Art nature seasonal affective disorder winter

The Heart of Winter

Night fall, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

We’re in the heart of winter, with dark days, blizzardy conditions occasionally, and slushy, slippery streets. It’s hard to muster up excitement to go for a walk and there’s very little to do if you don’t have loads of money. 

Evening Cat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

It’s even hard to think about my blog or plan what to write about next, as there are so many things happening around the world, both on the climate crisis and politico-economic fronts

I’m longing for the ocean, the sun, the mountains, flowers, foliage, being able to go for a nice walk. I’m yearning not to have to wear layers of clothes— thermals, jeans, warm socks, boots, mittens, hats, scarves, winter parkas! It takes a few minutes to get ready when coming in and out these days, in contrast to the carefree slipping on and off of sandals in the warmth. 

The Moon and the Mermaid, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Sitting in a Canadian winter, it’s hard to imagine the searing heat that gripped Australia in recent days, the flames scorching plants and animals, killing people, and costing an untold price, as “fossil fools” make policy choices oblivious to the suffering of the fiery land and desperate people. Meanwhile Indonesia has been grappling with floods and earthquakes over the last while. Closer to home, Newfoundland experienced a record-setting snowfall and winter hurricane conditions. 

Scientists are alerting us to the inevitable planetary chaos that will follow the last century’s industrialization and this century’s reliance on electronic technology as the impact of 5G on the human/natural world has yet to be understood.  Existing cell-phone technology has already impacted both people and animals. 

Survival, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

It’s a good time to look for distractions. Drawing is certainly one. I’ve added my drawings of the ocean— always a source of amazement and delight— as well as the wintry landscapes that engender that desire to flee to warmer climes! Sometimes, I glimpse a winter sunset, with it’s  pinks and purples and blues, so different from the red, pink, and gold of summer twilights.

Winter Sunset, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

But what I really miss is the sun and the warmth of early summer or late spring, the long days and sunny evenings. I hope the rest of the winter will speed by quickly, so we can enjoy the scent of flowers  and the  bright colours of  spring flowers.

Colour Bath, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

CAA Constitution human rights india Islamophobia protests secularism Social Justice

I am the truth… as well as you…

Anti CAA protests, December 2019, India

While I was visiting India recently, I had the chance to see the BJP in action as the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed and made into an Act, the CAA. Many have argued that the Hindu Rashtra or State characterizing the government of Narendra Modi/Amit Shah is  neo-liberal in its economic ideologies, alliances, and practices while increasingly baring its Hindu nationalist and Islamophobic agenda through measures of nation building that rival those of Hitler himself.

Privileging a hierarchical religion such as Hinduism with its attendant spiritual division of labour and classed practices, the Modi regime has already been associated with an upper-class/caste alliance spoken of as “savarna” by a new activist generation of those who claim to follow Babasaheb Ambedkar, author of the Indian Constitution and a spokesperson on behalf of the Dalit (or “out caste” /untouchable ) communities. 

This group has raised critiques about the ways in which the Hindu caste system is oppressive towards those from lower and untouchable castes, as well as the ways that current political parties and the Indian goverment itself is trying to manipulate and foster Islamophobic sentiment through its  constitutional actions on the CAA and in the occupation of Kashmir.

 Their critque of Hinduism as oppressive structurally and spiritually has most clearly been displayed in the new demographic juggling of this neo-fascist regime through the imposition of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) on one hand, making it mandatory to be inscribed for citizenship, in contexts where documents are non-existent or next to impossible to obtain, and “proof” of citizenship must be submitted — and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which will consider the migration and refugee rights of non-Muslims coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan as valid while singling out Muslims for rejection. 

These two elements of the Modi government’s internal policy dovetail nicely with its hegemonic plans for Kashmir, which is a pawn and hostage of a cold-war like enmity between nuclear powers, India and Pakistan.

Reading these politcal and ideological moves  with  an eye to the BJP’s closeness to Donald Trump of the United States and with Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, the spectre of Hindu Fascism as government seems to be upon India. 

Opponents of the Act and the NRC, come from a vast range of occupations, social classes,  regions, language groups, and religions— while they may not see eye to eye on all issues, the coherency of a secular response to religious totalitarianism is hearteningly diverse. 

Anti-CAA protests, India, 2019

Luckily, Indians still feel some connection with their Constitution and see themselves as heirs of a secular polity in which equality is an aspirational, if not presently practiced, value.

That is why you won’t see “only” Muslims protesting the CAA, but Indians of all faiths, whether nominal or followed. 

Here, Jadavpur University Students adapt the Italian anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao” to the current circumstances.

Here, the poem, “Hum Dekhenge” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which bears witness to the military government of Pakistan is sung to bear witness to the Modi regime. The song was sung at IIT Kanpur to show solidarity with the students attacked at Delhi’s Jamia Miliia Islamia University in December of 2019. 

