A digital class in Senegal – People (part 2)

On Monday morning, I got up early. It was unusually warm for me, I have just left the Italian winter, with its rainy days. But telling the truth, I have to admit that I was very excited.

I didn’t know anything about the people we were going to meet, and my head was full of commonplaces. I would have never thought that the young girls immediately asked for a Facebook account  …

Let’s start form the beginning … that morning, we met just a woman. The class was scheduled for the afternoon, but all the village knew we were there. The lady wanted to learn writing her name, using a pen, not a computer.

Finally, in the afternoon we met our first group of ‘students’, mainly composed by women. And two men. At the beginning there were few words, many smiles, and a sort of suspicion. It was difficult to understand their expectations, it was difficult to realize ours. For most of them was their first ‘digital’ experience, and even the keyboard was largely unknown …

Our first class flew by, in a mix of multiple languages … Italian, French, Serer, English for some technical words …

But the real surprise was on Tuesday morning: when we arrived we found a group of young girls waiting for us. Same as all teen agers, they wanted a computer class to create a Facebook account. In a while, I realized that we are so full of commonplace, that we can’t face reality. Yes, we were in a small dusty village, but connections make information very fast, and Africa is running fast.

So  that, at the end of our second day, we had two fabulous different groups of students

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A digital class in Senegal – Intro (part 1)

Djilor - 'skyline'

Djilor – ‘skyline’

Djilor is a small village located in Senegal, in Fatick region, 200 km away from Dakar, near the delta of Sine Saloum.
Even if we can consider 200 km as a short distance from Dakar, there is a huge gap in terms of health and daily life: here malaria is endemic the whole year and a simple diarrhea can cause a serious disease. The only hospital is in poor conditions.
In spite of these problems, telcom technology is widespread: smartphones are very common and mobiles work everywhere. If you talk to teenagers about internet, they immediately ask for a Facebook account. The only internet point is in Fimela, at a walking distance of half an hour, and wifi connection is available only in couple of touristic and expansive lodges.
Fortunately, in one of these lodges, we were able to manage our ‘digital classroom’ with some secondhand laptop donated by an European company.
After a short visit to a local festival, we spent our first day installing software, cleaning virus, resetting keyboards, translating in French, dusting down computers, testing connections … On Sunday night, everything was ready for our first class in Senegal.

… to be continued …

Djilor - main square

Djilor – main square

Setting up computers

Setting up computers

Myanmar: the beginning of a new era

When I visited Myanmar in 2002, I spent a lot of time wondering if it was right to go there.

All the money spent in that country would have surely supported – in some way – the terrible military dictatorship.

Finally, I decided to go and see … During my trip I met a nineteen years old guide. When we were on the bus with the driver or other people he was used to mechanically speak, with a sort of  ‘flat’ sound. He didn’t reply to any difficult question about his country.

But during a trekking, far from any other people, he started to talk about his life, his family, his difficult life in Myanmar. There I realized that he was able to speak Italian better than English, that was also the reason why he looked at my Italian book about Myanmar. At the end of the trip, I wanted to give him the book but before I had to inform him about contents, as it strongly criticized Myanmar government.

A simply travel guide could represent a danger for him, for his freedom. However, as I supposed, he was very happy about the present, he took the book but fastly hid it.

Today, reading about Aung San Suu Kyi election, all my thoughts are for that young guy and ‘the beginning of a new era’ for Myanmar people.

Here and here two previous posts about Sung San Suu Kyi

And here, the song that Bono with U2 dedicated to her


Carnival in Gomorrah’s land, or the wish for a normal life

Scampia's carnival

Scampia's carnival parade stops along its way to send its message to citizens and invite them to join - (c) 2'012 nicoletta di tanno

I’m proud to introduce a special guest for a very special post: Nicoletta Di Tanno. She accepted to share with us her experience in Scampia, and her passion for social photography.
She is a communication specialist with more than 20 years experience in international environment, and volunteers for Shoot4change.
A child from Scampia

A child from the Scampia football school represents the school on the top of their float - (c) 2012 nicoletta di tanno

