Craig Eisele on …..

January 13, 2014

Some info on Ghana and West Africa

The race to become West Africa’s central port hub intensifies

Two substantial port investments have been announced recently by Ghana and Nigeria: the awarding of contracts worth US$2.5bn to double Ghana’s port capacity by 2018 and the approval of Nigeria’s first deep-sea port at Lekki, which will take around four years to complete at an estimated cost of US$1.35bn. These announcements are indicative of the competition between West Africa’s ports, all of which are seeking to become the primary gateway to the region. However, it is the more western ports of Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) and Dakar (Senegal) that are proving most successful in attracting transit traffic.

West Africa’s proliferation of competing ports—six ports in the region handle more than 300,000 containers a year—is attributable to the concentration of economic activity along the coast. Although this competition encourages investment, it has also split it: West Africa has more projects than any other region (16) under the African Development Bank’s Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa, but they have a lower total value (US$6.2bn) than any other region bar North Africa.

A 2011 study by the African Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD, a group led by the African Development Bank) showed that the region’s ports, together with those of Central Africa, had the highest average dwell time, truck processing time and container cargo handling charges on the continent. Fragmentation means that the region lacks a single efficient hub. Furthermore, although West Africa has the potential to be one of the world’s fastest-growing regions in the coming years, gridlocked ports represent a major threat to economic expansion.

Ambitious plans across the region

While Tema in Ghana and Lagos in Nigeria may be the two largest hubs in terms of current traffic and proposed investment, others are making efforts to close the gap. This year Guinea signed a deal with Mubadala Development and Dubai Aluminium to develop port facilities in Kamsar, as part of a US$5bn investment. Elsewhere, a consortium consisting of APM Terminals, Bolloré Africa Logistics and Bouygues was chosen by Abidjan Port Authority to build and manage a second container terminal, with plans to invest more than €450m (US$585m) over the 21‑year concession period, and the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector funding arm of the World Bank, arranged a €225m debt package for Lomé Container Terminal, representing Togo’s largest-ever direct foreign investment. In November alone, The Gambia announced plans to construct an inland port at Kuar; the Liberian presidential delegation to the UAE and Kuwait made ports and infrastructure a focal point of its trip; and the Sierra Leone Ports Authority reiterated its openness to partnerships and investment.

Inland infrastructure will be a driver of port demand

As the landlocked economies in the region grow—Burkina Faso and Niger are among West Africa’s fastest-growing economies—more attention will be paid to inland transportation. Progress in intra-regional tariff liberalization and the lowering of non-tariff barriers has led to increases in transit traffic, enjoyed predominantly by the western ports of Abidjan (a 126% increase in transit traffic volumes between 2008 and 2012) and Dakar (a 125% increase). These increases have been at the expense of ports further east, such as Ghana’s Tema, which experienced a 43% decrease over the same period.

Inland infrastructure developments will further this trend. A railway connecting Niger and Burkina Faso with Cote d’Ivoire, due to begin construction next year, will help Abidjan to increase its share of transit traffic. Road transportation, which accounts for 90% of inland transportation in West Africa, is expensive because of an oligopoly of trucking companies that enjoys profit margins of 30-40%: rail transportation in the Abidjan-Ouagdougou corridor is already 30% cheaper on average than road transportation. Niger and Benin are also planning to extend and rehabilitate the existing railway line between Cotonou and Niamey; Niger wants the work completed by 2015, although that is optimistic.

Piracy makes eastern ports less attractive

The rise of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea—there were 67 attacks in the first half of 2013, compared with 34 in the same period of 2012—will also push port traffic westwards. These attacks have a substantial impact on shipping: when 22 attacks occurred off the coast of Benin in 2011, the subsequent categorization of Beninese waters as “high risk” by insurance companies—a category that already includes Nigeria and Togo—led to a 70% decrease in port traffic, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Although there have been three attacks off Côte d’Ivoire this year, one off Sierra Leone and one off Guinea, the overwhelming majority of incidents occur east of Ghana, at an estimated cost of US$740-950m in 2012. This challenge is unlikely to be solved as effectively as it has been in the Gulf of Aden: the required regional co‑operation is likely to be hampered by the same bureaucratic challenges that have affected other regional efforts in the past, and the necessity of vessels to queue for port access—rather than passing through the waters off Somalia—makes them vulnerable.

