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The only international magazine with an Italian soul

Issue N. 1 - December/January 2014

Christmas The Cosmic Feast Yes We Can. A Greek Food for Thought Story Around The World In 120 Days Detox to Retox

Joana Vasconcelos - exclusive interview UK £ 8.50 Italy, Holland, Germany, Spain €9,90 Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg € 11,50 Switzerland CHF 16,00 - USA $ 12.50 - South Africa R 159,00


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mag D DANTE | Issue 06 October-November Octoberr-No Nove vem mb ber 2013

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index LETTER FROM THE EDITORS Dante and Beatrice p. 4

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT p. 6 THE DIVINE COMEDY AROUND THE WORLD p. 12 ART Theatres of Friuli: The Hidden Roots of Entertainement Culture p. 14 LITTERATURE What Will You Do For A Breath of Night? p. 22 MUSIC Winter of Discontent Tchaikovsky’s take p. 26 FILM On the Way to School: Which Road Are You Taking Today? p. 30 DESIGN Whence Design of the Future? The Problem of Education p. 34 GENERAL CULTURE Christmas – The Cosmic Feast p. 40 A Winter’s Tale p. 44 BUSINESS In the Soap Kitchen p. 50 Lake Garda and Lugana. A Marriage Made in Heaven p. 54

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74 COVER Joana Vasconcelos. The World of Yesterday Today p. 60 WINDOW OF THE SOUL Yes We can. A Greek Food fot Thought Story p. 74 MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO HEALTH

Detox to Retox p. 78 FOOD

A Mix Platter of Italian Cheeses p. 86 TRAVEL

Around the World In 120 Days p. 92 White Nights and Bright Days in Tallin p. 100 COLUMNS Nonno Panda Tales Nonno Panda and the Rhino issue p. 108 Issue 01 December-January 2014

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catandnat.com! Our website is the first English lifestyle website and content-based magazine to not only highlight the latest trends in Thailand, but also discuss the cultural issues and opinions expressed by prominent people living here.

DANTEmag | Issue 06 October-November 2013

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contributors Contributing Writers .

Editor in Chief Massimo Gava

European Correspondent Mattia Braida

Deputy Editor Caroline Udall

Online Design Editor Lavinia Todd

Editor Asia and Middle East Joseph Mayton

Online Research Editor Mary Shulze

International Editor Reya von Galen

Art Director Flavio Guberti

Design and Architecture Editor Julian Taylor

Contributing Photographers.

International Correspondent Mike Jerovia

Neil Geraghty, Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV, Wind/Emmanuel Guionet, Belvedere Vienna, Miguel Domingos/Unidade Infinita Projectos, Luís Vasconcelos / Unidade Infinita Projectos, Shy Adam/ Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Unidade Infinita Projectos, Bruno Portela/ Unidade Infinita Projectos, Consorzio Gorgonzola, Shutterstock.com

Art Director UK Annagiulia Santoro Sub-Culture Editor Rufus Smith Music Editor Dean Sabino

Director of New Media and Web Nicola Sasso Web manager William Grant-Buckley

Copy Editor Philip Rham

Marketing and Communication Italy Novella Donelli Just in Time http://justintimesrl.wordpress.com

Associated Research Editor Louis Romero

Legal and Finance Director Antonio Marsocci

Business Editor Martin Shah

Director of Special Project Ivana Bongiolo

SUBSCRIBE TODAY

www.dantemag.com/subscription

Nigel Parsons, Juliette Foster, Mark Beech, Mario Moniz Barreto, Tia Dania, Carla César, D. Penguin, Ben Rungsrithong, Neil Geraghty, Elisa T. Keena, Marco Pernini, Dante and Beatrice, NonnoPanda.

DANTEmag is published by DANTEmag Ltd Company 12 Charing Cross Mansion 26 Charing Cross Rd. WC2H 0DG - London UK info@dantemag.com

Subscribe on line at: www.dantemag.com/subscription Issue 01 December-January 2014

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS “Quale ne l’arzanà de’ Viniziani bolle l’inverno la tenace pece a rimpalmare i legni lor non sani, ché navicar non ponno - in quella vece chi fa suo legno novo e chi ristoppa le coste a quel che più vïaggi fece” -- Dante Canto Ventunesimo dell’Inferno - Divina Commedia In the Venetians’ arsenal as boils Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear Their unsound vessels; for th’ inclement time Sea-faring men restrains, and in that while His bark one builds anew, another stops The ribs of his, that hath made many a voyage;

They say winter creeps up on you unawares, and then suddenly you realise you’re in the middle of it and there’s no turning back. This year has been no different from any other; the signs were already there with a merry storm battering Britain at the turn of the month, back in October. This winter seems to be in particularly dire straits. We already have an inkling of what to expect with the unseemly, recent showdown between Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate over agreeing a new debt ceiling as well as the shutdown of federal institutions that paralysed the lead country of our socalled leading Western democracies, all of which, in fact, appears no better than the lazy politics of southern European countries Anyway, it is only a reprieve as in early February a new deadline awaits for our modern way of running a country and the battle will gather momentum, showing the world how low our politicians can go in pursuit of their own interests under the cloak of so-called ‘public’ interest. However, away from the hurly-burly of current affairs, winter is also the time for yourself, to gather round a warm fire with your loved ones, maybe sipping a hot drink, to look out through the window at the trees harmoniously starting their dance with the wind, dead leaves endlessly being cleared, waiting for the snow and the muffled sound as it silently falls. Slowly the year nears its end. The year’s labours are fewer and further between, allowing 4

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workers to rest and prepare for a new and hopefully prosperous year, culminating in a feast of the light, that age-old celebration when, for centuries, so many cultures summoned the old months and kissed them goodbye. Oh, yes, Christmas is what we call it now, of course!. And that is exactly what Dantemag takes as its starting point for our winter issue. Mike Hawthorne takes us straight to the heart of the matter, examining those ancient pagan sacred celebrations which the new Christian religions despised so much, with their cults of the light and the happy feasts that used to burn the old spirits of the years. Hawthorne concentrates on the cult of Mithra and how it was cleverly subsumed into the new traditions of celebrating the birth of Christ. How ironic, that now our modern society has turned it into the new pagan cult of money-spending, so liberally sprinkled with endless flashing lights as well. Maybe, the cult of the light has not changed so much, in the end. However, it is not only the time for poetic reflection on the past year but also an opportunity to look ahead, new resolutions to reshape our lives, transform ourselves from within. Catharsis, Aristotle made clear, is the means by which we redeem ourselves living empathetically through a voyage of discovery as presented to us on stage, the essence of Greek tragedy and Dantemag brings us just such a message from the empowering and inspiring work of Boroume, an innovative new voluntary organisation that recycles surplus food in the never-ending modern day tragedy that Greece is currently undergoing. Inspiration is also found in Thailand and Alisa Phibunsiri achieving success worldwide with her exquisite range of natural fragrant soaps and cosmetics – let the aromas waft you away. More inspiration from a country suffering economic woes comes in the shape of Portuguese sensation Joana Vasconcelos, a passionate woman and artist, so much so that we, at Dantemag, have honoured her with our cover story. It is passion, love and fierce courage that drive her astonishing art. She is the figurehead for a once proud people, currently undergoing a bitter economic winter, a people of adventurers that once sailed the seas to discover new worlds. Her art successfully combines shocking artistic iconoclasm, embracing modern techniques and the grand inherited identity of her beloved Portugal. Continuing on the same theme of catharsis through art, Mattia Braida meets Marina Boaro to tell us the fascinating story of how


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

well-to-do families in seventeenth century northern Italy felt the transfiguring power of theatre to such an extent that they built their very own private stages hidden away deep in their castle walls. What better way to while away the long dark winter days by escaping to a vivid world without stepping outside into the cold? Check out the marvel we found in Valvasone! Art, yes, art and design. Where are we going with that? Well, in Britain the booming expectations of a new generation of selfmade design entrepreneurs have not yet been realised, as many forecasted in the eighties. J. Taylor tells the tale of a broken dream, or maybe just of a clash of generations? It is hard to tell, but his investigation is counterbalanced by our review of Pascal Plisson’s wonderful documentary “On the way to school”, the amazing story of an education challenge successfully met despite the odds He counters Taylor’s argument, and happily presents us with the incredible smiles of children who have to fight their way across some of the most inhospitable terrains of the world just to get to school. Then Dantemag meets up with novelist Michael Arditti who gives us some fascinating insights about his new book set against the military dictatorship in the Philippines and the moral and emotional maze of liberation theology. Arditti travelled to that far eastern country to research intensively and live the experience. Nigel Parsons went one better and took his wife and eleven year-

old daughter and three backpacks on a modern recreation of “Round the World in 120 Days” Read his epic tale and forget your drab wintry lives and wallow in his unforgettable, exotic account. In contrast Philip Rham invites you to revisit winter in music and urges you to savour the festive delights of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” and be transported away to a magical land of musical splendour.

To round off this cultural smorgasbord, Marco Pernini, Dantemag’s resident chef, reminds how even in a simple platter of cheeses, authenticity and taste are unbeatable and together with local colour, the sights and sound of Italy will whet your appetite. So we at Dantemag exhort you to forget the dark side of winter, the grisly economic forecasts and do not close yourselves in - let us open your minds and eyes to the exotic sights and sounds of our world, live through the catharsis of the inspiring choices others have made and let the spirit of adventure and hope inspire you to a new renaissance for the coming year. Seasons Greetings and a Very prosperous New Year, wherever you are in the world!

Dante and Beatrice. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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Food for thought

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

by Massimo Gava

Visually stunning, “Before they pass away “ is a cross between an art book and a historic document. British photographer Jimmy Nelson has spent the past three years taking pictures of the last surviving tribes in the most remote part of the globe, from the Bayan Olgii in Mongolia to the most remote part south of Ethiopia near the border with Sudan, where the Mursi women or Mun as they refer to themselves, have a tradition for wearing a clay plate in their lower lip. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Nelson’s journey begins with the acceptance of these tribes to pose in front of the camera and ends with the moments of their unique living captured in this book. Jimmy Nelson celebrates the great beauty that lies underneath our modern world. Against all the odds, these tribes manage to keep their strong individuality intact and remind us how much of our own individuality has been lost in our society. “Before they pass away” will take you on an epic journey to discover how precious every human being is.

Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson, is published by teNeues, www.teneues.com. Photo © Jimmy Nelson Pictures BV, www.beforethey.com Issue 01 December-January 2014

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www.albertocarlo.com


www.albertocarlo.com www.albertocarlo.com


comedy THE DIVINE

Around the World Halfway along our life’s path. Lost in a dark wood. ,EPJEPSRKSYVPMJI¸WTEXL0SWXMREHEVO[SSH Unable to find the right way…. 9REFPIXSJMRHXLIVMKLX[E]¬

PARADISO PARADISO

Dear Beatrice… Canto Canto “Yeti mystery resolved with

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DNA testing!” Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, set out to collect and test “yeti” hair samples of two unknown animals, one found in the Western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles apart, to find out which species they came from. After the more advanced DNA tests available these days Professor Sykes found he had a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years. Professor Sykes believes the animals could be a cross between a polar bear and a brown bear, both species known to interbreed where their territories overlap. Yetis, also known as the “Abominable Snowman” or “Bigfoot”, have been recorded for centuries in the Himalayas, with local people and mountaineers claiming to have come face-to-face with hairy, ape-like creatures. Legendary Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who became the first man to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, has studied yetis since he had a terrifying encounter with a mysterious creature in Tibet in 1986. Professor Sykes said, “This is a completely unexpected result but more work needs to be done on interpreting the findings.” His book detailing his research “The Yeti Enigma: A DNA Detective Story” is to be published next spring and his investigations have been featured in the UK in a new threepart Channel 4 documentary series “Bigfoot Files”.

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Bogota. Colombia. The prison beauty contest for the title of ‘Reina Madre’ (Queen Mother) - the prison “Buen Pastor”, in the Colombian capital that houses more than 2000 women has been organising events like this for the past 18 years with TV and music celebrities as the invited competition judges. The beauty contest is held every year on the feast of the Virgin of Mercy, patron saint of prisoners. Most of the detainees have been found guilty of drug trafficking and are waiting to be sentenced. The competition this year required the contestants to parade first in traditional folk dress and then in elegant evening wear. And it seems that age is not an issue as Maria Cristina Villareal, 56 year-old mother of three with nine grandchildren, was one of the six contestants vying for the title in the final.“Even if they’re in prison it doesn’t mean they’ve lost their femininity” said Maria Virginia Camacho, the organiser of this year’s event . We could not agree more.....

Dear Beatrice, let’s hope it will be enough to encourage these rampant young men to make the big move so that those girls can at least marry a man closer to their own age

Issue 01 December-January 2014

CantoThe Yemen. It could

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be renamed “Singles go on strike!”. This is the demonstration organised in the Taiz district, 250 km south of Sanaa, by young males looking for a bride to demand a reduction in the symbolic “gift” that each aspiring son-inlaws has to give to the family of his proposed future wife. The Yemen is not immune to the economic downturn so unemployment has risen dramatically, and the young husbands-to-be, if not in possession of a substantial bank account, can’t afford the increased demands from future in-laws that vary from US$500 up to $40.000 for the hand of any girl of marriageable age. The girls have no say in the choice of their future husband and often end up marrying old men as they are the only ones who can afford the required amount. For this reason many young men from Al-Jarf in the Taiz asked the patriarchs to sign an agreement capping the price to 200.000 Yemen rials (equal to US$1000 ) per daughter; otherwise all the girls could find themselves left on the shelf. And there is no worse nightmare for a Yemeni family than to have one of their daughters pass the age of 25 because then she is considered a spinster.

Virgil what can be said of .... . the Marie Antoinettes of the Catholic Church.

Canto While pope Francis was on

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a recent visit to Assisi, he declared worldliness and vanity are a great danger to society and added how everybody, from nuns and priests to the bishops and cardinals, must stop dealing with the not so disinterested courtesans surrounding the church and go back to being part of the community. He then attacked the capitalism that impoverishes the world and does not care if there are children dying of starvation, if many families have nothing to eat and cannot afford the dignity of bringing home their daily bread. All these good words would be


Purgatorio better if the Church practises what it preaches as, according to ANCI (the Italian Association of Local Government), it owes the equivalent of 4 billion euros of unpaid council tax going as far back as 2006 when the bill lifting the exemption for religious buildings was introduced. The Church is still challenging this but, as the Bergolio resident said in another of his speeches while visiting a refugee centre in Rome,“convents should be turned into places to help the poor not into luxury hotels”. There are poor Italians too, who have to come up with 1% increase in VAT, making it now 22%, in order to pay for the 1 billion euros needed to stay within budget and on target for this year as part of the stability package imposed by the EU . This is on top of 14 billion euros Italy has to pay as the third largest contributor to the Eurozone rescue fund. It is true the world was not created in a single day and there have been signs of improvements with the recent suspension of German bishop Franz-Peter Tebart van Elst, for his over-lavish refurbishment of his diocesan residence in Limburg Germany but hiding behind the inefficiency of Italian bureaucracy does not make things better for Italian families already suffering so much. Dear Francis, this is behaving just like any other capitalist corporation, plain and simple.

Canto Belgium. The death by

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euthanasia of a female transgender person is creating contoroversy in Belgium where the law allowing euthanasia has been in force since 2002. Nathan had been suffering since he was born a girl Nancy in a Flemish family of four . He told a Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws before he died that in his family he had been the girl that nobody wanted despite being born after three boys. The discovery of feeling more at ease as a man came in her teens when he also felt attracted to girls; the decision to become a man was the next step. In 2009 he began hormone therapy and in 2012 had a mastectomy and genital reassignment surgery.

But when he looked at himself in the mirror, as he told the newspaper, “I felt trapped in a body that I detested“. That’s why he wanted to die. The clinic doctor who followed him in this process and his friends, all said he passed away serenely and peacefully. Jacqueline Herremans, head of the federal commission for the control of euthanasia, confirmed the legality of the procedure. “In the case of Nathan” his clinic doctor said, “we can clearly see he went through unbearable psychological suffering”

CantoWhile

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the rest of world is debating if a gay person, whether living or not in a traditional family can eat Barilla pasta, a six-year-old ‘boy’ from the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina has been officially recognised as transgender and been registered as ‘female’ under gender on his ID card. Gabriela, the mother of the twin brothers born in July 2007, said that ‘Lulu’ (not her real name) wanted to live as a girl from the age of two and regularly went dressed as a girl to a local kindergarten where they respected her identity. Following the gender equality law passed by the Argentinian government in 2012, Lulu’s mother started the procedure to change the gender on her son’s ID card to avoid any discrimination. As Gabriela said, “it is humiliating for Lulu each time she has to show her papers to have a boy’s name when she feels like a girl.” While we do not want to dispute the good intentions of a mother to protect her child , I am sure lots of paediatricians will have something to say about the timing of this...

Inferno

Canto La Quebrada, San Lui en

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Cañete district , 140 km south of Lima . Peru. No more cats in the pan. A judge has ruled in favour of the feline that lost the yearly competition “ La carrera dos gatos” This cat race is part of the festivities in celebration of Santa Iphigenia, the only black virgin celebrated in an African-Peruvian cult that has its roots in Ethiopia. The tradition of eating cats remains a mystery but different scholars believe it comes from the need to include some animal protein in the diet of the African slaves working in the local sugar cane plantations. “An event based on an act of cruelty to animals, incites violence, and creates a public health hazard “ ruled the judge, María Luyo Sánchez. The complaint was lodged with the police by various Animals Rights Associations in Lima. However, the judge’s ruling has caused rioting in some parts of country. Even more to think about for a government considering a nation-wide ban on the consumption of catmeat.

Canto GM

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Child. A California-based company decided to launch a new product, a do-it-yourself version of the genetic testing that made it famous. The biotechnology company, which offered the first complete reading of the genome at only $ 99, undercutting the competition by ten times, registered last September a new patent that promises to select the donor’s gametes based on genetic calculations so a couple could potentially know in advance the characteristics of any future child. That goes from the colour of the hair, eyes, up to the any food intolerance and illness predisposition but it is obvious the company’s aim is to guarantee any new child has certain characteristics. What is the margin of error, though? Can we sue if parents’ expectations are not met because we don’t want to be stuck with something we don’t want for the rest of our lives, right? I guess it is just business after all.

