The Krakatoa Sunsets

[Jakarta, LTTW] Krakatoa was one of the super volcanoes of the world in the same line with other “giants”, The Yellowstone & the Long Valley caldera in US, The Aira caldera in southern Japan, The Taupo caldera in New Zealand and Glen Coe in Scotland. Super volcano is a volcanology term used to describe a bigger scale of volcano that has a significant amount of magma and potentially produces eruption larger than 1,000 km3 in volume.

Indonesia has three super-volcanoes, standing majestically among hundreds of volcanoes that span across Indonesian archipelago. The three super volcanoes are Toba caldera, Tambora and the Child of Krakatoa. Approximately 73000-75000 years ago, Mt. Toba exploded before it turned into a gigantic lake, known today as the Lake Toba. In 1815, Tambora erupted, spewing hundreds cubic kilometer of volcanic debris and its effect transformed the climate globally for years. Not only that, In 1883 similar explosion also happened on Indonesia’s Sunda Strait (Selat Sunda) on which Mount Krakatoa stood tall. The explosion of Krakatoa generated dark sky that reached as far as Europe and eventually changed the global climate. Mt Krakatoa explosion also gave birth to a new volcanic offspring called the Child of Krakatoa.

Although the presence of volcanoes on this earth are considered as a threat  by some of people, there are unexpected benefits that we gained from volcanoes. Mt. Krakatoa explosion, for example, brought about specialized field of study called volcanology, and it has been a muse for artists and writers to create their arts.  Departing from this point of view, LttW presents this article that shows a number of committed individuals, observing & spending their lives studying volcano impacts.



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When a volcano erupted on a small island in Indonesia in 1883, the evening skies of the world glowed for months with strange colours. Richard Hamblyn explores a little-known series of letters that the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins sent in to the journal Nature describing the phenomenon – letters that would constitute the majority of the small handful of writings published while he was alive.

During the winter of 1883 the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins descended into one of his periodic depressions, “a wretched state of weakness and weariness, I can’t tell why,” he wrote, “always drowsy and incapable of reading or thinking to any effect.” It was partly boredom: Hopkins was ungainfully employed at a Catholic boarding school in Lancashire, where much of his time was spent steering his pupils through their university entrance exams. The thought that he was wasting his time and talents weighed heavily upon him during the long, brooding walks he took through the “sweet landscape” of Ribblesdale, “thy lovely dale”, as he described it in one of the handful of poems he managed to compose that winter. He was about to turn forty and felt trapped.

Such was his state of mind when the Krakatoa sunsets began. The tiny volcanic island of Krakatoa (located halfway between Java and Sumatra) had staged a spectacular eruption at the end of August 1883, jettisoning billions of tonnes of ash and debris deep into the earth’’s upper atmosphere. Nearly 40,000 people had been killed by a series of mountainous waves thrown out by the force of the explosion: the Javan port of Anjer had been almost completely destroyed, along with more than a hundred coastal towns and villages. ““All gone. Plenty lives lost”, as a telegram sent from Serang reported, and for weeks afterwards the bodies of the drowned continued to wash up along the shoreline. Meanwhile, the vast volcanic ash-cloud had spread into a semi-opaque band that threaded slowly westward around the equator, forming memorable sunsets and afterglows across the earth’’s lower latitudes. A few weeks later, the stratospheric veil moved outwards from the tropics to the poles, and by late October 1883 most of the world, including Britain, was being subjected to lurid evening displays, caused by the scattering of incoming light by the meandering volcanic haze. Throughout November and December, the skies flared through virulent shades of green, blue, copper and magenta, “more like inflamed flesh than the lucid reds of ordinary sunsets,” wrote Hopkins; “the glow is intense; that is what strikes everyone; it has prolonged the daylight, and optically changed the season; it bathes the whole sky, it is mistaken for the reflection of a great fire.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1866, detail from a photo by Thomas C. Bayfield. National Portrait Gallery

In common with most other observers at the time, Hopkins had no idea what was causing the phenomenon, but he grew fascinated by the daily atmospheric displays, tracking their changing appearances over the course of that unsettled winter. At the end of December he collated his observations into a remarkable 2,000-word document, which he sent to the leading science journal, Nature. The article, published in January 1884, was a masterpiece of reportage, a heightened prose poem that mixed rhapsodic literary experimentation with a high degree of meteorological rigour:

Above the green in turn appeared a red glow, broader and burlier in make; it was softly brindled, and in the ribs or bars the colour was rosier, in the channels where the blue of the sky shone through it was a mallow colour. Above this was a vague lilac. The red was first noticed 45º above the horizon, and spokes or beams could be seen in it, compared by one beholder to a man’s open hand. By 4.45 the red had driven out the green, and, fusing with the remains of the orange, reached the horizon. By that time the east, which had a rose tinge, became of a duller red, compared to sand; according to my observation, the ground of the sky in the east was green or else tawny, and the crimson only in the clouds. A great sheet of heavy dark cloud, with a reefed or puckered make, drew off the west in the course of the pageant: the edge of this and the smaller pellets of cloud that filed across the bright field of the sundown caught a livid green. At 5 the red in the west was fainter, at 5.20 it became notably rosier and livelier; but it was never of a pure rose. A faint dusky blush was left as late as 5.30, or later. While these changes were going on in the sky, the landscape of Ribblesdale glowed with a frowning brown. (from G. M. Hopkins, “The Remarkable Sunsets”, Nature 29 (3 January 1884), pp. 222-23)

Hopkins was a gifted empirical observer with a near-forensic interest in the search for written equivalents to the complexity of the natural world. Such interest in the language of precision was shared by many scientists at the time, science, like poetry, being an inherently descriptive enterprise. Anyone who reads the official Royal Society report on the Krakatoa sunsets (published in 1888) will find flights of poetic prose to rival those of Hopkins, who described such language as “the current language heightened and unlike itself,” a dynamic written form that was particularly suited to the expression of what he called “inscape”: the distinctive unity of all natural phenomena that gives everything in nature its characterising beauty and uniqueness. The force of being that holds these dynamic identities together he termed “instress”, instress being the essential energy that enables an observer to recognise the inscape of another being. These post-Romantic notions formed a kind of personal poetic creed, a logocentric natural theology that was rooted in the work of Duns Scotus, the medieval Christian philosopher.

