Arts & Crafts

Beijing, the City of Skyscrapers

Never forget the time when I stepped into Beijing with the hope of exploring a foreign land and found a wondrous and modern city. So industrial-looking yet so entrenched in culture and tradition. It truly felt like a home away from home. Perhaps, due to my experience there or thanks to the many friends I made or the delicious food I got to eat while being introduced to one of my favorite dishes, the Beijing Hotpot, I don’t know what but Beijing and the Chinese culture will always remain very dear to me.

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Much for my experience climbing the Great Wall of China, there were also other awe-filled moments that made me fall in love with the city. Hiking up Fragrant Hills or Xiangshan Park to see the Fall colors (even my Chinese friends envy me for this!) was one rare expedition to an exotic scenic location which is now an exquisite memory. In the awesome company of my friends, I could see the whole of Beijing city from the top of the hills. It is an “imperial garden at the foot of the Western Mountains covering 395 acres” and a natural pine-cypress forest with maple trees and other beautiful trees.

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If you manage to go all the way up to the fortress on the peak, you become a hero and win a medal (from your friend!) 🙂 Nature was sure at its splendid best there! And yes! Another awe-inspiring experience was attending the Beijing Opera. It is traditional Chinese musical theatre where the actors are great performers. Donning colorful costumes of the Chinese kings and queens of yesteryears, they usually enact out legends and fables. The men wear painted masks with long beards and the women are nymphlike with painted faces. Enjoyed watching the performance at the Chang’an Grand Theatre while relaxing with a cup of green tea.

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Of course, I also did the usual touristy stuff like checking out Tiananmen Square, going to the Forbidden City (an erstwhile palace!), strolling around the verdant summer palace, be treated to a spectacular acrobatics show (where the performers were as young as five years old!) hogging on the myriad varieties of dim sums, noodles, and congee, taking a ride along a Hutong (a type of residential locality that has narrow streets and courtyard houses; now more of a heritage structure), bargaining crazy at the innumerable flea markets like Hongqiao pearl market, Silk market, and gaping at the fancy malls at Wangfujing (Seriously, those are Some Fancy buildings!)

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Now I yearn to return someday to re-explore the city and meet my old friends! 🙂

05 Aug 2014

The Joys of Storytelling

The crickets in the bushes have started their chirping, though the last red glow of the setting sun is still lingering in the western sky. Dinner is already over, and the womenfolk are in a hurry cleaning up. The children, impatient as ever, have already ran off towards the village center, not waiting for mother or grandmother. Groups emerge from the houses along the street and move off, excited voices filling the air. The torches lighting their path in the swiftly darkening night all appear to be converging on one point… the village center. This is one night nobody wants to be away from there… yes, the story teller is visiting the village!

 
This is a scene repeated a million times over in a million villages around the world. The languages will be different, the stories will be different, the people listening will be different… but the enchantment of stories is universal. Every one of the ancient cultures has a story telling tradition, where good fairies and bad witches and folk heroes and sweet damsels all make appearances to charm an enthralled audience for hours together. Many of the classical dance and song forms actually follow the storytelling traditions.
 
As stories and storytelling largely moved over to printed books and later, to celluloid, the human interaction of the community storytelling is one of the sacrifices we made to the modern life. However, have you noticed the interesting new efforts to revive the storytelling traditions in the modern context?
 
Foremost among these is The Moth. Anyone listening to NPR even infrequently, will be familiar with The Moth Story Hour, where the stories from Moth stages are repeated on the radio. The Moth is a not-profit organisation dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Events are held at various parts of the country and abroad. Anyone can pitch a tale and selected stories are narrated in front of a live audience. People from various walks and stages of life participate in the event. The stories are as varied as the people who tell them, and of course they are very interesting.
 
