Monday 25 January 2021

The apartheid state's pseudo-operations ecosystem

This is a page from my notebook on my face-to-face interview with Colonel Johan Theron, the Special Forces Headquarters Senior Staff Officer Counter-intelligence, who by his own uncontested account was personally responsible for just about all the hundreds of SADF "disappearances" by death flight over 1979-1987. Theron described the plainclothes Special Forces pseudo-operations unit, D40 (the Delta 40 symbol in my notebook, later renamed Barnacle) explicitly as a "Hit Team" reporting directly to Special Forces HQ ("S" for Speskop).

Theron also confirmed here its supporting ecosystem of Daisy, otherwise known as the Zimbabwe Special Operations Unit (ZSOU), a stay-behind network of double-agent spies, saboteurs and assassins in the Frontline States (run by the Military Intelligence Directorate of Special Tasks' Region 2, "DST2"), and Project Departure ("D" run by the Chief of Staff Intelligence's Special Tasks Team, "CSI STT") which provided D40 with operational intelligence. 

Meanwhile, complicating matters, the National Intelligence Service ("NIS") ran several entirely separate hit teams like O16/01 and K31. The asterisk highlights "Neil, me + Loots" as the three men party to the 1979 decision to get rid of "excess" POWs by murdering them and dumping their bodies in the ocean from a light aircraft: D40/Barnacle founding Officer Commanding Major Neil Kriel, Colonel Johan Theron, and Major-General Fritz Loots, founding General Officer Commanding Special Forces. This diagramme helped confirm this pseudo-operations ecosystem - and evolved into the diagramme below which was published in the book.

The other notes on the page refer to D40's right to draw down on the quartermaster (QM) stores at Speskop - despite being disguised as a "civilian" real estate, then security company, to the fact that many of its AK47s used in pseudo-operations were of Romanian origin, that its Rensosterspruit headquarters, consisting of two farmhouses, was 5-10km north of Lanseria Airport from whence most death flights by "civilian" Pier Seneca II originated, and the fact that the unit often used stolen civilian cars which were later dumped. My book, Death Flight: Apartheid's Secret Doctrine of Disappearance (Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2020), has been very well-received in both legal, journalistic, academic, and ex-military circles and is already well on it's way to bestseller status.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Death Flight: Brief for Modern African and Military Historians

Michael Schmidt, left, interviews the late Sergeant-Major Trevor Floyd, one of the original "Dirty Dozen" founders of the Recces over 1970-1972, co-founder of D40 in 1979, and the unit's longest-serving member until the CCB was disbanded. Photographed on 20 October 2010 © Byron Kennedy

‘They must never return… This was the only answer.’ – Colonel Johan Theron, Delta 40 co-founder

‘Those were extremely sensitive operations that must never go in[to] any book…’ – Colonel Charl Naudé, commander of Project Barnacle, Delta 40’s successor

From veteran defence correspondent and best-selling non-fiction author Michael Schmidt comes the first-ever detailed military doctrinal study of the shrouded origins – reaching back to its roots in the black ops of the famed Selous Scouts – of one of South African Special Forces’ most controversial projects, the Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB). Military expert and author Jakkie Cilliers calls the book “Gripping and important… very well researched.”

For the student of modern African and military history, Death Flight: Apartheid’s Secret Doctrine of Disappearance (Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2020) is a unique doctrinal study of the origins, formation, and operations of D40 and its successors, Barnacle and the CCB, the civilian-clothed pseudo-operations unit tasked from April 1979 to July 1990 with the clandestine elimination of enemies targeted by the South African Defence Force (SADF) at the height of its Cold War powers. 

Under the overarching aegis of “total war” doctrine (André Beaufre, Algerian War), Schmidt’s focus is on the evolution of “pseudo-gang” doctrine (Ian Henderson, Mau Mau Uprising), especially within the Selous Scouts and its assigned Special Branch and chemical/biological warfare details during the Rhodesian Bush War, and their marked influence on South Africa’s Special Forces, colloquially known as the Recces. 

Schmidt theorises – in an monograph that will shortly follow the publication of the book – that such small-team pseudo-ops as conducted by the D40/Barnacle/CCB line form the micro-tactical end of the SADF’s military counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine which had at its other end the macro-tactical doctrine of nuclear deterrence.

