The Conflict Issue
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LCC POSTGRADUATE SHOWS 2016 Featuring animation, design management, documentary film, games, graphic design, interaction, illustration, photography, service design and sound arts, Postgraduate Shows 2016 celebrates the diverse range of final work by LCC postgraduate students.
Monday 28 November â€“ Saturday 10 December at various venues Discover more at arts.ac.uk/lcc @LCCLondon #LCCPostGrad email@example.com
#10. November 2016
To define conflict is a difficult task. Whether it takes the form of physical violence, which the United Nations estimate to affect over 1.5 billion people worldwide per year or everyday verbal disagreements, we are constantly presented with scenarios that threaten peace and stability. This makes it an integral part of journalism, which has subsequently made its way to our own news room.
Conflicts obviously aren’t a new phenomenon as throughout history they have shaped the very borders that we are born, live and die within. No one is immune from conflict but by engaging in dialogue we can form a better understanding of why disagreements arise and how to prevent them from escalating. This is what we are doing in our new edition of Artefact as by exploring a diverse range of issues we discover that conflict isn’t intrinsic to one specific characterisation. Lea Vitezic investigates how women in Poland are challenging their government’s controversial plan to enforce a complete ban on abortion throughout the country. Closer to home, Fabiana de Girogio tackles the topic of Sharia law, which is currently facing strong opposition from human rights groups in Britain due to its restrictive attitude towards women. We are also reminded of the tragic sacrifices made by journalists across the world to ensure that their audiences are informed accurately about conflicts. This is something that Alice Grahns focuses on when she tells the story of late journalist Jeroen Oerlemans, a former student of LCC, who was killed while on duty in Libya. Oerlemans’ story isn’t a rarity as 1,211 journalists have been killed because of their work since 1992. His premature death also shows how even if a conflict occurs somewhere that most readers will never see first-hand its side-effects can still be found closer to home as Oerlemans shared Aurore Kaddachi reports from Bali where an innovative school is changing the face of teaching by engaging pupils within a holistic green based curriculum that aims to create a new generation of environmental leaders. As a society we are often reminded that the privilege of peace is something that should not be taken for granted. In the United States this is all too familiar, which James Cropper investigates by focusing on an innovative community of gun advocates who have created a flourishing YouTube presence despite gun violence plaguing the country’s political discourse. Conflict will continue to hold influence over our path as a society. However, by engaging in dialogue to understand why opinions differ we can help create a new path that breaks free from the mistakes of previous generations. This is what our new edition of Artefact aims to do.
Artefact is produced by third-year BA Journalism students at London College of Communication Magazine Production: Nike Akintokun, Ieva Asnina, Nana-Akua Baah, Zenab Bukkar, James Cropper, Fabiana De Giorgio, Iman El Kafrawi, Nicole Gheller, Alice Grahns, Julius Jokikokko, Aurore Kaddachi, Csilla Kuti, Ryan Macklin, Cecilia Medina Meloni, Abbey Pallett, Pietro Santorsola, Chloe Smith, Dylan Taylor, Lea Vitezic Website management: Alfia Ahmed, Davide Cantelmo, Francesco De Vito, Ruth Fajemirokun, Michelle Fatou Ndow, Sasha Fedorenko, Mia Heavens-Lang, Charlie Howes, Rabia Khan, Tinodiwa Maposa, Cotney Ngobe, Iliana Olymbios, Lowri Redmond, Saloni Saraf, Joe Skikorwski, Penelope Sonder
Social Media: Rachel Atkinson, Jeremie Crystal, Matt Ganfield, Deek Hussain Jama, Victoria Kamila, Henry Kenyon, Amy Latham, Solen Le Net, Dayna McAlpine, Cheyenne Ntangu, Denise Paganini, Naveena Patel, Alex Riches, Tanviya Sapru, Adelina Shaydullina, Alicia Streijffert, Jozef Wardynski, Ella Wilkinson Tutors: Simon Hinde, Russell Merryman, Rob Sharp Website: artefactmagazine.com Facebook: artefactmagazine Twitter: artefactlcc Instagram: artefactmag Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
08 Feeling foreign Nicole Gheller 09
Cover image Photography and styling: Dorota Beau-Ingle Photo assistant: Agnese Gutovska Digital assistant: Glenn Michael Harper Studio assistant: Mal Gomma Models: Naomi Blair Gould and Louise Donohue
Quack or cure? Solen Le Net
10 Guns on Youtube James Cropper 12 Dangerous Journalism: when your job takes you to war Lea Vitezic 16 Crossing the continent Alice Grahns 20 The greenest school on earth Aurore Kaddachi 22 Changing the face of homelessness one haricut at a time Dylan Taylor 24 Sharia law through women’s eyes Fabiana De Giorgio 26 No second chances Jozef Wardynski 28 Benjamin Butch: London’s drag king Nike Akintokun 30 The throwback decade Ieva Asnina 32 Who is the black man? Cheyanne Ntangu 34
Hip-hop's lethal addiction Amy Latham
36 Can technology help refugees? Penelope Sonder 37
The Italian referendum Davide Cantelmo
38 The last of London’s greyhound races Joseph Skirkowski 39 Festival for a forest Tanviya Sapru 40 The scary side of clowns Nana-Akua Baah 41
Menstrual misogyny Saloni Saraf
42 Whitework: collaboration between art and science Deek Hussain Jama 43
Glitchy, righteous rage Jeremie Crystal
44 Reviews 48
Introducing L’Impératrice Alicia Streijffert
Seen on Campus
Last word Nike Akintonkun
Art Direction and Design Oswin Tickler/Smallfury 3
COMMUTING TO UNIVERSITY The last alarm goes off at 7am. There’s a scramble for the bathroom, the downing of coffee, a sprint to the station and I am en route to LCC. I am just one of the 24% of students that chose to commute to university from home. Going to university is seen as a rite of passage in which young adults move away from home. Yet more are choosing to stay put for social, economic and career-related reasons. In a 2015 NUS report, Colin McGuire, then vice president of welfare said: “The experiences of students living at home are often hidden and as such their needs may not be met.” Embarking on a three-hour trip to attend my course was an economic decision. I was intrigued to know reasons behind others. Melissa Lang, a Queen Margaret media graduate decided to commute from Glasgow to Edinburgh due to job opportunities in her field. Now 22 she told Artefact: “I have been extremely lucky to find an employer that hires student interns, something hard to find in Edinburgh”.
STUDENTS EXPLORE THE UNREPORTED WORLD “Make people understand that whatever you’re doing for them, is not suddenly going to change the situation” says Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor.
investigative side of journalism. They all started by talking about their individual careers, backgrounds and the craziest stories they ever came across, some reporting from Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh or Kenya, just to name a few.
On October 14, aspiring journalism and media students were invited to the Channel 4 Television studio in Central London to attend the ‘Unreported World Student’ event, organised by the NUS, Channel 4 and Amnesty International, the non-governmental organisation that campaigns for the protection of human rights around the world. The event aimed to discuss the art of getting unique stories taking place in some of the most dangerous places around the world. Professional filmmakers, investigative journalists and researchers respectively from Channel 4 and Amnesty International, were invited to talk through their experiences while working in the field for decades.
During the Q&A session, the professionals answered the questions with complete honesty, some gave tips about how to become ‘invisible’ when you are in danger and what to expect at checkpoints and others spoke about the skill of finding the right balance between handling emotion and keeping your professionalism while dealing with people living with a trauma.
The half-day event was split onto four different “workshops” which were most likely discussion panels. From tips given to report from some of the most neglected parts of the world, war or conflict zones on how to get individuals to share their personal stories. This event discussed all the ugly, non-desirable and dangerous parts of the professions in which journalism and international NGO work involve, parts, which for most of us were grey and unclear. The guest speakers shared with us information they learned and gathered while working in the 4
As the new academic year just started for most students who attended the event, Dorothy Byrne, Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4, encouraged (or perhaps discouraged) the students by stating:
She acknowledges she “missed out on benefits like societies and groups.” Socially, Lang feels that having a small friendship group at university meant that she’d “made friends for life” whilst also getting to see her friends from home “all of the time”. Melissa remains in Glasgow saying she left university “with a 2.1 degree that I may not have got without those train line study sessions.” Whilst McGuire’s statement doesn’t apply to Melissa, I feel my decision to commute leaves me isolated from the student body and institution — and I’m not alone in this. Institutions are setting up initiatives to combat this problem. Perhaps the most prominent of these is Manchester University’s ‘Living at Home Society’, a project that seeks to widen inclusion within the institution. Project coordinator, Miriam Amies believes that “more recognition and consideration is definitely needed to support living at home students.”
If you want to find out when similar events are happening keep an eye on the EventBrite website. Meanwhile, watch the ‘Unreported World’ series of documentaries produced and broadcasted by Channel 4 every Friday from 7.30pm. This will provide you with an insight of unreported and untold global stories.
Now in its third year, it has inspired other projects. “Our most exciting project this year is the Commuter Cost Scheme in which we’re reimbursing living at home students' travel costs to campus,” Miriam told Artefact. It aims “to encourage student engagement and offer support towards what is definitely the hardest part of a living at home student’s university life.” Manchester University’s success provokes the question of the responsibility institutions have to their travelling students. Perhaps then it is time UAL followed suit, or I stopped missing that 8:14am train.
Words: Aurore Kaddachi Image: NUS UK via Flickr
Words: Abbey Pallet Image: by Djupp via Flickr
“If you want to be rich, well don’t be a journalist. But be a journalist because it’s the most beautiful job you can do.”
WHAT WENT ON AT COMIC CON 2016? October has come to an end. You may have thought that with summer being over there won’t be any colour until spring but the weekend of October 28 was anything but dull. MCM London Comic Con arrived with colour and vividness! Comic Con is a convention where thousands of individuals dress up as characters from their favourite shows, films and books. With the biggest turnout in 2015, it’s safe to assume that this year was packed. Tickets to attend on Saturday even sold out! If you haven’t visited, here’s why you should have: Games: New games are often premiered and a lucky few are selected to test the products before they are on the market. Games showcased this year included Tekken 7, Dragon Ball Zenoverse 2, and The Silver Case. Movies and Theatre: 2016 has been a year of great work in the field of arts and there’s a good bunch on show at Comic Con. Akala, a BAFTA-winning artist, premiered his graphic novel, Visions, at the event. He gave a live reading where he went into detail about the book. There was also a world premiere of The Darkest Dawn, a “British sci-fi movie that tells the story of two teenage sisters as Britain descends into an alien apocalypse”. It starred Youtubers Bethan Leadley, Cherry Wallis and Stuart Ashen. Special Guests: There were several special guests such as Warwick Davis, known for playing Wicket the ewok in Star Wars. Naoyoshi Shiotani was also in the house as a guest of honour for his work. Words: Deek Hussain Jama Image: AndyK34 via Flickr
CAMPAIGN TO PUT YOUNG PEOPLE FIRST AFTER BREXIT It was an early morning when the nation woke up on June 24 to the news that Britain had voted 52-48% to leave the European Union. Some were ecstatic, others frustrated, but everyone agreed that something felt different. A country now divided by class, region and age, uncertainty was an understatement. Under 25s, who voted overwhelmingly to remain by 75%, were caught in the middle. Anger at an older generation serving up a result that they didn’t vote for and a future left in limbo to show for it. But how do you unite a nation that is so divided? Give young people a platform to take control of their future. On October 26, Undivided, a youth-led non-partisan campaign that is pushing for a better Brexit was launched in London. They saw a gap in the market for a campaign holding the Brexit government that was for, and by, young people. Rahma Hussein, Undivided’s co-leader for media and PR, told Artefact that they knew young people would be disillusioned with the outcome. “One of the main things is to accept that Brexit has happened,” says Hussein. “We’re not calling for another referendum, that’s undemocratic. All you can do is show something good can come out of Brexit negotiations because it’s completely possible,” she adds. The campaign stresses that they never claimed to be pro or anti-EU and they are never going to be. Undivided appears more united than British politics and the people that govern us. “We all want the same thing, which is a united nation and for young people to be heard,” Hussein says, “we are called Undivided and need to be undivided in our messages.” Getting involved is easy. Go on their website and submit your demand. From wanting to keep the NHS free and funded, to being able to live, study and work abroad. “The whole point is to get the message out there,” she Hussein, “young people are here and they need to be heard.” Once they have enough demands, they will put together a top ten demand list, and then they will be lobbying the politicians involved in Brexit negotiations including David Davis, Liam Fox and Prime Minister Theresa May. With the ambitious goal of collecting the views of a million young voices, it will be hard for the government to ignore them. Especially considering this generation will be living with the outcome the longest. “The key to a successful Brexit is listening to people,” says Hussein. No one really knows what Brexit actually means at the moment so it’s important for politicians to listen to the concerns that the public has. With a record number of young people voting in June’s referendum, which even surpassed youth voting figures from every British general election, young people were going against a stereotype of being typically apathetic to politics. If you’re under 30, visit weareundivided.com and get involved. Words: Ieva Asnina Image: Undivided 5
LIVING WITH THE SAMSUNG GALAXY ‘SMOKE’ 7 On August 15, 2016, UK technology fans gathered as South Korean-owned company Samsung made their biggest announcement of the year: the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. With upfront costs starting at £99 and £700 on Pay-as-you-go, the 5.7-inch waterproof smartphone set to rival Apple's iPhone 7 and Google's Pixel, became an immediate favourite among those who already owned the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, which was the winner of the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards 2015.
BREXIT TALKS AT UAL Labour MP and Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has visited UAL to discuss growing concerns amongst students in the wake of June’s Brexit vote. Addressing a meeting at an Arts SU-organised event, Starmer spoke of how he believes “a lot of people have been grieving since June 23, especially students.” Starmer, who is leading Labour’s battle to hold the government to account over the terms of Britain’s EU exit, spoke critically of Conservative leadership for not planning a response to the consequences of the June referendum. This, he said, was only made more complicated as “Theresa May became Prime Minister without challenge because everyone else backed out.” He added: “This meant she was never forced to say what her position would be.” A letter written by Starmer has urged the government’s Brexit secretary David Davis to have plans for the negotiation stage of Brexit ready for scrutiny in the House of Commons by January 2017. In the letter, he said: “Labour accept and respect the referendum result and are focused on achieving the best possible deal on what will be the defining issue of this Parliament and for many years to come.”
migration line by stating that he believes the party must be open to limiting EU freedom of movement laws. Starmer was also pushed by students on his involvement in forcing through a Labour leadership election following the referendum, which drew criticism from many party members who believed it was a missed opportunity to attack the Conservatives for failing to connect disillusioned voters. In response to this, Starmer told students that he doesn’t regret Labour’s leadership contest as “the re-connection of disaffected communities is going to take much more than one autumn but rather years”. Having been appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU by Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer admits that his current job title is “not the one he would have chosen” as he campaigned against Brexit in the run-up to the vote. Currently in Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet, Starmer was critical of the Labour leaders’ campaign for staying in Europe, saying that Corbyn should have gone after failing to secure Britain’s EU status as former Prime Minister David Cameron did.
He continued: “In order for the Government to keep these commitments and to help build a national consensus on Brexit, it is vital that its plans outlining the basic terms of the proposed Brexit deal are published in sufficient time to allow proper scrutiny”. He also told worried students that Labour would be “fighting hard” to keep freedom of movement alive at Britain’s EU borders.
The issue of housing was also high on the agenda for students, with Starmer mentioning his frustration that local councils have been unable to build affordable accommodation due to a lack of funding from central government. This topic was raised by students who complained about a continual rise of rental prices in London, which for many studying at UAL are not suitably covered by maintenance loans.
However, shortly after his cabinet appointment, Starmer went against Labour’s pro-im-
Words: Dylan Taylor and James Cropper Image: Arts SU
While many applauded the phone’s ‘smooth’ and ‘dynamic appearance’, its ability to become ‘hot’ and to ‘overheat’ became an issue felt by Note7 users, including Nitasha, who told me she had been burnt “multiple times” since purchasing the device. However, she refused to stop using her phone—despite 35 cases of Galaxy Note7’s simultaneously catching fire in the US alone. Despite Samsung investigating the ‘tiny problem in the manufacturing process’, as stated by its mobile business president Koh Dong-jin, Note 7's had been pulled from production by October 10. Shane Reid, a Samsung Note7 user, told me: “I am a very satisfied user of the device. It is one of the best I have used to date.” Shane also refused to hand back the device. James Deakin, journalist at CNN and reviewer of the Note7, said, “While I would certainly not recommend it to anyone in light of what happened, I still think it was a nice smartphone.” Despite forecasts that Samsung faces losses of more than $3 billion due to an issue that is thought to have been caused by faulty phone batteries, technology enthusiasts insist they will still stay loyal to the company. Words: Nike Akintokun
ECOSUMMIT: EUROPE’S LEADING GREEN-TECH CONFERENCE “Heat is a staggering problem today”, declared Dr. Henric Rhedin, the CEO of Sinterma. The Swedish startup designs Thermal Interface Materials (TIMS), which direct heat away from electronic components to save energy. Similar powerful statements, startups, investors and corporates circulated this annual Ecosummit conference on the 4th of October at Code Node in London. The aim of the conference is to bring together European smart technology creators, investors and corporates. This large hall in London was gloriously decorated with ceiling-high bamboo trees that accompanied a large gathering of 37 start-ups and 54 speakers. Most of who impressively sold their pitch within the challenging timeframe of five minutes. There were a handful of ideas that really stood out. A successful Berlin-based startup that got the investors, organisers, corporates and even the ambassadors talking about throughout the day, was Ubitricity. This young start-up has designed an intelligent system that installs charging ports around the city for electric cars to recharge. The process is simple in terms of how it works — almost like “a prepaid mobile phone plan”, said the Co-Founder, Knut Hechtfischer. Customers charge their cars and eventually receive a bill based on the amount of consumption they use. A broad and diverse selection of investors was at the conference. The one where everyone’s head pretty much turned a 360-degrees on was Shell. Perplexing as it was, Geert van de, the Managing Director of Shell Technology Ventures claimed that were on the journey towards “fostering green energy innovation.” Some could argue otherwise perhaps.
DIG A LITTLE DEEPER: A NATURAL HAIR SERIES Just when you thought things were finally turning around for the best, mainstream media and the beauty industry can’t help but somehow find a way to divide black women. No surprise there. The natural hair community is a community of black women of all shades coming together to embrace the hair that grows from the root of their heads. Being “natural” refers to not permanently altering their hair with chemicals; natural hair refers to texture, not colour. The natural hair movement conveys a sisterhood for black women. It is more than just a movement; it is a political statement. Natural hair has finally found its way back to the heart of mainstream, back when the fro was worn by respectable individuals such as Angela Davis and Pam Grier. These women reflected the political sentiment of the time for freedom. Today, we have individuals such as TV presenter and singer, Jamelia and Alicia Keys rocking natural hair and encouraging black women all over the UK to wear it in its natural state. Over the past months, natural hair has been a hot topic circling issues surrounding texture discrimination (where one texture of hair is more privileged than the others). The rebirth and celebration of natural hair has empowered black women who wish to escape from the media’s pressure of straight long hair. This so-called “new natural beauty standard”
builds a whole new pressure for black women to yearn for a specific type of natural hair. Aminah Ibrahim, an MA Sound Arts student at UAL claims, “The next step, and I feel like this is what the community might get to later, is hair not being a thing. Aida James, a lifestyle vlogger and natural hair enthusiast, explains how her hair actually stood for something and she wanted it to stand for something, Videos and images of women with looser, textured hair receive more shares, likes and sponsorships from high brand beauty industries than kinkier textures; as a result leaving many black women arguing that they are being erased from the movement entirely. Women with their natural hair in tighter coils are underrepresented, and by far under celebrated. Nicole Krystal Crenticil, creator of Unmasked Women, proclaims “when you see hair ads and makeup ads and these brands make it out to seem as if they're looking at the whole spectrum of women and they only have one shade.” Dig A Little Deeper is a series of stories and views from natural hair bloggers, vloggers and natural hair enthusiasts on this current, ever-growing issue in the black natural hair community. These women touch on the issues of how black women view their hair. Watch the full series on artefactmagazine.com Words and Image: Zenab Bukkar
USA and UK-based IP Group was the other investment company that left an impression. Among many of the services they offer is a long-term partnership with UK universities. They put their money into the smart greentech ideas derived from universities. After all the many discussions, presentations and general buzz of the conference, I managed to have a quick discussion with Jack Townsend, one of the main organisers at Ecosummit, who very matter-of-factly said: “Young people will live through a century shaped by digital technology and climate change. They have powerful digital skills, and I hope they will consider how to use them positively, to address some of these global challenges we face.” Words: Tanviya Sapru Image: Micheal Jan Hess via Ecosummit 7
Words: Nicole Gheller
Things you only experience if you’re a student from overseas
Being a foreigner is tough. Living between here and there gives us, foreign students, a few issues to deal with. Some of us feel homesick for our old homes, for our old life. Others have to go about daily lives in a different language. Most of us, if not all, have to adapt to a new culture and quite often we end up losing part of who we are; a part of our home. The life we left behind is now in our memories. “I think I feel homesick for the time that I was in those places," Ali Dominguez tells me about her home and her life abroad. Most of her childhood was spent moving from one country to another. She has spent time in her home country, the United States, but also lived in places like El Salvador, Colombia, India, Indonesia and now the UK. ** “You meet so many people whose lives are just as mobile as yours and they all leave, and you leave, and everything changes. So you know when you leave it’s never going to be the same. Ever.” Moving around like Ali and I have makes it hard to call one place home. There are so many cultures that have become a part of our identities that it makes us feel like foreigners everywhere we go. We know we are never going to be one hundred per cent part of one specific culture and at times it makes us wonder if we belong anywhere. "I sound like a valle girl but I don't identify with America that much." There are people who feel like their home isn’t where they belong even though they’ve never lived elsewhere. Ana Oppenheim left her home country of Poland at the age of eighteen to study in London. “I wanted somewhere new. Somewhere much more diverse than Poland. With people from different backgrounds; people who are more accepting of people who make different life choices as well. I was looking for a different culture. I was hoping for a culture shock.” Sometimes leaving is the best option. "I quite often felt like I'm not at home in Poland. I was just a little bored of everything having the same culture." Leaving home can often feel like we are breaking our connection with our previous life in order to be able to connect with our new one, but until then it’s like we don’t belong anywhere. “There was a time when I felt not at home here and not at home back home,” Ana continues. “Just in the void, in the middle, not really knowing where I belong. And step-bystep I became much more of a Londoner. 8
And now home is in my heart. It’s everywhere I go. It’s very emotional."
want to go back to London. I want to go home. It works both ways,” she adds.
A lot of people say that home is where the heart is, but if our hearts are in more than one place we can find ourselves constantly searching for a place that
Returning to our previous home can cause a reverse culture shock. After experiencing different habits and new foods, what we once knew can seem distant. Ali
I have a little bit of culture from everywhere inside of me.
