Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

The history, art history and architecture of Britain and its Empire, Europe, the Mediterranean and North America, 1640-1940.
    0 0

    After thwarting the Turkish attack at Romani in Aug 1916 the Australian Light Horse brigades advanced with victories at Rafa, but were twice beaten at Gaza. There followed plans to capture Beer­sheba, which would allow for another attempt at Gaza.

    Today (31st October) the Australian Light Horse and New Zealand Mounted Rif­les were engaged in a battle that was the ANZACs' greatest charge ever.  The Auckland Mounted Rifles captured Tel el Saba from the Turks, a key to taking the outpost township of Beersheba. And today was the last great mount­ed charge by the 12th Light Horse Regiment of the Aust­ralian Imperial Force. Capturing Beersheba in 1917 was the turning point in the British campaign to ex­p­el the remnants of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

    The Light Horse troopers horses were the famous Walers, mostly bred in the Hunter Valley. And most of the men were farming lads from the country, including from the Boorowa area of NSW.


    Australian Light Horse brigades

    Now for the centenary celebrations in Beersheba, let us add a smaller, but significant element to this history. Caroline Overington has written in detail about Albert Tibby Cotter (1883-1917) , the youngest of six sporting sons born to Scottish immigrant parents. His was not a poor family: they lived in a two-storey, solid brick mansion with its own stab­les, in the Sydney suburb of Glebe. The Cotter boys played cricket, rugby and boxing, and all attended Forrest Lodge public school. Then Tibby went to Sydney Grammar, where he played school­boy cricket.

    Tibby made his cricketing debut for NSW in 1901 at 18, and his Test debut against England at the end of the 1903-04 series. In his second Test, at the MCG, he starred. Cotter’s bowling style was fast and powerful; often he shattered the stumps, which teammates would then hold aloft, symbols of his power. During his first match in England in 1905, after he struck the legendary WG Grace a painful blow with his first full toss, England demanded that he stop bowling at the body, and Cotter’s fame was assured. His face was soon on the cover of newspapers throughout the British Empire.

    Thunder of a light horse charge' as the cavalry rides towards Beersheba,
    Oct 1917

    Cotter loved the limelight! A week before the 1907 Ashes began, he was arrested in Brisbane for being drunk in public, but bailed in time to open the Australian bowling. At the SCG in Dec 1907, his match-winning performance had the crowd stomping the boards in appreciation. In a nine-year international career, Cotter played 21 Tests, taking 89 wickets at an average of 28.6 runs. 

    When WWI broke out in 1914 Cotter was already 31 years old and work­ing as a clerk. He rushed to enlist, joining the AIF in April 1915. Despite having no great riding ability, Cotter was accepted into the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment, serving as a stretcher bearer alongside fellow soldiers with vastly more skill (some were former stockmen, many of them Aboriginal; some were horse-breakers from NSW pastoral stations). He served at Gallipoli during the final stages of the campaign and upon his regiment’s return to Cairo, he was disciplined for being two weeks absent without leave.

    Later he transferred to the 12th Light Horse, where he was commended for his fine work under heavy fire during the second battle of Gaza. Cotter was promoted to lance corporal, but at his own request rev­ert­ed to the rank of trooper. He was part of the now famous Aust­ral­ian cricket team that played in slouch hats against an English side in the Palestinian desert in 1917. At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, there is a photo of Australian soldiers taking part in a cricket match on an improvised pitch in the Sinai.

    Australian National Cricket Team, 1909
    Tibby Cotter, leading wicket-taker in the series. was at right end of the second row

    In the last cricket game he played, Cotter told a fellow soldier-cricketer that he did not think he would survive the war. On 31st Oct 1917, the 4th Light Horse Brigade captured Beersheba in a cavalry-style charge. Aust­ralian soldiers tore across the desert, and jumped over the Turkish trenches, cap­turing the town and its wells, and winning a decisive victory for the Allies.

    Cotter was among a handful of Australians that did not survive the battle. The story commonly told was that Cotter was shot by a sniper as he peeked up over a trench. But the Australians were not in the trench­es. Or as a stretcher bearer, was he killed by a Turk who had not been disarmed? Or did he jump straight into the battle with the charging soldiers, and got hit?

    The death of this interesting character sent the nation into mourn­ing and while he was the only Australian Test cricketer to die in WW1, many other international sports stars did. The names of the dead had filled column after column in the news­papers, for years. But Cotter's name stood out - he was hugely admired across the British Empire and was mourned by millions.

    Cotter was 34 when he died and his family was informed. They also had to grieve for Cotter’s older brother, Private John Cotter, who had been killed serving in the infantry in Belgium (weeks earlier in Oct 1917). Cotter’s remains were buried near where he fell, in Beer­sheba. 

    Recently his life has barely been celeb­rated, something that may change with today’s cent­enary of that great charge. The prime ministers of  Israel, Australia and New Zealand and other dignitaries are participating in the Beersheba Centenary.

    Australian horsemen commemorating the centenary of the Australian soldiers 
    1917-2017.

    You might like the book Tibby Cotter: Fast Bowler, Larrikin, Anzac, written by Max Bonnell and Andrew Sproul (Walla Walla Press, 2012). And Beersheba: Travels Through a Forgotten Australian Victory by Paul Daley (Melbourne University Press, 2011).







    0 0

    Art historians often cite rabbinical rulings against all Jewish art in the Middle Ages. But any such restrictions were limited to the geog­raph­­ic community where each ruling was given!! And in any case, they were no longer applicable by the C19th. Even better, national art schools and academies formally opened their doors to Jewish students in the C19th, in Britain, Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Romania etc.


    Talented Jewish artists emerged. Moritz Oppenheim (1800-82), Solomon Hart (1806–81), Jozef Israels (1824–1911), Alphonse Levy (1843-1918), Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-79), Solomon J Solomon (1860–1927), Samuel Hirszenberg (1865-1908), Boris Schatz (1867-1932) and Ephraim Lilien (1874–1925) were certainly creating worthy careers for them­selves. Max Liebermann (1847-1935) was regarded as a pioneer of modern artistic dev­elopment.

    But in my opinion, the most import­ant of all C19th Jewish art­ists was Hungarian-born Is­­idor Kaufmann (1853-1921). Young Kaufmann studied at the professional art academy of Bu­d­apest, and Vienna, for a total of 5 years. Then he married a synagogue cantor's daug­hter in 1882, and had 5 child­ren. This was a painter who knew the outside art world but who was also very much a part of the large, traditional Jew­ish community in Vien­na.

    The question to ask is: could Kaufmann and these other young Jewish artists join the modern art world or would they be limited to de­p­icting religious events, Biblical characters and rabbis’ portraits? Richard Cohen in “Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe” said that Kaufmann was less concerned than Moritz Oppenheim with encompassing the Jewish holidays, but more involved in uncov­er­ing the inner spirit of the Eastern European Jews in their daily life. I want to test Cohen’s view.

    Kaufmann, The Chess Player
     Sotheby's New York, 23rd June 1983, 
    26 x 21 cm 

    From the mid 1880s, Kaufmann began produc­ing detailed ge­n­re paint­ings i.e subjects taken from everyday life. Luckily he was an excel­lent draughts­man and colourist. There paintings were very small in size and in sub­ject mat­t­er, but then genre paint­ing has nothing going for it except for honesty and domesticity. The paintings were set in cold, bare and totally un-idyllic contexts, but with lots of pleas­ure coming from friendship, family closeness or religious studies. And the details of a family home were painted with the same meticul­ousness that we might have expected from Ver­­m­eer, con­cent­ra­ting on the archit­ect­ural detail of rooms and on the psychological auth­en­ticity of his mod­els. There was not much politicising going on here.

    The Chess Player sat on a bare chair in a room of bare grey walls, his red nose, heavy coat and top hat suggesting the coldness of the space. But the cold didn’t matter. Intellectual pursuits were more important that fine furnishings: books remained open on a table, ready to be read again, once the chess strategies had been decided.

    The Chess Pl­ay­ers (c1886, not shown) there were two ordinary workers, friends sit­ting down to a quiet game at home. Their clothes were a very ordinary and they apparently couldn't afford to put even a rug on the fl­oor, but the men were enjoying the contest and tak­ing it very ser­ious­ly. We assume that each chess decision was carefully considered, be­f­ore each move was made.

    Kaufmann, Chess Problems
    c1889, 31 x 40 cm

    Chess Problems dealt with a similar event, but this time the two men were considerably better dressed and the room was furnished with comfort and with style. While the compos­ition of this paint­ing was similar to the composition of The Ch­ess Pl­ayers, and the attention they paid to the game was sim­ilar, were the bare headed men were not Jewish? Presumbly it would not have mattered, in Vienna's contemporary world.

    Kaufmann, Two Pairs of Shoes
    c1889, 38 x 31 cm

    In Two Pairs of Shoes, an elderly Jewish man was shown assessing his stock from the table top where he sat. Perhaps business was going well enough; there seemed to have been a quiet smile on his face, and a satisfying cigaret­te in his hand. Clothes and shoes were heaped everywh­ere, in the suit case, on top of the table and over the screen. Note the det­ailed attention paid to the books, clock and vase in the back of the room. 

    Kaufmann, Commerical Instruction 
    1890-1, 40 x 31 cm
    private collection 

    Commercial Instruction used a title similar to Business Secret but was more tender. Using virtually the same furn­i­t­ure and lights as The Rabbi's Visit, this painting told the story of a religious father and son spending time together. However instead of bonding over religious studies, this father was teaching his son about business. The lesson must have been appealing because the little boy was fascinated.

    Kaufmann, Business Secret 
    c1894, 33 x 28 cm

    In Isidor Kaufmann by G Tobias Natter (1995) I found eleven small, wonderful genre scenes painted in 1884-95. Two Pairs of Shoes, The Chess PlayersNo Fool Like An Old FoolChess Pro­blemsRabbi's VisitBusiness SecretCom­merc­ial Inst­r­uct­ionA Business Transaction etc were all pain­ted in the corner of a lounge room, usually with one or two fig­ures. In this short per­iod, Kauf­mann st­ruck a gold mine, as it were. He creat­ed detailed, finished and pain­terly works, about small issues. Pl­easure, religious or secular, was depic­ted.

    Business Secret showed two poorly dressed men talking conf­identially about secondhand items for sale. A third man poked his head through the window, possibly eaves­dropping on the deal. By stres­sing the shabby hawk­ers with blatantly Jewish features, Natter suggested this painting verged on the cartoonish. But I think it was painted very much in the same tender vein as the others.

    Consider the wide range of C19th Jewish artists who operated outside both ancient Rabbinic tradition and stark, secular modernism. In the suddenly mobile, changing world of the latter C19th, how could Jewish artists come to terms with their own identities and approach the task of represent­ation? Appropriately The Emergence of Jewish Artists in C19th Europe, at New York's Jewish Museum 2001, presented 21 painters who offered radically different responses to this complex question. The book by the same name (Susan Tumarkian Goodman ed, Merrell Publishing NY, 2001) is excellent. 

    Richard McBee suggested Jewish artists like Kaufmann were able to address a broad public for the first time; they were interested in representing Jewish life and showing it to be on a par with Chris­tian life. Their art documenting everyday life was shaped by the community and changed by modernity, so it had to do a balancing act between emancipation and assimilation. Kauf­mann reminded the modern viewer that Jewish art acquired a changing and vital importance as an aspect of cultural iden­t­ity.
      
    Kaufmann, Rabbi with a Young Student, 
    53 x 68 cm, 
    Sotherby's New York, 19th Dec 2012 

    Then something changed for Kaufmann. Viennese genre scen­es no longer satisfied the need to discover his vibrant Jew­ish roots. In the later 1890s, he chose to go in search of mat­erial in Jewish towns across the Austro-Hun­g­ar­ian Em­pire and Po­land. He travelled every summer and returned to his Vienna studio to turn the sketches into completed paintings.

    A work from this later era was Rabbi with A Young Student. Kaufmann reflected the pride he felt for the traditional religious life. The teacher displayed a sense of solemnity and perhaps wisdom. The young student was caught in a moment of rapt attention, his eyes focused on the text before him. Learning was clearly the hallmark of traditional Jewish life. The walls were plain but the book case was handsome, filled with beautiful leather bound volumes.

    helenw@bigpond.net.au




    0 0

    Built in Belfast by the British shipping company White Star Line, the three Olympic-class ocean liners were RMS Olympic (1910), RMS Titanic (1911) and HMHS Britannic (1914). For both Olympic and Titanic, the pas­s­enger accommodation was of unrivalled extent and magnific­ence, and the excellent result defies improvement. The Olympic and the Titanic could each carry 3,295 people: 2,435 passengers and a crew of 860. Travellers were separated into 3 classes: 689 in first class, 674 in second class and 1,026 in third class.


    First class stair case

    RMS Titanic had ten decks: cabins and public areas were located on the Promenade, Bridge, Shelter, Saloon, Upper, Middle and Lower Decks. The other three decks were reserved for the crew, cargo and machinery.

    The first class public rooms included a dining saloon, reception room, restaurant, lounge, reading and writing room, smoking room and the veranda cafes and palm courts. During Titan­ic's design, entirely new features were added: swimming pool, Turkish baths, squash courts and a gym. The saunas were decorated in an Arabian style. For whom were these luxurious facilities intended? A complete list of all first class passengers, their ages, fares and professions, can be seen in The Encyclopaedia Titanica.

    1] First Class Accommodation. Titanic had 39 private suites. All had up to five different rooms: 2 bedrooms, 2 wardrobe rooms and a private bathroom. These expensive, exclusive staterooms boasted excellent fittings, decorated in different periodic styles including Louis XVI, Louis XV, Georgian and Queen Anne.

    First class accommod­ation also held 350 cheaper standard cabins with single beds.

    First class cabin, bedroom


    First class cabin, private loungeroom

    2] The First Class Reading and Writing Room was really designed for use by travelling first class women. It was painted in white and furnished very elegantly. There was a huge bow window that enabled the ladies to lookout on to the Promenade Deck. There was a large fire which burned intensely adding warmth to the room.

    3] The First Class Lounge was situated on the Promenade Deck and was elaborately fitted out. This room was dedicated to reading, con­ver­sation, playing cards and other social interactions of the day. It was decorated in the French Louis XV style. The craftsmanship was exquisite. The walls were covered with elaborate wooden carving which gave the room a distinct symmetrical appearance.

    4] Towards the back of the Promenade Deck was the very fine First Class Smoke Room. The walls were panelled in mahogany, carved in the Georgian style and were inlaid with mother of pearl. Above the centrepiece fireplace was a painting by Norman Wilkinson called the "Approach to the New World”. Those who required an after dinner drink could find exactly what they want­ed in the well stocked bar. Others enjoyed walking around the room looking at the painted glass windows depicting different ports from around the world, and other White Star Line ships. On the port­side of the room was a small Veranda area, which led to the Palm Court areas overlooking the aft Promenade Deck. Walled trellises with climbing plants gave the impression that the room was part of a con­ser­vatory. Passengers could sit on wicker chairs to finish their drinks.

    5] The First Class Grand Staircase was GRAND. It was 60+’ from the lower landing to the glass skyline above. It had a C17th William and Mary style with solid oak carved panelling running all the way around. At the foot of the stairs was a Cherub light with a dist­inc­t­ive wood carving clock behind.

    6] Behind the Grand Staircase was the spacious First Class Reception Area. It was decorated in the Jacobean style and had a white ceiling and a dark rusty colour carpet. Before dinner, saloon passengers could gather to discuss the day's activities aboard the ship. Some would sit on one of the many floral patterned Grandfather Chairs to be found there. The Reception Room led directly to the Dining Room.

    7] Elite passengers certainly dined in style. The First Class Dining Room was 114’ long and spanned the full width of the ship. Seating 532 passengers at once, it was the largest dining room ever seen on a ship. The room was decorated in attractive Jacobean style, painted in peanut white and filled with luxurious and comfortable oak furn­iture. The decoration had been the result of research based on Hatton Hall in Derbyshire.
     
    First class dining room

    The Last Dinner on the Titanic, by Gary Fisher, found that there were only two menus recovered from the Titanic for the last night aboard. The first-class menu started with the First Course (Oysters Hors D'Oeuvres), the Second Course (Cream of Barley Soup), the Third Course (Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce) and continuing until the din­ers staggered through until the Tenth Course (Waldorf Pudding, Peaches in Chart­reuse Jelly, French Ice Cream Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs). After the tenth course, fresh fruits and cheeses were available, then coffee, cigars and port.

    In the last years of the Edwardian era before WWI, priv­il­eged families ate and drank freely, guaranteed to increase the waistline and to shorten the lifespan. Food was rich and fatty, and each course was accompanied by a special wine or liquor in large quantities. My feeling is that the food consumed in the first class dining room, in the short time at sea, could have fed a small African nation for a year ☹

    8] The A La Carte Restaurant served the finest meals that were not included in the fares of its guests. It added an extra touch of class, since the room was decorated in Louis XIV style and had floor to ceiling panelling in French light brown walnut. Spec­ially mounted ornaments and mouldings gave a regal effect, candle-style lamps hung in the centre of the panels and silk curtains covered the large bay windows. Passengers could sit around the tables in groups of 2-8 people while an orchestra played from a raised platform.





