Sunday, 31 January 2016

MALAYSIA: Important Notice From FireFly

Dear Firefly Airlines Passengers,
Please kindly be informed that Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited has implemented the Advanced Passenger Processing Service (APPS) fee of THB35.00 or MYR4.20 per passenger for all arrival and departure from Koh Samui Airport eff. 1 May 2016.

All bookings made for departure or arrival at the airport from 01 May 2016 onwards are subject to the collection of the tax. If your booking does not include this fee you may be asked to pay it at Firefly's check-in counter.

Dear Firefly Passengers,
Effective 19 December 2015, please kindly be informed that due to safety reasons, small vehicles powered by lithium batteries are not accepted as checked-in and/or carry-on baggage on Firefly aircrafts. Some examples of these are (but not limited to): airwheel, solowheel, hoverboard, mini-segway, balance wheel. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Dear Firefly Airlines Passengers
Please kindly be informed that Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited has implemented the Advanced Passenger Processing Service (APPS) fee of THB35.00 or MYR4.20 per passenger for all arrival and departure from Phuket Airport eff. 1 Dec 2015. All bookings made before 1 December 2015 are subject to the collection of the tax. If your booking does not include this fee you may be asked to pay it at Firefly's check-in counter.

More option for your travelling needs

- Firefly and Citilink provides interconnectivity between cities in the ASEAN market.
- Firefly Holiday Revamps Travel Portal
- Firefly Holiday officially launched it's new travel portal today! Offering convenience from the time of booking to the point of arrival of your destination.

MALAYSIA: Malaysia Airlines Charter Services

Wish you could fly to the destination of your dream? Need to whisk away at a moment's notice? Now you can with Malaysia Airlines Charter Services.

Backed by a 5-Star airline servicing worldwide destinations, Malaysia Airlines Charter Services is a dedicated one-stop center that provides special charter customized to meet your budget. A desired destination with a flexible timetable.

World class service catering to your every whim and fancy
With our Charter services, you can expect each trip to be designed specifically to your most extraordinary of request.

Range of benefits and services include:

- Flexible flight schedule
- Speedy charter arrangements
- Customized meals to individual diets and taste
- Special in-flight décor (flowers, personalized seat covers, buntings, flag liners, posters and more)
- Special in-flight greetings/announcement
- Special in-flight giveaways
- Newspapers, magazines and snacks
- Exclusive access to Malaysia Airlines Golden lounge for high end charters
- On ground events assistance

Make your Hajj pilgrimage
Planning to make your annual Umrah and Hajj pilgrimage? Malaysia Airlines Charter Services has a dedicated unit that offers convenient and affordable packages.

Range of Hajj benefits and service include:

- Direct flights to Jeddah and Madinah
- Specially dedicated aircraft
- 25% discount on connecting domestic flights within Malaysia
- 50% discount for senior citizens within Malaysia
- Seamless group check-in
- One time check-in regardless of your initial boarding point
- Baggage handling assistance
- Special hajj in-flight menu
- Customized in-flight entertainment content
- Pre delivered "zam zam" water
- Special refreshments upon arrival
- Specially dedicated cabin staff and uniform
- Safe and reliable operations from departure to arrival

Taking you to the four corners of the world
With Malaysia Airlines Charter Services, you’ll delight in the fact that you can fly to virtually any destination you can find on the world map. In addition to the worldwide destinations that Malaysia Airlines flies to, we've flown to places as far and wide as Split of Croacia, Chitose and Okayama in Japan and Urumuqi in China.

Pop stars to politicians, satisfaction guaranteed
Since opening our doors, our list of worldwide clientele has grown from local corporate groups to an international list of celebrities and VVIPs.

Specialised in troops movements

Endorsed by United Nation for military movements.

Successful charters around the world
- In-flight product launches of Petronas
- Concert tours for Michael Jackson and Elton John
- Military logistics
- Head of state visits from Cambodia, Swaziland and Indonesia
- Leisure tours to the Silk Road in China, Sapporo in Japan, Christmas Island in Australia and Milan
- Film tours for "Anna & The King" & "Stealth"
- Football tours for Real Madrid, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal
- Special flights for the victorious Swiss Alinghi Team to the prestigious yachting race, the America's Cup
- Diving excursions to Sipadan Island and Mabu Island
- Government travel
- Meeting, Incentive, Conference & Exhibition travel
- Weddings from Hyderabad to Phuket, Brunei to Kota Bharu
- Special flights to accommodate investor visits and eclipse viewing

One of the world's best cabin staff at your service
When you fly with Malaysia Airlines, you fly with one of the world's best cabin staff. At Malaysia Airlines Charters a great experience not only depends on cabin features but also the human touch. Which is why our cabin staff from Malaysia Airlines have time and again being recognized and awarded for their efforts to make you feel at home in the sky. Meet them onboard and experience Malaysian Hospitality.

MALAYSIA: Prohibition Of Hoverboards/ Balance Boards On All Malaysia Airlines Flights

Malaysia Airlines will prohibit the carriage of small vehicles that are powered by lithium ion batteries in passenger checked and/or carry-on baggage for air travel, as they have been classified as “Dangerous Goods”. This restriction has been recommended to all operators by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to ensure the safety of air travelers.

These small vehicles, or Personal Movement Devices (PMD) which include airwheel, solowheel, hoverboard, mini-segway, balance wheel and other self-balancing vehicles are considered fire hazards.

Therefore, Malaysia Airlines would like to remind passengers that it prohibits the carriage of all such devices (with or without batteries) as checked–in or carry–on baggage.

· For Malaysia Airlines, the ruling comes into effect from 19 December 2015 at 00:01 (GMT+8 Malaysia time).

· The above measures apply for Malaysia Airlines flights out of all airports including charter operations and connecting passengers from other airlines.

· The PMD restrictions apply at all Malaysia Airlines check-in points throughout the world.

MALAYSIA: Government Of India’s Policy Concerning Non-Machine Readable Passports

If you are flying to destinations in India on Malaysia Airlines, please be informed that the Bureau of Immigration, Government of India has announced the following with regards to non-machine readable passport effective immediately:

a) All foreign nationals who arrive at an Indian port holding non-machine readable passports will be refused entry. Carriers that transport non-Indian passengers holding non-machine readable passports may be subjected to a fine.

b) Indian nationals who are returning to the country who holds non-machine readable passports will continue to be accepted until further notice.

MALAYSIA: Foreign Nationals Required To Produce Passports On Malaysian Domestic Flights

Following a directive by the Malaysian Immigration Department, all foreign nationals travelling on all domestic flights will be required to produce passports upon passing through Immigration control.

Passengers are to take note that this policy is to take effect immediately.

MALAYSIA: Malaysia Airlines And Emirates Sign Agreement To Expand Partnership

About Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia and one of Asia's largest, serving 40,000 guests on 330 flights to more than 50 destinations daily. Malaysia Airlines operates flights from its home base, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and offers great connectivity across the globe; including oneworld® hubs.

Malaysia Airlines is a part of oneworld®, which brings together 15 of the world’s biggest and best names in the airline industry and 30 affiliate airlines serving more than 10,000 daily departures. Through this global alliance Malaysia Airlines offers the best connectivity with seamless journeys to almost 900 destinations across 150 countries and access to over 550 airport lounges worldwide.

About Emirates
Emirates, a global connector of people and places, has received more than 500 international awards and accolades for excellence. Emirates flies to over 140 destinations in 80 countries across six continents and is the world’s largest airline in available seat kilometres. Operating 243 wide-body Airbus and Boeing aircraft, including the industry leading aircraft A380, Emirates has pending delivery for an additional 263 aircraft, worth more than USD$124 billion.
Malaysia Airlines and Emirates announced a new partnership that will give their customers a seamless international network connecting Malaysia to more than 90 destinations on the Emirates network across Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas, exclusive frequent flyer benefits and world-class travel experiences.

Expanded global reach for both Emirates and Malaysia Airlines customers
Under the agreement signed by Emirates’ President Sir Tim Clark and Malaysia Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller, Malaysia Airlines will add its code on flights of Emirates to Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas. In return, Emirates will add its code on flights of Malaysia Airlines to domestic routes in Malaysia, South East Asia and selective cities across the Asia Pacific region. The codeshare will be implemented progressively throughout 2016 subject to regulatory approvals.

