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Treating refugees as the problem is the problem

Originally posted on nowt much to say:

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I hadn’t heard of Anja Reschke until a few days ago. She’s a German newsreader who, in the midst of the “migrant crisis” in Calais, used her slot on prime time evening television recently to brilliantly express her anger at the “little racist nobodies” who continue to attack refugees and asylum seekers, adding that “there is a mind boggling number of people that are doing lots for refugees, who are not racist, and I think it’s their voice that should be dominant rather than a handful of simpletons who think they should stir up hatred”. If only we could look forward to a similar tirade from the likes of Sophie Raworth or Huw Edwards. I’m not holding my breath though.

Sadly, the British television coverage of Calais has been altogether more mundane and predictable. The other night I watched James Brokenshire, the Minister of State for Security and Immigration, being…

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Ears still ringing

tramlines

That’s what Billy Bragg tweeted, after his set at the Leadmill, which brought [my] 2015 Tramlines to an inspiring and emotional close.  Mine too.  It was bloody brilliant.

wristbandFor me, Tramlines isn’t about the headliners – we didn’t get to the Ponderosa this year, not because there weren’t some great bands on, but because what we love is stumbling across and being delighted by bands we’ve never heard of, and enjoying the music in the multiplicity of venues around the city centre.  To go from dancing to ska and afrobeat in the Peace Gardens to drinking Moonshine in the Cathedral (how deliciously transgressive is that) whilst listening to ‘experimental finger-style’ acoustic guitar, or rocking our socks off in the City Hall ballroom – that’s Tramlines.

I don’t know what the total numbers were, but the crowds around town were astonishing.  So many performers, looking out at us all from the various stages, seemed genuinely stunned by how many of us there were, and by our enthusiasm, our willingness to jump about, dance and cheer.  Maybe I’m naive, maybe I only see the best because I love my city and I love this festival, but there didn’t seem to be, despite the crowds and the fact that there had, most certainly, been drink taken, the level of ugliness that one might normally see on a Saturday night in town. I saw no aggression, only people being communal, enjoying the music together, being excellent to one another, and partying on.

lewrey downtown roots soulcrates

My Tramlines this year was:

  • Friday night:  Awooga, Lone Wolf (City Hall); Rawshack, Beth Frisby (Millennium Gallery)
  • Saturday: Bongo & the Soul Jars, Soulcrates Syndicate (Peace Gardens); Jim Ghedi (Cathedral); Smiling Ivy. Hot Diamond Aces (Cathedral); Blessa, Slow Club (Devonshire Green); Ultimate Painting (Cathedral)
  • Sunday: Chris Cooper Band, Downtown Roots (City Hall); Lewrey, Blossomer (Cathedral); Stealing Sheep, Billy Bragg (Leadmill)

Not a bad weekend’s worth of music and I reckon I got my weekend ticket’s worth by the time we headed home on Friday.

Best bits?  Beth Frisby was fab.  The various ska/afrobeat bands in the (sunny) Peace Gardens were ace, joyous beats making us all dance.  Downtown Roots were a blast, channelling Hendrix and Muddy Waters.  Stealing Sheep stole my heart.  And then there was Billy.

Billy

It was late, I was tired, my (wet) feet hurt.  But I went home that night not sure whether to laugh, or cry, because Billy made me do both.  He was everything I’d hoped for – he was funny, passionate, ranty, utterly professional (didn’t miss a beat when the lights went out on stage during one song, and dealt well with the odd minor heckle), and gave us – again – that weekend ticket’s worth singlehanded.    I got right to the front, thanks to the nice bloke who let me through.  And the young lads who’d been obliviously hemming me in and blocking my view earlier?  Contrary to the grumpy views being expressed by some of those whose view they were blocking, they were there for Billy, they knew all the words, they were singing their little hearts out.  He gave us the love songs, the quirky, funny, self deprecating love songs.  He gave us Levi Stubbs’ tears, and mine flowed.  He gave us the protest songs – and lord, they are as pertinent today as when they were written.  He gave us A New England.  And he gave us Between the Wars and I cried again and someone in the crowd gave me a hug, just because.

Billy said that the enemy is not doubt, or scepticism.  It’s cynicism.  Cynicism stops us believing that we can change things, that it’s worth bothering to try.  Cynicism stops us believing the best in other people, or the potential in ourselves.  There wasn’t much cynicism in evidence last weekend, and especially not at the Leadmill on Sunday night.