CantoIt’s official: pollution

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can cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) based in Lyon, France, which. on behalf of the World Health Organisation, studies the effect that toxins released into the air by traffic exhaust and other types of polluting industrial combustion have, has concluded that they should be classed as group 1 toxins, namely ‘almost certain to provoke cancer’, on exactly the same level as other carcinogens like benzene and asbestos. Christopher Wild, the director of the agency, declared at the conference that classifying outdoor pollution as carcinogenic was an important step towards recognising that it was time to act and governments could not delay any further. Measures need to be taken to stop this silent killer which causes, according to W.H.O’s statistics, the death of more than three million people world-wide each year. So whoever thought smog an irritant that you just lived with will now need to have a major rethink. Well, we can but hope so!.

To what other terraces of doom and pain, dear Virgil, will you accompany me… next time....

Issue 07 December-January 2014

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Theatres of Friuli: The Hidden Roots of Entertainment Culture By Mattia Braida

The building blocks of our present are found in a myriad little things, now hidden by the accretions of the years. Our world is founded much more than we realise on these mundanities than on sweeping movements of armies or the actions of any individual leader, no matter how important. The private theatres of Italy’s Friuli region are among such hidden gems. Such spaces represent an early development of the theatre culture that flourishes today. 14

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The sun is shining, and the little square in front of Valvasone castle glitters across the freshly refurbished cobblestones and the curtains of the local bar. The slightly uneven square makes the place quite impressive already, improved by recent refurbishments that washed centuries of gray from the streets of the village. Pacing along its small alleys is to head back into a distant past of fiefdoms and armours, velvets and gentle ladies, archers and jesters. It has to be said: if you happen to end up here during the summer festival, the feeling will become reality, since it is then that courtyards and corners populate with figures dressed in the fashion of knights and medieval soldiers, ladies in fancy colourful dresses and sackclothed peasants – like bartenders. During the days of the rievocazione storica, Valvasone walks back into the past to re-discover longforgotten days of its own golden era, when the access to cross the river Tagliamento was as important as a real frontier, allowing the little village to flourish as a dwelling place to families who were influential within the courts of Venice. Valvasone is a little village hidden along the shores of the Tagliamento, in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, some hundred miles east of Venice. Perfectly preserved in its medieval features, it stands out as a little pearl that history has spared from the architectural fakes of modernity. However, we did not travel


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The castle in Valvasone

The well, ideal and phisical centre of the square in front of the castle Issue 01 December-January 2014

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The room where Napoleon supposedly spent the night

here to walk through Valvasone’s cobblestone pathways or even to visit its castle, but to discover an even better-preserved treasure, hidden behind the elegant Renaissance walls: a private theatre. To gain access, DanteMag meets with Marina Boaro. Marina is an architect. While studying for a university project, she came across the existence of a fashion among the region’s prominent families 16

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Detail of the wall fresco

during the Renaissance: private theatres. She was so intrigued with the artistic and historic insights surrounding her discovery, she went on to become an expert in the field. Valvasone became her most intense passion, and her research encompasses the history of the theatre in the region, from Spilimbergo to Palmanova, all the way to Trieste.


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The famous fresco of the Donkey and The Wolf

The wonderfully preserved interior room

‘Given the state of the theatre’s preservation, I was absolutely thrilled to go behind those walls and find something so valuable’, she explains. ‘At the time, the restoration work on the castle was not complete. So I approached the then mayor of Valvasone Maurizio Bellot and Claudio Visintini – the architect who has been in charge of the restoration for more than two decades – to get access to the room. What I found was absolutely astonishing. In many similar cases, centuries of neglect had transformed the theatres into rubble. The quality of what was still available definitely spurred me on to further my research!’ Thanks to the help of Claudio Visintini and of the incumbent mayor, Markus Maurmair, today we can visit the castle. Marina leads the way. The renovation is at an advanced stage, even though there is quite a bit left to do before it can be opened to the public. It is like walking through history. We cross the moat, and enter the main antechamber, then walk down a small staircase and into what once was the water entrance to the castle. Then we spiral up round another little winding corner. All of a sudden, there is a wall and a little door, and you enter a magical space: two small openings – one that leads to the front of the theatre and one onto the stage. ‘The stage’, Marina explains, ‘is not original. When the family who owned the castle got into economic difficulties, they sold part of the original furniture and wings of the castle itself. The stage was sold for some reason at that time as well. However, the theatre is extremely well preserved. What I still find stunning, even now, after studying it for so long, is that within the walls of a castle, at its very heart, lies a fully-fledged theatre, with stalls, stage and galleries.

Decorations in the noble room

And it all perfectly fits inside a single room. Moreover, I’ve studied the acoustics, and they are incredible; it looks as though there were heavy velvet curtains that would dampen the reverb and echo. In this tiny place - simply for the private entertainment of the owners, the same high standards of technology were being used here as that found in the major theatres around Italy, such as Parma and Trieste.’ Rich families in the surrounding area, like the Querini-Monaco in Spilimbergo and the Mantica in Udine, invested in building theatres around the town – as in the case of Udine – and also within their own residences. It is astonishing to think that theatre in the seventeenth century become so fashionable that rich families felt compelled to build their own playhouses for merely Issue 01 December-January 2014

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private purposes. As in England, with Shakespeare, during the 1600s, theatre switched from being a simple, popular activity into a different kind of phenomenon that adhered to the ideas of the emerging mercantile class and the up-and-coming petite bourgeoisie. Valvasone and the private theatres of the region came into existence at that time, when landowners and merchants began to take an interest in theatre as an art that depicted their own class, and therefore performances began to be transferred into spaces, which gradually took on their own precise architectural form. ‘In the Venetian territories, which Valvasone used to be part of’, Marina explains, ‘the architecture favoured the flourishing of theatre. Loggias were the place where performances started. When the eighteenth century came around, Venice was living through its golden era of theatre. By 1758 there were so many playhouses in the city that there were not enough local writers to meet the huge demands. It is only natural that such a worldly activity, which at the same time spanned all social classes, spread around the Venetian territories, and with it the actors companies.’ ‘Does that mean, in Italy, as in the England of Shakespeare and 18

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The surprisingly well-preserved private theatre of Valvasone

Marlowe, travelling companies of actors went from place to place putting on shows?’ I ask. ‘Exactly’, Marina replies. ‘Even a place as small as Valvasone had several seasonal companies coming here to perform. There are documents that testify to their presence around the territory of both Venice and the Austrian Empire. In fact, by the end of the eighteenth century, Vienna – even more so than Venice – had become the cultural focal point for the courts of Europe, and theatre was turning into musical spectaculars.’ She leads me around the castle, showing me how the renovation has progressed. She stops in front of an unusual painting, showing


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‘Is he the donkey? That’s pretty outrageous!’ I exclaim.

two anthropomorphic figures in the form of a wolf and a donkey: ‘In this area, there are several examples of castles that held rather important strongholds, for they guarded the crossing points over the nearby river Tagliamento. Here, you can see the Valvasone family – whose symbol is the wolf – being paid homage to by the emperor himself!’

‘Do not be fooled by our modern conceptions. In those times, the donkey was regarded as a very wise animal!’ Marina replies, with a chuckle. ‘This room was used as a reception room, with direct access across the moat to a private entrance. It probably shows that it was in medieval times that the family attained its greatest prestige. Afterwards, the role of the commercial routes diminished in importance, but the reputation of Valvasone continued into the nineteenth century. In fact, there are important documents indicating that even Napoleon Bonaparte stayed at the castle around the time of the Campoformio Treaties in 1797.’ She points to Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Interior of the Trieste Theatre Detail of the stage decoration

an extravagant room on the right. ‘Probably he slept there, although even the descendants of the Valvasone family cannot agree on which room exactly! There’s a chance that he even had a special performance staged exclusively for him in the theatre!’ ‘You mentioned Vienna and musical theatre’, I ask Marina. ‘What did the Viennese cultural boom mean for the small private theatres?’ ‘The extraordinary period of private theatres went out of fashion at the end of the eighteenth century. By about 1750, many of the most famous theatres in the area, like the Rossetti in Trieste, the Fenice in Venice, the Regio in Palmanova, had been built. By that time, music had become a compulsory requirement of any theatre, which therefore demanded larger spaces and more refined acoustics. The Viennese tradition swept through the area like a cultural wave from the east – which belonged to the Austrian Empire – while the simultaneous decline of Venice’s power marked the end of the small private theatres. From then on, the commedia dell’arte and the opera became the “in” thing for local nobles and emerging bourgeoisie.’ She sighs. ‘It is a matter of historical good fortune that the Valvasone’s private theatre still exists; otherwise we would have lost a vital part of our entertainment culture roots.’ Leaving the castle, I cannot help but agree with Marina. In so many cases the recent studies of small history, of the little diamonds of 20

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our past, have demonstrated and preserved that past much better than any big, mainstream history. From Valvasone, we head east and park in a wide space that used to be the parade ground of Spilimbergo, another medieval village which has preserved most of its features from past centuries. These include an amazing Romanesque church, just behind the parade ground, and another castle a few metres away from the town hall. ‘Here’, Marina explains, ‘there used to be an extraordinary theatre within the private apartments of the Countess Querini-Monaco, a flamboyant established family who had fallen on hard times quite dramatically.’ Marina takes me to the top of a small alley-way. ‘Unfortunately it was pulled down to make space for new rooms during the 1950s, a real disgrace from the point of view of historical conservation. However, you can tell from the surroundings that a sort of “playhouse vogue” started sometime during the early eighteenth century. The history of yet another small village can make up for the lack of bigger pictures at a higher historical level. So I will now take you a few miles south, to Palmanova, to show you how the story changed.’ Palmanova, the starred city, was created from scratch by the Venetians to act as a city-fortress to defend Venice’s outer boundaries. Built in the form of a multi-spiked star, concentric lines spread out from the central square, finally forming the


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Old map of Palmanova

source of culture, both musical and literary. They were used as a privileged site for social relations and transacting business as well. In reality, theatre as we know it starts when buildings like these were built; and when the great Viennese musical theatre made its way west, from Trieste towards Venice, the time of small, private theatres was already over. Moreover, the importance of Valvasone, Spilimbergo and Udine diminished along with Venice’s decline, making it even more amazing that the private theatre you saw in Valvasone still stands.’

View of Spilimbergo’s castle

boundaries of the city. On one side of the square, lies the Teatro Modena, named after a famous actor of the late 1800s. ‘The original building dates back to the eighteenth century’, Marina tells me. ‘However, the differences between public theatres and the small private rooms you have seen are striking. The big difference, first and foremost, is in their purpose. In fact, the creation of huge public theatres explains how they became a

Indeed, a great little story can tell more than many grandiose tales. Whether it was created as a result of a true passion or was simply an expression of a fashion, the little gem hidden within the walls of a remote castle explains how the path of history can change suddenly and make our futures very different to what they might have been. Fortunately, sometimes little things are spared the ravages of time and stand as a reminder of what our past was. Be it good or bad, it is where we come from, a heritage that must be preserved. Hence, our thanks go to Marina for her great work, for her intense passion to keep alive the memory of a time long gone. And thanks to Valvasone, a delicate living wonder. Sitting at the table of a nice osteria in the square, we drink to our past, to theatres, and to memory, the most precious gift we have to appreciate our heritage! Issue 01 December-January 2014

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LITTERATURE

What Will You Do For A Breath of Night? By Massimo Gava

Michael Arditti is an English novelist who has been described by Philip Pullman as ‘our best chronicler of the rewards and pitfalls of present day faith’ and hailed in many quarters as the heir to Graham Greene. His latest novel, The Breath of Night, has also drawn comparisons with Joseph Conrad and Evelyn Waugh and was acclaimed by the Independent on Sunday as ‘pure genius’. I met the author in his flat in London’s leafy Primrose Hill to discuss his new book. 22

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Why did you choose to set “ The Breath of Night” in the Philippines? Quite specifically because it’s one of only two Christian countries in Asia. I very much enjoyed immersing myself in Lourdes for my previous novel Jubilate and found that readers responded to that particular sort of descriptive writing. So I decided to go even further afield for The Breath of Night. I wanted to explore various sorts of culture clashes while developing religious themes from my earlier work. There is a real sense of place in the novel – did you travel to the Philippines for research? Yes, I don’t think I could have written the novel without having visited the country. Although the digital world allows us all to be armchair – or, in my case, desk chair – travellers, I could never have begun to understand the complexities of the people and their relationship to the Church, the family, sex, politics and so much more without going there. Besides which, it wouldn’t have been so much fun! The West has a very narrow view of the Philippines. For most of us it amounts to Imelda Marcos and her shoes. What are we missing out on? Given that an eighth of the Philippines’ economy derives from remittances sent home by oversees workers, it is likely that most Westerners have met some Filipinos in their lives, although sadly they usually occupy very menial positions. Indeed, Julian – one of the novel’s two central characters – laments the fact that ‘this beautiful people’s best hope is to turn themselves into the world’s servants.’ But meeting a few Filipinos here and seeing the odd disaster story on the news give no sense of the vibrancy of the culture, the beauty of the landscape, the contradictions of the people who are at once hugely self-deprecating and fiercely proud. The influence of the Roman Catholic church is all-powerful and yet,


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Michael Arditti

as the novel shows, this often coexists with very strong indigenous traditions. In addition, that strict morality goes hand in hand with rampant sex tourism, often of the most egregious kind, which also features in the novel. Novels and religion are both intrinsically about empathy. So why is the subject of religion so rare in contemporary fiction? We live in a largely secular society and most novelists reflect, either consciously or not, the values of that society. If enough people believe that religion is an unfashionable subject, it becomes so. On the other hand, I think that there’s a significant crossover between people who read literary fiction and people who either have a religious faith or are interested in the questions of morality that religion raises. Like any other novelist, I would like the largest possible readership, but I’m happy to settle for a loyal, informed and dedicated one. The story of Julian, the British missionary, and his relationship with the rebel communist groups in the 1970s and 80s is an incredibly gripping and plausible narrative. To what degree is it based in fact? During the Marcos era, the Church was in effect the sole opposition 24

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to a government that was essentially a military dictatorship. Individual priests and nuns bravely challenged the poverty and oppression on which Marcos’s regime was based. They espoused the doctrine of Liberation Theology, with its often Marxist ideology, which spread from Central and South America to the Philippines in the 70s and 80s. Many priests took up arms themselves or helped the insurgents in other ways. Whether or not to follow suit is, of course, one of Julian’s major dilemmas in the book. Did the writing of the book challenge any of your own feelings about the church and organised religion? It would be fairer to say that it confirmed my suspicions of organised religion. I have never been an apologist for the Church (any church). I recognise that without the Church the message of Christianity would never have survived for the last two thousand years. Yet it is the Church, more than any other institution, that has perverted that message. In Jubilate, I wrote about the very best of the Roman Catholic church as I saw it at Lourdes. In The Breath of Night, the picture is very different. Quite apart from its iniquitous doctrine on contraception (which is of course practised tacitly by the rich while the poor live on dung heaps with ten or twelve children), it both implicitly and explicitly supports the status quo,


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encouraging people to accept their wretched lot in this life in the hope of a happier one in the hereafter. The opium of the people is still a powerful intoxicant in Asia. That said, there’s always Julian and liberation theology. You say that Filipinos tell a joke to make light of their long history of Spanish and American occupation: ‘We spent three hundred years in a convent and fifty in Hollywood.’ Has its colonial experience really been so tragic? The Spanish military ran the country for three hundred years from a base in Manila, which only Europeans were allowed to enter, while the friars effectively ran the islands. The Americans, seeking Filipino support in its war with Spain in 1898, promised them independence, only to renege on its commitment after the Spanish were routed (predominantly by Filipino forces), ruling them from Washington for the next fifty years. The Philippines was granted independence in 1946 but it remained closely tied to the USA, who used it as a military airbase for the war in Vietnam. The Clark airbase in Luzon became the largest in the world and a city of eighty thousand prostitutes, Angeles City (which features in the book), grew up to service it. So, yes, it seems fairly tragic to me.

For such a religious country sex seems like a constant theme in Filipino culture. Why should this be? Sex and religion are not such polar opposites, as I’ve tried to show in various books. On the other hand, the sexual exploitation in the Philippines is largely the result of economic imperialism. Rich Westerners, first the military and now tourists, flash their wallets in the faces of people who live in abject poverty. So it’s not hard to predict the outcome. What is harder to comprehend are the double standards of the Church. One of the pivotal episodes of the book occurs when Philip, my second protagonist, encounters an old woman selling abortion-inducing herbs in the shadow of the holiest shrine in Manila. This is based on fact. There is a strong thriller element to the book. Was this a conscious decision on your part? Every novel I’ve written has a different structure, setting and tone. The thriller element came from the story and the way in which Philip and Julian’s experience was played out. It wasn’t something added later to sugar the pill of religious debate! I hope that the book will give food for thought while making the reader eager to turn the page and savour the next course.

