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28 juillet 2007

Severe weather warning for WOMAD

Roadies battle their way through the mud

Festival-goers at WOMAD have been warned to expect a torrential downpour this evening. The Met office have issued a sever weather warning. It expects the rain to batter the WOMAD site at Charlton Park, near Malmesbury, until 7am tomorrow. That is bad news for the estimated 20,000 audience ready to welcome Isaac Hayes on to the stage at 9.45pm. Festival organisers have been trying to combat the mud by bringing in sawdust and wood chippings to soak up the worst parts. But they are preparing for difficulties when the audience tries to leave later on this evening.

Gabriel back on stage at WOMAD

Peter Gabriel came out of retirement last night to perform for the first time in many years at the Wiltshire WOMAD festival. Despite two days of heavy rain immediately before the start of the event on Friday, thousands of people braved the mud and busy roads to take part in the 25th World of Music and Dance Festival which came home to Wiltshire this year after many years located in Reading. Gabriel, a Box resident and founder of the festival took to the stage at 9.30pm on Friday night under a clear sky that had miraculously cleared over the Charlton Park venue.

Addressing the cheering crowd, and with his daughter Melanie on stage to support him, he said: "I want to thank you all for coming to the festival and overcoming the problems with the weather and the roads. WOMAD comes home to Wiltshire this year and my artistic director thought it would be a good idea for me to come out of the cupboard, dust off and perform for you tonight."

With that he began a two-hour set which included new material and classics from the Gabriel back catalogue including Sledgehammer which got a rapturous reception. The audience may have found it difficult to move their feet, stuck as they were in the quagmire in front of the stage, but that didn't stop them signing along to the music and cheering Gabriel and the musicians who joined him on stage.

The Seckou Keita Quartet, a set of performers from the UK and Senegal, concluded Friday evening's performances on the Saddlespan stage accompanied by a female acrobat tethered to a large helium-filled balloon traversing the clear night sky.

WOMAD continues throughout today with performances from Asian Dub Foundation and folk act Seth Lakeman and finishes on Sunday with Palestinian act Le Trio Joubran and Frigg from Finland amongst others.

For more information visit

Gabriel thrills WOMAD crowd

Peter Gabriel thrilled last night's enormous WOMAD crowd with a stunning set that went on into the late hours. The co-founder of the festival returned to the stage to mark the event's 25th anniversary. An array of special guests, including the Zawose Family, Daby Touré and Kong Nay, joined him on stage throughout.

"It was 25 years since we started this whole thing off, so we wanted to try and do a few things to make it a landmark, so I was resurrected," said Mr Gabriel. The former Genesis legend played a high-octane hour-and-a-half set, which included many of his old favourites. He left the huge, energetic crowd begging for more, especially after firing out two of his solo classics, Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer, back-to-back.

Sarah Penhaligon, who has made the trip from Cornwall for the festival, said: "With all the different guests he had on stage there was a real magic to it - it was very special." John Merriman, 27, of Moredon, London, said: "It was a first-class performance. It was great, he did all his big hits and he was awesome." Mr Merriman's brother Philip, 20, added: "It was absolutely fantastic. It's the first gig of his I've been to and it was incredible - I'm converted." Their dad David, 59, said: "There are lots of things I am trying to do before I am 60 and this was my first live concert, and it was a great way to start."

Other highlights of the day included Jamaica's "godfather of soul" Toots and the Maytals, who lit up the main stage in the afternoon. Toots, the first man to use the word "reggae", gave his thoughts on WOMAD and its ethos backstage after his performance "I love it," he said. "You have just got to live good and be loving to each other." Mexican singer Lila Downs also put on an eyecatching display on the main stage yesterday evening to precede Mr Gabriel.

The performances were all a welcome distraction from the ever-worsening mud at Charlton Park. Tractors have been busy pulling cars out, while an ambulance even became stuck in the main arena yesterday afternoon. Revellers are having to trudge through pools of mud as they attempt to navigate their way round the festival.

WOMAD co-founder and artistic director Thomas Brooman said: "This weekend has been really hit hard by the weather. It's been so cruel to us." However, the majority of people are doing their best to make the most out of a bad situation.

Susan Hall, 37, of Bournemouth, said: "It is pretty bad in a lot of places and moving around can be a little difficult. But it could be worse and everyone's in the same boat. If anything, it has almost made the atmosphere even better."

With a sunny forecast for today and the prospect if Isaac Hayes performing tonight the WOMAD crowd look to be in for a great day.

Article by Gordon Simpson, pictures by Diane Vose

Family fun at WOMAD workshops

The workshops that make the WOMAD festival the firm favourite of families begin at lunchtime today with a Mancala making session in The Little Big Top at 12.30pm. Organised by Wiltshire-based organisation The Learning Tree Workshop parents and children will be able to make their own version of the ancient game played with counters and pits to take home with them. Learning Tree is a family project, which organises hands-on activities for families ranging from arts and crafts to science and technology. The project was started seven years ago by Sue Smith, from Chippenham.

As a psychology student studying with the Open University and a mother of three primary aged school children, she wanted to share with others what she and her family were discovering about learning while playing at home. With the support of the children and staff at St. Peter's School, Chippenham, she was able to share these ideas through a workshop and assembly on learning to learn and the project was born.

Mrs Smith said: "This year at WOMAD we are running family arts workshops based upon world games and stories. The workshop will offer families the opportunity to make either the game Mancala or a fold-away miniature theatre to recreate stories from around the world. Mancala is an ancient game played with counters and a series of pits. The rules are simple to understand and yet like all good games can be played at many levels to suit all ages and levels of skill. In the workshop we will construct our own mancala game for families to take away and enjoy. Mancala variations are played all over Africa. They are found throughout the Caribbean and on the East Coast of South America having emigrated with slaves during the colonial expansion era.

The Miniature Theatre workshop involves building your own fold-away stage together with scenery and characters to bring to life a story of your choosing. The art of story telling is universal and yet it is a pastime often forgotten in our hectic lifestyles. The miniature theatre beloved by Victorians is an ideal way to re-create our favourite stories from around the world or closer to home."

The workshops are designed for family participation and each activity is designed to get children and adults working as a team. The Learning Tree workshop leaders support families by working alongside them. See for more information.

Le Web comme moyen de pression

L'expérience pourrait s'intituler « Le virtuel pour changer le réel ».

Une trentaine de défenseurs des droits de la personne venus des cinq continents se sont réunis du 15 au 27 juillet à l'Université Concordia, à Montréal.

Organisé conjointement par l'ONG Witness et l'Université Concordia, l'événement avait pour but de former les activistes à l'utilisation de caméras vidéo et au montage sur ordinateurs. Une fois revenus dans leurs pays respectifs, ces militants utiliseront leurs connaissances et les outils qui leur sont offerts pour dénoncer les violations des droits de la personne. La prochaine étape du projet sera la construction par Witness d'un site Internet consacré exclusivement à la diffusion des documents vidéo envoyés par les activistes.

L'ONG, fondée par le chanteur Peter Gabriel en 1992, accorde beaucoup d'importance à cette formation et espère que les documents que réaliseront les militants contribueront à changer la vie de nombreuses personnes ou communautés partout dans le monde.

trois reportages radiophoniques de Radio Canada en ligne :
  • La directrice adjointe de Witness, Jenni Wolfson, explique les objectifs du projet
  • Mathieu Pèlerin, un Québécois vivant au Cambodge, nous livre son témoignage
  • Martin Allor, directeur du département de communication de l'Université Concordia, nous explique le déroulement de la formation
Kamel Bouzeboudjen

27 juillet 2007

Le monde comme catégorie

Au coeur du Village.

Un accent de titi. Une allure de raver. Daby Touré est Parisien, depuis 18 ans. Il a donc autant sautillé dans les sables d'outre-mer que sur les quais de la Seine. Pourtant, il est à l'affiche du Village du Monde, jeudi, sous l'étendard mauritanien. «Pourquoi lutter? Si je m'offusquais à chaque fois que l'on me range dans la case Afrique, je ne jouerais jamais.» Daby a signé il y a trois ans un premier album (Diam) sur le label de Peter Gabriel, Realworld. Avec les valises de pognon que le chanteur anglais tirait de sa pop, il a décidé de changer le monde. Ouvrir une maison de disques qui amènerait aux oreilles occidentales les sons d'ailleurs. De belles pochettes, un son impeccable, une distribution à la hauteur. Histoire de ne plus entasser dans les galetas du savoir ethno ces perles du Sud.

Realworld n'a rien changé. Les ghettos semblent même renforcés. Daby n'est pas Parisien, parce qu'il chante en des langues vernaculaires (peul, wolof, entre autres) et jouit d'une peau noire. «On nous demande toujours, en tant qu'artistes africains, de clamer notre africanité. Je n'ajoute pas de balafon à mes morceaux, donc on me considère parfois comme un traître.» Sous le dôme de Paléo, il ajuste des compositions de chansonnier moderne, avec des effets d'électronique, des bricolages d'aujourd'hui. Il ressemble à tous les musiciens urbains de notre siècle qui trafiquent avec les technologies et les instruments à cordes. Il peaufine une expression contemporaine avec, comme décor parmi d'autres, la mélodie du désert.

Etre né quelque part. Daby Touré, dont les racines et l'enfance sont aussi sénégalaises, voyait certains membres de sa famille exporter au Nord une musique qu'ils définissaient comme du rock. Le groupe s'appelait alors Touré Kunda. Un quart de siècle plus tard, Daby a toujours le sentiment d'être un rockeur parmi d'autres. Il aime Ben Harper. Et les crissements sur le bitume. Mais on le range dans la world, c'est-à-dire dans l'autre monde. Tout autour de lui, sur l'Asse, on vend des loukoums dans une Casbah reconstituée. Et personne à qui en vouloir.

Arnaud Robert, le Temps

Youssou n’Dour à Paris : 3 dates à retenir !

Youssou n’Dour accèda à la notoriété internationale en collaborant avec Peter Gabriel, en participant à la tournée d’Amnesty Internationale (1988) et en chantant en duo avec Neneh Cherry "7 Seconds".

Mais "L’Enfant chéri de la Médina" est toujours resté ancré dans son pays, créant un studio d’enregistrement à Dakar et un label pour produire et diffuser des artistes africains sur leur continent.

Avec son orchestre le Super Etoile de Dakar il se produira devant le public parisien en septembre prochain pour 3 soirées au Cirque d’Hiver dans le cadre du festival d’Ile de France les 28,29 et 30 septembre 2007.

Photos Voix du Gaou

Gazette & Herald Womad Photo Gallery

and more here...

WOMAD founder praises festival venue

WOMAD co-founder Peter Gabriel has said he is thrilled to have brought the festival back to Wiltshire. Speaking at Charlton Park this afternoon, Mr Gabriel said had the festival stayed at its usual home in Reading, the event would have been cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions. "There were real constraints with the Reading site, although we loved it as a home," he admitted. "It was a site for us to grow up in but Charlton Park gives us wonderful new opportiunities. I think it's great to bring it back locally. It grew out of the west country and it's really nice to have it back."

Mr Gabriel
added the number of tickets sold for this year's event is more than other WOMAD weekend in history. Explaining why he thinks the festival is so special, he said: "I think everyone comes here with their usual selves left at the gate. think what makes it special is the generosity of spirit from the audience and artists. People just get on with it and explore things and that's what I've always loved about it. In a sense WOMAD has always been about giving an amplification to the many voices out there in the world."

Braving the WOMAD mud in the name of music

Revellers at the WOMAD Festival who made it through the hours of traffic jams yesterday were then faced with a mudbath. The heavy rain that has battered the county has left people traipsing through the mud as they wander round the grounds of Charlton Park. Despite scenes reminiscent of this year's Glastonbury, spirits were very high on the first night of the event. Pairs of wellington boots were selling for as much as £20 as traders took advantage of the conditions.

Traffic, at one point in the early evening, was backed up over five miles, as far as Stanton St Quintin, just off Junction 17 of the M4. Cars were still stretching back as far as Corston, on the A429, late into the night. Heavy traffic is again expected today, as more festival-goers arrive for the weekend. Keep checking this website for further WOMAD news and pictures throughout the weekend in our special, dedicated section - Click Here

WOMAD stars set school life buzzing

Students at Malmesbury School have spent a week they will never forget, learning from some of world music's top talent. Organisers of this weekend's WOMAD event arranged for two workshops to be held at the school, featuring artists who will be performing in front of thousands at the festival.

On Monday, the Heal the Hood Hip Hop Crew from South Africa spent the day with Year Nine pupils. The group is made up of four young dancers, MCs and DJs from Cape Flats, on the outskirts of Cape Town. They taught the children a range of music, dance and spoken word pieces and did demonstrations.

Music teacher Chris Knibbs said: "It was so exciting and it completely set the place abuzz - they were absolutely fantastic," he said. "We have now got students setting up their own street dance club for next year."

Yesterday, the Zawose Family from Tanzania visited the Year Seven students. The group of eight young artists led the children in a percussion, dance and voice workshop. Mr Knibbs said: "It's incredible, I have walked through the main area of the school and all I can see is children dancing and copying what they have just seen. I just can't speak highly enough of the performers we have had in and also of WOMAD for giving us this opportunity."

Womad 2007 : Festival of music legends

The WOMAD Festival is a celebration of the best in world music, but the highlight of this year's event may well be an ageing British rocker. Peter Gabriel, who is the co-founder of the event, made his name fronting Genesis between 1967 and 1975, before enjoying a successful solo career.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the World of Music, Arts and Dance, the 57-year-old will take to the stage on Friday night for a special performance. Although the famous festival is closely connected with Mr Gabriel, whose Real World studios are based in Box, it is rare to see him as one of the performing artists. However, with this being a special year, he said he was delighted to come back. "It has been wonderful to see what has happened with WOMAD over the last 25 years," he said."It is different from any other festival I have ever been to and, although I usually get to enjoy it from the audience rather than the stage, I am delighted to come back as a performer for this 25th anniversary."