Photograph taken in 1928 of the destroyed Krakatoa island resurfacing, forming what is known now as ‘Anak Krakatau’, or ‘Child of Krakatoa’. Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).

For Hopkins, inscape and instress lay at the heart of his religious and poetic practice, as well as being vital means of apprehending the natural world. In a journal entry for 22 April 1871, for instance, he records “such a lovely damasking in the sky as today I never felt before. The blue was charged with simple instress, the higher, zenith sky earnest and frowning, lower more light and sweet.” Note that he felt the damasking as well as saw it, and note, too, his calibrated descriptions of the banded blues of the sky, the higher “earnest and frowning”, the lower “more light and sweet.” His journals are full of such poetic quantifications, which he used as notes towards a quintet of articles that he published in the journal Nature, all on meteorological subjects. The first two, published in November 1882 and November 1883, were letters describing anti-crepuscular rays (cloud-shadows that appear in the evening sky opposite the sun), while the following three were all on the subject of the Krakatoa sunsets, which had evidently furnished the melancholy Hopkins with a much-needed source of distraction.

He was not alone in his interest; all over the world, writers, artists and scientists responded to the drama of the volcanic skies. The poets Algernon Swinburne, Robert Bridges and Alfred Tennyson (then poet laureate), wrote lengthy descriptive strophes prompted by the unearthly twilights, although, as the historian Richard Altick pointed out, “the only good poetry that resulted from the celestial displays is found in Hopkins’ prose” (Richard D. Altick, “Four Victorian Poets and an Exploding Island”, Victorian Studies 3 (March 1960), p. 258). This is a fair assessment, though I do have a sneaking fondness for Tennyson’s blank-verse approximation of the cadences of Victorian popular science:

Had the fierce ashes of some fiery peak
Been hurl’d so high they ranged about the globe?
For day by day, thro’ many a blood-red eve . . .
The wrathful sunset glared . . . (“St. Telemachus”, pub. 1892)

Visual artists also found themselves extending their colour ranges in awed emulation of the skies. Painter William Ascroft spent many evenings making pastel sky-sketches from the banks of the Thames at Chelsea, noting his frustration that he “could only secure in a kind of chromatic shorthand the heart of the effect, as so much of the beauty of afterglow consisted in concentration.” He exhibited more than five hundred of these highly-coloured pastels in the galleries of the Science Museum, in the repository of which they remain to this day, little known and rarely seen.

Three of the hundreds of sketches carried out by William Ascroft in the winter of 1883/4 – used as the frontispiece of The Eruption of Krakatoa, and Subsequent Phenomena: Report of the Krakatoa committee of the Royal Society (1888), ed. by G.J. Simmons.

In Oslo, by contrast, the sunsets helped inspire one of the world’s best-known paintings: Edvard Munch was walking with some friends one evening as the sun descended through the haze: “it was as if a flaming sword of blood slashed open the vault of heaven,” he recalled; “the atmosphere turned to blood – with glaring tongues of fire – the hills became deep blue – the fjord shaded into cold blue – among the yellow and red colours – that garish blood-red – on the road – and the railing – my companions’ faces became yellow-white – I felt something like a great scream – and truly I heard a great scream.” His painting The Scream (1893), of which he made several versions, is an enduring (and much stolen) expressionist masterpiece, a vision of human desolation writhing beneath an apocalyptic sky, as “a great unending scream pierces through nature.” As it happens, the final eruption of Krakatoa on 27 August 1883 was the loudest sound ever recorded, travelling almost 5,000 km, and heard over nearly a tenth of the earth’s surface: a great scream indeed.

As for Hopkins, the publication of his Krakatoa essay coincided with the welcome offer of a professorship in classics at University College Dublin. He left Lancashire for Ireland in February 1884, relieved to have made his escape. It didn’t last. Homesick, lonely and overworked, Hopkins succumbed to his worst depression yet, his misery traced in the so-called “terrible” sonnets of 1885 (“I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”). He died of typhoid fever in June 1889 (aged 44), and was buried in an unmarked grave. Only his close friend Robert Bridges was aware of his greatness as a poet, and the bulk of his work remained unpublished until 1918. In fact, apart from a handful of minor poems that had appeared in obscure periodicals, the five Nature articles were the only works that Hopkins published in his lifetime.

Richard Hamblyn’s books include The Invention of Clouds , which won the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize; Terra: Tales of the Earth (2009), a study of natural disasters; and The Art of Science (2011), an anthology of readable science writing from the Babylonians to the Higgs Boson. He is a lecturer in creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London.

Links to Works

Letters by Gerard Manley Hopkins in Nature, Vol XXIX, November 1883 to April 1884.
“The Remarkable Sunsets”, p.222-3, Jan 3rd 1884
“Shadow-Beams in the East at Sunset”, p.55, Nov 17th 1883
“Green Sun”, p.7, Nov 1st 1883

Letter by Gerard Manley Hopkins in Nature, Vol XXVII, November 1882 to April 1883.
“A Curious Halo”, p.55, Nov 16th 1882

The Eruption of Krakatoa, and Subsequent Phenomena: Report of the Krakatoa committee of the Royal Society (1888), Ed. by G.J. Simmons.
Internet Archive link

Recommended Readings

The Art of Science: A Natural History of Ideas (2011), by Richard Hamblyn.
Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Visual World (2008), by Catherine Phillips.


