Friday, April 13, 2012

A tale of two shipwrecks


There cannot be a single person on this planet who does not know that the Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912. But how many have heard of the less mediagenic deaths of sixty-three Libyan migrants in a small inflatable boat off the coast of Italy last year? 1517 passengers perished in the Titanic tragedy - by contrast more than 17,000 people have died since 1998 trying to cross the Mediterranean illegally to flee the poverty and oppression in North Africa, circumstances that are the legacy of the failed colonial ambitions which also created the "unsinkable" Titanic . This deathtoll makes the Mediterranean one of the biggest mass burial site in history; yet, with the honorable exception of the Guardian newspaper and of intercultural visionaries Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall, few outside the human rights movement have taken up the cause of the migrants who are literally being left to die off the shore of western Europe.

Mare Nostrum - Our Sea - is the recently released musical exploration of the Mediterranean by Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall, and Catalan author Rossend Domènech contributes an essay titled 'The Sea of Death: The Challenge of Immigration - The Human Drama' to the CD booklet. In another accompanying essay the Moroccan novelist and chronicler of the often tragic migration from the Maghreb Tahar Ben Jelloun ponders on ''Revolt? Revolution?' He concludes with the words "In the end contempt and racism are always counterproductive", while in his introduction Jordi Savall expresses sentiments relevant to the current Titanic junketing - "Let us allow history to help us gain a better understanding of our origins and tragedies, of our conflicts and our hopes".

My Photoshop-free header photo is the product of chance; or is it? Late last year I was photographing the padlocks left as contemporary votive offerings on the bridge over the Seine near the Quai d' Orsay in Paris. As I pressed the shutter a military inflatable burst into shot. At the time I did not know that 'the sea of death' would be one of the themes of Mare Nostrum, which was released that week. Nor did I know that the day I was taking the photo, November 23, 2011, was the day that Montserrat Figueras passed away. More on oppression in North Africa here.


* For a lighter take on the Titanic junketing follow this link.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. Header photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2012. Mare Nostrum was bought from Prelude Records. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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