With the Emirates partnership, Malaysia Airlines’ customers will have access to 38 European, 15 Americas and 38 destinations in the Middle East and Africa and Indian Ocean, whilst Emirates’ customers will have access to Malaysia Airlines’ extensive Asia Pacific network with up to 300 daily departures in the region. Sales under this codeshare agreement will commence from February 1 2016.

Enhanced Benefits for Customers
Malaysia Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller said: “The strategic partnership paves the path towards an integrated customer proposition offering for both airlines.

The improved connectivity will enable Malaysia Airlines customers to reach up to 38 destinations in Europe on a daily and even double daily basis for key European cities such as Zurich, Rome, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Barcelona.

This partnership gives our customers access to a dramatically expanded range of travel options. It is a great way for customers to travel seamlessly to major cities across the world. Furthermore, Dubai is a tourism, trade and logistics hub which has earned itself the reputation as being the gateway between the East and the West.

Not only will this provide Malaysians unprecedented super-connectivity to the whole world, it will also make it much easier for travellers from all corners of the globe to visit Malaysia and experience its rich culture, nature and Malaysian hospitality. This is part of the national carrier’s initiative towards enhancing air connectivity with key priority markets overseas for increased tourist arrivals into Malaysia.”

“Our new codeshare agreement with Malaysia Airlines will enable our passengers to experience new destinations and improved connectivity in the ever-popular Southeast Asia region, and also additional comforts such as reciprocal lounge access and priority check-in,” said Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates.

“Malaysia Airlines’ extensive network in the emerging Southeast Asia region perfectly complements Emirates’ global network and enhances the choice of travel destinations for customers in both the business and leisure segment.”

TANZANIA: Maasai People And Culture

For thousands of years a succession of cattle herding people moved into the Area, lived here for time, and then moved on, sometimes forced out by other tribes.
About 200 years ago the Maasai arrived and have since colonized the Area in substantial numbers, their traditional way of life allowing them to live in harmony with the wildlife and the environment. Today there are some 42,200 Maasai pastoralists living in the NCA with their cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep.

During the rains they move out on to the open plains; in the dry season they move into the adjacent woodlands and mountain slopes. The Maasai are allowed to take their animals into the Crater for water and grazing, but not to live or cultivate there. Elsewhere in the NCA they have the right to roam freely.

Visitors are welcomed at two designated Maasai cultural bomas one on the road to Serengeti and another close to Sopa Lodge at Irkeepusi village.

The Datoga, Nilo-Hamitic-speaking pastoralists, who arrived more than 300 years ago and were subsequently forced out of the Serengeti-Ngorongoro area by the Maasai, today they live just outside the NCA, in the Lake Eyasi basin and beyond.

Maasai Ethnic Flag
One can visit the Maasai Cultural bomas in the NCA to learn more about their unique culture, to take photographs, and to buy mementos. There is an entrance fee to be paid but it is well worth it. Please be sensitive to the fact that it is considered bad manners to take photographs of people along the roadside without consent. A visit to one of the following is highly recommended:

Situated on the main road to Serengeti, 7 km south-west of the Olduvai Gorge Information Center

Situated on the main road to Serengeti, 10km before the turn-off to Olduvai Gorge

Situated 2km north-east of Lemala mini gate, on the main road to Empakaai

Situated just west of the Seneto Gate, within the Malanja Depression

TANZANIA: Protection Of Natural Resources To Guarantee Jobs

Protection of natural resources is one sector which can guarantee the youth ample employment opportunities, the board chairman for Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority Honorable Pius Msekwa stated here.

Honorable Msekwa was speaking at the Mbulu-Mbulu ward's training base for the forest and wildlife rangers working with NCAA, during the occasion in which a total of 145 such wardens were graduating from special training over the weekend, in Karatu. "Wildlife and other forms of natural resources are the main source of the country's revenue, the base for the tourism industry as well as national's responsibility in protecting the world's natural heritage on behalf of the whole earth," said Honorable Msekwa, adding that protection of such resources was not something to be taken lightly. "And there is no limit on how much we should spend in ensuring that these important heritages are well taken care of," said Honorable Msekwa adding that with shortage of manpower to undertake the tasks, the youth population in the country should be trained to take up such jobs.

The special training of rangers as well as other tourism personnel from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority was being undertaken by Commander Venance Bruno Tossi who heads the special unit to stop indiscriminate killing of wildlife, illegal export of live animals and other vices targeting the country's natural resources.

"We have already conducted these training series at Selous Game reserve, Serengeti National Park and now we are at the climax of training for the 145 personnel at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority" stated Commander Tossi. He said the training included how to combat poachers, following their trail, proper command of various firearms, investigations skills and how to involve the local community in dealing with crime cases within protected areas. The Acting Chief Conservator for NCAA Mr Shaddy Kyambile said the training started on the 10th of February 2012 involving soldiers from nine zones of Olbalbal, Naiyobi, Endulen, Kakesio, Nainokanoka, Lake Eyasi, Ngorongoro Crater, Olmoti Crater and the Northern Highland Forest reserve of Karatu.

"The training also involved female officers who normally work as foreign permit inspectors at the various Tourist Hotels located within the park as well as police officers serving at the Ngorongoro post," said Mr Kyambile. The Public relations Officer at the NCAA Mr Nickson Nyange said the 145 trained officers accounted for 82 per cent of the total army base at the park and that the remaining 18 per cent were to be trained later.

TANZANIA: Visit Ngorongoro Crater

LOCATED IN NORTHERN TANZANIA, 80 mi (129 km) west of the city of Arusha is the Ngorongoro Crater.
This crater is a caldera formed by the collapse of a large volcano in the Great RIFT VALLEY.
It is considered to be the largest subsidence crater in the world with a width of over 12.5 mi (20 km).
It is the fifthlargest caldera in the world, and of these, it is the largest inactive, unbroken, unflooded caldera in the world.
The rim varies between 7,480 ft (2,280 m) and 8,005 ft (2,440 m) in elevation, and the floor of the crater has an average depth of 2,000 ft (610 m) below the rim.

The floor area of the crater covers 100 square mi (260 square km).
The crater hosts several thousand tourists per year but has no actual human inhabitants at this time.

No one seems to know the origin of the name Ngorongoro though the Maasia, a nomadic people living in the area, say it means "the great or big hole." Besides the size of the crater itself, the crater floor has some unique features such as the Ngoitokitok springs that are a year-round hippo bath, two patches of woodland-the Lerai forest and the Laiyanai forest- the Munge River, several fresh and brackish ponds, and just west of the center of the crater, Lake Magadi.

This lake is 20 mi (32 km) long and 2 mi (3.2 km) wide and exists thanks to the volcanic springs that feed it.
These volcanic springs produce a large amount of carbonate of soda, creating a crust on the lake that is dredged and processed into soda ash to be used in glassmaking.

Mainly though the crater floor is a wide grassy savanna.
Ngorongoro is located at the center of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, making up 3 percent of the area covered by the park.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was established as a World Heritage site in 1979.

The park is home to approximately 25,000 large mammals, including gazelles, buffaloes, wildebeests, elands, elephants, and the black rhinos.
It is also has the densest populations of predators out of any of the African parks, made up of lions, leopards, hyenas, and jackals.
Lake Magadi and Munge River attract large numbers of greater and lesser flamingos, pelicans, ostriches, grebes, storks, cranes, and more.

The first conservator of Ngorongoro, Henry Fosbrooke, considered the Ngorongoro Crater to be the eighth wonder of the world, and many tourists, after visiting, would agree with him.

The Ngorongoro Crater is a breath taking beautiful setting and the best place in Tanzania to see the Big Five animals. It is` one of the world’s most astonishing and renowned natural wonders.

Any trip to Northern Tanzania has to include the Ngorongoro Crater: it is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world and an exceptional place to interact with people from the Masaai tribe.

The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands together form one of Africa’s most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous such crater is without question the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and home to the highest density of big game in Africa, including all the big five and plenty of predators. The Ngorongoro is justifiably one of the continent’s most famous safari destinations.

Game Viewing
Big5The Ngorongoro is the best place in Tanzania to see THE BIG FIVE. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are the prize spots, but the Crater is also home to strong populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with good herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other game in the Ngorongoro includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelle, flamingo and bat eared foxes along with approximately 400 species of bird.