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MUSIC

Winter of Discontent

Tchaikovsky’s take. Creative minds have always been inspired by nature and the sharp contrasts of winter are no exception. Philip Rham offers an overview but quickly homes in on the heart-warming magic of Christmastime and how Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” embodies this spirit in abundance and allows you to disocver that wide-eyed wonder of your childhood again. 26

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Winter over the centuries has inspired creative minds to great feats of invention. It is a season of sharp contrasts. On the one hand, the coldness and freezing nature of this time weigh heavily where hibernation and survival are the order of the day. The flip side is to escape from this dark and merciless cold by creating a warm, fire-fuelled space inside, analogous to the human warmth of Christmas cheer and the generous exchanging of gifts to loved ones; despite its appalling modern-day commercialism, it is undeniably the time for families to come together and above all a magical time for children to indulge in their imaginations, the excitement of Father Christmas and the dizzy prospect of ripping open presents. In art we immediately think of Brueghel and his snowy landscapes dotted with peasants struggling on as well as letting us glimpse a few skaters having some fun. The bleakness of the winter experience is no better conveyed in literature than in the Russian literary canon from Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” (Raskolnikov driven psychotic by hunger in his garret), through to Pasternak’s “Dr Zhivago”. On the other hand it is primarily Dickens in the English-speaking world who captures that “Tis the season to


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‘Swan Lake’ ballet performed by Dnepropetrovsk Opera. Ukraine

Peter Tchaikovsky

be jolly” mood in his novels, most notably “Pickwick Papers” and naturally “A Christmas Carol” , all punch, holly and ivy and roaring fires accompanied by groaning tables of festive fare. These are the scenes that Victorians, dare I say it, fantasised about and that are so beloved of Christmas card manufacturers! However it is in music that this contrast of styles is so richly embodied. Once again our friend Vivaldi (see my article on Vivaldi and springtime Dantemag 03/13) vividly portrays the freezing trials of this season, only briefly alluding to sitting by a fire while the howling winds batter at the doors. Indeed it was much earlier that Jean-

Baptiste Lully in his opera “Isis” from 1677 set to music “L’hiver qui nous tourmente” with its famous shuddering tremolando descending phrases, so memorably pinched by Purcell for his evocation of Winter in his “The Faerie Queen” in 1692, which ironically has become much better known.. More recently I could quote the “Sinfonia Antartica” by Ralph Vaughan Williams with its chilling evocation of that windswept blanked-out landscape and many of Sibelius’s works take their inspiration from the Finnish fir forests blowing in the cold northern winds. However where do we have to go to find music that encapsulates the warmth, the magic wonderland which is the meaning of winter and Christmas for so many of us, especially our children? We need go no further than Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker ”. Nothing in creative form so epitomises the festive season than this remarkable ballet. Indeeed it has almost become the Christmas banker for so many companies. Has familiarity bred contempt? I will argue that it has not, if entrusted to an imaginative creative team. Once again, like Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” I talked about last time, this ballet was not always the hardy perennial it has become today. The original E.T.A. Hoffmann story called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse-King”, written in 1816, has a heroine called Marie, instead of Issue 01 December-January 2014

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The St. Petersburg National Ballet performing “The Nut Cracker”

Clara, and, in true German Grimm fairytale fashion, is much more gruesome in nature – there is still a Drosselmayer, the inventor and magic toymaker but the Mouse-King has seven heads as the mice emerge from the floorboards and do battle with the toys and the Nutcracker. The Mouseking’s daughter Princess Pirlipat is cursed by the Queen of the Mice and is given a huge head, a wide grinning mouth and a cotton-wool beard, which monstrous fate is passed on to Drosselmayer’s nephew, who had broken the spell on Pirlipat. Marie, by her kindness, rescues the Nutcracker/Prince who finally returns triumphant with the slain Mouseking’s seven crowns and whisks Marie way to the land of dolls and many wonders. She returns to her real home and nobody believes her story even though the seven crowns still lie there. It was Petipa, the great Russian choreographer, who had the idea of making it into a ballet but by now a new, less vicious version by Alexandre Dumas père had gained the upper hand and, somewhat reluctantly at first, Tchaikovsky agreed to write the music for it. The ballet premiered in 1892 but to a very luke-warm reception; what immediately proved to be much more popular was the “Nutcracker Suite” which Tchaikovsky wrote and published earlier, as he was now desperate to be the first composer to feature the newlyinvented “celeste”, so-called for its heavenly bell-like sounds and of course “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is now synonymous with that instrument. However, while the suite continued to be performed, the actual ballet quickly fell out of the repertoire. Just think, it took until 1934 for it to be produced in the UK for the first time and not until 1940, in its complete version, at the San Francisco ballet. You might well argue that it was certainly already well-known, especially after the release of Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” 28

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in 1940 but once again it is the suite Stokowski and the animators drew from and, to a certain extent, one could justifiably maintain that the film’s clever and witty representations of the marvellous music are now what people immediately associate with when they hear the Dance of the Snowflakes, the Chinese dance or the Russian ‘trepak’ dance or, indeed, the Sugar Plum Fairy. Balanchine it was who revived it in a slightly modified version for the New York City ballet in 1954 and this started the trend that from the sixties onwards meant every ballet company in the world now programmes “The Nutcracker” at Christmas. The ballet, as we know it today, has Clara and Fritz as the children of a well-to-do German family, the Stahlbaums, celebrating Christmas Eve, decorating the magnificent tree and inviting honoured guests. One of them is a toymaker and magician, Drosselmayer, who brings life-size toys as presents, including a Nutcracker for Clara.


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During the night she sneaks down to check on the toy and it is now that the magic begins. A great coup de theatre occurs at midnight as the tree suddenly begins to grow and grow, the owl on the top of the clock becomes Drosselmayer and suddenly mice come out of the floorboards and headed by the one-headed Mouseking do battle with the toy soldiers led by the Nutcracker, who, in the meantime, have all come to life. It transpires that the Nutcracker is Drosselmayer’s nephew, a handsome Prince who had been turned into a hideous Nutcracker as a curse. Tin soldiers and dolls carry away the wounded prince, who whisks Clara away to a moonlit forest where snowflakes dance around them. Act II sees the pair being transported in a nutshell, drawn by dolphins to the Land of the Sweets and in Clara’s honour, there follows a succession of excuses for various national dances, chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, tea from China, Russian candy canes dancing the trepak, Danish shepherdesses dance with flutes, followed by Pulcinella and then beautiful flowers dance, rounded off by the great pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince Coqueluche. As a grand finale all the sweets do a grand waltz. The Prince and Clara are crowned King and Queen of the Land of Sweets. Then Clara wakes up and finds herself under the tree, lying next to her Nutcracker. So it was all a dream – or was it? because also there lying right next to her is her crown.

It is quite obvious from just listing the sequence that any dramatic drive judders to a halt in Act 11 but the point is to let yourself be dazzled by the exquisite music and the breath-taking dancing. Just go with the flow, forget your intellectualism and sit back and enjoy the magic, as if you really were in a sweet shop, in fact, in a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’. ‘Oh no, no, no’, I hear you say, ‘I’m O.D -ing on sugar just reading about it!’ Naturally, it all depends on the production. In the hands of an imaginative director and designer, it truly can be a phantasmagoria of colour and spectacle and what pleasure there is to be had in being enchanted and feeling like a wide-eyed child again. Needless to say, there have also been revisionist versions, namely Mark Morris’s retitled “The Hard Nut”. He was inspired by renowned American graphic artist Charles Burns, whose dark explorations of child sexuality certainly put a different gloss on the work! More recently, Matthew Bourne - he, of the hugely successful up-dated “Swan Lake” – had the bright idea of setting it in an Oliver Twist-like orphanage and, as he is wont, wittily renaming all the characters with a stronger sense of Clara’s awakening sexual emotion but still with an intoxicating inventiveness and fun. So wherever you are in the world, what better way to forget the cold, dark, bleak midwinter outside than to dive into a cornucopia of Christmas warmth and cheer and let Tchaikovsky, through the medium of ETA Hoffmann and Alexandre Dumas père’s original story ravish your senses with the sheer beauty of his music and taste the delights of “The Nutcracker”. I urge you to become a child again, rediscover the magical warmth of spirit that surely must be the prevailing emotion of this contrasted time of year – at a ballet near you, without a shadow of a doubt. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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On the Way to School: Which Road Are You Taking Today? By D. Penguin

A few powerful words give a better introduction than a long and prosaic description. This is truly the case when you approach Pascal Plisson’s documentary Sur le chemin de l’école (On the Way to School). The first thing you see on the screen is the following line: ‘We forget too often that to go to school is a question of luck’. Indeed, with those few, provocative words you are plunged into the story.

How many times do we take for granted simple facts inscribed in our lives as though they were signifiers of life as a whole? In fact, do they not consist really of a specification of our own existence, of the uniqueness allowed for by the simple contingency of the place and the moment we are born into? Does it change, can it change otherwise? Plisson’s documentary asks those questions. It brings to the screen the seemingly mundane commodities in Western society that are among the great achievements of our times: school is a paramount victory among them. For most of us, in our first memories there is always the thrill of our first day at school; the joy and pride of acquiring the status of student, of becoming part of a growing great army of young men and women, lined up to become adults through the teachings and the bearing of classes and exams. Indeed, it has become a rite of passage that is taken so much for granted, it begins to be seen as commonplace and even insignficant. So many young people look at their daily lives as a boring necessity between weekends, something to be escaped as soon as possible. And parents and policy-makers and those in charge of improving the experience, while spewing a lot of rhetoric about education, rarely put their money where their mouths are and dedicate sufficient resources to support it. On the Way to School reminds us of the bedrock importance of school, of learning, of improving the level of your education. It reverses the question of what can be considered modernisation and evolution. And it touches a sensible string, one that defines how many efforts and means we need to achieve an end. It talks of determination, stubbornness and self-consciousness; it talks of the power of reason, the beauty of life and the quest for a better future. The stories of Jackson, Zahira, Samuel and Carlos are the tales of four young souls, already adult enough to face the difficult reality in which they live. They live in the world’s Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Gorgonzola Jackson, 10 years old. Kenya: journey to school 15km. 2h

south. They live without running water, without electricity, with scarce resources and with crude environments to face whenever they open their eyes to a new day. However, they fight to be better. They fight for more decent lives for themselves and their families. And their fight for a better world is expressed through the simple gesture of going to school – not only attending lessons, not only studying: first, they must simply get to school! Jackson lives in Kenya. He is the oldest of four children living in a remote area, surrounded by savannahs. He possesses the eyes of a fighter, of someone who already knows that life is a daily battlefield. Once he is awake, he needs to find water, to dig deep into the sand to collect clean water to drink and to wash his clothes. Then, as the sun rises in the sky, he helps his family with the daily hard work required to survive. Zahira lives in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, sharp, sandy mountains and deep gorges. It is her last day at home. Later she will set out for school, and stay there for the week. Grandma is proud of Zahira’s commitment to learning. In grandmother’s days, perhaps a brief period at the mosque was the only moment she could learn something from books, and then only from the Koran. Carlos looks out towards the Patagonian horizon, just before dismounting from his horse and jumping into the sheepfold to grab lambs and help them feed from the ewes. His father then brings him home through the rocky trails to have his breakfast and collect his sister, before setting off to school. Samuel is on the beach, looking out to the Gulf of Bengala, 32

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Samuel, 11 years old. India: journey to school 4 km. 1h.15min

waiting for his mother to come back to collect him and his rusty wheelchair for the morning excercises. Samuel cannot move on his own; soon his brothers will come to start the long journey. They will push and pull Samuel’s chair all the way – for more than 4 kilometres to the village where his school is. Four stories, four kids who are lucky enough to know the power of education. Four children who within are already grown-ups. They have big dreams, and they struggle for them to become real. Pascal Plisson follows them around, as they rise on the day they have to go to school and along the long road that leads there. The rhythm is intense; Plisson does not want the viewer to forget the other stories. They are all connected by the same thread that leads from one house to the other, to the school the kids want to get to. Their families are aware that sparing a hand from home to go to school means losing that hand for work at home and in the fields. But luckily for these children, these families have realised the power of knowledge, the strong meaning of words and the hidden fascination of numbers. Jackson and his brother walk on, steadily carrying their water flasks and their rough fabric bags. The savannah is dangerous for kids; they could easily end up in trouble. The area they must cross is a gathering area for herds of nervous elephants. Jackson’s brother is thin and weak and slows down after a while. Nine miles is a long way for an eight-year-old to walk, but to stop in the midst of the trail means to stop in the hottest spot of the savannah: where the elephants fight. Zahira meets her friends at the top of the next valley. They all live in remote areas, and need to cross several mountain


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crests to reach the main road to the boarding school. They must cover more than 22 kilometres. The sun had yet to rise when they embarked on the weekly journey. Up and down, the gorges fall deeply before they rise again, and the trails become harsh at times. The stones cut and hurt, and the dust fills your nose. They meet travellers, but very few of them are prone to help the young girls. In Morocco, men have better things to do than agree to help the dream of three women. Fortunately, once they reach the main road, a sheep truck allows them to travel with the stock, and they can rest their tired legs for a moment. Carlos tightens the saddle and puts his sister on the horse; then he jumps on. He has got a long way ahead of him, across the infinite pampas, crossing rivers and rocky hills. For the next two hours he needs to be focused to the maximum. Carlos has a mission, but he stops to pay homage to the holy icon set in the middle of the plain with a good luck red ribbon his father gave him. His sister wants to ride in front, and they laugh at the little girl’s clumsy attempts to handle the horse. Eventually, they meet two friends coming from the opposite direction, bearers of the same faith as Carlos and his sister, on the way to school, still hours of riding away. Samuel and his brothers seem luckier. Their boarding school is just four kilometres away. However, they live close to the sea, and the delta is crossed by an infinite daedalus of small canals and swamps. Today the weather is sunny and bright, and Samuel’s smile, as he is dragged in the rickety wheelchair, shines at the rhythm of the jokes his brothers tell. As they approach the city, they puncture a wheel and cannot advance in the dusty, busy roads. Fortunately, their joy seems to transmit to those who meet them, and many are

ready to help them. How the heavy task of pushing young Samuel along hard thoroughfares can turn into a game, a joyful ride, rich with smiles and jokes, is a mystery only kids can explain. Eventually, they all reach their schools, and the success of their journeys is balanced by their success in class. The tale at times makes you catch your breath. Pascal Plisson knows how to handle a difficult matter in a simple, yet never boring, storyline. The camera follows the kids around, captures their hard times, fights with them, runs with them, and shows their faces, always ready to smile. The kids are wonderful. At no time during the movie do we ever suspect they might actually just be acting out a part – even though it is their part. However, at the beginning in particular, the shots are too close-up, the eye of the camera is a bit too close to the daily life of the kids and their family to be truly realistic. It feels as if your eye becomes that intrusive camera and you get used to being so close, paradoxically, you almost forget the unreal nature of their situation. Plisson, there, scores great points in terms of direction. The soundtrack is unforgettable. The sound of many beautiful young voices singing together stays with you until the end and afterwards as you make your own way home. The choice of the musical themes is not clichéd and yet the themes match the visuals without over-dramatising. In the end, we see the children’s worlds through their eyes and hear their voices.

Photos © Wind / Emmanuel Guionet

Carlos 11 years old. Argentina: journey to school 18km. 1h 30min

Zahira, 12 years old. Morocco: journey to school 22km. 4 h Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Whence Design of the Future? The Problem of Education By Julian Taylor

With an estimated 65,000 students graduating from design and creative art courses in the UK this year, how many will succeed in securing a coveted position in their preferred occupation? It is a question posed by academics and industry alike year after year; yet with no sign of falling enrolments, how can we possibly continue to deliver an educational model that will produce designers capable of meeting all the demands industry makes of them? 34

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For a subject in its relative infancy and one that has at times lagged behind the emerging practices within industry, higher creative education needs to be all things to all people. It can no longer specialise in one defined area of expertise while ignoring outside influences or collaborations. A university course of study should be, without doubt, a place to experiment, to develop new ideas and ways of thinking about how we position ourselves in the world and the responses we want in return. Those three or four precious years must be used to encourage creativity, pose questions and increase resourcefulness, while at the same time raising aspirations to produce effective communicators and contributors to society. These are all laudable and admirable goals, though when you are faced with clients who have an expectation to meet budgets and hit deadlines, circumstances can seem very different. An understanding of where the client’s expectations lie and of how to manage them is of paramount importance in bridging the gap between expressive discourse and commercial reality. We need designers whose grasp of commercial success is as fine-tuned as their designs. In a survey carried out in 1999, entitled Destinations and Reflections1, two thousand graduates were questioned about their working habits post-graduation. Many of those participating considered their skills in basic areas such as writing, numeracy, teamwork and self-promotion to be lacking or under-developed. Course content was at the root of these issues, with many degrees devoid of business and professional studies modules. This meant that a generation of designers were left floundering and unprepared to meet the transition between study and employment. The recent global recession and economic uncertainty have only helped to compound the situation, as students find themselves without full-time or guaranteed employment. Creative graduates often take longer to establish themselves within a defined career path, but when even contract or temporary assignments vanish,


DESIGN John Galvin. Neropolitan Credenza

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many are left with little option but to develop an entrepreneurial approach to their work. It becomes obvious that the only route to survival is collaboration and invention between industries, which on the face of it, are the least likely of partners. In response to the study results, the British Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport made a statement proclaiming: “We will do more to understand and analyse the contribution of our creative universities. We will explain the range of talent and skills they require and seek to ensure that all those who have talent, whatever their background, can make a career in the creative industries” (DCMS, 2008) In consequence, universities now actively seek out business opportunities for their students to ensure that the courses on offer and developmental research undertaken meet with the changing nature of industry. Design modules are being included with MBA and business-school curricula and integrated into science and engineering courses. Collaboration is even actively encouraged within the university’s own departments, by way of emphasising the necessity for a multidisciplinary approach. It is not only designers who must look outside of their own worlds, but clients, too, need to be educated in the language of design and how it can be of benefit to their business. How many 36

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times has community architecture or artwork been derided and criticised as a waste of public money? Those who are responsible for commissioning also need to stretch themselves and collaborate where necessary, rather than acting out the role of the grand patron. We must all be equipped with the necessary skills to negotiate and comprehend the made world. Maybe ‘design’ as a subject needs to be taught at a much earlier stage and included within the school curriculum. The UK has a rich creative history that informs current thinking as well as a diverse story to tell in bringing design alive. Historically, design education has been provided via one of two methods: Art & Design or Design and Technology. When introduced in 1988, it was hoped that the latter approach would engender a generation of pupils who could bring their experiences of learning from other areas and use these to engage in the design process. The Department for Education expected that the subject would enhance citizenship, motivate critical appreciation of the made world, and build on an innate human tendency to create and improve itself, helping to inspire enthusiasm for manufacturing and technically skilled occupations – both of which remain industries that desperately need stimulus to help growth, following their demise in the UK under a staunchly service-focused Conservative government. Fighting back against this tendency, The Sorrell Foundation, created in 1989, aims to inspire creativity in young people and improve the quality of life through good design. Over twenty years later, it allows users to experience control and explore what decisions


DESIGN John Galvin. Drinks cabinet, Manolo Lounger and Cuban side table

need to be made for the greater good of their communities. Not all of these decisions will be made by the designer so it is important that we create a generation of people who can provide critical appreciation, as well as build a societal infrastructure of public understanding, required to sustain design. By turning people on to the subject at an earlier stage, the aspirations of making them more alert to design and heighten their appreciations would surely be realised. In short, what is needed now is some clear, joined-up thinking with definitive leadership from government to ensure that the collaborative process is put in place as early as possible. The school environment provides a natural forum for engaging people while they are young enough to approach it with an open mind and at a time when working on projects with external collaborative professionals often forms part of a student’s life. Museums and galleries are widely consulted, both as a source of knowledge and inspiration. Extending that process throughout one’s academic career allows for greater exposure to the wide-ranging possibilities of commissions with or on behalf of public authority thereafter. This widens the scope for the designer to create something different to their normative output and working methods, the results of which can often be unexpected to both the maker and the funder.

financial. And in a post-recession world, cultural institutions need to find and tap into all possible revenue streams. The valuable cross-fertilisation of education and industry and the often lengthy relationships established throughout this process cannot - and should not -be underestimated. The blurring of traditional lines and boundaries will give rise to a new way of thinking from both the perspective of viewer and designer, neither of which should be held in higher regard, one above the other, but merely thought of as equals in a process of integrated thinking and connection.

Blackwell A and Harvey L (1999) Destinations and Reflections: Careers of British

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Art, Craft and Design Graduates, CRQ, UCE.