The book, which is already provoking heated debate among former Recces and Military Intelligence officers, traces the Rhodesian imprint from early collaborations in the field between the two countries’ security forces from 1967 into the creation of D40 in 1979 and of the short-lived 3 and 6 Reconnaissance Commandos in 1980 until this influence was diluted with the expansion of Barnacle into the CCB over April 1987 to January 1988.

The text is based on rare and exclusive face-to-face interviews with veterans of the unit including its adviser Colonel Johan Theron who was Special Forces HQ Senior Staff Officer Counter-intelligence, Recce founding icon and the unit’s longest-serving member Sergeant-Major Trevor Floyd (who died shortly before the book’s release), and Barnacle’s second Officer Commanding, Colonel Charl Naudé. Also described is the shadowy pseudo-ops ecosystem that supported D40/Barnacle (Military Intelligence's Daisy, and Departure), as well as other pseudo-ops units and sub-unit elements that flanked it, run by the Security Branch (C1, better known as “Vlakplaas”), the Recce regiments, South West Africa Police (Koevoet), Eastern Cape Command (the Hammer Unit), and the National Intelligence Service. 

The core of Schmidt’s work is, however, D40/Barnacle/CCB’s most occluded and notorious function, Operation Dual, under which several hundred prisoners-of-war and other detainees were murdered and dumped in the oceans from a light aircraft over 1979-1987. This is the application by the SADF of what he terms the “secret doctrine” of death flights (Guillaume de Fontanges, Malagassy Insurrection) which was earlier practiced in Vietnam, Algeria, and Latin America. Argentine death flight investigator and author Miriam Lewin says the book is “Outstanding… packed with incredible scenes worthy of a spy novel, absolutely breathtaking.”

With interviews ranging from corporals through Recce regimental commanders and up to Deputy Chief of the Army level, plus the detailed reconstruction of pilot’s log-books, court testimony, and numerous other textual sources, the book also examines the varied attempts to deal with the CCB’s legacy into the 2000s and so will be of interest to transitional justice specialists too. Illustrated with organisational diagrams and rare photographs, this is a ground-breaking portrait of the men, mandates, matériel, evolution, and operations of apartheid’s most benighted killing machine.

Death Flight is available now from all quality bookstores in Southern Africa like Exclusive Books, and will be available internationally in both its print and e-book versions from platforms like Amazon from the end of July 2020.


Wednesday 22 July 2020

Death Flight: Apartheid's Secret Doctrine of Disappearance

Death Flight: Apartheid’s Secret Doctrine of Disappearance
 (Tafelberg, Cape Town, South Africa, 2020). My sixth book to be published is now in many stores like Exclusive Books and will be available for sale both in hard-copy and as an e-book from Amazon and other platforms from 30 July.

‘They must never return… This was the only answer.’ – Colonel Johan Theron, Delta 40 co-founder

In the late 1970s, as the apartheid government fought a desperate and dirty battle to stay in power, its security forces devised a chilling new tactic. A shadowy, top-secret unit called Delta 40 was established, tasked with the murder of hundreds of ANC, PAC, and SWAPO members. Victims’ bodies were flung from aircraft into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South West Africa. Death Flight provides the first detailed account of these sinister missions. Seasoned investigative journalist Michael Schmidt traces the journey of Neil Kriel, Delta 40’s first commander, from his boyhood in Rhodesia to his dark deeds as an apartheid operative in the 1980s. Schmidt also tracks down Kriel’s partner, Colonel Johan Theron, as well as several other veteran Special Forces operators. Based on the detailed analysis of flight logs, court records, military studies, and numerous interviews, Death Flight sheds shocking new light on one of apartheid’s darkest chapters.

