Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas!

Season's joy to all, and here is Ronnie spreading cheer in 1981.

And here is something slightly less noble.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Voices From the Blue Nile

To start off a new regime of regular blogging, I am plugging the new website, Voices From the Blue Nile. A fascinating audiovisual archive of a people and culture which have undergone extraordinary and terrible changes, the site accompanies the new book by Professor Wendy James, sterling anthropologist and mother. In her own words:

In the 1960s, I was teaching social anthropology in the University of Khartoum, Sudan. I had the opportunity to study the languages and ways of life of a number of minority peoples living close to the Ethiopian border. In particular, I lived for a total of about 18 months among the Uduk people of the Kurmuk District of the Blue Nile Province.

The Uduk, and some of their neighbours, already poised on the frontier with Ethiopia, found themselves caught between ‘north’ and ‘south’ of the Sudan during the internal struggles of that country, especially the civil war stemming from the south which resumed in 1983. Some people I knew were drawn into the defence of their country, and some into supporting the armed opposition of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The civilian majority were displaced from their homeland near Chali, and nearly all their villages burned by Sudanese army and militias, in 1987. After years of trekking this way and that, they eventually found a ‘safe haven’ in 1993 at the Bonga refugee scheme in Ethiopia. After the peace agreement of 2005 between Khartoum and the SPLA (though the war in the western region of Darfur continues), repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia began in 2006 and is planned to continue through 2007-8.

Over the years I have had several chances to make contact again with the Uduk people in various places of exile. Despite great suffering on their long treks, I have been struck by the way that they have shown resilience and been able to re-create something of their material practices, their music and their song, in the refugee settlement.

This website does not examine the wars or causes of wars in the region, nor the details of the refugees’ experiences over the six years of repeated displacement. It focuses, rather, on their resilience and optimism.