Tuesday, 1 May 2007

OUTBLOGGING @ AFRICANPATH (III): ON THE "MISS LANDMINE ANGOLA" PROJECT...





I came across this story only yesterday, through the interesting blog Africa Media. From there, I followed a few links through which I realised just how much debate this issue has sparked around the blogosphere and beyond. As the Norwegian journalist Lena Lindgren put it, it is, indeed, a ‘Ethical Minefield’: “Ill-judged and patronising, an offensive, disgusting exploitation of African women", says Black Looks, “This is disgusting”, adds the Zimbabwean Pundit, “A travesty of beauty?”, asks the Guardian, to conclude: “brave and liberating or appallingly misjudged? Surely the question remains open”… So, what is it?

It all revolves around a project conceived and executed by Norwegian artist Morten Traavik and funded by the Arts Council of Norway to the tune of USD 80.000. So, it’s essentially an arts project involving a beauty pageant for the election of a “Miss Landmine Angola” out a selected group of 10 candidates, maimed by landmines, from different provinces of the country. According to the Guardian, citing the organisers, “the project currently exists as a website, but the plan is to create a fashion magazine in the style of Elle, Vogue and Cosmopolitan to showcase the contest." The organisers further say that "Angola was chosen over other potential countries, such as Afghanistan or Cambodia, because it has a relaxed and open attitude to physicality and sensuality, pretty much like Brazil and, unlike the highly politicised environments surrounding beauty pageants in the West, in Angola this is a natural kind of event, without any politics or controversy involved.”

In a way it is a good thing that I’ve run into this discussion just over a month after it seems to have reached its pick, because, hopefully, we can reignite it here, still ahead of the official launch of the project due to take place on May 26 in Norway, during the Bergen International Festival, sombrely enough at the Norwegian Leprosy Museum. I must confess that it wasn’t easy for me to align my own thoughts on this “ethical minefield”, but they can be summarised more or less like this:

I have never assigned much value to beauty contests of any kind and to me this is no exception. The basic reason being that such contests inevitably imply a pre-existing standard or concept of beauty, which cannot avoid being culture-specific and rarely escapes politics. Note in this respect that, contrary to what the promoters of this project argue, the conventional national beauty pageants in Angola are always all but free of controversy and certainly not exempt from politics – suffice to say that they are organised by the First Lady of the country… it doesn’t come more political than that, anywhere in the world!

Note also how the pictures exhibited on the project's official website show exactly what it is all about: western women applying make-up and nail polish to African women, almost all, if not all, villagers, at least half of whom having suffered their mine accidents while tending fields and are now, with just a couple or so of exceptions, unemployed. Certainly, these women won’t become “more beautiful” or "more empowered" in the eyes of their husbands, boyfriends, children, families and communities simply because they are photographed wearing make-up and nail polish, which after all will definitely not survive the tending of fields or street-vending activities through which those among them who have a job earn a living! Wouldn’t this suggest that USD 80.000 would go a long way towards funding job-creating activities for these women, their families and communities?!

It is also my contention that there is a fundamental misperception in the organisers view, according to which “beauty pageants in Angola are as ‘natural’ as in Brazil”… It may well be the case that the conventional provincial and national beauty contests organised in the capital cities of the country convey that idea of “a relaxed and open attitude to physicality and sensuality”, which to me reads like "an idea of licentiousness" more than anything else... However, in that conventional format, with or without influences from Brazil, they are precisely an import from Portugal, therefore the West, which instituted them in the colonial period. To my knowledge, they do not exist as such within the cultural and social fabric of the various Angolan ethnic groups from which these women emanate!

And I believe that, by selecting a minute group, not even representative of all provinces of the country, from which one will be elected as “the miss”, this project conflicts head-on with the fundamental sense and concept of “community” prevalent in the villages to which they belong, where, by norm, problems such as physical disability, specially if accidentally provoked as it is the case in point, are a matter for the families involved and the communities as a whole to resolve or minimise, with the assistance of the local and/or national authorities. Consequently, in my opinion, for this project to have the positive impact their organisers claim to promote, it should precisely address the issue of landmines' victims in an inclusive and holistic way and not, as it purports, by excluding the rest of the communities and the landmine-affected through the selection of a few and the election of one as “primus inter pares”…

Finally, the organisers adopted the motto “everybody has the right to be beautiful.” It seems to me that this phrase in itself encapsulates the central prejudice underlying the entire project : it sounds like, to them, this women are no longer “beautiful” after being maimed by landmines, so it will take a beauty pageant, some make-up, fancy clothes and accessories to “restore” or “devolve” them some kind of “beauty”… Isn’t this more than enough evidence that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (the beholder being, of course, Morten Traavik and the prospective viewer of his upcoming exhibition)?

What do you think?

(http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogEntry.cfm?blogEntryID=674)

***

P.S.: AOS MEUS QUERIDOS AMIGOS LEITORES EM PORTUGUES:

Inicialmente, era minha intencao escrever este post em Ingles e em Portugues, mas infelizmente, restricoes de tempo neste momento impedem-me de o fazer. Mas poderao consultar a versao em Portugues da website dos organisadores (aqui). Em resumo, ficaria grata pelas vossas opinioes sobre este projecto.

