While Hollywood director James Cameron was waiting for technology to catch up with his imagination to narrate the epic struggle of indigenous people against the cold greed of corporations, Oren Ginzburg was sketching away at his drawing book, trying to tell the same story.
And so was born a delightfully simple and satirical tale called There You Go! from a Geneva-based ‘tiny publishing house’ called Hungry Man Books, founded by him and Volaine Beix.
Described by one of its readers as a brilliant and eloquent telling of what a “PhD thesis might take 72,000 words to say”, the comic book has generated a lot of interest around the world.
Launched earlier this month in Malaysia by Survival, an international NGO supporting tribal rights, the book will be released in India soon.
Says Miriam Ross of Survival International, “I think the messages in There You Go! are particularly topical in India at the moment. The Dongria Kondh tribe’s high profile victory over Vedanta Resources means that this is a very good time to be discussing ‘development’ and what it means, who loses and who gains.”
Earlier this month, the Indian Government cancelled the clearance given to the UK-based company to mine bauxite in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills, home to the Dongria Kondh tribe.
The decision created international headlines, coming as it did as an unexpected victory for a people’s struggle against the might of a multinational conglomerate.
Ginzburg currently works with Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. In the past, he has worked with ethnic minority groups in northern Vietnam, and says he has seen how “a rich symbiotic relationship between people and their land can be wiped out by globalisation—by the idea that we should all enter the market economy and that any resource is valuable only if converted to money”.
His first book, Hungry Man—a comic book on the perils of excessive bureaucracy in the development sector—created quite a sensation in the NGO world, selling over 2,500 copies. The Guardian described it as the ‘best, and funniest illustration’ on the subject, adding that ‘Oren, himself a former Unicef worker, tells of what happens when well-intentioned, well-funded westerners get together in the developing world to ‘teach a man to fish’.’
Ginzburg has written three books so far, and is currently working on his fourth. In the last two months, he has shipped his books to places such as Kenya and Papua New Guinea.
He describes his readers as “mostly people who want to laugh about stuff that they would otherwise be crying about—which is precisely the reason why I am writing these books”.
To read There You Go! online, go to survivalinternational.org/thereyougo