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GATEWAY TO THE LITERARY WORLD All images copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery.
of established publishers, journalists and authors with active experience in the fields of current affairs, education, social mobility, culture and arts. We aim to be a Gateway – not a Gatekeeper – and want to make great writing and arts accessible to all. We would love to make our Big World a smaller place when it comes to sharing experiences and promoting understanding through literary talent and creative global thinking. This issue’s cover image is by LA artist Kehinde Wiley: ‘Portrait of John and George Soane’ (2013) – see page 30
fontmagazine.org Contents 4 Industry Insight
Critical Crisis: Is the ancient art of the arts critic facing extinction? Comedy commentator John Fleming contemplates the prospect with critic and Font editor Nick Awde
6 Education Kindle’s
philanthropic mission to put eReaders into the hands of the world’s children
7 Disclosure Font digs
deep with New York novelist Meg Wolitzer
10 Goncourt Prize Winners Winning the Book
Battle: France fetes this year’s Goncourt and Renaudot winners
12 Lauren Beukes The South African writer’s new novel has earned her ‘more than a fair share of the Continent’s literary spotlight’
13/15/21 Festival Guide Font’s 2014 guide to literary gatherings around the world
8 Travel Globo Every City 14 Literary Eater Nicole
Tells a Story: Brandon Stanton set out to snap 10,000 people in one city
Villeneuve’s literary food blog paperandsalt.org combines food and words
16 Literary Festival Focus Magical Setting for
Culture: Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, explains why the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has become a leading light in the Middle Eastern literary calendar
Revolutionary Reading: North Korea has launched its first tablet this year
20 Passionate About...
Visual Healing: Part literature, part personal healing, part artform, Suzette Clough explores linking communication and creativity
22 Art & Design
Renewable Artisans: Artists embracing recycling and reusing as part of their creative process has given rise to influential and powerful creations in Haiti and Mozambique
25 Education Beyond Sight: Sophia Beckingham explores RNIB’s fight to change the literary experience of partially sighted and blind people 27 Industry Profile
Write on the Funny Side: Steve Bennett, the force behind leading comedy website Chortle, founds the world’s first comedy book fest
28 My Passion Dedicated manga fan PonderMoofin delves into the manga experience
30 Art & Design Global Village: Groundbreaking LA artist Kehinde Wiley is retracing global and cultural connections through his heroic urban portraits
Font magazine is published by Desert Hearts Media Editor: Nick Awde • Contact: email@example.com
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Critical crisis? Is the rapid demise of the arts critic in the United Kingdom a harbinger for the rest of the world? Font editor Nick Awde talks to comedy commentator John Fleming
elcome to the nation that has given us Shakespeare, Dickens and Orwell – and continues to produce a dazzling array of writers established and upcoming with each year. But today the United Kingdom is struggling to support the critics who discover these writers and who interpret their work for a wider audience. It’s not just literature that is affected. Symptomatic is the recent decision by UK newspaper The Independent on Sunday to celebrate its relaunch by sacking all of its staff arts writers. So is the critic as we know it an endangered species? To answer this, Font’s Nick Awde, himself a longstanding (and therefore endangered) 4 FONT two
Photo by Clara Payro
theatre/arts critic, turned to comedy writer John Fleming. As the ‘Boswell of the alternative comedy scene’, Fleming’s blog is bucking the trend that gives him – and his readers – a unique perspective not only on performers, but on critics themselves. His experiences throw up an interesting parallel for the world of literary criticism.
NICK AWDE: There aren’t really many literary critics as we understand the term who are still working full-time in the UK – it tends to be people reviewing their friend’s books, journalists doing a bit of piecework or a favour, academics regurgitating through the prism of their latest
research. Given your overview of people doing creative things in general, you must have quite a strong opinion on the role of critics.
JOHN FLEMING: There’s the argument ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, become critics.’ Performers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for example, are always complaining about inexperienced critics reviewing their shows. I guess it’s happening because more and more – to save money – newspapers are not employing staff critics. Some papers are even using readers who write or Tweet in with their opinions. It’s ironic that newspapers are sacking staff critics to save money because, if you’re a newspaper owner, you should be building up reviewers as personalities. As far as I understand it, with The Times and other newspapers which are behind paywalls, one of the attractions to the paying public is not that they can read news on the website – you can get that 24 hours-a-day on TV – the attraction is you can read
“It’s ironic that newspapers are sacking staff critics to save money because, if you’re a newspaper owner, you should be building up reviewers as personalities. One of the attractions to the paying public is not that they can read news – you can get that 24 hours-a-day on TV – but that you can read features written by known columnists”
But the UK has increasingly fewer of those critics who have both name and authority. We tend only to have NoName stringers at one end of the spectrum and Big Name columnists hired simply for their name. The counter-argument to that is that the audience is changing. You read reviews to decide whether or not to go to a show or a film or to buy a book. Do you actually want to read reviews written by people you actually share nothing with – who live in posh suburbs in three-storey Georgian houses – or do you want to hear the views of the sort of people you might actually go to the performance with? This is further complicated by the fact that in the UK we have a variety of terms such as ‘critic’, ‘reviewer’ and ‘pundit’. True. Now, when people talk about critics, they’re mostly talking about reviewers. There are very few critics who analyse things. The British don’t like that any more, do they?
That’s too French for us. It’s too intellectual. The British are suspicious of intellectualising. If someone writes a critique – which is a French word in any case – it’s viewed as someone being insufferably pretentious. Whereas a ‘reviewer’ is just someone saying: “Oh, this is quite good!” The British don’t like intellectualising. Having said that, yesterday I went to a lecture on The Science of Laughter at University College, London. And, this afternoon, I’m going to the launch of the Centre For Comedy Studies Research at Brunel University. What are critics like in France were you’re partbased?
They have a big newspaper industry there – though not for long – which offers pages on pages of daily opinion, some of which get given to arts critics because they can work in a mention of the president’s hairstyle or the economic crisis into a critique of a new novel or play. This is permitted, plus they all know their philosophy, which they usually just throw into whatever they’re writing. They can do that, and it’s expected by their audience. Whereas in the UK, as we all know, no one will pay you to do that, and even less will read it. Our opinion pieces keep the arts firmly out of it unless they’re industry-related – which tends to make them impenetrable to outsiders. If you’re a critic you have to write reviews. If this is such a tradition, then now is probably the time for us to be asking why do we have professional critics writing reviews? Instead of them wanting to sound very knowledgeable and cross-referencing long-gone arcane performances, should they be telling us: “I thought this new show was quite good and you should go?” The more experienced critics get, the more out-of-touch they risk getting with the people they’re writing for. The UK comedy audience, for example, is mostly people between 19 and 30. So maybe you want those sort of people writing reviews. The argument against that is you will then have 1,000 opinions by people who may not know what they’re talking about and may actually just be friends of the performer who are ‘bigging’ him or her up. I would argue that having ongoing, paid, Big Name critics is better but it is arguable! l Read more of John Fleming’s worldview at www.thejohnfleming.com
now on the web www.fontmagazine.org
features written by known columnists. So presumably if you have a critic whose opinions you trust – it used to be Dilys Powell on British cinema or Clive Barnes on the New York theatre scene – if you have an ongoing, named, trusted critic, then that’s going to increase your brand awareness and get more punters reading your product.
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Read the world
Worldreader’s mission is to make digital books available to all in the developing world, enabling millions of people to improve their lives Words by Joshua Burge
sing mobile phones (Worldreader Mobile) and eReaders (like the Amazon Kindle), Worldreader is providing children and families with access to hundreds of thousands of books, giving them an opportunity to change their lives. Working in partnership with both global corporate and grassroots community groups, Worldreader is on a mission, stating: “Technology is sharply reducing the cost and complexity of delivering reading material everywhere. We are developing the systems and the partnerships to get eReaders – and the life-changing, power-creating ideas
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contained in eBooks – into the hands and minds of people in the developing world.” Every day, millions of children struggle to get any access to reading materials. Worldreader uses eReaders, existing mobile phone infrastructure and declining technology costs to put a huge range of digital books in their hands. The results are so far impressive. As of recently, Worldreader has wirelessly distributed more than 441,000 African and international eBooks to children in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, and the children spend up to 50 per cent more time reading than before, with some reading up to 90 books in a single year.