We shall Witness

It is certain that we too, shall witness

the day that has been promised

of which has been written on the slate of eternity

When the enormous mountains of tyranny

blow away like cotton.

Under our feet- the feet of the oppressed-

when the earth will pulsate deafeningly

and on the heads of our rulers

when lightning will strike.

From the abode of God

When icons of falsehood will be taken out,

When we- the faithful- who have been barred out of sacred places

will be seated on high cushions

When the crowns will be tossed,

When the thrones will be brought down.

Only The name will survive

Who cannot be seen but is also present

Who is the spectacle and the beholder, both

I am the Truth- the cry will rise,

Which is I, as well as you

And then God’s creation will rule

Which is I, as well as you

We shall Witness

It is certain that we too, shall witness

Translation courtesy –

And that is why, in spite of police violence and attempts to stir up riots by the Hindu right, in spite of the sulpherous whiff that reminds one of Germany in the 1930s, residents of India both there and abroad are raising their voices, taking to the streets, and stopping work on January 8th’s General Strike, called by the Indian trade union movements and an alliance of left-wing parties.

If you’ve been moved by this activism for a more inclusive, secular and democratic India, please add your name to the petition below!

Art birds crows environment memory new year pollution survival

A Murder of Crows

Crows, Kolkata 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

On my recent visit to Kolkata, India, I was struck by many things, but one that stands out for me in the wave of pollution that blankets the city, is the harsh cawing of the crows, who proclaim their resilience much like people. 

Their ubiquitous presence was a big part of my urban childhood summers in the stifling heat and monsoony days, when humidity enervates the human body, but the crows in the giant tree in front of the veranda, never ceased their active and raucous lives, although they were often drowned out by the cacophony of horns, beeps, and engines that took over the main road between seven a.m. and 10 at night. 

Many of those evenings (or parts of them) were spent in “loadshedding” or power outages, reducing the noise of radios and  even the televisions that were just starting to take over the upper-middle class residences of Kolkata. While adults talked and joked over tea and coffee, I often sat and looked through the plaster railings of the wide  veranda, where wicker chairs had sprouted blooms of people trying to catch even a tiny breeze. The crows meanwhile, cawed, looked for food, argued and harmonized on the tin awning of the floor beneath us, raised generations of children in the giant tree that stood by the bus-stop,  and generally entertained me with their antics above the heads of street vendors, the paan shop, and the constant line-ups of people at the bus stand. 

Crows, Kolkata, 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

Crows, like people enjoy shiny and bright things, and the twilight gloam with kerosene lamps lighting up the footpath, where vendors sat in flimsy shacks with the colours of the universe spread around them in fabric and plastic, shiny lozenges and Cadbury chocolate bars stored appetizingly in glass jars, were as appetizing to the crows as to humans. They often collected shiny wrappings from the ground, and I imagine, spruced up their dusty nests, demonstrating their kinship with human foibles, such as making culture. 

Feeding Time, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

They bond monogamously and raise usually 3 chicks at a time. They live in large social groups. Their use of tools puts them in a category apart from many animals and birds, though I have long suspected that more species use tools and are capable of analysis than we humans realize!

I did not know as a child, the English language term for a collective of crows, was a “murder”. This term comes, like many descriptions of groups of animals, from the old English terms of venery— hunting. For approximately five hundred years, these appelations have survived the industrial world and our encroachment on nature. Other examples are an “ostentation” of peacocks, or a “parliament” of owls, a “school” of fish or a “pandemonium” of platypuses! The terms are colourful and poetic, if not scientific. Mystery writer Ruth Rendell has a chilling book called “ An Unkindess of Ravens”. Ornithologists generally, I think, refer to all birds as a “flock”.

Crows, Kolkata 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

Mythologically speaking, the crow’s scavenger status and alert, collective bonding has long perturbed the human world. While others from the corvid family, such as the raven, are associated with wit, humour and intelligence in many North American indigenous cultures, the crow has also been associated with death in European and British cultures.  

Humans have seen crows hold “funerals” en masse, where they come to pay their respects to a fallen comrade. Scientists now believe this is another sign of their intelligence and allows them to collectively understand the demise of their fellow being and to spot sources of ongoing danger and predation. This teaches us that crows understand causation and thus are considered intelligent and perspicacious. 

Crow, Kolkata 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

I am constantly amazed at the endurance of so many species against the vile chemical onslaught that is our current state of existence on planet earth. While so many animals and birds and insects are nearing extinction, the resilience and communication shown by the crow in the midst of overwhelming urbanization and smog is nothing short of a miracle. They are a worthy example to us, embodying the strength of collective survival by all means necessary! They are one of the brightest species in the world

I want to start off the new decade with a symbol of hope, intelligence and communication and can think of no better bird to symbolize the plight of common people than the misunderstood and often reviled crow, who like the poor people of this earth, astonish  us every day with their survival, compassion,  and hope for a better future. 

