“Nunga Koom Talg Na Ta”…

The show began...

 

This is Michael Mel’s artistic performance entitled, “Shoosh! Na Kang Temani te tokor il. Nunga koom talg na ta” (Shoosh! I am chanting a tale. Give me your ears). It has a familiar Shakespearean ring to it but actually it comes from PNG! The chanted tale is presented in Michael’s language, Melpa – one of the major languages of Papua New Guinea spoken mainly in the Western Highlands Province. 

Michael was the co-curator and one of the PNG artists who brought the ‘Hailans to Ailans’ international exhibition of contemporary PNG art to London during Fall this year. He made his extraordinary debut performance in London on 24 September, 2009 at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery. An absolutely riveting performance! How else could I describe it. 

Beautiful bilum carpet for Michael's performance. Bilum - an increasingly recognizable cultural item of PNG.

 

Michael, a performance artist and arts educator,  tackles the difficult issues confronting PNG and indeed humanity through his art. In this performance which he created for this show (re: Pamela Rosi write-up in the “Hailans to Ailans” catalogue), the message I took away was that the constant challenges of living in two worlds is a common characteristic of anyone who accepts someone else’s way of life, ideas, philosophy, religion etc and at the same time staying true to his/her roots. It’s like juggling lemons and oranges but not allowing one to hold sway over the other. Michael showed us that one can live in two worlds with respect, appreciation, dignity and love for life through a process of engagement and dialogue. 

Michael steps onto the makeshift stage of colourful bilum, chanting...

 

As Michael entered chanting, I had this feeling that we were about to witness another of Papua New Guinea’s unique forms of art. What’s more – a one-man show. His costume bore the symbols of Papua New Guinea – not of the Western Highlands or the Melpa tribe –  but of a nation which is struggling to grapple with some very real and deep development and cultural issues. 

This was to be another blockbuster uniquely Papua New Guinean performance.  I really was expecting an important message. I had no idea what that message was going to be but I knew that something exciting, moving, artistic and significant was about to happen or be revealed. 

I hope these pictures captured the breath-stopping performance of Michael and his art form and what I saw and witnessed that night. A performance with a carved wooden figure, a member of the audience, a screen which provided the background and narrative of the performance, plus vocal interventions at appropriate moments during the performance. 

 

 

War on cultural hegemony et al...

 

Michael’s story hit me between the eyes. I don’t know if others in the audience felt that too. His message was gut-wrenching. Never have I experienced an artistic presentation of a difficult topical issue in such an intelligent, sincere, gentle and creative way.  Mind you this was not even in a West End theatre, but nonetheless the quality was equal to that of a West End theatre production! As the story began to sink in, I felt my gut kicked inside out as tears rained down in silence in the dimly lit room. I shielded my face with my camera. I looked at the audience, all eyes were fixed on Michael. He was giving us a significant message of life through his performance.  Urging us psychologically to change our behaviour towards eachother and towards our environment. Powerful! 

The anguished expression - priceless!

 

The naked truth so brilliantly delivered! The plot of Michael’s performance was so profound and moving there was hardly a sound – only his voice and that of Rosanna Raymond’s (of ethKnowcentrix fame and another iconic artist from New Zealand) in collaborative partnership for the performance. The air was deathly quiet as he delivered each piece of his act. It was world-class! I ventured to think that the heart of every Papua New Guinean in the audience swelled with pride that evening.  Mine did. 

Indigenous culture etc - hidden, abandoned, annilated?

 

Frustration, fear and uncertainty?

 

Christianity in PNG - its advent, its influence, its impact...

 

Tightening the noose - who is responsible?

 

The yoke...in all its manifestations...

 

During his performance a screen at the back of the stage provided a sort of commentary of the various scenes. There was some sort of dialogue also or rather verbal interventions made by Rosanna Raymond (behind the scenes) at certain parts of the multiple-act performance stressing the messages as needed. 