Obrigada pela vossa compreensao!





I came across this story only yesterday, through the interesting blog Africa Media. From there, I followed a few links through which I realised just how much debate this issue has sparked around the blogosphere and beyond. As the Norwegian journalist Lena Lindgren put it, it is, indeed, a ‘Ethical Minefield’: “Ill-judged and patronising, an offensive, disgusting exploitation of African women", says Black Looks, “This is disgusting”, adds the Zimbabwean Pundit, “A travesty of beauty?”, asks the Guardian, to conclude: “brave and liberating or appallingly misjudged? Surely the question remains open”… So, what is it?

It all revolves around a project conceived and executed by Norwegian artist Morten Traavik and funded by the Arts Council of Norway to the tune of USD 80.000. So, it’s essentially an arts project involving a beauty pageant for the election of a “Miss Landmine Angola” out a selected group of 10 candidates, maimed by landmines, from different provinces of the country. According to the Guardian, citing the organisers, “the project currently exists as a website, but the plan is to create a fashion magazine in the style of Elle, Vogue and Cosmopolitan to showcase the contest." The organisers further say that "Angola was chosen over other potential countries, such as Afghanistan or Cambodia, because it has a relaxed and open attitude to physicality and sensuality, pretty much like Brazil and, unlike the highly politicised environments surrounding beauty pageants in the West, in Angola this is a natural kind of event, without any politics or controversy involved.”

In a way it is a good thing that I’ve run into this discussion just over a month after it seems to have reached its pick, because, hopefully, we can reignite it here, still ahead of the official launch of the project due to take place on May 26 in Norway, during the Bergen International Festival, sombrely enough at the Norwegian Leprosy Museum. I must confess that it wasn’t easy for me to align my own thoughts on this “ethical minefield”, but they can be summarised more or less like this:

I have never assigned much value to beauty contests of any kind and to me this is no exception. The basic reason being that such contests inevitably imply a pre-existing standard or concept of beauty, which cannot avoid being culture-specific and rarely escapes politics. Note in this respect that, contrary to what the promoters of this project argue, the conventional national beauty pageants in Angola are always all but free of controversy and certainly not exempt from politics – suffice to say that they are organised by the First Lady of the country… it doesn’t come more political than that, anywhere in the world!

Note also how the pictures exhibited on the project's official website show exactly what it is all about: western women applying make-up and nail polish to African women, almost all, if not all, villagers, at least half of whom having suffered their mine accidents while tending fields and are now, with just a couple or so of exceptions, unemployed. Certainly, these women won’t become “more beautiful” or "more empowered" in the eyes of their husbands, boyfriends, children, families and communities simply because they are photographed wearing make-up and nail polish, which after all will definitely not survive the tending of fields or street-vending activities through which those among them who have a job earn a living! Wouldn’t this suggest that USD 80.000 would go a long way towards funding job-creating activities for these women, their families and communities?!

It is also my contention that there is a fundamental misperception in the organisers view, according to which “beauty pageants in Angola are as ‘natural’ as in Brazil”… It may well be the case that the conventional provincial and national beauty contests organised in the capital cities of the country convey that idea of “a relaxed and open attitude to physicality and sensuality”, which to me reads like "an idea of licentiousness" more than anything else... However, in that conventional format, with or without influences from Brazil, they are precisely an import from Portugal, therefore the West, which instituted them in the colonial period. To my knowledge, they do not exist as such within the cultural and social fabric of the various Angolan ethnic groups from which these women emanate!

And I believe that, by selecting a minute group, not even representative of all provinces of the country, from which one will be elected as “the miss”, this project conflicts head-on with the fundamental sense and concept of “community” prevalent in the villages to which they belong, where, by norm, problems such as physical disability, specially if accidentally provoked as it is the case in point, are a matter for the families involved and the communities as a whole to resolve or minimise, with the assistance of the local and/or national authorities. Consequently, in my opinion, for this project to have the positive impact their organisers claim to promote, it should precisely address the issue of landmines' victims in an inclusive and holistic way and not, as it purports, by excluding the rest of the communities and the landmine-affected through the selection of a few and the election of one as “primus inter pares”…

Finally, the organisers adopted the motto “everybody has the right to be beautiful.” It seems to me that this phrase in itself encapsulates the central prejudice underlying the entire project : it sounds like, to them, this women are no longer “beautiful” after being maimed by landmines, so it will take a beauty pageant, some make-up, fancy clothes and accessories to “restore” or “devolve” them some kind of “beauty”… Isn’t this more than enough evidence that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (the beholder being, of course, Morten Traavik and the prospective viewer of his upcoming exhibition)?

What do you think?

