Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The look in their eyes

The effects of war on the environment and the land is a devastating sight, but what we need to also see is that the soldiers have their own aftermath of devastation. 
And it's plain on their faces. 
Photographer, journalist and filmmaker Lalage Snow took a series of portrait photographs of British soldiers before, during and after their deployment in Afghanistan that I think the whole world should see. War is a horrific.

It's plain on their faces...

Private Chris MacGregor, 24
 11th March, Edinburgh: “Obviously I'll miss family but other than that I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressers and keep me sane. I think I’ll miss TV too though. I try not to think about the worst case scenario.”

19th June, Compound 19, Nad Ali, after an IED incident: “Most people get used to being away from home but I find it hard. It’s your fear that keeps you alive here. But I believe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and there's nothing you can do about it. If the big man upstairs could do anything, there'd be no dead soldiers. They'd all be alive. It still hurts when you hear about a soldier dying. You think about what their families are going through. You ask what they died for and what we are achieving here. I am not sure any more. That Afghan soldier losing his legs just now… I don't know….”

28th August, Edinburgh, after being evacuated due to sustained knee injury from Iraq: “My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something. I just had to accept, my body was telling me to give up as I had pushed it. I was telling it to go, it was telling me to stop. When squaddies come back they still have a lot of adrenaline and anger in them. I had to have anger management after Iraq. If I get like that now, I just go for a walk with the dogs. It is the best way to deal with it, instead of being all tense and ready to snap at folk. The first thing I did when I came back, apart from kissing and cuddling the missus and my bairn, was go for a massive walk with the dogs. I walked for miles and miles not caring where I stepped.”

Private Fraiser Pairman, 21
Private Jo Yavala, 28
 9th March, Edinburgh: “I am going to miss my family. I have been to Iraq before but not Afghanistan. I don't know what to expect but am looking forward to getting out there now.”

Compound 19, Nad Ali, after an IED: “I had a funny feeling about this patrol. heard the bang and heard on the radio ‘man down’ It was the first casualty I have seen. It was pretty awful. I saw the medic treating him, He had no leg. I went back to where it had exploded and then saw his boot floating in the water. Just an empty boot.”

10th October, Edinburgh: “ I pray in the morning when I wake up and in the evening before bed. But out there I was just praying all the time, thinking of my family at home. Sometimes I'd pray during during a patrol itself. I was scared. Especially when in contact, you don’t know what will happen. I was expecting the worst. Right now I feel a little bit angry, sometimes my temperature rises very quickly especially if I stay too long inside. Sometimes I miss being with all they guys. For the first few days I had difficulty sleeping. I dreamt about different things that happened in Afghan. A few nights I woke up crying.”

Second Lieutenant Struan Cunningham, 24
 9 March, Edinburgh: “I am looking forward to getting out there. This is what we have been training for.”

12th June, PB Zeal, Nad-Ali: “It is important to be confident on the ground so there is no room to be scared to be honest. Training doesn’t allow for fears. The Afghans we are working with are good and it is satisfying when they take on what you teach them. We are lucky that we have a good tolay to work with here though. Not everyone does. I don't really miss anything. Wait no, I miss rain and having cold water literally on tap.”

14 October, Edinburgh: “In a contact you don't have time to be scared or excited, you just have to ride it out. In two and a half months I lost four men to injury. The first time I wasn't on patrol at the time and it’s weird; you feel responsible that you weren't out and you can't do anything to support or help them. You're just listening to it on the radio. Helpless. It’s almost worse than being in the contact yourself. Another time we got severely ambushed… that was the only time I thought, ‘this is it for me’. Now that I'm home, I think I’m a lot more calm. I’ve seen the worst and I've seen things I do not want to see again. You're fighting for survival at the end of the day. I think being in those kind of situations makes you realise you are pretty lucky with your life, with what you have already so why flap about the most simple of things.”

