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Photo: Honolulu Museum of Art
“Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 1,” 1939, by Georgia O’Keeffe.
 

Who knew that the great Southwest artist Georgia O’Keeffe also painted Hawaii? I myself was surprised to read the report at the New York Times of a new exhibit showcasing the artist’s Hawaii art.

William L. Hamilton writes, “Finding out Georgia O’Keeffe had a Hawaiian period is kind of like finding out Brian Wilson had a desert period.

“But here it is: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaiʻi,‘ 17 eye-popping paradisal paintings, produced in a nine-week visit in 1939, and now on display at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, through Oct. 28.

“It is the first time the largely unknown group has been shown together since its original exhibition in 1940 at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place, in New York. In addition, there are two oil sketches never before exhibited. And not a bleached skull in sight.

“As with previous shows on artists — including Frida Kahlo and Claude Monet — the Garden has also mounted a living display of the subjects depicted in the artworks, and more. In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory are over 300 tropical plant types, representing the three major groups of flora in Hawaii. …

“[The] air is palpable in the humidly colored, freshly amplified palette of her paintings of hibiscus, wild ginger, pink ornamental banana, and the sea and landscapes in the library gallery, with its muted gray background, as meditatively sensual as a Hawaiian open-air church.

“That air also hangs, warmly spiced, in the Conservatory, with a profuse display of the natural exoticism of the islands that goes well beyond the painter’s depiction. …

“ ‘Every single portrait she painted — the heliconia, calliandra — they’re all imported,’ Todd Forrest, the Garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections, said of O’Keeffe’s output. ‘That’s the sort of flora people have in their mind’s eye when they think of the islands.’ …

“Missing from her vision, as eager to absorb the overwhelming newness of the place as she was, were Hawaii’s true nobility: the hundreds upon hundreds of native species that exist nowhere else. To its credit, the Conservatory has represented them too, a group rarer to see than even the paintings. …

“O’Keeffe, of course, is an art world star, one of the first of the 20th century’s artists singled out for celebrity. Her larger-than-life flowers are famous too. Since 1924, she had studied and depicted them — gone to the startling heart of them — with her original style. …

“She was already a celebrity in 1939 when at 51, self-created and self-confident, she was asked by N.W. Ayer & Son, a Philadelphia advertising agency, to travel to the islands to produce two print-ad images for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, later Dole. Not known for commercial work, O’Keeffe had completed a commission in 1936 — what would be the largest of her flower paintings — for the Elizabeth Arden Sport Salon in New York. …

“ ‘What she wanted was an adventure,’ [Honolulu Museum of Art deputy director Theresa Papanikolas] said. …

“ ‘Many of the native plants are endangered and therefore they can’t be shipped,’ explained Francisca Coelho, who designed the edenic installation. The Garden worked with the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, which provided cuttings and seedlings of natives legally transportable. …

“And there are tiny groves of pineapples. O’Keeffe cavalierly neglected to paint any while she was in Hawaii on Dole’s dime. Her sponsors had to send her a pineapple when she got back to New York. Ignoring that, she painted a pineapple plant from her memory of being in the fields — a budding fruit guarded like a queen by its threatening wreath of swordlike leaves and fire-colored dirt.

“ ‘I laughed so hard,’ said Christine Gentes, who was visiting the Garden from Chicago with her daughter and sister. ‘She did it for an ad, and turned it into a painting. I mean, she really resisted. Artists never like to do that kind of work.’ ”

Lots of great pictures here and here.

Photo: Tim McDonnell /for NPR 
Samuel-Richard Bogobley holds a GPS-enabled tablet to capture the location of one corner of an underwater clam “farm.” Collecting data is the first step in protecting indigenous livelihoods.

I love reading about how people around the world come up with constructive ways to use technology. This story is about clam farmers in Africa enlisting GPS data as a first step in protecting indigenous rights.

Writes Tim McDonnell at National Public Radio, “Samuel-Richard Bogobley is wearing a bright orange life vest and leaning precariously over the edge of a fishing canoe on the Volta River estuary, a gorgeous wildlife refuge where Ghana’s biggest river meets the Gulf of Guinea.

“He’s looking for a bamboo rod poking a couple feet above the surface. When he finds it, he holds out a computer tablet and taps the screen. Then he motions for the captain to move the boat forward as he scans the water for the next rod. …

” ‘Before you can start to recognize a fishery, you need to have a lot of data,’ says Bogobley, a researcher with Hen Mpoano, a Ghanaian nonprofit that supports small-scale fishers. ‘These people don’t have any platform to fight for what is theirs.’

