Afrobeats – Rumo a um renascimento africano do século 21

Antes de deslizar para baixo, aperta play no link do Youtube acima para ouvir uma seleção de nossas faixas de Afrobeats favoritas, que inspiraram este artigo.

Música

Afrobeats” é um gênero relativamente novo musical que vem de Accra, Lagos e Londres. Eu George Howell, junto com Tai Brum ouvimos por acaso outro dia um ‘freestyle’ entre artistas Dotman e Eazi num show de Radio Londrino – Radio 1 Extra “Destination Africa”, que capturou nossa atenção. Afrobeats com um “S” não deve ser confundido com Afrobeat de Fela Kuti. Afrobeats é um som bem moderno e produzido, mais “Beatz” do que “Beats”. Tem aquela pegada chic, com valores de produção alto como os megaproduções de hip hop americano. Os clipes do Youtube são editados com bom gosto, utilizando uma identidade africana, nos cores, lugares e pessoas. No entanto, não estamos falando de uma música que fetichiza a tradição ou uma versão de África arcaica. É jovem e otimista, reforçando uma visão positiva da África. Nem pesado como a ‘Grime’ inglês ou com aquela estética criminosa que os rappers fetichizam. Os músicos usam o patois (giria de rua tipo jamaicano) de Londres, os valores negros occidentais, mas ao mesmo tempo, com uma pegada distintamente africana, e completamente conectada à produção cultural global.

MC Skepta (um estrela de ‘Grime’ de Londres) participando de uma colaboração no Ojuelegba de Wizkid diz na faixa: ” Eu tive que contar minha história porque eles preferem mostrar-lhe crianças negras com moscas em seus rostos na televisão”. Outra estrela Afrobeats da Nigéria, Burnaboy, explicou assim: ” A única coisa que você realmente vê sobre a África é “Ajudar uma criança” ou alguma merda assim, eu só queria ouvir o DMX “.

Os clipes de Afrobeats mostram uma África afluente, a África dos cidades modernas de Lagos e Accra. Gente bonita em roupas de grife, pilotando Mercedes e BMWs. Mansões e clubes de champanhe, mulheres lindas que emanam uma indiferença chique. Um veículo perfeito para combater a concepção da África associados com imagens de crianças com moscas nos olhos. Seguindo outra estrela no Instagram, Mr Eazi, posso ver que ele fez um show em Londres, outro em Houston e as próximas fotos são dele no palco em um estádio em Goma. Goma!: No Republicá Democrático do Congo!? De onde vêm os diamantes de sangue e os Senhores da Guerra? Sim, mas também onde Mr Eazi estava no palco outro dia.  Sentimos uma espécie de comunhão com as pessoas de Goma, eles estão gostando dos mesmos sons que nós, em vez de sentir tristeza pelas “pessoas miseráveis” ​​lá com guerra civil e soldados crianças e tal, a música de alguma forma superou isso, criando uma lacuna de empatia e compreensão, abrindo nossos olhos para uma realidade africana mais feliz.

Detty Boy like Alinco #dettyworldTour

A post shared by Mr Eazi (@mreazi) on

O mundo conectado em que vivemos permiti que a força cultural africana brilhe. O Instagram e Youtube servem como plataformas e câmeras HD e equipamentos de gravação as ferramentas que democratizaram o acesso de África e seu crescente influência sobre a cultura pop. Na epoca digital, a música africana não precisa de algum tipo de ‘grande explorador branco’, como Peter Gabriel para popularizá-lo. A globalização digital permite que todos se conectem e que artistas africanos possam nos alcançar diretamente. O som Afrobeats ganha espaço, só porque é realmente bom, por puro mérito seu.,

Os africanos não são mais isolados culturalmente. A era digital dá a todos a oportunidade de seguir as tendências globais, todos nós assistimos a Netflix até certo ponto, e todos sabemos quem são os maiores DJs jamaicanos e rappers americanos. Os fabricantes de música Afrobeats da Accra e Lagos, muitas vezes também são de Londres tanto quanto da África, totalmente envolvidos com a “Cultura Global Negro Americanizada”. Por esse termo, consideramos a variedade da cultura pop negra global fortemente influenciada pelos pontos de referência culturais dos Estados Unidos: Beyonce e Jay Z, basquete, a luta negra na América, sendo um “gangsta” por exemplop. A cultura contemporânea africana sempre foi excluída desse discurso. Para os negros nas Américas, África e um lugar que existe na imaginação, uma terra ancestral forçadamente obscurecida dos antepassados, um lugar para talvez também fazer uma peregrinação, mas as coisas que acontece la estão fora de nosso radar. Entretanto, a influência real da cultura africana nas noções de ‘black’ globalizada é mínima. É aludido e imaginado, mas a cultura africana “como está” tem pouco influência cultural. Estamos escrevendo isso no Rio, aqui vejamos pouco envolvimento com o que está acontecendo na África agora, no dia dia.