Crows Chat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

I also want to thank all of you for viewing and sharing this blog, it is a labour of love and commitment to another more just and inclusive world.  With your participation, Eartotheground has reached over 4000 views! I hope to keep sharing culture,  politics, and hope over the next year. A happy and hopeful New Year to all of you! I’ll leave you with a documentary on these extraordinary birds as we enter a new decade!

and an interesting news item from one of Canada’s most notorious crows- – a must see for the mystery buffs among you!

Chile Mexico poetry public art Social Justice violence against women women's rights

A Rapist in Your Way

Today’s piece pays homage– and it must– to the brave women of Chile and around the world who are standing up for their right to be free from sexual and gender-based violence. Currently, Mexico leads the world in murder of women and other forms of sexual violence. The United Nations, whose research wing may be the only thing it has going for it these days, has this to say:

  • Approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) at some point in their life. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex by a current/former husband, partner or boyfriend. Based on data from 30 countries, only one per cent ever sought professional help . 
  • Globally, one out of three students (aged 11 and 13 to 15 years) have been bullied by their peers at school at least on one day in the past month, with girls and boys equally likely to experience bullying. However, boys are more likely to experience physical bullying than girls, and girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying, particularly being ignored or left out or subject to nasty rumours. Girls also report being made fun of because of how their face or body looks more frequently than boys. School-related gender-based violence is a major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls .
  • Twenty-three per cent of female undergraduate university students reported having experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct in a survey across 27 universities in the United States in 2015. Rates of reporting to campus officials, law enforcement or others ranged from five to 28 per cent, depending on the specific type of behavior.
  • It is estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000- 58 per cent) were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner.

In Chile the deployment of sexual violence as a tactic condoned by the regime of Pinera, has left hundreds of women brutally assaulted, raped and treated with sexual violence. Disappearances and sexual torture that characterized the Pinochet regime and then “Dirty War” in Argentina under the generals, have made a very real come-back. In Spain, as the courts collude with rapists to let gang-bangers go free, women have also had enough. In Italy and France, sexual violence is endemic and routinely dismissed as a crime “of passion”. Solidarity with women all over the world is so important, because for us, sexual violence, is not an issue, but rather the framework within which our lives are conducted, on the streets, at school, at work, at a party, at a protest, at places of worship, in jail, on-line, or in the bedroom.

Femicide, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

A Rapist in Your Way

The patriarchy is a judge

that judges us for being born

and our punishment

is the violence you don’t see.

The patriarchy is a judge

that judges us for being born

and our punishment

is the violence  that you’ve seen.

It’s femicide.

Impunity for my killer.

It’s disapperance.

It’s rape. 

And I ‘m not guilty, not because of where I was or how I dressed

And I ‘m not guilty, not because of where I was or how I dressed

And I ‘m not guilty, not because of where I was or how I dressed

And I ‘m not guilty, not because of where I was or how I dressed

The rapist is you.

The rapist is you.

It’s the cops,

the judges,

the state,

the president. 

The oppresive state is a rapist.

The oppresive state is a rapist.

The rapist is you

The rapist is you

“Slumber gently, innocent girl

without worrying about the riff-raff,

in your sweetly smiling dreams,

will be revealed your loving lieutenant”*

the rapist is you

The rapist is you

The rapist is you

The rapist is you

*(fragment of the Policeman’s Hymn of Chile)

Original Performance, Collective LasTesis, Santiago, Chile, November 25, 2019 where The Pinera Regime has been deploying sexual violence, torture and disappearances in response to recent anti-austerity protests
Performances from Latin America and Europe in Solidarity with Female Victims of Violence, November 2019
Performance from Mexico City, Zocalo, currently the country with the highest rates of femicide

apocalyptic Art capitalism environment memory neo-liberalism Social Justice

Return to My Native Land (with apologies to Aime Cesaire)

Picnic Garden, 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

I have been travelling and experiencing the world through the eyes of my childhood and the “now”. The city I return to is not the city of my childhood and teens, nor the city of my twenties and thirties, where the excitement of women’s liberation, the furious exchange of ideas, politics, and philosophies at the Universities, and the lack of consumer culture and indeed, “things” to buy were notable for their presence. Books, not bottles of cheap perfume from Forever 21, were our currency.

Perhaps that is why I feel at home in places where people still get excited by the art of the narrative, the meaning of the narrative and want to know more about the narrators. That is why, in a world which reveres the emoji, we need to encourage words and art to flourish. But equally, it is why half of what passes for “new” ideas in art and literature, is actually regurgitated without acknowledgement by contemporary figures, because they have already forgotten yesterday.

How many ways can we describe our worlds? I would say, nearly 8 billion. Because we all see the world from our vantage points, our standpoints, and each one is slightly different. How many ways are there of being a human? 8 billion.

How many ways are there to dehumanize others? Not that many.