The Sex Workers Who are Stopping HIV

by Jules Montague

Sex workers in Mozambique are providing health support to those at the margins of society. They face political and financial challenges, but against the odds they are helping thousands. Jules Montague reports.

It’s late when we reach Inhamízua on the outskirts of the city.

Stalls sell crackling chicken feet and sizzling plantain. Scores of men and women are gathered by a makeshift bar topped with corrugated steel. Spirits are high. The sound of laughter rises above the rumble of trucks trundling by.

Light from the gas station across the road illuminates the scene. Some of the women sit on white plastic chairs, nursing infants. It’s a nativity scene of sorts, set under coconut trees and soundtracked by Marrabenta-style dance music surging from a battered loudspeaker.

Luisa* and I walk behind the bar, through dried mud and over shards of glass and used condoms. We’re at the huts now. It’s 80 meticais for five minutes – about a pound. A bottle of beer in this town, to put things in context, costs 55.

In Beira, like everywhere else, sex sells – and there’s a good chance that HIV will be part of the transaction. Truckers drive here along the trade corridor that stretches from Zimbabwe’s eastern border. The end of their journey is a Mozambican port city where life expectancy is less than 50 and HIV rates are among the highest in the world. When they leave, that legacy often follows them.

One in ten adults in Mozambique is HIV positive, making the country’s HIV prevalence the eighth highest globally. But while the government has made progress on controlling the epidemic in recent years, reaching the marginalised along the Beira corridor has remained difficult.

How do you reach a population that is perpetually mobile? A population fearful of police intimidation, or of being found out by friends and family? In their eyes, they have little to gain from meeting you and everything to lose. To reach them, you need an innovative approach.

On we go, Luisa and I and the others, to place after place late into the night. Hotspots they call them, each one the same – makeshift bars with white plastic chairs, pumping music, overturned trucks, stacks of old tyres, broken beer bottles, and every time those huts out back.

© Billy Clark

Luisa is a peer educator – part of a team that dispenses medical advice to the local community – but will return to these streets as a sex worker when money is low.

And her story is the story of this project.

For here in Beira, I’ve discovered a group helping people to help themselves – even as Mozambique threatens to fall back into the political chaos of its past. Amid the discord, this project is countering the seeming inevitability of contracting HIV along the transport corridor by enabling sex workers to become peer educators for a couple of nights each week, sometimes more. Joined by counsellors and outreach workers, they provide safe-sex guidance, offer advice on family planning, and deliver on-the-spot HIV testing. They distribute condoms and lubricants. And, crucially, they connect some 3,800 sex workers and 4,500 long-distance truck drivers to health clinics they might otherwise never visit.

This is the Corridor Project, established by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in January 2014. And despite its perilous situation, it’s reaching the unreachable.


The story of Mozambique’s HIV epidemic is embedded in its history of bloodshed.

After a decade of armed struggle, Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in June 1975. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese fled, including many who worked in healthcare. By Independence Day, just 80 doctors remained in the whole of the country.

The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) came to power, but inherited a fractured country with a fragile infrastructure and few skilled workers. Within two years a brutal civil war had broken out, with FRELIMO violently confronted by the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (RENAMO), an armed and much-feared rebel movement. Over the next 15 years, up to a million died and 10 per cent of the country’s population became war refugees.

Yet as HIV ravaged neighbouring countries, Mozambique was shielded by limited population movement into the country.

A peace agreement was eventually reached in 1992, and with international help the government began to focus on improving the country’s main transport corridors to restore economic growth. Ripe for development was the Beira corridor, spanning the 300 km from the Indian Ocean to Zimbabwe’s eastern border. Previously marred by dilapidated infrastructure, staff shortages and bandit attacks, transport links from Beira’s rehabilitated port soon stretched to surrounding countries.

Mozambique was open for business.

But development came at a cost. When populations become more mobile, so do sexually transmitted infections like HIV. Long-distance drivers, for example, are more likely to engage in transactional sex, with a string of partners. They frequently make overnight stops, arriving with money to spend in the midst of poorer communities.

Within 15 years of its first, solitary case, one million people in Mozambique were living with HIV

And so after the civil war, truck drivers often carried HIV from stop to stop along the Beira corridor until they reached their families at home. Sex workers followed the money. And HIV followed them all.

Meanwhile, refugees returned from neighbouring countries – another factor believed to have contributed to a rise in HIV rates. Mozambique’s first case was reported in 1986. By the end of 1992, there had been 662 confirmed cases. By 1998 that number had risen to 10,863.

These spiralling rates partly represented improved diagnostics, but the figures went far beyond this. Within 15 years of that first, solitary case, one million people in Mozambique were living with HIV.

Yet solid political and economic reforms had led Mozambique to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, with GDP growth of 7 per cent per annum. The government prioritised HIV prevention and treatment, and international donors stepped forward. The number of people on HIV treatment grew 37-fold between 2004 and 2013.

By mid-2016, about 900,000 people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment, three times as many as in 2012. Expanded treatment coverage for pregnant women living with HIV resulted in a 73 per cent decline in new infections among children in just three years. New HIV infections among adults dropped by 40 per cent from 2004 to 2014.

Mozambique had become a shining example of how to battle an HIV epidemic. Yet there was a missing piece in the puzzle.

Its HIV success story did not extend to the Beira corridor – it didn’t even come close.


Our group receives a warm welcome at our next stop – Pinta Boca’s Premium Bar. Many of the peer educators are familiar faces here.

Luisa carries a notebook and collects the telephone numbers of sex workers who want to be called during the week with advice on how and where to get antiretroviral drugs. Quanto custa? They’re free, Luisa replies. To one woman standing by a pool table, its legs embedded deep in the mud and cues nowhere to be seen, Luisa says yes, she can get refills at the clinic if she has run out. And TB treatment, too? Sure, Luisa says. She’ll call her tomorrow with advice.