    0 0

    On 11th of October each year, the United Nations celeb­rate In­ternational Day of the Girl Child, emphasising the needs and challenges that girls face. So this year I was interested in looking over my own posts on Fanny Hensel (1805–47), Felix Men­delssohn’s sister, compos­er and under-valued musical advisor. Unfort­unately I didn’t find very much.

    However it did get me onto a totally different search: for Maria Anna Mozart (1751–1829) aka Nannerl, Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)’s older sister. They were the children of musician and composer Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl of Salzburg.

    Maria Anna was taught harpsichord by her father Leopold. So they enjoyed a great childhood, indulging their musical creat­iv­ity and creating their own musical world. In fact Leopold took the two children to tour the most cultural cities across Europe, perform­ing together as child prodigies. Acc­ord­ing to all reports, the youngsters impressed both audiences and critics.

    But it was possible that the Mozart girl was really the better musician. Leopold Mozart confirmed it in writing, saying “My little girl plays the most difficult works which we have… with incredible precision and so excellently. What it all amounts to is this, that my little girl, although she is only 12 years old, is one of the most skilful players in Europe.”

    Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart
    by Eusebius Johann Alphen
    portrait miniature on ivory, c1765

    Birthplace Museum, Salzburg

    As Nannerl and Wolf­gang’s musical talents developed, her ador­ing youn­g­er brother loved her work. At a con­cert, when Wolf­gang an­n­ounced that the piece he has just played was writ­ten by his sister, Leop­old was furious. He ordered Nannerl to never comp­ose music again!

    Clearly Nannerl must have composed. Note in 1762 when the two children played for aristocrats in Munich, Count Karl von Zin­zendorf wrote: “The little child from Salzburg and his sister played the harpsich­ord. The poor little fellow plays marvel­l­ously. He is a child of spirit, lively, charming. His sister’s playing is masterly, and he applauded her.” When Wolfgang was in London working on his first symphony during 1764-5, she wrote it all down and orchestrated it for him. And when she sent one of her com­pos­itions to her brother in 1770, he responded in a delight­ful let­ter, filled with admiration for her work. So why are we not familiar with the music Nannerl composed?

    Note the oil painting commissioned by Leopold Mozart at Salz­burg and created by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Wolf­gang and Nannerl were shown playing four hands on a forte-piano. Leopold had his violin and quill, showing that he was both a musician and a writer. The portrait on the wall was of the late Mrs Mozart. And the figure of Apollo represented the family’s music talents.

    Mozart family: Nannerl, Wolfgang, father Leopold and portrait of their late mother, 
    by Johann Nepomuk della Croce, 1780-81

    Leopold had already stopped Nannerl from touring across Eur­ope and from then on, Leopold focused all his attentions on Wolf­gang. Despite being noted as an outstanding forte pianist, her father thought it inapp­rop­riate for his daughter to have a pro­f­essional career, regardless of her talent. Leopold exp­lained that only noble women were allowed to play, unpaid, at their own dinners and cult­ural salons. Yet Nannerl had to remain at home and give piano lessons to wealthy students, to finance her brother’s Italian tour! Nannerl obeyed her father, but became very depressed.

    By the time Nannerl reached marriageable age, her father vetoed her first choice of husband. So she did not marry her eventual husband, the magistrate Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1736-1801), until 1784.

    Then there were huge demands on Nannerl’s energy. Berchtold’s first two wives had died and he had been left with five child­ren, whom Nannerl helped raise. Plus they had three children of their own: Leopold (born 1785), Jeanette (born 1789) and Maria Babette (born 1790).

    Did Nannerl stop composing? None of her music was known to have survived, so there are three possibilities. 1] She did continue composing, but the material was lost or destroyed, 2] she did con­t­inue composing, but her works were wrongly or sneakily attributed to Wolfgang, or 3] she never composed ag­ain. All that is cert­ain is that while Wolfgang became world renowned, Nannerl did not.

    New research by Australian scholar-conductor Prof Mart­in Jarvis identified Maria Anna’s musical handwriting, a disc­ov­ery that suggested she composed works used by her younger brot­her to learn piano. It has long been known that the note­book was used as a pedagog­ic­al aid by Mozart’s father, to teach Wolfgang to play piano - particularly the pieces the lad used early in his (short) career.

    Nannerl and Wolfgang’s relationship was beset by years of sep­aration and the preference of their father for his son, over the needs of his daughter. Nannerl’s dreams were over, and it seemed as if her depression was deepened by the ever-growing distance from the Mozarts. The siblings wrote to each other aft­er Leopold’s death, but Wolfgang's letters to her dealt only with the formal dispos­ition of Leopold's est­ate. I am not even sure if she associated with Wolfgang’s wife Constanze Weber and their children.

    When Wolfgang Mozart died in 1791, Nannerl dedicated herself to hon­our her brother by coll­ect­ing all his compositions and erect­ing monuments to him. After her husband Berchtold died in 1801, Maria Anna returned to Salzburg and supported once again by giving piano lessons! How ironic! She died in 1829, and was buried in Salzburg.

    Sylvia Milo’s play The Other Mozart: the forgotten genius of Mozart’s sister, opened in 2015. Milo wrote it because she had visited Mozart’s house in Vienna and saw a painting of the two sib­l­ings together. It showed a woman sitting next to Wolfgang Mozart, clearly look­ing like his equal.








    0 0

    After Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was devastated. Fortunately the Queen became very close to her gillie John Brown in Balmoral, a warn friendship that lasted for decades. When Brown died in 1883, Queen Victoria was devastated for a second time. Now we can analyse the third male relationship in the queen's life that started in 1887.

    But how close to real history is the film Victoria & Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears? Queen Vict­oria, Empress of India (Judi Dench) took her Indian responsibilities very seriously. She asked for two Ind­ians to travel from India to share in the Queen's Gol­d­en Jubilee in 1887.

    Mohammed Abdul Karim 1863–1909 (Ali Fazal), a Muslim born in British India, was selected to give the queen an Indian gift. But when the Queen wanted to employ these two Indian servants for the entire Jubilee year, Karim and Buksh had to be tutored in English and in British etiquette. After a journey by rail from Agra to Bombay then by mail steamer to Britain, the men arrived at Windsor Castle in June 1887. By Aug Karim was teaching the queen Urdu.

    After Karim told the Queen that he’d been a clerical worker in India, he was prom­ot­ed to the position of Munshi/teacher in Aug 1888. This was so that he would stay in Britain.

    The Queen's let­ters noted that her discussions with the Mun­shi were social, philosophical and political. Undoubtedly the Queen found in Abdul Karim a connection with a distant part of the world, and a confidante who could discuss intellectual issues with her. At Scotland’s Balmoral Castle, Karim was given the room once occupied by the late John Brown.

    In Nov 1888, Karim spent months back in India, in honour of his father Waziruddin. So the Queen wrote to the Vice­roy of India, Lord Lansdowne, demanding action on Waziruddin's pen­sion. Unfortunately the film didn’t mention Karim's many trips back to India and the very close bond with the father. [Note that in June 1892, Wazi­ruddin visited Brit­ain and stayed at both Balmoral and Windsor Castles!]


    Poster for the "Victoria and Abdul" film, 2017 

    On the other hand the film made it crystal clear that Karim's swift rise instantly angered the members of the Roy­al House­hold, who would never have socialised with Indians out­side the nobility. The Queen naively expected them to welcome Kar­im. As did Karim.

    The rapidity of Abdul’s advancement would have led to his unpopularity in any case, but racism was ev­ery­­where; it went hand in hand with a strong belief in Britain's global dominion. Because the queen found racism intolerable, her private secretary Sir Henry Pons­onby (played superb­ly by Tim Piggot-Smith) had to neg­otiate between the Queen and her courtiers after each incident.

    The film clearly showed them at Balmoral in Sept 1889 when the two of them stayed overnight, in an isolated house on the estate where Victoria had been with John Brown. The film also showed the “Queen vis­iting Abdul twice daily, in his room taking Hind­ustani lessons, sign­ing her boxes, examining his neck, smoothing his pillows.” It was almost dom­es­t­ic.

    Clearly the ageing Queen did not trust her own son and the Royal Household to look after the Munshi after her death. So she asked the Viceroy of India, Lord Lans­downe, to grant Karim land near Agra. The Viceroy reluctantly cooperated.

    In May 1892 Karim was in India on leave and re­turned to Britain with his wife and mother-in-law in hijabs. They were put in roy­al houses at Windsor, Balmoral & Osborne. And partic­ipated in Christ­mas presentations.

    Note the connections. When Lansdowne's term ended in 1894, Lord Elgin took over. Ponsonby's son Frederick was Elgin's aide-de-camp in In­dia, then an officer in charge of royal horses in Brit­ain. Fred­erick wrote to Lord Elgin in Jan 1895 about the court's discomfort with the Indian.

    In the Queen's 1895 Birthday Honours, Karim was appointed a Com­panion of the Order of the Indian Empire, despite the political oppos­it­ion. After Britain’s 1895 general election, Prime Minister Lord Rosebery and Secretary of State for India Henry Fowler were re­placed by Lord Salisbury and Lord George Hamilton. Lord Hamilton suggested the Indian might become a tool in the hands of other, more dangerous men. In fact some of the resent­ment at court and in government occurred because of the Munshi did, or might have, tak­en political advant­age of his position.

    The advisors also feared Karim's link to Rafiuddin Ah­med, an Indian political activist/student in London who was con­n­ected to the Mus­lim Patriotic League. They suspected Ahmed extracted confid­ential information from Karim to pass to the Af­ghanistani Amir. As the political anxiety in Britain cont­inued, why didn’t the film discuss these political fears?

    And there was another concern. Lord Elgin was warned by Lord Pon­sonby that the Queen gave his letters to the Munshi to read, and that consequently his correspondence to her should not be seen as secure. Most people agreed with the suspicions of her House­hold that the Munshi could have influenced the Queen's op­in­ions on Indian issues, biasing her against Hindus, in favour of Mus­lims. But suspicions that he passed secrets to Rafiuddin Ahmed were later discounted.
    Karim never had any children. The Queen's Dr James Reid explained it was because Karim had VD.

    Queen Victoria and Abdul preparing correspondence
    in c1890s


    In Mar 1897 as members of the Household prepared to depart for Cimiez in southern France for the Queen's annual visit, they in­sisted that Karim not accompany the royal party, and threatened to resign en masse if he did so. Dr Reid even warned the Queen that her attachment to Karim led people to question her san­ity.

    Even as late as 1899, members of the Household were still main­taining that Karim could not accompany the royal party when they on holiday. Nonetheless Karim asked Victoria for the title of Nawab, and to app­oint him a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. Despite a hor­rified Lord Elgin, Victoria gave Karim the order in 1899.

    The Munshi returned to India in Nov 1899 for a year. Lord Cur­zon, Elgin's replacement as Viceroy, died in June 1900. By the time Karim returned to Britain in Nov 1900 Victoria was facing death. He'd served her during the final 15 years of her reign, taking her from tired and grumpy, and gaining her maternal love.

    Filmed in exquisite detail at Osborne House, this excellent film ended with the Queen’s death.  The newly crowned King Edward VII (Ed­die Izzard) sent the Munshi family back to India, and had almost all of Victoria and Karim’s letters burned. At last the king and all his aristocratic lovers were happy at court.

    The Munshi died at Karim Lodge, on his Agra estate in 1909. He was placed in the Agra cemetery bes­ide his father. Having no children, Munshi’s nephews inherited the estates. The family continued to reside in Agra until the partition of India in Aug 1947, after which they emigrated to Pakistan.








    0 0

    The cultural and linguistic diversity of Australia's resident population has been reshaped over many years by migration. In 2015, 28.2% of the resident population was born over­seas (6.7 million persons). As would be expected from a major member of the British Commonwealth of nations, the greatest proportion of these migrants came from the United Kingdom (5%) and New Zeal­and (3%). And increasingly, migrants are arriving from China (2.0%), India (2%), the Philippines (1%) and Viet­nam (1%). The fastest rate of increase over this period was for people born in Nepal, Pakistan, Brazil, India and Bang­ladesh.

    As a result of this diversity, Pauline Hanson's party, One Nation, has arisen as a strongly nationalist, right-wing and populist party in Australia. One Nation was founded in 1997, by then-member of the Conservative Party in Federal parliam­ent, Pauline Hanson. Dis-endorsement came before the 1996 federal election because of comments she made about Indigenous Australians, Muslims, Asians & immigration. Hanson also critic­ised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

    Condemning multiculturalism, One Nation has rallied against government immigration and multicultural policies. Along with Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, she once drew a link between African migrants and “crime, HIV, TB and leprosy”. Hanson said "You can't bring people into the country who are incompatible with our way of life and culture. They get around in gangs and there is escalating crime that is happening."


    Hanson's maiden speech in the Australian Senate, 2106
    photo credit: SBS

    Does it matter what One Nation believes? Yes, it does. At the 2016 Federal election the party polled only 4% of the nationwide primary vote in the Senate, but in Queensland her party gained 9+% of the Senate vote! The primary effect at both state and federal levels could be to split the conservative parties’ vote and in particular to threaten the National Party's support base in Queensland.

    When Pauline Hanson made her incendiary first speech to the Senate in 2016, all the Greens senators walked out. She claimed the nation was "in danger of being swamped by Muslims" with its people "living under sharia law and treated as second-class citizens" if urgent changes weren't made to immigration policies. She claimed they "bear a culture and ideology which is incom­pat­ible with our own" and called for an end to all immigration. She called for an end to halal certification and for a ban on the construct­ion of any further mosques - with those existing to be monit­ored, saying she did not believe Australia could remain secure under current immigration policies.

    Just in case Australians didn't understand One Nation’s racism, Hanson added "Muslims are imprisoned at almost three times the average rate. The rate of unemployed and public dep­endency is two to three times greater than the national aver­age. Muslims are prominent in organised crime with associated violence and drug dealing. Anti-social behaviour is rampant, fuelled by hyper-masculine and misogynist culture. Multiple social surveys find that neighbours of Muslim settlement are suffering from collapsing social cohesion and fear of crime."

    Since being elected to the parliament, One Nation has voted with the Conservative government on welfare cuts and to rest­ore the Australian Building and Construction Commission ag­ainst unions. Pauline Hanson also called for penalty rates to be abolished entirely, but failed in that endeavour. She opposed the plan to extend the taxpayer-funded paid parental leave scheme because it “could encourage women to get pregnant to access government benefits”.

    What will happen in the upcoming state elections in Queensland and in the next federal elections, if they have to be declared earlier than expected?

    Golden Dawn in Greece
    photo credit: New Statesman

    If you think that after WW2 an uber-nationalist, anti Semitic, anti-migration, anti-welfare party could never gain the bal­an­ce of power in civilised European countries, I urge you to examine re­cent polling results for:
    1. the far-right Freedom Party in Aust­ria;
    2. the Anti-European Union, Anti-Islam Party for Freedom in the Netherlands that incites discrimination against Muslims;
    3. Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party. The neo-Nazi group, The Radical Camp organised a huge white-supremacist rally in Warsaw and flew racists from Slovakia and Hungary to join in.
    4. Hungary’s right-wing, anti-Semitic Fidesz party and its ally even further to the right, Jobbik;
    5. France’s anti-immigration and anti-European Union National Front party;
    6. Greece’s most prominent neo-Nazi movement, Golden Dawn who found a new surge in support following Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from some Muslim-majority countries into the USA;
    7. Alternative für Deutschland in Germany is anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic and Eurosceptic; and
    8. The True Finns are strongly nationalist, Eurosceptic and anti-globalist.

    I cannot directly compare Trump in the USA with Europeans because he is Head of State and not a politician in the nation’s parliament. However examine his executive order temporarily banning imm­ig­rants, travellers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries - it perfectly defines his “disdain for human rights”. Examine his “rampant sexism”, “obsession with national security”, “obses­sion with crime and punishment”, and “rampant corruption and cronyism”. Of all the Early Warning Signs of Fascism on the list, so far “fraudulent elections” is one of the few than can be excluded from Trump’s list of achievements.









    0 0

        
    Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870-1924} was born into a well educated, middle class family in Simbirsk, east of Moscow. The children grew up in comfort but with a strongly developed sense of justice. But when in 1887 the oldest sibling was hanged in St Petersburg for conspiring to assassinate Czar Alexander III, the family was horrified.

    At university, Ulyanov absorbed the writings of Marx and Engels. On graduating law from St Peters­burg University in 1891, Lenin became a leader of a Marxist group, distributing revolut­ionary pamphlets to work­ers. He was carefully watch­ed by the police, arrested in 1895, convicted of dist­rib­uting propaganda and sentenced to 3 years in Siberia. Nadezhda Krupskaya, a young fellow traveller, join­ed him there and they married. Now called Lenin, the couple returned from Siberia and in 1906 chose exile in Western Europe.