Literacy is a critical driver of prosperity (OECD International Adult Literacy Survey 1994-98), and reading inspires and empowers. Yet in much of the world, people have access to a vanishingly small range of books. Fifty per cent of schools in subSaharan Africa have few or no books (SACMEQ II), slowing learning and societal advancement. And imagine what children miss if they never discover a favourite book about dinosaurs or space exploration. And that’s a discovery Worldreader is helping children make, by combining new technologies, mobile phone networks and declining costs to provide immediate access to hundreds of thousands of local textbooks, storybooks, and international literature. l Find out how you can help Worldreader change the world at www.worldreader.org/support-us Video links Worldreader in action at vimeo.com/36855552, and David Risher on why he co-founded Worldreader vimeo.com/33512117
Meg Wolitzer B
est-selling US novelist Meg Wolitzer jokes that she is a “30-year overnight success”. Aged 54, she is beginning to enjoy international admiration from critics and household recognition. Wolitzer has also raised her profile with a brilliant piece for the New York Times about the treatment of men vs women novelists, the way men write ‘literature’, while women write ‘women’s fiction’, and the way women are shoehorned into pink book cover jackets. Widely praised by the New York literati, Wolitzer has just launched her ninth novel, The Interestings. It’s a thought-provoking literary journey of snapshots into the lives of teenagers at summer camp through to adulthood, dragging up the everyday themes of childhood promise, unfulfilled ambition and definitions of failure and success. The Interestings makes intriguing reading and questions the rules which determine success and self-worth. Is it dependent on parental admiration, respect from peers, how many ‘likes’ you get on Facebook, how many followers you have on Twitter? The novel takes you back to a time in childhood when life seemed so much simpler and puts some of the fun back into mid-life crisis navelgazing with an unexpected wit that comes at you from left field. Her startlingly descriptive style paints a vivid picture of both American mundanity and simmering angst. She writes with an honesty and fondness that make the characters morph into life and have you questioning your own value system of personal achievement and success. Which talent would you most like to have (other than writing)? Math skills. That would truly be a superhuman power, as far as I’m concerned. Plus it would make my life so much easier and my chequebook would look neat.
How do you personally measure success and failure? Success is when a significant challenge
has been met. Failure usually comes when something has only been partly worked out to begin with.
Who do you find interesting? People who are passionate about how they spend their days.
What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you? Oh God... I guess he or she would expose my writing tics. I know I have them, I just don’t want anyone else to see them in my work. What can’t you live without (apart from the obvious, air etc)? Books and chocolate.
What is your relationship with wealth? Ambivalent. I’m not acquisitive, but I don’t like the anxiety and boredom surrounding money worries. What do you think is your greatest virtue? I’m a good and loyal friend.
Gender-neutral covers for books are an interesting breakthrough? Do you
think gender-neutral can have a positive influence in any other areas? Anything that doesn’t attempt an aesthetic meant to keep out half of the population sounds like it might be trying to reach new people. This could have positive effects in countless areas. What did you do last Sunday? I landed in England, jet-lagged and a bit rumpled.
Do you have any habits/rituals that you have to put in place before you write? I like to have a big bottle of my favourite green white iced tea on hand. Other than that, quiet, a clean workspace, and a solemn vow to stay off the internet. What is your current state of mind? Alert, enthusiastic.
What is the most important thing in life that you have learned so far? To try and be patient... l The Interestings is published by Chatto & Windus in paperback & eBook two FONT 7
Every city tells a story TRAVEL GLOBO
hen photographer Brandon Stanton was fired from his city job in the summer of 2010, he turned to photography and began his Humans of New York (HONY) blog. As Stanton said: “HONY came from an idea that I had to construct a photographic census of New York City. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. “I worked for several months with this goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs.” Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog, which over the past two years has gained a large daily following. With nearly one million collective followers on Facebook and Tumblr, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City. l
www.humansofnewyork.com, us.macmillan.com/humansofnew york/BrandonStanton
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GLOBAL AWARDS Pierre Lemaitre (Image by Thierry Rajic/ Figure)
Winning the book war As France fetes this year’s Goncourt and Renaudot winners, Laurence Salama looks at the traditions behind the prizes
has won the Goncourt – in 2003 it went to Jacques-Pierre s France prepares to commemorate the centenary of Amette for La maîtresse de Brecht (‘Brecht’s Mistress’), set the First World War in 2014, the winner of the 26th amongst the spies of Cold War-era East Berlin. Prix Goncourt, the country’s most coveted literary At the same time as the Goncourt was announced, the prize, is an appropriate choice. Pierre Lemaitre’s Au revoir làwinner of the Prix Renaudot was revealed. Yann Moix’s haut (‘Goodbye Up There’) is set just after the terrible Naissance (‘Birth’) is a rambling, almost slaughter on the Western Front. It is an ambitious, gripping epic that tells the story “Today, after more poetic opus that starts with the birth of the of the lost generation of soldiers than a century of author and charts his attempts to struggle free of his disapproving family. Well demobilised from the trenches, the ‘gueules cassées’ (‘broken faces’, i.e. those economic crises and known for the controversial content of his disfigured by war injuries) and the shady devaluations, the fiction, Moix is also known as a columnist, filmmaker and television writer. At nearly dealings of the post-war profiteers. Goncourt is worth 1,200 pages, his new novel is described as The novel was a clear favourite and already a bestseller at the time of its only 10 euros. But “an absolute homage to literature”. The Prix Goncourt rewards the best nomination. Usually Lemaitre is better its status alone can literary works published each year. Of the known to readers of crime novels and Big Six French awards, the Prix Goncourt screenplays – he has been translated into 15boost sales by the best known and most prestigious. plus languages. Remarkably Au revoir là500,000 copies or isAside from the Prix Renaudot, the others haut is his first foray outside the ‘polar’ are the Grand Prix du Roman de genre (an abbreviation of ‘policier’, the more” l’Academie Française, the Prix Femina, the French term for police detective fiction). Prix Interallié and the Prix Medicis. In this new work, Lemaitre convincingly mixes in his The Goncourt and Renaudot are jointly announced on the trademark elements of suspense with the denser social first Tuesday of each November. Since 1914 the results are historical backdrop. He must have been pleased to hear his made public at the Drouant restaurant in Paris, after the style described as “breathless and highly cinematic” by judges have enjoyed a good meal – a tradition appropriately Bernard Pivot, a former TV arts programmes host and one of outlined in jury member Pierre Assouline’s book Du côté de the Goncourt Prize jury. Lemaitre pronounced himself chez Drouant: Cent dix ans de vie littéraire chez les Goncourt pleased with Au revoir là-haut’s success in introducing “savoir-faire from the ‘polar’ genre”, adding that “this is good (‘A View from the Drouant: One Hundred and Ten Years of Literary Life with the Goncourts’). news for popular literature” and that he was “the happiest of The ten members of the Academie Goncourt also present people”. four other awards during the year: the Prix Goncourt du This is only the second time that a writer of thriller-style Premier Roman (debut novel), Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle fiction, a genre still not fully accepted by the French literati, 10 FONT two
(short stories), Prix Goncourt de la Poésie (poetry) and Prix Goncourt de la Biographie (biography). Moix won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman in 1996 for his debut novel Jubilations vers le ciel (‘Skyward Celebrations’). The Goncourt itself is named after Jules and Edmond de Goncourt – author/publisher brothers, who lived during the 19th century, while the Renaudot takes its name from Theophraste Renaudot, an early French newspaper pioneer from the 17th century. Although separate insitutions, the two prizes have been linked ever since the Renaudot was created by a group of journalists and literary critics as they awaited the announcement of the 1926 Goncourt winner. The first Goncourt was given on December 21, 1903 to John Antoine Nau, a French-speaking writer born in the United States, for the satirical Force ennemie (‘Enemy force’) – an oddball, forgotten masterpiece of science fiction involving mental asylums and alien possession. Today, after more than a century of economic crises and currency devaluations, the Goncourt is now worth a cheque of only ten euros. Nevertheless, the bestowing of its status alone can boost sales by 500,000 copies or more. A writer can win only once, although Romain Gary managed it on two occasions, winning in 1956 for Les racines du ciel (‘The Roots of Heaven’) and then in 1975 with La vie devant soi (‘The Life Before Us’) under the pseudonym Émile Ajar. The Academie Goncourt made the second award without knowing the author’s real identity – Gary’s cousin Paul Pavlowitch posed as ‘Ajar’. The ten Goncourt jurors lunch together every first Tuesday of the month, except in August, on the first floor of the Drouant. They debate the shortlist three times before the big day. To counter past criticisms, since 2008 jurors cannot be in the employ of a publishing house. Additionally, an age limit of 80 was set for future members, although the current president of the jury, belle-lettriste Edmonde Charles-Roux is an impressive 93 years old. l Pierre Lemaitre’s Au revoir làhaut is published by Albin Michel, Yann Moix’s Naissance by Grasset, Pierre Assouline’s Du côté de chez Drouant: Cent dix ans de vie littéraire chez les Goncourt by Gallimard/France Culture
FREEDOM TO WRITE FREEDOM TO READ
English PEN is the founding centre of a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries. We campaign to defend writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk. English PEN is a charity and we rely on membership fees and the generous gifts from our donors to maintain our campaigns and programmes supporting the freedom to write. You can support our work joining as a member, making a bequest, or by making a one-off donation. www.englishpen.org
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A timely view of violence? South African writer Lauren Beukes is attracting major attention in selected literary circles. Her second novel Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2011 and she was listed as one of The Guardian’s top ten African writers for 2013. Krishna Govender met up with the writer at the Edinburgh Book Festival and got to grips with her new serial-killer creation
he Shining Girls, the new novel by South African writer Lauren Beukes is nothing if not ambitious. Its aim, she tells me, is “to look at the 20th century and how it shaped us… in a really accessible way”. And her means of achieving this? A time-travelling serial killer who traverses the century laying waste to his victims with the ease of a psychopathic Dr Who. The idea itself couldn’t have been more 21st century, being Twittergenerated, stemming from the author’s musings on the social media site. Beukes could, she says, have done a straightlaced murder tale but instead chose something more along the lines of ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Killing Spree Through Time’ or ‘Back to the Future of Death’. “Magic happens,” she says, “when you let your subconscious off the leash to romp in the grass, when you’re not sitting there hitting your head against the monitor thinking ‘I’ve got to come up with a good idea! I’ve got to come up with a good idea!’” 12 FONT two
“Magic happens when you let your subconscious off the leash to romp in the grass, when you’re not sitting there hitting your head against the monitor thinking ‘I’ve got to come up with a good idea! I’ve got to come up with a good idea!’ ”
The Shining Girls of the title are the victims of Harper, a 1930s dosserturned-timelord. Beukes was determined that they should be more than just the nameless adjuncts of a serial killer’s career: “They’re unconventional in their context, they make the world a brighter place, but not in a twee way. It’s about kicking back against convention. “They’re unusual in their social circumstances. But it was important to me to cover a gamut of social circumstances, so it’s not all middle class.” So there’s a black Second World War shipbuilder, a lesbian architect and an Asian sociology student – and then there’s Kirby, the one who overcomes appalling injuries to fight back.
