Archive for the 'Arts & Culture' Category

Happy Pongal

Wish You Happy Pongal

Inset of kolam featuring clay pongal pot and deepam

Pongal Tableau

Another inset of Kolam featuring the over-flowing pongal

A more linear tableau: sugar cane, pongal being cooked to over-flowing over a wood fire, the sun, and a plate of offerings

A few of the Pongal kolams drawn on two streets in Kuruchikuppam, Pondicherry

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Amazing Laughter

Are you smiling yet?  Coming upon this installation in Morton Park (Triangle) near English Bay Beach in the West End district of Vancouver is like, as visiting friend Smita Patel says, coming upon a laughter club in a Delhi park – you can’t help but be happy, if for a moment.

A-maze-ing Laughter” is part of the Vancouver Biennale 2009-2011, one of 28 sculptures based on the theme “in-TRANSIT-ion” installed along walking and biking routes, the new Canada Line and other mass transportation lines, and at the Vancouver International Airport.

Artist Yue Minjun uses his own face in a state of hysterical laughter as a signature trademark.  Additional photos by Dan Fairchild, the official photographer of the Vancouver Biennale, can be seen on the Biennale Blog, which also gives more information on the sculpture and the sculptor, including this historical context of the artist’s work in China:

Yue Minjun was a leading figure in what became to be known in the 1990’s as Cynical Realism, an artistic movement that emerged in China after the 1989 student demonstrations in Tiananmen and the suppression of artistic expression.  Humor, cynicism, repetition and an emphasis on the individual are common characteristics of this artistic movement.  Yue Minjun was one of the first artists to translate this new ironic view of contemporary life, one that is expressed in the nihilistic hilarity at a time when little was funny.

In Vancouver, the irony is not apparent.

Postcards to a Stranger

On select Fridays, the Vancouver Art Gallery throws a museum-wide party, called FUSE, with music and other live performances taking place in (literally) every nook and cranny of the heritage building.  Past parties have included make-up artists turning patrons into ghouls or other damaged creatures, bhangra dancers, live online chat displays, projected images on external building surfaces, and lots of live music.

One of the activities for the March 12 FUSE was “Postcards to a Stranger.”  At one station, you filled out your name and address on a label.  At another, you wrote out a postcard which would be matched by volunteers with a previously addressed label.  A few days ago, Mark and I received our postcards.

Mine said:

I’m standing right behind you.  Don’t look! Kapon

Mark’s:

Hey You – it’s me!

You are a truly gorgeous creature.  I hope you know & feel that.  Inside & out. I’m honoured to write to you.  I mean who still actually ‘writes’ these days… it’s becoming a lost art to send hand-written words.  Whenever you receive this, know that I was thinking of you when I sat quietly in the Art Gallery wondering who you are.  And knowing you are great & mystifying.  May this bring a little love & sunshine to you today.  You deserve it. Love Danae

Well Kapon and Danae – thank you!  It was indeed a treat to receive these cards in the mail. I hope the recipients of our cards were equally thrilled, if for a moment.

Ayudha Puja in Pondicherry

Ayudha puja at Renaissance Workshop

Ayudha puja at Renaissance Workshop

The people of Pondicherry celebrated Ayudha Puja on 8 October 2008, the 9th day of Navaratri (30 September to 9 October this year).  Durga puja is called Ayudha puja in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Ayudha puja is “worship of the weapons” – which in common terms is translated into implements and tools.

Father and daughter washing a scooter

Father and daughter washing a scooter

People clean their houses and wash all the implements and tools of their trade, including their vehicles.

Doorway decorated with palm and banana fronds

Doorway decorated with palm and banana fronds

People decorate their homes, offices and other places of work as well as their vehicles with palm and banana leaves.  The youngest palm fronds are cut and shaped into decorations. Unfortunately, most people now also use “modern” decorations, including colored crepe paper.

Mark and I were invited to two puja celebrations – one at the carpentry and furniture refinishing workshop of a friend (where we had the best food we have had to date in Pondicherry – the carpenters/cooks were from Bihar) and the other at the Shuddham office.

Snigda Marries Bapoorau

Bapoorau and Snigda in full regalia

Bapoorau and Snigda in full regalia

On the morning of 3 October 2008, Snigda married Bapoorau at the Sivakami Amman temple, off the Sivaganga tank, of the famous Nataraja temple in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.