The pages of Luisa’s notebook are filling up fast.

A man drinking a bottle of Impala beer approaches one of the women sitting on a white plastic chair by the roadside. She passes her baby gently to a fellow worker and walks towards the huts with the truck driver. A rapidinha, they call it – a quickie.

The Corridor Project is not about one organisation. It’s really about 300

Jaime – a counsellor from MSF – has joined us tonight. He knows this crowd well, too. As he bounces one of the infants on his knee, a camionista, a long-distance truck driver, steps forward. “Can I have the test?” he asks. Jaime walks him towards the van and the man gets an HIV test there and then. A preliminary result follows 15 minutes later. If his test is later confirmed as positive, he will join the 1.5 million others in Mozambique living with HIV at the last count.

We end up back in the van – now 144 red condoms lighter, each 53 millimetres wide and made of natural latex rubber. Luisa and others like her are just the right people to be here: better suited than well-meaning outsiders who, without relatable experiences, might never be able to connect with those at risk in such a profoundly personal way.

Luisa, 29 years old and a mother of five, tells me that her ex left her soon after she was gang-raped. The attack gave her HIV. For her, it was too late. But not for these women, she believes.

By the end of this week, her notebook will be full.

© Billy Clark

It’s fair to say there was an endless amount of bargaining to get the MSF Corridor Project off the ground – and no better woman to contend with this than its Brazilian coordinator, Daniela Cerqueira Batista.

A psychologist by background, Daniela is effortlessly glamorous in a Goan beach sort of way. There are kisses on either cheek and arms flung around those she meets. Her messages have more emojis than mine have characters. Her energy is resolutely undiminished by this oppressive heat, despite managing a team of 90 here in Beira.

When she saw how expensive books were at a local sale here, she set about trying to establish a library. When she couldn’t find a Pride flag, she picked up a multicoloured umbrella back in Brazil. And so on Rua Dom Francisco Gorjão, the umbrella now forms an improvised Pride symbol stuck above the front door of MSF’s Beira headquarters.

Meeting after meeting it took to set up the Corridor Project – with local NGOs, transport sector representatives, law enforcement agencies, Ministry of Health officials, truckers’ unions, border community representatives and customs personnel. Add to that input from donors and funding institutions, including the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund and many others.

The Corridor Project is not about one organisation. It’s really about 300. In a country of 43 languages.

But these alliances ultimately proved fruitful, explains Daniela, establishing firm links with port companies who hold staff education sessions, community theatre groups who put on productions with safe-sex themes, and organisations who run workshops on domestic abuse. And the project would be incomplete without its linkage to care – the health centres at Ponta Gêa and Munhava.

Some lessons you just won’t find in textbooks. In the early days, those working as part of the project wore MSF T-shirts but were shunned – sex workers and truck drivers associated the charity solely with HIV care and didn’t approach the peer educators in case others thought they were HIV positive. Staff at the health centres soon learned to dispense antiretroviral drugs in boxes that had fake labels – that way, patients could go home with a box that looked like it was just full of painkillers.

They want to change their own lives and help their sisters on the streets

Mobile clinics have now been established along the corridor, with adapted opening times; sex workers and truck drivers work unconventional hours. MSF counsellors and peer educators make door-to-door visits and stop by 200 hotspots along the corridor. And their staff support care at government health centres so that stigma and discrimination do not drive these marginalised populations away. The Corridor Project now stretches across Mozambique and has been extended to Malawi and Zimbabwe.

More recently, MSF has introduced health passports for all patients diagnosed with HIV who are on treatment. Containing test results and medication regimens, they allow for continuity of care along the corridor. MSF are working to have these multilingual passports recognised in Zimbabwe and Malawi – if they are successful, patients could receive uninterrupted HIV treatment across borders.

And then there are the peer educators. At those makeshift bars, it’s Luisa and the others who engender a sense of genuine trust, connection, camaraderie and solidarity. They’ve been there; sometimes they still are. And back at Rua Dom Francisco Gorjão, they’re involved in all aspects of the project – design, implementation, decision making and oversight, at the community level and nationally. Luisa has a chance, if she wants it, to progress through the organisation; several peer educators have become counsellors. Others have been supported to set up their own businesses.

© Billy Clark

Luisa receives remuneration for her peer educator role. I ask Sebastiana Cumbe, supervisor of psychological support, how this factors into sex workers signing up to this project. “Yes, there is a salary,” she tells me. “But it’s not just that. They want to change their own lives and help their sisters on the streets.”

Not many projects provide that linkage to care, a bridge between community and clinic. A 2016 study assessed healthcare programmes for sub-Saharan African truck drivers in 30 countries. Of 22 programmes, only three covered testing and care for conditions other than HIV, such as TB and malaria. Few tested for other STIs. Just above half have been evaluated to date. And where data has been gathered, it primarily focuses on the number of sites established, staff trained, resources used or clients reached. It’s one thing to give out condoms, but another thing for people to use them. Few projects have reported on impact indicators such as changes in infection rates.

In 2016, 71 per cent of the HIV-negative sex workers in the Corridor Project were retested at least once, with 94 per cent still HIV negative when retested. It’s these sorts of metrics that should help scale up and sustain the programme.

If, that is, the project can weather the political challenges faced by Mozambique, both now and in the future.


“You’re sick,” Luisa’s partner had said to her. He had just found out that she had been raped. Then, he left her.

She had already been a sex worker for some time when it happened. Her first child had been born when Luisa was 14; her second, four years later. So she became the family breadwinner when her partner couldn’t get a job.

She remembers her first day on the streets. Overcome by shame when she saw a neighbour, she ran home before a single transaction. But two days later, with no food for her children, she returned.

She always ensured her clients wore condoms, even though they would pay more if they didn’t have to. The ones who refused, she refused them too. She remained HIV negative.