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The answer to this question is ‘nothing’ on many more levels than is usually appreciated. Since the existence of a historical Jesus remains uncertain, so does his birthday. However, the winter solstice marks the traditional birth of other ancient divine redeemers, notably Mithras, ‘The God of Light’. The more one examines the official gospels, the more one discovers elements of other redemption myths within them. Most obviously, the Jesus stories borrow from the Hebrew Messiah, as an anointed liberator; Dionysus, with the imagery of bread and wine; and Mithras, as ‘The Light of the World’. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Many of Jesus’ parables echo the Stoics and Pythagorean philosophy. Soon, we realise that the only original thing about these tales, is the way they have been assembled. Jesus, the Graeco-Roman Joshua, is essential for dramatising the message. He is the cornerstone, but in a literary, not a literal sense. The fabric of early Christianity is a reflection of the cultural discourse of Hellenised Jewish communities in first-century Tarsus and Alexandria, weaving new patterns onto an Israelite backcloth, to escape the dead hand of the dogmatic priestly cult in Jerusalem. The Saviour’s passive crucifixion and rejection of violence lend credence to the theory that the ‘biographical’ gospels were written with hindsight, after the brutal Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Paul of Tarsus, for example, is unaware of the crucifixion in his early, unforged, letters. After Paul, 40

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Luminous decorations add to the electric glow that conceals the stars above the city buildings. At the darkest time of year, the blazing streets light the way for crowds of shoppers. They are drawn to the cathedrals of capitalism like moths to a candle. Every year, commentators raise the objection: ‘We have lost the true spirit of Christmas’. What does this consumer frenzy have to do with the birth of Jesus?

©Patrick Wang/www.shutterstock.com

by Mike Hawthorne


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British Museum. Marble statue of Mithras slaying a bull. Found in the emperor Hadrian’s Villa. Tivoli. Italy

Orion

the Jerusalem temple priests were dramatically exposed when their Holy of Holies was looted by the imperial legions. Armed revolt was futile. Early Christianity proposed to permeate the world, at all levels of society, by stealth and infiltration, not by the sword. The sword came much later, with Constantine, when the oppressed stepped forward to become the oppressors. After that, an empowered, violent Christianity ‘gained the whole world, but lost its soul’. As the new Imperial state religion, the Roman Church needed an annual calendar of events for public celebrations. Previously, all kinds of cults had flourished alongside the classical pantheon. The Christians ended this tolerance abruptly at the beginning of the fourth century. The exclusive, male mystery cult of Mithras was wiped out. It had been popular among the Roman legions, the real power behind the emperor. Followers of Mithras were tightly organised into secretive groups of initiates worshipping in underground caves and temples. When they smashed these temples, Christians often built on top of them. The soldiers became proto-crusaders, ready to slay or convert pagans at the point of the sword. The cross itself was an old emblem of Mithras, as was the halo. The Roman priesthood adopted Mithraic practices, such as the name ‘father’ and the colours of the vestments of their bishops and cardinals. They made December 25, the day Mithras was born of a virgin among animals and shepherds, Christ’s birthday too. The new faith had already absorbed the God of Light and Eternal Life into the composite figure of Jesus Christ, so it is not surprising that other convenient practices were incorporated. 42

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Human beings have been evolving for millions of years. For the vast majority of that time, nothing was written down. As they emerged from prehistoric oral traditions, the first examples of writing mixed creation myths, heroic legends and local histories into our earliest literature. What had previously been dynamic and changing with every new generation of bards, now became static, fixed by the scribe’s pen. The written word acquired authority over the spoken, simply because it was written. The older the text, the more it was venerated, because it was presumed to be nearer the source – in other words, just because it was older. The Israelites produced their core scriptures to preserve their cultural identity during their exile in Babylon. As a subjugated people, they adapted and transformed myths from the two mighty Mesopotamian and Egyptian empires that surrounded them to create a hybrid tribal identity for themselves. After eliminating the female consorts of such Canaanite gods as Jehovah (a mountain demon), and the sky god El, they merged them into one nameless abstraction that spoke through prophets. Their Torah bulged with half-digested Egyptian, Hittite and Assyrian mythology and a catalogue of petty rules and superstitions collected by their priestly scribes. The heroic prophets of the Babylonian exiles, the patriarchs Abraham and Moses, were wish-fulfilling fantasy figures that led their nomadic clans towards a sedentary existence centred on Jerusalem in a ‘land of milk and honey’. In the end, it was no prophet but a liberating Persian king who allowed these ‘nomads’ to return to Jerusalem and be horrified by the behaviour of its population


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who, in the absence of the zealots, ‘whored after strange gods’. There would have to be a purge. By creating the first recorded ‘minimalist’ religion, in which the temple housed an empty space instead of a statue, the Jerusalem priests forced observant Jews to confront the void. After the Jewish rebellion in the year 70, the temple itself was in ashes. The Hellenised Jews of the Mediterranean coast heard terrible stories of how the surviving defenders were crucified by the hundreds, in deliberately obscene positions, around the ruined walls of the city. The most pitiful, despised, wretched creature imaginable was a crucified Jew. There was nothing lower. The first Christians, with their upside-down, ‘first-shall-be-last’ worldview, had found an image for their Jesus, caught between hypocritical priests and brutal soldiers. The smashed temples of Mithras remain under today’s churches. Recently, one was excavated in the City of London. Its statues

and artefacts are in the Museum of London and the temple’s foundations have now been bought by The Bloomberg Group. However, if you go into the countryside on a clear night, far from the Christmas bustle, and look up at the great constellation of Orion, you might catch sight of Mithras as the ancient Persian stargazers first saw him. The void is full of drama. The God’s dagger plunges into the Pleiades on the neck of Taurus. He seems to carry up the sun as it rises, moving the heavens to bring us renewed life. You’d have to ask three wise men from the east how Jesus fits into this picture. In the current Age of Mammon, the Saviour’s birthday celebration constitutes the biggest annual spike in the retail sales graph, as Bloomberg Financial Services can doubtless confirm. The murder rate, especially within families, also peaks. It is easy to imagine how a character like Jesus would react to such an exaggerated orgy of materialistic greed in his name. He would be kicking over the tables of the merchants and moneychangers until they’d have to nail him up all over again. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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A winter’s Tale by Carla César

He was the most accomplished general of his age, an advisor to three successive Holy Roman Emperors, (Leopold I, Joseph I and Charles VI), and the man who famously held back the Ottoman army at the gates of Vienna, sparing the Austrian empire and the House of Habsburg a Turkish invasion that would have altered the course of its history. Yet there was nothing in the early life of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663 – 1736) that hinted at his courage, military greatness or the diplomatic skills that would make him one of the most powerful men in Europe.

Festivities in Vienna commemorating the 350th birthday of Prince Eugene of Savoy include the spectacular opening of his Winter Palace and an intriguing play on his liaison with Countess Batthyany. 44

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Three centuries after his death Eugene, who one contemporary described as “never good looking” with “two large teeth which are visible at all times”, continues to fascinate the public, thanks to his magnificent cultural legacy and a ubiquitous presence in school books and folk songs. It is therefore fitting that on what would have been his 350th birthday he is the subject of a major play, The Rage of Eleonore Batthyany which through an emotionally charged soliloquy, explores the relationship between the bachelor Prince and the formidable Countess Eleonore. Yet history might have been very different if Eugene had stuck to his original plan to serve the church. Born into a family of four brothers and three sisters, Eugene’s childhood was one of emotional dislocation played out against an aristocratic backdrop of vanity, intrigue and frustrated ambition. His mother Olympia Mancini was a mistress of the French King Louis X1V who after he rejected her, married the brave but unglamorous soldier Eugene Maurice, Count of Soissons. It wasn’t a union brimming with affection. The Count spent most of his time at war while his indifferent wife schemed in the corridors of power, leaving the children to their own devices. However when Eugene was ten his father died while his mother was forced to leave the French court amidst accusations she had threatened the king’s life. She left her son with his paternal grandmother and historians believe the boy may have been sexually abused while he was under her care. Yet Eugene was a survivor, and even though he was expected to follow an ecclesiastical path, his heart was firmly set on the military. When Louis XIV rejected his appeal to join the French army, “The request was modest, not so the petitioner. No one else ever presumed to stare me out so insolently”, Eugene headed to Vienna and entered the service of Leopold I. From that point on he never looked back. Over the years he would prove himself to be a brilliant diplomat as


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Der Gelbe Salon Photo Oskar Schmidt © Belvedere - Vienna

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Reya von Galen as Eleonore Batthyany

well as an excellent soldier and military strategist, scoring decisive victories over the Turks and helping the Duke of Marlborough to triumph at the Battle of Bleinheim. However Eugene’s achievements weren’t restricted to war. As one of the most influential and wealthy personalities of the Austrian empire he was responsible for shaping European politics while supporting the continent’s art and culture. He built up an outstanding art collection, including 400 paintings by the great masters, while his library shelves buckled under the weight of more than 15,000 books purchased during his diplomatic travels and military campaigns. It was Eugene who commissioned the building of the Belvedere palace in Vienna and the Schloss Hof in the surrounding countryside, both of which are regarded as outstanding examples of Baroque architecture. Yet it is the Winter Palace, by the renowned architect Johann Bernhard Fischer Von Erlach, that is the real jewel in the crown. Set in the old town of Vienna, the palace was opened to the public on 18th October (Eugene’s birthday), after an extensive and meticulous five year restoration. Having brought it back to its former glory, it will exhibit 46

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some of Eugene’s paintings alongside more contemporary pieces. What he might have made of all this is open to question but it is fair to say that while his love of art was no secret, his private life was kept under wraps. Little is known about it except that he never married and was childless when he died. In the last twenty years of his life he enjoyed a close friendship with the widow Countess Eleonore Batthyany, who became his confidante and advisor. The two were inseparable, (they played cards together the night before his death), and although they were thought to be lovers, there is no mention of her in his surviving letters. What is known is that Eugene’s enemies, secretly supported by the Emperor Charles VI, used the relationship as an excuse to spy on the couple, in a bid to reveal the extent of her influence over him and to oppose his plans to reform and modernise the state. The scandal and the shenanigans that went with it are the basis of Erwin Riess’ critically acclaimed play, which is due to re-open in Vienna after its recent run in Schloss Hof. Actress/director Reya von Galen plays the role of Eleonore, depicting her as an intelligent, capable woman dealing


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© Belvedere -Vienna

Winter Palace, Gold Cabinet Exterior Winter Palace

with a man whose love will never be fully requited, whilst pitting her wits against the emperor and the male dominated society she has been born into. While awaiting the outcome of an audience between Eugene and the Emperor, the Countess recalls her life at the Prince’s side and the painful awareness of lacking the necessary means to fight her battles in a society governed by male vanities.

© Belvedere -Vienna

Visionary general, art lover, philosopher and politician, the Prince of Savoy is one of the Baroque era’s most seminal figures. His Winter Palace is a landmark of European culture while his meteoric rise to success is an example of determination conquering adversity. Eugene triumphed where others failed because he never lost sight of what he wanted, a quality that Frederick the Great was more than ready to acknowledge: “If I understand anything of my trade, especially in the more difficult aspects, I owe that advantage to Prince Eugene. From him I learnt to hold grand objectives constantly in view, and direct all my resources to those ends.” Issue 01 December-January 2014

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BUSINESS

In the Soap Kitchen by Ben Rungsrithong

A high-quality Thai brand cooks up beauty in a bar. BANGKOK – Alisa Phibunsiri tells us that making soap started out as a mother-daughter bonding activity. ‘We are both huge fans of handmade soaps and love filling up the bathroom shelf with any handmade soap that we can get our hands on,’ she says. This obsession with handmade soaps inspired the duo to delve into the art of soap making. Large piles of books became commonplace at the Phibunsiri household, as did hours of online research. The activity led to around two hundred different recipe tests, which, in turn, resulted in a collection of original recipes that Alisa and her mom absolutely loved. They decided to start a brand, and since the soaps are made in their kitchen, the name ‘Soap Kitchen’ seemed to be a great fit. Their first line of products was small, with only five of the very best recipes making the cut. However, the Soap Kitchen line grew quite quickly and expanded to twelve regular varieties and a few seasonal ones with limited availability.

A GRADE ABOVE One thing that users can expect from Alisa and Soap Kitchen is quality ingredients. Alisa says it all starts from selecting the finest natural ingredients. The oils, she notes, are particularly crucial. ‘Oils are the most important ingredient in soap. The oils that we use are all food-grade oils.’ And why are food-grade oils so special? ‘The use of food-grade oils is something you can never expect from industrial-made soap, which are mostly made with oil acid and not natural oils. But food-grade oils make such a huge difference on your skin,’ explains Alisa. 50

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She goes on to tell us all the benefits of using her soaps. Soap Kitchen’s soap bars produce creamy, smooth bubbles. The formula can moisturise and cleanse at the same time. And most importantly, you don’t have to worry about long-term health risks that are associated with the chemicals found in mass-produced soaps. Alisa Phibunsiri

Other noticeable differences between Soap Kitchen products and mass-produced soaps involve the manufacturing process and how the soap looks. Says Alisa, ‘No two Soap Kitchen soap bars are identical. They’re handcrafted. From blending the ingredients together, to pouring everything into our custom-made wooden moulds, and cutting them into individual bars — all of these steps are done manually.’ Soap Kitchen pays a lot of attention to branding. Alisa wants people to know that the brand is a lot of good things, but above all it’s totally fun. ‘Soap Kitchen breaks the stereotype of handmade natural products. I want the brand to be approachable, fun, unique and always with a sense of humour. We have original products that are different from other brands in the market. We love experimenting with ingredients, to try to come up with something innovative.’ Alisa has plenty of creativity bubbling away when it comes to fresh 52

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ideas for soap. She gets inspired by things in her daily life, and by her movie idols, which explains ‘Grace Kelly’ soap. Food provides inspiration too, hence ‘An Apple a Day’ apple crumble soap and ‘Breakfast’ soap, which contains cocoa powder and oatmeal scrub. The brand’s ‘Rice Pudding Bar’ is Alisa’s favourite soap. In fact, she made a perfume version to spray on her business cards. The inspiration here is quite simple, she relates. ‘I thought about what an actual rice pudding smells like. I mixed vanilla extract, jasmine rice and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top, and luckily made soap that smells like rice pudding! It was also an instant hit with our customers.’ Her now-famous ‘Beer Lao Dark’ is another of her favourites and a Soap Kitchen best-seller. She explains how the soap exceeded their expectations: ‘When we first tried making Beer Lao soap, we really


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didn’t know what we would end up with. But the result was this beautiful chocolate-brown coloured soap that gives out a natural creamy caramel scent. It smells absolutely delicious!’

This makes managing the stock quite difficult as well. And it’s one of the reasons why we often run out of soaps. Not that I’m complaining, of course,’ says Alisa.

Even before soap, Alisa had long had an interest in cooking. That’s paid off in a big way in her new endeavours. ‘Soap-making in a lot of ways is very similar to cooking,’ she observes. From her cooking experiences, she learned about herbs, spices, and other ingredients.

The next step for Soap Kitchen is to expand the product line into body moisturisers, natural lip balms and perfume. Alisa and her mom are already experimenting with and testing a shea butterbased body cream. Fans will be happy to know they can expect a Soap Kitchen body moisturiser soon.

However, Alisa points out there is one aspect of soap making that can be difficult – the wait. The natural soap-making process requires a lot of patience. Even after you’ve formed the material into individual bars, soaps made with the hot-process method need at least three days to rest, while cold-processed soaps (unsurprisingly, made with no heat involved) need up to six weeks before they are ready. ‘You can imagine how hard it is when we come up with something new and are dying to try it out, but then have to wait for six weeks.

The brand is also looking for a location to open the first Soap Kitchen store in Bangkok. Alisa says it’s going to be designed to an unconventional concept, one that you wouldn’t expect from a brand of body products. Don’t get in a lather. We’ll just have to wait and see what they come up with. In the meantime, you can stay tuned at www.soapkitchenbkk.com.  Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Lake Garda And Lugana

A Marriage Made In Heaven by Novella Donelli

One of Italy’s great tourist attractions needs no introduction – visitors flock to its breathtakingly beautiful Northern lakes in numbers but DANTEMAG discovers the area has another jewel in its crown - LUGANA wines grown near Lake Garda are making waves around the world 54

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“Drink your Lugana, young or very young and you will relish its freshness. Drink it two or three years old and you’ll enjoy it’s all roundedness. Drink it after ten years; you’ll be taken aback by its overall authoritativeness... Lugana wines have that very rare quality among wines, namely an extraordinary ability to be instantly recognisable” Thus the renowned wine critic and expert Luigi Veronelli describes the profile of Lugana brand, appreciating as he does both the character and personality of their wines, whatever their age. There are five aspects to consider when discussing the Lugana range of wines. THE GRAPE Lugana, in its three different configurations – Lugana DOC, Lugana Superiore and Lugana Spumante uses a grape called Trebbiano of Lugana, which, locally, is known as the ‘turbiano’ - a grape variety known and appreciated going back to Roman times, the ‘trebulanus’ The turbiano vine is a white variety, has a definite spread and characteristically grows in medium–sized bunches of longish pyramid shape. The grapes themselves are slightly elongated of a yellow-green colour, they are round with a slightly hairy skin, the flesh of which is succulent, loose and ever so slightly acidic but which is neutral to taste. A peculiar characteristic of this variety is its marked resistance to the rigours of winter, even if as a result it is susceptible to powdery mildew and botrytis. The turbiano achieves its full potential in soil that is quite dry and is naturally majority clay, flinty and chalky. The other white grape variety for the 10% permitted under the DOC specifications are still from the same turbiano variety but it is not necessarily as perfumed.

