I bumped into these photos of Algerian Women in the 1960’s by Marc Garanger about a year ago and I visit them regularly online, because frankly I find them striking. The women are just beautiful and the shots are so encapsulating. But there is a story behind them that has given this “Femmes Algériennes 1960” portfolio an even more revealing history.
Marc Garanger served in the French army in the Algerian War, the infamous end of the French colonisation epoch in the 60’s. Garanger opposed the French occupation but he was serving there as a soldier photographer. While there he was asked to take photos of the regional population for their ID’s. Within ten days he took some 2.000 pictures, some of them of women who had never before taken off their veils in front of a stranger. There is much talk about the captured looks of these women, their resistance, their strength and their reservation. That is all interpretation as far as I am concerned.
Garanger soon after fled the army and went to Switzerland to publish these images in the hope that he would tell a striking story about the force and demoralisation exercised by the French occupying army towards the peoples of Algeria. And he was right. His images told a story and the discussion on these images hasn’t seized since, while Marc Garanger has made a celebrated career as a culture documentary photographer.
I tried to find more information online about these women and their conditions of life, their traditions, their ways in the various cultures that make up Algeria. Most of the articles I have found bound these images with oppression, Islam, the French occupation and feminism. The only things I have found so far simply on their ways of life just mention that they come from either Islamic or Berber Algerian communities. The Berber ones wear face tattoos. These could not be seen in public because they were hidden by their veils. They were certainly beauty signs but they were also meaning carrying symbols. The tradition of face tattoo has died away in today’s Algeria, but there are still old ladies alive who carry them. Most of them do not remember the symbolism and I find that astonishing, because it is in their face. Apparently, the profession of the tattoo artist that used to travel between the tribes to give them these tattoos has died away along with this tradition. The most concrete information and a sort of background I found for this desert tattoo rite was on Yasmin Bendaas‘s research project (funded by the Pulitzer Center), which she updates regularly.
Traditions die away and memory fades. History is made continually, gets piled and gets done and undone. In this Femmes Algériennes photos I find beauty in women, in photography, in history, in locality, in awkwardness, in the richness of a moment in time.
Marc Garanger is still working on his photography and he has travelled in many locations to record history. Here is a 4min video where he shares his take on his projects.
“Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”
S.N. Goenka’s continuous advice during the Vipassana meditation course
I read today that S.N. Goenka died yesterday at the age of 90, due to old age. Bye bye Goenka Ji, and thank you…
Goenka was the equivalent to a Guru for Vipassana meditation. He spent most of his adult life ‘exporting’ to the world this almost lost meditation technique, practiced by Buddha.
The idea of doing this blog, its title, its content, everything came to me during my second 10day Vipassana course. Although this means that while I was sitting trying to meditate my mind was floating around, dreaming up blogs, I guess it also comes to show that good creative ideas can come out at breaks from deep concentration of the mind.
I first heard of Vipassana by Mika on a wonderful summer swim at Farangas beach on Paros. It sounded interesting but I had nothing to do with meditation, so it got stored in the ‘interesting stuff‘ file in my mind. Then, a couple of years later I was travelling in India, and meditation was so normal in the daily practice and lifestyle over there that, when Omar answered to me that he probably got that beautifully serene look on him from his Vipassana practice, I was convinced I had to try it too.
A few days later I went to do to my first 10day Vipassana course. The information on the application form said that through Vipassana you get peace of mind and that was enough for me to hand in to the management upon my arrival my passport, money, bank cards, cellphone, etc and admit myself to a 10 day silence with a 10 hour meditation practice per day regime.
As tough and crazy as it may sound in the above description it is exactly that in its actual practice and in its results! Because it is absolutely tough to sit for so many hours day after day concentrating on yourself, on your silence, on your bodily sensations in order to gain access to yourself and to the way your mind forms and works on your thoughts, memories, fears and desires; and it is absolutely crazy how balanced and calm and strong, enriched, confident, even happy, you feel at the end of it.
Every time I am asked how this works, I try to explain it and I always feel I fail to do so. So this being a post about S.N. Goenka I should let him do the talking.
