Categories
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

Categories
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!

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1385600280

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

Categories
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)

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/sep/15/chile-santiago-water-supply-drought-climate-change-privatisation-neoliberalism-human-right

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

https://folkways.si.edu/la-nueva-cancion-new-song-movement-south-america/latin-world-struggle-protest/music/article/smithsonian

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

https://www.seatrade-maritime.com/industry-sectors/port-logistics/chilean-port-workers-bring-operations-to-a-halt-again/?fbclid=IwAR1_wF4gvhjUqLwyzZaMOao_4meSyGf-hgddnsELoY8comRp9h5–FkL7sw

http://chng.it/ZrB6FbQYy6

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-20/two-communist-lawmakers-are-suddenly-setting-the-agenda-in-chile?fbclid=IwAR2gGz10jc6_ixXibKHtkWqb_fYmRIkOS4-7GhDeLvx-ocdLjfuRE9e0IYc

Categories
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
Categories
Art cuba Indigenous Justice Indigenous people latin america peru poetry racism Santeria

Pachacutec

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.

Pachacutec 

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

I.

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

II

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

Obatala

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

III

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

Wait 

for the crowded desperate buses

to bring them closer

to the daily dollar

They pass

the screaming sea

clutching vinyl purses

Only

a blind musician 

singing for alms

in his imprisoned voice

whispers

ashe

Yemaya, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

IV

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

echoes

on sleeping wooden boards.

Uprising, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

V

Oshun

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

or

so they tell me

by calling your secret name:

the free one.

Oshun, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

VI

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

recombine

peaceful mountains

pure light

horrific

iron smell of blood haunts

stones and crucifixes

in the war of the worlds

all is imbalance

precarious

neither end nor beginning

Hills, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

XII

I love the soneras

women whose spirits

cut air like butter

whose rhythm improvises

soundwaves

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
Categories
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.

<https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/reference/hurricane-katrina/#close>

<https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/18/the-sundarbans-crab-farmers-battling-climate-crisis-and-pirates-bangladesh>

<https://theintercept.com/2019/09/20/climate-strike-puerto-rico-hurricane-maria/>

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.

<https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rotting-seaweed-beaches-sargassum-mexico-carribbean-cancun-playa-del-carmen-tulum-a8978756.html>

 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.

<https://www.vallartadaily.com/cuale-river-floods-puerto-vallarta-as-tropical-depression-narda-passes/>

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.

https://thewire.in/environment/blue-flag-beaches-environment-ministry-fishing-communities-coastal-regulation

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. 

<https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/10/04/report-shows-stunning-and-dramatic-scenes-thawing-permafrost-siberia-leaves-millions>

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. 

<https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/06/whats-the-environmental-impact-of-modern-war>

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. 

<https://www.globalresearch.ca/depleted-uranium-weapons-dead-babies-in-iraq-and-afghanistan-are-no-joke/15744>

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

protested

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. 

Categories
Art LGBT Migrants poetry

Journey

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)

Categories
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

Categories
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!


Categories
Art Autumn, fall environment nature poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

A Walk in the Park

We went to the park the other day. Storing up the sunshine of these beautiful days while we can, like squirrels with their nuts. The ups and downs of the meadows and trees, the glint of the sun on the tiny river and all around, little inhabitants of our world, scurrying to save stores for a cold winter. The park was full of scampering feet and half-glimpsed little chipmunks and squirrels, a few late monarchs enjoying the flowers and sunshine of early October and some ducks intent on sharing the loot of a solitary fisherman. Fall’s beauty is fleeting.

I found a poem I really liked, about autumn, from poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The translation is from the German by Scott Stewart, 2017. I’ve accompanied it with my drawings of our park visit.

Autumn at the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Autumn Day

It is time, Lord. Summer was grand.

Now lay your shadow on the day,

and bathe your fields in the wind.

Let the late harvest linger.

Give it two more southern days.

Make it full and bring her

final sweetness into those heavy vines.

If you have no house now, you never will have one.

If you are alone now, you will always live alone,

Reading late in the fading light. Writing letters with no end.

Wandering dark alleys.

Restless and uneasy. A leaf on the wind.

Feast, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn Snail, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Sunflowers (variation), Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn at the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Willow by the River, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Sunset Through the Trees, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
A Rainy Twilight, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Categories
Art LGBT Mexico Migrants poetry Social Justice

They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds

Ever since I saw the phrase, “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds”, I have been so moved.  I am a part of so many communities that have survived burial, in the manner of the phoenix. 

We are resilient and resourceful like seeds that are nourished by hope instead of fear, possibility, instead of prisons, new and green ways of being. It is powerful to be able to turn what seems like unrelenting loss and sacrifice— both voluntary and involuntary—of our humanity in these banally brutal times, where death is just a click away. 

I first saw this expression in Spanish, in the context of the Ayotzinapa massacre in Mexico 2014, where 43 student teachers from a rural teacher training college were massacred and their bodies further dehumanized. The case has rocked Mexico, where violence has become a commonplace element of both the economy and the political environment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Iguala_mass_kidnapping

I wanted to find the atrribution of this powerful phrase and see that it is originally attributed to Dinos Christianopoulos (1931) of Thessaloniki, Greece. As a gay poet, he said, “ what didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot i was a seed”.  Since 1978 when he penned it, the couplet has travelled on the wind, in the manner of seeds, and taken root wherever the marginalized cry for social inclusion and justice. Most recently, the migrant rights movement in the U.S. has also adopted this as one of it’s slogans. 

https://www.newsanctuarynyc.org

Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Series, Seeds…, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Categories
Art poetry

The Harvest Moon

Last night, I glimpsed the harvest moon, red and full. This is the time of the year when the days grow shorter, the wheat and vegetables, apples, and stone fruit are harvested. Soon the nights of pumpkins and souls will be upon us. Autumn also brings the delight of jumping on crinkly fallen leaves, and the comfort of baked and roasted foods which warm the belly and the heart. While chronic illness and fatigue often prevent me from enjoying autumn to the fullest, with its damp and gale-like winds affecting my body and turning it into a rubber band–sometimes stretched too tight, other times, limp and weak– autumn is a beautiful season, full of stark contrasts and the last of colour we may see for months. Thus, autumn gives us the majesty of fall leaves in the northern hemisphere, leaves which crown the fading summer, soon to become memory. Many years ago, English poet Ted Hughes, penned these lines. As we witness the climate crisis that characterizes our times, celebrating the harvest becomes not only essential, but poignant.

The Harvest Moon, Ted Hughes

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can’t sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!’ and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.

Harvest, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Tomatoes, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Zucchini, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Morning Glory, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Harvest Moon, Copyright Kaushalya Bannerji