By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

A Reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the person who never reads lives only one. George R.R. Martin

Leslie HURTIG, Artistic Director for the 2019 Vancouver Writers’ Festival notes change and pleasure whilst perusing books being published by small and large presses across Canada, the United States and Europe. “There has been,” Leslie writes, “a noticeable trend toward highlighting the voices of under-represented minorities, making the offering of titles being published in English both varied and essential.” Opening boxes from a publisher is always a joy and takes one on unexpected journeys. Excited about the Vancouver Writers Fest, Leslie acknowledges many talented writers, to small and large audiences, and extends a particularly warm welcome to award-winning author, journalist and activist, Tanya TALAGA. Tanya is the second annual Guest Curator, who has led many forward through her columns at ‘The Toronto Star’ and two of her best-sellers: “Seven Fallen Feathers” and“All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward”.

A wonderful programme with authors: Naomi Klein, Alicia Elliott, Maude Barlow and Adam Gopnik inspiring and informing, intersperses with fiction authors:  Emma Donoghue, Tash Aw, Mona Awad, Elif Batuman, Cherie Dimaline and Michael Crummey, entertaining, provoking thought and new ideas! Executive Director, Nicole Nozick and Board Chair, Alexia Jones, express both joy and excitement for a year which has been pivotal, with a new mission, vision and strategic plan. I am deeply grateful to my contemporary at Granville Island for sharing this information and it is important to note that the fest carries out its work on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleril-Waututh First Nations. Publications proliferate and are available on: www.writersfest.bc.ca. A complete overview is titled: ‘Exceptional Books & Ideas in 80+Events”. SDGs 4/12/17

MONTREAL, QUEBEC provided gifts of interesting books and a timeline and ‘trip through history’ of Montreal’s main communities. The information includes street/geographic detail and the nature of the business or service in which each culture is engaged. One reads of the Greek, Jewish, Irish, Scottish, English, First Nations, Haitians, Italians, Latinos, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and Maghreb citizens, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, and the French, who by 1865, made up most of the city’s population! A delicious and exciting city of 4 million inhabitants, and no less than 120 different nationalities, Montreal boasts a rich and vibrant cultural fabric! SDGs 4/11/17

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec all celebrated Space, the Landing on the Moon and challenged our future ‘out there’ with a variety of historic and futuristic dioramas and interactive displays. Just prior to my flight to Canada, I had read, waiting for my dentist, an interesting article ‘Heroes of Space’ featuring Vera RUBIN – the first person to prove the existence of dark matter. Vera was born in 1928 in Philadelphia, USA and was always fascinated by physics and astronomy. Although she was able to study, the ‘Princeton’ policy that it did not accept women, was not lifted until 1975, so, despite her obvious talent, Vera Rubin battled the odds, and was accepted at Cornell University, to do her Master’s degree. With consequences for our understanding of today’s cosmos, Vera’s discovery of the elusive material, dark matter, believed to make up an estimated 25% of the ‘missing’ mass of the universe, was not well received in a man’s world – however, she ‘slanted’ her research towards the study of the rotation curves of singular galaxies, beginning with our closest spiral, the Andromeda galaxy. WHY am I including this in my report? Because I did not, even once, in any display or diorama, see any representation of Vera Rubin’s name, work, profile, discovery or research and/or its relationship to our knowledge of what is known of ‘Space’ today. www.image.publishing.co.uk   SDGs 4/5/10/12

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” Stephen HAWKING 1942-2018

 

An Australian group replicated a number of LEONARDO DA VINCI’S inventions, implements, musical instruments and paintings, and these were on display in Vancouver, British Columbia, to the delight of significant audiences. In addition to the interactive inventions and ‘gadgets’, which I had formerly seen only in Florence, there was a wonderfully collated history of da Vinci, filmed for all to see. Adjacent to this wonderment, was a history of the changes wrought to what is believed to be the original Mona Lisa. This segment of the exhibition was of particular interest to audiences of all ages and provoked stimulating conversation and debate! I hope you are all able to see the photos taken at this particular exhibition. They will be on our website, as part of this report.

The artworks on display are digitised reproductions, recreating Florentine oil paintings to actual size. Leonardo’s original works are, of course, considered too priceless to move from their permanent locations; some are now too fragile to even be on display. “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” said the Grand Master, da Vinci. Canada Science and Technology Museum. SDGs 4/12/17

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” Leonardo da Vinci est. 1450

 

Of particular interest, also in Vancouver, was the way in which exhibitions are EXPLICIT. Themes, ideas, questions and issues are very, very clear – not only from Canadian artists, certainly, but from the entire display. One example of this explicitness, in addition to buildings, people, evictions, riots, construction and meetings ON THE STREETS, was a work by Robert Capa, Budapest, Hungary. 1913-1954. Capa was a pseudonym for photojournalist Endre Friedmann,who fled Hungary and lived in France for a time. The 1944 photo of a street in Chartres, France, shows a mother and daughter whose heads have been shaved to mark them as collaborators. The daughter – in the white dress – is holding a baby she conceived with a German soldier. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. SDGs 4/11

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other (women’s) and men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have laboured hard for.” Socrates

RULES OF THE ROAD

Dublin’s Ciara GERAGHTY “For my mother, Breda who gave me the roots to grow and wings to fly.”