    Moving between Prague, London and Bern, publishing a radical news­paper and trying to organise an international Marxist move­ment, Lenin wrote how to transform Russia from a feud­al society into a modern workers’ paradise. He argued that revolution would come from a coalition of peasants and factory workers, the proletariat.

    The longest, coldest route imaginable for travelling from Zurich to St. Petersburg 1917
    Press map for details

    Zurich By early WW1 in Aug 1914, Lenin & Krupskaya were in Zurich, living off family money. They had no children. 

    The Altstadt is a cluster of medieval alleys that rise from the Limmat River. The Spiegelgasse, a narrow cobblestone lane, winds past the WW1 Cabaret Vol­taire and enters a leafy square with a stone fountain. #14, a tall building with a gabled rooftop, has a commemorative German plaque saying that from Feb 1916 until Ap 1917, this was the home of “Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution.”

    When Lenin lived in the Altstadt, it was grotty. In Rem­in­is­cences of Lenin, Krupskaya described the dingy old house and smelly courtyard, over­looking a sausage factory. Luckily for Lenin, the owners were working-class people with a revolutionary value system, who con­demned the imp­er­ialist war. Today their rundown rooming house is renovated. 

    Lenin spent his days writing tracts in Zurich’s Central Library and playing host to a stream of fellow exiles. Lenin and Krupskaya strolled along the Limmat whenever the library was close. Hammer followed Lenin’s route on the riv­er’s east bank, gazing across the narrow waterway at Zurich’s landmark church and clocktower of St Peter. Famed for its unchanging Art Nouveau décor, the popular Café Odeon was one of Lenin’s favourite spots for reading newspapers.

    The Lenins rented a one-room flat in this Zurich block in 1916-17
    as the block appears today

    In March 15th 1917, a young revol­ut­ionary raced up the stairs to the Lenins’ room, yelling “There’s a revolution in Russia!” Appar­ent­ly enraged over food shortages, corruption and the disastrous war against the Central Powers, thousands of demonst­rat­ors had filled the streets of Petrograd, clashing with police; soldiers loyal to the czar switched their support to the prot­es­ters, forcing Nich­ol­as II to abdicate. The family was placed under house arrest. The Russian Provisional Gov­ern­ment had taken over, sharing power with the local Petrograd Soviet. Sov­iets/committees, made up of industrial workers and soldiers had begun to form across Russia.

    Lenin made plans to return home. He pro­mised to pull Russia out of the war and to eliminate private property. “The people need peace, the people need bread, the people need land. And the Prov­isional Government gives you war, hunger, no bread” he declared.

    Lenin, joined by 29 other revolutionary exiles, waited for the train from Zurich to Russia in April 1917 where he planned to take power on behalf of the prol­etariat. Other Russians was enraged that the revolutionaries had arr­an­ged passage by negotiating with the German enemy.” Did German financiers secretly fund Lenin and his circle, at the very time the German gov­ern­ment was in a brutal war against Russia? It didn't matter. Lenin travelled in a sealed train, one that moved internationally without its passengers being recognised as entering or leaving the nations they crossed. 100 years ago later, Joshua Hammer decided to retrace Lenin’s trip, curious to see how the great Bolshevik imprinted himself on Russia and the nations he passed through, on this epic train trip.

    On board Lenin wrote by telegram to the Bolsh­eviks in the Petrograd Soviet, urging no comp­rom­ise: “Our tactics: no support to the new government;...arming of the proletariat the sole guarant­ee; no rapprochement with other parties.”

    A Deutsche Bahn regional train second-class compartment took Hammer across Germany to the Baltic port of Rostock. Stepping onto the deck on a cold, drizzly night, he passed the last jetty and headed into the open sea, bound north for Trelleborg Sweden. The sea was rougher when Lenin made the crossing aboard a Swedish ferry, but Lenin had stayed outside anyhow, joining others in revolut­ion­ary anthems.

    SwedenPloughing through the blackness of the Baltic night, Hammer could imagine the excitement that Lenin felt as his ship moved homewards. After standing in the drizzle, Hammer headed to his spartan cabin to sleep, before the vessel docked in Sweden at 4:30 AM. From Trelleborg, he caught a train north to Stock­holm, as Lenin did, riding past lush meadows and forests. Once in the Swedish capital, he followed in Lenin’s footsteps down the crowded main commercial street, to the elegant Hotel PUB. Swedish social­ist friends brought Lenin here to be properly outfitted, before his arrival in Russia.

    Across the canal to the Gamla Stan-Old Town is a cluster of medieval alleys on a small island, the site of another monum­ent to Lenin’s Swedish stay. Situated in the courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art, it consists of a backdrop of black granite and a strip of cobble­­stones embedded with iron tram tracks. The work honours an iconic photo of Lenin in the Vasagatan, wearing a fedora and umbrella.

    To the north, Haparanda is a lonely outpost in the Swedish Lapland tundra. It was once a thriving outpost for trade in minerals, fur and timber, and the main northern crossing point into Fin­land over the Torne River. Vestiges remain of the town’s rustic past: wood-shingle trad­ing houses; Stadshotell Inn; and Handelsbank, a Vict­orian building with cupolas and a curving grey-slate roof.

    Finland The horse-drawn sleds along the frozen Torne in Hap­ar­anda in April took the comrades across to Fin­land, which had been annexed by Czar Alexander I in 1809. They expected to be turned back at the border or perhaps det­ained, but they were warmly welcomed instead.

    In Finland the white dome of the C18th Alatornio Church rose over a forest of birches. Inside the monumental neo-Classical brick railroad station, the waiting room has a bronze plaque mounted on a blue tile wall: “Here Lenin passed through Haparanda on April 15th 1917, on his way from exile in Switzerland to Petrograd in Russia.”

    Hammer spent the night in bleak Kemi, walking in the freezing rain through the deserted streets to a concrete-block hotel near the water­front. Then he took the train south to Tampere, a riverside city where Lenin briefly stopped on his way to Petrograd. Later the Finns turned the Work­ers’ Hall meeting room into a Lenin Museum, filling it with Lenin souvenirs.

    Enthusiastic crowds welcomed Lenin to Finland Station in Petrograd, April 1917.
    Painted by Mikhail Sokolov in 1930
    Photo credit: The Economist

    As the train had crossed Scandinavia, watching the frozen ground endlessly flash by, Hammer “felt” Lenin, reading, dispatching messages to his comrades, looking out at the same vast skies and infinite horizon. In the morning Hammer boarded the Allegro high-speed train at Hel­sin­ki Central Station for the 3.5-hour final trip. He settled into the first-class car, sped past birch and pine forests and soon approached the Russian border. And finally into Finland Station, Petersburg.

    Russia Hammer followed Lenin’s route to Petrograd: Kshes­inskaya Mansion, an Art Nouveau villa. See the elegant block-long villa, interconnected structures built of stone and brick, featuring decorative metalwork and coloured tiles. This villa, including the office where Lenin worked daily until July 1917, was later declared a state museum.

    At first Lenin and his wife lived with his sister and brother-in-law, director of a Petro­grad marine insurance company, in Lenina St. The building’s curator showed the salon where Lenin once strategised with other rev­ol­utionaries. Hammer noted Len­in’s samovar, piano and a chess table with a secret com­partment to hide materials from the police. [The Provisional Government had turn­ed against the Bol­sheviks in July and Lenin was moving between safe hous­es].

    Smolny Institute, an early C19th school for rich girls became the staging ground of the October Revolut­ion. In Oct 1917 Trotsky, chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, mobilised Red Guards, rebellious troops and sailors, and prepared them to seize power from the now disliked Provisional Government. On Oct 25 Lenin entered Smolny, and the Bolsheviks swept aside their socialist rivals in a coup d’état. Smolny was chosen by Lenin as Bolshevik Centre (now a Museum) and remained his home for several months, until the national government was moved to the Moscow Kremlin. 
                                               
    Smolny Institute today
    with a Lenin sculpture in the foreground.

    6 months after his return to Russia, Lenin was the ruler of his country. Hammer had followed the trajectory of a figure that changed the world, even after Lenin died in 1924.

    In perfect time for the 100 year anniversary, Catherine Merridale wrote a fine book called Lenin on the Train, published by Metropolitan Books in 2017.









    0 0

    Otto Plath (1885-1940) was the father of poet Sylvia Plath (1932-63) but nobody seemed to know much about him. Scholars of Plath now have newly discovered FBI files, not knowing that biologist Otto had ever been investigated over alleged pro-German sympathies. Although Otto died in 1940 when Sylvia was 8, he exerted a lifelong hold on her.

    The FBI started in 1908. During WW1, FBI investigators' files revealed that this Alien Enemy was det­ained over susp­ected pro-German allegiance. Otto told investigators that his family got to the USA from Grabow in Germany because of the better conditions, but he defended his homeland.

    Otto apparently encount­ered discrimination at California University, and was passed over for a scientific post due to his birth in East Prussia, though he had moved to the USA in 1901 in his mid teens. The files revealed that he lost a salesman job for not buying Liberty Bonds to aid the war effort, and it was implied that he had a less than whole hearted attitude towards WW1 and to America. The FBI concluded that he was a morbid man who made no friends, and with whom no-one was really well acquainted.


    Otto Plath 1930

    When FBI officers noted Otto's morbid disposition, was that because he had a German character and a German accent? The FBI files recorded that Otto could not get teaching pos­itions. Later however, having graduated from North Western College and the University of Wash­ing­ton Seattle, he did obtain positions. Nonetheless they said that he had been turned down for assist­ant's roles partly because he has not the pers­on­ality that was required of an instructor at the University, being very nervous and not being able to interest students. Except for one, apparently - his wife.

    From academics who knew Otto, the FBI investigators reported that his scientific work was excellent. So the officers suggested his brooding was over the bad luck he was having making a living due to his nationality and that he felt persecuted. No wonder he was brooding. Unemployment was horrible for anyone, let alone a talented university graduate.

    In any case, being pro-German early in the C20th was not the same as being pro-Nazi in the late 1930s. Could it be that Otto simply missed the lost land of his childhood, the taste of German food and the country’s smells, sights, customs, language?

    Family life before WW2

    In 1932 he married Aurelia Schober (1906–1994 daughter of the Austrian Franz Schober), a young master's student at Boston University. That year a rather elderly Otto fathered Sylvia Plath, and later her brother Warren. 

    Peter Steinberg and Heather Clark told an international  conference at Indiana university: "Sylvia had a conf­licted attitude towards her own German-Austrian identity." Her mother was of Austrian descent. It helps explain this hard-driving, intense immigrant work ethic that Plath in some ways inherited. People talk about her perfectionism as being almost part of her neurosis.

    In Letters of Sylvia Plath: Vol 1 1940-1956, the first letter was written in 1940 when Plath was eight as a get-well note to Otto. He died six months later and she was shattered. I’ll never speak to God again, she told her mother. The determin­at­ion to regard herself as a victim, evident in her later poems, could be trac­ed back to Otto’s death.
     
    Sylvia, mother Aurelia and brother Warren, 1949 

    Sylvia’s earliest memories indicated that Otto was prone to depress­sion, which may suggest that he did indeed pass on a curse to his brilliant daughter. But her father’s premature death in 1940 was THE traumatic experience for the young girl, the most significant turning point in her mental health.

    In her journals, she suspected that he deliberately died to spite her. All her life she had been stood up by people she loved; daddy leaving her was the start of it. Even after WW2 was well over, Plath had mixed emotions about her father, writing in her journal in 1958: "He … heiled Hitler in the privacy of his home." She wrote in her vicious poem, Daddy:

    "I have always been scared of you,
    With your Luftwaffe, your gobbled­goo.
    And your neat mustache
    And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
    Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--
    Not God but a swastika."

    Otto was thus posthumously stigmatised in this poem. But was Sylvia Plath’s daddy ever pro-Nazi? Clark disagreed that Otto had Nazi sympathies before and at the beginning of WW2: He was a pac­ifist! Maybe Sylvia was mis-remem­ber­ing, or was angry towards him.

    Is was possible that young lass was angry, grief-stricken, aband­oned, mortally wounded – but still found momentary release in offensive, black comedy. Peter Steinberg and others wrote Plath’s poem Daddy seemed to make light of and cons­cious­ly used the prejudices against him.

    Letters continued from Smith College, Mass and then from Newnham College Cambridge, where Sylvie studied English as a Ful­bright scholar. And in her journals she unleashed a blitz of man­iacal self-hatred: She never loved Otto. She killed him. She was deadly as a cobra: What a luxury it would be to kill her, to strangle her skinny veined throat.

    From Smith she wrote to her mother “Graduate school and travel abroad are not going to be stymied by any squalling, breastfed brats.” From Cambridge she wrote with fury, denouncing Newnham undergraduates as “prim, scholarly little British bitches”, and longing to strangle them. The female dons at Newnham were “Victorian grotesques”, and her own “vital curiosity” was superior to the “grubbing detail” required for a graduate thesis.

    And mum Aurelia copped vitriol as well. In her diary Sylvia wrote brutally about her hatred for her mother, to whom she felt inescapably attached but whom she blamed for the death of her old father when she was eight.

    Plath married another poet Ted Hughes in 1956, and had two children, Frieda and Nicholas Hughes in 1960 and 1962. She suffered from depression for much of her adult life and committed suicide, at 30, in 1963. She had placed her head in a gas oven.

    Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, 1959

    The FBI files were discussed in Oct 2012 at an international Plath sym­posium at Indiana University. Readers can read the Conference papers as evidence, not of Otto’s pro-Nazi views, but of the conditions that ailed Sylvia. And read reviews of Plath's letters by John Carey in the Sunday Times and David Sexton in the London Evening Standard.

    **

    If the tendency to depression and suicide is genetic or learned, note that Plath's son Nicholas hanged himself at his home in Alaska in 2009. He was only 47.





    0 0

    I have just spent the best part of a week exploring Australia's Northern Territory which has one of the most extensive examples of rock art in this country. There are c5000 sites found so far and another c10,000 still waiting to be found.

    To me, Kakadu National Park was the most interesting and impressive site. This 20,000 sq km park has been returned to, and is managed by the indigenous owners. Aboriginals have occupied this area for c50,000 years ago. The simplest of figures eg shadows of hands & stick figures of kangaroos and crocodiles, were created over 8,000 years ago.


    Lightning man Namargon (centre) and his wife/sister Barrgini (below)

    The thylacine/Tasmanian devil is depicted in Kakadu National Park, but this animal has been extinct on the main-land from the end of the Ice Age, 14,000 years ago. Today the thylacine is only found in Tasmania, a much colder area.

    As sea levels rose 6,000 years ago, fish like barramundi and catfish were depicted, then crocodiles.

    Mythical figures began to be depicted at this time also, depicting figures of cultural significance to the Aboriginals. Until the modern era (late C17th) the aboriginals have had an undisturbed presence in this land. The whole of this vast continent of Australia was occupied by Aboriginals, divided into clans who shared the land with their neighbours. The boundaries were defined by the elders who handed down this information orally, from father to son etc. Although they were hunters and gatherers, they had their preferred camping areas, depending on the season.

    The clans did not have property, apart from what they could carry, so they developed their sharing culture as a result. And as they were constantly on the move and living off the land, there was no written tradition. The land and the animals were bound by culture to everything they did. When a child was born he became culturally tethered to an animal eg a kangaroo; the young ecologist spent his life caring for and protecting that animal and land.

    When they were at a camping area for some time, families depicted their culture on the rocks under which they were sheltering. The area at Kakadu where the art is found is under sandstone shelters, caused by splitting and erosion of the overlying cliffs. These galleries provided shelter for sleeping, washing and protection from the elements.

    Thylacine/Tasmanian devil


    Fly river turtle, 
    Kakadu

    The material that was used to make the art was found in the surrounding area. Ochre was ground up iron oxide rocks, which are plentiful all over North and West Australia; they were mixed with water, spit or egg to enable it to stick to the walls. Ochre seeped into the sandstone and lasted the longest. Ground up rocks such as lumonite (yellow), kaolin (white), charcoal from the fires (black) and others were used. Their brushes were made from hair, reeds or feathers.

    Their creation stories were depicted by the artists to be a record for the future generations. Images such as the lightning man Namargon and his wife/sister Barrgini depicted punishment for breaking ancestral law; they became Ginga the great saltwater crocodile. Other images depicted Mabuyu i.e stealing.

    Aboriginal occupation occurred across residual, detached parts of the Arnhem Land plateau around East Alligator River. Groups of Aboriginal people camped in rock shelters around Ubirr Rock to take advantage of the enormous variety of foods available from the river, flood plain and woodlands. The rock extension of the main gallery provided an area where a family could set up camp. Food items were regularly painted on the back wall, one on top of the other, to pay respect to the particular animal or to ensure future hunting success. Animals painted in the main gallery are barramundi, catfish, mullet, goannas, long-necked turtles, pig-nosed turtles, rock ring tail possums and wallabies.

    Fishes and turtle, 
    Kakadu National Park


    The art often appeared under sandstone "galleries"
    Ubirri Rock, in the East Alligator region

    There are dozens of art sites at Ubirri Rock, located mainly in shelters. Early paintings were painted over with large multi-coloured art. European buffalo hunters employed Aboriginal people to help them hunt; thus we can assume the buffalo hunters were painted in the 1880s.

