Skip navigation
Help

International

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.


[Video Link]

Leon Botha, a South African artist and DJ who became widely known through his association with the band Die Antwoord, died on Sunday from complications related to progeria. He was 26. He died one day after his birthday. Botha was one of the longest-living persons ever to have been diagnosed with this rare disease.

Word spread online last night. Leon had been struggling with increasing physical challenges in recent months. He shared some of that experience with me, along with news of his creative explorations, in occasional emails. Boing Boing pal Griffin of the South African counterculture blog WatKykJy today confirmed the sad news for us: Leon's condition became grave last week, and he died Sunday from a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot on his lungs).

Leon was working on a new painting of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord just this last week, Yo-Landi tells us. "He was an angel," she said today.

I did not know Leon as well as Ninja, Yo-Landi, and other friends in South Africa's art and DJ circles, but I would like to share a little of the interaction I had with this gentle and singular soul by way of Boing Boing.

4150763067_84eb8983a9_o.jpg

I first became aware of Leon through his appearance in some of Die Antwoord's early music videos; he appeared in them as a DJ/"hype man," and his unusual physical appearance made him instantly unforgettable. At the time, I didn't know his name, or anything about him beyond that physical appearance. For many, that first physical impression, what progeria does to the human form, defined him. But Leon did not want to be defined by this difference.

We ended up becoming internet pen-pals of a sort. Through this, and through some of his friends (who all expressed great affection and protectiveness toward Leon) I learned more about his visual and performance art work. In that work, in his written word, and in some of the incredible monologues you can find from on YouTube, his presence radiates. All who knew him, and all who were touched by his spirit through those videos, will know what I mean when I say that he emanated deep sincerity, gentleness, a serenity and quiet wisdom. Leon was aware of his own mortality in ways most people are not. He transformed that awareness into a sort of mindfulness of how vast and awesome life is.

One day over email, Leon shared with me that the passing mentions of him that existed on Wikipedia were upsetting to him. He was mentioned only on the page for Die Antwoord, and under the page for the disease he had, progeria.

"I was a bit paranoid that my art wouldn't be in there, in case something happened to me," he said.

Leon was very mindful of the value of the internet as a reflection of human life, and an archive of the living after they die. He wanted to be understood as a complex, self-determined, thoughtful creator and connector and thinker. Not as a disease, and not as a footnote in someone else's better-known story. He wanted to be known for who he really was while he was alive. He wanted us to respect him, and his work, after he was gone.

Recently, our email exchanges seemed to include news of greater physical hardships for Leon. He never complained, but when I asked after longer silences, he shared. I cannot imagine the physical suffering he endured.

"I always thought when I was little, like, all of this is okay," he wrote in one email. "Just please don't let it reach the levels where it is now."

"And now, I just need to flow with it. What else can I do? It is important, to reach back and remember all the lessons I have learned on my journey so far. I think the main lesson is that we are not victims to life... and then, the other lesson, is that we must live life."

How are you holding up, I asked him once after he went through a particularly painful medical procedure. Things were not sounding good.

I am here, he said. "I am trying to work and focus, not letting the outer world speak more loudly than my inner. Because I think we tend to forget. Have a great day, peace."


[Video Link]

Below, I will paste without edits the autobiography he sent me in 2010, when he was frustrated by Wikipedia. These words, his own words, best defined who he was and what he'd accomplished so far, in that last year of his life.

Leon Botha was born on the 4th of June, 1985. Brought up and still living in Cape Town, South Africa.
He started drawing at the age of three. And was diagnosed with progeria around the age of 4 years.
 He took art in high school. Painting and Jewelery design for two years. He did not receive any formal training, and did not study art any further.

After school he dedicating himself to painting full time. Doing commissioned work, as well as working on a solo exhibition.
In 2005 he underwent heart bypass surgery having been at critical risk of heart attack, due to Progeria, which calcified his arteries.

This was successful and he hosted his first solo exhibition in January, 2007 at the Rust-en-Vrede gallery in Durbanville. It was called: "Liquid Sword; I am HipHop", and revolved around HipHop culture, explained as a way of life.
It was opened by close friend, the late Mr. Fat of the South African HipHop group Brasse Vannie Kaap (B.V.K.) 
It received great responses, as well as media coverage. Television, radio, magazine and newspaper articles and interviews.



In mid March, 2009 he hosted his second solo exhibition entitled "Liquid Swords; Slices of Le[m]on", 
The exhibition was a break away from HipHop. The title was a play on his name, with the "M" crossed out, so to read "Leon". The exhibition featured "slices" of the artist's life. Based around a twist of the phrase; "when life gives you lemons you make lemonade", with the attitude of; "When life serves you lemons, you slice it and serve it back." Hinting at the artist's attitude and alchemical philosophy, and struggles under Progeria. It featured a large spectrum of more dark, personal as well as spiritual work.


The responses and media coverage grew even more than before and sold a third of the entire collection of 33 paintings under the first week. 

Many of the articles, images of the paintings etc. are to be found on his flickr page. A video clip of a news insert about the opening of the second exhibition can be found on youtube.