Snigda, pre ceremony

Snigda, pre ceremony

Getting changed at the Sivakami Amman temple

Getting changed at the Sivakami Amman temple

During the ceremony; Bapoorau shows off his well-inked arms

During the ceremony; Bapoorau shows off his well-inked arms

Non-traditional mauling of the bride

Non-traditional mauling of the bride

By the temple tank

By the temple tank

Toe-ringed - it's offical now

Toe-ringed - it's official now!

Bike Valet

Bike Parking at Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Bike Parking at Vancouver Folk Music Festival

As preparations were underway for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival that took place this past weekend in nearby Jericho Beach Park, I wondered at the rows of metal barriers set up at the entrance to the Park on West 4th Avenue.  Were they meant to funnel festival goers through ticket lines?  On the afternoon of the 18th, it all became clear – the barriers were set up for supervised bicycle parking.  How wonderful!  If last year’s travel patterns are indicative of this year’s 10,000 daily festival attendees, 32% will have walked, ridden bikes, or been passengers in automobiles. (Last year, 17% took the bus, and 51% drove.)

Celebration of Light - Canada

Celebration of Light - Canada

Yesterday, I learned of Bike Valet, a secure bicycle parking service being offered free at several festivals and special events in Vancouver this summer by BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transport).  This year, BEST is providing Bike Valet at a total of six events and festivals in Vancouver, including at two viewing locations for the Celebration of Light, a fireworks competition that takes place in Vancouver every year.

Celebration of Light - Canada

Celebration of Light - Canada

This year’s competitors for the Celebration of Light are Canada, the U.S. and China.  Yesterday, Canada started off with a spectacular display based on the theme:  Attack, with Godzilla featuring prominently in the beginning of the show.

Laksha Deepam at Sendrakillai, Tamil Nadu

Laksha Deepam

8 February 2008

There is a tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF) in the village of Sendrakillai (in the state of Tamil Nadu), 60 kilometers south of Pondicherry, that serves as a sacred grove for the 2,000 people of the village. There are five temples in the sacred grove, and this grove, unlike the two TDEF in Pondicherry, is protected and used in a sustainable manner by the villagers.

Niranjan
Niranjan

Niranjan Kumar and a fellow student were the first people to study this ecosystem in December 2006 in their final year at the Salim Ali School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Pondicherry University. They categorized 54 species of trees and 48 species of liana (woody climbers) in the 12 hectares grove. The forest is the main source of medicinal plants and trees, edible fruits and tubers and firewood for the village. There is a family of nadivaithyam (traditional healers) that treat the villagers using plant extracts from the forest. (There is no hospital in or around the village.)

Entrance to Main Temple
Entrance to main temple in the sacred grove

There are two horses and guards that lead to the main temple of the sacred grove. The temple portico is flanked by two dogs. The villagers believe that if you whisper your prayers into the ears of the horses or dogs, your prayers will come true within the week. (Before he left the village, Niranjan prayed for a good job in an NGO and he landed up at Shuddham!)

Filling the deepam Boys filling deepam 62nd year 62nd year - lit

On the last Friday of the month of thai (the harvest month which begins with the Pongal festivities), Tamilians celebrate Laksha Deepam – one lakh (a hundred thousand) lamps. (This is the 62nd year that this village has celebrated Laksha Deepam.) The deepam are filled with a mixture of five different oils: nallennai (sunflower), pinnaennai, vilakuennai (neem), malataennai (groundnut or peanut), and thengaennai (coconut).  (One of the oils prevents the wicks from being blown out by the wind.)  20 years ago, one family sponsored the entire festival. Now, they collect donations from the village and surrounding areas for the celebration.

Lighting the deepam

Families participate in both the filling and the lighting of the deepam as the sun begins to fade. As the figure of the god is brought along the path from the village into the sacred grove, accompanied by a drummer, firecrackers light the sky and assault the eardrums (some of the firecrackers only produce noise).

Vendors set up their wares in a carnival atmosphere (with mobile rides – mini ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds and games – balloon shooting and ring tosses) and families come from neighboring villages by bus, trucks, and on foot to offer their prayers and to celebrate  into the night.


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