venerdì 31 ottobre 2014

Issei Suda, a Master of Japanese Photography

Issei Suda was born in Tokyo in 1940 and graduated from the Tokyo College of Photography in 1962. He worked as a freelance photographer from 1971 and taught for many years at the Osaka University of Arts.

“My shooting method was once compared to an ancient sword trick in which one slashes his enemy at the same time as he removes the sword from his sheath,” Mr. Suda, 74, said in an interview translated by Miyako Yoshinaga, who has recently curated “Issei Suda: Life In Flower, 1971-1977.” 

He has had over 75 solo exhibitions, mainly in Japan, and his work is featured in numerous major museum collections around the world, including SFMoMA, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The J. Paul Getty Museum. His publications include the monographs Fushi Kaden (1978), My Tokyo 100 (1979), Human Memory (1996) and Minyou Sanga (2007).

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mercoledì 22 ottobre 2014

Mansaf, a unique bedouin dish

Mansaf is a traditional bedouin Jordanian and Palestinian dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented
dried yogurt (jameed) and served with rice or bulgur. A plate that has become a national Jordanian dish, but is even commonly eaten in Palestine too. Sign of great generosity, mansaf is served on special occasions such as weddings, births and graduations, or to honor a guest, and on major holidays such as Eid, Christmas or Easter.

Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph Collection(1935 Aug. 17.)
As bedouins lived in the dessert, they kept on moving in search for water and shelter from harsh weather. These relocations made them have a unique food diet, tradition and life style that can be easily linked this plate. Bedouin livelihood primarily involved herding of sheep, goats and camels that provided meat, milk products and wool. Meat was only eaten on special occasions (such as feasts, weddings and visits from guests) as this entailed slaughtering an animal and consuming it before the meat spoiled. Milk products made up a large portion of the traditional Bedouin diet. Fresh milk was used for cooking and drinking. One of the most important bedouin cousine ingredient is Jameed. Round white hard milk balls created out of goat milk and through a special preparation the mansaf plate is prepared and served.

How Jameed is made

The Goat's milk is put in a container to change from milk to yogurt. It is then placed in a sack (originally
made from goats' skin) and shaken to seperate the milk solids from liquids. In the old days, a Bedouin lady would sit and shake the milk till ready, but nowadays there are machines that carry out this step. The butter (milk solid) will then be taken and made into local ghee/butter. The remaining Soured Milk (liquids) is then heated to separate further. The whole separated mixture is then placed in a large cloth (kind of like a cheese cloth technique) to completely drain out all the remaining liquid. There will only remain Jabjab, which is the hard solid part. This is then mixed with salt, and left for a further 24 hours in the cloth to dry. Then it is taken out of the Cloth, and pressed together and shaped into balls, which are then left to sun-dry for 2-3 days. These Jameed balls will then be rock hard, and the name literally meaning solid is reflective of their dry solid state. These Jameed Balls can be stored for about a year, which is very convenient for dessert life, as they had no access to refrigeration and other storage options.
Then when ready to cook, the Jameed is rehydrated, by being broken up, soaked in water and rubed to go back into liquid state. It is then added to meat and broth, creating a yoghurt-based sauce.

Ways of eating:

It is traditionally eaten collectively from a large  platter and one should follow either one of the two hand codes. You start with picking up a small amount of rice and meat, compact it slightly, and bring it up to the mouth. No food should fall from the hand or the mouth as you eat, nor should your fingers touch your mouth; the food is flipped into the mouth from about an inch away. The second way is to form a ball of rice in the palms of their hands, constantly flipping the ball in the air because it is quite hot. Then, for those who are talented, the rice ball is flipped, sometimes from a foot away, into the mouth. In some situations the host will form the rice ball in his own hand for the guest of honor. Of course for those who don't know how to use one of the following hand codes, spoons can be asked for eating.
read from right to left

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mercoledì 8 ottobre 2014

Nose kiss? How the Gulf Arab greet.

Arabian Body Language
Body language in the UAE and amongst Arabs is completely different to that in the West. it would make sense to understand a little about what certain body language might mean.

To kiss the forehead, nose, or right hand of a person denotes extreme respect. Shake hands with the right hand only; the left hand is considered unclean. Failure to shake hands when meeting someone or saying good-bye is considered rude. When a Western man is introduced to an Arab woman it is the woman's choice whether to shake hands or not; she must initiate the handshake. Women shake hands only using their fingertips. Do not touch their palm and do not kiss her hand. Women do not kiss a man’s cheek in greeting, it is considered immodest.

The Nose Touch 

The Nose Touch is a quick nose-to-nose touch while shaking hands. You will often see Gulf Arab male Nationals touch noses three times as they shake hands during their greetings. This is a traditional Bedouin tradition, it is a sign of friendship, and it is common amongst male friends.

The old custom of rubbing noses is not just an Arab invention but the code of various indigenous populations in many parts of the world. For example the Eskimo and the  Māori of New Zealand also do it. It varies from rubbing to kissing, but they all require the noses to touch.

giovedì 2 ottobre 2014

Orientalism in a cup of coffee

Sultana (Mme de Pompadour portrayed as a Turkish lady), 1747, Van Loo

Hard as it is to imagine today, there was a time before coffee. Native neither to European nor American soil, the coffee plant is originally Ethiopian. By the Renaissance, Sufi mystics were consuming coffee in Yemen, and soon the drink became popular throughout the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. In the 16th century, Ottoman Turks discovered the beverage when merchants from Aleppo and Damascus founded the first coffeehouses of Istanbul. Gradually, and in a manner that was anything but inevitable, coffeehouses opened in Europe too—first in Oxford, then in London, then on the continent. By the end of the 17th century, Europeans had learned to love this strange new concoction.

The first example that came to my mind was the image of Madame de Pompadour portrayed as a Turkish Lady, Sultane, painted by Carle Van Loo for her chateau at Bellevue, along with two other paintings displaying her occupied with pursuits associated with the Turkish harem in the French imagination, Two Odalisques Embroidering and An Odalisque Playing a Stringed Instrument (lost). Even here I have been thinking more along the lines of the use of coffee in exotic constructions of "the other" in European painting.

European artists' fascination with Constantinople and the Orient was an ongoing phenomenon that culminated in Orientalism in art. Canvases of Western artists, depicted their fantasies of throngs of women, lounging about, sometimes naked, waiting for the pleasure of one man.  Those who visited came back with props, sketches and memories of exotic lands and strange people, those who did not, relied on accessories, costume books and travel memoirs. The dainty coffee cup became one of the most iconic props used by Orientalist.

Tchaikovsky - Arabian Dance - Coffee (Danse Arabe) from The Nutcracker Suite

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