Thursday, August 31, 2006

One year on: Back from Canada, Loving Almodovar and Adichie, thinking of human rights & a silly restriction

Back in the UK now. The last three weeks have been exhausting, exhilaring and invigorating all at the same time. Great training time and now I feel ready to take on whatever challenges the future holds at work- great feeling. I'm desperately hanging on to that feeling as I go through the nearly two hundred e mails that were waiting at work. I used to look at people at work talking about how many e mails they had to work through as rather sad- a kind of "My e mails are greater than yours" kind of thing- but now I find myself indulging......

I kind of liked Canada- the bits I saw- it seems to have its heart in the right place- the people are generally warm and friendly in a way that I liked and appreciated and I fell in love with their governor general- the Rt Hon Michaelle Jean http://www.gg.ca/gg/index_e.asp after watching her on television- the petite Haitian-Canadian who only came to Canada in 1968- is an impressive asset. I don't think that she could attain a similar position anywhere else in the world.....

Monday went to see the new Almodovar film Volver (Return) starring Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura. It's an amazing film rich in visuals, vibrant colour, humour and textures plus a quirky, subversive plot- all the hallmarks of an Almodovar film. I still can't believe that I had never even heard of Almodovar before I moved here. It was only thanks to a Mexican classmate that I went to see Talk to Her (Habla con Ella) when it came out a few years ago and then I got hooked. There is this one scene where Cruz is chopping red peppers and as you watch the shot of the grey blade of the knife biting again and again into the redness of the peppers, you can almost hear and feel the crunch. In another scene Cruz is washing up at a sink and there is this amazing shot from above framing her cleavage and the sink with the water running and swirling.......I'm no film sophisticate but Almodovar's films resound with the very essence of Spain- a country I'm growing to love more with each visit.....

I've just finished Half of a Yellow Sun- Chimamanda Adichie's new work and it is stunning - the broad canvas, the sweep of the characters, her exposition of a time and place- Biafra- that Nigeria and Nigerians have never properly exorcised are all remarkable. Now I understand why the phrase Dickensian keeps recurring in the critics reviews of the book. It's an amazing achievement- and quite different from Purple Hibiscus. I was initially skeptical looking at the heft of the book that it could keep me engaged but I was engrossed from page one to the very end.

I've also recently finished Geoffrey Robertson's Crimes Against Humanity: the Struggle for Global Justice- the tome written by one of the UK's foremost human rights lawyers-though dense and legalistic in areas was an illuminating and inspiring exploration of the evolution of internatonal human rights law. He is scathing on the African Human Rights Charter and I can only hope that in the 7 years since the book was published the new African Union has taken a new look at the charter in the spirit of the "African Renaissance"

On the flight back from Canada, no duty free shopping as far as spirits or perfumes was allowed- it seemed slightly silly that while the bottles were clearly visible on the trolley that the stewardesses pushed through the aisles, passengers were forbidden to buy in the spirit of the ban on liquids.....

Oh by the way, just realized it was the first anniversary of this blog six days ago. To everyone who's dropped by- Thank you

10 comments:

Frances Uku said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frances Uku said...

Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother) was my intro to Almodovar, and remains my favourite of all his films (seen everything he's done since, and am eagerly waiting for Return to come to the States). If you haven't already, you should check out the Mexicans Cuarón and Iñárritu - to me, their films invoke a pathos akin to Almodovar's.

Good to have you back, and happy bloggiversary!

Morountodun said...

Pedro Almodovar is also one of my favourite Filmakers and I really enjoyed Talk to Her and All about my mother. I've not watched Volver yet but am hoping to be able to catch it in the next couple of weeks. And to think less than five years ago I wouldn't even watch films with subtitles...

ayoke said...

Happy anniversary.

I have not read the book by Geoffrey Robertson but I will definitely look out for it. What exactly did he have against the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights? 'Would be very grateful if you can summarise his main objections to the treaty. I'll still look out for the book.

uknaija said...

Thanks for the kind felicitations.
Frances, thanks for the heads up on Cuaron and Inarritu- will check them out

Ayoke, his main objections were that in the African charter, a lot of the rights are circumscribed with caveats such as (I paraphrase)- as long as these rights do not breach the country's laws- thus not accepting that certain rights are linked inalienably to being human and not therefore subject to national legislation- I simplify too much, but I hope you get the gist. He also beefs about the culture-specific arguments- for instance to do with female genital mutilation, arguing that human rights are not culture specific

TaureanMinx said...

Would love to read Chimamandas book but can't seem to find it in Nigeria.

ayoke said...

Alright. Now, I understand. Yes, the African Charter does contain a lot of clawback clauses and may need to be re-worked but that is really not specific to the African Charter alone. Generally, all the regional human rights (including the European and Inter-American Conventions)treaties have such clauses. It's agreed that about the sole right that cannot be derogated from is the freedom from torture. That said, the real problem stems from the fact that the African Charter was drafted under the OAU which was founded on the strict sovereignty of states. The AU has improved on that principle.

About human rights not being culture specific, that is the whole debate between two schools of thought - one on cultural relativism and the other on universality of human rights. I wonder if we will be able to cross that divide. On FGM, I think the new Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa which recently came into force is not too bad an instrument. Just that a lot of concessions had to be made in order to get a final draft. That's why rather than say "polygamy is proscibed", we settled for "monogamy should be encouraged".

uknaija said...

Chimamanda's book should be out today in Nigeria according to this
http://www.kachifo.com/orders_book.cfm?buk=9 or try ringing the Nigerian publishers at Kachifo Limited
25, Military Street
Onikan, Lagos
Nigeria

Telephones
234-1-270 2370
234-1-270 2371

Ayoke Robertson QC also mentioned the question of too much emphasis in the OAU on sovereignty- glad to hear that's disappearing

Calabar Gal said...

Welcome Back to the UK and Happy Anniversary!!

Anonymous said...

I love the fact you have blogged about Adichie and Almodovar together - I'm reading the one and saw the latter this week, such a treat. Almodovar's shots of Cruz just stunning. It amazed me how incredible she was in this film - and to see something with such complex female characters was also refreshing. I've just got to the point of the ethnic violence in Yellow sun - so powerful. Think the comments from Achebe are deserved.