Interesting in the sense that they will make you laugh, think, sympathise… even teach you something new, often all at the same time. I listen to them on the radio and have been thinking of attending one of The Moth StorySlams, an open-mic storytelling competition held in New York every week. One of these days… maybe even participate. 🙂
 
Another storytelling effort is StoryCorps, an oral history project, run by an independent non-profit organisation. Participants – there has to be two, as it is recorded as interviews – go to the StoryCorps booths and record the conversation. These conversations are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Since 2003, StoryCorps has recorded and archived 45,000 conversations. You can listen to a sampling of these conversations here.
 
Did you know that a National Storytelling Festival takes place in Jonesborough, Tennessee every year, during the first full weekend of October? It is conducted by the National Storytelling Network, dedicated to advancing the art of storytelling. It is a three day outdoor festival, with storytellers from all over the world participating and an estimated audience of over 10,000.
 
The National Storytelling Network conducts events all over the country, showcasing storytelling. Here is a calendar of events, in case you want to check them out.
 
Happy storytelling/ listening!

~Ria

29 Jul 2014

Worldpride Toronto…I’m Impressed!

June 29, 2014. Never expected the day to turn into such a big party. It was an experience of a lifetime. A celebration of life, love, and liberty as I have never seen before. Yes, I am talking of the final pride march, the concluding event at the ten-day Worldpride festival that took place in the last week of June in Toronto. As an ally and supporter, standing by the railings, cheering on, I felt truly proud. It was a spectacle of openness, doing what you like, and not caring a damn. Strong emphasis on the last point.

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This was the event I have been waiting for since I heard of its popularity from my friends who had attended the pride parade the previous years. But the parade this year exceeded even their expectations. Way grander and bigger with a huge audience. And not just the marchers but the spectators were also an interesting crowd. I was walking around in open-mouthed wonder most of the time.

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It was sheer excitement to see people, most exotically dressed in all imaginable costumes, performing for us. The drag queens looked drop-dead gorgeous. There was representation from human rights groups, affiliated with the Worldpride ideologies, as well as major Canadian for-profit organizations. I must admit though, the corporates do not make good entertainment material. It was slightly boring to watch them. Not so much the other groups who put in some thought into their costumes and exhibits in order to provide the most appealing display of their group’s mission and values.

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The LGBT communities from different universities and sports clubs also put up a great show. It was interesting to note the firm statement put forth by communities originating in restrictive cultures like the (gaysi) The Gayi Desi and the Ismaili Queers. It was the spirit of solidarity that bound us all. Our cultural backgrounds, faiths, opinions, and orientation mattered no more. What mattered was that we were all there personifying unity in diversity and most importantly, having fun.

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The authorities including the politicians and the police were there in tow providing their support. An estimated 12,000 people marched in the parade while more than a million supporters (I think!) grooved to the music played on the vans and vehicles carrying the floats and the people. The parade spanned across downtown Toronto, culminating at Yonge-Dundas Square, the most popular entertainment spot, for a musical evening of some great rock and pop music. This has been the best event I have attended in Toronto till date.

01 Jul 2014

A Street with an Identity

It was to Bloor-Yorkville, the so-called swanky neighborhood that I took my friend to show her the fashionable areas in Toronto. “Well, this looks pretty usual!” was her response; my friend didn’t seem very impressed.

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I agreed with her as, unfortunately, that day, even the streets were crowded, with the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) plying shuttle buses from Bloor further south to downtown Toronto. So, the extra load of subway people on the streets along with the construction work obstructing the roads (related to the condos and the sidewalks) added to the chaos.

The high-end shopping malls and the big branded stores located in Bloor-Yorkville makes it known as ‘the shopping district of Toronto.’ According to the Fortune Magazine, it is ‘the seventh most expensive shopping street in the world.’

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Bloor Street spans 25 kms and is an important arterial road in Toronto, the other being Yonge Street. Beginning at Prince Edward Viaduct in the east of Toronto, the road extends till Mississauga in the west. I could not find the exact year when Bloor Street was built but it was in the nineteenth century that the street got its name from Joseph Bloor, an industrialist, who established the Village of Yorkville in 1830, courtesy Wikipedia.

