People from two of the peaceful societies featured in this website have just been awarded the prestigious Right Livelihood prizes, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prizes. The awards will be presented by the King of Sweden in a ceremony in Stockholm on December 9.
According to a news report on October 4 from the Daily News of South Africa, “the First People of the Kalahari, and its founder Roy Sesana, were recognised ‘for resolute resistance against eviction from their ancestral lands, and for upholding the right to their traditional way of life.’”
First People of the Kalahari has been leading the fight against the government of Botswana, along with the British group Survival International, to restore the G/wi and the G//ana to their traditional homelands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CJGR). Sesana founded the group in 1991 to advocate for the rights of the San peoples of Botswana.
Just a few days before the announcement of the Alternative Nobel Awards, 28 members of the First People of the Kalahari, including Sesana, were arrested by the Botswana police for participating in a demonstration and attempting to enter the CKGR.
Survival International alleges that this recent action represents “a full-scale crackdown on Bushmen”. Their statement adds, “the last message sent by the Bushmen in the reserve read, ‘They are firing over our heads, they are beating us, we don’t know if we can hold out’. The government has banned journalists from entering the reserve. A group of Americans probing allegations of repression in the reserve, including the Chair of Human Rights Watch, report that they were followed, questioned, intimidated and harassed for three days by Wildlife Department officials, and finally escorted out of the reserve by armed guards. This repression is the culmination of the government’s crackdown on all Bushmen resistance to their forced relocation. It comes despite the fact that the court case to establish whether the Bushmen’s eviction was lawful is still going on,” the statement says.
Survival International also indicates that with the reserve closed, hunting banned, the radio transmitters of the San peoples confiscated, no water provided, and armed guards in “every Bushmen community,” the people still holding out in the CKGR have little chance to survive. According to a news report from AllAfrica.com, the government of Botswana has issued a statement defending the police actions as completely in line with the need to enforce the laws of the country.
First People of the Kalahari will share the 2,000,000 Swedish kronor prize (about U.S. $250,000) with a human rights activist in Malaysia and two Canadians who have promoted free access to water rights and other fair trade issues.
Zapotec artist Francisco Toledo, one of Mexico’s most prominent living artists, was awarded an honorary Right Livelihood prize for his efforts to promote the environment and the cultural heritage of the Oaxaca region of Mexico. The awards jury recognized Toledo’s philanthropic contributions to his country. According to Artdaily.com, the jury singled out Toledo “… for devoting himself and his art to the protection, enhancement and renewal of the architectural and cultural heritage, natural environment and community life of his native Oaxaca.”
Toledo, whose paintings have been exhibited in galleries worldwide, has established numerous artistic and cultural institutions, such as a publishing house, a library for the blind, the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, and the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo in Oaxaca. He opposed the construction of a proposed cable car to the famed Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, the construction of a McDonald’s restaurant on the main square of historic Oaxaca city, plus the construction of some highways, parking lots, hotels, and so on. He also, in the words of one news story, “helped found Pro-Oax which is dedicated to the protection and promotion of art, architecture, culture and the environment of Oaxaca.”