Saturday, 2 December 2017

Mehr Licht!

***Art November from Leipzig to Abu Dhabi***

Mehr Licht! (More light!), the last words of Goethe, sums up most of what I wish to post this time.

When art and history are keen subjects visits to Europe's universities and museums are always a delight. Leipzig's illustrious list of alumni makes it one of our favourite destinations this time.

Leipzig University in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, is one of the world's oldest universities with an illustrious list of alumni that include Leibniz, Goethe, Ranke, Nietzsche, Wagner, Tycho Brahe, Georgius Agricola, Angela Merkel, and nine Nobel laureates.

Did I say Merkel? Yes! No matter how much she is loved or hated for her foreign policy or Christian indoctrinations; no matter how much we were warned about the rising 'right wing' sentiments in Saxonia, we did not find a trace of non-tolerance towards foreign visitors during our brief stay in Leipzig. For that matter, in all of Germany we trailed this time, we were pleasantly received by civilised folks. And I don't think it has much to do with good luck. It is plainly the truth!

Leipzig University Area: On the way to Auerbach’s Cellar (A wine bar that Goethe often visited).
Mural of the peaceful revolution by Michael Fischer-Art. To the rest of the world, Berlin may forever be associated with the fall of the wall, but it was in Leipzig where the protest movement first gathered pace: hundreds of thousands of East Germans marched against the GDR regime in autumn 1989. A football-pitch-sized mural by local painter Michael Fischer-Art in the city centre marks the 20th anniversary (2014) of Germany’s “peaceful revolution”. The eastern facade is at the Leipzig Marriott hotel, between Richard-Wagner-Strasse and Brühl
Abu Dhabi Monochrome: In one unique frame Monochrome-loving Abu Dhabi based German artist Arsnecopinata and the black and white mural by Philippe Baudelocque. Philippe is a French street artist whose work in chalk can be found on dark walls around Paris, Marseille and other cities

There were two other big events that took place in the capital city of Abu Dhabi in November - The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Art's current edition.

Berlin: Pictoral representation of the stazi time adventure story of a family that united despite the wall between!
Wall Sculpture:  Steel sculpture Mauer by Eberhard Foest on Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin-Mitte, opposite the entrance to the Federal Ministry of Finance in Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus
Leipzig Contemporary: Artist Michael Schreckenberger lives and works in Leipzig. With social or self-critical surrealism in contemporary imagery and an interplay of realism and abstraction, his works are memorable.
Blossom_Aie Weiwei_Porcelain_80x80x20cm (Lisson Gallery/Art Abu Dhabi 2017) 
Central Park_OH Chi-Gyun_Acrylic on canvas_2017 (Lee Hwaik Gallery/ArtAbuDhabi 2017)
My imagination is no longer enough to comple my journey_Ali Chaaban_Silk on Carpet_170x120cm_2017 (Hafez Gallery/ArtAbuDhabi 2017
The Falconers_Henri Rousseau_Oil on canvas_49.5x64.7cm (Elmarsa/ArtAbuDhabi 2017)
Bluvian hand sees similarity between her stone ring from Leipzig and a Basalt Adouci/Blanc Thasos (Grece) - marble art work by Daniel Buren brought by Kamel Mennour of Paris to show at Art Abu Dhabi this year. 
Punch Me Harder_Yoshitomo Nara_Acrylic, colored pencil_2000_222x19  (Whitestone Gallery China/Art Abu Dhabi 2017)
Sudarshan Shetty please give a title to these beautiful works (made in found ceramics and recycled teak wood).
Time, Love and the Workings of Anti-Love II #1_Lida Abdul_80 photographs + text_29x21cm ea. + aluminium frame 5mm ea_2013-2017 (Giorgio Persano Gellerey Turin/ArtAbuDhabi 2017) Read the following pic for the description.
Time, Love and the Workings of Anti-Love II #1_Lida Abdul
Plug_Hassan Sharif_Plugs and copper wire_120x370cm_Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai/Art Abu Dhabi 2017
Scarecrows by Abdullah Al-Saadi at Art Abu Dhabi Entrance

Hitler's art

World War 2 gave Hitler and other senior Nazis the opportunity to plunder art from the museums of countries under Nazi occupation. This resulted in more art in Germany, than any other European country. [Did you see the the movie Monument's Man? It is a fiction on certain real events - an unlikely World War II platoon tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners].  Over 5,000 works of art by the likes of Rubens, Goya and Rembrandt were sent back to Berlin. History is not what the movies tell. There is more art than what one may be able to document and showcase in museums. For this you need a nose for art news and past. Studying Hitler, helps us open our eyes to authoritarian philosophies and art.

