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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Globalization: How did Disney get Moana so right and Maui so wrong?

How did Disney get Moana so right and Maui so wrong?

  • 21 September 2016
  • From the sectionAsia
MoanaImage copyrightDISNEY
Image captionSome people have been annoyed by the portrayal of the demigod Maui as fat, saying it is stereotypical
A forthcoming Disney movie tells the story of Moana, a Polynesian girl who teams up with demi-god Maui to save her people. But some people have said the film and its merchandise are appropriating Samoan culture.
Arieta Rika, who founded a website called Talanoa as a home for Pacific stories, told the BBC how she wants her culture to be celebrated.
As a Pacific person, I can't tell you how excited I am to see this movie. Seeing faces that look like mine, telling a story that relates to me. I just don't have the words.
I haven't felt this excited about a Disney film in decades.
I am excited that the film has given a voice to many Pacific people who might have otherwise gone unheard when discussing issues about culture, people and place in the context of the Pacific and our stories.
It has also raised important questions about cultural appropriation and misappropriation. Is Disney doing it right?
Is there a way to celebrate Moana and Pacific culture, without offending Pacific people?

What is Moana?

  • The second Disney film set in the Pacific Islands (after Lilo and Stitch, set in Hawaii)
  • The story of a Polynesian girl who teams up with a Samoan demi-god Maui to go on a quest and save her people
  • Maui - voiced by Dwayne Johnson, stage name The Rock - is based on a Polynesian legend
  • According to myth, Maui created the Pacific Islands by fishing them from the sea

I've yet to watch the movie, but so far, it looks like Disney has applied four important aspects of Pacific culture: awareness, context, relationship and respect.
This week, Disney released a children's costume for Maui, a character in the Moana film. I get it - Disney knows and appreciates that children across the world will fall in love with Maui, and like many other Disney characters, they'll want nothing more than to look exactly like him.
Online page for Moana costumeImage copyrightDISNEY
On paper, it seems like a pretty logical decision to create a costume.
There is not much to work with in terms of clothes though, as he only wears a grass skirt and a necklace made of shells. Hence the final product that Disney released - a body suit with brown skin, tattoos, Maui's necklace, and a grass skirt.
In reality, it has offended many Pacific people. I understand the reasoning behind the grass skirt and the necklace, but the brown skin is too far, and the tattoos are culturally misappropriated.
Tattoos are deeply meaningful to Pacific people. Like a fingerprint, a tattoo is unique to each person.
Our markings tell a personal story that we carry with us on our skin, everywhere we go - constantly reminding us of our values, our people, and our identity.
File pic of Pacific Islander woman with facial tattoosImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTattoos are personal and individual in Pacific Islander culture
It is considered taboo and extremely disrespectful in many Pacific cultures to wear the markings of a people or place that you are not spiritually or physically connected to. After the release of Moana, Maui may be a Disney character to some, but to many Pacific people, he is very real - a hero, ancestor, demi-God and a spiritual guide.
Even for Pacific people who don't believe in Maui, replicating a Polynesian tattoo and offering it to children for a price is belittling and trivializing an intimate aspect of Pacific people and culture.
Knowing this, Disney could have reconsidered their decision to include tattoos on Maui's costume. That would have also eliminated the need for the brown skin body suit that many consider "brownface". They also would have anticipated the backlash from Pacific people who interpret their decision as inappropriate and disrespectful at best - and at worst, a way to make money from a particularly significant aspect of Pacific culture.
Samoa's players perform the haka during the rugby union Test match France vs Samoa at the Stade de France on November 24, 2012 in Saint-Denis, north of ParisImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLike the New Zealand team, Samoa's rugby players do the haka
You need not be a Pacific person to enjoy and respect Moana, Maui and Pacific culture. Many Pacific people welcome questions. Taking initiative and starting these conversations creates trust, shows respect and ultimately, could be the start of a meaningful relationship between you and Pacific culture, and a Pacific person.
In the meantime, I will be eagerly waiting for the release of Moana. If anything, I appreciate the opportunity it is giving me and many other Pacific people to share our thoughts, our opinions, and our stories.
After all, having these conversations on a global scale is important, and it is what I and many Pacific people who have gone before me have been waiting for, for centuries.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Charging your phone when the sun don't shine

How do you charge your phone when the sun doesn't shine?

Seeing our mobile phone running low on juice can induce near panic in many of us these days - we've become so reliant on them.
Woman reading to her baby under solar powered light
So imagine what it's like living in a remote village whose only electricity comes from solar power. What do you do when the sun doesn't shine?
Not only might your phone die, you might not have enough stored electricity to keep the lights on for more than a few hours. You have to light candles or a smelly kerosene lamp to see what you're doing at night.
But one solar power firm, Azuri, reckons it has an answer to this problem.
Its HomeStart system learns your electricity usage patterns and monitors climatic conditions to make sure the stored solar power is used in the most efficient way.
Simon Bransfield-GarthImage copyrightPEG GHANA
Image captionSimon Bransfield-Garth, who has a PhD in engineering, set up Azuri in 2012
This can involve dimming lights to use less power and generally eking out the stored energy on less sunny days.
"Standalone solar home systems run until the power stored from sunshine during the day is exhausted, and then switch off," says Simon Bransfield-Garth, Azuri's chief executive.
"In poor weather, this may mean lighting time is reduced to just a few hours, forcing customers to revert to traditional means, such as harmful kerosene."

