Tears for Catalonia, Likoma Fest - The Nation Online

Tears for Catalonia, Likoma Fest

Good people, “the street is ours” is a soundbite from defiant Catalans enduring a violent crackdown by Spain Police following the banned independence referendum in Catalonia.

The protesters agitating for a breakaway from Spain have demonstrated that anyone can clog the streets to dial up a burning issue.

But freedom of association and assembly in Malawi became negotiable the day 193 politicians met in the so-called honourable house and rubber-stamped laws empowering the police to declare a meeting of critics an illegal assembly.

Cry my beloved country!

Even a minister who has never sat a police training school examination can order an arrest as did one Grace Not-Obama Chiumia in Mzuzu last month.

But the police in Spain were no less brutal in the clampdown on Catalans demanding self-determination in Barcelona where businesses closed and colleges halted classes.

Catalonia deserves better! Oops!  Barcelona cries to be heard.

My experience with the Catalan section in Spain are limited to insights from books, television and the worldwide web.

I first encountered its story in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia long before television and online news arrived in this landlocked country to depress us with tonnes of war stories from all parts of the globe.

In the book, Orwell, a somewhat socialist journalist and novelist born Eric Blair, unpacks his experiences and observation in war-torn Spain.

In 1936, he went to Catalonia as a war correspondent to report unfolding stories of battles, treachery, soldiers and civilians­‑and to write a bestselling book from the frontline.

Instead, he traded his pen with arms when he joined the losing battle against the Fascists.

“I wonder what is the appropriate first action when you come from a country at war and set foot on peaceful soil. Mine was to rush to the tobacco-kiosk and buy as many cigars and cigarettes as I could stuff into my pockets,” he wrote on his return to Britain after probably the toughest tests of his conscience in the trenches.

Having read the Daily Telegraph’s “brutally honest and lyrically beautiful war story”, I cannot hazard a guess what the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four would have written about the raging clashes that epitomise Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

But the Catalans’ push for independence is certainly much bigger than worries that Lionel Messi and the star-studded Barcelona Football Club will be expelled from Spain’s La Liga if Catalonia secedes.

It is first and foremost about the right to nationhood and safe-rule.

But majorities have got a way to delay or prevent minorities from getting what they want.

Does this say anything about some southern African State’s allergy to mentions of federalism and secession?

Political systems mature with honest debates, not forced silence.



On Likoma Fest

I hear the brains behind Likoma Arts Festival have postponed this year’s edition because MV Chilembwe will not be seaworthy by October 15.

It’s sad that the ship will be under repairs instead of setting sail to the island in Lake Malawi with live bands basking on its upper decks, music pounding the fish away and revellers drinking and dancing merrily.

No ship cruise, no Likoma thrill.

I have travelled to the island district by a helicopter, dunier and jet, but nothing beats the marvels of perching on the uppermost deck of a water vessel, sipping a cold one in the sun as eyes gulp endless sights of countless fish species, starry waters and picturesque shoreline hills.

This is an adventurous entry to the island’s unique culture and geography–for water transport is a lifeline to the mainland where islanders buy nearly all necessities. n


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