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Articles from the Peace News log: Culture

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

Adam Weymouth on his walking from England to Istanbul, challenging xenophobia, the fear of strangers.

ImageAs I walked along the European bank of the Bosphorus, I stumbled upon a small group of fisherman who were coming to the end of their dinner. They called me over, offering me grapes and raki, and I explained in my smattering of Turkish what I was up to. “Londra, Istanbul,” slap legs, mime walking. “Sekiz ay” (“eight months”).

Throughout my whole journey I had been offered hospitality to an extent I could never have imagined before I left. I had been invited to sleep in peoples’ homes, in bars, in barns, in churches and in mosques. I was fed in restaurants and at mountain passes. I was given friendship and support at times when I really needed it. Yet I assumed I would have been anonymous in a city of thirteen million people. But as we finished eating they told me proudly that the only way to see their city was from the water, and invited me out in their boat. For Muslims, they told me, the duty of hospitality is not a duty only to the stranger, but one to God.

One intention I had when I began, 3,500 miles earlier, was to challenge the culture of fear, the distrust of strangers, that seems to be a given in a world where we are increasingly denied the opportunity to interact with the unknown. With its speed and its fear, our culture robs people of the very chance to offer hospitality. Walking through villages I felt like a rare beast, and found people almost eager to invite me into their houses, to hear my story and to tell me theirs.

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Russ McPherson responds to an article on Metalkova social centre in Slovenia in PN 2535 with his own experiences in Australia

ImageSpread across 10 acres of land in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, is the Ceres Community Environment Park. Pronounced “series” the name has several connotations, the most appropriate perhaps being with the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Dotted with wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, Ceres certainly lives up to its founding principle to “initiate and support environmental sustainability and social equity.” The 4 hectare park includes a farm, community gardens, a café selling delicious vegan food, a market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings which sells organic foods and handmade/recycled crafts, a training kitchen, educational nature trails, a volunteer-run bicycle repair group, and various sustainable water and permaculture projects.

The EcoHouse demonstrates sustainable living retrofit options, while other buildings are designed to contribute to a wider knowledge of indigenous cultures and lifestyles. It was in one of these that I discovered the aboriginal map of Australia, which illustrates more than anything the diverse culture that was lost when the white man came.

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Roger Stephenson on Picasso’s anti-war art

ImageIn Paris, Dora Maar was in tears and Picasso had found the subject for the painting he had been commissioned to do by the Spanish republican government for the Spanish pavilion at the international exhibition that was due to open in the French capital in May. With time running out, the exhibition finally opened on the 1900 exhibition site between the Champs de Mars and the Trocadero in June. The Spanish pavilion was not ready until July.

Picasso worked quickly with an intense fury of creativity, trying out ideas on the huge (11 feet by 25 feet)  canvas that he head crammed into his studio in the Rue des Grands Augustins. The final painting confronted the viewer, as it has confronted viewers ever since, with a graphic depiction of the horror of the bombing of a civilian population.

In an interview he gave in May 1937, Picasso said: “The war in Spain is the battle of reaction against the people, against liberty. My whole career has been one continual struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the painting on which I am now at work, which I shall call Guernica - and in all my recent works – I am very clearly expressing my horror at the military caste which has plunged Spain into a sea of suffering and death.” (Pierre Daix, Picasso, Thames and Hudson 1965, p166).

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Maya Evans reviews the latest play from the Tricycle Theatre

"The morning after seeing Tactical Questioning – scenes from the Baha Mousa Inquiry, I woke up in a cold sweat. Harrowing images of people being tortured were still in my head.

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Milan Rai interviews the Tricycle Theatre's artistic director

I was in two minds as to how to write up the interview with Nicolas Kent. Our usual format in PN is to just to present the transcript of the interview, and that’s what we did in the end (for an unusually long three pages), but I was very tempted to write it up in a more traditional journalistic style. These notes are a small move to bringing a bit more of the flavour of the thing over.

When I called up to arrange the interview, Nicolas Kent was very gracious, but it was clear he was under a lot of pressure of work and he had only half an hour to spare. This meant that a lot of things didn’t get teased out enough (I didn’t try to engage with his ideas about Afghanistan, which I didn’t agree with) and some things didn’t make it in at all.

The thing that was left out that I regret most, which indicated most clearly what type of person Mr Kent is, and therefore what these plays really are, was an incident in relation to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

As everyone knows, Stephen Lawrence was a young black man killed by a gang of white racists in 1993. The inquiry into the failed police investigations describes his murder in these terms:

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Jill Gibbon at the 2011 BAE Systems AGM

Jill Gibbon at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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The Lib Dem Spring conference was the focus of anti-cuts protests in Sheffield this weekend. Hidden behind two million pounds of security fencing and applauded by the party faithful, Nick Clegg seemed oblivious. He was just elated to ‘have the reins of power’.

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Jill Gibbon in Parliament

Drawing (along with shouting, swearing, throwing things and throwing up) is not allowed in the houses of parliament. All the more reason to do it. Here is David Cameron defending the SAS mission to Libya in PMQs last week.


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Emily Johns' self-portraits before the first (1991) Gulf War.

This is a set of pictures that I drew in 1991 in the nights leading up to the first Gulf War. They are not very hopeful, but maybe in themselves they were an attempt to avert the very apparent horrors that war would bring. Partly they were an attempt at magic and partly they were like willing the aeroplane’s wings not to fall off when you are 50,000 feet up in the air. It would take an awful lot of poppies now to mark the dead of the last twenty years.

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16th January 1991, 3.10am. We are running out of poppies
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