Hassan Hajjaj, Odalisque monochrome, ca. 2000-2007
Her thick lashes press against her thick bangs and under the hood of dark hair her eyes peer out unto the world and if you look closely you’ll see in the abyss of her wide pupils a universe under the sea filled with hope + pain + love + rain that bests in rhythm to sound of her lips smacking against each other in kisses that she blows to you in sets of 3 + 4 Her hands clap against your chest as the ground collapses beneath you both, you pull her close in an embrace and fall into the earth
Spencer Tunick, Mardi Gras: The Base (Sydney Opera House), 2010.
Spener Tunick creates artworks in which nude bodies are infinitely repeated: “individuals en masse, without their clothing, grouped together, metamorphose into a new shape. The bodies extend into and upon the landscape like a substance. These grouped masses which do not underscore sexuality become abstractions that challenge or reconfigure one’s views of nudity and privacy.” +
In an introductory note to Felix In Exile, Kentridge writes, “In the same way that there is a human act of dismembering the past there is a natural process in the terrain through erosion, growth, dilapidation that also seeks to blot out events. In South Africa this process has other dimensions. The very term ‘new South Africa’ has within it the idea of a painting over the old, the natural process of dismembering, the naturalization of things new.”
Not only in Felix In Exile but in all of his animated works do the concepts of time and change comprise a major theme. He conveys it through his erasure technique, which contrasts with conventional cel-shaded animation, whose seamlessness de-emphasizes the fact that it is actually a succession of hand-drawn images. This he implements by drawing a key frame, erasing certain areas of it, re-drawing them and thus creating the next frame. He is able in this way to create as many frames as he wants based on the original key frame simply by erasing small sections. Traces of what has been erased are still visible to the viewer; as the films unfold, a sense of fading memory or the passing of time and the traces it leaves behind are portrayed. Kentridge’s technique grapples with what is not said, what remains suppressed or forgotten but can easily be felt.
It’s always an uphill battle trying to figure out how to pronounce band names, and I’m at a loss for how I should pronounce Gunakadeit out loud. What I do know is that their single South is incredibly enchanting with its crystalline vocals and avant-garde beauty. There’s an undeniably Dirty Projectors/Amber Coffman and San Fermin vibe going on with the intriguing, magical experimental pop track and its baroque attributes. Today, the band released a video for the single, directed by Liz Nistico of HOLYCHILD.
In the words of Rumi, the great Persian poet, mystic and dervish…
Let the whirling run wild and take flight
Never mind what the blockheads say;
For you are life added to the life of whirling ectasy,
You are the glittering joy of the age.
October 28th - 30th, 2013
After our reunion in Paris, Maria and I continued our adventure to Istanbul. It was my first time in Turkey and I was looking forward to visiting the center of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. We quickly dropped our bags off at our hotel and headed to Taksim square where only months before protesters gathered by the hundreds. Vendors sold nuts as the trolley made it’s stop and turkish flags hung across the sky.
After a few twists and turns through the tiny streets of Beyoglu we entered the famous Avenue of Istikal and joined the sea of people that walk it everyday. The old and young, business man and students, hundreds of faces wizing past us as we peered into shops, restaurants, churches and mosques, occasionally stopping to admire the many street musicians playing along the route. It wasn’t until we stumbled upon a large crowd gathered on the side of the street that I witnessed the first signs of unrest. At first we thought is was a talented street performer or musician and we were eager to catch a glimpse, but the closer we got the quieter it grew. I squeezed through the crowd to find a group of students sitting without a word. In front of them a huge red sign with golden Turkish letters. The crowd silently watched and snapped photos and videos with their iphones. Down the street a mob of police with helmets and plastic shields marched towards us to break up the crowd. Paranoia of another uprising hung in the air and any sign of protest was squashed immediately.
Although there is an element of sadness to be found in a country of turbulence, the stubborn hope that overflowed from the people was inspiring and it filled me with energy and love. We spent the remaining hours of our day spending our Liras on fine handicrafts and sipping Turkish coffee with the locals. In the background a musician sang old folk songs and plucked away on his saz.
The next morning was my birthday and we wasted no time in exploring everything we could. We started off underground at the Basilica Cistern, built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Our next stop was the beautiful Blue Mosque, famous for it’s 6 minarets that tower over the city, built by Sultan Ahmed. Facing it was the Hagia Sofya, once a Byzantine Church, then a Mosque and now a museum. The gold mosaic faces of angels hung in peace next to the medallions of Islamic scripture and I smiled at the poetry of it all. I wonder if both civilizations thought there creation and recreation would last forever. And if they did, could they ever have imagined them existing in this way. One next to the other, ancient artifacts in peaceful decay.