Hitler, like most other dictators, preferred the romantic form of art. He stated that a finished picture should never display anguish, distress or pain. They had to be realistic and heroic. Hitler believed that good artists should use colour in their paintings that “was different to those perceived in Nature by the normal eye.” Hitler considered himself to be very knowledgeable with regards to art and effectively decided that there were two forms of art – un-German degenerate art of the likes of Pablo Picasso and classical realistic art that represented all that was good about Nazi Germany and Germans.     

Weimar Germany was famous for the artists that worked there. Various forms of art excelled in Weimar – expressionism, Dada, cubism and impressionism. The focal point in Germany of the art world’s attention was the Bauhaus where artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and George Grosz all worked.     

Hitler had stated clearly in ‘Mein Kampf’ where his thoughts lay with regards to modern art as found in Dada and cubism: “This art is the sick production of crazy people. Pity the people who are no longer able to control this sickness.”

One man calling another sick is not a strange phenomenon. Thanks to Nietzsche,  in Kritische Studienausgabe) for saying this:

“Main thought! The individual himself is a fallacy. Everything which happens in us is in itself something else which we do not know. ‘The individual’ is merely a sum of conscious feelings and judgments and misconceptions, a belief, a piece of the true life system or many pieces thought together and spun together, a ‘unity’, that doesn’t hold together. We are buds on a single tree—what do we know about what can become of us from the interests of the tree! But we have a consciousness as though we would and should be everything, a phantasy of ‘I’ and all ‘not I.’ Stop feeling oneself as this phantastic ego! Learn gradually to discard the supposed individual! Discover the fallacies of the ego! Recognize  egoism as fallacy! The opposite is not to be understood as altruism! This would be love of other supposed individuals! No! Get beyond ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’! Experience cosmically!” 

Leipzig's new and rising scene of art is interesting. Check pictures for details.

Back from Germany, we attended the opening of 'Arsnecopinata', a German artist who currently lives in Abu Dhabi. It was her debut solo, and runs until December 6, 2017. Here is the link to her Interview by Henosis. Please checkout her artworks on her blog or page.

Manarat Al Saadiyat

Louvre may need a separate post as I can comment on it only after a visit. I have heard mixed comments form people who have been there. Historical milestone for sure but this post needs to wait a little longer.

Art Abu Dhabi listed 43 galleries this year. 

The event was divided into 4 categories:


1. Modern & Contemporary: Defined by the organisers as 'galleries open for more than seven years' (rather than the conventional art world definitions of ‘modern’ meaning art created roughly between the 1860s and 1960s), and ‘contemporary’ here means art from the present day and striking in some way. In practice these galleries showed some known names. 

2.  Bidaya (New galleries) – Bidaya means ‘beginning’ in Arabic and broadly speaking - an emerging art scene.

3. Solo Projects: Meem Gallery, showed a single monumental work by Dia Azzawi. (About which there is more to read below.)
4. Focus: Beyond Territory. A curated category - of a group of inter-generational artists and major projects from both emerging and leading galleries. Or in other words, an international platform for early- and mid-career artists selected by the curator, Dr Omar Kholeif (a senior curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art). Seven galleries featured here include Galerist (Istanbul); In Situ – Fabienne Leclerc (Paris); Jhaveri Contemporary (Mumbai); Marian Goodman Gallery (New York, Paris, London); Sprüth Mager (London, Berlin, Los Angeles) and The Third Line Gallery and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde from Dubai. 

The first artwork that caught my eye was a largely monochrome 2.5 x 15m work  which reminded at once of Picasso's Guernica. Upon closer look, the work was found to be by Dia Al-Azzawi, 78-year-old Iraqi Master who lives in London. It was a war scene. And no wonder Financial Times calls him the Iraqi Picasso.

Spray-painted in murals, wielded on anti-war banners, and even once hung as a tapestry at the United Nations, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is perhaps the world’s most famous political artwork. It was commissioned by the struggling Spanish Republican government to produce a work depicting the bombing for the 1937 World Fair in Paris. It was clearly a propaganda artwork. But it has transcended time. Immortal as war, itself.