View of Sirmione

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so prestigious as to be recognised and acknowledged around the world. The Lugana DOC is an elegant and distinctive wine that surprises the palate with its freshness and its unique character. In its young incarnation it has a straw-yellow hue with greenish tints while, with age, it tends to a much more intense yellow with golden hues. The bouquet unleashes a delicate aroma of white flowers and citrus. It tastes smooth to the palate, fresh and with a strong but delicate character, sometimes with a woody aftertaste. After just one tasting, the nose picks up in addition yellow fruit, citronella and almond. It is especially recommended as an accompaniment to fishbased dishes and absolutely ideal to have with the local Lake Garda specialities, such as all manner of risottos made with either tench, carp, frogs legs, lake bass or local green vegetables. Perfect also with shellfish and molluscs, Lugana DOC can be drunk with prosciutto ham and any hors d’oeuvres in general, most notably with pike in salsa, which is the wine’s most popular combination. LUGANA SUPERIORE Aged and refined as it is for a minimum of twelve months after the first grape harvest on October 1st, Lugana Superiore is the most prestigious product in the Lugana range. 56

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It is straw-yellow in colour with greenish tints; its alcohol content must not go below 12 degrees as stipulated in its specifications. Albeit a young wine, it has been able to make its mark because of its originality, elegance and structure and is in contention with the most trumpeted white wines, gaining plaudits and recognition from both wine specialists and wine connoisseurs alike. To the palate its taste is strongly characterised and lingers pleasantly with bittersweet notes, revealing hints of cedar, kiwifruit, peach and apple overtones. If it has been wood-aged, the prevailing notes suggest hints of flowers, fruit and herbs along with vanilla, hazelnut and almond. It is an extremely versatile wine: ideal with freshwater and sea fish main courses, it is a perfect accompaniment to grilled white meats. Another winning combination is drinking Lugana Superiore with pork and salamis as well as with young cheeses. LUGANA RISERVA Added to our range in 2012, it is a natural development on from the Superiore. Its specification is that it must have aged for a minimum of 24 months, of which six laid in bottles. The Riserva’s palette of colours tends to be more vibrant, with a more developed and intricate range of aromas with notes that recall smoky chimney stone and hints of balsamic, it tastes


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Lugana’s vineyards on the Moreniche Hills

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of stone that is warmer but still striking, full of flavour and lingering. It lends itself to rich fish dishes and quite simply just drunk as a superb aperitif, too. LUGANA LATE HARVEST A different Lugana wine, more “experimental”, but still far removed from the sweet viscosity of traditional ‘straw wines’, this Lugana wine is created by an “over-ripening” of the grapes, namely harvesting them late, in fact, not until the end of October or the first weeks of November, without undergoing any further drying in the store-room. The resultant grapes are concentrated and rich and so give the Lugano the characteristics of a late harvest wine, namely much smoother and denser but without being excessively sweet, as the sugar content is successfully counterbalanced by its slight acidity, in the manner of those late harvest Alsace or German Spätlese wines. The longevity of these “dry” and “stable” versions varies from type to type but also depends on the method of production. Now that the trend is more and more towards producing the wine using steel vats and “sur lie”, i.e. allowing the self-fermentation of the wine over a prolonged period so as to increase body and flavour or using a mixture of steel vats and wood casks for the ageing process of the higher quality wines such as Riserva or

Superiore, the Lugana versions are proving to be much longerlasting than even just a few years ago. It is the perfect accompaniment to rich and refined dishes and ideal just to taste on its own. LUGANA SPUMANTE This wine is an extremely interesting proposition, aimed as it is at a demanding and meticulous wine-drinking public, who, despite its limited output, have justifiably paid tribute to its merits, appreciating its high quality. History relates that, already in the nineteenth century, a group of entrepreneurs from Champagne, who had arrived on the southern shores of Lake Garda, admired the Lugana white wine to such an extent that they looked into the possibility of building at Rivoltella wine cellars that would produce spumante. The idea never took off as output at the time was too limited and did not justify the investment. So, considering that even two centuries ago people were already thinking of making a spumante out of Lugano wines, it is therefore not in any way a matter of chance that the idea has resurfaced again. So, despite its relative youth, Lugano spumante benefits from centuries-old appreciation of its potential to announce an assuredly brilliant future for itself. It is straw-yellow in colour, with fine bubbles; it has a lingering and fragrant flavour, with fruity notes when the Martinotti spumante method is used or with a refined bouquet if fermented in bottles. Ideal as an aperitif, it can equally be a fine accompaniment to Parma ham, fine parmeggiano cheese and, last but not least, the traditional fish delicacies of the Lake Garda area. Tr. Philip Rham Issue 01 December-January 2014

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COVER

JOANA VASCONCELOS.

The world of yesterday today The art world has many

By Mario Moniz Barreto

This friend, once we started off again towards the exhibition, remarked how he missed a time when people were able to enjoy the city in a somewhat more humane way.  When nearly “everyone” knew nearly “everyone” else. He went on to say that, mutatis mutandis, the same could be said for almost every large city. However, I countered, and he agreed with me, by saying I was sure that was only true for a minority of people, most of them already born into privilege. But alas what about the others? It is perhaps a fitting tribute to this dichotomy of modern life, no matter how reluctantly we embrace it or not, to be able to talk to an artist who hasn’t just exhibited at the Palace of Versailles and its Gardens but has appeared to have literally taken them by 60

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Miguel Domingos/©Unidade Infinita Projectos

I am reminded while starting to write about my conversation with Joana Vasconcelos and the sometimes conflicting thoughts that exchange provoked, of the occasion when I was walking with a friend in early October in Lisbon. It was one of those fortunately frequent days when it seems summer is robbing autumn and we were taking our time on our way to the opening of an exhibition in what had been a harbourside warehouse and was now a gallery. We were taking forever to get there, having stopped first at a second-hand watch seller and repairer, who regaled us with some anecdotes about Fernando Pessoa and the offices where he used to - in his words – ‘shift around papers’, and stories about ancient politicians.

stand-out members but none more so than the fiercely Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, whose ardent espousal of modern technology combined with a lyrical attachment to the spirit of adventure of the great sixteenth century Portuguese trailblazers make her a fascinating and challenging model for the new millennium. Dantemag went to find out more.


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Joana Vasconcelos and Miss Jasmine, 2010

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Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projectos

Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projectos

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Blue Champagne, 2012 Marilyn (AP), 2011

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Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projectos

Lilicoptère, 2012

storm.  By the way, Joana Vasconcelos seems not only to embrace but to thrive on and relish how art has leapt on and wrapped itself in technology and the financial economy. As she tells me once I finally enter her office after undergoing an extensive tour of her entire studio where I am introduced to dozens of architects, embroiderers, artisans, financiers, accountants, PR officers, “ Unlike Michelangelo’s mythically expanded studio, mine really exists!” She looks slightly demure in a black and red dress, wearing an

irregularly shaped necklace - possibly one of her own designs. Her inquisitive eyes seem to encourage and entice the exchange that ensues. In 1895 Charles Peguy wrote “The world has changed less since the time of Jesus Christ than it has in the last 35 years.” How true!  Paul Valéry in his essay on the achievements of ubiquity , “Pièces sur l’Art”, further elaborates: Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Valquíria Enxoval [Valkyrie Trousseau], 2009

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Mary Poppins, 2010

Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projectos

Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projectos

“ …the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts, there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be before, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power (…) We must expect great innovations to transform the technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.” The prophetic Walter Benjamin, in his essay on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” expands on this. Departing from the quasi magical notion of the aura, Benjamin argues that, with the invention of Photography (coinciding with the rise of socialism), Art and her defenders - possibly perceiving Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projectos

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Coração Independente Preto [Black Independent Heart], 2006

In spite of Joana’s enthusiastic adherence to what now appears to be a sacred union between the new technologies available to produce art and the métier itself, her vision of why she creates is from another time. Fighting for her Art When asked which one of her creations is her greatest achievement she sits up straight, with her ever so slightly frowning eyes, at once intense and alert, even though her face remains serene and she has no difficulty in identifying “The Bride”, an enormous - like most of her monumental sculptures - chandelier made out of tampons. Maybe together with another sculpture entitled “The Burka”, these have been the works that have perhaps provided so much hilarity 66

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an existentialist threat - quickly evolved to the proposition of ‘L’art pour l’art’ (‘Art for art’s sake’) as opposed to art as justified by a profane, or sacred function.

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Joana Vasconcelos - Château de Versailles


Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projecto

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Trafaria Praia, 2013. The Trafaria Praia ferryboat/work in Venice

for the fun-loving Joana. The latest incident happened exactly in Versailles when the Palace’s female director, refusing not only to see what these works looked like when assembled, did not even let them through the gates. Louis XVI seems to have been more obliging towards the Paris mobs of the late 1700s… Versailles has been neither the latest nor the first of Joana’s successes. Nevertheless it retains for her, as I gather from the way she talks about it, a special flavour. She proudly indicates the rather long list of reasons why: Vasconcelos was the first woman to exhibit there; she is Portuguese, despite having been born in Paris in 1971 and she was the first artist to cover both the Palace and the Gardens. Moreover, the maybe more (for now) world-renowned names that preceded and followed her of Koons and Murakami did not attract the same number of visitors; in fact they did not come anywhere near the approximately 1.6 million Joana’s works received, which made it France’s most popular exhibition since the

Treasures of Tutankhamun opened in the 1960s. Portuguese and proud One could say Joana’s Versailles may have been her ‘Rubiconcrossing’ moment. But she is the first to admit she would never have been able to get there without her previous 2011 participation in ‘The World Belongs to You’ exhibit in the Palazzo Grassi. The fallout, Joana adds, from both these invaluable moments led to her taking part in this year’s Venice Biennale with the sensationprovoking “Trafaria Praia”, an old ferry boat that used to cross the River Tagus linking central Lisbon and the southern suburbs. The Trafaria Praia will soon start calling at several ports around the world, from Macau to Cartagena de las Indias, with stopovers in several other places including, one would hope, Lisbon. According to Joana, while the Grassi and Versailles exhibits Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Trafaria Praia, 2013. Detail of the Valkyrie Azuleio installation within the Trafaria Praia ferryboat at Navaltagus shipyard in Seixal

contributed to making her a better-known international household name, it was her participation in the Venice Biennale that achieved her identitary or inherited identity which she considers to be the most important feature as to how she wants her public persona to be perceived as, namely her Portuguese nationality. As she says, fulfilling one of the Artists’ functions, “by interpreting the times and doing so on behalf of the tribe”. Joana declares that up until then, most French considered she was one of them whereas the international art community, mainly because of her use of explosions of colour, saw her as Brazilian, or Latin American. The “Trafaria Praia” swept away those two misconceptions. The Versailles “Bridal” controversy, together with Joana’s general outlook, may be just down to how she thinks of herself: first and foremost as Portuguese, then secondly as a woman and then, and only then, as an artist. 68

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For Joana, identity is so much about personal choice and she makes that personal choice with such positive energy that one can’t help but be enthusiastically enamoured of her definition of what it is to be Portuguese and why, according to her, we need to feel connected to our own corners of the world, however small or large. She couldn’t be more opposed to the definition put forward by Syèys, not more then a few months after the fall of the “Ancien Régime” in France, about what constitutes a nation: “A body of associates living under common laws and represented by the same legislative assembly”. On the contrary Joana seems to embrace the ideas of a “Volksgeist” as the Germans refer to the “spirit of the people”. Vasconcelos would, I suspect, be more in tune with Fustel de Coulanges who, rather elegantly, maintains that “Neither race, nor language distinguishes one nation from the other. Men feel in their hearts that they belong to the same people when they share ideas,

Luís Vasconcelos / © Unidade Infinita Projecto

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Shy Adam / Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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Lusitana, 2013 (detail). Tel Aviv

interests, affections, memories and hopes.  (…) Our nation is the place we love.” At a time when, in her words, “we are losing our sense of physical and political borders, the element of locality becomes more relevant. This spreading out – Joana symbolically waves her arms – as much a result of the globalisation of our economies and even of some of our customs and aspirations provokes an inverse reaction of contraction – Joana elegantly and appropriately pretends to hold a baby in her arms - whereby people and, especially artists, seek what emotionally, intellectually or at any other level, connects them to the place they are attached to or come from.” Vasconcelos’s choice of what makes the Portuguese “geist”, like Susan Sonntag’s definition of what Art is (in “Against Interpretation”) certainly has the “capacity to make us nervous”.  Joana chooses lyricism and adventure as the two Xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx

main traits of her nationality. One is what also makes the country so badly managed while the other is what, time and again, enables it to extricate itself out of messy situations. She says that she shies away from the versions of the lyricism of the perpetually nostalgic or depressed lovers of the saudade, just as she avoids the meaning of adventure as an uncalculated or irresponsible and unprepared leap. She also rejects what the Salazar 48 year long Salazar rule inspired, namely a lack of self confidence and flattering portrayals of poverty, which a lot of our counterparts assimilated, as if they were the very fabric of what makes a Portuguese Portuguese. Instead Joana opts for the lyricism that makes us see opportunities before others see them and the audacity to seek a way out and grow. Indeed, Joana lives and breathes the best of volkgeist of sixteenth century Portugal.

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Shy Adam / Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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Shy Adam / Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Lusitana, 2013 (detail). Tel Aviv

With the Trafaria Praia project she goes one step further in pinpointng what it is to be a Portuguese national: “a certain sense of authenticity, with regard to quality and design, to which we should encourage the adding of more style”. Products like fine bone china, cork, wine, olive oil, tinned preserves, cotton, shoes, or leather originating from all parts of the country soon filled the boat’s interior, while concerts and lectures took over the upper deck. “La Nave va”. Aspects of this same audacity in Joana may help to explain, along with her work, why she is, as she points out with a whiff of selfvindication in her voice, one of the few non-UK based artist to take part in the Artwars project, currently on show at the Saatchi in London, where she decorated a stormtrooper’s helmet in her signature lace and at the same time putting, as we speak, the finishing touches to a “J’Adore Miss Dior” bottle-inspired sculpture for a Dior exhibition which opened the 25th of November at the Grand Palais, or why maybe more than half of her enormous studio was taken over by the preparation process to create a nearly 30 metre high Valkyrie, which was also delivered in November to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. As she puts it at the beginning of our conversation “we need to overcome the odds”.

The Dissection of Sensibility The brilliance of the (jeweller by training) Joana, also comes, in my opinion, from what Sonntag in a lesser-known essay from 1965 designates as “One culture and the new sensibility”. This is nothing less than a “Shock of the New”, as Robert Hughes puts it referring to the late nineteenth century, which, one could argue, was epitomised, at its outset, by the Eiffel Tower and at its height by the 70

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Duchamp Fountain, as they symbolise the more or less harmonious, or the more or less conflict- ridden marriage between the literaryartistic and the scientific traditions Going back to Sontag’s essay she asserts that art is increasingly becoming the terrain of “specialists” whose works sometimes require a comparable degree of “education of the sensibility” in order to be appreciated, for example mastering physics. She concludes that what the world was witnessing back then was what she hoped could be a “potentially unitary kind of sensibility”, which would be the result of not only the merging with the sciences but of the still new experience of fast travel, crowdedness and the nearness of the different, like in no other time previously, or as a result of the ensuing breaking down of boundaries in the act of creation. A few years ago a Paris-based Portuguese philosopher, José Gil, wrote an essay entitled “Portugal and the Temptation to Exist”.


©Unidade Infinita Projectos

Bruno Portela / ©Unidade Infinita Projectos

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J’Adore Miss Dior, 2013

Few, maybe even those that only read the polemic, remained indifferent. Vasconcelos seems to have a comparable effect both on those that know her work and on those that have only heard of some of her pieces. When asked if she feared becoming associated with the very “continental” idea of embodying the stereotype of a “regime artist ” i.e. one protected by a predictable flow of commissions and acquisitions, she pauses, amused at the idea, then says that not only is she one of the very few national artists with no gallery in her country, but she still has no sculptures in any of the country’s main public or private collections. She also points out she is working almost exclusively on international projects.

Combining Sonntag’s “new sensibility” with Vasconcelos’s voraciously historicist and yet scientifically constructed works that are sometimes comic and witty but at the same time disturbing, it is possible to arrive at this “one world”, where the diversity and plurality of our modern world become a unified whole. The effect

on the viewer and any interloper is similar to zapping from channel to channel at home, namely an addictive appetite for more.

The Christmas It is the festive season and in that same spirit, when asked how she views Christmas, Joana directs me to one of her most iconic pieces, “Nectar”. It is a ‘doppelgänger’ as not only is its title emblematic of, in her words, “healing, or curing and life renewal”, it can also be read as “wisdom, spiritual enlightenment and nourishment”. Both interpretations represent themes associated with this time of year. “Nectar” may also refer to the wine, the author adds, as the piece is created by using typical red wine bottles to sculpt a “candelabra” reminiscent of a Christmas table and the season’s most important moment, when the family gathers round to share a long meal that is “well watered” a Portuguese literal translation of an expression clearly not involving the consuming of water! Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Yes We Can A Greek Food for Thought Story All we hear about today is the horrendous amount of food that is thrown away and wasted by the commercial retailers as well as households. And then again the alarming news that because of the longest recession in living memory, food banks have never been so well patronised. Tia Dania tells an inspiring story of Boroume, that miraculously offers a practical solution to these two conundrums 74

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In a European country blessed with rich soil, endless sunshine and abundance of food, almost 30% of the Greek population is living below the poverty line and unemployment has reached 27.7%. According to Unicef, the number of children living in poverty in Greece places them th 30 among some of the world’s 35 developed economies. These statistics are unprecedented in Greece, and due to problems of their own making the government has been unable to handle the basic requirement of feeding citizens who are too poor to do so. The love of communal eating with family and friends plays a major role in Greek society, yet Xenia Papastavrou, a working mother living in Athens, regularly witnessed large quantities of perfectly edible food being thrown away while young children were going


WINDOW OF THE SOUL

The three founding members of Boroume, from left to right, Mr. Alexander Theodoridis, Ms. Alexia Moatsou, Ms. Xenia Papastavrou. 

hungry. That was in 2011, when Xenia conceived the idea that if the food could be redistributed to those who needed it, it would decrease wastage and help to nourish those who did not have the means to do so. As a result of this idea, “Boroume”, a new organisation meaning “We Can” was born, which stepped in to fill the vacuum, bringing together surplus food to those who needed it. Xenia Papastavrou was joined by two co-founders, Alexander Theodoridis and Alexia Moatsou, who together set up an office in Athens which opened in January 2012, and which has now become a vital hub, facilitating connections between supplier and receiver. Because of Xenia’s upbeat and positive message, together with the combined effort of the many volunteers, Boroume has received

assistance from many businesses that have made donations. To furnish the offices for example, IKEA supplied everything to completely fit it out - so much so, in fact, that Boroume staff affectionately call it the ‘House of Boroume’ because it has such a genuine feeling of being at home. On the technical side the esteemed Bodossaki Foundation offered computers needed for internet access and the installation of a vital database. Volunteers run the office, whilst steady streams of others constantly get in touch with Boroume to offer their services. The operating process Boroume devised was a simple one, which has contributed to their tremendous success. Their main goal was to establish themselves as intermediaries, facilitating connections between food suppliers who wanted to discard food - such as bakeries, supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants - with those parts of the community who needed the food such as orphanages, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and many other welfare institutions. Boroume now has a total of over 700 welfare institutions on file. The success of Boroume is primarily the result of the efforts of Xenia Papastavrou, its co-founders Alexander and Alexia, and its many enthusiastic volunteers. What is so special about its achievements is the simplicity and efficiency of its modus operandi. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Boroume connections: A chef packing up the 50 meals his hotel donates every week to a soup-kitchen.

