Category Archives: Social Progress

Ethnozoology of the Garasiya, State of Rajasthan, India

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Jaroli DP, Mahawar MM, Vyas N. An ethnozoological study in the adjoining areas of Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 10;6:6. PubMed PMID: 20144243; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2836285. [free full text]

Zoologists at the University of Rajasthan and Govt. P.G. College did a study of the use of animal products among the Garasiya people of Rajasthan, a large, geographically diverse state in northern India. The team focused on areas around the Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary in the Aravalli Range, one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges.

The team documented a total of 24 animal species used for medicinal and religious purposes, including five species considered endangered, vulnerable, or near threatened. From their conclusion:

“Our study also shows that the Garasiya people have very rich folklore and traditional knowledge in the utilization of different animal[s]. So there is an urgent need to properly document to keep a record of the ethnomedicinal data of animal products and their medicinal uses. Further studies are required for scientific validation to confirm medicinal value of such products and to include this knowledge in strategies of conservation and management of animal resources. We hope that this information will be helpful in further research in the field[s] of ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology and biodiversity conservation…”

The article includes a comprehensive background section, outlining the history of zootherapy in India and documented in works like Ayurveda and charaka Samhita.

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medicinal plants in Babungo, Northwest Region, Cameroon

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Simbo DJ. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants in Babungo, Northwest Region, Cameroon. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 15;6:8. PubMed PMID: 20156356; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2843657. [free full text]

An investigator at University of Antwerp Groenenborgerlaan reports on a survey that identified and recorded 107 plants species from 54 plant families, 98 genera used for treating diseases in Babungo.

From the conclusion:

“The survey shows that a large number of medicinal plants are used in Babungo for treating different ailments. The knowledge of the use of plants to treat diseases has been with the people for generations but has not been recorded. This knowledge remains mostly with the traditional medical practitioners who are mostly old people. Most of the medicinal plants are sourced from the wild. In addition to their medicinal uses, some of these plants have other uses. The local population should be educated on sustainable methods of harvesting plants to treat diseases today without compromising their availability for future use. The youth should also be encouraged to learn
the traditional medicinal knowledge to preserve it from being lost with the older generation.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Herbal Mixtures in Traditional Medicine in Northern Peru

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Bussmann RW, Glenn A, Meyer K, et al. Herbal mixtures in traditional medicine in Northern Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 14;6:10. PubMed PMID: 20226092; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2848642 [free full text]

Researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden undertook a study of plant mixtures used in traditional medicine in Northern Peru, yielding nearly a thousand herbal preparations used to treat more than a hundred different afflictions.

From the conclusion:

“Our research indicates that a large number of plants used in traditional healing in Northern Peru are
employed in often sophisticated mixtures, rather than as individual plants. Peruvian curanderos appear to employ very specific guidelines in the preparation of these cocktails, and seem to have a clear understanding of disease concepts when they diagnose a patient, which in turn leads them to often apply specific mixtures for specific conditions. There seems to be a widespread exchange of knowledge about mixtures for treatment of bodily diseases, while mixtures for spiritual, nervous system and psychosomatic disorders appear to be more closely guarded by the individual healers.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Snakebit in Brazil – A Village’s Beliefs and Practices about “Offensive Snakes”

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Fita DS, Costa Neto EM, Schiavetti A. ‘Offensive’ snakes: cultural beliefs and practices related to snakebites in a Brazilian rural settlement. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 26;6:13. PubMed PMID: 20346120; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2853519 [free full text]

Investigators at Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana undertook fieldwork in a Brazilian rural settlement in 2006, totaling 53 days of living in the village and a followup stay of 15 days in 2007. They recorded a total of 23 types of ‘snakes’, based on their local names. Four of them, belonging to the family Viperidae were considered the most dangerous to humans, and causing more aversion and fear in the population.

From the conclusion:

“Ethnozoological information on the injuries caused by snakes and other potentially dangerous animals must be available to the community as didactic-scientific texts, written in a clear language and accompanied by illustrations. It is understood that the ethnozoological knowledge, customs and popular practices of the Serra da Jibóia inhabitants result in a valuable cultural resource which should be considered in every discussion regarding public health, sanitation and practices of traditional medicine, as well as in faunistic studies and conservation strategies for local biological diversity.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

A Second Green Revolution – One Man, One Cow, One Planet

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Across India, farmers are rejecting chemical agriculture and turning to sustainable organic practices.

On one side, an American multinational, Monsanto, which sells genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. On the other, Indian farmers and an ally from New Zealand, who work together to grow crops independently.

By all means, question the science behind biodynamic farming. But look at the results. And apply the same skepticism to the science behind Monsanto’s selling of chemical agriculture and genetically modified crops.

