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The Right to a Home: A Human Rights Perspective on Forced Migration.

This article was originally published in Freerange Journal 4: ‘Almost home’. We are currently accepting $5 donations towards the Red Cross refugee response efforts with downloads of this journal at the following link:  http://www.projectfreerange.com/product/freerange-vol-4-almost-home-download/

 

Article 25. Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948)

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his fomily, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration sets out a number of key elements that can be said to constitute the concept of ‘Home’. Sadly, we are failing to provide these necessities of nutrition, shelter, healing and a social support structure to all members of the global community. The reasons for this failure are various and interconnected but a major contributing factor is the displacement caused by the endemic problem of ‘forced migration’. How can we ensure that in the future these Human Rights relating to the home environment are truly universal in more than just name?

The term ‘forced migration’, as defined by the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, includes a wide range of people displaced either within or outside of their nation of origin by circumstances beyond their control. This definition is wider than the traditional, and often misunderstood, term of ‘refugee’. Crucially, this definition of forced migration includes those people displaced by natural, environmental, chemical and nuclear disasters as well as by famine or development projects. This gives the term far more relevance to the society of the future in which such events may be major drivers in migration patterns.

shadenetting_right to a home

Shade netting in the Sheikh Yaseen camp in Pakistan.

Forcibly displaced people have a very acute awareness of the importance of Human Rights to the concept of ‘Home’ and of the fact that ‘Home’ relates more to a mental or physical state of refuge than to any fixed geographic or spatial location. With this in mind, it is understandable that simple items, such as this shade netting provided by the Sheikh Yaseen camp in Pakistan, can drastically alter the environment and enhance the comfort and lifestyle of the inhabitants.

The first humans started spreading out of Africa around 110,000 years ago. We have always been a migratory species and seem to have an insatiable curiosity about what opportunities may lie beyond the horizon. Our culturally diverse modern societies were all created by, and are still being shaped by, successive waves of migration from indigenous peoples through to more recent arrivals.

‘Forced migration’ is not a new problem, however the potential human and economic cost resulting from the displacement we face in the near future is a serious cause for concern. Environmental destruction, resource wars, diminishing food security, rapidly rising populations and developing ‘third world’ economies mean that forced migration will be a major contributor to these growing numbers in the coming years. According to the International Organization for Migration’s World Migration Report 2010‘, estimates are that the nunber of international migrants worldwide is currently over 200 million and at the current rate will reach 400 million by 2050.

One major accelerating factor in future migration levels will be the acute manifestations of global climate change. Many communities worldwide are facing rising sea levels, extreme storm surges, flooding, drought, insecure food supply and other associated problems causing population displacement at unprecedented levels. According to academics and international agencies, there are currently several million ‘environmental migrants’ worldwide, and this number is expected to rise to tens of millions within the next 20 years, and hundreds of millions within the next 50 years. This phenomenon was recently dramatically evident in Somalia and in Pakistan where simultaneous drought and floods have left over 12 million people displaced or in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

A house in Alaska which is no longer a home.

A house in Alaska which is no longer a home.

Such environmental migration tends to disproportionately affect developing nations because their precarious geography, histories of imperialism, and unsustainable development leave them without resources to face such challenges. This vulnerability further cements the place of developing nations as victims of the global economic order and as mass exporters of human capital. An example is the current famine in the ‘Horn of Africa’ region where most refuge and assistance is being provided by developing countries while the aid response from wealthy nations has been somewhat slow and underwhelming. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently stated in his address on World Refugee Day 2011 that: Despite what some populist politicians would have us believe, approximately 80 percent, [of refugees] are hosted and cared for in developing countries. To take a current example, only about two percent of the people fleeing Libya are seeking refuge in Europe.”

Many commentators believe that developed nations should be contributing much more to addressing this displacement problem due to their superior wealth and their greater contribution to creating the economic and environmental problems we face today. However, the global financial crisis is currently being skillfully manipulated to create resentment against migrants and refugees and to justify rigid national immigration policies and small refugee resettlement quotas. UNHCR has recently expressed concern that the current resettlement programs of the few nations who do offer them are not even keeping pace with the growth of refugees in urgent need of resettlement.

Both permanent and temporary migration to developed nations can play a highly valuable role in development by allowing migrants to achieve safety and stability, to gain skills and experience and to remit money back to their homeland. Current protectionist policies in developed nations fail to promote such valuable development tools and simply guard the wealth and privilege amassed at the expense of underdeveloped nations and the environment.

