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In the North of the Centrafrican Republic, the Zaraguinas, a group of road blockers, have been frightening local populations for more than 15 years. They specifically target Fulani farmers, who have been living in Central Africa for about a century. As cattle owners, the Fulanis are often considered wealthy and Zaraguinas attack them to steal their beasts or abduct their children. The ransoms they ask can reach millions of CFA Francs (1 million CFA Francs is worth 1,500€). Fulanis then have to sell their cattle in order to gather the money, thus losing their only source of income. As the Centrafrican armed forces (FACA, forces armées centrafricaines) are unable to help against the Zaraguinas in the bush, the Fulanis had to react quickly and to get organised to fight back with their own means. The mayors of the breeding communities created self-defense groups, armed with arcs and poisonous arrows to protect their cattle and intervene in place of the official authorities, against the road blockers, to avoid more kidnappings. Each territory currently runs a group of bowmen to secure the pastures. All of them wear amulets, as a protection against the bullets of the automatic weapons used by the Zaraguinas. Hence protected, their determination and boldness often routs the Zaraguinas. The road-blockers appeared in the 1990s in Centrafrican Republic. Lately, this movement has been encouraged by the political instability and lack of control of the authorities on a whole chunk of territory. Zaraguinas often come from rebel groups from Tchad. Some are ex-liberators, who helped the curent Centrafrican President François Bozizé during the putsch of the15th March 2003. As the new head of the State is quite reluctant to keep his promises, his former men decided to help themselves, thus sinking into organised crime. The bowmen are still not recognised by the Centrafrican State, they have no status nor social protection. They can only rely on the generosity of other cattle breeders and of the mayors to fund their mission of security.

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Work in progress: “No country for old men*”?

Text by Elise Poudevigne, Free-lance journalist in Cork.

Between its diaspora, peppered with success-stories and the economic boom of the motherland, most Irish people slightly forgot where they came from. Not Mary MacAleese. The president of the Republic asked at the end of 2008 the powerful Gaelic Athletic Association to cook up tailor-made events for “the ones who remain”: the ones who, reaching 60, 70, 80 years of age, took over the family farm, looked after their parents, did not get married and ended up on their own in deserted countries. These men haunt the Irish collective imaginative world. They are the ones singing the “Real Ireland”, the ones telling its’ stories, celebrating it, holding it in the palm of their thick hands. Above all, they are the ones who were left here and who leave behind empty countrysides, ghostly postcard landscapes.

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The Aka Pygmies : a threatened freedom.

Granted as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO, the Pygmies are considered the first inhabitants of Central Africa. In the past, they covered the whole rainforest located in the southwest of the country, searching for wild mushrooms, edible roots and game animals. Throughout their history, the pygmies have developed highly specific skills related to hunting, dancing, music and pharmacopoeia. In recent years, globalization has begun to catch up to them, making this nomadic people a more sedentary agricultural population settled around cities and villages. Still mostly unknown to most inhabitants of Central Africa, the Aka attempt to preserve a traditional way of life while modernizing and liberating themselves from the slavering grip of Bantou families. Caught between inequitable trade and pure exploitation working on villagers’ plantations, these Aka Pygmies have also become the focus of all the monotheist proselytes.

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The slaves of the sea

Ten years after the “moratorium” which prevented people from fishing cod in Newfoundland, the flotilla of trawlers fit for sea-fishing has almost completely disappeared. “Grande Hermine”, a 65-meter long trawler began her career in St Pierre and Miquelon on big shoals around 20 years ago. It was the ultimate chapter of an adventure which lasted for over three centuries. The whole history of fishing in Normandy, Brittany, the Basque Country and of course Saint Pierre et Miquelon was built around trawler fishing and their departures for the Newfoundland shoals. The seamen have known for a long time that they are the last representatives of a profession which is doomed. They usually go fishing above the polar circle, in the Barents Sea where the Norwegian coast guards keep them under strict control. There they are fishing, from 12 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, spending two to three months on some of the most hostile seas in the world, attracted by the “white gold” but above all passionate about a job that most of them have been doing since they were teenagers.

