Banksy is an England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter. He is famous for a distinctive stencilling technique. His artistic works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. Banksy’s first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, billed as “the world’s first street art disaster movie,” made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In January 2011, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary for the film.
Over the last few years, Banksy reportedly strayed into making comment on Africa, its political and social problems. A commentator suggests that Banksy came down to Africa in person, something that can be concluded from the graffiti that started appearing on the walls of Malian cities, from Bamako to Timbuktu.
In Bambara language, the word ko-falen means “gift exchange.” Ko-Falen Cultural Center seeks to promote cultural, artistic and educational exchanges between the people of the United States and Mali through art workshops, dance, music and ceremony.
The 1980s could be summarized as the “Jekyll and Hyde” period of the New York Subway System. As the decade began, it had the filthiest trains, the craziest graffiti, the noisiest wheels, and the weirdest passengers. By the end of the decade, it had cleaner trains, no graffiti, quieter wheels — and the weirdest passengers.
One of the most well known graffiti artists in the world Richard “Richie” Mirando, known as Seen UA,
tagged many a train in the NYC area. Referred to as the Godfather of Graffiti, this Bronx-born artist started to paint on New York’s subway in 1973.
Faith47 is a self-taught contemporary street artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. She draws inspiration from existential questions. She is interested in juxtaposing political promises of a better life brought in with the post-Apartheid “New South Africa” and the harsh reality of the lives of most South Africans living on the streets.
“Keep your eyes peeled and your head up. The city wants to communicate and has something to tell you.” With these words begins a manifesto of the collective Brazilian project Olhe os muros. The idea is to collate the images and phrases left on the walls around Brazilian metropolises.
These two try to dissociate themselves from what graffitists do mainly because of the considerably negative attitude people have toward the latter. According to Whats On Kyiv, the law in Ukraine doesn’t differentiate between street art and doodling on the walls and anyone in possession of a spray can will be taken into custody and charged with hooliganism. A number of permits from the authorities can resolve the cul-de-sac situation, but it takes longer than painting a wall to obtain the authorization.
oversimptlistic treatment of the on-the-ground reality (good vs evil)
perennial patronizing attitude by the ignorant Westerners misrepresenting the complex truth to Western audiences
But really no-one studied the 30-min video from the point of view of media for development, taking into consideration the challenges and advantages of mass communication in the Web 2.0 age (See The 10 Commandments of Development Communicator). Because of the digital divide, it is still predominantly Western audiences that are able to implement social awareness campaigns on the scale similar to what the Invisible Children did. Besides, for many a nation in the non-Western world voluntarism is low on the public agenda – one half of the population is busy getting super rich, the other one is struggling to find enough food to survive. The stable middle class base is rare throughout the Majority World.
We disagree with Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama when he argues that the KONY 2012 campaign will not make Joseph Kony more famous. Instead, he suggests, “it will make Invisible Children famous.” Mr Izama overlooks the fact that any media campaign contributes to the increase in popularity of its producers. Especially if it is being banned or protested against.
As Tashi Tagg, a noted South African TV critic and pop culture expert from The South African TV Authority, noted in a conversation with Thinus Ferreira, a media expert, the South African broadcasters’ bru-ha-ha to yank a recent Nando’s Diversity ad off the air “gives Nando’s an edge on the advertising scene. It’s giving them loads of free advertising and buzz – everyone’s talking about them. Their ad is doing well on the internet and they don’t have to pay broadcasters to flight it. So it’s ultimately Nando’s who is winning.” Tashi Tagg also says that it gives Nando’s “loads of fodder for future campaigns. They can run with the copy: ‘Nando’s – so spicy … the broadcasters are too chicken to air our ads’,” she says.
The Nando’s Diversity TV commercial went viral and has amassed more than 400,000 views since June, 1 when the TV advert was posted. Another controversial Nando’s video “Last Dictator Standing” has amassed a stunning 1, 220, 000+ views since November 2011.
KONY 2012 did make Joseph Kony famous. The real practical question is for how long? With whom is he famous now? (Did he go viral in non-English-speaking countries like Kazakhstan?) And what did we in the Majority World countries learn from the Invisible Children campaign to tackle the numerous invisible issues at home? How can a media campaign of this kind mobilize any society in the world?
One issue to consider as a lesson learned from KONY 2012 is enhancing the democratic principle of representation. The famous dictum by Winston Churchill goes, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” It used to be for a long time (and in most parts of the world it still is) that, for the people to reign according to democratical principles, there had to be a person representing a group. The internet is changing that. As shown in KONY 2012, the Invisible Children campaigners used social networks to enhance the effect of their conversation with the representatives of the US people. Without the resonance of the Lord’s Resistance Army issue achieved by Facebook-empowered campaigns, no-one in Washington, D.C. wanted to talk about an obsolete warlord from Central Africa — Joseph Kony isn’t considered a threat to the US national security and, thus, there used to be no mechanism or interest among politicians to stop the violance perpetrated by his guerilla group.