That afternoon as our feet grew sore from walking all day, we wandered into Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, aka Ayasofya Turkish Bath-house. It was built in 16th century Istanbul and the architecture eluded to it’s glorious origins. We entered into the female-only side of the bathhouse and were greeted by two lovely ladies who escorted us into the changing rooms which we exited moments later in nothing but a towel. Each lady accompanied us by hand into the main bath house, covered in white marble with high domed ceilings dotted with glass skylights. She sat us down on the marble benches next to a fountain and handed us a golden metal bowl to bathe ourselves with. We sat peacefully pouring the water over our bodies. I looked around the bath house and saw a few other women, all different shapes and colours doing the same thing. Maria and I giggled a little at our nakedness and eventually surrendered to the experience. Our two ladies returned moments later and took us to another room, the sauna. With a textured cloths they scrubbed every inch of our bodies. The last time someone bathed me like this I was a baby. Her hands gently worked to clean me, and I thought how strange to be bathed by this stranger. I looked down at the marble benches beneath my feet and watched the dirt of the city wash away into the drain and felt the warm water cleanse me as she poured it over my head. A few smiles and nods were exchanged between us but the ritual was in silence with only the sound of water and hands.
Once our skin was scrubbed raw and our cheeks were red from the heat of the room, they led us back into the main bath house where they laid us down on a marble bed in the center of the room. I closed my eyes as they rubbed us with soap that foamed almost a foot in the air and covered us whole. The smell of roses filled my nose as they massaged the soapy bubbles into our skin. Turn over and repeat. I had never been pampered like this in my life, I felt like an Ottoman princess in a room full of beautiful women. They were all strangers but I felt an immense appreciation for them and pride. They rinsed us once more with water which they poured from bowls unto our heads, arms, down our backs and stomach. Finally, they washed our hair, wrapped us in towels and led us to the indoor courtyard where we drank fresh pomegranate juice and awaited our massages. Maria and I finally looked at each other. Our eyes a dreamy gaze. We had been lost in our own world for the last hour and it wasn’t over. Our ladies returned and led us up a crisscross of wooden stairs into the massage rooms. I awoke 30 minutes later lathered in rose scented oil, half asleep. As I made my way back down to the changing rooms I heard Maria yelp as her oily feet slipped on the staircase. The ladies ran to her side and she laughed in embarrassment. Whatever dream she was having she was definitely awake now.
We emerged from the bathhouse to a setting sun over Istanbul. The blue mosque on our left and the Hagia Sofya on our right glowed golden against the orange and pink sky. The call to prayer sounded and we made our way to dinner. We stumbled upon a tiny little restaurant, where the owner and chef cooked and served us the fresh catch of the day. It was delicious, simple food and exactly what we needed to refuel us for the night ahead.
After dinner we made our way to a cultural center where we arranged to watch a whirling dervish ceremony. No clapping was allowed as the Dervishes was not for entertainment but rather meditation. A way for the Mevlevi to reach spiritual ecstasy, to reach God. The ceremony began as four men entered in long black robes and tall round hats. They were the musicians, taking up their instruments the four began to play and sing. I couldn’t understand the words but their meaning touched me immediately. Shortly after another four men entered in black robes and hats. Their hands crossed over their chest, peaceful. They slowly removed their black robes, revealing their white shirts and long white skirts. They walked, hands crossed over their chests, each one taking a corner and with the music gently praising they began to spin. It was mesmerizing to watch. Their bodies stayed so still as they turned in steady circles around their heart. Slowly their hands rose above their heads, one palm turned towards the heavens, the other turned towards the earth, their heads tilted to one side. They whirled in perfection, around themselves, around each other, like the earth spins around the sun. The musicians sang louder and played as the dervishes spun beautiful formation. Soon my mind stopped, and my heart awoke. All I wanted to do was to spin along with them. The Mevlevi believe in embracing humanity with love, that all human beings are created with love in order to love. I dig that. In that moment, tears surfaced as love overflowed from my heart, love for God, love for humanity, love for Istanbul, love for my family, love for my friends, love for Maria, love for myself. I cried as they spun, in love, together.
a gypster in your keds and bangles
sand in your ears
your hair, a long sea tangle
freckles and paint cover your arms
your room is a mess but your heart is clean
your bag is always packed with your specials and moneys
you never save a penny
you used to want what they told you to desire, to marry, to feel, to acquire.
You’re a lone wolf today.
Live for good love, good people, good stories, good music, good views.
