He tells me that when he grew up in Georgia in the 1930s the houses were like the beehive huts on Skellig Michael. They were built into the ground and covered with turf. When he lived on the Shetlands he built a house out of all old stuff he found washed in from the sea. When they were readying for a storm he tied the house down with old netting and his was the only one that stayed up. Now he lives in Cork in a house made out of wood, slate and stone taken from the ruins of a great house. In his seventy fifth year it took him seven months to build and cost 1000 euro. One of his favourite things to do is walk down from the house to the ruins of an old castle sheltered from the wind by four holm oaks which are evergreen. He sits on a rock and watches the oyster catchers and smokes his pipe.
Apart from the Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage and broccoli there are at this time of year in his small garden the dead, yellow stems of twelve tobacco plants. They are in a small patch of their own, measuring twelve feet by twenty feet. He grows enough tobacco from those plants to last him a year. He has no instruments but a chimney and a hut.
His father met Sir Nugent Everard in Virginia, America. Everard was the owner of a 300-acre Randlestown estate in Meath which, from 1898 to 1938, had its own tobacco plantation. As well as growing and processing it for sale to factories Everard encouraged local farmers to do the same. At its peak 100 people were employed in the industry. Everard was convinced that tobacco could be a big crop in Ireland. Until his death, at the age of eighty, in the year of the Great Depression, he was devoted to tobacco. After his passing local growers tried to keep his legacy alive, forming the County Meath Co-Operative Tobacco Growers Society. It closed in 1939, the last year in which tobacco was grown commercially in the country.
His father was the one who told him to plant the tobacco seeds he had been given by his friend Everard. The first year he was surprised at how easy it was. He germinated the seeds inside on a covered seed tray. When they were big enough each plant was put in a small pot and kept on in the hut near the stove for ten weeks. Outside he broke the heavy soil up as well as he could and put down the plants. Without much sun that spring and summer the plants grew to six feet. They didn’t mind the wet and the salt. He left the large leaves ripen to brown and in October the leaves began to fall. He picked the first ones up and smoked them like that in a small Cornish pipe he had been given by a sailing friend. The rest of the leaves he dried and cured in the bathroom. Everard had told his father that before the ships took the tobacco bails over the sea from the West Indies tobacco was smoked raw. The days in the hold with the heat and salt and moisture cured it and people enjoyed the new taste. Keeping the leaves in stacks with a blanket over them was one way of bringing on the flavour of the tobacco, Everard said. The first year Uri couldn’t wait. Now he takes his time and has tobacco stores which have been mellowing for several years. He cures some in his chimney, some by the window which catches the southwesterlies, and some he smokes just as it falls. Sometimes he smokes it in papers and other times in one of the many pipes he has collected over the years. He told me to grow my own and see.
He told me these things the other morning when the robins and blackbirds were loud enough to stop us speaking even as it was dark. Around his place the hazel and purple birching finally breaks the winter-crone. The days are lengthening. This Sunday is Imbolc. The birds herald it.
Despite the wind and rain of Dublin in late January, my work is sadly not seasonal and I am literally snowed under with meetings and appointments as we try and beat the credit crunch and forge onwards through 2009!
There is quite a lot of talk in recent times about major personalities taking pay cuts; while I am in no position to take such a cut – having recently come back from a super trip to Nice, I need all the money I can get – my manager at our arts centre has spent January interviewing able bodied young graduates who are interested in coming on board as interns. This, I feel, is a fantastic way to beat the recession as these young bucks will work and work and work while we do not have to pay them a penny. It amazes me the sheer enthusiasm of these people but I also feel that it is so necessary for people to work for free – I have often done it over the years, helped people organise their events and did not earn a dime for my hard work and expertise.
Skills Exchange member travels through Patagonia and posts his experiences in our mutantspace blog
We all like to believe that travel brings out our wild side. Ever since Star Trek forever smeared into our conscience the curse of the most infamous split infinitive and its seminal pledge, ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’, human kind has scrambled to the most peculiar of crevices, laying itself bare to the vagaries of meteorology, the delicacies of custom and the whim of mother nature. From pole to pole, abandoned but free, baby have we left ourselves go, or what?
When the seed of a voyage first takes root in the brain’s ‘wild’ compartment, we incline towards ‘whatever comes my way man!’ Ground rules exist, of course, but only to secure our personal liberation. As a guide, when in doubt, assume kamikaze. Allow me to present the Zen Commandments:
I shall walk barefoot in the jungle, in the way jungle people do
I shall discard stockings and other irrelevant western possessions, and let my sandals direct me beneath the deep foreign sun
I shall engage with Irish people only sparingly, for this is the tribe responsible for shrinking my intellect to its present sorry size
I shall embrace the locals, and feed off the wisdom they have designed for me. Mountains are to be scaled via ‘alternative’ passages, and timed so that summits are reached only at dawn. When I do need to wear my Penneys trousers,
I shall carry a small notepad and pencil in the leg pocket at all times, so that my most recent spiritual awakening can be recorded not a moment too soon
I shall sit cross-legged for supper, and on the beach, where I shall scorn behind their backs anybody I see reading the ‘Da Vinci Code’
I shall espouse core socialist values at every opportunity, leaving free-market capitalism, an illusion and the curse of mankind, in the dock where it belongs
I shall allude, over and over again, to the world’s economic implosion as the ultimate proof of socialism’s supremacy
When at a crossroads, and confused, I shall follow the energy
If my reason ever supersedes my instinct, I shall return home at once
And above all else, I shall, at all times, be cool.’
It is to Buenos Aires I head on February 4th, then on to Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, hot on the heels of Che Guevara, naturally enough. That guy thought he was hardcore. He had no idea.
But already, there is something sinister bubbling in my blood. I first felt it at the doctor’s surgery last week, as the nurse stood over me with two needles of venom – one for typhoid, the other for Hepititis A. She was intrigued by the scope and ambition of my assignment; I played up the brave and lonely journalist, foraging manfully into the darkness. “I shall be embedding myself” I told her. Thing was, I think we both appreciated what embedding really meant. That face of hers knew too much.
Truth be told, in vaccinating, really I was buckling under the irresistible urge to blend in, to conform. I was already living on the safe side of life. I hate admitting it but that’s when the chink in my wild armour was carved. Those jabs poisoned me with the travel safety bug, and it has been an ugly spiral ever since.
As I write this, behind me on my bedroom floor I have neatly folded many of the essential tools for the journey. A thin cotton sleeping bag. Pocket-sized torch. Layered clothing, leg warmers for the mountains. Fleece. Power converter. Rain gear. Diary.
I’ve already wikipediad ‘Buenos Aires’ in Google, to get bearings in advance. Christ, I feel like I’ve already been to the place. I bet before I leave I’ll book the first night’s accommodation online, from the safety of my bedroom. That will cushion my arrival nicely. When I get there, having taxied my way around the beastly public transport, I’m sure to genuflect before the high summer, and invest in factor 30 Ambre Solaire sun cream. And dare anybody speak to me during any of this, I can always take cover behind my Lonely Planet.
Already I cut a pathetic prospect of a journeyman.