O surgimento de Afrobeats demonstra que a música de África pulou da seção “World Music“. O Afrobeats e instantaneamente “cool”, não tão erudito como músicas de Cora Maliano ou músicas de Kinshasa, Congo feito por crianças de rua. Afrobeats tem um apelo pop muito mais instantâneo porque se liga diretamente (e espero que começa a exercer uma influência sobre) a cultura popular negra globalizada. Londres desempenha um papel importante porque sinto que informa a música culturalmente, a música para ser respeitada tem que aderir os padrões das boates negras de Londres.

Uma tendência dentro do Afrobeats é a presença de produtores “britânicos negros”, que decidiram abraçar sua africanidade e se envolver com o continente como tal, em vez de imitar apenas estilos americanos ou jamaicanos. Isso é interessante porque esses caras agregam sua influência cosmopolita ao gênero. No dia 23 de julho, por exemplo produtores Afrobeats importantes estavam todos em Londres, Malik Berry, Juls, Team Salut, Legendury Beats e Bayoz Musik estavam no programa Radio 1 Extra “Destination Africa“, falando sobre esse assunto, e vários deles são tanto de lá como da Nigéria ou Gana. O produtor pioneiro Bankuli explicou que o papel importante dos produtores ingleses Afrobeat gosta disso: “É como um vírus, um vírus muito bom … é a África que está no centro das atenções”.

Mr Eazi, de Kumasi, Nigéria, mencionado acima, e um representante importante da nova leva de artistas Afrobeats. Ele diz que não sabe cantar direito e estava estudando engenharia mecânica em Gana antes de se tornar um produtor de eventos que fechou com os melhores músicos do Afrobeats para shows na faculdade. A carreira de cantor começou como um passatempo enquanto ele estava terminando seu mestrado em engenharia em Gana. Ele tem sido um comerciante de ouro e tem uma séria empresa que vende telefones remodelados, ‘Phone Trader’, em Nigeria e está procurando ‘Start Ups’ tecnológicos relevantes para serem lançados na África. Ele está colocando um show de cultura Afrobeats em Londres, trazendo não apenas a música, mas a moda e a cultura  ‘Afrobeats’ também para Londres em setembro.

O produtor que fez as melhores musicas do Mr Eazi, Burnaboy e vários outros é produtor, e cantor agora, “Juls”, de Londres e Gana. Ele faz a música como hobby depois de trampo como ‘Investment Banker’ para o Banco Nacional do Gana. Ele é o cara que produz os sons mais legais, e é apenas um hobby! Ele tambem organiza uma revista de moda e cultura da Gana. Eles são da geração de africanos capacitados que fizeram estudos de negócios, e de alguma forma “falam MBA”. Eazi fala sobre métricas, quando convidou o músico Dotman a acompanhá-lo em turnê, ele disse que o escolheu por causa dos seus números. Esses caras, como Puff Daddy, são experientes em negócios, eles não estão brincando. O lema de Eazi é “África para o mundo”, um excelente embaixador para globalizar esse som!

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Mr Eazi em Londres

Moda

A moda africana está flexionando seus músculos também, e há de alguma forma uma ressonância com o que está acontecendo com o Afrobeats. A marca de luxo sul-africana Maxhosa usa impressões inspiradas em combinações de cores tribais do povo Xhosa, porem cortadas em um estilo clássico bem francês. O resultado é uma fusão espetacular. O africano como protagonista neste exemplo está usando cortes europeus para modernizar uma estética Xhosa distinta. O designer Laduma Ngxokolo é Xhosa, explica que foi motivado criar roupas de luxo adequado para a cerimônia de iniciação masculina Xhosa, onde os roupas finas estão exigidas. A marca de biquíni B Fyne produz peças maravilhosos, o designer nigeriano Buki Ade foi inspirado pela cultura nigeriana e suas artes indígenas em fazer a coleção.

