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Somali art, film, music & culture

DIALOGUES IN THE DIASPORA

Sunday, 4th November 2007
7pm-11pm
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ
Tickets: £15/ – £20 at the door
Booking: 020 8985 2424/ http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk

Numbi is the largest celebration of Somali culture and music to hit London.

This imaginative and passionate festival is to be held annually in London with a summer/ winter programme, in venues around London – an ongoing research project investigating contemporary arts practice from pre-civil war Somalia to the present day Diaspora. The idea is to invite artists from a variety of disciplines and diverse backgrounds to work as collaborators with practitioners and young people from the Somali Diaspora. Each artist-collaborator has something distinct to bring – our vision is to provide a platform to both emergent and established artists to explore new ways of creating work – in theatre, visual arts, music and film – that draws from the experience of Somali communities around the world. Cultivating cross-cultural artistic collaborations, the festival aims to deliver work that challenges perceptions, fosters genuine representation, and speaks to Somali communities and as well as a diverse audience of the general public.

Artists collaborating on the project include Kinsi Abdulleh, Rashiid Ali, Renee Mussai, Benjamin Samuels, Byron Wallen, Steven Watts and Concrete Stilettos.

Loosely based on the Numbi launch in October 2006, the line-up will include up to 15 artists who will create a unique cross-cultural fusion of contemporary spoken word, poetry, urban hip hop, traditional Somali music and dance, as well as a newly commissioned short performance piece directed by Benjamin Samuels. All work is in English.

Includes contributions from Xudaydi, The Pan Africans, The Nomadix, Jama Damalian Warrior, Mecca2Medina, Prince Abdi, Yusra Warsama, Wiilwaal, plus a special film screening of See Shells , a short film by legendary Somali film director Abdullekadir Ahmed Sead based in south Africa & 4R Knaan‚ + the Numbi Award.

For further info:
kinsi.kudu@talk21.com
079 4953 4402
http://www.myspace.com/kuduarts
http://www.kuduarts.com/

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There was silence. Nothing moved. I have left behind the blaring horns of the busy streets and the impurities of the vitiating air and headed for the banks of the river Thames. I have even deserted the little stream behind my house where a reservoir of calm, clear waters languidly flows through the middle of the small Broadwaters neighborhood, giving it a tranquil feel. Along the banks of the stream, weeping willows dangled their branches lazily upon the water below with pleasant reflections. I used to spend most of my evenings there, sitting on one of the ageing brown benches beside the willow tree lost in contemplation. But now that has changed, for the Thames River provided a cleaner air, a better view and a vast space.

As I sat along its banks, some grass beside me, tickled by the soothing breeze hissed continuously, swaying from side to side. The surface of the water, unruffled and silent except for the tiny waves created by the wind sailing across it, shimmered in the setting sun, reproducing a picturesque scene patterned with intermingling colours of orange, grey and gold. And as they floated across the surface, the crests of each wave created a magnificent interplay between the tones of the colours reflected. A few feet away from me, soft splashing sounds emanated from the gentle lapping of the waves against the banks of the river.

Inhaling a lungful of the clean air, I lifted my eyes up, slowly, to the Docklands and above to the skies. Under the glowing clouds, the sky was bustling with activity – a stunning display of aerobatics and some spectacular dives were in effect. Several birds have taken to the air, soaring and diving before gently landing on the serene water surface. Then the black plumage of what appeared to be a blackbird flipped its wings a few times and looped around the surrounding trees in gentle twirls before landing on another tree and disappearing from sight, but not from my ears, as its melodious sounds wafted soothingly through the air. It wasn’t long before others of its kind joined and a cacophony of sounds pleasant to the ear, strangely enough, erupted.

At some distance away, but not far from sight, another bird landed; a rather shy bird, keeping its distance well away from me. And beautiful too; with black and white markings highlighted with a lustrous tinge of blue, green and purple and a long gleaming tail. The Magpie is a striking bird and its flight is delightful to watch. A bane for most gardeners though, its hoarse cackling call alone is enough to send shudders down their spine; and it is often associated with evil. What such a humble bird could have done to warrant such loathing and how anyone could find the sight of such an elegant creature objectionable is totally beyond my grasp, but I caught sight of it as I sat there along the banks of the Thames. And it looked magnificent.