Going back can make us face the real truth: we aren’t really part of our old culture anymore. Things change, people change and not being around to experience those changes makes it hard to stay integrated. It’s easier to stay in touch with what is happening nowadays with the internet, but seeing things virtually isn’t the same as experiencing them on a daily basis. “I think a lot of migrants feel like they are living a double life,” Ana explains. “I have my life that I left; my friends are still doing things and I still follow their lives, and I have my life here. So trying to be in two different places at once is really the struggle.” It’s hard to admit that home isn’t actually home anymore, that now we’ve got a different life to our friends. Sometimes I notice a difference in my behaviour when I'm in my hometown with my old friends. It truly can feel like a double life. “I feel like I’m not immersed in that culture anymore,” she continues. “I’ve felt more at home here than I ever have in Poland because it’s much more diverse and much more accepting.” **
will merge all aspects of our definition of ‘home’. “I feel like I identify with each country in a different sense of the word home just because of my age when I was there,” Ali says when I ask her where she feels most at home in. “It’s a constant inner battle. But when I am consciously thinking about how I am feeling, I know that for me home really and truly means being with people I love.” "When I hear the word home I will think of a family home," Ana describes her definition of home to me. "I think it's natural. I grew up in the same house all my life. I think of home as my mum cooking dinner and my friends coming along." ** Being away from home for too long can make us feel like we’re slowly losing a part of who we once were. “I always complain about not being able to go back enough just because I feel like I’m losing that connection,” says Ana. Feeling homesick is something common to anyone who spends a significant amount of time away from a place they’re familiar with. “But when I go, after three days I
tells me about the time she went back to the United States while living in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. “I didn’t wear tank tops, ever, for three years. You didn’t have to cover your shoulders but you’d do it because you feel uncomfortable and people would stare at you and it’s just unnecessary attention,” she told us. “I went back to the States and all my friends were wearing tank tops and I was wearing spaghetti straps in Fort Collins, Colorado and it’s totally fine, nobody cares but it felt so weird. It felt physically uncomfortable for me to wear a tank top for two months.” Things that were once ‘normal’ need time and effort to come back to us. Ana mentions her difficulty in having to change languages; from English to Polish. “Very often I think in English, so if I’m absent minded and someone approaches me and speaks to me in Polish I will reply in English without thinking about it. I need a couple of days to properly switch myself to thinking in Polish. I’m just so used to speaking in English.” To those who speak more than two languages this can be a bigger problem that can lead to mixing up different languages.
Moving to a place that is more diverse can open your mind to experiences that wouldn't have been possible in another area and when going back to your previous life it feels like it's a completely different world. "Here in London we have mre freedom," Ana goes on. "It's much more anonymous so you don't recognise people in the street but there's no judgement on what you choose to do or how you dress, how you behave. It's more accepting here because there's so much diversity here." Living between places is something that has become a part of our lives. The question ‘Where are you from?’ is always difficult to answer. “I’m much more attached to London now but Warsaw will always have a special place for me. I’m a Londoner but also Polish,” Ana tells me. “I feel like I don’t really get to live there. I get to visit Poland but not live there. Even if I could go there for a month it would be very different.” We are not part of one culture, but we have several cultures within us and just like that, we create our very own home that we take with us everywhere we go. “It’s just little things like that,” Ali says. “When I’m around Indian people I feel so comfortable. I feel so at home. I would say I have a little bit of culture from everwhere inside of me.”
Words: Solen Le Net
Quack or cure?
Is alternative medicine the right way to tackle cancer?
Each year, increasing sums of money are poured into cancer research, while cancer continues to kill millions. With £632 million donated to cancer research in 2015, scientists remain in the quest for answers.
The centre received patients who said they had lost all hope of recovery. “I spent ten days on the ranch, and saw people in full remission from stage two, three, four cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Lupus,” Owen said. “They've been abandoned by the medical profession.”
cense, but on all his medical forms, Dr. Young disclaimed to be a medical doctor.” The real war stands between doctors who offer natural alternatives, versus conventional doctors, who are pressurised by the multi-million pound pharmaceutical companies to administer their drugs.
** So Dr. Robert Young’s story raises questions about the arrests of naturopaths who are treating cancer patients who feel they have been abandoned by the medical profession. The claim that “cancer cannot survive in an alkaline environment” was suggested by Dr. Robert O. Young, and many others before his time. Dr. Young is a naturopath who specialised in cellular research, and who has devoted his career to researching the true causes of cancer. His “pH miracle series” sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide; advocating the message that nutritional-depleted foods sold to us by food industries are causing our bodies to accumulate excessive acidity, creating an ideal environment for cancer to thrive in. Dr. Young’s pH miracle diet incorporates remedies found in nature which he claims act as preventative chemotherapy. The world spent £87.5 billion on cancer drugs between June 2015 and June 2016, according to a report from the Institute for Healthcare Informatics. In this same year, 7.6 million people died from cancer. Dr. Young and his wife Shelley Redford Young opened “PH Miracle Living Centre” in California in 1995, where they offered individual and group health retreats, and educational programmes. Chris Owen a former patient of Dr. Young’s, admitted with Type 1 diabetes, spent one month in the centre. ** “Within the first week of following the alkaline protocol, I saw my arteries go from 60 per cent clogging down to 40 per cent. Neither my wife nor I could believe it,”he told us. “I did the green juices, they had me jumping on trampolines, walking. I had a hose up my arse, you know, colonics.”
any alternative treatment to chemotherapy, according to the Cancer Act of 1939. The main issue surrounding these medications prescribed is that they are known to treat the symptoms and not the underlying source of the disease, which is left to grow even bigger. **
As a non-medical practitioner you can be put in jail.
“I had no nutritional advice whatsoever when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Cancer,” claims one patient, who was treated with chemotherapy at London Bridge private hospital. “I also had an argument with my Doctor when she noticed I was drinking the green powder advised by Doctor Young. She told me I shouldn’t be drinking that stuff in hospital,” the patient, who wished to remain anonymous, told us. Cancer Research UK offers advice in pursuing natural approaches to treating the disease as a complementary treatment. ** Doctors such as Young, however, believe that such treatments should be at the forefront of any cancer patient’s priorities in treating their disease.
In 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raided Dr. Young’s ranch and arrested him for practicing medicine without a medical license.
Dr. Jonathan Wright, founder and medical director of Tahoma Clinic in Washington, also follows alternative practices to medicine.
He was convicted on two counts, but acquitted on the third count in February 2016, and now faces a maximum of three years and eight months in prison, and according to the San Diego Tribune: “His attorney believes this is an attack to alternative medicine.”
He shared an experience similar to Dr. Young’s in the documentary The Truth About Cancer: The True History of Chemo and the Pharmaceutical Monopoly: “On May 6th 1992, the [FDA] raided our clinic. With guns drawn!” he recalls.
** In 2013, Ida Kolader, was being treated for an extreme case of Lupus in Dr. Young’s clinic, when she saw his ranch raided by the FDA: “We were having breakfast when suddenly we were surrounded by a squad team with machine guns pointed at us.” “We had to put our arms in the air, we were not allowed to move, we were not allowed to talk,” recalls Ida. "We had to hand over our passports and were questioned about what we were doing there.” Owen explained, “They arrested him for having practiced medicine without a li-
“If you’re using a natural approach to cancer, you run the risk of having your license revoked. If you’re a non-medical practitioner [treating cancer], you can be put into jail,” says Dr. Rob Verkerk PhD, in The Truth about Cancer. “This is a real loss of fundamental rights of freedom for individuals whose bodies need nourishment.” **
However responsible the FDA may seem in standing in the way between the natural alternative cures to cancer, this conflict between drug intensive and natural approaches to healing grows from the 1800s, when the Carnegie and Rockefeller families united to sign the Flexer report. This essentially negotiated their affiliation with the medical school board in exchange of a generous financial investment, which meant they were able to engineer the medical curriculum into a drug intensive one which would guarantee high profits for both families. Today in the US, the UK and Australia, medical doctors are at risk of losing their job title if they advise cancer patients to follow
Increasingly through raised awareness we are rethinking our belief in the food industries and modern medical healthcare establishments which can lead to medical progress and acceptance of alternative types of medicine. Dr Young’s mission was to educate patients about the various paths to better health through conscious eating. “There are so many alternative medicines and herbs, but if you keep to basic principles such as Young’s alkaline protocol, that’s 50 per cent of the battle,” reflects Owen. “Slowly but surely a health revolution is on it’s way” 9
GUNS ON YOUTUBE
How US gun advocates are turning to YouTube to build a like-minded alternative community
Words: James Cropper Images: Iraqveteran8888
“Dude! There’s Communists falling out of the sky” exclaims Eric Blandford in his “Five Guns for life and liberty” YouTube video.
have created a strong community of individuals who now view social media as a crucial part to their Second Amendment rights.
Blandford and his co-host Chad discuss the best five guns that their viewers should own to protect the United States’ proud tradition of freedom and liberty. Over the course of 17 minutes, the two gun advocates showcase a carefully assorted range of firearms, which include everything from pistols to semi-automatic machine guns.
The community’s content has been known to tread an extremely thin line between what they see as fun and potentially dangerous endorsements of gun use. According to the United States Gun Violence archive, 45,000 gun-related incidents have occurred in the country this year alone with over 11,000 resulting in fatalities. The website’s database is updated so frequently that it even features an entire section dedicated to incidents that have occurred within a previous 48-hour timeframe.
The two presenters run Iraqveteran8888, one of YouTube’s most popular “shooting” channels, which have grown alongside other popular genres on the social media website. Armed with nothing more than a camera and their guns, these channels have amassed millions of subscribers by producing videos that have been embraced as a new modern strand of the Second Amendment. And these channels are not just middle-aged men talking to themselves in front of a camera. By producing highly professional content, a group of gun advocates 10
The community has even grown to such a size that popular channels now reach audiences in their millions. Take the frenzied Demolition Ranch for example, which is known for extravagant gun modifications such as quadruple-barrelled shotguns. It now boasts over two million subscribers and a total of 300 million views. These figures are even surpassed by the self-defined
“family-friendly” shooting channel Hickok45, which is edging closer to a total of 600 million views. For both adamant gun advocates and casual viewers, these YouTube channels are tapping into an interest that is finding itself a comfortable home on the website. This was something that Don Porter, founder of popular shooting channel Sootch00, felt was important to highlight when speaking with Artefact; “The large YouTube channels have magnetic personalities that reveal we’re just normal, everyday people”. Porter’s channel, which currently has 454,000 subscribers and 123 million views, is self-described as an outlet for fun gun reviews that promote “rugged individualism, independent thinking and self-reliance”. It is interestingly hard to argue with Porter’s point as a relaxed light-hearted atmosphere exists throughout many YouTube shooting channels, with presenters joking, laughing and generally just having a fun time. The community even meet up each year for Iraqveteran8888’s “annual shoot” where popular online stars gather to reinforce their light-hearted perception. However, certain videos uploaded by popular channels have tread a thin line between producing content for leisured watching and actively promoting potentially violent gun use. This careful balance is apparent in one of Iraqveteran8888’s popular videos where the two presenters discuss popular guns for prospective college students, which is interestingly just as much aimed at parents as it is to freshers. In this video, which currently has over 1.5 million views, the two presenters showcase five carefully selected guns that they claim will allow students to protect themselves during their studies. Over the course of 15 minutes, viewers are treated to in-depth discussion about topics such as what guns are best for protection and specifically designed semi-automatics that can be folded to create a “backpack gun”. As the video was produced for students, the presenters even take price into consideration when recommending guns. However, it is when the topic of college gun laws enters the conversation that both presenters descend into a murky area of what constitutes light-hearted content and what supports students carrying weapons on college campuses. This contradiction comes to light when host Eric, founder of the channel, states that their video “isn’t about what you should do or may do, but rather what you can do”. This is while a recent report discovered that the number of shootings occurring on US college campuses have more than doubled during the last five academic years. The report, conducted by the NYC Citizen’s Crime Commission, analysed statistics from 2001-2016 to discover that US students are now being subjected to shootings at an alarming rate with statistics rising by 153% during the 15 years of research. By analysing separate figures from two academic periods of 2001-2006 and 2011-2016 the report found that an “explosion” of on-campus gun violence had seen 290 students killed during their studies with another 270 wounded. This represented a surge of gun deaths, which grew by 241% in 2011-2016 compared with the previous decade. However, when asked about the potential negative influence that shooting content could have on such audiences, Don Porter believes we should view it in opposite terms. “YouTube has been huge in building a community of like-minded people who don’t feel alone or crazy”. He then added; “Political correctness has labelled gun owners as a fringe group but self-defence is a basic human right and anyone who says otherwise is dead wrong.” Divisions that separate gun advocates from anti-gun campaigners are as prevalent in social media as any other area. While some like Don Porter view social media as a revolutionary new campaigning tool for gun advocates, others see it as nothing more than a poten-
tially dangerous tool for influencing individuals to purchase weapons. However, whether it should be viewed as simple leisure content like other popular YouTube genres such as gaming and vlogging or rather as an unsafe video platform isn’t a question that the community is acknowledging while it continues to boom. There has also been a successful attempt by the mainstream gun advocate National Rifle Association to produce a more accessible connection to their supporters on YouTube by creating a mixture of content that ranges from simple advice videos to a professionally funded news channel. In recent years, the NRA have received criticism from anti-gun campaigners for their promotion of using firearms for self-defence purposes, which has now transcended onto online content. This criticism has been pushed by groups like the Brady
“Armed with nothing more than a camera and their guns, these channels have amassed millions of subscribers.” Campaign to Stop Gun Violence who recently stated that “owning a gun is linked to a higher risk of being shot in homicides, suicides and unintentional shooting but all gun lobby groups care about is selling guns and making profit”. This issue was experienced first-hand in the gun community when Keith Ratliff, producer of Youtube’s most successful shooting channel “FPS Russia” was mysteriously shot dead in January 2013. As the gun community mourned the loss of a popular face his sister told local media outlet Lex18 that he always carried a firearm for protection and it was strange “for him not to pull out his gun to defend himself." Ratliff’s death caused a string of responses from popular shooting channels with Col Richard Hunter stating in a video that “there is no justice in this case”. He added, “as one of us has been murdered, especially with a firearm, we should come together on this”. However, in Ratliff’s absence, the FPS Russia channel has struggled to recapture a successful flow of video content leaving over six million subscribers without any content since April 2016. YouTube has now witnessed the first death of one of its popular shooting channels, which was ironically caused by the very weapons that it used to achieve such success. While the NRA continues to wrestle with arguments of self-defence, one of its top poster boys is standing out by helping gun advocates break through their general stereotypes. In contrast to what he describes as the NRA stereotype of “fat, middle-aged white men”, Colion Noir is a 31 year old trendy and articulate African American male. The YouTuber, based in Dallas, conveys himself as a narcissistic character who boasts keen support for everything gun related. His face is a regular feature in NRA videos with his personal channel now boasting nearly 400,000 subscribers and 50 million views. Within one video, he even claims that no one can be “Anti-Gun”; rather they are either pro-gun or “scared of” weapons.
It is this confident rhetoric that has seen Noir break through stereotypes closely associated with the NRA to form a substantial cross-community following of over 345,000 subscribers on their channel. Noir has also been vocal in putting across his belief that the mainstream media have created racial stereotypes of gun advocates by “hijacking a notion of black communities being against gun ownership”. As racial issues continue to dominate US mainstream discourse, Noir has been taking a different standpoint from the conventional media perception. Noir concentrates on this topic regularly as he believes that a growing tide of media coverage surrounding gun violence committed by US police against African-American citizens has portrayed an image of black communities being anti-gun. This viewpoint was apparent during recent controversy surrounding a pro-gun billboard in Maine that drew opposition for using the slogan “Black Rifles Matter”, a reference to the activism group Black Lives Matter. The billboard was created in response to a nationwide ban on certain assault rifles coming into effect across the country. In an interview with Fox news, Noir stated that he had no problem with the billboard and actually agreed with the sentiment of its promotion. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Centre, Noir’s opinion is different to that of most African Americans’ across the country, with only 34% favouring the right to bear arms over gun controls. The figure for white Americans was nearly double this with 61% believing that gun controls should not be introduced. As the YouTube gun industry community continues to develop, a growing number of fans are now looking for content that provides more than just conventional gun reviews and shooting range videos. This is something that the NRA have targeted by commissioning Colion Noir to produce a series of commentary pieces in which he delves deeper into the political and social sides of gun use. However, while Noir works hard to eradicate issues such as race in the gun community he also falls into other stereotypes himself. In his popular “Be careful taking women on dates to the shooting range” video, Noir states that men in American society are seen as the “protectors”. This he believes, makes it natural for them to see firearms as their own community. But this gender imbalance hasn’t stopped women like Kirsten Joy Weiss from using YouTube to create their own take on gun content. A champion sharp-shooter prior to Youtube, Weiss began making videos in 2013, but rather than producing conventional content at a shooting range she has become well-known for obscure trick shot videos. Her channel now boasts over 4.5 million views with 74,000 people subscribing to watch videos such as yoga pistol shooting and gun pilates. In the latter video, Weiss combines the popular workout of pilates with a rifle to demonstrate her flexible shooting skills. What Weiss’ content does show though is how YouTube gun channels are adapting to the specific demands of an ever growing gender equal industry, which is witnessing viewers seeking something more than conventional hands-on reviews. As the community continues to gain popularity in a country that has been ravaged with a past of gun violence, which according to Politifact has contributed to more deaths in American history than its entire military casualty list, the social media site will only see more shooting content. The power of YouTube and other social media platforms has allowed gun owners across the US to feel part of an ever-closer community, which now believes it holds as much relevance to the 2nd amendment and American values as any other group. However, whether their content should be viewed simply as entertainment or potentially dangerous influences in American culture is a question that will produce debates for as long as the community continues to grow. 11
Words: Lea Vitezic Images: Edu Granados
FIGHTING FOR WOMENâ€™S RIGHTS IN POLAND Why does Poland have one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe? 12
Having a choice over your own body is a human right and, although most of the women in Europe at the moment enjoy that freedom, women in Poland are still struggling. The former communist country has restrictive laws: abortion on demand is illegal, but in October 2016 the situation became worse with the proposal of the total ban of abortion. “We organised one of the Black Protests in Krakow. It was a very quick action but we managed to do it very well,” Lana Dadu, a 35-year-old Lithuanian living in Poland told to Artefact. She was the organiser of one of the protests against the total ban on abortion. This extreme proposition was made by the citizens’ project Ordo Iuris, who started a petition which collected around 450 000 signatures. Thousands of women who oppose the ban gathered in Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and elsewhere in Poland but demonstrations also took place as a form of solidarity in some European cities including Berlin, London and Paris. It’s called Black Protest because women were wearing black during the demonstrations — it was the colour of choice as the abortion should be the matter of women’s choice.
Abortion is already illegal in Poland except in three cases: when the woman’s life is in danger, where there is a risk of irreversible damage to the foetus and where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The current law was introduced in 1993 and it is still in force today. The introduction of a total ban, even in those exceptional cases, was supported by the Catholic Church but the protest was directed at the government as some members, for instance the Minister of Higher Education and Minister of Foreign affairs, supported the ban. Although this proposal was rejected after the protest, the current law in Poland is still highly controversial. “I think calling the current regulations a compromise, as many people do, is a huge misunderstanding. Even though the law allows abortion in a few specific cases the doctors might simply refuse to perform it, signing a clause of conscience," says Agnieszka Maniecka, a 25-year-old from Krakow. She thinks that doctors in Poland often prolong the whole procedure of potential abortion so that it ends up being too late. She also says they frequently state they are not going to “help with the murder”. One famous example of this is the case of the doctor and anti-abortion activist Bogdan Chazan, who publicly
admitted that he performed more than 500 abortions during the Communist period when it was legal, but refused to abort a badly damaged foetus in 2014, giving the patient the address of a hospice where, according to him, the child could get palliative care once born. The case was widely covered in Polish media. The woman ultimately gave birth to the severely malformed baby who died a few days afterwards. The doctor who helped her through the pregnancy and labour, Romuald Debski, described in detail what this “miraculously saved life” looked like — the child did not have half of its head, had a hanging eyeball, its face was split, and had no brain inside. A similar controversial case happened when a 14-yearold rape victim in 2008 was refused an abortion by several hospitals and at the same time she was harassed and stalked by groups of anti-abortion activists. This case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Poland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Agnieszka thinks that abortion should be legal on demand, as is the case in most other European countries. Vatican City and Malta are the only two European countries that have total ban on abortion. “I support 13
the liberal proposal submitted by the committee Ratujmy Kobiety which was unfortunately voted off by our parliament on the same day as the proposed abortion ban. It also stated the need to improve access to contraception and sex education in our country,” she told us. “I believe that those two factors have a chance to actually lower the number of performed abortions, not only in the official statistics,” Agnieszka says. Kaja Puto is a 26-year-old journalist from Krakow who shares Agnieszka’s opinion and thinks that abortion should be legal on request and she doesn’t agree with the current law. “Making the current consensus — which for me is not a consensus at all — even harsher is dangerous and controversial on many levels. For example, how is a doctor supposed to choose if he should save the life of a baby or a mother?” She also thinks the obvious consequence is the limitation of access to abortion for the poorest and most discriminated against women, while middle-class women from big cities are able to turn to the black market or clinics in other countries.
the big impact on religion in Poland had a historical context as we were occupied by other countries which were trying to ban religion and Polish people felt that religion was something that would help them stay together and unite and fight together against Germany and Russia with God’s help.” Poland’s Communist past is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church plays such an important part in Polish society, but there are other European countries that also share Communist history and Catholic heritage like Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia. And these countries have much more secular politics and liberal abortion law — abortion is legal on request. In my home country of Croatia, although the Catholic Church also plays some role in society there, questions like illegal abortion are not under threat, even from the most right-wing political parties. So why is Poland more religious? As Agnieszka told us: “The Catholic Church in Poland tries to be more Catholic than the Pope”. Ola also sees broader cultural
“The child was missing half of its head, had a hanging eyeball, its face was split and had no brain inside” Lana, Kaja and Agnieszka think that the Catholic Church has an important influence on abortion laws in Poland. “I think that the Catholic Church plays a very big role in establishing all laws in Poland, not only those concerning abortion,” Lana states. “The Church plays a major role in shaping the new government’s narrative about what Polish society should look like,” Kaja says.
reasons aside from Communist past that might be the reasons for such powerful religious atmosphere in the country: “Adam Mickiewicz is one of the most famous Polish writers and his legacy can be part of the reason for a strong religious influence.” He is a principal figure in Polish Romanticism and is regarded as one of the greatest Polish poets. His most famous work is a drama called Forefather’s Eve.
She said that a Polish archbishop was quoted on the state TV news as saying that women who have been raped rarely get pregnant because of the stress they experience during the rape. “On the other hand the Polish Episcopate claims that they are officially against punishing a woman for having abortion by the criminal code,” Kaja concludes.
Ola explained how Mickiewicz dedicated his work for people fighting for Polish freedom during the 1830s insurrection and especially for those who were exiled to Siberia by the Russian emperor. The book describes the cruelty of Alexander, the emperor, and the persecution of Poles. It has many mysterious episodes and certain visions of the poet.
It seems that the problem is not just the law; it’s the social attitudes to abortion, which are heavily influenced by the Church. According to a census conducted by Central Statistics Office, around 90% of Poles identify as Catholic. There is no doubt that religion in Poland is a powerful influence and occupies a more important part in life than in most other European countries, even those that are predominantly Catholic.
According to these, Poland was meant to be the ‘Christ of Europe’ and the national suffering was meant to result in releasing all persecuted people and nationalities, in the same way that Christ’s death brought salvation. The drama was banned during the Communist era due to this religious aspect.