Ghana and Nigeria lose out to Abidjan and Dakar

Investments in the port infrastructure of Ghana and Nigeria will help them to ease congestion and more effectively serve their growing economies. As the two largest economies in in the region, their domestic markets alone could ensure their position as the largest ports in the Gulf of Guinea. However, without accompanying efforts to improve inland transportation corridors and combat piracy, it is unlikely that either will become a dominant transit hub for the wider region. Instead, transit traffic will increasingly move westward. Abidjan and Dakar, which are already the two largest ports west of Ghana (handling 18m tons and 113m tons of cargo respectively in 2011), stand to gain the most from this shift.

Watch for Ghana to develop significantly greater Energy exports by the end of this decade. 

June 4, 2013

Egypt and Ethiopia Move Closer to War Over Nile River Water

Filed under: Africa,bule nile,Egypt,Ehtipoia,Nile,Water Wars,white nile — Mr. Craig @ 8:45 am

Egypt and Ethiopia Move Closer to War Over Nile River Water.

April 21, 2012

Africa: Huge Water Reserves Under Continent

Researchers have found thatAfrica has huge reserves of water underground, which they estimate are more than a hundred times the annual renewable freshwater resources.

Their findings, published in the academic journal Environment Research Letters, show that the largest reserves are in aquifers in the north African countries of Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Chad and Sudan.

.

The scientists used existing data, but for the first time this data was collated to give a continent-wide picture. They estimate that there are 0.66 million cubic kilometres of groundwater storage under Africa.

However, the researchers emphasise that it is important to take into consideration the rate at which this stored water can be replenished.

Whilst the largest reserves lie across the arid region of north Africa, these were filled five thousand years ago when the region was much wetter. There is plenty of water under this area, about seventy five meters deep, but whatever is taken out is not replenished.

Other factors to be taken into account are the geological characteristics of the underground water reservoirs. For example, if the groundwater is very deep underground it cannot be accessed by hand pump.

The researchers find that “for many African countries appropriately sited and constructed boreholes will be able to sustain community handpumps and for most of the populated areas of Africa, groundwater levels are likely to be sufficiently shallow to be accessed using a handpump”.

One of the report’s authors, Helen Bonsor of the British Geological Survey, told AIM that it is not appropriate to downscale the report’s findings, and that their work does not deal with the quality of the water stored. It thus does not deal with the issues of salinization or contamination, although she said that in general the stored water is purer than surface water. She stressed that the report is intended to encourage debate and more local research.

There is certainly a large amount of water under Mozambique, and the paper estimates that there are 6,290 cubic kilometres of groundwater stored under the country, with particularly large reserves under Maputo province.

The groundwater in Mozambique is replenished at a rate of between 25 and 100 millimetres per year, and is stored relatively close to the surface. The paper shows that the aquifer productivity for much of Mozambique is high.

The British Geological Survey has also been undertaking a one year research project funded by the British government’s Department for International Development, looking at the resilience of African groundwater to climate change.

That research found that “groundwater possesses a high resilience to climate change in Africa and should be central to adaptation strategies”.

February 18, 2012

Strange Disease Killing Africa Children Spreads World Wide

An Unknown Disease with Unknown Origin is killing Children mostly in Africa but has now been reported world wide. See articles below for news reports from around Africa

 

Could mysterious nodding disease in Africa have global implications?

Nodding syndrome — a disease with epileptic-type symptoms prevalent in parts of northern Uganda — is a medical mystery that is confounding medical researchers and scientists alike.

The disease causes young children and adolescents to nod violently in an apparent seizure. It happens frequently throughout the day, including when they eat.

Over the past year there has been a growing outbreak in northern Uganda, specifically in Kitgum, Pader and Gulu. It is believed that thousands of cases have developed, but officials from the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have only been able to confirm a couple hundred.

