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Palestinians are not statistics (nor are Israelis!)

‘First, never will even the most impressive television footage properly capture the depth of fear and despair felt in the homes and hearts of Gazans who are yet again facing death, devastation and displacement. Thousands of parents today have no more answers to give to their young children when they are asked why their houses are shaking or breaking under the weight and relentless force of the bombardments.

Second, we must be careful about the endless enumeration of casualty numbers. The dead and injured in Gaza are not anonymous. Behind the figures lie multiple individual destinies now torn apart.  Too often in their lives have Gazan civilians been denied their dignity. Anonymity in death or injury is the ultimate denial. It is also too comfortable for the world and the parties engaged in the hostilities. Palestinians are not statistics and we must never allow them to be treated as such. They are human beings like others in the world, with their identity and the same hopes and expectations for an improved future for their children.’

This significant reminder by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl during a press briefing on July 14th regarding events in Gaza highlighted an important but all too often forgotten reality.  Behind the statistics and the propaganda, the claims and counter claims, the talk of ‘terrorists, self-defence and security’ are the lives (and now the additional deaths) of Palestinians (overwhelmingly) and Israelis (no less important for their limited number).

Recent events are a grotesque reminder of a conflict that has rumbled on for over 60 years (see the BBC’s timeline) especially for the 5 million plus Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.  Although the figures are (inevitably) contested, it is generally accepted that some 15,000+ Palestinians and Israelis people have died since 1948 (for a detailed discussion, see this Global Avoidable Mortality blog post written in May 2006.

In the context of recent events, readers/users may find the following annotated list of (selected) websites useful in terms of background, analysis, links and perspectives.  The list is in no way, comprehensive or complete; nor does it come devoid of criticism; it is offered as a starting point to stimulate discussion and debate.

Two good places to start are:

UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency | http://www.unrwa.org

The official site of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict to carry out relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees; its current mandate has been extended to 2017). The site contains analysis and commentary on current issues (e.g. Gaza July 2014), a useful film archive, facts and figures in Palestinian refugees and basic demographics.

B’Tselem – The Israeli BTselem Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories | http://www.btselem.org

Maintained by one of Israel’s most respected human rights NGOs; offers a large body of material including videos, testimonies, photoblogs, maps and analysis; also offers an overview of key topics such as settlements, the ‘separation barrier’, demolitions, restrictions on movement etc.  The site also analyses crucial issues such as the water crisis in Gaza and the West Bank (has an excellent background briefing) and how the current discriminatory situation flouts international law.  Also has an extensive annotated set of links to an additional 17 Israeli human rights sites.

AlHaqAl-Haq | http://www.alhaq.org

An independent Palestinian NGO based in Ramallah, West Bank; established in 1979, Al-Haq is recognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The site contains extensive reports and analyses of current and key events (on Gaza, population, the Separation Wall, Jerusalem and a number of downloads including one on water discrimination.

Legal CentreAdalah for Arab minority Rights in Israel | http://www.adalah.org/eng

Site maintained by the Legal Centre for Arab minority Rights in Israel; contains a series of useful special reports on issues such as discriminatory laws, home demolitions, family reunification issues, attacks on human rights organisations and a series of briefing papersetc.  Adaleh.org also has a limited multi-media section.

HRW Human Rights Watch | http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/israel-palestine

Independent US based international human rights NGO; the site has many detailed reports on a range of key issues such as land, human rights violations, threats to migrants, the illegal use of white phosphorous, discrimination against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories etc.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights |PCHR http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en

One of the best known Palestinian rights organisations set up in 1995 by a group of lawyers; the site carries a series of ‘In Focus’ briefing on key issues such as the War on Gaza, detailed legal human rights issues, debates on the Goldstone Report etc.  There is also a set of special reports and briefing papers on additional issues such as the impact of events on children, education, health, women’s rights etc.

