Tag Archives: south america

Our Best Revenge: Ecuador’s Feminist Movement & What They’re Up Against

hey folks, I wrote about the feminist movement in Ecuador and Marcha de las Putas, the country’s response to Slut Walk, for Bitch Media:

click on image to read article in full
click on image to read article in full

and in case you missed it, Everywhere All The Time was profiled in Feministing

click on image to read article in full
click on image to read article in full

Next time I post, it’ll probably be from my new temporary home, NYC. If you’re there and wanna network or have a drink or something, get at me.

Disrupting the Dominant Voice of Travel Writing #Dispatch: Brian Kamanzi

I’VE BEEN CHATTING with travel writers, activists and personalities of color about their experiences navigating the media industry and the globe with an intersectional lens, while exploring themes like power, privilege, place, and identity, themes that are rarely touched on in the mainstream travel space. Read previous #Dispatches here.

15845171954_73ae4dfe20_z
Brian Kamanzi is a Cape Town-based spoken word poet and staff writer for Abernathy Magazine committed to the social upliftment of his fellow people. He is a budding Pan-Africanist eager to make contributions to the movement and form cross-cultural connections with others in the struggle. Follow his writing online and on Twitter @BrianlKamanzi.

Bani Amor:  Tell us about yourself. How would you describe your work, your identities, and how they interact?

Brian Kamanzi:  My name is Brian Ihirwe Kamanzi, I grew up in town called Mthatha in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. My father is a patriotic Ugandan national and my mother is a South African Indian. My identities lie tied in between that of my parents. I feel an affinity for Uganda; I see myself in the people. At the same time, just by looking at me, you can see that India is represented from the tones of my skin to the darkness of my eyes that I have inherited from my beautiful mother. I have struggled between these identities.

Growing up I never felt like I had ownership of the South African identity. I still have difficulty claiming it for my own to this day. I feel like the gift of my ancestry has shown me just how arbitrary national borders are. I am an African – emphatically so. My work, through writing and  spoken word is an effort to assert myself in a world that denies me.

I write to seize control. I write because I see my story, my feelings tied with those who are denied in their own ways. I hope for my work to form part of a broader project. A Pan-African project that will give voice to the former souls who were denied that choice.

Bani:  Writing, in that sense, is kind of an aggressive act, don’t you think? I think Didion said that. I definitely think of my writing in that context, however, voices that have been historically silenced might not think like that. I think it’s something writers of color try to balance in a way

Brian:  Without question. This is an act of aggression. This is an acutely political act. I can no longer be silenced. I take great strength from the strong people all over the world who share their stories everyday. We needn’t be overlooked any longer. I have to believe that. You know?

Bani:  Def. Marginalized writers tend to have these internalized voices in their heads, the Dominant Voice, doubting that they even have the right to write. Does that make sense?

Brian: Oh yes. That rings so true. In fact I feel that pressure from other marginalised voices as well. There is a sense that you’re not good enough if you’re not a budding Toni Morrison. There is so much doubt. One is afraid to speak about Africa if you haven’t read all the major authors. It’s silencing and it’s a battle to look past it.

There is a fear that we are not good enough and I can’t deny that I don’t feel it but again I take so much strength from seeing the ordinary folk who express themselves through writing. The internet has really been such a gift for that.

20140419_100424

Bani: I struggle a lot with self-doubt and my work and it’s a real killer. You’re about to put pen to page and then this invisible hand stops you. All writers/creators deal with this, but for multiply-marginalized folks, it’s epidemic. Finding work that speaks to me (not at me) is like panning for gold. And what I don’t find in books, I see in social media. It’s rejuvenating.

Brian:  I feel very much the same. There is a raw sense that these are people’s emotions. Virtually unedited. Live. If not alive.  It’s incredibly affirming. It also gives the words so much dimension. I mean take your writing for example. I can only dream of Ecuador but to read your piece and to have an interaction with you about your work is amazing. It makes me feel like I can reach you. It makes me feel like indeed we are connected. Those subtle everyday thoughts from folks on widely different contexts show us that in fact maybe we aren’t all that different.

Bani:  Yup. I didn’t really care about social media until I (recently) realized how much it’s used as a tool for cross-cultural communication, allowing us to engage in conversation with other disenfranchised people, and allowing us to organize across our differences.

Brian:  I really agree on the social media front, the amount of intersectional feminists on Twitter for example is phenomenal and I really enjoy their engagements online. There is so much scope for cross-cultural dialogue.

Bani: I wanted to talk about your creative influences, folks – whether in print or not – who have helped you “find your voice.”

Brian: When it comes to creative writing, there are two figures that really gave me the strength to assert myself – Malcolm X and Steve Biko. Particularly Malcolm. His confidence, tactfulness and almost rhythmic way of speaking & writing leaves me smiling and with a fire in my chest. A fire that makes me want to raise my voice. Be productive.

