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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

left of FAITH

Rarely does a movie come along that makes me reevaluate whether I'm on the right path in my life. Just when I think I've got everything all figured out, something comes along and throws my life a little bit left of the middle. This time around it's the book, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I read it in two days and anxiously awaited the for the film version. It's a complex story full of metaphors and complex jargon; a story that seems impossible to translate from the written narrative to a visual one. Directed by Ang Lee and featuring actor Suraj Alarm as Pi Patel, the film version of Life of Pi did something the novel couldn't do - it gives a seamless and vivid portrayal of faith personified. Life of Pi is a story about divine intervention and faith, and of how the two work together to keep us going forward, regardless of the situations we often find ourselves in. It is worth seeing if for nothing more than to remind us all that we are stronger than our greatest fears and even when all seems lost, we can believe that our lives have a purpose much stronger than we ever imagined. Life of Pi inspired me to carry way of this way of thinking into the new year, After all, that's what good ART does: it transforms.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


It's been an entire year since my last blog! Eeekkk! Where have I been?! A few places, mostly trying to finish up my Master's at UF and working a 9 to 5 (insert sad face). Well...I'm back! For this week at least! I've missed blogging about everything artistic I've uncovered so far. It's therapeutic and it definitely helps to get my creative juices flowing...but not tonight (smile!). I've just finished working on my website ( and I am exhausted! So until tomorrow my loves. Goodnight moon. xoxo.

Friday, August 5, 2011

my summer ART ED class project

Veiled Attack
The Veil, My Body

It’s just a piece of cloth
It rocks the world
It shapes a civilization
A civilization misread

It’s trapping, says the untutored
It’s oppressing, echoes the unlearned

The veil is my body
The veil is also my mind
The veil defines my cultural identity
The veil is who I am

Representation in the media is a cultural commodity. Not only do these images speak volumes about our society, they also define how we see others in relation to their daily interactions with us. This information in turn becomes our ultimate cultural teachers. The influx of visual identity images reinforce stereotypes that are in direct opposition to the idealized status quo. Muslim women, in particular, are often portrayed in the media in three stereotypical views: veiled, oppressed, and dominated. The irony of these persistent images is that they operate simultaneously in describing all Muslim women. Magnified and repeated daily, these messages define Muslim women as simplistic individuals who have yet to come full circle with their identities. These unrealistic portrayals have grown roots and thrived, even in today’s culture.

The problem with these representations is that they often create common misconceptions without factual relevancy. This has been the case with veiling, the hijab, and the burqa. Many Westerners view veiling as subjugation for Muslim women, a form of cultural degradation enforced by their male leaders and often associated with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Visual images of Muslim women have often portrayed them as veiled, submissive, and oppressed. They are ruled by their men, their religion, and their countries. They lack agency or any control over their own individual lives. Last but not least, these women especially need us to fight for their freedom; only to be imprisoned into another role that we have designed specifically for them.

Your slurs and instructions
That I rip it off my head
Is a rape of my body
An invasion of my land

Traditionally veiling symbolizes a rejection of social expectations, a way of being closer to God, and one’s commitment to religion and family. In this context, veiling serves as a form of agency for many Muslim women because it allows them to reject the exploitation and sexuality of their bodies as well as the standards of beauty reinforced by the outside world. Veiling symbolizes modesty, respect, and purity. It is a barrier that separates men from women, the public world from the private arena, strangers from family. The act of veiling is also symbolic for Muslim women because it associates them with their own individual lives while freeing them from the expectations and examination by strangers. It is an identity marker that removes them from public display and unwarranted invasion.

Although veiling is a voluntary act by many Muslim women, it has had its share of opponents. In April of 2011, France became the first country to ban the wearing of full veils in public. In addition, many feminist organizations have also publicly denounced the wearing of veils as an archaic practice fully rooted in patriarchal hegemony. Following 9/11 and the American “War on Terrorism”, Laura Bush proudly proclaimed that “the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women” (U.S. Government 2002). This backlash has created an “us” versus “them” atmosphere in which sympathy and pity for Muslim women reverberates. This is exactly the danger of ideology. The inability to understand and accept the complexities of other cultures fosters feelings of resentment and often widen the already expansive cultural gulf. 

 It’s just a piece of cloth
But after Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Maluku, Kosovo
This is all I have.

By acknowledging and looking at the legitimacy and prevalence of these representations critically, it is possible to move beyond the conditioned misrepresentations they elicit. The dynamics that make up a country’s cultural and social rules should be respected and kept in place without discrimination or bias. In an era where globalization is increasingly replacing traditional values with the dominant cultural ones, Muslim women are increasingly holding on to their heritage of veiling. The intense concentration on Western values challenges these women to defy the stereotypes that frame them as unequal or in need of rescuing. Instead, these women wrap the expectations of inadequacy around them and prove that difference is what defines us all and perhaps by respecting the subtleties and nuances of others, we may just learn a lot about who we are in the process.

Poem by Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf    

Saturday, July 9, 2011

long live the RITZ

The Ritz Theatre and Museum in Jacksonville, Florida has a long and rich history in the historic African-American community of La Villa. Built in 1929, Ritz Theatre movie house was renovated in 1999 where it was renamed and transformed into a community museum to celebrate and showcase African American artists from North Florida. Formally called the "Harlem of the South", The Ritz Theatre and Museum has served as a constant reminder and as an emblem of African-American contributions to the Arts and history of America.