Guernica and Nachleben der Antike

Guernica was inspired by a Roman frieze. Art studies mention this clearly. During the spring of 1937, as Picasso worked tirelessly on the 3.49 m x 7.77 m Guernica at his Parisian studio, conjuring up images of despair, destruction and fratricidal violence to capture the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, the basement of the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid had become a bunker where many of the artworks he had long admired were being stored away to keep them safe from the bombings. Among them was a Roman sarcophagus decorated with a Greek family tragedy, which unfolds on an elongated frieze in a sudden explosion of violence rippling out in chiastic movements. In the center is Orestes who, having just slayed his mother Clitemnestra and her lover to avenge the assassination of his father Agamennon, begins to ponder the consequences of his atrocious crime. As witnesses recoil in horror, the Furies, awaken by the blood spilled in matricide, initiate their relentless pursuit of the killer. Before being moved to the Madrid museum in the nineteenth century, this sarcophagus had captivated visitors to the medieval Castilian church where it had been reused in a Christian burial for over eight hundred years, giving way to one of the most complex and fascinating cases of Nachleben der Antike in the history of art as its imagery became the source of inspiration for artists confronted with the task of staging scenes of family crime and ritual murder, such as the sacrifice of Isaac or the killing of Abel.

Coming back to Art Abu Dhabi's Meem Gallery stand with Dia Azzawi, one can imagine how words, time, war, lines and art transcends time and inspiration to become immortal. 

Hear Azzawi in his brief chat filmed by Tate Modern, few years ago.

Scroll down for more pictures form this month.

Thank you for travelling and reading deeply to stay inspired in the stories that enchanted certain selected humans to become artists.

Until next trip.

Mehr Licht!

- B'lu

PS: Berlin and Prague stories following shortly.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Winter is Coming…

Published in Amor Magazine November 2017, Dubai
***When Pablo, the snow dog adopted humans in Abu Dhabi***

After being abandoned by two families and having spent most of his first four years in various rescue facilities in the UAE, this Siberian found a couple (us – Ashvin & B’lu) in the capital. He let us rub his belly and we felt adopted instantly. We named him Pablo (after Picasso) but he would respond to any name you call with the intention. The story should end here. But it is the beginning.

We did not know what we were singing up with this step. We lost some of our friends and friendly neighbours overnight. We could not understand what was happening. People who loved him, loved him to bits and those who did not, made that apparent. For the first time, we saw how humans lived and behaved in paranoia. It was not impressive. There was little we could do than mind our own business. But deep down we wished for tolerance and love. We wanted Pablo to be loved. At times we felt the deep urge to ask or correct, but we would not.

The early morning dog walks completely changed our lives and the world around us. We found new peace to new stresses.

The desert’s beautiful chill along with early morning skies are spectacular, and we would have missed it if not for Pablo walks at 5am every singe day. We had not seen it all these years we spent here. Rain, snow or storm...aah well we have fair weather here in that context. It may be humid at times, but that can never stop you from getting out especially with a cute fur ball bouncing all around you for the required. He wakes us up and makes sure we got out in time (for his morning rituals) while we jogged along, soaking in all the splendid atmosphere before sun ran in to take hold of rest of the long day. If we delayed his trips he would speak. Just one word - ‘go’. His persistence is not ignorable as the 'go' gets louder and cannot be switched off like your alarm, clock that has a snooze button. I know you cannot believe this but huskies do seldom bark, they actually try and talk. It is not funny. Rather it is.

When we read about this spectacular breed and followed blogs where they give details about his care outside of the northern conditions, they mention that the double coat will be one of the main concerns. He sheds through the year and we must vacuum (clean) everyday. Because of this need we have hired a daily help. Our house iscleaner than it was ever before.

He did not just make us fit and get us living in a cleaner house but he taught us how to be humans… sometimes by asking us to share our food, sometimes putting his chin on our lap for some TLC and other times by gazing deep into our eyes with his terrifyingly beautiful icy blue eyes that can transport you to blue hued icy mountains somewhere in a magical winter land. Arrested by his beauty admirers and artists visit us to make him their muse. He obliges patiently to mobile clicks or modelling for a quick sketch.