With Poetry, Mama Maya Angelou is such a muse. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings hit me in places I never knew existed. Talking about Pan-African feminism, Minna Salami who is also a blogger and a writer has been such a great affirmative find as well. Straight talking, direct in a way that makes me feel like she’s talking to me. Encouraging me to do better. It’s amazing.

Bani: Mami handed me her copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was 13…and the rest is history.

Brian:  Haha what an age to read his words! Malcolm is one of those figures that makes you feel uneasy about the way things are. It feels more real. Uncomfortable but closer to the truth.

IMG_20140106_103143

Bani:  Let’s get into travel writing. What are your thoughts on the genre?

Brian: I think that particularly in our generation, where things have opened up globally, somewhat, there is a feeling that we are now allowed to dream and have wanderlust for far away spaces and places. Unfortunately many of the stories that, personally, I’ve been fed, are told by travellers who don’t know a thing about my experience. They don’t have the capacity to experience Ghana or India the way that I do. So many stories in travel writing speak from a place of abject objectivity where all else in front of his gaze is granted colour and is sexually exoticised at his will for his aesthetic function.

I see the need for a shift and it is definitely happening. A shift that allows a more diverse array of writers to share their experiences of different contexts that doesn’t feel…let me call it “colonial.”

There is almost an invisible hierarchy of experiences. One goes to Europe for the “culture” and one goes to Africa to self-actualise in Nature. I don’t see myself in either experience. I have no desire to conquer the savanna with trophies of lions. At the same time I see no reason to hail the cultures of Europe above the great multitude that are in front of me right here. At home.

I love reading travel writing, though when it’s done through an appreciative lens. There is really nothing more satisfying than imagining far away lands and different ways of life. It sets the mind on fire. Everyone should be able to experience that. And the next generation of travel writers will open up the doors for experiences that dominant voices will never be able to hear until they check themselves.

Bani:  You touched on the ‘marketing of place’, how we’re sold these concepts of places – Europe=culture, Africa=nature, etc. Travel writing has been and continues to be the way this marketing – branding, really – gets out to the masses. How do we disrupt that tradition? I’m very much a part of the movement trying to get more people of color to share their travel experiences, but how do we do so in a way that is not so colonialist as the genre generally is?

Brian: I think it’s a fundamental problem. When we frame our travel stories as products to be marketed in a conscious manner we are commodifying each others experiences. When writers of colour engage in travel writing we have to resist the trap of emulating the existing trends. As I understand it the goal is not to colour code the status quo – it’s to change it.

The problem is that the broader tourism industry feeds off limited harmful, frankly colonial, perceptions of cultures because at the moment economic and political capital is still very much tied along those lines. Travel writing from writers of colour then must surely act disruptively in that space. We are fighting against the very exploitation of our identities. For many of us we are fighting for a right to exist in the globalised world beyond the exotic tourist depictions that our nations now represent. Travel writers of colour must write to protect spaces like Thailand. Like Zanzibar. Spaces that become overrun by wealthy white folk from across the globe who run off to the 3rd world whenever the exchange rate is low.

15845171954_73ae4dfe20_z

Bani:  Word, word, word. So we’re gonna wrap up. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?

Brian:  Well in closing I’d like to mention the need for coalitions. I think we need to forge strategic connections across the globe and open our homes to one another to break the cycles that are really not working in our favour. In this the age of information there are really all the means and opportunities in the world.

For example, Africans and Latin Americans have so much shared history. We need to arrange more opportunities for us to meet and exchange stories. We need more deliberate attempts to speak to one another. To engage with one another. To welcome one another as the family that we are.

That’s my hope for this generation of writers. Let’s see how things unfold.

The Grand Canyon on Acid and What’s What in Quito

hey people, thanks to everyone who participated in Outbounding’s discussion on race and travel writing last week, even the ones who were annoying as hell. faithful readers of this site will probably recognize my old piece The Grand Canyon on Acid (about drugs, birthdays and backpacking) which was finally published on Paste Travel the other day. on the front page today is my destination article on Quito, Weekend Layover. most of you know that service writing is def not my style, but talking about where to eat and what to do in Quito is so easy for me that i said what the hell, lemme sell out. mama’s got bills to pay. click on the images to read the articles in full and share them if ya like.

click on the image to read full article
click on the image to read full article
click on image to read full article
click on image to read full article

Stay True to Your Roots #Dispatch: Miyuki Baker

 

I’VE BEEN CHATTING with travel writers, activists and personalities of color about their experiences navigating the media industry and the globe with an intersectional lens, while exploring themes like power, privilege, place, and identity, themes that are rarely touched on in the mainstream travel space. Read previous #Dispatches here.

cropped-582542_10101055136953983_1574274934_n
Miyuki is a resident of the place where circles overlap. As a queer, multi-racial/lingual female mixed-media artist, she is happiest when working with people who embrace intersectionality and creativity. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 2012, she received the Watson Fellowship to travel the world in search of queer artists and activists and made 8 zines highlighting what she learned under her publishing house Queer Scribe Productions.  She is a freelance artist, journalist, barber, translator, seamstress, lecturer and performer. Contact her at heymiyuki at gmail dot com.