To quote Caitlin Moran (in How to Build a Girl), ‘Cynicism is, ultimately, fear.  Cynicism makes contact with your skin, and a thick black carapace begins to grow – like insect armour.  This armour will protect your heart, from disappointment – but it leaves you almost unable to walk.  You cannot dance, in this armour.’  If we want to dance, to laugh and love and share, let alone if we want to change the world, we have to shed that armour and risk being disappointed, risk being disillusioned and let down.

Billy said that we, in the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire, had ‘recharged his activism’.  I am damn certain he did the same for us.

Tramlines, Sheffield, thank you for last weekend, and I can’t wait for next time.  Early Bird weekend tickets for 2016 on sale now, you say?  Hell, yes.

http://www.tramlines.org.uk/

http://www.billybragg.co.uk/index.php

http://stealingsheep.co.uk/

http://www.hotdiamondaces.com/

http://www.smilingivy.co.uk/bio-2/

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Mad Travellers

(adapted from a paper given at ‘There & Back Again’, a postgraduate conference at the University of Nottingham, organised by the Landscape, Space, Place Research Group.  The title is taken from Iain Hacking’s fascinating study of the fugueur phenomenon)

The idea of wandering, of travelling without constraints, without a humdrum practical purpose, is perennially appealing to most of us, even if, for most of us, the drawbacks come to mind pretty speedily if we start to entertain the notion. Some do it anyway – seize the moment when the obstacles are not insuperable – but generally it’s something to enjoy vicariously, or to indulge in short bursts, taking time out of a holiday schedule to just have a stroll around foreign streets.

Throughout myth and literature there are many wanderers who cross seas, continents and centuries. For some it’s a pastime, a means of avoiding commitments or encumbrance:

I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around
I’m never in one place, I roam from town to town
And when I find myself fallin’ for some girl
I hop right into that car of mine and ride around the world (Dion, The Wanderer, 1961)

or Jimi Hendrix’s Stone Free:
Everyday in the week I’m in a different city
If I stay too long people try to pull me down

Hendrix suggests that the prejudices of the cities in which he finds himself push him to leave, as well as, like Dion, that if he does sometimes feel his heart ‘kinda gettin’ hot’ for some woman, he moves on before he gets caught. For some, wandering is a subversive practice (not using the city streets in the prescribed way), for others it’s a compulsion, even a curse.

The flâneur is one of those archetypal wanderers. This classic definition is by Baudelaire, writing in 1863 in his ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’.

The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not—to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life.

Rosler-LeFlaneurHe – and I use the masculine pronoun entirely deliberately – is ‘observateur, flâneur, philosophe, appelez-le comme vous voudrez’.

He is a perfect stroller, a passionate spectator, an erudite wanderer. He walks the streets, probably alone, with no map or itinerary, with the confidence that comes from being male, well-educated and wealthy. His milieu is the city, and quintessentially Paris. One might think that the boulevards and arcades of Haussmann’s Paris lent themselves to strolling so much better than the labyrinthine streets of the old city, but it was that old city that defined the flâneur, allowing (in Edmund White’s words) ‘a passive surrender to the aleatory flux of the innumerable and surprising streets’.

The flâneur is a prototype detective, his apparent indolence masking intense watchfulness. This recalls Edgar Allen Poe’s story, ‘The Man of the Crowd’ (which was translated by Baudelaire), in which a man recovering from illness sits in a London coffee shop, watching the passers-by, and engaging in Holmesian deductions about their occupation and character. His attention is drawn by an old man who he is unable to read, and he feels compelled by insatiable curiosity to follow him, for a night and a day, as the man moves unceasingly through the city: he is the man of the crowd – not only hiding within it, but unable to exist outside it.

Walter Benjamin in his 1935 study of Baudelaire suggests that Baudelaire identifies the old man as a flâneur. This must be a misreading on Benjamin’s part, since the old man is as manic as the flâneur is composed. The flâneur may ‘set up house’ in the heart of the crowd, becoming part of ‘the ebb and flow of movement’, but he remains separate, above the mass. He is, like Baudelaire and Benjamin, at the same time engaged with and alienated by the city.