Naija beauty queening in #MAXHOSA X @TinaNgxokolo show stopper dress at the @lfdw_ng | 📷 by: @_yemiteibo

A post shared by MAXHOSA BY LADUMA™ (@maxhosa) on

Limited dresses where produced and distributed in Cape Town, Johannesburg and New York.

A post shared by MAXHOSA BY LADUMA™ (@maxhosa) on

Pattern on pattern vibe in #MAXHOSA linen cardi, golfer, shorts & bamboo socks, behind 100% mohair rug backdrop 🥇.

A post shared by MAXHOSA BY LADUMA™ (@maxhosa) on

Relax. Refresh. Recharge. . [ ARMINE 👙 from the Empire collection – sold EXCLUSIVELY at Bfyne.com]

A post shared by BFYNE® Swimwear (@bfyneswim) on

[ AJAK 👙 from the SAHARA collection – sold EXCLUSIVELY at Bfyne.com]

A post shared by BFYNE® Swimwear (@bfyneswim) on

A moda de luxo europeia e americana parece cansada e branda colocado lado a lado com Maxhosa ou B Fyne. As referências culturais da moda ocidental parecem uma mina gastada em comparação com as veias ricas de recursos inexplorados da África. Cultura tribal africana e uma espece de ‘lente africana’ oferecem uma riqueza de inspiração inexplorada.

Arte

A arte contemporânea africana é, em nossa opinião, a melhor do mundo. O trabalho produzido pelos artistas contemporâneos africanos é consistentemente excelente. El Anastui cria grandes tapeçarias régias com tampas de garrafas, Ibrahim Mahama cobriu o Arsenale de Veneza em tecido de juta antigo para um efeito impressionante. O artista sul-africano cobriu um blindado da polícia sul-africano em contas, Nelson Makamo pinta retratos maravilhosos de estilo ‘street art’.  O trabalho da artista Serge Clottey da Gana com galões também é realmente poderoso.

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Tampas de garrafa do El Anatsui

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Ibrahim Mahama trabalhando com tecido de juta

@galleryofafricanart

A post shared by Nelson Makamo (@nelsonmakamo) on

Walls

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Afrogallonism” do Serge Attukwei Clottey

A casa antiga de leilões milionários de Londres Bonham’s lançou um serie de leilões “Africa Now“, para vender arte africana contemporânea e moderna para centenas de milhares de libras.

No entanto, a cultura africana ainda é marginalizada. A música da Afrobeats ainda não entrou direito no radar da música “negra”. Semana da moda Lagos e África do Sul estão se tornando mais importantes, mas a moda africana não ameaça a hegemonia de Paris, Milão e Nova York. No mundo da arte contemporânea, há reverência pela arte contemporânea africana, mas de alguma forma esta marginalizado em comparação com a destaque que arte moderna de origem europeia ocupa.

Jack Weatherford argumenta que o renascimento na Europa deve uma enorme dívida ao Império Mongol que permitiu que uma polinização cruzada científica e cultural acontecesse, através de rotas comerciais e a segurança para movimentos de pessoas garantidas pelo império . Isso permitiu uma fusão de conhecimento de regiões distantes.

Estamos de alguma forma à cúspide de um renascimento africano, facilitada pela comunicação instantânea de informações audiovisuais e conexões diásporas com as capitais culturais do mundo.

2018 verá a chegada do super-herói africano Pantera Negra em uma megaprodução da Marvel Studios. Pantera Negra aborda clichês, o super-herói é um príncipe do reino de Wakanda, o país mais rico do mundo com tecnologia super avançada.

black-panther-suit-image

Como a Pantera Negra, os produtores culturais africanos estão interessados ​​em mostrar que a África não é mais o “mundo em desenvolvimento”, mas que chegou. Infundindo a própria música, moda e arte do continente com um engajamento astuto com elementos da modernidade. Isso está apenas começando agora.

Este artigo foi escrito após extensas discussões sobre Afrobeats, Brasil, e o potencial aumento da influência da África entre George Howell e estilista brasileira Tai Brum. Vivemos no Rio de Janeiro e estamos trabalhando para ter mais Afrobeats e influência cultural africana aqui.