As sure as bacon partners a sausage, to prepare for my first tailor-made trek for goofy idiots through the Patagonian wilderness I’ll duck into a corner store to purchase jacks roll. For those unscheduled loo stops. Let’s face it, I am bound to go safely where plenty of men have gone before.
I’ll even be persuaded to buy travel insurance, on the good counsel of my mammy. Just in case, because she knows best.
Now for a wild boy like me, that would be the ultimate capitulation
The culture of soul music is alive and well in Cork with Northern Nights – a music club night that goes on once a month in the city
As I am fully aware that no one wants to hear the in’s and out’s of club promotion, I thought it might just be of some interest to talk a bit about the people behind the scenes. In our case, the northern soul scene. But let me just tell you about who we are, before I get into what the northern soul scene is all about. Martin Goggin is a well respected veteran on the Northern scene. Whilst his career is not in the music business he has tip-toed around it for the last twenty or so years. Interviewing the likes of Teddy Pendigrass to doing Radio shows for UK’s Starpoint radio. Breda Healy joined us on a voluntary basis, and has experience in event organization from Electric Picnic to Cork Film Festivals. Whilst I studied multimedia and work in the print and web industry
For me, collecting music is not just a hobby, but like many others a necessity. The music truly is what its all about. That together with creating an atmosphere that’s personal and thrilling. The crowd of people we get tends to shock me each time. They’re always there to dance and never too concerned about looks or pre-occupied by the right moves. If you’ve ever gone to a northern soul night you’ll know it can be wild and upbeat to slow and sultry. A mix of moods that’s driven by an old 45. That’s what I find profound, and what I feel I’ve been searching for. That buzz of “hey, that’s my favourite song”. Or the chase of getting that illusive record. Its all part of the club scene and has been there since the first record was pressed
Everyone’s got their own ideas of what makes a great night. For me, late nights in Lebowski’s bar followed by a Henry’s session cannot not be an influence. But other nights too had a strong impact on my idea of what merits success. Many Cork nights that people can be proud of like “Telefunkin” at the metropole immediately springs to mind, as well as “Mór Disco”, “Soulsides”, Manchester’s music box, whilst more recently Dublin’s “Sleepless nights” have opened my eyes to what can be achieved with a room full of people. And more often than not, these occasions are driven by the mixture of the right people getting together. Right from the dance floor, to the ticket person at the door. I’ve been refused entry to more places than I can remember for wearing the “wrong shoes”, that it’s made somewhere I fit in, all that more special.
Success or Failure?
Failure is always a possibility, but our night began with the thinking of, well why not! This has been our philosophy for each one and continues to be. We believe its important to respect what has gone on before, but to also think a little differently. So, at the risk of sounding like a cheesy promoter we do have further info on our nights and music. For those who cringe at blatant promotion close your eyes now. www.thenorthernnights.com for weekly music samples, mixes, future guests. That’s it, you can open them now. Thanks for listening
Now that a New Year has begun, lists of the must-see movies for 2009 are popping up all over the place and included in those are several upcoming animated films. The past few years have seen a slow turnaround in those films dominating the animated field. Disney, once the ruler of all things animation had, in previous years, been outed by Pixar and DreamWorks who impressed us with slick CGI and, on DreamWorks part specifically, an eagerness to distance themselves from classic 2D Disney tales.
The likes of Shrek and Shrek 2 parodied Disney in a satirical manner, thereby instilling in viewers the idea that Disney was old-fashioned, even morally so; Shrek’s Princess Fiona provided a spunky alternative to the traditional Disney princess who seemed sexist and silly. Even so, Shrek could not resist giving into a happy fairytale ending and with the jokes in Shrek 2 and 3 wearing thin, it was time to allow a comeback for the traditional fairytale. Meanwhile, Disney’s attempt at keeping up with the DreamWorks factory had been a failure (Who remembers Atlantis or Treasure Planet now?) but they made a clever move with the release of Enchanted, transporting their classic princess into our cynical real world, thereby simultaneously learning to laugh at itself while also reminding us that even sceptical humans enjoy a true love fairytale. Now with Pixar’s John Lasseter settled into the role of Chief Creative Officer at the Disney studios, it is hoped that Disney’s future projects will be as original as Pixar’s Wall E or Ratatouille while also retaining their Disney roots.
Disney’s Bolt is first up this year (early February), the story of a dog who believes his role on a fantasy TV show is real and escapes to save his friend from a terrible fate. If it all sounds a little too much like the Buzz Lightyear story, then there is definitely more originality in Disney Pixar’s UP (October) where a little old man’s house decides to take off and flies high up into the sky. Up looks colourful and fun with just a touch of The Wizard of Oz magic to it. Finally Disney’s return to 2D comes in the form of The Princess and the Frog, the story of Tiana, a New Orleans princess who has made history as the first black princess in Disney animation. Needless to say, this fact alone has stirred up more controversy than the subject matter of the movie, but with old masters Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin. The Little Mermaid) behind the project, it looks like it could be a winner.
For those looking for something darker, Henry Selick’s Coraline is out in our cinemas in May. Selick worked on The Nightmare Before Christmas, something which is evident when you view the Coraline trailer.
Before I go all Hollywood, however, there are other animations to watch out for, and there are always plenty wonderful short animations too, which, thanks to the likes of Futureshorts, are readily available to watch.
Futureshorts have their own youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/futureshorts?blend=1) where they screen both live action and animated shorts from around the world, but personally I have always found the animated films the most consistently enjoyable. The short animations are a reminder of the scope of the craft, and how animation, even above live action, can expand your imagination. Pixar may produce new ideas, and some classic shorts themselves,
Here’s a profile of one of our mutantspace skills exchange members; Medb Lambert, an Irish Artist, designer, performer and dramaturg
As no-one else has done this before I’m not quite sure how to proceed. Well there’s one line written; I’ll go on, so.
I’ve somehow, so far managed to avoid being pigeonholed into any specific area of theatre mainly by dint of not turning down anything that’s come my way. That has meant that to date I’ve worked as a writer, actor, designer, dramaturg, teacher, festival programmer, administrator, stage manager and graphic designer. Lately I’ve been calling myself a theatre artist – though my partner sometimes calls it prostitution – I like to think of it more as keeping my options open.
I’m excited about the recession.
And I’m not afraid to use the word. With all of this skirting about and dancing around “the r word” is starting to feel like “He Who Must Not Be Named” in the Harry Potter books. But unlike “Voldemort” there’s no trace on the word, no Death Eaters to suddenly appear and capture me for being a member of the resistance movement. Although, sometimes I feel like I am. I’ve taken to making sure that my i-pod is fully charged before I dream of getting into the car for fear of having to listen to the gloom and doom that’s pervading the country. A foreigner might be forgiven in thinking that Voldemort has indeed risen again to begin another reign of terror.
But, I digress. I’m excited about the recession because I suddenly feel like I am free. In recent years, when I was about to embark on another journey into production and mentioned it at all in the company of friends and family the first inevitable question was always; “are you getting paid well? Is the pay good?” etc. etc. I was beginning to internally scream BUT I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH I GET PAID! And I don’t.