“In some smaller towns or villages, priests are sometimes more powerful than officially elected leaders like mayors or presidents,” Agnieszka said. Lana agrees: “The Catholic Church became very strong after the Solidarity movement since it supported the people during the Communist era, and we can’t forget that John Paul II had a very big role in that process as well”. John Paul II was born as Karol Wojtyla in Krakow and was a significant figure in Polish society before becoming the Pope in 1978, serving until his death in 2005. Agnieszka shares Lana’s opinion: “The Church played an important role during Communism times, helping people to fight for their freedom”. Ola Koson, who is a 24-year-old Polish artist, sees historical issues as a part of the reason as well: “I think
The influence of Mickiewicz’s piece could explain the historical and cultural context that could be part of the explanation why religion plays such an important role in modern Poland today. Agnieszka thinks that the Black Protests helped people realise they should separate religion and politics and stop violating human rights with imposing proposals similar to this one with the total ban of abortion. The outcome of the protests was positive; the extreme position of a complete ban didn’t come to pass, but that doesn’t mean that Polish women can stop fighting. As we could see, the status quo needs to change. The the current law doesn't give women a freedom of choice. There is no doubt religion plays a huge role in Polish society but most of Polish people agree that there should be a separation of the two. As Agnieszka said: “There is no place for Catholic Church and their beliefs in the legislation of the secular country”. 15
Words: Alice Grahns Images: Joeri Boom, Tim Hetherington
WHEN YOUR JOB TAKES YOU TO WAR Following the tragic death of a graduate from London College of Communication in Libya, we explore if journalism is worth the danger?
At the beginning of October this year, a photojournalism graduate from London College of Communication was shot dead by a sniper in Libya. Four years earlier, Jeroen Oerlemans had been taken hostage by the so-called Islamic State in Syria but survived after being rescued by the Free Syrian Army. Sadly, he wasn’t as lucky the second time: he was shot several times in the chest, and the bullets got around his bullet proof vest and penetrated his heart. Oerlemans was reporting from the front line of a battle between pro-government forces and the Islamic State in the Libyan city of Sirte, the Jihadist militant group’s last bastion in the chaos-wrecked North African country. Leaving three kids and a wife behind him, the photojournalist’s tragic death is a painful reminder of the dangers that journalists face today while covering war and armed conflicts. Since 1992, 1,211 journalists have been killed worldwide while doing their job, according to figures by the organisation Committee to Protect Journalists. Many others have been kidnapped, gone missing or forced into exile, while the number of unreported incidents is assumed to be even greater. This number has steadily increased over the years, raising the question about whether journalism is becoming more dangerous. On its own, 2015 was a chilling year of killings and attacks on journalists. It started with the Charlie Hebdo attack in France where eight satirical cartoonists and journalists were murdered, and from there to Brazil and Mexico, the assaults on press freedom continued. This year, 2016, has progressed in the same way. The ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are continuously affecting journalists on duty. Compared to ten
years ago, the number of journalists killed has tripled. Despite the horrific numbers of attacks on the freedom of the press, many journalists continue to travel to war zones to report on conflicts. After all, telling the world what’s going on is what journalism is all about. “I do it because I’m good at it; I’m not really good at anything else. It gives me meaning,” says the documentary filmmaker, journalist and author James Brabazon, who has extensive experience of reporting from various conflicts, ranging from Liberia and Venezuela to Syria. In Liberia, he was the only journalist to film the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) fighting to overthrow President Charles Taylor during the Liberian civil war in 2002. As a safety precaution, Brabazon hired former South African solider and mercenary Nick du Toit as his bodyguard and the two became close friends. The coup by the rebels in Equatorial Guinea ultimately failed, and du Toit was sent to the infamous Black Beach Prison while Brabazon narrowly avoided the same fate by being held back in the United Kingdom for a family funeral. “If I had gone on that operation as planned and filmed it, I would’ve been arrested in Equatorial Guinea, and I would’ve been sent to jail. I don’t know under what circumstances or for how long but I know how bad the conditions there were. I wouldn’t have survived that,” Brabazon says. Du Toit was given a 34-year sentence in a tiny cell in what has been described by Amnesty International as a “living hell”. He was tortured, beaten, starved and kept for much of the time in solitary confinement. After five years and eight months without sunshine, he was released. Despite this, Brabazon feels remorse and guilt for not having been there alongside his friend. Over the years Brabazon says he has witnessed the worst things human beings can do to each other, including torture
and execution of soldiers and civilians, and even ritual cannibalism. Brabazon documented LURD-rebels in Liberia committing atrocities, and had a bounty placed on his head by the government of Liberia. He’s also been targeted by aerial bombardments in Syria, and has often found himself being dangerously close to combat in war. “You need to be lucky every time; you can only be unlucky once. I’ve had people around me being killed, but I’ve never been shot. But I’ve nearly been killed by a crocodile and by drinking dirty water,” he says. Alongside the work he does reporting from conflict zones, Brabazon is also a trustee of the Rory Peck Trust, an international organisation which supports freelance journalists and their families worldwide. Without the support mechanism that comes with being a staff journalist, freelancers need to build their own support networks. “It’s a lot easier to say ‘it’ll never happen to me’, than actually taking the steps to make sure it won’t happen to you,” Brabazon says. Bombs and bullets When you go to a war zone to report, you can never do enough planning and preparation. There’s a lot of emphasis on bombs and bullets, but according to Brabazon, a journalist is actually far more likely to be severely injured or killed by not putting the seat belt on. Often car crashes and faulty planes to take one over the border can be a more severe problem than being shot at. Niclas Hammarström, a Swedish photojournalist agrees: “Journalism isn’t dangerous just in conflict or war zones, but even in Sweden it’s a dangerous profession. If you’re doing investigative journalism or attending a protest, it can be very threatening,” he says. Almost three years ago, Hammarström was kidnapped in Syria with his colleague, the Swedish journalist Magnus Falkehed. After a week of reporting from the civil war, they were on their way home accompanied by a translator and two soldiers, when a big Jeep stopped them at a checkpoint. Close to the Lebanese border, the men forced the two Swedes into their car and drove into the wild. After a few days in captivity, they attempted to escape. It failed, and had consequences.
that are taking place globally, and have been since 2001, have a religious and ideological basis to them. A lot of the Western press have been identified as the enemy by different armed groups; the international press core has largely become a target,” Brabazon says. Patrick Sutherland, professor of documentary photography at London College of Communication and Jeroen Oerlemans’ course leader during his time at the college, believes that although there have always been risks involved in the journalistic profession, they have become greater as of late. “In the last decade or so, journalists have been specific and easy targets. Killing
There are many similar cases like Hammarström and Falkehed’s; some well-known examples are John Cantlie, Steven Sotloff and James Foley, all of which ended very differently. While Cantlie is believed to be alive, he remains in captivity. The others were publicly beheaded by the Islamic State. Today’s Western journalists have become key players in war. They are seen less and less as outside observers by warring parties. Instead they have become easy targets, and as the organisation Reporters Without Borders states, the neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected. “A number of conflicts 18
However, Brabazon disagrees. “It’s not a question of taking sides. I think it’s absolutely impossible to report objectively in war. I don’t think it’s ever been possible; I don’t think it’s ever been done”, he says. “You can be authentic and credible in your reporting, but if you’re on the front line, you’re going to act in self-defence. And if you’re in a war and you’re acting in self-defence, whatever steps it is that you’re taking for your own survival, immediately it means that you’re participating. As soon as you participate, you cannot be objective,” Brabazon continues. One may also say that along with today’s faster pace of war and conflict comes faster news — and sometimes faster injury and death. Today, with the war zones being closer to each other and the fact that global travel has become easier, going to war is not difficult.
“If you’re unlucky and find yourself to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may never come home”
“In my opinion, it should be extremely difficult to get into a war zone. The harder it is, the less likely people who aren’t serious about it will end up on the front line. “But in Libya for example, you could take a flight to Cairo, take a taxi to the border and you’re over the border and in Benghazi. There were university students turning up with their iPhones, without medical equipment and training. It’s crazy,” Brabazon says. Going to war is now open to a larger number of young people who doesn’t necessarily have such a breadth or depth of experience; this can lead, argues Brabazon, to very severe problems without proper care, consideration and training. Sutherland and Jeroen Oerlemans’ agency in London, Panos Pictures, share the same view: “Digital technology and mobile phones now enable even the most inexperienced photojournalist to board a flight to the closest conflict zone and enter potentially deadly territories”, says Michael Regnier, commissioning editor at Panos told us. “In the past, the sheer amount of equipment required to make a journey to a conflict zone worthwhile made war photography a more inaccessible field. Today, encouraged by the feats of subterfuge and daring of some photographers, too many people with little experience in conflict zones continue to put themselves at risk, hoping for that elusive scoop,” he added.
Hammarström was shot in the leg and Falkehed was tortured. After being held hostage for a total of 46 days they were released, and were later on reunited with their wives and families in Stockholm and Paris. “I’d love to go back to Syria, if I knew I could do it in a different way than last time. But even if I would want to, my family probably won’t let me go again. I’ve had to give that up,” Hammarström says. Hammarström and Falkehed didn’t know who had kidnapped them, what they wanted and why they were later released. They didn’t know if their families had found out what happened, nor what the Swedish police were doing in order to release them. In addition, they didn’t know if they would make it out of Syria alive or if they were going to be killed, and if so, whether their families would ever find out about the truth or whether they would live the rest of their lives wondering what actually happened.
close to the conflicts and warring parties. Some would say that a journalist has to choose a side.
someone from a news team is a way of dramatically getting more coverage from the conflict,” Sutherland told Artefact. Reporting from war zones has always been a difficult proposition, but the statistics are clear. In the last ten years, covering conflicts have become a particularly dark and depressing time for journalists. The front lines are fuzzy, the fighting is crude and indiscriminate while combatants have become more ruthless. If you’re unlucky and find yourself to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may never come home. This started to change in the 1990s, according to Brabazon: “It began in the Bosnian war where the Serbian irregulars fighting around Sarajevo didn’t see the distinction between the international press core and the NATO army fighting them. That caused a lot of problems for journalists trying to accurately report the conflict.” Participants in war Some argue that journalists have become participants in a greater scale. To report on a war, many journalists see themselves being embedded in fighting units to get
Glamorous image There is a glamorous and romantic picture of reporting from war. Tim Page, a photographer who made his name during the Vietnam war, expressed it as being sexy, glamorous and having fun with lots of drugs and young girls. “I think there’s a glamorous, very naïve image about war photography, in a way that you might encourage students to go into war zones. I think that is really incredibly destructive, unethical and dodgy. It’s also fantastically naïve,” Sutherland says. “In order to get the great picture or the defining picture that nobody else gets, as a photojournalist you need to go away from the pack. And possibly the pack is where there is support and some kind of safety,” he told us. Written war correspondents have existed as long as journalism has. As long as there are wars, journalists will go to report on them. It’s a pillar of modern society. “If you’d like to see war end, you need to understand why people fight wars and there are many geopolitical answers to that. Whatever they might be, at the end of the day, you need young men to go and kill other young men. And the damn thing is that young men can enjoy doing it. It’s sickening and horrific but at the same time, sometimes war can be fun,” Brabazon says.
Number of killed journalists worldwide since 1992
Continuously reporting from war doesn’t come without consequences; often it is two completely different worlds, and adapting to every-day life after a trip can be difficult. What you may witness will stay with you forever. “People who haven’t been to war don’t understand what it’s like to go to war. It separates you from society, as I see it. When I’m at war I just want to come back home, and when I’m at home I just want to go back to the war. It has a very corrosive effect on personal relationships,” Brabazon says. “But I have two small kids now and that keeps me on the straight and narrow. You got to keep it together for them. They think I go to Africa to shoot wild-life documentaries,” he continues. The godfather of Brabazon’s children, photographer Tim Hetherington, was killed in Libya; while his kids know that, they don’t understand the connection between his job and what their own father does for a living. For now, that is something Brabazon doesn’t want them to know. The world of journalism is changing, alongside technological developments and ongoing civil wars. There will always be people going to conflict zones to report and picture the stories of the silenced. Telling the tales of the people who don’t necessarily have a voice in our society is what journalism is about. And this is something Jeroen Oerlemans found meaningful. As a freelance photographer, he covered areas in conflict ranging from Afghanistan and Haiti to nearly all countries of the Near East such as Syria, Israel and Iraq. “People trusted him and this shows in his pictures
— a closeness to the action, people at their ease in his company. Though he was tall and strapping, he seemed to be able to fade into the background and let things unfold in front of his camera. I trusted him with the most delicate and difficult assignments,” says Regnier about Oerlemans. Although the 46-year-old studied at London College of Communication many years ago, his course leader Patrick Sutherland still remembers him. “I remember him as typically Dutch, tall but also very good-natured, easy-going and committed. His final major project on heroin addicts in Rotterdam was a very strong piece of journalism, very direct. After he graduated, I would occasionally see his bylines from various places around the world,” Sutherland says. Jeroen Oerlemans’ appalling death is an example of the consequences of when your job takes you to war; he died while accompanying a mine-clearing team in Libya –he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. However statistics make it clear: today’s journalists are facing an increasing amount of dangers while reporting from conflict zones. The attacks on journalists are horrific, but it cannot stop wars from being reported on. The whole idea with journalism is that it is a free press. Despite what happened to Jeroen Oerlemans and many others in the journalistic profession, we need people like them. 19
Words: Aurore Kaddachi Images: Marc Romanelli, Anastasia Kurokhtina, Charo Mérida, Green School
THE GREENEST SCHOOL ON EARTH Deep in the jungle of Bali, students are getting a holistic education to become future leaders
“Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility-these three forces are the very nerve of education.” When I first read this quote from Rudolf Steiner, I thought he was describing the values of the International Green School of Bali. He wasn’t. Steiner was the founder of anthroposophy, a philosophy that has been used for many years in the Waldorf education system. It emphasises the role of imagination in learning and focuses on a holistic approach to the intellectual, practical and artistic development of pupils. It’s after meeting Maya Crowder, an 18-year-old graduate student from the Green School that I decided not to leave Indonesia without visiting the establishment. After hearing so many stories about the school, I needed to see the institution from my own eyes and to know how a holistic education works in the 21st century. After an hour-long, sweaty and stressful motorbike drive from Denpasar, capital of the Indonesian island of Bali, I arrived right on time to catch the students getting in at 8am. At first what surprised me the most was the presence of parents inside the school: most of whom were discussing gluten-free cakes, green smoothies and the latest opening of a nearby vegan restaurant. Later on, I was told they were heading to a yoga class being held above an organic café at the entrance of the school. As I walked down the main entrance towards the ‘Heart of School’, the main building located in the middle of the campus, I was amazed by its structure. The Green School is composed of several buildings entirely made 20
from the local material: bamboo. The ‘Heart of School’ uses seven kilometres of it and it is known to be Asia’s largest bamboo building. Despite the imposing size of these bamboo edifices, they perfectly fit the green and jungle surroundings. Walking in the establishment’s campus feels like an exclusive but foolish experience because its connection and incorporation with nature is so well preserved that it makes you feel guilty and almost stupid about not coming to this place before. The school's founder John Hardy is a famous Canadian jewellery designer who emigrated to Bali in 1975. A few years ago, in a TED Talk he explained that it was after watching An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary on global warming by Al Gore, that Hardy and his wife Cynthia created what he described as his ‘Green School Dream’. A place where children, staff and parents respectively can enjoy nature within a real sense of community. Eleven-year-old Harper, who has been a student at the school since its opening in 2009, confirmed it: “I think my favourite thing about Green School is how welcome I feel; the effort to save the world and the amazing people there.” Leslie Beckman, a member of staff at the Green School shared a clear and important message: “We are creating green leaders for the next generation.” Through their education the students at the Green School are learning academic subjects such as Mathematics, Literature, Foreign Languages and Science, but they also receive a holistic and green education. “We were learning from a conscious and alternative perspective. Every lesson’s intention was to bring awareness to a subject simultaneously showing us how we can improve the issue as a society and as an individual” says Maya when I asked her what was so special about being a student at the Green School.
Some classes involve bamboo building, organic farming, making your own natural soap, finding alternatives to go plastic-free, etc. The school aims to become 100% sustainable: all toilets on the campus are compost toilets; food collected from the farm is served on banana leaves and they run on a low energy consumption; since most of the buildings do not have windows or walls, so natural light and breeze serves the staff and students. Leslie also explained that the school is mostly paperless and uses solar powered energy and hydro-power. Thanks to a gravitation water vortex power-plant system, the school can create its own electricity. Ideas from students to reach the school’s goal are welcomed and encouraged by staff. In January 2015 two 12th grade students conceived the idea of a ‘BioBus’, a biodiesel school bus which runs on used cooking oils. The idea became a reality and today three buses are running.
“Its incorporation with nature is so well preserved that it makes you feel guilty for not coming to this place before”
Originally from the US, Rebecca Penrose, Harper’s mum, moved to Bali in the 90s. She confessed that an alternative education in a natural environment was what she wanted for her child and the result is more than satisfactory, “Harper LOVES school and therefore learning, and to me there is nothing better.”
Bali is one of the world’s prime tourist destinations but it also has a large number of expats and the school’s community confirms it too. Harper told me about her friends: “Yes they are from all different nationalities. In my class there are students from Spain, Italy, Australia, Indonesia, France, England, Malaysia and Singapore.”
Leslie Beckman shared with me that it is more enjoyable for children to “learn by doing”, as a result, this holistic and green education has shown beneficial results in the long run. “We have many individual stories of kids doing well after graduation as well as integrating back to their ‘home’ school with either better grades or in some cases, skipping a grade,” Beckman said.
At first, I found myself quite sceptical about the presence of Indonesian children at the International school; maintaining an eco-friendly school is expensive, so the fees are high and local families often cannot afford them. I found out about the Local Scholar and the Kul Kul Connection programmes, which aim to promote the integration of local Indonesian children in the institution. The scholarship programme aims to have Indonesian children make up 20% of all students and to support them during the required local exams on the top of the international school experience. This scholarship was designed by John Hardy to engage and inspire local kids to become leaders and change-makers in their home country. As a result, there are more than 50 Indonesian students in a school with an approximate of 400 students.
While a holistic and green education seems to show positive results through the accomplishments of the children and pleases the parents in turn, one thing that surprised me during my visit was to see so many International students but very few native Indonesians. The school campus was built along the Ayung River which is the longest river in Bali, where more than 4.2 million people live today.
This project could be a solution to the country’s environmental issues, known to be one of the biggest carbon emitters in the world. The Kul Kul Connection programme aspires to develop and maintain a sustainable connection with residents in the local village Sibang Kaja. In this way the school gives back to the community by providing free English language classes; a community garden and recycling activities in the form of an after-school programme. Today, it involves 300 local students. The idea is to unify the international community of Green School and the local community. Thanks to better communication between the school community and the villagers, they are coming together to obtain the same goal: a greener future for everyone. “The Balinese culture is completely integrated in the school. There is always an Indonesian option for lunch and they have language and history lessons daily on Balinese and Indonesian culture,” says Rebecca when I asked her opinion on how well integrated the Balinese culture is at the international school. The school was awarded by the US Green Building Council as the “Greenest School on Earth” in 2012; during a visit by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in 2014, he described it as “the most unique and impressive school I have ever visited”. The school is taking steps to become more sustainable; the education provided to make children understand that our planet is not indestructible; the sense of integrity and the efforts to give back to the Balinese and Indonesian communities lead me to admit that the whole establishment is a ruling model for the rest of the world. This village-school offers the possibility to explore and appreciate nature freely with no rules, and this experimental sense of responsibility, at the heart of the Green School, is what guided Maya to enrol in the first place: “I wanted to go myself because I realised I wasn’t suited for the rules and restrictions of a conventional education system. I knew I could explore and learn in this environment and thrive by doing so.” 21
CHANGING THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS, ONE HAIRCUT AT A TIME Josh Coombes, the barber responsible for giving the homeless free haircuts, tells us about his time spent in a Greek refugee camp and his #dosomethingfornothing campaign
Josh Coombes finishes up another shift. He’s worked for eight hours straight styling, combing and cutting. There’s been a steady stream of customers waiting patiently in line for most of the day. But he hasn’t made any money — all of his haircuts have been for free. He’s not working out of salon either. There are no sinks, no plugs, no magazines to browse through while you wait or complimentary cups of coffee. For one day his barbershop has been Victoria Square in Athens, a makeshift home to hundreds of the 22
5,000 refugees living in the city who are caught up in one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime. Rewind to one year ago. Josh, then working at a salon in Exeter, cut the hair of a homeless man he knew on the streets of the city one day after work. “It was this guy who was the same age as me,” says 29-year-old Josh. “He’s actually someone who had a fierce heroin addiction and I saw him really high and really low sometimes. I had my hairdressing gear on me one time and he was in a really great mood and I was like, “let’s give you a haircut.”
With a backpack full with scissors, mirrors, clippers and hair gel, Josh hit the streets giving free haircuts to those sleeping rough around South West England. Posting before and after pictures of his handiwork on social media, Josh set up a campaign called #dosomethingfornothing with Matt Spracklen and Dave Burt. The campaign, aiming to inspire people to help those in need, quickly gathered pace — the campaign’s official Instagram account now has over 55,000 followers. Having taken his skills to the streets helping homeless peo-
Words: Dylan Taylor Images: Matt Spraklen, Joshua Coombes
ple get “dignity” back into their lives, Josh then shifted his focus to those sleeping rough in London. “I’ve always been quite open to talk to most people anyway so that wasn’t a problem, but I wanted to do more than just give them a bit of pocket change, more than just a “hello” and “goodbye,” says Josh. Having trained as a hairdresser five years ago, Josh emphasises the ability to have a connection with someone in a vulnerable situation during a haircut. “When I started hairdressing,” Josh says “I think I really realised quite soon how important the human connection you have with the person in front of you is. You play quite an important role as a hairdresser, not only to make someone look good but also to make them feel good.” With more than 8,000 people a year sleeping rough on the streets of London, many homeless people struggle with addiction including drug abuse and alcoholism. “That’s why we’re trying to bring it down to one person and go beyond the addiction and go beyond whatever’s happened to them in life, because you never know when you’re going to be there yourself,” says Josh.
“It’s about letting your empathy stretch further than someone’s addiction”
In May, a group of 500 campaign supporters gathered in London, helping those who are homeless by reinforcing the message of “raising compassion.” Over the summer Josh continued to give free haircuts to the homeless, before visiting Greece in September where currently 57,000 refugees are stranded.
In Victoria Square, his first customer of the day was Waheed, a man from Afghanistan. He fled the Taliban with his pregnant wife and is now in Greece hoping to start his own business. “He was actually one of the first people [I saw]. 45 minutes later he’s running off to show his wife because he looks like Elvis Presley,” says Josh. He also cut the hair of Ali, a 10-year-old Afghan boy, just before his first day of school.
“You have to be sensitive but generally speaking it translates the same. If I’m approaching somebody who’s homeless in London or if I was approaching somebody who’s been in a refugee camp for six months, they’re humans. That’s the key message behind this. It’s where you’re at, it’s not where you’ve been,” says Josh.
