A random collection of things that inspire, interest and trouble me
from the world of design, politics, art and culture.

Beautiful words, terrible reality

Posted: March 27th, 2010 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, war, writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

One reading a piece by Arundahti Roy in the Guardian today I was left with the same bittersweet feeling I always get when reading her work. Such beautiful words for such terrible realities. I was pleased to see that the Guardian had posted a video of Arundahti Roy reading from her essay, as hearing her speak is so powerful. Unfortunately this time the quality of the video is poor, and the usual resonant power of her voice has been lost. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak live, I highly recommend it.

I note that the Guardian has referred to Roy as a author and activist. I recall her questioning the validity of this statement: “It seems to suggest that it isn’t the business of writers to look deeply into the society they live in. It reduces what a writer is as well as an activist, suggesting they’re somewhat unidimensional,” [from here]

The Guardian essay is about the tribal Indian people who are fighting against the better armed Indian government for the rights to their homeland. This is an excerpt:

“Why must they die? What for? To turn all of this into a mine? I remember my visit to the opencast iron-ore mines in Keonjhar, Orissa. There was forest there once. And children like these. Now the land is like a raw, red wound. Red dust fills your nostrils and lungs. The water is red, the air is red, the people are red, their lungs and hair are red. All day and all night trucks rumble through their villages, bumper to bumper, thousands and thousands of trucks, taking ore to Paradip port from where it will go to China. There it will turn into cars and smoke and sudden cities that spring up overnight. Into a “growth rate” that leaves economists breathless. Into weapons to make war.”

Using graphics and photos to report and investigate the Darfur genocide

Posted: November 5th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: infographics, photography, reportage, war | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Last night we went to a talk at the Information Design Society delivered by Chris Campbell who creates infographics for the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It was a very interesting (but upsetting) look at how design is being used to aid analysis. He creates maps, timelines, and other graphics which are used in investigating war crimes. Since being employed at the Court he has worked on war crime trials from central Africa including Darfur and the Congo.

Campbell was initially employed by the Court on a short-term contract as they did not really understand how an information designer could assist their work. In fact, the first job he was given was to design some “Wanted Dead or Alive” posters as they thought that was the sort of “fun” job that a designer was interested in. The Court has since been convinced of the merit of his work as they are able to use his maps and timelines to succinctly outline the scope and scale of war crimes that would take hours if delivered orally.

All of the work he was able to show us was distinctly monotone. Campbell explained that this was a carefully considered choice as to use too much colour (especially red) would be thought of as too emotive. Sober design is design is respected, colourful and bright design is flippant and not suitable for the court. He is cognizant that by reducing murders, rapes, and mutilations down to a set of soberly rendered graphics takes the ‘human’ element out of the story. He has therefore started to add photographs to the graphics so that the human scale of the atrocities can be felt by the Court.

The photographs he showed us were taken by Brian Stiedle, a former US marine captain who was employed by the African Union to document the conflict. Campbell wondered how he could still be alive, but he is, and there is a film out about his experience. The film is called The Devil Came on Horseback which is the literal translation of the word Janjaweed which is given to the horseriding militia who support the military in carrying out the acts of genocide.