I grew up in a family of puppeteers; and the result was that growing up, I never realised that normally in theatre there are real live people on stage. I thought puppets were normal. It was a big shock and ultimately a disappointment to discover that I was wrong. I do work with puppets now – less because of – and more likely in spite of my background. Or it’s more like I like to work with the notion of puppets – that space in our brains that we must use in order to appreciate them fully; it’s that gap between perception and imagination, that suspension of disbelief. It’s also about how it makes you think about the materials that you use. With puppetry you must find the truth of the material. I remember as a kid being entertained endlessly by my uncle playing only with a clothes peg. It was a good lesson. Find your material, find the truth of what that material has to say, let the material speak, and speak through it. And to find the truth of the material you must play.
So for the future? I don’t know. I’m lucky because in my (very part-time) job running the Equinox Theatre Company I’m surrounded by people who really and truly access a different part of the creative brain than most of the people that I’ve worked with in main-stream theatre; and through working with them they’ve somehow given me permission to think differently too. It’s given me a whole new outlook on the collaborative process.
“But Medb, there are no wrong answers” they tell me. Great! Lets go then.
There Are Little Kingdoms (Meridian Theatre Company; designer)
Six by Sundown by Ciaran Ruby (Asylum Productions; designer, performer, dramaturg) Cleaner (Asylum Productions; creator, performer)
End of the Line (Magnet Productions; designer)
Currently Artistic Co-ordinator of Equinox Theatre Company, and resident dramaturg of Asylum Productions since 2007
Wooster Collective is a website that showcases street art from around the world. It is dedicated to showcasing and celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world. Updated by Marc and Sara Schiller, the site also offers podcasting with music and interviews featuring street artists.
Wooster Collective is Marc and Sara Schiller.
The Schillers founded the Wooster Collective web site in 2001. Walking their hyperactive Weimaraner, Hudson, throughout the streets of SoHo, they started noticing the artwork put up on buildings and city walls by vigilante artists who thought their message was equally as important as the ad space Calvin Klein would pay to overexpose Travis Fimmel’s hot ass.
Like most people in New York City who lived though 9-11, Marc and Sara looked at their surroundings with fresh eyes. They had a new appreciation for the city and noticed things that most people took for granted. Instead of packing up their bags and leaving the city they loved, they decided to celebrate it, to share it, with New Yorkers and with the rest of the world.
Once a year they offer a walking tour in which they lead groups of up to 150 people throughout the city, telling them the stories behind the stickers on street signs and the wheat pasted posters on buildings. All of this public art, a combination of sarcasm, intellect, guerilla warfare and good ol’ fashion stoner ‘I have nothing better to do with my time, dude’ motivation, is just as important to this city as any might-be-built stadium or eccentric down and outer. The people on the tour vary from stringy, twenty-something, skate rats to the elderly women dying to know who Neck Face is. Sometimes the artists who create the work pointed out on the tour are anonymously part of the group, watching the reactions of people admiring their work.
Offbeat Records are mutantspace arts skills exchange members and a new type of Music Label for a new generation of musicians free from the exploitation of the old system. Artists are now able to manage their own career path, utilising music industry services provided by independent agencies whilst able to access global distribution fo their music, impossible before the internet.
Established in 2006 Offbeat Records is a distribution label that grew out of a need within Cork city, Ireland.
Originally intended as a vehicle for world music combo SUMU it was the work of a couple of years to secure a comprehensive worldwide electronic distribution network that now covers all major retail outlets and most af the smaller ones for download music. Offbeat Records now distributes all types of music, World and Acoustic, Electronica & Dub, Rock, Indie and Other! We mostly distribute the completed recordings of independent artists, we therefore supply this as a service, for which we charge 20% of net return.
Artists are then avail of several advantages compared with the old system
The Artist still owns the Recordings
The Artist does not owe the Label any money
The Artist can work with who they like
The Artist is free to manage their own career path
The Artist is free to change distributer for new works if they are dissatisfied
When we distribute your music:
We protect the recording, registering with MCPS and PPI, allocating ISRC codes (to digitally track airplay and download sales) and UPC Bar codes (for tracking all sales).
We upload music to the worlds leading download servers – iTunes, eMusic, mp3.com, Napster etc. (complete list here)
We upload singles to DownloadMusic.ie – the optimum independent choice for getting into the Irish Chart.
We provide an mp3 player that can be embedded into your homepage / myspace for direct sales.
We arrange online CD sales though your website, through our site, and through Amazon and CDBaby.
To grease the wheels of the process we also provide several ancilliary services:
Offbeat Records has recently acquired a rather nice rehearsal/recording space in Cork City which can be hired at a very competetive rate. We provide an artwork, packaging and graphic design service which is charged at an hourly rate. We supply consultation on copyright law and we have our own publishing division OFFBEAT PUBLISHING to register artists with IMRO and RAAP for recoupment of live and recorded music royalties. A standard 15% rate applies for the basic service, and an artist development package is in the pipeline to promote music TV & Film producers.
If you are interested in any of these services or simply want more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 086 378 3185
45 By Bill Drummond At the age of 45, Bill Drummond is less concerned with setting the record straight as making sure it revolves at the correct speed. Whether he’s recording ‘Justified and Ancient’ with Tammy Wynette; contemplating the dull lunacy of the Turner prize; resisting the urge to paint landscapes; or glorying in the crapness of rock comebacks; he is consistently amusing and thought-provoking, and draws us into his world with the seductive enthusiasm of a born storyteller. An artist with a singular approach to his work, Bill Drummond has paused to take stock of his life and a career that now spans over twenty-five eventful years. Famously enjoying international success with The KLF and inviting national controversy for burning a million quid with The K Foundation, these days Drummond spends much of his time writing profusely. He avoids and confronts issues, infuriates and inspires those around him, muses and confuses, creates and destroys. He has maintained a penchant for reckless schemes – all this while drinking endless pots of tea.
Don’t Sleep, there are Snakes By Daniel Everett
Although Daniel Everett was a missionary, far from converting the Pirahas, they converted him. He shows the slow, meticulous steps by which he gradually mastered their language and his gradual realisation that its unusual nature closely reflected its speakers’ startlingly original perceptions of the world. He describes how he began to realise that his discoveries about the Piraha language opened up a new way of understanding how language works in our minds and in our lives, and that this way was utterly at odds with Noam Chomsky’s universally accepted linguistic theories. The perils of passionate academic opposition were then swiftly conjoined to those of the Amazon in a debate whose outcome has yet to be won. Adventure, personal enlightenment and the makings of a scientific revolution proceed together in this vivid, funny and moving book.
Rings of Saturn By W.G. Sebald
A Walking tour through the haunted landscapes of the past, in the company of the exiled and the departed. The Rings of Saturn begins as the record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia. From Lowestoft to Southwold to Bungay, Sebald’s own story becomes the conductor of evocations of people and cultures past and present: of Chateaubriand, Thomas Browne, Swinburne and Conrad, of fishing fleets, skulls and silkworms. The result is a book unlike any other in contemporary literature, an intricately patterned and endlessly thought-provoking meditation on the transience of all things human.
Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art edited By Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz
Ambitious and interdisciplinary, this long-awaited collaboration is a landmark presentation of the writings of contemporary artists. These influential essays, interviews, and critical and theoretical comments provide bold and fertile insights into the construction of visual knowledge. Featuring a wide range of leading and emerging artists since 1945, this collection – while comprehensive and authoritative – offers the reader some eclectic surprises as well. Included here are texts that have become pivotal documents in contemporary art, along with writings that cover unfamiliar ground. Some are newly translated, others have never before been published. Together they address visual literacy, cultural studies, and the theoretical debates regarding modernism and postmodernism.
The full panoply of visual media is represented, from painting and sculpture to environments, installations, performance, conceptual art, video, photography, and virtual reality.Thematic concerns range from figuration and process to popular culture, art and technology, and politics and the media. Contemporary issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality are also addressed. Kristine Stiles’ general introduction is a succinct overview of artists’ theories in the evolution of contemporary discourse around art. Introductions to each chapter provide synopses of the cultural contexts in which the texts originated and brief biographies of individual artists.
The text is augmented by outstanding photographs, many of artists in their studios, and vivid, contemporary art images. Reflecting the editors’ shared belief that artists’ own theories provide unparalleled access to visual knowledge, this book, like its distinguished predecessors, Hershel Chipp’s “Theories of Modern Art” (with Peter Selz and Joshua Taylor) and Joshua Taylor’s “Nineteenth-Century Theories of Art”, will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in contemporary art.
‘In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store a snow shovel on which I wrote ‘in advance of the broken arm’. It was around that time that the word ‘readymade’ came to mind to designate this form of manifestation’ – Marcel Duchamp (1961)
‘Women have always collected things and saved and recycled them because leftovers yielded nourishment in new forms. The decorative functional objects women made often spoke in a secret language, bore a covert imagery. When we read these images in needlework, in paintings, in quilts, rugs and scrapbooks, we sometimes find a cry for help, sometimes an allusion to a secret political alignment, sometimes a moving symbol about the relationships between men and women’ – Miriam Schapiro and Melissa Meyer (1978)
‘I want to create a fusion of art and life, Asia and America, Duchampiana modernism and Levi-Straussian savagism, cool form and hot video, dealing with all of those complex problems, spanning the tribal memory of the Nomadic Asians who crossed over the Bering Strait over 10,000 years ago’ – Shigeko Kubota (1976)
‘Black for me is a lot more peaceful and gentle than white. White marble may be very beautiful, but you can’t read anything on it. I wanted something that would be soft on the eyes, and turn into a mirror if you polished it. The point is to see yourself reflected in the names. Also the mirror image doubles and triples the space’ – Maya Lin (1983)
‘Artists often depend on the manipulation of symbols to present ideas and associations not always apparent in such symbols. If all such ideas and associations were evident there would be little need for artists to give expression to them. In short, there would be no need to make art’ – Andres Serrano (1989)
This is the second part of a travel essay by a a skills exchange writer travelling through Palestine
“There is one interesting story you might want to know,” begins Mohammed Sahin, hunched down, hands clasped tight. “We have no evidence, but it is strange. In 2003, behind these few houses, Bila saw a soldier come early one morning, and throw a gas canister on the ground outside. There was no explosion, only a yellow blue gas that separated after 15 minutes. It was strange, it was 5am, everybody was sleeping. Later they came back to collect the can.
“Ever since then, seven children from these houses have died with abnormal conditions. Bila’s son died when he was two, his brain developed abnormally. My neighbour’s daughter was born without a leg. Ali has problems, he can’t have children now. We never had these problems before.”
The red earth beneath the olive groves outside Bethlehem compresses like a fresh gathering of snow. Stooped down, Mahmoud Suliman, part-time farmer and director of the Popular Community Against the Wall, is proud to show off his little patch of gold dust.
“We are planting these trees because they are symbols of peace. This land is the best land in the West Bank, these olive trees will need some irrigation for the five years before the first harvest, but after that once a year is enough,” he explains. “The soil is perfect for olive trees, it absorbs the water and holds it for a long time.”
We are planting around two dozen saplings 100 metres from the sand pits that mark the route of the uncompleted separation barrier, which in Bethlehem’s southern villages has eaten up 4,000 dunams of Palestinian farmers’ land. Rabbis for Human Rights’ (RHR) Olive Tree Campaign has fostered new friendships in these fields, where its members come to work side by side with local farmers, in the hope that their presence will also help stave off the threat of belligerent Jewish settlers. 1 Farmers in these parts have been shot at by radical settlers motivated by what they consider a divine duty to ‘redeem’ all of the land of Israel.
Only one year ago, the 67-year-old owner of land nearby, Abu Elias, woke one morning to the sound of Israeli bulldozers outside his window, ripping through the fields. He then climbed an adjacent hill to survey the 400 dunams of his land rendered isolated on the Israeli side of the path. Consumed by despair, Abu Elias dropped dead.
“Believe me, it’s the most depressing thing in the world to see your trees torn from the ground,” says Mahmoud. “Just look at what has happened in the north. First they will build a path and say you can come and go [to their lands beyond it]. Then they will say you need permission, then eventually the owner will die, and they’ll say it’s their land. If it’s not used for three years, they can take it anyway. Israeli law says that.”
In the presence of foreigners, like all Palestinians Mahmoud is seizing his opportunity to speak to the world. He is walking a psychological tightrope, struggling to reconcile an underlying rage with a diplomatic imperative. But in the defiant tremor so discernible after almost every word, he is claiming ownership over this moment, and might as well be saying, a la ‘Braveheart’, that ‘you can take our land, but you can never take our rights, or our convictions’.
He forges on: “The idea is to make us refugees in our own land. Years ago I would walk to Bethlehem and smoke one cigarette on the way. Next year I’ll go through a whole box. They’ll put a barrier here, a checkpoint there, and eventually it will be so hard for me to get to work I’ll have to move to Bethlehem – a city of 160,000 people in 800 metres of space. Then the settlements on the hill tops will surround our empty land. Then we will fight among ourselves, and then it will be all finished. This is what they want.”
Farmers here are compelled to call upon their deep reserves of sumud (or steadfastness) – a determination of sticking to the land. Because as the late Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart observed, in an echo of Mahmoud’s wistful forecast, “right from the start, Palestinian organisations warned that Israel was trying to push the Palestinians into a civil war in which they would slaughter one another”. 2
As for the rabbis, and their indefatigable executive director, Arik Ascherman, it is the route, and not the fact, of the separation barrier that has brought them into the fields in solidarity with the farmers.
“We have created a conflict between right and right – the Israeli right to defend itself, and the Palestinian right to work their land. If the wall had been built on the green line, you could have your cake and eat it, but that’s not what has happened,” explains Rabbi Ascherman.
In June 2006 RHR, together with five local councils, won a major victory when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of its petition demanding that Israel guarantee farmers access to their lands. 3 But despite the order, obliging the IDF to protect farmers from extremist settlers, “the results on the ground have not been great. Although farmers often have greater access to their land, the bulldozing of olive trees has not changed, and nobody has been brought to justice.”
