Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

VDay 2013: One Billion Women Rising Globally & .... Dancing!

Istanbul cast of the 2012 English-language version
of "The Vagina Monologues"
What a delight it was to gather one last time with my fellow cast members of the 2012 Istanbul English-language "Vagina Monologues" and meet their families, boyfriends, and friends at our cast dinner. We reunited at an Indian restaurant near Taksim Square in the Tamirhane area.
Musafir Indian Restaurant
in the Tamirhane Neighborhood
Near Taksim

This doesn't strike me
as an evil eye, how about you?
Surprisingly, our beautiful waitress
was not Indian,
she was Turkish.
Fooled you, didn't she?

Harika and her beau were off on a
photography safari of Nepal after the play.


We enjoyed delicious Indian food. Most importantly, we enjoyed each other's company and discussed what was next for each of us. Harika was off to photograph Nepal. Tara was leaving for scuba in Egypt the next day. One cast member was flying back to Rome where she lived full-time. I must admit, the more I read about Eve Ensler and her cause the more involved I wanted to become in the future. I wasn't ready to let go of the VDay cause.

"The Vagina Monologues" is coming up on its 15th anniversary next year. It makes a statement, it has been produced in over 140 countries and raised money for local charities (over $100 million since it was first written), yet still the world if full of violence against women. If anything, it's become worse. What will change the paradigm, Eve asks? What would make everyone in our buildings, on our streets, in our cities, in our nations wake up and not take it anymore? To demand a safer world for all women? Something even bigger, even bolder is needed! Listen to her yourself (prepare yourself, its an awfully tough listen):

Eve Ensler
on Democracy Now
discussing "1BillionRising"

Eve Ensler says:
"V-Day is calling the 1 billion survivors of violence on every continent of the planet to join and RISE. On February 14, 2013, we are inviting, challenging, and calling women and the people who love them to walk out of their homes, schools, jobs to strike and dance. To dance with our bodies, our lives, our heart. To dance with our rage and our joy and love. To dance with whoever we want, wherever we can until the violence stops. We know our brothers, husbands, sons and lovers will join us in the dancing. Imagine 1 billion women and those that love them dancing. Imagine us taking up space, expanding our borders and possibilities, expressing the depth of our desire for peace and change. Dancing, 1 Billion Dancing. The earth will surely move and violence against women and girls will end. Because it can."
Imagine trying to organize one billion people to end violence against half the population of the world! I love the scope and breadth of her ambition. What audacity! I can only ask myself "what can I do to help make this happen?" I ask you, is there something you can do as well in your corner of the world to help Eve reach her goal? Can we help Eve make the earth move together?

Here is one thing we can do immediately:

 follow #1BillionRising on Twitter

Here is a second thing we can do immediately:

 sign up to receive email about her goal

Here is a third thing we can do longterm:

 organize some sort of dancing for February 14, 2013

And lastly, on VDay 2013 we can DANCE!

C'mon. It will be fun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Africa Day @ the Global Minds Book Club

On the first stunning weekend of Spring
we met to discuss an amazing book
in a beautiful home
overlooking the Bosphorus.
Knowing that my Ghanian friend Clarence wouldn't be in Istanbul forever, I asked him if we could read an African book and have him moderate our discussion at our Global Minds Book Club, which he founded.

My view of Africa from Istanbul was completely different than the view I had back home. In America, the only thing one reads about Africa in the media is generally aid, AIDS, drought, and other negative stories. Think of the most recent American media firestorm about Africa: the KONY video. It's a simplified African story told by non-native white people with motives that are hotly debated. 

In Istanbul, however, I see TV commercials aimed at African consumers. These commercials  made me realize there is a large middle class there. Clarence says there are over 50 million middle-class consumers in Africa right now.

Clarence, who founded the popular Istanbul "Global Minds" book club over a year ago, usually runs the group as a complete democracy with a 'majority rules' vote on each title, but in this case, there might have been a bit of enlighted and beneavolent leadership. 

Clarence suggested Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel "Half of a Yellow Sun" based on this wonderful TED video of her warning all of us as people to beware the "single story" we have in our heads about other nationalities, races, and classes of people. It's really worth 18:49 minutes of your time.
I picked up a copy of her book and noticed the cover had a sticker denoting it as the 2007 Orange Prize for fiction winner. I was intrigued to learn the Orange Prize for Fiction is a fairly new prize started in 1996 (which you can "like" on Facebook for more information) that honors the best book published by a female in a given year in Britain. The announcement of the long list of candidate titles for the prize coincides with International Woman's Day.

It stunned me to realize that this was the first book I had ever read by a black African author EVER in my life. I found that sobering. I've read books about Africa, such as "Out of Africa" by Isak Dinesen (a European expat living in Kenya), but here I am, in my 50s, and this is the first time I've ever heard a black African voice in novel form. Even though I'm a librarian, a life-long avid reader, and a life-long book club attender, I hadn't even gotten to the point where I had the limiting "single story" about a people, I realized, I had NO story from their point-of-view. That means every single thing I've ever read or heard about black Africans to date was not through their eyes, but someone else's.

I do think that's changing now in America as many high schools are having their students read "Things Fall Apart" by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. I want to read that as my next African title.  Of course, like many American women, the most recent stories I've had about Africa have all come through Oprah's eyes.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote her book about middle-class Igbo people struggling to survive in the Biafran war when she was just 29 years old (note to self - my only previous knowledge of Biafra - again from an outsider - a George Harrison album cover devoted to starving children in Biafra). It was such a riveting story. I want to read everything she writes!

I absolutely loved this book. An introduction to a new author, a new place, a new people are what makes book clubs such a powerful tool for sharing ideas and life-long learning. It was my book club that got me to pick this book up.

After I finished the book, I read more about the Nigerian Civil War on Wikipedia and was frankly astounded and reminded of the evils of colonialism. 
Norah is from Kenya and was our gracious hostess.
 She said "feel free like a housefly,"
a Kenyan aphorism of welcome telling us to be comfortable.

I told her we call it "refrigerator rights"
in America.
Good friends have "refrigerator rights,"
they can just walk in your house and open the refrigerator.
Clarence and a new member from America.

True to form, Clarence used the title
 as a launching pad to discuss all things African:
 politics, gender relationships, tribal customs,
 superstitions, economics.
It was a fantastic, frank, fearless exchange of views.
Nationalities represented for this book:
 Kenya (2), Ghana, Canada, America (3),
 Ireland (2), New Zealand.

 We all wondered where our Turkish voices were that day -
we were dying to know what they thought of the book. 
Norah's ambience included both beautiful African art,
this piece represented the Masai tribe,
and tribal music playing softly in the background.
I loved hearing Norah's perspective!
Ana, a Kiwi, me, a Yank, and Jackie, an Irish lass
We had planned to watch a Ghanian movie afterwards
but we had a four-hour book discussion,
our longest ever!
It was delightful watching twilight
descend over the bridge as we talked.
Pausing to watch the ship go under the bridge,
from Norah's balcony,
I felt so blessed.
It was a magnificent way to spend the day.

I can promise author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I will not stop at this "single story."
I want to read more African fiction and stories.
Her outstanding book made me care about people
I never heard of before.
It also made me want to know more.

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