(http://www.africanpath.com/p_blogEntry.cfm?blogEntryID=674)

***

P.S.: AOS MEUS QUERIDOS AMIGOS LEITORES EM PORTUGUES:

Inicialmente, era minha intencao escrever este post em Ingles e em Portugues, mas infelizmente, restricoes de tempo neste momento impedem-me de o fazer. Mas poderao consultar a versao em Portugues da website dos organisadores (aqui). Em resumo, ficaria grata pelas vossas opinioes sobre este projecto.

Obrigada pela vossa compreensao!

13 comments:

Nick said...

I am still thorn between your arguments and the justifications given by the organizers. When/if I manage to get round it I'll get back to you on this one.
It would also be interesting to know what the angolans themselves have to say about it.

Nick

Koluki said...

Ok, I'll be waiting for your "(un)thorning".
I just hope you are referring to the Angolans inside the country itself... because, malgre' tout, I still and will always hold myself as an Angolan (simply impossible to be otherwise) and what you read here is an Angolan's opinion...
Having said that, you can actually see in the organiser's website that they are in broad partnership with a number of Angolan institutions and individuals...

Koluki said...

Comments @ Africanpath:

Added: May 02, 2007 03:58 PM



Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder. I don't know if the presentation for this pageant works for me in the aesthetic sense. I would rather prefer to see this women as I would if I met them on the streets. Interacting and doing regular activities and for that matter looking as regular as they would if they tried going out on a date or dressing up.

As for the purpose of this project. I think the idea is a noble one. But it rings more of "lets help someone one with what we know regardless of how it sits with the recipient". I have gotten into arguments about this issue time and again. You can't force one to be thankful because you assisted them. Their gratitude is a reflection of how much your assistance changes or impacts their needs.

In this case, I find it falling short of addressing real issues. It is a nice try buy missing the mark.

By:
Joshua

---------------


Contemporary art is ment to raise awareness

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for writing this interesting and awareness raising blog piece. But while I agree that there is nothing of apolitical about beauty contests in Angola and while I understand where you are coming from when you denounce the chemically infused concept of beauty in the West vis-à-vis an alleged African one, I must say that I wholeheartedly disagree with you on some of the concerns you've raised.
I see this project primarily as an artistic project, which intent is probably to be as shocking and eye- opening as possible. I absolutely agree with you when you mention that the money could have been allocated to other venues that would create jobs, and raise the quality of life of these women, but in order to raise funds for this type of cause it is paramount that awareness is created first before raising money, even by raising a few eyebrows and even if controversy is necessary. In one of the pages it states the following about one of the candidates:

Miss MOXICO
Maria da Fatima Conceicao (19)
City: Luena
Mine accident: 1999,
tending fields
Marital Status: Boyfriend
Kids: 1st on its way
Occupation: Can do everything,
but there is no job
Dream job: Boss
Favorite color: Green

This is an absolute mockery of the type of questions they ask to the so-called beauty “ambassadors of our provinces”, and their answers are so “wonderlandish” that it puts the country to shame.
Now, being this a project that will most likely be exposed in the west, I couldn't have thought of a better way to attract attention to a reality of my country. That reality is that as of today and for the next years to come, generations will have to face the atrocities of the mines implanted on our ground during the cold war every time a mine takes away the life of a child who was playing, or a mother who was fetching water 20km away from home.

"Miss Landmine", I believe, will definitely attract even the most apathetic minds. Or at least more so as if it were to be the same old exhibition of black and white pictures depicting poor dirt-covered and crying "victims of landmines". I believe that without putting this reality in this blasphemous way, very few would actually realize how this women got into being victims of a war they never wanted, or how they lost a leg or an arm tending the fields and trying to provide for their families.

Surprising as you may find, this is a reality that Angolans face everyday, in the corners of streets, during traffic jams, and in their houses, and as shocking and distasteful as it is, I am glad that someone out there is using this approach to wrap the problem in a new package.

Above all, I think that you've looked at this project with a subconscious disdain for western projects on an African issue. Would you have looked at it the same way if the models were burnt meth addicts in the Midwestern USA? And make up was being applied to them, and that they would be part of a beauty contest?. I don't think that what this campaign is trying to say through their motto is that women, after the accidents, have lost their beauty; in contraire...As a matter of fact Angolans in Luanda are conspicuously materialistic, and do care about looking good, and do care about make-up and fancy clothes. In fact, we tend to act as if this is some alien issue to us, that of the landmine victims. Going through the website, I felt my heart shrinking, those women are not the ebonies, Barbie legs-type that you see during the “Miss Angola” ceremonies. This women are pregnant, they even have hair under their arms, and they look like my aunts and neighbors.

I think that what Morten Traavik was trying or is trying to convey is the idea that Angola has been putting too much emphasis on women who are not handicapped, or he is making a travesty of the beauty contests against a notorious background of decadence that Angola’s society has come to be. The way I see this is more as a political statement than an exploratory endeavor for a westerner yuppie on African issues. I will leave you with a question: if Angolan women with both legs and arms have the right to participate in a beauty contest, why shouldn’t handicapped women do the same? The sad reality is that if I was to have lost a leg under those circumstances and felt that I could participate in a Miss contest, would you think I’d have a chance in Angola? knowing that this is a reality that we cannot run away from, if I was to be denied participation that then would be controversial!

another thing, these women come from regions that present the highest concentration of landmines in the country

By:
Nyanga Viandi Tyitapeka



------------------------

Added: May 02, 2007 04:54 PM

Points

Those are some very strong points you have raised there Nyanga.