VisualisingPalestineVisualizing Palestine | http://visualizingpalestine.org

Independent, pro-Palestinian site focusing on providing first class infographics on the conflict; designed and supported by a network of researchers, designers, and activists based in Ramallah, Amman, Beirut, London and Paris; has a strong justice and human rights perspective.  The site reviews a large range of issues from the Separation Wall to water discrimination, restricted professions for Palestinians, the peace talks, displacement etc.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs |IsraelFMinistry http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/Pages/default.aspx

The official site of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; it contains useful background information on Israel’s history, its land, peoples and culture and a particularly useful section on historical documents and treaties etc.  It also contains updates on the Israeli Government’s views on the current situation including briefings on issues such as the impact on children in Israel, the targeting of ‘houses’ in Gaza etc.

FIDHInternational Federation for Human Rights | http://fidh.org

Excellent international human rights site maintained by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); has a comprehensive section on North Africa and the Middle East which provides human rights focused commentary and analysis on the current situation in Gaza and the Occupied Territories.  The site also contains detailed reports from member organisations in the area reporting on current events.

Association for Civil Rights in Israel |AssocationCivilRightsIsrael http://www.acri.org.il/en

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel was established in 1972 and is the oldest and largest human rights organisation focused on the broad range of all rights and civil liberties issues in Israel and the Occupied Territories; it is independent and non-partisan.  The site has a wide range of reports, analysis and briefings on issues such as housing, education, migrant rights, freedom of expression, children rights and social and economic rights etc.  There is also considerable information on discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority.

BDSBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions | http://www.bdsmovement.net

There have been many campaign responses to long standing conflict between Israel and Palestine. One of the widest campaigns to date has been the global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. The campaign is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), made up of over 170 Palestinian organisations, established in 2007. The campaign has drawn many responses as its effectiveness and its strategic direction, both from supporters, dissenters and outright critics.

Greenpeace uses Lego video to target Shell

Capitalising on the popularity of the recent Lego movie – which is awesome – Greenpeace have a lot to say about oil company Shell’s practices.

Why should we care if Shell’s brand features in a series of Lego cars?

Greenpeace, the environmental campaigning organisation, believes that Lego is putting sales above its commitment to the environment by partnering with Shell, which is launching a global campaign to force the world’s biggest toymaker to end a deal that puts the oil company’s logo on the famous bricks.

According to president and chief executive of the Lego Group, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, how Shell operates in a specific part of the world is a matter to be handled between Greenpeace and Shell. He also holds a hands-off approach which is preferable when working with Shell, its shareholders or when talking about anything Shell has done, as explained in a statement he made last week:

“We expect that Shell lives up to their responsibilities wherever they operate and take appropriate action to any potential claims should this not be the case. I would like to clarify that we intend to live up to the long term contract with Shell, which we entered into in 2011.”

Sara Ayech, an Arctic Campaigner at Greenpeace, thinks otherwise:

“Every company has a responsibility to choose its partners and suppliers ethically. LEGO says it wants to leave a better world for children and has a progressive environmental policy. But it’s partnered with Shell, one of the biggest polluters on the planet, now threatening the Arctic. That’s a terrible decision and its bad news for kids. We’re calling on LEGO to stand up for the Arctic — and for children — by ditching Shell for good.”

Both Shell’s and Lego’s corporate social responsibilities are brought under the spotlight in this context. Shell certainly aren’t strangers when it comes to controversy over their environmental credentials, as, for example, Friends of the Earth drew attention through presenting a spoof ‘erratum’ to the 2010 annual report at the Shell shareholders AGM.

Questions continue about the environmental impact of drilling in such a sensitive area as the Arctic, particularly in light of Shell’s contribution to climate change around the world.

The Irish dimension is not silent on these debates. See the work of the Shell to Sea campaign at the Corrib Gas Field in county Mayo for more background on the community campaign to challenge offshore exploration and production with the state’s participation at www.shelltosea.com

In the meantime, Lego Ireland can be contacted via their website http://shop.lego.com/en-IE and Shell Ireland at http://www.shell.ie

Cartoon of the month: FIFA doing it for the street kids?