Sometimes it is lonely, but with everyday that passes I feel more and more alive.
It’s cold outside and my skin is like a dry desert in this dry land
Under water, in my warm shower I drink in home and comfort
Barefoot fairies run in green and sand
And rain pours heavily in the afternoon
Oh I miss you rain and your outbursts of emotion and generosity.
I miss your blues and greys that cover the sun for a moment and give everyone shade.
You’re music on my tin roof
On my eyes
On my hands
San Diego, CA March 2014
Remembering that unforgettable night with Yusuf/Cat Stevens and his son Mohammed, enjoying Art Garfunkel’s speech at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Brooklyn! @yusufcatstevens #dreamynight #peacetrain #itsawildworld
Day 1 teaching World Music Camp! Today we ventured to The Cayman Islands where we learnt about Kitchen Band Music, the legendary Julia Hydes, we danced and made thatch rope and listened to Swanky Kitchen Band! #worldmusiccamp #ethnomusicology #travel #exploremore #cayman #juliahydes #kitchenband #swanky #sandiego #music #prodigyarts @prodigyschoolofarts
Paris: New City, Old Friends
Oct 24th - 27th, 2013
In the summer of 2010, I graduated from Cardiff University, drove from Wales to Switzerland with my beautiful Swiss boyfriend, said goodbye to him at Zurich airport with tears running down my cheeks and moved to California to “follow my dreams”. It was a dramatic time of change and since that watery goodbye three years ago I hadn’t returned to that side of the world. All the amazing friends I made, now scattered around Europe and my family in Lebanon who I hadn’t seen in 5 years…well, let’s just say it was a long overdue trip…
A couple months before my scheduled departure from Los Angeles, I contacted all my friends in ‘The Old World’ for a reunion in Paris which they all agreed was a fantastic idea!
Despite the 11-hour flight and 8 hour time difference, my overwhelming excitement overpowered my immense need for sleep. As I exited the terminal, I spotted my Parisian friend Deborah and we ran into eachothers arms like they do in the movies. She took me to the loft that we rented for the reunion to freshen up and begin our Paris adventure.
I made my way to the Eiffel Tower to reunite with another old friend who I’d met during my time at AADA in New York City. She was studying in Geneva with her South African boyfriend and it had been 8 years since we saw each other. As I approached France’s iconic iron tower I snapped a photo and it began to rain. I circled under the magnificent arch until I spotted Armelle, which wasn’t hard. Even with the Eiffel Tower stealing your attention it’s impossible not to see her. She’s the kind of woman you have no choice but to recognize with her tall figure and piercing eyes. She has a way of seeing straight to your soul, leaving you feeling understood and loved. We hugged for a small eternity.
One by one, the rest of our crew showed up. Adrian and Sarah flew in from Zurich, Maria from Spain, Dylan from Berlin and “the other Frenchies” Iris, Julia and Clement joined us in their city. From then on it was all talk and tears as we poured our hearts out to each other, all the stories of our lives that the others had missed.
We spent the weekend walking the streets of Paris, eating cheese and drinking hot chocolate in cozy cafes. We ascended the stairs to the Sacre Coeur, taking in the view whilst a street performer hung from a lamp post doing tricks with a soccer ball and another sang songs. It seemed that everywhere we went there was music and lovers. At almost every corner there were boulangeries and locals exiting with baguettes wearing scarfs and smoking cigarettes. Every preconceived stereotype I had of Paris was being fulfilled and I was thrilled about it. Perhaps it was just the elated joy I was feeling from being with old friends in this old city, but I had decided Paris was the most romantic place in the world, and I was falling in love…
Saying goodbye is hard when you just said hello. Too soon our weekend came to an end and our group of twelve turned into four. Tomorrow morning, Maria and I would continue our adventures together to Istanbul and Beirut.
On our way back to the loft we stopped in at Hemmingway’s beloved bookstore Shakespeare and Co filled with book-lovers and charm. I skimmed the shelves, quietly overcome with mixed feelings of joy and nostalgia. On the second floor I found a room with a piano and a young man sitting in a chair reading a book. How I longed at that moment to lose myself in music. He saw me looking at the instrument and asked me in his adorable French accent, “Do you want to play?” I replied in surprise “Can I!?” He smiled, “Of course you can, it’s been waiting for you!”.
I am so very grateful to receive the Emerging Pioneer Award on National Heros Day for my contribution to the cultural heritage of the Cayman Islands! Thank you and congratulations to the other honorees including my personal icon and folk music legend, Miss Julia Hydes! #caymanislands #nationalherosday #emergingpioneer #culture #heritage #music #heros