One of the festival's biggest attractions is its diversity. With more than 100 artists, stretching over five continents, due to perform, there is almost certain to be something to suit everyone's taste. Many of the names will be new to a lot of the revellers, especially those visiting for the first time, although there are also a number of stars famous across the globe. Isaac Hayes will be bringing his own unique brand of super-cool funk and soul to the festival's open-air stage on Saturday night.

The American artist is perhaps best known for composing the soundtrack to the hit 1970s film Shaft, for which he earned an Academy Award. A winner of multiple Grammy awards, Mr Hayes also spent nine years voicing the character of Chef in the animated comedy South Park, before finishing in 2006. A spokesman said: "Isaac not only put plenty of colour on the funk blueprint, but his trademark spoken-word monologues inadvertently made him one of rap's forefathers." American gospel singer Candi Staton is also likely to be a major crowd puller on Saturday night. The 67-year-old hit the charts in 1976 with her single Young Hearts Run Free. After her performance, she will also be running a workshop in the Woodland Tent, giving people a chance to learn from her first-hand.

Womad 2007 : Party in the park

One of the biggest parties in Malmesbury's history begins today, as the 25th WOMAD Festival gets underway. The World of Music, Arts and Dance is beginning its new life at Charlton Park, having spent its last 17 years in Reading. More than 100 artists from 45 different countries will be entertaining over 20,000 revellers between now and Monday. The ten performance areas have been set up, after a mammoth construction effort. Tickets are nearly sold out and have already been changing hands for well over £100 on Internet auction site eBay this week. Former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel, who co-founded the world-famous event, will be performing on Friday night.

Schoolchildren from Malmesbury will also be taking to the stage. Artistic director and co-founder Thomas Brooman said it was a magical weekend for everyone involved. Speaking to the Gazette, he said: "We have some very famous artists playing, such as Isaac Hayes and Peter Gabriel and, as ever with WOMAD, we have artists who will be a surprise for everyone. You have to be a very uncurious person to come to WOMAD and not like something. The music itself is, time and again, very strong and expressive. Even though there may be the barriers of language and style, a lot of it touches people at a level they don't expect, which makes it very special. It is a fairly awesome thing to be in our 25th year. We didn't have any clear vision back then that we would still be doing it."

Mr Brooman said he, Mr Gabriel and everyone else involved were thrilled with Charlton Park. "It is marvellous," he said. "It is a lovely place and we feel privileged to be able to bring it here." Mr Gabriel said: "It will be great to hold WOMAD in some beautiful countryside. It gives people a simple way to approach music from around the world and I challenge anyone not to be amazed by at least one thing at WOMAD."

Insp Mark Levitt and Insp Neil Bagnall of Wiltshire Constabulary are supervising policing of the festival. Insp Levitt said: "We have been working with the organisers and partners for many months and look forward to a safe and enjoyable event. We have a large uniformed and plain clothed contingent on site and in the vicinity. The costs of the policing operation have been borne by the organisers."

Womad 2007 : Awesome opening night

School children in Malmesbury might be used to performing in front of a few hundred people at this time of the year in their annual productions. But for a select few, they will have the chance to take to the stage in front of tens of thousands later this month, as they open the WOMAD Festival on Thursday, July 26. The event, founded by Genesis legend Peter Gabriel, will be held at Charlton Park, near Malmesbury, for the first time. The choirs of Malmesbury Primary, Lea and Garsdon and St Joseph's are now busy preparing for the gig of a lifetime. They will open the festival with Grammy Award-winning group The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Joining them all will be the Malmesbury School Soul Band. Music co-ordinator at Malmesbury Primary School Angelique Martin is in charge of the younger children. She said it would be a dream come true for all of them to sing in front of such a huge crowd. "We are delighted to have the opportunity to perform at this year's WOMAD Festival, alongside such a number of fantastic musicians from around the world," she said. "The children at school really love singing, and performing in the festival will be an inspiring experience that they will never forget."

The choir, which features more than 70 youngsters, will then perform with the Vocal Works Gospel Choir from Bath, before being given their own set on Friday to sing and dance in traditional Indian costumes. While the primary school children are busy rehearsing, the senior school students are also hard at work for their big day. Music teacher Chris Knibbs said none of them could wait for the opening night. It was a jaw dropping moment when we found out we would be playing," he said.

"The WOMAD artistic director came and listened to us, was pleased with us and said they were going to put us on. It's a terrifying experience to play in front of that many people, but it is also an awesome feeling. It's going to be a big moment for the kids and they are so excited. They were totally blown away by it all and I still don't think they quite appreciate what it will be like. The school is hugely proud obviously because this is such a big event and it is something that just doesn't happen for school bands. We are very lucky and also extremely proud." Mr Knibbs said they were practising as often as possible, but there would still be a lot of nerves to overcome.

Flaw in warning on crooks

Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators in Malmesbury have admitted making a "stupid mistake" after sending out a letter warning of crooks "out to rob and steal" at WOMAD. Householders received the notice, ahead of this weekend's festival. The letter said upwards of 50,000 to 100,000 people would be expected, including "villains and opportunists".

But now Malmesbury Neighbourhood Watch coordinator Ian Mace has admitted he had got his numbers wrong. A total of 20,000 people are expected at the festival - less than half his lowest estimate.

Mr Mace said: "I made a stupid mistake and I put the wrong anticipated numbers down." His letter said 99 per cent of people would be there for fun, but one per cent, equating to 100 people, would be "crooks". It said: "Previous festival supporters talk of organised gangs' seeking every opportunity to steal.Not only on the campsite, but also in the community."

Mr Mace said he had tried to send out a correction, but it was too late. He added: "The rest of it I can't see anything wrong with. We are just telling people to make all the normal Neighbourhood Watch precautions."

A WOMAD spokesman agreed people should be security conscious, but was disappointed with the tone of the letter and the factual inaccuracies.

WaterAid at WOMAD

This weekend the WaterAid charity will be at the famous WOMAD festival in Charlton Park. Representatives will be using the long weekend to tell festival-goers about the vital need for water and sanitation in developing countries.

"WOMAD provides the perfect opportunity for WaterAid to make the link between providing plenty of water and hygienic toilet facilities at events in the UK and the need for water and sanitation in developing countries," said Jennean Alkadiri, WaterAid's campaign manager . "This year we'll be asking festival-goers to sign up to the End Water Poverty campaign, demanding sanitation and water for all."

Throughout the three-day event a team of 20 volunteers will be busy manning the stall, providing clean drinking water, hand washing facilities and most importantly, keeping the cleanest set of toilets on the festival site. To sign up to the campaign, revellers will be asked to put their thumb print on the giant End Water Poverty hands. Festival goers should also look out for WaterAid's infamous poo; one daring volunteer will be dressing up as a poo to spread the message that lack of sanitation and lack of safe water kills.

WOMAD traffic chaos

4:51pm Thursday 26th July 2007 ; Festivalgoers attempting to reach this year's WOMAD at Charlton Park are having a frustrating time on the roads. Traffic is gridlocked on the A429 from the B4040 roundabout in Malmesbury, all the way back to Corston, while Junction 17 of the M4 is also extremely busy. police are advising people who do not need to travel on the A429 to avoid the road, as it is likely to be congested for some time.

WOMAD fans set for mud fest

WOMAD festival organisers are warning festival-goers to come prepared for the wet weather. After two days of heavy rain immediately before the start of the event today, the condition of the festival site at Charlton Park near Malmesbury has deteriorated. People coming in cars are being advised to attach a tow eye to their vehicles if they have one, just in case they need to be hauled out of the mud.

A festival spokesman said: "Please come prepared for wet weather and mud, and bring plenty of warm and waterproof clothing, and waterproof items to transport your belongings in. The site has not been affected too badly by the flooding as it has a clay soil on limestone brash and is on high ground, allowing efficient drainage, but better tot take precautions. Wellies are crucial but the vibe is good!"

The World of Music and Dance festival began last night at Charlton Park with performances from Malmesbury schools and The Blind Men of Alabama. There was traffic chaos in the area as thousands queued to gain access to the festival site but now thet are inside the atmosphere is relaxed and visitors are looking forward to the fun. Tonight there is music from Daara J, from Senegal, The Black Eagles, from Tanzania and the Tiago Gambogi Workshop, from Brazil. Festival founder and Box resident Peter Gabriel is also headlining tonight, his first performance for many years, at 9.30pm in the Open Air Stage.

By Benjamin Parkes

They planned to kill me - but I survived

Cambodia's Ray Charles lookalike endured serious hardships. Jon Lusk on the man who escaped the Khmer Rouge

With his legs folded under him as he sits on the floor, Kong Nay seems a frail figure, dwarfed by the large banjo-like instrument he holds. There's a flash of gold fillings in his smile, and when he sings, the voice of a much stronger man jumps out, answering the call of his strings.

This 61-year-old Cambodian is a master of the chapei dong veng, an ancient long-necked guitar with two strings thought to have arrived in Cambodia with the Buddhist faith nearly two millennia ago. Kong's penetrating, nasal wail closely follows or spars with the simple and often melancholic tunes he plunks out on the nylon strings of the instrument. The dark glasses that mask his heavily pock-marked face and sightless eyes have earned him the nickname of "the Ray Charles of Cambodia", but the two artists have rather different stories.

"I'm so excited and honoured that they compare me to him. But at the same time I'm not very happy with myself because the American Ray Charles was so rich and I'm so poor," he chuckles.

I meet Kong on his first day in the UK, where he is touring with his 21-year-old protege Ouch Savy to promote their joint debut album, Mekong Delta Blues. Kong admits he doesn't really know what the blues are - not the musical kind, anyway. But the superficial resemblance of his music to the African-American form, and the tough life he's lived do more than justify the title.

Born in the southern Cambodian province of Kampot, Kong was blinded by smallpox at the age of four, and as a boy fell in love with the sound of the chapei. "I felt it was something that I should learn, something that would give me a good life in the future," he recalls.

His family was too poor to afford one, though, and for five years he sang and mimicked the chapei vocally, until his father finally bought him an old one. At 13, he began to take lessons from an uncle, mastering the basic repertoire within only two years. He then began playing professionally, improvising on traditional folk songs by spontaneously spinning stories like a hip-hopper, tailoring them to each audience.

"At 18 I met my wife [Tat Chhan] and we started our life together, depending on chapei. We managed to earn a good living. Not too rich, not too poor, but just good enough to survive, like other people. But when the Khmer Rouge took over, that was a big turning point in my life," he says with characteristic understatement.

In 1975, like millions of other Cambodians, his entire family was deported to a forced labour camp by Pol Pot's genocidal regime. Despite the Khmer Rouge's dislike of artists in particular, they found a use for Kong. "I was forbidden from singing folk tales, or songs that touched on social issues. Instead they told me to sing something that served their propaganda. So during the lunch break, I would sing and play to entertain people."

While most prisoners were given three large spoons of rice per day, Kong and anyone else who was sick or disabled got only one, and starved more rapidly. After two years, they stopped Kong's music altogether and forced him to work. "They planned to kill me. I was on their list. But then the Vietnamese [army] invaded and so I survived." During the bombing that ended the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, Kong and his wife each lost a brother. Another of Kong's brothers had been executed, but all seven of their children - three born in the camp - miraculously survived.

In 1979, the family returned to their village, where Kong resumed his life as a chapei artist, and they had three more children. In 1991, Kong won a national chapei singing contest in Phnom Penh, and the following year moved there at the invitation of the Cambodian ministry of culture. The salary was poor, but his family - and those of a few other artists who had survived the genocide - were allowed to build homes in the city's Tonle Bassac squatters' community.

Then in 1998, Kong received a young visitor called Arn Chorn-Pond, a former refugee who now lived in the US. He was another survivor of the killing fields, who had been forced take part in atrocities from the age of nine and had returned to Cambodia periodically over the previous decade, trying to make peace with his past. Cambodia had lost around 90% of its artists in the genocide, and Chorn-Pond's family, which had run an opera company, had been particularly hard hit.

"When I came back to Cambodia in 1989, I found nobody here, except one of my sisters," he explains from Phnom Penh, his voice still raw with anguish. "They were all starved to death or killed by the Khmer Rouge - my dad, my mum, my cousin, my nephew, my uncle ... 35 in my family had disappeared."

With Kong Nay and several others, Chorn-Pond founded the Cambodia Master Performers Programme, which soon became Cambodian Living Arts, a charity dedicated to reviving the country's performing arts by helping to lift surviving artists out of poverty and employing them to pass on their skills to the next generation. "It was for me an urgent thing to start this, because I knew that my culture was going down in the next 10, 20, 30 years, if no one did anything about it," he says.

In 2003, Kong began teaching four young students, including Ouch Savy. That same year both he and Chorn-Pond appeared in the harrowing Emmy-nominated film The Flute Player, now being shown before each of his UK performances. When Peter Gabriel saw it, he was so moved that he began donating equipment and expertise to CLA, which led to the recording of Mekong Delta Blues.

Chorn-Pond's vision is of a Cambodian artistic renaissance by 2020, but it won't be easy. The loss of so many artists created a cultural vacuum that has been filled by foreign music, leaving most Cambodian youth hooked on western rap and rock or Chinese pop, and scornful of their own traditions. Government arts funding has been very limited during Cambodia's slow economic recovery, but ironically, Kong and his neighbours are now under pressure to move 20km away as developers eye their inner-city land. He relates this in the song My Life - as close as he's prepared to get to singing about politics these days. Apart from wanting to stay put, what else does he wish for?

