The trip to Berlin and Paris was wonderful. I will post photos as soon as I can get them developed. Yes, I'm still using a film loaded camera! They are still used for Fine Art Photography, so I will always have the Canon Rebel 35mm even after I get a digital SLR.
Paris was everything I expected. I still daydream about walking down the Champs de Elysee and through the streets of this old, beautiful city. Instead of going to the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay, we decided to see the Centre Pompidou, the contemporary art museum. The center, itself, is a most interesting piece of modern architecture, and it showcased artists from around the world. But the best part of the trip was visiting the art galleries. I had the opportunity to see what the most famous city for art is currently selling! This stoked my imagination in such a way that I can't wait for my Senior Painting class next semester to explore the many ideas that I have!
In Berlin I visited the Pergamon Museum, the the Natural Science Museum, and a couple of art galleries. The Pergamon Museum houses the famous Pergamon Altar, which was built in 170 BC and is regarded as the masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture. It also houses an architectural reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate, an example of the most ancient forms of monumental religious architecture dating back the 4th millennium BC. I had studied these works in Art History, so it was amazing to actually see them.
One art gallery, in particular, was outstanding. It featured work from African artists and you can see it at www.friendsforeverzimbabwe.com The site is under reconstruction right now, so you'll have to check back on it to see when it will get back online. I'll post photos of a few pieces once they're developed.
Bonne jour, Denise
Thursday, October 7, 2010
On Monday, Oct 11, we are off to Germany and France. I'm a little concerned due to the travel alert just issued by the State Department. However, Ralph must go for a work project, so I will be brave and join him. Besides, I do believe that we should not let the threat of terrorism disrupt our lives, but should always be cautious of our environment. So I probably won't go up the Eiffel Tower, but I'll get within range to take good photographs. And you never know, once I get there I may change my mind and become my fearless self.
Friday, April 2, 2010
My trip to Saudi Arabia in January was very interesting indeed! From wearing an abaya and hijab to having the "privilege" of being in all male company in a land of total segregation of the sexes, the visit was one of the most interesting of my life.
Riyadh is a desert city in the middle of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. It is the capital of the country and one of the most conservative cities in the country. Not only are Riyahdi women dressed in the abaya (a long, black robe or dress with long sleeves) and hijab (a head and shoulder covering), but they veil their faces in public. Foreign women are easily distinguishable because they don't veil their faces. And Riyadh has many foreign workers, both male and female, because it is growing so fast that there are not enough Saudis to fill all of the positions. And as in most wealthy countries, there are many jobs that Saudis will not do.
Saudi Arabia is a land of contrasts, from the most modern cities to the beautiful deserts.
We were the guests of King Saud University, the oldest university in the country. And let me say unequivocally that the Saudis were absolutely wonderful hosts and made us feel very welcome. One of my most memorable experiences happened on the plane before we landed in Riyadh. Ralph had a first class ticket paid by King Saud University, whereas we purchased a coach ticket for me. Of course, he had to share the first class passage with me! I went first class from Dallas to Frankfurt and he went first class from Frankfurt to Riyadh.
When we we within an hour from Riyahd, the flight attendant came to seat me in business class so I could deplane in the first class exit with Ralph. About a half hour before landing, I went into the restroom to put on the abaya and hijab. Upon landing, I went to the first class cabin to join Ralph. As he was getting his belongings he began to introduce me to the other American men that were part of the delegation. When they saw me their eyes nearly bugged out of their heads! They just knew I was an Islamic woman! It was hilarious as they tried to recover to introduce themselves! By the end of the trip when I had gotten to know them, I teased them unmercifully over their reaction that day!
My second memorable experience happened the day after our arrival. The American contingent, of which I was the only woman, was invited to the university, which is an all male campus. I assumed that I would not be able to join the men due to the strict segregation policy. However, the invitation was extended to me as well. A bus took us, along with our guide, to the campus. We were greeted by the graduate dean and vice dean, who were extremely nice men. Because it was the first day, I was trying to stick fairly close to Ralph. As the group of men walked to the elevator, Ralph stopped for some reason. Of course I stopped with him. When I looked up the group was about 50 feet ahead, so we began to walk toward them. Suddenly a security guard jumped in front of me. He said "Sister, where are you going???!!!!!!" He said it in a tone that indicated that he knew that I knew, as a Muslim woman, that I was not supposed to be in that building. I said "I'm with them," and pointed toward the group ahead. He said, "You're with..." and he said the names so fast I had no idea who "they" were! I pointed ahead again and said "I'm with them!" Ralph was mum. He didn't know what to say! I was apparently in this one alone (joke). By that time our guide saw what was happening and started to head back to us. I decided to go around the security guard and keep walking. The interesting thing about the incident was that I was actually honored by being stopped. The guard addressed me as "sister", which means I had succeeded in my goal to blend into the Saudi population through dress and appearance. He assumed that I was a person residing in Saudi Arabia, who was aware of their cultural practices.