“It was him and his family that meant a lot actually. It was because I spent time with him, I cut his hair, then his dad’s hair and his uncle’s hair," Josh told Artefact. Victoria Square has a notorious reputation. At night, vulnerable young refugees desperate to get to mainland Europe are becoming victims of prostitution and the
drugs trade. Around eight miles south of the square lays the Elliniko camp where an airport, once used for sports centres in the 2004 Olympics, now houses around 3,000 refugees. The conditions in the camp have been so poor at times that it has been difficult to get aid to those living there. “I was working with people who were in different situations there, some people are homeless but there’s a lot of refugees who are in limbo,” Josh tells Artefact. Now back in London, Josh hopes to see a multi-city launch for the campaign. “We’re trying to look at a new way of doing it to inspire the people who are compassionate and who want to do something, but are not quite sure how," he says. "You don’t have to be part of an organisation. You don’t have to be part of having to deal with bureaucracy and the red tape that’s sometimes involved in just doing a nice act for someone," he continued. “I understand completely that this isn’t a normal experience for anyone every day. People might think well, how can I do it? Maybe I’m scared to approach somebody or I’m quite intimidated because it’s all about being scared of the unknown. What I’d say primarily is just give your time.” When asked about the difficulties in dealing with homeless people who have addictions, he said that he feels like you’ve got to look at humans in the same light; it’s about letting your empathy stretch further than someone’s addiction. Want to find out more? You can check out Josh Coombes' social media feeds: find him as@DoSomethingForNothing on Twitter or @joshuacoombes on Instagram. 23
Words: Fabiana De Giorgio Image: Guillem Trius
THROUGH WOMEN’S EYES Sharia courts were set up in the UK in 1982. The aim was to help Muslim wives divorce their husbands but critics say they are unfair to women and may even put lives at risk
Artefact speaks to women familiar with Sharia Law to get their side of the story. “I think they used religion to control my freedom and I wanted to use that to get my freedom back.” Alfia (not her real name) was only 16 when she was taken away from school and forced into an arranged marriage. Her husband abused her for 13 years. She tried to divorce him, but when she went to a Sharia council in the UK, they asked her to mediate with him. A Sharia council is where matrimonial and religious matters are addressed following the guidance of Islamic law. Supporters say their main concern is to save marriages through reconciliation. In some cases this can put women at risk especially when they want to escape from abusive relationships. Alfia’s story is one of many that show how Sharia courts can be harmful for the Muslim community and undermine a woman’s rights. Campaigners say that having Sharia courts in Britain is a human rights scandal and under their laws a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s. Maryam Namazie spokesperson for ‘One Law for All’ says: “A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation, whereas a woman has limited rights to divorce; child custody reverts to the father at a preset age, even if the father is abusive; and marital rape is not considered a crime.” 24
When Alfia asked for a divorce, the Sharia court wanted her to provide two male witnesses to validate her words. As the court prioritised her husband’s argument, getting back her freedom was very complicated and expensive. Women’s rights activist, Gita Sahgal criticises Sharia courts, describing them as businesses that charge money to deal with womens’ pain. Sharia is an Arabic word meaning “the right path” and refers to traditional Islamic law, it comes from the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, which Muslims follow as the word of God. Sharia law is the legal system followed in Islam, which aims to guide Muslims in every aspect of life according to God’s wishes. However, there are many interpretations of the Quran and different schools of thought in Islam. Traditionally, Sharia law regulates a wide range of behaviours, which include family law (such as marriage and divorce), business affairs, criminal matters, dietary regulations (such as eating halal meat), details of sexual relations between husband and wife, and many other things. In some Muslim countries, the criminal courts and their punishments operate by following the rules of Sharia. In the most conservative Muslim countries, where Sharia law is recognised as the only law, punishments such as stoning and beheading are still taking place. In the Western world, Sharia law is restricted only to family and business matters and does not involve any
corporal punishment. In the UK there are at least 85 Sharia councils and they mostly deal with family law such as matrimonial disputes. Sharia courts in this country do not have enforcement powers, therefore, they are not part of the British legal system. However, at the moment these councils are unregulated and many of them are not always operating in accordance with UK law. The BBC Panorama documentary called, ‘Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils’ (2013) shows how in these courts women are persuaded not to report acts of violence suffered from their husbands. The British government says that domestic violence is a crime and should be reported to the police. The councils function on a voluntary basis and they were set up in 1982 to aid women whose husbands were refusing to divorce them. The reason for this is that the right of divorce is given to the husband, considered to be the one who has to deal with financial responsibilities. The husband can easily divorce his wife, whereas for the woman, the only way of getting an Islamic divorce is though Sharia courts. When a couple only have a Muslim marriage, the state doesn’t recognise it and cannot provide them with a divorce — only Sharia councils can issue Muslim divorces. A psychologist for the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Savin Bapir-Tardy, believes even if these courts have no enforcement powers, they still have a big influence within the Muslim community and they have strong power over women’s minds. “Sharia councils use the power of women’s faith to gain psychological hold over them through guilt. This guilt is used to make any woman who challenges the orders of religious arbitrators feel as if they are the perpetrator and are responsible for destroying the families’ reputation,” she says Many people say Sharia councils are also beneficial for the UK. When Prime Minister Theresa May was Home Secretary, she said many British people “benefit a great deal” from the guidance offered by Sharia teachings. However, she launched an independent review in May 2016 to investigate the “misuse” of Islamist law and to assess the controversies regarding discrimination against women. The review should be completed by 2017 and it is chaired by Mona Siddiqui, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Edinburgh. Barrister Sam Momtaz, retired court judge Sir Mark Hedley, and family lawyer Anne-Marie Hutchinson will also be part of the panel. The panel has been highly criticised by human rights campaigners who have wrote an open letter to Theresa May claiming that by placing two Imams as advisory roles and an Islamic scholar in the role of chair, the panel will not be impartial in assessing if women’s righst have been undermined. Gina Khan, spokesperson for ‘One Law for All’ who contributed to the open letter says: “The Sharia review panel itself consists of too many people of faith, two Imams on line, even the chair is Muslim,” “This should be a Human rights enquiry, which is why we as a coalition, have boycotted the review and wrote an open letter,” it contines. Gina Khan argues that the British government is failing to safeguard Muslim women: “They have ignored the
status of Muslim women and in fact at times endorsed Islamists’ views. Muslim women’s status is not equal to men therefore the state needs to step in and safeguard Muslim women.” This view is shared by Maryam Namazie, who also thinks that the British government has often ignored violations of human rights allowing Islamic extremists to occupy positions of authority in the Muslim community. She says: “Abu Sayeed, who is a chairman of the Sharia council of Leyton said that marital rape is not an act of aggression, [it] is part of the marriage. Sex is part of the marriage, marital rape is not an aggression, calling it rape is the act of aggression.” Fiona Mohmed, a member of the Humraaz charity that provides support to women who have suffered violence, instead, has a very positive experience of Sharia councils. “The Sharia councils used by Hamraaz have accepted if a woman has been a victim of domestic violence and if she didn’t want to mediate or renegotiate the marriage they have accepted it and they have given them the divorce certificate”. She believes that these councils free women and give them a refuge where they can build a new life Aina Khan, an Islamic law specialist, agrees that Sharia councils can help women by entitling them to divorce when their husband refuses and giving them financial rights: “A woman can keep all her properties, her earnings, and even her own name whereas the husband cannot claim these.” She says that discrimination against women usually happens also because eighty per cent of Muslim marriages are not registered. As there is no common-law marriage in the UK, unless the marriage is registered; you have no rights. A central monitoring body with a code of conduct that Sharia councils need to follow might be a solution. In Khan’s opinion banning Sharia courts would be counterproductive and it would drive them underground. Instead, the Islamic marriage contract should state that a civil divorce is accepted as an Islamic divorce so that the wife has no need to go to Sharia councils. Gita Sahgal explains that women are often unaware that their Muslim marriages are not even valid in many Muslim countries where instead civil divorces are not. “Women in religious-only marriages are in marriages that are not recognised in Muslim majority countries. Women have been sold a lie,” she says. “The Sharia councils in a brilliant commercial exercise have created a problem and have created a demand for religious divorces because of the social pressure they have managed to impose over Muslim communities.” The member of the House of Lords, Baroness Caroline Cox, who introduced the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill in 2014 as an attempt to provide equality of rights in Sharia courts agrees. In her report, she wrote: “Muslim women are unaware of their legal rights and can live in closed communities with pressure not to seek ‘outside’ professional help which could invoke ‘shame’ or ‘dishonour’ for their families.” Sharia law in the UK is a very controversial and complex matter, and many people question whether this law is compatible with the values and beliefs of a democratic country such as ours. Finding a common ground between cultures and different law systems could be a starting point. But gender inequality and the suffering of vulnerable women can no longer be ignored. 25
Words: Jozef Wardynski Image: Damien Deschamps
Close your eyes and imagine. From now on it is only you and a 3,500m chasm. In a matter of seconds you will become like one of those birds, the feeling of freedom is indescribable. Expand your wings, feel the wind and enjoy navigating for five minutes passing by cliffs and rocks, over rivers and pine trees. At some point you make the decision — you open your parachute. It opens. Everything is fine; now you only have to land.
NO SECOND CHANCES Artefact investigates BASE wingsuiting, one of the riskiest sports in the world 26
Scenario number two: The parachute fails. There is no pause button. The game is over and you realise you will die in the next few moments. When I originally posted an inquiry about interviewing a wingsuiter, one of the comments below my post was: “I knew one. He’s dead”. He is not the only one — there are many examples of accidents: January 2016, Rami Kipa Kajala, cause of death, drowning; April 2016, Roy Kenneth Roland, cause of death, low pull; June 2016, Michael Leming, cause of death, pin lock malfunction; August 2016, Dave Reader, cause of death: cliff strike. Those are only a few jumpers mentioned in Blinc Magazine out of a long list of more than 1,800 casualties recorded since 1981 — and many go unrecorded. Richard Webb, a former fighter pilot for the US Navy and active wingsuit BASE jumper from Moab, Utah, in a National Geographic interview stated that: “wingingsuit BASE jumping is the hottest thing for the impressionable, 18 to 35-year-old single male demographic.”
Blinc Magazine define BASE jumping: “As an activity that employs an initially packed parachute to jump from fixed objects. “B.A.S.E.” is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects one can jump: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges), and earth (cliffs)”. Jumping from cliffs with a special suit is called BASE wingsuiting. Uli Emanuele, considered as a “hero” in the wingsuit community, recorded his own death while jumping. He failed to open his parachute before crashing into a rock in the Swiss Alps. It has been three years since Marc Sutton, the base jumper who doubled for Daniel Craig during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, lost his life during a wingsuit flight in the Swiss Alps. His accident did not only shock the world but also opened a new debate on the subject. In fact, each jumping season — usually most of the summer — the debate becomes increasingly powered by grief, which in consequence pressures local authorities to impose restrictions. This happened in October 2016 in the French Alps, where a record statistic of five casualties in Chamonix valley alone, led to a total ban on jumping. Chamonix’s mayor, Eric Fournier, published a decree banning BASE wingsuit flying until further notice, after
a recent accident where a Russian pilot crashed into a village building. “He crashed into a wall, but he could have hit people or a car,” Fournier said. “We still don’t understand exactly what happened, which worries us greatly. We are thinking about how to avoid this kind of accident going forward. What worries us is putting others’ lives in danger,” he told local TV channel, France 3. “Wingsuiting is still a new sport that is growing in popularity, those who do it still haven’t mastered it,” said deputy mayor Jean-Louis Verdier. The authorities of Chamonix started to worry, since five of the eight casualties in France died in Chamonix. The decree triggered a new debate between the local community, authorities and athletes, including those from different disciplines. The French Alps are known for their most liberal regulations on sport practises in Europe except for a couple of lobbied restrictions such as heliskiing (helicopter skiing) or bivouacking (mountain camping) above a certain height, implemented in the 1980s when high mountain activities became increasingly popular. It seems that the popularity of that particular sport is triggering a new debate on whether this fairly young activity should be banned. The same happened with another discipline: off-piste skiing, a type of wild skiing — in January, after a severe snow fall a number of deadly avalanches occurred in Chamonix, either naturally or by the freestyle skiers. It re-opened the old discussion about banning the offpiste activities during winter, and it is said that more than a hundred skiers die every winter in the Alps because of such activities. The debate was strongest on Facebook: La Chamoniarde, an information fun page for mountain worshipers, who posted the decree that day and the post was heavily commented: “If it continues we’re going to ban mountain biking too in August and July. The sport had been well before, everybody was happy. Why should we change it?” According to the decree: “This decision is motivated by the excesses of the practice found recently creating situations of endangerment of others. A redefinition of the conditions of exercise of the practice is necessary.” Colonel Stephane Bozon from the rescue services in Chamonix told The Guardian, that this sport take all of their attention and that they are horrified by it: “We must return to people behaving a little more rationally.” Now, close your eyes again and imagine: You are walking your dog on a bright sunny day, or you are having lunch in a restaurant garden and suddenly, out of nowhere, a man flies into you or your relatives. The case of the Russian jumper shows that it is no more a question of an individual jumper’s risk but it can also put innocent and unprepared civilians at risk. Restrictions and regulations have already been imposed before in Chamonix. One of them was scheduling a timetable for jumpers imposing hours of wingsuiting so that their activity does not interfere with other sky users such as helicopters, gliders or paragliders. However, there is one activity in the mountains, which cannot be planned by any means. Rescue. It is trickier to schedule anything for rescuers as their activity is unpredictable. However, the restriction made them aware of particular time periods during which real bodies flew over the valley at speeds of up to of 180-200 km/h (112-125 mph). A collision, could end tragically for both the helicopter, its occupants and the jumper. This raises the fundamental questions about the
essence of the sport: to what extent is wingsuiting an extreme sport and to what extent is it suicidal? In order to answer that question, we could compare it to other ‘sky’ related sports. In terms of risk, is parachuting as dangerous as jumping from a 3,000m cliff ?
“Everywhere in the world, the course is based on the theory part, land training and flight manoeuvring. Learning sums up with an exam, after which you can start your life adventure. Namely, jump, jump, polish your skills and acquire new ones.
A parachute jump from a plane lasts for about 90 seconds. It is a popular birthday gift or stag or hen party activity for the average person. In fact, anyone without a serious medical issue can jump in a tandem. If you compare a 90 second mid-air jump to the longest wingsuit jump of four to nine minutes, it becomes evident that the time and nature of risk is far more extensive.
“Briefly, in an ideal world, your are firstly a very good athlete with more then 200 jumps, then you do your BASE course, afterwards you jumps couple of hundred times from different buildings, in the meantime you improve your wingsuit steering skills and finally you travel to the most scenic places in the world, such as The Alps, Norway or China.
A BASE wingsuit jump lasts on average six to nine minutes during this time you are exposed to a series of dangers, from steep hills, buildings, tall trees, mountain tops and other obstacles along your way. Compare this against a parachute jump which does not expose you to anything but thin air.
“I still have a bigger probability of dying in a car accident than jumping” Both activities are extremely dangerous, but still, for many people challenging your friends or family to jump from a plane remains a popular birthday voucher. This, despite the intensity of danger during that minute-anda-half. It could be said that any sport closely related to risk is extreme and perhaps always partially suicidal. It is one of those sports, where the responsibility lies within the athlete’s decision and the main goal of such activities is to escape from its own comfort zone. Many would say, that as long as the comfort zone does not go beyond theirs, then there is nothing wrong in practising any life threatening sports. Chamonix’s local guide argues: “I know guys with families, who fly every weekend. You must know, that risk is everywhere. You could also die by being hit by a car tomorrow. It’s only a question of lowering the risk as much as possible.” Monika Rutkowska, a 40-year-old e-commerce analyst from Poland, is a base jumper aspiring to become a BASE wingsuiter: “The age is not important in jumping. You can start if you are 16, if your parents let you, you could come up with the idea even when retired. As long as you are in a good physical shape, it is not too late.” “I started not long ago, only three years. Today the only thing I regret is that I didn’t start earlier. So much time lost!” she told us. “I am doing my first steps. Before, it was undoable since only in this season I acquired the necessary amount of jumps, to start the course,” Rutkowska said.
“In practise you do what you want, you jump five times from a bridge, you do your wingsuit course and nobody will ban you from jumping off a mountain. The only question is, if it’s not going to be your last activity before you get plugged to a respirator.” “You can’t do it without passion! And you know it from the very moment you spread your wings and instead of falling you fly. Often annually before the season we meet with my club to recall the rules of security, therefore we discuss and analyse accidents from all over the world. And we train, train and train to minimise the risk. “My relatives deal with my jumping, they know the risk...but let’s be honest, I still have a bigger probability to die in a car accident than jumping.” When asked about the extent to which wingsuiting is suicidal she answered: “It’s a bit too expensive for dying, don’t you think?” “The risk depends on many factors, weather conditions, your skills, your margin of error, the equipment you’re using, the activity of air during weather conditions and people you’re jumping with,” she explained. “The main cause for accidents is recklessness. Some people want to do stuff to quickly. Pushing their limits, lowering the margin of safety. A big part of people wants to go as fast as possible from a plane jump to Flying Terrain. Some, buy the suits not matched to their skills. Generally speaking it’s the human factor biggest cause.” When asked about ethics, she added: “There isn’t any ethics as such. Once I wanted to sell my wingsuit and a fresher came to me to buy his first suit. Obviously, I haven’t sold it to him, I didn’t want to have a guilty conscience. I hope that wingsuit education will improve with it’s popularity.” Only time will tell whether authorities and athletes will reach any sound solutions. One thing is certain, in order to alter the faith of future wingsuiters, both sides have to agree on a policy with mutual respect. With recent events and statistics in hand, we are all aware that something must be done before new land and air casualties appear. However, any regulation would have to be a carefully balanced act — neither totally restricted nor totally legalised. Even if the solution is the introduction of some system of flying permits, impositions of fines, new educational projects, netting systems over the cities, flying schedules or special jumping trails, wingsuit activity will always have to include a vital margin of error. One can only hope that the jumpers will respect the ban and be patient until a reasonable decision is made. Actively avoiding the discourse is not an option: the 2015 national avalanche debate, which died away after two weeks of media fuss, had no effect — freestyle skiing in avalanche environments continued to flourish, just as rapidly and with the same intensity as in the inexperienced 1980s. Base wingsuiting is a risky sport so whatever the sports, activities and hobbies you are taking part in — remember to be sensible and stay safe.
BENJAMIN BUTCH: LONDON’S DRAG KING Skirts, boob tubes and shirts. The subculture of Drag Kings is fast becoming London’s most exciting scene.
Perhaps I should have suggested the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) or maybe, She Soho on London’s Old Compton Street — locations known for their iconic ‘LGBTQ+ cabaret, performance and club nights’ — for our interview, I thought, shrugging off the idea as we made our way towards East Ham High street, Newham, in search of our destination — Costa Coffee. While arriving late to interview someone made for terrible journalistic etiquette, arriving early was equally unacceptable, so we stopped, got a drink and waited for another 20 minutes to pass. “I cannot believe there is a Drag King living in East Ham,” Daisy stated, to which I nodded and replied something along the lines of: “Yeah, right on your doorstep.” Daisy was not just my photographer for the evening, she was also my guide. She knew East Ham like the back of her hand, after all, she had spent her life weaving in and out of the streets that would soon lead us to our final destination, the home of Drag King “Benjamin Butch”. The first time I saw Benjamin, or Ben as I sometimes refer to him, was on the television. Sat across from ITV This Morning hosts Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes, alongside fellow Kings — the 28
abbreviated term for Drag Kings — Frankie Sinatra and Adam All, viewers were given the opportunity to ‘Meet the Drag Kings’! Intrigued by the interview, I continued to watch. The second time I met Ben however, it was I who was sat across from him, me taking the sofa and him, the floor, in the neatly decorated living room of the East London flat he shares with fiancé, Billie Butch, both 22, who also does drag. They have been living there for five months and so far, it is “my favourite house I have lived in” since moving to London three years ago, Benjamin told me. Crossed legged, make-up free and hair up in a topknot, Benjamin at home was not as “flamboyant” as the Benjamin I had watched perform on stage, via YouTube, in “not stereotypical, masculine attire” of skirts, glittery boob tubes and shirts influenced by Sir Mick Jagger’s style. Then again, the slim built, politely spoken, “feminine” King who sat in from of me, wearing a yellow Lion King onesie was also a far cry from the man his name insinuates, especially given that name is ‘Benjamin Butch’. “When I was growing up, I was always referred
to as Butch and it was always a negative word associated with me like ‘Oh, you are actually so butch’, instead of, ‘Oh, you are really butch’,” he explained. No longer wanting the phrase ‘butch’ to be seen as a negative, Benjamin, who is non-binary, spun the term into a positive by asking a simple question: ‘What is butch?’ “If I wear Benjamin Butch’s clothes in everyday life, I get referred to as a butch woman but if I wear Benjamin Butch’s clothes on stage, I am referred to as a twink because I have a beard. I also thought it would be funny to have an introduction like ‘And welcome to the stage, Benjamin Butch’, they expect this big, butch man and then I come out and I am like ‘Hey’.” I was introduced to the world of Drag Kings by a Buzzfeed video in 2015, but the whole subculture of Drag Kings remains relatively unknown in the mainstream media. While Benjamin “gets that a lot” — people having heard of a Drag Queen but not a Drag King — the history of Drag Kings can be dated back as far as the 1850s when pioneering figures such as Vesta Tilley became one of the first male impersonators to earn prominence in Britain as well as America for his performances.
Words: Nike Akintokun Images: Daisy Cox
A little later on, it was Drag Kings such as Hetty King, Diane Torr and the ‘Grandaddy of Drag Kings’, Shelly Mars, whose performances would form part of Drag King history. But today, while the “very small community” of Drag Kings continues to grow, there is still “so much more to Drag Kings than what is seen from the outside”. The perception that only women can be Drag Kings and men, Drag Queens, is an aspect of the drag world Benjamin finds frustrating. “Being a Drag King is not necessarily the opposite of a Drag Queen, a Drag King is someone who performs masculinity on stage and expresses themselves in whatever format. A lot of people would refer to a Drag King as a woman dressed as a man, performing as a man, but it is so much more than that,” he explains.
stage. He does lip sync all the time and Mr Bean never speaks; he just does a little mumble.”
For Benjamin Butch, becoming a Drag King came “second nature.” Having trained as a dancer growing up and studied Urban Dance at university, deciding to become a Drag King last year was a decision that “helped me understand who I am… before drag, I was a lost soul.” Since learning of the world of Drag Kings from a friend at university, a few online searches later and Benjamin knew “I was going to be a Drag King, so I googled Drag King nights in London and Man Up, at The Glory, was on. I was like: OK, I am going to go for that, so I did. It was fabulous.”
When I asked Benjamin about his signature six-pack which he shows off on stage, he proudly proclaimed: “My fiancé does it” — the same smile of relief I would have if I too could draw on abs for minimal effort, maximum results. Having moved from the sofa to the floor and out of shot from Daisy’s zooming lens, I noticed the tattoo on Benjamin’s tricep. “I like your tattoo, what does it mean?”, I asked, as Benjamin continued to cut away at the hair extensions with scissors, a process sometimes carried out pre-show due to time, “Thank you, it is a rainbow with my beard on it.”
Since making it to the Semi-Finals of Man Up and winning King of the Fringe in May 2016, Benjamin has also achieved other successes since becoming a King last year. From performing at Bar Wotever at the RVT every Tuesday and starting up Butch Boiz, “A company of seven Drag Kings. I made it so all seven Drag Kings could come together and promote drag and our own events”, the life of a Drag King who “talks, sleeps and dreams drag” still allows Benjamin some time to think of new acts when “the inspiration pops into my head.”
While many Drag Kings, like Benjamin, have the support of their fiancés, families and friends to cheer them on, it is not uncommon for those within the business to hide the truth about performing on stage. “One of my Drag King brothers parents does not know he is a King so he has to sneak out and do it in secret — which is really sad”, Benjamin confessed.
With one of his most popular acts including Suzie, the mop, “which is funnier than a blow up doll and my favourite act to do”, it is performing on stage which Benjamin enjoys the most: “I do drag because I love it, I do it so other people can see that they could do it as well and feel the happiness I feel. That is why I do it, to inspire others.” Taking inspiration from Mick Jagger: “the way he moves on stage and dances is amazing”, and British comedian Lee Evans, the third inspirational figure to inspire Benjamin’s performances is surprising, to say the least, “He is also based on Mr Bean as well”, Benjamin stated, as I waited for the punch line — no punch line came. “I used to watch him when I was younger and not find it too funny and now I look back and think, what he is doing is quite funny. Benjamin doesn’t really speak on
From cutting up brown hair extensions to create the perfect beards, sculpting a jaw line with Kim Kardashian-worthy contouring and remembering to shade in eyebrows, Benjamin Butch’s pre-show routine is similar to that of my own pre-gym routine, obviously minus the beard. “Basically, I go and sit in the changing room for an hour with a drink.” His favourite being Desperados — with a straw. “Before I bind, body paint, face, beard, six pack and god knows what else… it can take an hour to an hour and a half. If I am not really in the mood to get into drag, which is very rare but does happen, then I can probably do it in 40 minutes.”