“The Volta River is rich with clams, harvested year-round by a bustling community of several hundred fishermen and women. The meat is packaged for sale across West Africa, while the shells are ground into an additive for whitewash and chicken feed.

“The riverbed itself is divided into intricate real-estate parcels, each one an underwater clam ‘farm’ with its own caretaker.

“The farms have become a flashpoint in a broader conflict over the land rights of indigenous peoples in Africa: The clam fishers have no legal claim to their farms, and are under increasing pressure as they compete for prime real estate with the booming tourism industry and cope with the impacts of climate change. …

“[Clam farmer Kofi] Amatey spends most of every day working here about ten feet below the surface, gathering clams into a basket. Wearing eye goggles and a weighted belt, he breathes through a makeshift scuba apparatus that pumps air from a compressor on his canoe.

“It’s a subsistence living: Amatey estimates that he earns less than $1,000 per year. And in recent years, it’s gotten even harder.

“A crop of new luxury resort hotels now crowd the riverbanks, forcing the clam fishers off of land where they used to live, dock canoes and process clams. Tourists’ speedboats and jet skis churn the water, threatening to topple the narrow dugout canoes loaded with clams. …

“Without a formal, legal claim to the clam farms, Amatey and his neighbors say they have no way to protect themselves from hoteliers and other developers who acquire deeds from the government. …

“Many indigenous land rights lack protection because of a scarcity of data. …

“That’s where the GPS tablets come in. A growing number of research groups and international aid organizations are rolling out software aimed at making it easier for anyone with a tablet or smartphone to accurately map community-held land and record basic information about its proprietors. This data alone doesn’t offer any legal protection, but it’s an essential starting place.”

More here.

Photo: The Human Rights Warrior
New study suggests that children exposed to music from other ethnic groups become more tolerant.

Numerous studies have shown that children pick up biases against other ethnic and racial groups at a very young age. Here’s a study suggesting that the music of other cultures can temper that process.

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard, “Ethnocentrism remains a fact of life in both Europe and the United States. Combating it will require teaching a new generation to view members of different cultures as potential friends rather than threatening outsiders. But what mode of communication has the power to stimulate such a shift?

“New research from Portugal suggests the answer may be music. It reports schoolchildren around age 11 who learned about the music and culture of a faraway land expressed warmer feelings toward immigrants from that country than those who did not. What’s more, those positive emotions were still evident three months after this exposure to the foreign culture. …

“[The] study, published in the journal Psychology of Music, featured 229 Portuguese sixth graders, all living in greater Lisbon. Two-thirds came from blue-collar families.

“The students began by filling out a survey in which they were presented with 10 personal traits — five positive (including ‘hard-working’ and ‘honest’) and five negative (including ‘stupid’ and ‘lazy’). They were asked to pick those that applied to members of three ethnic groups common to the Lisbon area: Portuguese, Brazilian, or Cape Verdean people. …

“For the next six months, half of the students took part in a specially designed ‘cross-cultural music education program.’ During the 20 sessions, each of which was 90 minutes long, they learned about Cape Verdean culture, and listened and sang to both Portuguese and Cape Verdean songs.

“At the end of the program, all the students again filled out the survey in which they evaluated people of the three ethnicities.

“Among those who took the class, ‘prejudice towards Cape Verdean people was reduced,’ the researchers report. ‘Attitudes towards other groups were not altered.’

“In contrast, prejudice did not drop among those who did not take the class. A follow-up three months later found the same pattern held for all of the youngsters, meaning the prejudice reduction for those who took the course had stuck.”

More here.

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I know it’s possible to take good pictures on cloudy days, but for me, the play of sunlight and shadow is irresistible. And this time of year, Midsommar in Swedish, has so much sunshine.

Today’s photos feature my usual Massachusetts and Rhode Island haunts. A couple pictures may be slow to load as I am learning to use an iPhone and the size I chose is too big for a blog. I’ll get better at this.

The Mountain Laurel above is from one of my favorite walks — through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into wooded conservation land. The sunflowers by my fence were a gift from one of the ESL teachers I assist in Providence.