Private Sean Patterson, 19
Private Steven Anderson, 31
March, Edinburgh: “I think its going to be horrible to be honest. The work will be intense and there are going to be a lot of casualties. I am scared not of dying but of losing my legs – that would be the worst.”

June, PB Pimon, Nad-Ali: “Its hard to explain the conditions, how dirty it is. Often when you phone your girlfriend or something and she asks why you aren't talking normally, it’s… you're drained, you're tired, you're dirty, you've not eaten properly for a few days. Lack of water. You're just drained. I was scared on the first patrol but you think back to the training and remember all the drills. I haven't been in any fire fights and am happy for it to stay that way and to go back home with all my fingers and toes intact.”

October, Edinburgh: “We try and go there to win their hearts and change their minds… but those people are living until 45 and dying as there’s so much poverty and not the medicines to treat them. And they put different value on life. A child got killed, it was nothing to do with the Army it was just ill. They brought the body of that child to an army camp having shot it saying that it got caught in a firefight and demanding money. How can you change the mind of someone like that?”

Alec McBroom, 24
11th March, Edinburgh: “I am not worried about going out – it is my job after all, but I’ll miss the family so much and also carpet and slippers – it sounds weird but it is the little things that make a difference.”

12th June, PB Pimon, Nad-Ali: “It’s been an eye opener – especially the limitations of the ANA. But now we are in Pimon life has a routine. I miss my wife and kids though. I miss their characters – their comfort. I just miss them and I think it is worse for them waiting for us to come back. Oh, and I do miss walking on carpets, too. I haven't been scared – the last time I was properly scared was Northern Ireland and that was a long time ago.”

12th October, Edinburgh: “It is always that fear, that apprehension, what is going to happen if I get blown up? When it happened, straight away it was the world’s biggest surprise, the world’s biggest scare. The whole reason I went to Afghanistan was to justify the soldiers who went before me. Why should I sit with my comfy slippers on any my carpet, not having done my bit. But it’s as though i've got two lives: one where everything is dangerous and everyone is trying to kill us and the other one where you look out of the window in Edinburgh and there are people with pink hair, proper civilians. It’s just a different world. I've always been quite religious and I've spoken more to the big man lately. I’m thankful that someone is looking after me.”

They all have this hardness, this weariness to them in the photos during and after their deployment. The during though... 
The look in their eyes, it's rather unnerving actually. It's like they're wordlessly saying, "I've seen things no person should ever have to see in their lives." The horror they must have witnessed, it's inconceivable.

Have you noticed that all of their eyes changed colour and turned very light while deployed?

I've searched all over the Internet to find out about this phenomenon, but I've come up with a blank.

Any theories?

P.S. This post was contributed by photographer Greta Rybus via The Telegraph.

Monday, April 22, 2013

And what an incredible planet it is

Dear Planet Earth,

We love you.
You are amazing.
We're sorry.
We promise to try harder.
Do more of the good stuff.
Do less of the bad stuff.
Appreciate every day.
Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,
The Human Race

It's Earth Day today, and millions of people are coming together and standing up to say that they pledge to make the world a better place. That they will campaign against climate change and preserve our magnificent planet. 

Take a good look. These are the Faces of Climate Change.

Sri Lanka
New Zealand
Czech Republic

"I CAN CHANGE" - Namibia

And then, a whole lot of India. Bravo!

Now, for South Africa:

And then you recognise this photo...

Me. I pledge to be the change.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Totally Plastic

Well, not exactly...
Prepare to be astonished, shocked and amazed. 
To give you the Wikipedia write up, "Body Worlds is a travelling exhibition of preserved human bodies and body parts that are prepared using a technique called plastination to reveal inner anatomical structures. The exhibition's developer and promoter is German anatomist Gunther von Hagens, who invented the plastination technique in the late 1970s."

With Wikipedia out of the way, how about I tell you a bit about it?

