2010 Travel Photography Scholarship – Kingdom of Bhutan

Last time I posted a Travel Scholarship opportunity from World Nomads, I’m not sure if you (yes, I mean you reading this post right now) applied. However if you did apply, let me know. This is another opportunity for budding and professional photographers out there.  We have so many picturesque spots within the African continent. I’m hoping someone reads this, applies and hopefully win. Goodluck peeps.

Photo by Christopher Potter

Photo by Christopher Potter

Join an on-assignment National Geographic photographer in Bhutan!

Applications close October 17, 2010

Worldnomads.com, National Geographic ChannelJoJo’s Adventures Bhutan are giving one exceptional individual the chance to go on assignment with renowned wildlife photographer Jason Edwards to The Kingdom of Bhutan – land of the Thunderdragon!

This your chance to photograph the deeply spiritual and mystical Bhutan as it slowly opens up to the modern world, maintaining a strong balance with its ancient traditions. Nestled in the Himalayas, bordering India and China, 65% of Bhutan is under forest cover, making its pristine ecology home to rare and endangered flora and fauna.

To help you take the best photos, the scholarship recipient will receive AU$2000 worth of Pentax photographic equipment of your choice.

Your best photos will be published on the National Geographic Channel’s websitewhere they will be viewed by thousands of travellers worldwide, offering you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get your foot in the door of one of the most revered exploration organisations in the world!

Highly regarded for his wildlife and remote landscape photography, Jason Edwards is represented by National Geographic Image Collection.

Your Assignment Brief

* We’ll fly you in from your country of residence to Paro, Bhutan where you will meet your JoJo’s Adventure guide for your 7 day trip. You’ll need to be available to be in Bhutan between December 5 – December 12, 2010.

* On the trip, which has been specifically designed for the assignment,you will work alongside Jason Edwards photographing rare and endangered wildlife in the Phobjikha Valley including the White Bellied Heron(there are only 200 left in the world, and 30 live in this valley)Black Necked Cranes. The trip will also include historical architecture and traditional Bhutanese culture.

* You will gain invaluable mentoring and hands-on experience in everything from shot set up, technique and composition through to insights into his many years of diverse experience as an award winning photographer.

* Your assignment will involve observing and assisting Jason as well as undertaking your own photographic work. This will involve long days chasing the perfect shot!

* You will keep a daily diary about your time on the trip and upload this to a WorldNomads.com travel journal, including pictures you’ve taken.

* On your return you will submit your top photographs to National Geographic Channel for publication on www.natgeotv.com.au.(See Anna Zhu’s photos, our winner from 2009, and her exhibition at Michaels)

* Most of all, you’ll be experiencing what it’s like to be a photographer-on assignment with National Geographic!

Who can apply

* Anyone can apply – this is open to photography students, lovers of photography or anynon-professional trying to kickstart a career in travel photography.

Minimum age 18 with a good level of fitness as there is trekking involved.

* This is a global opportunity – you may apply from any country.

* You should be an exceptional photographer with a lust for adventure, ambition to grow your photographic skills and forge a career in Travel Photography, and of course a desire to travel to Bhutan.

* Remember this is a scholarship, a learning experience, and therefore will not be suitable for professional or Semi-professional photographers.

* Find out more about eligibility in our FAQ video blog

Apply now

Please look carefully at the 4 steps required to complete your application.
If your photos are not ready, we suggest you come back later to complete this entry.

1. Shoot a series of photos (maximum of 5) that tell a story about a place you have visited. ‘Place’ may be anywhere; somewhere in your own community or much further away. The judges will be looking for:

* originality
* ability to convey a story through photos
* excellent technique

Please see our FAQ video blog about the theme, making digital adjustments and Jason’s judging criteria.

2. Add your photos to worldnomads.com. Firstly create a journal, which is where your photos will be hosted, and fill in the entry form. Upload your photos either as a Flikr set or directly in the journal. (If you are already a member or have a journal, please sign-in.)

3. Tell us in 300 words or less about your photos and why you should be chosen. Your written response will have significant weighting in the judging process, so think carefully about why you should be chosen. Remember this is a learning opportunity, not a junket for professional photographers.

4. Finally the legal bit. You know the Terms and Conditions of entry.

Parochial Interests

One of the wonderful things about children is their ability not to worry. They’ve got no care in the world and are happy to take one day at a time. Now that I have two children ( and one on the way) by proxy through my sister, I see how important it is to keep them in that safe bubble.

When I was younger (in my teens), I never realized the full import of elections. Pursuing self-interest was the major past-time. Now, i’m much older and wiser. I realize the need and importance of elections. I know why it is important to participate in the coming elections in January 2011.