Solutions

Although organisations such as UNHCR and various NGOs are doing an admirable job with limited resources, the sheer volume of the displacement likely to occur in the future necessitates a new approach. The interconnectedness created by globalization and technological progress means that no migration situation can now be seen in isolation, and also offers us potential solutions to the problems we face. We urgently require a wholesale re-application of our global resources and technology to address the causes of displacement rather than the symptoms.

It is within the power of developed nations to radically reduce the root causes of forced migration by altering the course of the global market and economic system, and assisting democracy and social justice to flourish. We need proactive policies at both national and international levels that target the poverty, environmental destruction, wars and inequalities causing our current displacement problems.

We must adopt a ‘Human Rights’ centered understanding of what constitutes a ‘Home’ and work towards providing all members of our global society with access to these rights without exception. Only a system that respects the rights of all to a stable home environment will allow us to work towards a new age of greater freedom of movement, stability and equality in the area of human migration.

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Further Reading

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and proclaimed on December 10, 1948. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtmail

‘What is Forced Migration’ Online http://www.forcedmigration.org/whatisfm.htm

‘World Migration Report 2010- The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change,’ International Organization for Migration, 2010. http://publications.iom.int/bookstore/free/ WMR_2010_ENGLISH.pdf

‘United .Nations High Commissioner’s message for World Refugee Day 20 June 2011′. http://www.unhcr.org/ 4e033be29.html

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Joseph Cederwall is a writer, social entrepreneur and immigration consultant with degrees in Law and Anthropology. He has worked extensively with migrant and refugee communities in New Zealand as an Immigration lawyer and adviser. 

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Gardening With Soul

Gardening With Soul is an award-winning New Zealand documentary from filmmaker Jess Feast, and it has just opened nationally in New Zealand and selected cinemas across Australia. I can’t wait to check it out, it looks like a beautiful story, made even more incredible for capturing the magical day it snowed in Wellington.

Gardening with Soul premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July 2013, 

Sister Loyola is one of the liveliest nonagenarians you could ever meet.

As the main gardener at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington, her daily tasks include heavy lifting alongside vigorous spade and wheelbarrow work, which she sometimes performs on crutches. Loyola and the other Sisters of Compassion follow the vision of Mother Aubert to ‘meet the needs of the oppressed and powerless in their communities’. 

The lively, beautifully shot documentary (edited by Annie Collins. written & directed by Jess Feast) is filmed almost entirely in this small community on the southern coast of Wellington. With music by local musician David Long, and full of the sea- and garden-scapes that have informed Loyola’s life, Gardening with Soul uncovers a local legend and her community for the wider world. It is a conceptual triumph for Feast. Any belief we might harbour that becoming a nun is avoiding the real world is turned firmly on its head as we witness this extraordinary soul steer a sharp course through all weathers, trying to shine love on everything she sees. 

-Jo Randerson, International Film Festival

If you like to read up before seeing a film, I’d recommend this insightful Interview with filmmaker Jess Feast, otherwise find your local screening and get there!

Can’t wait to check it out, also if this gets you all tingly, you can download Freerange Vol.2: Gardening & Violence, which suddently feels a bit scandalous against this beautiful story.

Thanks to Gina for passing this on!

 

 

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Expressions of interest open for FR7: Something about ‘the commons’

Submissions are open for Freerange Vol.7.
Submissions Due 1 April 2013

Working Title: ‘The Commons’

Freerange Vol.7 is being edited by Jessie Moss, Joe Cederwall and Tim Gregory.

This edition will aim to explore the issue of “The Commons” from many different angles, perspectives, disciplines and media. The concept of ‘the commons’ has particular relevance in light of the multiple crises we face for the environmental, financial and social future of our planet. We want this edition to be an exploration of how the commons are actually being utilised and engaged by communities in reality in today’s transforming society. We want to get down to the nitty gritty of the concept and look at workable commons models both past and future. It will be a celebration and exploration of this transformative vision as applied in practice all around us.

A succinct definition of ‘the commons’ is elusive, but the following is as good an attempt as any by commons academic David Bollier:

‘The commons is….