Bani Amor: Tell us about yourself. How would you describe what you do?

Miyuki Baker: I’m a queer woman of color artist, activist and explorer.  I make things and tell stories in the hopes that they will shed light on our shared humanity.

BA: How does place influence/factor into your work?

MB: Since I’ve been on the road since May 2012, I’d say place influences my work quite a bit. I feel like the work of documenting and chronicling what I see and experience in new places is heavily affected by the fact that I’m parachuting in and then leaving a couple of months later. It forces me to make intense connections quickly and try to minimize the feeling of dislocation for myself.  It makes me think about the outsider/insider perspective a lot and to be sensitive to/respectful of the local politics of the place I’m in.

BA: Tell us about Queer Scribe Productions and the International Art/Activism Zine Project.

MB: In May 2012, I started a 14 month trip around the world to make zines about queer art and activism. I ended up going to 15 countries and making zines about 8 of them which you can see in full color at queerscribe.com I was particularly interested in finding how the local culture, politics, history, geography etc. affected the media used by artists and activists in queer communities. For example, the opening of a queer film festival in Bangalore, India has encouraged many more locals to try their hands at film making.

I also performed in most of the countries I visited as a way to give back to communities, but most of the time I was trying to meet as many different kinds of queer artists and activists, attending events, lectures and festivals.

BA: Did you encounter any challenging conditions while traveling with your project?

MB: Initially it was that I had my camera, laptop and cell phone stolen within the first couple of months of my trip. I’d say I got over each episode pretty quickly but there were moments where I wanted to put more into the zines but couldn’t because I didn’t have a personal computer. I made all of the zines on borrowed computers or in internet cafes. Ultimately, it was because I didn’t have an electronic barrier that I was able to jump into more social situations so it was a blessing in disguise.

Other than that, my first couple of weeks in Buenos Aires were rough because despite how overt gay culture is there, it felt extremely commercial and not at all what I was expecting. It took me a lot longer there than anywhere else to find any radical queer activists who welcomed me.

BA: What did you learn about international queer communities, if anything?

MB: I’d hope that I learned something about international queer communities after 14 months of focusing on it 😉 It’s almost too daunting to say anything in such a small space but I’ll say that I learned the importance of both staying true to your roots (or revitalizing your roots/indigenous traditions) and also adapting. Things are always in flux but I found the sticky tentacles of colonization contaminating most places. In those situations you just have to find a happy medium! And many vibrant queer communities around the world were doing just that 🙂

 India Zine
BA: Why did you choose zines to be the medium for your project? How would it have been different otherwise?

MB: I specifically chose zines for their DIY and low-budget nature (except the time when I printed in color–eek!). I wanted a medium that wouldn’t be pretentious and could be easily/cheaply distributed.  I found that performing was great on site, but to share different stories, I can’t imagine using anything other than zines.

BAWhich QTPOC* artists/writers/projects inspire your work? What would you like to see more of?

Aami Atmaja, Tania de Rozario, Louise Chen, Elisha Lim, Aryakrishnan Ramakrishnan…
I’d like to see more collaborations!

BA: Anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Subscribe to my illustrated blog at heymiyuki.wordpress.com where I draw and write about travel, art and food every week 🙂

Also, I’m raising funds to become a yoga teacher. Visit my campaign at igg.me/at/miyukiyoga to see my amazingly edited (just kidding, I did it on iMovie) film and support me in exchange for zines, custom portraits, prints and more!

Germany The Queer Edition
* QTPOC – Queer and/or Trans People of Color

Help Me Get to VONA!

hey folks,

so today is the first day of my Indiegogo campaign, which I’m launching to help me get to VONA this June!

Click Here to Donate!!! 

About Me

I’m a queer, disabled, mestiza travel writer, photographer and editor from Brooklyn by way of Ecuador who has been transient for about 11 years. I fund my adventures by crafting non-commercial indie travel media at the crux of race, place and adventure, but for the past 3 years, all my cash saved from dead-end jobs has gone to paying for my extensive medical care.

About VONA

VONA/Voices is the nation’s only multi-genre workshop for writers of color, and I’m lucky to have been accepted to join in this June! I come from a single-parent, working-class, immigrant household in New York, and opportunities like this are rare, Even if I had finished high school and gone to college, I still wouldn’t have gotten a writing coach of color who focuses on travel! Spaces like these are really important for people like me in this white, straight, male-dominated industry.