Discrepancies emerge between what the court rules and how the IDF chooses to interpret that on the ground. Local commanders are under huge pressure from settlers, with whom some of them may share an ideological affinity.
“The order is clear, but the translation is complex,” explains Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, an Australian Jew who moved to Israel in order “to defend my people” during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Like Rabbi Ascherman, he considers his concept of Zionism as having been subverted by covetous forces within the Israeli military and settler movement. As he puts it: “There is a hierarchy of values in Judaism, and as holy as the land of Israel is, human life is more holy.”
The prevention of home demolitions is another prong to the rabbis’ overt defence of human rights in the Occupied Territories. Some years ago in East Jerusalem – where the government exerts its demolition policy with particular vigour, and where RHR is therefore particularly active – Rabbi Ascherman literally put his body on the line in trying to prevent the destruction of two Palestinian homes, and wound up in court to face charges as a result.
In a letter written ahead of the trial to the then prime minister Ariel Sharon beseeching him to see sense, RHR of North America issued a poignant decree that could refer as easily to the ruination of land as it does to the demolition of houses:
“A sense of home is an essential part of our humanity. The destruction of a home can only be experienced as a violation by its inhabitants. Something fundamental to one’s identity has been removed. To be deprived of one’s home is to be naked in the world. This is why Rabbi Ascherman stood with the Maswadeh family in Beit Hanina when the bulldozers came, leaving the entire family homeless within a matter of minutes. It is why he stood with the family of Ahmed Mousa Dari in Issawiyah, when the bulldozers came to demolish their home. It is why he is now standing trial.” 4
The day’s planting is done and Mahmoud, whose family have lived in these parts “for 70 grandfathers”, has taken us to a hill to the other side of Bethlehem, to show us more cast-off land. There are 12km, and 26,000 dunams, between this spot and the green line; 10,000 grape trees and hundreds of olive trees have been felled to make way for the barrier. There is a moment’s contemplation as we dwell on the irony that the settlers also oppose the barrier – but only because they claim all of the land as theirs.
It is not lost on Mahmoud that RHR pulls many strings with contacts inside Israel to assist Palestinians. Again, he is raring to connect with a sympathetic audience, and takes to his rocky rostrum like a mute who has suddenly discovered how to speak.
“We need to see Jews on the street, a movement to change things. We have to push from the bottom to the top, to build trust. You need to publish this message in Israeli society. You have a lot of things to do; they are pushing Palestinians towards violence.”
Rabbi Ascherman delivers a few soothing parting words. “If you hear of more farmers who can’t get to their land, tell us. We might be able to help.”
And with that, we tuck into our mini-bus and abandon the fields of Bethlehem. Later, along Route 60, the longest tunnel in the Middle East that runs underneath the city, Rabbi Grenimann pauses for thought, and leaves us with a stirring last word.
“We are speaking to higher values than land,” he says of RHR. “You can’t realise a dream of God’s kingdom on earth through repression and violence. Nationalism is a false God. Land is for all religions.”
“There are three seas around me,” says Mohammed. “I can smell the salt of Galilee. And I have never seen any of them, because we are locked here. That is what I would like. I am 24 years old and the farthest I have been is to Ramallah.”
Flight from Faqua
Bila’s beautiful, daintily dressed daughter, Zadil, is occupying the best seat in the house, on her father’s lap, as Bila sets the night’s main feature in motion with a touch of the mouse.
The seven of us are sitting in the lap of relative luxury. Compared to other Faqua living rooms, this is a model of sophistication with its three sofas, cupboard, linen-covered plastic table and computer. We sip tea and fix our eyes on the unfolding drama.
The opening sequences could be a Palestinian ‘Blair Witch Project’ – there are a half-dozen young men loitering around mountain sides, their frames blurred by a thick mist and the obstruction of olive trees, seeming not to know which way is what. The air is tetchy, a couple of them are dozing on the ground in sleeping bags and plastic sheeting, their only obvious belongings; another is speaking on his cell phone.
The camera pans behind them, into the dense mist, as if a pack of wolves are about to emerge from it. There are no wolves, but all of a sudden, the group makes haste to a new location, where they regroup and survey their options. Apparently out of danger, one of them sets up his bed in an olive tree, though the leaves there are a poor substitute for camouflage.
In this West Bank village, where horror stories are ubiquitous, the horror in this home-made movie is that one of the main protagonists is Zadil’s father; two more are also among the audience this evening.
When Israel Zangwill, a prominent British Zionist spokesman, was asked in 1918 by the Jewish Chronicle for his thoughts on what ought to be done with Palestine’s then Arab majority, he opined that “we must generally encourage them to trek… To fold their tents and silently steal away is their proverbial habit: let them exemplify it now.” 5 Mr Zangwill would make a delighted spectator of the flight of the boys from Faqua, so precise a coming to life of his vision, minus the tents.
Bila’s mobile-phone video is the product of two illegal work expeditions inside Israel, documenting the appalling conditions young West Bank men endure in between stints of labour there, having to constantly evade IDF patrols and the prison terms that are meted out if they are caught. The hill-side forest in this video, near Nazareth, is a favourite lodging spot, and their presence there, typically for three-month periods each time, is characterised – apart from having to sleep in trees – by the fear of leaving a trail.
These men are mostly single and under the age of 35 – fitting the profile of those Israel has denied work permits to work in Israel since the beginning of the second intifada in December 2000, lest they strap explosive devises to themselves en route. It is estimated that 110,000 Palestinians have lost their jobs in Israel in the period since. But the ability of these young men to enter Israel at all, in spite of the West Bank barrier, casts significant doubt on Israeli assertions that the reduction in suicide attacks is testimony to the success of the barrier in keeping bombers out.
The clandestine operation to shuttle illegal West Bank workers into Israel goes like this: 15 to 20 men will pack into a mini-bus with blacked-out windows. The driver will be an Arab, but the vehicle yellow-plated, and therefore licensed to move around inside Israel. Each man pays between 150 and 200 shekels to the driver, who on the basis of several calls will calculate an opportune time to approach the checkpoint. The IDF soldiers, usually so forensic and obstinate in exercising scrutiny, allow their diligence to lapse this once, and wave the mini-bus through.
Once inside, it is all about biding one’s time in the olive groves, avoiding the IDF, and waiting for the call to work. Bosses inside Israel, usually Arab Israelis, are only too happy to profit from the stream of cheap labour. Work in construction and other menial sectors arrives haphazardly and potentially from any corner of the country, and is arranged by an ‘intermediary’, who picks them up, delivers them to work, and takes a cut for the service.
The 200 shekels (€38) a day Mahmoud has earned at a chicken farm in Bersheeva recently is not what he would have earned before the intifada – nor the 400 shekels an Israeli earns for doing the same job – but with a wedding to plan for this summer, he doesn’t dwell for too long on the perils involved. Besides, the unemployment rate has soared in the West Bank, where work is at a premium and poorly paid.
Owing to the fact that the barrier does not follow the ‘green line’ – and that at certain points there is a steady flow, therefore, of Palestinians entering and exiting lands and villages they have been cut off from – getting back home to Faqua is a cinch. Illegal workers simply make for the gate in Bar’ta, and if challenged as to why they don’t have permits, convince that they came through that morning without being stopped.