There are very few occasions when you would see him guarding the house. Siberians are like cats, they sleep for up to 18 hours and will not attack intruders/visitors. Unless it is a pigeon or a cat.

Today, after two years since he joined us, there is not a dull moment in our life. Even when he is sleeping. He stuns you with acrobatic postures in which one can sleep!

We have many similarities. We are all away from our families – living far away from the land we belong. We are here because of business. Humans comes here to make a living and dogs are sometimes a source of living for some. Hence connected again, in context. People ask humans and humans with Siberian companions how do you manage in the severe heat of the Gulf. Well we have air-conditions, just like how they have room heaters in Siberia. Speaking on Pablo’s behalf we found more answers to how beautifully equipped UAE is. We were stirred out of our comfort zones to find solutions to unique situations and we are loving it. We feel uniquely privileged to have been adopted by Pablo. We three found home, love, purpose, peace and family here in the UAE! And as I finish typing the last line, I am visited by a gentle breeze with a slight nip of the morning chill indicating the changing weather. Winter is surely coming.

Disclaimer: Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities is a part of human psychology. Though it is completely unnecessary, we humans like to think what an animal must think! In this regard, it is good to know that dogs don't share your thoughts. They are not your babies (that you need to bring up as brand ambassadors of the family/community or in your assumed ideal personality traits). They are not your slaves (who must obey your commands and fetch your slippers). But they are your best companions. They like co-existence and feel safe in your company. It is enough to watch the happy dogtrot of this body walking by your side. They can be loved and considered 'friends' only if you can appreciate how beautiful it is to coexist without speaking a word or sharing thoughts or invading each other's space. The best bonus of the canine company is experiencing 'no demands' but their unadulterated zest for life! It does not yet have a human word/definition I believe!

About the author: Archana R D aka B'lu is a contemporary artist-journalist based in the UAE who writes on global art and culture when she is not painting.

#adoptnotshop #pablothehusky #lifeintheuae #artandlife

Monday, 18 September 2017

A Bavarian Adventure

[Published: November 12, 2008 Gulf News]

A fiercely independent lot, the Bavarians have always maintained a strong national identity. I enjoyed their hospitality in the summer of 2008, as I cruised the Rhine travelling south through Germany. 

From the valley we went down the Romantic Road of Rothenburg to reach Munich, the capital of Bavaria. The Rhine valley and the road to Bavaria offer a spectacular view of the region's vineyards, castles and ancient churches. And in case you think beer is all the Bavarians can brew, a taste of their white Riesling (dry, white wine), is a must to dispel this myth. 

While the countryside is a romantic mix of lush vineyards and fairytale castles across the valley and the countrysides you can also see train-lines and roads running parallel to the river, transporting industrial goods to the cities and ship yards almost throughout the day. There is no escaping the influence of the Industrial Revolution. 

A statue of Lorelei watches over the treacherous stretch of water near Sankt Goarshausen
But aside from the purpose of modern living there is always space for legends, and the Lorelei rock is evidence of that. The rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine near Saint Goarshausen rises up almost 132 metres above the water-level. Downstream the river is at its narrowest and deepest point, so the Middle Rhine at this juncture is difficult to navigate. This is also the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea and is infamous for its strong currents. The rocks in the area have caused many boats to capsize. The fable goes that a siren called Lorelei bewitched the hearts of the sailors and when they looked up  to the rock, their boats crashed and they sank  to their doom.

The main tourist attractions in Munich are Marienplatz, Glockenspiel, Saint Peter's church, Englischer Garten, Deutches Museum and BMW Museum. Unfortunately, we couldn't catch a glimpse of the Glockenspiel, known to chime with life-sized statues rotating in a mock dance, as it was being renovated. Instead we went to the café opposite, not surprisingly called as Café Glockenspiel, where we enjoyed some Bretzel and Bratwurst. 

The Giant Schnauzer is a working breed of dog developed in the 17th century in Germany. It is the largest of the three breeds of Schnauzer—the other two breeds being the Standard Schnauzer and the Miniature Schnauzer. Numerous breeds were used in its development, including the black Great Dane, the Bouvier des Flandres, and the German Pinscher. Originally bred to assist on farms by driving livestock to market and guarding the farmer's property, the breed eventually moved into the city, where it worked guarding breweries, butchers' shops, stockyards and factories. It was unknown outside of Bavaria until it became popular as a military dog during World War I and World War II.

