Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Prestigious TED Prize Goes to Graffiti Artist

"Women Are Heroes in Kibera Slum," J R's sprawling installation in Nairobi, Kenya, in early 2009.

$100,000 to a street artist?

The celebrated TED Prize, previously awarded to humanitarians like Bill Clinton and Bono, was awarded to Parisian artist J R, who paints elaborate, king-sized murals of local people in the world’s poorest slums. Like many street artists, J R remains anonymous because of the illegal nature of his work.

According to the New York Times, the award is prized just as much for the publicity it raises as the cash:

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a “wish”: to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

"Portrait of a generation," Paris, 2006.

Banksy and Shepard Fairey are household names, with commercial work and museum retrospectives. Now, J R joins Bill Clinton in an award for humanitarian work.

Is mainstream acceptance toward street artists changing, or are the artists themselves forcing change?

Filed under: africa, art, politics, racism, social justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Your Guest Blogger

I’m traveling to Ghana once again with a group of undergraduates, where we’ll be teaching 200 African schoolchildren computer literacy skills (click here or here for videos about student experiences at the Boston College-Ejisu Computer Camp). More than teaching the students, however we will be the beneficiaries: we’ll learn about Ghanian culture, family life, and the nation’s long democratic history. I’m looking forward to traveling and immersing myself in Ghanian culture (and Burkina Faso and Mali, too).

All to say that I’ve asked my friend David to be a guest blogger for the next month. David has an ever-curious mind, like-minded politics, and an all-around great sense of humor. Wondering what to expect? Here’s David blogging about a typical (or atypical?) ride on the T.

Looking forward to David’s posts. Come on back to read more.

Filed under: africa, Blogroll, , , ,

An Interview with South Africa’s Proud Racist

Vodpod videos no longer available.

John Oliver, the Englishman with impeccable timing, finds the last remaining racist in South Africa.

“This isn’t your Tea Party racism,” Oliver says, tasting a bit of the South African soil: “This is the good stuff.”

Filed under: africa, football, racism, , , , , , , ,

Gay Couple in Malawi Pardoned

Heartening news from eastern Africa: the president of Malawi has pardoned the gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.

The BBC reports that President Bingu Wu Mutharika announced the pardon during a visit by UN head Ban ki-Moon. Mutharika seemed to enact the pardon with a sense of duty and under international pressure, still hewing to his country’s discriminatory culture:

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” he said after meeting Mr Ban.

“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

Whether a political move or out of humanitarian largesse, the release of Monjeza and Chimbalanga is welcome news. Perhaps the win for human rights in Malawi will affect the virulently homophobic culture in other African nations.

On a related note, Current television broadcast a fantastic documentary about the anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda called Missionaries of Hate. A thorough, well-researched piece of investigative journalism that I highly recommend.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filed under: africa, gay rights, global justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Stripping Human Rights in Malawi

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’m horrified by the news that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced today to 14 years of hard labor for being gay. In Malawi, homosexuality is against the law.

I’m horrified–in place of the sadness I used to feel–because the judge in Malawi who sentenced them was so vitriolic and hateful in his sentencing. Perhaps reflecting public sentiment, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said that he wanted to protect the public “from people like you”. Human rights advocates around the world have condemned the act; a U.S. State department official said that the United States was “deeply disappointed” with the conviction.

Many countries on the African continent have searing, anti-gay laws. In Uganda, the proposed law that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death is stalled in parliament. In Nigeria, a college student was clubbed to death because he was gay. And in 36 countries in Africa, being gay is not only a social taboo, it is a crime.

Reminds me, of course, of Oscar Wilde’s sentencing to hard labor more than a century ago for the same crime. With Malawi’s legal stance on homosexuality, what are the implications for gay rights–much less human rights–for other nations in the African continent?

Filed under: africa, gay rights, social justice, , , , , , ,

Writing

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
February 2017
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No food for lazy man

Mao and Du Bois

Inside W.E.B. DuBois' library

Commemorating the great pan-African writer

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About Me

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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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