Boroume connections: A food drive organised by a company being delivered to an orphanage

Here is how it works. Every day Boroume records the needs of welfare institutions and those people requiring help. They also constantly make a record of businesses wishing to donate their surplus food. A search is then made for the location closest to both donor and recipient. To do this, Boroume further enhanced a simple search method by installing a Google map on their website www.boroume.gr, showing location of supplier addresses, so that recipients can easily gain access to their donor with the minimum of effort. The database and map are continuously updated during the day and late into the night. Boroume has found this beneficial, both in terms of being the easiest and quickest way to connect, but also of promoting and strengthening relationships within the neighbourhood. As proof of their dedication to the work they are doing, the Boroume staff is still in the office at 11.00 pm as they frequently will receive calls from restaurants late in the evening…and so they can be there to make the necessary arrangements. Many newly married couples also will call in at the end of their wedding reception to offer their surplus food. Currently, Boroume is helping hundreds of welfare organisations to find the food they need. It has now reached the incredible figure of distributing 1,000 meals per day. All this is done with private donations from Greek citizens and foreign donors throughout the world who have been impressed with Boroume’s positive message. 76

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Boroume connections: A fish seller in Athens gives his surplus to a charitable institution.

The donors are regular people - a typical touching story is that of a Danish couple who often holiday in Greece and who heard about Boroume on the radio. They offered to pay the rent for several months when Boroume moved to new offices. The organisation is entirely dependent on donations and volunteers, receiving no funding from the Greek government. Fortunately, a happy outcome of its simple and highly efficient operational model is that sometimes the two parties of supplier and receiver choose to continue the process without any further involvement from Boroume. The numbers of those suppliers joining Boroume in their quest to feed the needy is constantly rising, as is the number of people who have been helped. Just to give an indication of the scope of their reach: between 2,000 and 6,000 people receive assistance on a weekly basis through Boroume, and the daily figure of 1,000 meals per day has recently been surpassed. More statistics - over 200 companies, and 80 catering businesses


WINDOW OF THE SOUL

Boroume connections: Scouts gathering oranges from an institution’s orchard Boroume connections: Left over vegetables collected at a school’s event destined for two welfare institutions.

have offered food and produce on a regular basis. A total of 25 hotels in Attica offer an average of 50 meals per week as well as other needed items such as linen, curtains, appliances and other equipment. A total of 700 charity organisations and soup kitchens are serviced by Boroume. Communication and cooperation with social services have been made in 120 municipalities. More than 650 volunteers from 20 different parts of Greece have signed up to help in any way they can. Twenty volunteers offer their time on a weekly basis in the office. People from 11 countries including Canada, USA, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Singapore, South Africa, France and the UK have given donations via Boroume to families in need. Fully supported initially by volunteers offering their time, determination and endless positive energy, Boroume’s status is now that of an NGO (non-governmental organisation), all started by founder Xenia Papastavrou’s refusal to believe that food wastage was something she could accept. From humble beginnings, Boroume has managed to achieve the respect of all parties concerned and has reached the attention of the press outside the boundaries of its activities in Greece. Articles about them have appeared both in the Greek press as well as many others, including the Guardian and Huffington Post.

The story of Boroume is all the more remarkable considering

volunteering in Greece was not viewed as necessary in the past due to a culture of close-knit family ties which took care of its own. With the economy in freefall - and the ensuing high unemployment - families are now unable to support each other. To encourage awareness, Boroume’s office welcomes unemployed volunteers to further the spirit of volunteerism by offering them the opportunity to work with them. Volunteering is now flourishing in many parts across Greece and groups are being created that have quickly mobilised to help others. Within every hardship – and that includes Greece’s financial situation - it seems there is an opportunity for change, for the discovery of a different way of doing and seeing things. New alliances are formed and awareness of possibilities to improve our world presents itself. Boroume has showed by example that if we have a noble idea and a deep conviction to serve, the circumstances will emerge to help us realise our vision. The spirit of giving is like seeds that require time and patience and the efforts of many to nourish an orchard that will grow to feed all those taking care of it and beyond.

Website (in English): http://www.boroume.gr/en/ Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Boroume Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Detox to Retox By Elisa T. Keena All societies have their traditional detoxification methods – fasting, massage, breathing, chanting, dry brushing, sweating, exercise, herbs and oils. In the past, these techniques were often incorporated into the daily lives of lay people at specific times of the year - perhaps at the changing of the seasons, or revolving around religious ceremonies, rites of passage or the gathering and hunting of food. For whatever reason, detoxing has been or should be a ‘way of life’ that we can all incorporate into our lives.

The body has its own detoxification systems that perform every day. These consist of our skin, liver, colon, lymph nodes, lungs and kidneys. It is important to keep these systems functioning well. The liver’s job is to prevent noxious substances from entering the body; it dismantles them with specific enzymes and excretes them through bile into the colon. It is the first line of defence against toxins, poisons, excess hormones, proteins and internal steroids that are found in the food or medicine we consume or that we make in our body. The kidneys filter our blood to remove other toxins, which are excreted in the form of urine. The colon is filled with helpful and harmful bacteria, which break down and flush out contaminants before they are re-absorbed or become stagnant. The skin, a major organ of detoxification, is constantly releasing toxins through sweat and interactions with the surrounding world. 78

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With the turning of the autumn season, the Earth sheds the lush, verdant, luxurious excesses of spring and summer. The leaves turn, exploding in a rainbow of colours, then swirling, floating towards the Earth. The harvest is abundant with fruits, figs, grapes, and vegetables. The world begins the transition from the cycle of the harvest to the restoration that comes with the hibernation of winter. As the Earth cleanses, cleanse your body. It is a great time to detox – just in time to “retox” for the winter celebrations! Although it is great for your health to do a gentle fast or detox on a regular basis, signs that your body may really need a tune up include: fatigue • Extreme Headache • Persistent sluggishness • Persistent distress • Constipationgastrointestinal or sluggish elimination • Trouble sleeping • Psoriasis or skin disorders •


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chemical and environmental allergies • Food, Fibromyalgia disorders • Water retentionor orauto-immune oedema • Extreme anxiety, stress, fear or emotions with no apparent • reason alcohol, medications or environmental toxin intake • Excessive Increased infections • Distended low-grade stomach • Bags under the eyes • Of course, the best recipe is to eat healthy foods, huge amounts of vegetables and fruits, exercise, meditate, drink herbal teas, sweat, get massages, use essential oils, turn off electronics a few days a week, look at beautiful things, listen to relaxing music and spend quality time with loved ones all the time. In this day and age, though, all that might be a tad difficult (just a tad). So here are some suggestions to help you detox physically and mentally, to keep you healthy, and make sure that you start out the new season fresh and ready to take on the New Year.

THE TOOLS: Sweating

• • • • •

Improves Circulation Boosts immune system About 1% of toxins are released through sweat, but it can be dehydrating so make sure you refill on fluids Important for mental and spiritual cleansing May release toxins stored in the subcutaneous fat tissue

• • •

Yogic deep breathing can empty the lungs of carbon dioxide • and allow more oxygen in Better leads to better oxygenation of all tissues, • which circulation in turn brings toxins to the liver and kidneys to be re-

absorbed or excreted. Strengthens the lungs which allows easier release of toxins

Exercise

circulation • Improves Increases blood and oxygen flow to all organs and muscles of • the body Opens joints and increases flexibility which engages the fascia • and promotes health and a balanced mental and physical body Gentle during a cleanse to aid the blood in getting the • toxins toexercise the correct organ for excretion Yoga twists and heart opening can aid in physical, emotional • and mental detoxification Restorative yoga poses relax the fascia and help maintain good • neurohormonal feedback Exercises where there is a repetitive pumping motion increases • lymph flow which helps the bodies immune system to clear toxins

Herbs

to promote and assist different systems in the body • Used Ingesting inhaling oils, using them to cook with, using in • lotions or teas, as a compress can all stimulate the body to function

better See Chart

Dry Brushing

Fasting/Juicing

• •

Breathing

Decrease in calories causes the body to utilise its fat stores for energy When the fat reserves are used for energy in any type of a fast, they release stored toxins and chemicals which can then be excreted through one of the detoxification organs (liver, colon, skin and lungs) Helps divert the body’s energy away from the digestive tract into the immune system and metabolism Is thought to increase vital force and the connection to the spiritual world in many cultures Allows vital nutrients, phytochemicals, in an easily absorbable manner to provide the body with what it needs to heal.

rid the body of dead skin • Helps Improves vascular circulation and lymph flow • Rejuvenates nervous system • Assists in thetheabsorption of nutrients as it decreases clogged • pores is the biggest organ of the body so take care of it • Skin Follow a hot and cold shower and great moisturizer. You • can addwith those herbal essential oils to it!

Massage

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venous return • Increases Helps rid muscles of metabolic by-products so they can be • recycled bytheother organs in the body Improves blood flow to the kidney and liver to aid in their • detoxifying capabilities Feels good • Decreases stress, improves mood and decreases anxiety •

THE ORGANS

Diet

• •

of our toxins are taken in through the food and beverage • Many choices we make. Therefore when we eat fresh, organic, fruit

• • • • •

and vegetables, compassionately-raised meats, poultry and fish that are steamed, broiled or sautéed and plenty or raw foods, nuts, seaweeds we are ultimately providing the body with the nutrients it needs to maintain its own cleanse. Drink hot water with lemon every morning to assist in digestion. It triggers nerve and hormone activation in the digestive tract. Drink a fresh fruit and vegetable juice as a snack, for instance, kale, lemon, ginger, apple and beet juice. Avoid processed foods, high fats, and white flours and grains on a daily basis Once a week, do a modified fast: stop eating at five p.m. and don’t eat anything else till the morning. It gives the gut a chance to rest and regenerate all the enzymes it uses to digest your foods. Certain foods contribute to the functioning of the liver and the kidney. See chart.

Sleep/Rest

is the great healer! It lets the nervous system restore itself, • Sleep it calms the mind and it rests the digestive tract. important to rest when you are detoxing. This is • Itnotis aespecially time to do heavy exercise. Spend time listening to your body; notice the changes it is going through. 82

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Liver

and lymph cleansing – screens out metabolic wastes and • Blood returns fluids to the body. enzymes and hormones necessary for metabolism, for • Produces example, bile which is produced in the liver and stored in the

• • •

gall bladder to digest fats. Filters excess hormones. Maintains levels of vitamin D, oestrogen (decreases amount in blood), fibrinogen (blood clotting), growth factors, blood pressure control. Acts as reservoir for glycogen for glucose control and vitamin and minerals. Makes cholesterol which is recycled by the liver and is important in the production of sex hormones and cell membrane maintenance. Makes triglycerides which are involved in insulin production from the pancreas.

Kidneys Regulate and excrete toxins through the urine daily. Important to drink enough fluid to keep the system well hydrated. Consume half your body weight in ounces – 100 pound person would drink 50 ounces.

Skin

organ in the body – we have both inner and outer skin. • Largest Contains two types of glands for sweating • − Apocrine glands found in armpits and hair follicles are odour-containing glands. They are very active in stressful situations − Eccrine glands that produce water sweat (water and salt), found all over the body


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it comes into contact with the environment, it acts as • Wherever a filter bringing nutrients in and releasing toxins. lymph system is right underneath the skin. This is called • The SALT: Skin Associated Lymphatic Tissue. It is part of the immune

• •

system so it neutralises, metabolises and gets rid of any toxins coming in to the body via this pathway The stomach also has a layer of ‘skin’ which holds the lymph system called GALT – Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue. This is where 80% of your immune system lies. So if the skin on the outside isn’t good, the skin on the inside probably isn’t either. The lymphatic system is an organ under the skin that aids in detoxification and immune function.

Colon

bacteria that breaks down the indigestible portion of foods. • Has They can create beneficial or harmful chemicals. You want to

keep your colon flowing regularly to prevent a build up and reabsorption of these unwanted chemicals The inner lining of the colon changes every three days.

Lungs

lungs come in contact with environmental toxins every • Your day. These toxins can build up in your lungs and cause

emphysema and other lung issues This is the organ that provides oxygen to the rest of the body, so take care of it – you can’t go more than a minute or two without breathing

HOW TO BEGIN A DETOX:

Don’t try quitting alcohol, smoking, fried foods and caffeine in one day. Stress is worse for your body than anything else!

STEP 2: After the initial period you can choose to do a complete fast for two to three days or try a juice fast. If you are choosing a water fast, make sure you check with your health professional. Some disease states are exacerbated by a fast. There are many different suggestions as to what to add to the water you are drinking to make sure you maintain adequate vitamins and mineral status. You can also choose to do a fruit and vegetable juice fast. You drink a variety of fruit and vegetable juices every 90 minutes; this prevents you from being hungry, provides nutrients and gives the gastrointestinal tract a break. In the end, it is what you eat on a daily basis that will keep the colon healthy, but giving it a ‘vacation’ can be useful to your physical and mental health.

STEP 1: The first step is to gradually reduce caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars and processed foods. Start shutting down your electronics early, going to bed earlier and increasing mild exercise (walking, restorative yoga). Decrease the amount of foods you eat every day. Choose more vegetables, fruits, juices and salads. This allows your body to slowly adjust to decreased calories so you can get the most impact out of your detox. Pick a time when you can relax, a weekend or week with no pressures from work, family or an active social schedule. You can benefit from just 24- 48 hours of a detox, or it can last up to a few weeks. Hopefully you will incorporate some of the techniques into your daily life. The main thing to remember is a detox should be gradual and gentle – you don’t want to provide even more stress to the body. Don’t go cold turkey! 84

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STEP 3: Add in other forms of release. Pick from one of the tools above or utilise them all: dry brushing, massage, deep breathing, etc. Just remember: be gentle. You may not want to incorporate all methods at once to avoid overloading the body. You need to detox slowly so your liver, lymph, kidneys and colon can safely process these noxious materials. End your detox with watermelon and gradually add back in increasing amounts of fruit and vegetables till you feel well. Another alternative is just to eat fruit and vegetables for 1-4 weeks, cutting out saturated fats, processed foods, salt, chemicals and fried foods


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FOODS and HERBS that HEAL - Not limited to this list Beets

-Aid in liver functioning -Help the body excrete wastes -Free radical -Anti-carcinogen

Artichokes

-Increase liver production of bile - Contain protein, fibre, magnesium, folate and potassium

Spirulina, Chlorella and Seaweed

-Oxygenate tissue, -Loaded with B vitamins -Diuretic

Vitamin C

Helps the body produce glutathione – used by the liver to remove toxins

Watercress

Increases circulation, cleanses and oxygenates tissue

Blueberries, Cranberries, Pomegranate

Enhance kidney function

Fermented foods

Contain pro-biotics

Burdock tea

Removes waste products via the kidney

Asparagus

-Aids in liver drainage -Antioxidant

Garlic

-Boosts the immune system

Avocados

-Mono-unsaturated fat

Ginger

-Increases liver function -Aids in decreasing fatty liver from alcohol and fried foods

Grapefruit

-Aids in liver function

Green Tea

-Antioxidant

Kale

-Flushes out the kidneys

Lemongrass

-Flushes liver, kidneys and digestive tract -Improves circulation and digestion

Lemons

-Aids in digestion

Olive oil

-Mixed with lemon, helps gall bladder to expunge gall stones

Rosemary

-Improves circulation to the lungs

Type

Action

Bitters

Stimulate digestive processes, liver production of bile

Milk Thistle

Supports liver function and regeneration

Lemon juice

Triggers nerves and hormone activation in the digestive system

Cruciferous Vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage)

-Contain glucosinolates that protect the liver from damage and assist in removing toxins and extra hormones -help lower cortisol levels

Turmeric

Anti-inflammatory

Dandelion root

Digestive

Methionine

Essential amino acid that is needed for liver detoxification

Bitter greens – arugula(rocket), endive, dandelion, spinach

Increase bile flow

WHAT TO EXPECT: You may feel light-headed, tired, cranky and smelly. You may get headaches, stomach issues, rashes, dry mouth, sleep disturbances, nausea, gas, bloating and bad breath. All these are normal and will stabilise. If the symptoms are too harsh or come on rapidly, you are starting too quickly. Drink some juice, eat some fruit or brown rice – slow down. If you are vomiting, have cramps, dizziness (a sign of dehydration), or excessive diarrhea, then stop! You have gone too far and you may have long-term consequences. Many people report increased clarity of mind, vigour, high energy, calmness and reduced worry after a fast. Try it out and see how you feel. Other than the aforementioned issues it is something we all should try. ‘Detox to Retox’ – get in shape for the holidays or the summer or just for yourself. Keep your mind, body and emotions balanced with these tools. It takes your senses to another level and makes you appreciate everything just a little bit more. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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A Mixed Platter of Italian Cheeses

Celebrity chef Marco Pernini says there’s more to cheese than just being a sandwich filling. He’s on a mission to show that Italian cheeses with their distinctive, tasty favour are the perfect starter for the grandest meal of the year. In case you hadn’t noticed Christmas is just around the corner and for many, planning the perfect menu for a festive get together is both a headache and a priority. Rather than write about a good old fashioned turkey dinner with the usual trimmings, I’ve decided instead to think outside the box and focus on a traditional Italian appetiser. Cheese! The jury’s divided on whether cheese making started in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, but according to Pliny the Elder, (my favourite author), it was a fairly sophisticated industry by the time the Roman Empire came into existence. Many centuries later the basics are still more or less the same. Cheese is made from cow, buffalo, goat or sheep milk and is formed by coagulating the milk protein casein. Another one of the great virtues of this excellent foodstuff is that it contains vitamins A, B6 – 12, C & D, as well as natural elements like Calcium and Magnesium. The fat content varies although that largely depends on the cheese and how it’s produced. During the manufacturing process the milk is usually acidified while the enzyme rennet is Issue 01 December-January 2014

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used for coagulation. The resulting solids are then separated before being pressed into a final form. Some cheeses have mould in their rind or running through their body, and that’s especially true of Gorgonzola, a soft creamy cheese often used in simple pasta dishes. Hundreds of different cheeses are produced around the world every year, but when you buy one that’s been made in Italy you get both quality and a range of extraordinary flavours. Almost every Italian village produces cheeses exclusive to their region, reflecting ancient rivalries stemming from a time when Italy was a collection of states that were aggressively trying to outdo each other. This competitiveness went beyond art, it spilled over into architecture, wine making and cooking, spawning a variety of culinary traditions. I’m not trying to bore you with a potted history of my country, (honest), but I believe that a little bit of knowledge goes a long way when it comes to choosing the right kind of cheese to accompany a meal. Avoid cheap imitations which use fancy names and colourful logos to pass themselves off as authentic. Over 450 cheeses are certified by Italy’s regions while 40 have been granted the European Union’s PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) certification. Italy is also one of the world’s biggest cheese exporters and last year alone sold a staggering 310,500 tonnes. With this in mind you’ll understand why putting a cheese platter together is hardly easy. You could cheat and buy one that’s already been made up in the shops, but then you risk missing out on the different flavours and amazing textures. Given that the choice is virtually limitless it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ve whittled it down to a selection from five different regions. 88

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Grana Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano share a thousand years of history and are generically referred to as Parmesan. However under EU rules the Parmesan name can only be used by Parmigiano Reggiano, while Grana is strictly linked to Padano. Grano Padano is produced in an area that includes 33 of the Po Valley provinces, spanning 5 regions of northern Italy. The cheese is aged from 9 to over 24 months, and is highly versatile. It is rich in calcium, delicious in risottos, and great on a cheeseboard served with fruits, nuts and onion chutney. Robiola di Roccaverano This fresh cheese from Piedmont is the only Italian DOP that can be made with goat, sheep or cow’s milk. As long as 50% of the principal ingredient comes from a goat, then it satisfies official regulations. Taste wise it reminds me of fresh yoghurt and wild field herbs, combined with a nutty flavour. Absolutely delicious! Toma e Sora della Brigasca Produced in Liguria, these cheeses are made from the milk of the Brigasca, the only sheep that’s adapted to the region’s high mountain altitude. What sets them apart is that Sora is only made with sheep milk while goat milk is added to Toma, hence its shorter maturity period. Cacifiore, della campagna romana Produced in Rome’s Lake Bracciano area, this exceptional cheese


MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO - FOOD

Robiola of Roccaverano

Toma cheese

cows that pasture all year round, hence the aromas of wild herbs and wood leaf and its slightly almond taste. Don’t forget that a second rate wine can let down an excellent meal so it’s definitely worth investing in a good bottle of vino, ideally from the same region as the cheese platter. And finally before I head back to the kitchen, here’s one of my all-time favourite cheese recipes. Enjoy! Buone Feste.

Gorgonzola

is made with fresh milk and uses vegetable rennet as a clotting agent. The rennet is obtained from dried artichoke flowers and wild thistles, harvested over summer. Maturation is between 30 – 80 days, while the creamy texture has an aroma of artichoke and wild flowers and an after taste that is slightly bitter. Casizolu This prestigious cheese hails from Sardinia’s Montiferru region in the west of the island, an area noted for its pecorino cheeses. What makes Casizolu so special is that it’s produced from the milk of

© Consorzio Gorgonzola

FRIED BUFFALO MOZZARELLA 1 or 2 large buffalo Mozzarella, sliced and drained of all milk. 1 bunch of vine cherry tomatoes A handful of wild rocket/arugula ½ cup of plain wheat flour seasoned with a pinch of salt 1 or 2 whisked whole eggs and a pinch of salt 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs 1 whole twig of fresh rosemary Salt and pepper 1 clove of garlic Glazed balsamic vinegar Vegetable oil for frying Preheat the oven to 170 C Cut the Mozzarella into thick slices and place in a sieve/ colander for a good half hour before cooking to drain all excess milk. This is to stop the oil from splashing when frying. Keep the cherry tomatoes on their vine and place them in a baking dish. Season with salt, pepper, the garlic clove and some extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for at least ten minutes. Make sure they’re not overcooked. Meanwhile coat the mozzarella slices with the flour, then dip them into the eggs and finally the breadcrumbs. Shallow fry in the hot vegetable oil, then place them on a plate next to the baked vine tomatoes and the arugula. Sprinkle with glazed balsamic vinegar and then serve.

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DANTEmag | Issue 06 October-November 2013

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Combining luxury and sophistication while enjoying the astounding views of the Mediterranean Sea, Mövenpick Hotel & Resort Beirut is the ideal retreat for all those seeking excitement and serenity. The hotel offers upscale accommodations and recreational facilities and promotes a wide range of activities and leisure pursuits for business travellers and holiday-seekers alike.

Mövenpick Hotel & Resort Beirut Général de Gaulle Avenue Raoucheh 2038 6908, Beirut - Lebanon Phone +961 1 869 666, Fax +961 1 809 326 hotel.beirut@moevenpick.com

www.moevenpick-hotels.com

Mediterranean escape

extensive resort facilities.

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Around The World In 120 Days by Nigel Parsons

Bored of week-end breaks? Fed-up of tiresome tourist-filled weeks of sand and sea? Then try taking four months off and backpack around the world with your family! 92

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A mural in Santiago del Chile

Two thousand words, the editor said. That gives us about 300 words per country, so this is going to be brief – but the pictures can tell the tale. As a family we’d been talking and dreaming about backpacking around the world for years, but like most people there never seemed to be the time, or the opportunity. Work, school, paying the bills and survival took precedence. Then finally, as we sweated on the results of final primary school exams for the last of our children still in the nest, all held early in the New Year, we suddenly thought ‘if she does well, what’s the point of summer term?’ That thought was re-enforced when Nikita, our 11-year-old daughter, sailed through her exams - possibly spurred on by the thought of missing the summer term, and travelling the world instead - to be left with a choice of secondary schools to take up in September. Plus it helped that I was ‘between jobs,’ and that the heads of both her primary school and chosen secondary school gave their full support – she would learn more on her travels, they said, than seeing through her last term in primary with only the summer school play to look forward to. Train cemetery. Uyuni. Bolivia

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Floating villages. Puno. Peru

Lima. Peru Machu Picchu. Peru

It felt like our last chance – we were pretty sure Nikita wouldn’t be so keen on seeing the world with us by the time she finished secondary school. So one day, Zoulfia, my wife, and I went to our local outdoor shop on the spur of the moment and bought 3 backpacks. It was a statement, and with the backpacks lying on the kitchen floor we were committed. Having made the decision, the planning suddenly seemed daunting. It’d been 40 years or more since I’d last gone backpacking in any serious way, 40 years of corporate life, and we weren’t really sure how to go about this. For tickets though, there are a number of reputable companies who offer round-the-world options – both East & West – and they are remarkably good value. We ended up paying just under 3,000 euros per adult ticket, less for Nikita. You can pretty much tailor the route to suit yourself. We settled on London to Lima for the first leg, then making our way overland to Santiago (Chile), on to New Zealand, the South Pacific, then on to Bali, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, where we planned to meet up with our 3 older children, now spread across the Middle and Far East 94

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Holding a two metre long anaconda faund in the Pampas three hours drive from Rurrenbaque. Bolivia

Whatever didn’t fit in our rucksacks was left behind – we’ve found that, like most people, we always pack more than we need – and at the beginning of May we set off for Peru. We landed in Lima late in the evening, and checked into a comfy bed & breakfast in Miraflores – an upmarket and relatively safe area, which made for a good choice in a city with so many no-go areas for tourists. Despite initial misgivings borne of Lima’s reputation, we enjoyed the city – the beautiful walks along the clifftops, the indigenous handicraft markets, food markets where we could eat ceviche (fresh marinated seafood) for under the equivalent of 2 euros each, and above all the friendliness of the locals. Travelling by bus is easy in South America….they are cheap and plentiful, and for the overnight trips there is the choice of lie-flat beds…...and there’s no better way to observe local people up close. We headed for Cuzco, the gateway to the ‘Sacred Valley’ and the


A toucan, Amazon forest on the bank of the river. Beni. Bolivia

Bolivian woman with a child An Amazon river salmon which we caught and had for supper that night

staging post for people heading for the ancient Inca capital of Machu Picchu. Cuzco already lies some 3,500 metres up, leaving us breathless for the first couple of days. We were told that many people simply can’t adapt to altitude sickness, but by taking it easy to begin with, we soon got used to it and it didn’t trouble us again – even when we ventured much, much higher in Bolivia. Cuzco is also a tourist honey-pot crawling with touts offering all manner of day trips, over-priced hostels and some very over-priced restaurants. But again, head for a local café where the workers are eating, and you get a three-course meal for what came out as two euros each. We were quickly realising that by renting out a modest London house, it was almost cheaper to go away and travel in South America than stay at home. Astonishingly beautiful though Cuzco was, we soon wanted to press on. Backpacking makes you restless, the travelling becomes almost as important as the arriving, and after a few days anywhere we had itchy feet. We boarded a train in the nearby market town of Ollataytambo and rattled along through narrow gorges, following the river to Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu (which literally means ‘big mountain’). Despite the thousands of tourists who visit every day, Machu Picchu is one of those places that, no matter how many photos you may have seen, it still has the capacity to take your breath away and astonish. We left our hostel at 4.30 a.m. when it was still dark. People were already queuing for the buses that would take tourists up later in the morning, but we wanted to trek it, and reach the summit before dawn and before the first of the hordes would arrive. We made it to the top after about two-and-a-half hours, just as the huge orb of the sun leapt over the mountain tops, bathing the ruins in soft light. Another hour later, and we had reached the Sun Gate, and sat gazing out across the snow-capped peaks at the marvel that is Machu Picchu.

Next on the itinerary was a bus to the southern town of Puno, on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, the highest in the world at 4,000 metres. The landscape across the high Altiplano was barren, sparsely populated by people in startlingly multi-coloured clothes, with sunblistered faces, prematurely aged, somehow scratching a living out of the unforgiving land. Puno is a dilapidated town, our last stop before Bolivia, but also boasting extraordinary floating villages out on the lake– some 75 reed ‘islands’ supporting nearly 3,000 people living off ducks, fish and eggs, and little else, complete with their own schools, and even a small hospital. The up-side of the floating villages is that, if you argue with your neighbour, you can cut them off – literally – and they float away! Crossing into Bolivia, the mood changed immediately. A demonstration by grim-faced villagers meant the bus couldn’t cross the border, and we had to unload our bags and cross the last few hundred metres on foot. After the smiles of Peru, the Bolivians came across as surly, poor and dirty – which made the bus journeys a little harder to bear, reeking as they did of unwashed bodies. All the women seemed to have the same hairstyle, two long plaits down the back, and a bowler hat on top. Only once (in La Paz) did we manage to find somewhere to stay with hot water. But despite that, Bolivia was also the most memorable country – a country of superlatives – the highest lake in the world (Titicaca), the highest capital in the world (La Paz), the highest city in the world (Potosi) and the biggest salt flats in the world. It is also one of the best places to explore the Amazon basin, being far less developed than neighbouring countries. So, after a few days in the gritty city of La Paz, dodging the daily demonstrations with miners liberally throwing around sticks of dynamite, exploring the witches’ market, and being amazed by the volume of graffiti everywhere – Issue 01 December-January 2014

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La Salar de Uyuni (the salt flat). Bolivia

of birds, howler monkeys, eagles, and best of all a two-metre long anaconda, which we all got to hold before letting it slither away under the Pampas grass again.

Alpacas in the wild. Chile

much of it devoted to the legendary guerrilla fighter Che Guevara – we boarded a small aircraft for the 45-minute flight to Rurrenabaque on the banks of the river Beni. The flight meant splashing out beyond our budget, but the alternative was a 24-hour bus ride across 6,000 metres high passes which are closed as often as not. Rurrenabaque is a charming Amazonas town from where we caught a small outboard up the wide, brown waters of the Beni to a jungle lodge. With a guide, we spent days trekking through the rain forest, squeezing out sugar cane juice to drink from cups made from tutumi nuts, eating matacu nuts which tasted like a cross between an avocado and a coconut, learning how to identify ‘water trees’ which hold several litres of clean, fresh drinking water, dodging soldier ants and fire ants, marvelling at toucans and macaws, and the giant guinea pigs called Capybaras, rooting around at the river’s edge. To cap it all, as a grand finale, we built our own raft by lashing together fallen tree trunks, and poled our way several miles back down the river to the lodge. We felt like we were in a Tarzan movie! From the rain forest, we then spent several days in the Pampas, a three-hour drive from Rurrenabaque, wetlands teeming with wildlife. There we saw our first sloths – charming black-eyed primates who spend four-fifths of their lives asleep - rare pink river dolphins, hundreds of caiman alligators lining the river banks, a myriad species 96

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After two weeks, we moved swiftly down to the south of Bolivia, stopping briefly in the constitutional capital of Sucre (La Paz being the administrative capital, probably making Bolivia the only country in the world with two capitals), a beautiful city of colonial buildings fanning out from a stunning square. Then it was a one-night stop in Potosi (the highest city in the world, and a grim, freezing town reeking of past glories paid for by its now defunct silver mines), before heading for Uyuni, on the edge of the salt flats – another cold, bleak place with bleak people eking out a bleak existence, where another freezing almost sleepless night awaited. The next day we set out across the salt flats – or, to give them their correct name, La Salar de Uyuni – hundreds of square miles of salt from a long ago dried-up sea, a blinding white landscape where the temperature hit plus 25C by day before plummeting to minus 20C at night. It was freezing, uncomfortable – and unforgettable. Probably the most amazing landscape any of us have seen, driving across mile after mile of nothing but salt dried into fascinating pentangle shapes, with occasional lava outcrops supporting huge, ancient cacti – some of which have been around since the Battle of Hastings. We stayed in miserable ‘lodges’ made from blocks of salt, again with no heating, no hot water, and one toilet to go around about 20 travellers, plus of course the local inhabitants. We handed out the last of the pens and pencils and second hand sunglasses we had brought with us to locals whose eyes were so bloodshot they were almost hanging out of their eyes, and huddled together, three to a bed and fully clothed to try to keep warm.


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San Pedro. Chile.

The funicular railway to the top of highest hill in Santiago. Chile

From the salt flats there were two more days grinding over rocky landscape, which marked the beginning of the Atacama desert – the driest in the world. Shortly before the border with Chile, we stopped and stripped off at some hot springs, desperate for a wash….the water was hot, but outside it was still minus 20C, and our hair froze as we floated in the steaming water.

The Chilean border came as a relief. A shack marked the Bolivian office, but a few hundreds yards beyond that we were on smooth tarmac, heading for the charming mud-baked town of San Pedro de Atacama where we found fine dining and hot showers. Sure, it was a little more expensive than Bolivia, but at least they asked you how you wanted your steak cooked rather than chucking a piece of what looked like a lump of charred shoe leather on your plate. We marvelled at how everything could be so different in such a short space of time and distance – gone were the grimy lodgings with rancid toilets and freezing water, instead we could enjoy good food, spotless hostels, and clean buses on immaculate roads again.

An overnight bus took us across the Atacama desert to the mining town of Copiapo, where, on impulse, we decided to hire a 4x4 for a week to get off the beaten track. We headed to Bahia Inglesa (English Bay), a palm-fringed oasis founded by English pirates on a bay looking out over turquoise water, surrounded by desert. Everywhere we went in Chile, people would tell us, with not a little pride, that they were known as ‘the English of South America.’ Pirates or no pirates, that was fine by us and made us feel even more welcome. With the independence of our own vehicle we cut down the aweinspiring desert coastal road, an unpaved but well maintained road with the Pacific sea on one side, and desert cacti with occasional grazing alpacas stretching away on the other, and not a soul in sight. We drove through the day, stopping for picnics or to do some beach combing, and probably saw less than half a dozen other cars until we pulled into the iron-ore port of Huasco to find lodgings for the night – and as far as we could see, we were the only tourists in town. Bypassing the resort city of La Serena, which looked to us like a sort of Chilean version of Benidorm out of season, we headed inland through impossibly narrow vineyards full of muscatel grapes to stay at Pisco Elqui…home of the Chilean national drink, ‘pisco’. Chile and Peru both claim to be the originators of the drink – with a former Issue 01 December-January 2014

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MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO - TRAVEL Lion’s rock, an important Maori memorial Auckland. New Zeland

A typical Tongan house Carnival celebration for the birthday of the King George Tupon VI. Tonga

Chilean president going so far as to re-name what was the village of ‘La Union’ to Pisco Elqui to help re-enforce the Chilean claim. Of course the Peruvians also have a town called Pisco. Either way, it’s delicious in both countries. Pisco Elqui is also one of the best places in the world for star watching (as was San Pedro de Atacama). With the valleys so narrow, it is past 9 a.m. before the sun makes an appearance, and then it is already scorching. The locals claim it has an eco climate that gives sun for 360 days of the year, and it’s like being in a bowl, surrounded by mountains. By the time the sun disappears again by mid-afternoon, the air cools rapidly, and as night falls you can sit back and gaze at the brilliant constellations – even if, being in the southern hemisphere, we always had trouble locating our usual familiar shapes such as the Plough or Great Bear.

Heading back to La Serena to drop off the car, we decided on a shortcut through what looked like a pretty little mountain road, but which quickly turned into our very own ‘Death Road.’ As we climbed into the clouds, the ‘road’ became little more than a dirt track, hardly more than the width of the car, with a vertical drop hundreds of feet on one side, and rocks rolling down on us from the steep cliffs on the other. It was too narrow to turn back, the swirling clouds reduced visibility to a few metres, and we had no choice but to creep onwards, not much faster than walking pace, teeth and buttocks tightly clenched in fear, until some two hours later, through a break in the clouds, we glimpsed a flash of green from the valley below, and knew we would make it. 98

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Yet another bus took us to Valparaiso, once the main port on the Pacific coast – before the Panama Canal got built. Another town founded by English pirates, later to become an ‘official’ British ‘Protectorate’, it is also the birthplace of the poet Pablo Neruda and remains an artistic centre today. Built on a series of volcanic hills, everything is covered in astonishing murals…. inside and outside houses, on streets and on the steep steps that are everywhere (though ancient funicular railways built by the Victorians make getting around much easier.) Many of the paintings are intricate and beautiful, others funny & gaudy, and others just thoughts for the day – our favourite being ‘Travel is the only thing you can buy which makes you richer.’ London’s famous street artist Banksy would go unnoticed in Valparaiso! It was now just a short hop down to the capital, Santiago. We wanted to travel further south in this remarkable country, down to Tierra del Fuego, but that’s virtually the Antarctic - winters are brutal, roads are often closed, and flights uncertain. So we decided to save that for another day. Santiago is a big bustling city of some six million people, with the edginess that all big cities have – but full of surprises too. Like the Central Market, an exact copy of London’s Smithfields’ market, built in Birmingham in 1873 and shipped out to Chile, a huge wrought iron construction full of fishmongers and small seafood restaurants; or the slick, clean and efficient metro service, which makes getting around so easy.


MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO - TRAVEL

The temple area in a family compound. Bali

There are even temples to encounter on an underwater dive in Bali

The full family reunited in Sri Lanka

Diving at Nusa Penida

The flight across the Pacific to New Zealand was bizarre, in that by crossing the international dateline, we arrived two days after we’d left. In Auckland we stayed with friends and explored this remarkable city built on a series of now dormant volcanoes, even if it’s a question of ‘when’, not ‘if, the next one will erupt from below the sea. Auckland is as spotless as any Swiss town, but we still found it odd how many locals were walking around the city barefoot. New Zealand also offered superlative food and wines, long walks on deserted winter beaches, and horse riding through empty countryside. But it’s expensive, very expensive, on a par with any European city.

Tongatapu (Tonga’s main island) in the South Pacific was a short hop from Auckland, a sleepy, flat island, with sleepy lazy people interested in little else apart from rugby. No effort is really made for the tourist - the roads are unsigned, making local attractions like the spectacular bore holes on the north coast, or the underwater caves with fresh water to swim in on the west coast, almost impossible to find. It’s beautiful, but no more so than many other tropical islands, and probably not worth the expense of travelling there as a single destination from Europe.

Bali in Indonesia was a different story - a predominately Hindu island within the most populous Muslim country in the world, it’s a place of harmony and smiles, great food and lush scenery. Balinese Hinduism is a mix of the Indian variety and the Animism which was the main religion before the Hindus arrived – so plants, trees, rocks, just about everything, all represent spirits which need to be placated with offerings and prayers several times a day. The island also offers almost everything a visitor could want – white water rafting, cycling through quiet villages on back roads, horse riding, trekking, and some spectacular diving. We were sorry to leave, but time was flying by and so we made our way to Sri Lanka, our last stop. We had rented a villa big enough to take six people on the south coast where our three elder sons also converged and we were able to enjoy a rare holiday altogether. All too soon we found ourselves back on an airplane to take us home. Arriving at UK Border Control was less than inspiring, we felt as if we’d been away for a few weeks rather than four months – even if our overgrown garden and front yard told a different story. Would we do it again? Absolutely! We could have carried on for another year. It was an unforgettable experience, one that anyone who has the opportunity should not miss. Nikita entered her new school brimming with a new confidence and understanding of the world we inhabit, and we know it is something she will also never forget – which was what it was all about. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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Tallinn Town Hall

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White Nights and Bright Days in Tallinn

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Since its break with the Soviet Union in 1995, Estonia has been running ahead of the curve. It’s extremely tech-savvy – it’s the birthplace, for example, of Skype. And its capital, Tallinn, was named – for the fifth time – one of the seven most innovative cities in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum. But Tallinn preserves its long, storied past as well. A visit there will let you walk seamlessly in both the medieval and modern eras in this gem-like city on the shores of the Baltic. By Neil Geraghty It’s 10:30 on a balmy July evening in Tallinn. High up on Toompea Castle’s steep ramparts young couples sit entwined, watching a slow, beautiful Nordic sunset. Some are taking illicit swigs from bottles of Kiss pear cider, a popular summer tipple in the Baltic states. It’s illegal to drink alcohol in public places in Estonia, but who cares? With the sun hovering like a giant tangerine over the Baltic Sea, why spoil the romance by going to a bar? By eleven o’clock the sun has finally set and the five graceful onion domes of the Russian Orthodox cathedral lie silhouetted against a pink sky filled with wispy, rose-tinted cirrus clouds. By the time the clocks strike midnight an ethereal twilight hovers over the city. From the roof of the Gothic Town Hall, Old Thomas – Tallinn’s sprightly mascot – gazes down upon a sea of lively pavement bars. By three o’clock, the first flushes of dawn appear on the north eastern horizon and swallows begin flitting around the city’s green copper church spires. Perhaps they’ve been disturbed from their slumbers by the booze weekenders staggering back to their hotels along the cobbled streets, chanting football anthems.

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MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO - TRAVEL Medieval Festival

During the idyllic white nights of midsummer, Tallinn is in many ways the perfect city break destination. A packed diary of festivals livens up the parks and squares, the weather is often perfect, and with upwards of seventeen hours sunshine a day, al fresco dining is a delight. Small enough to be relaxing yet large enough to be interesting, Tallinn has something for everyone. But it’s the enchanting Old Town, straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale, that visitors flock to see. It’s here in Old Town that you should try to book a hotel, and tucked away in the winding lanes are some real gems. None is more charming than The Three Sisters Hotel located close to Fat Margaret, one of Tallinn’s many comically- named medieval towers. This elegant ‘Relais and Chateaux’ property comprises three steeply gabled merchant’s houses which date back to 1362. Inside, a striking marble staircase winds up past Gothic windows and ancient timber beams and leads to a selection of cosy, individually designed rooms. Choose a room on the sunny side facing the magnificent tower of St Olaf’s church. Don’t stay out too late in case you miss the Three Sisters’ 102

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wonderful breakfasts. On the buffet table, you’ll find a great selection of local specialities, including smoked reindeer ham and bilberry curd tart which you can enjoy in a romantic outdoor courtyard filled with cooing doves, cascading window boxes and a tinkling fountain. The Three Sisters is ideally located for exploring the Old Town and there’s no better place to start than by climbing to the top of St Olaf’s tower. In 1549 a lightning strike toppled Lincoln Cathedral’s legendary spire which for 238 years had been the tallest structure in the world. St Olaf’s magnificent tower and spire then took the contested title until its own spire suffered a similar fate in 1625. Now topped with a somewhat wonky copper replacement, the ascent to the top of the tower is a claustrophobic fitness test which reduces many tourists to exhausted wrecks. The views, however, are well worth the effort. A narrow platform clings to the base of the spire where you can spot colossal ferries gliding over the sparkling Baltic horizon towards Stockholm and Helsinki. The most startling views are of the twenty towers that punctuate Tallinn’s near-intact, thirteenth-century city walls. These magnificent, rocket-shaped towers


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Towers of the City Wall

scarves – an unseasonal reminder of the bitter winters that engulf this distant corner of northern Europe. Meanwhile, the surprisingly hot summers offer endless al fresco dining opportunities. Estonian food is a hearty mixture of East European and Baltic influences. Roast meats are served up with tasty potato dumplings and lashings of sour cream. Seafood lovers will be in maritime heaven with a bewildering variety of smoked and pickled sea creatures on offer. Don’t be alarmed if you pass groups of jovial tourists tucking into sheep’s heads. Medieval-themed restaurants are all the rage and come complete with troubadours and sword fight displays. A safer option is Vanaema Juures (Grandma’s Place) which, as the name suggests, specialises in heart-warming Estonian classics served up in a cosy cellar packed with nostalgic antiques.

Tallinn Old Town

are the city’s pride and joy. Looking down on them from the top of St Olaf’s, you get the odd impression that you’re staring at a medieval Cape Canaveral. A stroll around the beautiful landscaped parks and gardens surrounding the walls is one of Tallinn’s great summer pleasures. If you’re passing Epping Tower on a Sunday, look out for the diminutive Ukrainian church that lies just within the city walls. Resembling more a stone cottage than a church, its low, wooden ceiling, brightly painted icons, and courtyard filled with lilies make it one of the most delightful hidden corners of the city. Across the park from Epping Tower lies the railway station and one of Tallinn’s best markets, the Russian Market, which sprawls untidily around the station’s old storage sheds. It’s a great place to look for local delicacies such as elk sausages and smoked cheese rounds that resemble miniature doughnuts. History buffs can find fascinating mementos of the Soviet era including boxes of army hats and medals. Look out for the bubbly old country ladies who sell tubs of delicious wild strawberries and bilberries. On the other side of town, close to the crumbling twin towers of Viru Gate, you’ll find a similar group of friendly grandmas, briskly knitting thick woollen socks, hats and 104

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Outside the Old Town there are plenty of fascinating suburbs worth visiting. Photography enthusiasts will have a field day in Kalamaja. Colourful nineteenth-century wooden villas line the leafy streets, while, in the derelict harbour, a Soviet-era prison lies abandoned. Coils of barbed wire, guard-dog signs, and bleak watch towers conjure up all the oppressiveness of life under the Soviet occupation. A more graceful reminder of Estonia’s long links with Russia can be seen in Kadriorg Park, where a delightful Baroque summer palace was built by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine in the early eighteenth century. A short walk across the park brings you to KUMU gallery, contemporary Tallinn’s architectural pièce de résistance. The gallery is constructed from grey-green limestone and glass, and slices into a grassy hillside in an elegant crescent. Inside, airy exhibition spaces house quirky and innovative art installations. A fascinating gallery charts the highs and lows of art under the Communist yoke. From Kadriorg Park, it’s a short drive to Pirita beach, Tallinn’s most popular summer hang-out. Flanked by a fresh-smelling pine forest, this glorious three-kilometre stretch of white sand is a Baltic Copacabana, heaving with body-beautifuls playing beach volleyball and working out at gym stations on the sand. However, the resemblance to Rio ends right there. In comparison to the Atlantic, the Baltic is as calm as a millpond and is rarely suitable for surfing. It’s great for swimming though and the shallow, luminescent, green water isn’t half as freezing as you’d imagine. The beach is another one of Tallinn’s favourite sunset spots where locals come for beers and barbecues. Across the bay, the church spires, towers and domes of the Old Town take on a magical quality silhouetted against the crimson sky. Whether you’re a hardened booze weekender or a hopeless romantic it’s hard not to be charmed by this Baltic gem.


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Fact Box

For more information on Tallinn please visit www.tourism.tallinn.ee For bookings at the Three Sisters Hotel visit www.visitestonia.com Book flights to Tallinn at www.estonianair.com

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NonnoPanda Nonno Panda and... and Gorilla the Rhino issue- Part II The Strike One day, wandering along life’s path, I got lost in a dark jungle, XQDEOHWRÀQGWKHULJKWZD\ One day, wandering along life’s path, I got lost

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I stumbled across a small herd of rhinos. It was the ďŹ rst time I had ever seen a mixed bunch of them because normally white rhinos never mingled with black rhinos. About time I thought, because I had never really been able to spot the difference between the two. Morphologically, they look very much the same. Only now that I could see them close-up, was I able to realise the black rhino is smaller than the white and there is a subtle difference in the colour of their skin; otherwise at ďŹ rst glance, it is difďŹ cult to tell them apart. Anyway, the two groups had nothing against each other, just different personalities. One was more shy and reserved, the other more outgoing. So they did not socialise together as they liked different things. We animals often do that. We keep to ourselves, because we feel more comfortable in the little world we have created around us. We don’t want others to interfere with our habits. I put it down to a matter of privacy and it should be respected.

failed to notice that rhinos in the mixed bunch had their noses wrapped in bandages. How weird, I thought, wondering what had happened. They all looked like they had just come off a battleďŹ eld. That’s it! They must have had one of their famous horn competitions to prove who the strongest male in the group was. That would explain their head wounds. Gosh! The ďŹ rst multi-racial contest of its kind. How wonderful! Mind you, from the look of their faces and the pace they were moving at, this bunch had most likely ended up being the losers. I went up to them to try to cheer them up. “So guys, who won?â€? I asked, smiling. “Who won what?â€? said the big white rhino who was the leader of the group. “Your competitionâ€?, I said.

But you all know how keen I am on welcoming any changes that bring unity amongst all races. I see it as the positive part of the animal kingdom. It is constantly evolving and that is good. So there I was, philosophising on the meaning of life but nearly 108

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“Ain’t no competition Panda-bro�, said a big black rhino. “Hold on, why are you all wounded then?� I asked, not fully understanding what was going on.


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“We had to have a surgically preventative ‘procedure’”, said the white female. “To prevent what?” I asked. I had never heard of such a thing before, but I have to admit it was impossible for a panda like me to keep up with all those trends that regularly become all the rage because some actor or TV personality needed to boost their popularity. There were too many of those attention-seekers around these days. I prefer to stay out of the rat race so I can meditate. Then some other young black rhinos said they had done it to protect themselves from evil poachers. My instant reaction was: “What?”, I could not understand what the poachers had to poach from the rhinos. Well, I got an answer from the rhinos almost immediately and it was rather shocking. It turned out some humans believe rhino’s horns have some aphrodisiac effect on their manhood and a magic power against cancer. “Hold on”, I said, quite taken aback by this preposterous information. “How can they turn a piece of horn into an aphrodisiac? Everybody knows it is made of dead tissue. You might as well eat your nails. It is the same substance, homemade and organic” I could not contain my sarcasm. Really, if somebody wants to believe something like that, then they might as well grind up a piece of plastic as there is so much rubbish out there that needs recycling, to need a toy to play with that badly. “They grind our horns and turn them into a powder which they mix into a potion to suit their own aphrodisiac purposes – whatever those are”, said the white rhino who had the most bandages.

“Yuck! That’s disgusting! I can’t think of anything worse than drinking a piece of rhino horn. It’s too awful for words!” Really, I thought humans were weird, but this was the weirdest thing I had ever heard. “Are you sure they’re not adding some kind of chemical to it?” I asked, “because in that case they could get the pills and pop them straight down their throats and avoid all these silly hocus-pocus preparations” “Search me, bro”, said the little black one with a sad face. “Now I get it. You’ve donated your horns for study to prove it has nothing to do with this silly stupid human belief?” I asked, trying to find the positive in all this. I know how we animals are against being used for human tests, but maybe this time it was for a good cause. “We ain’t doing no study, Panda-bro”, carried on the little black one. ‘We’re doing this so we don’t get to be the poachers’ next victim. Them human beasts have gone an’ created a guerrilla like action. They follow us from the sky with helicopters and night-vision scopes. Then they dart us to sleep, drop down from the helicopter using a ladder and our horns, they chop’em off and leave us to bleed to death and I can tell yer the pain’s something else, bro. Seein’ as this is the only thing they want from us, to stay alive we been told by humans that dig us to get rid of our horns, that way we ain’t targets no more” Hence the preventive measure. Now I get it! “You got to think”, interjected the big white one, “that only last year we lost about seven hundred of our friends to poachers. That’s about one out of forty of our general population. The horn on a calf weighs about one kilogramme – not all that much. But that doesn’t matter to the poachers. All they leave is a calf with its skull swarming with flies. Any rhino is fair game to them. Issue 01 December-January 2014

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The human authorities scramble to catch up, even try to use drones to track suspected poachers. But so far they haven’t managed to stop this barbaric process. It’s become a full gang-related industry and the fight is more complicated. The big problem is, at the rate it’s going now, more than a thousand of our friends could be killed in the next year. If it increases at its current rate, the number of rhinos killed is set to exceed births. We cannot reproduce fast enough” “It’s impossible”, a white female rhino joined in. “I’d like to see you getting pregnant again, you know we have to gestate for seventeen or eighteen months and then we have to breast-feed our calves until they’re two years old. It’s obvious to us this will all lead to a decline in our overall population. But unless we can come up with suitable surrogate mammals willing to help us out – and I can’t see any volunteers – this preventive surgery is the only measure we’ve come up with so far.” “But couldn’t you find any other solution?” I asked, as it all seemed such a drastic measure to take to counter the poachers’ assaults. “The only other thing, Panda-bro’, said the big black rhino, “they’ve come up with is to inject cyanide into our horns so eatin’ ‘em just poisons. But we thought ‘No way will the poison just stay on the horn, could infect us all over, know what I mean, bro? Yeah, they say it’s safe, but I say, better be safe than sorry, ya know? Anyway, when they see us with horns they gonna still kill us, ain’t they? - How they know them 110

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horns got poison, yeah? Sure we can ruin the illegal market, many more of our bros gonna be killed before those dumb-ass users wise up. We gotta stop it right now, you know what I mean? Cos they saying in two years’ time we gonna be all wiped off the face of the earth.” “Holy nature! Being forced to mutilate your body as a matter of survival is pretty dramatic, isn’t it?” I said, although I realised the options were really limited. “Oh Panda!” added the white female rhino. “Men have been doing these practices to themselves for years – mutilation of the female genitals, circumcisions for boys, piercing, scarring, you name it. They justify it all, in some way or another. So it was just a matter of time before they caught up with us. The point here is that we’re really facing extinction in a short time. If we don’t take action immediately, more of our brother and sisters will be left bleeding to death. So we had no other choice than to remove the very thing the poachers are looking for.” “There must be something else that can be done – perhaps politically. What about those sympathetic humans that dig you who came up with this idea of preventative surgery? Can’t they do something about it?” I asked. I could still not believe the stupidity of the humans who believed the fiction of the aphrodisiac story. “Panda- bro, listen. You deal with them all the time, right?” said the black rhino. “So you should know how long it takes for even humans


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that dig us to make a final decision on a ban or all that sanctioning shit; how long it takes for it to get sorted, organised, carried out, and enforced. And they first gotta evaluate all the circumstances or some shit like that. We’ll be no more, kaput, extinct! Who takes the rap? I say it’s society, bro, it’s all messed up, bro. And who’s this society? There’s only humans I’m seeing. You know where I’m coming from, bro? “The bottom line is we’ll all be gone in a short time”, added the white female. “So with the help of some sympathetic humans, we had to take this drastic matter into our own hands. And what is a little mutilation compared with our species’ survival? Besides, I never liked the funny look that horn gave us. So, as far as I’m concerned, I consider this a cosmetic adjustment to update our prehistoric look for the twentyfirst century. Who knows? Maybe if we like it we’ll work hard on our DNA and we might be able to genetically modify the next generation of rhinos so that we can make the new world of rhinos a poacher-free zone. But we need time for that. And right now, the way things are going, we don’t have a future. So what needs to be done, must be done.” “I know. I know”, I said sadly. “I’m very proud of all you for taking this step toward preservation of your species, but this shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. It’s immoral you have to change the way you look in order to survive” “Dear brother’, said the little black one, “look on the bright side. We’ll still be able to enjoy life and that’s the most important thing”

And with that smile on the calf’s face, they all went on to face their new destiny, free of the threat of extinction. It is unbelievable how animal races come together when they have an extreme situation as a sole common purpose in life. We should be reminded more often of that and not only on Christmas Day or any other festive occasion. It is unfortunate that only in tragic moments does solidarity kick in and all the rest is left aside. Why is this? I do not know. But it seems that greed has no boundaries throughout the animal kingdom.

On a happier note: World Rhino Day was created in 2010 by the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa and occurs every year on September 22. South Africa has been imposing stiffer sentences for poaching, with recent convictions drawing sentences of ten to fifteen years in prison. However, in Mozambique, poaching is still a minor crime where prosecutions are rare. Most of the poachers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park come from Mozambique. South Africa is home to almost 80% of the world’s rhino population. Despite progress, much, much more needs to be done for the preservation of this endangered species.

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