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‘AS THOUGH A ROCK HAD BEEN LIFTED AND THERE WERE GREEN SHOOTS BENEATH’ – KOBANÊ 2018
‘As though a rock had been lifted and there were green shoots beneath’ – This is how Sara, who I met in the Northern Syrian town of Kobanê, described the 2012 revolution, when the authoritarian Syrian regime withdrew control and the Kurds were able to set up their own autonomous organisations. It is an image of oppression lifted, but also of a new world that had long gestated in hiding, waiting for the opportunity to grow. Just two years later, the Kurdish areas came under attack from ISIS, and Kobanê became famous as the first place ISIS suffered a major defeat. Sara stayed in the town through the siege to cook for the fighters and prepare dead bodies for burial. She is active in Kongreya Star, the confederation of organisations that is helping ensure women play a full role in the new society. I visited Kobanê as a guest of Kongreya Star, whose symbol looks down on this scene. The most ruined area of the town is being left as a memorial to the siege. When we walked through it, a family handed me a white rose, which I pressed as my own memento of this powerful place.
LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – TORONTO 2019
Canadian institutions often begin events by acknowledging that the land they are on was once inhabited by various indigenous First Nations. This reclamation of history need not lead to any improvement in the material conditions of the First Nations today. Nor is there much acknowledgement, at all, of how low-income residents of all backgrounds are being forced out of central Toronto by redevelopment, or of the growing numbers of people having to sleep on the streets as they have no home anywhere. This collage illustrates the progression of land use in Toronto, where the small-scale nineteenth-century rows are becoming dwarfed by condominiums and offices. The slippers and shampoo I spotted neatly put away on the pavement, and the badge is from an anti-demolition protest organised by Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.