I got a big kick out of the deciduous holly tapping on the window. It was overcome with curiosity about what I was reading so intently at the kitchen table. (Answer: War and Peace.)

The next photo shows a child’s playhouse in Concord. I have never seen any child there and can only imagine how I would have felt to have such a place to play in as a kid. I would have thought I was in heaven.

Next comes an actual home in New Shoreham, one that is not much bigger than the playhouse. Decades before anyone spoke of “tiny houses,” a member of a church I was attending lived in this very small house year-round. It was known as the Doll House, although today the damaged sign says only, “Doll.”

Next to Doll, is a tiny restaurant called the Three Sisters with outdoor seating only and antiques on the fence. (Order sandwich combinations with names like Hippie Sister, Sailor Sister, and Twisted Sister.) There is also a small junk yard (antique yard?) that is fun to investigate while you wait for your food.

In the first sky photo, I was trying to capture the lower clouds, which looked like sheep, but I don’t think they are that noticeable given the whole view.

Finally, a Rhode Island sunset. Ahhhh.

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Photo: Rosa Furneaux
Haroon Ebrat reaches for his notepad, where he has written down audience requests. The entrepreneurial immigrant runs Afghan Theatre TV, a Farsi-language variety show, out of his garage in suburban California.

I’m impressed how this immigrant from Afghanistan took it on himself to keep his culture alive by broadcasting a variety show from his garage. Many viewers have responded with gratitude.

Jeremy Lybarger writes at Pacific Standard, “Afghan Theatre TV operates out of a soundproof garage 40 miles east of San Francisco. … It’s an unexpected setting for a studio whose Farsi-language variety shows stream online 24 hours a day to more than a million viewers a month, according to the station. But much about Afghan Theatre TV is unexpected, starting with its credo that politics and show business don’t mix. …

” ‘We entertain,’ says Haroon Ebrat, the network’s 66-year-old founding impresario and star. On most afternoons for the last six years, he’s shuffled out to his garage in house slippers to host the live call-in shows that have made him famous, or at least recognizable to the Muslims who mob him, groupie-like, in restaurants, supermarkets, and parking lots across the Bay Area. The calls — 500 an hour, Ebrat says — come from all over: Canada, Germany, Russia, Australia, and many of the dozens of other countries that make up the Afghan diaspora. …

“Afghanistan has been in a quasi-permanent state of war for over three decades, historically exporting more refugees per year than any nation besides Syria. Most Afghans decamp to neighboring Iran or Pakistan, but approximately 124,000 live in America. …

” ‘He has preserved the culture of Afghanistan,’ says Ebrat’s 36-year-old daughter Shabnam, who hosts a call-in show of her own, often accompanied by a local psychic who counsels callers about work and love. Such preservation has come at a cost, both literal and cultural.

“Afghan Theatre TV is a family business, as are many of the more than 3,000 ethnic media outlets. … In between these segments of original programming, the station airs Afghan music videos and concert footage, and on some nights local musicians perform traditional songs like a live house band (hence the soundproofing). Ebrat, a prolific filmmaker, also screens the movies he’s made, which are ultra-low-budget mash-ups of comedy, action, and music starring him and his family.

“The station boasts a handful of Bay Area advertisers — kebab shops, halal supermarkets, Muslim-owned tax services — but Ebrat relies on his children to keep the lights on. (Shabnam is a real estate agent; [older brother] Burhan works with cars.) …

“Ethnic media, produced by and for immigrants, faces unique challenges. The relatively small niche audiences, for example, can discourage advertisers. … Even large outlets struggle to survive. Channel 18, a multilingual network that broadcast out of Los Angeles for more than 40 years, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 before finally shuttering its international format in 2017. …

“Part [the] experience includes reckoning with cultural disagreements within the same family. Shabnam Ebrat has become a target for older or more traditional Muslims who see her appearance — dyed-blond hair and make-up — as an affront to God. She doesn’t wear a hijab either. On Instagram, where her selfies reach about 23,000 followers, commenters debate whether or not she’s going to hell for posing in miniskirts and bikinis. …

“There’s the added stigma of being outspoken in a society that, to many Western onlookers, muzzles women. In Afghanistan, some women have no public identity of their own. They’re referred to simply as the wife of, daughter of, or sister of. …

“Overall, though, politics are absent from Afghan Theatre TV, where the maxim is that entertainment brings people together and politics drive a wedge. Haroon is more interested in the zombie horror movie he has in production than he is in discussing the White House. His only stated political aspiration, however vague, is to restore peace in Afghanistan.” More.