    Mythological Rainbow Serpents were powerful Creation Ancestors that were known to tribes throughout Australia. At Ubirr the Rainbow Serpent is called Garranga'rreli. In her human form, she was called Birriwilk and travelled through this area with another woman looking for sweet lily roots. As she passed through Ubirr she painted her image on the rock to remind people of her presence. She rested in the forest at Manngarre, digging a hole in the cool sand.

    The Namarrgarn Sisters were painted at Ubirr pulling string apart. They lived in the stars from where they could throw down pieces of string, attach them to people's organs, quickly travel down the string, and make people very sick.
                                   
    Map of Northern Territory and Western Australia
    Press to find Kakadu and Alligator River
    From Map Top End Journey

    A painting by Mimi spirits can be seen high up on the ceiling of the overhang. Aboriginal people describe how the Mimi spirits came out of the cracks in the rocks, pulled the ceiling rock down, painted the yellow and red sorcery image, and then pushed the rock back into place.

    Rock Art is not being produced anymore but the Aboriginals who now own their land are taking great care to protect these ancient sites. Visitors who come to Australia will love to travel north to see the beauty and serenity of this untouched gem. And read Kakadu and Nitmiluk by Dean Hoatson et all, Canberra, 2000.

    Joe




    0 0

    Sacred sites in India have long been associated with water; the Golden Tem­ple at Amritsar seems almost to float in a vast shimmering pool. The pool was created from a forest lake, which the Buddha himself is said to have visited and at which the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, meditated.

    When the site later became the main shrine of Sikhism, the lake was enlarged and given the name Amritsar/nectar of immortality pool. Building of the Sri Harmandir Sahib/abode of God, began in the late C16th for the fifth Sikh guru.

    Golden Tem­ple at Amritsar and causeway,
    surrounded by a large pool

    Pure gold urns that line the terrace

    This Sikh place of worship welcomed those of all faiths and of all levels of society. It was constructed so that the architecture itself suggested openness and reflected the central tenets of Sikhism. Once inside, visitors had to observe respect by removing their shoes and washing their feet, covering their heads and refraining from smoking, eating meat or drinking alcohol. 100,000 people visit daily, especially for the huge canteen that serves free food. Sharing meals with strangers is important in Sikhism, being bound up with the principle of equality.

    The most important shrine in the complex is the Harmindir, built by Arjan Dev to house the holy scripture of Sikhism. In the C19th, Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the temple with gold. The dome, an inverted lotus, is decorated with gold and precious stones and the holy scripture rests on a throne. The complex also contains holy trees with special powers, planted by the first high priest.

    The other sacred shrine is the Akal Takht, which symbolises God’s authority on earth.

    The Guru is carried around on a golden throne

    Guru Granth Sahib/central religious scripture of Sikhism, 
    under a bejewelled canopy

    All about Sikhs has provided all the following information on Hari Mandir Sahib’s Art and Architecture.  Major Cole described the Temple as an adaptation of Mohammadan styles, flavoured with a good deal of Hindu tradition. Once taken over by the Sikhs, this synth­esis of Hindu and Muslim influences evolved into the wonderful Indian rococo art often seen in the Punjab. Instead of building the temple on a high plinth in the Hindu style, Guru Arjan had it built in a depression so that worshippers had to go down the steps to enter. Also it had four entrances, sym­bolising the fact that it is open to all faiths and castes without distinction; it is not elevated, so people have to walk down into it; and it is surrounded by holy water. The Hari Mandir, the causeway and Darshani Deorhi were probably completed in 1776.

    The main structure rises from the centre of the sacred pool, 150 metres square, approached by a 60 metres causeway. An archway on the western side of the pool opens on to the causeway, bordered with marble balustrades, and standard lamps set upon marble columns. The 52-metre square-based Hari Mandir, to which the causeway leads, stands on a 20-metre square platform. Its lower parts are of white marble, but the upper parts are covered with plates of gilded copper. Inside on the ground floor on a raised platform is the Guru Granth Sahib/scripture, placed under a gorgeous canopy and studded with jewels.

    The interior of the Shish Mahal is ornamented with small pieces of mirror, skilfully inlaid in the ceiling, and walls richly embel­l­ished with mostly floral designs. Further above the Shish Mahal is again a small square pavilion, considerably small both at its base as well as in its elevation, surmounted by a low fluted golden dome, lined at its base with a number of smaller domes. The walls of the two lower storeys, forming parapets, terminate with several rounded pinnacles. There are four kiosks at the corners. The combination of several dozens of different domes of gilded copper create a unique and dazzling effect, enhanced by the reflection in the water below.

    So the typical art and architectural features of the Golden Temple can be summed up as (1) chhatris-pavilions which ornament the parapets (2) use of fluted domes covered with gilded copper (3) balconised windows thrown out on bay-windows with corn­ices and (4) enrichment of walls, arches and ceilings by mural art.

    Maharaja Ranjit Singh repaired the principal building in 1802. To roof the temple with sheets of gilded copper, he donated Rs. 500,000 and the first plate on the temple was fixed in 1803 and completed by 1823. The archway under the Darshani Deorhi was embellished with sheets of gilded copper by the Raja of Jind. Being the central shrine of the Sikhs, almost every Sikh leader of any pretension contributed to its architectural and decorative additions.

    Amritsar's position on the Indian border with Pakistan

    Modelled on the Golden Temple's dome, a mammoth gate now greets those entering the holy city of Amritsar.

    The mural paint­ing decorations are floral patterns interspersed with animal motifs. There are about 300 different patterns on the walls, which look like hung Persian carpets. The only mural depicting human fig­ures is on the wall behind the northern narrow stairway leading to the top of the shrine, representing Guru Gobind Singh on horseback. The lower mural works were in embossed copper, ivory inlay and other materials, whereas the upper portions of the walls of the Golden Temple are covered with heavily gilded, beaten copper plates. The designs are Mughalish, but the introduction of human figures, never seen in Mughal decorations, reveals Sikh origin.

    The ivory inlay work is to be seen only on the doors of the Darshani Deorhi. The gate is made of shisham wood, the front overlaid with silver, the back inlaid with ivory. The silver-plated front is ornamented only with panels. At the back are square and rectangular panels with geometrical and floral designs, and animals.

    In June 1984, supporters of a militant Sikh were demanding the establishment of Khalistan, a separate homeland for Sikhs. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent in the army, but the supporters were well armed and hundreds of soldiers were killed. Event­ually the order was given to shell the sacred Akal Takht. Many more people died. Six months later, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

    The Golden Temple is a regularly renewed symbol, glowing in richness and colour. But as part of the essential machinery of a living faith, it is a shrine and not a museum.









    0 0

    Ingrid Carlberg’s book RAOUL WALLENBERG: The Biography has 3 parts: the early years; Budapest heroism; and the family’s post-war attempts to get him home. I have concentrated on the first two parts, backed up by Jan Larsson’s journal article. And from my mother in law who lived in Budapest in 1944-5; she would have loved this book.

    Raoul Wallen­berg (1912-?) was born near Stockholm. The family had been lead­ing bankers and diplomats for many years. His father was a naval of­ficer and a cousin of two of Sweden’s best-known C20th financiers and indust­rialists. But dad died just before the baby’s birth.

    After compulsory mil­itary service, in 1931-5 Raoul studied archit­ecture the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Then grand­pa sent him to Cape Town to train in a Swedish building mater­ials firm. Finally grandpa arranged another job at a Dutch bank in Haifa where Wallenberg met German Jewish exiles for the first time.

    After returning to Sweden in 1936, Wallenberg went into inter­nat­ional trade. Through the Wall­en­berg network of business world links, he was introd­uced to a Hungarian Jew, Koloman Lauer, who ran a Swedish based food import-export firm. Wallenberg spoke fluent Swedish, Russian, Eng­lish and German, and could travel freely around Europe, so he was a per­fect business partner for Lauer. Wallenberg was soon a major shareholder and the international manager of the Hungarian firm, making frequent trips to Hungary.


    Wallenberg’s diplomatic passport, 1944 
    Photo credit: Stockholm Jewish Museum 

    Beginning in 1941 Hungary had joined forces with Germany, against the Soviet Union. When the Germans lost the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, Hungary wanted to follow Italy’s example and ask for a sep­­­­arate peace. At that point, Hitler summoned the Hungarian Head of State, Miklós Horthy, and demanded solidarity with Germ­any.

    By early 1944 Hitler’s plan to annihilate the entire Jewish popul­ation in German-occupied countries was finalised. Only Hun­gary still had its 700,000 Jewish residents alive! Then the Fascists started putting Jews from the Hungarian rural areas into deportation trains to Polish death camps.

    USA's government-backed War Refugee Board/WRB wanted to send an emissary, under Swedish diplomatic cover, to save Hungary’s Jews. The choice of Raoul Wallenberg as the WRB’s emis­s­ary proved inspir­ed. In June 1944 he wrote to the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, ask­ing for dec­ision-making independence from Budap­est’s Swedish ambas­sador. Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson and King Gustav V agreed!

    Even before Wallenberg arrived, the head of Swedish Red Cross Valdemar Langlet was assisting the Swedish Legation. Langlet rented buildings for the Red Cross and named the buildings Swedish Library or Swedish Research Institute. They were then used as hiding places for Jews.

    Horthy hadn't started deportations of Bud­ap­est Jews, but the city's residents knew that their deaths would follow. Many of them sought help from the embassies of neutral states who did issue temporary passports to Jews who already had spec­ial ties with these countries. But it was too few, and too late. Wall­enberg personally intervened to secure the release of bearers of protect­ion documents from the columns of marching people.

    Horthy received a letter from Swedish King Gustav V in Mar 1944 with an app­eal to stop Jewish deportations. Horthy bravely attempted to assure that justice prevailed and the deportation trains were can­celled. Horthy even discussed making peace with the Allies, to halt the inev­it­able assault from the East.

    A Swedish Schutz-Pass/protective passport 
    identifying this Hungarian woman as a Swedish citizen 
    August 1944

    Hitler occupied Hungary, and the Fascist Arrow Cross seized power in March 1944. The new govern­ment resumed the dep­ort­ation of Hung­arian cit­izens on trains to the exter­min­ation camps. Note that the Hun­garian Nazis were feared at least as much as the German Nazis. [Post-war, all Arrow Cross commanders bar one were exec­ut­ed].

    When Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in July 1944, time was run­ning out. As first secret­ary of the Swedish dip­lom­atic mission with few resources, he quickly built up a team of helpers. Luckily his office was in the same building as the American Embassy. The WRB rescue mis­sion was an initiative from American authorities, created as an unoff­icial cooper­ation with the neutral Swedish government.

    Under Adolf Eichmann, the Germans had already deported 400,000+ Jews in freight trains; there were only c200,000 Jews left in the capital. Eich­mann’s plans to exterm­inate Hungarian Jews were rel­entless. So Wallen­berg issued Swedish schutz-pass/protection certif­icates to enab­le Hungarian Jews to claim immunity from persecution as “foreign citiz­ens". He interv­ened in Nazi and Arrow Cross raids to save Jews from tran­sport­ation to the death camps. He rented buildings and made them Swedish territory, to give hiding spaces.

    When conditions were desperate, Wallenberg issued a simplified version of his protective Swedish passport, a mimeographed page with his sig­nature! The new Hungarian Nazi government immediately ann­ounced that all prot­ect­ive passports were invalid. But Baroness El­izabeth Liesel Kemény, wife of the foreign minister, allowed Wall­enberg to get his protective passports reinstated. As the freight cars full of Jews stood in the railway station, he heroically climbed on top of them, ran along the roof of the cars and handed bundles of protective pass­ports to the occup­ants. He then demanded that those Jews who received his protective passports be allowed to leave the train!

    Hungarian Jews rescued from deportation trains by Wallenberg, 
    Nov 1944 
    Photo credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

    Wallenberg successfully used every tech­nique available to him, including forged docum­ents, bribery and blackmail. Yet in Jan 1945 friends urged Wallenberg to seek shelt­er, especially since the Hungarian Arrow Cross were sear­ching for him. He had been responsible for saving the lives of 30-40,000 Hungarian Jews.

    In Jan, Wallenberg approached the advancing Soviet troops, saying he was the Swedish chargé d’affaires for the parts of Hungary liber­ated by the Soviets. En route to Soviet military headquarters in Debrecen, Wallenberg stopped at the Swedish houses, to say goodbye for the last time.

    In the end Wallenberg had to place his faith in the Rus­sians; thankfully the Soviet troops did heroically free 100,000+ Jews in the seal­ed Budapest ghetto.

    **

    When reports showed that Wallenberg had disappeared, the Rus­sians first claim­ed he’d been murdered by the Hungarian Arrow Cross. Later the Russians admitted that he’d been swallowed up by the Moscow prison sys­tem in 1945. Worse still, the Swedish government did not help the Wall­enberg family get their son returned to Sweden, and they stop­ped the Wallenberg story appearing in Swedish news­papers. Sofar the Russian files have not yet been opened to historians :(

    Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Memorial, erected 1953, stands to the Jews murd­ered by German, Hung­arian and Ukrainian and other Fascists. The Avenue of the Righteous has 600 trees planted to honour the memory of Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews. Wallenberg is the best known hero there. In 1981 the late Raoul Wall­en­berg was dec­lared an honorary cit­izen of the USA, Canada in 1985, Israel in 1986 and Australia in 2013.

    The Raoul Wallenberg memorial 
    Linköping, Sweden.




    0 0

    As in other European societies, New Zealand women were excluded from any involvement in politics in early colonial times. Most people accepted the idea that women were naturally suited for domestic affairs i.e home and children. Only men were fitted for public life and the hurly-burly of politics. New Zealand History has provided the first half of this post.

    Some women began to challenge this narrow view. New opportunities were opening up for women, especially those from upper or middle-class families, in education, medicine, church and charities. Attention soon turned to women’s legal and political rights.

    The suffrage campaign in New Zealand began as part of a broad late C19th movement for women’s rights that spread through Britain and its Empire, the USA and northern Europe. This movement was shaped by two main themes: a] equal political rights for women and b] a desire to use them for the moral reform of society eg through prohibition.


    New Zealand’s pioneering suffragists were inspired both by equal-rights arguments of philosopher John Stuart Mill and British feminists, and by the American-based missionary efforts of Women’s Christian Temperance Union - WCTU.

    Some of New Zealand’s leading male politicians, including John Ballance, supported women’s suffrage. In 1878, 1879 and 1887 bills or amendments extending the vote to female ratepayers only narrowly failed to pass in Parliament.

    Outside Parliament the movement gathered momentum from the mid-1880s, especially following the establishment of a New Zealand WCTU in 1885. Led by Kate Sheppard, WCTU campaigners and others organised huge petitions to Parliament: in 1891, in 1892 and finally in 1893 tens of thousands of signatures were obtained, a quarter of New Zealand’s adult European female population.

    By the early 1890s opponents of women’s suffrage were mobilising. They warned that any disturbance to the natural gender roles might have terrible consequences. The liquor industry, fearful that women would support growing demands for Prohibition, lobbied sympathetic Members of Parliament and organised counter-petitions.

    The suffragists’ arch-enemy was Henry Smith Fish, a boorish Dunedin politician who hired canvassers to circulate anti-suffrage petitions in pubs. But this tactic backfired when some signatures proved to be false or obtained by trickery.

    The Liberal government came to office in 1891 and was divided over the issue. Premier John Ballance supported women's suffrage in principle, but he was anxious that women would vote for his Conservative opponents. Many of his Cabinet colleagues, including friends of the liquor trade, strongly opposed women’s suffrage.

    In 1891 & 92 the House of Representatives passed electoral bills that would have enfranchised all adult women. But on each occasion opponents sabotaged the legislation in the conservative upper house, the Legislative Council.

    In Ap 1893 Ballance died and was succeeded by Richard Seddon. Suffragists groaned, but following the presentation of the massive third petition, another bill easily passed in the House. Once again, all eyes were on the Legislative Council. Liquor interests petitioned the council to reject the bill. Suffragists responded with mass rallies and telegrams to members. They also gave their supporters in Parliament white camellias to wear in their buttonholes.

    Voting in Auckland, 1899
    photo credit: Ministry for Culture and Heritage

    For the women of New Zealand, Sept 1893 was a special time. Seddon and others again tried to torpedo the bill by underhand manoeuvres, but this time their interference backfired. Two opposition councillors, who had previously opposed women's suffrage, changed their votes to embarrass Seddon. The bill was passed by 20 votes to 18.

    The battle was still not over. New anti-suffrage petitions were circulated, and some members of the Legislative Council petitioned the governor to withhold his consent. In a buttonhole battle, anti-suffragists gave their parliamentary supporters red camellias.

    Lord Glasgow finally signed the bill into law in Sept. Women celebrated throughout the country, and congratulations poured in from campaigners in Australia and overseas: New Zealand’s achievement gave new hope to women struggling for emancipation across many countries.

    Not everyone in New Zealand rejoiced at the outcome. For some men at least, the prospect of such activists influencing politics was an evil thought. Men opposing female suffrage could only call in the aid of the women who would prefer to leave the game of politics to men.

