Talk and Workshop on „Media and Cultural Education“ @Education is Relation not Output?-Conference (Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)

Education is Relation not Output

The conference

It has been a great pleasure to attend the recent conference „Education is Relation not Output? – Scenes of Knowledge and Knowledge Acquisition“ (May 17th-19th 2016) at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden.

The conference was held in cooperation with the international scientific network Tacit Dimensions of Pedagogy. The conference’s purpose was as follows:

Re-thinking the idea of university and scholarly life means to critically examine the conditions for teaching in terms of the current policy discourses and freely develop an idea of university out of an international perspectiveUniversity does not exist simply to convey information or expertise. It is a society in which everyone is responsible for in a reflected way participating in diverse relationships to him-/herself, to others and to the world, and, based on diverse forms of knowledge and representation, actively forming them. In this conference combined with other spaces for discussion perspective on university as a place for social development will be opened up by academic scholars as well as by professionals in the fields of school as well as of art.

My contribution on „Media and Cultural Education“

My own contribution was a talk and workshop that was held within the panel „Art, Visual Culture and Media„.

In my opening talk, I was aiming for tapping into the idea of shaping a perspective on university as a place for social development from an international perspective beyond simply conveying expertise, but to see the university as responsible in helping people to advance in a direction of reflectively participating in diverse relationships to oneself, others and the world.

Especially since contemporary life is happening in spaces of intense proximity, where the interdependence of the diverse nations and cultures becomes more and more obvious, it is important to empower people to competently navigate those spaces. Hence, I proposed an increased emphasis on and discussion of media and cultural education as a means to social cohesion within the university as a place of public education.

The conference paper of the talk (ca. 10 pages) can be downloaded here (pdf-file). A book publication as a conference outcome is forthcoming. My paper will be found there as an official publication then, too.

There is no such thing as >Black Music<

Bildschirmfoto_2015-06-03_um_09_44_50

Can we please somehow stop the blockheadedness of calling a certain kind of music genre „black music“?!
Thank you!

Otherwise I would need to insist on introducing another pigeonhole called „white music“. Sounds foolish, doesn’t it?!
Well, that’s because it is foolish!
Thank you once again! 

 

Mal angenommen, eine der großen Ketten […] käme auf die Idee, alles von Beethoven bis Strawinsky, von Elton John bis THE SMITHS, von Udo Jürgens bis Johnny Cash, unter die gemeinsame Rubrik „White Music“ zu stellen – das Geschrei wäre groß. Undenkbar, eine so große kulturelle Vielfalt unter die banale, alles vereinende und damit nivellierende Kategorie der Hautfarbe zu stellen! Aber warum eigentlich nicht? Waren bzw. sind Beethoven und Morrisey nicht gleichermaßen „weiß“? Und könnte man nicht sogar aufgrund einer musikhistorischen, spitzfindig theoretisch untermauerten Genealogie erklären, dass es jenseits der gängigen Unterscheidung zwischen „E“ und „U“ eine ganze spezielle, alle oben genannten einende Tradition „weißer“ Musikästhetik gäbe, deren Gemeinsamkeit beispielsweise in der auffälligen Abwesenheit von Groove liege? – So absurd diese Argumentation auch erscheinen mag, liegt ihr doch eine andernorts alltäglich wie selbstverständlich vollzogene Praxis zugrunde: Daran, dass sich in zahlreichen Plattenläden eine eigene Rubrik namens „Black Music“ finden lässt, dass es Radiosendungen und Zeitschriften mit diesem Titel gibt […] und dass „Black Music“ seit Beginn der (vornehmlich weißen) Pop-Geschichtsschreibung zu einem feststehenden Begriff geworden ist unter den sich heute je nach Belieben alles von Soul bis HipHop, von R&B bis House subsumieren lässt – daran haben wir uns längst gewöhnt.

Wenn aber das Spezifische oder doch zumindest Einende an so extrem unterschiedlichen Künstlern wie Richie Havens und Aretha Franklin, George Clinton und Cody Chesnutt ihre „Blackness“ sein soll, dann wäre es nur zuträglich, diese banale Verengung auch auf Musikerinnen und Musiker weißer Hautfarbe anzuwenden. Dann nämlich erst, im Spiegel einer beleidigten, weil sich stets als künstlerisch gegenüber ‚Banalitäten‘ wie Hautfarbe erhaben gerierenden, auf ‚individuelle Werdegänge‘ beharrenden Hegemonialkultur, könnte entlarvend deutlich werden, mit welch diskursiv diskriminierender Gewalt der Begriff „Black Music“ seitens weißer […] Geschichtsschreibung immer schon marginalisierende Zwecke verfolgte – nicht zuletzt jenen Zweck, mit einer Verengung auf „Soul-Disco-Dance-Groove“ zu suggerieren, das ‚Schwarze‘ in einer (implizit als hochwertiger gehandelten) Rockkultur keinen Platz haben und sich dort ja aufgrund ihrer musikalischen Tradition auch gar nicht aufgehoben fänden.

