The Suitcase Storytelling Company are magicians. There is no other way to describe them. On a recent wet and mizzly Sunday afternoon my partner and I took his eight-year-old daughter to a nearby community theatre, expecting to fidget our way through being mildly entertained, but hoping his daughter would enjoy the show. The set consisted of a screen painted with a rudimentary set of train tracks set against mountains in the background. In the foreground, a painted electronic sign indicated we would be transported onto a railway station platform as soon as the show began. A tannoy announcement repeatedly announced that the train was delayed, before politely asking passengers to keep their umbrellas next to them and report any sightings of dragons to train staff.
In early May 2020, Mustafa al-Kadhimi was appointed as Iraq’s new Prime Minister against the context of ongoing protests and popular discontent resulting from widespread government corruption. This corruption has contributed massively towards increasing poverty, reduction in public services and rising unemployment. Since the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, social cohesion has fractured perhaps (but hopefully not) irrevocably, with politics and society becoming increasingly sectarian.
The effects of the sectarian conflict in Iraq have been widely reported on, but the media has remained largely silent on the dire situation of the Iraqi Roma. This lack of attention by the media is reflective of the neglect of the Roma of Iraq by the government, humanitarian and human rights organizations and largely speaking, civic society in general. The complete lack of information produced by the Iraqi government on the Iraqi Roma is symptomatic of the de facto policies of ostracization and othering which have persisted since the formation of the Iraqi state in the 1920s. The number of Roma residents in Iraq, including the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI), is unknown, but best estimates place the figure at nearly 200,000 – translating to roughly 0.5% of the Iraqi population.
New discussions have been taking place about the future of the displaced Rohingya population in Bangladesh, and their potential repatriation journey back over the border to Myanmar. The progression of the repatriation process however, as the UN has reiterated, remains frustratingly slow. A lack of guarantees, respect, and honesty on the Burmese government’s part is maintaining a firm unwillingness among Rohingya community leaders to make the decision to return home. But the Rohingya are not the only displaced minority demanding security guarantees and respect for their rights from the Burmese government. Elsewhere in the country, as well as across the Thai and Chinese borders other displaced ethnic groups – such as Kachin and Karen – are being faced with the same dilemma. Either to remain in squalid refugee camps, or make the journey home and risk returning to renewed violence and repression.
by Stu Lucy
In my previous piece I outlined a theory that compared the woes of our current modern condition to a biological model of a disease increasing its prevalence across the planet, particularly in the Western world. Although slightly macabre, I feel it was necessary to characterise the systemic issue of unbridled growth in such a dramatic and sensational fashion – after all it is the fate of humankind, and well… the planet, we are talking about here.
I finished with a simple analogy calling for global treatment of this cancer that has befallen us since the mantra of growth has been so fanatically professed by economists, politicians, and industrialists alike. How though may we undertake such a gargantuan task that requires the remodelling of all aspects of our societies, from our education systems to popular culture to our entire global trade system?
by Stu Lucy
Humans move, we always have done and always will do. Our movement has evolved through the existence of our species from necessity – following the seasonal availability of food – to luxury, such as holidays and recreational travelling. While part of our species has been afforded the opportunity to travel around the planet in our spare time, absorbing the multitude of cultures and landscapes it has to offer, there continues to exist a drive to move to find something better, not for food, as in pre-modern times, but economic and/or environmental security. Economic, climate and conflict migrant populations are increasing year on year, and are so for one very good reason: a global disease.
by Stu Lucy
Reasons for migration come in many forms.The now globalised and fully interconnected 21st century world allows people the capacity to travel great distances in search of work or a better standard of living for themselves. Increasingly though, more and more individuals, mainly from the developing world, are forced into the migrant sphere through no fault of their own. I have already touched on two types of migrant; those coerced by economic situations to move to foreign countries, as well as those unable to sustain themselves in their native environments as a consequence of various forms of climate effects. There is of course another migrant population that find themselves forced to leave everything they held dear behind as a result of more pervasive and damaging spectre: conflict.
The latest disaster in US foreign policy since Donald Trump’s notoriously tiny hands grabbed hold of the levers of US power is the uni-lateral decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s decision and his failure to gain significant backing for the move at the United Nations, have dominated recent international coverage of Israeli politics and current affairs. Conveniently for the Israeli government, it has overshadowed the corruption investigations currently engulfing the Israeli Prime Minister and resident waxwork, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Two thousand years ago this winter, a heartbroken Roman nobleman died far from home by the frozen shores of the Black Sea.
The poet Publius Ovidius Naso, known to the world as Ovid, had lived a very different life from the millions of Syrian refugees who today find precarious asylum in nearby Turkey, or the Rohingya, further east, camped in the fields of Bangladesh. But he too knew the pain and bitterness of exile.
In Rome, together with his contemporaries Horace and Virgil, he had been lauded as one of the greats of Latin literature. He was certainly the most fashionable. Born into the Roman aristocracy and enjoying the patronage of the legendary benefactor Maecenas, Ovid had won fame with his sly, knowing love poetry, before writing one of the classics of world literature, the Metamorphoses.
by Laura Potts
‘If anything, art is…about morals, about our belief in humanity.
Without that, there simply is no art’
Norwich’s own Space Studios hosted Bridges, a fascinating exhibition by artists Marcia X and Karis Upton, earlier this month. Entering through a small alley, I climb stairs up to the first few works, which I find in a dark setting, immersing me in the exhibition. Up another staircase, long enough for me to begin reflecting on what I’ve seen, is a much lighter space, with works hung from the sloped ceiling. Afterward, I’ll go on reflecting for some time – the themes and issues that Bridges explores are of such magnitude that every viewer is forced to sit up and listen.
by Zoe Harding
Well folks, these last few weeks your humble correspondent has been travelling around Eastern Europe on a hastily-booked last chance tour. I’m four cities in and thought I’d share a little of the mood on the street from Warsaw, Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Part one of this article looks at Warsaw and Prague.