Sunday, October 28, 2012

Unciya and Hakata's birthday

 Unciya and Hakata, Grandmother and big sister in Lakota, invited a bunch of people for their birthdays. They are the heart and soul and workforce of the Flemish Leonard Peltier Chapter. Yet they got fed up by all the wannabes they have to deal with  when they visit certain gatherings. Thus they decided on a Flemish theme.

 Breughel and the food of his time became the fare: Black pudding sausages with organic applesauce, white sausages, frikadels with cherries, good dark bread and 10 kinds of regional beers and as a desert delicious safron ricecream with brown sugar. Doesn't Hakata look like the milk girl by Vermeer? Of course among the joy and bustle of dogs running around and the talking Leonard peltier was not forgotten: They passed out postcards to send to the White House to ask the President to commute Peltier's sentence. Good work my friends!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Two poet friends -

Recently two friends of mine who write poetry had a presentation of their latest book. One in The Black Panter by Marleen De Crée: Tussen boog en snaar (Between bow and string) a grandiose overview of her work and the other one in the Hoboken town hall Frank De Vos: Naamvallen in het ontheemde. In order to translate the latter title well, I'll have to do some more thinking. Naamvallen are conjugations of nouns and literally it is "Namedropping". That is the first problem, the second is in het ontheemde: normally it is 'de' ontheemde: the homeless, the rootless, the uprooted, a displaced person also a drifter yet 'het' ontheemde is not a stupid grammatical mistake, but a beautiful metaphor for the strangeness of the world in which we live. Both poets have great musical knowledge and taste. So for Marleen we heard Floris De Rycker playing the Thiorbe (imagine a very long necked lute) and Frank surprised us with Bach and others on the accordion, the poor mans organ. Both musical delicacies I had never tasted. Marleen deserves this second volume of the Parnassus series for her assiduous unwavering writing, unimpressed as she is by fads or fashions: You find really modern sonnets, other strict forms and when you read they flow, are natural and they will grab you. Yes I love her work and beginning of January a bilingual book will come out called 'Sequenza', as in the way Berio did some of his compositions. She chose 5 poems from 7 volumes of poetry when she turned 70, a good overview for English speaking readers.
Frank's work has a mesmerizing rhythm, almost like a litany in church with in the first cycle a repetition of the words: I, we, us: the solitary poet striving for, finding 'the other' in his writing. I am very impressed by his anti war poetry. If you can read Dutch, just get both books.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The ugly face of flemish nationalism

I am compelled to write about politics today. In Belgium there where communal elections and in Flanders' biggest city Antwerp he, whose name I don't want to give more google hits, won. The arrogant, aggressive, power hungry bully declared "The city is ours"... Ours? A non-inclusive city, with strict separations between who is part of 'us' and who is not? No way. The city's slogan used to be "The city belongs to everybody", an inclusive idea which worked. Commentators say it is good that 'he' won since the extreme right lost half their votes. A good thing it is not: The extreme right was a clear enemy, surrounded by a 'sanitarian cordon' meaning that no other party would govern a town with them. According to their own figures his party, the N-VA, has 21 % people who came from the 'Vlaams Belang' (former Flemish Bloc) embedded in its list. According to vlaams belang even 40%. So the extreme right becomes salonfähig and thus invisible in its workings. The leader who won was biting in his speeches, merciless in his moment of victory. He and his supporters marched loudly as a mob to the town hall, almost storming it, claiming it theirs. The man lost half his weight in a short time with a crash diet. He not only cuts a sharp image now a days but he is even sharper and ruder than before. He declared the local elections to be a preview for the next elections in 2014, when he hopes Belgium will be turned into a loose confederation. Flemish Chocolate? Walloon steel? To me that would be an aberration since I perceive there is something like 'Belgitude': Magritte, Ensor, Absurdity, 13 dog breeds, a joie de vivre. The storming of the town hall, the physical demonstration of their power is over the edge of democratic behavior. Oh how sad it is to be an aging hippie, living in an non-inclusive society where rudeness and aggression is rewarded. Ugliness rules. All the efforts to keep Antwerp a lively town with not to many cars and car free walking streets will also be undone with parkings in front of the Rubens' house and the Town square, two places where now one can walk around, go for a drink and relax, talk with friends.
With N-VA as the leading party there can be no relaxation. We all need to be vigilant and live our values, whatever may come, lest we end up in the capital of Dystopia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Futures envisioned in song and dance: Hola!

Agencefuture got it's start years ago in London. After a doctorate about the images of the future on the BBC, Maya wondered how the future was imagined in the real world. She and photographer - camera man and fervent cyclist Bram set out in the world on recumbent bikes to go in search of the images other people hold. Their latest venture was the Maono project for which they made a wonderful road book for each of the participants to fill out or to be inspired by.
A wonderful result of the cooperation between development aid, research into the future and working together with artists in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the song 'Hola' which has been written and composed and performed as part of the project. Joy and peace, creativity, understanding and a good dose of perfectionism and respect are the ingredients of this heartwarming song.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Black Lamb

During the opening of the group exhibition of Black Lamb I got intrigued by some of the artists and spoke with three of them. Bruno Kristo's work I knew and thoroughly appreciate and I went because of him. And as a friend says: stick your nose out of the door and something will happen. The first artist I had a conversation with was Yosvany Malagon Hernandez from Cuba. His work is interesting because of his philosophical approach to art history and because he transforms political criticism in art. I loved his artistic rendering against violence and capital punishment. He also has a series of the Polish Pope worked in in different paintings relevant in European cultural history. He often combines objects and pictures in his work. I had forgotten by camera so please look here for all pictures. The second artist was Japanese Hiromi Oikawa living in New York. The paintings which spoke most to me were two portraits of a young girl. One an involuntary suicide bomber, who went to the police in tears and showed how she was rigged, trying to get rid of the bomb. She was punished at not yet 15 years to seven and half years of imprisonment. The other girl is her best friend's daughter, innocent open giggly. And then Italian Norma Des: at first glance passing by her pantings, I thought frilly, girlish, decorative. Yet, the work kept calling me back. My subconscious must have felt how she empowers women. Pink as innocence is deconstructed through a pink loose ribbon as perverse. In an other painting an abundant redhead says: mette mi come segno: show me as a sign (maybe even a signal). We spoke at length, brushing up on my Italian. Through the lively conversation I learned to appreciate a painting I had felt to be horrible, seeing the beauty but also despair which befalls us all at times...