Earlier today, this BBC headline caught my eye, “Sierra Leone thrown into darkness.” I made a mental note to look up more on Sierra Leone and went off with my daughter to the organic farm for winter greens and celery root, and then to the animal shelter to pet and play with about 50 cats. Home again, I looked more but just realized that my obsession, Deadwood, begins in 14 minutes.

Quickly. Here is why Sierra Leone is dark. The county is short on oil, and its one “oil refinery, privatised in 1994, … has ceased functioning because of defective machinery. …”

This means rotting food, difficulties getting to work, a rise in the cost of living, unreliable electricity, long queues at gas stations, and more.

Then, I saw this story, and I thought Tom Delay had slipped into Africa to teach them the winning art of politics (snark) — and, most viciously, the art of diverting attention from what is important (the economy) and drawing attention to sex, chastity, and all that:

When the president’s wife sponsors the circumcision of 1,500 young girls to win votes for her husband, you know you’ve got a problem persuading ordinary people and the government that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a bad idea.

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And when the woman who is now Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Women’s Affairs, threatens to “sew up the mouths” of those who preach against FGM, you realise that you are facing a really big uphill struggle.

But that has not dissuaded Olayinka Koso-Thomas, a gynaecologist in Sierra Leone, from campaigning against the practice for 30 years, ignoring death threats and angry protestors storming her clinic. …

Koso-Thomas … from Nigeria, sees nothing wrong with such ‘bundu’ societies and their initiation ceremonies but, on medical grounds, she and … other women’s rights campaigners want the circumcision ritual replaced by something less brutal and hazardous.

“People got me wrong at first. When I was going to the communities and sensitising them, they thought I was against their society,” Koso-Thomas told IRIN. “But it is as a doctor that I started campaigning and sensitising people about the health hazards, because I saw all the complications.”

“The real meaning of the bundu society is very good,” she said. “It is where they train young girls to become women: they teach them how to sing, dance and cook … girls who don’t go to school learn how to use herbs and treat illnesses; they are taught to respect others.”

“All that I am saying is, ‘Continue with this training, but do not cut.’ This is my message,” said the gynaecologist who has written a book about the practice of FGM in Sierra Leone.

Koso-Thomas joined forces with a group of Sierra Leonean women … to discuss the medical complications they had all suffered following circumcision.

Some … banded together to form a small non-governmental organisation (NGO) called the Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM), and started having a modest impact. …

Recently, at the lovely, quaint Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, I saw a preview for the film, MOOLAADE. From the preview, the film seemed charming but the preview failed utterly to hint in any way what the film was about. Afterwards, my daughter asked me, “What’s the African film about?” and I could tell her, only because I’d read about it elsewhere, that it was about female circumcision. The “delicacy” with this subject must be handled was striking.

The Rose Theatre, in an attempt to get some audiences to view the film, sent this special notice out — something the Rose never does:

Public comments from this evening’s sneak preview of MOOLAADE.

“Powerful is too trite a phrase for the beauty of this film.”

“Outstanding – a must-see for everyone to truly understand the desperation experienced by so many women/children.”

“The experience of this film took me back to the shock of culture I felt when I first watched the “Apu Trilogy;” – a different, so different culture, that I have never experienced before.”

“A fascinating window into another culture that turns out to be not so different from ours.  Sembene is an amazing director.”

“A very uplifting and at the same time very painful (movie) to watch.  The weapons of the spirit women prevail.”

“What a powerful movie!  It depicts the destructive force of perverted religion.  But there is some glimmer of hope if women realize their collective power.”

MOOLAADE begins a one-week engagement at the Rose Friday, March 11.

I didn’t get to see the film. I hope that the Rose Theatre got its audience because it, more than most any other theatre, deserves success for the intimacy and history of the surroundings and the quality of films that it brings to the Peninsula.

Have any of you seen Moolaade?

And what about this president’s wife campaigning on the issue of circumcision?

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