Start here:

Film website

Shah Jo Raag Fakirs Freed from Homeland Security

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I was privileged to hear Shah Jo Raag Fakirs last night at Asia Society, but not after they spent several hours in custody at JKF. Ridiculous, since Pakistani Sufis are fighting the good fight for the soul of Islam (and for all of us), and are suffering for it. Fortunately Homeland Security listened to reason, in the form of a phone call from Rachel Cooper, director of Cultural Programs and Performing Arts.

From the program:

“Shah Jo Raag belongs to the family of musicians who sing at the shrine of Shah Lateef in Bhit Shah in the traditional manner that was created by the Shah himself about four hundred years ago. Shah Jo Raag is a direct descendant of Shah Jamal who was very close to Shah Lateef and his family has been the keeper of tradition. Every Thursday the session of singing begins after the esha (night) prayers and lasts the entire night. During the annual Urs celebration the singing goes on nonstop for the three days of the event. The Wai singers dress themselves in black and chant, strumming the dhamboor, the instrument created by Shah himself, and sing “Wai” the kalaam of the Shah by turns. Shah Jo Raag has been singing at the shrine for the last thirty years. His group has won awards in Paris, the Lateef Award and Rafi Peer Award in Pakistan.”

Even this brief encounter was unforgettable. Gratitude to the trio, who must have been exhausted after their journey and incarceration. Also to Asia Society and William Dalrymple, the author of Nine Lives – In Search of the Sacred in Modern South Asia.

Films I Want to See in New York – 8 – Winter’s Bone

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Winter’s Bone
Debra Granik, USA
2010, 100 min

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Ree), John Hawkes (Teardrop), Kevin Breznahan (Little Arthur), Dale Dickey (Merab), Garret Dillahunt (Sheriff Baskin), Sheryl Lee (April), Lauren Sweetser (Gail), Tate Taylor (Satterfield)

Opening June 11, Angelika and Lincoln Plaza.

“It ain’t much, but it’s all we have.”

Winner of two independent juries’ prizes at this year’s Berlinale, Winter’s Bone is the unflinching telling of a Ozark Mountain girl’s desperate quest to keep her family intact by finding a father who vanished after posting their home as bond.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), the sole support of her younger brother and sister and mentally ill mother, is a classic film heroine who when up against impossible odds won’t take no for an answer. Dead or alive, she must find her meth-cooking father, defying a near-cultic criminal syndicate that manufactures, supplies, and supports crank culture in the Ozarks.

Based on a novel by David Woodrell and set on location in Christian and Taney counties in southwest Missouri, Winter’s Bone uses experienced actors in the lead roles and local actors and residents for most of the secondary parts. Dale Dickey is electric in the role of Merab, wife and gatekeeper to the local crime lord. John Hawkes shows unexpected tenderness and loyalty as Ree’s fearsome, addicted uncle. And Jennifer Lawrence inhabits the lead role with hardscrabble grit and enduring vulnerability as she tries to see her brother and sister through their own childhoods.

After several scouting trips to the area, and with help from local guides to one of the North America’s more exotic and dangerous locations, cinematographer Michael McDonough and production crew manage to skirt hillbilly cliche in settings of meth labs, run-down farms, and honky tonks.

In one expert nighttime composition, Ree waits in her uncle’s truck while he engages the opposition with some calculated violence, an American flag darkly reflected in windshield.

Update: US Distributor – Roadside Attractions (2010)

Films I Want to See in New York – 7 – Putty Hill

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Putty Hill
Matthew Porterfield, USA
2010, 89 min

Cast: Sky Ferreira (Jenny), Zoe Vance (Zoe), James Siebor, Jr. (James), Dustin Ray (Dustin), Cody Ray (Cody), Charles “Spike” Sauers (Spike), Catherine Evans (Cathy), Virginia Heath (Virginia), Casey Weibust (Casey), Drew Harris (Geoff), Marina Siebor (Marina)

To be screened at BAMcinemaFEST, Sun, Jun 13 at 8:45pm

A junkie’s house, a boy’s death. Girls smoking in the woods. Cops on the hunt for a bank robber. Grandma is a good egg. Tagger – Rest in Peace, Cory.

A girl comes home to her estranged father’s tattoo party. A karaoke wake. Visiting a dead brother’s junkie lair at night. All he kept was his skateboard. The friendship of girls.

