THE CROWD'S CHOICE
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Ethiopian fashion designer Mahlet Afework Mafi, is the Founder and Creative Director of the fashion brand Mafi’s based in Addis Ababa. She started her career at 16 as a model and musician, while simultaneously studying nursing. She left school and quit modeling to follow her passion and become a professional fashion designer. She has since gained critical acclaim for her cutting-edge designs; winning the 2012 Origin Africa's design award, showcasing her work at African Fashion Week New York 2012, and winning the 2010 Designer of the Year award from Alliance Ethio-Française at European Fashion Day in Addis.Mafi works exclusively with hand-woven fabrics made by women. She creates clothing and accessories which are fresh and cutting-edge and at the same time very wearable. In her small workshop, Afework uses traditionally handwoven fabrics to create her line of women’s wear, accessories, and a unisex shoe line. Although her designs are heavily influenced by the rich cultural traditions in Ethiopia, Afework ensures that her creations also reflect a modern aesthetic.With over 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia, Afework says she cannot classify her work as purely Ethiopian. Instead, the country’s diversity is reflected in the range of patterns she incorporates into her designs.Culture and tradition can sometimes become as essential and as invisible as air. Pushing herself creatively Mafi produces contemporary pieces with ancient fabrics, giving visibility to the diversity and depth of Ethiopian culture and tradition.Pushing herself creatively Mafi’s produces contemporary pieces with ancient fabrics, giving visibility to the diversity and depth of Ethiopian culture and tradition. She has won several awards across the African continent.
In 1995 Jose Saramago - a Portuguese writer - published ‘Blindness’ where he imagined a society suddenly disrupted by a blindness epidemic that affected nearly all of the population in an unknown city. People then divided between the sane and the ill. The latter became secluded in a filthy asylum where the strongest forged a system of semi-dictatorship after taking control of the food stockpiles. Brutality occurs, people are abused and hopes are lost.Blindness is a reminder of how inequality and scarcity can transform a society. The people of today, overwhelmed by the lack control of today’s world (terrorism, financial and debt crises, etc.), are desperate for a change. And it is easier to believe someone who attributes problems to some scapegoat, rather than support someone who is part of that same system that was unable to protect them. Blame, after all, is the easiest way to frame social problems. It has happened before, and it is happening again.But who is it really to blame? The IMF recently admitted that inequality was probably caused by neoliberal economic choices. The 2008 financial crisis was attributed to the ‘greedy bankers’ (yet, there is a lot more behind it). Anti-establishment forces are thus seemingly understandable.Although there is a trend that suggests the need of a change, to entrust demagogues who build their campaign on hatred speeches and proclaims of division (often hiding the real state of affairs) is scarily similar to the mechanism behind Blindness. Anger is not the solution, but rather the source of the problem – and one cannot simply overlook this aspect.Pain makes us blind, but we must look for solutions that can instead bring a positive change. Division, Saramago teaches, destroys the morality of the people and creates violence - undermining the intrinsic principles of democracy.
These days, smoking is widely acknowledged as a deadly addiction. European lawmakers are constantly cracking down on the cancerous torpedoes, but other pollution contaminating our air continues unimpeded. Why? Even if you don't smoke, the average European inhales the equivalent of 1.6 cigarettes a day, with Londoners inhaling an equivalent closer to 15.According to the European Environment Agency's 2016 report, air pollution in Europe’s major cities has so far caused nearly 550,000 premature deaths. A number which continues to rise.In the EU’s major cities, almost every man women and child are essentially being forced to smoke 1.6 cigarettes a day - according to a study by Berkeley health. No doubt fathers and mothers would protest more if, say, teachers forced their children to smoke every day in the classroom.The problem is, we simply take air pollution as a given. Many have lived their whole lives with it and the polluting technology has revolutionised the way we live. Clean, renewable energies have long been perceived as too expensive or unscalable. This is rapidly changing. Fortunately, you don't need a big budget to fight air pollution. It's all about legislation.Just look at diesel cars. Even if we forget about the massive exhaust scam by various manufacturers, it must seem like a punch in the face to citizens with respiratory diseases that cars, not even making the fairly high EU exhaust limit, are allowed within their cities. Especially because diesel is cheaper in many European countries.Sweeping regulatory legislation is surely the least that should be done.
The Republican Party, bar a few libertarians, was once united, voters and politicians alike, in condemning Julian Assange. How times change. Trump’s favourite talking head Sean Hannity once called for Assange’s arrest, and now advocates for his rehabilitation. Rep. Peter King, a national security hardliner who often described Wikileaks as terrorists, has been noticeably less vocal this year. “Thank God for Wikileaks,” proclaimed one Congressman. The few remaining Republican critics focus on self-interested “it could happen to us” considerations rather than principled objections.It is, of course, easy to understand why: pragmatism. Many Republicans see Wikileaks as a national security threat no longer; instead, it is an ally, helping create an "October surprise" that hurts Clinton's campaign. Assange, too, is assisting Trump for coldly pragmatic reasons. Despite apparent ideological differences, Assange and Trump bear many similarities. Both have offhandedly dismissed sexual assault accusations. Both have a self-serving tolerance for certain despots. Both respond to media criticism with prejudice-laden yells of conspiracy. Both possess incredible egos and worryingly unerring self-assuredness.Julian Assange remains influential, and his legacy in the history of whistleblowing is central, but today he makes a more unconventional case for greater transparency. In a world of secrecy, if it is up to the whistleblower to decide what enters the public domain, they can acquire a perverse power. Assange is using his access to information to brazenly manipulate elections, a dereliction of the lofty idealism once associated with him.The whistleblowing world has largely burned its bridges with Assange and vice versa, understanding this. Throughout the world, whistleblowers make valuable contributions to the public debate, on local and international issues alike. Assange, however, is proof that, like in all careers of influence, power can corrupt. Those whistleblowers without such self-serving motives should be treated with more respect and clemency.