Activities inside the Ngorongoro Crater itself are limited to game driving only. There are also picnic spots in the park. A full range of activities is however on offer in the wider Ngorongoro Conservation Area, including walking, trekking, excursions to Olduvai Gorge and visiting the Masai and other tribes around the crater.

When to go
Since the game stays in the crater all year round, there is really no good or bad time to visit. However given that the crater floor does get busy with vehicles, it can be more pleasant to visit during low season. Higher water levels in Lake Magadi (in the center of the Crater) also result in higher concentrations of flamingoes. Whenever you travel to Ngorongoro, you will be guaranteed excellent game viewing

TANZANIA: Makonde Life, People & Tatoos

Mapiko Dance
The Makonde are well known throughout the world for their art. They live in what is now southeast Tanzania (the Mtwara and Lindi districts) and norther Mozambique (the Cabo Delgado district). The majority of Makonde live in Tanzania (980,000) on and around the Newalla Plateau while the rest live in Mozambique (360,000) on the Mueda Plateau . On top of the plataeu are dense thickets from which the Makonde get their name “thicket-covered plateau” .

It is thought by most historians that the Makonde migrated to their current location during the 1700s and 1800s from the Ndonde area of northern Mozambique. By 1800 the Portuguese noted that the Mueda Plateau was being populated by Makonde. There are probably health reasons that led the Makonde to settle on the plateau. On the plains, especially near the Ruvuma River, there are mosquitoes that carry malaria, tsetse flies that carry sleeping sickness, and bilharzia is often in the water. There is also the threat of flooding and animal attacks near in the river. Their creation myth indicates similar reasons for their migration to the plateau.

“According to the main version of the story, a man came out of the thick bush. The man was unwashed and unshaven; he did not eat or drink very much. One day he carved a human figure from wood and set it upright in the bush. During the night, the image came to life and became a woman. The woman became the man’s wife. Together, the couple washed for the first time in the Ruvuma River.

On the bank of the river, the woman delivered a stillborn child. They traveled a little farther, whether the woman delivered another still born child. Finally, they traveled to the plateau, where the woman gave birth to a third child. That child survived. Over time, the couple had many other children on the plateau. These children became the first ancestors of the Makonde.

The father ordered his descendents to bury anyone who died in an upright position in memory of his wife. She had come alive when the wooden figure of her was set upright, and she had become the mother of all the Makonde. He also warned them against settling in the valleys and near large stream because sickness and death lived there. Each village, he said, should be at least a one-hour walk from the nearest source of wather. If they lived any closer, they would be plagued by illness and death.”

Health reasons were not the only reason for their migration. The Ngoni, a people fleeing war in Zululand, began to raid the Makonde for land and slaves. The plateau with its thick bush protected the Makonde from slavery and war.

Most contact that the Makonde had with Europeans was unpleasant. The y first came under German influence around in the 1890’s. The only sign of German presence was to collect taxes. In 1905 the Makonde were apart of the Maji-Maji Rebellion to resist German rule; in this they attacked Christian mission stations in the Lukuledi Valley, and they defended their plateau under their leader Hamadi. This rebellion was crushed in 1906.

In WWI the British took Tanzania, then called German East Africa, and renamed it Tanganika. The Makonde also resisted British rule by not paying taxes or obeying their rulers. Famine struck in 1915 during the war. Many Makonde died when they were struck by small pox and the Spanish Flu.

Another impactful event experienced by the Makonde is the Groundnut Scheme in 1947. A British official decided to mass produce peanuts in Tanzania to feed into the oil market in Britain. Many Makonde people were recruited to work on this project; they benefited some from the wages but there were drawback in crimes. They continued resistance (mostly non-violent) to British rule until Tanzania’s independence in 1964.

The Makonde are a matrilineal society which means that they trace their family line through their mother. Because of this men go to live in the village of their wife’s family. Many men have several wives and this causes them to move between different villages. However Makonde culture is increasingly male dominated as they become wage earners in towns and cities. This change has lessened the balance of power and caused, among other things, women to move to the villages of the men.

There are no chiefs among the Makonde and people are under the authority of their kinship group or litawa. The mwenyekaya is the head of the litawa. The chirambo is an organizational unit based more on geography than kinship. The chirambo is usually lead by an elder (mkulungwa) of one of the first migrant kinship groups to the area. The mkulungwa is held in high esteem for his wisdom but he has little formal authority. Some of his jobs include allotting land to migrants, offering advise, or securing the village health by appeasing the spirits and ancestors.

Boy’s initiation (jando)which includes circumcision, is the most important ceremony for boys. The leader of this ceremony is called the mkukomela, or the Hammerer; he holds the basket (cihelo) with the sacred medicines, carries a swatter (mcila), and wears charms (ihiridi) on his upper arm. This is a well paid professional position.

An important fire is lit in the middle of the village which is expected to burn during the whole ceremony. Drummers provide the beat for dancing before the ceremony. On the day of the circumcision the boys are taken out in the country side to have the operation; afterward they live under a shelter (likumbi). During the healing process the boys are taught by the men about hunting, farming, and sex; They are taught community morals like respecting their elders. This ceremony tests the youth’s discipline and obedience. After the boys heal they leave the likumbi and burn it down with the fire from the village center. Upon graduation the boys receive a new name and become men.

The girls initiation (ciputu) is less formal. A female elder instructs the young women and chooses a house to conduct ceremony. Young girls are taken into the initiation house for several days of instruction, singing and other activities. After this the girls are led home by their mothers for a period of seclusion. Then they are taken back to the ciputu house to be bathed. On the next morning the girls leave the house for final instruction on sex, marriage, and women’s duties. At graduation they are anointed with oil, dressed in new clothes, and return home. The process is completed with a special mdimu dance. The age of this ceremony was around 10-12 but today women are choosing education before early marriage.

The mapiko maks dance is an important element in these are other important Makonde ceremonies. They are worn by men who dance to display their power and to scare women and children. During the boys initiation ceremony the mapiko dancer reveals his identity to the boys; in this the dancer symbolically reveals the secretes of manhood.

Most Makonde are farmers; they practice what is called “stump cultivation.” In this stumps are left in fields to provide support for vines and to prevent erosion. Makonde usually cultivate a few fields while leaving several fallow to replenish themselves. The men are also taught to hunt. Some Makonde men are blacksmiths and carvers; they sell their work to tourists and art dealers.

The Makonde also have two main cash crops. The first is cashews which falls to the ground when ripe so it only has to be planted and harvested. There is also sisal which is a fiber that makes rope and twine. Some Makonde work on sisal and cashew plantations and do not have land. These cash crops have introduced private property into Makonde society. With this the power of the village elder (mkulungwa), who controled the land, has been weakened. The introduction of taxes has also changed Makonde society. By being forced to pay money many Makonde have had to work on plantations for low wages.

Helmet masks also known as Mapiko represent ancestral spirits during Makonde male initiation ceremonies. The mask is worn on a dancer's head to hide his identity and to impersonate a deceased person's ancestral spirit, which is called 'Lihoka'. In addition to scarification marks, this portrait-like mask features an incised patch on the crown of the head, which must have earlier had human hair attached to it. Initiated men only are allowed to wear a Mapiko.

Divination plays an important role among the Makonde. Its main role is solving day to day problems. This figure once belonged to a diviner north of the Ruvuma.

The figure is of a 'great' Female ancestor. The Makonde body scarification were and continue to be far more elaborate than those of other indigenous tribes of southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. It is said that these women with scarification became god-like figures after death. The scarification covers the forehead and the areas above the mouth and across the cheeks. The lizards on the sides of the stomach are believed to enhance fertility in women.

A figure depicting an ancestor holding a staff, indicating that he was of high stature in society. Just like the females Makonde men had the tribal facial scarification. Among men scarification had diverse functions ranging from personal need to display, spiritual beliefs, to signifying initiation into manhood / rite of passage.

The mask carved with a swollen abdomen represents a pregnant woman. Amwalidembo body masks are worn by male masqueraders during initiation dances making movements dramatizing the agonies of child birth.

This kind of sculpture is developed from the famous ujamaa style. This is a Makonde family tree. The ujamaa sculptures are characterized by poles of people, displaying everyday activities. There is always one big figure at the top of the pole, nowadays often female.