Maa, 1 Paisa, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Political neglect and oppression, unchecked male entitlement and patriarchy, and the disparagement of formerly colonized people– especially black, indigenous and brown, always looks more or less the same, and sounds it too. Whether insulting African men by calling them “Boy! as I witnessed regularly in Amsterdam, or throwing acid on women, as is the practice with women who are seen as transgressors in South Asia, or blinding protestors in a visceral fascist response to those who have witnessed neoliberal glory at the barrel of a gun in Chile, or those simple citizens of Mexico who co-exist with fear and deprivation in the same house, all over the world the possibility of the human story is being destroyed by human cruelty to those considered less than human. And this human cruelty is rooted in two things,  profit— which needs deprivation and fear, to be in the red– and domination to make that profit. 

Hung Out to Dry, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

I think the time is coming when we will realize that there are other ways to “succeed”. Breathing oxygen is already reserved for those who can afford it, in the hellish world of the Third World bourgeoisie with their Honeywell air purifiers, oxygen bars, and N99 masks (which, by the way, make a great profit for those same corporations that spew genocidal chemicals into the air). 

I  recently heard a story about a man who polished marble floors for a living in high-rises that are being built at a flying pace. He worked, as do millions of others, without a “health and safety” committee, in bare feet, with no mask, and for a pittance. When he dropped dead, they took him to the crematorium and his entire body burnt except his lungs. Why? They had hardened into cement and marble from all the dust the poor man had inhaled. What horror indeed. 

If there’s no bread for the poor, there’ll be no peace for the rich

What is going to happen to all those who buy and sell the bodies and labour power of the poor, when the poor are unable to breathe, to see, to move their mosquito and tick infested joints, to respond to commands as they lose their neurological faculties to insect-borne illness and chemical genocide? 

As the old song says, “we are born on the same earth, we have the same blood in our veins and the same sky is above us”.  And they have not yet built that surveillance camera or satellite that can see our souls, though they may demonize our very bodies. 

Art Chile environment Indigenous people latin america music neo-liberalism Social Justice

Chile: Forbidden to Forget…

Over a million people protest in Santiago, Chile, Plaza Italia, October, 2019

I was first introduced to the world of Chileans in exile, in the late 1970s, as adults and children fleeing political repression, torture, kidnapping, political rape and murder, arrived in Canada. In fact, Chile had not been know for mass migration until the political banishment of left and progressive sectors under the Generals.

Chile’s self-image, shaped by the Spanish conquistadores and their later allies and competitors, the British government, presented a  whitewashing  of the country’s Catholic brutality and latifundista stucture, in which many toiled but hardly any profited. 

The great influence of disaffected Europeans (Germans, Irish, British, Spaniards and Italians— who came to Chile to seek their fortune, was combined with successive waves of Eastern European and Middle Eastern migration; Turks, Syrians, and after 1948, Palestinians. Also, Chile has been home to over a million indigenous citizens (Mapuche and Quechua) whose numbers have steadily been reduced through the imposition of genocidal colonial rule and policy. This last demographic has increasingly gained allies among the non-indigenous left, fighting for a just future for indigenous communities while supporting the creation of fair and safe employment for the working class and a move to deprivatize  and respect natural resources. 

Mapuche Flag, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

The recent events in Chile are a signal of the failure of a policy put in place over 46 years ago, a policy derived from the interests of Washington (more specifically, the Chicago School of Economics and its kleptocratic allies throughout Latin America. With the assassination of a democratically elected President, Salvador Allende and the imposition of a military dictatorship (September 11, 1973) whose accomplishment was to keep the people in line for maximum profit and sell off every bit of Chile’s natural world possible, it has definitely been a successful foray into super-exploitation— to a point.

The tactics of mass disappearances, military massacres of civilians and leftist and progressive sectors, and the redefining of everything left of centre as a “threat” to capitalist order and good government characterized new neo-fascist regimes in Latin America, starting with the U.S. intervention in removing Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in the 1950s and reaching to Brazil, Chile, Argentina, El Salvador and Colombia in glaring relief. Refugee production from these countries spiralled and the international settlement of exiles aided in publicizing the plight of some of the regions’ peoples. But simultaneously, active multi-pronged campaigns were in place by the army of the business class– the CIA. Campaigns spread misinformation such as rumours of Allende’s suicide and abandonment of his people, used to destabilize the resistance to General Pinochet, cultural figures such as Victor Jara and Noel Laureate Pablo Neruda are assassinated– these now commonplace strategies to deter opposition to neo-liberal military regimes have strong roots here.

Schoolgirls protesting fare hikes, starting off anti-austerity protests, October, 2019

As in many places in the capitalist world, the acquisitive power of the majority of people is very low. This means the cost of goods and services are not keeping up with the starvation wages received by the majority of the population. Education, health, wages, housing, pensions — all indices point to unaffordability. It has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world with privatized water— and that should tell us everything!

Up High the Sun Burns Down, Violeta Parra, Chile

When I went to the pampa
I brought my contented heart
like a hummingbird.
But there, it died on me.
First, it last its feather
and then, its voice
And up high the sun burns down.

