Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 17th, 2016

Illustrated picture-book, ‘Mon tout petit’ (My little one),

Germano Zullo & Albertine. switzerland

Germano Zullo studied economics and management before becoming a prolific author.

Albertine’s illustration career began after graduating from art school in Geneva. The couple marrried in 1996 and have since collaborated on many books and won awards such as a Biennial of Illustration Bratislava Golden Apple and a Bologna Ragazzi Award.

In this post, Germano and Albertine talk about their profound and beautifully illustrated picturebook, ‘Mon tout petit’ (My little one), which is published by Éditions La Joie de lire, and won the 2016 Bologna Ragazzi Award in the ‘Fiction’ category.

Visit Albertine’s blog

Germano: Ever since Albertine and I first met in 1992, we have always strived to establish a dialogue. A dialogue may appear to many as obvious. But it is not.

Most of the time, people do not have a dialogue; they have a monologue. One of the hardest things in the world is to know how to listen to each other.

Knowing how to listen to each other is difficult because it involves the notion of self-criticism. But we need to face the facts: once our ego is put in its place, the possibilities of existence are much more interesting and rich.

It is therefore out of the question for us, in any of our collaborations, that the muses of one of us interfere with the muses of the other. A book is always, first and foremost, the fruit of a dialogue between text and image.

'Mon tout petit / My little one' – by Germano Zullo and Albertine – published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

The idea behind ​​‘Mon tout petit’ (My little one) comes from a feeling I have about my father. As he grows older, his mind seems to infiltrate my body.

It is not uncommon in Southern Italy that men keep their inner selves a secret; their past is often vague, improbable and mysterious.

Little is told or explained to the next generation. Questions do not find answers, and what needs to be told is left unsaid. The family puzzle is vast and the visible pieces are far too rare.

Despite this fact and simply by permeation, transmission does take place, identities are built and new pieces of the puzzle are generated, quite similar in appearance to the previous ones and left to the passing of time.

Whatever our singularity, we carry within us our fathers and thus a great part of the universal narrative.

Illustration by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Albertine: The visual of the book had to evoke this dance of life, from birth to death, while illustrating that wonderful feeling of love.

It also had to show empathy and reflect this back to the reader. The simplest things are often the most difficult to achieve and I searched a long time for the right means of expression.

Development work by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Development work by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Development work by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Development work by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Various techniques were explored: Indian ink, gouache, coloured pencils… Ultimately, the lead pencil emerged as the best means to evoke sensuality in black and white.

It evokes a certain amount of spontaneity, just like sketches which blend lightness, fragility and melancholy. One can also find in it the spirit of a previous book of mine, ‘Bimbi’, published by La Joie de lire, which deals with childhood.

Illustration by Albertine from 'Bimbi' – published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Illustration by Albertine from 'Bimbi' – published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Illustration by Albertine from 'Bimbi' – published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

The other challenge was to build the choreography of this dance. The movement needed to be continuous, like an animated film or a flick book, and a balance between the proportions of the character growing up and the other growing smaller as the story unfolds would somehow mark as a metronome for the rhythm of the sequence.

The lightbox proved essential for this operation.

Illustrations by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

To serve the narrative and to emphasise the universality of the story, simplicity quickly appeared obvious.

The mother holds a monologue in which she expresses her love for her son. She wants to tell him everything, teach him everything.

But although this impulse is irresistible, the amount of energy and time required to transmit all this knowledge is insufficient.

The mother disappears and only her intentions seem to have been bequeathed to her son. The latter, when he becomes a man, appears nevertheless to have acquired an immense knowledge. He displays a wise maturity which he is ready, in turn, to pass on.

Illustration by Albertine from 'Mon tout petit / My little one' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Finally, ‘Mon tout petit’ is the result of two other books dealing with transmission: ‘Les Oiseaux’ (The Birds) and ‘Ligne 135’ (Line 135).