Another issue that KONY 2012 made us think about is the celebrity factor. Say whatever you want but the media trick the video and the related to it campaign used to publicize the persona of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony is something to emulate in the future.
The Femai story has gone viral. As always in the UK, it is all about [President Robert] Mugabe and Zimbabwe. No mention at all that Femai is one of [Prime Minister Morgan] Tsvangirai’s men, one of the people that the British are actively supporting to take over.
The role of celebrity culture in media is huge. From George Clooney to Bono and Angelina Jolie, global celebrities (predominantly from the West rather than anywhere else–why, anynone?) promote social causes across the world and get celebrated (or criticized and, thus, publicized) along the way.
KONY 2012 did not invent this. What the campaign video did is to work with the reality that we live in and harness the celebrity factor to promote the cause Invisible Children fight for. The NGO identified the right celebrities and shaped public opinion with their help. Moreover, Invisible Children thought it through and applied the celebrity principles to the villain Kony to publicize his persona by using the United States political imagery and gimmicks. Whether wrong or right, this move did put Joseph Kony into the public mentality. It’s already a different question how to do it right to eliminate the problems Kony’s LRA troops are causing in the Central African region.
It’s easy to make a name for oneself by criticizing something that the US enthusiats did to help solve a problem that was low on their government’s agenda, something that went viral because of the efforts and media expertise of the US Americans. And before you criticize Steppes in Sync for this article, think of how many Africans (like Kofi Annan) work for the good of other nations and how expertised they are in this pursuit? Why was Open Doors founded by a Dutchman (one of those Westerners)? While a Zimbabwean Pentecostal leader Emmanuel Makandiwa or a Nigerian prophet TB Joshua are busy stirring controversy by picking up a new Mercedes or prophesising deaths of African presidents. (See Digitalizing religious discourse in Zimbabwe) Instead, these Africans could be doing their best to help the starving kids of Somalia or the persecuted Christians in North Korea?
It’s been almost a year since our founder, Andy Kozlov, talked about how Video Games Are Mapping Your World I. We decided to come back to the topic when we stumbled upon an old copy of PC Format. Their team did an awesome job mapping the world the way Sony makes PS gamers see it.
57% of games set in Europe are war games, with 57% of European games being set in the past – Old Ma’ Europe. Perhaps even larger percent of films and TV series in post-independence Ukraine is war-themed.
40% of UK games are set in London. What a surprise!
85% of games set in Africa have jungle settings. Another surprise!
57% of games set in Australia are sports games
Games set in Africa: Afrika (unnamed location), Far Cry 2 (Central Africa), Resident Evil 5 (Unnamed), Army of Two (Somalia), Little Big Planet (Unnamed), Sega Rally (Unnamed), Tomb Raider Legend (Ghana).
Sony came up with the games set even in Antarctica.
It is stunning how video games reflect the perceptions engraved into public mental maps of the world by other media: novels, TV series and movies. Just think of Scarface, Frankenstein or Wild Wild West.
Anic’s project manager Justin Arenstein says about encouraging journalists to innovate, “One of the ways that’s worked internationally is to dangle a very big carrot in front of them. It actually only took us two-and-a-half months to raise a million dollars.”
Initially the Omidyar Network (ON) put up $500,000 for the project. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, this organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. One of ON’s beneficiaries is Kenya’s Ushahidi.
Anic will work like this: at the formal launch this month, Anic’s advisory council and judging panel will be announced. Arenstein says these two bodies already include people from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), and Google.
In February, a call for entries will go out. “We envision a two- to three-month window period, during which people will post their idea on a public forum, and we’ll casually invite the rest of the industry to help refine that idea,” says Arenstein.
Winners will be announced in the third quarter of 2012, and then the hard work really begins. “We’ve tried to learn from what people have done in the US and Europe and elsewhere,” says Arenstein. “We’ve looked at the innovation funds that seem to have had an impact, like the Knight News Challenge. They’ve learnt from what works best, and what doesn’t work best.”
Money given to Anic awardees will be released in tranches, with each project receiving between $12,500 to $100,000 depending on its scope. With the backing of the African Media Initiative, the Omidyar Network, the International Centre for Journalists, Google, the Knight Foundation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the US Department of State, and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers – all of whom are contributing either funding or expertise – the African News Innovation Challenge has already garnered high-level support. Now it’s up to the journalists and media workers of Africa to meet the challenge.