When I saw the miners
Inside their homes
I said to myself, the snail
lives better in its shell,
or in the shadaw of the law–
the refined thief.
And up high the sun burns down.

The lines of shacks
Side by side, yes sir, 
the lines of women
waiting for the only tap
With their buckets
and faces of affliction.
And up high the sun burns down…

(Translation, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019)

The rule of General Pinochet begun on that cursed day, September 11, 1973, ushered in an era of constitutional dictatorship that suspended  democratic and labour rights, social, political, and cultural rights, denied women’s right to choice,  and shaped the consciousness of both the left and right in Chile. When I visited Chile, 22 years after the Dictatorship had begun, the cost of Valium was cheaper than the cost of bread. I was made aware of the very human and psycho-social costs of fascism– heightened anxiety and insecurity, increased control of women and a general air of entitlement by the blonde, blue-eyed rulers of the country, while the majority of people languished in fear, frustration, and disillusionment.

Santiago, Chile, Oct 25, 2019, Bloomberg

During the progressive years of Allende’s government(1970-’73), Victor Jara became known as one of the most popular progressive and committed artists of the Unidad Popular movement. His fame and integrity were such that the murderous Generals had him killed in the National Stadium in Chile. I’ve included a few versions of The Right to Live in Peace, the “anthem” of the people’s movement. I’ve provided an English translation below.

The Right To Live In Peace

The right to live

poet Ho Chi Minh,

who struck a blow from Vietnam

for all of humanity.

No cannon will wipe out

the furrow of your rice paddy.

The right to live in peace.

Indochina is the place

beyond the wide sea,

where they ruin the flower

with genocide and napalm.

The moon is an explosion

that blows out all the clamor.

The right to live in peace.

Uncle Ho, our song

is fire of pure love,

it’s a dovecote dove,

olive from an olive grove.

It is the universal song

linking us, that will triumph,

the right to live in peace.

El Derecho de Vivir en Paz, Toque de Queda, Santiago, October 2019

And finally, no article on the progressive movements in Chile would be complete without a reference to the popular slogan, ” The People United Will Never Defeated!” which comes from a song of the same name by new song /Cancion Nueva group, Quilapayun and performed by Inti-Illimani.

Alfredo Rostgaard, Cuba
Susana Hidalgo, Mapuche Flag, Plaza Italia, Santiago, October, 2019

Inspired by the original! Thievery Co.’s take on a protest classic
Ana Tijoux, a protest song, released in October 2019

The cacerolazo (clashing of pots) was a protest tactic popularized by women of the right wing against Allende. It involved the clashing of pots and pans as a way for “house-wives” to protest. The tactic has been used numerous times since then, by sectors of the left as well. Most recently, Chileans in the streets against the corporatocracy that reigns in their country, have employed the cacerolazo as a sound of protest!

I’ve included a link to a 1982 Movie by Greek Director, Costa Gavras, Missing, starring Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek based on the original coup of 1973.

And I am ending with the names of those people who have fallen victim to the neo-liberal government of Sebastian Pinera.

A list of those who have been killed by the Pinera Administration to date,
Forbidden to Forget
Photo: Rodrigo Larrea, Santiago, Chile, October, 2019–FkL7sw

Art Autumn, fall environment nature

A fall gallery

These are a few recent pieces, as I enjoy one of the most colourful autumns I have seen. We are turning the corner into winter soon… I hope you all enjoy this visual homage to the seasons. And a huge thank you to all of you who’ve allowed me to celebrate 3500 hits to this blog!

Smoke bush, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Wind storm, Kaushalya Bannerji
Autumn Hills, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Anything for me? Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Pines, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
The Master Painter, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Park Path, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn/Series, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn/Series, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Sunset Through the Trees, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Through the Trees, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn Sunset, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Constellation: The Great cat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Art cuba Indigenous Justice Indigenous people latin america peru poetry racism Santeria


This is a seven part poem I have been working on since my work, studies, and travels have taken me to South America and Cuba. I have long been fascinated and moved by the strength of peoples who manage to hold on to their cosmologies in the face of terrible odds such as kidnapping, enslavement, auction blocks, trade-sanctioned rape, forced labour, soul-searing racism, and unimaginable poverty, and social and political exclusion, even state-sanctioned annihilation.

As a woman of colour, the racisms I have witnessed and experienced throughout my time in Peru, Colombia, Chile, Cuba and Mexico have raised huge questions about the role of anti-racism in “progressive” sectors of development and education, culture, and, even political parties, in those countries. While these issues need to be hashed out in terms of policies, financing, and social restructuring as a whole–especially in those countries where colonized peoples of colour are a majority in certain under-remunerated occupations such as manual and domestic service, agricultural labour, entertainment, and the informal sector– the role of culture in accompanying such changes is essential.