As the joke goes in the West Bank, the trouble is getting into paradise, returning to prison is no problem.
The prevailing tendency is for men to resist the audacious trek once they have married, though Bila has few qualms in leaving Zadil and his wife behind if there is opportunity to improve their lot. “I have nothing to lose,” he says, though he risks eight months in jail a 2,000 shekel fine.
It is by way of this economic strangulation, a by-product of Israel ostensibly safeguarding its security, that, as the Israeli journalist Amira Hass contends, “the occupation’s balance of power between ruler and petitioner has been redoubled, leaving the Palestinians even more dependent. It is the policy of closure that has proved to be the most effective means of control and leverage”. 6
Zadil will grow up fast on these streets. It is to be hoped that for a childhood teetering so precariously on the edge of innocence, she continues to believe in hide and seek for as long as possible.
Sporadic IDF forays into villages usually occur at night. When they knock at homes, soldiers will punch in glass with the butts of their rifles, or blow open doors if they get no immediate response. Night time is also the only time of day Muslim women, in the privacy of their homes, are ‘uncovered’. When soldiers knocked on the door of a house in a village near Jenin four years ago, the girl inside scampered for clothes to cover herself up. It took a little while, but when she was ready she hurried to the front door. By the time she had the door knob clenched, the pin had already been pulled from the grenade.
City of Gods
Lunch today is a delicious spread of fresh salad, spiced chicken and brown rice, and Revuel, who had been imploring me to come join his group, engages me with some no-nonsense banter.
“Read the bible, and you will see, the end is coming soon. I don’t know if it will be one day or one hundred years, but I know we are close.”
An American Jew despondent with Jewish people’s failure to realise that Jesus was their saviour, Revuel has been called here by the man above. “Just like sheep no longer look white when it snows, compared to Jesus we all look like sinners, because he was the only man who never sinned.”
If it were anywhere else, such discourse would protrude like a sheep swimming in mud, but Revuel is one among thousands who stream into this city to answer a spiritual calling. Now, in the week leading up to Easter, the stream has become a flood, and in this Christian hotel, adjacent to Jaffa Gate in the historic Old City, a full complement of theological fodder is being served up.
The name Jerusalem was first used as far back as the 19th century BC. It comes from the Canaanite word ‘Urushalimu’ – Uru means foundation; ‘Shalim’ was the Canaanite god of plenitude. 7 After generations of conquests, war and expulsions, today Jerusalem stands on the front line of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as a sacred shrine of Islam, and as the ‘eternal and undivided’ capital of Israel. But for a place perceived so exclusively in terms of its polarity, there are chaotic non-linear narratives flourishing underneath the surface here.
Inside Jaffa Gate one stands at the junction of the Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters of the Old City. Barely five minutes on foot to the east is the Jewish quarter, home to 2,000 Jews today, and built on the ashes of the Maghribi quarter that dated from the reign of Afdal ed-Din, son of Saladin, between 1186 and 1196. 8 The 1967 Israeli invasion of the West Bank and East Jerusalem precipitated the expulsion of 6,000 Muslim and Christian residents from the quarter.
The confiscation of land in the Maghribi quarter facilitated the creation of a large plaza in front of the Western, or Wailing Wall, the sacred place of Jewish devotion – Jews claim that the wall is the remains of the first temple of Solomon, son of King David and ruler of southern Judea. Even today, archaeologists are hard at work behind the wall underneath the Temple Mount – which houses the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, from where Muslims say the prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven – searching for evidence of the first temple, but no such evidence has ever been found.
Israeli soldiers guarding the entrances to the Temple Mount provide a menacing fact – their presence through all the Old City might seem more benign if it wasn’t for the creeping Jewish colonisation of the city. The judaisation of the Muslim and Christian quarters is no secret, nor is the fact that extremist Jews have long coveted the Temple Mount in order to build the third temple there.
This is all territory east of the ‘green line’, which the international community still considers under occupation, but which Israel treats as part of Israel proper. Though blue ID cards allow Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to live in the city, it doesn’t confer all of the civil or political rights afforded to Jews.
Muslim men under the age of 40 are routinely prevented from entering the Al Aqsa mosque for prayer, while tourists wanting to survey the Mount are ushered away from the Muslim quarter entrances towards one at the Wailing Wall. Muslim traders are convinced this is simply the Israeli government effecting the corporate strand of its policy of strangulation of the Muslim quarter – in essence, that it wants to divert as much tourist revenue as possible to the Wailing Wall and Jewish quarter.
In a city where trying to absorb information is like trying to catch rain drops, stories pertaining to the surreptitious tactics of Jewish business people, in attempting to expand the Jewish foothold in the Muslim quarter, sound particularly ominous. There have been a litany of cases where local tenants under pressure to pay rents, particularly more elderly residents, have buckled to offers of Jewish businessmen to finance payments until the tenant dies – so long as they hand over tenancy rights (in effect, ownership) of their property in return.
Back in my hotel on the edge of the Christian quarter next to Jaffa Gate, the proprietor, Mr Abu Walid Dajani, is a picture of perpetual unease. Himself a refugee of the 1948 war – he shows me on a map the spot two miles further west, on the other side of the green line, from where his family fled – these days he is preoccupied by the ongoing court case that is endeavouring to unravel a mess instigated by the sale of the New Imperial Hotel by its owners, the Greek Orthodox Church, to a group of wealthy Jewish investors. 9 This was all done behind the backs of the Dajani family, who as the property’s long-term tenants, feel they have had their world pulled from beneath them.
The potentially explosive ramifications of the secretive deal are better understood in the context of geography, with the hotel located at a strategically vital point where the Christian, Armenian and Muslim quarters meet, and right in the middle of a line that runs from the Jewish quarter to Jewish central Jerusalem.
In this city, where economics, politics and religion are woven into one complex and neurotic mesh, individual testimonies shed much light on the way of things. Jean-Marie Dansette is the director of Produits de Palestine, which he established after coming to help Palestinian farmers harvest their olives during the second intifada. He had been outraged by stories of the West Bank farmers being shot at by Jewish settlers, so he came to sample the bullets for himself. For a week he has been my companion, as he sought out new products to import, and as I sought information. His disenchantment with his French compatriots is palpable as he observes how religion, politics and commerce collide.
“I see French people go there in Bethlehem [which lies five miles south of Jerusalem in the West Bank] with an Israeli tour bus company. The city is surrounded by a wall, but they go to the church of the nativity, and they don’t see the wall. They come out of the church to buy souvenirs and the guide tells them ‘no you shouldn’t buy souvenirs here, it’s dangerous.’ Then they leave, go back into Israel to buy the same souvenirs, but for five times the price. I’ve seen this myself, and this is how they kill the economy in Bethlehem.
“I’ve heard Israel wants to build a new church of the nativity outside Bethlehem, bring the tourists and say ‘come here, it’s the same church!’