Conspicuous with its elongated tail, the Magpie started flapping its wings once or twice before soaring up to the lower branches of a tree. Enclosed in the ovoid overlapping leaves, it then began its lively chatter. In England it is, traditionally, unlucky to see one on its own or so they say. The victims, it is widely believed, must either cross themselves, spit three times over their right shoulder, raise their hats or chant ‘Devil, devil, I defy thee’ upon the sight of a Magpie, but these are mere superstitions; just as the thousand superstitions we have in our country involving animals. I stood there, transfixed, eyes set on the tree, pleasantly admiring its delightful cackles.

Several other birds were gliding effortlessly above. I watched them in earnest and mulling over their exceptional sense of freedom, I felt a lovely breeze running through my body. It was then that the limitations in my life became apparent. I envied their infinite independence. They too, I thought, must envy something about us. But then, by just watching them, a feeling of stillness descended upon one. I sat there, quiet and composed. I wished I could sprout wings at that very instant and fly with them and take to the skies. And for that short moment the thoughts occupied my mind, I was with them. I felt the wind on my winds, combing my feathers and caressing my tail. I saw London from above. Well, one would be lost in contemplation standing on that bank on a cool summer evening watching the sun lowering into the horizon. And though I tried to describe it here to the best of my effort, the impalpable feeling this place gives me is beyond measure. Tranquil is the word I thought of as a myriad of fancy thoughts absorbed my mind and I surrendered to the influence of the lulling atmosphere.

One word of advice – don’t stay there too long, you might be sucked in to tranquility!

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TRIAL 

(clockwise from top left): Muktar Said Ibrahim, Yassin Omar, Hussain Osman and Ramzi Mohammed. Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA Source

 

Four men convicted of the 21 July bomb plot have been jailed for life, with a minimum tariff of 40 years each.

Muktar Ibrahim, 29, Yassin Omar, 26, Ramzi Mohammed, 25, and Hussain Osman, 28, were found guilty on Monday.

Their plot to detonate explosives on three Tube trains and a bus in London in 2005 was a “viable… attempt at mass murder”, the judge said.

Two other men – Manfo Kwaku Asiedu and Adel Yahya – face a retrial after the first jury failed to reach a verdict… Read more

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This bicentenary marks the abolition of one the greatest crimes against humanity – The Slave Trade. Last year, it was reported that Mr Blair was shy of a full apology, but it seems like he has done it. He has apologized. So did London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and he also explained why he has apologized. But what would an apology do? Automatically erase the entire era of slavery from the minds of people, act as a recompense for the hideous crimes or simple be just another word from the mouths of politicians?

Slavery was barbaric and inhumane, so what’s an apology worth. Even the Holocaust is given much priority than Slavery! If slavery is anything to apologize for, it’s the Africans who should be apologizing for brutally capturing their brothers from the neighbouring villages and towns and selling them into slavery in the first place. Only thing is, sorry, is just another word!

By the way, who is this “sorry” going to? the buried ancestors or the living descendants?

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With knife crime sweeping across the country , the politicians are quick to mete out their hollow words. We need to be tougher on crime, they say, and the media picks this up and plasters it across its front pages. An amnesty will soon be in place to curb the spiralling wave of crime, as communities are devastated, and soon all will be forgotten – that’s until another victim falls on the street splattered with blood.

Any bus journey home, in any corner of the UK, could be your last. The streets are teeming with “thugs” who are bent on crime and intimidation. This is not something new – it has been like this for ages. And for a very long time too, the government has been trying to do something about it but all with empty promises.

What I am extremely irritated by, though, is the opinions of those people – (some) White people – who assume that this country is being degraded by black people and their cultures. As soon as the talk of crime gets underway, they already seem to know their suspects. Young, Black, Male, with nothing better to do than infiltrate this country with their crime and filth. I remember very well reading the Evening Standard, last year, when An Wilson said that “the only contribution” Somalis make to this society is “street crime and violence”! I am almost certain that when Mr Wilson wrote those words he was either highly intoxicated or his head was too far up his arse to make any sense.