By:
Joshua


------------------

Added: May 03, 2007 01:40 AM

Good!


Hi Nyanga,

Let me first congratulate you on your command of the English language, being an Angola living in Luanda and particularly having such an African-sounding name!

I really appreciate your long and strongly argued argument, because that’s precisely what I was hoping to achieve with this article. But since it is so long and wide-reaching, I will try to just make a few comments on some excerpts from it.

“I understand where you are coming from when you denounce the chemically infused concept of beauty in the West vis-à-vis an alleged African one, I must say that I wholeheartedly disagree with you on some of the concerns you've raised.”

I’m not sure that you understand where I’m coming from because I do not “denounce the chemically infused concept of beauty in the West vis-à-vis an alleged African one”… All I say is that concepts of beauty are always culture-specific, with this meaning that as much as there is a “Western” (I actually think this is too wide a definition) concept of beauty , there is also a “African” concept of beauty (not an “alleged” one). In fact I am sure that there are many African and Western concepts of beauty… and I find it unnatural to impose either of them onto others. I would be equally reticent if I saw African women applying their traditional beauty products, clothes or hairdresses to European women in Europe to make them “beautiful”…

“I see this project primarily as an artistic project, which intent is probably to be as shocking and eye- opening as possible. I absolutely agree with you when you mention that the money could have been allocated to other venues that would create jobs, and raise the quality of life of these women, but in order to raise funds for this type of cause it is paramount that awareness is created first before raising money, even by raising a few eyebrows and even if controversy is necessary.”

All I claim about this is that the USD 80.000 already raised would go a long way towards job-creating community-based projects which would have a more relevant and long-lasting impact on these women and their communities lives. Furthermore, it goes without saying that this project is not in any way pioneering on landmine-awareness in Angola or anywhere else in the world… Suffice to remember that the highest profile campaign on landmines was precisely performed in Angola, many years ago, by the late Lady Diana Spencer. And even before, but particularly since then, continuous work for removal of landmines in practically the entire country (not just half plus one of its provinces as represented by the candidates to this contest…) has painstakingly taken place with the material, technical and financial support of many reputable international, regional and national institutions.

“Above all, I think that you've looked at this project with a subconscious disdain for western projects on an African issue. Would you have looked at it the same way if the models were burnt meth addicts in the Midwestern USA? And make up was being applied to them, and that they would be part of a beauty contest?. I don't think that what this campaign is trying to say through their motto is that women, after the accidents, have lost their beauty; in contraire...As a matter of fact Angolans in Luanda are conspicuously materialistic, and do care about looking good, and do care about make-up and fancy clothes. In fact, we tend to act as if this is some alien issue to us, that of the landmine victims. Going through the website, I felt my heart shrinking, those women are not the ebonies, Barbie legs-type that you see during the “Miss Angola” ceremonies. This women are pregnant, they even have hair under their arms, and they look like my aunts and neighbors.”

My dear, I absolutely do not look at this project with any sort of disdain for western projects, subconsciously or otherwise… In fact, I have the utmost respect for many western projects, particularly European, on many African issues, including landmines. Just to mention one Norwegian Institution that for many years has been doing a highly commendable work in many areas of social, humanitarian, cultural and economic uplifting in African countries, I would cite the Norwegian Council for Africa! So, you are absolutely wrong there. Would you also say that the British journalist from the Guardian who questions the morality of the project, or Linda Lindgren, a Norwegian who talks of an “ethical minefield” , just to mention these two, also “looked at this project with a subconscious disdain for western projects on an African issue”?

As for the materialistic and decadent culture in Luanda, that’s precisely my point: these women are not from Luanda! In fact, the answers they gave to the “mock” questions allegedly put to them could well serve as a clear indication of what the concerns of the majority in their situation are: finding jobs, getting gainable employment, pursue higher studies (one even says that wants to be an economist!) build a career! There’s no indication whatsoever that they were dying to participate in beauty pageants in Luanda, with or without legs, and being elected “miss whatever”! So, I can only regret that it takes “exhibitions” of this sort to call the attention of some Angolans to their problems and needs and, like you, “feel their hearts shrinking”… And if that is indeed the case, then I can only further regret this project because it’s only a minute minority of Angolans, in which you seem to be included, that has access to the internet and to magazines like Elle, Cosmo, etc, where they intend to run their “campaign” after the planned exhibition at the Norwegian Leprosy Museum!

