For an interview with BBC TV about Cabinda a week ago today, it took me 45 minutes to get from home to the building, it took me 10 minutes to get from the BBC reception to the studio, it took one minute for the technical guy to explain what would happen and which camera I should look at, and it took less than a minute to complete the ‘interview’. Then it took me 3 minutes to leave the building and 50 minutes to return home to my desk.
A very good waxworker and sculptor (take a look at these!) sent me an interesting message this morning about the media (we’ve been chatting a little about the Cabinda story) which I quote in full here:
‘A terribly young artist puts his finger on something. Sorry it is from the Daily Mail!
‘I’m surprised so few people are interested in the Cabinda story. I must admit that for many years I was remiss about looking beyond the studio and gallery walls, and it was teaching, talking to Ben Watson and to you and J amongst others that refocused my sight a bit further beyond. Now I look out for the stories in the news that make it clear how little we are really told, and I get my visuals from other peoples’ blogs, online travel diaries and so on – unmediated insofar as poss. There is a feeling one gets in the pit of the stomach when the mainstream media gloss over something, or redirect one’s attention, or tell a partial truth, a feeling subtle enough to miss, like the feeling of déjà vu. I don’t understand enough physics to understand the parallel universe theories (eg [the late] David Lewis’s Possible Worlds [and plural worlds], too much maths !) but idly speculate that déjà vu is a sign of when two possible worlds nudge near one another. Disquieting, that what is given as real isn’t. So to feel the disquiet when distrusting the news is a sense that could perhaps be developed and improved. I couldn’t work for the BBC, they would hate me!
So thank you EC. Actually, the BBC probably wouldn’t hate you. They should probably fear you, but something I notice about the BBC is that it is so limited in its ‘world view’ that it seems incapable of noticing criticism or challenges unless they are simplistic and blatant. They would want to embrace you EC because they would love the idea of embracing an artist/academic. They probably wouldn’t care much about what you actually think or believe or how you actually think or see: they would just like you because of your label. Anyway… who cares what they would hate or not. This has opened up worlds to me, not only David Lewis’ but also more ideas for my never-ending rantings about the flaws of the modern media. Fabuloso.
was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning while I was lying asleep in a large house in the New Forest, tucked up beneath two duvets and a blanket with a Border Collie sprawled over my legs. While I was dreaming about a friend of mine who had died and his children were laughing at me, Francisco Luemba was not dreaming that he was being escorted from his home in Cabinda for alleged crimes against the state. Luemba is a lawyer, a human rights activist and a writer. We met in 2008 in Cabinda and he told me of the many ways that the authorities spy on him. We talked about East Germany and I told him about The Lives of Others and how much his life made me think of that film – or, on reflection, how much that film made me think of Angola. Luemba is a very elegant man, both in his speech and his physical stature. Tall, slim, softly spoken, generous, thoughtful and brave. Later he went out of his way to ensure I received a copy of his book about Cabinda – which he insisted was a gift – which was launched in Portugal by publishers papiroeditora who have a blog here. The book is O problema de Cabinda exposto e assumido à luz da verdade e da justiça. Luemba predicted,when the Togo team were attacked, that human rights activists in Cabinda would swiftly be targeted. He was right. Since that ambush took place, the following people have been arrested: Zefarino Pauti (Chevron worker), Belchior Lanso (university professor), Padre Raul Tati (a priest who, days earlier, was basically sacked by the Bishop of Cabinda), Benjamin Fuca (a former police officer) and Francisco Luemba (lawyer). The prosecutor’s office in Cabinda has stated that the arrests are not ‘directly related’ to the Togo team events. Well well well…
What we are all waiting to see is who will be next? There are several people I can think of who I expect will be behind bars by the end of the week.