Illustration by Albertine from 'Les Oiseaux / The Birds' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Illustration by Albertine from 'Ligne 135 / Line 135' – written by Germano Zullo and published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

The three books can be read as a trilogy on a theme which we have not yet finished exploring. It is essential for us to continue, as much for its beauty as for its mystery.

'Mon tout petit / My little one' – by Germano Zullo and Albertine – published by Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland

Illustrations © Albertine.

I’m on the Kill List. This is what it feels like to be hunted by drones

Friends decline my invitations and I have taken to sleeping outside under the trees, to avoid becoming a magnet of death for my family

I am in the strange position of knowing that I am on the ‘Kill List’. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again.

Four times missiles have been fired at me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be alive.

I don’t want to end up a “Bugsplat” – the ugly word that is used for what remains of a human being after being blown up by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone.

More importantly, I don’t want my family to become victims, or even to live with the droning engines overhead, knowing that at any moment they could be vaporized.

pg-29-drones-ap.jpg There have been 255 drone strikes on Pakistan since 2004 AP

I am in England this week because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead. I’ll tell my story so that you can judge for yourselves whether I am the kind of person you want to be murdered.

I am from Waziristan, the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am one of the leaders of the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC), which is a body of local Maliks (or community leaders) that is devoted to trying to keep the peace in our region. We are sanctioned by the Pakistan government, and our main mission is to try to prevent violence between the local Taliban and the authorities.

In January 2010, I lent my vehicle to my nephew, Salimullah, to drive to Deegan for an oil change and to have one of the tires checked. Rumours had surfaced that drones were targeting particular vehicles, and tracking particular phone signals. The sky was clear and there were drones circling overhead.

As Salimullah conversed with the mechanic, a second vehicle pulled up next to mine. There were four men inside, just local chromite miners. A missile destroyed both vehicles, killed all four men, and seriously injured Salimullah, who spent the next 31 days in hospital.

Upon reflection, because the drones target the vehicles of people they want to kill in Waziristan, I was worried that they were aiming for me.

The next attack came on 3 September 2010.

That day, I was driving a red Toyota Hilux Surf SUV to a ‘Jirga’, a community meeting of elders. Another red vehicle, almost identical to mine, was some 40 meters behind.

When we reached Khader Khel, a missile blew up the other vehicle, killing all four occupants. I sped away, with flames and debris in my rear view mirror.

Initially I thought the vehicle behind was perhaps being used by militants, and I just happened to be nearby. But I learned later the casualties were four local laborers from the Mada Khel tribe, none of whom had any ties to militant groups. Now it seemed more likely that I was the target.

The third drone strike came on 6 October 2010.

My friend Salim Khan invited me to dinner. I used my phone to call Salim to announce my arrival, and just before I got there a missile struck, instantly killing three people, including my cousin, Kaleem Ullah, a married man with children, and a mentally handicapped man. Again, none of the casualties were involved in extremism.

Now I knew for certain it was me they were after.

Five months later, on 27 March 2011, an American missile targeted a Jirga, where local Maliks – all friends and associates of mine – were working to resolve a local dispute and bring peace. Some 40 civilians died that day, all innocent, and some of them fellow members of the NWPC. I was early to the scene of this horror.

Like others that day, I said some things I regret. I was angry, and I said we would get our revenge. But, in truth, how would we ever do such a thing? Our true frustration was that we – the elders of our villages – are now powerless to protect our people.

I have been warned that Americans and their allies had me and others from the Peace Committee on their Kill List. I cannot name my sources, as they would find themselves targeted for trying to save my life. But it leaves me in no doubt that I am one of the hunted.

I soon began to park any vehicle far from my destination, to avoid making it a target. My friends began to decline my invitations, afraid that dinner might be interrupted by a missile.

I took to the habit of sleeping under the trees, well above my home, to avoid acting as a magnet of death for my whole family.

But one night my youngest son, Hilal (then aged six), followed me out to the mountainside. He said that he, too, feared the droning engines at night.

I tried to comfort him. I said that drones wouldn’t target children, but Hilal refused to believe me. He said that missiles had often killed children. It was then that I knew that I could not let them go on living like this.