Dies ist nur eine der stillschweigend, also meist unausgesprochen mit dem Begriff der „Black Music“ vorgenommenen Zuweisung und Ausgrenzung, deren essenzialistisches Vokabular sich selbst dort noch zu erkennen gibt, wo wohlwollend von der „Spiritualität“ des Souls, vom Blues „im Blut“ oder von der „Ursprünglichkeit“, wenn nicht gar „Besessenheit“ des Grooves die Rede ist. Ausdrücke dieser Art, denen die alte Dichotomie zugrund liegt, „schwarze Kultur“ als „körperlich“ und „weiße“ als „geistig“ aufzufassen […], sind schon lange zu Gemeinplätzen im Musikjournalismus geworden. Testcard #13, 2004. Editorial, S. 4-6

Daran scheint sich, auch gut 10 Jahre nachdem Obenstehendes verfasst wurde, kaum etwas geändert zu haben.

 

Mehr zum Thema:

Arndt, Susan (2004): Kolonialismus, Rassismus und Sprache. Kritische Betrachtungen der deutschen Afrikaterminologie. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: Online verfügbar.

Arndt, Susan; Ofuatey-Alazard, Nadja (Hrsg.) (2011): Wie Rassismus aus Wörtern spricht: (K)Erben des Kolonialismus im Wissensarchiv deutsche Sprache. Ein kritisches Nachschlagewerk. Münster: Unrast.

Hall, Stuart; Evans, Jessica; Nixon, Sean (Hrsg.) (2013): Representation. London: u.a.: Sage; The Open University.

Rodman, Gilbert B. (Hrsg.) (2014): The Race and Media Reader. New York; London: Routledge.

Waltinger, Michael (2013): Afrika(ner)bilder in westlichen Medien. Ungleichheit und die Repräsentation des Anderen im Zuge globaler Kommunikationsflüsse. [Africa(ns) in Western Media. Inequality and Representation of the Other in Global Flows of Communication.] In: Maurer, Bjoern; Reinhard-Hauck, Petra; Schluchter, Jan-René; von Zimmermann, Martina (eds.:): Medienbildung in einer sich wandelnden Gesellschaft. Festschrift für Horst Niesyto. Muenchen: kopaed, pp. 279-290.

Africans don’t want your stinky T-Shirts!

Kenyan Short Film „Yellow Fever“ Explores White Beauty Ideals on African Women

„My sister is asleep.

She is chocolate.

I am toffee.“

These are the thoughts of one of two Kenyan teenage sisters who are having their hair braided at the hair saloon, that lead into the short film Yellow Fever – a mixed-media animation by Kenyan filmmaker Ng’endo Mukii.

The short film explores the colonizing influences of Western, caucasian beauty ideals on young African women as these are disseminated through mainstream media and advertising.

„Any white complexion“, as the film notes, seems to be „beauty. And that is now what drove the girls to try and use ‚beauty creams to bleach themselves.“ So did the women that braids the hair of the other teenage sister in the short film. She is what is commonly known as Mkorogo in Kenya – someone that uses skin bleaching products, but had just enough money to apply it on the hands and face, which are most often visible, but now yellow.

During my own research in Nairobi, I have also partly noticed this more-than-disturbing imposition of beauty ideals on anyway beautiful people. Due to economic reasons often an ‚elite-problem‘, women that bleach their skin are also infamously known as rangi ya thao. This is a mash-up from the Kiswahili words rangi ya (=color of) and thao, which is a sheng abbreviation for „thousand“. The notion refers to the 1.000 Kenyan Shilling note, which is sort of brownish in color – and this is seemingly the color one gets when one bleaches, which, in turn, can only be afforded when one has enough thaos in the pocket. In short, rangi ya thao refers to a wealthy woman that bleaches her skin as well as to her skin tone which is a result of the bleaching.

