Tribals from all over the world now have a voice: in the form of a cartoon book that tells of the woes they face in the name of 'development'.
Cartoons from the book
The book, "There you go" was launched in Malaysia on Monday. It gives a quick insight into the problems of indigenous peoples and takes just two minutes to read, literally. The 23-page comic book has also been sent to the Malaysian Prime Minister as well as to several government officials and public libraries in the country.
The foreword by Stephen Corry, the Director of Survival International, the organisation bringing out the book, talks about how 'development' is mostly carried out against tribal peoples' wishes. Tribals are not backward but people with their own way of life and thinking, who change and adapt with time. Taking away land from tribals is, according to Corry, not development, but "conquest".
The "developed" world's representatives
There you go!
The author of the book, Oren Ginzburg is a well-known author and illustrator whose books are satirical takes on development issues. The comic book has one illustration on every page with a small caption alongside: bright green trees and funny cartoon characters with smart comments. It begins with how "we", which could be read as the developed world, decided to bring sustainable development to indigenous groups and how "we" realised that their way of life was in a way, sustainable. And to remove all doubts, "we" even realised that most of them were happy living with less than $1 a day.
However, the story takes a turn when the visitors from the developed world decide that the tribals must be developed. They begin cutting down trees and building factories. The author uses terms like "participatory development", "private sector partnerships", terms used by institutions to justify the possible
No more part of the forest
damage they might be doing. In the end, the tribals lose their forests and their traditional way of life, are forced to work in factories and are dependent on factory owners for their wages.
There you go again!
The epilogue, titled, "There you go again", calls on individuals to raise their voice and fight back against those who seek to exploit indigenous peoples in the name of development. There is also a small description of tribals around the world who have lost their livelihood and have become slaves to drug abuse and violence.
The epilogue also mentions the Yanomami tribe in Brazil, who were threatened by a government road project. A number of them were victims of diseases brought about by gold mining in the area. In Canada, the Innu Indians in Labrador and Quebec have become victims of inadequate schooling. Their self-sufficiency was
The happy missionaries of development
threatened after they became totally dependent on development and welfare programmes.
John, a member of the semi-nomadic Penan tribe of Malaysia, told Survival about the time a company came to destroy the forests. The tribals could not stop it because it was done in the name of development. But they lost their forests and it was not progress for them.
"Avoid the arrogance"
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been enthusiastic about the book, saying it would help raise understanding about the complexities and pitfalls of development assistance. The former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, talks about the "big message" this book has to offer. She says, " ..we must avoid the arrogance of presuming to know what's best for those whose voices are not heard in global debates."
Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Editor: Arun Chowdhury