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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

I am going to share a few signs with you from my trip to Korea in 2011 : basically they illustrate the importance and esteem that ceramics and ceramic artists, or potters, are held within this society.

Why are they held in such esteem? To answer this we need to explore a little history (in a nutshell) …

Korea was invaded by the Mongols in the 13th century, and the Japanese in the 16th century, causing the production of ceramics and specilised glazes, such as celadon, to be severely hampered. During the Japanese invasion many potters were abducted and forcefully relocated to Japan to produce porcelains and Celadons. Eventually, this resulted in the development of both the porcelain and tea industries of Japan. Since these earlier invasions Korea was then invaded by Japan in 1910: political freedom was restricted and cultural assimilation was attempted. Since independence in 1948, there has been an emphasis in Korea on revitalising cultural identity: this has been achieved through a variety of different cultural festivals AND the  passing on of specific ceramic techniques and traditions within families. Usually, due to patriarchal tradition, this is passed on to the male members of the family, however, during my trip to Korea I did come across two families who were passing the knowledge onto female members – how times have changed! This break in tradition was either due to no sons being born within the family, or the sons not being interested in working in the ceramics industry (mind you, in times past the boys would have had no choice).

cultural treasure number 105

cultural treasure number 105

 

 

Kim Jong Ok: cultural treasure number 105 – This is the cultural treasure marker outside his home. I was lucky enough to visit his home and studio. Images of this visit can be seen in my Facebook album here.

Why is this sign, and what it says, so fascinating to me? Well as an artist and ceramic artist, it is so intriguing when the arts are viewed as reverent by other cultures, rather than threatening or challenging, or hippy artists sitting around doing nothing… Mind you, one could assert that this concept is being used to enforce national pride and patriotism – which is also not a good thing (look at how artists were used during the Russian revolution and other movements, and/or excluded from it : Nazi Germany), however, from what I observed the South Korean government initiative seems to be a passive (not aggressive) attempt to rediscover cultural identity, and I think this is what makes the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another sign I found intriguing in South Korea was a framed pamphlet I couldn’t help but see mounted on the inside of a toilet door. Now in Australia – well alot of Australia – what you will see inside toilet doors is adverts/ campaigns educating people about drug use, safe sex, environmental issues, etc. However, in South Korea it’s all about ceramics exhibitions or festivals!! Another sign of the value that is placed on ceramics and the arts in general. Yay!!

Toilet Sign

Toilet Sign

 

Now, this image is a bit blurry…. BUT cut me some slack: I was sitting on the toilet!!

The final image I would like to share with you is an image of the banner my partner and kids made for me when I got home from Korea after a two week tour – it was the longest I had been away from them all, so it was very cute!!

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

More entries to this WordPress Photo Challenge can be viewed here:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/weekly-photo-challenge-the-sign-says/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

This weeks photo challenge is about culture and, as a challenge, prefers to have only one photo capturing the theme. So …. yikes!! what to choose – crazy traffic-scapes in Asia, fruit people/Lolita  in Harajuku, water produce sellers in Vietnam, wall to wall vending machines in Japan, the list goes on.

Although tempted to post an example of each, I’ve stuck to the “brief” and posted, what I think, is the best example from the mix… I hope you agree…. but it’s all very subjective, isn’t it?

So I have decided on an image I took whilst in Japan in 2009 capturing the growing trend of young people dressing up in defiance of their rigid conservative culture and exhibiting themselves in Harajuku, Japan. This has become a weekly event that is attended from all over Japan by young people as a means to rebel against conventional ‘culture’ – so I guess this image is capturing counter -culture!

Harajuku

This Sunday event also entices a large amount of tourists, and the young gals and guys there love showing off their outfits and having photos taken… in the great tradition of breaking current cultural rules!

If you ever get to visit Harajuku, it is a lovely city, and there is a great market that sells all the Bo-Beep and Lolita outfits you could ever need 🙂

You can visit more weekly photo challenges here :
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/photo-challenge-culture/

Three Days in Venice, Italy

My most favourite place in Italy – VENICE! (despite the poor non-existent signage -gotta LOVE Italy – and I do!)

Perhaps it was the time of year I visited: Winter. Yes it was cold, but so magical. (despite the poor non-existent signage) I now wish I had taken photos of ‘that’ signage, but one always thinks of the “what ifs” afterwards… but more on that later.

We arrived in Venice by train from Rome, and sat down at a cafe outside the station on a gloriously sunny warm day (even though it was winter)  overlooking a beautiful water scene – of course –  to have a coffee and google map our location on the notebook… hmmm, didn’t seem to work very well. So we bought a map from an adjacent tourist shop… hmmmm… still didn’t work very well!

So, after coffee and (hopefully) mapping out our plan we started walking, lugging suitcases behind us. We knew that our accommodation had been booked within the town centre, minutes from the Rialto bridge and Piazza San Marco, so at least we had these bulbs to navigate us- but that was not enough. Normally the narrow windy streets of Italy can be confusing, but when all on water it seemed to multiply x 10! And that’s from someone who is usually good at navigating! The maps were eqully confusing, and the signage has obviuosly not caught up with tourism (I can’t imagine why) becasue many of the “Rialto” or “San Marco” were paper signs nailed to walls. I can’t imagine what the local government are thinking… such a high tourist area, potentially, yet many people we spoke to bemoaned the same issue.

As stipulated earlier, although we were in northern Italy at the beginning of Winter, the day we were looking for our accommodation was surprisingly warm and sunny, which did add to our frustrated mood – though there were lots of wine bars to stop and have a refreshing relax and regroup!

