This article by Karen Rosenberg appeared in The New York Times.

The career of the sculptor Marisol, 84, has often seemed enervatingly episodic. Born Maria Sol Escobar in Paris to a well-traveled and well-off Venezuelan family, she made New York her base but had a tendency to take off on multiyear trips at crucial junctures (once prompting the art dealer Leo Castelli to complain, “How can you leave when things are just beginning?”)

Unfailingly glamorous but aloof enough to earn comparisons to Garbo, Marisol did not feel the need to explain her travels or the seemingly impetuous twists in her art making they sometimes prompted. After appearing in the 1968 Venice Biennial and that year’s Documenta, for instance, she went off to scuba dive in Tahiti; her next New York show consisted of pastel seascapes and carved wood sculptures of exotic fish.

Her individual works could be similarly unpredictable, combining woodcarving and assemblage, Pop and pre-Columbian and folk art. Her relationship to Pop, in particular, has long vexed writers: The influence of her close friend Warhol can be seen in her winking early-1960s portraits of Kennedys and movie stars, but later works veer off into more personal subject matter and sincere expression.

In today’s art world, however, globe-trotting is rewarded and eclecticism expected. The same qualities that frustrated Marisol’s earlier critics now make her ripe for reappraisal, as does the faux-naïve character of her work — a mix of drawing, carving and assemblage — in these “outsider”-friendly times.

This is the task of the small (30-piece) survey “Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper,” organized by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and now at El Museo del Barrio (where, in addition to counting as the artist’s first New York City museum solo, it inaugurates a multiyear celebration of female artists).

As its title promises, the show makes room for some of Marisol’s vibrant but underappreciated works on paper. It includes raw crayon drawings of women and children made under the influence of Willem de Kooning (who was her mentor and, briefly, her lover, in the late 1950s). Here, too, are several of her provocative Peter Saul-esque drawings of the mid-1970s, which show swirling, multicolored figures being probed by gun barrels and which bear overtly sexual titles. (One is called “Lick the Tire of My Bicycle.”)

But in taking on this show, El Museo has missed a major opportunity. As a museum devoted to Latino, Caribbean and Latin American culture, it could have expanded the Memphis Brooks show to focus more on Marisol’s Venezuelan roots. That emphasis is there, at least, in the substantial and scholarly catalog, where Deborah Cullen’s fascinating essay “Reframing Marisol: Latin American Contexts” details the ex-votos (small casts of body parts offered in shrines and churches), retablos (relief paintings with small boxes for figurines) and other folk and indigenous art forms that have influenced Marisol’s sculptures and drawings and that deserve at least as much scrutiny as her ties to American Pop Art.

The work looks fantastic, though, the early works especially, with some of the artist’s signature sculptural tableaus set off by accent walls of yellow, royal blue and Pepto-Bismol pink. Marisol’s “Women Sitting on a Mirror,” of 1965, beckons with its seemingly contradictory nods to folk assemblage and upper-crust fashion, as does “The Family,” a funky nativity scene from 1969 that is dominated by a neon-haloed, heavily bedazzled Virgin.

And the show has a strong biographical, if not particularly cultural, thread, highlighting Marisol’s many sculptures and drawings of families and her own complicated childhood — the frequent moves, her mother’s suicide and other events that are detailed in a rich essay by the show’s curator, Marina Pacini, who writes: “For Marisol, the family was a fertile subject that provided access to the history of art, contemporary life, and issues of gender and social politics as well as her own identity.”

It’s apparent from the show’s first sculpture, “The Hungarians” (1955), which features a mother, a father, a toddler and an infant, their eyes bulging from eerie, hollowed-out faces. Later comes “Mi Mama Y Yo” (1968), an antic mother-daughter duo with delicate cast faces atop boxy, robotic bodies of pink-coated aluminum, and the haunting lithograph “Family Portrait” (1961), which incorporates a childhood photograph of the Escobar family.

As a general rule, Marisol’s multifigure tableaus are much richer than her single-figure sculptures. Her portraits of famous artists like Magritte and Picasso and political heroes like Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa lack the theatrical energy of grand assemblages like “Self Portrait Looking at the Last Supper” (which is not in the show but is on view nearby, at the Metropolitan Museum). These individual sculptures proliferate in the exhibition’s final galleries, causing the show to lose momentum.