24 de agusto de 2017

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Afrobeats and the 21st Century African Renaissance

 

 

Before scrolling down, click play on the Youtube link above to hear a selection of our favourite Afrobeats tracks, which inspired this article

Music

Afrobeats” is a new music genre coming out of Accra, Lagos and London. My girlfriend and I heard it by chance the other day a freestyle between Dotman and Mr Eazi on Radio 1 Extra caputured our attention. Afrobeats, with an “S” is not to be confused with Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, it is a modern and produced sound, “Beatz”. It exudes studio slickness like the big American hip hop productions. The relevant Youtube clips are tastefully edited with an African colour palette and identity. However, we are not talking about a music which fetishizes tradition or an archaic Africa. It is young and upbeat, reinforcing a positive vision of Africa. Neither heavy like grime or with too much of that criminal aesthetic that rappers fetishize. The musicians use London patois, black western values but at the same time with a distinctly African cultural identity, completely plugged into global cultural production.

MC Skepta participating in a collaboration on Wizkid’s Ojuelegba says on the track “I had to tell my story cause they’d rather show you Black kids with flies on their faces on the television.” Another Afrobeats star from Nigeria, Burnaboy, explained it this way: “The only thing you really see about Africa is ‘Help a child’ or some shit like that. I just wanted to listen to DMX.”

The Afrobeats clips show an affluent Africa, the Africa of Lagos and Accra as modern cities. Beautiful people in beautiful clothes in Mercs and Bimma’s. Mansions and champagne clubs, hot women exuding a chic nonchalance. A perfect vehicle to combat the association of Africa with the black kids with flies in their eyes conception. Following another star on Instagram, Mr Eazi, I can see he did one shows in London, another in Houston, and next photos of him onstage filling out a stadium in Goma. Goma, DRC!? Where the blood diamonds and Warlords come from? Yes, and also where Mr Eazi was onstage the other day, performing for DRC Independence Day, seeing that I felt a kind of communion with the people from Goma, they are liking the same sounds that I am, rather than somehow feeling sorry for the ‘wretched people’ down there, the music somehow bridged a gap of empathy and understanding, opening my eyes to a happier reality.

Detty Boy like Alinco #dettyworldTour

A post shared by Mr Eazi (@mreazi) on

The connected world that we live in is allowing Africa’s cultural pedigree to shine. Instagram and Youtube serve as platforms, and HD cameras and music making equipment the tools which have democratised Africa’s access to, and growing influence over pop culture.  In the digital age, Africa’s music does not need  some sort of great white explorer, like Peter Gabriel to popularize it. Digital globalisation allows everyone to plug in, and for African artists to reach us directly.  The Afrobeats sound gains space, just because it is really good, on its own merit.

Africans are no longer isolated culturally. The digital age gives all of us the opportunity to follow global trends, we all watch Netflix to an extent, and we all know who the biggest Jamaican DJs and American rappers are. The Afrobeats music makers from Lagos and Accra, are often also from London as much as from Africa, fully engaged with ‘Global Americanised Black Culture’. By this term we mean the manifold of black pop culture heavily influenced by North American cultural points of reference: Beyonce and Jay Z, basketball, the black struggle in America, being a ‘gangsta’. African contemporary culture was always somehow excluded from this discourse. For blacks in the Americas a place that exists in the imagination, a forcibly obscured ancestral land of one’s forefathers, somewhere to make a pilgrimage too perhaps. Meanwhile real African cultural influence on notions of globalised blackness is minimal. It is alluded to, and imagined, but African culture ‘as is’ has not yielded cultural influence. I am writing this from Rio de Janeiro, down here we see very little engagement with what is going on in Africa now. It would be great if we could somehow change that.

The rise of Afrobeats demonstrates that Africa’s music has jumped out of the “World Music” section. The Afrobeats feels instantly ‘cool’, not as worthy as highbrow Kora or underground DRC beats made by street children, but with a much more instant, poppy appeal because it plugs directly into, (and we hope begins to exert an influence over) globalised black popular culture. For Afrobeats London plays an important role, it informs the music culturally, making the music conform to being respectably ‘cool’ by London standards. Whereas Staff Benda Bilili played in London at the Barbican Centre to a 90% middle class white crowd, Afrobeats attracts mainly black audiences, Burnaboy’s show in London had three or four white people at the show, one was my Mum, another my brother.

A trend within Afrobeats is the presence of ‘black british’ producers, who decided to embrace their African-ness, and to engage with the continent as such, rather than emulate only American or Jamaican styles. This is interesting because these guys add their cosmopolitan influence to the genre. On the 23rd of July Malik Berry, Juls, Team Salut, Legendury Beats, Bankuli and Bayoz Musik were in the Radio 1 Extra Destination Africa show talking about this subject. Pioneer producer Bankuli explained that the important role of the UK Afrobeat producers like this: “Its like a virus, a very good virus…it’s Africa that’s in the limelight.”