Shetani is Swahili for 'little devil'. According to the Makonde, shetani are creatures that neither human nor animal. They occur in five forms: human, mammal, fish, bird and reptile. Shetani are believed to be still around, though most artist never actually saw one (Many claim that their parents and teachers did encounter shetani). The sculptures are often heavily deformed giving it an abstract appearance. A large number of different shetani exist, each with their own purpose and powers (not always evil).

This is a sculpture in the George Lilanga style. He is perhaps the most famous Makonde artist. This particular style is now modeled by his students.

AMONG the major representatives of Tanzanian figurative art are the Makonde people, who are renowned throughout East Africa for their original and often highly fanciful carvings. Authentic Makonde carvings are made from ebony wood. The Makonde are one of the five major tribes in Tanzania who originally migrated north from Mozambique to the southern Tanzanian highlands. They are internationally famous for their intricate carvings, based on Life, Love, Good and Evil and which form their beliefs about the origins of man. The Makonde people had a traditional tale that “In the beginning, there was a man, who lived alone in a wild place and was lonely.

One day he took a piece of wood and shaped it with a tool into a figure. He placed the figure in the sun by his dwelling. Night fell and when the sun rose again the figure was a woman and she became his wife. They conceived and a child was born, but after three days it died. ‘Let us move from the river to a higher place where the reed beds grow.’ Said the wife. And this they did. Again she conceived and a child was born, but after three days it, too, died. Again the woman said ‘Let us move to yet higher ground where the thick bush grows.’ Once more they moved. A third time they conceived and a child was born. The child lived, and he was the first Makonde.”

The carvings are possibly the greatest art forms which originate from Tanzania and are considered the most positive and uninhibited of all East African art. For centuries their figures carved from Mpingo or Ebony have played a central role in their ceremonies.
Today the carvings still maintain the traditional elements of the human story in a tribal setting although many of the carvers have inevitably been influenced by the Western demand for their products. It is easy to find what is classed as “Modern Makonde” which is aimed purely at the tourist market and is basically Modigliani in style.

Mpingo bark is a light color under which is a small layer of white soft wood. The heart wood, however, is very hard and varies in color from a deep red to black depending on the soil type and age of the tree.

When finished, the carvings are polished and the wood quite literally shines. Again, due mainly to the tourist trade, the carvers also use other types of wood such as coconut and some have also learnt to carve in stone and coral.

A typical Makonde sculpture of the original Makonde people who are fond of making tattoos on their faces
Makonde sculpture, old and modern, represents an artistic tradition which evolved in response to the historical and economic forces affecting the Makonde people throughout the twentieth century, especially after the 1930s.

It is a story which unfolds in reverse chronology from the contemporary internationally known modern Makonde sculpture to its historical and cultural antecedents about which less has been written or is known.

Makonde sculpture dates back in the year 1930s when the first exhibition was held at Centro Cultural dos Novos in Mozambique. However, it was in Tanzania, where many Mozambique Makonde ethnic group had emigrated in search for work, that interest in their sculpture as a commodity arose.

The Indian merchant Peera was instrumental in encouraging this development. Using the hard wood mpingo (Dalbergia Melanoxylon), Manguli Istiwawo, Pajume Allale, Roberto Jacobs, and others carved in what has become known as the “tree of life”.

Modern Makonde art derives from the Makonde people living on the plateau south of the Ruvuma river in Mozambique (rather than from the Tanzanian Makonde). They migrated north into Tanzania and entered into the curio trade that began to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s in Dar es Salaam and Mtwara respectively.
During this time many Makonde farmers in northern Mozambique took up woodcarving to sell and supplement their incomes, this was encouraged by the FRELIMO liberation movement, which organized cooperative marketing of these carvings in Tanzania.

Their new sculptural forms grew naturally out of older traditions of woodcarving, unlike the Tanzanian Makonde, who had no real carving tradition. Modern Makonde sculptures range from curios of the airport variety to truly fine sculptures of imagination and artistry, but the reality of their production for commercial purposes is one that cannot be ignored.

Coote discusses the materials, techniques, styles and genres. In addition to traditional carving (especially masks with typical Makonde scarification), there are three identifiable modern styles, these are referred to as ‘binadamu, ujamaa, and shetani’.
The three correspond perfectly with the characteristics sought by Western art consumers of “erotic” art a move to naturalism, giganticism and grotesqueness. Shetani sculptures were once thought to be the invention of one man.

Of course, the modern Makonde woodcarving tradition goes back well before the war of liberation, but the war and its aftermath served as a genuine impetus. The style of the figures also changed, going from the earlier naturalistic rather benign figures to more distorted, satirical or somber depictions. The so-called ujamaa sculptures or in Portuguese “unidade de povo” date from the days of the liberation struggle. The “shetani” style originated with Samaki, but was quickly imitated and soon became a popular and successful commodity in the markets of Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Following independence in Mozambique in 1975, official recognition on the part of the government has further encouraged this modern tradition of sculpture.

The shetani sculptures from Mozambique differed from those in Tanzania, the latter were more sexually explicit and grotesque, being solely for the foreign tourist market. The FRELIMO philosophy also mitigated or “tamed” the influence of the male masquerade mapico (mapiko), which came to be seen as essentially oppressive to women. The mapico was “liberated” and became a cultural symbol for Mozambique; it is danced on national days and has even appeared on a postage stamp. The Makonde are, of course, famous for the wood carvings which bear their name. The tradition has existed among them for at least three centuries, when examples were brought back by Arab traders. It is likely that the tradition is much older than that.

Originally naturalistic and impregnated with meaning, the carvings are now generally more abstract, in keeping with the tastes of tourists and collectors. The one thing the carvings have in common is that they are invariably carved from a single piece of wood, no matter how intricate the design. The wood traditionally used comes from the African Blackwood tree (Dalbergia Melanoxylon), also known as “Mozambique Ebony”. It is extremely fine-grained and dark in colour, and so ideally-suited for carving.

The best-known works are the ‘tree of life’ carvings in the ujamaa style, being intricately carved conjunctions of interlocking human figures representing both unity and continuity. Less well-known are the ritual masks, which were used by dancers who embody the forms of spirits and ancestors. Earlier Makonde carvings generally depicted more traditional themes, often relating to various deities or rituals. Even today, the Makonde produce carvings of ordinary household objects such as bowls and walking sticks, although these are seldom seen for sale.

While it can be argued that the extensive commercialization of Makonde carvings has had a negative impact on artistic and imaginative quality, it has not totally destroyed originality. On the positive side, it has had the effect of securing many carvers a livelihood which they would not have been able to achieve otherwise. The major centers of Makonde carving in Tanzania are in the south-east on the Makonde plateau, and in Dar es Salaam which became a haven for Makonde carvers during the large-scale migrations from Mozambique in the 1950s and 1960s. Many Makonde migrants made their way from Mozambique into southern Tanzania, and from there to the capital, attracted by better employment opportunities and by favorable marketing prospects for their carving.

Makonde Tatoos
Among the Bantu-speaking Makonde, tattoos were and continue to be far more elaborate than those of other indigenous peoples living in Mozambique. The resonance of tattooing tradition here can partly be attributed to the landscape in which the Makonde inhabit, a place characterized by relatively inaccessible high plateaus that deterred European and Western contact until the turn of the 20th century; and also to Makonde cosmology and myth which to this day praises the deeds, knowledge, and superior physical attributes of the “great” ancestors of the past, especially tattooed women who became god-like after death.

Traditionally, Makonde tattoos were considered as regional indicators and each tribe preferred specific motifs that were laid down in a variety of set patterns. The face and other parts of the body contained chevrons, angles, zigzag and straight lines with an occasional circle, diamond, dot, or animal figure. Today these patterns have remained largely intact since each generation ofMakonde tattooists has only slightly modified their oeuvre, obeying traditional principles that guide their work. To date, the only major innovation within tattooing tradition is the technology itself; and the old triangular tattoo knife has been replaced by a finer razor-bladed model that cuts the skin more evenly and accurately.

Generally speaking, Makonde men tattoo boys and women the girls although overlap between the sexes does occur to some degree. Makonde tattoo artists are “professionals” who learn their skills usually from their parents or from other family members. The general Makonde term for tattoo is dinembo (“design” or “decoration”) and the tattooing process usually requires three or more sessions with the mpundi wa dinembo (“tattoo design artist”) to produce the desired result. After the cuts have been made with the traditional tattoo implements (chipopo), vegetable carbon is rubbed into the incisions producing a dark blue color.