"I hope that peace will prevail. There should be no more fighting, no more civil wars, no more conflicts. I am sick and tired of it."

· Kong Nay is playing at Womad, Charlton Park (0845 1461735), until Sunday, then touring.

The Guardian

26 juillet 2007

Festival's green solution for mobiles

Revellers at this weekend's WOMAD festival in Wiltshire will be able to recharge their mobile phones using wind power, thanks to a charity's bid to raise awareness of renewable energies. The wind-powered turbine will be installed at the festival site, near Malmesbury, by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Staff from the Trust will encourage festival-goers to recharge their phones by plugging them in to batteries attached to the turbine, which converts wind power into electricity.

Steve Pagett, the Trust's fundraising events officer, said: "When you are part of a 20,000 throng spread over hundreds of acres of farmland, keeping in contact with your friends is really important. To help people get maximum enjoyment from the event we are running a Mistral wind turbine with two-metre diameter blades, sponsored by npower renewables, to make sure that mobile phones can be recharged. Ideally people should be thinking about minimising their energy consumption, but the Trust is also looking for new ways to support access to renewable energy."

The Trust believes tackling environmental issues such as global warming is vital to conserving wildlife. Mr Pagett added: "It's important that we emphasise the benefits of renewable energy to the festival-going audience and gain their support for wider conservation and environmental action. Now that WOMAD, a festival that celebrates global music, is located in a stunning corner of Wiltshire, we are hoping that everyone will see the thread between preserving our own natural beauty and protecting the environment globally."

WOMAD (World Of Music Arts and Dance) runs from tomorrow until Sunday.

Countries devastated by global warming represented at WOMAD line-up

At this year's WOMAD festival (27-29 July) Christian Aid is asking visitors to join its Climate Changed campaign as they listen to acts from developing countries which are struggling to adapt to the devastating effects of climate change.

Many acts at the festival come from countries that are hit the worst by global warming. Baaba Maal and Daara J's home country of Senegal has experienced a 30-40 per cent drop in rainfall since the 1970s, which has destroyed farmers' livelihoods. Mali, the birthplace of Tinariwen and Vieux Farka Toure, has also suffered extreme drought resulting in food shortages.

It's predicted Trilok Gurtu's home country India could see a rise in temperatures by as much as four degrees in the next 50 years, which would result in an increase in heat-related deaths, and the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

The Christian Aid Climate Changed campaign is calling on the UK Government to ensure the new Climate Bill includes a target for CO2 emission cuts of at least 80 per cent by 2050. It is also calling for the mandatory reporting of CO2 emissions by companies trading in the UK.

Nazmul Chowdhury from Christian Aid's partner organisation, Practical Action in Bangladesh, said: 'Forget about making poverty history. Climate change will make poverty permanent.'

Christian Aid works in 50 developing countries with some of the poorest communities, helping them to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Festival goers will also be able to find out how to join Christian Aid's 1,000-mile 'Cut the Carbon' march which runs until 2 October. It is the longest protest march in UK history taking in 70 towns across the UK before ending in London. For more information about the rallies in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, and London as well as concerts in Birmingham and Cardiff visit and

You can also join the Facebook group 'Cut the Carbon March' at and take part in the march online.

Christian Aid is also offering FREE mobile charging on site using wind and solar energy from Equiclimate.

There will be a 'text' competition with lots of prizes including a weekend away in an eco-retreat in a tepee, guides to a greener lifestyle from Greenbooks, free tickets to music gigs, an extreme power kite, and ethical clothing worth £300. To enter the competition, text 'Carbon', your name and what you have done to cut the carbon to 84880.

For more information about the WOMAD festival visit

For more information or pictures contact Kati Dshedshorov on 07984 185838 or

Notes to Editors:

Christian Aid is calling on the UK Government to ensure the new Climate Bill includes: · a target for UK CO2 emission cuts of at least 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050, so we play our fair part in keeping global warming below 2˚C

· the introduction of mandatory reporting of CO2 emissions by companies trading in the UK.

Christian Aid also wants the UK to take the lead in calling for a UN agreement on climate change that works for the world's poor and will cut rich countries' CO2 emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

Manu Katché. L’élégance du rythme

Le batteur Manu Katché a séduit les plus grands artistes de la pop grâce à son jeu singulier et créatif. Il est au festival Jazz à Vannes avec Tendances.

Ce soir, vous menez votre quartet Tendances. De quelles tendances s’agit-il ? De toutes les tendances instrumentales. J’ai voulu réunir tout ce par quoi je suis passé. Des sonorités pop, la soul et des influences africaines. Aujourd’hui, on peut les mélanger.

Vous vous êtes entouré de jeunes musiciens... Après l’enregistrement d’un album avec des Polonais, je voulais absolument jouer alors qu’ils n’étaient pas libres. J’ai donc fait appel à des musiciens montants. Les trentenaires ont plus d’énergie... Et l’on a d’excellents musiciens en France.

Pourquoi la batterie ? J’ai découvert la batterie vers 14 ans. J’ai bloqué sur un batteur et sa gestuelle. Il donnait l’impression d’avoir plusieurs bras ! J’avais cela au fond de moi.

Après une carrière auprès des grands de la pop, on découvre votre propre style : la jazz attitude. Qu’est-ce ? C’est un jeu de batterie particulier. Les batteurs rock jouent des beats assez carrés et propres pour accompagner une musique chantée. Depuis mes débuts avec Peter Gabriel, j’ai une approche plus libre de la batterie. J’ai beaucoup écouté de jazz, et j’ai développé une attitude plus libre, improvisée.

Cherchiez-vous la jazz attitude dans l’émission « A la recherche de la nouvelle star » ? Non. Je cherchais à aider la nouvelle génération à se produire. J’ai toujours trouvé ça dingue de ramer autant en province. Pour la 4 e édition, nous recherchions un univers qui se démarquait d’une tendance très pop. J’avais aussi envie de montrer qu’un musicien pouvait avoir des choses à dire en prime time, habituellement investi par les directeurs artistiques.

Jazz à Vannes aujourd'hui

A 18 h, Dominique Carré swing quartet aux Carmes (11/9 €). A 20 h 30, soirée « jazz attitude » avec le lauréat du tremplin jazz professionnel, Eric Séva, saxophoniste à la musique éclectique, puis Manu Katché, qui n’est pas seulement un des jurés de la Nouvelle Star, mais surtout et depuis longtemps un grand batteur de jazz. Dans la journée : animations de rue, tremplin jazz professionnel. En soirée, concerts « off » dans les cafés. Gratuit.

25 juillet 2007

lucky escape for WOMAD

WOMAD 2007, the new site will be able to cope

WOMAD festival, which will be taking place at Charlton Park, near Malmesbury in Wiltshire this weekend, looks like it will narrowly avoid the brunt of the bad weather that has recently caused severe flooding across the UK.

The festival has been based at Rivermead, Reading since 1990 (also the home of Reading Festival), and is moving to Charlton Park for the first time this year. According to the BBC, flooding is predicted to start in Reading and Caversham (where the festival was previously held) this evening.

The festival will go ahead as the new site has been unaffected by the floods. It has a clay soil on limestone brash and is on high ground, which allows for efficient drainage. So the ground, including the camping and parking areas, is still solid.

There is still a possibility of rain, so festival organisers are advising you to come prepared with wellies, waterproof clothing and plenty of changes of clothes

Although access to the site is unaffected by the heavy rain and floods, we recommended that you check your route before leaving, to avoid some of the worse affected parts of the country.

Unfortunately, Event Mobility (a company that assists the Disabled, Elderly and Mobility Impaired in getting easier access to countryside events) are unable to attend the festival this weekend due to flooding in the Pershore/Tewkesbury area where they are based. They will be contacting anyone who made a booking through them.

Please note, the River Avon that runs near to the WOMAD site is not the same as the River Avon in Gloucestershire that has been featuring in the news.

WOMAD has over 70 world-class artists from 40 countries performing over the festival weekend, including The Blind Boys Of Alabama playing a special Thursday night concert, plus playing over the three days of the festival: Peter Gabriel, Baaba Maal, Toots and the Maytals, Isaac Hayes, Seckou Keita Quartet, Taj Mahal, Ben Taylor, Chambao, Tinariwen, Candi Staton, Clube Do Balanço, Calexico, Dhol Foundation, DJ Shantel, Steel Pulse, Seth Lakeman, and more - click here for all the details to-date.

WOMAD Charlton Park will feature seven stages and workshop areas, including a children's village, many more activities and festival features, all in the idyllic environment of Charlton's open lawns and rolling fields.

Tickets are on sale, priced at £120. Camping from Friday to Monday is included in the ticket price - if you wish to camp on the Thursday there's an extra charge of £10. Click here to buy.

Dazzle Dreams to play

Ukrainian electro-band Dazzle Dreams finally presented their long-awaited debut album to Ukrainian audiences and have already planned a series of club concerts, “D.Dreams Club Party,” to get their present and future fans fully acquainted with their work. The official presentation of the album took place June 23 during the ethno-symphonic show “Groove Inspira” in the Green Theater with the participation of the symphonic orchestra and some original musicians.

Dmytro “Dimitriy” Tsyperdyuk, and Serhiy “Shura” Gera, are, each in his own way, notable figures on the Ukrainian music scene. The first one is a well-known music producer, composer and show director – an Honored Artist of Ukraine, by the way. The second one is known as a long-term member of Skryabin, presently playing for Druha Rika band and Molotov 20 (a solo project). In addition, Gera also created the CD series “Modern Interpretation of Traditional Ukrainian Music,” and participated in the latest album by Katya Chilly.

However all that was apparently not enough for the two ambitious creative people, and Tsyperdyuk and Gera spent the last year developing the Dazzle Dreams project. Actually, the project first appeared a few years ago, but it wasn’t until later that the concept of the band was fully formed, now offering a certain innovation to Ukrainian music. Dazzle Dreams easily stands out among local musicians, performing its synthe-pop mixed with expressive, bright elements of ethno-lounge, combined with English lyrics. Their single “Shock Your Mind” can now be widely heard on the radio.

In spite of the short history of the band, Dazzle Dreams has already co-operated with such famous names as Peter Gabriel and ethno-electronic formation Afro Celt Sound System. Together with the latter and Nazarkhan Sevara they have created a remix of a single “My Secret Bliss.”

Steve Berry saves the day

We always forget on tour how much we really rely on our drivers.

Steve Berry our lead Stage Truck driver is one of those amazing drivers who no matter what, will get our gear there as soon as he can. He and a second driver had to drive all the way from Brittany to Norwich this last gig. They only just made it at 5.30 p.m. The audience was already in, so we set up very very fast, but if Steve had not driven in the way he did then there would have been no show. The problem was that it was too far to do a back to back show, but we just thought we would do it anyway. It was close but, I think that almost made the show better!!

It was a great show, could have been the best so far. We started with two great support acts, one group from Cambodia called Master Kong Nay and Savy and then The Zawose Family from Tanzania.

Master Kong Nay and Savy play these huge guitars and sing Cambodian folk music. They are on tour now before and after WOMAD and very worth a closer look - and that's not just because its my project to bring them here. The Zawose Family brought the chilled out energy of the Cambodian's to a head as they danced and sang and played their big thumb pianos and drums.

Then we had our usual energy boost from Charlie Winston. Then we got to PG .. so if it had not rained it would have been a perfect gig. Loads of cool supports and then a great energy driven PG show.

We didn't really eat until after the show, it was just non stop all night. PG sang even louder and the band had lost the cobwebs of the last show and were suddenly back to our warm up standard.

Tony Levin say's that this is the best PG ever .. after listening to a lot of past shows over the years I would agree with him. Everybody gets along well and plays great. Rich and David work very well together now. Angie and Mel the same thing and they blend perfectly vocal wise .. OOOps I forgot how much we missed Mel this show. She had a family matter to sot out, but will be back in Monaco.

Angie's playing is fantastic and makes the band work so well. Tony and Ged are right on the money and PG is on fire right now. It seems like we have done exactly the right amount of shows to make WOMAD the best PG ever!

We are going to have some crazy guests and hope to bring the house down at WOMAD, so get there, or you'll miss an unforgettable show, Ii would say . I'm not being paid to say this, its my honest opinion.

Check for the Cambodian act I am helping, please try to come and see them. for a great night out next week at Cargo with some friends - Massive Attack's Daddy G, Zero 7's Sam and Henry and Ross Allen from Radio 1. A great DJ line up. Come and help us keep our Cambodian and Tanzanian acts on the road.

Next Monaco ...

Cult stars bound for Belfast

Two legendary bands will be making rare appearances in Northern Ireland this autumn as part of the 2007 Belfast Festival at Queen's.

Iconic Scottish group The Blue Nile and The Blind Boys of Alabama will both be appearing at the Grand Opera House as part of the two-week long festival, which kicks off in October.

The Blue Nile were formed over 25 years ago and in that time have released just four critically-acclaimed albums. The band have built up a cult following, including well-known fans such as Tom Jones, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart and Isaac Hayes. Meanwhile, The Blind Boys of Alabama, considered one of the world's finest soul gospel groups, will also be bringing their unique style of music to the festival. Formed almost 70 years ago, they predate legendary performers such as Elvis. They are still at the top of the gospel charts and have won an impressive four consecutive Grammy Awards over the past four years.

Graeme Farrow, director of the Belfast Festival at Queen's, said: "It should be a real treat to hear live music of such a high calibre in this unique setting. Music fans can look forward to two more exciting announcements for the same venue when we launch the full festival programme in September."