This is a century which saw the mechanised slaughter of two world wars, the Holocaust, innumerable Cold Wargenerated smaller wars, murderous regimes from the Soviet Union to South Africa, from China to Chile and serial killers ad nauseum – so you would think that the last thing it would need is more brutality, but The Shining Girls is full of visceral violence. For Beukes this is a necessary evil, a means of reaching out to a generation that’s become “inured to violence” through films and the media. “Violence has become meaningless. We’ve forgotten what violence is and what it does to us. I needed to punch you in the
face so you would reel away bloodied and wounded and hurt and angry – because that should be our reaction. So I’m sorry I punched you but I had to do it!” With this in mind, Beukes explains that she tried to write the violence from the perspective of the victims, with the outcome that “you’re not complicit with the killer, you’re not riding along in his head, you’re not getting off on it, which so much of popular culture does.” Beukes herself is not sure what motivates her murderous protagonist, citing child abuse, diet and genetics as possible factors. “I don’t know if people are born evil. But there are environmental things, so there’s definitely something wrong with him!” I’m curious about who Beukes is writing for. “I write for me,” she replies, “and I hope that there are other people in the world like me. So I don’t worry about marketing speak and which genre it’s going to fall into, I write the book I want to write and I let my publishers worry about that stuff afterwards.” l The Shining Girls is published by Harper Collins in paperback & eBook
Font’s 2014 guide to literary gatherings around the year around the world JANUARY Jaipur Literature Festival Jaipur, India DSC Jaipur Literature Festival is the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific, and the most prestigious celebration of national and international literature to be held in India. It encompasses a range of readings, talks, debates, performances, children’s workshops and interactive activities held in the beautiful heritage Diggi Palace in the Rajasthani capital of Jaipur. Entering its sixth year, JLF is now regarded as the Kumbh Mela of Indian and international writing, drawing in writers and readers from across India and the wider world: from America, Europe, Africa and from across the breadth of South Asia. jaipurliteraturefestival.org MARCH Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai Festival City, Dubai, UAE The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together with authors from across the world to promote education, debate and above all else, love of reading and writing. The festival creates a perfect opportunity for UAE nationals, residents and visitors to meet world famous authors, attend literary debates, listen to readings, participate in workshops and experience fringe and children’s events. Writing competitions and an inter-school quiz are amongst the
educational highlights, and young people also have the chance to hear and meet some of their favourite writers. With simultaneous translation between Arabic and English for selected sessions, the festival is a meeting of minds where ideas are shared and friendships are formed – not least among the authors themselves. The 2014 Festival will welcome more than 120 writers, thinkers and speakers from 25 countries. It is expected that 30,000-plus visitors will attend the festival which will have more than 200 one-off sessions and unique events in a programme that has been designed for wide appeal, with something to suit every taste. www.emirateslitfest.com
See feature on page 16
Shanghai International Literary Festival Shanghai, China Started in 2003, the Shanghai International Literary Festival is a sister festival to the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. Hosted at M on the Bund, the festival has grown from small beginnings to become China’s leading, and largest, Englishlanguage literary event. The festival extends over three weekends and includes a roster of more than 50 international and local authors and an audience of over 4,000. It has also become a significant event in China’s arts calendar, with programmes that include winners of the world’s leading literary prizes, including the Man Booker Prize. www.m-restaurantgroup.com/ mbund/literary-festival.html
Trujillo Book Festival Trujillo, Peru The Trujillo Book Festival is held in historic Trujillo, Peru’s ‘Capital of Culture’ of Peru. The last edition took place in the Plazuela El Recreo, a traditional square of the city and featured Peruvian writers such as Arturo Corcuera, Jorge Diaz Herrera and the young Colombian poet Lucia Estrada. www.triposo.com/section/Trujillo_ Book_Festival two FONT 13
ketchup. The meat was cottage roll ends or baloney, the cheapest meat you could buy.” Later, when she was married, Munro’s stories would continue to take a back seat to food prep. She told the Review: “I would write until everybody came home for lunch and then after they went back, probably till about 2.30, and then I would have a quick cup of coffee and start doing the housework.” Although Munro still cooks (one of her interviewers watched her prepare a meal, which made ample use of the Canadian countryside’s fresh herbs), she now often chooses to leave the kitchen
A winning taste of breakfast in bed Part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fan-girling, Nicole Villeneuve’s www.paperandsalt.org attempts to re-create and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors mention in their works. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Villeneuve currently cooks in a very small kitchen in New York City, and reads almost everywhere. Here she gives us a taste of the writings of Alice Munro
hen Alice Munro found out she had won the 2013 Nobel Prize in literature, she was in bed. The prize committee had tried to reach her earlier by phone but ended up just leaving a voicemail, so it was Munro’s daughter who, hearing the announcement, ran to wake up her mum. That somehow seems fitting for Munro, whose stories revolve around intimate moments of domesticity. If Hemingway is a moveable feast, Munro is breakfast in bed. Her writing is not only steeped in the household world; it also was created there. Munro’s desk is her dining room table,
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where she’s penned most of her work over the past few decades. As her interviewer at The Paris Review notes: “The dining room is lined floor to ceiling with books; on one side a small table holds a manual typewriter.” When she cooks in the neighbouring kitchen, her work is never far away. Is it any wonder the two are connected in her stories, as in life? Besides writing, cooking was the other constant in Munro’s own domestic drama. In her mostly autobiographical collection The View from Castle Rock, she recalls packing her father’s lunch in the morning, a regular chore: “Three thick sandwiches of fried meat and
As her interviewer notes: “The dining room is lined floor to ceiling with books; on one side a small table holds a manual typewriter.” When she cooks in the neighbouring kitchen, her work is never far away. Is it any wonder the two are connected in her stories, as in life?