Seems like a good idea to stick to entertainment. One thing I’ve noticed while working with Afghan refugees, whether their first language is Farsi or Dari, is that individuals are, well, individualistic. Like groups everywhere, Afghans may have attitudes that diverge a good bit.

Photo: WideOpenPets.com
The University of Maine used baby goats to calm student stress during finals. Valley Edge Farm, which specializes in Nigerian Dairy Goats, provided the rambunctious kids.

This is exactly the sort of offbeat story I love. (Feel free to send me other kooky stories.)

Emily Burnham writes at Bangor Daily News, “For the past few years, the University of Maine has brought in therapy dogs — mostly cuddly golden retrievers and adorable Pomeranians — to soothe the frazzled nerves of students during finals week.

“This spring, however, it decided to try something a little different: baby goats.

“Brittany Smith, a staffer with UMaine’s campus activities board, got the idea when a co-worker mentioned that her sister, Abby Skolfield, owned and operated a goat farm, Valley’s Edge Farm, in the western Maine town of Strong. …

“A few quick phone calls later, a truckload of baby goats was on its way to UMaine, bound for an afternoon visit with students — most of whom had no idea they were going to hang out with month-old Nigerian Dwarf goats. Once word got out, a line stretched all across the mall, full of students waiting for their chance to pet a goat.

“ ‘I thought maybe 30, 40 people would show up, but this is ridiculous,’ said Smith. …

“Skolfield’s goats are old hands at dealing with crowds. Her goats are mostly for show, and they visit daycares and walk in parades regularly.

“ ‘I get hit up for goat yoga more times than I can count,’ said Skolfield. ‘I don’t see how that’s relaxing, but hey, whatever works.’ …

” ‘They come when called. Their little tails wag,’ she said. ‘They are the most dog-like of all livestock.’ ” More here.

I had actually heard of goat yoga! The goats stand on yoga students’ backs.

Video: CBS News

Photo: Arts Professional
Theatergoers can buy tickets at a Heron Foods store’s pop-up box office in the United Kingdom.

There’s a UK publication in which people who are in the arts write articles on initiatives their organizations have tested in case other groups want to try something new. This one is from a theater troupe in Hull. (Prolific arts and culture blogger Amelia in Hull is sure to know all about it.)

Magda Moses writes at Arts Professional, “Hull Truck Theatre’s pop-up box offices are part of our community engagement project called Community Dialogues. The project works to develop deeper relationships with people from areas of low arts engagement and high deprivation in Hull, encouraging them to come to the theatre, often for the first time.

“My job is to get out into the local community to build relationships between community organisations and the theatre, and to better understand the barriers that might stop people attending the arts. …

“As our community relationships developed, we recognised that barriers to engagement with the arts include time, cost, lack of awareness of what’s on, childcare and a sense of it being ‘not for me’. We realised that we could work with retail chain Heron Foods, which has busy stores in the areas in which we work, to learn more, build personal relationships and start to address some of those barriers. Heron Foods is already our main auditorium sponsor and offered us space to trial our visits. …

“I asked shoppers to share their past, present and future experiences of theatre, linking that with A Christmas Carol, our Christmas production. People’s experiences were extremely varied – some attended often, while others were unsure of why the theatre might be relevant to them.

“Members of our box office team then joined us, enabling customers to buy tickets from an iPad. We now run these pop-up box office and community engagement sessions in four Heron Foods stores once a month, and having other staff in attendance has helped the project become more embedded across the theatre. …

“We continue to ask people why they don’t visit the theatre. Some have told us they feel intimidated by the building, let alone by walking up to the box office to buy a ticket. Some are worried they don’t know the conventions of what to wear or how to behave. …

“One of the biggest barriers is ticket price. Why should they spend £15 to see something they don’t know if they’ll enjoy? We sought to address this barrier last November through the marketing campaign for our production of ‘The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca’ about the women of Hull who campaigned for fishing industry reform in the 1960s.

“We held back 100 pay-what-you-can tickets to the production, which were only made available to the targeted communities via the pop-up box offices. These tickets were popular and we received positive feedback that people were thrilled to be able to afford to see a play that was directly relevant to their community.”

Read how Hll Truck Theatre’s community-engagement efforts have worked, here.