‘Those were extremely sensitive operations that must never go in[to] any book…’ – Colonel Charl Naudé, commander of Project Barnacle, Delta 40’s successor

"This book will make your stomach turn. Do not avert your eyes… Death Flight shines a much-needed light on some of the darkest corners of a regime waging a desperate and dirty fight against the inevitable. It is the first detailed exploration of the horrendous practice of flinging murdered prisoners into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. By following the thread of apartheid’s violence into Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Angola, Swaziland, and Zambia, Death Flight elucidates the transnational nature of this crime against humanity. In so doing, it raises fascinating questions about the role of international law in the attainment of hitherto evasive justice… Death Flight is a daring mission to salvage the ghosts of those who were thought to have been eternally dissolved, by apartheid Special Forces, deep in the oceanic waters off our shores. It is destined to become an invaluable tool, connecting the dots in the quest to ensure that no victim of the deadly hand of apartheid is left unaccounted for." – Nkosinathi Biko, son of the murdered Steve Biko, and board member of the Steve Biko Foundation

"… full of information but also packed with incredible scenes, worthy of a spy novel… absolutely breathtaking. The similarity of illegal repression groups’ practices, organised from the state, between South Africa and Argentina has yet to be analysed. The fact that Rubén Chamorro, the director of the School of Navy Mechanics, site of the main clandestine detention centre, where 4,000 were assassinated in death flights, was appointed Navy Attaché in the Argentine Embassy in Pretoria back in 1979 cannot be a coincidence. At that time, across the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of anti-apartheid activists were being eliminated using exactly the same method… The lesson seems to be that no peace can be achieved without justice, and no justice can be achieved with oblivion." – Miriam Lewin, Argentine journalist, survivor of two illegal detention centers, and author of two books on the Argentine death flights, Skyvan and Final Destination

"Gripping and important… very well researched." – Jakkie Cilliers, military expert and author 

"An intriguing read that lays bare the inhumanity of Apartheid crimes. It does so despite the best efforts of the criminals to hide their crimes. May we never forget the lives lost in the struggle for our freedom." – Lukhanyo Calata, son of the murdered Fort Calata, journalist and co-author of the book My Father Died for This. 

“The work he has done before Death Flight speaks for itself, but with this book he has gone further, challenged not only himself but all of us in his quest for truth and in revealing injustice. What I appreciate about Michael’s work is that it is brave and uncompromising. He has been talking to me about his research and everything he uncovered while writing this book. I have been struck not only by his commitment to telling a part of history that most of us might find too uncomfortable to know, but also by how much of his heart has gone into this book. I hope everyone gets a chance to read Death Flight because we cannot afford not to know the details of this part of our history.  We cannot afford to look away from the lives we lost, but most importantly, we cannot afford to go on thinking that history can only be seen as black and white.”  – Kagiso Lesego Molope, South African novelist 


Foreword by Nkosinathi Biko

Prologue Disappeared men tell no tales 

PART I: The Rhodesian roots of SA’s dirty war 

1. A youth in the shadow of an insurgent war
2. From Pretoria bar to Rhodesian bush
3. Behold a pale horse: Rhodesia’s biochemical warfare
4. Horrors and honours
5. Neo-Nazis and mercenaries enter the fray
6. ‘The doctored bodies are in the back’

PART II: A secret killing machine takes shape 

7. Black-ops boon for South Africa
8. Recruiting a few hard men
9. Rhodesia’s revenge
10. Mobilising against the ‘Total Onslaught’ 
11. The ‘hunter-killers’ of Koevoet 
12. SA’s small-team recce pioneer 
13. ‘Ex-Rhodesians became cannon fodder’ 
14. Delta 40 embraces the ‘Dark Side’
15. The first death flight
16. ‘I never counted the bodies’
17. A death flight victim fights back
18. An old Recce gets blooded

PART III: The shackles come off: From Delta 40 to Barnacle

19. Mandate to kill
20. A war crime at Lanseria
21. Two hammers: Barnacle kills its own
22. The founding chief’s last flights
23. Barnacle in its prime
24. ‘Like a James Bond movie’
25. A changing of the guard
26. Barnacle’s role in the Maseru Raid
27. Small-teams success
28. Trained, betrayed, murdered
29. The Wonder Air death flight
30. A death flight over the Indian Ocean
31. Barnacle’s final small-teams mission

PART IV: Dramatic expansion under the CCB 

32. ‘The Organisation’ takes shape
33. Parallel pseudo-ops teams
34. The elimination of Victor de Fonseca 
35. The CCB’s Inner Circle
36. The Cessna Caravan death flight
37. Resistance by Speskop’s new Air Ops chief
38. The End of Operation Dual