    Suffrage opponents had warned that delicate lady voters would be jostled and harassed in polling booths by ‘boorish and half-drunken men’. But the 1893 election was actually described as the ‘best-conducted and most orderly’ ever held in New Zealand.

    **

    Invigorated by the New Zealand suffrage victory in 1893, Mary Lee and Elizabeth Nicholls, like many other WCTU activists, travelled all over the South Australian colony to obtain signatures for a suffrage petition. The WCTU suffragists were critical to the success of the campaign, first in South Australia and, eventually, nationally. So it is not surprising that in Australia, women were first able to vote in the State elections of South Australia in 1894.

    Western Australia followed in 1899. But it was only in 1902 that the newly federated nation allowed white women to both vote and stand for Federal elections on a universal and equal basis with white men. This dual right, the complete electoral franchise AND eligibility to sit in parliament, was what political philosopher John Stuart Mill called perfect equality. In New South Wales women gained the vote for State government in 1902, in Tasmania it happened in 1903, in Queensland in 1905 and Victorian women gained the vote for state government in 1908. Indigenous Australians were excluded from Federal elections for decades more.

    The Christchurch Memorial, made by sculptor Margriet Windhausen, 
    3.3 x 2m bronze bas-relief.  Unveiled 1993.
    The camellia and white ribbons were symbols of the suffrage campaign. 

    In the same year, 1902, Vida Goldstein was in Washington DC as Australia and New Zealand’s sole delegate to the International Woman Suffrage Conference. She addressed huge American audiences on one of the most pressing global issues of the day: Votes for Women. Alas by 1908 only Finland and Norway had joined New Zealand and Australia in enfranchising women.








    0 0

    When a new home for the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria and Albert) was needed, they used the estate rec­ently bought by the Commissioners for the Great Exhib­ition of 1851. The Museum was established in 1852 and funded by the financial surpluses from the Great Exhibition - to educate working people with works of art, and to insp­ire British designers and manufacturers. Sir Henry Cole (1808–82) be­came first dir­ec­tor of the V & A, with the approval of Prince Albert.

    The South Kensington site architect was Cap­tain Francis Fowke (1823-65), Inspector of Science and Art. Ignoring the contemp­orary fashion for Gothic architect­ure, Fowke chose a North Italian Renaissance style, two storeys high, with a grand Lecture Theatre complex forming the centrepiece.

    In 1861 designer Godfrey Sykes (1824-66) was invited by Henry Cole to as­sist Fran­cis Fowke on the buildings connected with the gardens and the arcades. Many of the decorative schemes in the North and South Courts were Sykes’ work, as was the choice of terracotta as the museum’s distinctive decorative material.


    Gamble Room

    The first decoration in the Lecture Theatre building, the showpiece southern exterior, was completed by Fowke and Sykes. The main feature of the red-brick, terr­acotta and mosaic-faced façade was its three large recessed ar­ches, supp­ort­ed by terracotta columns bearing figures. Portraits of key members of the Museum team and from the fields of art and science appeared in the mosaic panels and lunettes.

    The Gamble, Poynter and Morris Rooms were the three interlinked rooms that made up the lavishly decorated Museum restaurants.

    The walls and columns of the original Refreshment Room/now The Gamble Room, influenced by the Prince Consort's completed dairy at Frog­more, were faced with majolica created by Minton. Much of the dec­oration was planned by Sykes, just before he died (1866). The room was opened in 1867, when the décor­at­ion was still incomp­l­ete.

    John Everett Millais (1829-96) selected the original colours. But in 1874–5 the Gamble Room’s plaster ceiling was replaced by the Enam­elled Iron Co; they used sheet-iron enamelled in colours suggested by the metal advert­ise­­ments on rail­way stations. Thus the ventil­at­ion grilles were sur­r­ounded by very heavy, ornate enamelled iron plates.

    The windows and frieze were full of Victorian mottoes about the joys of eating and drinking. With ceramic tiled walls and columns, they were clean and easily washed for dining. As a precaution against fire, food for this main refreshment room was prepared in kitchens outside the walls.

    Henry Cole was also responsible for other innovations: the V&A was the first public museum in the world to be artificially lit so that workers could come in the evenings. This was to “furnish a powerful antidote to the Gin Palace”, to give working families culture instead of booze. Cole's concept of a museum restaurant was comp­let­ely new; as a way of getting people to enjoy culture, it was a world first for South Kensington. Even the Victorians, used to dazzle, would have been struck by the dec­or­ation.

    Poynter Room

    For the decoration of the smaller flanking rooms, in quieter colours, other talents were called in. Edward Poynter (1836-1919), recently successful at the Royal Academy, was invited in Nov 1865 to decorate the easternmost restaurant, the Grill Room/Poynter Room. Students were involved on a practical level because the glazed blue Dutch tiles, designed by Edward Poynter, were painted by a spec­ial tile-painting class for ladies at the Schools of Design. It was rare for women to train professionally, so for them to be engaged in this very public commission was progressive. This radical spirit at South Kensington possibly predicted the Arts and Crafts designs of the 1880-1910 era.

    Poynter designed the windows and also the iron and brass steaks grill which The Building News thought showed 'the hands of a first rate Gothic architect rather than those of a painter'. The Poynter Room was opened in 1867, fur­nished with little tables of iron with white marble tops and decorated like the great iron stove.

    Visitors could come here for breakfast when the catering contractor offered a long menu, divided according to social standing. The 1st class menu was elaborate and expensive; the 2nd class menu was more limited and cheap­er. The 3rd class menu was only available to workmen at the Museum.

    The western­most room, originally called the Green Dining Room and now the Morris Room, was designed by William Morris him­self. The subdued colours of the scheme show that at the time he was still under the influence of the Gothic Re­vival. He dec­or­ated the walls with panelling below the green plaster, and a low relief of olive branches. William Morris had been Pre-Raphaelite friends with Philip Webb, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and in 1861, they all became partners in the interior decorating and furnishing business. Thus the stained-glass windows bore female figures painted by Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb.

    Towering stain glass windows, lavish dark teal-stained wood and gold painted panelling adorned the Morris Room walls. Crisp linens covered the circular tables with matching green British Burleigh crockery.

    The Museum bought some stained glass from Morris, Marshall & Faulkner Co. and, along with the ceiling and panelled dados, the work was finished in 1868–9. Burne Jones' figure-panels in the dado, which were completed soon after, were based on the signs of the zodiac, and his windows designs showed medieval domestic tasks.

    Morris Room

    The rest of the decoration was by Morris' friend, architect Philip Webb. Webb took his inspiration from medieval and clerical sour­c­es for the frieze, and medieval manuscripts for the ceiling decoration. The four hanging lights were designed much later, based on a drawing by Philip Webb, and were installed in 1926. The only part of the decoration that was influenced by Morris’ pattern-making was in the plaster-work on the walls - leaves, flowers and berries.

    "The Building News" in 1870 found the rooms bright and cheerful, like the richly and gaily-adorned cafés of Paris. But after Cole's retirement in 1873, his planned building programme stopped. It was only in 1889 that public opinion demanded that the building of the Museum be com­p­leted .. somehow. The facades of the Victoria and Albert Mus­eum built in 1899-1909 displayed the museum as a treasure house of priceless objects in marble halls.

    The lavishly decorated, historic refreshment rooms that stunned and delighted visitors in the Victorian era were way beyond my personal taste. But as works of Victorian art in their own right, they are well worth visiting.





    0 0

    For those of you who remember 1956 clearly, Australian television expos­ed Annie Oakley (1860-1926) for the first time in a fictional American Western series. Featuring act­ress Gail Davis, each weekly programme lasted half an hour. My parents didn’t have a tv in the 1950s, but our elderly neighbours let the local children watch between 7-7.30 PM.

    Thank you Wild West Magazine for the historical data.

    Early Family life
    Phoebe Ann Moses was born to Jacob and Susan, Quakers who had migrat­ed from Pennsylvania to a farm in rural Darke County Ohio. Annie was the sixth of their seven children. In 1866 her father died, leaving her mother and the seven young children in poverty, so mother sent Annie to the live at the Darke County Infirmary/poor house.

    At 10 Annie become a servant for another local farming family. She stayed with them in dismal conditions for two years before running away, then she returned home to her mother, again in poverty.

    Annie did not live in the West but she first fired a gun at an early age. She ended up supporting her own family by hunting and trapping pheasants and quail, then selling the game to locals in Green­ville Ohio and to hotels.


    Annie Oakley as a teenager

    Marriage and career
    Annie met Frank Butler while he performed his travelling marks­man show in Cincinnati. Part of Frank’s act was accept­ing chall­enges from local marks-men, with bets being placed. Frank knew he was a beaten man, the moment the 15-year-old girl appeared to challenged him.They began a courtship and married in Windsor Canada in 1882. The Butlers began performing together, but Frank imm­ediately recognised that his wife, now called Annie Oak­ley, was the bigger draw. 

    In the early days of her stage career, Annie played with Frank at small theatres, skating rinks and circuses. While working for the Sells Brothers Circus in New Orleans in 1884, Annie and Frank met William Buffalo Bill Cody and performed with them for 16 seasons. Cody had her perform early in the show to help aud­iences get used to the sound of gunfire. She could shoot a cork out of a bottle at a distance!

    In 1884, Sioux spiritual leader and medicine man Sitting Bull, victor at the Battle of Little Bighorn, saw Annie in a theatre in St Paul Minnesota. Sitting Bull and Annie were happily reunited the next year as employees of Cody’s Wild West. 
     
    In 1887, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show travelled to London, as part of the USA delegation to Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The show stayed in London until Oct, giv­ing 300+ performances that helped Annie perfect her show­manship. The British newspapers went wild.

    When Annie and Frank left the Wild West Show in Dec 1888, she worked as an actress in a Western melodrama called Dead­wood Dick. The play was not a success, and by Feb 1889 the theatre company had folded.

    In mid-1889, they re-joined the Wild West Show for a tour of Eur­ope, beginning with Paris’ Exposition Universelle. Having no children, they toured Eur­ope whenever they wanted, including two more European tours in 1891-1892.

    Annie was a celebrity, earning more than other employees in Buff­alo Bill’s Wild West Show. They bought a house in Nutley N.J in which they lived be­tween their country-wide tours.

    In 1894, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley and the Indians perf­orm­ed in front of Thomas Edison’s moving-picture machine at the invent­or’s labor­at­ory in New Jersey. The public could go to kinetoscope parlours and cheaply view the early Edison films in peep-show machines. Anne was the first cowgirl in motion pictures, surrounded by faked gun smoke.

    Annie and Frank toured with vaudeville impresario Tony Pastor’s show in the spring of 1888. Then they re-joined Buffalo Bill for a spring run in Paris. At first the French thought Buffalo Bill’s whole spect­acle was faked, but when they saw Annie Oakley perform, they believed she was the real thing.

    Buffalo Bill’s Wild West played in 130+ towns in 1895-6. And in 1897 the Wild West played in Canada for the first time for decad­es. 

    Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, post marriage (1882)

    Retirement, 1901-26

    In Oct 1901 in NC, while the Company was headed to Danville Virginia to end the season, their train ran into an on­coming train. Annie Oak­ley was found pinned beneath the rubble and it took sev­eral hours be­fore she could be rescued. After touring continuously for 20 years, she retired from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

    Annie Oakley tried acting again, appearing as the lead in a play called The Western Girl, which opened in New Jersey in Nov 1902. She also taught shooting at exclusive gun clubs. Meanwhile her husband worked for the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, promoting its products to shooters.

    In 1912, Frank and Annie had begun building a retirement house in Cambridge Maryland where hunting and shooting remained a big part of their lives. The roof of the house was designed so that Annie could step out onto it and shoot game off the Choptank River.

    In 1922 Annie performed in a show on Long Island and was rumoured to be making a comeback, but in Nov, at 62, she was in a car accident in Florida and broke bones. Fortunately the steel leg brace she wore did not immobilise her.

    As a star with the stature and ability of Buff­alo Bill himself, Annie Oakley valued her platform to promote egal­itarian views about women. She believed that women needed to learn to be proficient with fire­arms, to defend themselves. Annie taught 15,000 women to shoot, and promoted guns as a symbol of female empowerment. [I love her feminist politics, but access to guns by any private citizen is now an abomination here in Australia.]

    Over the next four years, her health began to decline, and the couple returned to Ohio. In Nov 1926, she died of pern­icious anaemia at 66. Frank mourned so deeply, he died within 18 days.


    Read Shirl Kasper's 1992 biography Annie Oakley, pub­lished by University of Oklahoma Press. And visit Buffalo Bill Historical Centre which is a complex of five museums and a research library featuring art and artefacts of the American West, located in Cody Wyoming. 








    0 0

    The German Youth Movement, a cultural and educational movement that started in 1896, worried about the health of poor city youngsters. The children needed to enjoy the fresh air out­­doors and to be physically active in team sports and physical education.

    Now to the German citizen Rich­ard Schirrmann (1874-1961) who studied to become a teacher, graduated in 1895 and was sent to Altena in West­ph­al­ia in 1903. On a trip out of town, the students had to spend their nights in dismal barns or inappropriate village school build­ings. Schirrmann felt that students should see new sights and have new experiences outside the classroom, because people learned best by observation.

    Schirrmann had became alarm­ed, he wrote, at the impact of Germ­any’s ind­ust­rial revolution on students' health and welfare. So in 1909 he first published his idea of cheap and healthy over­night accom­mod­ation for young people. He rec­eived plenty of support, enabling him in 1912 to op­en­ his first youth hostel in the rebuilt Altena castle, above the River Lenne.

    Although Schirrmann’s first youth hostels in Germany had no con­nection to do with the German Youth Movement, timing was critical! Not only did poor city youngsters need to enjoy the out­­doors; they had to care for the hostel them­sel­ves wherever possible. This kept the costs down, built charact­er and a sense of independ­ence, and helped make new friends.

    Schirrmann served during the tragic WW1. But after the war, Schir­r­mann wondered if "thoughtful young people of all count­ries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other". So in 1919, he founded a youth hostel ass­oc­iation, and in 1922, he retired from teaching to focus entirely on his project.


    Leissigen Youth Hostel, Switzerland
    Cae’r Blaidd Hotel, Wales
    opened in 1938
    photo credit: YHA Archive

    The movement flourished in Germany, with 2000+ youth hostels operating before the Depression. By then the youth hostel concept had spread all over Europe and beyond! In 1932, a for­mal organisation called the International Youth Hostel Fed­erat­ion was founded in Amst­er­dam, consisting of youth hostels from Switz­­er­land, Ger­m­any, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, UK, Ire­land, France, Czechoslovakia, Denmark and Bel­gium. Under Schir­r­­mann’s chairmanship, the organisation grew and grew.

    These hostels provided budget-oriented accommodation where young people could rent a bunk bed in a dormitory, and share a bath­room, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Hostels were often cheap­er for both the operator and occupants; many hostels had long-term residents whom they employed as desk agents or house­keepers, in exchange for cut-rate accommodation.

    Americans Isabel and Monroe Smith attended the 2nd world meeting of the International Youth Hostel Federation in 1933. The very next year they opened the first American youth hostel in North­field Mass. And soon the American Youth Hostels network had 30+ hos­tels through­out rural New England, primarily to serve out­door enthusiasts. Its growth re­ceived wide attention and the warm endorsement of President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1936.

    Ominous European political currents overshadowed much of the international movement in the late 1930s. Some hostels were closed, and others were appropriated by governments for milit­ary purposes. The operations of many European associations were suspended.

    By the time Joe and I were in Europe (1970-5) we stay­ed in youth hostels in Israel, Cyprus, Greece and every country en route to Britain. In any case, in the later C20th the needs of the modern-day traveller were chang­ing. Young people who travelled widely wanted more private rooms, better toilets and hot showers, and they wanted to book on-line.

    Today there are Youth Hostels in cottages, castles, mansions and in modern buildings, in towns and in the countryside. These sociable places are open to ev­eryone and they don't pay any kind of profit to private concerns.

    Great Ormond St Hostel, London, 
    Dining room 1936
    photo credit:  YHA Archive

    To show that youth hostels can be cheap AND fascinating, the Daily Mail suggested some great places. Guests go through the old triple portcullis gate­house of St Briavels Castle, Gloucs and into a secluded courtyard and walled garden. Then go into the West Tower for a royal welcome to King John's C13th hunting lodge. The Castle also boasts a Chapel, gallows and a prison. It costs £18 for bunk bed.

    Beverley Friary is nestled in East Yorkshire, in the heart of the market town of Beverley. Visit the Yorkshire coast line and nearby Hull during the day, and at night, retire back to beau­tif­ully restored Dominican friary (£13 a bed), cited in the Canterbury Tales.

    The Guardian recommended Abbey House in Whitby, North York­shire. Whitby youth hos­t­el sits on a magnificent head­land. The pastel-hued rooftops of the town are spread out below, while the North Sea crashes beyond the harb­our wall. And see the well preserved ruins of Whitby Abbey behind. The bedrooms (£18.50 per night) are very spartan, but the building is well preserved C17th hand-carved banist­ers. And note it was from Whitby that Capt Cook sailed to Australia.