Gradually, the region grew into a major residential and commercial hub. 2008 data reveal that the shops in Yorkville earn a rent of 300$ per square foot and the condos are priced from 1mn$ upwards.

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A section of Yorkville Avenue enclosed by Cumberland Street and Bellair Street looks hip and resembles a European town, with cobblestoned roads lined with cafes, pubs, sushi bars, posh restaurants, salons, and designer boutiques. Facing the opposite side of the street is an artistic park strewn with stone and metal sculptures and branded shops. For a change, my friend was charmed by the elegant surroundings there.

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Cumberland Street is that part of Bloor Street where people love to be seen drinking, eating, and shopping.

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Hemingway’s is a popular pub there and Trattoria Nervosa serves awesome-tasting Italian food, moderately priced. Definitely worthy of multiple visits!

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Bloor Street has a unique historical appeal as it houses many old buildings embodying European style architecture and design. The intersection of Yonge and Bloor divides Bloor into east and west zones. Yorkville is situated on the west side while the east side mostly has tall corporate buildings and is more recently developed. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) with the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, world-renowned as an architectural splendor, and the Bata Shoe Museum are two significant places to visit.

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The ROM is a wonderful treat for art lovers with five floors of beautiful art and sculpture from cultures around the world, depicted through the ages. The natural history sections are also very informative whilst no kid can ever forget the huge dinosaur exhibits that they were delighted to see and which still remain as their fond childhood memories.

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I have made a custom of visiting the ROM once every six months. Or so it happens! With each visit, it seems like there is more and more to see and I come away regretfully with the feeling of not having spent adequate time.

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My friend was more interested in the Bata Shoe Museum that showcased the evolution of footwear for different societies along with shoes worn by prominent celebrities. I loved the intricately designed and beaded moccasins of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada the best.

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10 Jun 2014

Norman Rockwell, the Artist

I knew there was a show of Norman Rockwell paintings going on at Newark Museum. And it is something I definitely wanted to go and see. But you know how it is… oh, the show is going to be there for a long while… I can go anytime. Then, I get this email from Newark Museum that it is the last three days of the show. No more postponing… I have to go right away. And that is what I did. Boy, am I glad I went! It is such an awesome show.
 
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Norman Rockwell was an artist who captured the best in American life, through his paintings of everyday scenes. According to him, the commonplaces of America are the richest subjects in art. Starting his artistic career at the age 19 as the art editor for Boys’ Life, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, he has worked for publications like The Saturday Evening Post, Look, Ladies’ Home Journal, Literary Digest, and Life.
 
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What is so endearing about the Rockwell works is the innocence of the characters depicted. Be it the boys indulging in very boy-like games or the young girl preening herself in front of the mirror, or the young soldier trying the few French words he knows on a little girl in France, they all show a guileless side of humanity. Looking at his paintings, viewers will be tempted to reaffirm their faith in humanity, overcoming all cynicism. All you see in those paintings are the small joys and celebrations of life, every day scenes that bring a smile to your face.
 
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These are not works that you look at and move on; these painting will hold you to the spot, wondering at what you are seeing. Each of them has a story to tell, that too in minute detail. There is so much to see in the paintings that you could see them again and again, and keep noticing new details.
 
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And these are the stories of everyday American life. So much so, that one tends to think of a day to day idyllic scene as a ‘Norman Rockwell moment’! That is how much he has become a part of the American art scene.
 
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This painting, titled, ‘The Discovery’, appeared on the Saturday Evening Post cover in 1956. The interpretation was that it shows the boy’s horror on discovering that Santa does not exist. In my personal opinion, that’s not it at all… I can almost read his mind… ‘Oh my god, what did these people do with Santa? Did they kill him?’ 🙂
 
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For such a prolific artist whose concentration on his work was all-absorbing, he was also very organised. He will take multiple photos with models – often people from his own circle, including family members – and prepare meticulously to capture the exact scenes and emotions he wanted. He was also extremely careful in keeping his studio clean to the point of fastidiousness; his studio was swept and the paint brushes cleaned with ivory soap four to six times a day!
 