The Gist

Since 2011, I’ve been struggling with chronic pain in the right side of my body, emanating from tears in my shoulder. Without access to health insurance in the States, I’ve been traveling back and forth to Ecuador (where my family is from) for treatment, and underwent surgery last Fall. Though it was unsuccessful, I still owe over $1,000 for it, and continue to pay out of pocket for medical expenses. Since the pain has expanded toward my right hand, writing for more than 30 minutes a day (as well as basic functions) has become impossible, meaning I can’t work for a living. I’m stuck in a situation where I can’t pay for my healthcare and can’t get better without it. Lame!

But I’m not asking for help with my medical costs. A flight from Ecuador to California runs about $700 (with luck) and though the fine folks at VONA have fronted half of my tuition in financial aid, I still owe them $300. I’m asking for at least $900 to help with these costs – but anything at all would be mad mad mad appreciated!

In exchange, I’m offering my zines, photos and writing services as perks!

The Deal

Guess what: being super critical of the tourism industry and writing weird travelogue-type creative non-fiction does not have me rolling in dough. I’m ultra-niche – queer, mestiza, broke, disabled, female; I travel the world alone and give no fucks. I’m pretty shameless about the way I live my life, but recognize when it’s time to ask for some help!

What’s important to remember is that voices like mine are squelched every single day, that there aren’t many folks doing what I’m doing. Things can and should be different. This is where you come in!

Other Ways You Can Help

Let’s be real – I’ve seen a lot of campaigns like this that I couldn’t afford to support due to lack of funds, but there are other ways you can help. Share, like and comment on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and Tumblr, purchase a zine on Etsy, follow, like, comment and reblog my stuff on WordPress, or shoot me an e-mail at heyitsbani at gmail dot com. Shout out and connect!

Click Here to Donate!!!

Super Mega Ultra

Hey people! I’ve got so much to share. First off, I landed back in the motherland (Ecuador) last Tuesday night after 7 tough months of Polar Vortex Lyfe in NYC, and couldn’t be happier to be back. After some much needed beach time and catching up with the fam, I’ll be renting a room in Quito for 2 months – so hit me up if you’ve got any leads.

Secondliest, I’m happy to announce that the fine folks at VONA/Voices have accepted me into their program in Berkeley this June! VONA is the nation’s only multi-genre workshop for writers of color and this is the first year they’ve got a travel writing track going on (with Faith Adiele) so I was quick to apply. Other writers I’m mad about – like Staceyann Chin, Patricia Smith and Junot Diaz – will be there too. So I’m stoked.

My person on the back of a truck, circa 2012
My person on the back of a truck, circa 2012

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for a while, then you know that I’m almost always broke. For about 3 years now, I’ve been struggling with a chronic pain condition in my shoulder, and I’m here in Ecuador to make use of the healthcare – which still costs quite a bit – and for which I’ll be paying out of pocket. I had surgery last fall (which I’m still paying for) but unfortuntaely, it wasn’t successful, and the pain has extended to my right hand, making regular writing (and therefore making money through work) pretty impossible. But I’m trying to stay positive.

The Fine Folks at VONA were able to grant me some financial aid (THANKS!) but I’m still struggling to pay the remainder of tuition and buy a plane ticket out there. I’ll be starting an Indiegogo campaign in one week to raise the funds to get me there, and any help would be super mega ultra appreciated!

I’ll be launching the campaign in conjunction with an interview series where I discuss race, place, media, belonging, community, diaspora, exile and adventure with other travel writers and bloggers of color and poc thinking about these things, right here on the wonderful platform that is this website. So if you want in, please get in touch. Muy exciting!

13717598395_21c80ee1ff_z
“The Struggle”, from Philly’s Magic Gardens

In other news, the second issue of my travel zine Everywhere All The Time is out and available for order on my Etsy shop Boom For Real Press, so pick ’em up! If you ordered the first issue, waited a long time to receive it and I promised you the second issue free, hit me up! I’m also up for trades (anything related to travel, disability, qpoc lyfe, or latinx shit is cool!)

Finally, you should check out The Body of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a profile I recently wrote for Nowhere Magazine’s blog about how place permeated the artist’s work.

And that’s all for now. Stay tuned with all the goings on going on on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter @bani_amor. Say that 5 times fast.

Everywhere All The Time #2 Now Available on Etsy!

Everywhere All The Time #2: Bright Sunny Days, Dark Sacred Nights is the second issue of my travel media zine featuring stories from a year spent traveling and living in Ecuador. From hiking in the northern highlands to a shack on the Pacific coast, the zine spans terrain, time and mood through text and black and white photos. The writing is influenced by my identities – queer, mestiza, POC, feminist, writer, weirdo – and is cut by quotes from Junot Díaz, Gloria Anzaldúa and James Baldwin. 36 pages, typewritten/handwritten and some computer writing, black and white with color cover. Order here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.