Living in Rio de Janeiro now, and witnessing the pacification of the favelas by Brazilian federal troops from a close(r) distance, I can’t help but think back to my faded memories of the ‘war on drugs’ while growing up in the U.S. So when–in the wake of the occupation by the Army of the Maré Complex in Rio’s North Zone–I went online to read a little about the history of Rio’s gangs, I noticed some mention of populist roots in the beginnings of the Commando Vermelho, which is quite similar to the history of the gangs that occupied the Midwest American city I grew up in. I hit Wikipedia to refresh my knowledge of the Almighty Black P. Stone Nation–a gang whose name rings clear in my memory from adolescence.
The Sahara is changing fast. Still a beautiful desert but not just that. Most populated cities such as Tamanrasset or Timbuktu are microcosms that reveal all the problems of those former touristic regions: threats of terrorism, trafficking, illegal migration and pressures on cultural and natural heritages. The only ways to escape this harsh reality for Saharan and Tuareg youth are cybercafés, mobile phone culture, festivals and soirées guitare (“guitar evenings”) celebrating their guitar heroes, the “Ishumar”, such as Tinariwen, Terakaft, Tamikrest, Bombino and many other bands. In their songs they celebrate the link between desert nature, old poetry, and of course women, whose role is essential in their society. Some texts may seem like calls for rebellion, but mainly those are calls for a self-consciousness as a people, of their identities.