April 2006

David McGuffin is the CBC’s Africa correspondent, based in Nairobi. Previously, he was bureau chief in Moscow for Feature Story News (FSN), a British broadcast news service with clients that include CBC Radio, National Public Radio, PBS and ABC News.

Read his story on Somalia’s Drought.

Free Hao Wu 释放吴皓
Day 55 of Hao Wu’s Disappearance.

Hao Wu (Chinese name:呉皓 “Wu Hao”), a Chinese documentary filmmaker who lived in the U.S. between 1992 and 2004, was detained by the Beijing division of China’s State Security Bureau on the afternoon of Wednesday, Febuary 22, 2006.

The Great Fire Wall disgusts me and so does every other wall erected in modern history – have we not learned yet that we cannot be separate from each other: that ideas always travel? That we are intertwined whether we like it or not. The internet is only one manifestation of this truth. Real people are not scared of walls – the Berlin wall, the Israeli wall, the eminent U.S. wall ostensibly to protect U.S. citizens against those dangerous Mexican immigrants. Real people will scratch at the wall one thin layer at a time; remove one stone at a time; crack one peice at a time, melt one cookie at a time.
Or maybe we’ll just burn down the whole f******g wall at once.
Awet N’Hafash: Victory for the Masses! This is not just a slogan, it is a way of being.

Light the Night

Before you all give up on me… allow me to post this entry today in hopes of appeasing my scant readers and sporadic commentators. I must admit that I have been giving disproportionate attention to other ‘blog-like’ fora on the www. I guess I just can’t help the incredible curiosity that overcomes me when invited to discussion groups such as “******” and “******* *** ********” and “** *”. I must join. I must participate until I get bored. But I always come back to the tried and true, afroBlog!

Right now, I am at school. I just got some excellent books from the library and was very excited to begin reading them – they’re for my thesis research; the topics are timely, relevant and clearly expressed. Ahhh! It’s like a fresh, cold and sweet piece of watermelon on a very hot summer day. So refreshing, so mouth-wateringly enticing! Anyhow, the subject of my post today is about how short-lived this excitement actually was.

After signing out the much-anticipated books, and feeling satisfied with the Table of Contents and some of the content therein, I decided to read up on the University of Toronto website. I read the Juno Award winners list as U of T boasts a community of many nominees and winners…

One of the Juno Award winners was former U of T Engineering student and Opera Soprano, Isabel Bayrakdarian and her husband, Pianist, Serouj Kradjian. (Serouj Kradjian’s CD Viardot-Garcia: Lieder Chansons Canzoni Mazurkas, with soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian wins at the 2006 Juno Awards.)

I had visited Isabel Bayrakdarian’s website before, only because her face was on the U of T website for a Christmas recital I believe…she is beautiful and it was interesting but I moved on. But this time I was in a trance. I kept reading and reading and reading. The books I took out from the library sat on the desk and seemed to be taunting me – every glance at them made me feel like Judas; yet I continued to read with much wide-eyed interest. I attended my first Opera at the Hummingbird Centre for Performing Arts in Toronto about two weeks ago. It was Alban Berg’s music drama entitled, “Wozzeck”. It was about a soldier whose life spirals out of control – the stage sets and acting were simply spectacular! I loved the experience (except for the fact that I drank 2 liters of water prior to going and had to go to the washroom the entire time. I looked around me at the serious crowd – a crowd who paid between $50-$175 for their ticket- and decided to stay put and to practice the art of continence. This was distracting at times since I tried not to laugh, or express any type of emotion for that matter, fearing my bladder’s betrayal. I’ll have you know that I may be an amateur but continence just might be my thing…and I still enjoyed the show.)

It is not as though I have this new love for Opera after seeing only one show, but a few coincidences have occured, prompting me to explore Opera much more and stop changing the channel everytime it’s featured on TV, such as: reading an article on Canadian Soprano, Measha Brueggergosman and then seeing her on a Person to Person interview on TVO’s Studio 2 with Paula Todd. After this I was invited to go see this Opera and decided to download some classical music on my iPod just to explore. It’s much better than I would have thought and although it isn’t hip hop, it will do from time to time.

