Culture  Digging deeper

Andrew Princz seeks complex understanding of travelling the globe

There’s nothing like the thrill of travelling. Whether you’re keen on discovering new scenery, languages, and cultures, or are simply allured by the escape a good vacation offers from a stressful life, few could argue against the joys of travel. Not everyone, however, has this privilege. Travel is expensive, time-consuming, daunting, and (in some cases) potentially dangerous – in other words, it’s not easy to cram a trip to Peru between two midterms.

But hey! What if someone else could do the travelling for you? Someone who knows what he’s doing, who takes the risk and uncovers the secrets? Someone who brings all his findings, images, and stories back with him, shakes them up into a nice two-hour presentation, and you don’t even need to get on a plane or break the bank. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Travelling the world and sharing his experiences is the job of cultural navigator Andrew Princz, and his series of presentations, Travels Ontheglobe, offer an interesting perspective on a country’s geography, history, and culture. As a cultural navigator (a self-coined profession), Princz is interested in understanding the local culture of the places he visits, and in uncovering the development of these cultures, which are often affected by colonialism, war, or natural disaster. With the Travels Ontheglobe series, Princz hopes to erase certain stigmas that these countries (Peru, Kazakhstan, and Angola) have received through western media, and hopefully promote tourism to these culturally rich and beautiful countries.

Travels Ontheglobe’s first of three presentations, “Peru: The Machu Picchu Story,” offered a delightful look at a mysterious and well-known cultural landmark, while at the same time raising the ethical issues of Machu Picchu’s colonialist history. With an introduction by Princz himself, the presentation began with a short documentary detailing the rediscovery of the site in 1911 by American anthropologist Hiram Bingham, and the confiscation of thousands of artifacts, which now sit at Yale University. The documentary raises the question of whether a place like Machu Picchu is part of a collective world history, while simultaneously being attentive to the opinions and feelings of Peruvians who feel that Machu Picchu is an important part of Peruvian culture. The presentation was wonderfully synthesized with a short film, Danzak, by Peruvian filmmaker Gabriela Yepes. Yepes’s 20-minute film managed to steal the show, giving a truly local perspective, which emphasizes the spirituality that Machu Picchu encompasses in the lives of many Peruvians.

The next presentation in the series, “Kazakhstan: The real Kazakhstan,” looks even more promising. While Machu Picchu’s legacy is relatively well-known, Princz’s examination of Kazakhstan may illuminate a part of the globe unfamiliar to most people in the West (with the dubious exception of Borat, of course). When I questioned Princz about the promotion for this show, which bills Kazakhstan as “much-misunderstood,” he pointed to the country’s isolation from world politics since the Soviet era, which has been harmful to its imminent emergence as a world power. Nestled between Russia and China, Kazakhstan is gaining worldwide attention as one of the world’s largest oil supplies. “We need to wake up to these countries, and uncover corruption and poverty,” said Princz.

Andrew Princz’s Ontheglobe series should be praised for its unabashedly honest and insightful representations of little-known cultures. Take an evening to sit back and learn about a country from someone who is truly respectful of these inhabitants’ integrity, rather than allowing mainstream media to have the last word. As Princz himself put it, “It’s not my show, but our show.”

“Kazakhstan: The real Kazakhstan” will be presented on November 18, and “Angola: Dancing in Luanda” on December 9. Both events will take place at Cinema du Parc (3575 du Parc).