Dan at Redeeming Sound asked me to write something for his blog. So naturally, I decided to write on U2… They’ve had a new album coming out any minute for years – latest is that it will be sometime this year… but they recorded a song for the soundtrack to the new Mandela movie starring Idris Elba: Ordinary Love Read more
I have just finished Kofi Annan’s fascinating memoir Interventions. Annan is clearly a man of great stature and influence, who strained every sinew to bring about peace and dialogue during his 10 years as UN Secretary-General but tragically often failed. For all kinds of reasons. But as one might expect (and indeed hope), he has great wisdom to share, even if he cannot claim a string of personal triumphs.
This has ended up being a bit of a bumper one too! Hey ho. Enjoy.
- Some wise words on Haiti from Graham Tomlin
- BibleArcs is a really helpful study tool from John Piper. It doesn’t take too long to pick up, and while it may initially look weird and unwieldy, it provides a significant means to getting under the skin of texts.
- It speaks volumes for the difference between British Islam and British Christianity that Newsbiscuit can make these sorts of gags: Banning the Salvation Army and The Radicalising dangers of Victoria Sponge at Church fetes.
- Mapping sin by nation: Australia is apparently the worst! As if you could measure such things…
- In case you missed it in all the hubbub of snow and politicking, here is Anne Atkins honest account of vicarage life and joining unions from the Times.
- Rian Malan wrote one of the most searingly powerful books I’ve ever read: My Traitor’s Heart – reflections on his white liberal experiences in Apartheid South Africa. Which made me sit up and notice when I saw he’d written reflections on Clint Eastwood’s Mandela film, Invictus. Thought-provoking stuff.
- An example of Google censorship and fear of Islam’s power? You decide…
- How the iPhone saved a life in Haiti – literally (c/o Wired mag)
- No idea how this got into the public domain but here is the letter supposedly written by George Bush Snr to his family on the eve of the first Iraq War.
- Mr Plimpton’s Revenge: I just love it – who’d have thought you could tell a story through Google Maps? But you really can. (HT John Naughton)
- BACHTRACK is a truly EPIC resource for Classical music nuts (and comes with a cool free iPhone app) – find concerts and other performances near you, best recordings of different works and some excellent suggestions for children and teens. This sort of thing is what the internet is FOR!
- While we’re on webby things, make sure you subscribe (while it’s free) to Radio 4’s fantastic new series from Neil McGregor at the British Museum: A History of the World in 100 Objects.
- Britain under snow from space on Jan 7th 2010 – eerily beautiful
- This surely has to be one of the most satisfying newspaper headlines ever devised (oh to have been the one to think of it).
- Some sage advice from an international reporter on avoiding silly errors when travelling abroad.
- I love this update of the old classic advertising for the Mini
- An wonderfully quirky, but nevertheless excellent, guide to how to use the needlessly feared semicolon (HT Tony Watkins)
- This is pretty cool: Stargate Studios have produced a compilation of their virtual backlots:
We wanted to give the children a sense of what has happened in South Africa. And so after failing to get to Robben Island (because it was booked up until after the New Year), we plumped for the District 6 Museum. And I’m really glad we went there. It had a profound affect on all of us.
Visit the official District 6 Museum website here. But it’s an extraordinary place so, of course, a virtual visit doesn’t convey the power of this building: a converted church in the heart of what was an incredibly rich, vibrant, and above all multi-racial community right in the heart of Cape Town. Consequently, District 6 was anathema to the apartheid ethos of separation, and therefore had to go. Under the infamous 1950 Group Areas Act, the place was razed, cleared and recreated as a whites only area, the job being only completed as recently as 1984. I can remember 1984 well – it’s not that long ago.
This museum is a testimony and a memorial to those who suffered under such irrational and cruel injustice. It is heartbreaking to look up close at the huge floor map of the district, now on the main museum floor. And all over it, former residents have written in by hand where they used to live, where they had their hair cut, where they went to church etc etc (see below).
Particularly powerful is this poem, presented as one of the first things you see on entry. I’ve transcribed it here:
South End, East Bank
Sophiatown, Makuleke, Cato Manor.
Remember District Six.
Remember the racism
which took away our homes
and our livelihood
and which sought
to steal away our humanity.
Remember also our will to live,
to hold fast to that
which marks us as human beings:
our generosity, our love of justice
and our care for each other.
Remember Tramway Road,
In remembering we do not want
to recreate District Six
but to work with its memory:
of hurts inflicted and received
of loss, achievements and of shames.
We wish to remember
so that we can all ,
together and by ourselves,
rebuild a city
which belongs to all of us,
in which all of us can live,
not as races but as people.
The lurking question after seeing this is how would we have felt if it had happened to us. I asked one of the children, and he saw the point – “I would have wanted to kill the people who did this”. But this is one of the enduring miracles of South Africa despite all its profound problems and challenges. It did not become a bloodbath of retribution – instead there was magnanimity, as evoked up by the second verse of this poem. As powerful reflection of gospel forgiveness as any from recent history…
But of course, this sort of thing is not ancient history. It is not even recent history. It is in fact CURRENT AFFAIRS. Look at this image from Zimbabwe and a town called Murambatsvina, near Harare:
Having just returned from South Africa, my heart was stirred afresh by that great continent of life. So I thought that this week I’d celebrate with our very own QUAERENTIA AFRICA week. The Southeaster will lure us back in time I suspect…
Johnny Clegg has been called the White Zulu. And his is certainly an extraordinary life. Born outside Manchester in the UK, an early childhood in Israel briefly before moving to southern Africa where he has been ever since. And his music reflects all these different influences – singing fluently in English and Zulu, as well as occasionally in French and other South African languages. Having seen a poster for his outdoor gig at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the very day we arrived, we jumped at the chance of getting tickets (having heard him back in the UK summer at Mandela’s 90th concert). We had a right laugh going – a few pix on our Flickr page here.
Here are 2 of Johnny’s protest songs which seem particularly poignant when placed side by side. The first, written in 1987 years before a multi-racial government seemed possible, is perhaps one of his most well-known in the UK: ASIMBONANGA. It is Zulu, meaning ‘we have not seen him’ and is all about Mandela’s imprisonment across Cape Town’s bay on Robben Island. But watch this clip – and see who appears! From Frankfurt in 1998, at Mandela’s 80th.
This one is more recent. Recorded in Jo’burg in 2006, this song is about another African president who was heralded at the start in terms not unlike those used of Mandela 10 years later. But how differently the tyrant of Zimbabwe is now regarded. This is: THE REVOLUTION WILL EAT ITS CHILDREN (ANTHEM FOR UNCLE BOB).