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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  April 15, 2022 12:30am-1:01am BST

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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk with me, zeinab badawi, in nairobi. my guest is one of kenya's ground—breaking cultural figures, njoki ngumi. she abandoned a promising career in medicine to help set up an arts collective. she believes that creative endeavours can help transform societies. but one of the collective�*s films exploring homosexuality was banned in kenya.
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gay sex is a crime here. so how far is she shifting opinions? dr njoki ngumi, welcome to hardtalk. thank you so much for having me, zeinab. it's lovely to be here. you studied medicine at nairobi university. you worked as a doctor for three years and then you gave up practising medicine. why? i really dislike the term "give up". ifeel like i kind of opened the hospital doors and went out into the world, where a lot of other things were waiting, including patients, at times when they are not necessarily having to come and perform. being a patient in the hospital, people are sick everywhere and doctors can be useful everywhere, not just in the hospital. but look, people are sick everywhere. and you know how the kenyan health service has taken a real hammering during the pandemic. two of yourfriends
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died from covid... yeah. ..and the country needs doctors. let me give you a figure. there are 26 doctors for every 100,000 people in kenya. the european union average is 336 per 100,000. your country needs you to work as a doctor. i don't think my country can force me to work as a doctor, and i think there's a large number of doctors who are currently being forced to work as doctors because they probably didn't work on finding something else that they wanted to do, or that they feel kind of trapped. and when i talk to my colleagues, because we're all in one big whatsapp group, kind of happily sending patients to one another, doing referrals, finding out if there's a patient in a different town across the country. when i talk to my colleagues, a lot of them are exhausted. they're incredibly burnt out. there's a few people who are happy, but they're not many. and i think beyond just doctors, there's also nurses. there's also wider health care personnel. there's a lot of them,
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not only notjust happiness, but they're unable to practise at the level that they should be practising. and remember that, again, this is the same country that brought in personnel from cuba while other personnel were here and able to take on this role. so there's a lot of complexity. but knowing all that... there's a lot of complexity... ok, i don't want to press it too much. but knowing all that, you don't regret your choice, not working in medicine? not at all. i feel like the people who do medicine should wake up every day, really desiring to only be there and not anywhere else. and for me, i always had dreams that were kind of beyond the hospital doors, as it were. 0k. beyond the hospital doors for you meant the world of the arts, film—making and all the rest of it. yeah. let me give you a quote from the internationally acclaimed chinese artist ai weiwei in a recent interview. he said, "art cannot be separated from its "social function. in chinese tradition, the artist "is a scientist, a scholar and a thinker."
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so in what way do you believe that the arts can help communities develop and prosper? i think the arts are a beautiful way for communities to be able to kind of steep in their histories, especially when these histories are challenging, as many histories are across the world. i think the arts are able to enable communities to make sense of a difficult present, especially of a traumatic present, like the kind of global trauma that we are feeling now. and i think the arts are also able to enable us to imagine new futures in ways that we haven't necessarily seen before. so art enables us to sit in time as human beings in very beautiful ways. ok, so imagine new futures, and that's what you try to do through this arts collective called the nest. absolutely. you celebrate your tenth birthday this year. we do! and you're one of the co—founders, and one of the really ground—breaking projects that you were involved in was a film called stories of our lives, about lgbtq people, and won
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numerous awards, shown in 80 countries worldwide. characters such as a young girl who's expelled from school because she had a lesbian relationship. a gay man who takes risks by going to gay nightclubs. what have you achieved with that film? i think we've been able to kind of embed the documentary archive project that the stories of our lives is. we went around the country, collecting stories from nine cities and towns in kenya, talking to over 250 people, who gave us full, full stories that were beautiful and tragic and funny and heartbreaking. stories of love and laughter and families that came apart and came back together. new ways of making family, new ways of finding love. and we were... heartbreaking in what way, does one strike you? absolutely. i think around the time when we were... because this is 2014, i have to say, when you made this film.