“I look at these French tourists on Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried the cross on his way to crucifixion, and it’s like they are in a tunnel. They are fanatical Christians, saying wow look where we are, but they have forgotten the message of Jesus. Jesus devoted himself to the poor and the suffering, but these people don’t see how the Palestinians suffer.”
It is Sunday, March 9, and in a Jerusalem Post article, the public security minister, Avi Dichter, is calling for the expulsion to the West Bank of East Jerusalem Palestinians who have been involved in terrorism. 10 Only three days before, eight young Jewish students in a West Jerusalem yeshiva were murdered by a gunman, Ala Abu Dhaim, from the Arab neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber. The air, thick with religious pilgrims, is tense.
Beyond the Temple Mount and the precipice of the old city wall to the east, Palestinians of East Jerusalem number over 200,000. They can roam freely around West Jerusalem with their blue identity cards. But they are a nuisance for Israel, and the subject of its audacious reconfiguration of East Jerusalem’s demography.
Jerusalem was first closed off in 1994, when Israel erected nine checkpoints at entrances to the city. This preceded the decision of the Shimon Peres government in 1995 to demand that Palestinians prove their lives revolved around the city in order to hold onto their blue identity cards. Denied the right to vote in Israeli elections or hold Israeli passports, nevertheless Arabs of East Jerusalem find themselves at the receiving end of rigid Israeli planning laws, making it almost impossible for them to build property or expand communities. Despite comprising one-third of the population of municipal Jerusalem, they only have the use of 3.5% of the area for their housing and community needs. 11
Israel’s separation wall slices through Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, cutting off families from their relatives, stifling economic growth and restricting movement of people. With the construction of the wall, Jerusalem residents on the West Bank side suddenly found themselves forbidden from entering their own city. Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem can only be one or two storeys high, while Jewish ones can rise to eight floors. Arab residents are enticed to move to cheaper suburbs outside the wall, and blue identity cards – renewed annually – are rescinded on the most spurious of pretexts. It is a policy known as ‘quiet transfer’.
While Jewish settlers are offered lucrative financial packages to move to settlements that have sprung up on confiscated Palestinian land and that now encircle East Jerusalem, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are forced to pay sums of up to $40,000 for a permit to build on their own land.
It is a dizzying reality not easy to tally with any natural system of justice, but in Jerusalem, with its nebulas convergence of opposite and disparate forces, there is a modicum of sense even in the nonsensical. I am brought back to Revuel, and his searing optimism ahead of the impending armageddon.
“These are extraordinary times we live in. You should be elated, as long as you have Jesus in your heart.”
“So how do I find him, Revuel?”
“Just ask him into your life. Call him.”
“Ok, maybe I’ll call him later then.”
“Well it’s only a local call from here.”
1 Rabbis for Human Rights was founded in 1988. It is composed of more than 100 reform, orthodox, conservative, reconstructionist and renewal rabbis and rabbinical students. It says that it is the sole Israeli organisation that gives voice to the Jewish religious traditions of human rights and justice as reflected in the sacred texts and Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
2 Reinhart, How to End the War of 1948, p196.
3 The state versus Rabbis for Human Rights, June 26 2006.
4 Letter to Ariel Sharon, Rabbis for Human Rights of North America, April 2002.
5 Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians, p14.
6 Hass, Tell Me No Lies, p351.
7 Alternative Tourism Group, Palestine and Palestinians, p81.
8 Ibid, p117.
9 Donald MacIntyre, “The Man Who Sold Jerusalem,” The Independent, May 10 2005.
10 Etgar Lefkovits, “Israel Probes Hizbullah Involvement in Yeshiva Attack,” The Jerusalem Post, March 9 2008.
11 Alternative Tourism Group, Palestine and Palestinians, p88.
This month we look at up and coming Cork band Ruby Apples in our culture blog
Ruby Apples are an instrumentally unorthodox duo based mainly in Cork, made up of vocalist and pianist Jane Deasy and drummer Dan Walsh. Having been formed in early 2007 in order to provide Jane with accompaniment at a friend’s charity event, the duo immediately seemed to work and soon developed a gig-worthy repertoire of original songs and began to form an original sound. With Jane’s interests in musical theatre and Dan’s attraction to jazz, the resulting sound has been referred to as “upbeat vaudevillian showtunes with a rock steady beat”.
Ruby Apples recorded their debut EP “Boots and Lipstick”, in Claycastle recording studio in Youghal, in the summer of 2008 and upon its launch were met with an unexpected demand. The EP includes a unique hand-made cover made by the band themselves. The duo continue to play throughout Cork and Dublin and hope to record their first album later this year.
Fintin Kelly, Belinda Henzey, Sighile Hennessy (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Friary, March 08)
The Equinox Theatre Company was set up in September 2008. It is a theatre company with a difference, established, I suppose for people with a difference. A celebration of difference even. It is an ensemble based, actor led company primarily involving people with special needs in the theatre arts. Meeting two days per week and spending nine months working together to create, devise and rehearse a production – enough time to conceive and give birth. In June 2009 Equinox will be giving birth to its first piece of professional theatre. The company was born from the Equinox Theatre Performance Course that was set up in 2005 in order to cater for a growing need in the area.
Shane Byrne, Sighile Hennessy, Jim Rohan (Ours Callan Streets, June 08)
This profile of the Equinox Theatre in Kilkenny is written by one of our Mutantspace skills exchange members who has worked with this company for a number of years
These days, with financial restraints a theatre company’s emphasis must be on production – the proverbial “bums on seats” a prerequisite for a production to succeed. This has become, in short our measure of success. But how can we find the space to play – if the financial restraints are upon us – crushing us as if the very atmosphere became not a help, but a hindrance. The answer, I have found is quite simple – daring to step outside the boundaries of the known, and the familiar.
Just three years ago I began to work with the Equinox Theatre Performance Course which had just been newly established as part of KCAT Art & Study Centre. There I encountered people who had been so lacking in the opportunities that we take for granted that their dreams seemed completely and absolutely unreachable. One such person, a founder member of the Equinox Theatre Company a woman who dreamed for so long of becoming an actor on the stage that she volunteered to answer phones in the box office of the local theatre just to be close to the stage.
Shane Byrne (The Birthday Party, The Friary, TRASNA, October 07)
The theatre course is almost five years old now and last June the first graduates emerged as actors. And so the Equinox Theatre Company came into being as part of the larger umbrella organisation of KCAT.
KCAT Art and Study Centre rests on the bank of the gently meandering King’s River behind an old stone hump-backed bridge in the quiet town of Callan ten miles south of Kilkenny city.
KCAT stands for Kilkenny Collective for Arts Talent. It was founded initially by the Camphill Communities of Ireland as an EU Horizon project to facilitate the artistic development of seven individuals with a range of disabilities in 1999. Now, almost ten years on and with the establishment of a permanent centre, KCAT has now broadened its scope to include people of all ages and abilities. Rather than integrating one group into another, the aim of the centre is to create a new situation; an environment where artists and students from different backgrounds can work together and create as equals and in which life-long learning is a possibility for everyone.
At KCAT the only qualification needed is the real need and desire to create art. It is the common denominator of everyone in the organisation.