  • A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.
  • A self-organized system by which communities manage resources (both depletable and and replenishable) with minimal or no reliance on the Market or State.
  • The wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to our children.  Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.
  • A sector of the economy (and life!) that generates value in ways that are often taken for granted – and often jeopardized by the Market-State.’

Full article

The concept is very broad and has relevance to topics as diverse as Architecture and design / Art and culture / Intellectual property / The open internet / Community control / Sustainability and environment / Resilience / Politics / Gender / History / Town planning / History / Architecture / Anthropology / Sociology & Psychology / Intellectual property / Indigenous culture / The local food movement / Academia / Science.

We are happy to work with contributors to find or refine a topic to suit the overall blend.
Please email Expression of Interest in submissions by Monday 1st of April

Expressions of Interest should be max. one A4 page with an explanation of what you’d like to write about, and any relevant experience writing or working in the topic before.

Please email: commons@projectfreerange.com

Further suggested reading for inspiration:

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What do tourists want?

If you’re from New Zealand, you’re probably used to viewing tourists with mild distain.  I’m not sure why, it seems silly, but we do.

I think people should treat tourists in the same way that you would treat intelligent and curious children, rather than the way we do treat them, which is as if they were dairy cattle with credit cards.  After all, not even dairy cattle should be treated like dairy cattle.

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New Zealand isn’t a cheap country to travel in.  The currency is expensive, and we’re an expensive place to live even for us.  Our cheese costs more than cheese anywhere, and despite the fact that it’s not very good we export it and pride ourselves on it.

Our attitude to such things seems much like our attitude to our 100% Pure branding.  “If that’s what we say we are, then we must be that” we cry.  And then we walk around with our chests puffed out feeling quite proud of ourselves.

It’s a kind of arrogance to assume that anyone would be interested in the sorts of things that we try and foist on tourists.  These are often people no wealthier than us, who have travelled a long way to meet us on our own terms, because they’re curious about us.  And yet we seem to assume that anything they do here will exceed their wildest expectations.

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Let’s say that I’m a hypothetical Chilean web-designer called Rodrigo.

I’m thirty-three.  My girlfriend and I broke up, and so I’ve taken a month off while she moves out of our apartment in Valparaiso and moves in with the banker she started sleeping with.  I’ve come to New Zealand because the landscape looks amazing in half a dozen films I’ve seen, and my girlfriend was hooked on Flight of the Conchords, so she’ll feel she’s missing out.

But I don’t want to fly across the world to be given the chance to pat a sheep.  I know what wool is.  I wear wool everyday.  Even if it’s brought from Gap, even if it’s bought from Zara.  I’m not wowed by paua-shells.  Elsewhere they’re called abalone.  And kiwifruit are from South America, as are Fejoas.

It was expensive to fly here.  I could have bought a new Macbook Pro for what it cost me to get here.  So I’m prepared to rough it a little, but I’m not prepared to live off Weetbix in 8-bed hostel dorms full of teenaged European males.  Nevertheless, this is probably what’s going to happen to me, as I can’t afford the hundred-plus dollars a night for any sort of hotel room.  Airbnb only has shoeboxes and strange things called “farmstays” listed, and the couchsurfers here only seem to want to host teenaged European females.

The train I catch down the country costs twice what flying would have, but moves at about walking pace, and there are such constant heavily accented announcements about unintelligible local trivia and some sort of spiral that I stop listening, and so miss my stop.  I just want to walk in the forests and eat local cuisine and listen to local music, but you seem to need a car to get to any of the forests, the local music is mostly murky garage bands, and there’s no identifiable local cuisine at all.

I pay a lot of money for a package tour as I’m not meeting anyone and feeling pretty lonely, which just means that I continue feeling lonely, but in Hobbiton, and while patting a sheep.

Sigh.

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I’m not Rodrigo any more.  I’m me again now.

And some of my best times when wandering have been when people like Rodrigo have shown me round, and let me see their world for a moment.  Watching stars while drinking wine with students on a fifteenth century rooftop in in Coimbra, ruining a shirt while trying to help fix the engine on a stalled launch that then took me for free to Isla do Mel, in Brazil.  (A roadless island where people move everything by wheelbarrow)  Singing badly in a gospel choir in Du Pont, South Georgia.  My singing was terrible, but they still fed me.

I don’t mind being embarrassed when I’m a tourist, or even being uncomfortable, but I do want something real.  Because I’m real.  Where I live is real.  Where everyone lives is real.  So what’s the point in unreal places?  We have the Internet so we don’t have to actually try and create them in the real world.