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Movie legends George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are big time fans and collectors of Norman Rockwell’s art. The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C had held an exhibition, ‘Telling Stories Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’ in 2010-11.
 
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Norman Rockwell was a very unassuming person. He claimed to be an illustrator rather than an artist. And when asked how much he was being paid for the covers he did for Saturday Evening Post, he response was, ‘twice what they are worth’! In that connection, it is worth mentioning that one of his paintings titled, ‘Saying Grace’ sold for 46 million in an auction in New York City in December 2013. I wonder what he would have said to that!

 

~Ria

23 May 2014

Toronto’s Artsy District

If you are a first-time visitor to Toronto, you would have certainly got the suggestion to visit the Distillery District, considered a ‘happening place in town’! It is a fashionable area that is also a heritage site. Having cultural leanings, the Distillery District houses a slew of art and craft shops. It is also an entertainment hotspot with many restaurants and cafes to complement the ambience.

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Located in downtown Toronto, near Harbourfront, the Distillery District is listed under the National Historic Sites of Canada. Originally, it was the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, which was founded in 1832 and which closed down in 1990. Since then, the area was preserved as it contained one of the rarest assortments of Victorian buildings and heritage architecture.

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Later, the place was redeveloped into a classy and arty hub. This was done with the intention of keeping away the commercialization prevalent in the surrounding areas. This change proved transformational and the end result is now clearly visible in the district’s designer boutiques, design studios, art galleries, and high-end cafes. Once in, you are mesmerized by the magic of the red brick buildings adorned by green doors and windows. On googling, I found that the shade of green was called British racing green, a phrase originating from the international motor racing colour of the United Kingdom.

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The hi-storied stone buildings have an aesthetic appeal. Spread over 13 acres, there are around 40 buildings and 10 streets. A short clock tower marks the center of the district. The last time I was there, people had put up tents to showcase their artwork, which was part of an art exhibition that was going on, along the main Trinity Street.

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Sadly, we couldn’t take pictures of the articles inside any of the art boutiques or you would have wondered at the display of everyday objects turned into the most unique items, brimming with creativity. Inside the district were designer furniture shops, clothes boutiques, candle stores, jewellery stores, and also event management companies and performing art schools.

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The place offers a variety of fine dining restaurants serving different cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, seafood, etc. A cocktail lounge and a bar and a grill restaurant completed this selection. We dined at a Mexican restaurant, Elcatrin Destileria, that was playing loud music while the waiters donned painted faces and looked scary. Apparently, it was for an event scheduled for the night. Wonder how many guests turned up!

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We also saw many people stroll around the vicinity with a coffee in hand from the rustic-looking Balzac’s Coffee Roasters.

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We decided that we would go to the Mill Street brew pub next time, a microbrewery situated there. I also noticed a new construction, a theatre named the Young Centre for the Performing Arts where, I read, that the Soulpepper Theatre Company performed their plays.

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Exploring the distillery district was certainly a worthwhile experience, something I am glad I did!

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20 May 2014

The Museum Across the Bridge

This Sunday I knew I was going to Brooklyn… interesting things happening there. The Botanical Garden is celebrating Sakura Matsui (Cherry Blossom Festival) with traditional Japanese taiko drumming and martial arts, Japanese classical dances, an all-female marching band, anime rock from Tokyo and a samurai sword play… while the Brooklyn Museum is showing a number of very interesting artists including Ai WeiWei from China. The decision was made for me when the day dawned all chilly and windy… definitely a day to stay indoors. So the museum it was.

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Brooklyn Museum is New York City’s second largest museum and has an extensive collection of antiquities from all over the world. The Egyptian, African, Oceanic, and South East Asian collections are so large that only a part of them can be displayed at any time. That too, with an area of 560,000 square feet!
In addition to the historical artefacts in the various galleries, the museum also displays works of contemporary artists. Currently on view are controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, artist and author Judy Chicago and street artist Swoon. Other prominent exhibitions currently on are Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, and Connecting Cultures. Fortunately, the museum allows photography in most of the areas, sans the flash of course. So that was a delightful Sunday indeed!