But not all hope is lost, for those who still want to try out the Drag King scene regardless of their situation, “the advice I give to people is to come down to BOi Box and get to know the show, get to know the Drag Kings and hang out with them. Get tips, watch videos and then once you have pieced an act together, then do an open mic slot at Bar Wotever or BOi Box.” Despite the idea of drag being a little daunting to some, Benjamin assured me that the scene is very welcoming. Between weekly performances, attending shows and preparing outfits, Benjamin is not always as flamboyant as he is when on stage — there are times when going to the shops or going out to a bar require some downtime for even Benjamin Butch. “I had someone come up to me the other day and say, ‘Are you Benjamin Butch?’ When I said yes, they said, ‘I didn’t recognise you with all your clothes on.'” We laughed, considering those looks make up the majority of Benjamin’s performance attire. 29
Words: Ieva Asnina Images: Uma Damle
THE THROWBACK DECADE Will the 2010s be defined by recycled trends and unoriginality as we return to iconic fashions of the past?
Chokers, slip dresses over T-shirts with a statement pair of Dr Martens and dungarees, one strap undone, paired with a crop top.
According to Chidera, a fashion blogger who appears on Instagram as the Slumflower, they are the key eras that we want to imitate.
If at times you feel as though you have stepped into an early episode of Friends, you are not alone — the nineties are back, although it may seem as though women’s fashion of the nineties has lasted longer than the decade itself.
“It’s the most nostalgic because most of us grew up influenced by the nineties. We saw lots of pictures of our parents in the eighties and I think that’s [what] we feel most related to,” the London College of Fashion graduate says, adding that when you don’t experience something, you tend to over-romanticise it.
And it doesn’t stop there. You only have to walk into a mainstream store, any of the colleges at UAL or scroll through the feeds of fashion and beauty influencers and you can end up feeling as though you have awoken from a coma and have no idea which decade you stepped into. Notice those mom jeans your friend paired with an Adidas sweater and a boyfriend coat? It has the eighties stamped all over it. And that bomber jacket you particularly love actually took off in the 1970s. What do all of these things have in common? They were once seen as unfashionable and unflattering and yet here they are. Making a comeback. However, it is the 1980s and 1990s that exert the biggest influence on contemporary women’s fashion. 30
You only have to scroll through her Instagram feed to see how these decades have inspired her look. While the fashion industry is no stranger to taking inspiration from the past, should a line not be drawn between admiration and unoriginality? Are we in danger of losing ourselves to iconic pieces that do not necessarily reflect the 2010s? The sixties were a time when boundaries were broken: the mini skirt made its mark and women began to take control of their bodies. The seventies saw us going against the norm and making a statement against the status quo through the punk movement.
So is commercial fashion having an identity crisis? Critics have argued that designers and magazines pretend that their lack of originality is a quirky historical reference, when in fact it’s for the simple reason that due to our recycling habits, fashion has come full circle. And the faster we accept that, the better. However, Helen Storey, a designer and professor of fashion and science at LCF, says that it would be a shame to assume designers are only ever inspired and interested by the past. She believes designers are free to be inspired by anything, at any period of history. “It’s what we do with it that makes it relevant,” she explains, but she does agree that in the past, fashion has, one way or another, reflected its time. But this love affair we have with the fashion of the past has shielded us from the issues that encompassed those decades. The nineties, for example, were not all about getting “the Rachel” at the hairdressers or playing the Spice Girls at full volume. In America, Los Angeles police were on trial for the beating of Rodney King, which spawned protests across the country after they were found not guilty, despite video footage of the attack. While the war in Kosovo dominated the latter years, the first half of the decade saw much of the world go into a recession which was said to be worse than that of 1929. We’re looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses, and the danger of focusing on the past is that we fail to engage with the realities of today. The past is safe. But through our nostalgia, we have put certain decades on a pedestal. To the point that we just remember them for their spoilt choice of dungarees rather than the serious issues they were faced with. However, Chidera argues that fashion is actually more open-minded and forward-thinking than we are as
people. As fashion has no boundaries it accepts people for how they want to dress, though when it comes to society, we’re not accepting people for who they are. In some ways, we’re just as behind socially as the time periods we take inspiration from — we still have the issues of homophobia, racism and sexism, to name a few. But while fashion and politics have often gone hand-inhand, and with so many political and social movements happening today, the fashion industry appears to be so busy looking at the past that we’re letting the present slip by right in front us. And retailers are profiting from it. Over the summer, Urban Outfitters saw their sales increase by five per cent through their collaborations with Adidas and Calvin Klein. If you currently browse through the “Tommy Jeans” section (an exclusive collection by Tommy Hilfiger for the retailer) it features more nineties throwbacks than should be socially acceptable. And they don’t come cheap. Dungarees for $179? Who could have afforded that during the 90s recession? It’s not only the mainstream retailers that have seen their fair share of success as a result of the nostalgia. Beyond Retro, a leading vintage retailer across the UK and Sweden, has its roots in Cheshire Street since 2002 — today the brand has grown internationally as the hunger for throwbacks dominates the wardrobes of young women. However, this is different from that of Urban Outfitters — it isn’t simply a process of copying the looks of the past, but rather showing an admiration for the pieces that have survived the test of time. With a team of skilled specialists, Beyond Retro scout through mountains of second-hand clothes, simultaneously predicting and paving the way for bigger retailers. “If it wasn’t made in the seventies, and then you try to say it’s a seventies style, it’s not going to be the same as
something that was actually made then,” says Chidera, and this removes its authenticity. “People who walk into vintage stores have a genuine love for these items,” Storey tells Artefact, “and not because it’s fashionable at the moment. It gives the clothes character and a sentimental connection.” “When it comes to fashion,” Chidera adds, “this has been the most experimental generation because we have merged all eras together to create modern looks.” This is referred to as ‘upcycling’, which is the process of revamping something that has already been used. Fashion isn’t the only thing that has made a comeback. According to Chidera, the same concept that motivated the punk movement in the seventies is the same today. “The future of fashion is rebellion,” she says, “in a world where we’re taught to look like everyone else, to be perceived as normal and desirable,” we are breaking the mould, suggesting that one thing we have in common with previous decades is going against the status quo. And maybe that’s not the worst thing to imitate. So is it fair to claim that the 2010s will be defined as the throwback decade of fashion? If retailer websites and catwalks are anything to go by, then yes — big brands are living for the nostalgia young women have with the past, and what better way to make a profit than bringing back what they were selling 20 years ago? The 2010s have become a time-capsule of fashion. While recycling trends is not ground-breaking, it would be a shame for this decade to be remembered for it’s lack of commitment to try something new. The 80s had their vibrant colours and shoulder pads. The 70s had their disco pants. With just over three years left of this decade, to have something to claim our own and make its mark in the industry that goes beyond what we already know shouldn’t be too much to ask. 31
Words: Cheyanne Ntangu Image: Joao Henriques
WHO IS THE BLACK MAN? How society’s attitudes to masculinity are trapping black men in damaging stereotypes of desire, sexuality, strength and aggression
Everybody seems to want the chocolate man — the oh-so-desirable black man with the athletic build. Indeed, the black man may be a dream, however, he falls victim to overdosing on masculinity, being hyper-sexualised, demonised yet used for economic gain. Hyper-masculinity is a psychological term for the overstatement of the stereotypes surrounding male behaviour, particularly emphasising physical strength, aggression and sexuality. The phenomenon could be biology or it may be a façade that mass media want us to believe a black man is. The myth of the ‘hyper’ black man is one that presenter Claire Clottey highlighted in a recent debate in London: “This whole hyper-masculine and hyper-sexual bravado rooted in patriarchal white supremacists. Now how does a black man begin to liberate and question these structures that have come to define him?” Though this may be true, the only way of challenging these positions is by breaking down masculinity and creating new norms. In 2016 we have witnessed how masculinity has a stronghold on men today — such an uproar was caused when Jaden Smith was featured in a Louis Vuitton womenswear fashion campaign wearing a skirt, fighting against gender stereotypes. Receiving a mixed response, many applauded Smith for his boldness. “It is really encouraging the younger generation to wear whatever they want?” Frank Ocean also debuted his album Boys Don’t Cry which again caught a lot of attention; Ocean and Smith are causing awareness of construct by not performing to what is perceived as the norm, and are perplexing the concept of what it is to be a man, more so a black man. “I think artists like Jaden Smith and Childish Gambino are redefining what black boys perceive as trend and so it is really encouraging the younger generation to wear whatever they want,” says 22-year-old poet Iggy London. Psychology lecturer Soljana Çili, of London College of Fashion, highlights that psychological research shows that people tend to imitate those who they look up to. For example, people who seem experts in whatever behaviour they are trying to promote or people they simply happen to like. 32
Hegemonic masculinity is the understanding of manhood through cultural idealisation. The notion of manhood is exclusively concerned with the concept of being the ‘breadwinner’, which agitates hierarchical structures, provoking one to be ‘tough’ and stimulates phrases such as “act like a man”, which is, by far, more complex than just an ‘act’. But how are men to blame? They were forced to obtain these attributes, taught to follow structure, as though it was written in the manual book of life. How can you possibly question it? The ‘macho’ man is deemed every woman’s fantasy. However, this could be deemed as a common problem amongst all men the otherness of the black man compared to the white man turns his masculinity into something completely left. In the black community, masculinity is everything and more; your pride and joy. Creator of the Black Boys Don’t Cry project Iggy London told us: “Within the black community it is a largely considered stereotype that black boys must be taught to be masculine.” This notion can be extremely problematic for those who do not possess the conventional male characteristics that society have set, but does that make him less of a man? The Black Boys Don’t Cry project is a compilation of poetry, videography and photography — that expresses what it is to be black in the eyes of society, as well as through his own. “Within the black community it is a largely considered stereotype that black boys must be taught to be masculine,” Iggy explains. “Masculinity is rarely deconstructed in the same way as femininity has been. Combined with photography of black men of all variations, the purpose of this is to deliberately break down upbringing, societal influences and colonial past. [Masculinity] means to have fewer emotions than women, to show no weakness and to position themselves as strong. As this is considered to be the ‘norm’. Masculinity is rarely deconstructed in the same way as femininity has been,” Iggy continued. The artist also shares his own personal struggle with masculinity when he mentions: “I found it difficult to fit in within the masculine stereotype — of not quite
being enough or not quite acting [manly] enough. Men who don’t fit into the traditional role of masculinity are ignored and are seen as weak and so I found myself constantly comparing myself to other men.” Aisha Richards, an art and design tutor at Central St Martins agrees: “Masculinity depends on age. The key thing is there needs to be a space for men, for vulnerability. [Women] are taught in the construct that we are emotional, that’s how society views women.”
Aisha Richards agrees: “The privileges of white men has been embedded in society. It lingers and dominates”. Post-colonialist philosopher Franz Fanon wrote in his book Black Skin, White Masks: “[The] negro brought forth biology, penis, strong, athletic, potent, boxer, savage, animal, devil, sin.” This also suggests that black men are only good assets, entertainment, and fetishes if the black man made himself subject would all these things matter?
Though the social construct of masculinity is deeply embedded in our society, the mass media and white spectators have covertly stimulated the animalisation of the ideal black man, cocooning it as hyper-masculinity. In the early 16th century, explorer Sir Thomas Herbert ventured to Africa and when he encounters the black man he described him as a “beast”, one who resembles a baboon. Not only did he begin to demonise the black man, but he created an image that is now perpetuated and haunts society.
If the black man is hyper masculine, then what is the black woman? Black women are measured to be unfeminine. Could this notion of hyper-masculinity be because the black woman is also masculine? Like women the objectification and hyper-sexualisation are not something that is uncommon for black men. Though the black man holds many negative images because of society, he is also often praised for his physic, complexion and penis. The majority of the time he is viewed as nothing but his genitals, which is not so flattering but damaging. Claire Clottey suggests this is because “slavery was a sexual economic.” This over-sexualisation promotes conditional thinking as the Tumblr blogger Black woman confessions suggests: “Black men suffer from the hyper-sexualisation they get from society. They really think and act like sex is one of the best things they can offer.”
The aftermath of slavery’s process of masculinisation, or even emasculation, is society’s paradigm of black men. Slave owners saw black people as good economics, good labourers. Slave auctioneers did not want the male slaves they were selling to appear to be soft, the black man must appear as strong as his physical shape. The slave who looked less ‘manly’ would be more difficult to sell, so they would have to be sold at a lower price. They were considered the less able, so the black man’s value has always been determined on what they can bring. Deep rooted mind-sets demonstrate how blacks are only considered when they can be used as an advantage. Whether it is the sex god, the three-pointer basketball king, or rapper, it is clear that being black is a money making business and that idea has been ingrained in us for centuries. Author Bell Hooks says: “Negative stereotypes about the nature of black masculinity continues to over determine the identities black males are allowed to fashion for themselves.” Black men were never permitted to be subject — to be human, but the beast and a product. White supremacists no longer have to physically partake in the demonstration of who the black man is, but merely use the black man as a tool to illustrate whatever they like. It notices white blackness: what it is to be black in the eyes of a white man. Simultaneously, it creates a doubling effect as it’s a black man ‘act’ like a black man construct. Cleveland Cavaliers player Lebron James featured on the cover of Vogue in 2008, a move which stirred controversy as it was considered “racially offensive” as it has strong links to fictional character King Kong. “Black men really suffer from the hyper-sexualisation they get from society. They really think and act like sex is one of the best things they can offer.” The media continues to conjure black men as predators, and that others are in danger of him. The Vogue cover could be said to be a sort of colonial performance, in which James performs a particular construct of the black beast trope which makes him an object. The impression of animalisation of James discredits him; he is no longer a talented basketball player as subjectivity is removed, he is just a black man, an accessible tool. Student Tamika Allen, 20, told us: “A man is a construct of what you have seen before. If you have seen black men who are portrayed by negative images then you will define men by those images.” It is, therefore, impossible to suggest that society doesn’t view black men negatively because of these images being painted. Presenter Claire Clottley believes that the concept of ‘black masculinity’, or ‘hyper masculinity’ is a false notion that is rooted in a deep fear of the black man’s power and is a threat to the white social order. Lecturer
She also declares “most of the black guys I have encountered usually couldn’t wait to jump into bed and social media portrays black men hugging booty all the time. It buries many black asexual men and exposes other men to unsafe sexual practices. It’s also degrading. I feel sorry for them but sometimes they seem to like the ‘big dick sex god’ stereotype and it’s not worth it”, their likeness to the subject could be because it gives them a sort of power that they never experienced or were given. Music is a great factor in determining this. From the likes of Marvin Gaye, R. Kelly, Trey Songz and Usher, baby making music — music tells us sleeping with a black man will be the best thing that will ever happen to you. That’s their power. Former World and Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie, was nick named ‘The Lunchbox’ because of his genitals; he was turned into a sex object, a passing comment without his consent or input. Cheapening him whilst simultaneously lusting over his nature. This propaganda is something all black men face. It enhance thr idea that black men find ways to assert themselves through the use of their penis. “The media portrays the black male as a sexual predator, aggressive, however that’s not the case.” At the Myth of hype black men debate, genetics lecturer Joe Dash stated: “We are a group of people who have been stripped of our manhood for a very long time.” Black men being hyper-sexualised may subsidise to their masculinity. However, it also creates a negative collective image that reinforces they are only considered because of their genitals. It also teaches young black boys that they just that and that is where manhood lies. Joe Dash adds: “The media portrays the black male as a sexual predator, aggressive, however that’s not the case. We are just people trying to find a centrepiece to manhood.” Despite the media and colonialism contribution of the invention on the black man narrative, cultural doctrines and household dynamics have also contributed to the robust ideology of hyper-masculinity. However, what is this teaching young black men if these ideas are reinforced in their own community? Where does everyone fit underneath this tight-knit, binding impression? Masculinity can be positive. It also means to be a leader, a protector, a great lover and that is something all men can qualify as. As Aisha Richards says: “My expectation of my man is that he looks after me, he protects me. That’s not hyper-masculinity, just masculinity.” 33
Words: Amy Latham Images: Stephanie Smith
HIP-HOP’S LETHAL ADDICTION From Houston, Texas to the streets of London rap music glorifies a purple drink made from a dangerous combination of Sprite, prescription drugs and alcohol - with fatal consequences
“Smoking out, pouring up, keeping lean up in my cup” is one of the most repeated lines of Pimp C’s verse, after its debut on Jay Z’s hit track Big Pimpin’, from his album Vol 3: Life and Times of S.Carter. This album was released in 1999, which is a daunting 17 years ago, and yet this lyric could have featured on a song by the likes of Future, Young Thug or Migos as recently as this year. Content about drugs and alcohol is not unfamiliar to hip-hop culture, and rap songs especially, but this line just shows how taking ‘lean’ has remained a constant in rap music, if not grown more and more popular over the years. Lean, also known as ‘drank’, ‘sizzurp’ and ‘purple’, is taken in the form of cough syrup and this concoction is made up of prescription drugs mixed with Sprite (or 34
other fizzy drinks). The drug is a mixture of promethazine and codeine, which creates a high traditionally used for medical purposes to numb excruciating pain. But for the rappers who take it, this high is purely recreational. Worryingly, lean is a firm favourite amongst some of the most-loved rappers of America and it is not stopping there. It is becoming more popular to mix lean with alcohol, such as vodka, which, as you can imagine, makes for a dangerous potion. The purple drink is said to have originated in Houston, Texas, in the 80s and 90s, following on from the predecessors of blues singers who are said to have mixed Robitussin (a brand name for prescription cough syrup) with beer.
One of the earlier rappers known to drink lean and centre his tracks around it is Lil Wayne, with tracks such as I Feel Like Dying expressing how he feels like he is “jumping off of a mountain/into a sea of codeine”. His withdrawal symptoms to lean and other drugs make him feel like he is about to die. Atlanta, Georgia, is probably one of the most commonly known places where rappers drink lean and aren’t shy of mentioning it in their lyrics. With artists such as Future and Young Thug born and raised in Atlanta, this is one city renowned for curating and following hip-hop culture trends. Future is a key example of an artist who loves lean so much he named two albums after the stuff! Starting off with Dirty Sprite the mixtape and its follow-up Dirty Sprite 2 (DS2), the plethora of lean-themed songs is enough to fulfil any addiction. Thought It Was A Drought is a song about inebriation and the love of drugs feeding a heartbreak. The album was released after the break-up between Future and Ciara, and clearly shows a deterioration in his state linked to his emotions and continued usage of drugs. Even more recently, G.O.O.D Music signee Desiigner’s song Panda includes the lyrics “Twisting dope, lean and the Fanta”. This is a song, which has been sampled on Kanye West’s latest album The Life of Pablo, and quickly rose to fame globally, reaching number one in the Billboard charts. Unlike the origins of rap as street music, with rap battles and talk of the hardships of life with little money and living in a trapped cycle, rap has evolved from this to a lifestyle that enables bragging rights about making lots of money and the luxuries that come with that.
“I found new ways of trying them: crushing them up putting them in drinks. I started enjoying it”
The lyrics are all about making and selling drugs and yet it is doubtful that the masses of people in the UK tuned into Capital FM were aware that “cooking pies with my baby” wasn’t about baking a lovely apple pie with your loved one. Or maybe they did not even think about it? After all, who actually listens to the lyrics — as long as it has got a catchy melody, anything goes, right? Speaking to Dee 93 part of South London music collective Indigo Palace, he says: “Much like girls, money and drugs, lean is an accessory to rap music.” Lean is the “in” drug according to him, but is it as popular in the UK as it is in the US? Dee told us: “It’s definitely reached the UK — I’ve never tried it but I know people who do it.” He believes it’s like anything that sets a trend; it starts in the US and the rest of the world follows suit. Artefact spoke to West London rapper Peaky about his own experiences of using lean, as we were intrigued to find out how popular it is in hip-hop culture in London. “Lean itself is codeine and promethazine mixed. Codeine gives you the euphoria and promethazine gives you the knockout effect that makes you want to fall asleep.” It
It is widely known that the A$AP Mob drink lean and A$AP Rocky has alluded to it in songs such as Purple Swag, singing “Purple drink I still sip / Everything is purple”. It was a horrible shock to fans of hip-hop to find out that Yams died, but maybe this still wasn’t the wake up call those who use the drug recreationally needed. Future even tributes to Yams on DS2 saying “Long live A$AP Yams, I’m on that codeine right now.” Asking Peaky what he thought about this, being a fan of Yams himself, he admits: “It’s fucked isn’t it? Lean is an opiate so it turns to morphine in your liver.” He tells us about Yams’ affiliation with the Black Out Boyz, which includes New Jersey rappers Da$h and RetcH. He says that the three of them were “glorifying Xanax and lean and [Da$h] even pours up for Yams’ death.” “It’s kind of mad. Personally, I can’t even comment on that because if it was me, and one of my friends died over that, I wouldn’t really be pouring up.” By “pouring up”, Peaky is referring to the action of creating the drink with the intention of getting high. The irony of it is, if there was ever a time where you needed to take the pain away, grieving over the loss of a close friend is possibly the most understandable time to do so. Peaky goes on to point out that: “An addiction to lean is much stronger than an addiction to weed; you’re probably just gonna pour up more.”
One of the main recurring struggles in rap music is selling drugs, otherwise known as “trapping” — it is a lifestyle that is prevalent throughout the history of hip-hop right into the present. For some multi-millionaire rappers, that is how it all started — take Jay-Z as a prime example. But, as Kanye once mentioned whilst headlining the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury: “Hip-hop is the new rock ’n’ roll.” Hip-hop going mainstream has not helped with the glorification of drugs — as Fetty Wap has shown: in the summer of 2015, Fetty’s track Trap Queen stormed the charts, peaking at number two on the Billboard and reaching the top 10 in the UK.
The scary part about all the hype around drinking lean is how dangerous the drug is for you — Lil Wayne has been known to have seizures from his addiction to it. Not to mention the fatalities from the drug. It was speculated that both Big Moe and Pimp C died from an overdose of the purple drink. A particularly influential rapper on the youth today is A$AP Rocky, setting fashion trends, and having a style and finesse that so many young people love to follow. A member of the A$AP Mob, A$AP Yams, passed away in January 2015, aged 26, from what was deemed “accidental drug intoxication.” Accidental is questionable, as he probably knew exactly what he was putting into his body, but maybe not aware that this time he wouldn’t live to see another day.
is the “lifestyle” associated with sipping lean that Peaky explained is growing in fascination amongst the youth in London. “Lean [wasn’t] a big thing before Future and Young Thug made it big. It’s a ‘Tumblr’ thing. It’s not a drug that your everyday guy would do. It’s pretty hard to get hold of.” Codeine on its own, however, is available over the pharmacy counter. Peaky spoke to us about his own addiction to codeine after getting hit by a bus, which left him, hospitalised and being “pumped up with morphine”. He says that as a result of being prescribed codeine as a painkiller, he started experimenting with the intake: “I found new ways of trying them, crushing them up, putting them in drinks. I started enjoying it. I have creative friends; we watch loads of music videos and we kind of got caught up in the hype. I would say there is a lot of hype around it.” Lean has become a global phenomenon in hip-hop culture. Keith Ape and the Cohort Gang also drink lean and rap about their experiences of the drug in Japanese and Korean. 2015 was the year Korean rap took over and caused a stir. Keith Ape had a huge international hit with It G Ma. If you translate the lyrics, the It G Ma rapper talks about taking too much codeine. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t matter that the majority of the song was in another language; the hard trappy bass of the beat was enough for the multinational hip-hop community to relate to.