Day two in Munich saw us exploring Marienplatz and after a hearty Bavarian breakfast walking the quaint cobbled stoned pavements was just what the doctor ordered. Once you reach the Marienplatz everything you need is within strolling distance.

The Old and New Town Halls look down on the golden Mariensoul. Saint Peter's church, just off Marienplatz, is the oldest church in Munich, and for a fantastic view of the city, you could climb the bell frey tower. There are local artists selling the city panorama in water and oil from the top of the church. 

Katz Castle (German: Burg Katz) is a castle above the German town of St. Goarshausen in Rhineland-Palatinate. This magnificent castle stands on a ledge looking downstream from the riverside at St. Goar. It was first built around 1371 by Count William II of Katzenelnbogen. The castle was bombarded in 1806 by Napoleon and rebuilt in the late 19th century, in 1896–98. It is now privately owned, and not open for visitors.

The Englischer Garten or English Garden is a large park in the heart of the city and is famous for beer gardens and nude sunbathing. Moving on from nature, in all her glory, to science and technology and a visit to the Deutsches Museum. It is one of the famous technology and science museums in the world. Eight floors of displays from boats to telescopes to robots; which is a great stop over for scientists or people who love machines.  

Idyllic countryside Bavarian cottage. Picture clicked to paint on the go.

The evening was spent outdoors, soaking up the last rays of the sun and the beautiful vistas of white houses outlined in dark wood. And just before night descended in her inky blackness, the sky came alive with the vibrant orange and majestic purple hues of another day gone by.

Read on Bavarian cuisine here

Monday, 11 September 2017

Savouring Sri Lanka: Mountains are Calling

[This post was drafted a month ago, and abandoned in between when other distractions took over. I have no honest clue what my conclusions had to be on this trip... but I now conclude with some easy pointers at the end.]

Lush tropical scenery, healthy but delicious food, gorgeous beaches... effortlessly we found our comfort zones in Sri Lanka. Trying to teach our trained traveller's head to stop connecting the dots to everything you find in Lanka to India was a tough job. So we engaged in a mindful meditation to disconnect what we already know and reconnect with new eyes. My partner did that more authentically. He felt the urge to tonsure his head and wear local garments. He was mistaken as a buddhist monk - that he took as a compliment. While he perched on perfect postures to invoke the bliss, I meditated with watercolours on my travel painting pad. Here is a peep at the amazing time spent in this Island last month.
I made this painting while in Nuwara Eliya. It is featured in Emboss Art Magazine's current issue.

We landed in Colombo, just the day after monsoons officially ran havoc with heavy winds and rain. Accuweather reported 38 degrees celsius, but my phone marked 28! No complaints! Colder the better, especially when we were escaping the UAE heat. It was pleasant and rains swept us off our feet - literally pasting a smile on our faces - we had not seen rains for so long! Last was in Scotland - winter showers in January. That is not the same when yesterday you were in the middle of the dessert, parched; and today you are drenched in cold showers. It is amazing!

If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, read up on its various seasons. Example, March to May is best suitable for central regions - the mountains - as the beaches are either rough as well as humid and not ideal for relaxing. The southern coasts, believed to be the most beautiful, is best to be visited between October to February. June to September, best to visit northern part of the island (now open to tourist as Tamil rebel movement is reported to have been wiped off or contained effectively).

Our hotel in Colombo was sea-facing and we could listen to roaring waves all day and night. It was a first to watch the sea from the bathtub while soaking in the perfect holiday. Too lazy to go down for breakfast, we ordered room service. In my partner's words the fish curry that came with the string hoppers were the best he had ever tasted. I googled Sri Lankan staple fish curries and found out that they use different spices than coastal Indian flavours that it has close resemblance to. Turns out it is the pandan leaf and gorakka powder (garcinia cambogia) that gave the Sri Lankan twist, tanginess and deep colour. I picked a packet of these from the spice counter at Keels' - a supermarket chain you find everywhere in Lanka.

Train to Kandy

Next, we took a train to Kandy. It was a 3 hour trip and offered beautiful country sights. The landscape was dotted by white Buddhas all through. Interrupted by snack vendors at regular intervals, we munched on local treats and reached Kandy hungry for more. We visited the Center for Arts that displays Kandyan Dance and bought an artwork from an artist who was selling his paintings there. Later, went to the Tooth Relic temple.