A team from the Atlanta-based health organization is returning to Uganda in February to consult with local officials about a treatment trial.

Some researchers have suggested the disease may be linked to river blindness, which also affects all three communities.

River blindness, carried in bacteria inside a nematode worm known as onchocerca volvulus, is transmitted to humans by a bite from a black fly infected with the worm. The disease affects 18 million people, mostly in Africa.

The worms burrow into the skin, reproduce and release millions of offspring that spread throughout the body. After they die, they trigger a severe immune inflammatory response in the body which causes vision loss and severe itching.

It isn’t clear how it is related to nodding syndrome, researchers admit. At the moment all they know is there is an association between the two diseases.

History of Syndrome

The first cases of nodding syndrome — or descriptions of what could have been the disease — date back to the early 1960s in Tanzania, said Scott Dowell, director of Global Disease Detection and Emergency Response for the CDC, in a phone interview with the Star.

Over the past decade, clusters of the disease have popped up in South Sudan and Uganda. The onset in Uganda seems to have begun in 2003 with several thousand cases in Kitgum, Dowell said.

The disease appears to strike most children and adolescents between ages 5 and 15. Children appear healthy until about age 5 and then they begin having strange head-bobbing episodes.

Dowell describes it as a kind of perpetual motion, with the head constantly nodding up and down as if to say yes.

The nodding outbreaks differ in individuals, according to Dowell. In some patients it happens every few minutes. In other cases, it happens only three or four times a week. In many cases it makes eating and drinking difficult.

Those who experience it often appear disoriented and not aware of their surroundings when it’s happening, he explained. “It’s very unusual. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world.”

It is 40 to 100 times more common than epilepsy, he added.

Causes and treatments?

Researchers had hypothesized it might be caused by a new viral encephalitis, but that didn’t bear any fruit. They also thought perhaps it was a prion disease — such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — but they have ruled that out, as well.

Now scientists are betting on the possibility that nodding syndrome is associated with river blindness. In all three CDC investigations so far, said Dowell, researchers have found an association.

Children and adolescents with the disease are more likely to have antibodies against river blindness and were more likely to be exposed to it. But scientists don’t know how river blindness transforms itself into nodding syndrome.

None of the children or adolescents who suffer from nodding syndrome recover. “Once they have it, it is forever,” said Dowell. It is very debilitating — they can’t eat, they are malnourished and they have cognitive problems, so they drop out of school and become totally dependent on their parents and the community, Dowell said.

Currently, sufferers are being treated with anti-epileptic medications and family members report the children are experiencing some relief.

The CDC has also recommended that they be treated for river blindness and malnutrition.

Global Significance

“Because we don’t know what causes it or its transmission routes, we don’t know what implications it may have for the rest of the world,” said Dowell.

Some diseases in Africa are local and others turn out to be globally important. He cites as an example “slim disease” — a wasting disease in West Africa. “It turned out to have been caused by HIV before HIV was discovered.”

In the case of nodding syndrome “we don’t know the implications of this for the rest of the world,” Dowell said. “It’s quite clear it has huge implications for those living in Kitgum district in Uganda, but it could turn out to have just as huge implications for the rest of the world.”

 

‘Nodding disease’ confounds experts, kills children

TUMANGU, Uganda (AFP) – Patrick Anywar, 14, lies curled up naked in the dust and midday heat of a Ugandan village, struggling to look up at his younger brother and sister playing in front of the family home.

After a minute’s effort to face his siblings, Anywar’s head slumps onto his chest and his emaciated body is gripped by convulsions.

Anywar is one of more than 3,000 children in northern Uganda who are suffering from a debilitating mystery ailment known as nodding disease, which has touched almost every family in the village of Tumangu.

For several years, scientists have tried and failed to determine the cause of the illness, which locals say has killed hundreds of youngsters.

What they do know is that the disease affects only children and gradually devastates its victims through debilitating seizures, stunted growth, wasted limbs, mental disabilities and sometimes starvation.

Anywar’s mother, Rugina Abwoyo, has already lost one son, named Watmon, to the disease in 2010. Now she says she can do little but watch on helplessly as another child slips away.