Drug advice website Talk to Frank warns of the risks associated with excessive intake of codeine. These risks include lowering blood pressure, which can suppress normal breathing, which increases the risk of respiratory arrest, as does mixing codeine with other drugs such as alcohol. Speaking to Peaky now, three months after he admitted he had a ‘codeine habit’ on stage at a performance in Brighton, he is very pleased to tell us that he has stopped taking it: “I’m kind of past lean. It’s been a few months since I was doing that.” “[The] same way people who take MDMA want to go into a club with a couple hundred other people who are doing the same thing and be on the same vibe with other people.” The fact that there is a substance abuse problem within hip-hop and rap as a culture is undeniable and probably unsurprising. But the problem isn’t with the use of drugs — let’s be honest, anyone can do that — it’s the extremes that come from engaging in a dangerous and life-threatening trend for the sole purpose of being ‘a part of something’. Ultimately, it is probably an addiction to the lifestyle more than anything else that is killing these rappers. Let us hope that hip-hop can get a hold of this addiction before someone else falls victim to hip-hop’s biggest curse: the rapper lifestyle. Visit: talktofrank.com for more information 35
Words: Penelope Sonder Image: Steve Varankis by UNICEF NEXTGen.
Can technology help refugees? Charities are exploring high-tech solutions to global problems
access to. We want to help communities to become self-sufficient.”
The refugee crisis has been an ubiquitous topic in the media for years, however looking for ways to get involved and help people directly often proves to be a complex affair.
** In another example, Richard Thanki from Worldwide Tribe, a charity that aims to bring together a community of international citizens to find solutions together, discussed one of their latest projects. “We are trying to find the cheapest and most creative, most “hacker” way to bringing wifi to situations where refugees and volunteers need them. We started working in Calais and worked in Lesbos before. We’ve had some great success with flower pots and water pipes,” Thanki told us.
On October 10, Unicef NEXTGen, together with Techfugees, organised an event at the Google offices in London which brought together inspiring people and ideas, aiming to inform and engage everyone who is interested in making a change. The main theme was the role that technology plays in alleviating the refugee crisis; from humanitarian outreach to reporting, programming to fundraising and much more. Unicef NEXTGen is a global Unicef initiative bringing together diverse groups of young professionals who are committed to helping transform the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children. Founder Layla Yarjani explains that “Next Gen is all about allowing professionals to give to Unicef in the way that works for them. Fundraising is very important but it’s not the only thing we can give. We can educate ourselves, write to our MPs to influence policy, and support Unicef with our minds and skills.” ** The Director of Google Creative Lab Steve Vranakis delivered an inspiring opening speech, followed by Unicef’s Head of Emergencies Ara Yoo talking about their response to the refugee crisis. The event was rounded off by a panel discussion featuring Josephine Ghoube of Techfugees, Katrin Macmillan from Hello Hubs, Richard Thanki from Worldwide Tribe and CEO and co-Founder of Little Bridge Emma Rogers. Steve Vranakis is a dyed-in-the-wool digital creative; he has been in the business for over 20 years and worked for some of the best creative agencies in the world. With Google Creative Lab he realised that a number of projects that give back to society by applying technological knowledge to a humanitarian problem in order to help solve it. He introduced himself not just with his name and job title, but as a human being and father of three. In a moving account, he told of how he travelled to Lesbos for work, he saw more than 30,000 refugees at the harbour, including children sleeping rough. After his return from Greece, he and his team developed a simple website, refugee.info, in that updates in real-time which helps keep refugees 36
safe and provides them with information about borders, emergency contacts, asylum and legal options. The website loads fast, is translated into Arabic and Farsi and has helped more than 100,000 refugees to date. Steve’s message was clear: “It’s about empathy: If you can understand the hardships people have to endure on a day to day basis, you can start to build a connection, and you can develop ideas and put them into practice in order to help them. Practice altruism, every day and not just at the end of your career.” Hard facts and clear words were shared and spoken by Ara Yoo from UNICEF: “What is the refugee crisis? It is a global issue,” she says, “that involves 65 million people; stateless people, misplaced people.” When we talk about the refugee crisis, we usually mean the one that has reached our shores, the one that the news is portraying, the one we are mainly concerned about because it’s closer to home. “1.3 million people made their way to Europe. To put it into perspective: Europe hosts 6% of refugees.” ** First, we need to understand the basics, explains Ara, and that is that the refugee crisis is a consequence of something bigger: “We need to eliminate the epicentre of the problem: the war; because without the war in Syria there would be no need for 50% of the population to leave their homes because of risk of life,” she says. Ara believes that we need to understand that war is not inevitable, but civilian deaths are. Because even war has rules, and they have to be followed. The widespread and constant bombing of homes,
hospitals and schools is a war crime and has a universal jurisdiction. “In Eastern Aleppo, 250,000 civilians are being systematically bombed because there are potentially 8000 fighters in the area — that makes 3% of the population; that is a crime against humanity.” The last point in her speech was the important fact that the intervention of Russia in the Syrian crisis has been a total game changer because they are using advanced missiles, so-called smart bombs: “This progress in technology kills [many] more people, and the Syrian population loses trust in technology.” She thinks the tech world needs to create solutions together with refugees and there is a real opportunity and capacity for the tech world to bring people together: “We need to focus on the things that unite us. A society fit for refugees is a society fit for everyone.” The third part of the evening gave some insight into different projects that have been realised to help refugees with technology. Co-host of the evening Techfugees functions as a platform to bring together tech professionals to generate tech solutions that can help refugees. Josephine Ghoube explained: “We believe in technology skills, so we provide tech support. We want to connect people so that ideas can be brainstormed and realised together.” Katrin Macmillan from Hello Hubs outlined the idea behind the enterprise she is working for: “We developed wifi enabled computer hubs that are community-built, off-grid internet kiosks for education and development. This means that we don’t show up, build the hubs and disappear again. They are designed to be built and maintained by the community with materials they have
Through words, photography, film and art, Worldwide Tribe seeks to inspire people to take action and to use their own skills to be the change they wish to see in the world. Founder of Little Bridge Emma Rogers emphasised the importance of communication, so her main concern was to help children speak English in order to communicate and integrate themselves into new societies and cultures after fleeing their home,“We at Little Bridge don’t know exactly what we are doing in terms of refugees, but we are good in our technological field and are applying it to the problem.” Emma mentioned the same idea Steve had earlier this evening, and that is not shying away from a problem you are not an expert in: your tech skills can be of use in this crisis, and there are many ways to apply them. This evening was judged to be a success: every single speaker gave invaluable insight into their incredibly inspiring projects and it opened up discussions about how to tackle the crisis not only from a technical point of view, but also from an ethical point of view. The event was a lesson in empathy and a discourse on how some fixed thought processes and understandings we were conditioned from our society can and have to be broken up: we are all one big community. It is not ‘their’ crisis, it is ours. We need to work together, and each and everyone can do it with the knowledge and tools we have at this point in time. All the speakers agreed on one thing, it’s for everyone to start working together. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact The Next Gen team via nextgenlondon.com.
Words: Davide Cantelmo Image: Henry Gordon
Changing the face of Italy Next month's referendum will be a momentous day in the country's political history
On Sunday, December 4th, voters in Italy go to the polls in a constitutional referendum that could drastically change the shape of the Italian parliament.
Siena (MPS), to avoid this trend spreading across the whole Italian financial system,” he said. Il Sole 24 Ore, an Italian business newspaper, reported that in 2012, J.P. Morgan, through its representative Jamie Dimon, organised a meeting in Florence with Matteo Renzi, who was mayor of the city at the time; also there was Tony Blair, who had been a salaried consultant for the company since 2008. Two years later, in April 2014, the same meeting was repeated, in London, with Pasquale Terracciano, Italy’s ambassador.
The ‘Renzi-Boschi’ constitutional reform is a proposal by the Italian parliament to change the Constitution. The draft for the reform was first presented by the government of Matteo Renzi in April 2016 and proposes a change in the way the parliament is run, by reforming the Senate, and reducing the number of senators. This would reduce the power of one of the two chambers and potentially eliminate the system of ‘Perfect Bicameralism’ that Italy was so proud of. ** Under this system, both chambers, the Senate and the Deputies, had to agree the exact same version of a new act for it to be passed into law. The proposal suggests that the new Senate would be cut from 315 members to just 100, and that the Chamber of Deputies would therefore be the only authority able to challenge and to hold the government to account. Such changes to a vital principle at the heart of the Italian Constitution have been harshly criticised by the opposition and many legal experts, as it is believed it may put too much power in the hands of the Prime Minister. While it would mean the ability to pass laws more easily and quickly, the reform has also been criticised as ‘a threat to democracy’. This December’s referendum is at the same time the third of its kind in the Italian history and a huge gamble by Prime Minister Renzi. “Renzi’s goal is to pass into the annals of history as the ‘Great Reformer’ or the ’21st-Century-Constituent’,” Guglielmo Forges Davanzati, professor of Political Economy at the University of Salento, said. Professor Davanzati claims that the vote is an attempt at reforming the substantial relationship between state and market in the Italian economy. However he believes: “It is extremely difficult to say it is just a ‘sovra-structural’ move aimed at modifying the balance between the two chambers.” Some believe that Renzi has more reasons for wanting this referendum to pass, given that it is, in fact, derived from a previous change, made two years
ago, to the Article 81 of the Italian Constitution. The new text establishes that the Italian State is committed to keeping a balanced budget: “It becomes constitutionally guaranteed and so it fosters a particular economic theory: liberalism, because it is believed that the State should aspire to reduce the public spending,” Davanzati said. Renzi is also keen to talk about ‘governability’ when describing what this change can give to Italians. “The centralisation of powers should give the executive power the chance of having proposals of law passed into actual laws in less time,” Davanzati explains. ** Italy may prove to have lost faith in their current Prime Minister. Renzi is indeed risking his career on the promise that, if the referendum does not pass, he will resign. Resignation might, however, lead Italy’s future into uncertainty as the opposition Five Star Movement is ready to take on the government after the referendum. “A rudderless Italy, vulnerable to a banking crisis and to the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, would spell trouble,” Tony Barber wrote in an editorial for the Financial Times. “A victory, on the other hand, might expose the folly of putting the tactical objective of Mr Renzi’s survival ahead of the strategic need for a healthy democracy in Italy,” Barber continued. Renzi’s defeat at the referendum might therefore result in the lesser of two evils for Italy. The outcomes of a possible resignation are not so tragic, however: “A Five Star government (the political faction that’s pushing for an exit from the EU) is very unlikely to happen,” Pro-
fessor Davanzati told us. “As it is way more credible to see another provisional government. I don’t believe in ‘Quitaly’ as the aftermath of Renzi’s resignation: Italian citizens too scared to take a leap into the unknown.” ** What are, then, the real reasons why Matteo Renzi is so eager to promote the successful outcome of the referendum? Why is Renzi pushing towards a reform whose importance is not even understood by many of the voters? Almost 40 per cent of the electorate have yet to decide or are positive about abstaining. According to Davanzati, Renzi sees an economic benefit: “Without falling into unlikely conspiracy, it is more than possible to assume that a reform to the Italian Constitution might be necessary as political exchange between this government and the international finance.” There is past evidence to support. In 2013, J.P. Morgan, the multinational banking and financial services company, published a report in which it invited the Italian Government to modify the current constitution because it contains “too many elements of socialism”.
The Wall Street Journal reported: “This summer Mr. Dimon visited Italy to celebrate J.P. Morgan’s 100th anniversary in the country. During a lunch with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the country’s finance minister, they discussed the situation at Monte dei Paschi.” As a result, J.P. Morgan has ordered a capitalisation of €6bn to the Italian bank Monte dei Paschi, Italy’s third-largest bank, in order to rescue it from failure. The company is also first in to sustain an increase of assets around €3bn towards MPS, for a total of €9bn of investments. The New York-based multinational has more than one interest in the outcomes of a successful referendum outcome. “[J.P. Morgan] is interested in the recapitalisation process of the Italian Bank System...the Italian Government to pass more laws and more quickly,” the report said. There are claims that Italy will become ‘a experimentation lab’ of constitutional requirements appropriate for the 21st century: in other words, coherent and functional to the process of financialization.
The report insisted on the need to change the constitution that was first adopted in the 20th Century, because it was created after the Second World War, and so had an anti-fascist mindset, which has not been updated since. “The relationships between Renzi and J.P. Morgan’s influential representatives, in particular with Jamie Dimon, are widely documented,” Davanzati contends.
There are different views on whether it is in Italy’s interest for the referendum to succeed, and these views centre on which model of the Italian economy Italians want to foster or to reinforce. “On one side, we have the pressures from the international finance demanding Italy to adapt at the standards required and so to lose a big chunk of popular sovereignty,” says Professor Davanzati. “On the other, there are the people who firmly believe that inequalities restrain the growth of a given country, or that the international finance should stay out of a country’s decisions,” he says.
“It is also well known that these connections aimed at the rescue of many Italian banks like the Monte dei Paschi di
“There is a lot at stake and it involves the selling of Italy’s constitution to the highest bidder.” 37
Words: Joseph Skirkowski Images: Rainer Hungerhausen via flickr
The last of London's greyhound races Dog racing in London is in danger of disappearing
Over the last century, London’s greyhound tracks have been picked off one by one. Now only one remains. What does this decline mean for the old working men and women who love the sport and love their dogs? “I will retire, I’m not a drinker so I’ll have to find something else to do,” says Bobby, a man in his 80s who has been going to the races for over 60 years and is a famous figure at Wimbledon. Bobby is at the track every week and has made efforts to help prevent its closure by contacting the council, attending meetings and even contacting two London mayors: Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson. Bobby said he was disgusted at the way the case has been handled: “I sat through three hours of drivel.” He recounted a recent council meeting: “The only objections came from Wandsworth Council, a fellow speaking for the disabled and one local resident. At the end of the evening, the chairman just said ‘outline planning permission for AFC Wimbledon has been granted’. The decision was made before the meeting started, that’s not democracy.” ** After Wimbledon the nearest tracks are at Hove on the South Coast, Romford in Essex and Crayford in Kent; all too far away for Bobby and many of the other old boys to travel to for an evening. In the 1980s, the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) sold off most of their London properties to developers to cover debts. This included tracks that were thriving at the time. When asked if there was any animosity between the fans and the GRA, Bobby said: “Yes, of course there is. They even had the gall to claim that they didn’t know they were selling it to the builders. If you’re selling something for a tenner you know who you’re selling it to, let alone for £10 million.” Bobby also has concerns about how the closure will affect the local area beyond the end of dog racing. Near the stadium is St. George’s hospital, where Bobby regularly goes for treatment. The hospital staff are allowed to use the track's car park for £2.50. If this privilege is lost, Bobby is worried that the hospital may become extremely overstretched. “They say it will take you four hours to be seen, if that goes you’ll be lucky if you’re seen in four days.” 38
You can’t earn a living off it. The prize money hasn’t kept up Outside, Bobby introduces us to John and Rob — two part-time greyhound trainers. One of John’s dogs, ‘Oopys Blueboy’, is racing tonight. John and Rob are owner-trainers, meaning they own the dogs that they race, a full trainer will likely share ownership with an investor. “You can’t earn a living off it, the prize money hasn’t kept up with inflation,” explains Rob. ** “I only do it for a hobby really. My dad got me into it and I’ve been training for the last 25 years, but all the tracks I’ve been to have closed,” said John. As we talk, John and Rob seem to enjoy reminiscing about the days when the stadium would fill up: “You wouldn’t
believe the atmosphere. The derby roar and all that.” When asked about the decline of the sport they echo what Bobby said before them, “It’s the owners; they only see the money.” Over recent decades, greyhound racing has suffered an image crisis — animal rights groups have made cases of mistreatment towards greyhounds very public and this has had a massive effect. Most people we approached were at first wary of speaking to journalists due to fear of us being ‘antis’, but the owners and trainers we met spoke about their animals with such enthusiasm that it was hard to see this in anyone. “We love our dogs more than anything in the world, before we leave [for the track] they’re all trying to jump in the van with us” said Pam, a greyhound
owner from Henlow who’s dog ‘Mays Rainbow’ is in tonight’s final race. The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) claim on their website that the dog’s welfare is a top priority. In 2014, they donated 1.4 million pounds to the Retired Greyhound Trust, which rehomed 3,742 dogs that year and have spent more than one million pounds on improving track safety in recent years. This effort to re-home was echoed by Mr Albiston, a professional trainer with 50 years of experience, who works to re-home every greyhound that he works with: “I’ve got to make sure they have the right home; make sure they can spend their time dosing on a nice settee!”. ** As the night ends, the spectators file out and the bookies pack down their stands for what could be one of the last times (there are rumours that the track could be closed within six months), we think about something John, the owner-trainer, had said before. “It’s a working class sport, a part of London culture and a part of British culture.” The track isn’t closed yet, AFC Wimbledon is struggling to find the money to buy the land, so maybe there is a chance that the venue and the sport still has a future in London.
Words: Tanviya Sapru Images: Van Vadi
Festival for a forest
An community in India seeks to preserve an ancient woodland
“The fresh air, rich soil, birds, trees, plants, city folk and the Adivasis is what makes this place special”, said Tara Franziska, one of the guests at this year’s Van Utsav forest festival in India. The forest named Van Vadi, which in Marathi translates into ‘forest settlement’ or ‘forest farm’ is a one-of-a-kind venture.
Adivasi tribe that has been helping them cultivate the land, which was once completely wiped out. Bharat explains that the Adivasis showed them grow a series of essential farm crops like rice, millets and oilseeds like sesame. Van Vadi has a dense high tree cover; this means that the rich absorbent soil underneath plays a crucial role in water recharge.
It only takes a few hours to reach Van Vadi, as it’s located near one of the biggest cities in India, Mumbai. This makes it easy for guests across India to attend Van Utsav.
Bharat stresses how this thick vegetation and soil “acts like a massive sponge”, during the monsoon; this not only benefits the surrounding plants and the installed underlying groundwater aquifers, but also the surrounding villages in the area. Moreover, the check dams installed in the forest create water bodies to enable their rainwater harvesting system to run effectively. Bharat highlighted how they also invite their guests for the workshops held at Van Vadi throughout the year.
Bharat Mansata, one of the founders of Van Vadi, describes how it first began in 1994. Bharat and a group of 24 like-minded individuals bought 65 acres of a degraded deciduous forest to regenerate and save it as it had been cut down just three years earlier. They work closely with a local Adivasi family who belong to an indigenous Indian tribe known as the Thakurs and together with the Adivasis, they cultivate, protect and celebrate this land throughout the year. ** “Today, if there are any people left on this earth who can teach our floundering ‘millennium generation’ the fine art and science of co-existing in harmony with the forest, it is the Adivasis,” Bharat says. Every year at Van Utsav, a connection between the city folk and Adivasis is instinctively formed. “We always dreamt of creating an alternative community that would meet its needs in harmony with nature and fellow humans,” Bharat emphasised. Before guests get ready to embark on their journey deep into a wild Indian forest, a crucial checklist needs to be attended.. A flashlight is an absolute must when nature’s calls are during the dark peak hours of the starry nights. Apart from necessary comfortable shoes and clothes, the guests are also asked to bring any musical instrument they play. For the evenings is when everyone gathers around together, eats delicious spicy food and listens to the musical sounds that echo throughout the forest. Bharat says the guests, who usually amount to at least 60 people every year, also have the opportunity to learn about the forests biodiversity. He highlights how they’re all fascinated with the 115 traditionally useful species that can be a substitute to many conventional products. For instance, 45 of the plant species
The millennium generation can learn from this are listed as being of medical use and others that can be used for botanical pesticides, oils, gums, natural soaps and natural dyes. Just within the boundaries of Van Vadi there are 40,000 trees that are flourishing in this regenerated forest, along with an ever-growing biodiversity of plants. They also have 52 wild, uncultivated edible plant species and 25 timber species. ** “The senior Adivasis are exceptionally good with forest species and forest foods. We get a lot of guidance from them,” Bharat states. Aside from learning about the value of what the forest can offer them. Bharat explained how “they really dive into getting their hands mucky” when they have organic gardening and composting activities with the Adivasis. Sometimes, they even go swimming in the lake when they’re all in high spirits. “Our lovely forest environment, our streams and all the enormous diversity are loved by the kids who come because
everything they see, every step they walk, they see something new which is stimulating and exciting,” Bharat says. Other activities include learning about natural remedies, local crafts like basket weaving and the art of storytelling, and after their long walks of bird watching in the depths of the forest they often come back to do some yoga and meditation too. This year, Van Utsav began with a community dance led by the Adivasis and a session on “Forest foods, farming and Adivasi culture”. ** The second day celebrated the famous Hindu festival of Dussehra with decorations of local natural materials; a meal cooked with organic foods, and of course, a lot of colourful singing, music and dance. The celebration of Van Utsav would not be possible if it weren’t for the Adivasis, declared Bharat. It’s easy for the Adivasis to make their way to Van Vadi as it’s only a ten minute walk from their village. Since Van Vadi was established, it was this Thakur
** The workshops are centred around teaching people how to lead more of a self-sustaining life. Seed saving, medicinal plants, soil and water conservation, and house building with earth are their regular workshops. This year between June-July, Bharat mentioned how they hosted a hedge planting camp, home food gardening, forest foods foraging walk, rice and millets transplanting workshops and a Mahua cooking class. Bharat believes the class has a lot to offer: “The Mahua tree is very precious for the Adivasis all over India because every part of it is useful to them. The flowers of the tree are edible; you can make hundreds of wholesome recipes with them. The fruit too is cooked as a vegetable, and the kernel of its seed yields an edible oil.” He also pointed out how they are currently trying to save the land from dirty investors who are buying the nearby forestland from villagers for a “cheapbuck”. The investors buy the land and convert it to what is known as; ‘non-agricultural land', thereby making it easier to destroy these forests. “The toughest problem is the two-legged animal, humans,” Bharat says. When asked if there was a message he could pass on to our generation of today, the conservationist said, “Young people are the ones who will face the problems of the environmental crisis. It’s time they wake up and push in the right direction.” 39
Words: Nana-Aku Baah Images: Yanjun Yu
The scary side of clowns
When Pennywise lives on in our nightmares
They have often had a darker side in history: in the Middle Ages, jesters who failed to make the king laugh would have the muscles that are used to frown cut, ensuring they smiled all the time.
I've always been terrified of clowns. Not an exaggeration but a Bart-Simpsonstyle “can’t sleep, clown will eat me” style fear of clowns; their noses, the face paint, the awful wigs — I could go on. So naturally I’ve been intrigued by the 2016 Scary Clown Epidemic, constantly searching Twitter for the most recent sighting.
Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers features a clown — not necessarily scary in appearance — who was based on the son of Joey Grimaldi, one of the first clowns, who followed in his father’s career footsteps, but died from alcoholism in his thirties.
I don’t think I have ever seen a clown in real life (probably down to my outright refusal to visit the circus), but as a sixyear-old I watched Stephen King’s It for the first time. I could not actually retell the plot of It, but all I could see when I tried to sleep (eventually ending up in my parent’s bed) was Pennywise’s face and awful teeth paired with balloons. It has since led my adult self into thinking all clowns are scary. Not just the ones who are created to scare; there’s just something creepy about someone who dresses up as a clown.