Cartoon of the month for June 2014.

Visit the cartoons library or read sports blogs on the website.

Barefeet are coming!

Who are Barefeet, I hear you ask? From very humble beginnings armed only with face paint and a drum or two, Barefeet have been helping children living on the streets of Zambia for seven years. Co-founder Tobias Tembo, his colleagues and friends explain the uniqueness of the Barefeet story as they educate through entertainment (a clip worth watching).

And now, finally, after months of planning, Barefeet Zambia are on their way to Ireland!

If you are a youth worker, arts practitioner, development worker, development educator, or young person – or all of the above – there is something in this tour for you.

From Monday 30th June – Thursday 3rd July a range of activities and performances have been tailor made for general audiences and for practitioners for those looking to pick up a range of active learning methods based on Barefeet’s many years of experience in the field of street theatre. These include:

Afrobatics | practitioners workshop | Mon 30 June 10:30am – 12:30pm @ Dance House (Dublin)

Uncle John | practitioners workshop | Mon 30 June 2:30 – 4:30pm @ Dance House (Dublin)

NGO Safari | practitioners workshop | Tues 1 July 2:30 – 4:30pm @ Dance House (Dublin)

Afrobatics | young people workshop | Tues 1 July 2:30 – 4pm @ Dance House (Dublin)

Uncle John | young people workshop | Wed 2 July 3-5pm @ Limerick City Centre

Barefeet street theatre parade and float performances through Temple Bar and Smock Alley. Info here: http://www.youth.ie/barefeet

Events in Limerick are booked out but there are some limited places in Dublin soooo, if you have a love for drama, development, education; if you work with young people, or, if you are a young person, there is something in this tour for you.

Having seen the Barefeet crew perform in Zambia four years ago I can say that it’s worth the journey. You will leave the workshop/seminar/performance feeling inspired, refreshed, and determined!

Find more info via www.youth.ie/barefeet where you can book a spot NOW!

Barefeet_info

Erasure and the World Cup

Photo: sportv.globo.com

Photo: sportv.globo.com

The balls for this year’s FIFA World Cup were made by predominately female workers earning €122 a month in the Forward Sport factory in East Pakistan.

These women are Ronaldonianly, Messiesquely good at what they do. Their factory got the FIFA contract at very short notice after a Chinese supplier fell through: the women had one month instead of the usual six to produce world-class work. They succeeded.

It is difficult to imagine a World Cup without Messi; it is also difficult to imagine a World Cup without footballs. Messi makes €2.7 million a month, plus endorsements. These women make the minimum wage in Pakistan – and while they were proud of their efforts, we hardly acknowledge them.

This erasure is an offshoot of the greater World Cup paradox. More…

‘Redrawing and re-writing’ World War 1

'No more than cattle' page 1. By Colm Regan and Mike-Lito

First page of ‘No more than cattle’ in To End All Wars. By Colm Regan and Mike-Lito

Developmenteducation.ie cartoonist Brick (aka John Clark) has teamed up with co-editor Jonathan Clode and 51 other contributors and graphic artists (including this author) to deliver a graphic anthology of 27 short stories on the First World War – To End All Wars  to be published July 2014 by Soaring Penguin.

In introducing the project, John argues:

‘The so-called ‘Great War’ was the first truly multinational war, the first heavily mechanised war, the first oil war, the first fought to the benefit of capitalists on both sides, the first to murder millions of civilians and the last orchestrated by kings, barons and lords as if it were a ripping game of polo. It was the first to wipe out whole streets of young men and destroy the lives of millions of mothers and lovers, two generations of women who grew old as widows and spinsters, enfranchised and empowered to become career professionals. The changes needed to welcome in the 20th Century were always going to involve a vicious bloody struggle far greater than the French and American Revolutions combined.

This anthology doesn’t pretend to tackle these issues, but it does aspire to free WWI from the censorship imposed by London and Berlin before the first man fell, blinkers that still cramp our reading of this holocaust. Offered up by creators working in a medium that was barely a foetus in 1914, it is our humble tribute to the ten million combatants sacrificed… for what?’