Health and education

The firm believes this is the first time machine learning has been applied to rural domestic solar power systems, and is an example of how innovation in the solar sector is helping "off-grid" households power up more efficiently across the continent.
New products are coming on to the market, including solar-powered fans, TVs and fridges.
One firm, Aleutia, provides a "solar classroom in a box", including solar panels, 10 rugged computers, a server, LED projector, and 3G and satellite networking equipment. It costs about $9,500 (£7,100).
Schoolchildren watching projectionImage copyrightALEUTIA
Image captionAleutia's LED projectors use much less energy than traditional mercury vapour bulb models
Aleutia has provided 137 schools in Uganda with computers and education software.
The company has also launched SolarEnabler, a "plug-and-play" box that provides everything you need for solar power in a wall-mounted box with constant 2G connectivity.
"Our computers are unique in their incredibly low energy consumption, which makes solar affordable," says Michael Rosenberg, Aleutia's chief executive.
It is making a big difference in rural primary health centres, he says.
"A single computer can register 800 patients a month, and record their symptoms and conditions. It is solar-powered hardware that provides transformative big data for health ministries."


Innovation in financing has also been key to the growing adoption of solar energy.
"Pay-as-you-go" and "rent-to-buy" schemes, pioneered by the likes of M-Kopa Solar and Azuri, are helping households pay off the cost of the solar kit over a manageable period.
Customers use mobile money services like M-Pesa to credit or top up their solar accounts.
Solar panel on roofImage copyrightAZURI
Image captionAzuri's PayGo solar panels are helping to bring power to rural communities
"Over the course of typically 18 months, the purchase of top-up pays off the cost of the solar home system," says Mr Bransfield-Garth.
"After this, the customer fully owns the system and can use it to access clean, renewable energy with no further cost."
Azuri, which launched in Kenya and has since expanded to other countries, has sold about 80,000 solar home systems so far.
Its entry level solar panel is a five-watt unit which, with plenty of sun beating down, provides users with about eight hours of lighting for two rooms and mobile phone charging.
Man with laptop beside solar panelImage copyrightPEG GHANA
Image captionA small solar panel is enough to power a laptop
It costs about 220 Kenyan Shillings a week (£1.62; $2.17).
"Azuri's objective is to deliver clean and affordable power to enable rural Africans to realise their aspirations; lighting and mobile phone charging are just the starting point," says Mr Bransfield-Garth.

From light to credit

PEG Ghana, another solar power firm, has connected almost 15,000 homes in the West African country via a pay-as-you-go model and a kit made up of two lamps, a radio, a torch, and a mobile phone charger.
"We enable customers to replace their perpetual spending on poor-quality polluting fuels, such as kerosene, with solar energy that quickly becomes an asset the customer owns," says Nate Heller, chief executive of PEG Ghana.
Solar kit including radio, torch, lamps and mobile phone chargerImage copyrightPEG
Image captionPEG's starter solar kit includes a radio, torch, lamps and a mobile phone charger
And the firm now offers customers who have paid off their solar units loans for other items, such as smartphones.
"Before you buy our product, you have a challenge to get anything on credit. You live in the middle of nowhere, you have no credit history, and no collateral," Mr Heller says.
"After you've paid off our system we have one year's worth of data on how you paid off the loan. Now we can give you loans for things like smartphones - you are a safe credit risk," he says.

Business case

But about 585 million people still lack access to electricity in Africa, according to the International Energy Agency, with only 14.2% of people in rural areas able to power their homes.
Even those with access to regular grid power can find it unreliable.
This leaves millions having to rely on kerosene, candles, battery torches or other fossil-fuel powered technologies.
Kerosene lampImage copyrightAZURI
Image captionReading and studying via kerosene lamps is widespread - and dangerous
Across Africa and Asia, the 1.2 billion people who have no access to electricity spend about $27bn (£20.4bn) annually on these alternatives, says the BNEF Global Solar Market Trends Report 2016.
Solar power could save them a lot of money.
So the case for taking solar power into poorer communities is not just a social policy issue, says Xolani Mncedane, senior research analyst at the consultancy Frost & Sullivan Africa.
There is now a "compelling business case", he says. "The market is more affordable and more appealing.
"Solar home systems and solar-diesel hybrid systems are becoming economical, thereby presenting new opportunities, new business approaches and new financing models," concludes Mr Mncedane.

