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Amid resurgent questions over cultural identity and colonial legacies, the Nobel Prize for Literature 2021 has been awarded to the first writer since Sir V.S. Naipaul (2001) to deal with the vexed impact of colonialism and the dilemmas of travellers - forced or voluntary - among differing cultural milieus.
And new Nobel laureate - the Zanzibar-born, UK-based academician-cum-writer Abdulrazak Gurnah has, in his academic career, guided plenty of research on Sir Vidia, as well as Salman Rushdie, G.V. Desani, Anthony Burgess, and above all, Joseph Conrad, whose most powerful works dwelt on colonialism and its "civilising legacy" - in its very heyday.
Gurnah is known for a relatively small but significant oeuvre dealing with the 'clash' between home-grown tradition and colonialism in Africa and elsewhere, the disruptions in cross-culture encounters, especially for refugees, and construction of identity and memory, leavened with autobiographical elements. Awarded for his "uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents", he is the second writer after Japanese-born but UK-settled Kazuo Ishiguro (2017) to be conferred the Nobel for his work in English, despite it not being his "mother" tongue, and the first writer originating from out of the "West" since China's Mo Yan in 2012.
Gurnah, who came to the UK in the 1960s to study and eventually settled there as a refugee, obtained his PhD in 1982. After a stint at a Nigerian university, he has been teaching in the UK and his academic focus is postcolonial writing and colonial discourse, with focus on Africa, the Caribbean and India. This is reflected in his works - 10 novels in slightly over two decades, and a collection of short stories.
Set in an unnamed East African coastal town at the end of colonial rule, his literary debut "Memory of Departure" (1987) is a coming of age novel, in first person narration, picturesquely depicting the local culture and the role of its dynamics in moulding the persona of the protagonist, who finally decides to strike out for bigger prospects.The autobiographical elements recur in "Pilgrim's Way" (1988), a humorous but a bit dark account of a Muslim Tanzanian student Daud's fight for survival against marginalisation in an English provincial town, with his wit, imagination, mental mockery and letter-writing being his only weapons against the cultural philistines - unlike his Biblical namesake (David).
"Here I sit, making a meal out of asking you to dinner. I don't really know how to do it. To have cultural integrity, I would have to send my aunt to speak, discreetly, to your aunt, who would then speak to your mother, who would speak to my mother, who would speak to my father, who would speak to me and then approach your mother, who would then approach you," goes one letter by Daud to a prospective date.
But it was "Paradise" (1994), shortlisted for the Booker Prize and Whitebread Prize, that brought Gurnah into the centre stage. Enter twining myth, storytelling, and East African and European literary traditions, it is the rite of passage of Yusuf pawned by his father to a rich merchant he must accompany on dangerous trading expeditions from the East African coast into the interior as European rule looms. The contrasts with Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" are telling.
In "Admiring Silence" (1996), Gurnah deals with how distance affects the memory of a "perfect" homeland. The story of a Zanzibari man, who marries an English woman and writes romantic tales of the Africa he "remembers", it goes on to depict what ensues when he returns home.
"Desertion" (2005) lives up to its name. A combination of two stories - the account of a bunch of young siblings in the period of transition for colonialism, and a half-century old story of colonial contacts, cross-cultural romance and its impact, the story brings both strands into one in the unforgiving present.
But Gurnah doesn't always remain in the past. "Gravel Heart" (2017) is set in the Zanzibar of the 1970s, and while it reprises some elements of "Pilgrims' Way", it does so in a more unsentimental and harsher way.
His most recent work is "Afterlives" (2020), which deals with a different, shorter but more harsher colonial past, as the conflict in Europe spreads its shadow on Africa.
A welcome move by the Swedish Academy, which will help to dissipate its reputation for "Euro centrism", Gurnah's Nobel is a welcome step recognising voices dealing with one of the most vexing and patently ambiguous historical conundrums of present times. IANS/JB
Keywords: Noble Prize, Literature, Gurnah, Arts, Euro-centrism.
Every child who grew up in the 90s and the early 00s has certainly grown up around Tom and Jerry, the adorable, infamous cat-chases-mouse cartoon. The idea of naughtiness and playing mischief had the standards that this particular series set for children and defined how much wreckage was funny enough.
The show's creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera initially named their characters Jasper and Jinx. They did not plan for the fame that Tom and Jerry brought them when they released a movie by the name of "Puss Gets the Boot". This movie featured a certain cat and mouse who were a notorious pair, named Jasper and Jinx. When the movie became a hit, the names of the characters were changed and the show shot to fame.