Empowerment - liberation of cultural identity and expression...

 

A process of 'engagement and dialogue' - empowerment to co-create and share responsibility in all spheres of human life!

 

It was a brilliant one-man show. Perfectly planned and executed.  The impromptu engagement of a member of the audience was a pleasant surprise because it seemed to the unsuspecting audience a choreographed move.  I think that was the way Michael planned it. I was standing next to the gentleman when Michael invited him on to the stage. The invited guest graciously accepted the invitation, played along with the plot, and the net result? Perfect integration! Michael created a cultural jigsaw puzzle. He was weaving his story for us. In the process we  became a part of that story too – the subtlety was simply amazing. 

 

 

Shared responsibility...

 

The shared concern for the environment - its conservation, its sustainability

 

 

An audible gasp went up from the audience as the bags were emptied of their contents right there and then on the stage. The message came across loud and clear – we could choose environmental degradation or environmental sustainability. The choice was one that reaches far beyond the shores and boundaries of PNG – it is a mighty choice for  humankind to make. A 21st Century issue – very much current and serious. 

 

 

This performance was the most unique I’ve ever seen.   In his interview with Dan Lepsoe, Michael said, ” Storytelling features in our tradition as a tool to connect the past and present…it’s about bringing the past o the present, about creating opportunities for young people to say, “This is ours.”. There needs to be a process of engagement and dialogue. They need to be brought to the table.” 

About this performance, he shared this with Dan Lepsoe saying, “My work is all about audience engagement, about creating a presence, a shared meaning…In Western culture, there is a dichotomy between the world inside and the world outside. For us, there is a continuum: we are challenged all the time, and we challenge what’s outside us.” 

I hope that Michael, with the support of sponsors, will take this performance to every province of PNG – all 20 provinces (inclusive of the National Capital District).  This story needs to be shared with every Papua New Guinean. It is our story. 

Finally, from Michael’s documented interview with Dan Lepsoe, came this, ” Visual culture reminds us of what’s carried in our minds: performance art gives us occasions to share.” Spot on!

Flora-lly Speaking…

250 years of gardening par excellence...

I first heard about Kew Gardens when I came to London a fair few years ago. I kept on putting off a visit until late September this year. The journey by car took less than an hour. The big challenge was trying to get out of the central London traffic. Phew!

What a feast of colour! The Gardens are so peaceful. I felt as if I were in another world. Just outside the gates of the Gardens is the bustling city of London. The Gardens are like an oasis made up of different parts of the world – flora-lly speaking.

I’d like to say it with flowers and that’s exactly what I’m going to do on this post. I am going to share my photos of the vast range of floral delights found in one lovely corner of London.

The roses in the Gardens seemed to be at the end of their flowering glory so the beautiful blooms were not so fresh on this Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless, I managed to capture some of the colours in the afternoon glow.

The cacti and the orchid exhibits were the most interesting to me. I was absolutely mesmerised by the cacti. Some of the shapes were amazing and beautiful. The collection was magnificient. I’ve never seen so many different types of cacti in my life before. Simply awesome!

I reckon pictures of the orchid exhibit are worth showing separately. Exotic and alluring, orchids are some of my favourite flowering plants in the world. The Kew Gardens selections are simply exquisite. Watch this space.

I must admit I love flowers and exotic plants – flowering or otherwise. Once inside the Gardens I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were flowers and plants of many descriptions. I took heaps of photos of plants, trees and other attractions in the Gardens. I guess I was trigger-happy again with my Nikon D80 (sold now).

To see the rest of the Gardens we decided to take the open train around the grounds. That was probably the best way to see as much of the Gardens as time would allow. A pagoda stands silent and impressive among the trees which we saw on our ride around the Gardens.