Tattoo clients, who pay a nominal fee, are held down in a spread-eagle fashion. Just before the tattoo artist begins to ply her tool, she mentally records which designs she will mark. Moving carefully over the skin, she cuts then presses the pigment to the wound until she has finished, leaving the client to dry her wounds in the afternoon sun. After several days, the face is washed and the black lines created by the pigment now begin to show more clearly. Six months later, the entire process is repeated again, but with each successive tattoo layer, a greater relief pattern appears. Finally, a third operation is made which completes the work.

Some girls lose their courage when it is time for the second or third operation and they never complete the painful tattooing. Those who run away are ridiculed and even threatened by the woman who acts as their “godmother” during the dinembo rite, because for theMakonde the tattoo ritual is a sign of courage and “To Show I am a Makonde.”

Spanning the facial area above the mouth and across the cheeks and nose, lichumba (“deep angles”) mark nearly all tattooed Makonde men and women. Lichumba are almost as common as the woman’s ndona, or upper lip labret.

Two Makonde women & one with elaborate back tattooing comprised of palm frond motifs.

For the Makonde, tattooing had diverse functions ranging from the personal need to display, to the promotion of group cohesion (e.g., initiation, rite of passage), and to other more esoteric magico-religious principles. ca. 1960.

The magical mankani tattoo ensured fertility and perhaps provided protection against evil spirits.

“Magical” lizard tattoos were sometimes worn on the chests and backs of Makonde men and women. In some sense, they were believed to enhance virility for men and fertility for women.

Makonde women with ndona (labret), forehead, chin, cheek, and sternum tattoos. The labret is made of black ebony with an upright needle passing close to the nose, a sign that the girl is of marriageable age.

Tattoo Motifs
Common decorative motifs such as spiders (lidangadanga), crocodiles (nantchiwanuwe), and even yucca root bundles (nkaña) may have had magical associations in the past. And todayMakonde women continue to believe that the tattoos placed on their abdomen (mankani) and inner thighs (nchika) have the supernatural power to attract a husband. Of course, the motifs used to decorate these areas, usually palm tress or their fruit (nadi) and especially lizards (magwañula), are believed to enhance fertility.

However, the Makonde practice of tattooing the navel and pubic areas was perhaps related to the long-standing tradition of prophylactic “magic” aimed at warding off penetration or possession by evil forces that targeted vulnerable body passageways, namely the natural openings of the body. Armitage (1924) cites several instances of navel scarification among Bantu-speaking Gonja and Dagomba women in Ghana “put on to ward off or prevent sickness” while the anthropologists Nevadomsky and Aisien (1995) described fivetattoos stemming from the navel (“the center of life”) among the Bini women of Benin. Not surprisingly, the Bini prepared their tattoo pigments from leaves and lampblack, and at funerals mourners “rub a line of lamp-black on their foreheads to scare away the spirit of the deceased who tries to drag his relatives with him to the world of the dead.”

Spiritual Life Of The Makonde
The Makonde adhered to a cosmology dominated by a powerful impersonal force (ntela), the propitiation of ancestral spirits (mahoka) who were sometimes good or evil, and a concept of pervasive bush spirits (nnandenga) and sorcerers who were a form of malevolence.

The spirits of ancestors were often called upon to send cures for sickness, and to ensure success in the harvest or in hunting. Mahoka also served as intermediaries between the living and Nnungu, a powerful deity who was invoked during major droughts when the Makonde collectively prayed for rain.

On the malevolent order, spirits of the dead called mapiko only terrorized women and the non-initiated, while sorcerers created invisible slaves from humans called lindandosa that were sent to the agricultural fields to work their evil magic.

Woman With Ndona
Because excessive fear of death pervaded Makonde belief, its stigma had to be controlled or pre-empted because it threatened the basic assumptions of cosmic order on which society rested. Thus, every woman understood that her participation in society could provoke the negative intervention of powerful spiritual forces made manifest as mahoka, nnandenga, lindandosa, or mapiko who were the ultimate guarantors of social, physical, and economic survival. In this sense, Makonde tattoo arts were an important tool for fostering productive interaction between human beings and spirits, because it is clear that the designs repeatedly tattooed on women helped to secure their commitment to the potencies that bring forth life and to the socialization process of initiation itself. Tattoos also constructed a common visual language through which these relationships could be tangibly expressed and mediated to provide the individual wearer with a means to control her surrounding world.

Similarly, Makonde sculpture and more utilitarian objects like gourds (situmba) and water pots, which embody feminine and reproductive qualities, symbolically reinforced this commitment to order and stability because they were often decorated with tattoo designs. As “ancestral implements” used for carrying water, beer, honey, and seeds for planting, gourds were considered to be female symbols par excellence. And like the tattooed bodies of Makonde women, they acted as conduits through which symbolic meaning poured; meaning that connected the human, spiritual, and ancestral communities of the Makonde of Mozambique.

QATAR: Qatar Airways To Commence Doha-Armenia Flights From May 15

Qatar Airways (QA) has announced that it will offer four-times weekly non-stop flights between Doha and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, from May 15.

At the launch of QA’s new scheduled service to Los Angeles this month, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said passengers on the new direct service to and from Yerevan will benefit from easier access to the rest of the world via QA’s global network.

QA’s expanding global reach, including its newest US destinations of Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta this year and significant growth of its modern fleet has enabled the airline to offer the new service to Armenia.

Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural and industrial centre of Armenia and offers visiting business and leisure passengers a rich and diverse history. With a city backdrop of the snow-capped Caucasus mountain range, Yerevan is one of the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited cities and its diverse architecture and atmosphere is easily explored on foot.

Al Baker said: “QA has seen unprecedented growth in recent years, launching new destinations around the globe while establishing our new home and hub Hamad International Airport (HIA).

“With the new service to Yerevan, QA is enhancing its worldwide footprint and expanding travel opportunities for business and leisure passengers.”

Passengers flying from Yerevan and onwards to any of QA’s more than 150 destinations will enjoy a quick and convenient transfer at HIA, the newest airport hub in the world. Offering over 100 retail and dining options and unique services such as a swimming pool, hotel and spa for those in transit, the airport is sure to further enhance passengers’ overall travel experience.

QA will fly the A320 aircraft direct to and from Yerevan on the four-weekly schedule, featuring a two-class cabin configuration comprising 12 seats in Business Class and 132 in Economy Class.

QA is one of the fastest growing airlines operating one of the youngest fleets in the world.

Now in its 19th year of operations, QA has a modern fleet of 175 aircraft flying to over 150 key business and leisure destinations across six continents.

QA has won awards, including being voted by passengers as the Airline of the Year for the third time and Best Airline in the Middle East for the ninth time at the 2015 Skytrax Awards in June.

Schedule: Non-stop Doha to/from Yerevan (all times local)

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays: QR 285 departs Doha at 20:25 and arrives in Yerevan at 00:40+1

Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays: QR 286 departs Yerevan at 03:25 and arrives in Doha at 05:30.

TANZANIA: Ngorongoro Conservation Area Less Tourists Coming In

The Tanzania’s leading tourist destination Ngorongoro Conservation Area has experienced a sharp drop of tourist vehicles getting into the Ngorongoro Crater, senior official of the wildlife sanctuary has said.

Adam Akyoo, Public Relations Manager of Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), said that the situation has been caused by the outbreak of Ebola disease in western African countries and a series of terrorist attacks in neighboring Kenya.

"We are highly affected with those two factors," he said, adding that before, an average of 300 tourist vehicles used to get into the Ngorongoro Crater per day, but now only an average of 20 vehicles were registered per day.

"This is a very serious situation in this country’s leading tourist attraction," he said.

Akyoo said NCAA was working on establishing other alternative measures including erecting a storey building in Arusha city center, which will be used for economic investment.

"We are expecting to spend about 250 million U.S. dollars for the completion of the proposed storey building in Arusha," he said.

"The idea is to make revenue of the NCAA remain intact at the time when doldrums like this happens."

Ngorongoro MP Saning’o Ole Telele suggested the need for the NCAA to embark in a serious campaign to promote domestic tourism.