Here is a pretty recent interview of Goenka on Indian tv about him and Vipassana:
And here is another older video where Goenka gives and introduction to Vipassana meditation:
“We operate on the unthinking assumption that the person who existed ten years ago is essentially the same person who exists today, who will exist ten years from now, perhaps who will still exist in a future life after death. No matter what philosophies or theories or beliefs we hold as true, we actually each live our lives with the deep-rooted conviction, ‘I was, I am, I shall be.”
* Aniccameans impermanence in Pali (old Indian). It is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux. The Pali word anicca literally means “inconstant”. According to the impermanence doctrine, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara), and in any experience of loss. This is applicable to all beings and their environs including devas (mortal gods). The Buddha taught that because conditioned phenomena are impermanent, attachment to them becomes the cause for future suffering (dukkha). [Quoting from Wikipedia]
Tomorrow has almost come. Tomorrow will be the first Studio Work day for the new Fall 2013 semester at the Aegean Center. Being a returner has never made me fill stuck, but rather progressing. Progressing into the silence of the still instant.
Before I embark on this new group dynamic, I would like to share my sea & rock & sky -scapes from last semester. These images are of course best viewed on a calibrated screen. And I think is worth saying that these photographs seen in print make a whole different impact. I am proud of each and every one of them, a feeling never really believed to have me ‘attack’ with my photography. I hope you will enjoy them too.
I bumped today into the www.brainpickings.org website which seems very interesting. Having said that, let me just clarify that I haven’t really explored it yet, I have just glanced over some articles, but they were all interesting. Good start for a new fav website!
Anyway, it had two articles about Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre and Beauvoir had an open life long relationship that was intimate yet at times had space for other lovers to home in….
“Freedom for me is a strict frame, and inside that frame are all the variations possible.”
In a 1971 taped interview, rediscovered in 1991 at the International Center of Photography (New York) archives, Henri Cartier-Bresson talks a bit about his take on his photography. Simple and real. “Yes, yes, yes”, as he says echoing someone else…
“Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.”
Text by Spyros Skordos. Photo by D.Dimoulitsas. EN mag, issue 3 (spring, 2010), pp. 9 and 11
And a bit of Greek on this blog….
Today is the anniversary of the union of Corfu (and the other Ionian islands) with the modern Greek State (1864). In Corfu town we have a public monument to physically mark this event in our large, green and flowery central town square, the Esplanade. Every year on this day this stone monument gets decorated but for the rest of the year it is left in peace and in darkness for teenage lovers to discover each other, in equal distance between seclusion from and proximity to public life. This monument seems to be sitting comfortably there awaiting them to mark their Union.
Thinking of that a few years ago, when, some dear dear friends of mine – Dionysis Dimoulitsas and Vasso Kotsi, among others – and I were producing a free press magazine about Corfu, called EN, we felt we had to connect those dots. To make a note of this personal and social union. The Spring issue of 2010 would be in circulation during this anniversary, so we asked from our witty editor, Spyros Skordos, to remind us all what ‘The Union” really meant for our Corfiot generation. I am sharing this lively article here. To access it, click on either images (above or below).
The text is in Greek. Whoever can, enjoy it!
ΕΝ magazine, issue 3 (spring 2010), cover. Cover photo by D.Dimoulitsas
I started this day by watching a 1965 film about Leonard Cohen (via OpenCulture). A young Leonard Cohen. In the film, Cohen is portrayed mainly as a poet, as a literary man. So that got me going and I started looking on the web about his poems and his quotes and I bumped into plenty of interesting material.
“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday.”
At some point in the film, at 20mins into it to be exact, Cohen explains how he got to move to Greece, to Hydra. He says he lived in London at the time. It was winter, it was gloomy, rainy, and he had a cold, when he bumped into the Bank of Greece, the title of which was etched in marble on the building facade. He walked in and the man behind the counter was wearing sunglasses. Leonard felt, and I am quoting him, that this was “the most eloquent protest against the entire landscape.” That was the beginning of his affair with Greece.
Here is a page from the Leonard Cohen Files website, an incredible database, with Leonard’s photos & poems from the island of Hydra (click on image to access the link):
Leonard Cohen Poems & Photos from Hydra
“Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore.”