“Iris Armstrong is missing.” Thusly begins this Irish author, whose books are beautifully written and infused with warmth, humour and human understanding, states the ‘Irish Examiner’.

The simple fact of the matter is that Iris loves life. Maybe she’s forgotten that. When Iris Armstrong goes missing on her 58thbirthday, her best friend, Terry, wife, mother and all-round worrier, is convinced something had has happened.  She’s right. Her glamourous, feisty friend is setting out on a journey she plans to make her last. Woven into this, is a dad who has dementia. “…one of the good things about dementia. You bear witness to the kindness of people.” p.330

“Memory is such a strange beast, isn’t it. It throws up such random things. Presents itself in different ways. Sepia-tinted, some of them. Black-and-white, others glaring technicolour. Some are magnified. Larger than life, like the images you see when you look through the wrong end of binoculars. Distant and small. You doubt the truth of them.” pp 353-354

Beautifully written – Two old friends on a life-changing journey…. Rules of the Road, Harper Collins Publishers, London. 2019 www.harpercollins.co.uk  SDGs 3/4/16

Australia’s Matt ZURBO, father and fisherman, currently working an oyster farm in Tasmania, determined to write 1 x Children’s book daily for a year! Matt declared on SBS Television that “Imagination trumps violence and ignorance and always will!” This unusual author explains that he is the son of a father who is an illustrator and a mother, doyenne of Melbourne’s avant-garde theatre, ‘The Pram Factory’. Both inspired his own creativity, as does his golden-haired daughter, Cielo (heaven in Spanish) – Cielo’s mother fled Caracas. Details on publications and progress are available online and Wikipedia has a Children’s Portal! www.mattzurbo.com  Pascoe Publishing & Penguin Books 2019

RESIDENTS AND VISITORS to Queensland were delighted with the beautiful water fountains, lights and lasers viewed from the Arcadia precinct on the South Bank Cultural Forecourt! Teachers from the city and regions marked the very LAST QCS (Queensland Core Skills) tests for Queensland senior students, then relaxed with this spectacular exhibition! Educators and Schools will now change pace, teaching the students to cope successfully with external exams.

A South African Choir was placed 2ndin ‘America’s Got Talent’ – ND LOJU – Zulu for Elephant! This is from our sisters in the Council in South Africa! Daphne Hansen

Light and lovely! ‘freshly picked words’ …’Save the Earth, it’s the only planet with ice-cream’.

The following is not so light and lovely, and may be confronting for some – however, it is vital to the integrity and direction of our role/s that the truths and stories of all are given a voice and a place…..

‘PURGE’ Sofi OKSANEN (first published in the Finnish language as “Puhdistus” 2008 by WSOY) Atlantic Books, London, 2018. www.atlantic-books.co.uk  Translator: Lola ROGERS

“There is an answer for everything, if only one knew the questions.” Paul-Eerik Rummo (Part One) May 1949 – Free Estonia!

Deep in an overgrown Estonian forest, two women, one young, one old, are hiding. Zara, a murderer and a victim of sex-trafficking, is on the run from brutal captors. Aliide, a communist sympathizer and a blood traitor, has endured a life of abuse and the country’s brutal Soviet years. Their survival now depends on exposing the one thing that kept them hidden – the truth.

(Part Two) “Seven million years we heard the fuhrer’s speeches; the same seven million years we saw the apple trees bloom.” Paul-Eerik Rummo

“She recognized the smell of the women on the street, the smell that said something similar had happened to them. From every trembling hand, she could tell – there’s another one. From every flinch at the sound of a Russian soldier’s shout and every lurch at the tramp of boots. Her, too? Every one who couldn’t keep herself from crossing the street when militiamen or soldiers approached. Every one with a waist band on her dress that showed she was wearing several pairs of underwear…” p168

“There was nothing in the news about Chernobyl…” p218

“They’re keeping the cows indoors in Finland…” p220

“All the cement disappeared from Estonia, because it was needed in Ukraine, and more food came into Estonia from Ukraine and Belarus than ever before…Pure Estonian food was needed in Moscow, and Estonia got the food that Moscow didn’t happen to want…”p220 SDGs 1/2/3/4/10/16

Sofi OKSANEN was born in Finland and is a graduate of the Finnish Theatre Academy. She is the author of numerous novels, including ‘Purge’, ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ and ‘Norma’. Lola ROGERS is a Finnish to English literary Translator living in Seattle.