Putty Hill in the Northeast of Baltimore is both urban and bucolic. A filmmaker was working a coming-of-age tale about a group of metal-heads skirting the fringes of Baltimore. It was a timely script, but financing fell through. To rescue the work of everyone involved, he shot a new film in 12 days. Director Matt Porterfield:

“Putty Hill is not quite like anything I’ve ever seen. On a most basic level, it is an amalgam of traditional forms of documentary and narrative realism. But it is an approach to realism in opposition to the anthropological, lyrical, and romantic currents present in most of the genre. More importantly, though the structure of the film was plotted, the details of individual scenes were largely improvised, breathing life into the dialogue and bringing an enhanced degree of naturalism to the relationships between characters. I had already established firm bonds with my cast working with them on Metal Gods, so they trusted me enough to take risks and bring a level of emotional honesty to the material.”

A triumph of salvage. Not to be missed.

US Release: Feb 18, 2011 (Cinema Guild)

Ethnopharmacology of the Horse Warriors – Medicinal Plants of the Tamang

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Uprety Y, Asselin H, Boon EK, et al. Indigenous use and bio-efficacy of medicinal plants in the Rasuwa District, Central Nepal. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Jan 26;6:3. PubMed PMID: 20102631

Ecologists at Vrije Universiteit Brussel interviewed plant collectors, medicinal plant cultivators, traditional healers, and traders among the ethnic Tamang people to document 60 medicinal formulations from 56 plant species.

From the background:

“The Rasuwa district presents some of the best examples of graded climatic conditions in Central Himalaya. Pronounced altitudinal gradients, coupled with complex topography and geology, have resulted in a rich biodiversity and unique vegetation patchwork. Therefore, the district harbours a rich diversity of medicinal plants. The Chilime VDC [Village Development Committee] lies in the northern part of the district, bordering the Tibetan part of China, and comprises temperate to alpine climates within 2000-4700 m altitude. The local inhabitants are part of the Tamang indigenous people, which comprises 98% of the total Chilime VDC population. People from the Tamang ethnic group have a rich culture and possess sound traditional knowledge. However, they are economically and socially marginalized and far from having their basic needs fulfilled.”

The Tamang people use medicinal plants to treat cuts and wounds, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disorders, cough and cold, musculoskeletal problems, fever and headache, weakness and dizziness, menstrual disorders, dermatologic infections, ophthalmologic problems, and toothache, among other ailments.

The authors recommend phytochemical and pharmacological studies of the Tamang’s traditionally used medicinal plants, perhaps starting with potentially high-value species including Astilbe rivularis, Berberis asiatica, Hippophae salicifolia, Juniperus recurva, and Swertia multicaulis. They note that while medicinal plants provide huge opportunities for community development and livelihood improvement, local people are often deprived of the benefits. Proper management of medicinal plants could serve as a sustainable income source for the Tamang, which in turn could help generate incentives for biodiversity conservation.

Films I Want to See in New York – 4 – This Way of Life

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This Way of Life
New Zealand / Canada, 2009
Director: Thomas Burstyn
Cast: Peter Ottley-Karena, Colleen Ottley-Karena, Llewelyn Ottley-Karena, Aurora Ottley-Karena, Malachi Ottley-Karena, Elias Ottley-Karena, Corban Ottley-Karena, Salem Ottley-Karena

In a rare bit of luck, I met the filmmakers in Berlin while covering Forum. Their film was in another section, Generation, so I asked for a DVD. One of the smartest things I did during the festival.

I can’t improve on the Berlinale essay:

“Family life in New Zealand. Except that this is no ordinary family: filmmaker Thomas Burstyn spent four years capturing on camera daily life in one Maori household. Peter and Colleen Karena (Ngati Maniapoto) have six children and fifty horses. Peter is in his early thirties and a horse whisperer by trade – as well as a farrier, butcher, saddler, hunter, labourer and philosopher. The life he leads is very close to nature – and this makes him something of an outsider. His life is also unfettered – as is that of his self-confident children. It’s almost as if the word ‘risk’ doesn’t exist for them: barefoot, bareback and without reins or riding hat is for instance the way the Karena’s six-year-old daughter gallops across the New Zealand prairie.

“When the family’s house burns down, the parents, their oldest son (eleven-year-old Llewelyn, from whose point-of-view the film is told) and his five younger siblings decide to pitch their tents on a nearby beach. But although their family life appears to become even more idyllic, it is not without its conflicts. The Karenas live in the here and now, in spite of their parents’ traditional gender roles. But while Colleen devotes herself to looking after the family, Peter still has an axe to grind with his father. The film focuses on the way in which he mends this broken relationship and, at the same time, manages to maintain a healthy relationship with his own son, Llewelyn. Some people may think that the Karenas live a life of poverty. But this isn’t true. THIS WAY OF LIFE is a film about freedom.”

I am dying to see this beautiful film on a big screen. Some of the compositions are destined to become classics for film students in the new century. Children riding across a hill, a glistening body of water. New Yorkers deserve to see this movie.

[Berlinale]