I would have been more ashamed if I had to beg my friends for money. This was a conscious decision

“Half the money now,” the client had said that night. “Half the money after we have sex.” He wanted her to travel away from the huts. In the car, he phoned his friends.

“He took out a gun and told me, ‘Get out,’ and I did. He told me to take my clothes off and I did. His friends arrived. They had sex with me, five people. But they didn’t use a condom. Afterwards, he left me there. I had no strength left, and then I took my clothes, I hitched a ride and went to the hospital.”

Luisa’s internal and external injuries were so severe that she was unable to work for another six months.

She was tested again, not too long after. She was HIV positive.

Worldwide, sex workers are 12 times as likely as the general population to be HIV positive. Across 16 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed in 2012, the prevalence of HIV among sex workers was 37 per cent.

“When I was sick,” Luisa tells me, “my children ended up not going to school because I couldn’t afford paying for the school truck, because I didn’t have money left. MSF always came to take me to the hospital, to do everything. I didn’t have anything left to eat because I couldn’t go on the streets. They gave me a letter and I went to collect food, even when I said I had HIV. And I started to take some medicine. Slowly, I recovered.”

Luisa has five children now, aged between two and fourteen.

She became an MSF peer educator two years ago. As she walks through that dried mud and over those shards of glass, I see something in her. Energy. Empathy. A need to be there for others the way others were there for her.

She works less frequently on the streets than she did before. But she does not regret her choices. “I would have been more ashamed if I had to beg my friends for money. This was a conscious decision. When my heart tells me to do something, I do it.”

© Billy Clark

Back at Rua Dom Francisco Gorjão, I meet 22-year-old Antonio*. He explains how the Corridor Project reaches out to other at-risk populations, not just those connected to sex work. Similar strategies are used for each group, despite their differences.

Antonio knew as a child in Maputo that he was different from his friends. Or at least he was made to feel different. As he played with dolls and cookery sets, his stepmother told him to play with cars, to make friends with boys instead of girls. In his teens he was sent to live in Beira with his cousins. “Here I felt comfortable,” he says. “I was able to paint my nails, freely wear make-up and dresses.” He was sometimes bullied at school. But Beira became his home.

His journey with his own family has been more difficult. He visited his sister’s house recently with a gay female friend. Afterwards, his sister said if she were to discover her daughters were gay, she would murder them with her own hands.

Antonio works as a peer educator for men who have sex with men (MSM). Globally, gay men and other MSM are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population. A recent Beira study found a third of MSM over the age of 25 are living with HIV.

Another recent study suggested a third of MSM in Beira had never been tested for HIV. Fourteen per cent of those said that this was because they simply did not know where to go.

These interventions are a necessary first step. The larger question is what can we do to remove stigma and other barriers

With such high HIV rates in Beira’s MSM, the cornerstone of MSF’s work here is to scale up preventative strategies. This is where PrEP comes in – pre-exposure prophylaxis. By taking a certain combination of drugs in one daily tablet, people can reduce their risk of contracting HIV by more than 90 per cent. (It does not protect against other STIs, and missing doses decreases its effectiveness.)

José Carlos Beirão manages the PrEP Operational Research Project, established within the Corridor Project in 2016, and the only one of its kind in Mozambique. So far 214 participants, MSM as well as female sex workers, have been recruited, with a target of 250. Beirão hopes that by the end of the project, he’ll be able to understand the demand for PrEP and the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a wide-scale PrEP programme.

I ask Ken Ho, an HIV specialist and prominent PrEP researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, whether he thinks the corridor approach might be applicable to settings far outside Beira.

“We know that young black MSM are disproportionally impacted by HIV,” he explains. “These are the same people who may have limited access to healthcare because of lack of insurance, distrust of medical institutions, or fear of stigmatisation.” And so he sees the corridor approach as being relevant in the USA, at least initially in establishing a link with difficult-to-reach populations.

But he sounds a note of caution: “The risk is that these targeted interventions function more like Band-Aids and allow – perhaps even encourage – the underlying problems to persist. So I think they are a necessary first step. The larger question is what can we do to remove stigma and other barriers that are responsible for the disparities in the first place.”

Antonio’s confidence has grown since his schooldays, he tells me.

For him, it’s about visibility. When he arrived in Beira, nobody looked like him. Now he sees others who do. Boys growing up today, he believes, will have a chance to think differently because of this: I see it, I can be it.


I am outside Beira’s airport, right where José Manuel was shot dead in April 2016. He was a RENAMO member of the National Council for Defence and Security. Formerly the civil war rebels, RENAMO are now the opposition party. Human Rights Watch noted reports that it had taken the police ten hours to arrive on the scene.

Armed conflict resumed in Mozambique in 2015, after two decades of peace. The results of the 2014 general election, won by FRELIMO, were bitterly contested by RENAMO. There were summary executions of villagers, abductions and sexual violence, political assassinations, raids on health clinics, attacks on civilian buses, and even reports of mass graves.

Mozambique was in danger of plunging back into the chaos of its past. Faced with violence from both sides, over 11,000 Mozambicans fled to Malawi and Zimbabwe. By the end of 2016, a truce had been agreed, and most of the refugees had returned, but many families remain internally displaced.

In 2016 economic growth halved, with a downturn in commodity prices. And then there was an astonishing and ultimately devastating admission from the government: it had guaranteed $1.5 billion in secret, unconstitutional loans. Fourteen donor countries and multilateral institutions – including the UK, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – promptly suspended direct support to the state budget. The foreign debt burden has risen to $9.9bn – up 20 per cent a year over the last five years.

By the beginning of 2017, cholera outbreaks had become so common that they were barely making the national news. The cost of bread and other staples was rising. The currency was falling. Nurses were not being paid. The ceasefire is still holding, but uneasily so.

Ordinary people in Mozambique are paying a high price. It is possible the Corridor Project will, too.