It has a powerful ending, though, in the 1996 work “The Funeral.” Based on the famous photograph of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin, it shows a carved wood toddler looming, Gulliver-like, over a procession of toy-size mourners (some of them joined like paper dolls). As a lovingly handmade interpretation of a mass-media image, an empathetic treatment of a truncated childhood, and maybe even a kind of Roman Catholic “santo de palo,” or “saint made of wood,” it reminds you that Pop Art was merely a point of departure for this peripatetic artist.

“Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper” continues through Jan. 10 at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue, at 104th Street, East Harlem; 212-831-7272, elmuseo.org

For the original report go to http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/17/arts/design/a-marisol-exhibition-opens-at-el-museo-del-barrio.html?_r=0#

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 18, 2014

Loud and proud in the West Indies


UK artist Simon Fujiwara will show a giant Frankenstein-like sculpture of a male nude at the Jamaica Biennial, Gareth Harris reports in The Art Newspaper.

The UK artist Simon Fujiwara plans to parade a giant Frankenstein-like sculpture of a male nude through Kingston, Jamaica, in December. The work, Brother, 2014, which explores issues such as identity, gender and colonialism, has been commissioned by TBA21 Academy, an offshoot of Francesca von Habsburg’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary foundation.
The parade forms part of the opening ceremony of this year’s Jamaica Biennial (7 December-14 March 2015), and the piece will be made with students from the local Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Fujiwara asks: “Can a group of people create a [work] that is a summary of problems in society, and of history, but is also, in its frankness, a new proposition?”

The sculpture, which touches on homophobia, could prove provocative on the Caribbean island, where homosexual acts are illegal. “Homosexuality is a very convenient enemy for the large population of disenfranchised Jamaican men who have highly diminished career prospects or power,” says Fujiwara, who took part in a Frieze talk about the appropriation of alternative sexualities earlier this week.

For the original report go to http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Loud-and-proud-in-the-West-Indies/36003



This article by Dough MacCash appeared in The Times Picayune. Follow the link below for a video of Strachan’s work and a gallery of photos.

Conceptual artist Tavares Strachan has floated a brilliant idea. The star conceptual artist, who was born in the Bahamas, has built a billboard-sized neon sign, glowing with hot pink lettering that reads “You belong here.” He has mounted his 120-by-27-foot tall sign on a river barge that will cruise the dark waters of the Mississippi River during the first week of the big Prospect.3 art festival, which opens Oct. 25.

The poetic message may be interpreted as an affirmation or a veiled question. It is a three-word statement sure to launch a thousand debates on the upcoming tricentennial of European settlement, to the population displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 flood, to the rise in Bywater rents over the past few years as the Crescent City art community grows.

As Strachan explained: “A phrase like ‘You belong here’ reads like something that’s very straightforward, but ends up being very complex in that ‘You belong here’ is (also) a question. You’re questioning who the ‘you’ is, where is ‘here’ and what does it mean to ‘belong.’ I think it’s important to ask these kinds of questions.

According to online articles, Strachan is an artistic adventurer. He once shipped a gigantic block of ice from the Arctic to the Caribbean, where he stored it in a giant solar-powered refrigerator. He traveled to Greenland to retrace the frosty steps of Matthew Henson, a little heralded 1909 African-American Arctic explorer, and he traveled to Russia to participate in cosmonaut training. In each case, his activities were meant to provoke thought and discussion. Strachan is like a sculptor who chisels big questions into the public imagination.

He said he began traveling to New Orleans regularly after Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 levee failures.

“I’ve been here almost every December after, mostly for the food and music and all the good people,” he said.

But his visits have been more than just vacations.


“I’m from an island that also is pretty low-lying, the Bahamas. It’s in the sort of hurricane belt, so (Katrina) kind of touched me. And I have always been trying to figure out a way to have an (artistic) conversation with New Orleans.

“This is a nice opportunity for me to interact with the city, and a quite elaborate one.”

Strachan’s enigmatic neon statement touches on myriad political, racial, financial and ecological issues that were shaped in part by New Orleans’ location at the juncture of a great river and the sea.

“I think it’s difficult to be in a city like New Orleans and not think about this location and not think about how drastically the culture has been shifting as a result of these natural disasters. Think about how the architecture has changed. Think about how there’s a sense of ownership. All of these ideas sort of start to come into play. I think this is a part of what’s rich about art-making and having the opportunity to respond to something as emotional as what’s been going on in the city for the past 10 years.”