‘A phenomenon’ Sunday Times

 

‘STORIES & SKETCHES’ by Charles DICKENS with original engravings was gifted to a friend in 1908 and loaned to me by her relative, recently, in 2019! Beautifully intact, though somewhat fragile, the small volume is alive with famous and lesser known characters and stories, and demonstrates the sharp powers of observation Dickens possessed, positing truths, harsh realities and grand follies of humanity! Much would receive serious and silly editing these days, where truths continue to diminish or are garbed in nonsense layers of pretence! Just a few titles are: ‘Sketches of a Young Gentleman’, ‘Sketches of Young Couples’, ‘Public Life of Mr. Tulrumble, Once Mayor of Mudfog’ and ‘The Pantomime of Life’. Collins’ Clear-Type Press, London and Glasgow SDG 4

 

Australian magazine MINDFOOD presents some interesting holiday reading in the October 2019 edition. Calling all Writers. Have your short story published mindfoodshortstory@mindfood.com. There is also a call for unpublished poets! Of special interest and benefit, however, is an article by Cat RODIE, HAPPY OR HURTING? This article interrelates today’s clichés, turmoil, emotional and mental health and glib dismissiveness of authentic conditions!

The author quotes everyday sayings, such as: ‘everything happens for a reason’ and‘things always work out for the best’, as not particularly useful, or worse. Registered psychologist, Jocelyn BREWER is quoted: “We’ve confused being happy with the ability to apply a positive mindset”, she writes. Cat Rodie was going through a really rough patch and wondered whyall the platitudes, not only in conversation, but abundant on Facebook, Instagram etc. crushed her; seeming to make things worse, as it was all HER fault! “Just be positive!” Good vibes only! ‘Think happy thoughts!’ Brewer explains the worsening feelings, explaining that we HAVE confused the basis of happiness – ‘Many examples of toxic positivity are actually just shallow or simplistic sayings that gloss over the more nuanced issues of dealing with life’s ups and downs,’ she explains. So strongly embedded is this toxic positivity, in social media, and so unusual is listening and understanding in face-to-face conversations, this can all STOP people from sharing their authentic feelings and seeking help, it is stated. pp042/043

Let yourself feel bad! States Rodie, supported by psychologists and researchers across the board. In direct opposition to ‘just being positive’, research suggests that allowing yourself to experience a spectrum of unpleasant emotions will actually help you feel better in the long run.  Researchers found that people who didn’t seem to ‘feel bad’ about feeling bad showed higher levels of wellbeing than their counterparts who beat themselves up about feeling negative emotions! The study concluded that “…those who accept their mental experiences may attain better psychological health.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2017. www.mindfood.com/positive-changeSDGs 3/4

 

 

SUSTAINING A FOCUS ON “experiencing a spectrum of emotions” a magnificent text has been produced, with this dedication: ‘For Margot Frank who died, aged eighteen, in Bergen-Belsen along with her sister, Anne.  And for Margot Reith who, at a similar age, has the world at her feet.’ ‘THE LOVE THAT I HAVE’ has been penned in a specially built shed in the backyard of a most respected, award winning author, James MOLONEY, right here, in Brisbane! This extraordinary story about love, loss and profound courage is superb!

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved three things: the long summer holidays, my brother Walther and Adolf Hitler.”

Margot Baumann has left school to take up her sister’s job in the mailroom of a large prison. But this is Germany in 1944, and the prison is Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin.

Margot is shielded from the camp’s brutality a she has no contact with prisoners. However, she does handle their mail, and when given a cigarette lighter and told to burn the prisoner’s letters, she is horrified by the callous act she must carry out with her own hands. Margot steals a few letters, intending to send them in secret, only to find herself drawn to their heart-rending words of hope, of despair and of love.

This is how Margot comes to know Dieter Kleinschmidt – through the beauty and passion of his letters to a girlfriend. A wonderful read! ‘The Love That I Have’ Angus & Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Australia. 2018 www.harpercollins.comSDGs 1/2/3/4/6/10/16

QUEENSLAND’s Arts and Letters in late 2019 is a swirl of wonderful Russian Ballet – old art – new art – chamber music – Shakespeare modernized! French film – Japanese animation – Finnish fiction – beautiful yarns of rich, early days in the Torres Straits Islands – a return to the stage for Kris Kristofferson – reminding us “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”All events, productions, publications, renditions, tales, performances and songs lighten hearts and heavy thoughts! – Many generate new ideas for new and old problems! – Some provoke us – some make us laugh heartily – some bring forth tears, memories, dreams, reflections – all enrich! Many, also, blend yesterday and today…hurtling us into our tomorrows!

