New waves of migration

New waves of migration

“We asked for workers. We got people instead,” said the German novelist Max Frisch on immigration. Across the world economies thrive on the essential role of migrant workers, but as we all know, immigration imports not only workers, but also individuals together with their cultural, social, religious and linguistic complexity. A country with plenty of experience of this particular phenomenon is Brazil – a land where millions of European, indigenous Indian and African descendants have lived, married and procreated together for centuries. Brazil is also home to a huge number of Japanese (hence sushi bars are everywhere in the big cities) and Italians. There is undoubtedly a huge and lingering social divide on racial lines, but it is a rather wonderful thing about Brazil that its people who are ethnically and racially so varied in appearance remain firmly unified in their national identity. It was therefore a little surprising to learn of the negative feeling bubbling under the surface towards some of Brazil’s latest migrants – Haitians. Thanks to One World Media – I had the opportunity to visit the rather forgotten Amazonian region of Acre, Brazil in June. It was here, in this interior state that shares a border with Peru and Bolivia that I visited a new shelter that acts as a transit point for the thousands of Haitian migrants crossing the border through Acre. Acre is much poorer than the rest of Brazil. In 2010 its GDP per capita was less than 60% of the national average. When heavy flooding restricted fuel and food supplies a few months back, the state social services were unable to...
Playground of the gods

Playground of the gods

 I recently discovered I am incredibly prone to travel sickness; a message, which I feel, my body has delivered quite late in life. It was on the beautiful and scenic drive up the winding mountain roads that led to the sublime and sacred land of Uttarkashi, that I learnt this lesson*. Uttarkashi also known as the ‘playground of the gods’ is nestled in the Himalayan foothills close to the source of the Ganges, where wandering monks take refuge by the serene and holy river, as they have done for many thousands of years. Dotted throughout with ashrams, temples and legendary sites, hundreds of ascetics inhabit this mountainous terrain wearing simple orange clothes as a symbol of the burning of their desires in the ‘eternal fire of knowledge’.  This is a place not oft-visited by the millions of travellers and tourists that pass through India (as the condition of the roads suggest), many of whom halt their Himalayan journey much further down the Ganges at Rishikesh. There is indeed much natural beauty to be admired once the treacherous journey across hours of mountain roads of ‘hairpin’ bends has been endured. It is a lush and unmanicured land barely touched by development littered with wild flowers, offering views of snow-capped peaks in the horizon. But the real beauty of Uttarkashi lies in its history and legacy that continues to draw a unique and distinct crowd. Spiritual aspirants have held Uttarkashi sacred since time immemorial, as a place where countless sages have attained enlightenment on the banks of the river, and lived their lives in blissful solitude. It is a place of...
A good cuppa chai

A good cuppa chai

 When I think of the small and simple pleasures of visiting India, drinking a piping hot, milky tea with excess sugar definitely stands among them. From street corners to train stations – it is the tasty cup of chai that hits the spot every time. Yet on a recent visit to one of Delhi airport’s domestic terminals I was disgruntled to discover there was none on offer. I could buy a 200 rupees (approx £2) café latte, but if I wanted to indulge in a simple cup of a chai…I’d have to go somewhere else. The chai wasn’t the only glaring omission in the airport terminal. You can shop to your heart’s content at Early Learning Centre, WHSmith or Marks and Spencer, but if you want to pick up a salwar, sari or the like – you will be disappointed. This contrasts quite heavily with the international terminal at Delhi, that packages up India in all its exportable splendour with beautifully packaged incense sticks, ayurvedic oils, ethnic fabrics, ornamental statues and other paraphernalia. You can even consult an ayurvedic doctor and catch some live Indian classical music while you wait for your flight. Whilst I do appreciate the quality of staple UK brands and a well-crafted foamy latte…I also consider it rather a shame that the quintessentially Indian joy of drinking chai has disappeared from a hub airport in the country’s...
Telling the story of a sex worker

Telling the story of a sex worker

Amina was one of nearly twenty urban sex workers I met in Tanzania’s capital a while ago on a film, photography and storygathering assignment. I was interviewing them to capture the perspectives of marginalised women, which we wanted to amplify in support of VSO’s campaign for increasing women’s involvement in decision-making globally. They had formed a grassroots organisation to lobby for access to basic services. As you might expect, all the sex workers were quite different in appearance and manner. Some were confident and assertive, others shy and sceptical of what we were there to do. Some wanted to be identified on camera, even though their work is illegal and dangerous; while others wanted to share their personal story, but remain anonymous. Amina was one of the young women, who did not want to be identified, and it was her experience that really did strike a chord. Her journey was one of a young village girl living in poverty, lured to the city under the false pretence of being given work as a maid. Still in her teens, she was forced into a life of prostitution. She managed to escape it, but without any other obvious means of survival, she continues to live and work as an illegal sex worker in Dar es Salaam today. The issue of sex workers’ rights is a sensitive one. Some people find it hard to sympathise, believing women should not choose this way of life, while others would argue that everyone, regardless of their background, should not be denied basic human rights. With colleagues back in the UK, we decided to tell Amina’s story through animation, which allowed her...