I read in the news today about a 52 year old US returnee pharmacist, who decided to sustain his political ambition by smuggling cocaine through the International Airport.  Agitation for self rule, resource control, civil unrest globally is driven by limited access to economic power.  Karl Marx has often been quoted as stating that “Religion is the opium of the people”. I couldn’t agree more. When people are limited economically, it limits the ability to take vital decisions. We’re such a religious country…so freaking religious, it amazes me how we can endure so much. Some people reading this might attribute it to the “Naija Spirit”. I beg to differ. Our search for a daily dough has dulled our inner sensibilities we’d prefer to sell our soul to the devil if salvation (in terms of material wealth) lies with him.

On the other hand, economic power is no power if it’s not backed by an effective political power that translates into respect for the power to vote. Voters registration will soon kick off. What are you doing in terms of registration? Are you going to participate or adopt a siddon look while corrupt officials trample the corridors of power? I’m not sure what our religious leaders are doing. They also need to join the campaign towards fair elections come 2011. They need to preach the interrelated links between political and economic power rather than asking us to cast our gaze upon heaven. More emphasis should be based on educating people rather than asking for seeds and more seeds.

The world might not end anytime soon. For those of us who are bent on storing heavenly treasures, please carry on. However, remember you have a duty to leave the world a bit better for upcoming generations.

Banky W’s Note to us!!! Join the fight to a better Nigeria.

“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.” – Shakespeare

First, please read the quote pasted above. Let the gravity of those words sink into your system. Then, if you haven’t already, and if you’re strong enough to stomach witnessing sheer and absolute horror, please click on the following link: http://www.anglicandioceseofjos.org/dogo.html 

There is no other quote that better describes the recent inhumane attacks in Jos, Nigeria. If “a picture is worth a thousand words”, then what do we say of pictures like these? It’s unimaginable. Each picture represents a horrific, gruesome murder. Innocent women, children (and men) were brutally ambushed, attacked, maimed and murdered worse than animals. It’s unthinkable that in 2010, after the world has gone through so much progress and development, some of us in Nigeria are still living like this. It’s heartbreaking to witness these events. It’s heart-wrenching to think of what happened on the morning of March 7th. It’s unfair and deplorable. It’s mind-numbingly sad, pathetic, and downright insane. 

But this is the Nigeria we live in. A country full of extremes. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Extreme Joy and extreme pain. It’s hard to imagine that this is the same Nigeria that just hosted the U-17 World cup; that just celebrated it’s 50th Year of Independence and boasts of some of the most expensive luxurious lifestyles in the world.

Nigeria is the most populous Black Nation in the world; it is also very much a melting pot. It is home to 250 to 400 different ethnic groups, and is almost evenly split amongst Muslims and Christians (not to mention various other traditional Religious Belief systems). However, while in some metropolitan areas of the world, vast diversity is generally a positive attribute, in Nigeria that diversity is ripping us apart. We are different, but that should be a strength.. not a disease. Instead of learning from each other we resort to fighting. Instead of maximizing our varying degrees of potential, we resort to killing each other.

How men can devise this kind of terrible plot is beyond me. News reports have put the death toll anywhere between 200 and 500 people. Probably More. Innocent lives snuffed out for absolutely ignorant, ridiculous reasons. Mothers and children. Families destroyed forever. All because of some ethnic disputes, disagreements over land, or even religious differences. What’s sad about occurrences like this is the fact that usually, there’s some underlying resentment towards policy, authority, Government or the powers that be. But instead of finding some other way to address these issues, people resort to killing other innocent (and probably-frustrated-as-well) human beings. Maybe you’re justifiably upset at the way things have been… is that reason enough to take the life of someone else who is innocent, and like you, probably just trying to get by in these harsh times? 

The worst thing about the Jos attacks is the fact that this is not the first time that we’ve witnessed such horror, and conventional wisdom says it won’t be the last. There’s a song on my last album called “Why”, where I tried in my very limited capacity to speak from the heart on situations affecting our Nigeria. I specifically mentioned “fighting in Jos, killing one another no remorse”. This song was created by Cobhams Asuquo and I over a year ago; I was inspired to write, when similar killings occurred and a friend of mine lost 2 immediate family members. Little did we know that the song would prove to not only be an account of times past, but a prophecy of things to come as we are now witnessing the same evil history repeat itself. 

My heart aches for those that lost their lives in Jos and for the families that mourn them. My heart aches for the present state of Nigeria. My heart aches for the future of Nigeria, but it shouldn’t have to. I once read that the definition of Insanity is repeating the same actions over and over, while expecting a different result. We are all frustrated with the political and economical climate in Nigeria. We all complain and we are quick to point out everything that has been so wrong for so many years, and rightfully so, because it’s just pathetic. But if we decide as a generation to do nothing about it; if we decide to turn a blind eye and ignore the need for change, then our future generations will inherit the EXACT same issues. And that will mean that we have failed them. 