Ever since, Carnival celebrates the subversion of the ordinary. In Scampia, the neighbourhood in the outskirts of Naples described in Saviano’s best-seller ‘Gomorrah’, subverting the ordinary means that residents can occupy their territory, reclaiming their ownership.
The driving force of this carnival is the G.RI.DA.S association, meaning ‘Group for awakening from sleep’. This association, founded by a couple, Mirella and Felice Pignataro, has since decades bravely been providing a centre of social aggregation and cultural initiatives in this difficult area of Southern Italy.
For the 30th year, Scampia’s carnival proposes to schools and to the local community a parade for expressing creativity, and a day of collective re-possession of public spaces – the real Occupy Scampia! Social issues are at the heart of this carnival, denouncing inequalities and injustice as well as representing local initiatives and achievements.
In this context, different initiatives and associations, both local and from elsewhere, meet in the morning of Carnival’s Sunday in front of GRIDAS’ base, to walk the neighbourhood in parade through its streets and buildings, often off-limits on an ordinary day, using dancing, masks, protest and proposals to raise awareness among those met along the way.
This year’s theme was “Your money or your life, i.e. this is the way it goes”, around which children, citizens, boy-scouts, Roma people, musicians, relatives of convicted and many others, brought their message along with carnival floats and masks.

It was simply impossible not to be involved! The enthusiasm and commitment of all participants was overwhelming. The aspiration to live a life as much ordinary as possible, based on work, integrity and justice, shows through in every instant and in every representation. From the parade, an invitation to join was constantly addressed to the many people that from home look at the march out of their window, revealing a wish for participation that can’t be achieved.

Masks and symbols, positive and negative, coexist in the parade in a symbolic fight. At the end of the path, reaching a nearby Roma settlement, an allegoric bonfire destroys negative symbols while the positive ones are kept, and the parade is joined by the Roma community.

Being within and together the parade as a photographer was a unique experience, joyful and hopeful. One of those that heal your spirit, because they bring about solidarity and the best out of each and every one, in spite of a lieu commun that would make you think you wouldn’t find them there. A virtuous circle, where positive calls positive, and where you hope you can come back again.
Scampia's Carnival

People watching the carnival parade in Scampia from their windows -(c) 2012 nicoletta di tanno

Scampia's carnival

A child watches the carnival parade as it passes through a courtyard. He was possibly forbidden to join - (c) 2012 nicoletta di tanno

Scampia's carnival

A child from the Roma settlement joins the parade crowd with his bike - (c) 2012 nicoletta di tanno

Djanet, Algeria

People in Djanet - December 2010

I’m really astonished and surprised by reading that an Italian woman has been  abducted in Algeria, near Djanet.

Details are not so clear and there is a lack of information, as the situation is difficult and the risk for hostage’s life very high

Just a year ago I was there, in Djanet because of my trip in a desert area called Admer-Tadrart.

I’d like to share with you my memories and feelings, so alive, about that place.

We can’t consider Djanet as a ‘town’, even if is the main settlement in South East of Algeria. Better to say it’s a big village, near oasis and palmerie. 350 km north from Niger, 300 km east from Libya. People origins are Tuareg.

Its economic growth is due to excursions to Tassili N’Ajjer and its famous rock paintings, and tourism is the only way they have to increase their economy and improve their lives, in terms of health, education, work.

Rock paintings

In December 2010, Djanet was really crowded because of tourism. Mainly, groups from Italy, France, Spain, and … Japan as well!

We spent there a couple of days, organizing our week in the desert, and durino our stay there, we attende a local festival. Hundreds of people singing, dancing, together with tourists. We all felt safe in that place, I was interviewed by a local Algerian TV, they asked me about safety and my feeling in the place as a tourist. I remember I said that I felt safe, happy and comfortable in their village.

Interview by a local TV

It is still difficult to me thinking about Djanet like an unsafe place. But I can’t say right now, that it isn’t dangerous to go there.

I can only say that many people always pay for the cruelty of just few crazy human beings.

Dances - Djanet

Suq - Djanet

Admer Tadrart