Mr Eazi, from Kumasi, Nigeria, mentioned above, a self-effacing posterboy for the new wave of Afrobeats artists. He says that he can’t sing, and was studying mechanical engineering in Ghana before becoming an events producer booking top Afrobeats musicians for Uni shows. The singing career began as a hobby as he was finishing his engineering Masters’ degree in Ghana. He has been a gold trader, and has a serious tech start up company selling refurbished phones, ‘Phone Trader’, and is looking for relevant tech products to launch in Africa. He is putting on an Afrobeats culture show in London, bringing not only the music, but fashion food and culture too to London in September.

The producer for probably the best tracks by Mr Eazi, Burnaboy is producer, and singer now, “Juls”, from London and Ghana. He does the music as a hobby after hours working as a financial investment adviser for Ghana National Bank. He is the guy producing the coolest sounds, and it is only a hobby! The point is these guys couldn’t be further away from Kinshasa streetkids. They are from the generation of empowered Africans who did business studies, and somehow ‘speak MBA’. Eazi talks about metrics, when he invited upcoming musician Dotman to accompany him on tour, he said he chose him because of his numbers.  These guys, like Puff Daddy are business savvy, they ain’t playin’ around. Not cliche soulful Africans with rhythm in their genes, but businessmen. Mr Eazi’s motto is ‘Africa to the world’, and who better equipped to globalize this wicked African sound.

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Mr Eazi on the billboards in London

 

Fashion

African fashion is flexing its muscles, and there is somehow a resonance with what’s going on with Afrobeats. The South African luxury knitwear brand Maxhosa uses prints inspired by Xhosa tribal colour combinations cut in a French classical style.  The result is a spectacular fusion. The African as protagonist in this example is using European cuts to modernise a distinct Xhosa aesthetic. The designer Laduma Ngxokolo is Xhosa, and his motivation was to create attire suitable for the Xhosa male initiation ceremony, where luxurious clothes should be worn.  B Fyne  women’s swimwear label produces wonderful bikinis, the designer Nigerian Buki Ade was inspired by Nigerian culture and prints in making the collection.

Naija beauty queening in #MAXHOSA X @TinaNgxokolo show stopper dress at the @lfdw_ng | 📷 by: @_yemiteibo

A post shared by MAXHOSA BY LADUMA™ (@maxhosa) on

Limited dresses where produced and distributed in Cape Town, Johannesburg and New York.

A post shared by MAXHOSA BY LADUMA™ (@maxhosa) on

Pattern on pattern vibe in #MAXHOSA linen cardi, golfer, shorts & bamboo socks, behind 100% mohair rug backdrop 🥇.

A post shared by MAXHOSA BY LADUMA™ (@maxhosa) on

Relax. Refresh. Recharge. . [ ARMINE 👙 from the Empire collection – sold EXCLUSIVELY at Bfyne.com]

A post shared by BFYNE® Swimwear (@bfyneswim) on

[ AJAK 👙 from the SAHARA collection – sold EXCLUSIVELY at Bfyne.com]

A post shared by BFYNE® Swimwear (@bfyneswim) on

European and American luxury fashion seems somehow tired and bland when placed side by side with Maxhosa or B Fyne. Western fashion’s cultural references seem like a spent mine compared to the rich veins of untapped resources in Africa. African tribal culture, and an African lens somehow offer a wealth of untapped inspiration for designers.

Art

African contemporary art is our opinion the best in the world too. The work being produced by leading African artists is consistently excellent. El Anastui creates huge regal tapestries from bottle tops, Ghanian Ibrahim Mahama covered Venice’s Arsenale in old jute fabric for impressive effect.[3] South African Ralph Ziman covered a South African armoured police car in beads, Nelson Makamo paints wonderful street art style portraits of people. Ghanian Serge Clottey’s work with gallons is also really powerful.

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El Anatsui’s regal bottle tops

 

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Ibrahim Mahama working with jute fabric

@galleryofafricanart

A post shared by Nelson Makamo (@nelsonmakamo) on

Walls

A post shared by Nelson Makamo (@nelsonmakamo) on

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Serge Attukwei Clottey’s Afrogallonism

The dead posh London auction house Bonham’s launched an ‘Africa Now’ auction fixture, to sell African contemporary and modern art for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Burnaboy was at the launch as well as celebrity Nigerian socialite DJs.