Lucky for us, his big question is also gorgeous. The lighted barge has been tied up at the Esplanade Wharf for the past few days, visible at times from Algiers. The big pink neon script (which appears purple in some photographs) is an absolutely luscious addition to the downtown riverscape.  If things go as planned, the barge may take its maiden test voyage Friday night, Oct. 17.

There is, of course, a certain irony that Strachan’s lush pink, crowd-pleasing neon is, in part, an advertisement for 21st-century Crescent City apprehensions.

“The thing that I’ve discovered is,” Strachan said, “like most places, New Orleans is very complex, with a duplicity of desires pulling in a lot of different directions. I think there’s a lot of anxiety about belonging.”

Note: Strachan plans to launch a “You belong here” smart-phone app at the start of Prospect.3 (Oct. 25). The app will include a thought-provoking guided tour of politically charged New Orleans landmarks.


What: “Prospect.3: Notes for Now” is an art festival featuring 58 individual exhibits of works by artists from around the country and world, displayed in 18 museums and other sites in New Orleans. The artists were selected by Franklin Sirmans, the curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Prospect.3 also includes several other popup exhibits that were not selected by Sirmans. These scattered exhibits are called P.3+ or satellite exhibits.

When: Prospect.3 opens Saturday, Oct. 25, with an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting event at Washington Square Park, 700 Elysian Fields Ave., followed by a second-line.

The exhibit continues Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., through Jan. 25, 2015. The exhibit will be closed Nov. 27-28, Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1, 2015. University venues will have longer holiday hiatuses.

Admission: Admission to individual venues applies. Adult admission to the Contemporary Arts Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art is $10. Louisiana residents receive free admission to NOMA on Wednesdays, the Ogden on Thursdays and the CAC on Sundays. Visit the Prospect.3 website.

Attention P.3+ artists and art galleries: Share details, photos and videos of your exhibits at NOLA.com/arts. In addition to the 58 official Prospect.3 exhibits, the city will soon blossom with innumerable popup exhibits and events that fall into a category called P.3+. The satellite exhibitions, as they are also known, will be too numerous to cover in detail, but we’d like to list as many as possible.

If you’re having an event related to Prospect.3 and you want to invite our readers, please do so. Just register and create profile on NOLA.com and post details of your opening, a link to your gallery, photos and your opinion of the big art fest in the comment stream beneath the story. Here are some guidelines for posting comments.

Trust me, people read the comments. Don’t be left out.

For the original report go to http://www.nola.com/arts/index.ssf/2014/10/tavares_strachans_you_belong_h.html

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 18, 2014

Orlando Patterson: The Caribbean Zola


Orlando Patterson may be the last of Harvard sociology’s big thinkers, Craig A. Lambert argues in this article for The Harvard Magazine. Here are some excerpts, with a link to the full text below.

IN THE SPRING OF 2012, Brown University hosted an extraordinary academic conference. “Being Nobody?” honored the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Slavery and Social Death by Orlando Patterson, Harvard’s Cowles professor of sociology. Giving a birthday party for a scholarly book is a rarity in itself. Even more unusual, the symposium’s 11 presenters were not sociologists. They were classicists and historians who gave papers on slavery in ancient Rome, the neo-Assyrian empire, the Ottoman Middle East, the early Han empire, West Africa in the nineteenth century, medieval Europe, and eighteenth-century Brazil, among other topics. “I’m not aware of another academic conference held by historians to celebrate the influence of a seminal work by a social scientist writing for a different discipline,” says John Bodel, professor of classics and history at Brown, one of the organizers.

But Patterson is no ordinary academician. “Orlando is one of a kind—the sheer scope and ambition of his work set him apart from 99 percent of social scientists,” says Loic Wacquant, JF ’94, professor of sociology at Berkeley. “In an era when social scientists specialize in ever-smaller objects, he is a Renaissance scholar who takes the time to tackle huge questions across multiple continents and multiple centuries. There was another scholar like this in the early twentieth century, named Max Weber. Orlando is in that category.”

PATTERSON IS a historical-comparative sociologist who has written extensively on race relations and, especially, slavery and freedom. Slavery and Social Death is “a landmark study that has had very broad and deep impact,” says Goelet professor of medieval history Michael McCormick, who participated in the “Being Nobody?” conference (see “The New Histories,” page 52). Patterson’s Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, a kind of obverse to Slavery and Social Death, won the 1991 National Book Award for nonfiction. Like his mentors, Harvard sociologists David Riesman and Seymour Martin Lipset, “Orlando tries to speak to a broader audience,” says Diker-Tishman professor of sociology Christopher Winship. “In many ways, he ranks among Harvard sociology’s last big thinkers—David Riesman, Daniel Bell, Talcott Parsons.”

