Despite coffee beans being one of Rwanda’s largest exports, the Rwandese don’t drink coffee. A small café is trying to seed a coffee culture similar to that of Australia or Europe’s to unite locals and uplift farmers. Could the beverage become as influential in a community that is still marked by the feuds of the Rwandan Genocide?
Eighteen years ago, the town of Butare in South Rwanda was a bloody battleground. Here, The Human Rights Watch reports that on 21 April 1994, 600 orphans were transferred by Interahamwe forces to the local school, separated by identity, and the Tutsis murdered with machetes and clubs. This was in addition to the violent attacks of rape, murder and torture on innocent civilians used by government-supported Hutu extremists to wipe out Tutsis. As the world stood back and watched, the catastrophic civil war that is the Rwandan Genocide unleashed with neighbours and family members turning against each other. One million people were reportedly murdered in 100 days.
The smell of death has since faded, and today, the main road that runs through the town is infused with a new scent. The distinct scent of espresso floats from a simple square concrete building. Painted up its centre column is a flourishing coffee tree with outstretched branches, while a calico sign displays “Espresso RW400” – 61 Australian cents for an espresso that, of the same beans, would cost $4 to $8 in Australia.
This is Cafe ConneXion. It’s the first coffee shop for Butare Town because, despite coffee beans accounting for more than a third of Rwanda’s exports, the Rwandese rarely consume coffee. Meanwhile in Australia, Rwanda’s specialty coffee comes over land and sea to end up in the cups of coffee connoisseurs. At popular Sydney café, Single Origin in Surry Hills, a 250-gram bag of beans from the Nyakizu region, just 20 minutes from Butare Town, cost $23.
Here, in Café ConneXion, with its green walls and blue floor, I speak with the co-owner Jean-Marie Irakabaho. We sit on simple couches arranged at the front, while a desk holding an espresso machine takes centre stage of the room. An imposing coffee roaster dominates the right side of the café, but the room feels somewhat bare.
The local coffee expert Jean-Marie and his Swiss business partner Luzius Wipf, a coffee roaster, recently established the café in the hope that it will create the connection between coffee farmer and drinker. Jean-Marie believes his country and people can move on from the genocide, and hopes that Café ConneXion will increase the domestic consumption of coffee, seeding a similar coffee culture to Australia and Europe. If its goals are realized, the coffees served here could contribute to post-genocide economic growth, and compensate the farmers with local sales when the volatile international market prices drop.
“Rwandans do not drink coffee,” he explains in his thick Afro-French accent.
“I guess less than three per cent [of the beans they produce]. But in Ethiopia they drink more than half.”
I went through a phase of writing unexpected letters recently. With the incessant emails that badgered my inbox I needed to get away from screens, so I began penning letters to friends I hadn’t seen in a while.
It’s fascinating how in just a couple of years, the growing dependence of our daily lives on computers, whether they’re on your lap or in your pocket, has completely changed our relationship with paper. The temporal nature of the content on your screen has made the permanence of paper – and the words printed on it – feel more meaningful.
And in a time of ever-increasing digital reliance, it’s nice to hear the clunky wheels and cogs of a machine that can create something beautiful sans electricity. Down at The Distillery in Darlinghurst, the old letterpress machines from the 1890s click, whistle and turn, making music instead of a buzzing drone like computers. The letterpress studio stands for the custom craftsmanship and artisan skill of a bygone era, when there were hands instead of codes behind something; ink instead of pixels.
The Distillery’s director Nathan Leong and his team are working to bring back letterpress and the traditional design process that sees a piece through its entire lifetime from start to finish. This is not only through oiling, restoring and reigniting the old machines, but by holding workshops teaching letterpress skills, and renting out time on the letterpresses to local enthusiasts, so the studio can become a creative community hub.
I spoke with Nathan a few months ago on why he’s dusting off these machines and spreading the the love of this old artisan skill.
Fluorescent poles and a touch of dubstep are not something you’d typically expect to be incorporated into a ballet composition, but for the West Australian Ballet’s 60-year diamond anniversary, they sought to do something different. Neon Lights is the product and it’s currently playing at The Sydney Theatre in Walsh Bay. The four acts each break away from stereotypical, formal performances – there’s no wankiness and a lot more personality.
