👋 Dia dhuit!*
Welcome to Friday, where Indian farmers win a major victory against the Modi government after a year of protests, Austria announces a full lockdown and mandatory vaccines and the world is treated to the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 600 years. We also have a feature story from Jeune Afrique magazine that traces the international origins of twerking.
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• Modi repeals farm laws after full year of protests: Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has announced the repeal of three controversial agriculture laws that sparked year-long protests, a significant climb-down for the combative leader as important elections loom. Thousands of farmers had camped at Delhi's borders since last November and dozens died from heat, cold, and COVID-19.
• COVID update: A new U.S. study looking at the potential origins of the coronavirus outbreak points back to a market vendor in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and not to an accountant who was believed to be the first person diagnosed with the virus. Meanwhile, Austria announces a full national lockdown starting next week and mandatory vaccines in February, as cases continue to surge, just days after the government had introduced restrictions for the unvaccinated.
• Belarus clears migrant camps: The migrant camp on the Belarus-Poland border has been emptied, border guards confirmed, and some 2,000 migrants have been moved to a nearby warehouse in an apparent attempt by Belarus to defuse the crisis.
• Uganda police kill five and arrest 21 after two attacks: The police action follows two coordinated suicide bombings in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, the latest in a string of attacks claimed by the Allied Democratic Forces, an ISIS affiliate in central Africa.
• Philippine church founder charged with sex trafficking: Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, recruited young women and girls to work in the U.S. at a church called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name. Carreon, whom church members called "the Appointed Son of God," made the women have sex with him over the threat of eternal damnation and used their income to support his lavish lifestyle, the U.S. Justice Department has charged.
• Taiwan opens office in Lithuania, brushing aside China opposition: Taiwan has opened a de facto embassy in the capital Vilnius in Lithuania — its first in Europe in 18 years — in a diplomatic breakthrough for the self-ruled democratic island of 24 million, that China, which described the move as "egregious," claim as part of its territory.
• Exceptional eclipse: Skygazers in many parts of the world were in for a treat this morning, with the longest near-total lunar eclipse for nearly 600 years, lasting a glorious three-and-a-half hours.
Polish weekly magazine Angora reports on the situation on the Poland-Belarus border where violence has escalated this week between the migrants, most of them from the Middle East, and Polish border guards; as well as between Belarus and the European Union, which has threatened to impose sanctions on the authoritarian government of Alexander Lukashenko. Overnight, Belarus has reportedly cleared the migrant camp in an apparent attempt to ease the standoff.
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has increased by 22% over the past year, the highest level in 15 years, according to a report by Brazil's space research agency (Inpe). Its monitoring system shows the area has lost 13,235 square kilometers between August 2020 and July 2021. The findings come after the Brazilian government's pledge made at the COP26 to end illegal deforestation by 2028.
From Abidjan to New Orleans, shaking out the origins of twerking
Popularized by raucous music videos, sometimes considered quasi pornographic, this phenomenon has its origins in the ancestral Afro-descendant dances and advocates the liberation of the body, reports Eva Sauphie in weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique.
💃 Twerk" is in fact a contraction of "twist" and "jerk," two American dances popularized in the early 1960s — and the term was used for the first time in the 1993 song "Do the jibelee all" by DJ Jubilee, a rapper from New Orleans. "The twerk is a dance of [bodily] isolation. You move the buttocks or the pelvis separately. The rest of the body is static," explains Patricia Badin, 49, a particularly energetic twerking teacher in Paris. The goal is to let go and get the energy flowing.
♀ "We've always seen African women gather in villages and wiggle their butts in loincloths, especially during rites of passage to signify that they are fertile," says Badin. Considered by some as indecent and even pornographic, twerking is sometimes charged with perpetuating degrading images of women. "These dances are a way for people living in the ghettos to appropriate the clichés that racist whites attributed to them, such as being hyper-sexualized, being savages," visual artist Aïda Bruyère wrote in her 2018 fanzine Bootyzine.
✊ For French-Cameroonian choreographer James Carlès, there is a continuum in all Afro-descendant dances that can be explained by belonging to a community while expressing its uniqueness: "In Europe, we don't always understand this very communitarian relationship to dance, but it fascinates us. We find this recurrence in funk and blues, and in twerking too. These are dances that have participated in reappropriating one's body and sexuality." This explains the success of twerking outside the borders of Africa, especially at the time of the third feminist generation and the #MeToo movement.
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French dictionary Le Robert has added the "iel" pronoun (a combination of "il" and "elle" meaning "he" and "she" in French respectively) for non-binary people to its online edition, after its researchers noticed growing usage of the pronoun in recent months — triggering heated debated and angry reactions from lawmakers and defenders of the nation's linguistic traditions. In English, the gender neutral "they" has been in use for several years by people who do not identify as male or female.
✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Hannah Steinkopf-Frank
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