Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Interview with Prisca Ouya of Luzimbu Opera

“The Trial”: Prisca Ouya ’s Luzimbu Opera Presents Tragedy and Judgement in the Congo

La MaMa E.T.C. is pleased to announce the presentation of a new opera, sung in African languages, Korean and English, by popular director, actor and choreographer Prisca Ouya, o pening June 18-28, 2009 in New York.

Synopsis of Luzimbu: The Trial

A secret abortion has left Lila, a young Congolese woman, sterile. Her new husband, Minimona, is unhappy with their childless relationship and decides to marry a second wife, Biwa , to bear him children. Biwa quickly produces two children, making her the more “successful” wife by community standards. Lila’s jealousy increases, pushing her to invoke the Goddess of Fertility and make a pact that ultimately will have terrible consequences for both women. Meanwhile, Biwa , still young, is not a responsible mother; she is unwilling to give up partying and drinking with her friends every day. She leaves the care of her two children to her co-spouse Lila. Caring for Biwa 's children only makes Lila crave children of her own even more. One day, while bathing the baby at the river, Lila hears the older child screaming as she falls from a tree. Horrified, Lila's instinctive reaction is to rush to help, but by doing so, she leaves the baby in the water. At the foot of the tree, the child dies, and the baby, left behind, drowns. To avoid facing the wrath of her rival, Lila runs away and finds refuge in a society of outcast women. But the day soon arrives when Biwa finds Lila and asks the community for justice. The outcast elder, Mfumu Nzonzi, agrees to a death-penalty trial on the condition that both women, not just Lila, are to be judged.

At its core, Luzimbu exposes women's hopes and fears and lays bare the consequences of judgments based on traditional morals. Do both of the women share responsibility for the childrens’ deaths? Lila was the one on duty when the children died, but Biwa is their real mother and therefore the one ultimately responsible for their well-being. The outcome of the trial, and what follows afterwards, are based on traditional Congolese morality and a complex spiritual value system overlayed by the often tragic and brutal experiences suffered by the women. Who is judged guilty, and by whom?

The Music and Dance of Luzimbu

Luzimbu is an opera sung in two of the languages of the Congo , Lingala and Lari, with narrative song in Korean and English. The spectacular performances choreographed throughout Luzimbu reflect the duality of its director – they are essentially traditional Congolese dance fused and updated with American modern staging.

Just as the dance is a modern take on Congolese tradition, so is the music of Luzimbu – its powerful rhythms draw from both traditional Congolese and modern Western music. In the hands of master drummers, a hollowed-out log is transformed into an ngoma, a powerful and expressive musical voice that lends power and direction to the dance. In the Congo , the ngoma drum is considered a healing force and certain traditional rhythms are associated with particular life events and rituals. In Luzimbu, the drums evoke the power of tradition while adapting new musical elements into the performance.

Humanitarian Action

Violence against women in the Congo has been at a crisis point for far too long. In keeping with the philosophy of Luzimbu and its director, a portion of the proceeds from the performances will be contributed to two international non-profit organizations:

1. Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters, or exclusion from health care in nearly 60 countries. MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. Website: www.msf.org.

2. V-Day. Founded by playwright, performer and activist Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. Website: www.vday.org.

The director and cast salute these organizations and encourage our audiences to learn about the crisis in the Congo and do whatever they can to end the violence in the beautiful countries of the region.

About Prisca Ouya

Luzimbu is Prisca Ouya 's second show as a director at LaMaMa. Her first show, Mami Wata, opened in December 2005 and was brought back by popular demand in January 2006. She has performed in numerous shows at LaMaMa under the direction of LaMaMa founder Ellen Stewart, and elsewhere. Ms. Ouya teaches master-level Congolese dance workshops in Hawaii , California and New York . Ms. Ouya is a gifted and spectacular dancer; the professional dance magazine Attitude once described her as having “magic hips.” She is able to fuse traditional African dance and modern Western dance with grace, strength and beauty. The result, as seen in Luzimbu, continues to delight audiences with its expression of powerful femininity. In 2008, Le Maintenant, a major Congolese newspaper, said: “Ms. Ouya is the ambassador of Congolese dramatic art in the U.S.

Ms. Ouya was born and raised in Paris and has lived in the United States for twelve years. The third of four sisters, Ms. Ouya draws much of her inspiration from the female members of her family. She is also strongly influenced by the ongoing tragedies resulting from the violence in both of the Congos ( Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo). However, Ms. Ouya was drawn to the script of Luzimbu in some measure because of her desire to show the more positive side of Congolese men than recent media coverage of the war has shown. “Although women in the Congo are victims of rape and sexual mutilation by soldiers and guerilla fighters, and I don’t want to lessen our outrage over these atrocities, I also want people to know that there are good and decent men in the Congo , trying to hold their families together and earn a living. They are not all barbarians.”