For many years I said I would never go to the Middle East. The religious and cultural conflicts there always seemed too dangerous and daunting for me. But when my husband was invited and asked me if I wanted to go, I jumped at the chance. And I'm glad I did. After spending two days with the Saudi men, who treated me respectfully, and two days with the Saudi women, who treated me warmly, I can say that it was one of the most lovely experiences of my life.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
During the summer of 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Tocana, a very small village in the high jungles of Bolivia. The villagers are Afro-Bolivianos, a group which is rumored to include a combination of enslaved Africans who escaped from the silver mines and slaves who were freed after slavery was declared illegal. The first photo shows the cultural center, which was built in the style of an African hut with funds from USAID.
The villagers are very poor and in need of much help. The Afro-Bolivianos are the poorest of the poor in Bolivia and were not even a recognized group until early 2009, after Evo Morales, an indigenous Indian, became president. This photo is the church, which is one of maybe five buildings that compose the communal area of the village.
The people of the village often work communally. These two sisters were cooking in the community center kitchen on the day we visited. After working in the fields, the villagers gather at the community center for dinner. We donated six books to the center that were African story tales and informational books about Africa written in Spanish.
The children go to school in a one room cement building. Most of them are barefoot and have ragged clothing. The teacher instructs all grade levels, from kindergarten to 4th grade in the same room, all at the same time. When we handed out pencils, crayons, and paper to the children, the teacher, who also had holes in his clothing, was very grateful. We asked him what supplies the school needed, then purchased the items when we went back to LaPaz and sent them to the school by bus.
Going to Bolivia always reminds me how blessed we are in the United States. We have electricity, running water, decent homes or apartments, nice clothing, medical access, and many more amenities that make our lives easier. In honor of that privilege, I have decided to "adopt" the Tocana school and send them supplies every year. My goal this year is to raise one hundred dollars, which I will match, to purchase school supplies in LaPaz and send to the school. I ask you to join me in this small effort to change the world, one person at a time.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Coroico is in the north Yungas area of Bolivia. It is a very small town in the high jungle of the Andes Mountains. This photograph was taken from Hotel Esmarelda, where we stayed. Marina, my Bolivan friend and president of Alma de los Andes, and I took a minibus to Coroico. A minibus is essentially a converted van that holds about 14 people and is the main form of transportation in Bolivia. A new paved road has been constructed from LaPaz to Coroico, and I must say that this road is a far sight better than the dirt road I took seven years ago!
Once in Coroico, Marina and I took a taxi to the small village of Tocana. This was a very small and winding dirt road, and we shook like a martini getting there. But the trip was well worth it. We had the chance to visit with several of the women and delivered some much needed supplies to the one room school house.
We also had a chance to visit a local animal sanctuary, where we saw monkeys, parrots, turtles, and many other animals that have been saved due to the work of the owner and numerous volunteers. All in all, my trip to Bolivia was wonderful. In my next blog, I will post some pictures of Tocana and the animal sanctuary.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
LaPaz is a city of contrasts....warm days and cold nights, plains and mountains, the wealthy and the poor. At 12,000 feet high, LaPaz sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains and is one of the highest cities in the world. Most apartments, like the one in which I stay, have no central heat, so
every one covers up in layers of clothing during the day and many blankets at night.
Everyone gets a great deal of exercise here as walking is the norm. And it is impossible to go around the corner without going uphill or downhill in this interesting metropolis. There are more indigenous people in Bolivia than any other country in South America. And the streets are teaming with women who wear their national costume, a pollera or full skirt, with a sweater, a shawl, a bowler hat, and these very petite, flat, ballet style shoes.
The knitters of Alma de los Andes have been eager to participate in my research. And as always, they are very kind to me when I visit here. I am taking many photographs of the women and children, and I hope eventually to have a body of art work focused on the women of the Andes.
Friday, May 1, 2009
On Wednesday, May 6 2009, I'm heading for LaPaz, Bolivia. On this trip I am doing some academic research on a cooperative of poor, female, indigenous knitters in the Andes. The group is called Alma de los Andes (Spirit of the Andes), and they sell children's and dogs sweaters to tourists and retail stores. I have worked with these knitters for the past 6 years, providing work for them via a yarn company with which I worked, and volunteering my time by designing children's sweaters for them.
The exciting part of this trip is a side tour I am making. My plan is to visit several African villages in the Yungas to meet the people and take photographs of them in their living and working environment. The African population in Bolivia has been a legal non-entity for many years, and have fought tirelessly for civil rights. In 2009 the government finally recognized them as an official minority group. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of these people are extremely poor and live in substandard conditions. I will upload some photos when I return.
I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to visit these villages and know that I will be inspired to paint beautiful and expressive portraits that represent these people and their plight respectfully.