PART V: Aftermath: Our Pact of Forgetting

39. The end of the Border War
40. The CCB shuts down
41. Shadow-boxing: The Trial of the Generals
42. Half-truths at the Truth Commission
43. Dual exposed: the Wouter Basson trial
44. (Re)disappearing the disappeared
45. Quietus: the founding chief’s exit


Saturday 11 July 2020

This Nothingness

This Nothingness
© Michael Schmidt, 2020

now this is something, this nothingness
if i suddenly stop, the afterecho of 
the wet suck of my boots is all there is
even the rasp of my breath wisps away
there's the ruin of a chinese lantern
some sort of unseen bird in the hedgerow
and the far cadence of a siren
like the tutored grief of a professional mourner
in twilit eighteenth-dynasty egypt
the sky a bruised smear, a beaten dancer
the television tower off-channel like alexanderplatz
the cycads silent detonations of rust
the buildings cavernous, unwelcoming
no-one lives here anymore
smirks the marlin
the fishermen have all drowned in their nets
they dream like garcía lorca
the bullet humming in his brain like a bee
of vines entangling our skyscrapers
of anacondas loving our dreams to death
were we beautiful in transit
were we something to behold
an ectoplasmic comet
barely there, and then gone?


Wednesday 3 June 2020

The Death in Illegal Custody of Shady Habash

22 May 2020

To His Excellency Omar Marwan, Egyptian Minister of Justice:

We, the undersigned, call for an open and transparent investigation into the jailing and death of Shady Habash, a 24-year-old filmmaker who died in custody earlier this month. Furthermore, we call on you to immediately release all artists and writers in pre-trial detention for merely exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Habash died while being held in the maximum-security Tora Prison on May 2, 2020. Arrested in March 2018, he had been in pre-trial detention for 793 days, despite the fact that Egyptian law only allows a maximum of two years’ pre-trial detention. Such detention is meant to be an exceptional measure of last resort to hold suspected criminals that authorities believe pose an imminent threat if released. All Habash did was direct a music video. His case never went to trial, nor was he charged with a crime.

The public prosecutor issued a statement on May 5 claiming that Habash died from drinking sanitizing alcohol, thinking it was water, and a state autopsy report on May 11 allegedly confirmed the cause of death as alcohol poisoning. Such reports have several apparent inconsistencies, including whether Habash knew he was drinking alcohol and when—or if—doctors decided to transfer him to an external hospital. Even if the reports are taken at face value, Tora Prison officials were apparently medically negligent in their lack of response. Habash’s fellow inmates reportedly yelled and made noise from their cell for hours while Habash was dying, to no avail. Habash’s family deserves the truth about the circumstances surrounding his death––and why he was illegally detained in the first place––which can only be achieved through a thorough and proper investigation.

Habash was one of eight people who were detained in March 2018 for their reported involvement in exiled musician Ramy Essam’s song, “Balaha,” which criticized the Egyptian government and was released in February 2018 on YouTube. However, Habash played no role in developing the song’s content and only directed the accompanying music video. We remain seriously concerned about the continued pre-trial detention of Mustafa Gamal, who merely verified Ramy Essam’s Facebook page, and Galal El-Behairy, who penned the lyrics to “Balaha” and remains behind bars, serving a three-year sentence.

It is our contention that these arrests were a grave infringement of freedom of expression, contrary to both international and Egyptian law. But these are not the only cases that––we fear––represent deepening repression of free expression and artistic freedom in Egypt. In recent years, we have seen a disturbing trend in the number of artists, journalists, and writers held in pre-trial detention in Egypt for expressing their views, including:

* Alaa Abdel Fattah, a 38-year-old blogger and activist detained in September 2019––after a number of past arrests––who remains in pre-trial detention today without charge. He is currently on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions, raising serious concerns about his well-being (UPDATE: Fattah recently suspended his 36-day hunger strike).

* Solafa Magdy, a 33-year-old freelance reporter arrested in November 2019 who remains in pre-trial detention today without charge, alongside her husband, journalist Hossam el-Sayyad.

