Saturday, May 22, 2010

TEDxDAR: And to conclude...

We are done now. The pictures are being taken on stage, the tone is mellow, the DJ has put on bass-heavy music and guests are trickling out of the tent. At the blogging table, aspirin or alcohol would probably be welcome depending on the recipient. Certainly I must thank Mr. Whatsisname from my WK days who insisted that learning touch-typing would be helpful. I hope you are still bullying high-school kids into doing their Mavis exercises :)

I am walking away from the group photo (strobe lights are brighter than they appear in the movies) and guided home through the dark by the warm glow of my Apple. It's time to shake some booty at the after party*. Tomorrow, or whenever, is time enough to do a proper post-mortem. So I'll just say this for now: mad love to the TEDxDAR team. You done good. Own it.

*Triniti, 7:00 pm onwards. I'll be the one having twitching to the break beats of James Brown.


  1. LOL LOL LOL "i'll be the one twitching to the break beats of James Brown"

  2. Thanks for the liveblog Elsie, really informative. Hope they post the videos soon.

    I was intrigued by the Swahili issue: a very fraught question(I've participated in a few "heated discussions" about this), let me set it aside for now.

    I really like Abdu Simba's idea of narrative and iconography. I think this is something a lot of people think about and certainly living in the West and watching movies and commentary about Africa you can't help but notice how these set narratives influence people's opinions about Africa. This is why when I watch a movie like Hotel Rwanda or that King of Scotland or Blood Diamond, I can't fully embrace them even if they are well done artistically because I know they are entrenching specific narrative which I can't identify with and don't really like.

    Also liked Shurufu's comment one whether we are over idealizing the Nyerere era and harking back to some golden age of Tanzanian power and prestige.

    It is hard not too though, as it seems the 60s and 70s were the peak of Tanzania's political and intellectual influence. People came from all over the world (Walter Rodney, Museveni etc) to study socialism at UDSM. Tanzania made bold moves like recognising Biafra or cutting off relations with Britain over Rhodesia and being on the frontline of the Non-Alligned Movement and the SA Liberation struggle.

    In short it seemed like we get more RESPECT.

    But as Shurufu says "That was then, this is NOW" Unfortunately all those things that were prominent like "The Dar Es Salaam School of Socialism" and the status of being a "Frontline liberation state" are about as relevant to 2010 as bell bottom pants and platform shoes :-)

    So combining Abdu and Shurufu's comments we need to have a new identity congruent with current realities.

    One interesting thing I didn't see mentioned was regional integration especially with the current push that is seen as being resisted by ... pretty much everyone in Tanzania. That could lead to some lively discussions! Maybe it will be brought up in future sessions.

  3. @Kate: The Hat is Fabulous! Worth every carpal tunnel syndrome moment :)
    @ Dr. Bob: thank you for that thoughtful comment. You would have enjoyed Abdu's slide show, I'll have to see if he'll let me put it up on the blog although without his commentary you don't get the full effect.
    A common theme in TED across speakers was the pursuit of precisely what you stated so succinctly: 'a new identity congruent with current realities.' Seems like we are having an internal conversation on who we are in the 21st century...
    As for the regional integration issue, Modesta mentioned in her video that it is better for us to negotiate as a bloc rather than individual countries. I theory. In practice, I just don't see the economic or political maturity in the FORMAL SECTORS to handle this. Our governments can barely be trusted to run their countries properly, why should we ask them to manage regionalism any better? In the business/informal/CSO sector however, things are rather different. No one needed to tell mobile companies to work cross-borders for them to do it. So I remain one of the EA skeptics. What say you?

  4. i guess by FORMAL SECTOR I mean our governance structures and institutions including the parastatals.

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  6. My "Angel" is thinking "Globalization is inevitable, regional identity and solidarity will help us economically, politically and even socially."

    My "Devil" is thinking "These countries are just too different, no way is this going to work! Besides the Kenyans will invade us, buy all our land, take all our jobs and then we'll be utterly screwed!" :-)

    So actually I'm hoping my "Devil" is wrong and I'm (very cautiously) in favor of further integration (e.g. a single currency). But my impression is that most TZians are skeptical.

    The best thing to do might be to more aggressively promote regional "people to people" interactions, e.g. Tanzanians to study in Kenya & Uganda and vice-versa, regional film festivals and that sort of thing and then maybe down the road people might feel more comfortable with more integration.

    At least we have one advantage in that we all speak English (kind of...) and all have that British background, so its not like a Francophone and Anglophone country trying to get together ( ignoring Rwanda and Burundi for the moment!).

  7. At any rate could be a lively topic for a TED! Invite plenty of Kenyans and Ugandans to make presentations, I am sure we would get a fresh perspective.

  8. Question: must an identity be 'pursued' or does one 'emerge' from context and circumstance? Is it possible for fishermen to behave like camel herders? Is it possible for Tanzanians to be like Nigerians? In the great nature vs nurture debate, what is the more influential of a collective 'national' identity?

    Factoid: Tanzanians and Kenyans study currently in Uganda in DROVES! And they may not be so obvious today, but UDSM is still attracting lots of Ugandans and Kenyans even now. This is a repetition (continuation) of what happened in the 40s, 50s and 60s when our parents studied at Makerere University and University College Nairobi and University College Dar es Salaam.

  9. @Dr Bob: Fantastic idea. We should definitely hold a TEDxEast Africa. It would be instructive.
    @ Aidan: is the human being simple enough to be boxed in a binary (either/or) system or do we conform, adjust, manipulate and escape situations as our beinghood demands? Anything is possible- we are creatures of creative power. Camel herders can behave like fishermen...if they so desire. But they must so desire, and for good reason. Rationality is a variable and many-splendored thing. Factoid: societies are complex organic systems that are smarter and better organized than technocrats like to think. I remain skeptical about the top-down EA Political Federation project. It would take M7, Kagame and Kibaki stepping down at the very least for me... but I am just one girl in a big old world :)

  10. @Aidan: That is a very good (and deep) question! I definitely think "identity" is very malleable and influenced by circumstances. By "identity" here I am specifically thinking of how strongly we feel ourselves to be part of a certain group e.g "I am a Haya" or "I am a Tanzanian" or "I am an African" or "I am a Black Person."

    If you move to a country where your ethnic group is persecuted or somehow singled out (e.g. a Muslim moving to France) that is going to increase how much you identify with it and conversely if you move to a country where it is ignored or unremarkable your identification will probably decrease (e.g. an Irish Catholic moving from N. Ireland to Cape Town )

    So the short answer is that I do think identity in the sense I am talking about can be deliberately influenced through government policy.

    Of course this can be used for divisive purposes (e.g. when politicians foment ethnic antagonism )and it can be used positively (e.g. when patriotism is invoked to get people to come together for the greater good).

    Now as to whether a specifically East African identity can or should be encouraged ... I am not sure about that, the countries are very similar culturally and economically, but the grassroots interactions still seem fairly limited. For example I think only a small fraction of Tanzanians have lived in Kenya or know someone who lives in Kenya. In many ways there is greater interaction with the US, UK or SA!

    So thats why I think as the federation goes on e.g free movement of labor, single currency etc. maybe people will become more comfortable with the whole thing.


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