And they have a good example to follow, the one set by the Anic’s project manager himself. Justin Arenstein is a multi-award winning investigative journalist based in South Africa but also working in Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland. He is currently holding a position of consultant on Google’s media engagement and content development in Africa, including strategies for journalistic toolkits and digital journalism experiments, data journalism projects, and digital migration. He is also a Vice President for the Jo’burg-based Association of Independent Publishers, Southern Africa’s largest umbrella association for independent grassroots newspapers, magazines, and ‘alternative’ print media.
One of his previous activities was rapid response consultant on digital strategies, media sustainability, mobile media and investigative journalism for ICFJ teams deployed into Sub-Saharan Africa.
Arenstein also worked as the publisher of HomeGrown Magazines, a pioneering South African publishing house that produces a network of lifestyle, business and tourism titles in some of the nation’s most rural provinces.
Specialising in government corruption, Arenstein heads the region’s only investigative pan-African news agency, African Eye News Service (AENS). The service currently reaches an estimated 1,5 million readers per day through its Audited Bureau of Circulation (ABC) accredited clients in South African, as well as extensive international Internet readership, and smaller readerships in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Tanzania.
Arenstein is also the Africa member for a loose consortium of international investigative reporters, and spearheaded its most successful trans-national investigation yet tracking a suspected chemical weapon dealer and fraudster from Israel, to Switzerland, South Africa, New York and finally to his Las Vegas hideout, where US Marshals arrested him based on press reports. The dealer, Moshe Regev/ Regenstreich, has been extradiated to Switzerland where he has been sentenced to 11yrs jail.
Arenstein’s earlier work sent a South African senator to jail on child rape charges, got five provincial cabinet members axed for corruption, Mpumalanga’s legislature speaker and deputy speaker jailed on fraud charges, a provincial wildlife parastatal CEO and senior political party officials arrested on corruption charges, blew the lid on a national fraudulent vehicle licence syndicate, uncovered a fraudulent government consultancy scam and resulted in criminal charges against a range of senior government and political party officials.
Arenstein’s reports also prevented three separate illegal deals that sought to secretly alienate public assets worth US$9,2 billion.
Further north of Southern Africa, there is currently only one higher-level architecture school in the whole of Francophone Africa. Located in Togo – Ecole africaine des métiers de l’architecture et de l’urbanisme (Eamau) in Lomé – is a small African school with thousands of African problems.
“This is an absurd but also highly interesting work, because it is a “plastic” social creation,” explains the architect. Never meant to be an opera in the European sense, the creative space in Burkina Faso is envisaged to provide stage for African performance and embrace various forms of creative expression including a film school, a theatre school and a recording studio.
Are there currently in the country the kind of professionals who will cater for the needs and requirements of such a space? According to Kéré, “Burkina Faso is a major center for African film production. Think for example of FESPACO, the biannual Pan-African Film & Television festival which is No.1 in Africa or the theatrical production of Ouagadougou. In recent years a major music festival has been developed as well. So I believe that the required specialists are indeed available.”
Chinese trends in African architecture
In the past Europe used to be the prototype for development in Africa, today it is China. Africans travel to China to buy cheap building material and they observe how the Chinese construct their buildings. Europeans invest much more time and thought in determining whether Africans need this kind of relationship. But in this they forget how impatient Africans are. Africans want speed and efficiency, they want to see results fast. This “gap” has come to be filled by the Chinese. (See SinS video We understand pictures. A Chinese in Zimbabwe)
Preoccupations against sustainable architecture are still strong. Many people regard building with clay as non-innovative. Soil or clay is still regarded as the “poor people’s” material.
In my own work I use clay in a way that produces a solid and long-lasting result but governments are still hard to convince. People have to recognize the upsides themselves and pressure officials for an expansion of such projects. But at the same time one can’t just wait for governments to be “forced” into sustainability either. This is where private institutions come into play, institutions that will support and promote this kind of work. Unfortunately, though, I haven’t seen any of them yet! I wonder where those major foundations with their recognizable names are, Bill Gates foundations etc.
The impression this situation leaves you with is that nobody is interested in trusting Africans with their own development. The inclination is for dependency to be perpetuated. Perhaps this is related to the fact that organizations which “make a living” out of development projects in Africa, fear that once Africa grows stronger they themselves will grow redundant. They claim to wanting to help, but how can they ever help when they repeatedly avoid teaching people to help themselves?
In my ten years on all my projects combined I have not spent more than 200, 000 euros. Yet every single one of them has proven award-winning and has been praised internationally. Were you to visit any of them, you would be impressed by their functionality. And still, no big organization has ever approached me to work with me. I have no idea what they’re waiting for.