“I think that what Morten Traavik was trying or is trying to convey is the idea that Angola has been putting too much emphasis on women who are not handicapped, or he is making a travesty of the beauty contests against a notorious background of decadence that Angola’s society has come to be. The way I see this is more as a political statement than an exploratory endeavor for a westerner yuppie on African issues. I will leave you with a question: if Angolan women with both legs and arms have the right to participate in a beauty contest, why shouldn’t handicapped women do the same? The sad reality is that if I was to have lost a leg under those circumstances and felt that I could participate in a Miss contest, would you think I’d have a chance in Angola? knowing that this is a reality that we cannot run away from, if I was to be denied participation that then would be controversial!”

My friend, on this last paragraph I cannot avoid the feeling that you are way too close to Traavik’s ideas and intentions for comfort… I couldn’t see any of this coming out of the statements I read from him. In any case, if that was his idea, why not then promote a beauty pageant involving both handicapped and non-handicapped people? And why not both men and women? In the name of “art” I guess it would go and be even more effectual in terms of generating controversy, wouldn’t it? In any case, you start by making a point about this being a “contemporary art project” and finalise by making it essentially a “political statement”… which is it? I wouldn’t mind if it were both, but that’s not what one can infer from his interview to Lena Lindgren…

In any case, my sincere thanks for your well argued comment!


By:
Koluki

sokari said...

I have little more to add to my original post on this and the resulting comments. There is just one addition that comes to mind and that is the "trophy" for the winner is a "custom made golden prosthesis" so upon every other insult and exploitative aspect of this hideous project is the idea that women survivors of landmines - amputees - are asked to enter into a prosthesis competition.

There is nothing told about the lives of the women, their families,their communities, their work, the context of their injuries - just painted mannequins dressed up by white people with bottles of champaign in the back ground. Enough said

Koluki said...

Sokari,

All I have to add to what you and others with whom I agree, and on top of what I've also said, is that the author of this project is just a terribly sorry excuse for an artist...

Very sad indeed!

Koluki said...

More comments from Africanpath:

Added: May 03, 2007 04:06 PM

Dear Koluki,

Once again thank you for the time. I must say that you have refuted my points with some mastery. Nonetheless, you failed to understand the gist of my argument and I believe that it is because you simply find this campaign distasteful. It’s unfortunate that you refuse to see this in another light.
What I argued for in my response to your posting is that this issue deserves a lot more attention than it has been given to before, and what you did through your posting was to denigrate it a noble campaign. I quote the press release that anyone can see in the website: “We hope to be able to highlight the landmine survivors’ situation in Angola. If the concept succeeds, maybe we can stage “Miss World Landmine” next year, says Morten Traavik to Nettavisen. Miss contests are hugely popular in Angola, and the event is therefore expected to generate much attention”
These types of "disasters" deserve new campaigns on a regular basis, at least until the issue is resolved. I am familiar with Lady Di's efforts to raise global awareness on landmine victims, especially Angolans; however, the memory that people have of any campaign of this sort tends to fade rapidly. I was not even in high school when she died and I know that her work has helped raise funds to expedite the process of eradicating landmines in our country, it has failed, on the other hand to demote the US from commercializing them.
I believe that every year AIDS/HIV campaigns are made, as well as campaigns to raise awareness on drug abuse. It's a given fact that the more shocking the campaign, the more headlines it will generate thus achieving the goal that inspired them in the first place. With that in mind, I think that we ought to look at these pictures and this contest and reflect on their impact on the people that will see it and on the lives of the women who participate in it. I quote again, “Morten Traavik has worked as both director and actor in Norway and abroad since 1998. He describes the project as a “mix of art and aid”. We hope to be able to highlight the situation of landmine survivors in Angola.”

As an Angolan I believe that this is just another opportunity to turn heads towards an issue that is so close to our hearts. I don't think that these women were forced to pose for the pictures and participate. There is nothing degrading to Angolan women or handicapped women about this project. Even knowing they are handicapped, they haven't ceased to expose themselves for the world to see them and to discuss the issue. That’s what’s important and so peculiar about us- Angolans. I’ve been residing in the US for a while and knowing how involved this country has been with Angola’s internal affairs, in the production of landmines which they refuse to cease to commercialize and promote up to this day. It boggles my mind how many people here are oblivious to the facts. My last few questions on my response were simply rhetorical, never did I meant to say these women are “dying to participate in such a contest”. And in regards to Morten’s political statement I quote the artists words for everyone to see how you’ve looked at Miss Landmine with so much emotion and not enough reason:
“I perceive much of the reference-heavy, so-called political art to be sheltering behind an attitude of well-groomed irony that rarely becomes more than a set of internal references. To be honest, I m really opposed to the whole term “political art”, more often than not it’s founded on some kind of vanity, a desire to make yourself important. Naturally I definitely expose myself to those very same interpretations of my motives for this project, but I believe there is a difference : This is also a concrete humanitarian initiative, that aims to have long-term effects in Angola. (…) Not so much money as attention. There’s not much focus on the landmine survivors’ situation in Angola [sic] adding that one shouldn’t allow oneself to be paralyzed by fear of appearing imperialistic.
I can’t free myself from the fact that I’m white and Western, and I’ll just have to live with the risk of being interpreted in that light. I think it’s time to rid ourselves of collective Western guilt. To the extent that I’m going to play a role, I’d most fancy being cast as the naive Norwegian with his rucksack going out to make peace in the world. I don’t mind being him.”
Moreover, This is a project on landmines ONLY, not for the men and the women with intact limbs to participate. As you attacked: “My friend, on this last paragraph I cannot avoid the feeling that you are way too close to Traavik’s ideas and intentions for comfort… I couldn’t see any of this coming out of the statements I read from him. In any case, if that was his idea, why not then promote a beauty pageant involving both handicapped and non-handicapped people? And why not both men and women? In the name of “art” I guess it would go and be even more effectual in terms of generating controversy, wouldn’t it?”. Yes, this is contemporary art, whether it is openly expressed or not.