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Discovered by 34 m depth off the Corsica Cape, the wreck « Western Giraglia 2 » is what one could commonly call a " pinardier". These Roman ships sailed about the 1st century after JC; they transported bulk-wine in big earthenware jars from 2.000 to 3.000 liters called dolia. Although it probably suffered from trawling activity, the wreck offers at least 3 undamaged dolia, very few amphoras (some Dressel 2-4 of Tarraconaise) as well as an important part of its hull in place.

The importance of this wreck falls under the series of the wrecks with dolia discovered in the North-Western Mediterranean but still relatively badly known. Tankers of which the marketing activity, mainly established between the Augustan era and the 1st century after JC, was located between Italy, Spain and Gaulle. From an economic standpoint, the study of these wrecks enables to highlight a novel mode of transport for which the stamps found on the dolia reveal that it was set up by a family of ship-owners located at Minturnes (in southernmost Latium), the Piranis. On about fifteen wrecks with dolia discovered, very little indeed offered part of their hull in good state and very little were ransacked and published in an exhaustive way.

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The shipwrecks of La Natiere : a Major French excavation site

Discovered at the end of 1994 or in the spring of 1995 by spearfishermen, the site of La Natiere was kept secret and some looting occurred for nearly a year until an enquiry by DRASSM, -the Department of Underwater Archaeological Research- led to its discovery being officially declared in September 1995. A pre disturbance survey was carried out in 1996 by Archaeologists from DRASSM and since 1999 the site has been the subject of a vast scientific study, becoming the largest underwater archaeological excavation project in France in the last ten years.

The site of La Natiere, named after the reef where it lies, is located on the eastern side of the main shipping channel into the Port of St Malo, a north Breton town, famous in France for its rich Maritime history, especially the activities of its corsaire ships in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Because of the tides, the depth on site varies between 8 and 18 metres, It is continuously scoured by violent currents, which originate in part from the large tidal range of up to 10 metres, and also because the hydroelectric tidal barrage of the Rance Estuary nearby confuses and accentuates the local current patterns. The rocks of La Natiere are amongst the most dangerous of the shallows and rocky outcrops which ring the entrance to St Malo. They are made even more hazardous by the currents that swirl around them and also by the fact that they frequently lurk just below but rarely break the surface during the year. They are in fact a veritable ship trap. Ones’s characteristic of this site is the remarkable state of preservation of the remains. This is in part a product of the topography of the rocky slope which has protected the wrecks against the effects of the swell, and more recently against the activity of fishing boats. Additionally, the nearby presence of a very active river probably meant that the wrecks were quickly covered and protected by silts.

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Vanikoro: looking for Lapérouse...

On March 15th, 1788, after two and a half years of navigation through many oceans, the expedition led by Jean-François Galaup, count of Lapérouse ended in a violent storm below the cliffs of the island of Vanikoro in the Solomon archipelago. In April, 2005, the biggest expedition ever organized to look for Lapérouse since Dumont Durville in 1827, landed on the island of Vanikoro. In the same spirit as the century of enlightenment, Vanikoro 2005 was a multidisciplinary expedition of scientists embarked aboard Jacques Cartier, a French naval vessel. Archaeologists, a geometrician, geophysicist, entomologist, linguist, writer, painter, doctor, dendrochronologist, so many specialists, all united around the same purpose, to investigate the «mystery of Lapérouse». During the wreck of 1788, both expedition vessels, «l'Astrolabe» and «La Boussole» sank, one on the site known as «la fausse passe», (the false paasage) and the other one on the site known as «la faille» (the rift). It is on the vessel contained in this rift that the researches essentially concentrated this year. One of the key questions whose answer depended on successfully identifying the wreck was whether Mr. De Lapérouse was one of the survivors who lived for several months on the island after the wreckings. Only the sailors who were aboard the ship which ran aground on the false pass would have been able to survive; the violence of the wreck in the rift leaves no doubt as to the disastrous fate of its crew. So the discovery, this year of a sextant signed by M. Mercier supported the hypothesis that the wreck in the rift is probably «La Boussole» the flagship commanded by Lapérouse. Other navigational instruments such as the azimuth compass, as well as personal objects belonging to the scientific staff such as the astronomical telescope belonging to Lepaute d' Agelet the astronomer, show that this expedition was equipped with all the latest examples of 18th century technology.

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Underwater Photography

Toutes les photographies de ce site sont protégées par le droit d'auteur. Toute copie sans autorisation préalable est interdite. Propulsé par Dotclear. Teddy Seguin © 2009