“Before he was walking and running like other children, but now someone always has to stay home to look after him,” Abwoyo told AFP. “The disease is terrible — it does not let him drink or eat by himself.”

Walking along footpaths cut through the sorghum plantations, Joe Otto, a volunteer health worker, explains how nodding disease has ravaged Tumangu, about 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of the capital Kampala.

“There are 780 people living in this village and we have 97 cases of the disease. It has affected almost every family,” Otto, 54, told AFP.

Whenever sporadic deliveries of medicine arrive at the local health centre several kilometres away, Otto pedals his bicycle to fetch the drugs. But he knows that they only offer a short-term solution.

“We are giving out drugs for epilepsy, like carbamazepine, but this disease is different from epilepsy,” Otto said.

Instead, as the disease has torn through their community, local residents have moved from fear to a grim acceptance, Otto says.

“We started saying that the patient who had died was the one who had been cured, because finally they were at rest from this painful disease,” Otto said.

Scientists are trying to find a cure: since 2010, researchers ranging from epidemiologists to environmental experts, neurologists, toxicologists and psychiatrists have carried out a range of tests.

Investigations have looked at possible links between the disease and everything from a parasite that causes river blindness, to malnutrition and the after-effects of a civil war that ravaged northern Uganda for decades.

“We looked at all this, but unfortunately we were not able to pinpoint any significant contributing or risk factors,” said Miriam Nanyunja, disease control and prevention officer at the World Health Organisation in Kampala.

“The search for the causative agent is still ongoing,” she added.

Often the results have thrown up more questions than answers. Scientists do not know if the disease is linked to similar outbreaks in neighbouring South Sudan and Tanzania.

Efforts continue to understand if the disease is still spreading or has peaked — and why it is seems confined only to certain communities.

Last month, after pressure from lawmakers from affected areas, Uganda’s health ministry produced an emergency response plan to try to identify and control the disease.

However, Nanyunja says that while the search for the cause and a possible cure goes on, for now, doctors can only focus on trying to alleviate the symptoms.

“There are many diseases that we continue to treat symptomatically, without knowing the exact cause,” Nanyunja said.

But for Patrick Anywar, any attempts to curb or cure the disease may come too late.

“We are hoping that the doctors work very hard to get the cure for this disease,” his mother Abwoyo says.

“There is no future for us as so many children have already been affected, but we hope that our youngest can be saved.”

 

Nigeria: Strange Disease Kills 13 Children in Borno

BY ABDULKAREEM HARUNA, 9 AUGUST 2011

Maiduguri — About 13 children have died and 14 others are in hospital following the outbreak of a strange disease that shares the traits of mumps in Kimba village, Borno State.

The children died within the period of seven days when their lower jaws and necks swell as though they were infected by mumps and then died after some few days.

Dr Edward Dika, the Principal Medical Officer of Biu Council, said most of the killed children did not make it to the hospital as the parents resorted to traditional medication, until it degenerated to near epidemic levels.

He explained that but for the quick intervention of the Biu Council which ordered the immediate evacuation of all the affected children to the Biu General Hospital more would have died.

Council Caretaker Chairman, Yusuf Adamu, said the people took the outbreak for granted; “instead of taking the first infected child to hospital they sought the services of a Wanzam (traditional surgeon) who merely made some marks on the inflamated area and the inflammation reduced. But it wasn’t the same to others who died after some few days.

“We had to rush down to Kimba village, a distance of about 30 kilometres away from Biu to force them to take these children (13 of them – one was later added on Tuesday), to General Hospital Biu for intervention.

“We also quickly released the sum of N160,000 to the Primary Healthcare Department for the procurement of all the prescribed drugs for their treatment.”

Edward said the lack of capacity of the Biu General Hospital in carrying out laboratory tests and the fatality rate make it difficult to conclude that the disease is mumps.

Tagged:
<<<<<<<<<<<<

Uganda: Strange Disease Kills 30 In Gulu

BY SHEILA C. KULUBYA IN KAMPALA &OKETCH BITEK, 14 OCTOBER 2000

Kampala — Thirty people including a family of eight have died following the outbreak of a disease identified as Viral Haemorrhage Fever (VHF).