To finalize, I must stress that I never intended to attack you, and that’s what I got back from you. It’s somehow disappointing. You took the freedom, however, to say, “I can only regret that it takes “exhibitions” of this sort to call the attention of some Angolans to their problems and needs and, like you, “feel their hearts shrinking”… And if that is indeed the case, then I can only further regret this project because it’s only a minute minority of Angolans, in which you seem to be included, that has access to the internet and to magazines like Elle, Cosmo, etc.” I have indeed been away from my country for a while, I get to visit every Christmas, I get to see this, and my heart is always going to shrink, whether I see this live or on the media. But let’s not start a whole debate on who is more of a patriot, me or you, because that’s not what’s in question. What’s in question are the things that you inferred from an interview that was very straightforward. As a matter of fact, what’s in question is probably your brilliance, your competence and what you envision for Angola.

Respectfully,

By:
Tyitapeka



Added: May 03, 2007 06:50 PM

Sorry...

Tyitapeka,

Let me be very straightforward (as this seems to be a word you are so fond of), if nothing else because I am just a few hours away from a very long trip and do not have time for more at the moment:

1. For various reasons, I do not believe that you are an Angolan… sorry! I have my real name, my picture, my email address, my URL and lots of personal details about me on my blog and elsewhere. I would like to know as much about you, as well as where exactly in Angola you were born and when, where did you live before going to the US, details about your family, your community, your friends in Angola… and I would be very grateful for that!

2. I did not insult you. All I did, or at least tried to do, was to counter-argue, as reasonably as I possibly could, the arguments you put forward. But now you finish with this: “As a matter of fact, what’s in question is probably your brilliance, your competence and what you envision for Angola.” Is this anything less of a “straightforward” insult?!

3. My dear, once again, I appreciate your seemingly “heartfelt” support for this project, but please don’t count on me to feed it or your dear friend’s “vision for Angola”…

Thanks for your understanding!

By:
Koluki

Nick said...

My dear,

I understand your contention, but I'd be even more straightforward: having done a "post-Morten", specially after his second comment, I have little doubt that "Tyitapeka" is none other than Mr. Traavik himself or, at the very least, one of his team members!
Of course I could be wrong, but as far as I'm concerned everything in his comments point in that direction. And that's a shame, because I'm now totally "dethorned" - guess to which side of the argument?

Cheers!

Koluki said...

Thanks Nick, for putting words in my mouth that I wish I could have said myself!
..."Tyipateka's" silence on details about his/her "angolanity" speaks volumes... enough said!

Cheers!

Koluki said...

Yet more comments from Africanpath:


Added: May 07, 2007 04:01 PM

Background

My name is Nyanga (from the city and natural park in Zimbabwe) Viandi Tyitapeka (a family name from southern Angola, Cunene). I was born in Luanda, 1983. My mother is from Huambo an Epalanga and Chipenda. My father is from Huila. I think that this information suffices. In case it doesn't, I'm pretty sure we will see each other one day.

By:
Nyanga V. Tyitapeka


Added: May 08, 2007 12:30 PM

Thanks!

Thanks for the information.
But I'm still sorry for not being able to believe that someone born in Luanda in 1983 (by the way, that was many years before Lady Di was in Angola...) of a father from Huila and a mother from Huambo, would have a family name from Kunene and a name from Zimbabwe... It's possible, as just about anything, but nor part of any angolan ethnic group's culture.
So, sorry again!

(As for meeting each other, the only person who can be sure of that is you... I've never seen your picture...)

Koluki.

By:
Koluki

Maria Victória said...