Events such as the Black History film series, Amateur Poetry Night,  and the Ritz Jazz Orchestra have infused Jacksonville with an eclectic mix of innovation and tradition. Natives and visitors alike can enjoy local and national artists in a theatre which intimately seats 426 art lovers. In addition, the rich and diverse legacy of music within the African-American community is constantly displayed with influential  programs such as Ritz Jazz Society, Ritz Voices, and Along This Way.

Along with it's permanent collection, Ritz Theatre and Museum also exhibits visiting collections, most notably, For Women and Men of Color: The Art of Relationships, Jacksonville's longest running exhibit featuring works by African-Americans. The gallery's current exhibit is entitled, More Than A Game African-American Sports in Jacksonville, 1900-1975, a collection of sports photographs and memorabilia which examines the contributions of African-Americans in the North Florida sports arena.

New to the venue this year is Ritz Youth Institute, a 4 week educational and historical workshop for teenagers between grades 9 and 12. The program infuses several forms of media, such as film, art, and museum collections to inspire and  inform future generations of artists, educators, historians, and art connoisseurs. Professionals in the fields of art, business, law, and other fields engage students with live performances, lectures, and hands on experience. The history and contributions of African-Americans is explored as students gain a better understanding of their identity and their place on a global scale.

The Ritz Theatre and Museum has a rich historical legacy that continually contributes to the evolution of Jacksonville. In June 2011, the city witnessed the inauguration of its first African-American mayor. Perhaps more community, corporate, and youth involvement programs would enable The Ritz Theatre and Museum to offer more platforms and create an environment where all members are equally recognized for their contributions and transformed for the better. As the history of the Ritz Theatre and Museum continues to inform and inspire us, it is also a reminder that nothing is impossible and every one of us has something to offer for the greater good of humanity. The future of the Ritz Theatre and Museum is dependent upon the residents of Jacksonville and if nothing else, these residents have proved that anything and any dream is possible.

Long live the Ritz.

Ritz Theatre and Museum
829 North Davis Street Jacksonville, Florida 32202

Thursday, June 30, 2011

global ART

Today I was introduced to the art photography of Tseng Kwong Chi (1950-1990) while exploring identity in American life. Chi was an Asian photographer best known for his East Meets West self-portrait series in which he dressed in a Mao styled suit and sunglasses in front of iconic Western architecture and landscapes. Chi challenged the constucts of identity with his images and this critique also encouraged me to define who I have become through imagery and creative influences. In my eyes, Chi was an 80's trendsetter and an iconic artist whose visual imagery will forever stand the test of time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

finding my HEART

From the opening scene to the closing credits, the foreign film Biutiful (2010) grabbed my emotions (along with a box of Kleenex) and didn't let go. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Biutiful is an emotional rollercoaster and anything that can go wrong for Uxbal (Javier Bardem) does exactly that. Iñárritu also sheds a glaring light on a host of societal ills: poverty, slave labor, police corruption, child abuse, capitalism, and racism. Symbolism holds the film together and issues like mental illness and spirituality are more than explored, they are the ties that bind everything and everyone together. 

The effects of poverty cover every aspect of Uxbal's life. He has cancer because he did not seek medical intervention early enough. He makes a living from slave labor yet he sincerely cares for the people that he helps to imprison. He is raising his two kids because their Mother is bi-polar, a situation that he must put in order before his death. He questions which god to pray to as he sees and speaks with spirits who have yet to cross over into the afterlife. Everyone depends on Uxbal and it's because of this, one wants more for him than his painful attempts at survival. Although we know it will never happen, we want Uxbal to walk away off into the sunset, alive and well.

The beauty about Biutiful is that it is dreary and ugly and a mesh of crippling disappointments one after another. The soundtrack pushes the film along. It's brilliant in its ability to evoke emotions and stage some of the most important scenes in the film. The camerawork is simply amazing as well. Iñárritu places the viewer inside of Uxbal's head with plenty of close ups, jump cuts, and POV shots. Enough can't be said about the cinematography. It frames Uxbal's tragic world and creates cohesion between what's happening inside of him and around him.

There are so many scenes in Biutiful that tugged at my heart strings. My favorite is when he tells his daughter that he is dying. As they hold onto each other for dear life with tears and the fear of what lies ahead, the scene fades with a heartbeat. It could have easily been mistaken for mine. That is the power of a great film. That is the power of great art. Biutiful exemplifies the best of both.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

holiday NYC style

So I'm heading to NYC next week and the anticipation is killing me! Well, literally. I love that place and I swear I'd build a tent in Times Square if I could. I need the energy, the culture, and the people of NYC to revive me. I've been in the South way too long because most days I am bored out of my mind! So yes, this trip is one that I am (almost) dying to take and the best part about it is that I'll be with some people that I actually like! People who look at the world from a visual angle. People who see beauty in architecture, art, and even  simple things like concrete. People who can stimulate me mentally. People like me! How could a girl ask for more? I always feel like a tourist when I visit NYC because I find something new and marvelous each and every single time. So as I click away with my camera and save everything I think is worth saving, I'll bask in the light of awareness and renewal. I've almost forgotten how that feels. Did I mention I need this trip like a girl needs cooked food? So ummm yes, THERAPY! New York style. I can live with that.