Monday. 28/3/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Emma Searle

Committed to memory

Global tragedies have a way of sticking in our memories. Most can remember the September 11 attacks and the moment when they heard the news. And 24 February, the day that Russia invaded Ukraine, will be no exception. In my case, I was sitting at the tip of Africa in Cape Town, thousands of miles away, on my first visit home in two years. Much like in the West, the prevailing feeling in the initial weeks was one of shock, outrage and support for the Ukrainian people. But by early March, the focus shifted to South Africa’s muted stance on Russia.

Criticism of Nato from president Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured) has been a particular point of contention. “The war could have been avoided if Nato had heeded warnings from among its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” the South African leader said recently. When the UN General Assembly voted to condemn Russia’s invasion in early March, South Africa was one of 17 African states that abstained. In the past week, South Africa again withheld support for a resolution demanding that Russia grant aid access in Ukraine, backing a separate draft that avoided any mention of the invasion.

Some speculate that the ambivalence of many African countries might be motivated by nostalgia for the Soviet Union’s support of their own liberation movements. The ANC, for instance, received military training in the Soviet Union during the fight against the apartheid regime. And while China’s activities in Africa are well known, Russia has also been extending its economic and security influence, supplying mercenaries to countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic. The war in Ukraine is testing pan-African solidarity. The stance of the continent’s governments will be remembered for years to come.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Vatican & Canada

Making amends

The first and long-anticipated meeting between indigenous leaders from Canada and Pope Francis takes place at the Vatican today in response to the grim discoveries last year of unmarked graves on the grounds of several former residential schools across the country. Pope Francis will meet Métis and Cree representatives, before a meeting with First Nations representatives on Thursday. A final gathering between all three delegations, as well as the Canadian Bishops’ Conference, takes place on Friday. For Canada’s indigenous communities, this week’s meetings are a significant step towards reconciliation; the Catholic Church has long wavered on admitting its abuses in the residential-school system. This week’s discussions may also begin to lay the groundwork for an official papal visit to Canada, which the Vatican vowed to undertake last year. When he does, the Pope is expected to offer a formal apology for the church’s disturbing past.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / France

On shaky ground

Two weeks before France starts voting in its presidential election, the main centre-right party is facing a potentially existential challenge (writes journalist Jonathan Fenby). Polling suggests that Les Républicains candidate Valérie Pécresse (pictured) will finish third or fourth, meaning that she would not qualify for the run-off vote that decides the winner. Lacking charisma, Pécresse has struggled to stand out on the campaign trail despite being informed on policy issues and an able debater. But her party’s problems go deeper: Les Républicains voters are increasingly over 70 years of age and many have defected to far-right candidates such as Marine Le Pen. Plus their priorities – like slimming down the state and economic reform – are already espoused by the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron. Meanwhile, hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon is capitalising on discontent over the cost of living. If Pécresse fails to make the run-off, her party is likely to split. Though Macron’s re-election is the most probable outcome, French politics will remain turbulent.

To hear more from Jonathan Fenby on the plight of France’s conservatives, tune in to today’s edition of The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Bakas

Housing / USA

Watertight plan

The US government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin distributing $60m (€55m) in grants to homeowners in high-risk flood areas from Friday. Local governments in Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be responsible for distributing the funding, which can be used for flood-mitigation purposes, such as lifting buildings off the ground. While this is a good thing for communities threatened by an increasing number of floods in recent years, these states would also benefit from funding for public spaces that are designed to handle flood waters too. For inspiration, they could look to Copenhagen’s Enghaveparken public park, which includes sunken gardens that are both beautiful and practical. Or flood-prone Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn Centennial Park (pictured), which can hold 4,546,000 litres of rainwater. Both show that protecting a community from flood water can also be an opportunity to improve its parks and public spaces.

Image: Getty Images

Arts / Sydney

Liquid assets

Australia’s biggest celebration of contemporary art, the Biennale of Sydney, launched earlier this month and runs until 13 June. Venues across the city will host 400 events and exhibitions by 89 artists, all free and open to the public. This year’s biennale is titled “Rīvus”, which means “stream” in Latin. Its central theme is water in all of its forms, including rivers, wetlands and floods. Here are three highlights:

Music to our ears: Catch the Australian premiere of The Great Animal Orchestra (pictured), a documentary by soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause and London-based collective United Visual Artists. The 30-minute film features recordings of 15,000 animal species from across the globe, collected over 50 years.

Picturing nature: Commissioned by the biennale, Brazilian photographer Caio Reisewitz’s installation “Mundus Subterraneus” explores his country’s complicated relationship with its land and forests. See it alongside other work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Location, location, location: Explore pieces by 25 artists, including Hong Kong’s Zheng Bo and Mexico’s Tania Candiani, in the Cutaway, a subterranean concrete venue with a pop-up bar.

M24 / The Urbanist

Seeking refuge

Millions of Ukrainians have now fled their homes, prompting a huge humanitarian effort. We report from the country’s border with Romania, meet a Zürich hotelier who is welcoming those fleeing the conflict and head to Trampoline, a café in London that is hiring refugees.

Monocle Films / Global

The secret to finding a spring jacket

Bruce Pask, the menswear director at Bergdorf Goodman, is fêted for his unfussy personal style, so much so that the New York department store has given him his own space – B. – in one corner of its shop floor. As the mercury rises we asked Pask to give us the lowdown on picking a quintessential menswear staple: the spring jacket.

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