I know the Americans think me an opponent of their drone wars. They are right; I am.

Singling out people to assassinate, and killing nine of our innocent children for each person they target, is a crime of unspeakable proportions. Their policy is as foolish as it is criminal, as it radicalises the very people we are trying to calm down.

I am aware that the Americans and their allies think the Peace Committee is a front, and that we are merely creating a safe space for the Pakistan Taliban. To this I say: you are wrong. You have never been to Waziristan, so how would you know?

The mantra that the West should not negotiate with “terrorists” is naive.

There has hardly ever been a time when terrorists have been brought back into the fold of society without negotiation. Remember the IRA; once they tried to blow up your prime minister, and now they are in parliament. It is always better to talk than to kill.

I have travelled half way across the world because I want to resolve this dispute the way you teach: by using the law and the courts, not guns and explosives.

Ask me any question you wish, but judge me fairly – and please stop terrorizing my wife and children. And take me off that Kill List.

Malik Jalal is represented by the charity Reprieve

Full Municipal Council Program of  Beirut Madinati:

The Program

The Beirut Madinati Municipal Program is a plan to improve living conditions in Beirut.  It was developed by experts with decades of experience in research, consultancy, and advocacy work in urban affairs, and who have found that for many years their advocacy for people-centered urban development has fallen on deaf ears in Lebanon’s centers of power.

Realizing the futility of continuing to try to convince the Beirut Municipal Council to adopt the livability of the city as a core concern, this group has launched a campaign to elect qualified individuals whose primary objective is to make Beirut more livable: more affordable, more walkable, more green, more accessible, and, simply, more pleasant.

Najat Rizk shared a link.

Our Vision of beirut

The Program recognizes Beirut as a cultural and economic center in the region, the heart of a metropolitan area, the capital city of Lebanon, and its main gateway to the outside world. It envisions Beirut as a vibrant, dynamic, and efficient city that:

  • values social inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity, and is forward-looking in its commitments to long-term sustainable development,
  • embraces its waterfront,
  • celebrates its rich heritage as an economic and cultural capital,
  • boasts an integrated network of green, socially inclusive public spaces,
  • offers a variety of housing options to respond to the multiple needs of its dwellers,
  • works with surrounding towns to respond to the imperatives of urban mobility and adequate shelter,
  • recognizes the need to live in harmony with its environment,
  • capitalizes on and benefits from entrepreneurship and innovation to sustain economic growth and job creation,
  • and upgrades its public services and amenities to improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of its citizens.

Beirut is the city where we want our children to grow and build their futures, where our parents can age gracefully, and where we aspire to live.


Beirut Madinati envisions the city’s municipality as the public agency that represents and responds to the needs of all city dwellers and derives its legitimacy by representing them rather than representing particular political parties.

The municipality will be transparent in its planning and budgeting processes, and will provide numerous channels for those who live or work in Beirut to shape the municipality’s priorities and workings, and to request specific actions.

The municipality will be aware of the best practices of municipalities world-wide, will employ those appropriate to Beirut, and will draw on the large, underutilized pool of technical experts available in Lebanon to implement innovative approaches for addressing our most pressing problems.

OUR PROGRAM IN 10 points

Beirut’s municipality has the powers and resources it needs to alleviate many of the problems that make living and working in Beirut ever more difficult. Beirut Madinati will marshal these to make Beirut a better place for all of us.

Below are 10 key promises of the Beirut Madinati campaign, drawn from a more detailed planning document that is available on the website.


Improve urban mobility through an integrated strategy that makes soft options (i.e. walking, biking) more viable, enhances and organizes shared transportation systems (e.g. large buses, mini-vans, services, taxis) within the administrative city boundaries and beyond, and reduces air pollution.