Tickets for the shows will be available from the Grand Opera House this Friday, July 27, at or by calling 9024 1919.

By Matthew McCreary

24 juillet 2007

Rare visit by 'Cambodian Ray Charles'

A Cambodian artist whose music was banned under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime is making a rare visit to Wiltshire to perform songs that have been saved from extinction.

Kong Nay, the 'Ray Charles of Cambodia', will be performing the Chapei in Bradford on Avon on August 2 as part of a tour to mark his first ever visit to the UK.

A film called The Flute Player is being shown before the concert about fellow Cambodian, Arn Chorn-Pond, who survived Pol Pot's genocide in the 1970s to set up the charity Cambodian Living Arts, which supports traditional artists like Kong Nay in teaching future generations so the music lives on.

The tour is thanks to former Genesis front man and WOMAD organiser, Peter Gabriel, who saw the film and sent his sound engineer out to Cambodia to find Kong Nay and bring him back to play in the UK.

Speaking at his Real World Recording Studios in Box, Gabriel said: "At the end of the Khmer Rouge one of the things Arn Chorn-Pond did was to try and save some of the great arts that Cambodia had had. Artists had been targeted by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot - 90 per cent of them were eliminated. For us, to be a rock musician we get rewarded handsomely in many ways, but to be a rock musician in Cambodia may well have cost you your life."

Although Kong Nay's music seems very different and is thousands of years old, Gabriel believes it has many similarities to the Delta Blues, hence the nickname the 'Ray Charles of Cambodia'.

Nay is a master of the Chapei Dang Weng, a long-necked two-stringed guitar, which he plays while singing with his young student, Ouch Savy.

Speaking through a translator, Nay, whose instrument was confiscated during the regime, said: "During the Khmer Rouge time it was completely banned but in my heart the art was always there and I would try to remember the notes, the tones and the music by humming to myself. I have been waiting for this day for so long and have always been excited by it. The Chapei is uniquely Cambodian and it is very important that our young people know about these forms of art. If it dies we are going to lose it forever."

Gabriel added: "I think it's a wonderful thing to have a visit from Kong Nay to this country for the very first time and to be able to sample some of this extraordinary music."

Kong Nay with Ouch Savy and The Flute Player film is on at Bristol's Arnolfini on Wednesday, the WOMAD festival on July 26-29 and Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon on August 2. For Bradford tickets call (01225) 860100.

By Charley Morgan

Des images qui denoncent

Des militants des droits de l'homme à l'école de la vidéo

Le Rwandais Amédée Kamota se trouve à Montréal pour apprendre les rudiments de la vidéo. Il retournera tourner des images sur la réalité de son pays. Venus des quatre coins du globe, trente militants des droits de l'homme sont à Montréal du 15 au 27 juillet pour apprendre les rudiments de la caméra et du montage vidéo. Le but? Retourner dans leur pays respectif et tourner des images illustrant les causes qu'ils défendent. Parce qu'il faut parfois le voir pour le croire.

Photo: Jacques Nadeau

Amédée Kamota, un avocat militant au sein d'une organisation de défense des droits des autochtones, n'avait jamais touché à une caméra dans son Rwanda natal. Pourtant, s'il avait pu, il en aurait tourné, des films d'horreur... À commencer par les conditions de vie difficiles des Batwas, ces Pygmées chasseurs-cueilleurs confinés aux derniers lambeaux de la forêt rwandaise. Dépossédés de leurs terres, ils vivent désormais sur des territoires proclamés réserves nationales, dans des maisons faites d'herbes et de brindilles séchées. «On a fait plusieurs enquêtes et écrit des rapports pour essayer de sensibiliser le gouvernement à la discrimination dont ils sont victimes. Ce qui manque, ce sont des images pour la montrer», souligne M. Kamota, chargé du programme des droits de l'homme de la Communauté des autochtones rwandais (CAURWA).

Sélectionné par Witness, un organisme de défense des droits de la personne fondé par le musicien Peter Gabriel, le militant diplômé de la faculté de droit de l'Université de Kigali n'a pas hésité une seconde à participer à ce stage, qui prendra fin vendredi. Dernier né des projets de ce petit organisme basé à New York, le Video Advocacy Institute (VAI) dispense aux différents participants une formation accélérée sur l'utilisation de la vidéo comme moyen de protection des droits de la personne et de changement social.

En plus des ateliers vidéo donnés à une dizaine d'ONG de partout dans le monde, dans le cadre d'un projet triennal, près de 800 personnes reçoivent chaque année des formations d'un jour offertes par Witness. D'une durée de deux semaines, le programme du VAI se situe entre les deux. «On n'a par contre très peu de candidatures du Moyen-Orient, l'une des régions du monde où c'est sans doute le plus difficile de filmer», constate Jenni Wolfson, la directrice adjointe de Witness. En raison du nombre limité des places, une sélection s'imposait. «On essaie de privilégier les organismes qui ont moins de visibilité et qui travaillent sur des sujets dont on entend peu parler», explique Mme Wolfson. Les organismes admissibles doivent être bien organisés et avoir présenté un plan d'action qui démontre l'utilité et la nécessité de l'intégration de la vidéo. «On se demande toujours: "Est-ce que la vidéo va faire une différence, est-ce qu'elle aura un impact?"» Ces organisations doivent aussi être en mesure de démontrer qu'elles pourront se procurer une caméra et réellement s'en servir.

Pour rassembler tout ce beau monde, l'université Concordia à Montréal semblait toute désignée. «La plupart des participants quittaient leur pays pour la première fois. On a pensé qu'ils se sentiraient à l'aise dans une ville comme Montréal, multiculturelle et ouverte sur le monde», soutient Mme Wolfson. Il y a aussi le fait que, aux yeux des organisateurs, l'obtention d'un visa canadien semblait, d'emblée, beaucoup plus facile. N'empêche, un Nigérien et un Gambien se sont vu refuser le droit d'entrée au pays.

Filmer à tout prix

C'est ainsi que, par exemple, Numa Ngubane, l'une des rares à défendre les droits des lesbiennes, des gais, des bisexuels, des transgenres et des intersexués sur le continent noir, est venue de l'Afrique du Sud pour suivre les ateliers de formation vidéo. Et que Hseng Noung, un militant du Myanmar, est venu s'outiller pour dénoncer le régime birman qui recourt au viol comme arme de guerre.

Mathieu Pellerin n'avait pas imaginé revenir dans son Québec natal pour suivre une formation en vidéo à titre de représentant d'un organisme de défense des droits de l'homme cambodgien. Il y a quatre ans, lors d'un voyage effectué au terme de ses études en musique à l'université Laval, il s'était finalement retrouvé dans ce pays pauvre d'Asie. La vulnérabilité des Cambodgiens à l'égard du pouvoir de l'État l'avait alors touché. «Il y a un gros problème de terres. L'État vole les terres des pauvres gens sans négocier, en toute impunité. Les militaires sont appelés à venir évacuer les gens à la pointe du fusil. Ils tirent sur les villageois pour les chasser [...]. C'est un véritable fléau», dit celui qui travaille pour la Ligue cambodgienne pour la promotion et la défense des droits de la personne (Licadho).

«Ces événements-là arrivent quand les militants des droits de la personne sont absents. D'où l'importance de donner des caméras aux communautés. C'est un outil de défense supplémentaire», croit-il.

C'est ainsi que, dans le cadre d'un projet-pilote qu'il dirige en collaboration avec Witness, des caméras seront distribuées aux Cambodgiens pour les aider dans leur lutte. Mathieu Pellerin souhaite ainsi sensibiliser la communauté internationale, mais surtout les pays bailleurs de fonds qui donnent sans faire de suivi. «Le Cambodge a reçu 700 millions de dollars cette année. C'est le pays d'Asie qui a le plus reçu d'aide. Mais l'argent ne se rend pas sur le terrain», déplore-t-il. Par des images qu'il compte montrer aux pays donateurs, il entend prouver que le Cambodge est loin d'avoir réglé tous ses problèmes. Publiés d'abord dans le site de son organisme, les petits films ainsi tournés pourraient bien se retrouver dans des sites comme YouTube ou Dailymotion. «Comme il y a beaucoup d'analphabètes, on a déjà commencé à faire nos rapports en version audio. On est rendu là», lance le jeune homme âgé de 26 ans.

À l'automne 2007, Witness compte lancer un site Internet où citoyens engagés, journalistes, chercheurs et défenseurs de partout dans le monde pourront mettre des vidéos qu'ils auront tournées à partir d'un appareil portatif, comme un cellulaire, ou d'un ordinateur personnel. The Hub deviendra ainsi un espace en ligne de dénonciation et de sensibilisation aux violations des droits de l'homme.

Amédée Kamota voit tout aussi grand. «On veut sensibiliser pour que, sous la pression, le gouvernement n'ait d'autre choix que d'agir, souligne-t-il. On veut aller chercher des alliés et montrer la cassette à certains comités de défense des droits. Encore plus que de les sensibiliser, on veut faire quelque chose de grand tous ensemble.»

Lorsqu'on l'interroge sur les dangers potentiels, l'avocat rwandais esquisse un sourire en coin. Le sourire du militant combattant qui n'en est pas à sa première intimidation. «C'est certain qu'on craint. Les autorités vont réagir à nos images, c'est sûr, dit-il. «Il paraît que, dans mon pays, toute vérité n'est pas bonne à dire.»

Bien que conscient des risques encourus par la personne qui tiendra la caméra, Mathieu Pellerin continue de croire «au pouvoir des images». Très actifs dans leur lutte, des habitants des communautés cambodgiennes lésées avaient, de leur propre chef, déjà commencé à se munir d'appareils jetables pour pouvoir photographier les dirigeants qui commettaient des exactions. «La première fois que je suis allé les rencontrer pour leur expliquer notre projet de les équiper en caméras vidéo, ils m'ont regardé et m'ont dit: "Enfin!". Je pense bien qu'ils sont prêts», conclut-il.

Lisa-Marie Gervais /Le Devoir

Peter Gabriel à Monaco

- 20.30. Monte-Carlo Sporting Summer Festival. Concerto con Peter Gabriel. Sporting Monte-Carlo, Salle des Etoiles, info +33.377.98.063636

The World of Womad, BBC Radio 4, 1.30pm July 24, 2007

The title of the musician Nitin Sawhney’s programme is partially tautologous, given that Womad is itself an abbreviation of World of Music, Arts and Dance, the first festival of which took place before a small but appreciative crowd at the Bath and West Showground in 1982. These days, of course, Womad is massive – “Womads” have now been held in 27 countries, and the latest begins on Friday. Here Sawhney looks to the past, and forward to the future, with a host of cool friends, Peter Gabriel, Billy Cobham and Charlie Gillett, the journalistic guru of world music, among them.

BBC RADIO 4 Tuesday 24 July 2007/ The World Of Womad/ Tuesday 24 July/ 1.30-2.00pm BBC RADIO 4

The World of Music, Arts and Dance, or the Womad festival as it's more commonly known, brings together artists from all over the globe, and, this year, celebrates its 25th birthday. Musician Nitin Sawhney charts the festival's history, from a small crowd of open-minded music fans at the Bath and West Showground in Somerset in 1982, to a massive cultural and musical celebration that has taken place in 27 countries worldwide.

From the very beginning, educating people about the culture behind the music was as important as the music itself. To this end, the Womad Foundation charity organises workshops at the festivals as well as other educational and outreach projects in this country and abroad, and Nitin visits one of these at a school in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. He also travels to one of Womad's international festivals, in Spain, and talks to some of the musicians performing there and the audience about their Womad experiences.

The programme includes contributions from Peter Gabriel, Thomas Brooman, Billy Cobham, Sheila Chandra, Guo Yue and Charlie Gillett.

Presenter/Nitin Sawhney, Producer/Julia Hayball

Peter Gabriel at Blickling Hall

Compared with his rock star contemporaries, Peter Gabriel seems a model of quiet industry and dignified restraint. Not for him making silly remarks about the Nazis or zonking out behind the wheel on drugs. Instead, he has carved an intriguing niche as a promoter of world music, technological innovator and songwriter whose oeuvre this year earned him an Ivor Novello award.

The set list for this intermittently soggy Saturday night having been chosen by fans via his website, the show comprised songs spanning his 30-year career, lesser-known material sitting alongside the hits. Kicking off with the doom-laden synths and tribal drums of The Rhythm Of The Heat, Gabriel stood at his piano for the following On The Air, guitarist Richard Evans wringing the Robert Fripp-patented screams from his instrument. Steam, the 1992 “son of Sledgehammer” (Toffee Hammer?) was discreetly funky, but with its haunting melody and plangent harmonies Blood Of Eden was arguably the highlight of the evening.

While falsettos were not always attempted, Gabriel's voice retains an achingly soulful huskiness, and whether punching the air or leading his band in a kind of puppet conga during Solsbury Hill, he proved that whatever the weather he can still work a crowd.


23 juillet 2007

Bonobos are celebrated as peace-loving, matriarchal, and sexually liberated. Are they?

A four-year-old female bonobo. Bonobos have been recognized as a species for less than a century.

Slide Show: Portraits of bonobos, by James Mollison.

On a Saturday evening a few months ago, a fund-raiser was held in a downtown Manhattan yoga studio to benefit the bonobo, a species of African ape that is very similar to—but, some say, far nicer than—the chimpanzee. A flyer for the event depicted a bonobo sitting in the crook of a tree, a superimposed guitar in its left hand, alongside the message “Save the Hippie Chimps!” An audience of young, shoeless people sat cross-legged on a polished wooden floor, listening to Indian-accented music and eating snacks prepared by Bonobo’s, a restaurant on Twenty-third Street that serves raw vegetarian food. According to the restaurant’s take-out menu,“Wild bonobos are happy, pleasure-loving creatures whose lifestyle is dictated by instinct and Mother Nature.”