TMOTC

Poe’s story does give us a flâneur, however, in the person of the narrator, who can and does choose to abandon his pursuit, stepping aside to resume his life, and a different kind of wanderer, in the person of the man of the crowd. Steven Fink argues persuasively that the man of the crowd is the mythological figure of the Wandering Jew, condemned to wander endlessly as punishment for a terrible crime.  (He has a number of counterparts, including, amongst others, Cain, the Flying Dutchman, and the Ancient Mariner.)  Certainly this description by Benjamin’s contemporary, Siegfried Krakauer, is remarkably close to Poe’s description of the old man:

‘there arose confusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness, of malice, of bloodthirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excessive terror, of intense – of supreme despair … How wild a history … is written within that bosom!’. (Edgar Allen Poe, ‘The Man of the Crowd’)

Imagine [his face] to be many faces, each reflecting one of the periods which he traversed and all of them combining into ever new patterns as he restlessly and vainly tries on his wanderings to reconstruct out of the times that shaped him the one time he is doomed to incarnate. It is a terrible face, ‘assembled from the many faces of the dead’. (Siegfried Krakauer – History, the Last Things Before the Last (OUP, 1969))

If the man of the crowd is no flâneur, he does bear a stronger resemblance to the fugueur, a lesser-known (and shorter-lived) phenomenon which emerged in the 1880s. Bordeaux medical student Philippe Tissié and neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris documented a number of cases of men undertaking strange and unexpected trips, in states of obscured consciousness. dadasThey were subject to hallucinations, and often dominated by ideas of persecution. Their conduct during the episode appeared normal, but they were unconscious of what they were doing, and had no memory of it afterwards – in a state of dissociative fugue.  A fugue state is defined as involving selective memory loss, the inability to recall specific – perhaps traumatic – events. This may be accompanied by wandering and travelling, in an attempt to recover memory/identity, or perhaps in a flight from it – the etymological paradox of flight/pursuit.

The fugueur is quite distinct from the flâneur whose journeying is deliberately aimless and random, an end in itself. His itinerary may defy linear logic but nonetheless is purposeful, even if that purpose can be discovered only retrospectively.  The flâneur, in his fine clothes, walked the streets as if he owned them because, wealthy and well-educated, he could. The fugueur, in his state of obscured consciousness, was likely to be mistaken, instead, for a vagrant. Albert Dadas, ‘patient zero’ in the mini-epidemic of ‘mad travelling’, was repeatedly arrested for vagabondage. The fugueurs were generally of more modest means than the flâneurs – tradesmen, craftsmen or clerks – and their travels took them much further afield. dadas' longest journeyIf someone spoke of a city or a country Albert was seized by the need to go there, and did so, often then finding himself in difficulties due to lack of funds.

One of Charcot’s patients was a young Hungarian Jew named Klein, who was ‘constantly driven by an irresistible need to change his surroundings, to travel, without being able to settle down anywhere’. This particular patient prompted a link with the then prevailing view that Jews were more prone than other races to various forms of neurasthenia and that this particular manifestation was ‘in the character of their race’. Thus the Wandering Jew was, according to Henri Meige’s thesis, ‘only a sort of prototype of neurotic Israelites journeying throughout the world’.  Even at the time it was pointed out, fairly acerbically, that if the Jews had a tendency to move from place to place, this was in generally externally rather than internally driven, as persecution and prejudice made it necessary to leave one home in search of another.meige thesis

Charcot’s diagnosis, and his use of the term ‘hystero-epilepsy’ in particular, fell out of favour, largely due to the failure to identify a common cause that would account for a collection of rather disparate individual cases. In the twentieth century the two types of wanderer seem often to merge, as trauma and exile create a more melancholy and more driven wanderer. One can trace a line from Baudelaire’s flâneur to the Surrealists, via Walter Benjamin’s description of flânerie as a dream state in which ‘The city as a mnemonic for the lonely walker [: it] conjures up more than his childhood and youth, more than its own history’, to Guy Debord’s dérive as subversive practice, and on to today’s psychogeographers. Rather than being a disaffected and detached observer, the flâneur in the late 20th and 21st century may be in flight from memory, from identity, at home nowhere, an exile who feels no connection, or only a highly problematic one, to homeland or origins.

