March 2018 Arts and Letters Report

By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

Email from an astronaut…

…I do love it up here.  How I wish you could see this view! When I look down at the earth and see how incredibly beautiful she is, I want to shake some sense into everyone living down there.  If only they could see how small and fragile and very alone the earth is, surrounded by all this cold black space. They’d take much better care of her… p.124 ‘Gravity’ Tess Gerritsen, 1999/2012.

Truly sustainable? Rhetoric or reality?

Many hotel companies track water usage and energy performance in different ways and to varying degrees. Cost effective and innovative alternatives in building design and operations are critical, however, the ‘sustainability’ discussion must start at the beginning of the development process. HOTELS. Wyndham Hotel Group, Jan/Feb 2018. Vol 52, No.1.

Some interesting reading on sustainability, technology, real needs and ethics, including the future and desirability or non-desirability of ‘wearables’; and what guests really want, from an hotel.

CHINA – Performing Arts and Literature

‘AMBER’ co-created by avant-garde director, Meng JINGHUI  and playwright, Liao YIMEI, this large scale multi-media musical drama premiered in Hong Kong in 2015 and is now in its fourth season. A love story, punctuated with satire, the popular show presents in the Opera Hall, Guangzhou, China.


‘THE PRODUCERS’ is a very different performance, adapted from the film by American Mel Brooks. This long running show has received many awards and will be seen by audiences in both Guangzhou and Shenzen

‘The Year of the Dog’ is a funny and profound book by award-winning author and illustrator, Grace LIN. Previously published, a special edition has been released for the New Year celebrations, and includes some information and photos of the author’s childhood. Young readers will be sure to love and treasure this little book for years to come. Little Brown Books for Young Readers

‘Micro Cosmos of Bronze Mirrors in Ancient China’ by Huo HONGWEI, unfolds the ways in which the ancient Chinese used mirrors not only to dress and to decorate their houses, but to send regards to lovers, scare away devils or to be used as tokens of good virtues! Using archaeological discoveries, and ancient literature and images, the author reveals to us a reflection of a delicate world in the mirrors. Sanlian Books


The Netherlands – AMSTERDAM

This city of 813,562 people is the official capital of the Netherlands, whilst The Hague is the political capital. Endlessly interesting, with her 165 canals and 1,281 bridges, Amsterdam is packed with history and culture. In 1947, Queen Wilhelmina officially declared the meaning of known values and traits: Heroic, Steadfast and Compassionate, to represent the three moral virtues of Compassion, Resolution and Heroism.

There are more than 50 fascinating museums to explore in Amsterdam, including the world famous Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House – then there is the unique exhibition at the Hermitage! This truly exceptional exhibition, showcasing highlights from the spectacular treasures of St Petersburg, includes the most renowned collection of great paintings from the Dutch Golden Age outside the Netherlands.

No less than 63 showpieces from the Russian museum’s collection of Dutch Masters are coming to Amsterdam. The rich selection of works includes six paintings by Rembrandt, Ferdinand Bol, Jan Steen and Frans Hals. A feast of old favourites and new discoveries!

With 6,800 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings, National Geographic has cited the old town as “…one of Europe’s best preserved, photogenic and intact historical city centres.”

Belgium – BRUSSELS

The Council of Women – rue du Meridien 10 – 1210 Brussels (Belgium)                  

I received a particularly warm welcome from a number of wonderful women, at Amazone House, the home of a range of international councils, organizations and affiliated Women’s groups, all of whom work hard to maintain the vital aims for which the final goal is “…a gender balance in a multicultural society…..”.  The information I will transmit here has been compiled from a particularly useful overview, mindfully prepared for me by Rita Van Gool, in language English! Rita and Naomi took care of me in the absence of Magda De Meyer, and I am deeply grateful to them for a wide range of information, which I can, in turn, relay to our members in Australia.

