Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Ballet Raices de Colombia. Harbourfront, Toronto

    ‘The old times were poor times. That was when I was a child and we lived in a small village far in the north of the country. Our house was made of clay and its roof was covered with straw. Our beds were also made of clay. We had fireplaces under the beds to keep us warm at night. We used sticks for the fire and they were very precious as the temperature at night would fall below -20 degrees Celsius. In order not to freeze we had to keep the fire all night.
    There were also four wells in our village. The water was very sweet then. Never have I drunk water as tasty as the water in my village.
    Nowadays, the water in my village is not sweet any more. It tastes bitter. Maybe the source is drying up? Maybe the people are getting rich?
    Recently, the villagers have built houses that are made of brick and tiles. The villagers have cars and telephones. The rats became very big and the flies are very fat. The people are rich now.’

Monday, November 29, 2010


Tamil demonstration, Yonge Street, Toronto, 2009

    ‘I was a Tiger. Why I joined the insurgents? Are you sure you want to know that? Did you see a human brain? I did. My next door neighbour was wounded in a military raid on our village. The top of his head got blown off.  I could see his brain. I took off my shirt and I covered his brain with it. What happened to my neighbour? He died.
    One day another man in our village was shot by government soldiers. He was wounded in the abdomen. His intestines were coming out. I was trying to put them back into his belly but I could not. That man also died.
    I was very young then. I wanted to protect my people so I joined the Tigers. Although I was with them for three years, I did not kill any soldiers as at that time they did not attack our land. If they had attacked us, I would have killed many of them. I know how to use fifteen kinds of weapons.’

    Aththan is drawing an accurate picture of a hand gun and instructs two other young men how to use it. One of the men shows me a photograph on the front page of a newspaper. I do not recognize what is in the picture. ‘Opium,’ he says. He knows its price.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Song

Ballet Raices de Colombia. Harbourfront. Toronto

    The boys get up very early in the morning. The weather is beautiful. The birds are singing. The boys are hungry. It is the time of famine. There is no rice to eat. The boys are best friends. They have no brothers and they have no sisters, but they have each other. For a long time there has been nothing to eat in the village of one hundred houses. The village is located in a green valley in the mountains. People are very poor there.
     The boys head for the mountain. Today is the day. The sky is so clear. They climb the mountain as they did so many times before. The stones are hurting their feet.  They want to see the island. They want to see the island of plenty. The island, where there is a lot of food to eat and toys to play with. Both boys are dreamers. They want to cross the ocean and live on the island. They are very bright and very strong.
    One day the younger one leaves the village and heads for the island. A year passes and the older one follows him.
    The sky is clear. The air is crisp. The birds are singing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Chiapas, Zapatista villge of Oventic, 2007

    ‘Our people are good people. Our people are very innocent.  Our people are trusting.
     During the jihad, some Arabs came to our country to fight the Russians. We were very grateful to them and we treated them like our brothers.
    One day two Arabs came to our village and asked for the permission to marry our two girls. They presented themselves as good Muslims promising to take their teenaged wives with them to their home countries. We had faith in them so we gave them our girls. They married them and we all danced at their wedding.
    After a few months they left our village for their country abandoning their young wives pregnant and penniless.
    A year later another Arab came to our village. He went to another family asking for the permission to marry their daughter. He was asked to wait for the decision when the father of the family went to see the chief of the village. The chief invited the Arab to his home and asked him if it was true that he wanted to marry the girl from their village. The man said it was. At that moment the chief  had the man tied up. His tongue was pulled out and cut off. The man was hanged by his legs with his head down. His tongue was dangling on a string next to him so that he could look at it.’
    Abdul is laughing at the love story he has just told.  Today it is Valentine’s Day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Black Sheep

Ballet Raices de Colombia, Harbourfront, Toronto

    Fatima’s hair is black. Her eyes are sparkling with joy. She is seven and she is already a little shepherdess. In her village everybody has to work. Little children  have an important job to do as well. Fatima’s job is very important. She tends to twenty sheep.  They are beautiful. Some of them are white, some are grayish white, and two of them are pinch black. The black sheep are twins. They are the little lambs that the shepherdess likes most. She likes playing with them. She is a child and they are children. They keep her company all the time. The tiny little girl loves the blue sky, the wind and the green grass.
     Suddenly, one of the black lambs runs towards the river. She jumps into it and starts swimming. The little black lamb enjoys swimming very much. She has just found her new freedom and the water is carrying her. The little black lamb is further and further away. Finally, she lands safely on the other bank of the river.
    Her twin sister looks scared. She does not know what to do. She is very frightened and confused. She wants to be with her sister. She loves her. They have been inseparable since they were born. They have never been apart but the river is wide and the water is deep. The little black lamb jumps into the water.  She finds out that she can swim like her twin sister. She enjoys swimming as her sister did, and she continues swimming. The current takes her safely to the other bank of the river, to her sister. The two black sheep are united.       
    Fatima, the little shepherdess, can see only two little black heads in the high grass.  The heads are very close to each other.
    The farmers will have to walk five kilometers to the nearest bridge to bring the lost sheep back. They will not dare to jump into the river. The current has taken many lives in the village.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Egyptian demonstration, Dundas Square, Toronto, 2011

    'I am Tobias. I come straight from the pages of the Bible. I am not afraid of dying. The last time I was afraid was when I was in a cave in the Sahara desert. The human smuggler noticed the light of a cell phone in the hand of one of us. We were fifteen men hoping to cross the border. Although we had already paid our fee, the smuggler wanted the phone. The owner hid it. As a punishment, we were abandoned in the cave. We had no water. We had no food. We fought over an unwashed plate; the winner got  to lick it clean. We wrote love messages to our families on the wall of the cave. We wanted our loved ones to know we were thinking about them when we were dying. The smuggler came back after three days. Later, in Israel, I was very happy when I worked sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. I felt God was with me.'
    Tobias crosses himself with his left hand three times.