Powerful video … from justice to disappearance in Egypt

I lived in Egypt in 2012 and I remember it as a place of hope and change. It was one year after the revolution and while there were large protests and unrest, there was also a sense of dreams being possible, of individuals coming together being able to make a change in their country and their community. There was art everywhere, creativity everywhere and a strong sense of commitment to justice amongst many people that I met. People committing to justice not only in words, but through actions – be in through business or protests these people were living justice and a fairer country in their day to day lives.

I remember interviewing an Egyptian activist for the first time and being so surprised at how beautiful his ideals were. Perhaps I was naive about what justified activism, or perhaps he was naive about what could be achieved in this world, but either way I remember mostly being impressed at how beautiful his words were; how much he believed in those bohemian, idealist words like truth, justice and hope and how he was, even on the day we spoke, putting his life on the line to defend them through street battles with SCAF.

This powerful video highlights how much things have changed in Egypt since the military took back power in 2013. Those activists who believed in truth are now being tortured and disappeared. When I remember the hope that grew so quickly after the revolution, when I think of the Egypt of 2012 I feel so sad to think that the Egypt of 2016 no one is able to defend those ideals; that they are disappeared not even for speaking out, but for seeming like they might.

Lucky Dip (1)

Here goes with week 1 of recording something beautiful.

I am going to start with a man who served me in Dar El Salaam Wonder Workshop craft shop last week. My flipflop had finally broken after walking me what is probably the equivalent of hundreds of miles of Myanmar streets. I asked him for some tape to try and stick it together until I could buy a new pair. Instead he pulled out some plastic thread, expertly threaded a needle and sewed the show back together. I think now the shoe might be a good for another hundred miles…

It made me reflect on the fact that I am quite hopeless unable to fix things myself and would be more likely to throw something out rather than try and mend it. But fixing something is not just about cost, it also makes sense for the environment and makes you/me/everyone less of a slave to the corporate market. I am now more inspired to learn some useful practical skills.

Beautiful, practical and human.

A poem for now

With all the news these days – I don’t need to write it down in order for you to know what I am talking about – this poem seemed a good one to share.

dragon

This poem reminds me that in each decade, each century, each circle of life we have our darkness and also our lights. Each one of us represents the foundation and possibility of goodness in the world. Whatever peace we want to see has to start from us. This is Brecht.

“Indeed I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime

Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh.
Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

Brecht, To Posterity

Messages from the Top of Egypt, 2012

Top of Mount SinaiIn Sinai, the revolution seemed so distant, compared to the permanence of the mountains. As I walk up Mount Sinai, I keep thinking, Moses climbed this same peak. Moses looked out over the same view.

Men sit near the top of the hill, drinking and selling coca cola. There is a mosque and a church balancing carefully on each side of the summit. Neglected tourist stands cluster below. With reports of kidnapping, few tourists are making the journey here.

It seems more than a mere journey. The long bus from Cairo, the climb up the dusty path. In the mountains I travel away from my comforts, away from my distractions, away from the bustle of Cairo which has jostled me for the past eight months, where I have been fighting to make something of myself. The mountains make the media noise, the opposing opinions, the legal disputes, the urgent demands, the political arguments, the twitter updates, the waving flags, everything about the unrest seem so insignificant.

“They are impermanent questions,” say the mountains.

Do not worry about years, do not worry about days.

The mountains say, “Everything continues. Sit, wait, stay.”

The mountains say, “Look. Moses saw this sky.”

So I stop, and for the first time in a long time. I forget news reports and having an opinion. I forget about what I want. Instead, I look out across the mountain tops. Instead, I listen to silence.

Solitary

These stories and photos from around the world, discuss and explore the theme of solitary.

Photo Story 1

It took about six hours to reach this point, the deserts of Western Egypt. This man stands alone, miles from everywhere and apart from the group, in solitude. But he is still connected. He looks at his phone, he reads a message. With new technology we become caught in a new web of solitary communication, a new way to be alone, but connected. Solitary but very much in company.

Photo Story 2

This shot is in Siwa, on the Egyptian border with Libya. It is a tourist place and it is crowded with people waiting to see the sunset. They order drinks, take pictures, chatter. This man has stepped away from the crowd, he is surrounded by other people, but somehow very much alone. He has created a solitary space in which to think, escape or perhaps communicate with an idea or something that the rest of us cannot see. He reaches to the horizon, Finds his connection there.

Photo Story 3

The patterns in which people congregate. A group forms. People join together, becomes something bigger, but one man walks behind. He holds himself apart, is left a little out of the group. The others are laughing and he looks down, thinking of something else. The others welcome him, but he is already a little apart.

Photo Story 4

In Nicaragua in a the Northern Mountains, in an area called Miraflor. People here have lives which are both solitary and communal by nature. They live in small communities, each house separated by the land they own, quite apart from their neighbours. They live in the solitude of the mountains, dirt tracks, cows for company, long walks to their fields.  Yet, families are large and many people squeeze into each house. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, children and their children, squashed together in their homes, pulled together by community life, meetings, solidarity.  They struggle to keep secrets from neighbours while they rely on them for support.  This little girl represents that story. Sitting on a bench by the road, she watches other people pass by, two boys are talking and some cocks start to fight. She sits apart from the events, watching, connected to them, but not quite part of them.

Photo Story 5

 

One final picture. Back to Egypt where a dancer is performing. On stage the band plays, on the other side the audience watch. He spins in his robes between them, around and around and around. Caught in his long scarfs and his wide dresses, he turns. He is surrounded by people, but in his dance he is solitary. All eyes are on him as he performs, but there is no connection. Alone on stage he seems so distant, with his colours and his dance, he is in another place, and everyone else can only watch.

One thing which I notice, seeing these photos and these people together, in different places, in different countries, is that they all know what it means to be solitary. They are united even in their solitude. It is an inherently human emotion and even alone, we are connected to people we do not know, to a world which goes beyond us, which is bigger than us.