Rita cites their affiliates as Dutch-speaking women’s associations with various philosophical and ideological backgrounds, and includes large socio-cultural organizations, small lobby groups, professional associations, political women’s groups, trade union women’s groups and independent associations. The activities of the group are:

  • To inform and to sensitize
  • To debate
  • To lobby

Both Rita and her colleague, Naomi De Bruyne, made very clear that debate with other organizations, authorities, the academic world and a range of lobby groups, through working groups, conferences etc. is vital to view any issue, problem or challenge from many different angles, before determining a position or giving advice.

Additional information will be transmitted to the Management Committee of NCWQ.  Interesting publications have been handed on, for us – most in French and Dutch, but some with sufficient English for us to make sense of them and to realise their value.  I had thought that the funding ‘models’ to facilitate these publications could be of interest to our organization in the future; however, most of the women at Amazone House are paid employees, many with particular projects, so the ‘models’ may not apply after all, but we might keep an open mind on that element of discovery.

Rita has also passed on to us an English copy of her amazingly compiled publication, which had been one of her vital projects, initiated by The European Women’s Lobby. EUROPEAN WOMEN’S LOBBY – Europeen des Femmes – TOGETHER FOR A EUROPE FREE FROM PROSTITUTION.

The European Women’s Lobby has initiated, together with Mouvement du Nid France and Fondation Scelles, the signing of this initiative by over 200 NGO’s from all over Europe and beyond! The signatories of the Brussels’ Call, ask EU Member States to review existing policy and to adopt policies that have acknowledged the key principles underpinning this serious, valuable movement.  The key principles are that:-

  • Prostitution is a form of violence
  • Prostitution is a form of exploitation of inequalities
  • Prostitution is a violation of human dignity
  • Prostitution is a violation of human rights


All publications received will be made available to the Management Committee of NCWQ on my return to Australia, including work with refugees and concerns about the lack of literacy in the first language influencing greater needs.



Coincidentally, Luxembourg moved to adopt a bill that criminalises the solicitation of prostitution services from sex workers who are minors or “vulnerable individuals”, on February 7, 2018.

…email to an astronaut

we are working very hard to take care of earth – and the earthlings, called humans.



An underground tour discovering the Palace of Charles V.

From the middle ages a castle overlooked Brussels from Coudenberg hill. From the 12th century, this prestigious building was one of the most beautiful palaces of Europe and one of Charles V’s main residences.

Severely damaged by fire in 1731, the remains of this palace make up the Coudenberg archaeological site.

The underground tour of discovery reveals the old structures which are now the foundations of today’s Royal Quarter.

Magnificent paintings, artefacts and personal belongings of former royalty may be viewed by the public.              


BELVUE MUSEUM – Belgium is surprising!

Democracy, prosperity, solidarity, pluralism, migration, language and Europe! These are the themes used by the museum to help people discover Belgium. Each theme is developed through present-day testimonials and then traced right through history. This is a modern, original way of gaining a fuller understanding of modern-day Belgium.

…a lithograph by Magritte

Crystal vases by Val Saint-Lambert

…a carnival costume from Binche – and –

A football signed by the Red Devils!!


ELLES TOURNENT – 4 x days of films especially for Women!

Realises par des femmes!   Gemaakt door Vrouwen!

A wonderful meeting with the vivacious Nele Pigeon, who has also then ‘introduced’ me, via email, to some of her colleagues, all of whom await further information on our Australian female directors and Australian film!

The stunning feature of the four days of film is that EVERY film is made by a Woman!  A wide variety exists thematically, culturally and emotionally, and I am going to give you the film names and a very brief English synopsis on many – because I feel this is an amazingly important initiative and also because it may be possible that some of us might be able to access the films via Dendy or World Films.

  • Lipstick Under My Burkha – India – Alankrita Shrivastava 2016

Under each burkha there’s a woman who desperately wants to live! Four Indian women claim their desire for freedom and sexuality by showing acts of courage.

  • Maman Non Merci – Canada – Magenta Baribeau 2015

When choosing not to have children is a daily struggle, a resistance to social pressure. Refreshing.