The Body Worlds exhibition is currently in South Africa, touring to Cape Town and Johannesburg. My school decided since it's the end of term, and because the exhibition is incredible, they just had to take us to go and see it. Once arriving, we were taken inside in controlled groups, and boy... I was stupefied. 

The bodies are totally real, every capillary, every cartilage strip, every muscle fibre - well, except for the eyes. During a process called plastination, the cadaver bod are steeped in acid tone and many other substances so as to produce the final outcome - a completely unimpaired body. The bodies are then placed in shapes that depict various human activities such as playing an instrument, ice-skating, jumping a fence, sitting on a swing or playing basket ball.

Some of the body depictions and dissections are also quite controversial. 

Though not in the exhibit I saw, there are various bodies depicting babies in the womb. Some people may have a issues with regard to the baby - it is a real baby after all. I found it rather fascinating. Also, there are various bodies that depict the reproductive process. Not suitable for younger viewers, but the section is blocked off to adolecants younger than 16-ish.

Then there was one I did see, and well, I found it downright creepy.

The central and peripheral nervous systems, laid out in the shape of the human body. My version was lying flat, but the above...(shudders) I just think it looks unequivocally eerie. Don't you?

I mentioned the blood vessel network of organs, and here it is. The real capillaries, real veins and real arteries of the head. I'm not certain how they actually extract the microscopic capillaries, but let me tell you, they did somehow.

Lastly, I think the mister below was the one display every single person who walked through the center remembers. He looks like he's alive, despite his head being sawn in half. (Chuckles)
At one point, at least 20 people stood around him, simply staring.

We were waiting to see if he'd open his eyes.

(Shakes head) Unbelievable.

Here are also two videos, firstly on what the entire Body Worlds is about and then how the bodies are preserved through plastination.

If this magnificent exhibition happens to be in your city/town, I beg you, go and see it. It is worth it.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You bite first, we'll bite back

Journalists will always be a curious troupe of individuals, scurrying around, burrowing in everybody's business, while in search of their next story. They certainly are a gutsy bunch. 
Oh, how they love their vague, round about manners of writing whatever the hell they like that, and everyone understands, but one can't be sued for insinuations. (Wink)

The article below was printed on the front page of The Star newspaper about the forthcoming divorce of the ANC government's Minister for Human Settlement, Tokyo Sexwale (surname said in a Zulu manner of pronunciation) and his wife, Judy. The short passage was brilliant, and puckishly naughty of them. Haha. Haha.

Rather whippy is it not?


Saturday, April 6, 2013

POP! goes my heart for POP Poetry: Part 2

Ready for the main event? Greetings ladies and gentlemen! 
Welcome to the Pop Poetry: Power of the People slam poetry competition. It's the finale (drum roll please) and we will be listening to all our peppy poetry peeps in the house. 

Give them a round of applause!

This is John Moeketsane & Joachim Mamabolo
They won for best duo.

Ari Emanuel. An abstract soloist. I love it.

Speaking the truth. Did you hear the poet's applause -clicking- for Kanye Cekeshe?

Wandile Dlamini, you have a soul.

(The below video only starts the poet at 0:48 seconds)

Make the change, Jayme Cesman.


I absolutely adore Sinead Urison's sublime, stupendous, 
splendiferous sibilance and her garish manner of performance!


Another bout of duo fabulousity, with Sinead Urison and Jordan 
Seligmann. So brilliant.

Evil twin, I see, Tanya Theunissen. Don't be too harsh on Wandile Dlamini.

And though not a finalist double, I still thoroughly enjoyed Mr.
Ari Emaunel and Gabriel Godfrey.


Finally...... Our winner!

Individual winner, Puno Selesho was positively sublime! 
Well done!

Another win to Puno Selesho, and her partner Taboka Kombanie!

We are beautiful, Puno Selesho.

This girl deserved to win, agreed?

P.S Trying my own hand at slam poetry, I've been writing my own pieces furiously for 3 weeks. Look out for it. (Smiles)