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TEDxDubai - Sama Jodah - 10/10/09

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applause Good evening ladies and gentlemen In the next 10 minutes you'll realize that I'm not a very good professional public speaker but I will not apologize for being an artist at 13 I tried to be a painter but somehow I was very miserable so I had to give up that very quickly and I got my first camera when I was 13 and its been my life-long passion since then My father, he's an economist, and at a very early age we started moving. He worked in about 20 countries that man that I was exposed to a lot of diversity and cultures across about 20 countries my political antennas were sharpened at a very early age partly to do with his sustainable development work and a lot to do with the kind of schools I went to one of my first schools was an International school in East Africa next to Kilimanjaro and thats where I started learning photography and I realized that photography is an amazingly powerful tool it can actually pass on that message in a very different way and then of course I went to art schools, I went to film schools, but over a period of time I realized that the commercial photography was okay because, you know, you got to pay your bills but if I wanted to be an artist I didn't really want to be art for art sake but for me, art has to be for larger social change working on issues which are not necessarily highlighted in mainstream media for various reasons political, corporate, you know, all kinds of issues I also, over a period of time, realized that my work had to get more and more focused on issues which I was directly getting exposed to and last 10 years of my work has been really about conflict issues and what I mean by conflict is not going to war, but for me conflict is about this whole race for modernization, consumption, urbanization, energy needs.. so it's about modernity vs. traditional communities; traditional way of living especially in these areas where people don't even have basic electricity but their lands are all ripped apart for coal or the waters are polluted for supplying it to the urban part of cities or the urban part of the country I also felt that being a spectator photographer is no solution to it because I can very easily go to these remote areas shoot some pictures of some dying community and bring it to New York, London or wherever and have this grand exhibition, everybody writes about it, I make a book out of it I really believe that its got to be more about capacity building, its got to be more about building blocks - Its about income generation. Its about getting involved in these issues right to what the real problems are 5 years back I was on a mission on a World War 2 road - Its not much of a road, but I was driving from South-West part of China, from Kunming to upper Burma into North-East part of India and I came across this huge pits of coal mines I mean I'd seen mines before but this was quite unbelievable that for miles and miles it was open cast mines and I don't know how many of you have seen those, but they just go they just go and blow up mountain tops. Its not the digging inside the ground and what it does is it destroys whatever; the water bodies, the rivers are polluted, the forests are gone and I could still see these communities living between all this so I've been working with one particular community - Its a Buddhist tribe. They're originally from Burma, they live in the Indian side and they're only 1500 of them and I started working with one particular village of 147 and that village its called "Funeng" and this the project that I'm talking about here I'll show you a small little film which will give you some idea in terms of what all I have done there and what the village looks like fortunately I have a little clip to go with it okay so this is the Stillwell road; the World War 2 road this is from the Indian side actually and then you come across this village which is off the highway and this is the river which in the monsoon you can't go across but the winters, you can actually drive over it and I help set up eco-tourism project there. Eco-tourism lodge This is the lodge - Its got solar panels. Theres no electricity in this village Thats the kitchen on the outside these are the kids who actually go to school now the other thing is I'm not an anthropologist but one thing I really felt was to document their way of life there was music, dance, weddings, culture and especially that it was such a small community; it was changing right in front of me this is like how the children go to school now, on this little boat. Its kind of strange to go to school on a boat thats the monastery which are finished building now and these are the coal mines - this will give you an idea what I'm talking about they're just huge open cast mines the water, you can imagine what it is like and this is back to the village This is the textile they do there and this is how I did the portraits; what you saw in the beginning. They're very huge - they're all 7 feet tall Thats how the entire project was documented Now the point I'm trying to make here is when I say about capacity building, in this community, when I went in there, it was.. I got some seed money and with bunch of people we developed a small eco-tourism lodge which is 100% owned, run, and operated by the tribals I also.. when we started getting tourists, we realized that some of us out there actually feel very guilty when we take these flights across the planet because the huge amount of aviation pollution we leave behind. Our carbon foot-print, what they say so I set up a small carbon foot-print exchange program where the tourists can actually do is they can buy certain number of trees which the tribals would raise and in exchange, they get some money and I would take pictures of those trees and send them back to the tourists so wherever they are, they can see how their tree is doing so thats one part of it. Education program, these kids they go to English speaking schools now They're quite a few of them the monastery which I finished building has added income to the families because they have these annual festivals there where other Buddhist religionists come there and they donate rice, and you know, money and all that more importantly, the recent thing which I have started working on is textile as we know that textile is probably one of the oldest crafts human beings have known and unfortunately, modernity and all that has changed that in this village they have been weaving for generations but now the flooding of garments coming, textiles coming from factories in China, India and Bangladesh and all that, that has almost kind of killed that cottage industry so I set up this small little weaving center so every 7 weeks I go with lost of empty suitcases and I fill them up and I bring them back, either to Dubai or to New York or wherever and there are a lot of people who really value handwoven stuff, so this is a little exercise of textile revival, if I can say the example I'm giving you about funding is, about this village - its not about some obscure tribe and some obscure place but actually, these kind of communities are across the planet. There are margin-line communities across the planet, whether its a developed part of the world or underdeveloped part of the world for example, I'm working on another project in East Africa which is on the albinos again, its is something which is more about empowerment, more about education, and obviously, some form of income generation. going back to the photography part where I started with My exhibitions are not typical photography exhibitions, but they are multimedia experiences so like this particular thing, what you saw in the beginning, these are really massive images and they sit in this total darkness, its like a metaphor for a coal mine and you walk in there and you have the sound scape which you heard- those are the real sounds of the village, because that village, though it gives out so much of coal, it doesn't have electricity. so what I have is the night sounds of the village which plays as a sound scape in to the show and then theres a film which goes with it at the same time so its more like an experience I've had the show, its going in Spring to London, and I'm hoping to bring it here to Dubai hopefully soon The point I'm trying to make is as an artist, how much are you for your art, or are you really interested in the larger cause? Thank you Applause

Video Details

Duration: 12 minutes and 19 seconds
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: Giorgio Ungania
Director: Giorgio Ungania
Views: 95
Posted by: giorgiotedx on Jan 25, 2010

n the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations) Our event is call TEDxDubai, where x=independently organized TED event

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