The event was arranged by the Bonobo Conservation Initiative, an organization based in Washington, D.C., which works in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect bonobo habitats and to combat illegal trading in bush meat. Sally Jewell Coxe, the group’s founder and president, stood to make a short presentation. She showed slides of bonobos, including one captioned “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR” and said that the apes, which she described as “bisexual,” engaged in various kinds of sexual activity in order to defuse conflict and maintain a tranquil society. There was applause. “Bonobos are into peace and love and harmony,” Coxe said, then joked, “They might even have been the first ape to discover marijuana.” Images of bonobos were projected onto the wall behind her: they looked like chimpanzees but had longer hair, flatter faces, pinker lips, smaller ears, narrower bodies, and, one might say, more gravitas—a chimpanzee’s arched brow looks goofy, but a bonobo’s low, straight brow sets the face in what is easy to read as earnest contemplativeness.

I spoke to a tall man in his forties who went by the single name Wind, and who had driven from his home in North Carolina to sing at the event. He was a musician and a former practitioner of “metaphysical counselling,” which he also referred to as clairvoyance. He said that he had encountered bonobos a few years ago at Georgia State University, at the invitation of Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a primatologist known for experiments that test the language-learning abilities of bonobos. (During one of Wind’s several visits to G.S.U., Peter Gabriel, the British pop star, was also there; Gabriel played a keyboard, another keyboard was put in front of a bonobo, and Wind played flutes and a small drum.) Bonobos are remarkable, Wind told me, for being capable of “unconditional love.” They were “tolerant, patient, forgiving, and supportive of one another.” Chimps, by contrast, led brutish lives of “aggression, ego, and plotting.” As for humans, they had some innate stock of bonobo temperament, but they too often behaved like chimps. (The chimp-bonobo division is strongly felt by devotees of the latter. Wind told me that he once wore a chimpanzee T-shirt to a bonobo event, and “got shit for it.”)

It was Wind’s turn to perform. “Help Gaia and Gaia will help you,” he chanted into a microphone, in a booming voice that made people jump. “Help bonobo and bonobo will help you.”

In recent years, the bonobo has found a strange niche in the popular imagination, based largely on its reputation for peacefulness and promiscuity. The Washington Post recently described the species as copulating “incessantly”; the Times claimed that the bonobo “stands out from the chest-thumping masses as an example of amicability, sensitivity and, well, humaneness”; a PBS wildlife film began with the words “Where chimpanzees fight and murder, bonobos are peacemakers. And, unlike chimps, it’s not the bonobo males but the females who have the power.” The Kinsey Institute claims on its Web site that “every bonobo—female, male, infant, high or low status—seeks and responds to kisses.” And, in Los Angeles, a sex adviser named Susan Block promotes what she calls “The Bonobo Way” on public-access television. (In brief: “Pleasure eases pain; good sex defuses tension; love lessens violence; you can’t very well fight a war while you’re having an orgasm.”) In newspaper columns and on the Internet, bonobos are routinely described as creatures that shun violence and live in egalitarian or female-dominated communities; more rarely, they are said to avoid meat. These behaviors are thought to be somehow linked to their unquenchable sexual appetites, often expressed in the missionary position. And because the bonobo is the “closest relative” of humans, its comportment is said to instruct us in the fundamentals of human nature. To underscore the bonobo’s status as a signpost species—a guide to human virtue, or at least modern dating—it is said to walk upright. (The Encyclopædia Britannica depicts the species in a bipedal pose, like a chimpanzee in a sitcom.)

This pop image of the bonobo—equal parts dolphin, Dalai Lama, and Warren Beatty—has flourished largely in the absence of the animal itself, which was recognized as a species less than a century ago. Two hundred or so bonobos are kept in captivity around the world; but, despite being one of just four species of great ape, along with orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, the wild bonobo has received comparatively little scientific scrutiny. It is one of the oddities of the bonobo world—and a source of frustration to some—that Frans de Waal, of Emory University, the high-profile Dutch primatologist and writer, who is the most frequently quoted authority on the species, has never seen a wild bonobo.

Attempts to study bonobos in their habitat began only in the nineteen-seventies, and those efforts have always been intermittent, because of geography and politics. Wild bonobos, which are endangered (estimates of their number range from six thousand to a hundred thousand), keep themselves out of view, in dense and inaccessible rain forests, and only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where, in the past decade, more than three million people have died in civil and regional conflicts. For several years around the turn of the millennium, when fighting in Congo was at its most intense, field observation of bonobos came to a halt.

In recent years, however, some Congolese and overseas observers have returned to the forest, and to the hot, damp work of sneaking up on reticent apes. The most prominent scientist among them is Gottfried Hohmann, a research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany. He has been visiting Congo off and on since 1989. When I first called Hohmann, two years ago, he didn’t immediately embrace the idea of taking a reporter on a field trip. But we continued to talk, and in the week after attending the bonobo fund-raiser in New York I flew to meet Hohmann in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. A few days later, I was talking with him and two of his colleagues in the shade of an aircraft hangar in Kinshasa’s airport for charter flights, waiting for a plane to fly us to the forest.

It was a hot morning. We sat on plastic garden chairs, looking out over a runway undisturbed by aircraft. The airport seemed half-ruined. Families were living in one hangar, and laundry hung to dry over makeshift shelters. A vender came by with local newspapers, which were filled with fears of renewed political violence. European embassies had been sending cautionary text messages to their resident nationals.

Hohmann is a lean, serious, blue-eyed man in his mid-fifties. He has a reputation for professional fortitude, but also for chilliness. One bonobo researcher told me that he was “very difficult to work with,” and there were harsher judgments, too. He lives in Leipzig with Barbara Fruth, his wife and frequent scientific collaborator, and their three young children. Three or four times a year, he flies to Kinshasa, where he charters a light plane operated by an American-based missionary group. The plane takes him into the world’s second-largest rain forest, in the Congo Basin, and puts him within hiking distance of a study site called Lui Kotal, where he has worked since 2002. When Hohmann first came to Congo—then Zaire—he operated from a site that could be reached only by sweating upriver for a week in a motorized canoe. “People think it’s entertaining, but it’s not,” he told me, as we waited. “It’s so slow. So hard.” He added, “You always think there’s going to be something round the next bend, but there never is.” He is an orderly man who has learned how to withstand disorder, an impatient man who has reached some accommodation with endless delay.

Hohmann makes only short visits to Lui Kotal, but the camp is run in his absence by Congolese staff members on rotation from the nearest village, and by foreign research students or volunteers. Two new camp recruits were joining Hohmann on this flight: Andrew Fowler, a tough-looking Londoner in his forties, was an experienced chimpanzee field worker with a Ph.D.; Ryan Matthews was a languid Canadian-American of thirty who had answered an online advertisement to be Lui Kotal’s camp manager, for three hundred euros a month. We had all met for the first time a few days earlier, in a café in the least lawless neighborhood of Kinshasa, where Hohmann had flatly noted that, of all the overseas visitors he had invited to Lui Kotal over the years, only one had ever wanted to return. Fowler and Matthews were a bit wary of Hohmann, and so was I. We had exchanged small talk over a pink tablecloth, establishing, first, that the British say “bo-noh-bo”; Americans, “bahn-obo”; and Germans something in between.

Fowler and Matthews had just taken their last shower before Christmas. They would be camping for at least nine months, detached from their previous lives except for access, once or twice a week, to brief e-mails. Fowler, emanating self-reliance, was impatient for the exile to come; he had brought little more than a penknife and a copy of “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” Matthews was carrying more. As we discovered over time, his equipment included a fur hat, a leather-bound photo album, an inflatable sofa, and goggles decorated with glitter. Matthews is a devotee of the annual Burning Man festival, in the Nevada desert, and this, apparently, had informed his African preparations.

Matthews would be keeping accounts and ordering supplies. Fowler’s long-term plan was to find a postdoctoral research topic about bonobos, but his daily duty, on this trip, was to be a “habituator”—someone able to find the community of thirty or so bonobos known to live near the camp, and stay within sight of them as they moved from place to place, with the idea that future researchers might be able to observe them for more than a few seconds at a time. Fowler called it “chimp-bothering.” (Watching bonobos, I understood, is not like ornithology; there’s no pretense that you’re not there.) It gave an insight into the pace of bonobo studies to realize that, nearly five years after Hohmann first reached Lui Kotal, this process of habituation and identification—upon which serious research depends—remained unfinished.

“There’s a satisfaction for a scientist to come home at night with his notebook filled,” Hohmann said with a shrug. “The most happy people are always the ecologists. They go to the forest, and the trees are not running away.” He and his colleagues were still “racing through the dark, trying to get I.D.s,” and most of the interesting bonobo questions were still unanswered. Is male aggression kept in check by females? Why do females give birth only every five to seven years, despite frequent sexual activity? In the far distance, such lines of inquiry may converge at an understanding of bonobo evolution, Hohmann said, and, beyond, the origins of human beings. “It’s a long path, and, because it’s long, there are few people who do it. If it was quicker and easier? There are hundreds of people working with baboons and lemurs, so it’s not so easy to find your niche. A student working with bonobos can close his eyes and pick a topic, and it can’t be wrong.”

We finally boarded a tiny plane. Our pilot was a middle-aged American with a straight back and a large mustache. As we took off, Matthews was speaking on a cell phone to his mother, in New Jersey—enjoying the final moments of reception before it was lost for the rest of the year. The Congo River was beneath us as we rose through patches of low clouds. Suddenly, the plane seemed to fill with clouds, as if clouds were made of a dense white mist that could drift between airplane seats. The pilot turned to look—the fog seemed to be coming from the rear of the cabin—and then glanced at Hohmann, whose seat was alongside his. “Is that O.K.?” the pilot asked, in the most carefree tone imaginable. Hohmann said it was, explaining that liquid nitrogen, imported to freeze bonobo urine, must have been forced out of its cannister by the change in air pressure. Meanwhile, Matthews told his mother, “The plane seems to be filling with smoke,” at which point his phone dropped the call.

We flew inland, to the east. The Congo River looped away to the north. Bonobos live only south of the river. (Accordingly, they have been called “left-bank chimps.”) The evolutionary tree looks like this: if the trunk is the common ape ancestor and the treetop is the present day, then the lowest—that is, the earliest—branch leads to the modern orangutan. That may have been about sixteen million years ago. The next-highest branch, around eight million years ago, leads to the gorilla; then, six million years ago, the human branch. The remaining branch divides once more, perhaps two million years ago. And this last split was presumably connected to a geographical separation: chimpanzees evolved north of the Congo River, bonobos to the south. Chimpanzees came to inhabit far-flung landscapes that had various tree densities; bonobos largely stayed in thick, gloomy forest. (Chimpanzees had to compete for resources with gorillas; but bonobos never saw another ape—one theory argues that this richer environment, by allowing bonobos to move and feed together as a leisurely group, led to the evolution of reduced rancor.) From the plane, we first looked down on a flat landscape of grassland dotted with patches of trees; this slowly became forest dotted with grassland patches; and then all we could see was a crush of trees barely making way for the occasional scribble of a Congo tributary.

After three hours, we landed at a dirt airstrip in a field of tall grass and taller termite mounds. There were no buildings in sight. We were just south of the equator, five hundred miles from Kinshasa, and three hundred miles from the nearest road used by cars—in a part of the continent connected by waterways or by trails running through the forest from village to village, good for pedestrians and the occasional old bicycle. The plane left, and the airstrip’s only infrastructure—a sunshade made of a sheet of blue plastic tied at each corner to a rough wooden post—was dismantled in seconds, and taken away.

Joseph Etike, a quizzical-looking man in his thirties who is Hohmann’s local manager, organized porters to carry our liquid nitrogen and our inflatable sofa. We first walked for an hour to Lompole, a village of thirty houses made of baked-earth bricks and thatched roofs, and stopped at Etike’s home. “People were amazed when Gottfried first came to the village, and asked about the bonobos,” Etike recalled, standing beside his front door. (He spoke in French, his second language.) “They’d never heard of such a thing.” His salary was reflected in his wardrobe: he was dressed in jeans and sneakers, while his neighbors wore flip-flops and battered shorts and Pokémon T-shirts. I asked Etike how local people had historically thought of the bonobo. “It depends on the family,” he said. “In mine, there was a story that my great-great-grandfather became lost in the forest and was found by a bonobo, and it showed him the path. So my family never hunted them.” But the tradition was somehow not fully impressed on Joseph as a boy, and when he was seventeen someone gave him bonobo meat, to his mother’s regret. How did it taste? “Like antelope,” he said. “No. Like elephant meat.”

One afternoon in 1928, Harold Coolidge, a Harvard zoologist, was picking through a storage tray of ape bones in a museum near Brussels. He examined a skull identified as belonging to a juvenile chimpanzee from the Belgian Congo, and was surprised to see that the bones of the skull’s dome were fused. In a young chimpanzee (and in a young human, too), these bones are not joined but can shift in relation to one another, like broken ice on a pond. He had to be holding an adult head, but it was not a chimpanzee’s. Several similar skulls lay nearby.

Coolidge knew that this was an important discovery. But he was incautious; when the museum’s director passed by, Coolidge mentioned the skull. The director, in turn, alerted Ernst Schwarz, a German anatomist who was already aware that there were differences between apes on either side of the Congo. And, as Coolidge later wrote, “in a flash Schwarz grabbed a pencil and paper,” and published an article that named a new subspecies, Pan satyrus paniscus, or pygmy chimpanzee. This was the animal that eventually became known as the bonobo. (In fact, bonobos are barely smaller than chimpanzees, except for their heads; but Schwarz had seen only a head.) “I had been taxonomically scooped,” Coolidge wrote. He had the lesser honor of elevating Pan paniscus to the status of full species, in 1933.