We all witnessed the inauguration of President Barack Obama in the not too distant past. The whole world watched in awe, as America, once the chief criminal in slave trade, voted in its first Black President. We all know the U.S.A. still has issues its dealing with, but President Obama’s swearing-in is a day that will forever go down in history as a day that changed America. Prior to Obama becoming Commander-in-Chief, most people thought that there would never be a Black Man voted in as President of the USA. Prior to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and co, most people thought black people would never be able to vote in America and that Segregation would never be demolished. I put it to you that we CAN change Nigeria’s future, using similar formulas. Obama became President largely because the younger generations (and those young at heart) decided to exercise their God-given rights by voting for change. We can do the same here in Naija. 

Change does not happen overnight… Some will recall that in the USA in 1994 there was a revolution of sorts, but partly due to somewhat dubious circumstances (Florida, etc), the Bush Regime lasted an additional four years. We are used to Politicians in Nigeria treating Power as a birthright and votes not counting, despite our calling it a democracy. But in the same breath, how many of us actually turn out to vote? 2011 might be the year that changes our country forever. We may or may not succeed in toppling the “birthright-mindset” of our leaders immediately, but we MUST, in the very least, get the ball rolling. We the (young) people must decide that we are fed up of the nonsense we’ve seen for years and vow to change things. 

We still have no constant power supply. We must vow to do everything within our power to get our government to #lightupnigeria. We have leaders that are complacent and corrupt. We must vow to register-to-vote and to actually vote. We can, possibly, abruptly change and take charge of the future of Nigeria in the 2011 elections. Or in the very least we can IMPACT it so that it never stays the same. We are fortunate enough to not have to deal with any Natural Disasters, like the recent earthquakes in Haiti, or the Tsunamis in Asia. It’s time for us to stop BEING the disasters, and to start being part of the solutions. I will be one of many young people completely devoted to bringing about change in this country because I believe we deserve it and it’s long overdue. I hope you will too. 

Lastly, my heart still bleeds for Jos. I will never claim to be an expert on the problems that the region is dealing with, or the solutions. I do know however that we must all decide to collectively be a part of the change we all desperately hope for and deserve. May those who died Rest In Peace. May their deaths not be in Vain. May Peace reign in all parts of Nigeria and Africa. And lastly… May Change Come. Enough is enough.

~ B.W.

Osu – The Caste System in Igbo Land

I listened to an interactive programme on the radio (102.3FM-Continental Radio) sometime ago, and the discussion was about the prevalent caste system in the south eastern part of Nigeria. It was quite interesting and the various contributions from both the audience and the invited guests made it so. From what each contributor said, the Osu people were dedicated to the gods – for their service. Contrary to negative perceptions concerning this special set of people, I learnt that they were the first set of people to be educated when the missionary people came to the South Eastern part of the country.

According to the history persona, it was quite easy to become an Osu. For instance, if an individual was trying to escape from an adversary, by swearing an allegiance to the society, such a person becomes an Osu. It was also interesting to know that due to the special duties being carried out by the Osus’, they were rewarded with choice lands, property and other valuables. They also had their own schools, markets and other social amenities. It was also interesting to note that only the fairest and the brightest people were members of this special community. I understand that within the South Eastern part of the country, they’re the most prolific and eminent individuals. So, I wonder where all the negative connotations started from.

Why would parents threaten to disown their children for marrying an Osu, who obviously has an illustrious pedigree? Why the unnecessary discrimination? I don’t know all the answers, but I’m of the opinion that this kind of abominable discrimination has got to stop.

The danger behind a single story

The above named title was coined from a recent interview Chimamanda Adichie granted ( I think it’s all over YouTube). I have not watched the video clip but from the title, it is safe to assume that she was talking of the need to project our own stories and not one woven around Famous Five, Barbie, Fawlty Towers and others.

While reading an article on Oprah’s website last week, I came across her book of the month. The title was ‘Say You Are One of Them’, written by Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian author. Anyway, while reading through its’ synopsis, I discovered that the story revolves around genocide and war issues in Africa. If Chimamanda Adichie thinks that there is a danger in projecting stories from a particular race, I agree.

However, the danger behind the single story our African writers are projecting is a continent of despair, famine, inter tribal wars, communal strife, voodooism, witchcraft, female subjugation and other dark things you can associate with Africa. No wonder, it is referred to as ‘the dark continent’. Is it just me or am I biased in thinking that for every burgeoning African writer, there’s this urge to centralize their story themes around one war or the other to continually project dark stories to be a potential winner of ‘The Pulitzer Prize, The Caine Prize and other international awards available. I’ve often wondered why books such as ‘A Man of the People’, ‘No Longer at Ease’ or ‘Jagua Nana’ never won international acclaim. Guess, we’ve been feeding the world wrongly.

Why can’t we weave our stories around more positive elements? Why must it be the usual suspects? I am looking forward to the day, an African writer will win the Pulitzer prize for stories woven around more central positive themes than what is prevalent now.

I realize we need to tell our stories and keep it for future generations yet unborn, so they can have an idea of how we waded through the storms to finally find heaven (this is assuming and hoping we do make something bright out of Africa).