they’re not taken seriously, or they are being abandoned or they are being rejected. This anger of course is not justified if it becomes a never-ending bitterness that clouds one's present or future. It is not justified when it is an obstinate attitude which appears angry at everything in general and seems to especially relish demonising all black men, nor is it justified when it is constantly a source of baseless and negative unsolicited criticism or advice. However, not all anger is bad anger. Sometimes anger is a signal that something is wrong and changes need to be made. There are numerous cases when anger has actually sparked revolutionary change in history. If as human beings, we’re able to harness our anger and use our anger for the general good of society, then we are able to make big strides in our lives. This was proven by historical figures Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and even Rosa Parks, who used their anger to spark social strength and change. Part of the reason Rosa Parks refused to get out of that seat was anger. The people who tried to get her out of that seat would have probably said that she had attitude in present day terms. Does that make her an angry black woman? I leave that to you to decide.
Artwork of the month: Editorial Beauty: Blue freckles, Giulia Parini. 2016. watercolour, acrylic and charcoal on paper.
The Community Issue