Much like John Wayne Gacy, a clown and children’s entertainer — who became known as “The Killer Clown” after murdering several young men between 1972 and 1978 in Illinois — these men were able to hide a terrible secret behind the white face paint; humour is used to cover up something terrible. **
** In August 2016, the first sighting appeared with reports of people dressed up as clowns attempting to lure children into the woods in South Carolina. It has since moved around the US, then to Canada and Australia, and in October it came to the UK. Since October 1st, police forces across England have received multiple reports of clowns chasing people down the street. Two Essex school girls were asked if they “wanted to go to a birthday party” by two clowns in a van, and a Brunel University student dressed up as a clown and chased people around the campus. These clown sightings started out as relatively harmless, but have since taken a violent turn; a man in Bournemouth was dragged along the ground and left bloodied by a clown and a teenager in Sweden was stabbed in the head. Other sightings have led to arrests and fake rumours of killer clowns. But where did the idea of a scary clown originate? There is no clear explanation for why there have been so many clown sightings, but with it happening just a few months before Halloween, some speculate that it could all just be down to that. Some believe it is a reflection of America’s current political situation, believing the presidential candidates are clowns in the wrong place. However, this is not the first time clown sightings have 40
The scary clown we know today draws its characteristics from literature and film; The film Poltergeist features a clown doll which drags a young boy under his bed. Four years later, Stephen King’s novel It, about a demon who possesses the body of Pennywise the clown and terrorises a group of teenagers, was released and made into a hit TV mini-series in 1990.
To be afraid of clowns is to be afraid of yourself caused mass panic; the spring of 1981 in Boston saw reports of similar activities with clowns in vans chasing or luring children.
make children laugh using dramatic, exaggerated slapstick comedy: a tradition that came about in the Victorian era. So why are we so scared of them now?
The fear of clowns, or coulrophobia, is not recognised as a medical phobia, and is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the University of Sheffield carried out a study which found that clown paintings in hospitals, intended to be “nurturing”, were instead frightening to most children.
David Kiser, a member of the Ringling Brothers, a US travelling circus, explained our fear of clowns in an interview with The Guardian: “clowns hold up a mirror on society, so we can see the absurd in ourselves. So to be afraid of them is ultimately to be afraid of yourself.”
There was a time when clowns were one dimensional, their sole purpose being to
Similarly, fear of the unknown — a reason given for xenophobia — is cited as a reason for coulrophobia.
In an interview with Movieweb.com, Stephen King explained the reasoning behind choosing a clown to be the main feature in a horror novel: “Kids love clowns but also fear them. Take a little kid to the circus and show him a clown, he’s more apt to scream with fear than laugh.” Professional clowns are also feeling the backlash. Porotto the Clown defended clowning in an interview with The Guardian: “There are people who use a clown’s costume, but they’re not clowns. We’re people, sharing our feelings with humour and our moods.” Not everyone believes that this is the end of clowning. Samantha Holdsworth, the founder of Clowns without Borders who perform for refugee children in crisis zones told The Guardian: “We’ve been around for centuries; long after these bozos in silly masks are gone we’ll still be here sharing laughter and happiness.” However, King took to Twitter to comment on the epidemic, “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”
Words: Saloni Saraf Images: Henry Gordon
Why are women in many religions considered impure during their periods?
Over the next few months, Hindus globally will be celebrating what is one of the most festive and religiously heightened phases of the year. It is a time for celebration, spirituality, and family. Feasting on the best food, visiting the most stunning temples, and praying for the good health of your loved ones. Except if you’re on your period. We teach our daughters to be proud of their bodies; challenge inequality, and stigmatise discrimination. Yet we ignore what can only be described as misogynistic beliefs buried into our tradition, and train our women to believe that menstruation is impure and unclean. ** “Don’t enter the temple as it will not be right. Don’t touch the kitchen utensils as you will stain them.” Growing up surrounded by a traditional religious family whilst immersed in a liberal, feminist society, can confuse anyone genuinely interested in following a religion that runs through the family. This whole attitude has sadly fallen in the bracket of extremist rules that should not exist within a religion. Yet for some reason, women everywhere follow it blindly as if they themselves agree that they are unclean. After many debates and unsatisfactory reasons as to why some will not change their mind about it, I looked up why this even began. Historically this stage of the month was treated almost like a holiday. Five days where the pain that some women went through was taken into account, and they were allowed to take a break. They didn’t have to carry heavy items, spend their entire day cooking, or walk miles to the nearest temple. But when did it mutate into a rule? When did something that was meant as a kind favour to a generation of submissive women become part of the law and order of religion? This taboo is not restricted to just Hinduism. The perception that a woman on her period is unholy exists in most global religions. Ayesha Soleija is a devoted follower of Islam, and has been affected by this specific tradition.
No woman really believes that she is ‘dirty’ She told us that in ancient Egypt, a menstruating woman was considered dirty. She was not told to eat, and to sleep alone. Her husband would avoid her. It was believed she was ‘excreting poison’. ** However, as Islam developed, the prejudice against menstruation also reduced in the eyes of many, as now the only thing that is prohibited is for a man to have sexual intercourse with his wife. Though the concept of it being ‘unclean’ still exists, Ayesha says she will not be allowed to enter the Mosque if she is on her period. During the time of prayer, ‘Sajda’ which is the part in which a person really connects with God, is avoided. “I’ve never completely understood it, but it’s something my Mother, her Moth-
er and everyone in my family has always followed.” She goes further to say how it’s hard, to fight against something you’ve learnt to accept your entire life. “When you tell a lie enough times, you yourself start to believe it’s true. I guess this works in the same way. I’ve spent my whole life believing that I am indeed unclean when I’m on my period, so no matter how much I convince myself that this tradition has no validity, I will always feel uncomfortable stepping into the mosque on my period.” The worst part about this tradition is that no one genuinely understands it; no woman believes that they are ‘dirty’ when they are menstruating. This culture is so deeply ingrained in our lives that feeling uncomfortable fighting against it is inevitable. A ten year old
will cringe at the idea of his or her sister being on her period, and that stems from the fact that they haven’t been taught about why it happens. ** Is the lack of sexual education in our communities so telling that grown adults can treat a woman on her period like she is unfit to exist in a place of worship? In Judaism, a woman on her period is referred to as ‘Niddah’. In the Old Testament it is specified that a woman is unclean during her period, however the Talmud, a collection of ‘laws’ written before the eighth century AD, stipulate that a woman’s ‘uncleanness’ continues for a week after the period has ended. It’s frustrating that something which affects half the population, has taken years of silent confusion and reluctant compliance for people to finally start speaking out against. We’re developing our mindsets, lifestyles and behaviour towards the world. Let’s develop our religions too. 41
Words: Deek Hussain Jama Image: Denise Wyllie and Clare O Hagan
Whitework: collaboration between art and science When creative craft making and scientific research on cancer come together
a common cause — the fight against cancer; “The most important part of creating this huge artwork was interacting with all the participants.”
With all the drama that comes with cancer and the ups and downs of keeping up with new findings on cures, it is understandable why many people facing cancer want to escape from it all and express themselves through music and art. Artists Denise Wyllie and Clare O’Hagan have been investigating the effects of utilising art therapy among cancer survivors and their book, Whitework, has given them a medium to do so.
The duo describes the collaboration as “a powerful experience working with so many people, and over an extended period you see people laugh and you see people die”. They wanted this project to normalise cancer and to downplay the drama that comes with being diagnosed, as it wouldn’t help anyone, and approaching the illness with positivity will allow you to live life to the fullest.
** Whitework was created as a way for people with or without cancer to develop “a strategy to manage stress from cancer and challenging issues through mindful, creative craft making.” The artists also define it as a great remedy for the directness of a hospital environment with a hundred images and a fantastic read. With more than 2.5 million people diagnosed with cancer in the UK and the figures set to rise to 2.9 million by 2020 and 4 million by 2030, it is no wonder more communities are searching for calming outlets to strengthen the idea that living as a cancer survivor doesn’t have to feel like an eternal damnation. With rave reviews from the likes of Jane Ray — the Artistic Director of The Whicker’s World Foundation — commending it for transforming her negative views of the disease and associating it with hope and thoughtfulness, it is safe to say this piece of work does exactly what it says on the tin. The book is a visual log of the project that involved many people: families, friends, old, young and more. The project consisted of a 30 metre-long and 1½ metre-wide white banner that had invisible ink etched onto it. The ink transcribes different scientific data and microarrays that represented the current findings on DNA’s role in cancer. Wyllie and O’Hagan decided that DNA research would be the focal point for their project as it juxtaposed nicely with the structure of the banner in terms of many threads intertwining to create one larger concept — which is exactly how DNA works and makes us who we are. The invisible ink was specially made for the project with trailblazing technological advances, which superbly contrasts the idea of using traditional textiles as the body of work. The ink appears when sunlight goes through the banner but O’Hagan hinted that the magic definitely happens when it is night and all the scientific information gives off a luminous glow as if the piece has come to life. 42
With an innovative banner as a strong foundation to the project, the duo also incorporated the personal creations of each participant that was involved in the project. The creations were 30cm squares that every individual used to forge their own designs using only materials that were available to them. Wyllie and O’Hagan emphasised the fact that you didn’t have to be great at art to join in because it was more about the care and consideration used to bring each design to fruition — This meant that each piece was unique, much like a snowflake. The aim of the project was to create a calming escape and mind-easing retreat and that the colour white connotes exactly what they were aiming for. It also allowed everyone to be more creative and inventive in expressing their vision through texture only, thus creating a more three-dimensional piece. O’Hagan explained that textiles were used because of many reasons- one in particular was its role in the circle of life: “You are wrapped in cloth on the day that you’re born and you’re also wrapped in cloth on the day that you die. It is a source of warmth and comfort.” Wyllie also explained how the fact that the 30cm size was convenient for many people who were busy during the process. Many women dealing with cancer would take out their square during hospital visits and work on it in the middle of the waiting room making the pieces more special to both Wyllie
and O’Hagan because it was made with tenderness. Although the book was published in 2016, the process actually spanned from 2004 through to 2008. It initially began when the authors were invited to the workplace of their friend Professor John Hartley who was the leader of the Drug DNA Interactions Group for Cancer Research UK. “That’s when our views on science changed. We saw different machines providing new ways of presenting visual scientific data and the importance of psychosocial oncology,” Wyllie said. Psychosocial oncology is a form of cancer care that focuses on the emotional and mental health of the patient to prevent stress and depression, which is one of many factors that can worsen the effects of cancer. After their involvement with the group they proceeded to have a two-year art/science residency at University College London and worked closely with scientists and clinicians to create “Transformations in Science and Art”, which was the design that Whitework expanded. Whitework has also been internationally appreciated, with a digitally re-mastered version, called “the landmark DNA banner”, set in the Royal Mint and exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Copenhagen, De Ploeg Galerie in Groningen and Greenbelt music festival in the UK. It has connected various countries sharing
One of the many stories they recall during the process was getting together with the North London Deaf Children Society to create numerous squares. Wyllie laughed as she explained that the children were so “passionate” and “excited” by getting stuck in that they were not aware of how loud they were being, “because they were hearing-impaired they didn’t know their volume but the energy was invigorating.” O’Hagan remembered working with a group of elderly Afro-Caribbean women and the conversations they had: “We weren’t talking about cancer, we were having fun. We had a great time. The ladies were talking about the Mighty Sparrow, the Calypso singer and how hot he was. They were young at heart.” Another person they appreciated was Jaap Wortel, a visually impaired Dutchman who created a message with braille for his contribution. The braille stated: “Hello, I’m Jaap. I’m blind and I think that cancer is a rotten disease. Particularly if you are young — it’s very difficult. I wish you lots of love and strength.” Whitework is an original piece that strives to focus on the good side of living with cancer when so many focus on the bad. It has also received support from many different types of people, acting as an effective gateway for cancer survivors and anyone struggling with an issue to find a sense of calmness and comfort. Denise Wyllie and Clare O’Hagan describe themselves as an Anglo-Irish partnership that have been working for Unison since 2001. They consider themselves activists as well as artists and express their views wholeheartedly through their work. They also hope to experience future endeavours similar to this project.
Words: Jeremie Crystal Image: 2K Games, Hangar 13
Glitchy, righteous rage
A new game brings to life the grim reality of racism
Whether it was the ‘golliwog’ fiasco in Pokémon or the race-crime simulator Ethnic Cleansing video, some games have featured racist elements for a while now. Sadly there is an incredibly long list of games that have been accused of being racist, yet almost no games are trying to address racism or discuss it. Mafia 3 attempts to do just that. ** Set in 1960s ‘New Bordeaux’, a fictionalised version of New Orleans, the game allows you to fill the shoes of Lincoln Clay — a black Vietnam veteran on a vengeful warpath. Almost immediately the game warns you of severe racial undertones included. Admirably, Hangar 13 provides perfect reasoning. Clay is a man best described as a weapon. After a bloody tour in Vietnam, his plan of stopping home briefly to say goodbye before moving to the West Coast is shattered. Murdered and betrayed in cold blood, he watches the slaughter of his immediate family and closest friends whilst lying helplessly injured on the floor. It’s not just the betrayal or the brutal executions that makes this scene so poignant, it is the vocabulary of just one sentence. “Stupid fucking niggers,” utters the ‘guido’ crime boss as he shoots Lincoln’s father in the head. The theme of racial hatred is a constant recurring factor in the script and I find that it is what makes this game a cut above the rest. In terms of actual gameplay, Mafia 3 plays in a very similar fashion to the now time-tested open-world free-reign simulator. The precedent set by Grand Theft Auto 3, 15 years ago is rather unchanged; you can essentially do anything you please, whether legal or not. However, it is ridiculously glitchy and there is a complete lack of fast travel within the game. The combat system feels tired as well, familiar but mediocre and a bit aged. The gameplay is acceptable but leaves you wishing for more. Mafia 3 is not a genre-defining title by any means, but it does have one secret weapon. The key difference that sets it aside from every other third person free-roaming game is that you have never been forced to feel the gut wrenching anguish of pure unfiltered racism. Games like GTA: San Andreas have touched on the dire situation in America that people of colour must face, yet it
You are forced to confront racism head on never delved into the depth that Mafia 3 reaches. Amazingly this stark racism actually adds to the user experience in a manner you wouldn’t expect. It fills you with a sense of righteous rage that allows you to desecrate any opponents in your way. For example, you are tasked with dispatching a southern branch of the Ku Klux Klan — to say that this was not incredibly enjoyable would be a lie. ** That is the reaction that I was hoping for when I played Mafia 3. As a child of mixed ethnicity surrounded by white faces who simply did not understand racism, Mafia 3 is the hardcore racism-simulator the world needs.
fore, emotively, the game is incredibly successful in creating a sense of racial injustice in the average player, whether they are black or not. You must face this depraved and unfair racism head on like you would in reality. This feeling, harnessed through thoughtout storytelling, is one that I hope to see repeated in future games. Installing the heartbreak of racism in players is an amazing way of educating the world on the plight of discrimination. This game has made leaps and bounds in shining a light on a serious underlying problem throughout society, especially prominent in the United States at present.
I feel like almost every child should play the game to understand the sheer injustice that people of colour have to go through.
Now with the rise of figures such as Donald Trump and the return of the right wing, the world must be mindful to prevent racism becoming more prominent in society again.
Despite of the fact that you play as an enraged mass murderer on the warpath, the experience can be perceived as quite educational at the end of the day. There-
With Mafia 3, you leave the player with an experience they are unlikely to forget anytime soon. Mafia 3 also calls the future of gaming into question. At the
moment gaming is at a crossroads; the triple A titles, like Call of Duty and FIFA constantly disenfranchise their fan base, while many games that try something new fall flat on their face, like No Man’s Sky or Evolve. Most big budget games recycle old formulas to bring about the same result. Gone is the ingenuity expressed in Half Life 2, Call of Duty 2 and Halo 2; gone is the age in which developers cared about releasing a perfect product. ** It is now the era of pre-order bonuses and early access passes. You get the sense that developers care less and less about anything other than money. Mafia 3 is a contradiction of the gaming world. It is almost a broken game — it is unambitious in gameplay and the glitching is merciless, but the fantastic story shines throughout. It is a triumph of sorts. The brave new world it embarks into with the unexplored realm of racist story telling is potentially a game changer but the rest of the game is a disappointing let down. Mafia 3 achieves what it set out to do but is unfortunately just not that great a game. It is hopefully a promising step in the right direction, though; as the game brings a breath of fresh air to the genre. 43
Tips for a delicious day out
VegBar Brixton The vegan thing started partly because people wanted to be healthier. At first it seemed like some people were treating it as a bit of a “fad diet.” Now, it’s gone into more than that and people are actively working towards saving animals. What about if you don’t want to harm any animals but you want to eat junk food? Look no further: I have found a place that doesn’t just serve you kale and quinoa! Vegbar in Brixton is THE place to go for cruelty-free, “fish” and chips, wraps, burgers and whatever else you may fancy. One thing that should be pointed out is the fact that this place is definitely NOT any kind of health food café, although some people may get picky about that and say that it’s healthier than a non-vegan restaurant of the same kind. The price tag attached to Vegbar is, at first, acceptable. However, when you realise that it is essentially frozen “meat” patties and pre-made cheese, frozen fries and pretty much nothing homemade, you question paying £10.95 for a burger, fries and onion rings. I mean, it’s extremely nice food that comes quickly and you feel like you’ve satisfied your junk food craving, but plot twist: you could make it at home for much less! But as an individual vegan restaurant, and one of the only in the area, people WILL pay, and it is definitely nice for a social outing. We went at 5pm. Now I wasn’t expecting it to be bustling, but when we walked in there it was me, my friend and the staff there. When we were about to leave, more people turned up and that was nearing 6 o’clock. It’s definitely not a snack place, so I guess people were turning up for 44
Cereal lovers unite! their evening meal. The lady serving us was lovely, and although she spilt a bit of our coffee, she made us laugh about how it’s a myth that people manage to balance a tray with one hand (relatable). She and her colleague who was working at the till both didn’t seem like they were in a rush to serve us and seemed to genuinely care about us; wonderful customer service all round. The menu itself was pretty sparse when we went. However, I later realised that the place had just re- opened from a refurbishment so they had an “all stars” menu featuring their most popular dishes. “The veg father” was my choice — essentially a vegan “Big Mac”, like McDonald’s. It was pretty much identical to a McDonald’s one, maybe even nicer. I’d highly recommend also ordering the “chicken” wings; someone next to us ordered them and we regretted not! They looked amazing and the sauce on them also smelt like a dream. As for the décor — you can tell it’s been recently refurbished as everything is really clean. I think it’s part of the reason it feels so nice in there. Overall, the vibe in Vegbar was really fun. The team made us feel really relaxed and valued by speaking to us about future menu changes, and there was a mix of music fit for everyone to enjoy, so you felt like you could be sat at home having a meal. Sometimes in restaurants you can feel as though you don’t fit in or like you’re not welcome but that so wasn’t the case here. I’m definitely going again to check out more items on their usual menu — 10/10 would recommend! Words and image: Chloe Smith
If you are looking for a breakfast spot that fulfils your sugar cravings all in one sitting, then you should take a trip to the Cereal Killer Café in Camden, where you can get your hands on some tasty, albeit pricey, cereals. The café offers a wide range of cereal varieties from around the world including American favourites such as Krave, Reece’s Puffs, Lucky Charms and so many more. With your cereal is the choice of 13 different milk flavours ranging from regular skimmed and soya, to bubblegum and white chocolate flavour. This can pose problems if you are indecisive as the possibilities are endless. Once you have decided on your cereal and milk, you then get the choice of additional toppings (for an extra 60p each) and the chance of spending another hour at the counter deciding what to get. The menu isn’t limited to cereal either, the café also sells a range of other novelty breakfast treats such as Pop Tarts, toast with unusual topping choices such as marshmallow fluff and popping candy spread and hot drinks such as their stacked Nutella hot chocolate, which sadly, I didn’t actually try, but can only imagine would be delicious. Cereal eaters can also choose between a list of set ‘Cereal Cocktails’ which could come in very handy if you have trouble making important decisions in life such as what milk goes best with your cereal. One of my favourite things about the Cereal Killer Café is the wide range of choice they have on offer; I noticed cereals I never knew existed until my visit. Before going there I didn’t envision myself sitting down to eat a bowl of glazed, sprinkled doughnut flavour cereal with a Kinder Happy Hippo and crushed Oreos on top. The main benefit of going here is that you can try out cereals you might
never have the chance to eat or buy. I wouldn’t go here just to eat a standard bowl of Weetabix for a fiver as I can simply do this at home. They sell standard everyday UK cereals and if you are looking for a healthier option they have some granola and muesli available. I recommend taking your time deciding and to be adventurous in your choice as it can add to the cereal experience. This café is quite a novelty, you go here for the atmosphere and the fun factor rather than for a 4 star dining experience. That being said, the service is excellent, quick as expected and once you have decided on a cereal you are given a small bottle containing the milk you’ve chosen and you are free to take a seat, or a bed (yes, they actually have beds) in a very retro-house style seating area. While I would definitely return here to try out more delicious cereal concoctions, I wouldn’t make it a regular occurrence mainly due to the value for money, or lack thereof. I left with more of a sugar high than anything else, but then again I do have a big appetite. If you happen to leave there feeling hungry, you are not short of food options to pick from next. Cereal Killer Café is situated in a lovely area amidst the stables in Chalk Farm Road, just a short walk away from Camden station surrounded by an abundance of pop-ups and market stalls. When you leave the café you are struck by the aroma of freshly cooked Chinese, Indian, kebabs and more. Overall I would definitely recommend popping by for the experience. Although the food may be a tad overpriced, it is unique in style and offers an alternative to your everyday breakfast. Words and images: Rachel Atkinson
Albums that get close and personal
Solange — A Seat at the Table
Lady Gaga — Joanne
“A Seat At the Table is meant to provoke healing & [a] journey of self-empowerment.” Solange tweeted to a fan the day before her new album was released. Her sound has changed a lot since first coming onto the scene in 2003, with her first solo album Solo Star. Her music has grown with her and A Seat at the Table is the climax of her musical career.
A Seat at the Table tackles often unpalatable issues surrounding black identity in modern society. Listeners are almost left unaware of the fact, as it is softly sung, whilst still managing to be hard hitting. Solange never falters with the message she is putting across. The album has soul, funk and electronic elements yet maintains a sense of serenity.
In an Instagram post on the day of the album’s release she explained the process behind it: “I was tired, filled with grief, and feeling broken. I felt so many got to create my narrative and all I wanted [was] to tell my story, our story, in my own words, and in my own voice.”
The visuals, co-directed by Solange and her husband Alan Ferguson, which accompany Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes in the Sky are a beautiful ode to black identity and the black community.
On first listening it is clear how personal this album is to Solange. Featuring a range of artists such as Sampha, Lil Wayne and Kelly Rowland, Solange’s 21-track album, makes a fierce and relevant political statement. So much so that it has already taken the number one spot on the Billboard 200. A Seat at the Table has been criticised as vocally weak, however, even though it features such a wide array of artists with such different styles, Solange is still able to keep uniformity throughout which contributes to the power it holds. Since its release A Seat at the Table has been compared to her sister Beyonce’s last release Lemonade, which also featured songs with strong messages concerning black identity. Although it is unfair to compare the two, with black identity being such a broad topic, they were bound to take different approaches; although they are sisters, they are still completely different artists. Solange’s album seems raw and authentic. The album opens with Rise, a short yet soulful introduction to the album. “Fall in your ways, so you can wake up and rise”, an intimate track with the message of staying true to yourself.