Show Times and Ticket Information

Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm. $25 / $20 for students and seniors.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The meaning of Neda

The meaning of Neda

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Melody Moezzi, a contributor to the Huffington Post, explains the the deep significance of martyrs in Shia culture. In Farsi, they are now saying on the streets of Tehran "Give me the power of Neda."

Monday, June 15, 2009

ENDA, DADT and DOMA have no chance

Top gay in the administration says ENDA, DADT, and DOMA have no chance at this point (and then he lies, to boot)

UPDATE: Pam Spaulding is no more than impressed than I with Berry's interview.

John Berry, the openly gay head of the Office of Personnel Management, did an interview today with Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate. It's horrifying. I have to parse it for you. I'm simply astounded that they let him speak publicly, and that he let himself be used like this.

1. Berry suggests that Obama may wait until his second term to do anything on gay rights.
BERRY: Now, I’m not going to pledge -- and nor is the president -- that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration – our goal is to have this entire agenda accomplished and enacted into law so that it is secure.

THE ADVOCATE: Does that include a second term? A lot of people have talked about DOMA being pushed back until a second term.

BERRY: I say this in a broad sense -- our goal is to get this done on this administration’s watch.
2. The president does not have the option to oppose existing law, at all, no exceptions, zero, nothing -- Berry claims. That's a flat out lie, as we showed earlier with the essay by former Clinton White House special assistant Richard Socarides. (We also listed four cases where Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton and Bush Jr. all refused to defend existing statutes.)
BERRY: This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited. It would be wrong for me or any of our community to advise him to lie or to shirk his responsibility. He’s doing his job.
That's a flat out lie. The president can ask DOJ to oppose laws in cases where there are important political and social issues at stake. Period. We've proven that they're lying about this, it's no longer debatable.

Oh, and where in the Constitution does it say that the president is required to compare our marriages to incest and pedophilia? We still haven't heard an explanation for that one. Nor have we heard an apology.

3. Did you catch how Berry said, above, that if we asked the president to file a brief opposing DOMA, we'd be asking him to "lie"? (First off, Berry admits that Obama owns the brief - so no more of this, "it was the lawyers" - it's Obama.) Anyway, so asking Obama to oppose DOMA in the brief would be asking him to "lie." What the hell is that supposed to mean? You mean the president was telling the truth when his brief claimed that gay marriage is like incest? He actually believes that? When the president claimed that Loving v. Virginia has nothing to do with our battle for marriage equality, he was saying he really believes that somehow the civil rights battle of African-Americans is different, better, than ours? Obama really believes that it's unfair to ask straight taxpayers to pay for our spousal benefits when we already pay for theirs? Obama thinks DOMA doesn't discriminate against gays? That it doesn't deny us benefits? That it's good for America in these tight budget times?

We're now to believe that Obama actually agrees with the bigoted crap that the White House let the DOJ put in that hateful brief? WTF?

4. We shouldn't be bothering Obama with our pesky complaints, we should be busy rallying votes for overturning DOMA on the Hill:
He has made clear that he stands for the repeal of DOMA. It will be part of this administration’s agenda to accomplish that act. We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the house and 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and it’s his agenda.
Yes, we should be lobbying Congress over DOMA. But what about YOU? What do you plan to do about DOMA? All we've heard is that the president still supports repeal, but we haven't heard one thing about him lifting a finger to help? Writing a brief detailing why DOMA is good for the country does not help us convince Congress to repeal it.

5. And best of all, the White House, Berry tells us, thinks we currently have no chance of getting ENDA, DADT or DOMA. Whoopee!
The Advocate: And what about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” is that being pushed back?

Berry: We don’t have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don’t have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get “don’t ask, don’t tell]?
Yes, how are we going to get Don't ask Don't Tell? Clearly the White House doesn't think we stand a chance.

Anybody still think these people are committed to doing something, anything, to help us secure our civil rights?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Armageddon Prophecy

Main Articles - Disaster Prophecy
Written by Armageddon Online Articles
June 04, 2007

2012: The End of the World?

The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica were of a vast interconnected empire, filled with rich art, education and destruction. The Maya were one of these tribes. Other than archaeological intrigue why are these people so studied? Their written language was based on pictographs, much like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Mayan culture was like most other native cultures.

mayan calendar prohecy

The Maya had an understanding of mathematics and understood the value of zero long before its discovery in the Eastern parts of the world. Their understanding of numbers and astronomy gave us the Mayan calendars of the Long and Short Counts. So why does this calendar attract so much attention now? The Mayan calendar ends on the Gregorian calendar date of December 21, 2012, which most people believe is the total end of civilization, as we know it, while others believe it is simply a change of enlightenment in this current time. Many theories have sprung up about this end date, ranging from the laughable, to the religious, to the scientific.