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yeah, around the time when we were kind of beginning the process of stories of our lives, there was a lot of talk in uganda. and whenever there's talk in uganda, it'll always kind of waft across the border, this way, around talking about whether homosexuality was an african. and for us, we were really interested in kind of unpacking that there are african people who live these different lives, in these different ways. and also, not so different. that they're very much like everybody else in all of these lovely and wonderful ways, and also forced to be oppressed in these horrible and very violent ways. in violent ways. so the people who experience violence when people knew about their homosexuality. absolutely. and especially experiencing violence, notjust from their immediate family, but also from the general society. so you say that people see homosexuality in africa as being un—african. and i have to say that the kenyan film classification board in 2014 described your film as an obscenity
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with explicit scenes of sexual activity. it said it promoted homosexuality, which is contrary to kenya's national norms and values. and they banned it. they did. so what's the point of making a film that nobody can see in kenya? that's actually exactly the point. it's been really lovely for us when the film gets to be seen in other african countries especially, but then for it to not be seen in kenya is really a problem. i think the wider question around the ban of this film is the ways in which banning of films works here, because i don't think things should be banned forever. i think there should be processes that allow people to revisit a ban. but then, as it is currently, and ourfilm is not the only one that's been banned, once a thing is banned, it's banned in perpetuity, which is kind of a problem, if you ask me. well, i mean, little has changed, and i asked you what you've achieved by making, the nest collective making that film, but little has changed. i mean, just now, last year, an lgbtq film called i am
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samuel, not by the nest collective, but somebody you know, about a kenyan man struggling with his sexuality, was also banned for allegedly promoting same—sex marriage as an acceptable way of life. why don't you just give up and say it's too difficult to make such films? because the people in same—sex relationships, people in non—heterosexual relationships are not giving up their relationships, they're not giving up the ways in which they love. they're not giving up the ways in which they were born and the ways in which they feel whole. and so for as long as these communities are not giving up on their own lives, artists shouldn't give up on being able to hold space with these communities. these communities themselves should not give up on needing to be represented... but it must be dispiriting, though, njoki ngumi. i'll tell you what donna awuor said in november 2020. she's from the gay and lesbian coalition of kenya. "inclusivity is still foreign to mainstream organisations, and they try to sideline us because they feel like we do not deserve to be in those spaces. here in kenya, homosexual acts are still punishable by up
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to 1a years in prison." i mean, it's impossible, isn't it, for you to operate? i think the thing to focus on here is the kind of progress that's been made, kind of pushing against these seemingly immovable laws, because they are not immovable. there's been a lot of conversations around decriminalisation, about repealing the sections of the penal code that are this immovable and this harmful. and expanding the ways in which they're interpreted to do even more harm than there is that's written down. so there's a lot of progress that's been made. there's a lot of places, even outside of the eye of the media, which tends to spectacularise and turn into scandal things that are actually not scandals. there's a lot of people living very quiet, very beautiful lives, very deeply integrated in their societies. and i think, especially, one of the biggest achievements of the queer community in kenya is being able to be open and honest about this, that there are so many families
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that have accepted their queer members. there are so many societies, so many workplaces that are really, really happy to have queer people working in and amongst them, to invite more queer people in. so there's a lot more acceptance. it's just not happening at the same level and volume as these kind of deeply violent and harmful headlines. as well as giving voice to minorities such as the lgbtq community, you also do a lot in terms of women's rights. i do. and you are co—producer/director of a new film that's due to come out, a documentary film, injune this year called the feminine and the foreign, and it looks at how communities fight back. and you shot it during the lockdown of november 2020. we did. so the film also includes feminists who are activists. absolutely. now look, the organisation human rights watch said that during the first lockdown between march and april in 2020, there was a 300% increase in calls reporting acts of violence
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against women and girls. in general, how far do you think the covid pandemic has represented a setback to women's rights in kenya? i think it's been a massive setback, and i don't think that it's just in kenya. i think it's globally, because this lockdown violence is well reported all around the world. i think there's two things that we learn from from that. the first is that the home is an incredibly unsafe space for women and for people marginalised by gender. there's a lot of issues that come up in the home, especially when people are feeling insecure and threatened, and especially when you have which are overwhelmingly, statistically, male partners being violent towards their female partners. i think the second thing is that it shows the limits of law enforcement and the limits of policy and the limits of general state movement towards having honest conversations around these issues, which are kind of sidelined as private issues, issues just for the homestead. it's not a national issue, it's not for the public. and then itjust kind of leaves