I received an email today which stated, simply, ‘New heaven and new earth needed – Angola.’ At first, I thought, aha, this means that someone wants a new heaven and earth for Angola. I closed the email and carried on with my work. An hour or so later, I went back to the email, having been unable to get it out of my thoughts. Like a bad pop song it just wouldn’t go away. So I went back and reopened it and looked at the words again. They had not changed. New heaven and new earth needed – Angola. And I began to wonder if I had misunderstood it. In fact what it is saying that the world needs a new heaven and a new earth and the solution is Angola. The dash having altered the meaning in my head entirely. In fact, about a decade ago, I used to think something similar to that. I had this idea that if all the world were Angola it might be a better place because everyone would know what we might loosely call ‘the real’ is and in that knowledge, I then thought, they might be better bigger braver fuller people. We might all be better. But later I began to think that Angola is already what the whole world is, that Angola – with its oil and its diamonds and its forests and its gold and its poor people and its rich people and its droughts and its rivers and its dictators and its weapons and its army and its music and its dancing and its racism and its mortality rate (and so on) – is a complete representation of the world, just scaled down to one nation and about 15 million people. I wrote in my notebook about a decade ago, whilst in Luanda, This Is Hell. And then I frantically wrote a list of words that I thought were Angola for me in that particular moment, that particular few set of minutes in which I was writing. And even when I look at that list today it makes me want to have a little weep. For myself or for Angola, I’m not sure. But that won’t be one of the books I burn.
This afternoon, at tea-time, I was updated on this (see previous post). Sr Belchior’s wife has now been allowed to speak to her husband and to deliver some food for him. But of course, unless she can give it to him in person, it could be risky for him to eat it via the hands of the authorities. Who knows what might end up in the dish. Notably, it would appear that the men who are guarding Sr Belchior just so happen to be from the presidential guard; and the investigators who have come from Luanda are not, as one would expect them to be, from DNIC (the department of national criminal investigations, whose site is sadly under construction at the moment, and which shares its title with peers in Argentina I note!). Some are therefore speculating that the investigators are also the president’s men.
The wife of Sr Belchior has been stopped from visiting her husband since he was detained by police in Cabinda yesterday. She has not been allowed to take him food or medication, despite the fact he is currently sick with malaria.
Meanwhile, the rumour-mill in Angola is whirring. Questions are being raised as to why the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) would allow the so-called ‘attackers’, who they allege are militant FLEC rebels, to escape over the border into (‘the rugged mountains of’) Congo. Even odder when you bear in mind that the FAA have had soldiers all over both Congos for a very long time now.
So here is an account of what happened when the Togolese team was attacked by, er-hum, FLEC:
‘A man (a guerrilla?) leapt into the middle of the road and signalled at the Togo team bus to stop. The motorist didn’t stop, but accelerated. So the man, the supposed FLEC rebel, shot at the driver and hit him in the belly, but not fatally. This was how the shoot out began. It lasted 15 to 17 minutes. The guerrillas, in a zone absolutely bursting with police and military, could not maintain gunfire for that amount of time: even if they had wanted, they simply don’t have that kind of ammunition to spare. Anyway, the bus was stuck in the middle of a crossfire between Angolan police and Angolan military, between those who were at the front and back of the convoy, and other military who were along the street and in the verge. This cross fire is what provoked the “massacre” of the Togolese.
‘So, the Angolan government is hiding something very serious. The driver of the bus, who has been reported dead, is alive. But he is considered to be dead because his testimony could pose something of a compromise. Better than the is not heard, just incase there is an inquiry.’
In the last hour, I have received information of another arrest in Cabinda, this time of Belchior Lanso, an economist and also a social activist of the ‘extinct’ human rights organisation, Mpalabanda. Sr Belchior was picked up at his house by the Criminal Investigation Police in Cabinda at three pm today. As they had done with Sr Puati, an employee of Chevron who was arrested on Friday (the day of the Togo attack), the house of Sr Belchior was searched from top to bottom. Sr Belchior has been denied access to a lawyer. Both Belchior and Puati were critical of the 2006 peace accord that was signed by our amigo António Bento Bembe (appearing on the BBC’s Africa Perspective this Saturday – details to follow) and so, like many others before them, they have been targeted by the police and authorities. Sr Belchior is known for actively discussing the sham peace deal with members of the government, and his position on the matter is well known. Why this should mean he has to be put in prison is another question altogether.