to others. She regularly asks reporters to meet at her favourite restaurant in the nearby town of Goderich, Ontario – Bailey’s Fine Dining – where she has a usual table (corner) and a usual drink (white wine, Sauvignon Blanc preferred, multiple pours encouraged). Until just a few days before the award announcement, Haruki Murakami, known for his hulking postmodern novels, was said to be the front-runner for the Nobel. It’s hard to imagine a writer further than Munro. Her subjects are often described as “quiet” or “domestic” and (given that they’re short stories) “small.” Munro herself sometimes doubted their impact. As she told The New Yorker last year: “For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel.” But the major recognition of her work helps us all remember what a ‘small’ story can do – how an intimate revelation at the dining room table can hold as much truth as an epic; how a perfect fried baloney sandwich can sometimes hit the spot more than any six-course meal. l Shared with kind permission from Nicole Villeneuve of pepperandsalt.org
MARCH Oxford Literary Festival Oxford, UK More than 500 authors and public figures gather in Oxford for each year’s festival. There are now over 250 events available that include special sections for young people and creative writing courses. oxfordliteraryfestival.org
APRIL Crossroads of Civilizations: International Literature Festival Venice, Italy Every year Venice hosts the Crossroads of Civilizations: International Literature Festival, the literary event sponsored by the City of Venice, the Venice Department of Cultural Affairs and Ca’Foscari University Venice. The festival brings together prominent contemporary writers who discuss their works and culture with readers and experts in historic venues throughout the city. Nexa is the organisational partner for the event, co-ordinating all logistical aspects of this ‘marathon of literature’. www.incrocidicivilta.org MAY Auckland Writers & Readers Festival Auckland, New Zealand The Auckland Writers & Readers Festival was born of a desire to celebrate and promote literacy, reading, writing and ideas in the New Zealand capital. A community of writers, booksellers, publishers and avid readers invested grass roots enthusiasm into what has become an eagerly anticipated annual event. Three annual festivals
in 1999, 2000 and 2001 ran largely on volunteer horsepower before the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival Charitable Trust was formed in 2001. www.writersfestival.co.nz
JULY FLIP Paraty International Literary Festival Paratay, Brazil With the presence of such authors as Julian Barnes, Don DeLillo and Hanif Kureishi, the first International Literary Festival of Paratay, held in 2003, put Brazil firmly on the map of international literary festivals. Flip is now one of the main events of its type worldwide, characterised not only by the calibre of its guest authors, but also by the enthusiasm of the public and the hospitality of its host town. Throughout its five-day duration Flip holds some 200 events, including debates, shows, exhibitions and workshops. www.flip.org.br Hollywood Book Festival California, USA Hollywood Book Festival is an annual book festival in Hollywood, California. The festival honours books that deserve greater recognition from the film, television, video gaming and multimedia communities. This is the only publishing festival geared toward adapting print into different media. Including an awards ceremony and daytime event, the festival has been in existence since 2006. www.hollywoodbookfestival.com SEPTEMBER International Literature Festival Berlin Berlin, Germany ILB is an annual event based in Berlin designed to present contemporary developments in prose and poetry from all around the world. The programme has an annually varying theme or focus and several
subsections such as Literatures of the World, Children’s and Young Adult Literature, and Reflections, Specials including New German Voices, Slam Revue, Scritture Giovani, Speak, Memory and Literature on Celluloid. www.literaturfestival.com
Gothenburg Book Fair Goteburg, Sweden The Gothenburg Book Fair is an annual event that has been held since 1985. It started primarily as a trade fair for librarians and teachers, but is now the biggest literary festival in Scandinavia and the second biggest book fair in Europe after the Frankfurt Book Fair. The book fair usually takes place in the last week of September each year. It has around 100,000 visitors and 900 exhibitors annually. www.bokmassan.se
Festivaletteratura Mantua, Italy Festivaletteratura is a literary festival, held in Mantua since 1997. The town is host to five days of events which includes lectures by authors from all over the world. The lectures are hosted in historical places and squares and during the five days of the fair there are about 200 events. The lowprofile style has in time attracted many big names of literature, along with Nobel Prize winners. The attendance to the events roughly matches the population of the city, so it is necessary to book tickets well in advance. www.festivaletteratura.it Bangalore Literature Festival Bangalore, India The BLF celebrates reading and writing in the Garden City of India where you can meet local, national and international writers. The festival celebrates literary diversity, bringing it in conversation with the best minds in the world of literature within and outside India. www.bangaloreliteraturefestival.org
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Magical setting for culture Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
nder the dedicated guidance of Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has become a leading light in the Middle Eastern literary calendar. Abulhoul, born and educated in Cambridge, has made Dubai her home since 1968. Taking on the role of director, in 2008 she founded the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, bringing together people of all ages with authors from across the world to promote education, debate and, above all else, reading. In addition to holding sessions and workshops by top international authors, one of the key elements which sets the festival apart from other international literary festivals is the inclusion of a strong education and children’s programme. Next year’s edition of the multiaward-winning festival will be held in March, but related events continue throughout the year with events and workshops held at the festival’s home, the Dar Al Adaab, situated in Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi quarter. Abulhoul spoke to Font about the success of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2014 and emerging talent in the region.
FONT: You have recently been voted the best festival in the Middle East. Congratulations! What do you consider to be the key elements of the festival that contribute to its success? ABULHOUL: We realised there was a real thirst for a cultural event with a literary focus in the United Arab Emirates, not only from the expat community, who may have visited similar events in their home countries, but also from the Emirati writers as a way to bring their work to the attention of the wider world. A huge factor of the festival’s success has been the wonderful community involvement, from all the different nationalities living in the Emirates. Without this support, the festival would never have developed so quickly. In just five short years the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has become the Middle East’s largest 16 FONT two
“Arab world writers are undergoing a great renaissance currently, which makes it exciting times. It is great to see writers publishing books of fiction, plus graphic novels, children’s books, fantasy, plays and film scripts”
celebration of the written and spoken word. Its success has been in bringing people of all nationalities together with authors from across the world to promote education, debate and, above all, reading in a celebratory and enjoyable way. The growing influence of the festival can also be seen in the spread of visitors from other Gulf countries including Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
The festival celebrates both the written and spoken word. Are there any particular emerging names from the
Middle East region that are making an impact in these fields? Arab world writers are undergoing a great renaissance currently, which makes it an exciting time. It is great to see writers publishing books of fiction, plus graphic novels, children’s books, fantasy, plays and film scripts. I recently saw the film Wadjda in the UK, written and directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa al-Mansour. It was brilliant and a sure sign of creative talents coming to the fore and gaining international recognition. And in the Emirates, poetry is a very strong tradition where emerging poets are trying different forms, not just the more traditional styles.
The event brings together an inspiring, diverse mix of people from different lands and cultures. What have been some of the positive outcomes of this mix? The festival has always been determined that language should not be a barrier. As a result, simultaneous translation takes place in most sessions. In past years the festival has provided translation from French, Italian and Chinese, dependent annually on the language of the attending speakers. This year, with the
introduction of three French-speaking sessions, additional translation was provided so that French, English and Arabic speakers could enjoy the sessions equally. It is this international element which our visiting authors often find so appealing, giving them the chance to meet, exchange ideas, and forge friendships with their peers from other countries, whom they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to spend time with. We have also used our local heritage to create completely novel cultural festival experiences such as ‘Desert Stanzas’, which we introduced for the first time this year. Which other festival of literature has transported its audience, authors and venue to the heart of the desert, where the roof is the star-studded night sky, the walls the rippling dunes and the seating a scattering of Bedouin cushions? The event presented seven poets from Arab, Icelandic, Indian, Nigerian and English backgrounds – Adel Khozam, Nujoom Al Ghanem, Sjon, Jeet Thayil, Ben Okri, Roger McGough and Simon Armitage – who recited poetry, some with musical accompaniment, to an international audience. Emirati culture was reflected in the welcoming Harabiya dancers, the Bedouin encampment, local poets and a traditional Arab supper. A possibly unique element was eight kneeling camels that provided a live tableau and backdrop to the poets throughout the performance. Diverse cultures from around the world were represented in the multinational audience and on stage through words and music. This was a melding of cultures in a magical setting.
It is encouraging to see dedicated and enthusiastic sponsorship and support of literature and culture in the region. Do you think Middle Eastern cultural events are taking a lead on the world stage? Historically Middle Eastern culture has been embedded in the oral tradition rather than the written word, but increasingly cultural events are widening their scope to attract a more international audience. There is certainly strong support for what we do and we are fortunate in having very generous sponsors, and particular credit must go to Emirates Airline and Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. We are also extremely honoured that the festival is held under the patronage
for all and creating a culture of reading in the UAE. This is one of the key aims of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Encouraging reading for pleasure in adults and children and education in general are at the core of the festival. We want to foster a love of literature in all children and adults and share the joy which books can bring.
Author Noura Al Noman: Noting the huge deficit in books for young Arabs (aged 15+), she wrote her first novel, Ajwan, one of a handful of science fiction novels in the Arab world.In 2013, Ajwan was shortlisted in the Young Adult category of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature. (Picture courtesy of Emirates Festival of Literature)
of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vicepresident, and prime minister and ruler of Dubai. To celebrate our anniversary in March, he issued a royal decree that established the festival as part of a new charitable foundation.