This strategy will also address the commute within the Greater Beirut area by reorganizing, in partnership with public authorities and other municipalities, existing systems (e.g. buses, mini-buses, services, taxis), and establishing new, rapid bus lines with dedicated roads and parking facilities on the outskirts of the city.  In addition, we will introduce neighborhood-level public parks with underground parking facilities.

In addition to creating public gardens, storing cars underground will free space for wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Finally, we will improve traffic management in the city, in partnership with local traffic and the police force, in ways that enforce traffic regulations and improve driving behavior.

Today about 70% of trips in Beirut rely on the use of private cars. At peak hours, most of these cars move at the speed of a pedestrian walking at a normal pace.

Only 3% of current trips are conducted by walking and/or biking. The rest relies on shared modes of transportation.

Within 6 years only 45% of trips will be conducted by private cars, and at least 15% will be by walking or biking. The remaining 40% will be through shared transportation.


Improve greenery and public space by incorporating the city’s shared spaces into a network of green passages and spaces that simultaneously act as pedestrian paths and as an array of meeting and play areas of multiple sizes and functions.

We will upgrade the entire waterfront by improving its accessibility and views, and by strengthening its role as an attractive socially and economically active zone that can support livelihoods. We will increase the number of publically accessible green areas in the city.

Every neighborhood will have at least one public garden that serves the local community.

Today Beirut offers less than 1m2/person of green open space while the World Health Organization recommends at least 9 m2/person.

Within 6 years we will increase that number to at least 5m2/capita.


Make housing more affordable for future homeowners and tenants. We will introduce incentives for developers to upgrade or replace deteriorating housing and propose new planning tools to revise the incentive and taxation structures that currently hinder production of affordable housing.

We will develop upgrading strategies for informal settlements and low-income neighborhoods where housing stocks have gravely deteriorated. Finally, by reducing the cost and inconvenience of commuting (point 1 above), families will find it easier to live outside the city’s administrative borders where housing is more affordable.

We will also address the issue of the old rent regulation in a framework that recognizes both the rights of landlords to their assets and the tenants’ rights to live in the city.

Today the average price of an apartment is more than $570,000, or 1270 times the minimum monthly wage. At this rate, more than half of the children in Beirut today will not be able to secure a home in the city.


Implement an integrated solid waste management strategy by providing incentives for businesses and households to reduce waste, sort at the source, and by implementing a system of secondary sorting, reuse and recycling.

In addition, we will establish an Office of Solid Waste Management inside the Municipality of Beirut to ensure that we never again face a garbage crisis, and to work towards making Beirut a model zero waste city.

The Office will work with regional and national agencies and authorities to establish and maintain sanitary landfills and dispose of toxic waste and to articulate and implement the long term waste reduction strategy. Finally, and in the event that the current waste crisis is not solved by the time the Campaign takes office in May, we will implement an emergency crisis measure to set in place a dismountable state of the art waste treatment facility within the municipal boundaries of the city.

Today Beirut produces 600 tons/day of solid waste. 90% of this waste is landfilled despite the fact that almost all of it recyclable.

Within 6 years Beirut will recycle at least 40% of its solid waste, and implement management methods that are in compliance with best practices world wide.


Protect and develop Beirut’s built and natural heritage, including its waterfront, as a cultural and economic resource that enhances character, enriches cultural life, plays a role in economic development, fosters cultural tourism and enhances competitiveness in business recruitment and retention.

Today the Beirut coastline is largely occupied by private complexes, restaurants, and other facilities that block access and view to the sea.

Within 6 years we will establish an interlinked network of public gardens, open spaces, a publicly accessible waterfront and natural and architectural heritage.


Build community spaces and enhance services, in partnership with stakeholders and active NGOs.  We will equip the city with community centers, libraries, social support services, educational facilities, and other elements vital to the social life of the city.

Today Beirut has only three public libraries, built in partnership between the Municipality and an NGO, As-Sabeel.

No new library has been built in the past 6 years. The city has no other public community centers.