"What we are seeing now is a wake-up call.

"Let’s start encouraging our people to inculcate a culture of visiting our tourist destinations.

"Though they’ll be paying a little money, but that will make us continue with our wildlife conservation efforts, " the MP said.

Catherine Mbena, communication manager at the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), admitted that the country’s tourism industry was passing through a very difficult time.

"The current trend hadn’t happened before," she said.

For the past two years, the Tanzania’s wildlife fully-packed caldera recorded nearly 700,000 tourists annually which is high compared to other parks.

However, the recent trend sends a shockwave to the country’s tourism industry, which ranks top in contributing to GDP.

The situation also ruins country’s endeavors of increasing number of foreign tourist arrivals to more than 2.5 million by 2017.

TANZANIA: Mwenge Carvers Market

This crafts market hosts a giant co-op of over 200 carvers, who specialize in Makonde carvings. You can also find other arts and crafts there, such as the beautiful and often quite adorable Tinga Tinga paintings. Be sure to not give in too quickly, be strong bargain and let the vendors fight prices amongst themselves.

GHANA: Hotels To Ensure Maximum Security Amid Terrorism

Hotel and entertainment centre owners, he said, needed to actively involve the police in their activities to ensure adequate protection for everybody.

DCOP Boakye was speaking at a meeting held with hotel and nightclub operators in Kumasi.

This comes amid heightened anxiety caused by the recent terrorist attack on an upscale hotel and café in neighbouring Burkina Faso – the fear that such despicable act could be carried out in the country.

He asked that they strengthened their internal security arrangements to flag up any suspicious people who patronized their facilities.

The hotels, particularly, should properly check the identity of potential guests to prevent criminals from using their places as hideout.

He advised them to engage qualified people to man installed security cameras, adding that, things must be done in such a way that they do not open up their facilities to any miscreant.

DCOP Boakye said it was important for all to take responsibility and work together to prevent and fight crime.

TANZANIA: Tanzania Popular Cruise Destination Now

Dar es Salaam Tourism is getting a boost following another luxury cruise ship which docked in Dar es Salaam Port on Monday December 21, 2015 with more than 450 tourists and crew. MS Nautica, which is operated by Oceania Cruises, docked at Dar es Salaam Port at 09h30. The vacationers were from different countries including South Africa, the United States, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

At the Port, the tourists were welcomed by the energetic traditional snake dance, which was really exiting. While some tourists travelled to Bagamoyo to visit historical sites, others enjoyed a tour of Dar es salaam City including the National Museum, Tinga Tinga Arts, The Slip Way Craft Market and Mwenge Craft Market.
The cruise Ship will also dock in Zanzibar on Tuesday December 22, 2015 and provide opportunity for tourists to visit various attractions including the beautifully preserved old Stone Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, historical monuments such as the Arab Fort and the House of Wonders.
Tourists will also be having opportunity to hang around the markets in the Stone Town, shop for the exquisite handicraft items and artifacts made by the local people, as well as taking time for spice tour.
Tanzania is expected to receive another cruise Ship on December 31, 2015 and January 1, 2016 respectively with approximately 1000 tourists.The Oceania Cruises arriving in Dar es salaam Port.The tourists entertained by a snake traditional dance while disembarking from the Cruise ship.Tourists are having information from TTB'S Tourist Information Officer Maria Lazaro before starting a City tour.

TANZANIA: Witchdoctors Hack Albinos Believing They Bring Goodluck

Tanzania’s albinos are being ‘hunted down like animals’ as greed for money and influence drives families to turn on their own loved ones in a trade allegedly fuelled by some of the country’s most powerful people. It is believed albino body parts will bring a person wealth, or luck – and for that, people are willing to pay as much as $3,000 or $4,000 for a limb, or as much as $75,000 – about £50,000 – for the ‘full set’, a whole body.

Tanzania has the highest number of killings and attacks of albinos in Africa and trade in body parts of the special people is driven by belief that they bring luck and wealth.

People with albinism are regularly attacked by people who chop their limbs off – an act which either leaves them severely mutilated, or dead.
Albinism, a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding in remote and rural communities, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20,000.
Since people began collecting records of the attacks, there have been 74 killings and 59 survivors of attacks. Even the dead are not safe: 16 graves have been robbed.

And these are only the recorded cases.
The most recent case saw four-year-old Pendo Emmanuelle Nundi abducted from her home in December.
Her father and uncle were both arrested in connection with her disappearance, but – despite rewards offered of £1,130 and promises of swift action from the police – she has not been found.

Charities working in the area do not hold out much hope she will be returned safely, but – listening to survivors’ stories – it is likely her end is, or will be brutal.

Mwigulu Matonange was just 10 when he was attacked by two men as he walked home from school with a friend.
They chopped off his left arm, before disappearing back into the jungle with their ‘prize’.
‘I was held down like a goat about to be slaughtered,’ he told IPP Media after the February 2014 attack.
In Mwigulu’s case, the two men were strangers: he had never seen them before.
But it is understood suspicion turned on Pendo’s father after he took half-an-hour to report her abduction, despite there being neighbours who could have helped as soon as she was taken.

It is not just parents. A 38-year-old woman with albinism was attacked with machetes by her husband and four other men while she was sleeping in February 2013, according to a UN report.

Her eight-year-old daughter watched her father leave the bedroom carrying her mother’s arm.Those living with albinism in Tanzania fear the lure of making a couple of hundred dollars – three times the minimum wage earned in the country – is placing them in danger, even from their own families.

‘Now we can see the parents who are involved in planning the attacks. What kind of war are we fighting if parents and family do this? Who can we trust?’ Josephat Torner, who campaigns for albino rights, asked.

‘You do not know who is your enemy.’
Josephat, who himself is albino, added: ‘People with the albinism are being hunted and killed for our body parts. It is because people want to become rich.
‘We are still living in danger. It is because people, they have different ideas. Some people, they are thinking they should get our body parts and sell to different places.
‘The question is, why? Why now? And who is behind the killings?’
Exactly who remains unknown.

But Josephat – who has received death threats for his work, and was attacked in 2012 – said: ‘The big fishes are behind the issue. It has been really a big discussion. If I say big fish, or big people, it is those who have enough resources, enough money.
‘People sell the body parts for high prices. So it is not really small fish behind it.
‘It could be politicians. It could be those people.’

There are, campaigners know, times when more albino attacks take place. And they know, with the general election coming up in October, now is one of the most dangerous times to be an albino.
The UN warned political campaigners were turning to witch doctors to help them win election back in August.
‘People with albinism are hiding while there are elections,’ said Peter.

Josephat added: ‘This year we are going to have an election. Since last year, we have been seeing attacks and killings.’
Already, there has been a noticeable increase.
Over the course of just 11 days last year, there were three attacks and two attempted attacks on people with albinism in Tanzania.
One man, thought to be in his early 20s, was found lying dead, his body mutilated, in the grass by some schoolchildren in a suburb of Dar Es Salaam.
The next day, a mother-of-seven was attacked in the Tabora region of Tanzania, losing her arm.

A few days before, 15-year-old Pendo Sengerema was attacked as she ate dinner at home with her family.
They hacked off her right arm just below the elbow, before running off into the dark.
According to Under the Same Sun, a witch doctor had received an order from a wealthy client indicating that if Pendo’s arm could be provided, it would garner a price of $600.

The attack left Pendo terrified, begging to be sent away from her village.
‘I am asking the police to move me to a safer place and protect me because bad men might come back to kill me,’ she pleaded.
These ‘safer places’ are the centres set up around the country, where large number of people with albinism are living behind high walls for their own protection.

The camps were established after the first high profile waves of attacks, a knee-jerk response to a terrifying situation.
‘It was supposed to be a short term solution,’ Peter said. ‘But there was no long term plan.’
Years later, they still exist – and now are not just for children: adults are kept behind the camps’ high walls as well.
‘Children who are there, they are living there maybe for seven years without going back to their families,’ said Josephat.

‘At the end of the day, families or communities do not want to allow them to go back. These children are growing up without any parental care.’
‘If you ask the community why now are they forcing their children to the camps, they are saying it is where they belong. But we are not for the camps: we are for the community.’