One such BLEND, performed on stage and accompanied and enhanced with unusual visual artworks, is ‘ALICE IN THE ANTIPATHIES’. This performance is about the Malayalee diaspora and issues that have been part of the global transmigration landscape since last century. It is a collaboration between JUTE Theatre Company, Masakini Theatre Company of Malaysia and Dr Sasi VICTOIRE. Created and written by Cairns-based Dr Sasi Victoire, originally from Malaysia, the writer uses the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ story to help explore the struggles encountered by migrants, especially the Asian Diaspora, to reconcile with their cultural heritage and identity. The work includes multi-media components such as projected images, sound and dance. Set designs were from the Australian production team and stage management from Malaysia. This IS a magickal transformative story of migration, told through the senses, embedded with the playwright’s own artworks depicting a life lived with a constant sense of ‘otherness’ and a relentless search for place.

An excerpt from ‘Writer’s Notes’: “It is a rare privilege for an artist to be given an opportunity to not only write a play, but to support the vision in the narrative by creating images for costumes, props and audio visuals. As a co-producer, I have gained some knowledge of the many processes that make up the world of theatre.

I could not have imagined when I embarked on my creative journey that this spark of an idea would tip me totally in a rabbit hole for almost four years. Using the safety net of JUTE Theatre Company’s writing programme, Write Sparks, my narrative is presented now, integrated with my art, presenting a fusion of art-forms in multiple cultural interfaces, as a more complete form…”  Dr Sasi Victoire 2019.

On a curious adventure, sent to be educated in Australia, beset by curiosity, new-found freedoms, new logic and exciting new ideas, Asha, a second-generation Malaysia-born Indian woman explores, with her imaginary Alice, of Alice in Wonderland, to navigate a tricky voyage through romance, love, loss and reconciliation. As a completely engaged audience member, I promise you laughter, repeatedly; challenges, joy, sadness and tears. This was a completely wonderful performance, with a small yet dynamic and singularly ‘different’ cast of four! – Salut! To Roz PAPPALARDO as Alice; Phraveen ARIKIAH as Ganesh/Father; Sukania VENUGOPAL as Asha and Sabera SHAIK as the Red Queen/Mother; and wonderful personal friend of Sasi’s and Director, CHANDRABHANU. Australian Council for the Arts/Arts Queensland/Dr Sasi Victoire:www.sasivictoire.com.auSDGs 3/4/5/8/10/17                           Completely enjoyable, informative and EXTRAORDINARY!

Advisor’s notes: It is not usual for an Advisor to add notes to a report. However, because our readership continues to grow; because numbers of readers have English as an additional language and because I now include SDGs in most of my reports, I am including some explanatory footnotes here.

  • The ARTS includes many arenas and modalities, some of which are paintings, photography, posters, printed matter, pottery, porcelain, picture cards, performances, public puppetry. LETTERS simply means LITERATURE. Thusly, all literature, books, novels, novellas, poetry, prose, articles, are included. Arts and Letters inevitably include CULTURE! It is impossible for this inclusion not to occur. Cultural inclusions, backgrounds, characters, themes, symbols, religions, foods, celebrations, customs, traditions, songs, music and issues are the heartbeat and core of Literature. Exploring these, is part of the writer’s ‘job’!
  • SDGs are broad Sustainable Development Goals derived by the United Nations, forming part of the framework in which National Councils and the International Council of Women (Le Conseil International des Femmes) work, for broadly, educative and humanitarian goals.
  • A brief idea of what each SDG relates to, mentions or addresses, in this report, is set out below:

Poverty =1

Hunger =2

Good Health and Wellbeing =3

Education =4

Gender Equality =5

Clean Water and Sanitation =6

Decent Work and Economic Growth = 8

Reduced Inequalities = 10

Sustainable Cities and Communities = 11

Responsible Competition and Production = 12

Peace Justice and Strong Institutions = 16

Partnerships for Goals = 17

  • Pictures and photos for this report will appear on our website, positioned by our wonderful Webmistress. These do not appear in the report I habitually email. NCWQ

Voila! Concerts! Celebrations! Performances! Bells! Books! Christmas ‘round the corner for most!

…and when the dust has settled, the SILENCE is so rich – Hear ye! Silence is not simply a ‘ghost’!  Jennifer Ann Davies 2019 c.

SILENCE is not merely the absence of sound. …it is a language all of its own. “Becoming fluent in silence, like learning a foreign tongue, reveals undiscovered richness in the ordinary, everyday things. A silence shared by Friends could include lazily flicking through magazines together, watching a great movie, warming up by a blazing campfire and spying an animal waddling past. It’s the silence that welds a bond in the space between words. It’s that fine wine reserved for special friends, and so all the more savoured.” Rob Seizer, Speaking in Silence, 047.       www.mindfood.com/silence-for-health

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