I had a wonderful time and as usual, to remember my visit, I raided the souvenir shop. 15 minutes later –  two beautiful mugs with the pagoda print on them and a big coffee table book  on paintings of the flowers and plants found in the Gardens. This is an amazing book, “The Art of Plant Evolution” by W. John Kress and Shirley Sherwood.  When I first saw the name Sherwood it reminded me of the legend of Robin of Sherwood – what a coincidence!

My visit to Kew Gardens was a great eye-opener. I feasted my eyes on the beautiful collections and exhibits spread over large areas in the Gardens. I did not get to see the lot since time was a constraint. But I promise I’ll visit again to learn more about this beautiful oasis in the middle of this bustling northern metropolis.

Lights On, London! You Beauty!

The Christmas Carol brings on the spirit of Christmas 2009

I’ve almost forgotten what central London looks like at Christmastime since I moved to north London. The lights on Oxford and Regent Streets are absolutely gorgeous. I’ve totally forgotten how these lights really bring on the spirit of the season. I was in London for a spot of last minute shopping and what a joy it was to walk out of the shops and see the lights on the main street.

Wondered about the credit crunch...

Lights above and the shopping crowd below – makes one wonder if the credit crunch has gone away or just that the Christmas spirit is so strong in the city people will risk life and limb to shop for Christmas gifts. Although I try to avoid the shopping crowds I am amazed at how Christmas makes everything else a triviality. Was Christmas meant to create a feeling of well-being immune to economic reality that continues to besiege businesses – large and small? The influence of Christmas is definitely overwhelming!

Stunning umbrellas 'ellas 'ellas...

Looking back towards Oxford Street just past John Lewis department store, I caught my breath. Whoever thought of umbrellas of lights must be a true Londoner – never leave home without a brolly. Umbrellas are synonymous with London – it can rain at anytime so always be prepared. What a stunning theme! Breathtakingly beautiful.

A massive gift-wrapped pressie - a gentle reminder?

Despite the credit crunch the shopping crowds were out and into every store standing on the main street. The massive wrapped pressie symbolises the priority of the season for lots of people and it gets one wondering that no matter what happens – credit crunch or no credit crunch, people can still celebrate the season.

Hammock of light?

Walking down towards Regent Street above us was this massive hanging blanket of lights – hammock or a magic carpet of lights? Can’t work out what it is on it’s own. Don’t know what the theme is here but it is awesome.

Looking down the main street - fishing nets in lights?

Closer to home in Middlesex I realise that the lights of London compensate for the dark, cold streets in Winter. My photos of the lights in central London reminds me of yet another festive Christmas season. Once again, London says it with lights, in style!

Christmas Reflections

May Christ be the centre of Christmas always.

The Nativity is the centre of Christmas for Christians of all ages, races, ethnic backgrounds etc. It features in the Bible. The Sunday services before Christmas Day focus on St Luke and other Books of the Bible which tell us about God’s chosen  – the Virgin Mary – as the earth Mother of Christ, the birth of Jesus and the historical setting and events at the time of the birth of Christ. In most Christian homes around the world, the Nativity scene/setting is displayed – some made of wood, glass etc in a prominent place in the home.

Candlelight a main feature at Christmastime.

Every year we celebrate Christmas on 25th December. It does not matter what religion a person is, we ALL still celebrate Christmas.  For many the spirit of Christmas is all about buying Christmas presents, sending Christmas cards and cooking seasonal Christmas food and drinking traditional Christmas drinks, such as Heston’s extraordinary Christmas Feast. Why does the world celebrate Christmas?

Symbols of Christmas

A question that has been floating around my head is: Why do we still spell Christmas with a capital ‘C’? What is the reason for this. It then follows naturally with another question, if  ‘C’ stands for Christ, what does Christmas mean to Christians?

Tonight I am going to my local Church for the Christmas Eve service. I am really looking forward to the service and the sermon that follows plus the Christmas carols we sing. The traditional carols such as “Silent Night”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”. How many of us actually pay attention to the words?