The study of culture—of values, established ideas, traditions, language, customs, learned behaviors, symbolic materials, including the arts, and other nonbiological inheritances—has been central to Patterson’s work. Sociologists often contrast culture with structure: the “hard” variables that include prevailing institutions, distribution of wealth, education, housing, jobs, and other “physical-world” factors. For decades, researchers have debated whether culture informs structure, or vice versa.

Many scholars oversimplify culture by equating it simply with values, Patterson says. This can lead to paradoxes like citing the same cultural complex as the cause of opposite results. “Confucianism was used in the past to explain backwardness in China, before it became successful. The Confucian ethic was supposedly inconsistent with capitalism,” he explains. “Then China becomes economically successful, and suddenly it is the Confucian ethic that explains its success. The same cultural values can move in either direction. So you need a dynamic approach that shows how culture interacts with structure.

“Culture is a very tricky concept,” he continues. “It’s like Typhoid Mary—you’ve got to be very careful with it! Most conservatives tend to use the concept in a simplistic way. Liberals are wary of it—there is guilt by association.” That association has roots in the 1966 book La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty by anthropologist Oscar Lewis, which gave an in-depth portrait of a former prostitute living with her sixth husband. Liberal critics attacked Lewis’s “culture of poverty” concept as one that “blamed the victims” for holding values that perpetuated their state: he suggested in La Vida and other work that the poor could pass down poverty-related beliefs for generations, and that such values might persist even after people had achieved better circumstances.

“No one talked about culture for a long time,” Patterson says. “Now it is back, but still wishy-washy as a causal explanation. It’s fine now to use culture like [anthropologist] Clifford Geertz does, as an interpretive, symbolic vehicle [in a classic essay on Balinese cockfighting, Geertz interpreted the cocks as symbols of important men in the village], but not as having a causal role in social structures.”

The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth, edited and to a large degree written by Patterson (with Harvard graduate student Ethan Fosse as co-editor), to be published by Harvard University Press in January, breaks with that convention. “Orlando is first and foremost an iconoclast,” says Winship, and the new book, about impoverished young blacks in American cities, does challenge some received wisdom. It shows not only how much culture matters to these young people, but also their disproportionately large impact on mainstream culture. In October 2003, for example, a turning point in the history of American popular culture occurred when “all of the top 10 positions on Billboard’s pop chart were filled by black artists, nine of them in the inner-city-created rap genre,” Patterson writes in the new book. “It is hardly to be wondered that the typical Euro-American imagines the African-American population to be somewhere between 23 and 30 percent of the U.S. population, over twice its actual size.”

The Cultural Matrix (with chapters by Winship and by Robert Sampson, Ford professor of the social sciences) may also enlighten some readers by demonstrating black youths’ “deep commitment to some of the most fundamental values of the mainstream—its individualism, materialism, admiration for the military, and insistence on taking near complete responsibility for their own failures and successes,” Patterson writes. The young African Americans are surprisingly self-critical, he notes. For example, he writes that “92 percent of black youth aged 18 to 24 say ‘young black men not taking their education seriously enough,’ is a ‘big problem,’ while 88 percent declare likewise on ‘not being responsible fathers.’” Patterson adds, in an interview, “They are more American than Americans.”

Responsible fatherhood is a particularly sticky issue, one that Patterson has often addressed in his studies of African-American history and culture. Slavery in the American South, he says, left no legacy more damaging than the destruction of the black family—the relations between husband and wife, parent and child. Marriage among slaves was illegal, and slaveholders brutally broke slave families apart by selling off children or parents to other masters. “It is true that many slaves were involved in social units that looked like nuclear families, but these were largely reproductive associations based on fragile male-female relationships,” Patterson says. “In many cases the ‘husbands’ lived on other plantations and needed permission to visit their ‘wives,’ and parents had no custodial claims on their children, who at any time could be sold away from them. To call these units ‘families,’ as revisionist historians have done, is a historical and sociological travesty.”

[ . . . ]

PATTERSON WAS IN ENGLAND during the watershed moment in 1962 when Jamaica achieved full independence by leaving the Federation of the West Indies. A few years later, despite his successful life in London, he felt a pull to return home. In 1967 he resigned from the LSE to take up an appointment at the University of the West Indies, and built a house in Jamaica. Then, while guest-teaching at Roosevelt University in Chicago in the summer of 1969, he got an unexpected phone call from Harvard’s Talcott Parsons, a high-level theorist and one of the most prominent sociologists alive. Parsons offered Patterson a visiting professorship in African-American studies and sociology. He accepted, and soon gravitated toward the latter.