This year, you have been named as the 16th most influential British national in the UAE by Arabian Business magazine. What motivates you the most? Books have shaped my life from when I was a small child. A need and ambition to share this love means I am passionate about encouraging literacy
When did you first develop a love for literature? My favourite writer is Ernest Hemingway and For Whom the Bell Tolls is my favourite book. I first read Hemingway’s novel as a teenager and it made a huge impact on me. I recognised the tightness and pared-down writing style and was amazed how he could transport the reader with such simple language. But he did and his books are still as relevant today. Hemingway inspired a generation of writers who followed him. The most important memory that I took with me was that the book covered just four days and yet a lifetime of living took place; the characters that Hemingway conjures up for the reader are so vital. However my love of books developed at my parent’s laps. They were both avid readers and no bedtime was complete without a story or two. A weekly visit to the library was an exciting highlight; being able to select any book I liked and have it stamped to take home to read. I didn’t always like the books I had chosen but this helped me develop ways û cont’d p18
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Flip Paratay International Literary Festival Thanks to the presence of such major authors as Julian Barnes, Don DeLillo, Eric Hobsbawm and Hanif Kureishi, the first International Literary Festival of Paratay, held in 2003, put Brazil firmly on the literary world map. Over the years, Flip has risen to prominence as one of the main events in the literary calendar, characterised not only by the calibre of its guest authors, but also by the enthusiasm of the public and the hospitality of its host town. Throughout its
of quickly finding out which books would be right for me.
What are you reading now? My favourite book so far this year has been The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and there are some brilliant modern authors around nowadays: Chimamanda Nguzi Adiche, Elif Shafak, Chris Cleave, Emma Donoghue, William Boyd, Katheryn McMahon, Kathleen Stockett, Jeffrey Archer, Hilary Mantel, Tan Twan Eng, Ian Rankin. The list is endless. I suppose the main ingredients I am looking for in a book are believable characters that intrigue me, so those particular books are mainly driven by the characters, and then page-turners, 18 FONT two
five-day duration Flip holds some 200 events, including debates, shows, exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and school presentations. Each year the festival pays tribute to a past writer. This year the focus was on Brazilian novelist, politician and journalist Graciliano Ramos – a modernist responsible for a long list of works ranging from children’s books to full-length novels – his most famous being the romance Vidas Secas. The next Flip is in August 2014 – www.flip.org.br
books that have great plots. I am currently half-way through The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. She has been selected as one of the Granta finalists – a great accolade for a writer. Then there is a higgledy piggedly pile of summer reading, to be dipped into, as time permits. Books nearing the top of the pile are The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, Passage by Justin Cronin, The Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar, The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I am very lucky in that I receive advance-reading copies of books before they are published, and I am always excited to discover a new writer. What can we expect from the 2014 festival? Any particular themes?
We are well under way with the plans for 2014. Each year is different – a different theme, a new group of authors, new types of sessions. This year’s theme will be ‘Metamorphosis’. We also have an expanded series of events that happen as part of the ‘Open Door’ programme throughout the year. This enables us to keep the flame burning and is an area that is really important. There is also a Festival Reading Group, amd not just for adults as a new one will be launched for younger readers too in the autumn, plus Arabic classes, author visits, creative writing courses and so on. l The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will take place in Dubai, March 4-8 2014 – emirateslitfest.com
Revolutionary reading North Korea has launched its first tablet this year – and while it’s clearly a handy eReader, downloading new material is not so easy... Words by Nick Awde
ust out this year is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s answer to the iPad. In the capital Pyongyang you can pick up an electronic tablet for just under $200 – clearly beyond the wages of the average North Korean, but eminently affordable for the curious, foreign visitor. Given the fact that the Samjiyon is produced for use within one of the world’s last totalitarian regimes, it comes as no surprise that wifi and internet access are absent, although you can tune in to two official state TV stations. By way of compensation, there is a wide range of free games to be played on the tablet’s 7-in colour screen. Also available is a handy range of tools and apps: MS Office, PDF reader, mp3 player, calculator, phonebook, camera and photo gallery. All these apps work smoothly, especially the multilingual dictionary that proves handy for translating from Korean to Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese and Russian. Admittedly, few of the rest of the world speaks Korean, but most of us use something made in the Koreas or that uses a component or program developed there. North Korea in particular exports software, mainly through China. Additonally, the Korean region has a long and vibrant literary and arts tradition with both modern nations, in their own way, proving to be powerhouses of cultural production. This is significant because North and South Korea, sandwiched awkardly on a small peninsula between China, Russia and Japan, have populations of 23 million and 50 million respectively, which contribute to a world population of 80 million Korean-speakers. In South Korea, the capital region of Seoul is the world’s second largest metropolitan area
with more than 25.6 million people. This is a serious consumer base for literature! It is no real surprise, therefore, to find that the Samjiyon comes with the wealth of pre-loaded reading material – around 500 dictionaries, reference works and eBooks. Although there are no audio books, there is a function allowing the texts to read aloud by a slightly robotic female computer voice. There is the tablet version of the state’s Korean Encyclopedia, based on the 30 print volumes produced between 1995 and 2001. Much of it understandably comprises “the immortal achievements of leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il and the revolutionary leadership of the Korean Worker’s Party”, but there is much more information among the 83,000 entries. The 54 volumes of the Korean Literature section contain classics like The Story of Ch’unhyang and Earth by Ri Ki-yong, and historical novels such as
the epic The Kabo Peasant War. The choice of the 28 volumes of foreign literature proves especially revealing: Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dresier, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland, Vanity Fair by William Thackeray, Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, Mother by Maxim Gory, Eugenie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac, and Rickshaw Boy by Lao She. These works share themes of the misery of ordinary life under the forces of capitalism and the revolutionary fight against it, or the patriotic battle against foreign invaders. In some cases, the inclusion is not as obvious, such as Gone with the Wind, which is described as helping understand how modern capitalism spread to all of the United States via slavery and the bourgeois battles of the Civil War. Korean leader Kim Jong-il is quoted in the introduction to Vanity Fair as saying that Thackeray’s 19th-century classic, along with Dickens’ Dombey and Son, is “a prime example of British realist literature”. l Images courtesy of northkoreatech.org and 38north.org
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Painter, psychotherapist and author Suzette Clough integrates art and personal healing with the purpose of transforming lives. Her book Visual Medicine – The Art of the Unknown explores allowing painting to unlock communication and creativity. She reveals the process to Paula Lester
How would you describe the process of visual medicine? Visual medicine is a radically simple painting process that allows images in a sense to be born not painted. You don’t use a brush; the paintings are made by scooping acrylic paint directly onto watercolour paper allowing the paintings to essentially paint themselves, flowing until they find their own energetic shape. What results is a spontaneous, alive and uniquely metaphorical template of your inner and outer life. I am not doing anything to the painting, I am allowing the painting to communicate to me. The paintings reveal themselves in the same way that ancient Chinese Taoists would understand Li, the study of energy unfolding and manifesting with no forced or predetermined outcome, which in turn is the study of how life energy flows. When we learn the energetic language of these unfolding patternings we can translate how that same life energy flows and unfolds within our 20 FONT two
lives. The paintings are coupled with a free associative writing process that teach how to translate this visual energetic language.
Tell us a bit about yourself and background. I’m from Australia and trained as a painter. I feel that the land where I grew up is really inside of me – the rawness, the earthiness, the power – as I had a lot of contact with nature in my early life. From the very beginning I realised that I didn’t want just to create paintings to hang on walls, it didn’t have enough interactivity. That has been a big preoccupation for me, that art is not just for walls it’s meant to transform people and change lives. I know that creativity has always been healing to me and I wanted to carry on the healing tradition of art. I got into psychotherapy in my 20s because I had a breakdown while I was at art school. I joined a women’s group and had therapy myself. I had a very deep sense that I wanted to link painting to emotional healing. How did you discover visual medicine? It has been a very long, fortuitous route. Whilst training, I worked as an art therapist in a psychiatric hospital. I used painting with women in an eating disorder group and I realised it was a very powerful source of healing – it seemed to tap into experiences and
thoughts that words alone couldn’t communicate. At the clinic I realised there was a disjuncture between what people wanted to communicate and express and what they could do. Often they weren’t able to express themselves completely and got caught up in judging themselves because what they imagined wasn’t coming through.
