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Graphic Journalism by Dan Archer


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2010 December

Chagos Update and Tweeting in Court

More from the follow-up on last week’s post revealing the real reason behind the UK government’s support for a marine preserve on Diego Garica – namely to use the leverage of the environmental lobby in the UK against the less powerful Chagos Support group, who are fighting to return the expelled islanders to their homeland.

Another legal revelation here (though not as scandalous and therefore far more likely to stay in the headlines) is that tweeting is now possible in court, as ruled by the Lord Justice Judge of the High Court (quite the title):

“The use of an unobtrusive, hand-held, virtually silent piece of modern equipment for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings to the outside world as they unfold in court is unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice.”

As opposed to a camera…

Radio silence of late has been due to our snowy return to the UK, where naturally all transport has ground to a halt in the wake of a few inches of snow. As the itinerant comics journalist, I’ve been using the time to chronicle the wonder of the big smoke in my sketchbook – above is the commercial black hole of Mordor, aka Oxford St, in all its festive glory. Some washes to come later on this week, along with a long post on Honduras and Canadian Mining Companies in Central America. It doesn’t get more festive than that.

Belated Human Rights Day and Chagos Wikileaked

Friday marked not one but two important anniversaries: Human Rights Day and Day of Action against US Military Bases. For more on the former and to find out exactly what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is all about, go here.

Speaking of human rights, last week also saw more revelations from the Wikileaks Datadump – this time to do with the displaced Chagos islanders and their fight for the right to return to their homeland in Diego Garcia. Read my 4-page comic about the case here. As has often been the case with the Wikileaks “revelations”, it’s only cemented what we’d feared all along – that the MPs in charge of the project had treated the entire case with the sort of disabused colonial mentality that the Foreign Office is often parodied for. Here’s the quick summary: [USG=US Gov’t). My highlights in bold. For more detail, read this Guardian article.

  1. Use of the Marine Park Alibi to Counter Exiled Islanders’ Resettlement Claims:

The official insisted that the establishment of a marine park — the world’s largest — would in no way impinge on USG use of the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, for military purposes. He agreed that the UK and U.S. should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that U.S. interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.

2. And as if there was any doubt about the real purpose of Diego Garcia in either UK or US govts’ minds:

Designating the BIOT as a marine park could, years down the road, create public questioning about the suitability of the BIOT for military purposes. Roberts responded that the terms of reference for the establishment of a marine park would clearly state that the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, was reserved for military uses.

3. But here’s the real, unedited UK gov’t take on the issue:

Roberts acknowledged that “we need to find a way to get through the various Chagossian lobbies.” He admitted that HMG is “under pressure” from the Chagossians and their advocates to permit resettlement of the “outer islands” of the BIOT. He noted, without providing details, that “there are proposals (for a marine park) that could provide the Chagossians warden jobs” within the BIOT. However, Roberts stated that, according to the HGM,s current thinking on a reserve, there would be “no human footprints” or “Man Fridays” on the BIOT’s uninhabited islands. He asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents. Responding to Polcouns’ observation that the advocates of Chagossian resettlement continue to vigorously press their case, Roberts opined that the UK’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians’ advocates.” (Note: One group of Chagossian litigants is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the decision of Britain’s highest court to deny “resettlement rights” to the islands’ former inhabitants.

The BIOT “has had a great role in assuring the security of the UK and U.S. — much more than anyone foresaw” in the 1960s, Roberts emphasized. “We do not regret the removal of the population,” since removal was necessary for the BIOT to fulfill its strategic purpose, he said. Removal of the population is the reason that the BIOT’s uninhabited islands and the surrounding waters are in “pristine” condition. Roberts added that Diego Garcia’s excellent condition reflects the responsible stewardship of the U.S. and UK forces using it.

(Because, let’s face it – why would you let the natives steward the land when the UK and US gov’t could do such a better job at it?)

Time-lapsed panorama – now inked!

Holidays are here again, so what better way to relax then by pencilling and inking the largest comic I’ve ever done on sheets of MDF? Here’s the time lapse video so you too can revel in the 6 hours it took me to wrestle with this brute. Stay tuned for the next tier. I was amazed at how well the ink (Higgins speedball) took to the gesso’d wood surface. Naturally there were a few issues with the grain of the wood, but nothing major. The china marker I used also added a nice medium tone, along with some drybrushing.

Artwork experiments, Ushahidi, videos and sketches

As the first Stanford semester winds up, I’ve been working on my sketching and had the time to start experimenting with some projects I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. But before I get into them, I want to mention the excellent talk we had from Patrick Meier at Ushahidi (Swahili for “witness”) this week. Ushahidi is freeware that allows users to input data points on a map via the web or SMS, and is increasingly being used in crisis situations. Regulars to this site will remember I posted several months ago about its effectiveness in helping emergency forces reach victims in Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Patrick’s talk was insightful (telling us about how the Haiti response team essentially comprised of pizza-hungry undergrads at Tufts university on the east coast, who sat and inputted map coordinates, totally voluntarily, during the crisis); honest (I loved his quote about ‘technology only being 10% of the battle – too often are the solutions to these grand problems – journalism, education, literacy, etc – said to be “solved” by mere programs and software alone); and candid – he made it clear the company still had a long way to go, but was buoyed by the positive response they’d received, if slightly bewildered by the inordinate amount of hype and press. He also mentioned Crowdmap, a spin-off of the Ushahidi platform, and again, totally free, that’s more intuitive and less involved on the front-end for users to set up their own map. As an experiment, I’ve started a human trafficking map in the US (I was going to use the one made by Survivors Connect, but it’s down for some reason) which you can check out – and add to – here. Still early days yet, but I want to build a picture of the main areas for trafficking around the 4 most prominent cities in the US for trafficking. For more on what those are and to learn about the project, go to the “trafficking” page above.

And now, back to the art projects…

The first, and most ambitious, is the largest comics “page” I’ve ever worked on – on a 6 x 8 foot piece of wood, whichI’ve cut into panels, primed with gesso and now pencilled the first wide establishing shot of. It’s of London, if you’re wondering where the title for the video comes from. My goal is to ink it later on today with a FAT sumi brush and a lot of Higgins ink. Stay tuned for the result. I’ve also been putting more time into drawing from life and been looking in particular at the assorted gods of linework: Albrecht Durer and Bernie Wrightson. See below for some samples. Check them all out over at my flickr page.