    Ottawa Jail Hostel in Canada offers a unique mix of shared and private jail cells, as well as traditional hostel style rooms, starting at £12. Formerly the Carleton County Gaol Jail, it is an historic landmark in the heart of the city.

    Karei Deshe Youth Hostel, Israel


    Dormitory with bunk beds
    Kyoto Youth Hostel

    For an ancient castle overlooking Germany’s Rhine Valley, see the C12th Castle Stahleck which became Bacharach Hostel (£15 a night). This UNESCO World Heritage Site sits in the town’s main street that has also been restored to its Middle Ages glory - half-timbered houses, pict­uresque court yards and taverns.

    My own favourite is Karei Deshe Youth Hostel Guest House, situated on the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The guest house is built around a beautiful inner courtyard, with palm trees, lawns and great sea views. Each room has 2, 4 or 6 beds and each has its own bathroom.

    The Youth Hostels’ Historical Archive is now available at the Cad­bury Research Library, Birming­ham University. Re­searchers can access YHA’s archives which hold nat­ional and regional records, reports, handbooks, public­at­ions, personal memories and photos.







    0 0

    Rodrigo de Borja was born near Valencia in 1431; he was the son of a Spanish noble fam­ily who lived comfortably in the court of Aragon. The family did even better when Alonso de Borja, Rod­rig­o's uncle, was made bishop of Valencia. Later the very elderly Alonso became Pope Callixtus III in 1455.

    Alfonso, king of Aragon & Naples, pur­sued his own territorial aims rather than supporting the Pope’s war against the Turks in Constantinople, so Pope Callixtus determ­ined to app­oint his own fam­ily as the next king of Naples. He also put two nephews in as cardin­als, and made one nephew Pref­ect of Rome. The papal court started to look like a Spanish club.

    It didn’t last, but Rodrigo Borgia did well. He studied in Val­en­cia and then specialised in law at Bologna. In 1456, Uncle Alonso made him a cardinal, and then vice chancellor of the Cur­ia. App­arently this was a VERY lucrative position; Rodrigo held it during the next four pont­ificates.

    Rodrigo was endowed with bishoprics and abbeys around Rome. These benefices brought him so much money that he build the most lux­ur­ious palace in all of Italy. Rodrigo’s plate, pearls, his stuffs embroidered with silk and gold, his books were all of such qual­ity as would befit a king or a pope. He possessed more gold and rich­es of every sort than all the other cardinals put together.

    Rodrigo had many children, including 3 ack­now­ledged children early on, and another four (Juan, Cesare, Lucrezia and Joffre) with Vannozza Catanei. At 61, Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alex­and­er VI (1492-1503). So how did a man who openly made a fort­une out of his family connections in the papacy, and who op­ened fathered children all over Rome, become Pope? He brib­ed his way through the entire college of card­inals! They said of him "Alex­ander sells the Key, the Altar, Christ Him­self - he has a right to, for he bought them".


    Portrait of Rodrigo Borgia 
    by Cristofano dell'Altissimo
    Uffizi Gallery

    Pope Alexander VI wanted to make the city a fit­ting centre of world Chris­t­endom, using his prin­ce­ly pat­ron­age to dis­play family pow­er. The two parts of Rome (the Vatican and the main city) were re­planned and expanded, with imposing new build­ings and monu­ments. Roads between the major churches were straight­ened, and important gates and bridges made pilgrimage and relig­ious proc­essions easy. The new St Peter's dominated the Vatican district, and the popes domin­ated St Peter's. Rome's population doub­led.

    But somehow we mostly seem to remember his nepotism. Nepotism was already widely practis­ed in the papacy; after all, a pope could trust his own family marg­in­al­ly more than he could trust strang­ers. But the Borg­ias rais­ed nepotism to record levels.

    Son Juan was made Spanish duke and married the cousin of the King of Castille. Daughter Lucrez­ia was left as regent in charge of of­­ficial busi­ness when the Pope had to leave Rome. Son Joffre was mar­­r­ied off to a Neapolitan princess. Teenage son Cesare was giv­en a number of bish­op­­rics, and on the day of his father's coron­at­ion, Cesare re­ceiv­ed the premier Archbish­op­ric in Spain, Val­en­cia. In time, Pope Alexan­der changed in his attitudes towards Spain, marrying Cesare to a French princess, and agreeing to par­t­ition the Kingdom of Naples between France and Spain.

    At the end Pope Alexand­er had been well; suddenly he and his son Cesare were des­pera­t­e­ly ill. Was it malaria? was it poison? Pope Alexander VI died and was buried in St Pet­er's, later to be moved to the Spanish national church in Rome, San­ta Maria di Monser­r­ato. He was buried with the other Borgia pope, his uncle.

    Sarah Dunant's novel, 2017
    In the Name of the Family

    So some popes were sexually active during their lives in the church; consider for example Popes Paul II, Sixtus IV, Leo X and Julius III. After all, the Second Vatican did not make cel­ib­acy a pre-requisite for ordination until 1139 AD. Yet when Sarah Dunant wrote on the campaigns of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503) in her novel In the Name of the Family (by Virago), it still came as a bit of a shock.

    Cesare Borgia’s military campaigns were at the centre of the no­v­el. As was Lucrezia third marriage, to Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara. I was not thrilled to read about the French Pox, which hit Naples in the 1490s, despite clearly understanding its shocking impact.

    Diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) be­came more central to this novel because he really did witness the fierce state-building methods of Pope Alex­ander and his son Ces­are Bor­gia. Another import­ant source of “information” for Sarah Dunant was the poet-scholar and Cardinal, Pietro Bembo (1470–1547).

    Can we learn history from imagined data, even if it sounds sub­stantial? And can we rethink the reput­ations of dis­rep­utable, defamed ch­aracters we have known for a long time? Donizetti opera pres­ented Lucrezia Borgia as a mass murd­er­er who slept with most of the men in her own and other leading families, as did Victor Hugo in his play by the same name. The Prince was a political treatise by Niccolò Machiavelli that proposed Cesare was a clev­er, ultra-ambitious and deceitful man who never did what anyone expected. Eventually “Machiavel­lian” has gone into the language as an ad­j­ective for this extreme ambition.

    One reviewer described in gross detail, how Dunant’s characters copulated, defecated and menst­r­uated; they got flu and suffered constipat­ion, sweated from fev­er, shivered from cold, and scratched at pox-scabs note what prostitutes used for greasy contraception and how people cleaned their teeth with vinegar mixtures. Mark Lawson also focused on dramatic natural events: sea storms, plagues and childbirth.

    Dunant’s novel about Machiavelli and the Borgias is a good way to learn Italian history, but don’t read it if you already know a great deal about this hist­or­ical era. You will feel obligated to make corr­ections on the novel’s pages, over and over again.






    0 0

    The Arabs de­clared war on the Tang Chin­ese forces and eventually crushed them at The Battle of Talas 751 AD. This led to the ex­pulsion of the Tang Chin­ese from Central Asia.

    While cros­sing Central Asia, dif­ferent routes developed. Kashgar in far Western China became the new cross­roads of Asia; from here the routes again divided, heading across the Pamirs to Sam­arkand and to the south of the Caspian Sea, or to the South into India. Eventually the road reached the shores of the Caspian Sea, via Tashkent. Thus the 8,000 km long Silk Road connected Beijing to Con­stan­tin­op­le via the movement of relig­ions and products. And Tashkent emer­ged as a major trading city en route.

    Friday Mosque

    Kukeldash Madrassah

    The rise of Islam impacted on Asia, separating the East and West. The Islamic State of the Ghaznavids (962-1186) extended from Persia to India, with Lahore as the capital.

    Timur/Tamerlane (1336–1405) was an Islamic Turco-Mongol conqueror. In 1390 Tamerlane ravaged Kashgar, Andijan and the intervening coun­try. Tamerlane was rec­og­nised as a great patron of art and archit­ecture, as he interacted with Muslim intellectuals. Tash­kent Mus­eum’s archit­ecture reflects the beauty of Islam, from his era on.

    Tamerlane’s son Miran Shah (1366–1408) was the father of Sultan Ma­hmud Mirza and the grandfather of Babur (1483-1530), founder of the Mug­hal Emp­ire that ruled South Asia for 3.5 centuries, from 1526-1857.

    Babur based his ad­min­istration on the Persian model; the Persian language be­came official. The birth place of Babur was not in Tashkent but in Andijan - see his house-museum, memorial and symb­ol­ic tomb. Also note that the Univ­ers­ity and a large lib­rary of Andijan are named after him. These days many streets, parks and monuments are named after Babur in Tash­kent as well. A small Tash­kent museum presents Babur’s life and work, miniatures and gifts.

    Chorsu bazaar

    Moslems played the part of middlemen in trade. Muslim architecture became the motor of the Turkic-Persian culture and, for the first time, Islamic religious and educat­ional facilities were established en route. Tourists to Tashkent will want to see Kaffal Shashi Maus­oleum, built in Imam Square in 1542 in honour of a C10th poly­math i.e a philosopher-linguist-Sharia judge-author-poet. In the heyday of Islamic Ren­ais­sance, the world was given hundreds of wonderful scient­ists, theol­og­ians and writers. Now the build­ing is the resid­ence of the Head of Central Asia’s Islam.

    Juma Mosque/Friday Mosque was built in the C15th. Af­ter the recent earth­quake, the mosque was completely renov­ated and looks modern. As 88% of Tashkent’s pop­ul­ation is Islamic and only 10% Russian Orthod­ox, mosques and Madrassas are well used.

    Next door to the Friday Mosque is the city’s Kukeldash Madrassa which was built in the mid C16th by Vezir Kukeldash. With only 38 cells for students, it was tiny compared to the ones in Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. It was built in brick; only the façade was décor­ated with geo­metrical tilework. The original square shape with a big portal, towers and a shady inner yard that enabled the mad­r­assa to be used as a caravanserai or fortress in more modern times. Only in mid C20th was the building restored as a madrassa again.

    On the other side of the Kukeldash Madrassa, Chorsu Bazaar is huge and crowded. Chorsu is the very centre of Old Tashkent where markets are held either under the blue-colored domed buildings, for clim­ate control, or in the open-air spaces. Alay Bazaar is one of the oldest bazaars of Tashkent, emerging a site on the livestock trade route. In the C19th, this space became a full-fledged bazaar and one of the most visited place for locals. This bazaar now has rows of foods and desert sellers especially Tashkent Plov, lamb stew and rice.

     Romanov Palace

    Alisher Navoi Theatre

    modern tramway system

    Hotel Uzbekis­tan

    In late C19th Grand Duke Nikolai Konstantinovich (d1918), cousin of Czar Alexander III, was banished to Tashkent for shady deals invol­ving the Russian Crown Jewels. His 1891 Romanov Palace still stands in the centre of town. The large collection of works borr­owed from the Hermitage back in Grand Duke Romanov’s days, to de­corate his palace-in-exile, is now in Tashkent’s Fine Arts Museum of Uzb­ekis­tan. See paintings, carved woodwork, metalwork, plaster and stucco work, ceramic tiles and exquisite textiles.

    Until 1865 Tashkent was under the rule of the Central Asian Khanate of Kokand; then the Russian colonial conquest of Turkestan was com­plete. Tash­kent became Russian Turkestan’s main city!

    In 1917 the Russian Revolution broke out, a terrible time for Tash­kent’s citizens, al­though at least Tashkent soon became the capital of the Turkestan Autonomous Sov­iet Soc­ialist Republic. In 1930 Tash­kent took cap­it­al city honour from Samark­and and became the green capit­al and largest city of Uzbekistan. So Tashkent has a] Uzbek, b] Imperial Russian and c] Soviet modern buildings.

    As German armies sped across the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviets embarked on a desperate attempt to safeguard its pop­ulation and industrial resources right in the middle of WW2. Soviet authorities transported people and indust­ry away from the western war fronts into the safety of the east. The Urals, Siberia, Uzbekistan, Taj­ik­is­tan and Kazak­hstan together received 16 million evacuees. With Tash­kent as the favoured dest­in­ation, this movement of desperate refugees remains the largest organised movement of civilians in hist­ory. I have a vested interest in this city - my mother’s Russian aunt and first cousin were moved to the hospitable safe-haven of Uzbek­istan during WW2 ... and survived.

    The present population of Tashkent is 2.5 million people.

    The city has immense buildings in the Soviet architecture style, a style associated with social, utopian ideology. After the devast­at­ing 1966 Tashkent earthquake, large-scale apart­ment blocks were quickly built to house the homeless. And grand build­ings were con­s­tructed, as well as the marvellous metro. The massive Hotel Uzbekis­tan, centrally located in Tashkent’s Amir Timur square, is a classic example of the 1970s Soviet style. This is also Cen­tral Asia’s most important political and comm­er­cial city, and trans­port­ation hub. Par­liament Building was comp­leted by 1997. The Nat­ional History Mus­eum, an impres­sive building with brilliant blue dome and ornate interior, celebrates Uzbek his­tory. And amazing gardens.

    Southern China Silk Road Tour spends 3.5 days in Tashkent and Sam­arkand. Nowhere else in Central Asia is as evocative of the Silk Road as Uzbekistan. In terms of architecture and historical sights, Uzbekistan still attracts the historically-minded tourists away from other neigh­bouring countries.











    0 0

    When I met my Czech born boyfriend (now husband) in 1969, I thought I better read some Kafka, listen to Dvořák and Janáček, and eat palač­inkas. It all worked well, except for the Kafka.

    Now the German sch­olar Reiner Stach's excellen Biog­raphy of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) filled in a lot of gaps. Stach spent 20+ years working on Kafka’s life, transl­ated into English. The biography started with Kafka’s childhood in the dying days of the Hapsburg empire in 1883: family life in the Prague flat, schooling, law studies at university and career as an insurance clerk. Alas young Franz’s relationship with his over­bearing father was horrible. Hermann Kafka was a stocky, ambitious and succ­essful merchant, while his only son was tall, thin and fragile. So they were physically, emotion­ally and intellectually opposed.


    Biography of Franz Kafka: Vol. 1 The Early Years, Vol. 2 The Decisive Years and Vol. 3 The Years of Insight

    Kafka knew himself well. He wrote “The way I am, I am as the outcome of your (father’s) up­bringing and of my comp­lian­ce.” He was reflective and introspective, and saw the way that confrontation sank into him. A crucial night occurred when his fat­her locked the child outside and refused his pleas for water. The impact of this traumatic scene repeated itself through Kafka’s life.

    For young Kafka, Yiddish was his family’s spoken language at home and German was his medium for school and written work. Yet Czech was the affect­ionate language used by his caregivers in childhood. So Stach emphasised that Kafka was a German-speaking Jew who matured in Prague at the end of the brilliant Austrian Empire. He noted the dress conventions of the Bohemian capital in Kaf­ka’s writ­ing and the cultured life of the coffee houses where writ­ers/art­ists got together, using local Czech and elite German.

    The divide between the two cultures of Prague was replicated in Kaf­ka’s mind, even as the heart of old Prague was being reshaped. The medieval Jewish ghetto was replaced with smart avenues and smart ar­chitecture. But a crazed mob of German students late in 1897 targ­et­ted the Jews. They looted homes, shops and Kafka’s school. This in turn provoked a counter-surge of Czech nat­ionalist riots targ­etting German shops, clubs and businesses in the capital.

    For Kafka, the Prague Riots created some­thing menacing in his city. The teenager was also increasingly fearful at school. For all his bril­liance in high school, he feared examinations and assessments.

    Even at university, Kafka was very intellectual but lacked confidence. He recognised that life trapped him yet he was certain that he could use his ideas to free himself. Kafka was a full-time Law student, writing on weekends at the Reading and Lecture Hall of German Students. It was here, in 1902, he met Max Brod.

    Max Brod and Franz Kafka (above) 
    Photo credit: Czech radio


    and with Felice Bauer, 1917 (below)
    Photo credit: The Guardian

    Stach said that Brod was a young self-promoter, net-worker and fashion-courting boulevardier. Yet on first meeting with Kafka, Brod saw something special. He began urging editors to print Kafka’s ear­ly works. The pair shared ideas; they travelled tog­ether through Switzerland, Italy and France.

    Kafka was exempted from WW1 service at the front because of TB, yet he was witness to unspeakable misery. In fact the diagnosis of his TB and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire const­it­uted a double shock for Kafka. He lost the financial security he had been counting on to survive as a writ­er. He began to pose broader exist­ent­ial questions, and his writing grew jagged and more reflective.

    Kafka gave a vigorous nod to his literary models and heroes — Fried­rich Hebbel, Thomas Mann, Charles Dickens and above all Gustave Flaubert, the cool writer who Kafka and Brod read together, in Fren­ch! And although he had written several prose pieces since graduat­ion, it was only with The Judgment, written in 1912, that Kafka felt he had made his break­through. Note that the story dealt with a young man who was condemned to death by his father!

