Congo faces “Dante’s Inferno” but shuns U.N. aid effort

“Jean-Philippe Chauzy, head of the U.N. migration agency IOM in Congo described a microcosm of the dreadful plight of many ordinary Congolese – 1,000 families camped in a schoolyard that he visited in Kalemie, capital of Tanganyika province.

“It reminded me of when I first read Dante’s Inferno – it was absolutely awful, living conditions were absolutely atrocious,” he told Reuters. “No proper water, people defecating wherever they could, shelters made of pieces of plastic or of rags on sticks.” […]    –Tom Miles, Reuters, April 13, 2018

“The Hellish Descent of the Central African Republic”

“The death records of the Bangui morgue in the Central African Republic read like a chapter out of Dante’s Inferno: page after page of people killed by machetes, torture, lynchings, shootings, explosions and burning. The overwhelming stench makes it impossible to stay there for long. On really bad days only the number of dead is recorded – not their names nor the causes of death – before the bodies are buried in mass graves

“The morgue is a terrible symbol of the toll of communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has raged for months and claimed tens of thousands of lives, displacing even more. Recently, the Séléka, a predominantly Muslim group of fighters that seized Bangui, the capital, and toppled the CAR’s government in early 2013, have lost some ground – although they continue to terrorise wherever possible. In response Christian forces known as anti-balaka (balaka means ‘machete’ in Sango, the local language) have stepped up attacks against Muslim civilians in places where the Séléka no longer holds the sway it did a few months ago. ” [. . .]    –Peter Bouckaert, The Telegraph, February 19, 2014.

Savannah Fire on the Serengeti

savannah-fire-serengeti-2017“Fire ecology is a fascinating subject. I always get a bit of a buzz when I find a fire image in Snapshot Serengeti. Fire is a major component of savannah ecosystems and the grasses and trees within them have evolved along with fire, some to such an extent that they cannot exist without the occasional burn…

“As the dry season progresses the deep verdant greens start to fade to yellow, the temperature mounts into the high 30’s and the strong Harmattan winds pick up. The landscape is a mosaic of tall savannah grasslands divided by fingers of thick lush riverine habitat. The climatic conditions bring violent lightning storms which, given the tinder dry grasses, can trigger natural bush fires. Of course this process is random, not every patch of grass will burn every year unlike the human induced fires that sweep this part of Central African Republic year after year.

[. . .]

“The day I have been dreading finally comes. Fire is spotted 5km from the camp and it is racing towards our fire break, a team rushes out to light a back burn to try and stop it in its tracks but the wind does us no favours and within hours we can see the flames as they burn behind the camp perimeter. I am feeling panicky but although it looks like Dante’s inferno the danger has passed as the fire makes its way along the north side of the airstrip. Then disaster strikes the wind, capricious as ever, changes direction just as the fire reaches the end of the airstrip and a great gust of hot ash and embers jumps the fire break and the fire starts racing up the south side of the airstrip. And all hell breaks loose; we never expected it to get into this block.” — Lucy Hughes, Snapshot Serengeti, March 1, 2017

Read more of the article here.

Annual Fires in Nairobi’s Gikomba Market

kenya-market-fire-2018“Kenyans have woken up yet to another fire in one of the country’s largest open-air markets claiming at least 15 lives and destroying property worth millions of shillings.

“The Gikomba fireballs have become an annual occurrence. Here, a look at them between 2012 and 2018.” — Fredrick Obura, Standard Digital, June 28, 2018

SCAD Museum of Art: “The Divine Comedy”

Muluneh Aida, 99 SeriesThe Savannah College of Art and Design’s museum featured an exhibit called “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists” which ran from October 16, 2014 to January 25, 2015.

“SCAD presents the U.S. premiere of ‘The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists.’ Curated by the internationally acclaimed Simon Njami, this monumental exhibition explores the thematic sequences of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem through works by more than 40 contemporary artists from 19 African countries as well as the African diaspora. [. . .]

“Through a variety of media, this exhibition demonstrates how concepts visited in Dante’s poem transcend Western traditions and resonate with diverse contemporary cultures, belief systems and political issues. Overall, the exhibition provides a probing examination of life, death and the continued power of art to express the unspoken and intangible.”    —SCAD Museum of Art

The exhibition was later featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, running from April 8 to August 2, 2015. The large exhibition was on display in the entrance pavilion, stairwells, and all three floors of the museum. See the National Museum of African Art’s exhibition page here, and Elena Goukassian’s review in the Washington Post here (April 16, 2015).