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women in the lurch and women end up being beaten and women end up being harmed. women end up dead, you know. yeah, i mean, i'lljust tell you what... this year, the bbc africa eye reporter tom 0dula went around kenya for a report, and he interviewed quite a few men. and one told him and said this. "in an african culture, wife—beating is like an initiation ceremony. when you are newly—married, you slap your wife with a belt so that you gain respect." i mean, how prevalent is that kind of view in kenya? it's unfortunately quite prevalent. i don't want to get stuck in the kind of "not all men". i'm not, you know... i feel i feel like a lot of people don't realise how much non—violent men gain from the overhanging threat of violence that women know can be visited upon them anywhere, and that it's not just in the home. this man was talking about kind of beating up to gain respect, and ifeel like he needs to know that what he's
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gaining is fear. to know that what he's it's not respect. to know that what he's he's gaining fear. to know that what he's he's gaining hatred, and he's gaining somebody who, at the drop of a hat, if she had a better option, would leave him, 1,000%. a lot of times people feel like they need to stay because they have things tying them down into the household. they have children, for instance, who they cannot leave behind with a violent man. they have had their economic prospects limited severely, and so they do not have any other options for themselves, their own wellbeing, and that of their children. and then also they have their families, who are pushing them to stay in this marriage so that they can say that they are married, because married people gain kind of social status and standing. so there's a lot of stuff going on there. should yourfilm, the feminine and the foreign, tackle issues like this to say, "look, come on, men, you can't go around slapping your wife left, right, and centre?" i think my film, and my film, together with my co—director, mars maasai, i think ourfilm kind of moves into a space that increases the voices that are speaking about these things. i think there are some films that have done really
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well in speaking exactly specifically against domestic violence. for us, we took a much more wider context, understanding feminist activisms in different ways, from an ecological perspective, from a chance perspective, from a queer perspective, and we took a much more wider engagement. i do think, though, zeinab, that the question that you're asking is about why... you're asking why artists are not taking better care of battered women. and the question i'm asking back at you is why that responsibility has been left to artists, when the people who have dropped the ball... because you said to me... ..and dropped the ball significantly... our law enforcement, the state, our society. of course they play a role. but you said to me at the beginning of this interview, "yeah, iagree with the chinese artist ai weiwei that art has a social function." i do. so come on, i'm saying to you, where's your social function in tackling a problem that you say is endemic in kenya? absolutely.
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violence against women. yes. i think the social function of our work is to situate where the activist is in the context of a society, and call out the society for treating activists the way they do. it's very easy for societies to put activists separate from them, to say that you guys go out and do all of the things, we will stand at the corner and criticise you. we won't do any work to change, and then we will hope that you will do all the change work and then we'll suddenly, miraculously be where... but you've got to open up the space. all right, look — i want to ask you something else about women's rights, because as a medical doctor, you are well aware of sexual reproductive health rights. you worked as an obstetrician for a while delivering babies and so on. we saw during lockdown how the closure of schools in kenya saw a huge increase in teenage pregnancies. again, because the home is so unsafe. yeah, girls, once they became mothers, prevented from going back to school. absolutely. so what are you doing to tackle issues like that, including fgm, female genital mutilation, which has been illegal in kenya for 20 years, but, as you know, is still practised. what are you doing in that space? i think it's important to note
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that i am not acting alone. there are many, many, many feminists and many women's rights activists and many women in their own capacities who would never call themselves feminists or women's rights activists who are pushing very hard against all of these issues, pushing very hard to support pregnant girls in school, making sure that pregnant girls go back to school, that they get the support at home they need to raise their babies, making sure that younger people, younger and younger people get comprehensive sex education, even though the fight about that is still being had at the level of the ministry of education and the ministry of health. they're also pushing really hard against female genital cutting and mutilation. there's been a lot of activists who've been kind of getting deep, deep into their societies, asking the hard questions, challenging the men who are actually pushing the demand for women who are cut. but it's notjust men... so the thing i was saying, zeinab, is that my voice joins all of these women, and that my work holds space for them in the same way
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that they hold space for me by making sure that i do not keep quiet in my own context when i speak about these things. for me, one of my my favourite places to speak is twitter. another of my favourite spaces to speak is by writing articles that kind of unpack and explore some of these spaces, as well as hosting conversations and continuing to have young people gather and listening to them when they talk about how these issues are affecting them, and exploring for myself, because i'm not in the place that i was when i was in my late 20s. i'm a lot older now, i have a little bit more power. i have a little bit more ability. i have a few more networks. how can i help them have the conversation that they need to have? and how can i enable them to join us as we continue this fight and we bring others along with us? but is it a scatter—gun approach that you're taking? because i want to put this to you. un women is working with an ngo that deals with communication in health in neighbouring uganda, and they use a model that they say, and i quote, "aims to change the mind—set of community members.