    Was Kafka unknown in his lifetime? No! Publishers printed his books and begged for more, and he belonged to an influential band of writers who met in Prague’s coffee shops. But he was diff­icult to socialise with. He suffered from:
    suicidal thoughts,
    total lack of confidence in his own skills,
    disease and fear of dis­ease,
    very strange diets and exercise fads and
    a particularly un­skil­led love life.

    Brod introduced Kafka to his Prussian Jewish cousin Felice Bauer in 1912. She became the writer’s long-suffering fiancée, but when he contracted the TB that led to his death, Kafka broke off the engage­ment. When he ev­en­t­ually felt obliged to marry Felice, he did so in an 18-page letter that included a pathetic marriage proposal. Felice did re­cognise his miserable selfishness, and finally run away. None­the­less she held onto Kafka’s 500 deepest confessional letters! Some­times daily letters! Stach wrote tellingly of this strange literary friendship and its use­ful­ness for Kafka.

    How sad that Kafka finally met the right woman when he was 40 years old. Had he met Dora Diamant earlier, he might have finally been happily married.

    Kafka was resting at a sanatorium on Lake Zurich, a time that became typical of the long stays he spent at health clin­ics across Central Europe. He died of consumption at 40, and was buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague.

    Was Max Brod clever and insightful, or a mere hanger-on? Of one thing I am certain: Brod, who revered Kafka and adored his work, HAD to became the literary executor. Because very little of Kafka’s writing was published before his death in 1924, he luckily left his letters, diaries and early writings to Brod, instruct­ing him to burn the documents unread.

    If Brod had not refused Kafka’s direct instructions to destroy the unpublished manuscripts, we probably would not know Kafka’s name today. And not surprisingly it was Brod who wrote the first biography of his friend and prepared Kafka’s posthumous works for publication. Brod act­ual­ly collated, edited and published Kafka’s writing, including The Trial and The Castle– now literary classics. When Brod fled Germany for Israel in 1939, he took the documents with him. The two men's friendship was more important for us than for Kafka.

    The surviving documents were themselves caught up in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic tangle all its own. Max Brod’s estate, which was locked up for years by their elderly custodians (Brod’s secretary’s daught­ers Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler), was willed to Israel’s National Library. The irony of a Kafka estate being blocked for 39 years was not lost on Kafka readers, though in 2012 the final judgement ordered the papers back into the National Library’s hands.

    "Kafka, The Early Years" was written by Rainer Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch and published by Princeton University Press in 2016. The other volumes were published separately.






    0 0

    Malta (pop c370,000) is in the mid Mediterranean Sea, half way between Europe and Africa; Spain and Israel. So the country’s str­ateg­ic position attracted ev­er­y expans­ion­ist nation to take over the tiny Maltese archip­el­ago. The ancient Pho­e­nic­ians settled around the natural Grand Harb­our. But it was the Romans who govern­ed these islands for centuries and first built the city of Medina.

    Consider the 60 AD shipwreck of the Apostle St Paul. During his 3 months on Malta living in the Medina cata­c­ombs, he taught Christ­ian­ity and nominated Malta’s first bishop. In St Paul's Ch­urch, the catacombs were for Ch­ri­stian bur­ials and rock altars.


    In 535, the island was integrated into the Christine Byzantine province of Sicily. After arriving from Sicily in 870 during the Arab–Byzantine wars, Arabs ruled Malta until the Normans arrived in 1091. To con­so­l­idate their gains in Sicily and to prev­ent the Arabs from regroup­ing near Sic­ily, the Normans stayed until their dynasty faded in 1250. Norman King Roger II (1105-54) for­tified the Arab town of Medina. A Sicilian charter of in­de­p­endence was drawn up for the Malt­ese, par­t­it­ioning the island between the state, church and nobility, and establ­ish­ing a tax system.
     Fort of St Elmo and Fort Ricasoli fortified each side of Grand Harb­our. 

    Malta gained from the ex­pan­ding Med­it­erranean tr­ade cond­ucted by the riv­al co­m­mercial, mar­it­ime empires of Pisa, Gen­oa and Venice. Imp­or­tant sea la­n­es were sec­ur­ed for Christian shipping when Arab pirate ships were destroyed. And dur­ing the Crusades, the maritime cities organised the crusad­ers’ trans­­port and their supp­lies to Jerusalem.

    Because Malta had been Muslim, the Normans warmly en­c­our­aged the est­ab­l­ishment of Chris­tian comm­un­ities in the islands. One small is­land was given to the Bened­ictines for a mon­as­tery in 1151. A Norman cat­­h­edral was built in Medina which was similar to the great Norman ch­ur­ch­es in Sicily. Soon Franciscans, Carmelites, Augus­tin­ians and Dominicans est­ablish­ed themselves.
     
    Nave of St John's Co-Cathedral , built in the 1570s

    Frederick II Catholic Emp­eror of Germany had combined the Norm­an trad­it­ion of diversity and tolerance with pat­ron­age of Is­lamic arts and sciences. Only in 1250 did the repressive Aragon kingdom took over did the good times end.

    The Order of the Hospital of St John mil­it­arily de­fended pil­grims in Jerus­alem ag­ain­st Mos­lem attacks. But Saladin's forces even­t­ually de­feated them and they withdrew to Acre. In 1291 they mov­ed their base to Cyprus. Then in 1306 they became The Knights of Rhodes. When Suleiman the Magnificent ruled in 1521, he expelled the Knightly Order and Emperor Ch­arles V offered them Malta instead. From 1521-1798, they were the Knights of Mal­ta.

    Malta suffered frequent attacks by the dread­­ed Ottoman Turks so they built the star-shaped Fort of St Elmo, to for­t­ify the harbour. By 1530 they’d rein­for­c­ed the St Ang­elo stronghold. Fort St Ang­elo was held by the Fr­ench during the Napole­o­n­ic wars, then by the Brit­ish and is now a National War Mus­eum. Eventually another massive fortress was needed on Grand Harb­our’s southside - Fort Ricasoli.

    The Ottoman Turkish invaders struck again in May 1565: the Great Siege of Malta was one of their most glorious, trag­ic moments. Tens of thousands of Turks fought a pitch battle, and alth­ough the Maltese knights under Grand Mas­ter Jean de la Valette were out­num­bered, the Turks still couldn’t penetr­ate Grand Harbour for mon­ths. “Lifting the Great Siege” is still memorialised every Sept.

    The Knights, devout, aristocratic and warlike, formed one of the most powerful and rich groups in Europe. But they lacked permanent HQs, and with incr­eas­ingly frequent skirmishes against the Ottomans, protection was need­ed. Grand Master La Vallette started const­ruct­ion of a new walled city: Vall­etta. Pope Pius V and King Philip II of Spain both gave aid and the Pope sent a military eng­ineer in 1566. 8,000 workers started building Valetta: Maltese, slaves and foreigners.

    By 1571 the knights tran­s­ferred their residence to the new capit­al. In order to pre­serve ea­ch­’s identity, each Langue-language group paid for and built its own Auberge-residential inn. Each had a church att­ac­h­ed. The knights needed city buildings, gardens, public fest­iv­als, moats, massive walls and 50 guns. The old capital, Medina, lost its population and importance.

    St John's Co-Cathedral 1573-7 has an austere rectangular ext­er­ior, but inside is a blaze of Baroque: carv­ing, gilt work, inlaid marble and knightly armorials. The mass­ive bar­r­el vault (1660s) show­s ep­is­­odes from St John the Baptist’s life. The nave is flanked by the 7 sumpt­uous Langues’ chap­els and marble knightly tombs. The Cathed­ral Orat­ory has Ca­r­avag­gio’s masterpiece Behead­ing of St John 1608 and his St Jerome is in a side chapel.
     
    Valletta, rebuilt after WW2 bombing.

    The monks needed a library, so in 1555 a HUGE building was er­ec­ted next to the cathedral. It later became the National Library.

    In the 1570s the Grand Mas­ter's Pal­ace was built. Later Grand Mast­ers en­lar­g­ed the Palace, had their por­t­raits and names honour­ed on palace walls and built the Chapel of Our Lady. When the Br­it­ish ru­l­ed Malta, the British Governor lived in the same palace. Approp­r­iat­ely it is now the seat of the Maltese Parliament.

    Jesuit College, opened in 1592, was la­ter empowered by Pope Gregory XIII to confer Masters and Doct­or­at­es of Divin­ity. With the 1675 plague, the Grand Master appointed a lect­urer in Anatomy and Surg­ery at Sacra In­firm­ary and built a medical library. After the Jes­uits were expelled in 1768, the Grand Mas­ter appr­opr­iated the Jes­uits’ properties and estab­lish­ed The Univers­ity of Malta.

    A lovely guest house of the Knights in Valletta was la­ter used by the British fleet as their head­quar­t­ers. Only in 1974 did it become the Nation­al Mus­eum of Fine Arts, with C15th-18th Italian pain­t­­ings.
     
    Water front, Valletta
    Important for hotels, tourism, water-related sports and fishing

    When Napoleon's troops arrived in the 1790s, the Knights of Malta did not want to fight fellow Christians and fellow French­men. So they voluntarily left Malta for good. The Brit­ish took over Malta in 1814 and Eng­li­sh was made the first offic­ial lang­uage of Malta. Malta was not granted self-government until 1921 but Valletta was already beautiful, steep, Baroque and water fronted.

    Perfect timing! Valletta is hosting the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018. Thank you to Lonely Planet for the photos.






    0 0

    I have happily read the book Acland Street: The Grand Lady of St Kilda, written by Dr Judith Buck­rich (Nov 2017). It ex­plores the history of architecture on Acland St, starting from the 1850s and early settlement, through swamps, race courses, development of the Acland St village, Vict­orian prosperity and boarding house poverty.

    Buckrich searched the archives and inter­viewed famous peop­le from the Melbourne Jewish community who had a connection to Acland St. She recognised that the street was one of Melbourne's most important because it mirrored so much of the social change that occurred in Australian cities over 175 years. It encapsulated the social and cultural history of the city in a unique way, having been part of Melbourne’s entertainment scene for decades, as well as home to the wealthiest and poorest of its citizens.

    The Melbourne suburb of St Kilda was named after Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Baronet (1787–1871) of Killerton Manor in Devon, a British politician and land owner. He owned the cruiser yacht Lady of St Kilda from 1834-40, after which the area was named during one of the ship's visits to Melbourne in 1842. His wife Lady Lydia Hoare was the first English lady to set foot in St Kilda.

    This land was once shrubland, lagoons and dunes. For its traditional owners, the Kulin Nation, the St Kilda Triangle was part of an area called Euroe Yroke. After Europ­ean settlement, St Kilda became a bustling seaside suburb, and the Triangle site became a recreat­ional space for decades.


    Acland St StKilda 2015.
    Shops and cafes on either side, cars and trams down thecentre

    Acland St StKilda 2017
    Cars can no longer drive through. Trams must turn around at the end of the street.


    St Kilda became a municip­al­ity in 1857, and in the same year a railwayline was built connecting it to Melbourne’s city cen­t­re. Regular train services resulted in increased visitors to St Kilda’s sea baths, jetty prom­en­ade, cricket, bowling clubs and the St Kilda Cup. By the mid-1860s, St Kilda had 15 residential hotels, including the famous George Hotel.

    During the 1880s land boom, it became a densely pop­ulated dis­t­rict of large stone mansions and palatial hotels, mostly along the broad Fitzroy, Grey and Acland streets. From the 1890s, many mansions became boarding houses and brothels.
    After WW1, the suburb was a magnet for Eur­op­ean migr­ants and singles from less acc­eptable sub-cul­tures. There were artists, musicians, writ­ers, the LGB com­m­unity and anyone who was poor but wanted the joys of seaside life. This suburb of con­trasts was, and is, impossible to pin down economically and socially.

    After the opening of the cable tramway in 1891, the St Kilda Foreshore Committee was formed by the government to make their area into a Mediterranean seaside resort. Carlo Catani was contracted to prepare a masterplan for St Kilda’s beaut­ification in 1906. Catani’s famous leisure precinct along the bay, as far as Point Ormond, included notable features like the Sea Baths (1910), Luna Park (1912), Palais de Danse I (1913), Palais de Danse II (1926) and Palais Theatre (1927).

    European migrants and refugees were arriving by 1946, often taken there straight off the boat - they gave the street a totally cosmopolitan flav­our! And Jews like my par­ents, who had been living in Carlton before the war, started to migrate south to St Kilda, Elwood and Caulfield. They too frequent­ed the cafés, delicatessens and cake shops in Acland St.

    Sund­ays mornings was standing-room only as Jewish men gathered on the street to sort out the politics of the day, eat latkes at Café Scheherazade, buy kugelhopf from Monarch and the latest novels from the Balberyszski Bookshop.  Monarch opened in 1934 and was the first of the cake shops here. Two doors away was Scheherazade Coffee Lounge, founded in 1958 by Avram and Masha Zeleznikow who had migrated from Par­is a few years ear­lier. Regulars ordered traditional fare like gefilte fish, chopped chicken liver, potato latkes and kreplach.

    Modern visitors to the continental cake shops in Acland St find reminders of a dwindling European-Jewish ambience; alas (for me) the cul­tural shift has led to the departure of small, but important businesses. Today Balberszki book sellers, Wielunski milk bar, Berioska, Eilat and Carmel restaurants, the Budapest delicat­essen, Eat-More Poultry are gone, while Chinese businesses such as Fairy Stork restaurant are going too. The cake shops that were bastions of yesteryear, are now part of a gradual shift from “remnant European” to a "more international beachside" culture.

    Acland St cake shops,
    inside and outside tables


    More recently the Palais de Danse III opened on the Triangle site, and was later renamed Palace Entertainment Cen­tre. Des­troyed by fire in 2007, a masterplan was later approv­ed by Council incorporating repairs to the Palais Theatre and a redevelopment of the Triangle site. Trad­ers fear that Acland St will lose its distinctiveness. Nonetheless it is still a colourful street adorned with art on the footpath and an ass­ort­ment of talented street performers. In Aug 2014, the Coun­cil and the community delivered a project for the St Kilda Triang­le site.

    In the book, Acland St's cake shops provided a link to St Kilda's European heritage, and to my childhood. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, my parents and their friends spent Sun­day afternoons eating cheesecake and sour cream in East Euro­pean restaurants, especially Scheherazade. The best year was 1956 when my father was integrally involved in the Melbourne Olympic Games. He arranged outings for the homesick Is­raeli team (all 3 athletes and some older managers) in Acland St.

    Happily the fab­ul­ous Esplanade Market is still open every Sunday. There's also live enter­tain­ment, good food and an attractive atmosphere at famous local bar/restaurant, the Vine­yard. And Luna Park of course.







    0 0

    The women’s suffrage movement in Britain had been fractured in 1903. This was when Emmeline Pankhurst led a break­away group from the Nat­ional Union of Women’s Suffrage Societ­ies, arguing that it had become too content waiting for male approval, rather than actively demanding women’s rights. The militant Women’s Social and Political Union, run by the Pankhursts, had begun disrupting political meetings attended by prominent MPs. The suffragettes’ tact­ics reawakened public interest in the issue, but the Pankhursts were often seen as overly autocratic.

    Robert Wainwright* wrote of a young actress named Muriel ­Matters (1877-1969) who grew up in South Australia. The art of elocution back then required its exp­on­ents to weave a tale onstage, often set to music or poetry. Muriel trained with Lionel Logue, a family friend who later helped the stuttering King George VI.

    From an Australian state where women got the vote in 1894, Mur­iel arr­ived in London with little money, some let­ters of intro­d­uct­ion and dreams to become a West End star. At 28 Mur­iel was an intell­ect­ual, reinforced by other intellectuals who im­bued her with soc­ial­ist ideals. Two people were important in encour­aging Muriel’s radical thinking – a] British jour­nalist WT Stead and b] Peter Prince Kropotkin, exiled Rus­s­ian revol­ut­ionary, who persuaded her to use her orat­ory skills “for the greater good”.

    Muriel’s new direction emerged when she joined the Women's Free­dom League/WFL. She led a campaign to protect young female act­resses and stagehands from exploitation at the hands of low-paying, pred­atory agents and production com­panies. Her enthus­iasm, eloquence and magical voice had to be used for the cause. Muriel’s magnetism, the WFL committee agreed, would be wasted if she was just speaking in town halls to the converted.

    Robert Wainwright's 2017 book
    Miss Muriel Matters: .... One of Lond­on’s Most Famous Suffragists 
    Note the "Votes for Women" airship in the background

    Instead she needed to do mobile recruitment, talking in regional areas. In 1908, Muriel travelled on a horse-drawn caravan from town to town, speak­ing in halls and fields, standing on town mem­orials to speak to hundreds of listeners. Unfortunately she had to be flanked by police, given the attendant male violence.

    Womens’ Sunday was the first monster meeting to be organised by the Women's Social and Political Union. Specially chartered trains transported suffragettes from across Britain to march in proces­s­ions through central London, rallying in Hyde Park. Platforms were erected for 80 speakers to address the crowds; 300,000-500,000 saw the delegates dressed in the suffragette tricolour and carrying embroidered banners.