  • Please Remember Me – China – Peng Xiaolian 2016

A romance in the squats of Shanghai. Old Chinese cinema stars as inspiration for today’s youth.

  • Siberian Love – Russia – Olga Delane 2016

After living in Berlin for 20 years, Olga Delane returns to her family in Siberia, where relationships are traditional and practical….but what about love? A tender quest for love in rural Siberia.

  • Les Filles – Iran – Fery Malek 2017

What are the dreams of today’s Iranian girls? An Iranian female society breaking all the stereotypes.

  • Los Ninos (L’Ecole de la Vie) – Chile – Maite Alberdi 2016

Anita, Rita, Ricardo and Andre just want to live like grown-ups. The trouble is that they are over 40, with Down’s syndrome and still in school!

  • Tamara Y La Catarina (Tamara and the Ladybug) – Mexico – Lucia Carreras 2016

The fragile Tamara finds a baby on the street…Honest and captivating meeting of three generations of women united in solidarity in Mexico.

  • Hooligan Sparrow – USA – Nanfu Wang 2016 (outstanding)

The Chinese feminist activist Hooligan Sparrow is not afraid of becoming an enemy of the State. She will continue the fight for women’s rights.


I will list more of these women’s films in my next report.


France – PARIS


2017 marked the 150th anniversary of the greatest scientist of the 20th century, Marie Curie. For this occasion, the national centre of monuments and the Musee Curie offered an unprecedented exhibition at the Pantheon, from November 8 2017 through to March 4 2018, entitled: MARIE CURIE: une femme au Pantheon.

Through this exhibition, the general public will discover elements behind the scenes of the scientific work and also the private life of Marie Curie. Rich archives, scientific instruments, period documents and personal effects are presented in an original layout in the heart of the Northern transcept and transcribe Marie Curie’s familial and scientific universes.


 Paris is uniquely herself! Very beautiful, singularly interesting, sometimes chaotic, often very wet and cold, full of wonderful histories, art and the ever-famous Louvre and Musee d’Orsay!

Musees de la Ville de Paris offer new sights and insights for lovers of art, history and literature! One can explore:

  • Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
  • Maison de Balzac
  • Musee Bourdelle
  • Musee Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
  • Catacombes de Paris
  • Crypte Archeologique de L’Ile de la Citie
  • Musee Cernuschi: Musee des Arts de L’Asie de la Villa de Paris
  • Musee Cognacq-Jay: Le /Gout du XVIII
  • Palais Galliera: Musee de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
  • Musee du General Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Liberation de Paris Musee Jean Moulin
  • Petit Palais: Musee des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris *
  • Maison de Victor Hugo a Paris: L’hotel de Rohan-Guemenee
  • Musee de la Vie Romantique
  • Musee Zadkine


Paris – February 2018 – Hiver!

It is cold! I had already written about some of the Dutch Masters and travelling exhibitions. Yet another opportunity presents itself –


Van Gogh, Van Dongen, Mondrian and others…

The Petit Palace currently presents Dutch Artists in Paris *

an exhibition focusing on the wealth of artistic, aesthetic and amical exchange between Dutch and French painters in Paris, from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth.

The display of one hundred and fifteen works, tells the story of the links between Dutch artists and their French counterparts, which channelled influences, interchange and mutual enrichment. The nine representative Dutch artists are:-            Gerard van Spaendonck, Ary Scheffer, Jacob Maris, Johan Jongkind, Fredrick Kaemmerer, George Breitner, Vincent van Gogh, Kees van Dongen and Piet Mondrian. Their works are presented next to those of contemporary French artists such as:- Gericault, David, Corot, Millet, Boudin, Monet, Cezanne, Signac, Braque and Picasso.


 Come and visit us! The Musee of Music offers young and old the chance to discover more than 1,000 instruments and art objects. This unique, world-class collection includes national treasures and legendary instruments, including a piano belonging to Chopin. Every day, a musician brings the Music collection to life by playing music and talking about an instrument or repertoire. (French/English/Spanish). Porte de Pantin.  Live and recorded concerts are free.

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