Category Archives: pakistan

Il n’y a pas de terroristes au Pakistan

Il n’y a pas de terroristes au Pakistan

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Il y a vingt ans, le philosophe, sociologue et politologue français Jean Baudrillard signait un essai intitulé « La guerre du Golfe n’a pas eu lieu ». Publié en partie dans Libération et le Guardian (Royaume-Uni) le texte, qui soutient que le conflit dans le Golfe est une guerre virtuelle et essentiellement fictive, a soulevé l’opinion de gens tels que Christopher Norris, qui a fustigé Baudrillard, et d’autres intellectuels postmodernes dont certains ont même qualifié Baudrillard de « théoricien du terrorisme ». Baudrillard ne niait toutefois pas les pertes de vies humaines ni le fait que plus d’explosifs aient été largués en deux mois de guerre du Golfe que pendant toutes les attaques aériennes de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale réunies. Son argument principal était celui de l’interprétation et de la présentation des faits à travers l’objectif des médias. Il se préoccupait surtout de savoir si l’événement pouvait être qualifié de « guerre ».

 

Pour Baudrillard, le bombardement aérien massif des infrastructures civiles et militaires en Iraq constituait une guerre dépouillée de passion et de violence. Expurgée de toutes les images abominables et « dénudée par ses techniciens », elle a été revêtue d’une « seconde peau » par « l’artifice de l’électronique ». Selon lui, ce conflit était gagné d’avance et bien que la « guerre » fût présentée au public entièrement par les médias, cela ne prouvait pas réellement son existence : « la retransmission en direct par CNN d’informations en temps réel ne suffit pas à authentifier une guerre ». Son argument consistait à dire que la guerre du Golfe « telle qu’on nous a poussés à la comprendre » n’a pas eu lieu.

 

Vingt ans plus tard, à la différence du vernis jeté sur la guerre du Golfe, ce sont les horreurs graphiques de la guerre qui semblent attirer notre société moderne. En 2009, l’artiste Jeremy Deller a récupéré les débris d’un véhicule bombardé à Bagdad pour leur faire faire le tour de l’Amérique. Comme l’écrit le Guardian, il a nous a mis la violence de l’Iraq « sous le nez ». Pendant l’invasion du pays en 2003, nous avons reçu nos informations de blogueurs tels que Salam Pax qui a diffusé pour nous le traumatisme en temps réel de la vie à Bagdad, et aujourd’hui, le petit écran nous abreuve de peur, de danger et de la proximité de la guerre par le biais de journalistes assoiffés de conflits sur le terrain.

 

Aujourd’hui, Internet nous apporte autant de sang et de tripes des points chauds du globe que nous pouvons en digérer. Nous entendons parler de la mort d’Oussama Ben Laden au Pakistan, mais nous voulons des images, nous voulons sa dépouille mortelle, aussi horrible que cela soit. Nous voulons sa tête. Et cela seulement rendra sa mort réelle. Même une violence inaccessible, telle que celle qui a sévi au nord du Sri Lanka en 2006, voilée aux yeux des médias et des organisations internationales, a été capturée par les caméras des téléphones  portables et diffusée sur YouTube. À la différence de Ben Laden, la tête défoncée du leader tamoul Prabhakaran était sur tous les écrans quelques heures seulement après sa mort et, maintenant, les horreurs du sang versé des civils tamouls se glissent dans nos pages.

 

La sensation de guerre et de violence semble toujours attirer le spectateur des informations. En contraste à la guerre du Golfe assainie décrite par Baudrillard, c’est d’une autre guerre dont nous témoignons, attisée par la concurrence qui fait rage entre Internet et la télévision, une compétition pour qui creusera au plus profond d’une infâme souffrance. Les enfants affamés ne nous émeuvent plus. Les caméras du monde restent fixées sur la tête bandée d’un bébé après une attaque au mortier, un enfant démembré, les larmes d’une veuve désespérée. Et pourtant, notre goût européen de l’horreur n’est rien comparé à celui de l’Asie. Il y a dix ans, la presse du Sri Lanka diffusait en première page la photo de la tête tranchée de l’auteur d’un attentat-suicide (avec le titre « connaissez-vous cet homme ? ») et une visite récente au Pakistan a révélé que, dans cette nation exaspérée d’être constamment associée au terrorisme, les journaux transmettent un flux ininterrompu de bombes, meurtres et révoltes.

