MDI’s event ‘Prime-time for Diversity’ gathered some of the most prominent journalists & media experts and was moderated by BBC presenter Razia Iqbal.
Present at panel: The Guardian’s Diary Editor Hugh Muir - Richard Sambrook, Director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff School of Journalism and former Head of BBC Global News - Bettina Peters, Director of development at the Thomson Foundation – John Owen, Professor at City University, London & Chairman of the Frontline Club – Maria Lipman, the Chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Society & Regions Program.
Rani curated and organised the first Chew & View event, at the South Kilburn Studios, which brought people together to enjoy great films and food and to explore the different themes linked to them.
The evening was a huge success with a full house – and an unusual delicious festive feast was cooked up by the delightful and talented Dee Woods, who summed up the evening perfectly:
Where our food comes from today is bound up with the politics of trade and aid, capitalism, greed, oppression and inequity – but also the fierce spirit that people have around the world in taking control of their lives, through food.
True sustainability of our food, and subsequent health and nutrition is contained in maintaining the freedom of seed, in ensuring right livelihoods for those that produce our food, in changing the system, equal distribution, reducing food waste, making real food, good food, healthy and nutritious food available to all. It is not just about local, seasonal and organic.
Food is a right. Food for thought.
Or ....the funny story behind my first book.
An extraordinary thing happened in 2012. I received an enormous coffin-sized box with my name on it. Not expecting anything, it’s fair to say that I opened the box with a certain amount of trepidation, especially as the first item to emerge from it was a man’s shoe and then another – and then what looked like a leg. Needless to say, it was quite an eerie experience, until more pieces were revealed and it became apparent that these were the body parts of a self-assembly scarecrow! Yet I still had no idea who had sent it – and why. And then, I made the connection.
In 2002, I had been invited to Sardinia to film a particularly special carnival, organised and curated by Dante Olianas. It was a visual and musical feast of international carnival magic, set in the village of Eskolka – and it was there that I discovered Mario Serrau’s amazing scarecrows. There were a variety of these scarecrows – giant scarecrows, baby scarecrows, some were realistic while others were fantastical – all of them true works of art. Ten years later, I was invited to show some of my footage at the 10th anniversary of this famous carnival. Little did I know that many of the people I had filmed would be in the audience. Mario Serrau was there, he saw himself in the film and heard me say on camera how much I loved his scarecrows and how I wished that I could take one back to London with me…and so 10 years later he actually sent me one of his scarecrows!
I assembled the scarecrow in my flat. I named him Mario (in homage to his creator ) and decided to give Mario a new life in London as a way of thanking Mario Serrau who had sent him to me. And that is how I came to create the book The Story Of Mario: A Sardinian Scarecrow In London - with the invaluable help of my filmmaker friend Keren Ghitis, who took photographs of me and Mario for this book.
Some months later, the book I sent Mario Serrau received a great deal of attention in Sardinia! Who was this crazy woman who had gone on various adventures with a scarecrow in the streets of London? The ingenious Dante Olianas succeeded in getting funding from the Ministry of Culture to invite me to present the book in Eskolka, the place where I had first seen the scarecrows during the famous unorthodox carnival . So I went back in October 2013 with copies of the book and became part of Mario’s family of scarecrows. "Spaventi passeri" in Italian.
In May 2013, the Media Diversity Institute invited me to represent them at the Rose Festival in Kelaa M’Gouna, Morocco, as a media consultant. I recorded and produced audio podcasts exploring what the local Moroccans and the Amazigh people (previously known as the Berber) thought about the Moroccan media coverage of this special event. Their responses were quite mixed and contradictory. On the one hand some people thought the coverage was positive as it brought the media and government to this isolated region, and improvements had occurred over the last few years in the education and health sectors , on the other hand, others believed that in actuality it had not made a difference to people's lives.
It was my first time in this part of Morocco, a most unexpected and magical place called the Vallée des Roses, within the Dades valley, tucked between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert. In spring, the entire Dades Valley becomes a sea of small pink Persian roses. These roses are the valley’s life-blood, from cultivation to the production of rose water and rose oil. In mid-May, the harvesting of the roses is celebrated with a three-day festival of entertainment, music, dance, horse and sword displays – and a showcase for all the rose products and local distilleries. The Rose Festival draws around 20,000 Moroccans and a few tourists. The whole town bathes in a unique rose fragrance and pays homage to this most beautiful flower, on which the inhabitants’ livelihood depends.
Through meeting the wonderful Moulay El Hassan, who became a friend and a guide, I had the chance to visit a traditional distillery run by women: Association Feminine pour le Développement de la Famille OUED – DADES AFDF, in Douar Ait Majber. It aims to help women gain financial independence, combat isolation and segregation, support mothers and children with access to education and heath services, educate the youth on environmental issues, the preservation of the environment and its biodiversity, eco tourism and fair trade with the intention of bringing remuneration to the locals working on the land.
We were welcomed with a most delicious breakfast consisting of freshly made bread and apricot jam, homemade butter, olives and honey. And Moroccan tea of course! It was so good to eat all of this food in the distillery's courtyard, and to know that it came from this land, from these people, who shared it so generously with us.
To observe the traditional process involved to make rose oil and rose water was quite a revelation. I had no idea that it took 60,000 roses to make 1 ounce of rose oil, equivalent to 29.57 ml.
To find myself surrounded by so many roses in this remote part of Morocco, was a truly magical moment. Here are some photographs from our visit, several taken by Mai-Britt Wulf, the lovely German journalist with whom I was traveling, others by Hamid - a young, friendly and talented Moroccan media student, and some by me.