As a Jamaican who grew up as part of a racial majority, Patterson had not been socialized to feel like part of a minority group. Without a personal history of racial discrimination by a majority group, he hadn’t experienced the slights and affronts that assail Americans of color daily. “I never felt awkward here,” he says of the United States. “Not having been raised in a predominantly white society, you don’t see racism, even when it is all around you.” Furthermore, in Jamaica, the focus was on Oxford, Cambridge, and the LSE, not the Ivy League. “So being the second black professor at Harvard [after Martin Kilson, now Thomson professor of government emeritus] was no big deal to me, though it seemed to be for others,” he recalls. “I came from the British system where there was no affirmative action, no pressure to appoint blacks, so I took it all in stride.” He has remained at Harvard ever since, and now lives near the Square with his second wife, Anita (Goldman) Patterson ’83, Ph.D. ’92, a Boston University professor of English whom he married in 1995, and their 10-year-old daughter, Kaia.

But his Jamaican ties remain strong. Patterson met Michael Manley when the trade-union leader visited the University of the West Indies when Patterson was a prominent, politically active senior—one of the “young Turks” who were the first generation of Caribbean students to study social science. The two men hit it off.

When Manley won the Jamaican prime ministry in 1972, he appointed Patterson as his special adviser, and the scholar began living two lives. For four to five months annually until 1980, during summers and at Christmas, he changed his clothes to tropical fabrics and departed the academic calm of Widener for the political turbulence of Kingston, where he wrote reports, did a major study on the living conditions of the poor of Kingston, and fed Manley ideas for helping his new leftist government implement a democratic socialist revolution.

It was hardly easy. Manley (who served as prime minister until 1980, and again from 1989 to 1992) “drove Jimmy Carter crazy,” Patterson says, and at one point “the CIA came after us.” (After Manley was photographed embracing Fidel Castro on a 1975 visit to Havana, “there were strong suspicions that the CIA was trying to destabilize the Manley government,” Patterson explains.) The left wing of Manley’s party, which had little actual power but did include bona fide communist D.K. Duncan, who held a minor ministry in the government, was “scaring the hell out of the middle class,” which fled the island; at one point Jamaica was down to two dentists and not many more doctors. In such a transition, “you need managers more than ever,” Patterson says. “You can’t implement things with hotheads who couldn’t run a chicken coop.”

Instead of demolishing tenements to build high-rise public housing “for the 5 percent, while kicking the other 95 percent out to another slum,” Patterson advocated “urban upgrading,” bringing in services like water, electricity, daycare, health centers. “It will still look like a slum, but it is a more livable slum,” he says. “The minister of housing hated my plan.” Patterson did put into place a program that sold 12 essential items to the poor at highly subsidized prices. “It was one of the worthiest things I’ve ever done,” he says. “It meant that thousands went to bed each night, not starving.” Eventually, though, he decided, “I am willing to be a public intellectual, but not a politician or revolutionary. Scholarship is what I wanted to do.”

Continue reading by clicking on the link that follows.

For the original report go to http://harvardmagazine.com/2014/11/the-caribbean-zola

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 18, 2014

Vanishing Species: Local Communities Count their Losses


Stellar Paul’s article for The Inter Press Agency.

The Mountain Chicken isn’t a fowl, as its name suggests, but a frog. Kimisha Thomas, hailing from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, remembers a time when she could find these amphibians or ‘crapaud’ as locals call them “just in the backyard”.

Known also as the Giant Ditch Frog, these creatures form a crucial part of Dominica’s national identity, with locals consuming them on special occasions like Independence Day. Today, hunting mountain chicken is banned, as the frogs are fighting for their survival. In fact, scientists estimate that their numbers have dwindled down to just 8,000 individuals.

Locals first started noticing that the frogs were behaving abnormally about a decade ago, showing signs of lethargy as well as abrasions on their skin. “Then they began to die,” explained Thomas, an officer with Dominica’s environment ministry.

“People also started to get scared, fearing that eating crapauds would make them ill,” she adds. In fact, this fear was not far from the truth; preliminary research has found that Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease that affects amphibians, was the culprit for the wave of deaths.