The story of the project and its aims is described by John and Jonathan on http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/about

One of our key objectives in working on TEAW was to graphically illustrate the human realities of the war and to uncover and highlight some of its less well-known dimensions.  For example, Artist Mike Lito and myself worked on one of the 27 ‘stories’ in the anthology – ‘No more than cattle’ which recounts aspects of the War on the colonies in East Africa.

We explored the tragic history of one of Africa’s John Chilembweleast likely early rebels Pastor John Chilembwe perhaps known to some of our readers as his image is featured on Malawian currency notes.

Another example of our approach in the anthology is the story of Welsh poet Hedd Wyn described by John’s co-editor Jonathan Clode here – http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/articles/ In his commentary, Johnathan touches directly on one of the current debates about WW1:

‘All across the Ypres Salient, it struck me that there were two distinct types of remembrance – the stoic, nationalistic pride in a necessary sacrifice (see David Cameron & Co.) versus the grief that comes from the futility of it all. If the people who visit Ypres see the same things I did, then I fail to understand how they can take pride in the decisions of any nation that chooses to condemn its son’s to such a fate.’

As with all wars, WW1 remains the subject of intense debate and disagreement, especially so as we approach its anniversary and the inevitable headline ‘grabs’ by politicians rushing to ‘claim’ the war for their own ideology.

Earlier this year, English Education Secretary Michael Gove caused the inevitable stir (inevitably in the Daily Mail) when he accused ‘left-wing academics’ (not to be confused with ‘right wing’ academics) of perpetuating the ‘Blackadder myth’ that the First World War was merely a ‘misbegotten shambles’; David Cameron backed Gove, saying the war was fought ‘in a just cause’.  Blackadder actor Sir Tony Robinson’s response to Gove is well worth reading (BBC News, 05 January 2014).

To End All Wars is, in part our response to this kind of debate and to those who would wish to ‘glorify’ the war (and all wars for that matter including those on this island) – this dimension has been commented on in a recent review of TEAW in The Independent by Adam Sherwin (Acclaimed comics artists publish powerful anthology of stories to combat Michael Gove’s ‘jingoistic’ interpretation of WW1, 01 April 2014).

Sample panels from 'No more than cattle' in To End All Wars (2014)

Sample panels from ‘No more than cattle’ in To End All Wars (2014)

WW1 has also inevitably been highly controversial in Ireland and was, for many years air-brushed from official Irish history; at last this too has changed.  The BBC has produced a useful site on the War http://www.1914.org/about/ and another on Ireland and the War http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwone/ireland_wwone_01.shtml but perhaps a good place to start is the joint Goldsmith’s College, London and Exeter University site http://irelandww1.org/About-Us.html (which has a useful and accessible 6 page resource for using in schools).

The many graphic and horrifying stories of the Irish and WW1 are not told in this anthology but perhaps we may yet convince our co-editors to include it in the next volume!

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New multimedia resource brings stories of climate change, water and Bolivia into the classroom

slide 11.4 rescuing possessions quillacollo

slide 11.4 rescuing possessions quillacollo, by The Democracy Centre (Bolivia) 2014.

Situated in the centre of the South American continent, Bolivia has a geography that combines high mountain regions in the Andes with large areas of the Amazon rainforest. Not so long ago experts would describe it as a ‘front line’ country for the impacts of global climate change.

But the changes that communities there have been feeling for some time are now beginning to affect us all. However, unlike some richer nations, Bolivia and countries like it are among the least equipped to adapt to these changes- their geographical vulnerability compounded by high levels of economic and social vulnerability.

The Democracy Center, a research and advocacy NGO with a long history of transmitting Bolivian experiences to a global audience, has just launched an online multimedia resource for educators focusing on the impacts of climate change on Bolivia’s water. The core material is to be found on the microsite Why Climate Change is About…Water‘.