There are actually three Mayan calendar systems, the 365-day Solar year, the 260-day Ritual year, and the 5,128 years of the World Time calendar. The Haab or Solar year was broken down into an 18 month plus five days cycle. 18 months of 20 days and the 5 soulless days which were thought to be of ill omen, kind of like 5 days of Friday the 13th. The Tzolkin (zol-KEEN) or Sacred Round was the 260-day ritual calendar was broken down by days, not months. This religious calendar was the basis on how the people, singly and collectively, went on with their day-to-day lives according to destiny.

August 11, 3.114 B.C. when the world began in, long count to Gregorian translation. This beginning date was reached by finding a point in future time (December 21 2012) and counting backwards, as theories go, which gives us a 5,126 year span, not including year zero. This is still one year off if year zero is included. The Mayan World calendar is a series of 5,128 years per span. What is the extra year? Were translations wrong somehow, it is quite possible.

mayan predictions calendar

So what is supposed to happen on this magical date of December 21, 2012?

One theory suggests that a Magnetic Field shift will occur around this time, that the calendar was based on pole shifts, which have occurred repetitively throughout the Earths history. The Maya, understanding the time periods between these shifts created their Long count calendar around them and come up with the final date for the next pole shift. But how would they know what to look for to expect another shift? How much time was supposed to pass between these shifts and how did they know it? Was there record passed down to them from long ago recounting a time when there was a prior pole shift so that mathematics could be used to predict the next one to come? Or did the ancients study a form of dendrochronology the study of climate changes by looking at tree rings. Others suggest a much more mythical or religious approach. December 21, 2012 is also the Winter Solstice, and provides us with a view that will not be seen again in any of our lifetimes. The Sun will conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way in the ecliptic, giving us view of the Sacred Tree as called by the Maya, giving us view of the Tree of Life. Both of these scenarios are quite possible, one scientific explanation, and one religious. What we still do not know, and probably will not know is what will happen after this end date until it actually occurs. A new dawn of enlightenment would be a step towards progression, in that mankind would become more aware of their surroundings and the impact that they have on the Earth as well as a higher intelligence and consciousness and a better mindset for helping their fellow man. Perhaps this is the end, when Mother Nature finally decides to shrug off the oppressiveness that has been created by the children and start anew. We may just end up living through another doomsday prophecy, going to work or school as usual, looking back on the prophecies and laughing them off. Peter may have cried wolf too often for our cynical minds.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

City21: Multiple Perspectives on Urban Futures

This film production is designed to be a unique cinematic journey into the various experimental forms that will influence and shape the 21st Century City.

The underlying quest of the filmmakers is to reframe the conventional and uninspiring visions of the urban future with an unprecedented combination of fresh, invigorating, sustainable, economically viable, and life enhancing concepts.

Below are some of the themes we have explored in an effort to loosen the geometric and economic grip on the urban imagination:

-The Sacred Origins of the City: Arnold Toynbee on the origin of Civilization/City Plans through time.

-Magic Architecture: The intentional eco-community of Damanhur, Italy.

-Utopia Imagination: Poetry and Architecture/The Open City Project
in Ritoque, Chile.

-Regenerative Design: Nature and Architecture, the transformation of
the Biosphere2 Project into Eco-Village design.

-Nation State Energy Independence: The White Gold of the North/Renewable energy in Iceland.

-The City as Memory Theater: mythic design wisdom transmitted through the generations.

-The Creative Green City: The Lighthouse Project in Glasgow.

-Creating Eco-Villages--The Findhorn Experiment in Scotland

-Cities and Time—The Long Now perspective with Stewart Brand

While the filmmakers have been enormously pleased with the success of our previous documentary: Ecological Design: Inventing the Future.
We are convinced that powerfully destructive forces like: over-population, unrelenting urban sprawl, and generic design programs, threaten the promising conceptual breakthrough of recent times.

A debilitating resignation about these pressures, often expressed in jaded phrases like:you cant fight City Hall makes it imperative that alternative and eminently achievable visions of the future be known to as many people as possible. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, otherwise we will get the cities we deserve.

This quest is an example of heuristic filmmaking in search of a magic synthesis that inspires new insights and actions in support of making the World a more livable place for the children of all the species on planet Earth.....
Christopher Zelov