The average Mozambican’s daily struggle remains to lift themselves out of poverty

Health infrastructure is already in a perilous state. There are only three doctors per 100,000 people, one of the worst ratios in the world. Already more than half the population must walk an hour or more to their nearest health facility. Just over half of health facilities lack electricity and 41 per cent have no running water.

Mozambique expert Alex Vines has been head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, an international affairs think-tank in London, since 2002. How will recent political and economic developments affect healthcare in Mozambique, I ask him, and in turn the Corridor Project?

Vines points out that the ceasefire is at least indefinite, and that better rains over recent months have provided some economic respite. “But the debt burden – because of the undisclosed loans scandal of 2016 and suspension of direct budget support by international donors – has seriously impacted the government’s finances, and this has a knock-on impact on healthcare and HIV programmes,” he explains.

Mozambique receives more than 95 per cent of its HIV programme funding through international donors. The Corridor Project depends heavily on this funding, and it could suffer profoundly. Vines is hopeful, though: “I believe the international donors will resume their direct support of the government but will require greater accountability. Trust is central to this.”

What happens next to the support of healthcare, and in turn to the Corridor Project, he believes, will partly depend on the outcome of an ongoing independent audit into those murky secret loans.

But a question remains, Vines says, about some leading donors. Donald Trump has proposed a cut in US global health funding, which will affect projects in Mozambique related to family planning. Who will fill those gaps remains unclear. Mozambique’s longstanding status as a donor darling is now far from secure.

The withdrawal of funding for the Corridor Project is something Caroline Rose, MSF’s head of mission in Mozambique, is only too aware of, even at ground level. “In the field we are receiving more and more requests from health facilities in trouble: ‘Could you fix our ambulance?’ ‘Could you transport our drugs from our clinic to the districts?’ ‘Could you pay for fuel?’” She is negotiating with international donors to the project, encouraging them to implement interim funding strategies until more long-term solutions are ironed out.

Vines envisages that the country will have a difficult few years before large-scale exporting of gas reserves starts, in the mid-2020s. Mozambique is now entering another election cycle that will doubtless be contentious, and which will likely span the next two years. “Meanwhile, the average Mozambican’s daily struggle remains to lift themselves out of poverty.”

And so women like Luisa will continue to walk towards those huts each night. They will take further risks to feed their families. As Mozambique’s uncertain future unfolds, ventures like the Corridor Project will be needed more than ever.

© Billy Clark

Luisa is healthy and optimistic for her future, for the future of her children. The corridor is where she has found, at different times, a livelihood, unspeakable trauma, a feeling of community and now a sense of purpose. In some ways it has defined her life, even as it has endangered it.

In 2014, the Corridor Project was established to reach the unreachable. Night by night, hotspot by hotspot, from one gas station to the next. It’s early days, but already it has connected with thousands of sex workers and truck drivers. Preliminary figures suggest this is giving a significant boost to HIV prevention and treatment. And the project refuses to fade even in the face of precarious funding streams and a deeply fractious political climate.

The night is over for us. In a few hours, the sun will rise. Traders will set up their stalls at Mercado do Goto to hawk fruit and vegetables. Fishermen will repair their nets by Macúti beach lighthouse, their wooden boats pulled high up onto the sand. Luisa will walk her children to school.

Daniela will fling open the doors of her office under the Pride umbrella.

The Corridor Project will live to see another day.


* Some names have been changed.

This article first appeared on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

Music is Art because it’s Political

A Reflection from the Roger Waters Concert Tour.

About four months ago, Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters kicked off his North American tour entitled “Us + Them”. Although he performed many of old Pink Floyd songs, the tour was pretty much related to “Is This the Life We Really Want?”, his first solo album in twenty five years. As you might have guessed from the title, the nature of the tour was 100% political; it condemned the travesty of Donald Trump and his Presidency.

In an interview with Michael Smerconish on CNN, Waters explained his reason behind his politically-motivated tour,”In my view, you have to make your choice as to whether you do the right thing or the thing that makes you the most money.” When asked about people who are looking for escapism rather than politics at a rock concert, Waters simply said,” Go see Katy Perry, you know?”

Us + Them — Charade via Youtube:

What makes us flabbergasted is Roger Waters’ persistence in remaining political throughout his career amid the long standing massive commercialism. The fact that he is the “child” of counter culture movement in the 60s does not reduce such achievement since the majority of musicians from this generation has “left the building”. Being political has been the oxygen of all arts; it’s what gives arts the breath to be alive, kicking, and evolving to new forms.

Context and Art Forms

Rock (and just about any other genre within the popular music “industry”) has been dead for over 40 years; it has lost its purpose since the mid 1970s when most, if not all, of the artists bowed to commercialism, and no longer lived the context.

Making music hasn’t been about signifying the mind and conscience anymore; it’s been about making money and being famous. The irony behind this view and practice is the fact that every musical genre that has been commercialized and mobilized by “the industry” was born out of cultural and sociopolitical context, even in the case of Hip Hop, the today’s most popular genre. Fortune and super-stardom in music business evidently have swallowed the true roles and functions of music in societies.

Different time or period undergoes different context, and this is the very reason why music (and other art forms) keeps evolving and finding its new form. Almost two decades has passed in this 21st century, and world issues like global warming, racism, terrorism, anti immigrant & refugee, white supremacy, war, nationalism, extremism, and economic domination & injustice have perturbed humanity. In the meantime, the world still seems to have no common view in how to confront these dehumanizing matters, let alone the answer.

Arts that used to lead the way in addressing injustice and immorality seem to be too busy in making “sell-able and/or sensational goods”. Some people in the art scene argue that today is the period of individuality; others even say that art form is no longer relevant, any individual is entitled to create his/her own form. Well, an art form is a manifestation of a collective or common conceptual thought that grapples with growing and/or disturbing issues within the existing context; thus the societal concord in thought, message and act are the key elements that shape the forms in art.