BRAZIL: Fewer Zika Microcephaly Cases Than Previously Reported

Brazil is enduring an extraordinary outbreak of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that results in infants being born with abnormally small heads and brains. Since last fall, more than 4,000 suspected cases have been reported, and authorities have blamed an unusual virus, Zika, carried by mosquitos.

But now it appears that a number of those cases may not in fact be microcephaly, or not linked to Zika.

On Wednesday, Brazil’s Ministry of Health said 4,180 cases of Zika-related microcephaly had been reported since October. The country is trying to find out which cases it could actually confirm from notifications provided by doctors – a slow and complicated process as the information is compiled and checked by health secretariats in 26 states and one federal district spread across South America’s biggest country.

After experts scrutinized 732 of the cases they found that more than half either weren’t microcephaly, or weren’t related to Zika.

Just 270 were confirmed as microcephaly that appears to be linked to Zika or other infectious diseases, according to the latest ministry bulletin.

It’s not yet clear whether the same pattern will emerge from the rest of the 3,448 cases that Brazil has to examine. And health experts say the huge number of cases is still very worrisome — as is the rapid spread of Zika through the Americas. (Brazil reported just 147 cases of microcephaly in 2014).

Microcephaly causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, and can cause motor and learning difficulties, among other problems. The condition can also be caused by genetic factors or drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy.

Some scientists said the new data suggest that Brazil will have fewer cases of Zika-related microcephaly than originally feared. The country may have over-counted microcephaly cases because it initially asked doctors to report all births of babies with a head circumference of 33 centimeters or less — but some of those were simply children with normally small heads.

“It is possible that the number of cases of microcephaly with suspected relationship to Zika will be much less,” said Esper Kallas, an infectious diseases specialist and professor of medicine at the University of São Paulo. “I think it will be less than a third” of the possible cases that have been reported, he said.

Kallas also said the outbreak had made Brazil realize that microcephaly unrelated to Zika was more common than authorities realized in the past.

Other specialists, though, were wary of the new data, questioning the methodology that was being used. They noted that authorities in one of the badly affected areas, the northeastern state of Bahia, have used relatively cheaper transcranial ultrasound imaging — rather than CT brain imaging scans — to try to confirm and discard cases of microcephaly.

The more inexpensive test might not spot milder cases of the condition, said Ganeshwaran Mochida, a pediatric neurologist and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital. “There could be some cases mistakenly discarded due to not enough sensitivity,” he said.

Zika was first confirmed in Brazil in May last year, and has spread rapidly in the hemisphere, reaching 23 countries and territories. Its explosive growth has alarmed health professionals who worry about the suspected linkage to microcephaly and a rare nervous system syndrome known as Guillain-Barré that can lead to paralysis.

TANZANIA: Serengeti National Park

Latest News from the Serengeti. The Wildebeest migration are now out of the Maasai Mara and in the Serengeti National Park at the southern end of the Serengeti Ecosystem where they are giving birth to some 500,000 calfs. This is an incredible time to visit should you wish.

Serengeti National Park (Serengeti) is located in Tanzania, best known for its abundance of animals and the great wildebeest migration.

The Serengeti stretches 14,763 (5,700 sq miles) stretching North to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the West.

Serengeti has the highest concentration of large mammals on this planet and its famous known for its 2,500 Lions the largest concentration found anywhere. The park also has over 518 identified bird species where some of them are Eurasian migrants who are present in the European winter months from October to April.

Accommodation: There is a wide range of places to stay in the Serengeti Ecosystem. There is also a very good Serengeti Map if you would like to know more about the general size and area.

With the Serengeti only 335 km (208 miles) from Arusha it is still a very long drive due to the roads. If you are driving to the Serengeti National Park it is recommended to stop off on the way. We would like to point out that if you are interested in visiting the Ngorongoro Crater on the way, it is best to get to the rim the afternoon before and then spend the whole next day in the Crater.

Best time to visit
Following the Wildebeest migration from Serengeti National Park to Maasai Mara National Reserve, the best time is December to July and to see the predators the best time is June to October.

Recommended number of days
Due to the amount to be seen in the reserve it’s recommendable to have three or four day’s safari. If you are interested in photography, the longer you stay the better chances you have to get the ultimate photos.

TANZANIA: Maswa Game Reserve

Located along the southwestern boundary of the Serengeti National Park, Maswa is the dry season refuge for many Serengeti animals. The Simiyu, Mbono, Semu and Mongomawe rivers form the main drainage courses providing water for the game in the dry season. In January and February, the epic wildebeest migration passes through Maswa feeding on the spring grasses.

Maswa is home to buffalo, lion, leopard, roan, Coke’s hartebeest, East African impala, Thomson’s gazelle and Robert’s gazelle. There is also an abundance of zebra, Defassa waterbuck and warthog, as well as topi, wildebeest, East African bush duiker, dik-dik, baboon, bushbuck, eland, klipspringer, greater kudu, Bohor reedbuck, steinbuck, hyena, jackal, ostrich and roan antelope.

The Maswa Game Reserve borders the world-famous Serengeti National Park and at times during the year the great migration passes through Maswa's boundaries. Wire snares target the migration and indiscriminately kill animals. FCF rangers in Maswa clear extensive snare lines during their patrols.

FCF rangers encounter bushmeat and ivory poachers on a fairly regular basis. Elephant poaching is especially prevalent with over forty carcasses identified by FCF rangers in 2010. Other major concerns are illegal charcoal production and domestic livestock overgrazing along the boundaries of the reserve.

FCF has a very high concentration of field personnel based in Maswa with twenty full time anti-poaching personnel there on a year-round basis. One of FCF's microlights is based here and is proving to be very effective in assisting anti-poaching efforts.

Community Development
FCF collaborates with the Meatu District and the Wildlife Department to support projects prioritized by the villages neighboring the Maswa Game Reserve. Education, highly valued across Tanzania, has been a priority in this area.

FCF has sponsored projects such as the construction of teachers' homes, student scholarships, and library support in villages along the western and southern boundaries of the concession.

GIS & Research
The Maswa Game Reserve is part of the famed Serengeti ecosystem. Itsupports a large resident ungulate population and hosts the great migration of wildebeest and zebra during January and February. Conflict and competition for natural resources between humans and the wildlife is prevalent in this area.

The Maswa Game Reserve is part of the famed Serengeti ecosystem. Itsupports a large resident ungulate population and hosts the great migration of wildebeest and zebra during January and February. Conflict and competition for natural resources between humans and the wildlife is prevalent in this area.

TANZANIA: Anti Poaching British Helicopter Pilot Roger Gower Shot Down By Crazy Poachers

A British helicopter pilot was fatally shot by elephant poachers while flying an anti-poaching mission in Tanzania, a member of Parliament and a conservation fund said Saturday.

Roger Gower was working with Tanzanian wildlife authorities when the poachers fired on his helicopter and fatally wounded him Friday, said Dan Friedkin, chairman of the Texas-based non-profit Friedkin Conservation Fund.

"We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our dear friend," he said.

Gower managed to land the chopper but died before he was able to be rescued, said Lazaro Nyalandu, the country's former tourism minister, who said he flew with Gower many times.

Gower was helping rangers find the killers of an elephant when the poachers fired at the helicopter with an AK-47, Nyalandu wrote on Twitter.

Photos of the crash site, provided by Tanzania National Parks, show the helicopter on its side in dense grass, its tail broken off. A bloody bullet hole can be seen in one of the seats.

"Those poachers who killed Capt Roger are coward, evil, and sad people. A fine hearted individual gone too soon, and our hearts are broken," Nyalandu wrote.

RIP Capt Roger. You loved our country and I knew you on many flights we took together in defence of our wildlife heritage. Life is precious

— Lazaro Nyalandu (@LazaroNyalandu) January 30, 2016
The shooting happened at the Maswa Game Reserve, which borders the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania, Nyalandu said. Elephant poaching is prevalent on the reserve, according to the Friedkin Conservation Fund.

It was not immediately clear whether Gower was working for the fund when he was killed.

"This tragic event again highlights the appalling risk and cost of protecting Tanzania's wildlife," Friedkin said.

The killers are still at large, Nyalandu said. Tourism Minister Jumanne Maghembe flew to Maswa with senior government officials to lead the search, he said.

"Capt Roger represented the very best in human spirit," Nyalandu wrote. "He loved people and the wildlife. He died serving both."

