Tempest in a Tweet-pot
There’s a fair bit of knee-jerk criticism making the rounds about this INDEVOURS event next week. So I thought I’d share my opinion on the matter.
Next Friday, the University of Waterloo’s International Development program will be hosting an event featuring Roy Sesana, an activist for indigenous rights in Botswana. Students were sent a mass email with details about the event:
Winner of the 2005 Right Livelihood Award, Roy Sesana is a medicine man of the Gana Bushman from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. Speaking through a translator in his native clicking tongue, Sesana speaks about land claim issues in the Kalahari between the indigenous populations, fighting to stay on their ancestral lands, and the local government.
Attached to that email was this poster, which has also been plastered around campus:
The poster was designed by International Development students, approved by the program’s staff, and then sent out to bulletin boards and email inboxes across campus.
When I found out about this event, I was super excited to hear about land claims negotiations straight from the horse’s mouth - a welcome change from the dry academic guest lecturers that are typically invited to university events. (Remember Joe Hulse in INDEV 100?) Also, the fact that this event lands on my birthday is an added bonus! I’m psyched.
But apparently, some people aren’t too thrilled:
Well, actually, A.Y. has a fair point. I would also like to know what the “clicking language” is called. That sentence is a bit vague. But borderline racist? Definitely not.
Twitter is a double-edged sword in that it frees us from the control of established media… but it also immortalizes forever any random stream-of-consciousness thoughts we decide to plonk down. A.Y.’s subsequent tweets were a testament to the latter. She ranted about the lack of Roy Sesana’s name in the event description, despite the fact that it’s plastered in big bubbly letters across the full width of the poster. She opined that the event was marketing him as a circus attraction. She takes offense to the fact that he’s wearing shell beads.
Oh sure, INDEVOURS could have used a nicely cropped headshot of Roy Sesana, clean-shaven, wearing a collared shirt and a tie. He’d look right professorial. Because then it’d look proper, wouldn’t it?
So, as A.Y. stamps her feet and fires off tweets about courtesy and respect, I have to wonder: what isn’t respectful about this? What version of courtesy is she looking for? Is it racist to display a picture of a dancing medicine man? I don’t think so. Traditional medicine and indigenous cultures around the world need to be preserved and celebrated. In fact, it’s the very thing that Roy Sesana is advocating for.Sam Nabi