Michel Butor’s 1956 novel, L’Emploi du temps is set in a northern English industrial city, called Bleston but clearly inspired by Manchester, where Butor had worked a few years earlier. It takes the form of a diary kept by his protagonist, Jacques Revel, in the city for a one-year placement. We know nothing of Revel’s life before his arrival in Bleston, or of what he will do after he leaves. He speaks of his year there as a prison sentence – he is unable to leave the city during that period, and compelled to leave it on a specific date. He is certainly not at home in Bleston, but he seems entirely rootless, without any connection elsewhere. In his restless wanderings through the streets, he seems to be searching – mostly fruitlessly – for lodgings, for someone whose name he does not know who he met on an earlier walk, for the elusive countryside. But ultimately his quest is to master the city by walking its streets, grasping the reality which seems to be changing around him as he walks – it is a phantasmagorical city, whose heavily polluted atmosphere creates a narcotic dream-like state, distorting his perceptions and leaving him disorientated.

Butor’s novel had a significant influence on W G Sebald, who came to Manchester about 15 years later. Sebald read L’Emploi du temps when he first arrived, and it inspired a poem, ‘Bleston: A Mancunian Cantical’, as well as having a wider impact on his work.

In Sebald’s novels, the narrator (who may or may not be, to some extent, Sebald) invariably begins by describing a journey. He is precise about when, and where, although the layering of timeframes and locations means that we can lose these certainties as the narrative progresses, but frequently the ‘why’ is obscure, not just to the reader but to the narrator himself. The narrator and the various protagonists are rarely, if ever, ‘at home’. They are often in transit or in provisional, interim spaces such as waiting rooms, railway stations, and transport cafes. Their journeys often induce episodes of near paralysis, physical or mental, and they end inconclusively, often with a sense that the quest will continue after the final page.

But if the Sebaldian narrator is a contemporary example of the melancholy flâneur, Jacques Austerlitz connects us directly with the fugueur, and with wandering as a response to trauma and loss. As a child, Austerlitz arrived in England on the Kindertransport, where his foster parents gave him a new life, and a new name, telling him nothing of his past, or the fate of his parents, until, as a sixth former, he learns that he is not Dafydd Elias.

For many years he avoids any topic or image which might shed light on or raise questions about his origins. But, increasingly isolated, and with his life ‘clouded by unrelieved despair’, tormented by insomnia, he undertakes nocturnal wanderings through London, alone, outwards into the suburbs, and then back at dawn with the commuters into the city. These excursions begin to trigger hallucinations, visions from the past, for example, the impression that ‘the noises of the city were dying down around me and the traffic was flowing silently down the street, or as if someone had plucked me by the sleeve. And I would hear people behind my back speaking in a foreign tongue …’. He is irresistibly drawn to Liverpool Street Station, a place full of ghosts, built as it is on the remains of Bedlam hospital, and, in the disused Ladies’ Waiting Room, encounters the ghosts of his foster parents and the small boy he once was.

kindertransport

Thus his obsessive wanderings appear to have had a sub-conscious purpose, taking him back to the point of rupture between one life and another. He embarks upon a new phase of wandering, driven by the need to find his home and his parents. Overhearing a radio documentary about the Kindertransport, and the reference to a ship named The Prague, like Albert Dadas, the original fugueur: ‘the mere mention of the city’s name in the present context was enough to convince me that I would have to go there’.

Austerlitz’s quest remains incomplete at the end of the novel. In the course of his wanderings he has, he believes, discovered his former home in Prague and traced his mother to Teresienstadt and his father to the Gurs concentration camp in France in 1942. Beyond that he knows only that his mother ‘was sent east’ in 1944. He does not know where, when, or even whether they died.

austerlitz list

His quest, and his confrontation with the losses that defined his life, leads to ‘several fainting fits … temporary but complete loss of memory, a condition described in psychiatric textbooks … as hysterical epilepsy’. He is taken, significantly, to the Salpêtrière, where Charcot established this diagnosis almost a century earlier. This diagnosis would only be included in psychiatric textbooks as a historical footnote – an example of Sebald’s dense or layered time – we know precisely where we are, but the ‘when’ is not so straightforward.

Thus we’ve come full circle. And I want to make another tentative, perhaps fanciful connection.  Sebald invites us to make all sorts of links with the name Austerlitz – the battle, the Parisian railway station, even Fred Astaire. And there’s always the echo of another name, the likely final destination of both of his parents, unspoken here except in a reference to the Auschowitz Springs near Marienbad. One more then – Ahasuerus, the name often given to the mythological Wandering Jew.

Baudelaire’s description of the flâneur – ‘être hors de chez soi, et pourtant se sentir partout chez soi (away from home and yet at home everywhere)’ has echoed through the twentieth century and into our own, accumulating more and more melancholy baggage. That this phrase has darker undertones than Baudelaire will have intended is brought home by a speech made by Hitler in 1933, in which he described the Jewish people, the ‘small, rootless international clique’, as ‘the people who are at home both nowhere and everywhere’.