Some 2,599 of 71,576 species recently studied are thought to be endangered — International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Besides the mountain chicken, there has been a sharp decline in the population of the sisserou parrot, which is found only in Dominica, primarily in the country’s mountainous rainforests. Thomas says large-scale destruction of the bird’s habitat is responsible for its gradual disappearance from the island.
Dominica is not alone in grappling with such a rapid loss of species. According to the Red List of Threatened Species, one of the most comprehensive inventories on the conservation status of various creatures, some 2,599 of 71,576 species recently studied are thought to be endangered.

Compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Red List aims to increase the number of species assessed to 160,000 by 2020. But even with only half the world’s biological species included in the index, the forecast is bleak.

While the extinction or threat of extinction of thousands of species poses huge challenges across the board, tribal and indigenous communities are generally first to feel the impacts, and will likely bear the economic and cultural brunt of such losses.

As Thomas points out, “The crapaud was our national dish. The sisserou parrot [also known as the Imperial Amazon] sits right in the middle of our national flag. Their loss means the loss of our very cultural identity.”

A similar refrain can be heard among the Parsi community of India, whose culture dictates that the dead be placed in high structures, called ‘towers of silence’, that they may be consumed by birds of prey: kites, vultures and crows. The unique funeral rites are an integral part of the Zoroastrian faith, which stipulates that bodies be returned to nature.

But over the past two decades, 99 percent of India’s vultures have disappeared, making it impossibly difficult for the Parsi community to keep up with a centuries-old tradition.

Rising economic burden

Besides severely affecting ancient cultural and spiritual practices, the disappearance of various species is also taking an economic toll on indigenous communities according to 65-year-old Anil Kumar Singh, who was born and raised in the village of Chirakuti in India’s northeastern hill districts.

Singh says that as a child, he never saw a doctor for minor ailments like the common cold or an upset stomach.

“But today, these plants don’t grow here anymore. Even when we try, they die out soon and we don’t know the reason. We now have to buy medicines from a chemist’s shop for everything,” he asserts.

Sometimes, the cost is much higher. Northern Indian states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have experienced an explosion in the population of stray dogs, giving rise to health risks among locals.

By way of explanation, Neha Sinha, advocacy and policy officer of the Bombay Natural History Society in India (BNHS), a Mumbai-based conservation charity, tells IPS that the phenomenon of increasingly feral dogs can be traced to Indian farmers’ practice of leaving dead cattle out in the open to be consumed by birds of prey.

With no vultures to pick the beasts clean, dogs are now getting to the carcasses, growing more and more vicious and resorting to attacks on humans. BNHS is currently breeding vultures in captivity in order to prevent their complete extinction, but it is unlikely the birds will regain their numbers from 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, according to a study by Birdlife International, the population of feral dogs in India has grown by 5.5 million due to the disappearance of vultures.

The report says there have been “roughly 38.5 million additional dog bites and more than 47,300 extra deaths from rabies, [which] may have cost the Indian economy an additional 34 billion dollars.”

Legal and knowledge gaps

The near extinction of vultures in India is attributed to diclofenac, a painkiller that is often given to cows and buffalos to which vultures are allergic. Intense campaigning against use of the drug led to a government ban in 2004, but implementation of the law has been poor, and diclofenac is still widely used, according to Singh of BNHS.

“The farmers know [the drug] is banned but they continue to use it because the law is not being enforced,” she said.

In several other cases, communities are left confused as to the reasons behind species loss, making it increasingly hard to settle on a solution. For instance, even after a decade of seeing their unique creatures vanish, Dominica still does not know what brought the Chytridiomycosis fungus to their soil, or how to deal with it.

This knowledge gap is a double whammy for indigenous communities, whose lives and livelihoods depend heavily on the species they have lived side by side with for millennia.

Lucy Mulenekei, executive director of the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), tells IPS on the sidelines of the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12), currently underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, that the decline in the livestock population in Kenya has affected the Maasai people, a pastoral tribe that has always relied on their herds for sustenance.

Now forced to live off the land, the tribe is faltering.

“The Maasai people don’t know what kind of farming tools they need, or how to use them. They don’t know what seeds to use and how to access them. There is a huge gap in knowledge and technology,” explains Mulenekei, who is Maasai herself.

In response to the growing crisis, governments and U.N. agencies are pushing out initiatives to tackle the problem at its root.