Nevertheless, African culture is still marginalised. The Afrobeats music scene has not broken into mainstream ‘black’ music yet. Fashion Week Lagos and South Africa are becoming more important, but African fashion does not threaten the hegemony of Paris, Milan and New York. In the intellectual-filled contemporary art world there is reverence for Africa’s contemporary art, but it is somehow peripheral compared to the reverence shown to art of European origin.

Jack Weatherford argues that the renaissance in Europe owes a huge debt to the Mongol Empire which allowed for a scientific and cultural cross-pollination to happen, through safe trade routes and movement of people guaranteed by the empire. This enabled a fusion of knowledge from distant regions.

We are somehow on the cusp of an African Renaissance, facilitated by the instantaneous communication of audio-visual information, and diaspora connections to the world’s cultural capitals.

black-panther-suit-image

2018 will see the arrival of supercool African superhero Black Panther in a Marvel Studios super production. Albeit in Marvel fashion, Black Panther addresses clichés, the superhero is a prince the hidden kingdom of Wakanda, the richest country in the world with super advanced technology.

Like Black Panther, African cultural producers are keen to show that Africa is no longer ‘the developing world’, but that it has arrived. Infusing the continent’s own music, fashion and art with astute engagement with the trappings of modernity. This engagement to me signals the arrival of a 21st century African renaissance.

This article was written following extensive discussions about Afrobeats, Brazil, and the potential rise of Africa’s influence between me, George Howell, and brazilian stylist Tai Brum.  We live in Rio de Janeiro, and are working to grow Afrobeats, and African cultural influence here.

24th July 2017

Torre David – A taste for what’s to come?

Such an inspiring idea from Caracas. I see this model of development as a likely taste of what is to come.

Torre David is the largest squatted building in the world, a failed real estate development, “invaded” by people with no homes to go to. Following Venezuela’s financial crash the large shiny office block in down town Caracas has become home to 2,500 people, each family conducting their own organic appropriation of the space, and with locally organised security.

“this 150 meter tall building is currently hosting about 2500 squatters who find in it, a good way to dwell in this housing crisis time. This skyscraper that was originally supposed to become an architectural symbol and an economically operative building of the Financial power never finished its construction because of the national financial crisis in the late 90′s.

The Torre David is an interesting trend, considering Caracas’ large numbers of slum dwellers, and at the same large failed real estate ventures. In the context of rising unemployment, and diminishing national budgets, I think this is a trend that could become more widespread. In Rio de Janeiro for example there is the perverse situation of huge and empty failed condominiums for aspiring upper middle classes side by side with the slums.

The combination of abandoned structures and people in need of housing seems to make a good match. Caracas has a housing shortage of 40,000 units, and twenty other sites like Torre David have been occupied.

Iwan Baan’s photos of life in Torre David

This sort of development leads me to imagine not only dark Bladerunner like future scenarios, like something our of the new Judge Dredd film, but also has visions of wonderful demonstrations of human capacity to innovate and appropriate space. At the moment Venezuela’s prestigious architectural team Urban Think Tank are thinking up ideas of how to help with the space.  Urban Think Tank’s founders Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner argue that:

“the future of urban development lies in collaboration among architects, private enterprise, and the global population of slum-dwellers. Brillembourg and Klumpner issue a call to arms to their fellow architects to see in the informal settlements of the world a potential for innovation and experimentation, with the goal of putting design in the service of a more equitable and sustainable future.”

At the moment there is no lift, some residents have to climb 45 stories of stairs to reach home, and there are all sorts of problems that could be solved with a bit of ingenuity. Perhaps we could have in the future a system where governments support this sort of initiative. From a cost-effectiveness and sustainability perspective, it makes sense government could help providing technical support, and renovations of buildingsto make them more liveable. Perhaps encouraging vertical gardening, a biogas powered lift system, an application of the whole ‘intelligent building design’ with a bottom line of being cheap and cost-efficient?

Human settlements in the shell of the office tower

Torre David’s rooftop gym

 

A family living room in the Tower, re-programming architecture

Organisational structure of the Tower

The importance of being Mal-Adjusted

Read my essay on why we aren’t maladjusted enough here

Martin Luther King said:

There are certain technical words within every academic discipline that soon become stereotypes and cliches. Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” This word is the ringing cry to modern child psychology. Certainly, we all want to avoid the maladjusted life. In order to have real adjustment within our personalities, we all want the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurosis, schizophrenic personalities.

But I say to you, my friends, as I move to my conclusion, there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence. But in a day when sputniks and explorers are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer the choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence, and the alternative to disarmament. The alternative to absolute suspension of nuclear tests. The alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation. This is why I welcome the recent test-ban treaty.