So after much wandering, and it seemed cascading on an ever decreasing spiral we finally found – by fluke – the sign (surprise, surprise) to our accommodation.

But once in Venice it was magnificent!

It was very strange being surrounded by water, and seeing no cars and hearing no traffic noise. Boats are used for everything from ambulance services through to restaurant kitchen deliveries. One afternoon we were sitting in a wine bar with a water view and saw a boat delivering buildng materials to a home being renovated. Bags of cement and other items were craned into the premise from the boat. However, the strangest delivery we saw was a load of coffins…

building delivery
The two big attractions in Venice are the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco. The Rialto Bridge was completed in 1592, and it has been recently announced that money has been pledged for its restoration from several sources. This is a good thing, because although you can’t tell by the photo (above) there is alot of tagging graffiti on parts of the bridge as well as general wear and tear.

St Marks Basilica dates back as early as 800AD, though it did evolve over the centuries. It is amazing to see from outside – its size is immense, and the inside is breathtaking. Photos were not allowed inside, but the walls and ceiling – and we are talking huge- are covered in tiny mosaic tiles! I bet a few hundred slaves died while building those walls! There is gold and opulence everywhere – it really puts into perspective the wealth of the Catholic church (and perhaps highlights how they should pay tax!)

I think I alluded to the queuing problem in Italy in the Pompeii post, and we struck the same ‘logic’ here! After queuing (thank goodness it wasn’t peak tourist season) we had to then walk five minutes around the corner to a baggage storer (no bags allowed), which we had trouble finding because there was no signage, and then walk back to the basilica…talk about crazy!

The piazza the basilica is located in is also huge, however, parts of it were fenced off from the public due to the Venice sinking problem… they are in the process of trying to float it from underneath…more information can be viewed here.

A great thing about Italy – and which was particularly good in Venice – is the no drink without food concept, so if you don’t order some food you just get some complimentary! We found a great bar in Venice with a very generous buffet  Most of the bars had something like this in the evening, whereas at lunchtime people were buying proper meals… so lunch is the main meal of the day with a light dinner – very civilised!

As with many places in Europe dogs are also a big part of family life, and are allowed in shops and cafes. (In Australia this is against health regulations unless it is an assist dog) But one afternoon we were sitting in a cafe and in wandered a pigeon  Nobody blinked an eye, it just wandered around picking up crumbs and making itself at home.

bird in cafe

The downside of Venice was the rose sellers – mainly refugee men trying to make a living. But it is getting to the point where they almost harass you and force flowers into your hand – not good for tourism.

As we were in Venice at the beginning of winter the misty ambience was particularly magical – the mist would not lift about 11am, then descend again around 4pm – in between it was blue skies and sunny.

mist

At the end of our stay in Venice we decided to catch the ferry back to the station rather than walk – although by now we knew our way around. The ferry ride was good, with many locals using it a work stransport, like a bus service.

Overall I found Venice to be very Middle Eastern in its influence – the shapes of windows, the style of the basilica, the mosaics and the colours. We loved Venice, and we can’t wait to go back, and visit some of the little islands nearby – hopefully before they sink!

Visiting the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

It was a cool and partially rainy day when we visited the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill – it was mid December and therefore early Winter in Rome, and that meant it was not tourist season!! This was good as the lines to get into these attractions were nowhere near what they would be during the peak of tourist season. So, we were happy about that small benefit.

Entry to these attractions are bundled together, so if you ever do decide to visit and it is tourist season (or not) queue via the Forum as this line is always shorter than the Colosseum.

Once inside the Forum the epic nature of the city is quite amazing… and huge! Originally a marshland, the Romans cleared the land to create the business and political district which became the centre of Roman Life.

The Forum

The Forum

The Forum

The Forum

The Palatine is set on Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, and was the site that the original settlers in Rome. Eventually though it was to to become the centre of Roman parliament (what modern Western parliament is based on), and as such is where Caligula was killed during a parliamentary session.

Here is some information from: http://www.rometoolkit.com/whattodo/colosseum.htm
The Palatine is the spot on which the first settlers built their huts, under the direction of Romulus. In later years, the hill became a residential district attracting the nobility. In time, however, the area gave way to imperial palaces and drew the famous such as Caligula (murdered here by members of his Praetorian Guard) and Nero.

View up to Palatine Hill

View up to Palatine Hill

The Colosseum was the centre of entertainment for Romans, and the site of the gladiator.
Here is some information from: http://www.rometoolkit.com/whattodo/colosseum.htm

When construction was completed on the Colosseum in 80 AD it was the largest amphitheatre built in all of Rome and could house over fifty thousand people! The engineering skill and technology of the day was pushed to its limits by its construction and design. The stadium was even designed to flooded in order to provide for mock navel battles.
The Colosseum was built primarily to entertain the masses in brutal and barbaric games. Some were beast on beast combat to the death. Others were people fighting animals to the death, while the most popular was the human on human combat. Gladiators were slaves, often captured in war, that were trained in special schools to fight each other to the death.

The Colosseum - underground tunnels that housed gladiators and animals

The Colosseum – underground tunnels that housed gladiators and animals

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

WOW!! I love that bit about the stadium being built to flood for mock naval battles – that snipet of trivia I did not know!
Over all it was a great day and well worth a visit if you’re ever in Rome. Of course there are ruins and history everywhere you look in Rome – but that is a post for another day!

The following pictures are some more images from the day 🙂 Enjoy!!

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This work by Dawn Whitehand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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