Based on original fieldwork by Democracy Center staff, the resource lifts up the voices of affected communities in Bolivia and attempts to build bridges of understanding between the realities on the ground in a global South country and the often-abstract debates about climate change in the global North.

Cover of 'Climate Change is about...Water' resource, 2014

Cover of ‘Climate Change is about…Water’ resource, 2014

The microsite is accompanied by a teaching and activities guide containing lots of ideas for exploring the materials in both formal and non-formal settings. The guide follows the same chapter sequence as the microsite, and includes discussion points and activities for each section – such as mapping local water resources, devising an adaptation plan, or using theatre and other creative tools to raise awareness.

Although people in Ireland are beginning to experience increased incidents of extreme weather events – the floods this winter across Ireland and the UK being a prime example – impacts in Bolivia have been much more severe.  Unusually severe floods there earlier this year killed over 60 people and affected the homes and livelihoods of 60,000 more. Meanwhile glaciers relied on for fresh water supplies are melting, and dry seasons are less predictable than before, thereby affecting food production. All of this in one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where adaptation and disaster response capabilities are severely limited.

These resources help students and teachers to explore the complex theme of vulnerability by looking at the range of social, economic and political factors that determine levels of vulnerability beyond just climate and geography.  They help students understand the key relationship between vulnerability, climate impacts, and migration patterns.

For young people in Ireland, understanding the different ways in which climate change is already taking its toll in other parts of the world, and beginning to see climate change through the lens of vulnerability and capacity to adapt, will hopefully give them valuable tools to help them to respond critically and creatively to the defining global issue of their generation.

By focusing on one country, and by looking at the impacts on one of the most basic element of life -water – educators will be able to cut through the politics and the often-obscure climate science and bring climate change to life for learners.

Graphic: Perfect storm of vulnerability. Democracy Centre, 2014.

Graphic: Perfect storm of vulnerability. Democracy Centre, 2014.

Our ‘climate classroom and gallery’ allows groups to post their completed projects, essays, videos etc. on the site. The Democracy Center is also keen to help facilitate connections between groups using the resource in different parts of the world.

The structure of the site, the teaching guide and the potential connections to be made locally and internationally aim at a dynamic learning experience designed to motivate and inspire students to become active global citizens.

For more information visit http://climatechange.democracyctr.org or email maddy@democracyctr.org

Click here for a short annotation in the resource catalogue on the content and educational support materials for Climate Change is About…Water on DevelopmentEducation.ie

Liam Kilbride and Margaret Mary Healy: social justice in schools ten years in the making – interview

Liam Kilbride and Margaret Mary Healy at the 2014 Challenge to Change seminar, Tullamore. Source: 14 May 2014 by Tony Daly

Margaret Mary Healy and Liam Kilbride at the annual 2014 Challenge to Change seminar, Tullamore. Photo: by Tony Daly 14 May 2014

This marks the eleventh year of the Challenge to Change (C2C) network – a development education initiative in the Presentation Schools network. Tony Daly caught up with Margaret and Liam to chat about the project and reflect on how far the project has travelled in ten years and see what might be in store for the future.

Along with Evelyn Byrne, Liam Kilbride and Margaret Mary Healy, based in Warrenmount, Dublin, typically spend their days zipping around the country from Mitchelstown to Mullingar, from Portarlington to Kilkenny, from Clondalkin to Dungarvan. With 38 schools taking part in this year’s project alone, they have their work cut out for them.

School projects rarely have a recorded history stretching back over ten years and maintained on an annual basis. DevelopmentEducation.ie is proud to support Challenge to Change in launching the back catalogue of annual reports and make them available for the first time online. More…

What’s so scary about smart girls?

*This blog is crossposted  from the Half The Sky Movement website.

Nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted in April. Malala Yousafzai was shot for speaking up about her right to an education. Every day around the world, girls are in danger simply because of their desire to get an education. The Half the Sky Movement created a video that asks one simple question:

What’s so scary about smart girls?

Why are girls terrorized, injured, kidnapped, or killed just because they want to go to school?