Is there a difference between visual medicine and art therapy? Yes there is. Art therapy is an attempt to communicate an experience that you have already had and to do it quite literally. Visual medicine is an experience of opening a space to allow whatever is within you to come forward. For example, I will not start visual medicine with a sense of ‘I’m going to express my anger, pain or happiness’. I am allowing a space for whatever is within me unnamed to have a space to be expressed and to communicate to me. The painting is becoming itself and talking to me about where I am. It acts as an inner teacher and a guide. You work with different groups, such as the business world. How would a business benefit from this kind of therapy? I am working with a number of businesses on product development. Visual medicine uses the right brain. Because the right brain is the true way in which we solve problems. Einstein
“I’m from Australia and trained as a painter. I feel that the land where I grew up is really inside of me – the rawness, the earthiness, the power — as I had a lot of contact with nature in my early life.”
said: “In order to solve a problem you must solve it not in the same paradigm that it was created in.” And when you use a right brain technique it sees problems in a completely different way to our left brain. It’s non-rational, non-sequential and has a completely expanded vision to solve business problems. It can be used as a way of resolving conflict and in product development as it offers another way of seeing something and goes beyond our limited thinking. Visual medicine or any right brain technique allows us to see beyond the problem.
What do you visualise for visual medicine in the future? I would love it to be taught in schools, I would love it to be used in the business world and would really like people to use their creative mind as a way of connecting with their spiritual lives. It allows us to open up in the widest possible sense of our creativity, not the part that is self-criticising and thinks that something – whether it’s a poem or a book – should look like a certain thing. Visual medicine is always surprising, it is curious, mystical and intelligent, and always repeats the lessons that we need to learn from it. For me, creativity, spirituality and emotionality are intrinsically linked. I also wrote the book for this reason. It is a teaching that, if it calls you, it can be part of an emotional, creative, spiritual toolkit. The book is written so that anyone can use this method – and I will also run an online course in 2014. l
Read the full interview with Suzette Clough at www.fontmagazine.org l www.visualmedicine.co.uk, www.suzetteclough.com l Visual Medicine – The Art of The Unknown is available at www.amazon.co.uk
Continued... OCTOBER Flipside Suffolk, UK
From the subtropical coast of Brazil to the magical marshes of Suffolk, take a walk on the FlipSide for the UK sister event to Brazil’s leading literary event. Launched by former Bloomsbury editorial director Liz Calder, Flipside is the Suffolk version of FLIP (Festa Literária Internaçional de Paraty), the Brazil-based literary and cultural festival that Calder and former Bookseller editor Louis Baum cofounded and have run for the past ten years. www.flipsidefestival.co.uk Vancouver Writers Fest Vancouver, Canada The Vancouver Writers Fest turns reading into a community experience, bringing people together to share thoughts, explore ideas, and witness brilliant conversations. For the past 25 years, the Writers Fest has enriched imaginations and the culture of the city, and has touched and inspired by creating a forum for authors to connect with readers by offering a vibrant exchange of ideas and conversation. The festival is a celebration of story, told by authors, poets, spoken word performers, and graphic novelists. For six days in October, this celebration takes place in the cultural oasis of Granville Island. www.writersfest.bc.ca
Istanbul Tanpinar Literature Festival Istanbul, Turkey (Oct/Nov) ITEF is an annual forum for followers of Turkish and international literature. Since 2009 writers, publishers, critics, translators and the media from around the world have had the opportunity each autumn to meet, discuss and exchange ideas, and to discover the rich literary voices of today’s Turkey. ITEF is a vision shared by individuals and organisations who are passionate about contemporary writing and literary heritage, who felt that the scene was incomplete without an international literary festival showcasing thriving Turkish literature. ITEF has been developed by Literature Across Frontiers, the European platform for literary exchange supported by the European Union’s Culture Programme www.itef.com.tr
NOVEMBER Miami Book Fair Miami, USA Miami held its first book fair, called Books by the Bay, in 1984. The twoday street fair grew steadily each year and by the 1990s, the renamed Miami Book Fair International had become the largest literary festival in the country. The eight-day book party draws hundreds of thousands of book lovers to downtown Miami each November for a festival of all things read and written. During the Street Fair weekend, more than 250 publishers and booksellers exhibit and sell books, with special features such as the antiquarians, who showcase signed first editions, original manuscripts and other collectibles. www.miamibookfair.com
MORE FESTIVALS AT www.fontmagazine.org two FONT 21
Renewable artisans ART & DESIGN
Recycling and re-using is a relatively new trend in Western arts but has been part of daily life – whether through necessity or creativity – in much of the rest of the world. Beauty and innovation is created out of the waste of others – and new ways of thinking are emerging that challenge the lack of creativity in those societies which wallow in excess and are beholden to consumerist trends set against a backdrop of an increasingly exhausted environment. Artists in other parts of the world are seeing value in others’ discarded excess. Rather than elitist past-time, art and artists are integral to community life. As thinkafricapress.com reveals, unique and astounding art happens when need and resourcefulness merge with creativity.
Sculptor Andre Eugene and art curator Leah Gordon talk about Haiti’s Atis Rezistans
rand Rue is the main avenue that runs through downtown Port-auPrince, Haiti. At its southern end lies a community that has a historical tradition of arts, crafts and religious practice. Contemporary Haitian artists Celeur, Eugène, Claude and Guyodo all grew up in an atmosphere of artistic endeavour and re-using salvaged materials. Their powerful sculptural collages have transformed the detritus of a failing economy into bold, radical sculptures. Their work references their shared African and Haitian cultural heritage, a dystopian sci-fi view of the future and the transformative act of assemblage. The monumental works they have created appear liberally throughout the local streets, as community-based art installations. Their use of the readymade components are driven by economic necessity combined with creative vision and cultural continuity. This close-knit community is hemmed in on all sides by the makeshift car repair district, which serves as both graveyard and salvation for the city’s increasingly decrepit automobiles. 22 FONT two
Against this backdrop the artists transform wreckage to art and create harmony out of disunity.
How did you start to use salvaged and recycled materials? Eugene: There was always something happening in our neighbourhood with music, many sculptors and Vodou all around. This made me begin the life of an artist. It’s usually always the bourgeoisie who own the galleries. But I wanted to have a gallery – not only a gallery but it had to be a museum. This was the reason why I gave the name ‘E Pluribus Unum’ Musee d’Art to my studio and yard. We can find most materials in Haiti that
you can find in other countries. In fact most of the world’s detritus washes up on the shores of Haiti in the end. I feel Atis Rezistans already recycles most materials… wood, iron, tyres, engine and car parts, human remains, toys, dolls, computer parts. Gordon: Sometimes members of Atis Rezistans are invited to Europe to recycle First World detritus as a kind of performance there. It feels to me that all detritus, be it First World or Third, is as different as bronze and marble for a sculptor, so this is a false understanding of their work and use of their skills. But at the same time the sculptors want to travel so they will take these offers of residencies. For me, as a curator of their
“We have the vision of sharing skills and helping other artists in order to use art to help the neighbourhood rise up out of poverty. We teach the younger children to make small work to help them pay for their schooling” work, I find that the work they actually make in their own locale has the most significance.
How does recognition in Western galleries affect your work? Eugene: The Haitian art market, galleries and collectors are not that interested in our work because they find it too brutal – after all, we take their rubbish and detritus and refashion it to put back into the salon! They also step back a little from artists that come from the lower classes. Also, if people come down and visit our neighbourhood, they know we are poor, so it is hard for us to negotiate for higher prices. Western curators and collectors are far less challenged by our work. I do not feel that I change the subject or form of my work for the Western art market – although I do feel pressure to name my pieces after Vodou spirits since many Western collectors prefer a piece that literally represents one of the spirits. Gordon: The Ghetto Biennial Foundation is neither an nongovernmental organisation nor a charity but has put Atis Rezistans onto the NGO/charity map – an unfortunate and unexpected consequence of the earthquake in 2010. So now members of the collective are offered paid work running art workshops for foreign NGOs, art workshops to help the children recover, to mediate in gang warfare and other projects. What worries me is that although most of these foreign NGOs like to employ Haitian artists for legitimacy, in my experience they often seem to project a Western paradigm of teaching art – totally alien from the local means of propagating art, which will then risk its own annihilation. û cont’d p24
onçalo Mabunda is interested in the collective memory of his country, Mozambique, which has only recently emerged from a long and terrible civil war. He works with arms recovered in 1992 at the end of the 16-year conflict that divided the region. In his sculpture, he gives anthropomorphic forms to AK47s, rocket launchers, pistols and other objects of destruction, drawing on a local history of traditional African art. The deactivated weapons of war carry strong political connotations, yet the beautiful objects he creates also convey a positive reflection on the transformative power of art and the resilience and creativity of African civilian societies. Mabunda is most known for his thrones. According to the artist, the thrones function as attributes of power, tribal symbols and traditional pieces of ethnic African art. They are without a doubt an ironic way of commenting on his childhood experience of violence and absurdity and the civil war in Mozambique that isolated his country for a long period. Born in 1975, in Maputo, Mabunda’s work has been exhibited at the Museum Kunst Palast,
Hayward Gallery, Pompidou, Mori Art Museum and the Johannesburg Art Gallery, among others. l For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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ART & DESIGN
How important is community to your art? Eugene: In our neighbourhood we have the vision of sharing skills and helping other artists in order to use art to help the neighbourhood rise up out of poverty. We teach the younger children to make small work as well which they can sell to visitors and make a little money to help them pay for their schooling. Of course we are aware how this can compromise the viewing of our own work and our standing in the art world, as the younger art can look unprofessional and simplistic. But we want to help the children leave their situation of poverty so we have to balance the two things, even though it
“What we need is public libraries, depots for cheap tools, a public art museum that promotes Haitian and international art, and a reasonably priced (or free) art school where young artists can train”
could probably hold the mature artists back in some ways.