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this is on fgm, female genital mutilation. "..and address the root problem and the social dynamics that have allowed fgm to continue. they also target community elders who are the gatekeepers of the traditions and social norms." these gatekeepers are often women. so what are you doing to tackle, in a systematic way, using a model that works, and uniting with forces such as un women? or are you just saying, "0h, we'rejust going to do our own thing?" is there any coordination to what you do? i dislike that question, zeinab. i feel as though you're asking us, why aren't you... why aren't you operating like the whole army at the same time, when some people are the marines, some people are the air force, some people are the navy. i think different fights are had at different places, in different ways, by different people. i think that it is possible for there to be some sort of harmonising at some point at the end. i do think that the thing that you're missing is the necessary
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community building that has to happen between groups that have had very kind of disparate socialisations, very kind of disparate ways of understanding things, of even attacking... but strength in numbers, coordination! so i do think that coordination comes. i don't think that you should demand of movements to be coordinated from the very beginning. i also don't think that movements need to be coordinated to succeed. ifeel as though, for instance, and i'll give you the example of kenya's fight for independence. it's very easy to think that it is only the kikuyu, it is only the mau mau who want the fight for independence for all kenyans. that was the resistance movement, the mau mau in the 1950s, yeah. there were several other. it was kikuyu—based. yes, and that there were many resistance movements happening in multiple places. it's just some that get named, some that get put in your neat little statistics, so you can tell me about un women and you can tell me about... but i can tell you about so many more grassroots movements that aren't named in un documents that are getting so much stuff done on the ground. all right, fair enough.
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you turned to the world of arts from medicine. and one of the areas that you're very active in is in this debate, which is going on all over the world, on cultural restitution. and you're part of a team that put together an exhibition at nairobi national museum, and it displays a row of empty glass cases. it was also put on display at a museum in frankfurt, and these empty glass cases represent the tens of thousands of objects taken out of kenya by europeans during the colonial era. and you say they are a symbol of something much larger. what do you mean by that? 0ne place to begin is definitely the objects which are being kept held hostage, held life prisoners in a lot of these global north museums. it's important to note that not all objects are being held prisoner in kind of these illegitimate ways, but a significant number are, and especially the objects that the host countries and the host communities have asked for them to be returned. ido think... like what, for instance? like the pokomo drum, the ngadji, which has been
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in the british museum stores for literally one century. that's a sacred drum, isn't it? and it's not even on display. and it shouldn't be on display because it's not for everybody to see. it's only for the pokomo community. but it's been sitting in the british museum stores and it should go home, and the pokomo people have written hundreds and hundreds of times for the british museum to return this drum, and they have not. i do want to say, though, zeinab, that the object holds space for so many other things that have been kind of invisible. and it's very easy, even for global north conversation, to focus on an object and return the object to the africans, and they'll be happy. i think it's important to note that there are many other things that happened during that period of time. the object holds space for people who died, for communities that were erased. the objects hold space for the documents in a massive colonial archive that were detailed about the atrocities that were committed against kenyans and other colonised people, that detailed
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all of the spaces that were taken away, all of the land that was grabbed. so that's quite a symbol of something much larger. absolutely. but just sticking with the objects... in 2018, a sarr—savoy report commissioned by the french government, said that 90% of sub—saharan africa's cultural objects reside outside the continent. but then you have people like professor lars christian koch at a museum in berlin, and says there are international standards for storage facilities. and we know that in some museums in africa and asia, you do not have these standards. i he's think got a point, though, hasn't he? no, i don't think so, especially when you consider that there are also international standards for museum provenance. there are also international standards for the naming, even of animals and even of flowers. a flower will have two latin names. museum provenance in the global north, you find, is often quite wrong. they often keep derogatory names for tribes that objects came from. the object can even be misnamed. and so if we are talking about...