In the beginning of 2010, he hosted the first showing of: "Who Am I? ...Transgressions," a photographic-collaboration exhibition with friend and photographer Gordon Clark. 
In which they collectively conceptualized images and shots to reveal Leon Botha to the world, which was a bold step due to the nature of his condition, of which he is currently one of the world's oldest survivors.

'Who am I? ... Transgressions' aimed at stereotypes, ideas of time, life and death and immortality.
 This exhibition is planned to travel around the world. Again, it received a lot of attention, locally as well as internationally.


Leon is well known for his spiritual outlook and philosophy in interviews. 
He also dj's under the name Solarize, and occasionally opened for Die Antwoord.


Botha was featured alongside Ninja, in the music video 'Enter the Ninja', from Die Antwoord. As of March 2010 the video had received over 2 million views on Youtube.

Leon Botha: website, myspace, youtube

Here is Leon's Wikipedia page now. He seemed pretty happy with how it represented him in the end, thanks to the thoughtful work of dedicated Wikipedia editors who took the task of crafting a living person's biography seriously. It's funny how something as simple and transient as a page on Wikipedia can have significance in someone's life.

Related blog and news coverage of Botha's passing: Leon's Facebook page, where friends and fans are posting condolences; Durban Live, SaFindIt, Channel24.co.za, blabla.co.za, Mail and Guardian.

 

0
Your rating: None

Diary (2010) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.

[Video Link]

"Diary' is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It's a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media."—Tim Hetherington, British photojournalist and Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, who was killed today in Libya. (via Clayton Cubitt)

0
Your rating: None

[video link] This eyewitness video of the March 11 tsunami striking Japan shows how, in under 10 minutes, a harbor in Oirase Town, Aomori Prefecture goes from business as usual to, well, gone. While other videos have shown massive destruction or endless floods, this one shows a huge dry area that completely fills with water, making it easy to see just how much water was being pushed around. It's so hard to believe this actually happened. The guy filming it must have been scared to death.

0
Your rating: None


Photo © Bruno Broomfield, courtesy National Geographic

In the photograph above, 6-month old Jennifer, an albino girl, plays with beads outside her home in Tanzania. This African country has the world's largest proportion of albinos, but discrimination and violence against this population run high: in the past 20 months, 57 people with albinism have been hunted and their bodies butchered for parts used in ceremonies.

More at this National Geographic online feature, which includes video: Albino Murders. A related documentary will air Tuesday night on the National Geographic channel, at 10pm.

[Via BB Submitterator, thanks minjaeormes]

0
Your rating: None

niqab_115.jpg Two women wearing niqab pass through a broken street. 115 is the number to call an Edhi ambulance. The number is imprinted over all Edhi paraphernalia.

I wanted to share some notes on what we (Omar Mullick and I) have been doing in Karachi. Abdul Sattar Edhi, the main subject of our film, is primarily known for his ambulance service in Pakistan. He started out with a small blue van in the 1950's called the "Poor Man's Van" and went around Karachi transporting the dead and sick to their fated destinations. Little did he—or anyone in Pakistan—know that he was the first and only ambulance in the entire country. To this day, Edhi is at the forefront of providing first response care to Pakistanis while the local city and provincial governments lag far behind.

The ambulance service is the largest and most well known program the Edhi Foundation provides. There are about 30 check posts around Karachi that have at least three ambulances for dispatching around their designated area.

It's important to note that these ambulance drivers aren't paramedics. They are only required to have a driver's license and be able to read and write in Urdu. Many of them don't know CPR and are taken only through a very basic training before becoming a driver. The main job of an Edhi ambulance driver is to transport patient X from point A to point B. The lack of qualifications is a little frightening since there of road side accidents and shooting casualties an ambulance picks up in a day.

I remember feeling a little uneasy watching a live stream of a terrorist attack in progress because the police were nowhere in sight. A minute later I heard sirens and saw an Edhi ambulance pull up. The driver exited his van and ran off camera with a stretcher. The police showed up ten minutes later. The importance of the Edhi ambulance in Pakistan goes without saying.

The photos in this blog post were taken during our time with the Edhi ambulance drivers and dispatchers in Korangi Town.

asad_head.jpg Asad, an Edhi ambulance driver, sticks his head out during a sweltering day in Lala-abad. Most ambulances don't have an A/C unit. The Edhi Foundation has to keep costs down to maintain their affordable RS 100 ($1.20 USD) fee for transport.

asad.jpg
Asad waits for a patient in the back of his van. The back contains only a stretcher and an oxygen tank.

korangi_smiles.jpg An ambulance driver rests on a table at the Korangi dispatching center. The Edhi driver's shift is 24 hours. Drivers take many breaks throughout the shift. They work every other day, 15 days a month.

korangi_crotch.jpg Mahmood, an ambulance dispatcher, talks to a friend on the phone during a blackout. The Korangi center loses electricity about five times a day. During some night shifts, the electricity doesn't come back till the morning. A small generator powers the phones and a tiny bulb -- just enough to keep the work day moving.

police.jpg Two police officers ride on a bike. In Karachi, it is illegal to have a passenger on your motorcycle (except for women, children and the elderly). Clearly, those who enforce the law aren't around to follow it.

Notes on the Edhi Ambulance

0
Your rating: None