Carlos Potiara Castro, a technical advisor with the Brazilian environment ministry, is leading one such project in the Bailique Archipelago, 160 km from the Macapa municipality in northern Brazil, where local fisher communities are taught to conserve biodiversity. Already, community members have learned the properties of 154 medicinal plants.

The annual cost of the project is about 50,000 dollars, but Potiara says a lot more funding will be needed in order to scale up the work and replicate such efforts around the country.

This might soon be possible under a new initiative launched by the government of Germany together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which offers 12.3 million euros over a period of five years to indigenous communities in over 130 countries to help them conserve protected areas.

Yoko Watanabe, a senior biodiversity specialist at the natural resources team of the GEF Secretariat, tells IPS the grants will also cover the cost of trainings, to pass on necessary skills to indigenous communities who are recognised as “indispensable to biodiversity conservation.”

For the original report go to http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/vanishing-species-local-communities-count-their-losses/

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 17, 2014

More Caribbean Islands Bar Travelers from Ebola-Stricken Countries


Each day more Caribbean islands join the list of countries closing their doors to visitors from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, The Latin American Herald Tribune reports.

Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda have already established entry restrictions for passengers from certain African countries.

Other islands are studying similar measures after concluding that their hospitals and medical personnel are not prepared to cope with Ebola, which has killed nearly 4,500 people in West Africa.

The National Security Ministry of Jamaica said Friday that passengers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone will be not allowed to enter the island.

The restriction includes Jamaicans returning home after visits to those nations.

“CARICOM nationals benefitting from the free movement regime are also subject to this landing restriction, which is a temporary measure necessary for the protection of human and animal health,” the ministry said in a statement.

Also this week, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller told members of her Cabinet to reduce their foreign travel and to stay away entirely from the most affected countries by Ebola.

Guyana’s health minister, Bheri Ramsaran, announced his government’s decision to ban nationals from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Trinidad and Tobago will exclude people from those four countries and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Trinidad Express reported Friday.

The Trinidadian government is contemplating spending more than $3.2 million bio-containment unit to isolate any Ebola-infected person or persons arriving in the country.

This week, Trinidad’s immigration authorities turned away a cargo ship from the United Kingdom because the vessel had made recent stops in West Africa.

Grenada is mulling the imposition of restrictions on travelers from Africa.

Although the Turks and Caicos government has not issued any official restrictions, it announced Friday that immigration and health officials will put in quarantine any person coming from West Africa.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, said his country imposed a ban because “we didn’t consider that we had the infrastructure, necessarily, to deal with an onrush of people if they were to come from any of those West African countries,” according to a report in the Jamaica Observer.

That same argument has been echoed by other member-states of the Caribbean Community.

Next Monday, several CARICOM members – Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda – will come together at an extraordinary Ebola summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America, known by the Spanish acronym ALBA.

For the original report go to http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2357018&CategoryId=14092

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 17, 2014

14 Amazing Facts You Did Not Know About Trinidad and Tobago


From The Atlanta Black Star, gallery of interesting facts about Trinidad and Tobago.

Here’s a sample. For the entire list go to


The Trinidad Moruga “Scorpion” Pepper (photo above) has officially been ranked as the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of Records.


It is the birthplace of the steel pan drum.


Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 17, 2014

CFP: The Influence of Don Quijote on the Humanities

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The Department of Modern Languages at California State University, Dominguez Hills, in conjunction with Instituto Literario y Cultural Hispánico (ILCH) is pleased to announce the 41st International Symposium of Hispanic Literature, being held from April 15th to April 17th, 2015. This three-day event will honor the legacy of Dr. Juana Arancibia, president-founder of ILCH. This year, the symposium will concentrate exclusively on Spanish-born author Miguel de Cervantes and his magnum opusEl ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, one of the most influential and well-known works to be produced during El Siglo de Oro (The Golden Age) in Spain. This work has captivated the imaginations of countless artists, writers, and filmmakers with the exploits of its idealist hero Don Quixote and his trusty companion, Sancho Panza. From Salman Rushdie’s novel The Moor’s Last Sigh to Salvador Dalí’s sculpture Don Quixote to Mitch Leigh’s Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, Cervantes’ work has influenced all areas of the arts and humanities and continues to do so today.

It is that far-reaching influence and longevity that the International Symposium of Hispanic Literature, in its 41st convocation, seeks to celebrate. To that end, Dr. Benito Gómez, Professor of Spanish at California State University, Dominguez Hills and coordinator of the Symposium, would like to invite interested parties to attend the Symposium. Academics, scholars, and researchers will be presenting, through a series of scheduled panels scheduled over three days, research on topics relating to Don Quixote and its cultural, literary and artistic impact.