As a citizen of colour in the Americas, I have chosen to seek inspiration and meaning in the beliefs and cosmologies of those of us bound together by European colonization, rather than those of dominant hegemonic religions. As the child of a colonized migrant, I belong in the Americas, as do those who have belonged here before me, and who belonged, before the words “African” and “Indian” had any meaning. The absurdity of this world turned upside down, where the poor fight each other tooth and claw for a pittance for survival, cannot destroy the connection between the gods of Santeria and those of the Quechua and Aymara peoples, especially in countries like Peru, where indigenous and afro-descended communities are integral to the country’s development and self-image, although the apartheid between European Peruvians and indigenous Peruvians is deeply entrenched and the official story of Peru may not highlight their presence except as beasts of burden or unruly mobs needing to be subdued.

That is why this following piece takes as its title the Quechua (Kichwa) word, “pachacutec” meaning “Earth Shaker” or the “world turned upside down.” I was struck by this word as it resonated with not only the the social disparagement of the indigenous people I witnessed in the Andean nations, but also the facile commodification of black religion as entertainment. An entertainment, I might add, that was almost wholly consumed by white tourists both national and international. I saw this wherever Afro music was played, whether in Cuba at the Callejon de Hamel or watching Peru Negro perform in reified contexts with velvet seats and expensive tickets. This is contrasted in the way that such religions are actually practised outside the gaze of the tourist or the anthropologist, where the deities may be termed in Arundhoti Ray’s words, the “gods of small things”, accompanying as they do the risks of everyday life under unequal social circumstances. In using the word Pachacutec I signal the “upside-downiness” of this late-capitalist world where we float through the sky and bury our crimes against humanity– for surely, colonial subjugations are just that– in the blood-stained earth from which huge profits are made at all our expense.


(Quechua word meaning Earth Shaker/World Turned Upside Down)


Someone has opened

my path

brought me to these gray

and frantic streets

I count seventy firearms

on my way to work

seventy ways to say no

to life

I count twenty three banks

each with their security and arms

protecting us from our need

that they have created

I count teeming busses

crammed with morning 

hopes and remnants of nightmares

I see checkpoints and soldiers

offerings of coca cola, money

I see my stop draw near

an old man in a red and black jacket

helps me dodge the cars

at the cross-roads

Rainy street, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019


The politcal economy of Obatala:

Sunlight dapples wall

lying on the unrepentant bed

listening to digitally mastered

Obatala’s name

dissonance dream and discord

cable wire

plastic parts

hydro stations

Japan, Korea, Africa

via Cuba

contradict each other

in mid ear


and Bata drums

the old kind

before they abolished that 

second hand slavery

Batista, Business,

U.S Army Base, 

where Obatala cannot enter

in this,

his land.

Pititi, /Afro-Peru, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019


Aching water

the queen of waves

is drowning

Cliffs split

gray veins open

garbage fills crevices

Yemaya is drowning

5:30 a.m

dawn is still future

drizzle and damp

enter their salvaged bones

as the maids


for the crowded desperate buses

to bring them closer

to the daily dollar

They pass

the screaming sea

clutching vinyl purses


a blind musician 

singing for alms

in his imprisoned voice



Yemaya, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019


Shango trapped 

in the cajon

rushes out into his fingers

syncopation cries

his name over

and over and over

White faces 

cannot glimpse him

in half empty Rum glasses

Shango trapped 

in black thighs

majesty and mourning

bisect his myth

feet invoke

his sacred thundering name

domesticated by dollars

they grow weary

After the show

young black men

rub hands and feet

away from that

bright hot light

that makes them sweat whirl

faster faster faster

same bitter enslaved scent

as the sweat that irrigates

poisonous cane

Shango’s name

just the same


on sleeping wooden boards.

Uprising, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019



They tell me 

glances at you from a woman’s eyes

or hips or

the faces of five o’clock

Dreaming of the moon’s hands

in night’s dark river

curved around earth

where Oshun

honours you


so they tell me

by calling your secret name:

the free one.

Oshun, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019


how easy to find the hills

and stranger as i am

i come home

amid the stormy red roofs

limewashed walls

spattered with last night’s mud

here in this peaked valley

grey green blue ochre

stone sky water earth


peaceful mountains

pure light


iron smell of blood haunts

stones and crucifixes

in the war of the worlds

all is imbalance


neither end nor beginning

Hills, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019


I love the soneras

women whose spirits

cut air like butter

whose rhythm improvises


whose vibrations 

dance sorrow to her lonely home

among the unwashed dishes

and dirty clothes tossed about

like newspapers in the plaza

I love too, the soneros

men whose music

was wood and horsehair

hide and yellowed ivory

in bars on streetcorners

where customers rehearse

for Dante’s infernos

Seven sins cleansed

by Seven powers.

Sonerxs, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Art climate crisis poetry war

We Lived Happily during the War

One tries to hang on to hope, in spite of the onslaught. Poetry, art, music, dance, theatre, and even sometimes film, can offer us someting in that direction, give us a glimpse of that blue star.