Perhaps this my horror of theme parks coming out, but I really don’t think many people cross oceans to get strapped onto a flying fox that lands in a field of sheep, or to ride a horse that was used in lord of the rings.  You can do both of these things in Motueka.  But I think most people want to do something more real, even in Motueka.

The sort of encounter you have with Goofy or Cinderella in Disneyworld is what I would call unreal.  I know people who have worked in both these roles, and it’s been a pretty strange experience for them.  The Goofy I know quit after a concerted attack of eight-year-olds pushed her into a pool and she couldn’t get her giant plastic head off and was only rescued from drowning by one of the parents.

Would children do this to a real person?

Disneyesque myths are not myths of humanity, they’re myths of inanity.  Let’s steer away from these.  They’re at best awful re-interpretations of what were once meaningful stories.  In Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid the protagonist finds that every step after she gains her legs is like stepping on knives.  There’s no mention of this in the Disney version.  How has this been forgotten?  It’s a tale about the cost of changing the world you live in, and I know which version makes more sense to me.

Most of the culture we offer tourists in New Zealand is down near the level of Disney.  I don’t think Disney makes for intelligent and well rounded children any more than our tourist industry encourages intelligent and well-rounded tourists.   And being snobby towards tourists is about as fair as being snobby towards children.

I know that trying to cater to the tastes of people with totally different backgrounds to you is always going to be difficult.  It’s like being a chef with no taste buds, a perfumer with no sense of smell, a deaf musician.  But not much of the tourism on offer in New Zealand seems to include the possibility that a tourist is just like you, but from somewhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birth as Performance Art

I would be lying if I said I was able to think of much else at the moment other than my first two months of motherhood. I am constantly surprised at news that everybody knows unless they’re living under a rock – The Hobbit film is done? And out? Nelson Mandela is still alive? And I would be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking about writing this blog post while feeding my baby, and because there’s only so much writing I can do with one hand, that I decided to use it to do a quick Google search on “Birth as Performance Art.”

The first dozen or so links were for articles about the Brooklyn based artist Marni Kotak who gave birth to her son at a New York City art gallery. Mostly they focused on how radical her choice of location and context was. Apparently she is now turning the raising of her son into a work of art.

Whatever. I’d be interested to hear more about the actual experience. As far as I’m concerned, the interesting thing about giving birth is that it sure as hell feels like performance art, whether intended or not, and it sure as hell doesn’t require an audience to feel so. It’s like cathartic theatre that serves the performer (or performers, there are some acrobatics, subtle interpretations of time, and stylistic quips required of the baby for sure).

I was determined to do very little visualization of what I expected giving birth to be like. This was my way of being open to whatever might happen. For someone who is a bit of a control freak, pregnancy marked the zen-est experience of my life. I like to think that a long episode of uncontrollable vomiting in the first few months had something to do with putting me in my place. After that I just surrendered to whatever my body and the body growing in my body was up to.

When I started to feel my first contractions, I did exactly what my lazy pregnant self would do. Took the couch out onto the back deck and lounged in the sun, had a bath, tried to sleep sitting up, until at about 1am this seemed impossible so I got out of bed and said to myself with the hesitance of someone getting up early to get to work and who would really quite like to sleep in, “alright, let’s do dis.”

On went the short red robe with a dragon embroidered on the back that was my grandfather’s. Out went the wake up call to various sleeping family members and friends throughout the house. And onwards went the experimenting with various positions and sounds while everyone else moved around at a steady and silent pace.

Once I made it out of the bedroom, our living room had been converted into nothing less than a faux Greco roman theatre set. White sheets covering all the furniture. Candles in lanterns. A fire. Oh and a blow up swimming pool and Dolly Parton soundtrack. The stage was set and I subconsciously felt a bit like some kind of combination of Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard and Grace Jones and Nina Simone. And also a gladiator. Fear-inducing and oozing with almighty power that is way beyond socially comfortable.

I thought that I might feel self-conscious about being butt naked and totally primal in front of a small and tending audience. But once the show started, I was just a heaving roaring woman with huge breasts and belly in a short red robe with a dragon embroidered on the back and there was no two ways about it.

