Sunday 30 December 2018

Reflections on 2018 and 2019

As I reflect on 2018, it has proven to be a busy and diverse year, full of challenge, promise and, for want of a better word, blessings. It has taken me from the depths of the  massive refugee camp at Khutupalong in southern Bangladesh, near the epicentre of the Rohingya Genocide, to the heights of the ash-clouds of a freshly-erupting Popocatepetl volcano in central Mexico, has embraced four journalism conferences, travel to four countries, marked my first entry into the world of film-making, and resulted in the completion of four significant works: a unique monograph on African Anarchist Movements; a book on love, loss, sex and death; the third-edition rewrite of Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism for its Arabic and Spanish translations, and the completion, after eighteen years' unpaid labour of my magnum opus, the global anarchist movement history In the Shadow of a Hurricane which is now being reviewed by a subject-matter expert prior to publication. I am now on the verge of signing a contract for an intense new book that I will write over 2019.

Although I continue to write on African affairs, especially in the under-covered maritime sector, journalism is now the minority of my work, and my transformation into a human rights rapporteur is nearing completion as we prepare to establish the first Safe Haven for persecuted human rights defenders in Johannesburg, the culmination of a process that began back in 2012. I am very excited about this, especially given that I hope we can name the initiative after my late friend Anton Hammerl, killed in Libya in 2011, but there is trepidation too, because after having worked on several relocations of at-risk people already, I am aware of the many pitfalls and do not want to fail my charges. Fortunately, I am consolidating a team of women, three in Johannesburg and three in Cape Town, who have demonstrated a passion for getting on board this project. On that note, given the depredations inflicted on women globally by those who desire to control all of us, I will foreground women's protections in my work going forward as I bring the Safe Havens conference to South Africa for the first time in 2019.

In the coming year, I am definitely queued to work at least in Namibia, South Africa, and possibly Mozambique and Zambia (as a researcher), India (as a trainer), and definitely in the Netherlands (as a rapporteur), with further work in South and South-East Asia on the cards too (perhaps embracing countries as diverse as Nepal and Vietnam), as my conflict-sensitive journalism training deepens its reach into Asia as part of a three-year regional project. I have also been invited to a literary festival in Georgia in the Caucasus, and might also speak on my work in Canada and Russia should those opportunities bear fruit. There is also a possibility that I may be contracted to do work in Boko Haram territory around Lake Chad (Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon), though the current state-backed linguistic conflict in Cameroon and the security situation in the region in general makes this tricky. And then there is the question on doing on the ground research into the Rojava Revolution - very difficult given the blockade on all sides by Daesh (Islamic State), Turkish, Syrian regime, and right-wing Kurdish forces - but not impossible... if a Norwegian friend in her sixties can do it, so can I ;) 

I am also embarking on some new directions, including research and possibly script-writing for film, the establishment of a much-needed blues bar / intimate theatre since the closure of The Blues Room in Joburg several years ago, and some perhaps more reflective explorations. The year has seen the forging of new friendships, the testing of old friendships, and what I guess you could call the closure of a quarter-century romance cycle. I look forward to seeing what personal developments 2019 will bring. Here is a sketch of key events of my life this past year:

2018: Rewrite of 3rd edition of Cartography completed
          Contracted research into pro-apartheid background of UK “ex”-fascist Max Mosley
          Ran four In-depth Journalism Boot-camps for 57 journalists (Bangladesh)
          Ran Conflict-Sensitive Journalism Workshop for 25 journalists (Bangladesh)
          Reporting on the Rohingya Genocide at Kutupalong (Bangladesh)
          ProJourn delegate to Menell Media Exchange 2018 
          Radio Freedom’s second podcast with Taurai Mabhachi during Radio Days Africa
          Chaired debate on fake news – "Reading Between the Lies" – at ISS
          Ran Advanced In-Depth Journalism Workshop (Bangladesh)
          In the Shadow of a Hurricane completed
          Presented on "Writing Narrative Non-Fiction" at SA Book Fair 2018
          ProJourn delegate to Anti-Racism Network of South Africa conference
          Chaired ProJourn debate on the Rohingya Genocide at Holocaust & Genocide Centre
          Started research work for fact-based African feature film
          ProJourn delegate to Crisis & War Reporting in Africa conference
          Official rapporteur at Safe Havens 2018 (Sweden)
          SACRP announcement of opening of Safe Havens initiative in Johannesburg
          Contract secured in principle for writing a new book over 2019
          African Anarchist Movements: Race, Class & Liberation published (Mexico)