Friday, June 10, 2011

June Diary 2011

Hi everyone, as it’s the cusp of the summer-at least in pagan terms-I thought I’d look at what is best and brightest to bring in the sun as well as topical events occurring around the country. Next month, we’ll go for a full-on school’s out bonanza so send in your end-of-term/last-blast-before-going-on-holiday-type stuff to the usual address!


National Portrait Gallery :

‘Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer 1908-1974’: until 19th June

Taking the breeze in old Havana:
copyright Ida Kar
The first photographer to have retrospective installation at Whitechapel art Gallery in 1960, little-known Ida provided a fairly singular female presence within the creative avant-garde. She was a key player in migrating perceptions of photography into the fine art canon and portrayed major literary and artistic figures from 50’s and 60’s including Henry Moore, Georges Braque and Jean-Paul Sartre. However, in addition to the opportunity to see these figures in the flesh, is the chance to see their environs; the spaces from which the created or thought. This approach applied equally to her in everyday life (as with the Havana image above) providing a view on cultural life post-war. This is a paid exhibition but a bit of a bargain at only £2 with student ID or £3 without. Call 020 7907 7079 (transaction fee applies) or visit the above site.

Victoria and Albert Museum:

‘Figures and Fictions: Ethnographic Photography from the Global South’:
Conference (24-25th June) and exhibition (until 17th July)

'Balabwa' from 'Real Beauties' series
by Jodi Bieber 2008 
Elizabeth Edwards, major and prolific contributor to the understanding and readings of imagery past and present from an anthropological perspective, joins speakers including artists and curators in considering the influence of South African photographers across disciplinary fields. The exhibition displays work that seeks to describe the complex relationships involved in communicating personal and national identity-an enduring concern within South Africa pre- and post-Apartheid. The common theme of subjectivity, power relationship between those behind and in front of the lens, and the consequent presentation of identity is explored. An additional element within this equation comes from a direct confrontation with the use of photography as part of the colonial project in addition to, or as associated with, the anthropological gaze employed in historical ethnographic work carried out in the country and the negotiations and responses described in the current artwork displayed. The themes being explored in this exhibition echo, to an extent, those considered by Christopher Pinney, who writes extensively on camera as artificial ‘eye’ and the uses and abuses of photography as part of ethnographic and colonial endeavour.

Open City:
Prince Charles screening of ‘Shoah’: 18th June

Contact Michael Stewart on 020 7679 8637 or 07989 401038

Screened at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of Open City festival, the epic 9-hour ‘Shoah’ is being accompanied by a Q and A with director Claude Lanzmann. Relying entirely on footage shot at sites of crimes and interviews with survivors it is the documentary tour-de-force, testifying to the premise of getting information from those present, interested or involved in events. Again, this is a ticketed event but it is reduced to £25 for students, otherwise £35. A bonus is that if you have an NUS card and Open City ticket, you can get annual membership to the Prince Charles for £2.50 enabling bargainous cinema entry for a good while to come. Plus, if want ot get in some reading on the subject before going, check out Michael Mack ‘Anthropology as Memory: Elias Canetti’s and Franz Baermann Steiner’s Response to the Shoah’ (Niemeyer: 2003)

British Museum:
Room 91 ‘Baskets and belonging Indigenous Australian histories’: until 11 September

As part of the Australia season, the British Museum is displaying a roomful of hand-woven baskets next-door to that of the contemporary output of graphic artists from across the country. This creates a nice tie-in between arts and crafts, especially as Aboriginal artists are also well-represented in the contemporary arts so not confined to representation in relation solely to traditional crafting.

In a room arrayed with varieties of styles, fashions and purposes of woven carrying devices, the representation of methods and variation across the diverse regional Aboriginal group add up to a compact survey of both their individual and related material cultures as well as histories and experience. The practice of basketry appears to have been maintained despite the cultural disruption imposed by colonisers. The exhibition contains examples from the historic to the present which equally demonstrate adaptive usage of available materials. The examples I found most arresting were, in fact, the recent examples, objects whose ‘social life’ was intimately involved in their being woven with the ‘ghost nets’ cut loose from fishing boats and what these mean to communities. As these nets are left to drift in the sea, they pointlessly trap and kill sealife. For the locals, this means that salvage is seen by locals as necessary for protecting local environments and their reuse as transformative of something that has become harmful back to being purposive. The resulting bags reflect ongoing traditions in style and decorative flair, adding new elements in the nature and colours of the material, as other materials and substances have once introduced to the cultural space. An interesting interaction with colonisation arises, for example, with the synthetic dyes used by missionaries becoming incorporated, displacing earlier natural dying techniques. These incorporations, as well as changing uses and purposes for production add to the creation of new forms of object related to a tradition. The baskets reveal other information related to historic modes of living and relation across groups; their individuality yet interconnectivity and the familial, personal and spiritual connectivity and meaning of decorative markings. The exhibition provides welcome illumination and insight into a culture too often pigeon-holed or simply overlooked, revealing a rich and varied material cultural which remains not only alive and kicking but also regenerating.

Barbican Hall:

‘A Night In Tahrir Square’ El-Tanbura:22nd July 7.30pm

Veteran Egyptian band El-Tanbura who have been likened in essence to the Buena Vista Social Club for their preservation of older sounds and presence of older members, are recreating the sounds, sensation and atmosphere of f the revolutionary popular occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. I’ve seen them playing in the Egyptian rooms in the British Museum and, in addition to fine musicianship and renditions of the Egyptian soundscape, the performance had added magic by way of their use of a now-defunct, ancient instrument, a Pharonic lyre called the simsimiyya, an example of which they donated to the Petrie Museum at UCL. This performance is a reflection on and continuation of their performance presence at the Square during the demonstrations, helping with other poets and musicians to break down fear and constraints from years of political opporession. Footage of this can be seen at Although this event’s tickets start at £12.50 and I try to put only low- or no-cost things on here, it would be a great opportunity to see and feel an element of that historic event and I reckon it might sell-out which is why I’m putting it on in advance. I really hope to be able to make it so hopefully, see you there! In the meantime, the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ provoked some interesting commentary and analysis; for an anthropological perspective look at Saba Mahmood’s contributions throughout the period on, and the discussion at the American University in Cairo conference in it’s aftermath regarding Western perception and Orientalisation of the revolution


Refugee Week: 20-26th June

Infra-red Congo
 (copyright John Baily)
There is deluge of stuff happening across the country for Refugee Week, seeking to think, express, activate, experiment, reflect and celebrate what is to be seeking and finding refuge both in the UK and the places from which individuals come. There are creative meditations and expressions, discussions, cultural presentations and discussions, as well as educational and experiential activities reflecting and exploring self, group/cultural identity and situation within different environmental contexts. Highlighting the experiences, challenges, risks and successes of those seeking, awaiting and finding refuge and asylum in the UK, Refugee Week provides invaluable country-wide focus and forums for direct interaction, encounter and presentation of issues and experience of those seeking a place to be.

The Week’s events provide a good opportunity not only to gain insight and contact with the lived, everyday reality of migration, movement and displacement of involved individuals but those they work or gather with in grassroots support and activist groups to voluntary (or Third) and public sector organisations. The few examples offered here demonstrate a range of such opportunities to connect with an area of significant anthropological interest and activity. There are lots more to find on the site above. All those listed and most on offer are free entry. Anthropologists engaged in looking at migrant and refugee experience include Christopher McDowell who focuses on international experience from the political anthropological perspective. Also, Liisa.H.Malkki captured vividly a specific refugee experience which can give an insight into more general sensations of displacement and identity association in ‘Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory and National Cosmology Among Hutu Refugees In Tanzania’ (Chicago:1995)


Lloyds’ Café Bar hosts ‘Sanctuary Sunday’: 26th June 3-7pm

Bradford, dubbed ‘City of Sanctuary’, is culminating the week with an event exploring Congalese experience as expressed in artistic and cultural heritage and affected by the adverse conditions and experiences imposed by colonialism, commercial and industrial activity.


Beswick Library ‘The Distance We Have Travelled’: until 29th June

An exhibition exploring identity and sense of place with reference to West African identity and origin.

Levenshulme Library ‘Romani’: 13th June 6pm

Members of the local Gypsy/Romani community share their life and cultural experiences in a live dialogue.


