Elderly UK couple suffered fatal falls on same day

 

AFP

LONDON

A British couple in their 80s, together since their schooldays, died in their garden on the same day this summer after suffering separate falls, according to a coroner’s report. Tony Williams, 86, stumbled while spraying weedkiller in his garden during a June heatwave, breaking several ribs. His wife Faith, 87, came rushing to help, but also fell in the garden in Welsh St Donats, south Wales. Daughter Ruth, unable to contact her parents, alerted a neighbour who found them lying metres from each other, Tony with a cushion beneath his head, his wife by his side. “It’s a very, very sad set of circumstances and all so unnecessary - just because dad was determined to try to spray some rather inaccessible weeds while it was dry weather,” she said. She said the pair were childhood sweethearts who had been a “great team over 70 years”.

 

 

 

 

Indonesia to open first contemporary art gallery

 

AFP

JAKARTA

Indonesia’s first international gallery of contemporary art opens Saturday, bringing together works by Ai Weiwei, Mark Rothko and Indonesian masters in a freeflowing modern space overlooking the Jakarta skyline. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Museum MACAN) holds nearly 800 paintings and sculptures, and aims to provide a world-class gallery to a country starved of quality museum infrastructure. The collection, mostly acquired by businessman Haryanto Adikoesoemo over the past 25 years, is showcased in an airy 4,000 square metre space on the fifth floor of a city tower. Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of more than 250 million people, is home to a vibrant art scene but lacks high-quality museums.

“What we are offering is something very different to what already exists in Indonesia. We are one of kind in a sense of our international and national focus,” museum director Aaron Seeto told AFP.

The opening underlines growing interest in Southeast Asian art and comes amid a number of high-profile gallery launches this year outside of Europe and North America.

Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA opened in September and the Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open this month.

Seeto said Museum MACAN is uniquely positioned to boost the profile of Southeast Asian art.

“We really want to encourage cultural exchange, but also working relationships with other museums around the world.”

Around half the museum’s collection is Indonesian, and the remainder takes in international works including paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Willem de Kooning, and sculptures by Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst.

Designed by London’s MET Studio, the museum will also feature conservation and education spaces, which Seeto hopes will help boost the appreciation of art within Indonesia.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition “Art Turns. World Turns” features 90 pieces from Indonesian and international artists.

Works by Raden Saleh, the founder of modern Indonesian painting, hang alongside pop artist Andy Warhol and Chinese realist Luo Zhongli.

Several pieces tackle issues pertinent to current political debate in Indonesia.

FX Harsono weighs in on the treatment of ethnic-Chinese minorities in his painting “Wipe Out #1”, while Balinese artist Dewa Ngakan Made Ardana addresses Indonesia’s 1960s anti-communist massacres in “A Father is Trying to Collect the Memories of His Family”.

Arahmaiani Feisal’s painting “Lingga-Yoni”, meanwhile, is being displayed for the first time since she was forced to flee Indonesia in the 1990s.

The painting, which overlays Hindu iconography of male and female genitalia on Arabic script, infuriated Islamic hardliners who threatened to kill her.

Seeto said the piece was an important acquisition for the museum and highlights the future role it can play in fostering discussion.

“Even though we are a private museum we very much consider that what we do occurs within the public sphere,” he said.

“The museum has a civic responsibility”.

 

 

 

Pimped-up pedicabs a tourist

hit in historic Malaysian city

 

AFP

MALACCA

Decked out with flashing lights and cartoon characters, with loud music pumping, rickety bicycle rickshaws have become a hit with tourists visiting the historic Malaysian city of Malacca. Once a common sight in many parts of Malaysia, the three-wheelers, known locally as trishaws, were largely phased out as cars became more affordable and took over the country’s roads. But in Malacca, a former colonial settlement that is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Malaysia’s top tourist draws, the pedal-powered vehicles live on. They have adapted to the modern era in a bid to appeal to tourists, adding figures of cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty and Pokemon’s Pikachu and blinking fairy lights that are turned on at night. Their sound systems blare out an eclectic mix of music, from techno to Bollywood hits and Chinese ballads.

“Malacca’s trishaws are unique for their decorations - other trishaws, they don’t come close,” said driver Mohamad Isa Mursidi, whose three-wheeled steed was decorated with Hello Kitty dolls and a bouquet of plastic flowers in a heart-shaped frame.

When they are not ferrying visitors around Malacca, the rickshaws can usually be found hanging around the historic central square in the shadow of the Stadthuys, an imposing red building that was the governor’s office during Dutch colonial rule.

A 30-minute ride on a selected route around some of the city’s historic buildings costs around 25 ringgit (US$6).

The noisy, garish trishaws may not be to the taste of everyone visiting the ancient city.

But for many heading to Malacca, a trip in one of the colourful rickshaws is all part of the experience.

“It gives a romantic feeling to the heart at night,” said local tourist Ganapathy Kuppusamy.

Malacca, on peninsular Malaysia’s southwest cost, has a history dating back to around the 15th century. With a strategic location on the Straits of Malacca, it became a wealthy entrepot and attracted traders from around the world.

It was colonised first by the Portuguese, later by the Dutch and finally by the British in the 19th century, when it became part of the Straits Settlements with Penang, in modern-day Malaysia, and Singapore.

 

 

 

 

Morocco architect fights

concrete with tradition

 

AFP

TIZNIT

An unexpected gust of cool air greets visitors to the new archives centre in Tiznit in the mountains of southern Morocco, even without air-conditioning despite extreme heat outside its walls. That is thanks to the ancestral building methods used by Salima Naji, a French-educated Moroccan architect who specialises in construction that blends in with the environment and local traditions. Rather than concrete, she used adobe and mudbrick, and built in high air vents for circulation. “First I look at what’s available on the scene, rather than bring things in from elsewhere,” said the architect who has a second degree in anthropology and who has restored several historical buildings. The priority is always two-fold: to protect local traditions and the environment.

Naji said she was baffled as to why “at a certain time people stopped building with local materials” and how they had “turned their back on this heritage”.

Adobe, rock, limestone, palm tree wood - this is the heritage that she refuses to abandon.

Naji, 47, daughter of a Moroccan father and French mother, started working with traditional construction methods and materials for private clients.

Then she realised that “it’s all very well building for the rich but the landscape is in the process of falling apart,” she said.

She started to restore old ksours, or fortified villages, former mosques and communal granaries at the oasis settlement of Amtoudi.

In Tiznit, a town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Agadir where she lives in a small traditional house, she has stayed loyal to tradition with a new museum, the archives centre and a community hall.

Despite her aversion to the material, she had to use some concrete to respect Morocco’s urban code for public buildings.

“I don’t understand how we can credit this material that has no value, not historical, not in terms of climate control, not aesthetically, and its expensive!” she said.

“It’s cold in winter, hot in summer.”

The essential thing for Naji is that “in Morocco, traditions are alive, slowing down of course, but not dead like elsewhere”.

She worked on the Amtoudi granaries with local artisans, although it was a challenge to persuade the youngest among them to learn old methods.

Apart from being an architect and anthropologist, she has also had to serve as an advocate for the use of local materials and ancestral techniques.

She was warned that her constructions would not hold up to the rains.

But she insists that sound construction and good maintenance provide a longer-term foil to the elements than concrete, as proven by the ancient ramparts of the Moroccan capital Rabat where she was born.

Her campaign is to find “alternatives to an all-concrete way of life” and she remains optimistic.

“I’ve seen people who want change in this country, who want something beautiful, intelligent, something which turns to the future without forgetting the past,” she said.