Tom and Jerry became a go-to cartoon for children in the early 00s, and it was one of those shows with a firm foundation, that had already been in the running for decades. The original template had been planned nearly 80 years ago, and the makers did not change it. The music that was played in the many episodes, made a breakthrough in its own way. It is the most easily recognizable melody with utterly nostalgic associations.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons Image credit: wikimedia commons
A set of supporting characters were defined for the show, to occasionally take the focus off the original pair. There was a large, black woman named Mammy Two Shoes and a bulldog who took Jerry's side. Mammy Two Shoes was discontinued because her character portrayed racist tendencies. A tall white woman replaced her, who was kinder and loved mice. Either of the women's faces was never revealed.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons. There are a host of other shows besides this that aim to replicate the same aspects of the cartoon but do not come close at all. Despite the immense amount of violence in the show, it is a beloved pastime of parents and children alike.
Keywords: Tom and Jerry, Cartoon, Hanna and Barbera, Television
One of India's leading private museums, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) Bengaluru, has released new primary research conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, on audience behaviour in India's cultural sector. While more than half of the respondents thought the arts and culture are essential, they rarely manage to make time for it. The majority (60.6 per cent), mostly young people under 30, felt Indian museums could present more engaging content, and most perceived culture as anthropological/ sociological. Of the diverse categories included, music emerged as the most popular cultural activity.
The report is based on a survey of 500 people, which included school and college students, professionals across sectors, homemakers and senior citizens. The first initiative of its kind in the cultural space, the report shares valuable insights into the behaviour and expectations of Indian audiences engaging with a broad range of cultural activities. As part of MAP's mission to foster meaningful connections between communities and the cultural sector globally, which includes its innovative digital programme Museums Without Borders, the report shares a wealth of insights that can help museums across the country understand their audiences better. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.
As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities. | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Speaking on the recent report, Kamini Sawhney, Director, Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), said, "MAP is focused on changing the notion of a museum in India, by enabling more relevant and inclusive programming, both online and in our space in Bengaluru. The audience research commissioned by MAP, and conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, provides valuable, and actionable insights which we hope will help museums across the country better understand their consumer base, improve decision making and deepen social impact." As much as 62.3 per cent college students and 47.6 per cent professionals/homemakers perceive culture as anthropological and sociological. Music was the most popular cultural event likely to be attended, followed by heritage tours and plays/comedy shows for Indian audiences.
Over 70 per cent of college students visit museums with family and friends; working professionals, homemakers and senior citizens also predominantly visit with groups/ spouses (indicating a need to focus on increased group programming/facilitation). As much as 68 per cent of people were optimistic about going outdoors for activities and events in 2021. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.(IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Art, Culture, India, Museum, Music
What is the best way to save Goa from deforestation?
Drinking feni, may well be the answer, says the secretary of the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association Hansel Vaz, who on Thursday said, that sipping the state's unique alcoholic drink and making it popular would directly aid the greening of Goa's hills and other barren landscapes.
"To get more cashews, we need to plant more trees. I always say, by drinking feni you will save Goa, because we will be planting more cashew trees and we will have greener hills. The beauty of cashew is you do not need fertile land. You can grow it on a hill which can provide no nutrition. We will be able to grow more trees, if we can sell feni properly," Vaz said. Vaz's comments come at a time when the hillsides of the coastal state have witnessed significant deforestation for real estate development and for infrastructure projects. Feni is manufactured by fermenting and double distilling juice from the cashew apple.
Best way to keep Goa green is to grab yourself a glass of feni. | IANS
Addressing a press conference in Panaji, Vaz also said that the promotion of feni was also in sync with the Prime Minister's vision for India to go "vocal for local". "There is no conglomerate, multinational company owning the drink. So every time we sell feni, it is a direct cash injection into Goa. If you sell a feni cocktail in Calangute (a popular beach village), it makes a direct impact in Valpoi and Bicholim, because this money is going down there," the Association official said at a press conference in Panaji.
The Association held the media briefing to announce a road map ahead for the feni industry, especially vis a vis streamlining aspects related to production, standardisation and marketing of the brew to make it popular in other Indian states and abroad.
The efforts to streamline the state "heritage drink" comes a month after the Goa government notified a formal policy, 'Goa Feni Policy 2021', which covers 26 different varieties of feni distilled in the state. "There were many barriers related to feni, which the policy has now addressed," treasurer of the Association Tukaram Haldankar said. One such hurdle was the previous government classification, which described feni as "country liquor", which would deter tourists from purchasing the drink. The reclassification of feni as a state "heritage drink" has lent dignity to the brew which has been manufactured locally in Goa since the 16th century.
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. | Photo by Ishvani Hans on Unsplash
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. "We request the government to allow the sale of feni in duty free stores in airports and cruise liner terminals. The government should also support us through the department of Tourism, so that feni can be promoted in its programmes. iIf you go to Scotland, they promote Scotch. Goa should promote its feni to Goa," Haldankar said, adding that traditional distillers should also be given subsidies and other measures should be taken to standardise feni, which he said, "would require further subsidies and financial assistance from the government".
"It should be a standard product like scotch, champagne," Haldankar said. "Like Mexico's tequila, Russian vodka and Japan's sake, we need to export our feni across the country and the world and the local distillers should also benefit economically," president of the Association Gurudutt Bhakta also said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: deforestation,cashew,distillers,association,government, goa, feni, India