I embellished in making sound. High, low, loud, loud. I don’t think I made one single breath that wasn’t audible. My legs were exhausted so I tried various ways to support my body. The couch. The dresser. The door. My husband. The bed. I kept moving. Forwards and backwards, side to side, up and down. They don’t call it labour for nothing.

When things really reached the next level, I would start the sounds and then they would just take off on their own. This was the part where I’m pretty sure I blew the microphones on the home video camera. There was no screaming. There was no crying. No swearing. But there were demented gurgling roars.

It was slowly slowly fading from dark to light. I hadn’t made eye contact with another human being for a good 6 hours. I spent the last few with my eyes looking only in the direction of the sea out the window, where the sun was slowly rising and a ferry slowly crossing between the north and south islands. But I only actually SAW the view in my deep subconscious.

At some point I thought I heard my friend say “I’m going to read you a poem now.” She read aloud something about a bat. I was happy for the added touch of avant garde. I only found out later that she had actually drawn a card from a pack of Medicine Cards she had brought. The bat symbolised birth and rebirth. Bats hang upside down like babies getting ready to launch themselves out of the womb. It couldn’t have been better if it was planned.

With one of my final pushes I yelled out “come ooooon baby!” which brought some comic relief to the whole scene. And once she did come shooting on out and on to my chest, the audience that had gathered in a circle around the pool all burst into spontaneous tears of joy. I looked all around at them in a bewildered state that I could never ever pull off convincingly as an actor. Laughing, crying, in total shock as if I’d only just fully realised what I had actually been doing.

My midwife wrote in her records of the birth that immediately afterwards I announced “well, that was easier than I thought!” Clearly I was blathering and drunk on hormones.  I was just so relieved. I had improvised my way through birth, let my body lead the way and rode that magical uninterrupted wave of synchronicity right on through to the beginning of the rest of my life.

 

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UP THE PUNKS 2012: The City Seen Through Thirty Something Noisy Years of Wellington Punk Culture.

 
 
 
 
 
“Not in the habit of saving things for posterity or thinking themselves as history. Not caring about the past, not seeing too much future to look forward too. Whether or not that was really true, it was definitely the understood attitude and mood… I’ve just started on this book and already I’m on a tangent…”

Aaron Cometbus

 

Time. It’s treated quite strangely in the world of punk rock. Most people arrive as though they were the first. And they leave out the back door to make way for a younger, more energised generation. Aaron Cometbus, of the Bay Area fanzine Cometbus, nailed it in a retrospective on his first 20 years of zine-making. When it came to cultural self-awareness, he claimed that punks were decidedly evasive. Whether fueled by  idealism or nihilism, they were preoccupied in a haze of the ‘spirit of the times’. The view from the blazing vehicle of punk rock is framed by a combination of radical ideas, growing pains and fast guitars. Vision under such speed is surely fuzzy. Beyond the ‘here and now’ getting a cultural perspective to the past (or future) is hard. But the last decade or so has seen a renewed interest from within and without Wellington’s punk community with a call to explore the vestiges of time and uncover the recesses of the city’s nearly forgotten punk past.

Enter Wellington’s own unique and peculiar cultural time-machine – UP THE PUNKS! It travels to depths of 35 years ago and up to the active present, exhibiting the stories and artefacts of a vibrant, living underground community. The ongoing documenting and open source archiving initiative provides an important means of linking together a body of diverse works such as music, arts, literature, activism and various aspects of DIY culture, which would otherwise seem disparate across generations past and present. Youth culture is rarely this prolific and broadly expressed. It is a showcase of spirit – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

 

Original poster for UP THE PUNKS 2002 designed by Kerry Ann Lee

 

To claw back the history of an obscure society, obsessed with its very obscurity, is not an easy task. Works can be as fleeting as youth itself, leaving little trace, if any at all. But memory will still prevail. People still fondly recall the legendary performance of influential bands which never lasted long enough to produce more than a rough demo and play at some house parties; rants from a younger version of someone-you-know found in a photocopied zine which was subsequently lost to time and a small print run; piles of old screen-printed posters and merch; dusty records and cordially exchanged mixtapes now warped and stretched; abandoned film negatives of rallies and hangouts with cherished friends. Interesting and unexpected things happens when returning to these places.