In our time then, rather than someone at ease wherever he finds himself, we are likely to think of the refugee and the exile, adapting without putting down roots, unable to return but unable fully to belong, always sub-consciously ready to move on or even keeping a bag permanently packed, just in case. For the original flâneur this characteristic was an affectation, a chosen detachment and rootlessness. For the fugueur, driven by trauma or crisis of identity, it is a curse, to have to wander, and never to find answers, or find home.

luggage

Anderson, George K, The Legend of the Wandering Jew (Hanover/London: Brown UP, 1991)

Benjamin, Walter, ed. Michael W Jennings, The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire (Cambridge, MA/London: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2006)

Brunel, Pierre (ed), translated by Wendy Allatson et al, Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes (NY/London: Routledge, 1996)

Coverley, Merlin, Psychogeography (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2006)

Fink, Steven, ‘Who is Poe’s Man of the Crowd?’, Poe Studies, 44, 2011 (17-38)

Gilloch, Graeme, Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City (Cam.: Polity, 1996)

Goldstein, Jan, ‘The Wandering Jew and the Problem of Psychiatric Anti-Semitism in Fin-de-Siècle France’, Journal of Contemporary History, 20, 4(October 1985), 521-52

Hacking, Ian, ‘Automatisme Ambulatoire: Fugue, Hysteria and Gender at the Turn of the Century’, Modernism/Modernity, 32 (1996), 31-43

__, ‘Les Alienés voyageurs: How Fugue Became a Medical Entity, History of Psychiatry, 7, 3 (September 1996), 425-49

__, Mad Travellers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses (Free Association Books, 1998)

Kuo, Michelle and Albert Wu, ‘Imperfect Strollers: Teju Cole, Ben Lerner, W G Sebald and the Alienated Cosmopolitan’, Los Angeles Review of Books, 2 February 2013

Lauster, Martina, ‘Walter Benjamin’s Myth of the Flâneur’, Modern Language Review, 102, 1 (January 2007), 139-56

McDonough, Tom, ‘The Crimes of the Flâneur’, October, 102 (2002), 101-22

Micale, Mark S, In the Mind of Modernism: Medicine, Psychology and the Cultural Arts in Europe and American, 1880-1940 (Stanford UP, 2004)

Seal, Bobby, ‘Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flâneur’, Psychogeographic Review, 14 November 2013

White, Edmund, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris (Bloomsbury, 2008)

www.artslant.com/la/articles/show/42145

http://www.thelemming.com/lemming/dissertation-web/home/flaneur.html

http://www.othervoices.org/1.1/gpeaker/Flaneur.php

http://www.theflaneur.co.uk/

http://imaginarymuseum.org/LPG/debordpsychogeo.jpg

http://www.paris-art.com/agenda-culturel-paris/Le%20Premier%20fugueur/Furaker-Johan/11840.html

http://www.karenstuke.de/?page_id=1192

https://dianajhale.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/tracing-sebald-and-austerlitz-in-londons-east-end/

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Stumbling over the past in Berlin

cathannabel:

Reblogged from Gerry’s always excellent ‘That’s How the Light Gets In’ blog – https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/.

Originally posted on That's How The Light Gets In:

BERLIN NOTEBOOK

Just around the corner from the hotel where we stayed in Berlin, in cobbled and tree-lined Fasanenstrasse, I found outside number 42 eight small brass plaques embedded in the pavement. They record the deportation from this town house of eight Jewish Berliners to their deaths in the east.

The Stolpersteine at 42 Fasanenstrasse The stolpersteine at 42 Fasanenstrasse

These small brass memorials are called stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) and there are now more than 5000 of them in Berlin (plus another 38,000 in 800 towns and cities across  Europe), each one commemorating a victim of the Holocaust: whether Jew or Roma, dissident or homosexual, an individual consigned by the Nazis to prison, concentration camp or extermination camp, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide.

Stolpersteine are the creation of the Berlin artist Gunter Demnig, their name recalling the old custom in Germany for non-Jews to say, when they stumbled over a protruding stone, ‘There must…

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Refugee Blues – #RefugeesContribute

One of the glorious by-products of the movements of peoples around the world, however grim the reasons, is the music.  Music can cross any barriers, transcend any divisions, no translation required. People driven from their homes make take very little with them, but the songs they grew up with, the music they danced to or played, those weigh nothing.  And they enrich the communities in which those people find new homes – music that moves our hearts, our hips, our feet, that comes from places we’ve never seen, with lyrics in languages we don’t speak.  Music is vital.