Do the artists get support and recognition from your country? Eugene: We had some help from Haiti’s Ministry of Culture for a sculpture commission in 2005/6 but have not had anything else since. Fokal regularly aid us with a grant for the Ghetto Biennale. What we need is public libraries where people can do research, depots for cheap tools, a public art museum that promotes Haitian and international art, and a reasonably priced (or even better free) art school where young artists can train. In the end we want better access to the global art market. We are making art to sell and support our neighbourhood and lives. What drives the selection process of western galleries and curators who select artists to promote from the proliferation of talent from nonWestern countries? Gordon: The first priority that drives the selection process is shipping costs, it 24 FONT two
seems. Atis Rezistans’ work is tricky as their best pieces are monumental and these are expensive to ship, and this makes any commercial show of their big works a rarity as there is too much financial risk. This means that they rely on funded museum shows to really promote their work. Atis Rezistans’ work spans both the ethnographic and the contemporary and is included in any Haitian survey show. The contemporary exhibitions still seem to be limited to geographically-themed shows, which is a straitjacket they are trying to break out of – and the Ghetto Biennale is part of the escape strategy. A question I often reflect on is what is my own impulse to mediate Haitian creative/cultural output, especially as most of it is has its roots embedded in social, ritual, ancestral and religious practice which legitimates this cultural output as a conduit of shared communal historic memory. What is my own impulse to share this – and risk destroying it? I oscillate between the justification that it’s important to show what we have lost in the UK and being aware I may be part of the exact loss in Haiti. Does international success alter the standing of the artist in their own community? Eugene: Yes, the neighbourhood do respect the artists that have recognition in the West and travel to exhibitions. We really do want the galleries in the West to recognise our work… we want to be on an equal footing with Western artists. Gordon: Naturally, as in the Western art world, there is a hierarchy that everyone watches! l
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“They keep saying the world is progressing...” Sophia Beckingham explores the RNIB’s fight to change the story of partially sighted and blind people wherever they are
here is one thing you may have taken for granted whilst reading this magazine. In fact, you probably haven’t even given it a second thought today. You have presumably gone about your daily life reading signs, posters, books, Twitter, your email, and never stopped to think about the ease in which you can read the world around you. It has no doubt been accessible to you, the reader. But is it accessible to other people? Equality for partially sighted and blind people has been a historic struggle for centuries. Reading has become an unnecessarily inflated triumph over odds that are created by a visual centric world – and the RNIB are looking to change that. The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) conducted its Read for
RNIB day in October and, citing the statistic that only seven per cent of the world’s books are in an accessible format, highlighted the need for a campaign. With many partially sighted, blind and sighted people getting on board and becoming supporters, it was clear that the momentum for change was there waiting to be tapped into.
Award-winning partially sighted author Selina Mills agrees. “In terms of equality, the feeling is there. But we aren’t there yet.” Mills has worked with numerous publications and has travelled the globe with her journalism career. She grew up with an intrinsic knowledge and love of books and is currently writing a history of blindness that “is not a disability history book but a book for everyone”. During our conversation Mills discussed the inclusion of blind and partially sighted children within learning, and it is clear that this has been a long and frustrating debate for the blind and partially sighted community, raising questions such as what is the future of educational û cont’d p26 two FONT 25
from p25 inclusion? Does inclusion tie in with equality within printed books, audio books and braille? Should inclusion happen at all? “It’s an old question,” says Mills, “One of the questions you need to ask is what books should be in accessible formats – are you automatically excluding people by making this selection process?” Heather, a member of the RNIB who has been blind since birth, is both dynamic and passionate when discussing the limited books on offer:
have said to me ‘Oh! So you can get braille in the library’, and I say ‘I wish!’,” says Heather. Awareness is also key to Mills’ new book, “I’m writing the book to demystify blindness and that includes how it is written about. I’m writing my book to make people understand that losing your sight is not a calamity.” Both Mills and Heather, although from different backgrounds and enjoy different types of literature, are touched by the power of words. Heather reads every day and has been a member of the RNIB since she was seven years old.
Novelist Joanna Trollope, OBE
“The word ‘abridged’ should not be allowed – if they are going to record a book or braille a book they should do it in its entirety or not at all – why do they braille two parts of a trilogy? “You wouldn’t do it in print, so why do it for visually impaired people?” The levels of inequality are clear – the price of braille books can be outrageous, often reaching the hundreds mark. They are replaced very often due to usage and the RNIB are right to lead fundraising campaigns to help provide vital reading services. The RNIB came into being in 1868, and has since been the backbone of a community fighting for change; a community clear about the changes they wish to see. “I want more [people to have] knowledge about braille – some carers 26 FONT two
Now 41, nothing has changed: “Braille and audio are important to me and I don’t know what I would do without them.” Mills goes on to explain: “There is a relationship with words that is beyond sight. It was Louis Braille who said that access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge. Reading may be the wrong word – maybe it is communication of any kind. There is a whole electronic world out there that is entirely visual.” Whilst reading may be one of the key hurdles partially sighted and blind people face, it seems the grass roots of the Read for RNIB day is communication, and communication between communities – and that is something we should all get involved in. l readforrnib.org.uk
aunched on Read for RNIB Day 2013, Rio is the first fully accessible character for blind and partially sighted pupils. As a lively, cheeky and enthusiastic monkey from Indonesia, Rio demonstrates that even though he has a visual impairment, he still wants to be involved in everything! It is hoped that Rio can help demonstrate that with the right support and resources, a visual impairment is not a barrier to participation. To support Rio a variety of resources have been created to help bring his story to life. These include a fully accessible child-friendly blog with audio described Power Point presentation and a set of lessons fitting into parts of the UK primary school curriculum. Rio is the newest of the Go-Givers, characters designed to help children and young people develop a level of empathy and understanding through the interactive content that is available on the website of the Citizenship Foundation, who developed Rio with the RNIB. Rio will especially help address the following issues: • Equip sighted children with knowledge of how their school can be adapted for visually impaired pupils, and what they can do to help visually impaired pupils. • Increase sighted children’s understanding of visual impairment. • Help pupils understand different ways blind and partially sighted children read. • Highlight the fact that only seven per cent of books are available to blind and partially sighted pupils. • Allow pupils to understand where blind and partially sighted people get accessible books from. www.gogivers.org/teachers/lessons/ks2/rio-meets-callum
Write on the funny side GLOBAL FESTIVALS
Steve Bennett, the force behind comedy website Chortle, tells Nick Awde about setting up the world’s first comedy book fest
book festival about comedy? “Well...,” muses Chortle’s pioneering founder, “recently there have been so many people putting out books about comedy, so there came a light-bulb moment when I reckoned it was a good idea to put it all together this year – and just do it.” It’s one of those things that seems perfectly obvious once you see it, but hard to think of anyone else who has done it before. Bennett agrees: “I did do a bit of a Google, and I think safely that this must be the first one. Certainly on this scale.” What he has organised is the Chortle Comedy Book Festival, the sort of grassroots debut at which you can bet more people will later claim that they were there than was physically possible. This year’s festival featured eight days in November in West London featuring a spectrum of comic luminaries such as Johnny Vegas, Al Murray, Count Arthur Strong, Shappi Khorsandi, Robert Newman, Jack Whitehall and John Lloyd. Bennett has always seen the literary potential in comedy. “Comedians make good authors and they’re good at talking about themselves without worrying about how they’ll look – just so long as it’s funny. If you’re a fully paid-up celebrity you have to protect your image. But books by comedians tend to be good reads, especially the biographies, because they can be honest about themselves and what they do. Additionally they can write it with the narrative skills they’ve already honed from their craft.” Does he remember particular books over the years, in the way that many remember classic comedy albums? “Of course! Frank Skinner’s first book, Frank Skinner: by Frank Skinner, especially gives a good insight into stand-up. Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life is revealing about the way his craft suffered when he went into the big arenas, as well as how he learned how to be a magician when he was just starting off and working at Disneyland. Stewart Lee’s book How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian is a good analysis of how to put together comedy routines into a show and how he got inspired by it all. But my favourite is Harpo Speaks, where Marx Brother Harpo describes such a different world, coming up as he did from the poverty of turn-of-the-century New York.” For a literary festival making its first appearance in the heart of the United Kingdom, the emphasis was obviously on home-grown talent along with a strong showing from expat
comics from the rest of the English-speaking world. But, given the rise in non-English language live comedy taking root in the UK – notably French, Scandinavian, German and even Serbian – are there the resources to help overseas writers make an appearance? “We don’t have a massive budget to bring people across from other countries. There’s lots of Americans I’d like to see appear at the festival. Other countries too. For example, in the United States Bo Burnham has just brought out the very funny Egghead: Or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone this year, and Rob Delaney has the similarly funny Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.” One of the top draws is Johnny Vegas, whose Becoming Johnny Vegas charts his Jekyll and Hyde exploration of the “beast inside him”. “I don’t think you’d get that with the more mainstream side of the comedy spectrum,” says Bennett. There are also jobbing writers discussing the art of the older comedians such as Peter Cook & Dudley Moore and Eric Morecambe, and industry veterans like TV producer John Fisher, author of one of the most authoritative books on comedy, Funny Way to Be a Hero. The festival is also designed to help push publishing models for writers who don’t have access to major book deals. But the festival is far more than a trade fair, being faithful to the Chortle remit of catering for industry and public in equal measure – Bennett also actively markets to those who live near the festival venues. And note that all this is being done without funding or sponsorship. “I’m just paying for it and hoping that lots of people come. It’s hard to get something like this off the ground. I’ve approached a few people about this but there have not really been any buyers. “What I’ve noticed is that there are other book festivals who don’t pay their authors. Even without funding, we’re paying our authors. This is a commercial idea – we need to make some money out of it – but so do the authors. Chortle is taking the risk of course, but the authors are putting the work in, plus doing it for less than if they were doing a big gig. “I’m surprised that events like Hay will just pay people with bottles of wine when they have big sponsors. I know they have to build the site and infrastructure, but no one does Glastonbury for free and that’s a big site to build!” l www.chortle.co.uk two FONT 27
ART & DESIGN
More than just a comic?