Sighthill Community Centre 11th June 7pm onwards

Music Evening with Scotlanka: An intriguing mix of traditional music from Sri

Lanka and Scotland demonstrating a literal harmony of cultures plus Sri Lankan refreshments.


Nottingham Photographers Hub ‘Seeking Stories’: 14-30th June

Artworks created by artists seeking or who have found asylum in the UK which use photography, painting, video and poetry describe viewpoints and interests of a diverse, global group. Private view on 17th June with world music and spoken word entertainments and refreshments.


Clayport Library ‘Spinning Stories’: 17th June 10.30am-3.30pm

An exploration of identity through the creation of woven tapestry.


Paisley Museum: 17th June-17th July

‘Life After Iraq’: Exploring the displacement and lives of Iraqi refugees in Syria with reference to those who have settled in Scotland. Photography by Angerla Catlin, writing by Billy Briggs.


Human Rights Action Centre: 18th June 7-10pm

‘Celebrating Sanctuary in Hackney’

An evening of poetry, discussion, film, information and music with poet and performer Michael Rosen, speakers from Refugee Communities and Medical Justice, live music from the ‘Travelling Irons’ and a premiere of the film “Fit to Fly”. Also appearing is anthropologist, author and human rights campaigner Dr. Linda Rabben, author of ‘Give Refugee to the Stranger: The Past, Present and Future of Sanctuary’.


University of Manchester School of Social Sciences

‘Discover Social Anthropology’: 30th June

This is a departmental open day to enable teachers and 6th form students to discover what social anthropology and its new A-level is all about and can mean for their teaching/studies. For further details on the activities throughout the day and associated events go the above address and get thee to Manchester for a right good educating ;)

Other cultural doings:


Mela 2011: 12th June 10am-8pm

If you’re anywhere close to Bradford this Sunday, it’s well worth catching the mother of all European Mela’s. Literally the first in Europe and going strong after 23 years, the Mela offers a fine palette of entertainments, reflecting the original operation of mela’s as temporary, religious festival-orientated hubs trade, cultural and spiritual activity. The form started here concentrates on the cultural and trade aspects of that mix. Entertainments demonstrate the maintenance of strong South Asian/Indian sub-continent roots through artist’s local and global delivering contemporary and traditional, bhangra and Bollywood reflecting both the roots and extensions and interactions of music and dance forms throughout time and space from both ‘home’ and local cultures. This is further mixed up by broader strands of world music, street theatre, and a good dose of straight dance acts. Essentially, as well as having a good day out, it’s a good space in which to get a flavour of a South Asian community in contemporary Britain, across it’s many generations of settlement, and it’s cultural interactions within a city that has a long history of cultural diversity. As to the trading aspect, alongside the chance to dance and feeding the soul, a whole world of stalls feed the belly with Asian snack/curry food offerings. To fully engage in the trading, you can get in a bit of haggling and buy a new outfit (or the makings of one) and get saturated by colours and shiny stuff in the tented draperies of the clothing stalls. The whole space is a great one to reflect on the many and various forms of hijab on offer (amongst much else) and their meanings for wearers that Emma Tarlo wrote about in ‘Visibly Muslim’ (2010). Ultimately, if you get there for anthropological interest or good times, I hope you’ll find as I have for many years all the fun of the mela-see you down the front!


Summer Solstice Celebration: 20-21st June

Apparently, Winston Churchill was a Druid, according to Simon Strickland ( I’m not sure that his current counterpart David Cameron will be amongst the contemporary Druidery gathering at the henge, but it will be a significant moment nonetheless as it may be the last time access is allowed. Despite thousands of years of annual activity to welcome back the sun, too many rowdy revelers (in good pagan style) are threatening the integrity of the site so this year’s celebration may well be monumental in more ways than one. To catch one of the last vestigial traces of Britain’s historic pagan culture, get down between around 7pm on 20th to around midday on the 21st. Anthropologists considering the Druidic tradition from the largely discredited 19th century Margaret Murray to the more recent Stuart Piggott and Susan Greenwood who considers the modern magico-pagan panoply in ‘Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: An Anthropology’ (2000). The Jenny Blain and Robert Wallis’ 2007 investigation, ‘Sacred Sites-Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archeological Monumnets’, considers British neo-paganism and contested sites of activity; speaking directly to this potential, final sealing of the Stonehenge site.

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