In the case of Rock music, the birth of it is the proof of what we just discussed. The name Rock was meant to rock the mainstream mores and culture. The later sub-genres like Progressive, Punk, New Wave (in the US), and Grunge are simply affirmations of such proof. In late 60s, Progressive rock was born to disapprove commercialization (including the music modeling imposed by major labels) that swept the earlier generation; such disapproval was symbolized by presenting a sophisticated musical form with no concern whatsoever over whether the audience would like it. In the late 70s, Punk emerged while Progressive died out. Punk movement actually addressed the same issue, but came up with the opposite musical structure that progressive rock embraced; instead, they chose simple chords and disregarded technical virtuosity. Around the same time, New Wave in the US was more concerned about the press media that controlled information and shaped opinions. Still in the US, New Wave was also a self-critique to White people by ridiculing themselves with silly costumes and stage acts.

Gentle Giant, one of prominent Progressive Rock Bands – Another Show (Music provided by Vox de Cultura)

Talking Heads, one of the pioneers of New Wave from NYC – Lifetime Piling Up (Music provided by Vox de Cultura)

In mid 70s, Breaking (then developed into today’s Hip Hop) was also in the making. The gangs in South Bronx, New York City, had enough with the wars among themselves, and begun to focus on “war” against violence, and socioeconomic injustice. The movement transformed the gang war into art form, and “battle” was the chosen form. Breaking is a symbol of physical fight between “enemies”; the movement vocabularies are inspired by Kung Fu that was popularized by Bruce Lee at the time. Rap, on the other side, is a verbal battle in which two opposing sides throwing “lethal wordings” to each other until one side “surrenders”.

Grunge, in the late 80s, was voicing out the “young nobodies” in middle class America who were mostly unemployed due to the country’s economic downfall. The musical form was a result of a marriage between Hard Rock and Punk of the 70s that felt best in symbolizing the condition at the time. Being unemployed (and not because you’re lazy) is a miserable feeling. Grunge itself literally means filth or dirt, and that was how the young generation at the time felt about themselves; they felt as the dirt of society.

Such misery is well represented in the darkness of the music. The dreadful lyrics symbolize anxiety, the vocal is pretty much about torment, and the distorted guitar sound represents their being unfit in society.

“Canned” Music

The above brief descriptions show how a movement shapes the form of its art. Individuality always has a place, not in the shape of individual art form, but in signature. In High Renaissance art, we can easily differentiate the works of Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Titian, and Rafael. In Baroque music, it’s easy to notice the differences among Vivaldi, Couperin, Bach, and Scarlatti. In Impressionism, the differences among Matisse, Cézanne, and Monet are quite obvious. In Rock music, it’s no way that we can’t tell the differences of guitar playing among Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

The non-existence of new common form of art today perhaps should be seen as the incapability of our societies to unite against inhumanity. The aforementioned individual form of art is not born out of collective concern or movement, and most works cannot be considered as new form(s) of art either. In music, for instance, most new works are mere replications of the old forms. There has been no new sub-genre in Jazz since Jazz Fusion, no new sub-genre in Rock since Grunge, no new sub-genre in Blues since Pop Blues, and no new sub-genre in Classical since the 20th Century music.

What we’ve been listening so far is actually a preserved music. If music is food, then we’re actually listening to “canned food” music; changes only takes place in packaging and prices, not in contents. Canned food is a preserved food, thus an all season edible; it remains the same no matter what the situation is. A can of Campbell soup is always a Campbell soup, in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even in years time, a Campbell soup we had when we were kids will be the same soup we’re having at the time we are grandparents.

Preservation, Cultivation, and Evolution

Preservation has its own function; it’s the archive of the past that no longer lives. It’s important because we need to learn from our history. Never forget that our today is the result of our yesterday. In Classical music, preservation is called conservation, and that is the reason why the school for it is named Conservatory. Cultivation is the act of keeping our heritage living and functioning in real life. In the West, for example, criticism is a tradition that has been kept alive and well in their societies for hundreds of years. Evolution is the consequence of cultivation, and also a mechanism that eventually provides new solution(s) to the problems faced. There are past arts that we should preserve, there is cultural heritage that we should nurture, and there are new answers that we need to find to address present and future challenges.


During Vietnam War, Music Spoke to Both Sides of a Divided Nation

Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff, University of South Carolina

Music is central to Ken Burns’s new Vietnam War documentary, with an original score accompanied by samples of the era’s most popular musicians, from the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan. According to USA Today, the people interviewed for the film were even asked to provide their 10 favorite songs from the war years.

While it’s natural that a historical film would include period-specific songs, music played an outsized role in the Vietnam War era. Whereas during past wars, musicians wrote songs to unite Americans, Vietnam-era music spoke to the growing numbers of disillusioned citizens, and brought attention to the cultural fissures that were beginning to emerge.

A unified sound

World War II influenced an entire generation – many say the “greatest” – but few of those who came of age in the 1940s would probably call music a core component of their collective identity.

Music did play an important role in the war, but only as a way to unite Americans; like the films, radio reports and newspapers accounts of the era, World War II music resounded with patriotism.

Glenn Miller and his lively swing orchestra played hits such as “Tuxedo Junctionfor U.S. troops, while bandleaders such as Benny Goodman and U.S.O. entertainers such as Bob Hope reinforced the government’s promotion of unwavering patriotism to willing and eager listeners.

Young people embraced swing music for what historians David Stowe and Lewis Erenberg describe as the genre’s democratic ethos – the way Americans of different races and ethnicities enjoyed a new kind of sound with an upbeat tempo and new dance moves such as the Lindy Hop.

A huge crowd fills New York’s West 52nd Street for a swing party to raise war bonds in July 1942. AP Photo


As I argue in my book “Black Culture and the New Deal,” the government also employed African-American musicians such as Duke Ellington and Lena Horne to boost the morale of black citizens and project democratic values on the home front and for troops. Many African-Americans hoped a battle against fascism could lead to the end of discrimination in the U.S.