That’s one of the reasons why watching Abderrahmane Sissako’s latest film, Timbuktu, is so intense and so harrowing.  The ISIL/Taliban group who have taken over Timbuktu spend their evenings listening out for any sounds of music and silencing it.   You could say that there are worse things – this regime does those too, stoning to death a couple accused of adultery.  But killing music is a way of killing the soul.

Timbuktu_poster timbuktu. timbuktu2

The young musicians who make up Songhoy Blues fled their homes in the north of Mali and since then have been taking their desert blues around the world.  They’re doing Glasto next week, but last July at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival I saw them play live and they made me dance, made me smile like an idiot, made me cry a little, when Aliou Toure spoke about his country, his continent, and what the music stood for – peace, love, unity.

songhoy blues songhoy blues 2

http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-03-26/malis-songhoy-blues-are-making-music-exile

https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/mali-the-music-cries-out/

https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/timbuktu-a-stunning-cry-for-freedom/

http://www.musicfilmweb.com/2014/07/songhoy-blues-mali-music-documentary/

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World Refugee Day 2015

They won’t go away if we ignore them.  They won’t stop taking to the boats or setting off on their desperate, dangerous journeys if we refuse to rescue them or give them shelter.  Nor would we.

Some of them have never known safety, stability, a home and a job and a school for the kids.  Others had all of these things until something changed – a war, a change of government, a new ideology, an earthquake or a flood – and then had to leave them all behind.  This is a humanitarian crisis but as Richard Branson said this week, it’s also a moral one.  It needs political will, financial aid, but also human empathy and generosity, the instinct for fairness and hospitality.   The answers aren’t easy but we have to find them, collectively.

Fifteen years into a millennium that many of us hoped would see an end to war, a spreading global violence has come to threaten the very foundations of our international system.

More people fled last year than at any other time in our records. Around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent. In 2014, an average of 42,500 people became refugees, asylum-seekers or internally displaced persons, every single day – that is four times more than just 4 years ago.

These people rely on us for their survival and hope. They will remember what we do.”

– António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Refugee Day, June 20th 2015.

Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, it would be the world’s 24th biggest.

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Ordinary people, in extraordinary situations.  Ordinary people driven from home, by war, persecution, poverty, natural disasters.

Gysis_Nikolaos_After_the_destruction_of_Psara

Armenian_woman_and_her_children_from_Geghi,_1899

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220px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J19568,_Bei_Stalingrad,_russische_Flüchtlinge

220px-Partition_of_Punjab,_India_1947

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220px-Evstafiev-travnik-refugees

Greeks fleeing the destruction of Psara in 1824, Armenians in 1899, Spanish Civil War (1936-9), Czechs from the Sudetenland in 1938, Russian refugees near Stalingrad 1942, Partition of India 1947, Palestinians from Galilee 1948, Hungarians in 1956, Tibetan exodus 1959, Igbo refugees in Nigeria in 1966, Bangladesh in 1971, Ugandan Asians in the 1970s, Cyprus in 1974,  Salvadorean Civil War ( 1975-82),  Afghanis from 1979 onwards, Mariel boatlift ofCuban refugees in 1980, Vietnamese boat people in 1984, Rohingya people from Burma 1991 onwards, Bosnian refugees in 1993, Rwandans in 1994…  And so many more, before and since.

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Back Where You Came From

A new art exhibition ‘Back Where You Came From’ examines how ancient stories about migration preserved in the biblical book of Genesis are helpful in considering the current migration crisis. The project seeks to promote open dialogue about migration through reading ancient sacred texts about migration in groups that include people from different faiths and cultures. Sanctuary seekers in the city have reflected on their movement, transience, and migration from their homes by responding to stories about the figures of Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, and Jacob from the book of Genesis.’

‘Back Where You Come From’ will run from 15 to 26 June at The Gallery @ 35 Chapel Walk, in the centre of Sheffield, from 10am to 6pm. Download the exhibition brochure. 

http://www.thestar.co.uk/what-s-on/out-about/remarkable-refugee-tales-in-exhibition-1-7302336

backwhereyoucamefrom

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