This is what Ng’endo Mukii says motivated her exploration:

I am interested in the concept of skin and race, in the ideas and theories sown into our flesh that change with the arc of time. I believe that skin and the body, are often distorted into a topographical division between reality and illusion. The idea of beauty has become globalised, creating homogenous aspirations, and distorting people’s self-image across the planet.Ng'endo Mukii ( Director, Animator, Editor)

 

Source:
Kenyan Animated Short Film ‚Yellow Fever‘ Expores Colorist & Self-Image Among African Girls And Women“ (Article on okayafrica.com).

Africa’s Mickey Mouse: Ugandan Artists offer alternative visual worlds with local relevance

Graduates from Kampala (Uganda) have created Katoto, a whacky old man from a south-western Ugandan tribe who can be described „as your funny uncle who gets up to mischief“.

The interesting thing about Katoto is that it incorporates local relevancies (e.g. ethnicity, belonging) while at the same time tapping into more global phenomena (e.g. Katoto taking on the „Ice Bucket-Challenge“ or trying to take a „Selfie“). Notably, the format of the cartoon takes into account available local media settings; and mobile phones, like in other African countries, are among the probably most widely spread media forms. Considering that, the Katoto-cartoons are relatively short in duration (about 1 minute), so they can be easily shared via WhatsApp 1. There is also a Katoto YouTube-Channel, containing eight videos that have been watched about 133.000 times all-together at the time of writing this post.

Key to the creation of Katoto, according to its creators, are the culture and language of the Ugandan people. Katoto is a chance of a Ugandan self-portrait in an entertaining way. In order to make the strips accessible and convey meaning beyond the local language that Katoto speaks (and one that is also neither understood by all Ugandans nor by all of Katotos creators), the character and jokes are made as physical as possible, being „almost like pantomime“.

Source: „Ugandan dream to create a global cartoon character“ (BBC; Clip on YouTube)

Notes:

  1. From my own field research in Nairobi (Kenya), I have found that WhatsApp, in the last year or so, has become increasingly popular and started to be used more widely, i.e. not by upper class elites only.

#‎jesuiskenya‬ ‪#‎147notjustanumber‬

jesuiskenya

The Right to Exist on a Map: The Example of Kibera

MapKibera in wired uk magazine_edited

Until some years ago, Kibera in Nairobi (Kenya) was nearly absent from the worlds online maps and atlases. No one exactly knew how vast the place really is, how its spacial structure is set up or how many people it could possibly accommodate. Some of these knowledge gaps do still persist, some got – at least partly – solved: thanks to Map Kibera, a citizen mapping and citizen media project that is based on the Ushahidi platform.

Kibera, the second largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa, was a blank spot — one that had been photographed and filmed thousands of times but that no one had ever attempted to document properly.Sande Wycliffe

It was in the year 2009 when some young Kiberans started the project with an inital mapping phase in order to create an open source digital map of their own community. „Subsequent mapping focused on specific thematic areas that were considered to be of primary importance: health, security, education, and water and sanitation. New rounds of mapping added details such as operating hours and services provided by private clinics“. In the meanwhile the citizen project has matured into a complete interactive community information project.

The benefits of the project might actually be seen as manyfold. First of all, the activities that revolve around this community media activity involve skill training (i.e. using computers, video editing, citizen journalism) for those left behind by the digital divide. Additionally, according to Sande Wyclif, „several Map Kibera volunteers now have new social skills and greater comfort in public speaking and encountering strangers. This is both within Kibera, where they have had to reply to general inquiries about the activity, and in greater Nairobi, where they have been invited to participate in functions such as meetings and conferences about technology“. Secondly, Map Kibera is an outstanding opportunity to get important accurate data of the dwelling that is mainly useful for the community itself, but might as well be of interest to certain other groups such as researchers, policy makers, and so forth. Last but not least, „the project has been widely embraced as the realization of something previously missing, yet clearly fundamental: the right to exist on a map.“

Sources: 
Map Kibera – Making the Invisible Visible (Project Website)
„Mapping Kibera“ by Sande Wycliffe (Blogentry on the Voice of Kibera-Blog)

Binyavanga Wainaina on „helping“ Africa

Africa is NOT a country

no need to be saved

„Africa is not a country“ is an imaginative do away with your stereotypes-campaign that is carried out on social media by the African Students Association of New York’s Ithaca College. The idea basically is to have ethnically different people posing being wrapped into different African national flags, each being accompanied with a slogan that addresses a cliché perceived to be quite typical for ‚westerners‘.

// For the CNN-coverage of the campaign, see here.
// Find the Facebook page of the African Students Association here (click on photos to see all the other campaign-images).

Always nice to have a good friend, America! Yours, Africa.


Apart from the blurred line in between „not knowing better about“ and „being dependent on“, the video quite nails it, I guess.