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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Binta and the Great Idea by Javier Fesser

Javier Fesser's “Binta and the Great Idea” aka "Binta y la Gran Idea" was nominated in 2007 for the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film.    It is a Spanish-Senegalese co-production . Binta is an African girl that narrates the story . She is seven year old and blessed to attend school. She enjoys it but her cousin Soda lacks that privilege. Binta’s father is a humanist dreaming to change the world for peace, tolerance and solidarity. It is a beautiful story that reminds us that children are tomorrow. It is my all time favorite!!!!
 The plot from wikipedia:
"Binta is a young African girl who serves as the narrator. She talks about her father and his 'great idea'. Binta's father is a small-time, local fisherman in a peaceful village in Senegal. His friend who recently visited Europe describes what fishing is like there. He tells him that the Europeans can catch thousands of fish with bigger boats equipped with sonar. The man, very impressed by this, encourages the father to approach the government and request a permit for a bigger boat. Binta's father also hears from his friend how once he attains wealth he must get a permit for a weapon so he can defend his wealth. The friend also shows off his watch which has an alarm set to ring every day at noon.
"What happens at noon?" asks Binta's father. "Why, the alarm rings!" his friend replies.
Binta's father is shown making his way up through the ranks of government, sharing his great idea with various officials. The film switches back and forth between the story of Binta and her father and the struggle between Binta's cousin, Soda, and her father, a village elder. Soda desperately wants to go to school, but her father believes African girls should not be educated; they should learn to tend the home and then get married and tend to home and family.
The village school children put on a play to convince Soda's father to let her attend school. Here we experience the power of art and solidarity; in the end, the father is finally convinced, and Soda is allowed to get an education.
Finally, when Binta's father meets with the provincial leader, we find out what his great idea was: He wants do his part to make the world a better place by adopting a tubab (white child), "preferably weaned," in order to teach him/her qualities which Western industrialized society has largely lost, such as sharing, solidarity, the sustainable use of resources. This film is unusual in that it allows us a glimpse of Western culture as viewed from a third world perspective.
Various themes are touched upon in this delightful film: the power of art to bring about change (see both the play-within-the-film and the film itself), sustainability and equitable division of resources, and the true meaning of progress and humanity."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Multilingualism and multiculturalism in a global community.

The election of Barack Hussein Obama is a victory for many of us, regardless of race. Of course he is the first black president in USA. However he is multicultural and multilingual. When he was elected I felt that I was in United States of America for this. It was fate, our son was born here and will  learn about the first black president at school. He was the proof that everything can change. I was proud to be here and proud to be me. And we all  felt  it, a step forward, and a change for the future. I was American that day!

I was raised in a multicultural and multilingual community. I did struggle with my identity during our migrations. The place that hurts me the most was school. That place of education was a battlefield for me. School reflects inequalities, differences, and injustices. I could enjoy being everything and nothing but at school I had to choose. Or the history lessons or teachers or others children would say something that will slowly tilt my balance. I was grateful that Obama won, because our son will hear and see a different History.

According to Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm a British historian, "The coexistence of peoples of different languages and cultures is normal. A single national language only became important when ordinary citizens became an important component of the state. The original case for a standard language was entirely democratic, not cultural."

That brings me to my parents that stressed the importance of education. My mother used to remind us that our brains have no color that we make it what we want. She did not take any excuses. She will make me wake up two hours earlier so I could memorize words, definition, addition tables and conjugations. I hated it but I loved having good grades. I was often up before Sunrise. Once I was done, I had the luxury to enjoy the sunrise eating breakfast. Priceless!!!

My parents studied in French, Burundi was a Belgium colony.They were able to have a better quality of life because of their education. As parents they sacrificed a lot to send us to a French private school. As much as I loved learning, the school did not say the same things as my parents. Every day, I was double checking with them. The worst day was when a teacher said that Africans were inferior to Europeans. For this reason they colonized Africans. At home my parents told me not to believe everything said even in books because it is theirs history. And my dad said “it is all about money, politic and democracy” .At six years old, I already knew a lot. I knew about passport, laisser passé, visa, transit, exile, refugees, immigrant, local, cooperant, work permit, citizenship, residency, private, public, war, ethnic, tribes, countries, America, Asia, Europe, Africa, theirs and ours.

So when Obama won, I won something priceless. Our son was proud to be him, in his multicultural complexity in this global community.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Indian Ocean

  After leaving Africa. I grew up in Anjouan.  And it was home for me. Africa was a memory, a place where our relatives live and we go visit  every two years. I was speaking Comorian, going to French school, and struggling to speak Kirundi at home.  My  dad told us we were citizens of the world but African first. That we were not just in exile, refugees or immigrants. Both of my parents were speaking  more than three languages. And they stressed how education was important. I  dearly love my childhood there. It was magical. And every night I would sit and watch the moonlight with my mother. She would share stories about her childhood and Africa. I vividly remember her face and I look so much like her today.  However I was so confused by that Hutu- Tutsi story, we were both from grandparents but officially Hutu.  I was born in Rwanda but I  was Burundian speaking french, Comorian, and more comfortable with Kinyarwanda than Kirundi .So I decided that I was everything and nothing. And Comoros was the perfect place for it. People were Africans, Indians, Arabs, mixed and Europeans. As a child I mainly noticed that Europeans had more fancy stuffs.
The islands were originally settled by Malays, Africans and Arabs, then by prosperous refugees from Persia who created their own sultanates. In the seventeenth century European and American pirates such as Captain Kidd used the islands, but during the nineteenth century France's influence increased until in 1912 Comoros was declared a colony. This lasted until 1975, when the islands gained independence, but political instability persisted between the islands, with reluctant power sharing. As late as March 2008 the African Union had to be called in to resolve a political crisis. Most Comorians live at subsistence level and many work abroad. The export of perfume from ylang-ylang, jasmine and orange trees is important, as is vanilla, cloves and pepper. The population numbers over 750,000 and are a mixture of Arab, African, Malay, Malagasy and French origins. Most are Muslim. French and Arabic are official languages, with Comorian, a language closely related to Swahili, widely used. Moroni on Grande Comore is the capital.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Same Moonlight for Our Dreams

Many moons ago, my father won a  scholarship by cross running  trough the hills of his beloved Burundi. So he left home to pursue his dreams far away in Europe. Some moons later my mother escaped her beloved Burundi to Rwanda with her siblings. She survived and kept the  promise she made to her father, to realize her dreams. On a special moon they met, then decide to work  together  to dream beyond for a better future. They worked hard, struggled, failed and succeeded. I was born in Rwanda as a child of refugees. I was fortunate that my parents decided to leave Africa to give us a better future. We moved a lot. I am lucky to have  experienced others cultures, foods, lifestyles, traditions, religions and dreams. And I did learn that we are different but the same. Every night we have common  dreams under that same moonlight. In this  blog I want to share my opinions about how difference is beautiful and how similar we are.


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