Live bonobos had already been seen outside Congo, but they, too, had been misidentified as chimps. At the turn of the century, the Antwerp zoo held at least one. Robert Yerkes, a founder of modern primatology, briefly owned a bonobo. In 1923, he bought two young apes, and called one Chim and the other Panzee. In “Almost Human,” published two years later, he noted that they looked and behaved quite differently. Panzee was timid, dumb, and foul-tempered. “Her resentment and anger were readily aroused and she was quick to give them expression with hands and teeth,” Yerkes wrote. Chim was a joy: equable and eager for new experiences. “Seldom daunted, he treated the mysteries of life as philosophically as any man.” Moreover, he was a “genius.” Yerkes’s description, coupled with later study of Chim’s remains, made it plain that he was Pan paniscus: bonobos had a good reputation even before they had a name. (Panzee was a chimpanzee; but, in defense of that species, her peevishness was probably connected to a tuberculosis infection.) Chim died in 1924, before his species was recognized.

For decades, “pygmy chimpanzee” remained the common term for these apes, even after “bonobo” was first proposed, in a 1954 paper by Eduard Tratz, an Austrian zoologist, and Heinz Heck, the director of the Munich zoo. (They suggested, incorrectly, that “bonobo” was an indigenous word; they may have been led astray by Bolobo, a town on the south bank of the Congo River. In the area where Hohmann works, the species is called edza.) In the thirties, that zoo had three members of Pan paniscus, and Heck and Tratz had studied them. By the time their paper, the first based on detailed observations of bonobo behavior, was published, the specimens were dead, allegedly killed by stress during Allied air raids. (The deaths have been cited as evidence of a bonobo’s innate sensitivity; the zoo’s brute chimpanzees survived.) As Frans de Waal has noted, Heck and Tratz’s pioneering insights—they wrote that bonobos were less violent than chimps, for example—did not become general scientific knowledge, and had to be rediscovered.

Twenty years passed before anyone attempted to study bonobos in the wild. In 1972, Arthur Horn, a doctoral candidate in physical anthropology at Yale, was encouraged by his department to travel alone to Zaire; on the shore of Lake Tumba, three hundred miles northwest of Kinshasa, he embarked on the first bonobo field study. “The idea was to gather all the information about how bonobos lived, what they did—something like Jane Goodall,” Horn told me. Goodall was already famous for her long-term study of chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania, and for her poise in the films made about her by the National Geographic Society and others. Thanks, in part, to her work, the chimpanzee had taken on the role of model species for humans—the instructive nearest neighbor, the best living hint of our past and our potential. (That role had previously been held, at different times, by the gorilla and the savanna baboon.) At this time, Goodall had confidence that chimpanzees were “by and large, rather ‘nicer’ than us.”

Horn’s attempt to follow Goodall’s model was thwarted. He spent two years in Africa, during which time he observed bonobos for a total of about six hours. “And, when I did see them, as soon as they saw me they were gone,” he told me.

In 1974, not long after Horn left Africa, Goodall witnessed the start of what she came to call the Four-Year War in Gombe. A chimpanzee population split into two, and, over time, one group wiped out the other, in gory episodes of territorial attack and cannibalism. Chimp aggression was already recognized by science, but chimp warfare was not. “I struggled to come to terms with this new knowledge,” Goodall later wrote. She would wake in the night, haunted by the memory of witnessing a female chimpanzee gorging on the flesh of an infant, “her mouth smeared with blood like some grotesque vampire from the legends of childhood.”

Reports of this behavior found a place in a long-running debate about the fundamentals of human nature—a debate, in short, about whether people were nasty or nice. Were humans savage but for the constructs of civil society (Thomas Hobbes)? Or were they civil but for the corruptions of society (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)? It had not taken warring chimps to suggest some element of biological inheritance in human behavior, including aggression: the case had been made, in its most popular recent form, by Desmond Morris, in “The Naked Ape,” his 1967 best-seller. But if chimpanzees had once pointed the way toward a tetchy but less than menacing common ancestor, they could no longer do so: Goodall had documented bloodlust in our closest relative. According to Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard and the author, with Dale Peterson, of “Demonic Males” (1996), the Gombe killings “made credible the idea that our warring tendencies go back into our prehuman past. They made us a little less special.”

Meanwhile, bonobo studies began to gain momentum. Other scientists followed Horn into the Congo Basin, and they set up two primary field sites. One, at Lomako, three hundred miles northeast of Lake Tumba, came to be used by Randall Susman, of Stony Brook University, and his students. Further to the east, Takayoshi Kano, of Kyoto University, in Japan, made a survey of bonobo habitats on foot and on bicycle, and in 1974 he set up a site at the edge of a village called Wamba. Early data from Wamba became better known than Lomako’s: the Japanese spent more time at their site and saw more bonobos. Susman, however, can take credit for the first bonobo book: he edited a collection of papers given at the first bonobo symposium, in Atlanta, in 1982.

In the winter of 1983-84, in an exploration that was less gruelling but as influential as any field research, Frans de Waal turned his attention from chimps to bonobos, and spent several months observing and videotaping ten bonobos in the San Diego Zoo. He had recently published “Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes” (1982), to great acclaim, and, as de Waal recently recalled, “Most people I talked to at the time would say, ‘Why would you do bonobos if you can do real, big chimpanzees?’ ” Among the papers that drew on his studies in San Diego, one was particularly noticed in the academy. In “Tension Regulation and Nonreproductive Functions of Sex in Captive Bonobos,” de Waal reported that these apes seemed to be having more sex, and more kinds of sex, than was really necessary. He recorded seventeen brief episodes of oral sex and four hundred and twenty equally brief episodes of face-to-face mounting. He also saw forty-three instances of kissing, some involving “extensive tongue-tongue contact.”

In the late nineteen-eighties, Gottfried Hohmann was an ambitious scientist in his thirties; he spent nearly three years in southern India, researching vocal communication in macaques and langurs. “But it was difficult then to get funding for India,” Hohmann told me. “And the bonobo thing was just heating up. Frans’s paper really affected everyone” in the scientific community. “Tongue-kissing apes? You can’t come up with a better story. Then people said to me, ‘We want you to go in the field.’ ” Hohmann ran his hand back and forth over his head. “So,” he said.

We were sitting on a wooden bench at the edge of a forest clearing barely larger than a basketball court, talking against a constant screech—an insect tinnitus that the ear never quite processed into silence. Trees rose a hundred feet all around, giving the impression that we had fallen to the bottom of a well. Two days after our plane touched down, we had reached Lui Kotal. In the intervening hours, which were inarguably more challenging for the three newcomers than for Hohmann, we had first camped in a violent rainstorm, then followed some unflagging porters on a trail that led through the hot, soupy air of the forest, and along waist-high streams that flowed over mud. We had then camped again, before crossing a fast-flowing river in an unsteady canoe.

Now, at five in the afternoon, the light at Lui Kotal was beginning to fade. People who work there make do with little sun—and with a horizon that is directly overhead. Around us, the wall of vegetation was solid except where broken by paths: one led back to the village; another led into that part of the forest where Hohmann and his team have permission to roam—an area, six miles by five, whose boundaries are streams and rivers. In the clearing stood a dozen structures with thatched roofs and no walls. Some of these sheltered tents; a larger one was a kitchen, where an open fire was burning; and another was built over a long wooden table, beside which hung a 2006 Audubon Society calendar that had been neatly converted—with glue, paper, and an extravagant superfluity of time—into a 2007 calendar. At the table sat two young American volunteers who were not many weeks away from seeing the calendar’s images repeat. Pale, skinny men in their twenties, wearing wild beards, they looked like they needed rescuing from kidnappers. Three others were less feral, and had been in the camp for a shorter time: a young British woman volunteer, an Austrian woman who had recently graduated from the University of Vienna, and a Swiss Ph.D. student attached to the Max Planck Institute.

Hohmann, shirtless, was in an easy mood, knowing that much of the logistical and political business of the trip was now done. Before leaving the village, I’d seen something of a bonobo researcher’s extended duties. The men of Lompole had convened around him, their arms crossed and hands tucked into their armpits. Hohmann remained seated and silent as an angry debate began—as Hohmann described it, between villagers who were unhappy about the original deal that compensated the village for having to stop hunting around Lui Kotal (this had involved a bulk gift of corrugated iron, to be used for roofs) and those who worked directly for the project and saw the greater advantage in stability and employment. Hohmann had finally got up and delivered a forceful speech in Lingala, Congo’s national language. He finished with a moment of theatre: he loomed over his main antagonist, wagging his finger. “It’s good to remind him now and then how short he is,” Hohmann later said, smiling.

By 1989, Hohmann told me, he had read enough bonobo literature to be tempted to visit Zaire. Even if one left aside French kissing, he said, “the bonobo allured me. I thought, This is a species.” By then, thanks to field and captive studies, a picture of bonobo society had begun to emerge, and some peculiar chimpanzee-bonobo dichotomies had been described. Besides looking and sounding different from chimpanzees (bonobos let out high whoops that can seem restrained alongside chimpanzee yelling), bonobos seemed to order their lives without the hierarchical fury and violence of chimpanzees. (“With bonobos, everything is peaceful,” Takeshi Furuichi, a Japanese researcher who worked with Kano at Wamba, told me. “When I see bonobos, they seem to be enjoying their lives. When I see chimpanzees, I am very, very sorry for them, especially for the high-ranking males. They really have to pay attention.”) In captivity, at least, male bonobos never ganged up on females, although the reverse sometimes occurred. The bonds among females seemed to be stronger than among male chimpanzees, and this was perhaps reinforced by sexual activity, by momentary episodes of frottage that bonobo experts refer to as “genito-genital rubbing,” or “g-g rubbing.” And, unusually, the females were said to be sexually receptive to males even at times when there was no chance of conception.

“We said, ‘We have to answer: Why is it like this?’ ” Hohmann said. “The males, the physically superior animals, do not dominate the females, the inferior animals? The males, the genetically closely related part of any bonobo group, do not coöperate, but the females, who are not related, do coöperate? It is not only different from chimpanzees but it violates the rules of social ecology.”

Hohmann flew to Zaire and eventually set up a small camp in Lomako Forest, a few miles from the original Stony Brook site. His memory is that Susman’s camp had been unused for years, but Susman told me that it was still active, and that Hohmann was graceless in the way that he took over the forest. And although Hohmann said that he worked with a new community of bonobos, Susman said that Hohmann inherited bonobos that were already habituated, and failed to acknowledge this research advantage. Whatever the truth, the distrust seems typical of the field. The challenges of bonobo research call for chimpanzee vigor, and this leads to animosities. Susman told me that Hohmann was the kind of man who, “if he was sitting by the side of the road and needed a filter for his Land Rover, people would drive right by. Even if they had five extra filters in the trunk.”

When a researcher has access to a species about which little is known, and whose every gesture seems to echo a human gesture, and whose eyes meet a human gaze, there is a temptation simply to stare, until you have seen enough to tell a story. That is how Hohmann judged the work of Dian Fossey, who made long-term observations of gorillas in Rwanda, and the work of Jane Goodall, at least at the start of her career. “They lived with the apes and for the apes,” he said. “It was ‘Let’s see what I’m going to get. I enjoy it anyway, so whatever I get is fine.’ ” And this is how Hohmann regarded the Japanese researchers, for all their perseverance. The Wamba site had produced a lot of data on social and sexual relations, and Kano published a book about bonobos, which concluded with the suggestion that bonobos illuminated the evolution of human love. But “what the Japanese produced was not really satisfying,” Hohmann said. “It was narrative and descriptive. They are not setting out with a question. They want to understand bonobos.” Moreover, the Japanese initially lured bonobos with food, as Goodall had lured chimpanzees. This was more than habituation. At Wamba, bonobos ate sugarcane at a field planted for them. The primatological term is “provisioning”; Hohmann calls it opening a restaurant. (As an example of the possibly distorting impact of provisioning, Hohmann noted that the Wamba females had far shorter intervals between births than those at Lomako.)

Hohmann’s first stay at Lomako lasted thirteen months. Halfway through, Barbara Fruth, a German Ph.D. student, flew to join him; they eventually married. (Up until then, “I was not thinking of having a family,” Hohmann said. “I was just doing what I did. I said, ‘I don’t have the time, and who’s crazy enough to join me?’ ”) Hohmann and Fruth flew back and forth between Germany and Lomako, and the bonobos eventually became so habituated that they would sometimes fall asleep in front of their observers. The Max Planck Institute is not a university; it supports an academic life that many professors elsewhere would find enviable—one of long-term funding and no undergraduates. Hohmann was able to publish slowly. Though not immune to the charms of ape-watching, he was at pains to set himself precise research goals. How did bonobos build nests? How did they share food? As one of his colleagues described it, Hohmann wanted to avoid being dirtied by the stain of primatology—a discipline regarded by some in biology as being afflicted by personality cults and overextrapolation. The big bonobo picture might one day emerge, but it would happen only after the rigorous testing of hypotheses in the forest. When a publisher asked Hohmann for a bonobo book, he responded that it was too soon. “Gottfried’s one of those people who don’t want to risk being criticized, so they make absolutely certain that they’ve completely nailed everything down before they publish,” Richard Wrangham told me, with a mixture of respect and impatience.