While the sheer scale and audacity of the Nigerian kidnappings are horrifying, attacks on education happen all over the world with alarming regularity. More…

Heike Vornhagen: ‘Some of the movies might conform to stereotypes that people have but at the same time they also challenge them” – interview

GAFFposterThe Galway African Film Festival, now going into its seventh year, is taking place this weekend in Galway City from 23rd – 25th May. Bringing a wide range of films made by and starring Africans from across the continent has become an annual event on the west coast of Ireland. Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Lesotho. Over ten feature length and short films are being screened for a range of ages, film tastes and genre, whether yours is science fiction, thrillers or romcoms.

Tony Daly caught up with festival director Heike Vornhagen to chat about Africa on film in Galway and the role of movies outside of the classroom.

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Can you tell me a bit about the festival and what inspired you to set it up?

The festival was set up back in 2008 when one of my colleagues in the Galway One World Centre (GOWC) was interested in films and had done a course in public advocacy with the Huston School of Film & Digital Media, so there was already a link with there. From previous work we had done with the Galway Film Society there was natural link there too.

So to some extent there was always this idea of bringing film and development education together.

Irish Aid launched a new funding scheme to celebrate African diversity and culture and we thought doing a film festival around this would be a good idea. To some extend you could say that it was funding led: we had thought about doing something like this already but couldn’t because there wasn’t any money for it. When the funding stream came online we said this was our chance to get it running and off the ground. It’s only grown since then!

Your choice to do development education using film is an interesting one. Why did you choose this way of doing DE?

It’s quite a different methodology. People go and watch films because they want to enjoy themselves; they don’t necessarily go in with this idea ‘oh, I’m going to be educated!’ or ‘I’m going to learn something new!’ as such. Very often they do learn something and it’s subtle and it slips in. People see on screen life in an African country that they wouldn’t have known about before that probably would have portrayed African people and African countries quite differently to what they thought Africa might be like.

If you were going to simply run a workshop lots of people would go along to it that are already interested in learning something about Africa. By doing film festivals you also get people that are going just to see a good movie and have no interest in ‘learning’ something. The educational dimension slips underneath and sets up a very different dynamic because you actually see people from Africa, whether black or white, and it’s a different way of dealing with stereotypes and prejudice as well without being a ‘DE setting’ or a ‘talk’ or workshop. I think films are ideal as they take away the pressure of people feeling “I have to learn something or I have to behave in a certain way”.

There are so many ways people are open to learning through films, indeed! Many of the films about Africa and about Africans that we have seen in Ireland in recent years typically come from Hollywood or from the England. What has drawn you to films that are made by Africans instead?

It’s like having a different lens. Someone was recently saying to me that it’s a similar situation if you’re thinking of Ireland and there’s a difference between watching The Quiet Man and watching The Commitments. One is an American lens on what they think a country should be like; the other is the lens of the people on what they think about themselves. I think this applies to more films that have been done about Africa or about African people than anywhere else if they are being done with a European audience in mind, first and foremost. With this type of lens they are more likely to conform to a certain stereotype which could be about black characters being rather one dimensional or that they only exist as a backdrop to the ‘white saviour’ or if the white person is the villain then there is still the backdrop to support the white guy/women in their own personal development or transformation.

By trying to get African-made movies we are trying to shift that perspective a little bit. Some of the movies we have screened might conform to stereotypes that people have but at the same time they also challenge them. To some extent our role isn’t to censor films that come from Africa because some movies would deal with war, poverty and violence. But it’s set within a broader context and is far more complex than people would usually view Africa when they are going to see a Hollywood movie. You can get crap films as well but that’s the way it goes!

That has plenty to do with the production budget, editing room issues etc that we’re well used to seeing here in Ireland as well!

The festival is driven by a partnership approach which has subsequently grown into the whole ethos and existence of the festival. In terms of the role of partnerships how important have they been for you in putting on the festival?