In a statement released Oct 12, the director of general health services, Dr. Francis Omaswa, said the disease is characterized by high fever, severe muscle pains and bleeding from the mouth, nose and anus.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

http://www.ntvuganda.co.ug/ The Ministry of Health and Members of Parliament from Northern Uganda are in the Northern region on a fact finding mission investigating the possible causes of the mysterious Nodding disease that has killed dozens over the past few months. The Health officials and the Acholi members of parliament today visited several areas in Kitgum which are most affected. Resolutions have been made but no mention of a cure as the cause of the disease still remains unclear.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

strange disease has hit Namutumba district killing 16 children within one week. The district woman MP Florence Mutyabule says the disease mainly affects children aged between one month and 4 years. She says she has tried to contact the ministry of health but has not received any response and is calling for urgent attention from the government.

Nsoola village in Magada sub-county is the most hit with over 100 children affected so far, 4 of whom have been rushed to Iganga hospital in very critical condition. The symptoms of the strange disease include swellings which hit the babies heads and spread to the rest of the body. The skin then begins to peel off and the children die within few days.

The Ministry of health says it is still investigating the outbreak, whose cause has not yet been established. The ministry’s in-charge of surveillance Dr. Issa Makumbi says some of the symptoms with which the disease presents such as high fever, vomiting and diarrhea point to malnutrition. Makumbi says a team of experts is to be sent to Namutumba to investigate the outbreak.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Ghana News

‘Nodding disease’ confounds experts, kills children

TUMANGU, Uganda (AFP) – Patrick Anywar, 14, lies curled up naked in the dust and midday heat of a Ugandan village, struggling to look up at his younger brother and sister playing in front of the family home.

After a minute’s effort to face his siblings, Anywar’s head slumps onto his chest and his emaciated body is gripped by convulsions.

Anywar is one of more than 3,000 children in northern Uganda who are suffering from a debilitating mystery ailment known as nodding disease, which has touched almost every family in the village of Tumangu.

For several years, scientists have tried and failed to determine the cause of the illness, which locals say has killed hundreds of youngsters.

What they do know is that the disease affects only children and gradually devastates its victims through debilitating seizures, stunted growth, wasted limbs, mental disabilities and sometimes starvation.

Anywar’s mother, Rugina Abwoyo, has already lost one son, named Watmon, to the disease in 2010. Now she says she can do little but watch on helplessly as another child slips away.

“Before he was walking and running like other children, but now someone always has to stay home to look after him,” Abwoyo told AFP. “The disease is terrible — it does not let him drink or eat by himself.”

Walking along footpaths cut through the sorghum plantations, Joe Otto, a volunteer health worker, explains how nodding disease has ravaged Tumangu, about 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of the capital Kampala.

“There are 780 people living in this village and we have 97 cases of the disease. It has affected almost every family,” Otto, 54, told AFP.

Whenever sporadic deliveries of medicine arrive at the local health centre several kilometres away, Otto pedals his bicycle to fetch the drugs. But he knows that they only offer a short-term solution.

“We are giving out drugs for epilepsy, like carbamazepine, but this disease is different from epilepsy,” Otto said.

Instead, as the disease has torn through their community, local residents have moved from fear to a grim acceptance, Otto says.

“We started saying that the patient who had died was the one who had been cured, because finally they were at rest from this painful disease,” Otto said.

Scientists are trying to find a cure: since 2010, researchers ranging from epidemiologists to environmental experts, neurologists, toxicologists and psychiatrists have carried out a range of tests.

Investigations have looked at possible links between the disease and everything from a parasite that causes river blindness, to malnutrition and the after-effects of a civil war that ravaged northern Uganda for decades.

“We looked at all this, but unfortunately we were not able to pinpoint any significant contributing or risk factors,” said Miriam Nanyunja, disease control and prevention officer at the World Health Organisation in Kampala.

“The search for the causative agent is still ongoing,” she added.