Remember if you are visiting any temple, it is important to wear clothes that cover your arms and you should also be covering your knees. Because we were not aware of this, I was stopped at the gate for my shirt dress and turned away... soon to be rescued by a Sarong-lender who charged 200 rupees for one time wear. We took lotus flower offering for the wise one to whom the shrine is dedicated. Inside the temple it was a chaos. Just like the one you will see in any popular Hindu temple in India - crowded and with VIP lines! "But seeing so many people in a temple means people still have faith or hope, and that is a good thing," tells my partner.

The following day we went to Sigriya - the lion mountain. People say many dissuading and persuading stories of their visit to this 'must see' place in the island. For archeological reasons alone, one must visit this rock - climb all the way till its top, fighting the winds. It is a physical challenge that puts your stamina to test. The mirror walls must not reflect anymore... the paintings are not as magnificent... but they are all telling a story you will never know fully. All you can do is soak in the experience and wonder how and why they must have built a palace here, why it was given to monks to run a monastery... and what were those reasons that forced them to abandon this place. While walking back to your vehicle wonder how King Kasyapa's men must have used the laws of physics to spurt out water fountains without electricity? Wonder if today we are truly advanced or we lost it all somewhere in the past. The remains of man-made wonders rekindles the fire of imagination to a world that would have been so many centuries ago.

Old Dutch Hospital that retains the colonial campus, now an upmarket shopping and dining area. We went there to dine at the popular cricketing heroes-run Ministry of Crab. They were fully booked until months ahead! So we dined at Black Pepper that served amazing food. Their menu showed the map of Sri Lanka and the dishes that belonged to its various provinces. We took a full tour! :p [That is Ashvin with his new look... that lasted not more than a month. Obviously!]
On our way back to Kandy we stopped at Dimbulla cave temple and roadside clay pot shops. I am slowly moving from non-stick to clay in the kitchen, as an attempt to stay closer to nature. It was a long tiring day, and I had bouts of motion sickness interruptions all along.

Upwards to Nuwara Eliya

Climbing uphill via train to Nanu Oya on the misty mountains of Nuwara Eliya... some where here Sita was held captive in the Ramayana epic. We spotted a deer too.
The highest point in Sri Lanka, flanked by tea gardens, one may be reminded of Ooty, in Southern India. But this was not Ooty, it was another high range with tea and floating mist-laden clouds. It was the place Sita from Ramayana epic was held captive. Ravana was thoughtful to have kept her here for anyone can be easily wooed here. The nature is at its splendid best. I made three paintings in the following few days spent here, before we returned to Colombo.

See Sri Lanka's flora and fauna here

Things you must do in Lanka:
1. Eat:
a). Slabs of roast paan - A village-style white bread used to mop up dhal or curries, eaten with a spicy coconut sambol or spread with sweet jams. Paan came to Lanka with the Dutch and stayed back for good.
b). Kitul - An ancient sweetener. The syrup is often used as a sweetener in traditional desserts, like kiri peni, a creamy buffalo milk yogurt with palm syrup drizzled on top. Kitul is extracted from fishtail palm trees.
c). Pork and Seafood in Sri Lankan spices. Pork prepared in Northern Island spice traditions is simply out of the world. One could say that for the crab curries with the southern twist too.
2. Shop:
- tea
- earthern ware (from roadside, non-touristy areas).
- go colour blind at Barefoot Colombo and pick everything for self and gifting.
- local spices/spice medicines for your kitchen.
- blue sapphire from authorised dealers.
- Celon arrack - a national brand (or coconut arrack) - gift for whisky connoisseurs.
- Seeds from botanical gardens (the green channel allows carrying them).
4. Watch:
- Kandyan dance (not just because it is ancient and beautiful but your ticket will save this art form from dying out).
- Misty mountains
- Sun rise and set at the majestic Indian Ocean.
- Leaves and fruits at botanical gardens

Things you can skip:
1. Visiting its nature/animal reserves. This will help curb/shut down commercial/untamed human excitement to deplete nature and exploit animals for tourism - like safaris or elephant rides.
2. Buddhist temples. Though beautiful they are chaotic/crowded and not-so-tourist or peace friendly. Skip it especially if you are not much into spiritual curiosity, or from Japan (keen to visit all Buddhist destinations).
3. Ayurvedic gardens. They are a scam like in India and targeted at the western customers. Go to India, if you want some serious ayurveda or yoga learning and keep your research outside the internet, because they are all google-points rigged.
4. Malls. For obvious reasons.