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When looking at Ai Weiweiis art, the first thing that impressed me is the creative ways in which he has used art as an expression of his activism. The person speaking loudest from behind each of the exhibits at the show is the activist, not the artist. And that is essentially the power of his art.

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Just take a look at this… six iron boxes the size of small rooms. You can step on a stool and look inside through a small square of glass. What you see inside is Weiwei while he was imprisoned by the Chinese government in 2011. These dioramas named ‘S.A.C.R.E.D’ show him sleeping, eating, showering, undergoing interrogation and sitting on the toilet, all under the watchful eyes of guards.

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A strong criticism of the Chinese government’s handling of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan is presented in the exhibit ‘Straight’ which displays tons of long reinforced steel bars from the Sichuan earthquake sites, straightened and laid out on the floor like rippling water. Another piece of art ‘Snake Ceiling’ shows a giant snake made up of children’s backpacks to commemorate the thousands of children who died in the earthquake.

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Seeing the crowd around his ‘painted vases’, I couldn’t help wondering about the value of political art as opposed to art for art’s sake. Especially in the context of the Dropping the Urn stunt and the follow-on act at Miami with a million dollar Ai Weiwei vase. 🙂

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Swoon has made a name for herself as a street artist. And her show ‘Submerged Motherland’ is an installation consisting of a huge tree, made of pieces of cloth and old canal boats people lived on. The tree with white paper leaves in the typical swoon style, is a pretty sight. Though it is doubtful whether the artist would appreciate the adjective ‘pretty’!

 
 
 
 
 
 

Once an editor, always an editor; is that true? Anyway, I was walking through the Judy Chicago show and caught a typo – ‘she changed her same’ instead of ‘she changed her name’! Unfortunately, that was one part of the show where photography was prohibited. Anyways, I made a point of going to the Information counter and reporting the typo. Good deed for the day, done!

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And any talk about this visit to the Brooklyn Museum will not be complete without this beautiful painting by Georgia O’Keefe… and not a single flower in sight! What a joy!

 ~Ria

02 May 2014

In search of tribal treasure…

The car flies along the Mysore road. My cousin Bala is driving and the roads are delightfully empty as it is a Sunday morning. We are headed for the Lambani tribal settlement on the outskirts on the city. This tribe makes beautiful metal jewelry and embroidered cloth with mirror work, well known for their excellent craftsmanship. We are hoping to see the making of the lovely artefacts and to buy some, if available.
 
The progress is not so fast though, as we have to stop frequently to ask for directions. Many of these stops turn out to be exercises in character assessment as it seems inconceivable that anyone would willingly say ‘I don’t know’ around here. So one has to gauge whether the directions given are anywhere near dependable, based on the person’s apparent confidence, his body language, whether he looks you straight in the eyes…
 
From the highway we turn onto a paved road; just barely paved. Soon the going gets worse as the paving disappears from under the wheels and the terrain gets increasingly tough. Soon the path becomes two ruts hardly visible among the high grass, climbing up and down hillocks. The vehicle is lurching from side to side, the bottom often touching the ground with scraping noises. I’m getting more and more uneasy, as I’m the instigator of the plan. The other occupants of the car – Min and Bala’s wife Su – have this scared look on their faces and are looking uneasily around.
 
Soon the trees on either side are brushing the car and we can hear scratchy scrapy noises. Any indication of a road or path is almost gone. There is all kinds of discussion in the car… what if we get stuck somewhere, how will we turn the car around, what if we are not welcome where we are going… Su and I try to dissuade Bala from going any further. And Min looks like she is ready to scream at the first indication of trouble.
 
But apparently Bala is looking for adventure. We have come this far; now we don’t want to turn back without seeing the village… the road is sure to get better further along, says Bala the eternal optimist.
 