Often the results have thrown up more questions than answers. Scientists do not know if the disease is linked to similar outbreaks in neighbouring South Sudan and Tanzania.

Efforts continue to understand if the disease is still spreading or has peaked — and why it is seems confined only to certain communities.

Last month, after pressure from lawmakers from affected areas, Uganda’s health ministry produced an emergency response plan to try to identify and control the disease.

However, Nanyunja says that while the search for the cause and a possible cure goes on, for now, doctors can only focus on trying to alleviate the symptoms.

“There are many diseases that we continue to treat symptomatically, without knowing the exact cause,” Nanyunja said.

But for Patrick Anywar, any attempts to curb or cure the disease may come too late.

“We are hoping that the doctors work very hard to get the cure for this disease,” his mother Abwoyo says.

“There is no future for us as so many children have already been affected, but we hope that our youngest can be saved.”

Africa: Women Filmmakers Tell Their Stories

Filed under: Africa,Culture — Mr. Craig @ 3:33 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Africa: Women Filmmakers Tell Their Stories

17 FEBRUARY 2012

INTERVIEW

Filmmaker Salem Mekuria (Photo Courtesy Salem Mekuria)

Documentary film making holds a special place in the history of African women’s cinema. In 1972, Senegalese filmmaker Safi Faye became the first sub-Saharan African woman to make a commercially distributed feature film when she directed “Kaddu Beykat”. The film, a mixture of fiction and documentary, depicts the economic problems suffered by Senegalese village farmers because of agriculture policies that Faye says rely on an outdated, colonial system of groundnut monoculture. Faye would go on to direct several documentaries often focused on rural life in her native Senegal.

African women who have taken documentary film making to new levels come from across the continent and handle a wide range of topics. The films show an Africa that is not often seen, according to Beti Ellerson, director of the Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema. Ellerson, who teaches courses in African studies, visual culture and women studies in the Washington, DC, area, is also the producer of a 2002 documentary, “Sisters of the Screen: African Women in the Cinema.”

Much has changed since Faye’s early Senegalese films. The emergence of the Internet, social media and crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter now offer a new generation of African women documentary filmmakers the tools to realize their visions. To learn of the challenges and opportunities facing African women filmmakers, AllAfrica’s Genet Lakew and Rahwa Meharena asked three women – Salem Mekuria, Rahel Zegeye and Sosena Solomon – to share their stories. They represent two generations of Ethiopian documentary filmmaking.

Salem Mekuria – The Challenge of Funding

When I left Ethiopia some 40 years ago to attend college in the United States, I had every intention of going back. But plans changed and I stayed to build a film career and family.

Despite my love for science, neither the science department nor the faculty at Haile Selassie I University, now Addis Ababa University, were ready to accept women in the field. It was a very difficult place to be. I was considered an anomaly, along with other female students. An exciting scholarship to study in the U.S. presented itself to me and I jumped at it.

Although I arrived at the height of the civil rights movement, I had no historical knowledge of the African American experience. But I find one of the motivations for me to make films is curiosity. Exploring African American subjects was my way of acknowledging the struggles of this community, which paved the way for opportunities for me in this country. I got a chance to work at a television station in California. From there, I moved to Boston in 1981 to work at WGBH television, a member station of the Public Broadcasting Service.

My first film was “Our Place in the Sun,” a 30-minute documentary that looked into the history of African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard Island off the coast of Massachusetts. Over time, I started shifting my focus to explore Ethiopian history, people and places because there are fewer people of African descent telling African stories. Films like “Sidet: Forced Exile,” “Deluge” or “Ye Wonz Maibel,” “IMAGinING Tobia,” “Ruptures: A Many Sided Story,” and “Square Stories” were all made in this spirit.

I am no exception to the perennial challenge independent filmmakers face: money. Efforts to raise funds are particularly harsh on Africans who make films on African subjects. I wish we could educate our people to want to be interested in investing in these films. If we do not succeed in doing that, then I have no idea where the future of funding is.

Before 1993, I did not plan to go into teaching but it’s very difficult to make a living as an independent filmmaker. My teaching position at Wellesley College gives me the flexibility to take a couple of months off every year, which I often use to travel to Ethiopia.