PonderMoofin, a dedicated follower of manga, takes Font on a guided tour of the art of the Japanese comic book
here are those who are unfamiliar with manga, those who are aware of it, and of course there are manga maniacs. But for any who are new to it, a brief history as to ‘what it is’ and its steady rise in popularity would be the best way for us to begin. Manga (referring to the term ‘comics’ and ‘cartooning’ in Japanese) grew in popularity in the 1950s and became a major pillar within the Japanese publishing industry. But it is only in the last two decades or so that its reach in other areas of the globe has expanded to the extent where people of all ages can enjoy this defined art-form outside of its place of origin. In translated form, it especially performs well saleswise within Europe and the USA. So you’re probably thinking: “What’s the appeal? It’s just comic books, admittedly from a different part of the world. But what’s so different about it?” Well, compared to what we now call ‘western comics’ by companies such as DC & Marvel who tend to focus purely on supernatural/superhero-type genres, manga conventrates on a far broader range of genres, designed often to appeal to both children and adults, with
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obvious examples: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, comedy, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, suspense, detective, horror, sexuality, and business/commerce, among others. It is this feature of the manga industry that has attracted the attention of readers
worldwide, and for many of us, the Top Five Manga series would be as follows... One Piece (written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda) follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a young boy whose body gains the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a ‘devil fruit’, and his diverse crew of pirates, named the Straw Hat Pirates. Luffy explores the ocean in search of the world’s ultimate treasure known as One Piece in order to become the next Pirate King. Naruto (written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto) tells the tale of Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja, who constantly searches for recognition and dreams to become the Hokage, the ninja in his village who is acknowledged as the leader and the strongest of all. Bleach (written and illustrated by Tite Kubo) is about Ichigo Kurosaki after he obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper (Shinigami, literally meaning ‘Death God’) —a death personification similar to the Grim Reaper—from another Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki. Kurosaki’s newfound powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife. Fairy Tail (written and illustrated by Hiro Mashima) has as its central character Lucy Heartfilia, a 17-year-old celestial wizard who runs away from home to join Fairy Tail, a wizards’ guild whose members are famous for their overly destructive antics. Along the way, she meets Natsu Dragneel, a lad who is travelling the land of Fiore together with his partner Happy, a blue flying cat, in search of his foster parent, a dragon named Igneel who had disappeared seven years earlier. Lucy is soon abducted by a renegade wizard posing as the famous Salamander of Fairy Tail. Natsu rescues Lucy, revealing himself to be the real Salamander and a Dragon Slayer, a wizard with the abilities of a dragon. After defeating the imposter, Natsu invites Lucy to join Fairy Tail. D.Gray-Man (written and illustrated by Katsura Hoshino) is about a boy named Allen Walker, member of an organisation of exorcists. He uses an ancient substance called ‘Innocence’ to combat the Millennium Earl and his
demonic army of akuma. All these series fall under the category of ‘shounen’ or ‘boys’ manga. It’s a genre often found to be filled with action-packed battles and boisterous, good looking protagonists, both male and female, and a long-running storyline with additional ones. Each of the Top
Five here also has a supernatural element, involving either superpowers and/or demons, with the addition of a main villain who serves as the thread which ties the plot to its main theme centred around the protagonist. Like the other genres with their own level of popularity, Shounen more than the rest allows readers to immerse themselves within a universe or time period as a form of escapism. The protagonists often serve as a vessel for the reader to identify with and live out their extraordinary lifestyles, with the visual aids of evocative artwork to help make that escape all the more vivid. Much like the film fanatics of this world who go for the experience and escape, manga fans go through the motions in the same manner, as they can with the visuals imagine and create the scenario of what going on within the story for themselves. The 5 Top Mangas’ key factor to their ongoing success is the fact they keep that into consideration, providing imagery to enhance the experience and to build characters which they feel the public will relate to, grow to love or hate in equal measure. This creates a good discussion point with others, and from
then on the fanbase is created and those who feel inspired, are encouraged not only to great their own comic, but an equally elegant action-packed story. Manga is truly a creative influence for many of the youth today. l www.deviantart.com
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Urban majesty ART & DESIGN
Through street casting, historical referencing and pop realism, LA artist Kehinde Wiley presents a heroic narrative on global portraiture
Words by Isabel Appio
All images copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery.
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y using subjects who come from underserved communities, creating a global conversation around who has power, who deserves to be seen in the great museums throughout the world, I don’t think I’m throwing any systems,” says LA artist Kehinde Wiley. “I think I’m simply pointing to moments of beauty, moments I definitely recognise as being worthy of being celebrated. I think in those small moments, that’s where art works at its best. I’m looking for a sense of self-possession, a type of swagger, a sense of grace in the world. It’s not about creating grand sweeping political narratives, it’s about finding quiet moments of beauty in the world.” Wiley has achieved international recognition for his naturalistic portraits of contemporary urban men and women adopting heroic poses directly referencing classical portraiture. ‘The World Stage’, Wiley’s vast and celebrated body of work, has previously focused on Brazil, China, Israel, Nigeria, Senegal and Sri Lanka, with exhibitions held in museums and galleries in Europe and the USA. Wiley engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, powerful, majestic, and sublime in his representation of urban black and brown men and women found throughout the world. His most recent ‘World Stage’ project was hosted in Jamaica and produced new work for his first solo exhibition at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. As Wiley explains: “ ‘The World Stage: Jamaica’ is the seventh platform within a series of projects that explore portrait painting in the context of the broader evolution of global pop culture. I chose models through a street casting process in the city. The works investigate the rhetorical strengths of 18th and 19th-century British portraiture and draw a distinct line of cultural and economic lineage between the United Kingdom and Jamaica, seeking to provoke the viewer to reassess the visual vocabulary of the portrait and the depiction of black and brown people globally.” Wiley defines his signature style as being deliberately 21st century. “If you look at the process, it goes from photography through Photoshop, where certain features are heightened and elements of the photo are diminished.” l Images clockwise from top left: ‘Three Boys’, ‘Frederick William III, King of Prussia’, ‘Portrait of John and George Soane’. Facing page: ‘Naomi and her Daughters’. (All 2013)
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