All of a sudden, the car bursts out into a clearing. Far off across the flat ground we can see some kind of construction. Just as we start looking around from the now stopped car, there is this loud whoop and flurry of action. A bunch of men, all dressed in tribal finery and shaking huge spears, rush towards the car from across the clearing. The loud shouting and yelling fill the air, combined with the noise of their running feet. Bala makes a tight circle with the car and in the blinking of an eye, we are driving helter skelter out of that clearing. As the car turns, we catch a quick glimpse of a huge cauldron, steam rising out of it, set on three gigantic stones with a roaring fire under it, in a corner of the clearing. It is being stirred by a bunch of women who are standing on stilts so that they can see into the pot. That is all we see and that is enough to set us out of there at the speed of thought…
 
Aah… I guess my imagination ran away with me… The story up to the point where we burst into the clearing is all true. We find ourselves in a grove of young mango trees, with some construction happening at one end of the grove. We speak to the people there… yes, we are on the right track; the Lambanis live around the area. No, they do not carry on their traditional arts anymore, at least not around there. And at this time, mid-morning, most of them will be at their work places.

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Young mangoes – mouthwatering stuff!

So, a wild goose chase, but we thoroughly enjoyed it! 🙂 And the day provided many other enjoyments as well. On the way where we stopped for breakfast, we got to taste moode idli, a delicacy of the locale. Made of a mix of rice and lentils, it is steamed wrapped in pandanus leaves.

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Moode Idli

Also, we stopped at Janapada Loka, a cultural center set up to nourish the arts and crafts of Karnataka. Founded in 1994, it is located on the Bangalore-Mysore Road on a 15-acre campus.

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Statues inside the gate of Janapada Loka

Artists in residence perform and conduct training in the traditional dance forms and music. Bangalore University has recognised Janapada Loka as a research centre.

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Dancers at the Janapada Loka

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The day we visited, there was a Yakshagana performance scheduled at Janapada Loka. But unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for that as we had to go see the Lambani settlement… 🙂

~Ria

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With sincere apologies to the Lambani people. The above story is no indication of the behaviour of the friendly and peaceful tribes; it only proves the influence of popular fiction on my imagination.

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24 Feb 2014

Performance by Ndere Troupe – A visual treat indeed!

Dance has always been a passion for me. However, my first encounter with dance did not go well. 🙂 When I was just three years, I was put in a dance class run by my school as an after class activity. To my surprise I still have a vague memory of that class packed with 25–30 children of different age groups, trying to copy what the instructor was doing. I got so disillusioned after the first class that I adamantly refused to go to the class any more. Then at the age of eight I had the opportunity to join a professionally run dance school (apparently my parents recognised the interest I I have in dance) and from then onwards dance has always been a part of my life. Never miss a chance to perform or watch various dance genres.
Dance has always been an important part of celebrations, ceremony and entertainment. It’s difficult to say when dance has become a part of human culture. The Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from 3300 BCE and 9000 year old Bhimbekta rock shelters paintings in India indicate the prevalence of dance even in prehistoric times. Dance figurines were a permanent feature of ancient temple architecture.
Dances are usually performed as a mode of expression, as part of healing rituals or as an offering to God. Dance forms are also used as a tool to communicate with people about social evils, prohibiting the progress of the society. Ballet, bharatnatyam, hip hop, rumba belly dance, calypso, gigue, lap dance… there are sooo many varieties of dance we enjoy today.
The entertaining performance of traditional Ugandan dance and music by Ndere Troupe is what initiated these thoughts on various dance forms. I’d watched traditional Ugandan dances many a time. But getting to enjoy the playing of musical instruments, singing and dancing in a serene ambience in the amphitheatre at the Ndere Centre was an entirely unique experience. To quote from Ndere Troupe’s website, “In Africa written words didn’t exist, thus Africa’s cultural history, literature, knowledge and wisdom were recorded and passed on to succeeding generations through the medium of performing arts music, dance, storytelling and poetry.”

 

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The programme started with playing of various instruments and singing.