 

Punk was always positioned in relation to a wider context, differentiating itself from mainstream society. But over time, as we all know, things change, the mainstream changes too, and so each generational iteration of punk rockers bear traces of that change too. I can’t help but recall the backdrop of a transitional Wellington city in the 1990s, its people waking up from the quiet slumber of economic downturn. People were crawling out of brutalist buildings determined to paint over the grey walls that had only served to compliment the depressive color of the sky.
Whether or not these are actually my own memories, I’m reminded of something geographic, something spatial and material, tangible and almost graspable; squats on the waterfront as Te Papa was still in construction; un-refurbished flats with remnants of 70’s décor; walking home after school via The Freedom Shop, the local anarchist bookstore which was housed in a rustic shed on upper Cuba St before being squeezed out by the Bypass; the hired-out community halls; picking bottles off the street during shows; skinhead encounters in Newlands; skateboarding with mates in the Hutt; the patience required to order records and zines from overseas…

 

The Cure jamming at a house party in Mount Victoria, August 4, 198.1

 

UP THE PUNKS presents a case for continuity between generations otherwise fragmented and disjointed. In doing so it proves, in my mind at least, that the past 35 years wasn’t just an excuse for playing silly buggers after all (although there was a great deal of that too). It’s evidence of a sustained cultural activity. In such a hotbed for ideals put into action, ideas can last a long time, or burn out alongside musical trends, fashion, and haircuts. I’m curious as to how punk – peripheral by nature – has extended and adapted to other aspects of society, or whether (in many cases I imagine) it is left to the embarrassments of youth. It would be interesting to know what happened to those kids as they enter different areas of society, as they develop skill-sets for new contexts and responsibilities. It is contributions from these people that keeps the UP THE PUNKS online archive lively. I can think proudly of punk friends who are now educators, union organisers, lawyers, academics, artists, health care professionals, engineers, innovators, activists, musicians, amazing parents, and just all round good people.

 

A film made by Chris Knox on the punk and post-punk ‘Wellington Scene’ otherwise known as the ‘Terrace Scene’ in 1980. 

 

Without continuing to sound like a back-in-the-day-old-timer, it has to be said that a big aspect of the UP THE PUNKS effort is to present Wellington punk culture as a living community, uniquely localised and continuing today in full force. It stands in contrast to the picture painted by a Te Papa exhibition ten years ago that presented punk as a petrified historical nomenclature that only happened elsewhere. The ongoing spirit of participation from enthusiastic new blood will ensure that punk respond to a changing world, ultimately securing the promise of it’s future.

 

And because of the open sourced, participatory nature of the UP THE PUNKS archive, we now have a means of looking back through the noise of time. With the raw information available to all, the historical narrative of punk in Wellington can be constantly rewritten and contested.

At 16 years and counting, Punkfest is New Zealand’s longest running annual punk event.

 

UP THE PUNKS proposes one last important thing; that this living history is also a slice of the city’s history. It’s “the Wellington you didn’t know you didn’t know” as aptly put by John Lake in the Pledgeme fundraising campaign. The minor stories told here reveal the material culture of life in Wellington as told by the people themselves. It is also relevant for the story of independent music in New Zealand. These stories are our history and it’s a history to be shared by all.

 

 

A Pledgeme campaign to fund UP THE PUNKS 2012 has just started. Come along and check it out if you like!

UP THE PUNKS 2012 exhibition and celebrations: November 6-10

 

Exhibition Opening Night: November 6, 2012, 6PM, Thistle Hall
Gettin’ Worse: Punx Still Angry, November 7, San Fran Bathhouse. Check out the new breed with Numbskull, DILFS, Influence and more…

 

Closing Night Party, November 10, Thistle Hall Upstairs
All ages gig expanding the definition of punk with So So Modern, Rogernomix, All Seeing Hand, Mr Sterile Assembly, Johnny and The Felchers and more…

 

www.upthepunks.co.nz
www.facebook.com/upthepunks.wellington

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Letter from Kenya (eight)

In the small mud-floored kitchen, around the kitchen fire bordered by 3 large stones (to put the pots on), the middle son is home with his 8 year-old for a visit. The three adults discuss life, the city, work – or lack-thereof. The 2 grandsons that live on the homestead are seated there as well, with their cousin, quietly listening to the adult conversation. One of the boys sings, but it is barely heard; the others dig their feet into the ground and fidget. But I can only imagine this based on the conversation in a language that I don’t understand that comes billowing out of the barely open door and the small square window. The conversation is accompanied by the suffocating smoke from the kitchen fire, fighting for a place to escape from the confines of the small space.

