Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vanity Africa


Glossy magazine Vanity Fair has commissioned U2 singer Bono has the editor of a special issue on Africa. The issue features celebrity photos by Annie Leibowitz, coverage of the Kwani Kenyan literary festival, Bill Clinton's tribute to Nelson Mandela and an essay on genetics by Spencer Wells. It's easy to be cynical about celebrity causes, but it's worth looking at what they have to say.

From Bono's editorial, two points emerge.

First, the message of humanism:

Africa is the proving ground for whether or not we really believe in equality

This Africa is a theatre for the demonstrating values of compassion and efficacy. Bono's editorial is filled with philanthropic brands like RED, DATA, the One Campaign and Edun. He promotes the benefits of corporations to make a difference in the world.

The second is a little more rock'n roll:

We needed help in describing the continent of Africa as an opportunity, as an adventure, not a burden.

After all, this is a glossy magazine, and readers expect to find sources of pleasure not guilt. So there are many photos of Westerners enjoying the exotic scenes that Africa provides.

With these two points, Bono evokes an Africa that we can assist without changing any of our own values. It is an Africa that does not seem to have a voice of its own. It is an Africa that we have little to learn from, other than affirming our own system.

But perhaps that's unfair. Time to read the articles...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Memo executives: try Paraguay, where the living is easy

From a recent report quoted in The Age about living expenses in different cities. Perhaps it is time to re-start a colony in Paraguay. 

And if you are an Australian and do not want to worry about high housing costs or expensive food, then maybe a few years in Asuncion, Paraguay, is the answer.

That is if your employer has an office in Asuncion, the world's cheapest city, and the capital of the landlocked South American country.

Memo executives: try Paraguay, where the living is easy 

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The first white man

The remarkable story of William Buckley has inspired many different tellings since  his re-appearance in 1835. At the legendary Carlton theatre La Mama, Jan Wositzky has compiled a one-man show that gathers many of these threads together. It's quite a casual performance, conducted on beach sand with sticks as props. He is particularly good at drawing together connections between William Buckley and contemporary Melbourne, such as the reactions of those who now live in sites which Buckley inhabited. While it was a one-man white show, Wositzky focused particularly on the Woirorong language and song, often intoning words such as adamante to give the performance a distinctive linguistic landscape. It felt particularly refreshing to return to the story of Melbourne, particularly before it was transformed into just another 'world class' city.