In 1997, not long after the birth of their first child, Hohmann and Fruth decided to live in Congo full time. They leased a house in Basankusu, the nearest town to Lomako with an airstrip. Hohmann had already picked up the keys when civil war intervened. The troops of Laurent Kabila, the rebel leader and future President, were at that time making a long traverse from west to east—they eventually reached Kinshasa, and President Mobutu Sese Seko fled. One day, when Hohmann was at Lomako without his wife, soldiers from the government side turned up and gave him a day to leave. “They wanted to get everyone out of the area who might help the rebels,” Hohmann said. (Around the same time, the Japanese researchers abandoned Wamba.) Hohmann took only what he could carry. On his way back to Kinshasa, he was interrogated as a suspected spy.

The bonobo fell out of the view of scientists at the very moment that the public discovered an interest. In 1991, National Geographic sent Frans Lanting, a Dutch photographer, to photograph bonobos at Wamba. “At the time, there were no pictures of bonobos in the wild,” Lanting recently told me. “Or, at least, no professional documentation.” On his assignment, Lanting contracted cerebral malaria. But he was stirred by his encounter with the bonobos. “I became sure that the boundaries between apes and humans were very fluid,” he said. “You can’t call them animals. I prefer ‘creatures.’ It was haunting, the way they knew as much about you as you knew about them.” It became his task, he later told Frans de Waal, “to show how close we are to bonobos, and they to us.”

Many of his photographs were sexually explicit. “National Geographic found the pictures of sexuality hard to bear,” Lanting said. “That was a place the magazine was not ready to go.” The magazine printed only tame images. Not long after, Lanting contacted de Waal, who had recently taken up a post at Emory, as a professor of primate behavior and a researcher at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Agreeing to collaborate, they approached Geo, the German magazine. As de Waal recently told me, laughing, “Naturally, Geo put two copulating bonobos on the cover.” Not long afterward, Scientific American printed an illustrated article. In 1997, the Dutchmen brought out a handsome illustrated book, “Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape.”

By this time, the experiments of Sue Savage-Rumbaugh had drawn the public’s attention to Kanzi, a bonobo said to be unusually skilled at communicating with humans. (Savage-Rumbaugh’s claims for Kanzi have been a source of controversy among linguists.) But de Waal’s book established the reputation of the species in the mass media. Lanting’s photographs, since widely republished, showed bonobos lounging at Wamba’s sugarcane field, trying yoga stretches, and engaging in various kinds of sexual contact. A few pictures showed bonobos up on two feet. (As a caption noted, these upright bonobos were handling something edible and out of the ordinary—cut sugarcane, for example—suggesting a pose dictated by avidity, like a man bent over a table in a pie-eating contest.) In his text, de Waal interviewed field researchers, including Hohmann, and was fastidious at the level of historical and scientific detail. But his rhetoric was richly flavored, and emphasized a sharp contrast between bonobos and chimpanzees. “The chimpanzee resolves sexual issues with power,” he wrote. “The bonobo resolves power issues with sex.” (“If chimpanzees are from Mars, bonobos must be from Venus,” de Waal wrote on a later occasion.) Bonobos were more “elegant” than chimpanzees, he said, and their backs appeared to straighten “better” than those of chimpanzees: “Even chimpanzees would have to admit that bonobos have more style.”

In a recent conversation, de Waal told me, “The bonobo is female-dominated, doesn’t have warfare, doesn’t have hunting. And it has all this sex going on, which is problematic to talk about—it’s almost as if people wanted to shove the bonobo under the table.” “The Forgotten Ape” presented itself as a European tonic to American prudishness and the vested interests of chimpanzee scientists. The bonobo was gentle, horny, and—de Waal did not quite say it—Dutch. Bonobos, he argued, had been neglected by science because they inspired embarrassment. They were “sexy,” de Waal wrote (he often uses that word where others might say “sexual”), and they challenged established, bloody accounts of human origins. The bonobo was no less a relative of humans than the chimpanzee, de Waal noted, and its behavior was bound to overthrow “established notions about where we came from and what our behavioral potential is.”

Though de Waal stopped short of placing bonobos in a state of blissful serenity (he acknowledged a degree of bonobo aggression), he certainly left a reader thinking that these animals knew how to live. He wrote, “Who could have imagined a close relative of ours in which female alliances intimidate males, sexual behavior is as rich as ours, different groups do not fight but mingle, mothers take on a central role, and the greatest intellectual achievement is not tool use but sensitivity to others?”

The appeal of de Waal’s vision is obvious. Where, at the end of the twentieth century, could an optimist turn for reassurance about the foundations of human nature? The sixties were over. Goodall’s chimpanzees had gone to war. Scholars such as Lawrence Keeley, the author of “War Before Civilization” (1996), were excavating the role of warfare in our prehistoric past. And, as Wrangham and Peterson noted in “Demonic Males,” various nonindustrialized societies that were once seen as intrinsically peaceful had come to disappoint. Margaret Mead’s 1928 account of a South Pacific idyll, “Coming of Age in Samoa,” had been largely debunked by Derek Freeman, in 1983. The people identified as “the Gentle Tasaday”—the Philippine forest-dwellers made famous, in part, by Charles Lindbergh—had been redrawn as a small, odd community rather than as an isolated ancient tribe whose mores were illustrative. “The Harmless People,” as Elizabeth Marshall Thomas referred to the hunter-gatherers she studied in southern Africa, had turned out to have a murder rate higher than any American city. Although the picture was by no means accepted universally, it had become possible to see a clear line of thuggery from ape ancestry to human prehistory and on to Srebrenica. But, if de Waal’s findings were true, there was at least a hint of respite from the idea of ineluctable human aggression. If chimpanzees are from Hobbes, bonobos must be from Rousseau.

De Waal, who was described by Time earlier this year as one of the hundred influential people who “shape our world,” effectively became the champion—soft-spoken, baggy-eyed, and mustachioed—of what he called the “hippies of the primate world,” in lectures and interviews, and in subsequent books. In “Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are” (2005), he wrote that bonobos and chimpanzees were “as different as night and day.” There had been, perhaps, a vacancy for a Jane Goodall figure to represent the bonobo in the broader culture, but neither Hohmann nor Kano had occupied it; Hohmann was too dour, and Kano was not fluent in English. Besides, the bonobo was beyond the reach of all but the most determined and best-financed television crew. After 1997, that Goodall role—at least, in a reduced form—fell to de Waal, though his research was limited to bonobos in captivity. At the time of the book’s publication, de Waal told me, he could sense that not everyone in the world of bonobo research was thrilled for him, “even though I think I did a lot of good for their work. I respect the field workers for what they do, but they’re not the best communicators.” He laughed. “Someone had to do it. I have cordial relationships with almost all of them, but there were some hard feelings. It was ‘Why is he doing this and why am I not doing this?’ ”

De Waal went on, “People have taken off with the word ‘bonobo,’ and that’s fine with me”—although he acknowledged that the identification has sometimes been excessive. “Those who learn about bonobos fall too much in love, like in the gay or feminist community. All of a sudden, here we have a politically correct primate, at which point I have to get into the opposite role, and calm them down: bonobos are not always nice to each other.”

At the Lui Kotal camp, which Hohmann started five years after being expelled from Lomako, the people who were not tracking apes spent the morning under the Audubon calendar, as the temperature and the humidity rose. Ryan Matthews put out solar panels, to charge a car battery powering a laptop that dispatched e-mail through an uncertain satellite connection. Or, in a storage hut, he arranged precious cans of sardines into a supermarket pyramid. We sometimes heard the sneezelike call of a black mangabey monkey. For lunch, we ate cassava in its local form, a long, cold, gray tube of boiled dough—a single gnocco grown to the size of a dachshund. A radio brought news of gunfire and rocket attacks in Kinshasa: Jean-Pierre Bemba, the defeated opposition candidate in last year’s Presidential elections, had ignored a deadline to disarm his militia, and hundreds had been killed in street fighting. The airport that we had used had been attacked. The Congolese camp members—including, at any time, two bonobo field workers, a cook, an assistant cook, and a fisherman, working on commission—were largely pro-Bemba, or, at least, anti-government, a view expressed at times as nostalgia for the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko. Once, they sang a celebratory Mobutu song that they had learned as schoolchildren.

“It was so easy for Frans to charm everyone,” Hohmann said of de Waal one afternoon. “He had the big stories. We don’t have the big stories. Often, we have to say, ‘No, bonobos can be terribly boring. Watch a bonobo and there are days when you don’t see anything—just sleeping and eating and defecating. There’s no sex, there’s no food-sharing.’ ” During our first days in camp, the bonobos had been elusive. “Right now, bonobos are not vocalizing,” Hohmann said. “They’re just there. And if you go to a zoo, if you give them some food, there’s a frenzy. It’s so different.”

Captivity can have a striking impact on animal behavior. As Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California, recently put it, “Stuck together, bored out of their minds—what is there to do except eat and have sex?” De Waal has argued that, even if captive bonobo behavior is somewhat skewed, it can still be usefully contrasted with the behavior of captive chimpanzees; he has even written that “only captive studies control for environmental conditions and thereby provide conclusive data on interspecific differences.” Stanford’s reply is that “different animals respond very differently to captivity.”

In the wild, bonobos live in communities of a few dozen. They move around in smaller groups during the day, in the pattern of a bus-tour group let loose at a tourist attraction, then gather together each night, to build new treetop nests of bent and half-broken branches. But they stay in the same neighborhood for a lifetime. When Hohmann found bonobos on his first visit to Lui Kotal, he could be confident that he would find the same animals in subsequent years. On this trip, the bonobos had been seen, but they were keeping to the very farthest end of Hohmann’s twenty-thousand-acre slice of forest: a two-hour walk away. (“They are just so beautiful,” Andrew Fowler, the British habituator, said, after seeing them for the first time. “I can’t put it any other way.”) There was talk of setting up a satellite camp at that end—a couple of tents in a small clearing—but weighing against the plan was the apparently serious risk of attack by elephants. (Forest elephants headed an impressive lineup of local terrors, above leopards, falling trees, driver ants, and the green mambas that were sometimes seen on forest paths.) So the existing arrangement continued: two or three people would go into the forest and hope to follow bonobos to their nest site at night; the following day, two or three others would reach that same point before dawn.

When I went out one morning with Hohmann and Martin Surbeck, the Swiss Ph.D. student, the hike began at a quarter to four, and there were stars in the sky. We walked on a springy path—layers of decaying leaves on sand. I wore a head torch that lit up thick, attic-like dust and, at one moment, a bat that flew into my face. We stepped over fallen tree trunks in various states of decay, which sprouted different kinds of fungus; after an hour or so, we reached one on which local poachers had carved a graffiti message. Poachers, whose smoked-bonobo carcasses can fetch five dollars each in Kinshasa’s markets, have often been seen in the forest, and their gunfire often heard. Their livelihood was disrupted last year when Jonas Eriksson, a Swedish researcher on a visit to Lui Kotal, burned down their forest encampment. I was later given a translation of the graffiti: “JONAS: VAGINA OF YOUR MOTHER.”

Hohmann stopped walking at half past five, at a point he knew to be within a few hundred feet of where the bonobos had nested. Bonobos sleep on their backs—“maybe holding to a branch with just one foot, and the rest of the body looking very relaxed,” Hohmann had said, adding that “nest-building is the only thing that sets great apes aside from all other primates.” (He speculates that the REM-rich sleep that nests allow may have contributed to the evolution of big brains.) We would hear the bonobos when they woke. When we turned off our flashlights, there was a hint of light in the sky, enough to illuminate Surbeck using garden clippers to cut a branch from a tree and snip it into a Y shape about four feet long; he tied a black plastic bag across the forked end, to create a tool that hinted at a lacrosse stick but was designed to catch bonobo urine as it dripped from treetops. Surbeck’s dissertation was on male behavior: he would measure testosterone levels in the urine of various bonobos, in the hope that power structures not easily detected by observation would reveal themselves. (If an evidently high-ranking male had relatively low testosterone, for example, that might say something about the power he was drawing from his mother. A male bonobo typically has a lifelong alliance with its mother.)

There was a rustle of leaves in the high branches, like a downdraft of wind. To walk toward the sound, we had to leave the trail, and Surbeck cut a path though the undergrowth, again using clippers, which allowed for progress that was quieter, if less cinematic, than a swinging machete. We stopped after a few minutes. I looked upward through binoculars and, not long afterward, removed the lens caps. The half-light reduced the forest to blacks and dark greens, but a hundred feet up I could see a bonobo sitting silently in the fork of a branch. Its black fur had an acrylic sheen. It was eating the tree’s small, hard fruit; as it chewed, it let the casing of each fruit fall from the corner of its mouth. The debris from this and other bonobos dropped onto dead leaves on the forest floor, making the sound of a rain shower just getting under way.

In the same tree, a skinny bonobo infant walked a few feet from its mother, then returned and clambered, wriggling, into the mother’s arms—and then did the same thing again. And there were glimpses, through branches, of other unhurried bonobos, as they scratched a knee, or glanced down at us, unimpressed, or stretched themselves out like artists’ models. Hohmann had plucked a large, rattling leaf from a forest-floor shrub that forms a key part of the bonobo diet, and he began to shred it slowly, as if eating it: bonobo researchers aim to present themselves as animals nonchalantly feeding rather than creepily stalking. He and Surbeck made solemn, urgent notes in their waterproof notebooks, and whispered to one another. They were by now aware of some twenty bonobos above us, and could identify many by name (Olga, Paulo, Camillo). A fact not emphasized in wildlife films is that ape identification is frequently done by zoomed-in inspection of genitals. A lot of the conversation at Lui Kotal’s dinner table dealt with scrotal shading or the shape of a female bonobo’s pink sexual swelling. (“This one is like chewing gum spit out,” Caroline Deimel, the Austrian, once said of a female.)