A close friend of mine said to me that the words of “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” really speak out to him especially the four lines of the last verse of the carol: “If I were a wise man, I would do my part; Yet what can I give Him – Give my heart”. This carol was by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 – 1894). Again “Christ” in the songwriter’s first name. Coincidence?

Ichthus...in the spirit of Christmas

When I am writing out Christmas cards I also write out cards for my friends who are not of the Christian religion. I face the dilemma of – to give or not to give – a Christmas card to a non-Christian friend. But  I do so in the belief that if everyone regardless of religious belief celebrate Christmas, they could go the whole hog and accept a Christmas card from a Christian friend – yours truly. I usually don’t have a problem with that. I think so long as the Christmas card does not have any symbol of Christianity, such as the nativity on the card or the name of our Lord, Jesus I think that is fine. The safest and respectful way is to send cards which have: “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” etc. Figuring that out somehow seemed easier than the other questions.

The Lord Jesus - at the centre of Christmas

So as we reflect on this important celebration, on everyone’s calendar, this year, I wish all my family and friends, colleagues and aquaintances a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Snow-Man’s Land Or Icecream On The Ground…

A Winter wonderland at my doorstep...

Last night it snowed like nobody’s business. We had about 2-3 inches of snow. It started snowing about 9.00pm and continued relentlessly for hours.

Mountain of snow - en route to Minneapolis from Austin, Minnesota

When I was growing up in the tropics, I thought snow was like icecream on the ground. Well, how can anyone not having seen snow before understand what snow is.  Simple! Since most of us eat icecream (or know what it looks like) the next best thing is to magnify the quantity of icecream humongous-illion times and voila! there’s your snow in the tropics. Unless you can spare the cash this exercise could blow your year’s icecream budget let alone trying to stop it melting in 33-degree tropical heat and scorching sun.

Winter sightseeing in Ottawa, Canada

I have been to places where snow is taken for granted as a familiar seasonal powdery stuff that can turn into gunk and clog up pathways, roads etc.

Snow blizzard in New York City - out and about on my birthday!

Here in Middlesex this morning, the snow was still thick on the ground as I looked out of the train. However, I was clearly disappointed that there was no powdery goodness in Central London. Nothing to chat about except that it was cold and miserable. At midday the sun came out but was gone in a few hours. Such is life in snow-man’s land.

A Rising Sun: The Wonder Of It All

The wonder of a rising sun...

On Monday morning this week, I walked into my bedroom to collect my mobile phone near the bedside and I saw that the room was bathed in orange light. I naturally looked out of the window and caught my breath! Quickly I ran out of the room to get my camera in the living room downstairs. One mad woman hah? and all of this running around for what? Yeah, for what?

Went back up again and promised myself not to miss yet another beautiful opportunity to capture one of nature’s beauties. I drew the white lace curtains and stared at the sun. It was like looking at an egg yolk only that this one was brighter and bigger. My camera went click, click, click  and for about 15 minutes or so I just stared – what an awesome sight.

I am fascinated with rising sun and setting sun. There is something about these natural phenomena that is unexplainable. All I can say is that these sightings never fail to warm my heart. Such magical moments. Sometimes I feel my camera can capture my mood just by the angle of the photo I’ve taken or the colours that have so vividly aroused my imagination.

Through the haze of the morning, the sun rose in the distance and sat on a throne of its own. My eyes bathed in its brilliance, and my mind occupied with the wonder of it all.

Buying Or Selling Property – Friendly Reminders

I came across this article on lovemoney.com. How refreshing to read an article on one of the most important decisions anyone makes in their life – to buy or not to buy, to sell or not to sell – property.  

I think that this article lays out food for thought which I call ‘friendly reminders’ – I couldn’t agree more with the author Rachel Robson.   

Check out this link for the 10 most important friendly reminders:  

http://www.lovemoney.com/news/the-property-ladder/the-top-10-property-mistakes-4282.aspx  

Take heed of these 'friendly reminders' - don't make the same mistakes.