For those interested in submitting proposals, please note that papers to be presented should last only 15 minutes (about 7 double-spaced pages). When you reach 14 minutes, your moderator will ask you to skip to your conclusions. Papers may be presented in English or Spanish, but cannot be read in absentia. Any paper about Don Quixote is welcome, but we will accept proposals that deal with the influence of this novel on any other work (literary or otherwise) more readily.

Due to the great number of proposals and our desire to form homogeneous panels, every presenter is expected to be available to present at any time and any day of the symposium.

The registration cost for this event is $70, to be paid at our webpage when the proposal is accepted.*

Spaces are limited. Please, submit your title and 100-word abstracts electronically and as soon as possible (deadline: February, 20th, 2015) to: bgomez@csudh.edu.

If you have any questions, please contact the Department of Modern Languages at California State University, Dominguez Hills, by calling (310) 243-3315.


A post by Peter Jordens.

Caribbean News Now reports that Unbreakable: A Story of Hope and Healing in Haiti , a documentary about hope and healing in the midst of the horrific aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, will be a featured presentation at the New York City Independent Film Festival on Friday [October 17, 2014] and Sunday [October 19]. In September, the film won the Most Inspirational Documentary Award at the DocMiami International Festival/Florida Documentary Film Festival. [See our previous post Haitian Amputees’ Story of Triumph and Survival to Premiere at DocMiami Film Festival.]

[…] Unbreakable focuses on a segment of Haitian society that might easily have been ignored — the thousands of children who underwent emergency amputations in order to survive the shocking carnage that unfolded 4½ years ago. Not only did these young people survive, they thrived and formed an amputee soccer team that helped to change the hearts and minds of many Haitian people. “In Haiti, there has long been a stigma about disabled people,” explained Dr Robert Gailey, rehabilitation coordinator for University of Miami-affiliated Project Medishare for Haiti, the group that runs the amputee rehabilitation program in Port-au-Prince. “The traditional thinking was that disability somehow reflected a negative supernatural judgment on the person. This rehab program, and the soccer team, has really changed that way of thinking.”

[…] Touching on aspects of Haiti’s culture, turbulent history and economic hardship, and drawing on the insights of numerous experts, Unbreakable tells the story of the many challenges faced and overcome by the Healing Haiti’s Children initiative, which offered free prosthetics and rehabilitation to every child injured in the earthquake. The program was a partnership between the Knights of Columbus [a Catholic fraternal benefits organization based in New Haven, Conn.] and Project Medishare. Medishare provided medical expertise and treatment, and the Knights of Columbus provided funding of more than $1.5 million. To date, more than 1,000 children have received medical care as a result. “This film shows that when there is the will to do so, both in terms of those providing aid and those receiving it, lives can be saved and transformed by a program that is truly sustainable,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson, executive producer of the documentary. “The work of the dedicated medical staff and the unbreakable spirit of these Haitian young people, in circumstances most of us can’t imagine, are truly inspiring.” […]

The project also inspired the formation of an amputee soccer team, named Zaryen (tarantula) after the resilient spider known for its ability to continue living even when it loses a limb. The team has inspired not only Haitians but also Americans, helping to teach amputee soccer to troops in the US who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. And five years later, the work continues, with Haitian workers helping to build a sustainable program. “We’re still here … one of the few prosthetic facilities that are still going,” says prosthetist Adam Finnieston in the documentary, referring to the new permanent rehabilitation clinic in Haiti that has fit more than 1,000 children and is now largely staffed by Haitians trained in this specialization since the earthquake. “That was our mission goal from the beginning, to build a sustainable facility … training locals.” […]

The full, original article is at http://caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Haitian-story-of-triumph-and-survival-featured-at-New-York-film-festival-23194.html.

Watch the film trailer on the website of the NYC Independent Film Festival, https://www.nycindiefilmfest.com/film/unbreakable-a-story-of-hope-and-healing-in-haiti, or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0AwElWBKiw.

Additional trailers and more information about Unbreakable are available on the film’s website, http://www.unbreakableinhaiti.com/en/index.html

The film will be screened on Friday at 11:30 am at the Royal Theatre at the Producers Club, 358 W 44th Street, and on Sunday at 12:30 pm at the Adelante Theatre, 25 W 31st Street, New York City.

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