This is the sort of racist tinge to crime, that Jackie describes here, I despise;

…there is a racist tinge to the reaction of the majority. People think, but don’t say, well, it’s only black on black, or Asian on Asian for that matter. It is one gang of uncivilised young thugs against another (though Kodjo was neither a gang member nor a young thug). Keep out of their way, and these murders will continue but won’t touch us. When the people involved are young and white, another defence mechanism kicks in: “Well, it happened outside a pub/nightclub in the small hours. If you’re not young, male and drinking in the wrong place, this won’t touch you.”

Crime has no colour, neither does wickedness. These youths understand the leniency this government has towards crime and are taking advantage of it – they know they will be out soon, with their “street credibility” up a notch. Prison is no deterrent whatsoever. And the poor mother lies in her bed in grievance. Another son lost, another mother bereaved. Over the past two weeks alone 14 murder cases involving knives were reported and just over this weekened alone there were 50 cases involving knives.

Imagine if this country had a National Service scheme – where every child, upon finishing his/her GCSEs, must go through a compulsory one or two years service in the Army!

I am all for bringing back corporal punishment in schools as well as capital punishment in the country. Anyone agrees?

An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind, but sometimes it’s the best solution!

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I attended the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Black Members Council (BMC) conference today and learnt of some staggering issues regarding the Media. For all those Black and Ethnic Minority Journalism hopefuls, be warned, a bumpy ride awaits you my friends, so be ready!

There is no one Black person that manages or has a senior position in any of the national newspapers and Television in the UK – even the BBC, which seems to be the best portrayal of Ethnic Minority in the Media. Most of these companies are owned by middle-ages white men with very rigid ideas as to what they want to see on their TV and whom they want to be represented by.

Today, you are more likely to see black people on National Television (as news reporters, presenters, etc) than ten years ago, but have you thought why? Traditionally, black people were in the backroom. For example, if you go to a hotel, you will always find a beautiful white woman sitting at the reception to welcome the visitors, and where are the black people – always in the kitchen. So why has this changed now? Why are black people all of a sudden appearing on National Television screens as the faces of major news channels despite the fact that they hold no managerial positions? The answer is simple – Because they are there simply for decoration purposes.

Black people, after coming across hundreds of hurdles, rigorous job interviews, and endless hours of fetching tea and biscuits for their senior white editors, might faintly have a chance of being employed by a National newspaper (if they are lucky). And once employed by a newspaper or a Television, retention rates are very, very low and there is absolutely no chance for progression. Management is always the specialty of a White, Middle-class, Oxbridge-educated male. You won’t find black people in roles where decision making is required or to represent a National Newspaper! They don’t mind having black people as long as they are not too many and are doing subordinate roles.

The prime reason the Media employ black and Ethnic Minority journalists is solely to ‘show’ the powers that be that they are recruiting on fair grounds and are fully aware of the Discrimination Laws, and, of course, to re-assure the Ethnic Minority that there is a voice for them in the Media. However, whether the black people in the media represent the voice of the Ethnic Minority groups they were born into or not is still a bone for contention.

Which left me wondering, is it that Black people are not “British enough” to represent or manage a British newspaper, for I have nothing else to think of that could be deemed rational in the light of these findings. But whatever the reasons are for such domination of the Media by the white-middle-class-males, it is not something that will be easily ended soon I believe!

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Though the government says it has spent quite a bit of money on its regeneration, the old reputation of Peckham still seems to exist – a dangerous area known for its gang-related shootings and violence.

Before Peckham, Brixton was considered the crime hotspot in London but that notion is now outdated and South East London seems to be in people’s minds when speaking of crime. Children as young as 14 are being charged with murder and the number of gun-crime is soaring.

Most people will remember the death of Damilola Taylor, seven years ago, upon hearing the name Peckham. And many will even recall the poignant image of the mother who was shot dead whilst clutching her baby in her hands. Then a string of gun related incidents, and then, a few days ago, there was the 15-year old shot dead while he slept soundly in his bed. Another man was stabbed a few blocks away. What is London coming to?

With the soaring number of gun crimes, usually Black-on-Black, am we justified in saying that the Met’s Operation Trident is utterly futile and hopeless?

Also on Crime:
I was listening to the news this morning when they mentioned that the Met Police were searching for a 5-year old girl who, along with two other girls, mugged a 95-year old woman!

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