Sri Lanka is a good place to go back for your (5-star spending) money's worth - peaceful, healthy and lot of water - roaring in its oceans and falling from its clouds to drench its mountains. Don't listen to me. Go. See!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Serving and Savouring a Sadya : Indian community dining in its complete spirit

Today I received an sms message asking me to book Vishu sadya and Vishu kani for an affordable amount in the UAE by contacting the given number. And that is how I thought I must amuse myself with this write-up on cooking up a sadya in one's own kitchen no matter how busy you are and how extensive the sadya items seem!

With the great Malayali festival Vishu coming this weekend, the mouth-watering feast or sadya is sure to be eagerly anticipated by anyone who has experienced the grand spread.
A sadya is a traditional feast from Kerala that marks the celebration and is a careful mixture of foods that optimises taste and the health benefits of the dishes.

Ayurveda classifies foods into genres — hot and cold — and designates a time in the day for every kind of food to be eaten.

In traditional households where they adhere to ayurvedic norms, sadyas do not feature non-vegetarian items, as mixing dairy and meat produces harmful toxins in the gut that can result in various ailments, ranging from skin conditions to malfunctioning of organs and nervous system in the long term.

Food is served on green plantain leaf, which when scarred by your nails as you scoop up the dish helps add fresh chlorophyll to your diet, which is highly beneficial for health.
Thottukoottan (those that you touch with finger tips and savour) items are readied two days prior to sadya. Manga curry (mango pickle), Inji curry (ginger relish) and vella naranga curry (white lime pickle) Tcha! ♡

The basic sadya is supposed to stand true as a feast and have every form of food produced in the state — fruits, vegetables, roots/yams, gourds, grains, seeds and dairy. Sadya will have a mixture of fresh and cooked ingredients of every texture — solid, liquid, semi liquid — covering a spectrum of taste — salt, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. Sadya is served with warm cumin water, which helps digestion.
The big sadya lesson I have learned is that no matter how busy life is, a little planning can do wonders. We lead a work-centric life in the UAE, and many of us are pressed for time after office hours to cook even a simple dinner, so to dare to prepare an sadya spread can seem a challenge. But the good news is that it is not impossible, or expensive.
If you are open to microwave cooking and not too fussy about the traditional procedures that vary across the 14 districts of Kerala, a good sadya can be prepared, even after work or on a working week. But I must confess I threw away my microwave few years back and have understood that with effective planning you will not miss a microwave. 
Luckily for those who celebrate, this time it is on a Friday! UAE's weekend!
Fresh coconut and coconut oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves are must-haves in most Kerala recipe, and plantain leaves are to be used as plates. Start from left to right on the top half of a horizontally laid plantain leaf with the narrow end to your left and serve the dishes in order.
A typical Onasadya comprises the following items from left to right on the leaf: 1) injicurry/ginger relish; 2) narangacurry/white lemon pickle; 3) mangacurry/red hot mango pickle; 4) pachadi/cucumber raita; 5) red beetroot kichadi or white sweet pineapple raita; 6) mezhukkuvaratti/banana-corm-runner beans fry; 7) aviyal/mixed vegetables, made by cooking slender long pieces of corm, banana, drumstick, brinjal, cluster beans, cucumber and ash gourd cooked in a rough gravy of coconut ground with cumin, turmeric, tamarind and garnished with raw coconut oil as well as crushed curry leaves.
Then there is 8) olan/stewed red beans and ash gourd in coconut milk and 9) kalan/thick curd and half-ripe banana stew on the upper half of the plantain leaf. The lower half of the leaf is to be spread with the following dishes, again staring from left to right; 10) upperi/banana wafers; 11) chakkaravaratti/fried banana chunks tossed in jaggery; 12) pappadums, 13) poovan banana fruit. These items are to be confined to the one third of the lower half of the leaf.
The 14) rice, is to be mixed and eaten in courses with 15) paruppu/boiled lentils with a spoon of warm ghee; 16) sambar (the popular fiery dish); 17) pulissery/buttermilk soup; 18) rasam/lentil soup; 19) mor/seasoned buttermilk and finally — 20) adaprathaman/brown kheer made of flat bits of rice dough cooked and mixed with jaggery and coconut milk, flavoured with cardamom powder and garnished with fried cashew nuts, kismis and copra/dried coconut bits.
Of the above dishes, I’d advise you to buy and prepare in advance items one to three and 10 to 13, which will keep well. On the previous day prepare items 9, 17 to 19. And finally on the D-day (or V-day cos it is Vishu ;)) cook items four to eight, 14 to 16, and 20.
Vishu Sadya 2016
***The joy of community dining***