“This conversation never happened,” was the opening line of The Ambassador, when it screened on Sunday night as The Antenna Festival’s closing documentary. The festival included a suite of incredible films ranging from true tales of community activism to life on death row. But The Ambassador was the headline act.
Armed with a plethora of hidden cameras, eccentric gonzo journalist Mads Brüggers illustrates the corruption and exploitation of the Central African Republic. The helplessness of its people has allowed it to become a land where every man with an ego is sucking it dry of its natural resources, only repaying it with false hope.
TIME Healthland recently covered the topic of pro-anorexia blogs, of which I wrote an article on a few years ago, and posted just a few weeks ago.
Quoting a study by Dapha Yeshna-Katz in the journal Health Communication, it makes an interesting point that pro-anorexia blogs could lightly be compared to wet houses or safe needle exchanges – places that are accepting of the problem; where sufferers find community bonding and refuge in the understanding of other sufferers.
However, pro-ana members are more fond of their disease than keen for recovery. Shutting the blogs down to address their anorexia would be pointless, not only because of its near impossibility, but the fact that most of the images that sufferers idolise come from mainstream media. It is certainly not a revolutionary statement, but it is the psychology of finding these images aspirational, and the glorification of unhealthy bodies that remains the root of the problem. Which I doubt will change any time soon. Read the full article here
Facebook is considering allowing children under 13 to have their own profiles. At the moment, when setting up an account, your birthday must prove that you are 13 or over. Kids can obviously get around this easily by lying about their birth year. Yet the newly public company believes that allowing children a profile that is managed by their parents would prevent them from having no supervision at all. This is apparently needed because there are already 7.5 million kids who are 13 and under on Facebook, 5 million of those under 10.
So imagine if this went through. Imagine if some people had a Facebook page from, say, eight years old – a majority of their lives would be recorded online. And then take it a step further and imagine their parents made them a profile from birth and they had their entire life online; from first steps, paintings done at preschool, first days at school, little athletics wins, birthday parties, first relationships, high school, part-time jobs, formals, uni, festivals, graduation, marriage – the whole schmaltzy movie montage.
This is a story I wrote a few years ago about the pro anorexia and pro bulimia forums on LiveJournal. Thankfully, most of them have now been shut down or are less active, however, many members have moved to new social media platforms such as Pinterest. The website has been forced to close many eating disorder-themed boards and now greets members searching for thinspiration with health warnings and eating disorder support lines.
Lucy* looks at me in disbelief as I place my caramel-latte on the table in front of us. She glares at it, almost frightened of the sweetened, frothy milk. I can see her mind ticking over as she counts and converts calories. “350 calories that is,” she says pointing to it.
“That’s like 40 minutes running to burn off you know?”
She looks up disapprovingly, attempting to drill guilt into me. She’s right, I probably should know better. Yet having moved past such thoughts and her still in the depths of the obsession, I chose to ignore her comments and revel in the pleasure of enjoying food – a practice feared by those with anorexia nervosa.
I can’t blame her for being rude, she means well. She’s trying to keep me in check. That’s what members of the online Pro Ana and Pro Mia movements do – encourage through fasts and discourage from food. The difference is that I am no longer a member.
“If VICE is doing news, we’re ******.”
Shane Smith, co-founder of VICE had this sobering message to give 100 hipsters who gathered on a night of apocalyptic weather for the Vivid Ideas exchange.
VICE is a publication I truly idolise and respect. It loves the eccentric and unusual characteristics about people that I do, and does so unapologetically. More so, it chases the story. And according to Smith, now more than ever there are more stories to tell.
Having once started as a lifestyle publication to talk about “sneakers and cocaine”, VICE was forced to start covering the happenings of the world that were receiving no media coverage. The murders, kidnapping, people trafficking and drug trafficking that didn’t fit well with the 6pm times lot on TV. The stories they have found have continued to shock them more and more over the years.
“And everywhere we go, it’s getting worse,” Shane Smith said.