Saturday, April 4, 2015

Between light and dark, exhibition by Lucienne Stassaert and Louisa Chevalier

In Zoersel this exhibition brought quite a crowd. Two very different painters, who share an obsession which is to express what haunts them. I didn't know the work of Louisa Chevalier:
 The series of empty beds, in different positions, in different states of disarray, in different light, made up or with a glaring  absences of who has slept... Painful loneliness which is expressed in small paintings.

Lucienne Stassaert, Poet, prose writer and painter also chose to show her smaller work.
In different colors she paints, the presences and absence of people, the trooping together of people in strangely eerie spaces.
Her paintings are statements, like the bird who perished  after an oilspill. I would call Lucienne a political painter with deep emotions. I love the texture in her work and the variations on a theme. Roger Nupie held a fine introduction, brief, informative and to the point.

Opening night at Brass in Brussels

George Senga is a philosopher working in Lubumbashi. He was one of the people invited to show their work. The place itself has a special kind of magic: part of the old industrial aspects have been  kept as they were, and the real Restoration has made the building interesting for shows, performances, video art and just friendly gatherings of people. I saw video projections on a canvas through which you a body thus in fact projecting on a vague body. George Senga has a series of pictures with the spitting image of Patrice Lumumba. A slender man who realized his likeness and started wearing his hair like Lumumba, his jackets are alway a bit too wide in the shoulders... This is a strange way of questioning what would have become of Patrice Lumumba if he had not been killed. Would he have gone on and be the teacher to the people, would he have been "recuperated" by power and/or possibly by money... In the picture below
Patrice Lumumba is on the right and the double
is on the right. I like this questioning of historical figures. There were many performances and installations, works in chalk which seem very vulnerable...  I love the erased words..., creating a new meaning by omission.
It was a beautiful and pleasant evening and a pleasure to get to know the African artist Georges Senga.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Selma, Martin Luther King, the movie and memories

The movie 'Selma' is moving and very well conceived. I love how Martin Luther King keeps making the case for continuous non-violent action against all odds. The film brought tears to my eyes and made me proud of what the people, often at high personal cost acchieved. The cast is sublime, the humanity of the main characters shines through.
My late husband Tony Mafia once mentioned to me that at the first march to Selma he went along with some friends in an old Volkswagen bus. He lived in Los Angeles at that time. What he told me was indeed that on the bridge the local sheriff and the cops really went out of their way with their batons to hurt as many people as possible. He even mentioned that German shepherds were send in against the marchers. Many black people and lots of young hippies were injured. He didn't go to the other marches not liking the violence, not liking to see how people around him got shot or killed in other ways.
I was a young teacher in an interpreting school when all this happened. I was the teacher for English interpreting and spoke also about all things American. Sadly, the message today still needs to heard. Sadly black children still live all too often in dire circumstances and shamefully black boys still are killed by white cops and vigilantes who all too often go unpunished.

We are one race: the human race and we are all born equal.

 Here you can see the trailer of the movie.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Journalists and writers under threath in Nigeria-

What about freedom of expression? What about safe working conditions for journalists?

I was lucky to have visited Nigeria when I still worked for the European Institutions. I found it to be an enchanting place, with a lot of possibilities, yet where things on the human rights spectrum still go very wrong.

I quote: Since 2009, five Nigerian journalists have been targeted and killed while no perpetrators have been brought to book. Nigeria ranked 11th on CPJ's 2014 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free.

It is of paramount importance that the authorities ensure Ekpimah's safety. The commissioner of police is not protecting him, stating "I do not care about you."

It is also impossible for the journalist to collect money to defend himself...

How did this story start? The inforation about this says: "Etim Ekpimah, correspondent for the daily PUNCH newspaper in the southern state of Akwa Ibom, told CPJ he received several threats via phone and text message on Sunday from individuals who said they would force him out of the state over the story he had published that day. The story, called "Akwa Ibom: State where commissioners, others, kneel for Akpabio's wife," recounted how government officials knelt toward the wife of the governor of Akwa Ibom state at a political rally and at the Independent National Electoral Commission office, where ministers were being presented with certificates.