From the origins of the film festival we already had a partnership with the Huston School and the Galway Film Society and then we thought, if you want to broaden it we had to bring in people who either had a background in film or have a background in the development-side of things. This means we have a good sounding board where we can say, “this is what we want to do, what do you think?” It’s not just the GOWC having to decide; we are drawing from the rich experience around us.

Partnerships are also helpful to publicise the festival much more widely than we would be able to do ourselves. We’re a tiny tiny development education centre in Galway so we just wouldn’t have the capacity to get it out to as many people as we do through the partnerships we have, which we hope to grow on in the years ahead.

Like other festivals the thing they’re great for is the buzz they create between people and groups and the power of ‘word of mouth’ in an area.

What’s been the impact of the festival on Galway and Galwegians?

I’d say the response has been mixed. Some people have responded really well in terms of enjoyment and learning and the feedback we get, saying “I never thought Africa would be like that”. That has been really lovely to hear. It’s also been nice to hear from members of the African community who’ve come along to see films and thank us so much for putting on the festival telling us that “It brought back home to me” or “It made home alive to me”.

On the other hand around this time of year there is usually a question around how much money was spent in Galway on Africa Day (an annual celebration of African culture in Ireland) and I’m always wondering if that’s because of the festival and whether people are concerned. I remember when one person rang and said, “Look at all the money being spent on Africa – you shouldn’t be doing this”. This can be the downside – you get people that don’t see the value of doing the festival and may be very much against it. That’s something we’re trying to change by saying to people, “Come along to a movie and that might change your mind”.

The festival can always be much bigger and much better. I think we have a really good line-up of films and I would love if in future we could get some directors to attend. At the moment its really tricky to do because by the time the funding is confirmed we have about two weeks to pull the rest of the festival together which leaves us no time for organising visas. That’s really tricky and it’s certainly one of the things we’d like to develop better.

We’re also waiting for the arts cinema to open here which would be like our natural home for the film festival and would substantially increase the potential impact of the festival as well.

Lots of opportunities and challenges for the future of the festival. What are your highlights from the festivals over the past six years?

Being one of the organisers we don’t usually get to watch the films as they happen – we need to catch them on DVD before or after as most films would arrive in that format (unlike going back to 2008 where most films were on 35mm format). Looking back we screened The Lion’s Point of View which looked at refugee and migration issues from an African perspective. In a development education context that would be a really good movie to look at.

Personally I enjoyed a science fiction short film we showed a few years ago called Punzi which looked at the world after the next World War with a focus on a world without water. This short film showed the capacity and the talent that’s found in Africa and also an issue that is pertinent in terms of sustainability and development education.

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For more info on the festival this year visit http://galwayafricanfilmfestival.org/festival-2014

Heike’s highlights for the 2014 festival:

Jonah | 17 mins | Tanzania

Short film that’s opening the festival this year that looks at the pitfalls of ‘development’. Development may be good for generating money and incomes but what is the personal cost to this? The film is too short and could easily have been extended to two hours! One of my favourites for the festival.

Tey | 86mins | Senegal

It’s an experimental film around a guy who has a day to live. He wakes up in the morning and knows that when we has to go to be later that evening that he will die. So with that he goes around where he lives and says goodbye to his friends, family and colleagues. I can’t wait to see it I’ve heard it’s a stunning film and brings out the deeper questions about life and why it’s important. Again, it takes away from the idea that Africa is about poverty, war and violence: you could say that this is a cerebral kind of movie and beautifully shot.

The Forgotten Kingdom | 96 mins | Lesotho

The landscapes in Forgotten Kingdom just look amazing! I’m also a committed horse rider and there’s lots of horse riding in the movie so I’m definitely looking forward to that one. I talked to a colleague who said that it’s really really beautiful to look at and quite a nice and interesting story in terms of a young man who returns to Lesotho after his father moved the family to South Africa for work. Now he’s returned to his home country for his father’s funeral and he feels like he’s a stranger in his own country and has to deal with that and his own path in life. Another interesting theme to consider when we are thinking about Africa.