Songs of resistance

But Vietnam was different. Unlike the 1940s – when Americans thought the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and Nazi aggression in Europe justified the sacrifices of war – young people in the 1960s were deeply suspicious of the government’s decision to go into Southeast Asia. As the military’s commitment grew and the body counts piled up, many couldn’t understand what they were fighting for.

Songs were able to express these feelings of anger and confusion with lyrics that could be abstract – like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” – or explicit, such as Phil Ochs’s “I Ain’t Marching Anymore.”

Music also filled a void in the country’s media landscape. Hollywood didn’t release films that probed the complex nature of the Vietnam War until years after the fall of Saigon. While television news broadcasting became more critical after the Tet Offensive, the big networks were hesitant to promote entertainers who were vocally opposed to the war. Popular programs would censor artists who planned to perform protest music; for example, in 1967, folk singer Pete Seeger appeared on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” only to discover that his song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” would be later be cut due to its anti-war message.

Because Vietnam-era musicians seemed to be the only people talking about America’s failure to live up to its democratic principles, many young people viewed them as “their own.”

Protest music took several forms. There was The Beatles’ more tepid “Revolution” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s everyman anthem “Fortunate Son.” Groups like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane excoriated the hypocrisy of American values, shunned commercialism and supported anti-imperial movements across the globe. People chanted lyrics while marching, listened during gatherings like the “Be-In” in San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Park or simply absorbed the meaning and messages of these songs on their own.

Forgotten voices

Much of the power of Vietnam War-era music came from its connection to the civil rights movement. Young men and women in the black freedom struggle had, since the 1950s, broadened their call for freedom to encompass oppressed people around the world. Artists like Nina Simone, Dylan and Seeger had been chronicling the tragedies of southern violence in their music, so pointing out the wrongs of Vietnam came naturally.

But interestingly, Google searches for “Vietnam Era Music” yield only protest music. This disregards the many who found the protesters abhorrent, who undoubtedly listened to apolitical songs or songs that backed the military.

The Americans that President Richard Nixon dubbed “the silent majority” – those angered by protesters – constituted a huge swath of the country. They had catapulted Nixon to the presidency and fueled a resurgent conservative political movement. The deep-seated resentment felt by so many Americans – against those on college campuses, those who defied military orders, those who questioned American patriotism – cannot be ignored, and they, too, turned to music that provided solace. Merle Haggard said he wrote his 1969 hit song “Okie From Muskogee” to support U.S. soldiers who “were giving up their freedom and lives to make sure others could stay free.”

“What the hell did these kids have to complain about?” he wondered.

To many, students on college campuses knew nothing about the true meaning of sacrifice. The Spokesmen’s pro-Vietnam ballad “Dawn of Correction” insisted on the “need to keep free people from red domination,” while “The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley,” performed by C Company and Terry Nelson, topped Billboard charts. (The song defended Lt. William Calley who, in 1971, was convicted of slaughtering civilians in the Vietnamese village of Mai Lai.)

The popularity of these songs paints another portrait of the war; politically, the music was much more multifaceted than is often remembered.

The ConversationHopes for the era weren’t as simple as the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” which promised “there’s a better life for me and you.” Instead, understanding the music of the Vietnam War era requires indulging a variety of perspectives. The overseas conflict cannot be divorced from the culture war back home – a battle over who gets to define the nation’s identity.

Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff, Associate Professor of History, University of South Carolina

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Akram Khan’s Giselle

Bridging Two Different Centuries in a Refreshing Way

by Irninta Dwitika

Akram Khan’s Giselle returns to Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London on 20 – 23 September 2017 after its successful performances last year. Performed by English National Ballet, Akram Khan brings the 21st century’s context into the ballet of the Romantic period in the 19th century. The simplicity of movement, costume, and set design distinguishes this remake version from the original, yet very mesmerizing.

In contrast with the original version, Khan’s Giselle adapts the romantic story with the abstraction of this globalization era by replacing the community of peasants with migrant workers. Migrants and refugees that have become one of world’s main challenges as well as human inequality are the main issues in Khan’s version.

With no white tutus on stage as they are the iconic costume of the romantic-era version, costume designer Tim Yap creates simple and minimalist style of the costumes that portray beauty and sadness together.

The renowned choreographer beautifully combines classical ballet and contemporary dance with influence of his dance training background, the Indian classical dance form Kathak. The dominating repetitive movements danced in unison gradually build up the strong energy.

Khan’s presence in the contemporary dance world, particularly in the West, has certainly borne fruits to both traditions. Not only that he is able to continue questioning and challenging each tradition, Ballet and Kathak, but also to provide a platform to renovate old ideas as well as integrating both mind and movements in the 21st century global world.

A cross-cultural collaboration is not a new phenomenon in the history of the Arts. From the 9th century Andalusia to Bartok’s folklore to Brazilian Jazz are the concrete proofs. In fact, collaboration in the Arts have been seen as a need or even a necessity; it’s a medium to communicate and to express our emotions and ways of life with languages of the arts (music, dance, painting, etc) that has no cultural, social and political barriers.

If there was a ”flaw” in the performance, it certainly was not about the story, choreography, costume or dancing; instead, it was the unwanted interruption in the early minutes due to the injury underwent by the dancer who played the Albrecht character. The performance was stopped for cast change; in about ten minutes the show was restarted from the beginning. Other than that, this renewed Giselle is nothing but a stimulating and an inspiring piece.

Trailer of Akram Khan’s Giselle via Youtube:

Irninta Dwitika is a ballet teacher at Namarina Dance Academy, and also a dancer at Namarina Youth Dance in Indonesia. She is currently pursuing a Master degree in Dance Performance at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, UK.