In other words, I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment–men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. Who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation would not survive half-slave and half-free. As maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery would scratch across the pages of history words lifted to cosmic proportions, “We know these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator certain unalienable rights” that among these are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who could say to the men and women of his day, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you.” Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. My faith is that somehow this problem will be solved.

 

Martin Luther King – Proud to be Mal-Adjusted

Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. My faith is that somehow this problem will be solved.

Pam Warhurst – Voluntary Citizen Led Transformation of cities

“What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.”

WELLBEING & HAPPINESS: DEFINING A NEW ECONOMIC PARADIGM

 

On 19 July last year, 68 countries joined the Kingdom of Bhutan in co-sponsoring a resolution titled “Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development,” which was adopted by consensus by the 193-member UN General Assembly.

In follow up to the resolution, the Royal Government of Bhutan is convening a High Level Meeting on “Happiness and Well Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” on 2nd April 2012 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

This meeting will initiate next steps towards realizing the vision of a new well being and sustainability based economic paradigm that effectively integrates economic, social, and environmental objectives.

Intended outcomes of this meeting include:

  • A statement on the new economy for voluntary signature by all the participants
  • Building a global movement and action networks to promote implementation of the new economy
  • Voluntary specific policy recommendations for consideration by governments in the short, medium, and long term
  • Establishment of an independent expert Task Force to elaborate the details of the new economic paradigm
  • A strategy to present the new economic paradigm at the special event to be hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan during the Rio+20 summit in June this year
  • A strategy for effective communication of the new economy to reach the widest possible audience.

This landmark gathering on 2nd April will be attended by a select but representative group of top government representatives, by all United Nations missions, and by leading economists, scholars and spiritual and civil society leaders, representing both developed and developing nations.

Beware the Rio + 20 Green Economy Initiative

I was just on a listening conference call with Anil Naidoo, of The Blue Water Project who warned that:

Big banks such as Deutschebank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum, and many other powerful corporations and interests are pushing policies that will increase the access of corporations to the earth’s resources at the expense of people and the environment. These policies would negatively impact current efforts to promote the rights of communities over their own resources and to stop land grabs, big dams, water markets, extractives, false climate solutions and other corporate grabs – across the broad spectrum of natural resource and global economy issues. LINK.

During the call a 2009  document from Friends of the Earth’s Michelle Chan was recomended as very relevant regarding the upcoming RIO + 20 Earth Conference.  Naidoo also mentioned that ‘the humn right to water’ has been so far removed from the Rio +20 working document for discussion. Chan was questioning that the carbon trading model could become a new derivatives market:

“Should we really create a new $2 trillion market when we haven’t yet finished the job of revamping and testing new financial regulation?” she asks. Chan says that, given their recent history, the banks’ ability to turn climate change into a new commodities market should be curbed…LINK

The danger is a ‘Financialisation of Nature’, brought in under the Trojan Horse of The Green Economy, a phrase which draws no criticism, and ‘must be good’ because it has the word Green in it. The Tragedy of The Commons is the argument used by advocates of the Green Economy, as a way of justifying the privatisation of natural resources.

The explanation was simple. The fenced area was private property, subdivided into five portions. Each year the owners moved their animals to a new section. Fallow periods of four years gave the pastures time to recover from the grazing. The owners did this because they had an incentive to take care of their land. But no one owned the land outside the ranch. It was open to nomads and their herds. Though knowing nothing of Karl Marx, the herdsmen followed his famous advice of 1875: “To each according to his needs.” Their needs were uncontrolled and grew with the increase in the number of animals. But supply was governed by nature and decreased drastically during the drought of the early 1970s. The herds exceeded the natural “carrying capacity” of their environment, soil was compacted and eroded, and “weedy” plants, unfit for cattle consumption, replaced good plants. Many cattle died, and so did humans.

The rational explanation for such ruin was given more than 170 years ago. In 1832 William Forster Lloyd, a political economist at Oxford University, looking at the recurring devastation of common (i.e., not privately owned) pastures in England, asked: “Why are the cattle on a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn, and cropped so differently from the adjoining inclosures?”