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if we are talking about lack of capacity, zeinab, we can really point and say that... well, we've seen in timbuktu, in mali, the extremists went in and destroyed some of the artefacts. it happens, doesn't it, sometimes? it does happen. but then the artefacts are destroyed in their home. are we saying that it is better for artefacts to be stolen and then kept somewhere so that... at least they�* re kept safe? no — in whose name? who asked them to keep objects safe for everybody else? absolutely not, i don't agree. all right — finally and briefly, dr njoki ngumi, you're doing all this stuff in the arts and you're acclaimed for being ground—breaking. but do you think you'd ever go back to medicine? i think so. first of all, i've never stopped being a doctor, ijust stopped clinical practice. i think that's important to note. i feel like the ways in which doctors are taught to think where you have all these different pieces given to you over different periods of time, you kind of arrange a timeline and then
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now you decide on a way forward based on that timeline, in collaboration with your patient, obviously, who has to agree, otherwise your plan is a useless one. i think i carried those skills into culture and the arts, and i think that they will be useful again in medicine at some point. maybe not now, but in the near future. dr njoki ngumi, thank you very much indeed for coming on hardtalk. thank you so much for having me, zeinab. this has been an immense pleasure. hello there. the weather this easter�*s looking pretty decent across much of the country. could see a little bit of rain pushing into the far north and west of the uk as we head through easter sunday into easter monday. but i think for many, it will stay fine, dry and pretty warm.
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temperatures into the low 20s celsius across the warmest part of the south and east of england. we'll have these weather fronts across more western areas, but this high pressure will continue to exert its force and keep them out at bay. so, for good friday, many places will start dry with some sunshine through central and eastern areas. a bit of coastal mist and fog around. further west, closer to those weather fronts, we'll have more cloud — northern ireland, southwest scotland, along irish sea coasts down into southwest england, the odd shower around here. the odd shower could develop elsewhere as temperatures reach the low 20s across the southeast. most places, though, will be dry, and for many, it's going to be mild with light winds. as we head through friday night, most places will be dry. any showers will die away. we'll see some low cloud, mist and fog returning, particularly across more southern and western areas. for many, it's going to be a mild night, but under clearer skies across the east, could be fairly chilly. so, for saturday, another dry day, plenty of sunshine from the word go across the southeast. after that cool start, temperatures will rise. again, there is a very
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slim chance of a shower developing here and there. most places will be dry with sunny spells. bit more cloud across the very far west. temperatures, again, mid—to—high teens, low 20s in the warmest spots. now, this is where we start to see a little bit of difference, a little change to the weather through easter sunday into monday. we could start to see our area of high pressure break down. that'll allow low pressure to push in from the west, but pushing weather fronts from west to east. but because these weather fronts will try to bump into this area of high pressure, they will be fizzling as they try to track their way eastwards. i think easter sunday, the very far west of the country looks like it will see some cloud and rain. elsewhere, most of the country will be dry again with plenty of sunshine, and it'll be quite warm with temperatures reaching 20 or 21 degrees. as we move into easter monday, that front clears eastern areas — barely anything on it. slightly fresher day to come for many, with low pressure to the north of the uk. could be quite windy across northern scotland, one or two showers here. but elsewhere, i think it looks largely fine, dry
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and settled, with temperatures a little bit lower.
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welcome to newsday, reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: on our exclusive visit to volodymyr zelensky�*s wartime bunker, ukraine's president tells the bbc, countries still buying russian oil have blood on their hands. russia says the flagship of its black sea fleet, the moskva, has sunk after an explosion, ukraine claims it hit the moskva with missiles. also ahead in the programme: the english channel crossing that ends in rwanda, the uk government plan to tackle asylum seekers by sending them to east africa. a british man whojoined the islamic state group in syria, is convicted in the us over the beheading
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