I’ve been lucky enough to earn various fellowships and grants to conduct research, fund my films, and provide exposure for my work. The Fulbright Scholar Award allowed me to spend a year in Ethiopia researching historical women leaders, which I’m hoping to make into a screenplay. I shot “IMAGinING Tobia” as a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Partly as a response to financial limitations, I began using triptych video installations, which use three different screens to show a film, designed to give the audience an interactive viewing experience. I also no longer use dialogue in my films, meaning the people in them don’t talk so I’m mostly presenting my stories in images.

Distribution is not any easier. Two of my films are at Women Make Films, a nonprofit organization that distributes independent films made by and about women. But I primarily self-distribute my films when people, schools and international organizations request them. Museums and galleries, and festivals are great ways to showcase and promote my work. Most recently, “Deluge” and “Square Stories” were shown at Film Africa 2011 in London.

At the present moment, I’m writing grant proposals in hopes of securing funding for a new project about a Nigerian human rights lawyer and women who are dealing with Sharia law in northern Nigeria. If I succeed in getting the money, it will be the first single channel documentary I will make in 14 years.

Rahel Zegeye – Fantasy Versus Reality

Ten years ago, my plan was to jet off to Beirut in search of domestic work without telling my family. My military veteran father was unemployed and our family had to pinch whatever pennies we had. Besides, there were limited opportunities to continue my education after high school, especially without high grades and test scores.

Unfortunately, they found out about my secret mission two days before I was to leave Addis Ababa. My father was especially upset because of the negative reports he heard about girls who went off to work in Arab countries.

Like thousands of African, Sri Lankan, Indian and Filipino women, I saw Beirut as a place to improve my economic outlook. But I was met with a reality much starker than my dreams. With this opportunity also came reports of verbal, physical and sexual abuse as well as withheld payments, excessive work hours, and confinement to the employer’s house.

I experienced some of this mistreatment during my early years [in Beirut]. Four days after my arrival, I was on the balcony of the home where I was assigned to work, brushing my hair. I saw an Ethiopian woman on the top floor who looked down and warned me to be careful. As she said, there came a day when I feared for my life in that house. The woman I was working for was very strict and made work difficult for me.

Fortunately, the agents who made my arrangements moved me to another house. My second employer seemed much nicer. I found myself in a better situation and tolerated the new challenges I faced. I kept working, telling myself that this house was better than the last. That’s mainly because I had no other choice. Life was hard but I could not do much to change it.

After six years of silent obedience, I could not take it anymore. There came a day when my employer refused me food and water for 13 days. I finally decided to leave and asked her to give me the money she owed me. She refused to pay me the two months worth salary she had withheld from me and kept all of my clothes.

I found myself on the move again. I was lucky enough to find a third employer who is kind and compassionate. I haven’t budged from his home since, working for a man of mixed Lebanese and Armenian descent. He’s good-natured and supportive of my ambitious goals of filmmaking. Now I’ve found a bit of freedom.

This new environment allowed me to begin documenting the stories of less fortunate Ethiopian domestic workers. Five years go I made a film, “Beirut,” which chronicles the lives of a group of women. It is a personal look into their social interactions and aspirations outside of work. I set out to show the reality of their lives, which sometimes include prostitution, drinking and smoking.

I used the money I saved from four years of working to fund the film. I paid two cameramen U.S.$200 each to film once a week on Sunday afternoons, my day off. The actors are all domestic workers themselves who portray the real stories of women I’ve encountered over the years. “Beirut” took a total of two years to make and had to be edited down from four hours to about an hour and a half.

My aim is to advise prospective domestic workers in Ethiopia to learn from my own experience and the experience of many women like me. There are many problems they could find themselves in after arriving. It is important for them to understand the potential dangers that come with the job. This is the spirit of the film.

I would not recommend for young girls to come to the Middle East to wash dishes and clean homes. It is dead end labor that leaves no room for personal advancement. In the 10 years that I’ve been here, my place in Lebanese society hasn’t changed much. I make a mere $250 a month. People still hurl insults at me as I walk down the street. I don’t enjoy the same rights and privileges as the natives or the freedom to pursue business opportunities. But this reality is not broadcast in the romanticized brochures young women in Ethiopia read, desperate to go abroad for work.

