Monday, 15 November 2010

Hand(s) for Sudan

Sudan's upcoming referendum looms large for anyone writing or reading about Africa. Although there are up to 17 national elections expected on the continent next year, this is the one that is attracting the most international attention and probably the one most at risk of degenerating into violence - although this is Africa, so external (and often internal) understanding of the likelihood of war is always a little shaky

All eyes are trained on Sudan and it will be interesting to see what (if any) impact this international scrutiny will have. It also means that there is far closer attention being paid to the preparations. This past week, the symbols that will be used on the ballot were announced.

Maggie Fick reports that literacy levels are low in Sudan, so the pictures are used. Which is perfectly reasonable. Also great to see that the images are being publicised far in advance so that people know what they mean. With images, there is always an increased danger of manipulation if the meaning is not obviously clear. And I have to be honest, that it is not obviously clear to me in these images. In fact, my first reaction when I saw these pictures was unity-picture-good, one-hand-bad. Of course, this was my own cultural context and just a first reaction - I'm sure the South Sudanese people, for whom this is a much more serious issue, will not be guided by which picture they prefer even if similar cultural context issues were to exist.

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