November 2017 — CANVAS

Thousands in the streets on Sunday – Romanian protests continued!

Photo: “People hold placards reading ‘All for justice’ during a protest in Bucharest” (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images, via the Guardian) Published on 29/11/2017 Sunday night, a typical time for protests in Romania, about 30,000 protesters went out on the streets of Bucharest while up to 20,000 demonstrated elsewhere in the country, according to the Guardian. The people were protesting a government draft law which is criticized for possibly putting the judicial system under political control, reported Euronews. Earlier this year, these latest protests had been preceded by Romania’s biggest protests since the 1989 revolution. To learn more, you can consult this article about Lessons for democracy from Romania’s protest movement by Srdja Popovic and Cristian Sallai, also featured on CANVAS’ page in June. During the protests on Sunday which included brief scuffling with police in Bucharest, wrote the Guardian, Romanians demanded “rights and prosperity”, shouted “Thieves” and “We want justice not corruption”, blowing whistles while they marched. An especially creative and humorous protest sign read “I’ve seen smarter cabinets at IKEA”, as seen on Euronews. According to the Guardian, new protests on Friday, a national public holiday in Romania, have been called for on social media. And not only protesters are criticizing the proposed bill. Their criticism has been joined by the European Commission, foreign diplomats and thousands of magistrates, wrote Euronews. The news outlet further reported about Laura Kövesi, head of Romania’s anti-corruption directorate (DNA), saying that “’If voted through it will have a serious negative impact on the independence of justice and it will result in political control of prosecutors’ activity’”. She added that “’It will lead to...

Lessons from radical, political art in Russia: Pussy Riot, Pyotr Pavlensky and Co.

Photo: “Petr Pavlensky sewed his mouth shut in protest of the incarceration of a Russian punk band” (Gleb Husky, via Politico) Published on 28/11/2017 CNN just published an article by Marat Guelman, son of Russian playwriter Alexander Guelman, and art curator living in Montenegro, who recently opened an exhibition in London titled “Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism is dedicated to Russian protest art over the past 25 years.” In the CNN article on “Why Russia produces (and quashes) so much radical art”, Guelman addresses the above topic and states that “Artists have always held a special place in Russian society.” He describes how developments during Glasnost in the mid-1980s and the return of writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn after exile in 1994, as well as rock music taking over the roles previously occupied by theater and literature, were signs of change, opening and a call for a new, open world. Recently, “contemporary art and provocative performances have proven the most effective medium for influencing public opinion. Artists have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the rapid changes taking place in Russian society”, according to Guelman. The probably most well-known performance has been that of Pussy Riot in Moscow’s largest cathedral in 2012, when they made a statement for Putin to leave his position or rather, to not be reelected. Pussy Riot’s trial and two members going to prison then captured global attention for Russia’s seemingly biased judiciary and Russia’s increasingly authoritarian path. Noah Sneider who published an article in the 1843 Magazine from The Economist Group last year, quoted Guelman saying that “From that moment, [the regime] began to seriously address the...

Weekly Report: 24 November, 2017

Photo: People cheering in the streets of Zimbabwe where longstanding President Robert Mugabe resigned (BBC) Zimbabwe After the military coup halfway last week, things developed fast in Zimbabwe this week. Mass protests on the weekend, calling for the resignation of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, united the whole of the country. However, looking at the protest signs of the Zimbabwean people, a unity of purpose for when Mugabe would be gone was hard to find. Zimbabwe reacted in shock when, on Sunday, Mugabe amazed and infuriated the country by apparently resisting calls to step aside. However, an official source with direct knowledge of the ongoing negotiations told CNN that Zimbabwe’s long-time president has agreed to the terms of his resignation and a letter has been drafted. According to the source, the aim of Sunday’s televised speech, was to ensure the veteran leader openly declared the military’s actions to be constitutional. Despite the disappointing speech, the end of the Mugabe era seemed a matter of time. Then on Tuesday, the long-awaited news came. Robert Mugabe officially resigned as the President of Zimbabwe, after ruling party ZANU-PF already sacked him as their leader.  Mass-celebrations broke out all over the country, and the eye of the world was focused on Zimbabwe. Looking towards the future, however, one could be more skeptical. Emmerson Mnangagwa seems to be in the most prominent position to be Zimbabwe’s next leader. As Steven Feldstein puts it, “Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.” So what should we expect for the future of Zimbabwe? And more importantly, how can the forces in Zimbabwean society pushing for democratic reform make...

With Mugabe down, the real struggle for New Zimbabwe has just begun! – [In Depth Analysis]

Photo Credits: BBC Published on 23/11/2017 Coup, resignation, celebration-good news or the bad news for Zimbabwe? Despite the dancing people in the streets of Harare, we must be aware that the coup in Zimbabwe which led to resignation of its long sitting president Mugabe, was not committed in their best interest. Not in the first place, at least. And where most analysis of the recent military intervention focuses on the outcomes of the coup, maybe we should start by realistically looking at its roots. If the ultimate goal is to create a more free and democratic society in Zimbabwe, there is both good news and bad news for the country. Only when we understand that the military intervention is focused on the continuation of ZANU-PF rule in the first place, can we decide what the role of the political opposition, civil society and international community should now be. Let’s start with the bad news.   The difference between the Party and the State In Zimbabwe, ruling party and state have been interwoven for over 37 years. With ZANU-PF being supreme over state institutions and -structures, whatever happens in ZANU-PF directly affects the state (Msindo 2016). The lines between the ruling party and the state have become blurred, and as a result of ZANU-PF’s monopoly on power, Zimbabwe has become a de-facto one-party state. The ruling party uses “both tangible and intangible” state-resources for its campaigns during elections, giving ZANU-PF a decisive advantage over opposition political parties.[i] Furthermore, the party’s thorough control over state institutions such as state-media, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and Registrar General’s Department has enabled ZANU-PF to...

Throwing a Pie – More than a Simple Act of Protest

Published on 22/11/2017 The art of creative and humorous nonviolent resistance methods, laughtivism if you will, has been a popular topic for readers all around the world. Pie, and then especially the throwing of the object, could be considered a prototype political provocation, and a powerful punchline when staying on the surface of the act itself. David against Goliath, an “act of punching up”, mostly against a higher status person, showing that, with our face covered in pie, we all look alike, and nobody would dare to claim a superior position with a face full of cream.   An unprecedented piece of journalism by Ben Paynter shows us the history of throwing pie as a form of nonviolent activism.  Although the record of political pie-throwing dates back to at least the mid-1600s, the recipe (of both the pie and the protest-method), have not changed much. Although maybe for one factor. Over time, “each hit became a surreal must-share moment for news agencies,” and pie-throwing “became an early political meme.” Communicating with their followers, but also more neutral audiences, “activists made sure to videotape or take pictures of each delivery, which with the growing reach of the internet were easily passed along to embolden others,” according to Paynter.   But why exactly is throwing pie funny? Paynter claims that it is good to emphasize this for a bit, given the fact that some people involved in the act “felt the pie throwing was theater of such poor quality that it required a violent response.” To explain the humorous nature of pie, we can use something called the Benign Violation Theory, and was developed by Peter McGraw, marketing and psychology professor at the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. According to McGraw, “for something to be funny in the eyes of the audience,...