    How appropriate that another Australian, artist Dora Meeson, was an active member of the Brit­ish Artists' Suffrage League. Dora designed and painted the banner used in the 1908 parade. It depicted a young woman personify­ing Australia, implor­ing a mature woman repres­enting Britain.

    Parliament became the focus of suffragist protest and the WFL were looking for a high-profile statement. They created a series of pro­tests out­side Parliament, to divert att­ention from the pro­­t­est­ers in­side; Muriel would be their non-violent champion and leader.

    In Oct 1908 Muriel brought a chain into the House of Commons under her dress. Just as the MPs start­ed deb­ating a fin­ance bill, Muriel locked her­self to the iron grille in the lad­ies' gallery, used to obs­cure the wom­en’s view of parliamentary de­bates. After her speech about women's rights and still att­ached to the grille, Muriel was charged with disorderly conduct and gaoled in Holl­oway.

    In Feb 1909 Muriel Matters was hoisted into a wicker basket beneath an air­ship. The basket was loaded up with WFL leaflets, to be dropped over King Edward VII as his golden carriage moved down The Mall. But the wind conditions and the primitive balloon-motor ensured she never made it to West­minster. Never­theless her exploit created headlines in newspapers everywhere.

     Muriel travelled on the WFL's horse-drawn caravan 
    Hundreds of people gathered in each town to listen

    In 1910 Muriel returned to Australia and lectured about feminism and socialism. With another Austral­ian, Vida Goldstein, Muriel secured a res­olution from the Australian Senate to the British prime minister, celebrating the enfranch­isement of Australian women.

    She returned to Britain and broadened her invol­ve­ment from suf­frage .. to impoverished families. For the next two years she lived in the grim slums of London’s Lambeth as a jour­n­alist, writing for a ­Christian newspaper. She contin­ued making speeches and became involved in ­Ireland and Scotland’s indus­t­rial tur­moil. She criticised sweat shops and advocated women's unions, equal divorce laws, equal pay and support for unmarried mothers.

    So why was the remarkable Muriel Matters not hugely famous? Part of her problem in Australia was that white women in Aust­ralia already had the vote and had moved on. Plus we have to assume that the Australian press was largely conser­vative during Matt­ers’ life here. Editors might have been offended by coverage of an unknown Australian woman’s attack on Mother Britain. We all know about the colonial cringe ☹

    Even in Britain, Muriel Matters faced a few problems. Firstly she was from the colonies, not a real Brit. Secondly she was not one of the Pankhurst People. Third­ly she was against WW1, much to the horror of many suffragettes. Finally she married a div­orc­ed man who possibly left his wife for her. Scandal!

    With WW1 in 1914, Muriel Matters became a pro­m­inent pacifist. This slim and vivacious woman with a mass of golden hair turned down mar­riage proposals from divor­c­ed Bostonian dentist Dr Wil­l­iam Porter, then finally mar­r­ied him in London. Marriage did not divert her att­ention tot­al­ly; she still organised a nat­ional conference of women in London to discuss peace and disarmament.

    Muriel had to spend energy on early child­hood educ­ation. In 1916 she attended a training course by It­al­ian educ­at­ionalist Dr Maria Montessori in Barcelona, and soon this new child free disciple opened an early British Montessori school.

    At the behest of the prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, Ms Matt­ers unsuccessfully stood as a Labour candidate for Hastings in 1924. Nonetheless full suffrage for British women was finally granted in 1928. After retirement Muriel moved to ­Hastings, until her death in 1969, at 92.

    *This excellent book is Miss Muriel Matters: The Australian Actress Who Became One of Lond­on’s Most Famous Suffragists by Robert Wainwright (ABC Books, 2017). Or see an ABC 2015 docudrama called Muriel Matters!






    0 0

    Some history
    Acre/Akko was conquered by Pharaoh Ramses II (1279-1213 BC), then by the Greeks, the Persians and the Syrian Sel­eucids. Herod the Great and Roman Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD) used Akko and Caesarea for their campaign. The town pros­pered in Byzantine times and Om­mayad times, when it was the port for their capital in Damascus.

    The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and Akko in 1104. They renamed it St Jean d'Acre and made it the head quarters of the Knights of St John. The Italian port cities est­ablished trading posts in Acre, and made it a flourishing port. After Jerusalem fell in 1187, Acre became the large capital of the Crusader kingdom. In 1219 St Fran­cis of Assisi visited the town and estab­lish­ed a nun­nery. In 1228 Emperor Freder­ick II landed here during his Crus­ade, as did Louis IX of France in 1250. Soon afterwards there was a bitter civ­il war, between the two Christian orders, The Knights Hospital­l­ers of St John and The Templars. In 1290, the Crusaders slaught­ered large num­bers of Muslims. When the Mameluke Sultan arrived in 1291, the Crusader kingdom ended.


    Fortified walls around the Old City 

    Crusader knights' hall - the refectorium

    Akko was not rebuilt until the Druze emirs took over in 1750. It was enlar­g­ed by the Bosnian Pasha  Ahmed el-Jazzar who ruled 1775-1805. In 1799 he withstood a siege of the town by Nap­oleon, with Brit­ish help. From 1833-40 Akko was held by Ib­ra­him Pasha who defeated the Turks with Egyptian forces but was compelled by the European powers to withdraw. In the lat­er C19th, Akko lost its importance as a port to Beirut and then Haifa. Brit­ish forces captured the town from the Turks in 1918 and used the citadel as a prison. Finally the town was saved by Israeli troops in May 1948. 

    Visit the City
    With its carav­an­serais, fortific­at­ions and Crusader buildings packed in the narrow alleyways, history-lovers will be very happy. Akko's incredible surviving walls around the Old City are the town's most distinctive fortifications. They were built in their present form by Ahmed el-Jazzar in the C18th. Climb up onto the ramparts and walk along the walls. The northeast corner is domin­ated by the massive tower that stands on the foundations of Richard the Lionheart’s tower. Further south is the Treasures in the Wall Museum, which has a coll­ect­ion of artefacts from C19th Jewish set­tlers in the area. Along the sea-side wall, inspect the Otto­man Tower of the Vine, built to defend against sea attacks.

    Akko harbour was an important port from the class­ic­al age until the medieval period. During the Crusader era, it could be occup­ied by up to 80 ships. That port has now silted up, and all that is left is a small tranquil fishing harbour. From here the tour­ist boats sail out to give excellent views of Akko Old City. 

    Fishing and tourist boats in the Marina

    See the late C12th Hospitallers and Templars Fortress where vis­itors can wander through the strong stone rooms with vaulted ceilings. See the spectacular dining hall, dormitories and an­cient latrines. In the large courtyard, note the stab­l­es, the well and the etched crusaders’ tombs.

    In the underground Crusader Tunnel, the sea above is audible. The 350m passage or­ig­inally con­n­ected the harbour with a Templar pal­ace, prov­id­ing a secret esc­ape route to the sea during attacks. 

    Khan al-Umdan
    Built in 1784-5 by el-Jazzar Pasha

    Khan al-Umdan/of the Columns was named because of the granite and porphyry columns which Ahmed el-Jazzar brought from Caesarea. Built on the site of the Crus­ader's Dominican monast­ery, the khan provided travelling merch­ants with housing while trading in the city. Set around a large rectangular court­yard, the ground floor rooms were used for stor­age and stables, with the sleeping quarters upstairs. Over the north entrance is the clock tower commemor­at­ing a 1906 Sultan.

    On the Crusader cathedral site, Ahmed el-Jazzar Mos­que was built in 1781. The mosque has its tall slender minaret, a fine example of Turkish rococo archit­ec­ture with a mam­moth interior decorated in ornate blue, brown and white. A small plain domed building to the right of the prayer hall en­t­rance which had the mausoleum of Ahmed el-Jazzar (d1804) and of his successor Sulieman Pasha. The arcaded courtyard has a small rococo-style kiosk and accommodat­ion spaces for pil­g­rims and Isl­amic schol­ars. On the east side of the gall­ery, a cistern dating from the Crus­ad­er era ran a water supply for the populat­ion, whenever the town was under siege. 

    Akko's finest church, St John's Church, was built in 1737 and occupies the site of a C12th Crusader chur­ch ded­icated to St Andrew. Note the juxtaposition of its white walls and red bell tower surrounded by the crumbling stone walls.

    An C18th hammam/Turkish Bath now houses the Hammam al-Pasha Mus­eum with exhibits on the history and culture of Turkish baths. This preserved hammam has colourful til­es walls encl­os­ing the space where important men bathed and women held parties in a separate enclosure.

    Underneath Ahmed el-Jazzar's citadel is a series of gothic vault­ed halls, which were once head-quarters for the Crus­ader armies. See their Knights Hall and the Dining Hall, a series of nar­row subterranean tun­nels and a crypt. The grand bulk of Ahmed el-Jazzar's C18th cit­adel sits just inside the Old City walls.

    Ahmed el-Jazzar Mos­que 

    Akko’s Old Town Souk/market place is in the centre of the Old City and is a vibrant bazaar full of fruit, spic­es, tex­t­iles and souvenirs. Eat the Arab pastries in the bakeries! 

    During the British Mandate, the Citadel was used as a pris­on; today it houses the Museum of Underground Prisoners. This museum commemorates the Jewish fighters who were imprisoned or executed here by the British authorities.

    Lohamei Hageta'ot Kibbutz was founded in 1949 by Polish and Lith­uanian Jews. Now is home to a moving mus­eum dedicated to the Jew­ish resistance against the Nazis and the Holocaust. On the ground floor are disp­l­ays illustrating the history of Jewish Vilnius un­t­il 1940. There is material on the early days of Jewish nat­ional­ism at the end of the C19th, the everyday life of Polish Jews and an exhibit of art works by concent­rat­ion camp prisoners.

    Just north of Akko, the lovely gardens of Bahje Baha'i Centre contain the shrine of Bahu Ullah, founder of Baha'i faith. He was exiled to Akko in 1868 and spent the later life in the red-roofed house in the gardens. Just like the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa. 

    The World Heritage Committee inscribed The Old City of Acre on the World Heritage List in 2001. You will love this city, NaftaliTours





    0 0

    English King James I granted a charter to the Virginia Co. to form a North America settlement in 1606. The Virginia Co. was to search for local riches and a sea trade route to the Pac­ific Ocean. 100 colonists left England on three ships and landed on a narrow peninsula in the James River. Cap­tain John Smith chose the inland location to hide them from Spanish ships and to pro­vide protection from any Native American enemies.

    John Smith and the English colonists stayed near the Powhatan on nearby Jamestown Island, but later began to explore out-lying areas.

    In the meantime Smith terrorised Native people when he put guns to heads of village chiefs, demanding food and supplies. In fact the early 1600s were a horrible time for all local tribes. Young children were targets of rape, so the Native women offered themselves to men, to keep their children safe. The Powhatan people were in an unwinnable situation since the English government offered them no protection.

    The true story of  Matoaka (later Pocahontas c1596-1616) has been gathered from years of extensive research of the written records and oral histories from her descendants and tribal peoples of Virginia. Read Vincent Schilling who tells a tale of tragedy and heart­break about a young Native girl Matoaka who was kidnapped, raped and perhaps murdered by those who were supposed to keep her safe.

    Matoaka’s mother was Pocahontas (who died giving birth) and her father was Wahunsenaca, the tribal chief. Little Matoaka was raised by the Mat­tap­oni women, along with her many sib­lings.

    Matoaka was c10 when John Smith and English col­on­ists arrived. Since Pocahontas was liv­ing with her father Chief Powhatan Wahunsenaca, she seemed to be protected. In wint­er 1607, the colonists and Smith met with Powhatan warriors and Smith was captured by the chief’s younger broth­er. Later Wahunsenaca grew to like Smith, offering him the position of werowance/colonists’ leader, plus land with great access to game and seafood.


    "English" Pocahontas' portrait, 1616
    She was in rich red and gold, with white lace cuffs and high collar, pearl earring, and an ostrich feather fan.

    Years later, Smith alleged that Pocahontas saved his life in the four-day process of becoming a werowance. But children were not allowed to attend any sort of religious rituals, so she could not have thrown herself in front of John Smith to beg for his life. [In 1624 Smith pub­lish­ed his book General Historie of Virginia where he claimed Pocahontas had twice saved his life, but Vincent Schilling said it wasn’t true].

    In 1608-09, Smith’s role as the colonists’ wero­w­ance had failed. The colonists made inadeq­uate attempts to plant crops to harvest, and Smith violently demanded supplies from surrounding vil­lages. Pocahontas’ father was disgusted.

    When Matoaka turned 14, she choose a new name after her moth­er, Pocahontas. During a ceremony she danced a courtship dance with Kocoum, younger brother of Potowomac Chief Japazaw. She married the young warrior and soon became preg­nant. It was at this time rumours surfaced that colonists planned to kidnap Pocahontas.

    An English colonist Captain Samuel Argall was particularly keen to find her, thinking that a captured daughter of the chief would prevent Native attacks. Argall came to the village and demanded Chief Japazaw, Pocahontas’ brother-in-law, to give up Pocahontas or suffer violence against his village. So he relented in the ridiculous hope that she would only be gone temporar­ily. Before Argall left the village, he gave Chief Japazaw a copper pot as a “trade” for her.

    Pocahontas had to give her baby, Kocoum, to the women of the village. She was trapped onboard an Eng­lish ship and her husband was killed by the colonists. The tribal chiefs of the Powhatan never retaliated for the kidnapping of Pocahontas, fearing they would suffer!

    Pocah­on­tas’ anxiety was so severe that her English captors allowed sister Mattachanna and brother-in-law Utta­mattamakin to help. In The True Story of Pocahontas, The Other Side of History, Linwood Custalow wrote that when Mattachanna and Utta­mattamakin arrived at Jamestown, Pocahontas confided she had been brutally raped.

    By the time John Rolfe arrived in Virginia in May 1610, 600 colon­ists had been reduced to 70 by famine, disease and clashes. Mat­taponi history is clear that Pocahontas and Rolfe had a son out of wedlock, Thomas. Event­ually Pocahontas was converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca.

    During her captivity, the English colony of Jamestown was fail­ing. John Rolfe was under a 1616 deadline to become profitable or lose financial support from home. Rolfe sought to learn tobacco-curing techniques from the Powhatan, but curing tobacco was a sacred Native practice. Realising the value of aligning himself with the tribe, he eventually married Pocahontas.

    Only then did the Powhatan spiritual leaders and family share the curing practice with Rolfe. And soon Rolfe’s tobacco was a sensation; he saved the colony of Jamestown!

    The Powhatan tribal lands were now highly sought after for the tobacco trade and the tribe suffered badly of greedy tobacco farmers. Rumours of the colonists’ desire to take Pocahontas made its way to the Powhatan, who feared for her well-being. They thought of rescuing her, but once again Wahunsenaca did nothing because he feared his daughter might “be harmed”.

    Rebecca Pocahontas Rolfe travelled to England in 1616 with John Rolfe, son Thomas Rolfe, John Argall and some Native tribal members. The bringing of Pocahontas to Eng­land was to show friendship with Native nations; it was a key to continued financial support for the struggling colonists.

    According to Mattachanna’s record, Pocahontas realised that she was being used and desperately desired to return home. According to Jane Dismore, Pocahontas carried herself with great dignity. The Bishop wrote he ‘accustomed her selfe to civilitie’ and ‘still car­r­ied her selfe as the Daughter of a King, and was accordingly respected [by] persons of Honor, in their hopefull zeale by her to advance Christianitie’. Clearly she was very popular in King James’ court, and did not want to go home.

    Plans were made to return to Virginia in 1617 when Pocahontas was in good health. Yet at only 20 she died (of TB?) in March 1617 and was buried in St George’s Church Gravesend.





    0 0

    Since first writing about art stolen by the Nazis during WW2 and hid­den in various underground salt mines in Germany and Aust­ria, I have read everything I could on The Monument Men. When the Nazis found the Altaussee Salt Mines in Alp­ine Bavaria, for examp­le, they were delighted to ship their 6500 stolen art treas­ures into this salt-heavy, pastoral hideout. Today, ever since the film Monument Men appeared in our cinemas, tourists have flocked to the Altaussee Mines.

    When I heard of the Krakow Salt Mines Museum of Art on tv, I assumed it was another amazing memorial to art stolen by the Nazis during WW2. Wrong! Nonetheless it is fascinating.

    The Krakow Salt Works Museum is a large exhibition space in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Southern Pol­and, established after WW2. The mine, which continuously pro­duced table salt from the Middle Ages on, now consists of Two Worlds, A] an underground with a large exhibit in the salt mine 135m below and B] an above­ground in the Salt Works Castle.

    A] The Underground World is located in 17 historic mine work­ings, designed out in the 19th and early C20th. The museum has a rich collection of mining technology, inc­l­uding a collection of treadmills for horses, an early form of lifting gear which is displayed in its original environment.

    The tourist route takes up only 2% of the mine’s total length. The large Under­ground Salt Cathedral of Poland, with walls carved to replic­ate chapels from the earlier centuries, has chandeliers made from rock salt which have a glassy appear­ance, and rel­ig­ious sculpture. