London, England

Autumn Art Show of 2017

Sometimes the events in your city or town make you feel like you’ve been on an adventure even if you’ve barely left your postcode.  My autumn was full of art from around the world and I wanted to share.

There are telltale signs that Autumn is rounding the corner in London.  The sun sleeps in until 7:35am, and the trees do lose their leaves but not in the same fiery reds and oranges as in New York.  “Remember, remember the 5th of November” is a line from an English poem, but you might be familiar with it because of V for Vendetta, a movie hinting at the historical plot to blow up Parliament.  Guy Fawkes night on Nov 5th is celebrated with numerous firework displays all around the city…think 4th of July.

Potentially less familiar to an American audience is that October is Black History Month in the UK.  You’ll see that many of the art exhibitions below reflect the incredible talent showcased in London.

A side note before moving on to the art: Many of the classrooms I’ve visited have bulletin boards with Beyonce, Obama, Mandela, MLK, Jr and Malcolm X (I even saw one with Cardi B this year?!).  All are honoring key figures in …well, not UK history.  I’ve asked a few teachers about the historical figures in the UK whom pupils should celebrate, and I’ve been told that the figures posted are reasonable since they relate to the fact that kids in London study the US Civil Rights movement, and that the figures don’t need to be limited to UK history.  On the contrary, however, I’ve also finished reading ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ this fall, and the author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, interviewed Linda Bellows whose leadership founded Black History Month in 1987.  Bellows specifically states ‘I thought Black History Month was a great idea.  What I wasn’t going to do was make it like the American one, because we have a different history….” She stated that the current-day UK Black History Month seemed more about culture, fashion and hair, but she wished it would actually ‘celebrate the contribution that black people had made in the United Kingdom.’  It seems that message is still a work in progress in many of the schools I’ve worked with, and I look forward to passing this sentiment on.

But I digress…Let’s celebrate the art that London offered this fall! Organized by category for your reading pleasure, or the time limit that you have for tea-break reading!

Film

Chasing Trane is a documentary about the talented life of John Coltrane.  It was a bonus that the Doc & Roll Film Festival was screening this piece at the Royal Opera House!  Neither Corey and I had been to the Royal Opera House but we’re now determined to go back to see live music at this royal rotunda.  See Chasing Trane if it comes to your neighborhood.

I took myself out for an agile-working afternoon.  I enjoyed a working lunch at Machi-ya where I’d suggest the appetizers more than the noodle plate lunch.  I will go back to try more of the menu when I have more email admin to complete.  Since I worked through lunch, I took some time back to see Loving Vincent (review below). I finished my email admin and participant calls over a Negroni at the top of the National Portrait Gallery.  This life!

IMG_1516Loving Vincent is stunning is because it is the first fully painted feature film.  Over 100 artists painted every scene in Van Gogh’s impressionist style, and the film develops a narrative around his real paintings that is seamless.  The film’s website does a great job of showing how Van Gogh’s paintings were transformed into characters and settings in the movie.  My only challenge with this film is that it is set in France –yet none of the actors speak in French or speak with French-English accents.  If the movie was done with live actors, I doubt they could get away with this.  But see it if it comes to theaters near you anyways!

Image result for bloodlight and bami

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami was a film that I was very excited to see, but one that did not do justice for its muse.  There didn’t seem to be a strong narrative that I could follow, and some of the footage was drawn out without clear purpose.  Grace Jones doing her make up was a highlight, however, I’m bummed that I wouldn’t recommend seeing it– at all.  The bonus was that the film was screened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts near Buckingham Palace. This place was full of good energy so I know I’ll be back to see more exhibitions and films soon as the seasons change.

 

IMG_1530Play Your Gender was also featured in the Doc&Roll film festival.  A film that focused on women in the music industry fell so flat for me. I had such high expectations! I wouldn’t recommend seeing it as there are numerous interviews with people saying the same basic thing ‘The music industry is heavily male and it can stink being a woman in such a male-dominated space”.  I felt that was obvious.  What do we do about it? Who is making a difference?  What can women in all genres of music do going forward? What is the role that men play and how can they be better?  Corey and I walked away without any depth or insight into these questions.  We were also sad at how few women of color played a role in this film when so many dynamic women of color make musical history every day 😦

They Will Have to Kill Us First is an intense title, I know. The title of the film is a quote from one of the musicians who fought through the music ban in Northern Mali. In 2012, Islamic extremists banned music, radio, and live shows, and this film follows four artists who stood their ground during such turbulent times.  One of the bands has even made it out to London to spread their messages of hope through live shows.  Listen to this film closely.

For this last one, I thought I was seeing a full length film, but it was actually set up on a small TV on the 4th floor foyer at the Southbank Centre.  Shoutout to Tracy who suggested the film!  Mother Tongues is a short film featuring four British poets of color and their mothers.  The mothers recited their daughters’ poems in their own ‘mother tongue’ (Ga, Shona, and Yoruba) and then the audience listens to the dialogue between the poets and the women who raised them.  My favorite part of these intimate interviews was hearing proverbial advice like “Grow your nails so you can scratch yourself” …meaning save your money so you have something for yourself.

I was surprised to realize that the woman who created and produced this piece, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, is someone I’d seen sing and recite her poetry at an event called Jazz Verse Jukebox at Hoxton Hall.  It made this sprawling city feel just a bit smaller since it felt like running into someone I knew while on the tube.

Exhibits

Soul of A Nation didn’t disappoint!  Art born from the civil rights movement is powerful on its own, and when brought together with the stories of the brilliant and thought-provoking artists who continued through the 70s and 80s, it was a journey.  We experienced their personal politics, identity, and ultimately, their historical contributions in this showcase.

After such a powerful show, we checked out the Tate rooftop!  Then, Corey and I stayed for dinner and a show. The closing party for Soul of A Nation was hosted by the Hiphop Karaoke crew, and the beers on tap were from Brooklyn Brewery.  Pumpkin Ale, veggie burgers and very brave souls tackling the mic? Bravo!

Boom for Real is still showing at the Barbican so see it if you are in Londontown before January 28th!  I enjoyed the chronological organization of the show, illustrating howJean-Michel Basquiat’s work transitioned from the 1960s to the late 1980s.  Though his life was short, he leaves a lasting impression.  And because his canvas was NYC, it brought me back down memory lane.  Bonus: We saw the show with Tracy and Andrae– and you know what? They love gift shops too!

Honestly, I read about this exhibit in an in-flight magazine! But after visiting Hassan Hajjaj’s work at the Somerset House, I will make scouring articles before take-off a tradition.  Hajjaj’s work is vibrant, fun and it reminds you to think about the layers that make up our everyday lives.  To help explain the exhibit, I took a video (see below).  There are numerous screens set up as framed pictures, but you realize the frames are actually videos.  Each artist plays a solo.  While they perform their solo, he’s taped the other artists turning to the left or right in their frame so it looks as if they are in one long concert line.

 

Directly out the back door from the Hajjaj exhibit, is the river Thames.  We caught this additional piece of art and wanted to give a shoutout for this one.

Corey and I took The Grays to explore Shoreditch one autumnal afternoon.  Our main goal was to show them the graffiti art all along Brick Lane, but Zanele Muholi’s exhibit caught our eye so we took a pitstop.  In the photos of the dark lioness (herself), she was decorated with daily objects like steel wool or cords.  If not decked out in a mane, she was in a natural setting like a forest or coastline.  Every picture was of her staring directly at the camera or with Muholi purposefully positioned in a way where you could not deny giving her attention.

Theater

The Barbershop Chronicles. I hope Inua Ellams and the production get to travel with this piece!!! Go see it if it comes to a theater/theatre near you!!!  (more exclamation points!)  This play allows you to be a fly on the wall in barber shops in six cities…five of them on the African continent, and one in the UK.  The energy is incredible, and you’ll be shocked you’ve been rapt for almost two hours without a break.  Sam, Abs, Corey and I are still talking about the stories a week later!  Strong performance, yall!

And more…

Food and drink can be art, right? You have to read the captions for this section.

 

IMG_1520An event that I hoped to attend, but missed: Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book talk at the Tate.  I was there 45 minutes early with book in hand, and waited in a line snaking through the entire pavilion.  An extra 15 minutes after the man stood on the table to announce there was no more room in the theater, people were still crowding towards the door. Go ahead, Reni!

 

Grafitti art in East London

Other events this Fall…

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on these escapades. Cheers to the art, the artists, and …sheepishly, the audience.

 

 

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Valencia, Spain

Vacaciones en Valencia

Mi amiga, Aisha, y yo fuimos a Valencia para Feriado bancario en Mayo. Yo necesito practicar español en ‘past tense’ así que voy a escribir en español en la blog ahora. Buena suerte a mi!

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Dia Uno: Nosotros fuimos a nuestra airbnb.  Yo comprende mas acerca de la casa porque hay contexto cuando la Señora explico cosas en la casa.  Estoy feliz…pero cuando no hay contexto en las calles de Valencia, mi español mas menor!! Pobrecita!!

Después nosotros ponimos las maletas en la cuarto, nosotros tenemos hambre. Fuimos a Mercat Central!  Muchas personas estaron en el Mercat Central compraron comida y bebidas.  Hay mucho jamón ibérico, vino, aceitunas, fruta y verduras. Compramos pan, aceitunas, jamón, y vino y sentamos cerca de el mercado.

Claro, era un buen dia asi que nosotros caminamos en el barrio. Hay mucho graffiti y edificios bellos.

Yo monte una bicicleta y era mi tiempo favorito en Sábado.  Nosotros montamos a La Ciudad De Artes y Ciencias.  No visitamos en museos en este viaje, pero esta bien.  Los edificios están futuristicos.   Estarlos en un gran parque también.  El nombre es Antiguo Cauce Del Rio Turia porque fue un rio pero ahora el rio es una calle larga en el parque!  Es muy verde en el parque y la gente son muy amables.

Porque nosotros estamos sudados, nosotros necesitamos las duchas.  En la noche, nosotros comimos tapas.  Los hongos fueron mejor que la carne.  Nos vimos una boda también en la plaza.  Fuimos a Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar también pero la música era como jazz en la hotel ascensor.  La señorita puedio cantar pero ellos fueron asi asi– ok, aburridos.


Dia Dos: Fuimos a La Playa Malvarrosa acerca de una hora en el autobus.  Un poco lejos, pero era un day bonita de nuevo.  Hay muchas personas que se viven in Valencia en la playa también!  Nosotros nadamos y tomamos sol.  El barrio cerca de la playa no era como Valencia central.  Yo vi las calles fueron un poco sucio y desgastado. Me gusto los azulejos y calles pequeñas.

Caminamos a Valencia central y Aisha quieria paella.  Buscamosla en una restaurante pequeña que se llama La Valenciana.  La restaurante como una escuela de cocina.  Era una noche fresca y la comida era muy bien!


Dia Tres y el dia final! Primero, porque nosotros comimos mas pan y arroz en Domingo, nosotros ejercitamos.  Despues, compramos cosas en un mercado local.  Hay cosas como maletas, sandias, pan, alfombras, y mas ropa.  No mas comida asi que fuimos a un restaurante cerca del mercado.  Pare Pero era muy delicioso.  Pienso era mi restaurante favorita!  Yo comi atun y mas hongos.  Un joven profesor de ingles hablo conmigo por dos horas!  El vivio en America por dos anos y el le gusto mucho. Tu quieres saber si yo hable en español por dos horas? Lo ciento, no! El hable conmigo en ingles, pero esta bien porque Aisha quería hablar también y ella hablo en ingles. Yo engañade– oi 😦

Nosotros visitamos Plaza de la Virgen, y vimos muchos edificios grandes y bonitos.  Valencia es una cuidad relajada.  Yo pienso gente retirada viajan a Valencia porque es una ciudad fácil.  Si quieres una vacaciones con las playas y la ciudades pequeñas, Valencia es una lugar bonita.

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Athens, Greece

Κανόνες Αθηνών! Athens, Greece

IMG_9018“Nonfiction is the Real Thing!” This motto was the big posted tagline in the back of my classroom at Infinity (shoutout to Allison!), and I felt like I was living ‘the real thing’ being in Athens as we were experiencing the ‘topography, vegetation, and water’ of this ancient city.  I was excited to see the Acropolis up close as I taught my sixth graders about ancient Greek history and culture back in Harlem.  

The center of the city is called Athens, and the Acropolis is like a beacon seen from every neighborhood and lane.  Attica is the surrounding area of Athens and is full of apartment buildings and storefronts that are most akin to strip malls. These neighborhoods are mostly beige colored buildings and there is a lot of tagging on the sides of the walls.  Some of the blocks are lined with citrus trees that create small sunny green spaces, but about a third of the shops on the outer blocks are run down reminding us of the struggle that Greeks have been facing for the past decade.  On our long walks, we did find neighborhoods that were lively- full of art, evening hangouts and baked goods.  And each time we remarked on the lovely weather with a neighbor or driver or server, they cheerily responded ‘Of course… it’s Greece!’ 

Our airbnb was in the Makryianni district, an easy walk into Athens.  We started our ventures with a very late lunch at Manh Manh.  This pulpo appetizer that could have been a meal on its own, and we had a great white wine.

From lunch we went onto the Acropolis museum, and we had a little over an hour to explore the three floors.  We’d suggest visiting the third level first as this level is floor to ceiling windows making it a great setting for sunset.  On the third floor, I also liked watching the Parthenon video before visiting the ruins as we didn’t have a tour book to guide us when we were at the site the following day.  I told Corey stories of the Greek gods and goddesses as we explored the friezes, metopes, and sculptures on the remaining floors.

For me, Plaka, the old town center, had similar vibes to some of Rome’s narrow lanes: waiters beckon you into their restaurants and the main stone road is packed with souvenir shops.  Strolling the labyrinth of streets gave me the feeling that our evening would be long and relaxed. Greeks don’t go out for dinner until about 9/10pm, but instead of dinner, we found Lukumades, and devoured a snack of fried dough balls smothered in honey.

The Agia Irini Square was buzzing, maybe similar to the lower east side but in a much, much smaller space.  We were on a mission to hit up Clumsies, a recommended cocktail spot!  It’s actually rated as one of the top 50 bars in the world (!) according to the website called worlds50bestbars.com.  The crowd gathers as the evening goes on, but the vibe is very laid back and the music was basically a playlist of the original songs that many current hip hop and r&b artists have sampled.  The Siren was my favorite drink of the night!


Today was Acropolis day (and any other ruins that we could walk to).   Unbeknownst to us, the first Sunday of every month means that you get free entry to all of these sites!  We couldn’t believe our luck!  We started our walk up to the Parthenon by 8.30am.  The East Slope near the Acropolis Museum allows you to see Dionysus Theater and the Odeon of Herod the Atticus, both early amphitheaters.  

The temperature was cool as we walked the path and we could see the view of Attica was breathtaking even though we were only half way up the hill.  The 2500 year old Parthenon has been destroyed and rebuilt many times due to fights between religious groups and rulers. The story goes that Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, the god of the sea, were dueling over Athens to give the city a name.  Athena gave the best offering to the people, the first seed of an olive tree in the ground, and thus became the patron saint of Athens. The Parthenon is dedicated to her, and ancient Greek citizens would enter the lines of Doric columns to visit a towering statue of the goddess.

The walk down to the Roman Agora and the Ancient Temple of Haphaestus is lined with olive trees, green brush and rolling green space.  The Roman Agora illustrated how ancient the city actually is, with very few of the ruins remaining on the green quad.  An agora is a meeting place where ancient Athenians would share their artisic skils, their athletic talents, and their philosophical ideas.

You walk through the large flea market of Monastiraki, full of bric-a-brac and also elderly gentlemen who’ve saddled up to their friend’s stall to have their morning coffee together.  The ancient Agora listed on our map showed many other temples dedicated to various gods, but when we arrived, we realized many of these ruins were almost invisible.  The map was really just illustrating where the temples would have been standing had we visited thousands of years ago.  

The Temple of Haphaestus was the only temple still standing in the ancient Agora.  He is the god of blacksmiths, metalworkers, and is also known as one of the ugliest gods, which is important in his myths as he was married to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.  The Stoa of Attalos is also still standing, though rebuilt by American architects in the 1950s from what I can remember.  This long corridor of columns became a marketplace for many Greeks.

We wandered north through the neighborhood of Psyrri with various walls of graffiti art, and modern coffee shops and bars coexisting with warehouses and older apartment buildings.  We lunched at Kavika, a spot on the promenade near the ancient Agora, but I’d venture to go back to Psyrri for food the next trip to Athens.

We endeavored to hike up Lycabettus Hill after lunch, but the walk up to the trailhead itself proved enough of a trek in the afternoon sun.  With so much sun, we opted instead to visit the promenade of Flisvos Marina, where there are expensive yachts and young and old are out having frozen Greek yogurt similar to Pinkberry.  

The tram is easy to catch to Piraeus, where we were on the hunt for a seafood restaurant suggested by Corey’s colleague.  The section of Piraeus we visited felt like a cove surrounded by bars and restaurants with large bay windows looking out on the sailboats.  While the suggested restaurant was actually closed when we arrived, it’s easy to choose another spot for dinner just based on the number of people inside of each location.  We were excited to grab a corner table looking out over the pier while the sun was setting!


We rented a car for the last day to take a day-trip along the Attica coastline.   But first, we had to hit up the Temple of Zeus and the original modern Olympic stadium!  How were these only a 15 minute walk from the car rental place?!

The Temple of Poseidon, out on Cape Sounio, was our actual destination, but with the car, we’d be able to stop along seaside towns as we pleased.  It’s about an hour drive out to Cape Sounio, and the roads wind along the seaside cliffs similar to Route 1 along the California coast.  The air is seaside fresh at the Temple of Poseidon and you can look out and begin to imagine how lovely a trip to the Greek islands must be.


We dipped our toes into the sea on a short pitstop and then headed for Vouliagmeni lake, a thermal spa sunk into the side of a mountain that is warm year round.  For me, it was painted as an idyllic getaway where I’d be seeped in steaming waters.  However, we arrived in the car park and saw the likes of a swimming pool with one side full of plastic chairs.  We voted no on the lukewarm pool.

Instead, we had lunch and then drove to Glyfada, a popular seaside hangout for the “in crowd” of Athens. This basically means there were wide pedestrian sidewalks with plenty of boutiques to get lost in.  We weren’t too interested in shopping at this point, so armed with gelato, we waved goodbye to the shops, the sea, and made for the airport.


Quick Shot:

For Food:

For Sights and Neighborhoods

  • Dedicate one day to the Acropolis! Definitely include the museum if you can.
  • Plaka, Psyrri and Monastiraki neighborhoods
  • Head to the sea to see: Flisvos Marina, Piraeus, and even Cape Sounio for the Temple of Poseidon

 

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