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Kiganda dance from Buganda was originally only to be performed by the people of Obutiko clan and only in the palace.

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Dance of Bunyoro tribe. Bunyoro tribe belongs to the Toro region in Western Uganda. This is a courtship dance. Men and women sit around a fire reciting poems. Then men start dancing in front of each girl and the luckiest one gets chosen.

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Banyankole are the people who belong to the Ankole tribe, one of the four traditional tribes of Uganda. They are from South Western Uganda. This region is also famous for the Ankole cows with their distinctive curved horns.

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Dancers of Alur tribe hail from north western Uganda. One of the main instruments they play is called an Adungu.

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These are the dancers of the Acholi tribe. They belong to the Luo Nilotic ethnic group from northern Uganda.

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The percussion ensemble from Burundi , another east African country, was quite amazing. They came in balancing the heavy log drums on their heads drumming and singing. These drums are made from the trunks of a tree which grows only in Burundi.

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Intore (the dance of heroes) is the most famous traditional dance form of Rwanda, another east African country.

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It was a visual treat indeed. This post will not be complete unless I mention the tasty Ugandan meal which we all enjoyed after the performance.

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10 Feb 2014

It’s cold out there…

It is cold… believe me, it is really really cold… Brrrr… it is brrrrold. No, that is not true. Brrrrold is bracing cold. When you want to go for long walks with a sweater thrown over the shoulders and something from Starbucks in your hand. Cold that makes you think of good things like fireplaces and warm red wines and chocolate brownies.

What we just went through is nothing like that. This was frrrold… freezing cold, bone chilling cold, mind killing cold. Cold that breeds inertia, cold that makes you think of the equator and escape.

The polar vortex, as the cold snap was called by the meteorologists, has set many records, including the coldest Jan 7th since 1896!

Apparently, it has also inspired many to conduct interesting experiments. We all know about the ‘lick the lamppost’ experiment… who doesn’t love A Christmas Story? Happens, a girl in New Hampshire really did that and was stuck to the pole for 15 minutes before she could be freed. She apparently hasn’t seen the movie, or couldn’t resist the ‘triple dog dare’!

Some other interesting experiments include throwing boiling water up into -17 degree F air, blowing bubbles that freeze in mid-air, and making slurpees by super cooling soda. If you would like to see these in action, take a look here.

Anyhow, when weather gets this cold, I know it is time to pack my bags and bid adieu to New York for a few weeks. Fortunately, the salt mines where I work has offices all over the world – literally. So by the end of the month, I’ll be happily headed to Bangalore, part work and part vacation. And won’t be back till the buds start waking up and daylight savings time is on again. 🙂

Thinking of travel, I knew I needed a new toiletries bag. And I had to make it before my trip. So finally got around to it this week. Yep, being house bound has its advantages too; things get done!

Actually, there is not much to it. Take a rectangle and circle of fabric, make partitions in the rectangular piece, attach it to the circular piece, and you are done! 🙂

Any kind of sturdy strong material will work for this. The measurements will depend upon how big you want it. Mine is nine inches tall with a six inch diameter. For that the measurements were 23×17 inches for the rectangle and 7 inch diameter for the circle.

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Make a narrow fold and stitch 4 inches on two of the short sides of the rectangular piece.

Fold and stitch both the long sides of the rectangular piece, one inch on one side (the side where the side stitches are already made) and half an inch on the other.

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Fold and pin four inches along the long side where the half inch stitch was made. And mark sections as you see need.

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These are to hold the brushes, perfumes, lotions, etc. Stitch along the marked lines.

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Now, attach the rectangular piece (folded edge) to the edge of the circle. Turn inside out and thread a ribbon through the top fold.

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Tada… all done!

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If you would like more detailed instructions, feel free to email me: ria at thebigjackfruittree dot com.

~Ria

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Randomly…
I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (what else is beer for), the power to change the things I can (coffee to the rescue) and the wisdom to know the difference (workin’ on that one).

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10 Jan 2014