This year has been filled with changes in our political landscapes, fear and trauma among many who have been scapegoated as migrants/racialized/ colonized peoples, and more and more signs of irreversible destruction to the planet and its most vulnerable inhabitants— humans.

I swear if I see one more ad about the extinction of such and such a species, it will need to be matched by a thousand more pleading for help to save the human race. 

This year seven million people were directly displaced and lost everything due to climate disaster. The excessive droughts and wildfires of some zones are being met by flooding and crop and home destruction in other areas. These seven million people have one thing in common— they are economically vulnerable.  Without savings, and networks of people with access to goods like cars and services like credit cards,  shelters, etc. emergency planning appears ad-hoc for the majority of low income, and especially disabled, people. For those flooded during hurricane Katrina and those flooded during typhoon season in Bangladesh, the problem only grows with the evacuation. Lives are uprooted after all, not only mangroves.




The other issues that involve resettling have grave problems. Remediating damaged land as in Katrina, has left thousands outside their home state since 2005. Hurricane Maria saw an outflux of Puerto Ricans as water, electricty, building, and infrastructure issues continue to plague the island since 2017. Bangladeshi coastal dwellers are retreating against the ocean on one hand and the steadily deforested jungles and mangroves on the other. Generational livelihoods in fishing are being lost at rapid rates. 

In Mexico, frequent tropical storms and hurricanes are creating flash flooding, landslides, and other chaos while toxic runoff from agriculture has killed coastal waters attractive to tourists and fishermen through massive blooms of toxic blue-green algae.


 In Puerto Vallarta, the red tide season is more frequent and more intense. Growth without development has resulted in massive and unaffordable housing booms completely ignoring aging and inadequate municipal sanitation and electrical infrastructure. The dispossession of indigenous communities and fisherfolk to make room for ex-pat condos and winter homes for Mexican millionaires is proceeding with gusto, while landslides and flash flooding have become ever more frequent.


The famous Blue Flag beach certification is implicated in new imperialisms as fisher people and local residents are pushed out of coastal homes to make way for tourist beaches.

In the Siberian arctic, climate crisis has brought the adaptation of new economic survival strategies, as the melting of the permafrost and the shifting of the ground has already forced evacuations and retreats from areas inhabited for hundreds if not thousands of years. 


In Canada, where I live, the effects of climate crisis are proceeding apace. Years ago I remember reading that animals’ breeding seasons were being disrupted by low-level military testing over Labrador and now, glacial melt, and the thawing of the permafrost. The salmon are fewer and feed fewer bears and birds, leading to the trickle-down of death,  that specialty of capitalism.

In short, the intersection between capitalism, fossil fuel reliance, overfishing, multinational cattle ranching and tourism is crucial. The reliance on war and nuclear power bolstered by an arms race whose impact on the biosphere cannot be underestimated as well. 


When I met Cuban doctors and nurses who had served hospitals during the the first and second Gulf wars, they told me of the effects of depleted uranium and and other bio-hazards used in war, on children and infants. Many worked in pediatrics, and the horror stories were legion. I think some of those health care professionals were traumatized by what they saw during those postings. 


It is surprising that not as much is written about the ways in which war  degrades the environment. But as governments unleash chemicals and bullets on their peoples, the natural world that sustains us is also affected. I end with a poem that reminds us how we are all interconnected, even when we look away.

We Lived Happily During the War, Ilya Kaminsky

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we


but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was

in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month

of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,

our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.

“We Lived Happily During the War” from the Poetry International website. Copyright © 2013 by Ilya Kaminsky. 

Art LGBT Migrants poetry


nothing but the need for friendship
reduced, quest now stripped of myth
how difficult not to remember
the colour of eyes

how we ran to and from such passions
there was a time i thought i must not know you
but outside the rain howled your name
could not forget, would not, how could i?

was it this then?
all the aches leading
up to my own liberation
the essence of a touch
that carries its own
meaning, the wound that heals
in spite of who i am?

everyplace i go i see the new underclass. the ones who slink
by unnoticed and unnoticing, or the one who robs you of your place as he makes his own, leaving you behind in this arrogant male race war

i sought to remake myself
while in the air
questions hung suspended above endeavour
hard to shape the mouths just so
pronounce the squareness
of my new stiff vowels
hands loosed now by unwelcoming bone

in the dream you appeared as if back from the sunday in the country.
in the city your languid manner seemed out of place while the window framd the moving twilight street. it could have been any woman really, that stood watchng the sun set somwhere beyond the hard gray lake,
the seagulls venturing past the construction on the waterfront

did i tell you
i always wanted to meet Malinche?
she fascinated me
she who had a country to sell
a land to betray
which had betrayed her

those were the days before i discovered
you make your own country
wear your skin like a flag
your breasts like battle scars.