Within 6 years we will double the number of public libraries and enhance the larger infrastructure of social services


Integrate social justice, poverty alleviation, and socio-economic development as crosscutting goals to be addressed in all projects initiated by the municipality. The municipality will unfold initiatives and projects that revive local markets, stimulate entrepreneurship, and address unemployment and urban poverty. It will do so by actively connecting, partnering and bridging with both the private and the non-profit sectors.

Furthermore, in its assessment of every municipal project, it will consider and integrate the social and economic impacts and benefits to the middle and lower income groups. The municipality will actively review the local taxation system, identify unfair and harmful elements to the livelihoods of Beirut’s inhabitants, and advocate actively for its transformation.

Today unemployment stands at double its 2011 level, and one in four job seekers, half of whom are youth, cannot find a job. Many of the poverty pockets are located within Beirut and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Businesses have difficulties growing and surviving while many households suffer from the rising cost of living.

Within 6 years the municipality will have installed local markets for small producers and buyers. It will contribute to an enabling environment for local entrepreneurship in sectors of relevance to the city’s economy and reduce entrepreneurs’ operational and infrastructural costs.

The Municipality will attach a social clause to every public work contract that requires contractors to consider the social impacts of their implementation strategies.


Integrate principles of environmental sustainability and stewardship across all regulatory and operational interventions of the municipality, particularly in relation to the building development sector.  We will introduce regulations and incentives for utilizing building design strategies that minimize energy use, and for reducing the negative environmental impacts of construction activities.

We will introduce and lobby for the adoption of new local regulations and incentives for developers and builders to enhance biodiversity through the use of green roofs, greening vertical habitats, and the use of artificial nesting sites when applicable.

Finally, we will lead in the effort towards green building by retrofitting municipal buildings with modern energy and resource conservation technologies and by introducing regulatory constraints and incentives to improve the short, medium, and long-term energy efficiency and environmental qualities of the city.

Within 6 years we will renovate municipal buildings to become exemplars of green buildings, and establish incentives and clear design guidelines for new construction projects.


Prioritize the health and safety of all city dwellers by recognizing the municipality’s responsibility to monitor, lobby for, and intervene through incentives and projects that provide clean water, reduce air pollution by reducing traffic and electricity generators, resolve the current waste crisis, improve  sewage management, among others.

We will also introduce an integrated lighting system that improves street safety and monitor crime rates and articulate neighborhood-based, community responses in areas where security conditions are deteriorating.

Today Beirut’s environment is a threat to everyday health because of poor air quality, poor levels of cleanliness, and the absence of monitoring of our air, water, and physical environment.

Within 6 years we will have clean city streets and will remove the large open-air waste bins that sit in our streets. To monitor water quality and set up a plan with the Beirut Water Authority to alleviate the water problems and their symptoms. To implement a city-wide lighting plan that improves night safety.


Improve the organizational structure of the Municipality, train its staff, and address the main institutional challenges that have plagued the performance of councils for decades. We pledge to acknowledge, enhance, and sustain as the municipality’s main asset the wide network of active civil groups and NGOs that have invested in the well-being of the city.

We further pledge to work towards an efficient working relationship with the governor of Beirut and work with the governor’s office to set up a human resources department, which will evaluate municipal employee performance, improve social security coverage, and address the municipal civil servants’ inclusion in the civil servants’ funds (ta’awuniyya).
We also pledge to appoint a City Planner, experienced in the organization and management of city affairs, and will charge him/her with forming a team of qualified professionals who will implement our vision.

We will train municipal staff and introduce a performance-based system of evaluation that rewards loyalty to the city and its dwellers.
We will develop comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures to organize and govern the work and performance of all units and departments.

We will train municipal police and Beirut’s guard in the standards of community policing, and provide them with incentives to improve road safety, mobility, cleanliness, and thus improve security in the city, in collaboration with other security services.

We will introduce performance-based budgeting to better serve the needs of its dwellers in transparent and accountable ways. We will create multiple participatory structures through which city dwellers will be informed about the municipality and the city’s affairs and be given the channels to participate actively in the important decisions of the city’s future and its daily management.




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