I steal understandings of bits of words and, of course, proper names like the capital city where the son now lives, with his wife and son in the second largest urban slum on the continent, barely making ends-meet. I stand just a few meters from the wood building, looking up through the rainclouds of the Long Rains season through the pitch-black to a few constellations, barely visible. I look back at the square-shaped room with an orange burning light shining through not only the cracked door and window, but also the open slats that let the rain in this morning while we watched the water heating for our baths.

The conversation is familiar, one that I have had with my own parents in their kitchen during one of my countless visits home. There is a relay back and forth of question-answer, then intermittently the son explains further or the mother continues on a monologue asking and comparing, hoping to glean a bit more about her son’s life that is not so unfamiliar to her, she is from a city near by, not the capital, but she is no stranger to the hustle and bustle, but perhaps she has forgotten all of that. Perhaps the forty-some years that she has spent in the high rolling hills tending to their farm and dairy cows, perhaps this less-busy life has allowed her to forget the hand-to-mouth that she, presumably, once lived.

The oldest of the grandsons pops out and I quickly change my gaze back to the sky again, attempting to make myself invisible. Though the night is so dark with no moonlight and no artificial light for miles, at least to the closest town, being invisible isn’t so difficult. Then I remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper today when we made the hike to town for supplies that cannot be reaped from their land, power had been out in the town for the last 2 days – no mobile charging, no television, only the police station, with their noisy generator, could be seen with their lights on at night. The grandson dumps some water and with a clang grabs something from under the chicken coop and glides back into the warm kitchen shutting the door just a few centimeters more behind him.

Nicole Rademacher was in Kenya from February until May of 2012 doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

 

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Freerange Cooperative?

Dear Freerangers!

Things have been looking up and up for Freerange. We have now released 4 journals (with two more to come this year!), around 6 books, and have a functional and awesome website with 2 new articles a week appearing on it.

We have around 2000 people on our contact list, and around 2000 people a month visit the website.

We don’t really make any money, but do cover our costs and are about to give $2000 to Architecture for Humanity to do a project in Christchurch from the sales of Chur Chur: Stories from the Christchurch earthquake.   We do have enough funds in stock to continue printing future copies of our Journal as they come out (and hopefully pay myself back soon for the original investment.)

The increased participation and consolidation of Freerange has been massively helped by the ongoing support of folk like Shakey Mo, and Gina Moss and more recently by Nick Sargent, Byron Kinnaird and Jacqui Moyes.   Plus heaps of others that help edit, write, produce, consume the online and printed content.

All this makes me think it might be time to formalise the organisation of Freerange.  So far it has legally just being me operating as a sole trader, and with the informal notion that this is a cooperative.  I’d like to look into setting freerange up as a proper legal cooperative, which would share the ownership and the gains of ownership between us in some way.  There are a number of different types of Cooperative, and it’d be great if any of you were interested in participating in working through how we might do it.

http://www.nz.coop/understanding-cooperatives/ is good, or just google around.

The one that jumps out initially is a kind of producer coop where we are join as creative producers (of text, images, design etc) and Freerange is a vehicle for us to spread, sell and disseminate our work to producers (and each other). i don’t think this would significantly change they way we operate now apart from:

  • Making the whole thing more inclusive and transparent,
  • Setting us up as a proper company (we can be a not-for-profit if we want)
  • We could use it to increase the subscription rates if we wanted by making that a mandatory act of being in the cooperative so we pay to join, but all get copies of the journal for that cost.
  • If we do this we can buy a .coop web address.  How funny would freerange.coop be?  Like a chicken coop!

So what does everyone think? any thoughts?

 

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A First Attempt at Addressing Culture-Related Discomfort

Bali is one of those places in the world that people are mesmerised with, infatuated with. David Attenborough pretty much summed it up for me in his beautifully retro documentary The Miracle of Bali from 1969. It’s the culture, it’s mysterious, it’s in tact, it’s aesthetic and sensual and it involves so many rituals that you don’t have to understand to appreciate. And if you’re one of those people who have made Bali home, you would have come to love that smell of incense and the familiar offerings that line sidewalks and shop fronts, filled several times a day with flowers and treats for the gods.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life in Bali, and being half Indonesian, I’ve always grappled with defensive feelings about the island being swarmed by tourists and expatriates. I know that the locals depend on both for their economy. I know that the influx of Indonesians from other islands are just as threatening to the Balinese, as Javanese builders for example are seen as more ‘efficient’ employees because they don’t have to take as much time off work to attend customary prayers and ceremonies, of which there are a lot.