Don’t Touch My Hair takes on a widely documented issue, in which black people’s hair is seen as a commodity, but Solange refers to her hair as something much deeper: “Don’t touch what’s there / When it’s the feelings I wear.” Cranes in the Sky focuses on feeling alone, featuring strings, drums and bass, creating an ultra moody tone, Solange explores how she tried to escape her feelings of sadness: “I ran my credit card bill up/ Thought a new dress would make it better.” The interludes breaking up the tracks are chopped interviews, which solidify the album’s outlook. Mad features Lil Wayne and is her own rebuttal on the ‘angry black woman’ trope: “Man this shit is draining / But I’m not really allowed to be mad” and in Junie she tackles the issue of appropriation of black culture.
If her previous albums are anything to go by, Lady Gaga has never been one to shy away from bright lights and even bigger production. But Joanne is her most stripped-back record to date. The lead single, Perfect Illusion, followed by promotional track, Million Reasons, paved the way for her fifth studio album. From the honest production to the major focus on those big vocals, audiences knew what to expect from Joanne. Her previous album was a collaborative project with Tony Bennett, in which she proved herself as an artist and that there was a voice behind the theatrics. While it is easy to mistake the simple production as a cop-out, there is nothing simple about the lyrics. She tackles some heavy issues in the album: loss, sexual assault and police brutality, to name a few, but she does it with class. The little production allows her emotions take centre stage. The title track, and the album in general, is a tribute to her late aunt who died at the age of 19. She opens up, pleading: “Stay Joanne / heaven’s not ready for you,” while simultaneously showing off her incredible range. Angel Down is a social movement anthem, as she belts out: “Shots were fired on the street / by the church we used to meet,” followed by “Angel down, angel down, why do people just stand around”, in which she references the police brutality against African Americans.
Closing: The Chosen Ones brings the album full circle with an uplifting interview snippet. Her soft yet powerful approach leaves a deep impression, and it could be listened to time after time without becoming tiresome.
Then you have Diamond Heart, the opening track, which she powers through, despite mentioning her own experience with sexual assault: “Some asshole broke me in / wrecked all my innocence.” And the dark theme of the album is no coincidence.
Words: Nana Akua-Baah Image: ScannerFM via flickr.com
During an interview with the Inquirer last year, Gaga said that in the process
of creating her new album, she had discovered a darker side to herself. “I have found a place to put so much pain and anguish that I have nowhere else to put.” She also recognised that audiences don’t always want to listen about dark times because we’re obsessed with perfection. And with Perfect Illusion, a song that admits love isn’t all it’s said to be, not reaching number one like previous singles Just Dance and Bad Romance, she wasn’t too far off in her claim. While she has never been one to fit in, this is her riskiest record so far. If you take a peak at Spotify’s Top 10, you’ll see what she means: it’s filled with slick production and dance tracks. Not a place you’ll find a song about sexual assault. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Joanne has something for everyone. A-YO is that dance track that will cater for Spotify party playlists, Come to Mama has a Motown swing while Sinner’s Prayer is incredibly country-infused and then you have Hey Girl, featuring Florence Welch, a.k.a. the new girl power anthem. It is no surprise that she has stripped away all of her crazy costumes and persona — it’s hard to focus on the music when all anyone can talk about is you wearing a meat dress. It was no secret that Gaga had a killer voice, but no one could appreciate it until she let the listeners in to her world. A world that was more about her as a human and less about Mother Monster, the name fans affectionately have given her. This album unveils the person behind the massive production and the Lady Gaga mask. It may be her stage name and the one printed on the album, but Joanne very much belongs to Stefani Germanotta Words and image: Ieva Asnina 45
A new concept of modern art
Scar Cymbals by Donna Huanca
Brain Waves: What if your body was hacked For the London Design Festival, Central Saint Martin’s leading design graduates gathered to think about design in the times of technology. Specifically: How does it change, what is its use, what is it inspired by in a more and more uncertain, digital and technological environment? Brain Waves is an exhibition that looks at four different categories to explore the topic more in depth. These categories are applied to process and object, and their wider potential and application are revealed through the work. Creative Forensics includes designers who bring the scientific method to bear on the problems of today and tomorrow, where research and data provide the ballast for imaginative solutions. For this category, Joao Gil (MA Industrial Design) shot a film called Future of Health, which plays with the idea of living in a world so digitalised that we would have to treat hacked bodies. He believes that “there are no solutions, no ultimate truth, definition of beauty, utility or function. Our role as designers is to iteratively negotiate the upcoming changes in society.” Empathic Invention describes projects that focus on communities and collective good, fostering social connection through the products, services, or even conversations. In the short film Made in China: “The production of assumptions and prejudices”, artist and designer Biying Shi portrayed the dichotomy of the famous label, how its meaning changed and what is behind it. In the sphere of Haptic Thinking, contemporary material cultures are exam46
ined and technologically enabled, with an emphasis on tactility and embodied knowledge. Here, Zenke Jin’s work ‘Illusory Kinetics’ was inspired by Newton’s law of universal gravitation — can heavy-weight perception be achieved with light-weight material? Shifting Reality comprises projects that challenge and reframe our perception and perspective on the world around us: “Design is always a combination of fact and fiction. It draws from reality — something that already exists — and through imagination results in a new creation, a new reality”. Says Jurate Garcionyte, one of the 47 Brain Waves exhibitors. In this context, it is interesting to see Nils Braun’s ‘Contemporary Fragmented Vision’ in which he 3D-printed a David statue made from stitching together shared online images of Michelangelo’s statue in Florence. By breaking off conventional ideas and concepts through entering a new age of technology and new challenges, these artists found solutions or highlighted problems in our system and society in a way that will make you excited about what the future of design has to offer. This inspiring exhibition is bursting with new ideas and is on view at the Lethaby Gallery at Central Saint Martins until October 29, 2016. Words: Penelope Sonder Image: Di Peng, ‘Dementia Simulator’ (UAL)
The former Methodist chapel — the Zabludowicz Collection, London, holds Donna Huanca’s first UK solo exhibition: SCAR CYMBALS from the 29th of September to the 18th of December 2016. SCAR CYMBALS explores the human form, but with a focus on the layers of the body. Huanca seeks to expose the naked body, whilst concealing it under layers of paint, cosmetics and latex. The exhibition “examin[es] the interaction between our bodies and the space surrounding us, presenting the naked form as an abstract decorative object.” Latex, ripped stockings, steaks of paint, glass, anal beads, clay... Huanca’s work manipulates materiality and texture — forming a coat of layers on the skin. The artist speaking to Dazed and Confused, explains, “A lot of my works[...] were all related to clothing because I was nomadic. “It was about bundling up and carrying everything you own and have on your body. A lot of it was binding and hiding the body, and protection of the body.” Turmeric and coffee are used on the body — healing agents, and a false protection. Huanca also uses fabrics to make her sculptures, and layers of printmaking and acrylics in her paintings. She is known for employing synthetic substances. Huanca not only focuses on textures, but colours. She uses “the DNA of the earth; gems, minerals, meteorites, desert landscapes”. She explains that, “hallucinatory states have all taught me about colour and effects on mood”. Blinded by the white walls and fluorescent lights you see a three-storey translucent structure, almost like a cage. In the structure you see human bodies glacially moving. You find yourself
observing the figures almost like objects. Pressing their bodies, imprinting their skin onto their cage. As the naked bodies move, they smear layers of paint on the panels of the translucent structure inscribing their identity. In front of the structure, naked bodies walk around a platform. Embedding their feet into sand, imprinting their body into the surface. As the exhibition progresses the bodies are ‘shedding’ their layers. As a spectator, you feel your gaze penetrating the models’ bodies. You become active. As you move around the Main Hall, you feel the activation of their bodies. This is felt by the heavy bass resounding through the speakers. You feel a force which circulates the empty space. The sound art creates interactivity — viewers interact with the movements and the sounds they are experiencing, become a part of the performance. Glass is a recurrent material throughout as Huanca examines ideas of surface and body and the ways in which an outer casing becomes the meaning and identity of the whole. SCAR CYMBALS examines the behaviour and interactions of our bodies. Sculptural installations draw upon the shapes and patterns of natural minerals and rock formations, recalling the sources of the pigments that cover the performers. The installation builds upon Huanca’s earlier sound art projects and will feature recordings of often overlooked, misrepresented or invisible groups. Huanca reconstructs reality, making her art come alive. Words: Iman El Kafrawi Image: Thierry Bal
Lil Wayne’s long-awaited prison memoir
A new documentary by a giant of cinema
Lil Wayne — Gone ‘Til November: A Journal of RIkers Island
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
Way back in March 2010 global superstar, Lil Wayne was convicted of possession of a firearm and he was sentenced to a year at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York. He eventually served eight months of the sentence. A year later, rumours of a potential prison memoir surfaced social media, and now, five years later, Lil Wayne’s journal Gone ‘Til November: A Journal of Rikers Island has finally been published. If there was one word that I had to use to describe this journal it would be: intimate. It took me around three to four days to finish reading Wayne’s journal and as I went on through every page I felt more and more involved in his dayto-day prison life, which he explains in great detail throughout. I felt as if I was there with him, watching ESPN almost everyday and cooking “Doritos burritos.” Considering the celebrity status Lil Wayne has, not many exciting events seemed to have taken place with Wayne while he was serving time, which is what I think gave me that inclusive feeling. Reading about a celebrity doing simple boring day-to-day things such as exercise, cooking and watching television made the read somewhat relatable. Wayne received visits from big names in the rap game such as P. Diddy, Kanye West, Drake and Nicki Minaj. He spent some time in his journal explaining how grateful he felt that people with such busy schedules still took the time out to come and see him.
One of the visits from Toronto rapper/ singer Drake didn’t go down as well as Wayne would’ve liked. Wayne found out that Drake had sex with his girlfriend, which Wayne says is “the absolute worst thing I could have found out.” Probably not the best news you could receive while spending time in one of New York’s most notorious prisons. As I went on to read the rest of the journal you get to know the inmates that Wayne spends a lot of his time with and the corrections officers (COs) that he makes friends with, such as “White” who Wayne refers to as “my dude” after he brings Wayne extra sugar to add to his morning coffee. Wayne ends a lot of stories that he writes about with monosyllabic slang words such as “damn!” when he’s logged a sad or depressing story, and “yeah!” to display his enthusiasm about writing about something positive. Reading and learning the words he repeats in a lot of his entries makes you feel connected to how he must have been feeling at the time. As much as Wayne manages to connect with his readers, he sometimes fails to elucidate some of the things he repeats throughout his entries, “Jail is nothing but a whole lot of fucking nothing,” that “nothing” obviously connotes a lot of something. If you’re a Lil Wayne fan or a fan of easy, relatable reading then Gone ‘Til November: A Journal of Rikers Island is for you. Words and image: Naveena Patel
These were some of the events that happened on a regular basis throughout the journal that gave readers, well, gave me, a sense of entertainment.
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is the latest documentary by the infamous German filmmaker Werner Herzog in which he explores the biggest revolution of mankind: the internet. Starting off with an insight into the very beginnings of the technology, the documentary goes through historical milestones and key thoughts. In exclusive interviews, internet protocol inventor Bob Kahn, the infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick, entrepreneur Elon Musk and others share their experiences. It touches on topics such as internet addiction and mobbing, the future of the internet and artificial intelligence, ultimately leading to the question: “Does the internet dream about itself ?” The thought provoking conversations reveal how the online world has changed the landscape of our system, from business to education and space travel to healthcare to how us humans interact. The cinematic techniques of the documentary are simple, mainly consisting of ‘talking heads’. The filmmaker’s dry humour and curiosity fills every interview with laughter, usually followed by impactful conclusions about the matter. The element of silence is often used in the conversations and serves to highlight some of the outcomes dramatically; it is obvious how well Herzog understands the character and history of his interviewees. In a Q&A at the London Film Festival, Herzog explained how “the speed of the technological evolution is so intense and fast that some of the major economic players have ganged up to contemplate and think about how to steer and con-
trol artificial intelligence so it doesn’t turn against humanity.” Computer scientist Dr Leonard Kleinrock, explains in the film how the youth of today never learn how to develop a logical train of thought. The internet does it for us now, we google things we don't know, and we rarely go beyond the surface of a topic. Conceptualising and developing an idea, dreaming and traditional learning through research and memorising will become the past: “The more we share, the more lonely we will become.” One of Werner Herzog's highest aims in his films is “to give space for an audience to dream and incorporate their dreams”, so that information is not only taken in but also developed individually. “We live in a phenomenal time where the most improbable dreams are becoming real; they are palpable.” The documentary was originally planned as a YouTube series, but after some filming it “quickly became evident that this was not the right format for something this big and important.” This documentary offers a completely new angle on the technical revolution and illuminates the wonders and horrors of the internet in a new, profound way — an invention that has changed our lives irrevocably. It explains with science and emotion how humanity interacts with the technological evolution and how it will continue to change our world in the future. Herzog has again proven that he does not need a big budget and special effects to make one of the most important documentaries of the digital age. Words: Penelope Sonder Image: Magnolia Pictures. 47
Words: Alicia Streijffert Image: Flavien Prioreau
Introducing L’Impératrice The founder of a rising French band talks about their career so far
After having toured and having written new music over the summer, L’Impératrice have just started recording their first full-length album in the studio, which will see a few changes within the composition. They are aiming for an even more narrative style in the hope of recounting a new story. “It will be more cinematic, a bit slower, a bit groovier; [it will] be a real homage to 70s French chanson: to guys like Nino Ferrer or Cortex, who wrote beautiful lyrics on beautiful instrumentations.”
Hop on a space shuttle and get off at a dance floor on the moon with a groove band playing while a mysterious, stunning lady moves her hips to the beat on a background of palm trees and stardust. With a taste of orgies and other odd adventures, L’Impératrice — ‘the Empress’ in French — takes you on a spiritual trip, on an Odyssée, throughout past and future decades of disco-inspired sounds with a cinematic twist. **
Charles also intends to play around with the composition of the tracks, exploring rhythms they’ve never tried before as well as including new sonorities and harmonies, with loads of percussion, a string orchestra and brass: “The tracks’ formats will be weirder, a bit deconstructed and there’ll be ten-minute-long songs as well as shorter ones”.
The self-produced six-piece band from Paris have released three EPs, among which is Odyssée, it came out a year ago exactly, and they are currently working on their first full-length album. Like a dozen other self-produced acts originating from Paris that rule today’s French alternative music scene, Charles’s project started in his bedroom. He first worked as a music critic for six years within some of the most popular culture media outlets in France, such as Trax and Les Inrockuptibles. One day, the former journalist felt he couldn’t carry on criticising other people’s work without even being able to make music himself. “I had a few synthesisers at home as well as an old Farfisa organ from the 70s and an electric piano, so I began to compose with this. I would record with Garageband because I think that’s the easiest way to make music while having fun”. This initiative gave birth to L’Impératrice’s first four-track EP in 2012, which was instrumental-only at the time. Describing the band’s genre is not easy. With groovy sounds reminiscing of disco years, some tunes have a melancholic feel while others have a bouncy 90’s French Touch influence, and others could be the soundtrack to a film. Highly influenced by 70s French composers such as François de Roubaix, Vladimir Cosma or Michel Legrand, which he grew up listening to, he says; “I didn’t feel like I could do anything other than a mix of old school 70s, 80s electronic and pop music”. A year ago, a sixth member, Flore, added her voice to the band. However, Charles insists that they don’t use her voice as a lead, but rather as a new instrument. “We want people to identify our music with the harmonic atmosphere and references rather than with the voice”. In order to keep this spirit, three tracks on their latest EP Odyssée have no singing. 48
Although their music might sound electronic, no computers are used. Only instruments, says Charles: synthesisers, guitar, bass, drums and voice. The band positively welcomed the addition of a voice as a challenge during songwriting: “It brought a new way of exploring what we can do as we have to go over our methods again in order to write our music in accordance with the voice.”. ** The band are surrounded by creative friends with whom they usually team up for the production of videos. Charles believes it is important to let them express themselves on their work rather than have big directors do the job — on top of not having the budget yet. Working with friends obviously has its advantages. Messing around with funny ideas is the core of the process as he points out; “We made an animation with salacious stuff for Agitations Tropicales because that’s what the track expresses. We were having a good laugh!” When he first started composing, Charles discovered an emotion he had
never felt before. “L’Impératrice really is a feeling. It’s a very personal thing” he says.He believes that this ‘feeling’ is super powerful and completely addictive — “kind of indomitable, with an imperial thing to it”. He adds that “something in the music reflected more femininity than masculinity — [maybe] because this feeling was extremely sensitive… it was like a woman: really indomitable, something you can’t fight”. ** Despite not wanting to impose a visual universe to their listeners, the band thought it would be interesting to personify their latest EP Odyssée in honour of an existing historical figure: Theodora, empress of the Byzantine Empire, who lived in the sixth century. As Charles describes her, “she was a chick who did whatever she wanted: she slept with everyone, she was untrustworthy, she was vicious and she was extremely beautiful”. Aiming to restyle “lust and everything [they] know about the Byzantine Empire”, the band sought to tell a story through songs.
Two years ago, L’Impératrice toured India. They performed in eight cities over the span of ten days, including New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. “That was pretty mad. That was mental. It was amazing. It was fantastic!” says Charles. He recounts the culture shock the band experienced upon arriving, particularly for the bassist, who had barely ever set foot outside of Paris prior to flying there, experienced going on a plane for the first time in his life. The band were stunned at how diverse but also very receptive their audience was: “We thought we’d be playing for a bunch of French expats but not at all! Since very few people have access to credit cards and culture over there, as soon as there’s something happening such as a French show, everyone is super curious to see what it is”. The Minister of Culture in Chennai even decorated them with a medal equivalent to the Legion of Honour, which Charles says was “completely crazy”. He adds that “once you’ve toured India, you want to touch another type of audience, talk to them and interact with them differently, which [they’d] really like to do outside of France”. And conveniently enough, their next dream destination is London: “We all love this city and it’s so close [from Paris], so it’s very frustrating not to be playing there”. The one venue the band would love to one day perform at is Koko. See you there!
SEEN ON CAMPUS
Students from LCC tell us how they deal with conflict Some ignore it, some face it
Clockwise from top: Ivan, Photojournalism, Croatia I deal with it head on, I think it’s the only right way to do it. Be honest and just stand up for yourself. Sometimes it’s good to engage in conflict. You shouldn’t be afraid to tell your opinion quite openly as long as you’re honest and have some good intentions behind it. Barbara, Photography, Hungary I try to stay calm, usually I try to imagine myself in the situation of the other person, so I try to see both angles or as many angles as possible. Daisy, Graphic and Media Design, Dorset How do I deal with conflict? I don’t know, I’m not a very confrontational person. I tend to get quite quiet. I get a little bit lost, I can’t really say what I wanna say. Becky, History of art, London I generally tend to space myself as far from any kind of conflict as I can. I’m quite and anxiety-ridden person, so conflict tends to send me over the edge. I definitely get very affected by conflict in the news. Antoine, Information & Interface Design, London Usually I just try to ignore it so there’s no conflict.
Words: Zenab Bukkar and Csilla Kuti Images: Alexander Davies
Words: Nike Akintonkun Image: Kika Matichell Photography
Enough of the stereotypes Forget the white heels, mini skirts and a dumb personality—Essex girls are fighting back
When people first meet me, they say it is my accent that gives it away. Not the wearing of a short mini skirt or white stilettos but my local tongue, which has often proved to be a blessing and a curse — depending on the circumstance. Born at Newham General Hospital, East London, my family’s British roots are not laid in Essex but in London where the first six months of my life were spent. Though I don’t remember the house I lived in or the room where I slept, moving from the East End of London to Essex — a common move made by most Essex migrants –marked the start of a new life for those who looked to escape the busy city and enjoy a newer, safer environment where the schools were better, people were friendly and opportunities were endless. ** Yet, since moving to Essex all those years ago, and for as long as I can remember, the term ‘Essex girl’ has been forced upon me by people, many of whom know nothing about Essex at all. To the outsiders, especially those who share a distorted view of my county, such a term has its own significance, “Oh, Essex girls are so funny when they are drunk” an acquaintance once told me, before nudging the same arm with the not-so-reassuring words, “but I don’t mean you, you are a different kind of Essex girl.” As if we, the girls and women of Essex, are commodities that can be defined by a ‘kind’ or ‘type’. According to the Urban Dictionary, the term ‘Essex girl’ is defined as ‘cheap, easy, loud and dumb’, while another definition states, ‘An Essex girl is supposedly stupid and obsessed with sex.’ Other dictionaries have also used undermining, offensive and derogatory definitions to define the term, something which has arguably been worsened as a result of the rise of the popular Essex based reality TV shows. Since ITV’s The Only Way is Essex, often known by its abbreviation ‘TOWIE’, launched onto our screens in 2010, it has been keeping people entertained with its share of cat fights, who-slept-with-who, and the creation of well known catchphrases such as ‘oh shut up’, ‘well jel’ and ‘salt’. But while viewers of the show are entertainingly introduced to each episode by a voiceover stating, “their tits 50
An Essex girl is said to be cheap, easy and dumb. may be tightened but these people are real”, it is examples such as these which have further encouraged the ‘Essex girl’ stereotype, along with the idea we all drive Range Rovers, have weekly ‘Vajazzles’ and regularly have our tits “tightened”. The role of social media has also encouraged the stereotypes of the ‘Essex Girl’. While a Google search for the term produced 1.7m results in 0.68 seconds, social media site, Instagram, revealed the term being used popularly amongst teenagers using Snapchat’s dog filters who often overloaded their images with hashtags like #Essexgirl, #EssexBabe and #EssexBlondie. While the term ‘Essex girl’ invites negative connotations, Juliet Thomas and Natasha Sawkins, the founders of The Mother Hub, are fighting to reclaim the stereotype by launching the #IAmAnEssexGirl campaign in October 2016. ‘We were shocked to discover that “Essex girl” is listed in the dictionary and
the definition is appalling. They added, : our main goal was to raise awareness and to open a dialogue around the derogatory “Essex girl” stereotype’, the Mother Hub website stated. With the petition gaining more than 3,000 signatures so far, I spoke to them to find out why they started the campaign and how, by redefining the stereotype, Essex girls can finally reclaim their confidence. “We knew we needed to harness the power of social media,” Juliet and Natasha told me. “We wanted this campaign to be a positive movement to re-define the term ‘Essex girl’, so right from the outset we encouraged people to show their support by sharing a picture or comment on social media with our hashtag.” While the hashtag is beginning to raise quite a profile, especially amongst women within Essex who see the campaign as the ‘change Essex women deserve’, according to one follower, the founders who are originally from London but
moved to Essex years ago revealed the passing remarks they received when people found out they were adopted “Essex girls”. “When we were pregnant, people joked that we might end up with ‘a little Essex girl’, it certainly held negative connotations.” But Juliet and Natasha were not the only women to face adversity about being from Essex. They have also come across many women who have told them, “they have to fight twice as hard to be taken seriously at University in the face of jokes about mini skirts, white stilettos, fake tan and even sleeping around.” When I asked why it was important for The Mother Hub to re-define the ‘Essex girl’ stereotype, they told me: “When it comes to the Essex girl label specifically, we think it is particularly important that we finally shake the stereotype on behalf of the next generation of girls from Essex. Girls today have enough obstacles to overcome without throwing this into the mix too.” Having launched the petition to re-define the ‘Essex girl’ stereotype, something both Juliet and Natasha feel passionately about, their goal is to “change the dictionary definitions to reflect a positive change in culture” and with the hashtag #IAmAnEssexGirl, “prove once and for all that it is OK to be a proud Essex girl” and ditch the negative stereotype.
Artwork of the month: ‘Post-Krishna’, Rashi Rajguru. 2014 Courtesy of the Artist.
The Conflict Issue