Lloyd’s answer assumed that each human exploiter of the common was guided by self-interest. At the point when the carrying capacity of the commons was fully reached, a herdsman might ask himself, “Should I add another animal to my herd?” Because the herdsman owned his animals, the gain of so doing would come solely to him. But the loss incurred by overloading the pasture would be “commonized” among all the herdsmen. Because the privatized gain would exceed his share of the commonized loss, a self-seeking herdsman would add another animal to his herd. And another. And reasoning in the same way, so would all the other herdsmen. Ultimately, the common property would be ruined. LINK.

I see paralels between the Green Economy Agenda and the shift from The Washington Consensus to The Post Washington Consensus (PWC),  in that the justification is the same –  what we did was working but we didn’t do it enough – structural adjustment didnt work because there was not enough liberalisation and market allocation. In the same way the environment is degraded because there is too much government intervention. Also both The Green Economy and the PWC used a certain type of language that sounded like concessions were being made to the critics of the Washington Consensus (an admission that it didn’t work), while actually working to deepen the neoliberal agenda. Christophe Aguiton writes:

In the 1980s, faced with a crisis of profitability, capitalism launched a massive offensive against workers and peoples, seeking to increase profits by expanding markets and reducing costs through trade and financial liberalization, flexibilisation of labour and privatization of the state sector. This massive ‘structural adjustment’ became known as the Washington Consensus.

Today, faced with an even more complex and deeper crisis, capitalism is launching a fresh attack that combines the old austerity measures of the Washington Consensus — as we are witnessing in Europe – with an offensive to create new sources of profit and growth through the “Green Economy” agenda. Although capitalism has always been based on the exploitation of labour and nature, this latest phase of capitalist expansion seeks to exploit and profit by putting a price value on the essential life-giving capacities of nature.

The Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992 institutionalized important bases for international cooperation on sustainable development, such as polluter pays, common but differentiated responsibilities and the precautionary principle. But Rio also institutionalized the concept of “sustainable development” based on unlimited “growth”. In 1992, the Rio Conventions acknowledged for the first time the rights of Indigenous communities and their central contributions to the preservation of biodiversity.  But, in the same documents, the industrialized countries and corporations were guaranteed intellectual property rights to the seeds and genetic resources they stole throughout centuries of colonial domination.

Twenty years later, in 2012, the plunder continues. The “Green Economy” agenda is an attempt to expand the reach of finance capital and integrate into the market all that remains of nature. It aims to do this by putting a monetary “value” or a “price” on biomass, biodiversity and the functions of the ecosystems – such as storing carbon, pollinating crops, or filtering water — in order to integrate these “services” as tradable units in the financial market.

The “Green Economy” considers it essential to put a price on the free services that plants, animals and ecosystems offer to humanity in the name of “conserving” biodiversity, water purification, pollination of plants, the protection of coral reefs and regulation of the climate. For the “Green Economy,” it is necessary to identify the specific functions of ecosystems and biodiversity and assign them a monetary value, evaluate their current status, set a limit after which they will cease to provide services, and concretize in economic terms the cost of their conservation in order to develop a market for each particular environmental service. For the “Green Economy,” the instruments of the market are powerful tools for managing the “economic invisibility of nature.”

The main targets of the “Green Economy” are the developing countries, where there is the richest biodiversity. The zero draft even acknowledges that a new round of “structural adjustments” will be necessary: “developing countries are facing great challenges in eradicating poverty and sustaining growth, and a transition to a green economy will require structural adjustments which may involve additional costs to their economies…”.LINK.

Pehaps it is worth remembering leading mainstream economist and World Bank Economist Lawrence Summers’ candid remarks about the right to a clean environment being something which the poor should not necessarily have access to, because market allocation should only ‘give’ access to a clean environment to people who make the ‘decision’ to invest in living in a clean environment, Jim Valette of Counterpunch wrote out the contents of Summers’ memo in 1999:

THE MEMO

“DATE: December 12, 1991 “TO: Distribution “FR: Lawrence H. Summers “Subject: GEP

“‘Dirty’ Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

“1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

“2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I’ve always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

“3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in goods that embody aesthetic pollution concerns could be welfare enhancing. While production is mobile the consumption of pretty air is a non-tradable.

“The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization.”

…His 1991 memo can be considered a working thesis behind this decade’s dominant global economic policies. LINK.

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Water and Inequality

Water and Inequality

“People, as they become wealthier, tend to use more water. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency put average American household water consumption at about 100 to 150 gallons per day per person, by far the highest in the world. Compare that to an average of 74 gallons in Europe, just 35 gallons by the Swiss and 23 gallons by the Chinese. Africans use just 17 gallons. Now, think of all the double-head showers being installed in tony condos throughout China and India.”

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