 

In the past 30 years I’ve seen Bali go through many transformations. I’ve watched development spread from Kuta down the beach to Seminyak and beyond. I’ve seen it go from the hair braids and beaded tops of the 80s to becoming a hub a extreme hipness with one-off boutiques and cocktail lounges. I’ve seen it completely dead and quiet after the bombings, to becoming busier than ever not long after. And I’ve always loved it. Lots of people do. This is why they come from all over the world to live there, starting NGOs, opening schools, buying real estate, starting artisan businesses, and living the life-style.

But hot damn it makes me cringe when I read about the bohemian expats of Ubud (inland part of the island that has become popular in recent years), their sustainable yoga fashions and righteous seed planting initiatives. When I meet someone overseas who has their own jewelry or clothing business, and then they tell me that they get everything made in Bali, it raises my hackles. And as much as I know that I really can’t generalise, that there really are people doing amazing things from the island, why is my first reaction always one of suspicion?

Balinese locals are  themselves are often the first to complain that it takes some foreign attention to address local issues ranging from agriculture to waste management to infant mortality. And many local artists and designers wouldn’t have had nearly as much exposure nor opportunity if it wasn’t for some overseas investment. And maybe that’s what bothers me. Maybe it’s unsettling to see a culture championed by another culture in a way that seems superficial and self-serving. Maybe it’s also frustrating to feel like Indonesians don’t have the support or infrastructure to do the kinds of things that gain as much international acclaim and attention. It’s also painful to know that a lot of the very problems that are being addressed and ‘solved’ are often times an indirect consequence of a lifetime of tourism cum expatriation. While the solutions were there to begin with. But now they have fancy English words for them – sustainable, permaculture, holistic, organic, fair trade, yogic, free range, biodynamic – and these concepts have become globally trendy, so they’re being given back. The problem bringing the solution, surely there’s a fable to illustrate. Does this make any sense? Probably not, OK I’m done.

 

 

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Letter from Kenya (seven)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘So he is your husband?’ I ask. She nods yes.

‘How many years have you been married?’ I carefully choose my words; her English is quite limited (please note that my Swahili still only consists of pleasantries and my Kikuyu only happens by accident), and if I have learned nothing else from teaching English and living abroad for so long, I have definitely learned how to grade my language and construct sentences so that communication happens and less ???s occur.

’10 years’, she responds.

*Anne is a slight woman, and, to be honest, when I met her the day prior I thought she was an older grandson in the family. I had failed to notice that she was wearing a long skirt below her billowing boy-sweater. Given the short hair, and the fact that in this small village at a very high altitude everyone wears winter caps, a skirt can often be the only way of telling the sex of children … and very slight women.

Ten years seemed like a lot to me. I’ve realized that Kenyans can be very deceiving with their age (I mentioned this in my first post from Kenya). She also told me that she is 28, her oldest of two children is 9, and that she is from a small town very far away so she never sees her family. Ten years still seems like a long time to me.

The milk is at a rolling boil, and she adds the tea and stirs.

‘Yes, 10 years,’ she repeats and laughs. She seems to be a generally happy person, and around me almost everything that I do or say deserves a laugh. Sometimes even her own response deserves a laugh.

She pulls the pot off the fire using only bits of cardboard as oven mitts to protect her not-so-delicate fingers. She sets the pot on the mud floor and places a new pot on the fire and fills it with fresh water that she had fetched from the well in the morning. The family is lucky to have the well on their homestead. I’ve seen many women and girls carrying large 10 gallon jugs (at least I think it is 10 gallons) of water using a strap that is placed around their forehead, thus carrying the jug on their backs. Despite what, in my Western eyes, may be considered poor conditions, the family seems to do quite well for themselves.

She grabs a teapot and strainer from the free-standing cupboard with mismatched doors and pours the chai, in a not-so-careful manner, from the pot through the strainer into the teapot. As she calls telling the others to come because the afternoon chai is ready, she tosses the dirty silverware and some small dishes from lunch into the soon-to-be dishwater warming on the fire.

*Name changed for privacy

Nicole Rademacher is a currently in Kenya until the beginning of May doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).
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