At about six-thirty, the bonobos started moving down the trees—not with monkey abandon but branch by branch, with a final thud as they dropped onto the forest floor. Then they walked away, on all fours, looking far tougher—and more lean and muscular—than any zoo bonobo. An infant lay spread-eagled on the back of its mother, in a posture that the scientific literature sweetly describes as “jockey style.” (A bonobo’s arms are shorter than a chimpanzee’s, and its back is horizontal when it walks. A chimpanzee slopes to the rear.) As the last of the bonobos strolled off, we lost sight of them: the undergrowth stopped our view at a few feet. We walked in the direction they seemed to have gone, and hoped to hear a call, or the sound of moving branches. Hohmann told me that bonobos sometimes gave away their position by flatulence. The forest was by now hot, and looked like a display captioned “SNAKES” in a natural-history museum: plants pulled at our clothes, trees crumbled to dust, and the ground gave way to mud.

We heard a sudden high screech ahead—“Whah, whah! ”—and then saw, coming back in our direction, a reddish blur immediately followed by black. We heard the gallop of hands and feet on the ground, and a squeal. Hohmann told me in a whisper that we had seen a rare thing—a bonobo in pursuit of a duiker, a tiny antelope. “We were very close to seeing hunting,” he said. “Very close.” The bonobo had lost the race, Hohmann said, but if it had laid a hand on the duiker in its first lunge the results would have been bloody. Hohmann has witnessed a number of kills, and the dismembering, nearly always by females, that follows. Bonobos start with the abdomen; they eat the intestines first, in a process that can leave a duiker alive for a long while after it has been captured.

For a purportedly peaceful animal, a bonobo can be surprisingly intemperate. Jeroen Stevens is a young Belgian biologist who has spent thousands of hours studying captive bonobos in European zoos. I met him last year at the Planckendael Zoo, near Antwerp. “I once saw five female bonobos attack a male in Apenheul, in Holland,” he said. “They were gnawing on his toes. I’d already seen bonobos with digits missing, but I’d thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth. Now, that’s something to counter the idea of”—Stevens used a high, mocking voice—“ ‘Oh, I’m a bonobo, and I love everyone.’ ”

Stevens went on to recall a bonobo in the Stuttgart Zoo whose penis had been bitten off by a female. (He might also have mentioned keepers at the Columbus and San Diego zoos who both lost bits of fingers. In the latter instance, the local paper’s generous headline was “APE RETURNS FINGERTIP TO KEEPER.”) “Zoos don’t know what to do,” Stevens said. “They, too, believe that bonobos are less aggressive than chimps, which is why zoos want to have them. But, as soon as you have a group of bonobos, after a while you have this really violent aggression. I think if zoos had bonobos in big enough groups”—more like wild bonobos—“you would even see them killing.” In Stevens’s opinion, bonobos are “very tense. People usually say they’re relaxed. I find the opposite. Chimps are more laid-back. But, if I say I like chimps more than I like bonobos, my colleagues think I’m crazy.”

At Lui Kotal, not long after we had followed the bonobos for half a day, and seen a duiker run for its life, Hohmann recalled what he described as a “murder story.” A few years ago, he said, he was watching a young female bonobo sitting on a branch with its baby. A male, perhaps the father of the baby, jumped onto the branch, in apparent provocation. The female lunged at the male, which fell to the ground. Other females jumped down onto the male, in a scene of frenzied violence. “It went on for thirty minutes,” Hohmann said. “It was terribly scary. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Shrieking all the time. Just bonobos on the ground. After thirty minutes, they all went back up into the tree. It was hard to recognize them, their hair all on end and their faces changed. They were really different.” Hohmann said that he had looked closely at the scene of the attack, where the vegetation had been torn and flattened. “We saw fur, but no skin, and no blood. And he was gone.” During the following year, Hohmann and his colleagues tried to find the male, but it was not seen again. Although Hohmann has never published an account of the episode, for lack of anything but circumstantial evidence, his view is that the male bonobo suffered fatal injuries.

On another occasion, Hohmann thinks that he came close to seeing infanticide, which is also generally ruled to be beyond the bonobo’s behavioral repertoire. A newborn was taken from its mother by another female; Hohmann saw the mother a day later. This female was carrying its baby again, but the baby was dead. “Now it becomes a criminal story,” Hohmann said, in a mock-legal tone. “What could have happened? This is all we have, the facts. My story is the unknown female carried the baby but didn’t feed it and it died.” Hohmann has made only an oblique reference to this incident in print.

These tales of violence do not recast the bonobo as a brute. (Nor does new evidence, from Lui Kotal, that bonobos hunt and eat other primates.) But such accounts can be placed alongside other challenges to claims of sharp differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. For example, a study published in 2001 in the American Journal of Primatology asked, “Are Bonobos Really More Bipedal Than Chimpanzees?” The answer was no.

The bonobo of the modern popular imagination has something of the quality of a pre-scientific great ape, from the era before live specimens were widely known in Europe. An Englishman of the early eighteenth century would have had no argument with the thought of an upright ape, passing silent judgment on mankind, and driven by an uncontrolled libido. But during my conversation with Jeroen Stevens, in Belgium, he glanced into the zoo enclosure, where a number of hefty bonobos were daubing excrement on the walls, and said, “These bonobos are from Mars. There are many days when there is no sex. We’re running out of adolescents.” (As de Waal noted, the oldest bonobo in his San Diego study was about fourteen, which is young adulthood; all but one episode of oral sex there involved juveniles; these bonobos also accounted for almost all of the kissing.)

Craig Stanford, in a 1997 study that questioned various alleged bonobo-chimpanzee dichotomies, wrote, “Female bonobos do not mate more frequently or significantly less cyclically than chimpanzees.” He also reported that male chimpanzees in the wild actually copulated more often than male bonobos. De Waal is unimpressed by Stanford’s analysis. “He counted only heterosexual sex,” he told me. “But if you include all the homosexual sex then it’s actually quite different.” When I asked Hohmann about the bonobo sex at Lui Kotal, he said, “It’s nothing that really strikes me.” Certainly, he and his team observe female “g-g rubbing,” which is not seen in chimpanzees, and needs to be explained. “But does it have anything to do with sex?” Hohmann asked. “Probably not. Of course, they use the genitals, but is it erotic behavior or a greeting gesture that is completely detached from sexual behavior?”

A hug? “A hug can be highly sexual or two leaders meeting at the airport. It’s a gesture, nothing else. It depends on the context.”

At Lui Kotal, the question of dominance was also less certain than one might think. When I’d spoken to de Waal, he had said, unequivocally, that bonobo societies were dominated by females. But, in Hohmann’s cautious mind, the question is still undecided. Data from wild bonobos are still slight, and science still needs to explain the physical superiority of males: why would evolution leave that extra bulk in place, if no use was made of it? Female spotted hyenas dominate male hyenas, but they have the muscle to go with the life style (and, for good measure, penises). “Why hasn’t this levelled out in bonobos?” Hohmann asked. “Perhaps sometimes it is important” for the males to be stronger. “We haven’t seen accounts of bonobos and leopards. We don’t know what protective role males can play.” Perhaps, Hohmann went on, males exercise power in ways we cannot see: “Do the males step back and say to the females, ‘I’m not competing with you, you go ahead and eat’?” The term “male deference” has been used to describe some monkey behavior. De Waal scoffs: “Maybe the bonobo males are chivalrous! We all had a big chuckle about that.”

Hohmann mentioned a recent experiment that he had done in the Frankfurt zoo. A colony of bonobos was put on a reduced-calorie diet, for the purpose of measuring hormones in their urine at different moments in their fast. It was not a behavioral experiment, but it was hard not to notice the actions of one meek male. “This is a male that in the past has been badly mutilated by the females,” Hohmann said. “They bit off fingers and toes, and he really had a hard life.” This male had always been shut out at feeding time. Now, as his diet continued, he discovered aggression. “For the first time, he pushed away some low-ranking females,” Hohmann said. He successfully fought for food. He became bold and demanding. A single hungry animal is not a scientific sample, but the episode showed that this male’s subservience was, if not exactly a personal choice, one of at least two behavioral options.

The media still regularly ask Frans de Waal about bonobos; and he still uses the species as a stick to beat what he scorns as “veneer theory”—the thought that human morality is no more than a veneer of restraint laid over a vicious, animal core. Some of his colleagues in primatology admit to impatience with his position—and with the broader bonobo cult that flattens a complex animal into a caricature of Edenic good humor. “Frans has got all the best intentions, in all sorts of ways, but there is this sense in which this polarizing of chimps and bonobos can be taken too far,” Richard Wrangham said. Hohmann concurred: “There are certainly some points where we are in agreement; and there are other points where I say, ‘No, Frans, you should go to Lomako or Lui Kotal, and watch bonobos, and then you’d know better.’ ” He went on, “Frans enjoyed the luxury of being able to say field work is senseless. When you see wild bonobos, some things that he has emphasized and stretched are much more modest; the sex stuff, for example. But other things are even more spectacular. He hasn’t seen meat-sharing, he has never seen hunting.”

“I think Frans had free rein to say anything he wanted about bonobos for about ten years,” Stanford told me. “He’s a great scientist, but because he’s worked only in captive settings this gives you a blindered view of primates. I think he took a simplistic approach, and, because he published very widely on it and writes very nice popular books, it’s become the conventional wisdom. We had this large body of evidence on chimps, then suddenly there were these other animals that were very chimplike physically but seemed to be very different behaviorally. Instead of saying, ‘These are variations on a theme,’ it became point-counterpoint.” He added, “Scientific ideas exist in a marketplace, just as every other product does.”

At the long table in the center of the camp, I showed Hohmann the “Save the Hippie Chimps!” flyer from the Manhattan benefit. He was listening on headphones to Mozart’s Requiem; he glanced at the card, and put it to one side. Then, despite himself, he laughed and picked it up again, taking off the headphones. “Well,” he said.

We were at Lui Kotal for three weeks. “If you stay here, the hours become days, become months,” Martin Surbeck said. “It all melts.” We had two visitors: a Congolese official who, joined by a guard carrying an AK-47, walked from a town twenty-five miles away to cast an eye over the camp and accept a cash consideration. He stayed for twenty-four hours; every hour, his digital wristwatch spoke the time, in French, in a woman’s voice—“Il est deux heures.”

I saw the bonobos only one other time. I was in the forest with Brigham Whitman, one of the two bearded Americans, when we heard a burst of screeching. In a whisper, Whitman pointed out Dante, a senior male, sitting on a low branch. “He’s one of the usual suspects,” Whitman said. “Balls hanging out, that’s his pose.” Whitman ran through Dante’s distinguishing characteristics: “He’s very old—perhaps thirty—and missing most of his right index finger. His lips are cracked and his face is weathered, but his eyes are vibrant. He has large white nipples. His toes are extremely fat and huge, and his belly hair is redder.” He was the oldest male. “Dante just gets his spot and he doesn’t move. He just sits and eats.”

We followed Dante and a dozen others throughout the afternoon. They climbed down from trees, walked, and climbed back up. Small, non-stinging bees congregated in the space between our eyeballs and the lenses of our binoculars. In the late afternoon, Dante and others climbed the highest trees I had seen in the forest. It was almost dark at the forest floor, but the sun caught the tops of the trees, and Dante, a hundred and fifty feet up, gazed west, his hair looking as if he’d just taken off Darth Vader’s helmet, his expression grave.

In the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Kinshasa, the Easter display was a collection of dazed live rabbits and chicks corralled by a low white wicker fence. At an outdoor bar, the city’s diplomatic classes gave each other long-lasting handshakes while their children raced around a deep, square swimming pool. I sat with Gottfried Hohmann; we had hiked out of Lui Kotal together the day before. As we left the half-light of the forest to reach the first golden patch of savanna, and the first open sky, it had been hard not to feel evolutionary stirrings, to feel oneself speeding through an “Ascent of Man” illustration, knuckles lifting from the ground.

By the pool, Hohmann talked about a Bavarian childhood collecting lizards and reading Konrad Lorenz. He was glad to be going home. He has none of the fondness for Congo that he once had for India. Still, he will keep returning until retirement. He said that in Germany, when he eats dinner with friends who work on faster-breeding, more conveniently placed animals, “I think, Oh, they live in a different world! People say, ‘You’re still . . . ?’ I say, ‘Yes. Still.’ This big picture of the bonobo is a puzzle, with a few pieces filled, and these big white patches. This is still something that attracts me. This piece fits, this doesn’t fit, turning things around, trying to close things.”

Because of Hohmann’s disdain for premature theories, and his data-collecting earnestness, it had sometimes been possible to forget that he is still driving toward an eventual glimpse of the big picture—and that this picture includes human beings. Humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos share a common ancestor. Was this creature bonobo-like, as Hohmann suspects? Did the ancestral forest environment select for male docility, and did Homo and the chimpanzee then both dump that behavior, independently, as they evolved in less bountiful environments? The modern bonobo holds the answer, Hohmann said; in time, its behavior will start to illuminate such characteristics as relationships between men and women, the purpose of aggression, and the costs and benefits of male bonding.

At Lui Kotal, there were no rocks in the sandy earth, and the smallest pebble on a riverbed had the allure of precious metal. It is not a place for fossil hunters; the biological past is revealed only in the present. “What makes humans and nonhuman primates different?” Hohmann said. “To nail this down, you have to know how these nonhuman primates behave. We have to measure what we can see today. We can use this as a reference for the time that has passed. There will be no other way to do this. And this is what puts urgency into it: because there is no doubt that, in a hundred years, there won’t be great apes in the wild. It would be blind to look away from that. In a hundred years, the forest will be gone. We have to do it now. This forest is the very, very last stronghold. This is all we have.”

by Ian Parker July 30, 2007 / The New Yorker