* Shady Abouzeid, a 27-year-old satirist, video blogger, and former television personality, who is currently in pre-trial detention without charge.
While we also understand that your office is taking strides to ensure public health in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic does not justify the suspension of fair trial guarantees––as both the World Health Organization and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have affirmed. In fact, there is a profound public health argument toward releasing pre-trial detainees simply to lower the rate of coronavirus transmission in prison.

Habash’s case has sent a heartbreakingly clear message to artists and writers throughout Egypt: Independent expression may lead to years-long illegal detention, and even death, in custody.

Your Excellency, we strongly urge you to release all artists and writers currently held in pre-trial detention for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression, especially in light of COVID-19, which now ravages prisons around the world. Likewise, we demand a proper investigation into Shady Habash’s death and illegal detention. If he had been set free, he would still be with us today.


Africa Human Rights Network (AHRN)*
Aid A – Aid for Artist in Exile
Arterial Network*
Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI)
Artist Protection Fund
Artists at Risk (AR)
Art Moves Africa
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
Avant-Garde Lawyers (AGL)
Belady U.S.: An Island for Humanity
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Danish PEN
Danish Film Directors
Der Bundesverband Regie (BVR)
Directors Guild of Flanders | Unie van Regisseurs
Directors Guild of Norway
Documentarist ıstanbul Documentary Days
Dutch Directors Guild
English PEN
European Film Academy
European Music Council
Festival international Signes de Nuit
Hamburger Stiftung für politisch Verfolgte | Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted Persons
Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART)*
Humanists International
Human Rights Film Network (HRFN)
Index on Censorship
International Arts Rights Advisors (IARA)
International Documentary Association (IDA)
International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA)
International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH)
International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)
International Theatre Institute: Action committee for Artists Right
Ithaca City of Asylum
MENA Rights Group
Movies that Matter
National Association of Film Authors (ANAC)
Nhimbe Trust
On the Move (OTM)
PEN America*
PEN Georgia
PEN Lebanon
PEN International
PEN Nigeria
PEN Uganda*
Res Artis
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Safe Havens – the Malmö Meetings*
Société des Réalisateurs de Films (SRF)
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)*
Sundance Institute
Swedish PEN
Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
The Federation of European Film Directors (FERA)
The Federation of European Screenwriters (FSE)
The Museum of Movements*
Volksbühne Basel
Which Human Rights? Film Festival

* Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network member

Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network

HART Launches New Rapid Response Network to Support African Creatives

Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network will support artists and creative professionals who face threats to artistic expression

1 May 2020

Johannesburg – Today, in collaboration with nine partner organisations working in or on Africa, the Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART) co-launches Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network. The initiative aims to help defend artistic freedom of expression in the region and ensure that creatives at risk can live and work without fear of reprisal. Through enhanced collaboration between member organisations, the network will provide rapid responses to creatives at risk in Africa, coordinate adequate support when artists and cultural professionals on the continent face danger because of their work, and support regional safe havens.

“Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network is a vital project that will ensure that creatives under threat in Africa receive assistance, but will also work to prevent those threats in the future,” said Valsero, a Cameroonian rapper who spent almost nine months in detention under false charges in 2019. “As the director of an organisation that supports artists in Africa, I know we can turn to the network whenever we need further assistance or have gaps in the services we can provide. It gives me hope that no artist will go without help. Now is the time for organisations in Africa to work collaboratively and build solidarity across borders in order to provide a safety net for artists of all disciplines. The network is a vital step toward that cross-country unity in the protection of creative freedom in Africa.”

Though many organisations operate nationally, regionally, and internationally with mandates focused on artistic freedom and protecting creatives at risk in Africa, a lack of clear communication among those organisations often causes assistance work to be duplicated and precludes artists from receiving adequate support in time. 

The network brings together organisations from across Africa and the globe, helping to streamline communication, share expertise and insights, pool resources, monitor threats to artistic freedom and creative professionals, and coordinate more effective responses when assisting creatives at risk. This will be achieved through the creation of a streamlined communication mechanism that will allow like-minded member organisations to work in concert and more easily coordinate joint efforts when assisting artists at risk. 