 

Lors de mon dernier voyage au Pakistan, je me suis rendue à Karachi. Pour préparer cette visite, mes recherches sur Internet m’ont révélé les corps calcinés de victimes d’explosions, des assassinats dans tous leurs détails et les nouvelles de furieux incendiaires. Même les gens éduqués m’ont dit que je risquais d’être décapitée, kidnappée et, à cause de l’intérêt que je porte à l’Islam et au Pakistan, j’ai reçu des courriers chargés de haine de gens qui m’ont dit que je serais violée et assassinée (parce que c’est ce qu’ils font aux chrétiens, là-bas). On ne pourrait avoir confiance en personne.

 

À ma grande surprise, la ville pakistanaise que j’ai découverte déborde de générosité et d’attention, d’innombrables tasses de thé et de mets de toutes sortes. Les centres commerciaux ont des cafés italiens, des McDonald et des boutiques Next. Les gens vont au travail, les enfants vont à l’école, qui n’est pas forcément une madrassa militante radicale, les étudiants bavardent gaiement et vont à leurs cours à l’université, les policiers en uniforme impeccable se chargent efficacement de la circulation, les hommes d’affaires sont éloquents et de jeunes femmes me confient que « Karachi est un endroit fantastique pour les femmes, actuellement ». Et je ne mentionne pas les kilomètres de sable doré qui bordent l’océan Indien, avec leurs enfants qui jouent au football, les familles qui se baignent et qui sourient, les gens qui me saluent amicalement de la main dès que je sors mon appareil photo. Même dans le quartier de Saddar, endroit dont on m’avait dit que je ne ressortirais pas vivante, j’ai rencontré beaucoup de gens bien loin de s’entretuer, bien loin d’être violents. La plupart vivaient des journées ordinaires, derrière les étals de fruits, balayant les rues, conduisant des autobus. J’ai même rencontré un travesti costaud dans un sari rouge vif, qui m’a dit avec esprit : « vous avez sûrement des gens comme moi, dans votre pays ! ». Le Pakistan est devenu l’un des premiers pays du monde à reconnaître officiellement un troisième sexe. J’ai visité une élégante église catholique. J’ai l’impression qu’on n’entend pas vraiment parler des églises au Pakistan, à moins d’un attentat à la bombe.

 

Comme Baudrillard, je ne nie pas les faits. Je ne prétends pas que le Pakistan soit un pays sans sa part de problèmes, ni que Karachi ne soit pas le siège d’actes de violence extrême, ou qu’elle n’abrite pas certains terroristes célèbres. Je ne prétends pas non plus que des explosifs ne soient pas chargés dans des véhicules ou attachés au corps de malades mentaux avant de détonner. Ni que des gens aient perdu la vie. Mais la réalité de cette ville particulière et de ses 18 millions d’habitants est très complexe et peut-être impossible à présenter sous une facette unique dans les médias. Selon ces derniers, l’impression dominante nourrie par la découverte de Ben Laden est que le Pakistan est un foyer du mal, et les cyniques pourraient arguer que cette perception est tout aussi manipulée ou, au mieux, forcée, que ne l’étaient les reportages des médias lors de la guerre du Golfe.

 

Baudrillard n’était pas fasciné par l’événement qu’était la guerre ni la vérité de la guerre en soi, mais par la notion de réalité et l’érosion de cette réalité par la technologie et les médias. Le point de vue selon lequel le Pakistan est « plein de terroristes » est fabriqué spécialement pour nos esprits avides de sang et d’histoires unidimensionnelles : nous sommes de simples consommateurs de médias, accros de la distraction que procurent les catastrophes. Le philosophe français affirmait que l’être humain est naturellement attiré par une version simulée de la réalité, mais sommes-nous allés trop loin ? Peut-être cet appétit négatif est-il nourri par les envoyés spéciaux débordants d’adrénaline qui filent les « chasseurs d’ambulances » de Karachi ces jours-ci. Au risque de me faire moi-même taxer de théoricienne du terrorisme, la semaine de la découverte de Ben Laden au Pakistan semble le moment opportun pour affirmer : « Il n’y a pas de terroristes au Pakistan ».

 

FIN

Karachi Diary part 3 – words and pictures

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So some further glimpses of Karachi moments, from this, the 10th biggest city in the world (thanks Faraz).

From the images you will see a bunch of gregarious Hindu women road sweepers (with the names of their husbands tattooed on their arms); a boy band (look carefully for McFly….or is that Busted?); A transvestite “surely they have people like me in London”; a beautiful Karachi sunset over the Indian Ocean; a food.  more food.  and yet more food.  Hospitality madness – we are drowning in generosity of spirit here.  Imagine.  Karachi.

Karachi photo diary

As promised, just photos today.  Direct from my camera – no edits – live from Karachi.

Karachi Diary

Sometimes I am so hell-bent on my own agenda that I completely miss the things that surround me.

We arrived in Karachi less than12 hours ago and went straight into organisation mode.  Phone calls, meetings to set up, rushed smiles and Salams.  Wrapped in head-scarves, my film-making travelling companion and I dashed an hour across town and we found ourselves talking to Fine Art and Film students at Karachi University before I realised I hadn’t had a nights sleep.  My urgency seemed to take them by surprise.  Although the Karachi streets are a busy throng, there is still something calmer, and more laid back that my own rush-hour approach.  Friendships nurtured.  Something a tutor said to me last week clicked into place.  Why don’t I slow down, take things in a little, reflect and allow things to wash over me.  Obsessed with “doing” I can become blinkered and entirely miss the point or what it means to be an artist (to look).

So yes, I will still quietly seek the matching participants for my Cambridge Karachi Portrait – but if  I don’t find them, I can be assured that I have already met a number of remarkable people – who might not “fit the mould” but have just as much to say in a gesture.  Some initial reflections:

The airport: Big family welcomes and laughter.  Gifts of flowers, garlands, petals on the floor.  An old man delighted with a reunion.

Taking a photo of Ameena’s henna’d hands

A pretty shy girl shows me pieces for her final year art show.  Spikes on a baby’s bottle, lipstick and cigarettes.

That film-star look, with native American tattoos amidst a sea of chattering students.

Just glimpses.

So even if the plan seems utterly enthralling, perhaps a more genuine and gentle means of engaging with the world around me needs to happen.  Ironic perhaps that unravelling the agenda hell-bent-ness of the media is a preoccupation.

Tomorrow photos, only photos.

 

Everest Base Camp Off! Karachi visit On!

As you may have seen from my Twitter and Facebook updates, an ankle injury has sadly put an end to my Everest Base Camp Trek (the timescale was pretty tough anyway).  I am a bit fed up and shouty at the moment – but without getting too Bob Geldoff about it, I would encourage  everyone to continue to support the good work of DIL.org – in educating women in Pakistan.

In the meantime, my film schedule is about to begin….and I have my flights booked for the commercial capital of Pakistan.  Karachi here I come!  (Well, limp).

Blisters for Pakistan

I toyed with the idea of filming or photographing my poor mangled feet to share here, but figured a far more attractive sight was the five of us, who have accepted the Everest Base Camp challenge for DIL.  We met for the first time on Sunday for our first ever trek together.

Wonderfully, I have been given free gym access , a fitness test and a personal training programme by the Students Union (at Anglia Ruskin University).  It has been suggested that I have the muscle and lung capacity of an Ox (albeit a slightly overweight Ox!) and that my Nepalese adventure is perfectly doable. In theory.

I have even done a complete u-turn on my previous staunch opposition to gyms and gym-goers and put in a good few hours thumping the treadmill and pumping iron to the iPoded sounds of Missie Elliot and even a bit of James Brown (I Feel Good).  But Sunday’s organised walk was my first since a Geography field trip nearly 30 years ago and I wasn’t really prepared.

The main problem, as the title of this post suggests, was that I had the wrong shoes.  Every one of my new companions had proper walking boots.  I have been waiting for someone to “sponsor” my boots (despite having asked exactly no-one to do so) and had to scramble around at the last minute looking for something appropriate.  I settled on my desert boots, which had last seen proper action in Iraq in 2006.  I borrowed some of my husbands socks.

After several hours (and ten miles) of walking at a good pace around a millionaires housing estate in Surrey (bizarre I know) – I realised that the company was so good (I did perhaps too much excited talking) and peaking at the luxurious mansions so unexpectedly intriguing, that I had neglected to consider how my poor feet were feeling.

The answer was they were feeling sore and full of water-filled blisters the size of fifty pence pieces.  And as I hobbled into a lecture at University this morning I could see that familiar “she may have bitten off more than she can chew” expression on my colleagues faces.  We watched some funny films in class about a performance artist who stuck a dead badger on his head and carried out Shamanistic rituals.  I wondered whether my whole Everest adventure (including the build up) was just one big performance.  I dunno – are blisters art?  Human, friction-based sculpture?

To sponsor me visit my Just Giving page

To buy me boots contact me directly

 

 

Too Old and Unfit for Everest?

I like a challenge.  But not one without meaning.

When DIL asked if I would be part of a small group of trekkers headed for Everest Base Camp in April this year I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  Not because it sounded exhilarating – but because I believe in the work DIL does in Pakistan.  The people of Pakistan have suffered horrendous natural disasters and been caught up in conflict for far too long.  DIL are admirably pouring in support from the diaspora and international communities.

DIL’s website is here: http://www.dil.org/

This short video explains why Books not Bombs are the best weapon in defeating the Taliban: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-W54H0MU2U

The months running up to the trek promise to be as challenging as the expedition itself – those who know me will know I am not the fittest nor youngest of explorers.  Experiences before, during and after will be recorded here.

Today I dropped into Blacks in Cambridge and asked them if they would be able to provide any of my equipment (I have been sent a list which I am yet to glance at).  I have the number of the Head Office, provided by a reasonably enthusiastic manager – so we will see how that turns out.  Meanwhile I really need to find out a bit more about what will be expected from me.  Any comments and advice from previous trekkers very welcome.  Perfectly happy for you to be entertained at my expense over the coming months.  I need to move from fat to fit ’tis true.

If you have other things to offer, like some good boots, media support for DIL or just some Kendal Mint Cake, let me know.  Alternatively if you would like to offer cold hard cash head for my Justgiving page at http://www.justgiving.com/Caroline-Jaine

Those who know me even better will know that I plan to turn this into a creative experience – more of this on http://jaine.info/everest.aspx

 

 

The Truth About Art and Love

Coming Out of the Closet about Creativity

I have stretched the boundary of this ”travel blog” many times before – and I’m about to do it again. I’ve always advocated that blog’s are at their best when they are up close and personal – and whilst I have shared the death of my mother, blogged whilst depressed or scared and under fire in Iraq and even Tweeted my wedding – there is somewhere I haven’t gone yet.

You may or may not know that I am an artist. I wear the label like an alcoholic wears Johnnie Walker (hidden in the drawer or tucked into an inside pocket) . I was born with the affliction (it was a genetic disorder handed down from my grandfather via my mother), and whilst it does on occasion cause joy, in the main it is more akin to a frantic compulsive obsessive disorder. It is only by associating my creativity with healing, provision of comfort for others or political meaning that I have felt comfortable even talking about it. Usually I feel self indulgent and a bit mentally ill when the passion to create takes over. Hence I barely talk about it. At least not in any depth.

Last year I was turned down for an Arts Council grant – largely because I presented my proposal as a community cohesion project and neglected any reference to my own artistic development. They must have viewed me as someone trying to meet a cold political aim with technical application of my skills.  I said nothing about myself.   The project may have been about  tolerance and diversity, but it said little about what I, as a living breathing artist could contribute or about my mental approach to my craft. Perhaps because, like a drug addict, I am loath to admit I am a “user” (of the paint brush).

My creativity does relate to my travels – so perhaps safe to talk about it on my anonymous travel blog. In the 36 countries I have visited, I have painted or sketched in every one of them. A nomadic closet-artist. On occasion I have exhibited my work – the British Council kindly sponsored a solo show of my self-indulgence in Slovakia in the 1990s. And my beloved Sri Lanka has been host to more than one of my exhibitions (along with other “users”). I’m getting used to the whole humiliating ritual of painting in private and then hanging things on the wall for friends and strangers to look it. It feels very “show offy” and I liken it to an AA session. My name is Nomadic and I’m an artist.

So here is the bit that I missed out of the Arts Council proposal. A few weeks ago I was approached by a retired ballet dancer and asked if I could paint his portrait. He asked me about the process – what was involved. I’m not used to sharing this, but once I started talking you couldn’t shut me upnd I realised I had a need to share.

If I paint a portrait of someone I don’t ask them to sit in a pose for hours as I stand pompously before them with my canvas, stroking my chin and squinting at the subject. Rather I spend time with the subject, watching how they move, how they talk, what makes them laugh, sometimes witnessing uneasiness, sensing flaws, and understanding what moves them, what makes them tick. I listen. I look. I may record the encounter with a couple of sketches and photographs, but this is more of a record to jog the memory of the empathy and intimacy discovered.

Then I return to my studio (a room at the back of my garage with paint spattered cheap carpet and the faint odour of nicotine from smoking times past). I will probably do a fair amount of thinking and “sleeping on it” before I begin. I usually begin with a basic layout plan, although this may change. I alternate between sessions using a thick pallet knife, a broad brush, a fine brush and sometimes fingers. I rub paint onto canvas, scratch into it, or daub it. The wonderful thing about oils is the freedom to move it around the canvas – it’s fluidity. I use fine washes and I use thick blobs. Some paintings will take months to complete, and each session of work will have a different mood, a different feeling, another layer. My work is very much about the process and the emotion involved. By the time I am nearing the end, I have very much fallen in love with the subject. I feel I “know” them better almost than they know themselves. This is the creepy, stalker-bit, which I usually keep covered. It’s not a sexually or needy love – but a love of that person as a human-being. So yes, it’s true to say I love Derrick Ashong, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and even John Humphrys although I have never told them so.

After my mum died it was a good few months before I could contemplate creating portraiture and I turned to nature and began looking at trees and all things growing. I felt completely “in tune” and empathetic to my environment – as I believe extreme stress and mental disturbance can generate. I found pretty quickly that the process of expressing this feeling on canvas was pretty similar to when I painted a portrait. I began to fall in love with the apple tree in my garden, with the grass growing and my son’s potato plants (even though we planted them too close together).

I’m not sure what to do with this love but channel it through art and for the first time, talk about it here. The power of it scares the hell out of me – but it is very passive. At most I may shed a tear as I paint (a recent painting of Mary/Maryam mother of Jesus/Isa generated many of those, for she is in everywoman and I am she).

You probably find it very odd that this passion (or “Junoon” as a new friend would call it) is more difficult to write about than the loss of someone close, romantic love of my husband, or my own mortality. These things I write about, usually because I know that other people share this. I know that by sharing my own grief, love and fears that I will be providing comfort to others. But by sharing the intense-up-closeness-generated in the act of painting I feel I am stating my difference. What marks me out from others. I may appear a bold individual soul, but inside I really do just want to be like everyone else. I anticipate readers will mutter “huh….that’s wierd” or “bit creepy, I hope the freak doesn’t want to paint my portrait”, but I hope, just maybe, that there is someone else out there who shares this spiritual high.  Someone who gets what on earth I am talking about. Who can weep with joy and understanding at a tree, or a face or the wind.

So, Arts Council, yes it is about the process. The meaning. The feeling. The insanity. The high. Don’t expect me to be putting into a turgid funding application any time soon though.

This boundary stretching travel blog will be back on course after a short interlude of non-travel. A few weeks should do it.

Marigolds in Islamabad

Please don’t take the above photograph as any indication of indulgence.  I simply felt I missed a trick by posting “Marijuana and Porcupines” and including a photo of neither.  This image is a fine example of the road side bush discovered on a stroll late one night.  The branch was taken to the light of a security hut and photographed on my iPhone, then discarded (really) – to the amusement of the local armed security guards who observed the process.

My back of a fag packet/envelope style blogging came to an abrupt end in Islamabad as a) the wireless connection failed on all but my iPhone and b) I had no time to myself to indulge.  Any moments alone involved preparing for bed (which included fleeting telephone goodnights to my husband that were slurred with exhaustion) and preparing for the following day.  I did once or twice screw up my eyes and palm top blog, but frankly I didn’t find the experience satisfying enough.