Well....well.....
Apesar das minhas dificuldades em Inglês, li devagarmente os comments de todos os participantes.
Quando li o artigo a primeira vez, foi em dias muito ocupados, pois meu filhote jovem estava envolvido em projecto que o fez partir para Londres e não tive tempo de aqui vir postar de forma envolvida...pensada.
De facto, podemos ver este evento de várias prespectivas e até sou capaz de compreender e dar alguma razão ao seu criador e executor ( oxalá Morten Traavik saiba português....é a língua oficial de Angola).
Por vezes chocamo-nos e ofendemo-nos com ideias diferentes e inusitadas.
É verdade!....
Não é menos verdade que quase sempre são essas ideias e projectos que conseguem mover montanhas inamovíveis, precisamente pela controvérsia, pela chamada de atenção sobre o assunto em questão : as vítimas das minas terrestres.
Talvez seja um desajuste de percepção causado pelas diferentes posturas culturais e diferentes sensibilidades.Talvez não.....
Os artistas precisam e gostam de protagonismo.É-lhes vital!
Pode haver aqui uma explicação.Traavik é jovem!Os jovens representam sempre o diferente, a contestação do estabelecido, a irreverência, a provocação.....afirmam-se assim muitas vezes e, particularmente os artistas, fazem-no concerteza sempre que desejam ser reconhecidos.
Cocerteza que Traavik foi convincente junto dos parceiros nacionais e internacionais, se não não teria conseguido os patrocínios e facilidades para executar o projecto.
De qualquer modo, o que importa é ESPERAR para ver se é um projecto com consistência, que produza os resultados esperados : chamar atenção da comunidade internacional para esta realidade dramática e não um simples desejo de fazer Turismo de Calamidade (desculpem a dureza da expressão, mas gosto muito dela para certas circunstâncias).
De qualquer forma, também acredito que a deficiência deveria ser naturalmente mostrada, pois na sociedade ocidental, particularmente em Portugal isso é notório, é escondida....muito escondida.
A este propósito, vi um dia, nos catálogos do IMAGINARIUM (catálogos e lojas de brinquedos e artigos para crianças) a fotografia de um delicioso bebé, com um briquedo na mão e era uma criança com trissomia.Fiquei tão cheia de mim de contente....tão cheia, nem imaginem!Penso que crianças ou adultos com deficiência deveriam poder naturalmente partcipar nos catálogos de modas (daqueles que nos vêm para a casa para escolhermos roupa por encomenda).A deficiencia tem de ser desmistificada e olhada com naturalidade e não paternalismo, nem falsos pudores ou compaixões pateticas.O cidadão com deficiência DEVE e TEM DIREITO A TUDO o que os outros TÊM.Deste prisma, pode-se dizer que o projecto é válido, mas.....porque tem de vir sempre a ideia e implemetação de fora...........ser da lavra alheia!?
Não quero ser etnocentrista....eu mesma estou cheia de ideias e projectos que considero muito válidos para desenvolver em Angola no âmbito do combate à pobreza e miséria, mas só acharei válido um projecto destes se cumprir objectivos que vão de encontro à intenção aparente de CHAMAR A ATENÇÃO E ATRAIR AJUDAS SUBSTANCIAIS PARA A RECUPERAÇÃO E INCLUSÃO SOCIAL E PROFISSIONAL DOS DEFICIENTES DE GUERRA E DAS MINAS TERRESTRES. Caso contrário será mais uma brincadeira que cairá no esquecimento com a convência dos patrocionadores quer nacionais, quer intenacionais.Triste se for isso.......
Abraços

Koluki said...

YET MORE COMMENTS ON THIS POST @ AFRICANPATH:

Added: May 08, 2007 01:02 PM

Does it matter

Does it matter if Nyanga is Angolan? I think her views are valid. Why does she have to justify her heritage?

By:
Biafra


Added: May 08, 2007 10:15 PM

Say what?

Koluki, wow I must admit you have covered this topic from every conceivable angle. I have wanted to comment on some of your work , prior to this one too. Basically to say that you really know your stuff.

Anyhow, on the topic at hand it is hard for me to form an immediate opinion on how beneficial or detrimental this type of attention is to the women and their communities. As you hae illustrated most issues and topics have more than one or two sides.

1) The sides that stick out to me are that yes mines are dangerous and should be alleviated. (Though, it's hard for me to figure out how this could stop it)

2) That as Josh has pointed out beauty is very subjective. But, as you have mentioned these sorts of pageants do somehow introduce some interesting dynamics-namely seeing defining local beauty through foreign eyes.

3) I know this contradicts point # 1, but this sort of event does generate international press coverage.

4) How do these sorts of events make the women feel? Does it add insult to the injury, when one is chosen over the other? Does it objectify women?

I mean there are just so many issues bubbling beneath the surface of this topic that the only way to get a near perfect read on it would be to poll the families, the communities, and the contestants themselves to ask them did this bring any benefits, did it do nothing, or did it do harm by bringing false hope?

Whatever the case, one thing for sure is that people will be talking about this for a long time to come.

Great job, as always.

By:
Benin



Added: May 15, 2007 10:48 AM

Obrigada!

Benin,

Thanks again, my brother, for your kind and insightful comments and observations.
We shall keep this discussion open as there is still some time to go until the planned main events take place, both in Angola and Norway.

P.S. If "Tyipateka" hadn't claimed to be Angolan that wouldn't matter... In any case, I invite him/her to visit my blog and comment on this issue in Portuguese!

