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Renzo Martens film Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty Is one of those visual experiences that will stay with you forever I was lucky enough to have seen it in a lecture theatre. It made me feel uncomfortable its fleshy ness and unavoidable narrative where the lesser contributors to my discomfort above these lay the fact that the works premise was true. The notion that poverty its self is a resource one that is manipulated and currently does not help those who are subjected to what the west calls ‘Absolute Poverty’, Instead international aid makes the wealthy wealthier. Martens video journalism even now months after first witnessing it still carry’s a refreshing sense, an artist perhaps with a social conscious one that does care about this alarming issue. Episode 3 wields real people and uses them as puppets and actors on a stage in which the play is all to real, portraying the power relationships between people watching (the audience) and the people being watched (Africans, Aid workers etc). He uses a neon sign as the focus of a party an emancipatory tool Renzo sets out to inform the people of the Congo that they should be benefiting from their poverty. He articulates the idea that if only they benefited from their poorness and used it as a resource then it would be their biggest source of revenue or capital. In this narrative I find the artists dissection and advance on the remnants of colonialism rejuvenating it shows the perpetuation of a distorted reality an example being when he takes an African photographer with images of death and poverty to Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders  and the african is turned down because the NGO has to use western photographers thats its policy. Thus effectively demonstrating the wests hold on the resource that Martens has successfully termed as the ‘Poverty Industry’ and the exclusion of locals benefitting from the resource of poverty. An alarming Idea right?     

So been reading this article by a guy called Yash Tandon and his opinion on international aid and its effectiveness.In a sweeping criticism of bilateral aid, and its usage by politicians to further their own ‘defensive imperialism’ type agendas, he claims that:

‘Aid, from this perspective, becomes another weapon in their arsenal to discipline chaotic parts of the world.’

Bit cynical, Yash?

Whilst I would agree that there are going to be political and nationalistic interests that are put on the table, and that aid isn’t all about saving the children and making the world a better place, I found his attitude to be a bit wearisome overall, if I’m going to be honest. Not all aid is imperialistic dogma, and the assertion that ‘the aid effectiveness project is a form of collective colonialism by Northern donors of those Southern countries that, through weakness, vulnerability or psychological dependency, allow themselves to be subjected to it at the Accra conference in September’ is frankly just a little bit patronising to the Global South, and smells of a conspiracy theory on the part of the North.

Link to Yash’s article: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/48634

In other news: new Radiohead album is out. Has been quite the buzz of the town. Check this space soon for our own little review of it.

ALSO: Blog to make you chuckle – David Cameron pretending to be common? –> http://davidcameronpretendingtobecommon.tumblr.com/

Possum