What is community? A place where everyone can find a place, whatever their outlook and beliefs may be. There is an explicit connection between food and love, according to Jean Vanier, in his book Community and Growth. The time when the joy of eating and drinking merge with the joy of meeting people - is a marvellous human moment.

Nourishing this space from where we can create our best work, our best life and share the joy with others is simply brilliant! This is possible when we acknowledge that it is in the stillness of this space where it all happens. This space where all creative expression, peace, light, and love come together is powerfully energising and renders a calming experience. I thank our loved ones for continously helping us deliver our bests.

This Friday, on April 15, 2016 we arranged a Vishu sadya for 23 of our close friends in the UAE. They are truly kind souls who express love in ways I may fail to explain with my limited vocabulary here. I was swamped by help from every direction on the day of the sadya. While I was busy with the chores that belong to the 11th hour - checking and ticking off the list for items that need to go on the leaf - suddenly felt a sense of inexplicable calm taking over me. I noticed that all around me, everybody was finding chores to do, and they were all happily filling in/flowing out magically... from our kitchen to every corner of our home. I was not even sure if I had anything more to do. I felt lucky to savour the joy of happy people busy doing their kind gestures. I was instantly satiated! My heart was lighter and full... and now I was seated too... with 28 items making one after the other to the bight green banana leaf... it was time to savour it along with all this joyous company!

I love sadya!!

Thank you for staying blissful in your abundance and spreading this weightless emotion among your loved ones and beyond. <3
Happy Vishu!
PS: If you missed the Vishu sadya, not to worry... with LuLu around any day can be a sadya day if you are in for some extra action! And follow Blukitchen to stay inspired all year round as well as get some key sadya recipes for free!!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Rainbow of Chaos

In all chaos is the cosmos. There is a secret order in all disorder. Claude Habib's Chaos Mist, is not just an art solo... it is a slice of her soul! Your soul! Only if you look deep enough to listen to the silence. The chaotic silence. That which speaks with with objects tied and nailed, stung and hung, smeared and pulled, to tell the story in more than one chaotic ways.

We are living in an era where everything has simplified itself beyond recognition with the help of fundamental principles, symbols or emojis. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. How responsible is our generation in taking account of this momentous transformation of humanity. Will it destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science as evolution is unstoppable? What until then?


"We are because of the chaos. Everything is from chaos. You, me everyone around us come from and are chaos," says C. Habib.

Here are some pictures from last evening's opening.

Beautiful winter night sky over Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi

 C.Habib's solo art show titled Chaos Mist will show until February 20, 2016

Chaos Mist: The artist represents the disorder of order and the cries of calm, in a number of philosophical mixed media artworks that show a complex system with an unpredictable behaviour as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in the inner soul conditions.

Certainty? or Freedom?: White plastic Mask

Goal: This one is my personal favourite... I happened to see brain and spinal chord... all twisted and propped. Almost yelling out that 'you need to shovel out that which lies beneath to reach your goals'.

Water Under The Bridge: She used to hate this but has simply come to accept it.

Untitled: "Sensitivity of tiny changes in initial conditions or seemingly random and unpredictable behaviour that nevertheless follow precise rules appears in many of the models in these disciplines."

Visitors at the venue

Unfinished Painting: "Taking a step forward into nothing and it's just as I am about to fall, support rises miraculously beneath me."


Bluvian moment with Claude Habib, founder of La Parole Art Gallery that was established in 2009. She is a Philosophy graduate with higher education in Painting and Drawing from University of Fine Arts in Beirut. She also has a distinction and certificate in History of Art from the Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.

C. Habib plants a brilliant new feather in Abu Dhabi's art cap!