By:
Koluki


Added: May 17, 2007 04:53 PM

Not all angolans think the same

Thank you Biafra for your such very very pertinent comment. What does it matter? Does it make me less of an African/Angolan to agree with this project and to try to understand where this white guy is coming from, Koluki? Is that why you don't want to admit that I, like you, am Angolan? Because I have embraced this idea that is degrading to Angola (in your opinion)? Then MAYBE in your opinion, I am conspiring with the devil, the colonizer, the white man. Angolans are so westernized themselves that they hold beauty contests!! I didn't hear you criticizing that. Well, you are going to say that the westernized Angolans represent a very small percentage of Angolans, the ones with money and blah blah blah… But lets face it Koluki, Angola like any other countries is trying to catch up with the rest of the world. (And we all know that catching up - in this globalized world- means abiding by the western standards of development and life style) And here you have this guy from Norway trying to bring attention to this issue, where no one else cares about our country unless they want diamonds or oil, and what you do? You bash him! And I admire you for that, because that is your right. To pass on a judgment and express it. But my question is, should all Angolans be on your side and say, good job? I am very happy that there are diverse thoughts about this issue from Angolans. We don't have to agree(and the fact that we can discuss these issues without getting too emotional, is a good sign too- given our history of civil war. It is also very salutary that I challenged your views and vice versa). I don't think I have to go to your blog or post a picture because none of that is indicative of my Angolan origin. How would you react if my complexion was white? What would you say if my complexion was that of an Asian?...this is all very relative and very dangerous too. It is this belief that I am more angolan than you because of what I believe that has kept us undeveloped and poor. As a matter of fact, if I was something else other than Angolan, I could just ask one of my Portuguese friends to write on your blog for me...didn't that occur to you? Come on! you are too bright to be worried about my origin. What is in question is the impact of Miss Landmine, or am I wrong?

De qualquer das maneiras minha cara conterranea, eu devo frizar que um dia, eu espero, possamos conversar e discutir outros assuntos pessoalmente.

Os meus respeitosos cumprimentos,

Nyanga Viandi Tyitapeka

(da Rua Comandante Nzage, Luanda; perto da Radio Nacional, nao muito longe da Sagrada Familia)

By:
Nyanga V Tyitapeka or Tchitapeka



Added: May 17, 2007 07:59 PM

SORRY... EVER SO SORRY AGAIN!

Quite honestly, "Tyipateka", you're very fortunate because I managed to find some idle time to feed, once again but hopefully for the last time, your desperate attempts at defending the indefensable with such unsound "arguments" because, "my compatriot", in the way of arguments you keep contradicting yourself and showing over and over again that you simply have none! ... Just a boring and totally unconvincing repetition of the sorry excuses for this project by your Norwegian pal, to such a point that I just don't feel minimally motivated to engage in any sort of more profound discussion with you on this matter because your arguments are just so weak that I feel sorry for you and would rather not embarass you any further...
If you plan to come back on this, please at least bear in mind the following: it was you, not me, who brought to the fore being Angolan or not to have a "legitimate" point about this issue and raised a challenge about who was "more Angolan than thou"... and after that you totally failed to convince anyone who knows anything about Angola, Angolans and their Culture that you are an Angolan, living in Angola, in the USA, or anywhere else in the world for that matter; it wasn't me who started the "bashing" of this Norwegian "angel" and his "humanitarian project"... it was Black Looks, The Zim Pundit, The Guardian, etc. etc. etc.! It just so happens (to those who haven't noticed it yet) that you are specially compelled to take an issue with ME about my position, and in the process insult me personally, because the worst that can possibly happen to your "wonderful project" is that a REAL ANGOLAN raises against it... so far, all you've got in the way of support in Angola are institutions and individuals that will embrace just about anything that has the potential to raise their international profile... but would be the first to withdraw their support for this most unfortunate project as soon as enough objections inside and outside the country are raised in such a way as to jeopardise their internal and external reputation!

And yes, I'm perfectly aware that you could resort to any portuguese person or online translation device to comment in my blog in the Portuguese language, as I was always aware that you could just resort to any online or personal sources of information about African names and Angolan backgrounds the same way "your pal" got those "interesting backgrounds" about those women... but still, I took the safe "risk" to challenge you on that... and you TOTALLY failed the challenge!

SORRY ABOUT THAT... AGAIN!!!

By:
Koluki

Koluki said...

I just found another blog with an interesting take on this issue. Check it out here:

http://fruitfemme.blogspot.com/2007/03/m-is-not-for-miss-landmine.html

Anonymous said...

Sou angolana e também duvido se esse ou essa tal Nyanga é mesmo angolana também. Estudei nos States por isso compreendo bem o Inglês e sei distinguir quando é escrito por um angolano, ou africano, ou não.
Outra coisa que é preciso saber é que em Angola, por lei do registo civil e da identificação dos nacionais, os nomes têm que ser compostos por pelo menos um nome bíblico, que é normalmente um nome português e o nome de família, sendo os nomes tradicionais facultativos. Por isso duvido que esse nome seja de alguém nascido e registado em Angola.


Maria Benvinda Soares (Lobito)