I’ve reached a roadblock in the distribution efforts for “Beirut” since the Ethiopian embassy [in Beirut] denied final approval of the film. But I’m working on drumming up support, such as from the wife of famed Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie. I am determined to show the film in Ethiopia, where it really counts.

Sosena Solomon – Making Merkato

I panicked when my internship supervisor at WHUT television in Washington, DC, handed me a video camera to make a mini documentary about the city’s robust Ethiopian population, specifically the small business owners along U Street’s unofficial “Little Ethiopia” strip. How could I, a mere high school student at the time, bear the burden of accurately capturing the essence of this community? It seemed too great a task so I backed out of the project.

Now, two film degrees later, I know that storytelling through film is my path. My latest documentary, “Merkato,” was born out of an idea to possibly use it as my thesis film at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where I studied social documentary film. Before my first trip in December 2008 to visit my dad, I had never been to Ethiopia.

I fell in love with Merkato during that first trip home. Situated in Addis Ababa, it is the largest open-air market in Africa where thousands of merchants set up shop to sell all types of goods, from sugar and spices to clothing and electronics. I saw Merkato as a microcosm of the country’s society and culture, an exciting way to get a taste of many different things. I felt inspired to document the energy of the place before parts of it disappeared at the hands of big development projects that threaten the space.

On a personal level, I love that Merkato represents a piece of my own history. Although I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and grew up in the U.S., I’ve always identified as Ethiopian. It’s where my parents are from and what I grew up knowing. Even if I was not physically there, the culture was never too far away from me.

From the very beginning, I knew that I did not want “Merkato” to have a political tone, one that criticizes the changes that are inevitably coming or urges viewers to “Save Merkato.” Instead, I sought to make portraits of the people who live and work in Merkato, to capture their personal journeys.

I set out to tell these stories with my DSLR camera and a small crew that consisted of my supportive mom, a driver, a bodyguard and a translator to facilitate the interviews. I was ready to get the reel going but was instantly met with a reality check. The people I talked to at Minalesh Tera, a section of the market that focuses on recycling plastics, initially gave me very surface responses and reactions. I had to prove myself to them. It was almost like Merkato will push you out just to see if you’re going to come back. I had to show up everyday for four months to get them to open up to me.

Of all the people I interviewed, the stories of four individuals and a set of brothers made it into the final film. I felt a genuine connection with Hawa, Ashenafi, Wurro, Gedion, Abde and Abdella. They are a diverse group who represent universal struggles and dreams.

Ashenafi is the young boy who spends his summers collecting plastic to recycle and resell. With that seemingly simple summer job, he is able to support himself and his family through his entrepreneurial spirit. Wurro is the 19-year-old who represents the hardcore rebel type, with big dreams to get out of Merkato. She’s a tough woman who constantly has to protect herself from the male-dominated section of the market. Abde and Abdella are the welding brothers who provide the comic relief in the story. Like many siblings, they have a sort of rivalry going on but still work together despite their differences. Hawa is my 92-year-old hero who posses a strong work ethic and determination. Finally, Gedion, or Mr. Merkato, is my bodyguard turned film character. I’m glad I had the chance to capture him in front of the camera at the last minute.

To address the expensive toll of filmmaking, I decided to pursue community fundraising for “Merkato” because I felt that this was everybody’s story. Using Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website, 224 backers pitched in to help me raise $14,710, about $2,000 above my posted goal. That was a great start but I’m still seeking official sponsorships, donations through PayPal, and hosting events to raise money and promote the accompanying photo book.

The greatest gift I can give to the people I spent months with is a screening of the film in Merkato. I look forward to the priceless moment when they see the piece they created and feel empowered by knowing that their story is important and others do care to see and hear it.

Tagged: AfricaArtsEast AfricaEthiopiaHuman RightsSenegalWest AfricaWomen
Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,577 other followers

%d bloggers like this: