LOUIS ABELMAN

Archive for January, 2005

Will the trickle become a roar?

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A new article, this in the Guardian, that features the people that we worked with in Goma– Lyn, Dr. Kalume, Virginie… I am happy that the word about what’s happening in the east is coming out. Here’s Lyn and Mama Jeanne on the BBC from a bit ago.

The use of a topic as explosive as mass rape to attract attention to the situation in Congo is complex, a dynamic that our project fairly bathes in, really. It may be an illustration of how neglected Africa has become when only the most lurid episodes and problems– child soldiers, child rape, mass rape, brutal dismemberments and the like– are featured in the western press. These problems actually do exist, of course, but the focus on them at the exclusion of more mundane problems and dynamics– agricultural politics, education, ecology, you get the idea– isn’t exactly very helpful. An impression is created that all of sub-saharan Africa is a blood-spattered killing field, when really most of it is serene and agrarian, a place where problems of poverty vary and make life difficult but not a version of Dante’s inferno.

We need to figure out how to get people to think one step beyond “Jesus, that’s horrible!” when they think about Congo, if they ever do. At the same time, I may be accepting the horror to a greater extent than I should, simply because I must get my mind to wrap around the world I am living in, that I have now also seen and touched (AIDS sarcoma, machete scars, frenzy over a bic pen) though I am now spending weekends browsing designer boutiques and dancing… ??? And I will never, never be able to do enough. And what are we fighting? I think the goal is to allow people to have lives free of all the unnecessary suffering they endure, the excess, the stupid excess of it. Life can be hard, most people’s will be harder than mine and yours, but shouldn’t be absurdly, disgustingly so.

If you are reading this, I thank you for your indulgence my friend.

Written by louis

January 31st, 2005 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Blog

Oprah’s on

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Jen was at the dentist and she called me to say that Oprah had a segment on rape in the eastern Congo… you know, just after the piece on Ricky Martin visiting Tsunami victims. Lisa Ling, lately of Channel One news (the one they show in high school homeroom) with the story.

Oprah: So you were just telling me that the Congo is the worst place on earth.

Lisa: Yes, it’s the worst.

Wow. It’s always good when the Congo shows up in our press, and I’m sure Women for Women international, Oprah’s chosen charity, is a good one. But come on, Lisa, did you really risk your life to get the story (as the show claimed)? With your SUV caravan, your armed guards, your buying off of local rebels, etc.?

I found I couldn’t write about the subject of women, the overflow of stories and anecdotes that are variations on the theme of “I, my family, my children, my people, endured things that go beyond the sternest vision of hell that you could ever imagine” — I couldn’t even take on the subject or talk about the things we heard when working with the patients at the fistula program at DOCS in Goma. I couldn’t put myself there, even though I mentioned it in the IHT article… I didn’t want to add my measly “Africa is really f’d” to the torrent that’s out there already. And it all came down to “a glimmer of hope.” So I failed, and I will freely admit, it was way too big for me to handle.

My personal hope is that the images of our documentary (that we have just begun to work on) will speak for themselves, but Nelson has suggested that what we have is perhaps only a beginning, and we need to go back there with more intellectual preparation, and stay longer, to break through the many traps and paradoxes of such work… to avoid them unlike Oprah just now…

Actually, all of this is painful to think about at all and I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. Thanks Oprah!

(Oprah also has letters from women in Bukavu, in South Kivu, about their experiences… they are painfully similar to what we took down in Goma…)

Written by louis

January 24th, 2005 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Blog

Clippings

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Here, click here, in the IHT, is my article about my experience in Congo. It’s a little hackeneyed but so am I. My first published article!

Written by louis

January 20th, 2005 at 3:10 pm

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The whited sepulchre

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Apologies for not writing. I can’t even write email anymore.

This blog is not dead. Check back here in the next week to see if the IHT publishes my article. Also check for a raft of new photos.

Transition… well, time was compressed in the Congo and it seems like I was there a long time. Nothing has changed here, pleasantly, and I was able to go back to normal routines, minus work. But sometimes I feel steeped in a feverish kind of limbo.

Guns… that night on the dock when I heard my first salvo, how thrilling, then deeply creepy it was. I keep thinking of guns. And contrasts: the light outside is much dimmer in winter and it seems like perpetual twilight here, adding to an abiding sense of strangeness and dislocation.

Stories, pictures… go and see “Hotel Rwanda” as I think they got some things really right.

Written by louis

January 13th, 2005 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Blog