Saturday, 30 January 2016

CUBA: US Farmers Find Market In Cuba

Before the U.S. embargo, Cuba bought more U.S. rice than any other country in the world. Now, most Cuban rice comes from Vietnam. Last year, Cuba imported $200 million worth of wheat — virtually all of it from Europe and Canada and none from the United States, the largest global exporter.

Many U.S. agricultural producers thought those facts would begin to change this year, as U.S. relations with Cuba improved.

But in the six months since President Obama announced a new opening to the island, sales of U.S. foodstuffs — among the few U.S. products allowed, with restrictions, under the embargo — have dropped by half, from $160 million in the first quarter of 2014, to $83 million this year.

Even frozen chicken, which has led U.S. food exports to Cuba for years, had lost favor in Havana long before fears of the U.S. bird flu epidemic led this month to a ban on all poultry purchases.

As the Obama administration wraps up negotiations with Cuba that are expected to lead to restored diplomatic ties this summer, only the U.S. Congress can lift the embargo that still prevents nearly all financial and trade relations and severely limits even the few permitted exports.

Obama has said he wants that to happen, and U.S. producers from major agribusiness companies to small farmers have joined a bipartisan force of farm state governors and lawmakers to help overturn restrictions they say are keeping them out of a $2 billion annual market.

“Opening a new export market means a new source of revenue,” said Devry Boughner, vice president at Cargill Inc., the Minnesota-based agribusiness giant and a co-founder in January of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

While Cuba’s 11 million people are not the world’s biggest market, Boughner said in an interview, “it’s a market that’s right in our target zone.” With Cuba only 90 miles away, she said, it makes little sense “to be losing out to competitors who take longer to ship it there, who might not even have the same quality” as U.S. products.

Cubans rival Southeast Asians as prodigious consumers of rice. Within two years, Riceland Foods vice president Terry Harris told the Senate Agriculture Committee in April, U.S. rice could be providing up to 135,000 metric tons, 30 percent of the Cuban market. Within a decade, he said, that figure could rise to 75 percent or more.

Doug Keesling, a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer, told the panel he saw no “compelling reason” for Congress to “restrict the freedom of Americans to engage in commerce, especially for those who are just trying to sell wholesome, American-grown food.”

“I can put my wheat in an elevator in Kansas, send it by rail down to the Gulf, put it on a ship that’s a couple days away from Havana harbor,” Keesling said. “But my wheat’s still going to lose out to wheat that has been on a boat for a week from Canada, or even two weeks from France.”

Yet despite a series of hearings, conferences, concerted lobbying and a stream of trade delegations to Cuba from both Republican and Democratic states this year, the embargo remains firmly in place, with little promise of early action.

Many lawmakers are receptive to Obama’s call to jettison a policy he says has failed for more than a half century to effect change in Cuba. But for most, lifting the sanctions remains just one more unwelcome controversy in a contentious Congress.

Others want to retain congressional power to block a White House initiative they deeply oppose. They include GOP presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., who has accused Obama of turning his back on Cubans oppressed by their communist government, and Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas, both sons of Cubans who emigrated before Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Obama, Cruz charged, had thrown an “economic lifeline” to Cuba just as the embargo and diplomatic freeze had left its communist regime “gasping for air.”

See: White House threatens to veto Cuba travel curbs

Malnutrition rates in Cuba are “very low,” according to the World Food Program, on par with the United States and the rest of the highly developed world. Staples are guaranteed via government-issued ration cards. But domestic agricultural production rates are abysmal, equipment and farming methods are antiquated, and up to 80 percent of Cuban food is imported.

Subsidies from the then-Soviet bloc helped fill the food gap for decades after the U.S. embargo was first imposed in 1960. The Soviet collapse left Cuba in deep recession in the early 1990s, and Havana welcomed the lifting of some U.S. restrictions on food and medical exports in 2000.

Despite permitting cash-only transactions, U.S. food sales rose to a 2008 peak of $710 million before starting a downward trajectory that appears this year to have gone off a cliff.

When current President Raúl Castro took over nearly a decade ago he adopted more pragmatic policies than his older brother, and U.S exports increased. But the complication and high expense of buying American in recent years has diminished Cuban zeal. U.S. prices may be competitive and transportation cheaper over the short distance, but the cost of doing business with the United States is high.

Cash-only limits remain, although Obama has eased the restriction somewhat by requiring payment when title to the goods is transferred in Cuba, rather than up-front before goods are shipped.

But Cuba’s lack of cash makes that a rarely used option. Most purchases are made on credit, and the embargo allows no U.S. financing. Instead, Cuba must go through third countries, with Havana obtaining a loan from a foreign bank. That bank then communicates with the bank of a U.S. producer, which arranges the sale with the producer himself. The process is then reversed, with each stage involving lengthy bureaucracy and significant fees.

Cubans “are not going hungry; they’re just buying wheat from other countries,” said farmer Keesling. “That may be more expensive than mine in a free market, but it is now a much better value because there aren’t massive compliance costs accompanying every purchase.”

Some opponents of lifting the embargo maintain that increased U.S. sales will only benefit the Cuban government, since all agricultural imports must go through the state agency, called Alimport.

Boughner and others point out that Cuba is not unique in that regard. Until recently, both Canada and Australia handled all of their wheat imports with state boards. “We’ve had examples through history where states have been involved in trading, but it doesn’t mean we don’t trade with them,” Boughner said.

The U.S. food business also sees potential in the eventual lifting of remaining restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba. In addition to sampling Cuban cuisine, tourists will want to eat and drink what they are used to from home, industry analysts believe.

UGANDA: Zika Virus First Discovered 70 Years Ago Zinka Forest, Uganda

The Zika forest is not well known in Uganda, and most people will be hard-pushed to tell you where it is. The word itself means overgrown in the local Luganda language.

The Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains in Brazil, was discovered in a forest in the of Uganda seven decades ago.

There is dense vegetation, a wide range of trees and lots of small animals. The only people you are likely to meet here are the forest-keeper and his family. They live in a small house made of corrugated iron sheets.

The virus was discovered in the forest - then a hub of scientific research in East Africa - in 1947 by accident by Ugandan, American and European scientists working on another viral disease, Yellow Fever.

While testing monkeys in the forest the scientists, whose research had been funded for a decade by the Rockefeller Foundation, came across a new microorganism, which they named Zika.

What is the Zika virus:

- Spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever
- First discovered in Uganda in 1947 but now spreading in Latin America
- Scientists say there is growing evidence of a link to microcephaly, that leads to babies being born with small heads
- Can lead to fever and a rash but most people show no symptoms, and there is no known cure
- Only way to fight Zika is to clear stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, and protect against mosquito bites

Only two cases of the virus have been confirmed in Uganda in the past seven decades.
This is because the types of mosquitoes that would transmit the virus to humans don't often come into contact with the general population, says Dr Julius Lutwama, a leading virologist at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.

"The Aedes we have, Aedes aegypti formosus, normally does not bite humans. And then we have other mosquitoes which live in the forests and prefer to bite at dusk and dawn," Dr Lutwama adds.
This is in contrast to Latin America, where a different sub species, Aedes aegypti aegypti, is spreading the Zika virus.

Much of the Zika forest, which is along the highway between the capital Kampala and Entebbe International Airport, has been lost to development projects, as Uganda's population grows.

All around it new big houses with freshly tiled roofs are springing up. What's left of it is gazetted for scientific research.

Several kilometres up the main road is the Uganda Virus Research Institute. It's a massive campus on a hill overlooking Lake Victoria.
Security is tight here because samples of dangerous organisms like Ebola, Yellow Fever and Zika are stored there.
This is also the only place in Uganda where you can test for Zika.

But as Dr John Kayuma, one of the laboratory managers said, one of the reasons why there are few recorded cases in Uganda could be because not many people have been tested for it.

"It is possible that there could be several people, or so many people out there with the Zika virus infection, but because many people do not seek treatment in the hospitals, we could be missing out.

"And also the surveillance has probably not picked them out. There's a possibility that there are more cases out there."
In a few months the government will be starting a study to find out how widespread the Zika virus and other flaviviruses like Yellow Fever, Dengue and West Nile are amongst the population.

In the meantime, Dr Lutwama and his team say they are keeping an eye on the type of mosquitoes in the country in case any of the ones that are good at spreading the disease enter Uganda.