So I am reading about the very talented couple, Bayrakdarian and Kradjian and I think to myself “hmm…‘ian’…they must be Aremenian” and sure enough, they are. It’s heartening that Bayrakdarian is becoming an expert on the music of Armenia’s iconic composer, Gomidas (1869-1935) and her husband has recorded an arrangement of songs, chamber music and orchestral works by Gomidas as well, due out in 2007. I idealized the natural harmony of working with someone who shares your vision and having them as your life partner – speaking the same language, sharing the same history, having the same passion for music…

…then I thought about discord. Didn’t the Armenians suffer a brutish genocide? Was the misery this community underwent somehow responsible for such a beautiful union? I think that at least partly this must be true. Do people from small nations and communities bear a responsibility to live for the collective historical memory? Must people who suffered stay together not only as a form of gene pool protection but also in order to preserve memories of the lost? Hmm…as an Eritrean, I really wondered hard about this. What is my obligation to love and marry an Eritrean? How committed am I to this notion? I then thought about the ugliness of this view on the flipside, and the many “isms” that it innocently encompasses: racism, patriotism, nationism, ethnocentrism, ….

This musical couple inspired my sudden unabashed -and, as my books lay conspicuously on the desk, untimely- interest in the Armenian genocide and Armenians in general. I had heard it called “the forgotten genocide” but have never really studied it. I felt so connected. Armenians are credited as the first nation to take on Christianity in the 4th century. In one week Coptic Orthodox Christians will be celebrating Easter, (or ‘Fasika’ as Tigrinya speakers call it.) Armenia has a population of just over 2.9 million, some estimates say a little more than 3 million – making it very close in number to Eritrea (about 3.5 million). There is a large Armenian Diaspora, with more living outside than inside of the country (and, again, the Eritrean diaspora is similarly large). Lastly, the Armenian alphabet looks like Ge’ez: the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the only official written language of Ethiopia practically up to the end of the nineteenth century. (See: Ethiopianhistory.com)

I have blogged about Ge’ez text before so the following will look familiar to you:

The evolution of Sabean into Ge’ez. (Asher 1149, Ethiopianhistory.com)

Tigranes II the Great of Armenia

Armenian independence from the Soviet Union was gained in 1991, the very same year Eritrea became independent. They celebrate their independence every September 21st, the very same day I was born…

The forgotten Genocide:

There are many things forgotten in history but very few are remembered to have been forgotten. Thankfully, the Armenian Genocide is among this list. (Although recently the Turkish government has spent millions on publicizing that there was no genocide…)

Hitler remembered to forget:

“In August 1939, Hitler justified his plan to destroy Poland and create a new order by asking, “Who remembers now the extermination of the Armenians?” Hitler’s rhetorical question acquired an ominous significance with the extermination of Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War. Many scholars have argued that the absence of justice in the case of the Young Turk government, guilty of crimes against the Armenian people during the First World War, led Hitler to believe he would not be held responsible for his own crime against humanity. This link between the two major genocides of the century has led scholars to focus more on the historical and political significance of the Armenian or “forgotten” genocide. ”

See also, Adolf Hitler’s Statement on the Armenian Genocide, 1942)

Light the Night Campaign: Let’s Remember on April 24th 2006

“On the eve of April 24th, we encourage all to “Light the Night” by lighting a candle through the night of the 23rd and into the morning of the 24th, in remembrance of the 1.5 million souls that fell victim to the annihilation machine of the Ottoman Empire. Each lit candle placed on the window sill will represent a soul lost throughout the years of 1915 and 1923. Together, let’s “Light the Night”; let’s vow to remember, to never forget, and to pursue justice and peace for all humanity.”

Having not yet read much of the books for my thesis, I have a deeper sense of the tendency of humanity to forget. I’m confident this pause for history will go a long way in reinvigorating my passion for telling the untold story. And what more is needed after passion? Ah yes, hard work – and this, my dear friends, will soon come.

…designed by my brother 15 year old brother Michael – especially for me!