So, sorry, my bad – not quite the live-from-Pakistan experience I had hoped.  I am back at home now, drowsily reflecting on my high speed visit to Pakistan.  Islamabad appeared to me to be a quiet, calm city and nothing like the Asia I know.  I rarely saw people on the roads and the streets were wide, clean and sensibly driven on.  Like New York, the ready-made capital is arranged in a numbered grid system.  Areas have innovative names like F7 and F6.2.    I understand that I spent most of my time in an affluent area – but why is it that the most soulless places on earth are those that are home to the wealthy?  And we still aspire to live in them.

I have never yearned to climb a mountain like I have over the past couple of days.  Islamabad may be flat and dull, but on one side of the city (the north I think) the horizon sits high above grassing hills and rugged peaks.  With every fresh, chilly early morning start – I glanced to the beckoning range and vowed one day to make an ascent.  I longed to get a view of the city from on high – feel some strength in seeing long distance and understand better where I was.  I began to feel very claustrophobic and more and more cross with the ever-increasing invitations from my friends and colleagues.  Why don’t you stay longer?  We should visit Lahore.  If you have time, I can show you better mountains in the beautiful Kashmir.  Why aren’t you in Karachi where the media is at?  Frustration isn’t a strong enough word.

I got over-excited by a trip to the “market”.  Longing for some hustle and bustle, I leapt out of the car to take pictures at the flower market.  Perfectly arranged, with an overwhelming scent in the dusk light, the flowers were being sold by quiet, polite traders who looked a little baffled by my desire to photograph them.  The child in the pictures used perfect English, allowed me to take his photo, but offered no real hard sell on the flowers (see album in my previous photo blog).  I’m not sure how comfortable my Pakistani/British friend felt about the photo shoot and whether she felt I was patronising her nation in my search for camera thrilling images.  She stayed in the car and seemed pleased when we headed off to do some proper shopping at the F7 market.

Anyone who knows – The F7 market isn’t really a market is it?  I wanted music and laughter, banter and barter.  Instead I got rows of glitzy shops surrounding a square in which were parked many, smart cars.  We were a group of four Brits, clearly not from round there, but people were generally uninterested in us.  I exchanged smiles and Salaams, and my friend had a hundred scarves shown to him (extremely excellent price), but generally we were left alone to point out funny shops names, ponder a nibble on some neat crinkle cut chips, and amble around in our own time.

Then I spotted the Marigolds.  In the centre of the square, in full bloom and my heart softened as I remembered how the same flower had greeted me at the airport.  What had I expected really?  Suicide bombers?  Hostility?  Or overwhelming pleased-to-see the foreigner friendship?  Cups of chai, pot holed roads, a country in chaos?  Who did I think I was, Greg Mortenson? Taliban leaders, horse-backed Mujahadeen (no sign of the lovely Art Malik), War-lords, Drug-lords, Time-lords?  I found none of this.  Not so much as a scuffle, or a raised voice.  No one spat in my direction.  No one was intrigued.  The most venom I saw was a poorly scrawled “Dow with USA” on the wall.   But what I had discovered was in fact a treasure. The majority of people were just getting on with life.  Getting on buses, shopping, going to work, loving their children, eating a meal.  It might have been an average experience for me, but I hate myself for expecting anything more.  I have written much about how we define peace and what the absence of violence might look like.  Well, for me – it looked like Islamabad.   And I won’t ever take it for granted again.  Not in Pakistan and not anywhere.  I must remember I am a nomad, not a tourist.

Marigold,  I’ll be back.

May Peace Be Upon You (and no, I’m not stoned).

Pakistan Photo Album

A photo blog posting this time.  with little time for words – a few glimpses of my time this week in Pakistan – Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the main, with some out of this world images along the Afghan/Pakistan border.  For more and higher resolution images visit these FlickR pages.

Flash on colour in Islamabad

Islamabad street at dusk

Fabric shop in F7 Islamabad

F7 market street

street scene Rawalpindi

Islamabad airport departure lounge

By far the best set of images were taken from the plane – as we were lifted up above Rawalpindi, we saw snow capped mountains to the north and then flying south along the Afghan border, we saw the awesome sight of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for ourselves.  We were speechless at their majesty.