River: Painting by Karl Fitzgerald KCAT studio artist
At the heart of KCAT lies the Arts Council funded Studio in which artists with special needs are supported in their professional development by professional mentor artists. They regularly hold solo and group exhibitions of their work in Ireland and abroad and take on individual and group exhibitions.
KCAT does not stand still. It is always creating, always planning and playing. In 2002, during the Kilkenny Arts Festival; KCAT organised Bridge Street Gallery: an exhibition of work by local children, KCAT students, artists and teachers in pubs, houses, shop windows and the streetscape. Lower Bridge Street in Callan was transformed into a living art gallery with KCATers at work, workshops for children and Siopa Obscura a walk-in pinhole camera. Part of this was Undercurrent; a midnight event on the Kings River. From the bridge people could see video work projected onto the surface of the water celebrating Bridge Street. Participants, dressed as fish moved in the water and shared out fish shaped buns donated by the local bakery.
The Big River: designed by Sinead Fahy and Andrew Pike (The Big River Parade, MACNAS & KCAT, 06)
In 2006 two artists from the KCAT studio – Andrew Pike and Sinead Fahy in collaboration with the Galway based MACNAS designed The Big River parade (based on the story of the Kings River that flows through Callan) which not only opened the Galway and Kilkenny Arts Festivals but also marched down the very tiny main streets of Callan.
In October 2007 KCAT hosted the first TRASNA International Festival of Inclusive Theatre; bringing in companies from Australia, Japan, Belgium and Scotland not to mention three Irish companies to perform in as many venues around Callan as could be pulled together.
In March 2008 the students of Equinox performed their own adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In August 2008 three graduates from the performance course performed in their first professional show: the Cork based Asylum’s production of Six by Sundown by Ciaran Ruby and directed by Donal Gallagher – a site specific piece about the Callan Workhouse.
In September 2008 the Equinox Theatre Company was set up. To date, all that Equinox has are the members that are working hard to create it. Eight actors, one facilitator and a space – a recently deconsecrated church on the opposite side of the river to its mother ship Art & Study Centre. There are no lights, no stage, no stage managers just some rudimentary sound equipment and the fire of the imagination, the will, the desire, the need to create, to make art.
June approaches, and the Equinox foetus grows. Nests are being built – and with the onslaught of summer a hatchling will emerge, yellow, fluffy, fragile and delicate – balancing, holding on for dear life in this cruel world. We know already what it will look like – film, clowning and puppetry telling a tale set in a moment: the fraction of time between life and death.
KCAT approaches its tenth birthday in August 2009. To celebrate, we will have a three-day festival – KTen: from 6-9 August 2009, to which national and international organisations like KCAT will be invited to participate.
The festival will be an outdoor event using four disciplines each marking one of the four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The four main workshops will be performance, drumming, fire sculpture and theatre based installation using as their starting point the birth of KCAT. The participants will spend just three days working on these four elemental disciplines of their choosing – each responding to the work of the other all leading towards a spectacle on the last night of the festival.
As part of this there will be a KTen Exhibition: the artists from the studio will curate a retrospective exhibition with work by students, artists & mentors.
We are also planning a KTen Publication: a visual book documenting all KCAT activities and events with short texts by those involved. Including a DVD using footage from it’s ten-year existence.
There’s two parts to this story; one I suppose a centre of innovation in the arts, and the other the birth of something new growing out of it. Last year we held a think tank to figure out how we could support the graduating acting students – inviting theatre artists from all over to participate. It was clear that we couldn’t simply say;
“There you go, you’re an actor now, get an agent – good luck.” It was also clear that there was a spark of genius amongst those that wished to continue to create. One of the graduates said during the think tank:
“Keep the fire burning.”
This Dahl recipe is simple to make, absolutely delicious and was much loved by my grandfather who served in the British army in India and Middle East in WWII
The editor tells me that I am liable to be strung up on a gibbet if I don’t produce a vegetarian dish this time around and so be it. That is, I am prepared to bow to his and indeed, your wishes. I have already confessed to being an unrepentant carnivore but I also have an abiding love for good vegetarian food and where better to find this than in Indian cuisine. This should not surprise us. After all, widespread vegetarianism is a relatively new phenomenon in the western world, whereas it has flourished in India for thousands of years.
My first hand knowledge of India is confined to a memorable holiday in Kashmir more years ago than I care to remember. However, I have been reliably told that dhal served with rice and yoghurt or buttermilk is the staple diet of the poor in vast areas of that country. Be that as it may, we do know that lentils have been eaten in India for over 4000 years and, I quote no less an authority than Madhur Jaffrey (the reigning guru on Indian food) to confirm the importance of the humble lentil in her country. She has this to say: “You can take meats and fish and vegetables away from an Indian but you cannot take away his dal and his bread.”
My father-in-law, a Scotsman, served in an Indian regiment in the last War. Most of his service was in the Middle East and I recall him telling me that at some juncture, he survived for a month on nothing but dal. Worse things could befall you and I think that is the way he felt about this particular culinary experience, which also tells us something of the nutritional value of the lentil.
Apparently all dried beans and peas and all legumes are generally classified as dal in India. However, I believe that we associate dahl with that bowl of mushy red lentils so frequently served with Indian food. In any case, it is that particular dish that I shall concentrate on here.
(To serve 4)
200g red lentils or masoor dal
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
4cm fresh ginger cut into 3 slices
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon of oil
2 green chillies, halved lengthways
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
Let me first dwell for a moment on the ingredients, all of which should be stocked in your nearest supermarket and are commonly used in Indian cooking. These days, even fresh coriander is readily available all the year around.
As to the chillies, do exercise care. Unless, you like really hot curries, avoid the little ones. For this recipe, I use green chillies that are about 5-6cm in length. They can be bought in any decent sized supermarket and are often sold in packs with red chillies of the same size. And do try to use fresh chillies. They provide a hot flavour, which is quite distinct from that generated by their dried cousins ! If you are concerned about having to buy a pack of say, six chillies, and the others going to waste, (and I applaud any such sentiments; I abhor waste in the kitchen !) let me put your heart at rest. Chillies freeze wonderfully. Just bung the unused ones into your freezer and take them out as and when required. However, do try to remember to chop them (if that is required by whatever dish you are cooking) while they are still frozen; they are more manageable at that stage.
Place the lentils and 500ml water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat, add the ginger and turmeric, and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
Stir occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking to the pan.
Remove the ginger and stir in ½ teaspoon salt. (As with pulses generally, salt is never added at the outset of the cooking process.)
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, onion and mustard seeds and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion is golden.
Add the cumin seeds, ground coriander and chilli, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir gently to combine.
Add more water if necessary, reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and season.
Sprinkle with the coriander.
Dahl freezes well and does not suffer from being re-heated.
our next DIY arts festival, the Trash Culture Revue, will take place sometime towards the end of the year. So if you want to create, produce, get involved, play, experiment, try stuff out, have fun, design, administrate, organise, volunteer or just come along then let me know
we provide free creative and production skills for your arts projects and events through our skills exchange so you can experiment, fail, make and play no matter who you are, where you are, what you do or when you do it