Abu Sayaff and the Islamic Threat in Southeast Asia

The Islamic State threat in South East Asia

Islamist militanteveral countries in South East Asia have been anticipating attacks by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in the region.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore warned their citizens in 2015 that it was a question of when, rather than if, they would take place and this foresight was sadly proven right with the attack on Jakarta in January this year.
Authorities in the region have learned from Indonesia's experience of the Bali bombings in 2002 and several attacks afterward. These were carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants inspired by Al Qaeda, several of whom went to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban in the 1980s, and then returned to the region with the skills and knowledge to carry out large-scale attacks.
IS is proving a new draw to would-be jihadists across the region. Several militant groups in South East Asia have pledged allegiance to it and up to 1,000 people are believed to have left Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to fight with the group in Syria and Iraq.
A laptop shows a video allegedly showing hostages of the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the PhilippinesImage copyrightAP
Image captionAbu Sayyaf has a history of kidnapping tourists for ransom
Indonesian and Malay speakers there have formed an official wing of the group, known as Katibah Nusantara Daulah Islamiyah, and security experts believe its leaders are trying to fund and encourage attacks across the region. Over the past year, IS has increased its propaganda efforts in Indonesian, which is similar to Malay, inciting people to join it but also to carry out attacks where they are.
The Jakarta attack in January, originally thought to have been directed by an Indonesian militant in Syria called Bahrun Naim, is now believed to have been organised by a local group called Jamaah Anshar Khilifah, who are followers of an influential jailed cleric, Aman Abdurrahman.
The authorities have also been watching for foreign militants who may travel to the region to pass on or pick up battlefield knowledge. Militant groups in the region are known to work together and fighters sometimes travel to another country to evade arrest in their own. South East Asia's long coastlines and porous borders make it difficult for the authorities to monitor or stop such movement.
Indonesian jihadist propaganda videoImage copyrightINDONESIAN JIHADIST PROPAGANDA
Image captionAn Indonesian jihadist propaganda video
Suspected militants, from left, Abdul Hakim, Ahmad Junaedi and Tuah Febriwansyah, who is also known as Fachry, attend trial at West Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015Image copyrightAP
Image captionIndonesia put several men on trial in October on charges of recruiting for militant groups
In the last few months, the Philippine army has killed two Malaysians fighting with Abu Sayyaf in the south. Indonesian authorities have arrested four Uighurs from China over links to the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) group in Sulawesi, and recently killed two who were fighting with MIT. Militants from Syria, Iraq and Turkey have also been sighted in the region, and arrested in some cases over planned attacks.
Security experts believe competition to lead a potential official IS regional province may spur further attacks. IS has acknowledged pledges by some groups in the region but not yet formally declared it a "province" as it has with other areas, such as Boko Haram in Africa, though there are signs it is moving toward doing so.s in the Philippines have released a Norwegian man taken hostage along with two Canadians who the group beheaded, officials say.
Video screengrab shows a number of jihadist groups pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group
The Abu Sayyaf jihadists freed Kjartan Sekkingstad in southern Sulu province on Saturday. Unconfirmed reports say a large ransom was paid.
The group of four hostages was seized from a resort a year ago. A Filipina woman was freed in June.
Abu Sayyaf is fighting for an independent Islamic state.
It often attempts to raise money from ransom payments.
Mr Sekkingstad was freed in the town of Patikul on Jolo island. He was handed over to rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front group, which has signed a peace deal with the government and helped negotiate the release.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had suggested in August that a large ransom had already been paid but that the jihadists were still holding Mr Sekkingstad.
The army said on Saturday Mr Sekkingstad had been freed because of its relentless attacks on the militants.
The four hostages had been taken from an upmarket resort on Samal island in Davao.
In April, the militants killed Canadian John Ridsdel after a ransom deadline expired, then a week later beheaded Robert Hall.
Mr Hall's partner, Marites Flor, was freed in June.

What is Abu Sayyaf?

Map showing Jolo and Davao
A fractured network of militants. Some of its factions have sworn allegiance to so-called Islamic State.
It is one of the smallest but most radical of Islamist separatist groups in the southern Philippines. Its name means "bearer of the sword" in Arabic.
It split from the larger Moro National Liberation Front in 1991. Membership is said to number in the low hundreds.

What does it want?

The group has been agitating for the creation of an independent Islamic state in predominantly Catholic Philippines, and uses tactics such as hostage-taking and bombings to pressure the government.

How dangerous is it?

Numerous Filipino and foreign civilians have been kidnapped in the southern Philippines and parts of neighbouring Malaysia and used as hostages to extract ransoms.
Though some have been released after negotiations or attacks by Philippine forces, others have been murdered when demands were not met.
Abu Sayyaf has also said it carried out bombings in cities in the south and a ferry bombing in 2004 in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people, considered one of the worst terror attacks in the Philippines.