The current organisational members of the Amani* network are: 

Africa Human Rights Network (AHRN)
Arterial Network
Artists at Risk Connection of PEN America
Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART)
The Museum of Movements
PEN Uganda
Safe Havens – the Malmö Meetings
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)

Michael Schmidt, HART’s Fellowship Co-ordinator, declared: “Artists and cultural and creative workers of all disciplines are often the leading lights of their respective cultures’ attempts to navigate an increasingly complex and challenging world. Across Africa, these are the people who most often challenge repressive regimes and bigoted societies, presenting visions of more harmonious possibilities – and finding themselves in danger as a result. Founded by organisations attending the 6th annual Safe Havens gathering of the global arts rights justice sector, held in Cape Town last year, Amani aims to improve Africa’s continental networks in the sector and sharpen the ability of its protective mechanisms to respond to and assist creatives at risk.”

“Amani comes at a crucial moment for artistic freedom around the globe and in Africa,” said Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection, a project of PEN America. “As authoritarian regimes in Africa crackdown on dissent, artists and creatives are bearing the brunt of the pressure, finding themselves at risk of threats, harassment, arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even death because of their creative work. Through the network, creatives at risk and the organisations that support them will not be alone. By contacting the network, artists and creative professionals can connect not with one but with numerous organisations across the continent and globe who can work together to more effectively ensure they get the support they need.”

Creative professionals at risk can fill out a secure form here, which is available in English and French. They can also contact the network via email at They will be asked to provide information about your circumstances, which will be treated in confidence and shared only through end-to-end encrypted platforms. ARC will then facilitate the activation of the network in order to provide the best response based on your needs.

* “Amani” means “peace” in Kiswahili, “strength” in Lhukonzo, and “hope” in Arabic.


En français: 

HART lance un nouveau réseau de réponse rapide pour soutenir les artistes africains

Amani: Le réseau africain de défense créative soutiendra les artistes et les professionnels de la création confrontés à des menaces pour leur expression artistique.

1 Mai 2020

Johannesburg – Aujourd'hui, en collaboration avec neuf organisations partenaires travaillant sur l'Afrique ou en Afrique, le Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART) lance Amani : Le réseau africain de défense créative. Cette initiative vise à aider à défendre la liberté d'expression artistique sur le continent et à garantir que les créateurs en danger puissent vivre et travailler sans crainte de représailles. Grâce à une collaboration renforcée entre les organisations membres, le réseau apportera des réponses rapides aux créatifs en danger en Afrique, coordonnera un soutien adéquat lorsque des artistes et des professionnels de la culture africains sont menacés en raison de leur activité artistique, et de soutenir les espaces de refuge régionaux.

"Amani : Le réseau africain de défense créative est un projet essentiel qui permettra d'assurer que les créateurs menacés en Afrique reçoivent l’aide dont ils ont besoin, mais qui s'efforcera également d’anticiper de futures violations", a déclaré Valsero, un rappeur camerounais qui a passé près de neuf mois en détention sous de fausses accusations en 2019. "En tant que directeur d'une organisation qui soutient les artistes en Afrique, je sais que nous pouvons nous nous tourner vers ce réseau à chaque fois que nous aurons besoin d’assistance supplémentaire ou que nous ne serons pas en mesure d'offrir ces services nous mêmes. Cela me donne l'espoir qu'aucun artiste ne sera ignoré. Le temps est venu pour les organisations en Afrique de travailler ensemble et de construire une solidarité au-delà des frontières afin d'offrir un système de protection aux artistes de toutes les disciplines. Le réseau est une étape essentielle vers cette unité entre pays dans la sauvegarde de la liberté de création artistique en Afrique".

Bien que de nombreuses organisations opèrent aux niveaux national, régional et international avec des mandats centrés sur la liberté artistique et la protection des créateurs en danger en Afrique, un manque de communication claire entre ces organisations entraîne souvent une duplication du travail d'assistance et empêche les artistes de recevoir à temps un soutien approprié.

Le réseau rassemble des organisations d'Afrique et du monde entier, ce qui permet de mieux coordonner la communication, de partager les compétences et les connaissances, de mettre en commun les ressources, de surveiller les menaces qui pèsent sur la liberté artistique et les professionnels de la création, et de répondre plus efficacement aux besoins des créateurs en danger. Pour ce faire, un mécanisme de communication simplifié sera créé, qui permettra aux organisations membres partageant les mêmes idées de travailler de concert et de coordonner plus facilement leurs efforts communs lorsqu'elles viennent en aide à des artistes en danger.