There is a real thread when a person from Akwa Ibom one should be very cautious. The CPJ Committee to Protect Journalists takes the threats seriously and they stated that "Etim Ekpimah, correspondent for the daily PUNCH newspaper in the southern state of Akwa Ibom, told CPJ he received several threats via phone and text message on Sunday from individuals who said they would force him out of the state over the story he had published that day. The story, called "Akwa Ibom: State where commissioners, others, kneel for Akpabio's wife," recounted how government officials knelt toward the wife of the governor of Akwa Ibom state at a political rally and at the Independent National Electoral Commission office, where ministers were being presented with certificates.

Emmanuel Ojukwu, spokesman for the national police, told CPJ in a text message that the alleged response of the police commissioner would be investigated. "The mandate of the police is to protect the lives of all citizens. ... The life of every journalist falls in line with that mandate."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fatena in the Lazarus chappel in Rumst

After a brief introduction about Pen-Flanders and what we do in defending freedom of expression and authors world wide who get into trouble for their writing and for refugee authors like Fatena and many others. It is quite a feat for a poet who is a refugee from Palestine to do a reading. It involuntarily turns into a haunting reading in Arabic and whomever is accompanying her reading the real fine Dutch translation of her work. Yet people see her Palestinian scarf and soon the questions become political: The ancient writings as the Bible and the Koran are invoked. (yes the capitals matter in this case). One speaks about the destruction in the Gaza strip, the family living in the same house, because so many houses have been bombed to smithereens... Interesting is that when Fatena is in Palestine, she feels not death around her but life, people carrying on the best they can, children playing in the rubble and new life coming into this world. So the will to survive is stronger in the volatile situation in Gaza than in Flanders, yet she thinks more about death when here... Was it a gloomy morning in the wonderful Lazarus chapel? Not at all! People listened to her even not understanding a word, were captivated by the beauty of the sound, understanding the content only when read in Dutch. Having just heard how she read the particular poem, which stanzas were loud and fiery and which one quiet and plaintive, I could kind of follow in her footsteps. The discussion went on after the the time was up, with a warm kindness, a glass and some nibbles and questions and opinions flew around in a real meeting of the spirits. Again, an inter cultural encounter, with widely differing opinions, some being pro Jewish, others more differentiated in the way they expressed their questions or worries. The appreciation for having learned something new and  having heard beautiful poetry was the prevailing mood.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Interculturalism made easy and fun thanks to poetry

Fatena Al Ghorra is a star. She writes well and performs well and binds people to her across cultural differences. So she organized a well attended evening in the Stadsmagazijn. People read in Arabic with translation, read in English and in Dutch. Current PEN-Flanders president Joke Van Leeuwen read from her book Four ways of waiting. A lot of people from the cultural scene were present, mainly those working with learning the language and showing newly arrived refugees the way through the long corridors of the institutions, helping to get their papers in order. The poetry was great and so was the music. The sitar player choose popular tunes which all the Arab speaking crowd joining in and singing along.The amount of food was spectacular, three women had cooked all day, thinking about dishes that were vegetarian, nice salads, rice with chicken. All that with the specific spices of North Africa. It all was tasty and cozy. Cake and falafel, home made hummus, it was all there to be tasted.

Her book 'Gods Bedrog' is a bilingual edition: Arabic and Dutch, published by Uitgeverij P.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

City Poems for Bruges

Sometimes a request to translate poetry into English leads to more than just the translation and the corrections. This certainly was the case for this translation of the strange and strong poetry by Lies Van Gasse. Luc Vanneste was great in reading through the text and publishing it and for giving me a lot of food for thought.
I have a lot of sympathy for the Lapperfort Poets Society. It reminds me of the thoughtful anarchy I strive for.

Last year I translated the poetry of Peter Theunynck my then co-chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN-Flanders. His writing is deep and thoughtful, knowledgeable about the history and present of Bruges. Some jobs just bring their own rewards.

Enjoy the links to these two beautiful poets!