(1993-2019, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, from A New Remembrance, TSAR Books, Toronto, 1993)

Art environment poetry

2 O’Clock

a yellow butterfly flew past
brushing bougainvillias with dreams
of rain
now the grass is solemn
does not dance
a shadow grows longer
upon the limewashed wall
somwhere near by, children
ae singing
to capture even half this beauty
in the palm of the heart

from A New Remembrance, 1993, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji

Art Columbus Day Indigenous people music

Indigenous Uprising on Columbus Day

Ecuador, Indigenous Anti- Austerity Protests, October 2019, The Guardian

I am a strong supporter of the movement throughout the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean to stop celebrating Columbus Day. 

Critics of the pro-Colombus status quo signal to the cruelty and harshness of Spanish empire-building and by extension, European and British colonization efforts in the Americas. Genocide of indigenous persons,  the wholesale buying and selling of afro-descended peoples through chattel slavery, the wilful destruction of languages, cultures and cosmologies that were percieved by Europeans as “unknowable” and only worth knowing insofar as their knowledge could further domination— the degradation of natural resources in the “ New World”— all these are the legacy of Cristopher Columbus and others of his ilk. 

Our Lady of Sorrows, Maria Izquierdo, Mexico

We do not need to rewrite the past in order to wrest away symbolic imagery and ideological emphasis from those whose mission is to pillage and profit while subjugating as many human beings  as they can along the way.

We do not need to honour power in the ways that bourgeois racist patriarchy has imposed on us. That is why many international social movements across the United states and Latin American and Caribbean nations, are pushing to replace Colombus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. And while culture is not the only arena of change that is essential for our common future, it would be good to finally acknowledge the historical and contemporary wrongs of settler and extractive colonialism. 

Oswaldo Guayasamin, Maternidad/Tenderness, Ecuador

From Turtle Island to the land of the Quetzal and the lands of the Condor, indigenous nations are grappling with what it means to be  peoples without states or control over national infrastructure to facilitate their well-being and continued survival. 

Norval Morriseau, The Shaman and the Apprentice, Canada

Nearly a hundred years ago, revolutionary activist , Jose Carlos Mariategui, writing about his beloved Peru, spoke of how the country’s Europeanized left needed to come to terms with the very real presence and exploitation of Kichwa and other native peoples in Peru. Mariategui’s plea to locate revolutionary social movements on the murky terrain of real-life demographics and the social relations of feudalism, capitalism, and indigenous  modes of producing complicated the ahistorical and imperialist idealism of the early twentieth century’s anarchist and communist movements. We are witnessing some of the alliances that he spoke of, not in his country of Peru, but in Ecuador, right now.

Diego Rivera, The Day of Flowers, Mexico

The indigenous communities and citizens of Ecuador are leading an uprising against the draconian austerity measures that are destroying the country. They hope to bring down the government of the ironically named Lenin Moreno– and as importantly, the neo-liberal profiteers and war mongers with whom he is allied. Armed with sticks against the Ecuadorian military, protestors have managed to make Moreno flee with his entourage and parliament from Quito, the country’s highland capital, to Guayaquil, a coastal city.

While I will delve into Mariategui’s thoughts in depth in a future post, the important point here, is that an acknowledgement of the imposition of Spanish conquistador and settler rule both transformed and attempted to obliterate all that lay beneath it. Mariategui’s approach to political theory was rooted  in the potential of Andean revolutionary movements in the mountains where the peoples of the condor still make up a vast majority. 

Oswaldo Guaysamin, The Hands of Protest, Ecuador

All over Latin America, the United States and Canada, first peoples and their descendents are participating in a resurgence of collective voice and fightback against ecocide, capitalism and a brutal patriarchy whose female, trans, lesbian and gay victims are increasingly characterized by intersectional identities. But broadly speaking, poverty is a shared characteristic of those who are fighting back against austerity policies that are engendering starvation, insecurity and environmental contamination. 

David Diaz Arcos, Ecuador, Quito, 2019

The paths chosen by these different nations and their alliances, may differ from country to country. Quito is not Standing Rock or Grassy Narrows or Ayotzinapa or Ayacucho or Haida Gwai. But in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with indigenous peoples in whatever countries we inhabit, we must begin to hear with their ears, see with their eyes, and abandon the notions that “white is right” and “might is right”.

Fall Harvest, Christi Belcourt, Canada

We must shift the lens from the eye of the eternal colonizer whose great body we make up in settler societies through our schools, courts, health care, and governments, our Indian Acts and Decrees of Prohibition, our broken treaties and broken societies. We must shift the lens to the eye of the colonized so that we can work to create a future environment of racial and economic justice where the land and her people are relations, not dominators and dominated.

Christi Belcourt, Our Lives are in the Land, Canada

I’ll leave you with some fantastic music from aboriginal performers from North America, both past and present. And some art representing a fraction of the richness of indigneous artists and their sympathizers! 

Daphne Odjig, The Messenger of Peace, Canada
Rikchari /Despierta, Ecuador, 2019
An Ecuadorian Classic!