Les organisations membres du réseau Amani sont:

      ●           Africa Human Rights Network (AHRN)
●  Alert-Artist-Afrik
●  Arterial Network
●  Artists at Risk Connection of PEN America
●  Freemuse
●  Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART)
●  The Museum of Movements
●  PEN Uganda
●  Safe Havens – the Malmö Meetings

Michael Schmidt, coordinateur des bourses HART a déclaré : "Les artistes et créateurs de toutes les disciplines ainsi que les professionnels de la culture sont souvent les figures de proue de leurs cultures respectives pour naviguer dans un monde de plus en plus complexe et stimulant. Dans toute l'Afrique, ce sont eux qui défient le plus souvent les régimes répressifs et les sociétés sectaires, présentant des visions de possibilités plus harmonieuses - et qui se trouvent de ce fait en danger. Fondée par des organisations lors de la 6ème réunion annuelle des Safe Havens sur les droits artistiques dans le monde, qui s'est tenue au Cap l'année dernière, Amani vise à améliorer les réseaux continentaux africains dans le secteur et à renforcer la capacité de ses mécanismes à répondre et à aider les créateurs en danger."

"Amani arrive à un moment déterminant pour la liberté artistique dans le monde entier et en Afrique", a déclaré Julie Trébault, directrice d’Artists at Risk Connection, un projet de PEN America. "Alors que les régimes autoritaires en Afrique répriment la dissidence, les artistes et les créateurs sont victimes d'une forte pression, se trouvant harcelés et risquant les menaces, le l'arrestation, l'emprisonnement, la torture et même la mort a cause de leur travail artistique. Grâce à ce réseau, les créateurs en danger et les organisations qui les soutiennent ne seront pas seuls. En contactant le réseau, les artistes et les professionnels de la création se connectent non pas avec une mais avec de nombreuses organisations sur le continent et dans le monde entier. Celles-ci pourront ainsi travailler de concert pour leur offrir le soutien dont ils ont besoin de manière plus efficace”.

Les professionnels en danger peuvent remplir ici un formulaire sécurisé, disponible en anglais et en français. Ils peuvent également contacter le réseau par courrier électronique à l'adresse Il leur sera demandé de fournir des informations sur les circonstances, qui seront traitées de manière confidentielle et communiquées uniquement par le biais de plateformes cryptées. L'ARC facilitera ensuite l'activation du réseau afin de fournir la meilleure réponse en fonction de leurs besoins.


Sunday 8 March 2020

The Scarlet Thread

"Where is the string that Theseus laid?
Find me out this labyrinth place."
- Bauhaus, In the Flat Field, 1980

In mythology, The Scarlet Thread refers primarily to the ball of red twine given to Theseus, the Athenian hero, by the Cretan princess Ariadne to enable him to find his way back out of the Labyrinth after fighting and killing the carnivorous Minotaur who devours both men and women. 

What is occluded is that the tale is a portmanteau: on the surface, a heroine helps a hero defeat a monster and escape from a place of disconcerting shadow and dire threat; but the deep maze of the Labyrinth itself provides the necessary disorienting full immersion in the “little death” of initiation.

As an ancient initiatory tomb, with which the mystery schools of the Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, Mayans, Moche and Incas approximated death, the Labyrinth was also an initiatory womb out of which the seeker was resurrected, mastering their primordial self by reaffirming their ties to it.

This vermilion binding to the past also anticipates the future; so the Hindus wear the red Lakshmi string on their wrists to symbolise their connection to divine providence, while for the Chinese, a red thread around the ankles symbolises people who are destined to meet at a significant future juncture.

The Scarlet Thread is not a means of escaping one’s fears, but a bloodline maintaining one’s umbilical link to the netherworld, as in Pan's Labyrinth where the red ribbon of blood running from Ofelia's nose as she lies dead – in alternate reality enthroned – connects her to the navel of the Underworld that she entered by initiatory contests, and won by sacrifice.

So, this multidisciplinary online project, The Scarlet Thread, is a creative near-future conjuncture of significant talents between women and men mastering their antediluvian selves and guiding them through the maze of life, while maintaining their illuminated bonds with the “Western Lands” of a death that is ever-present within us.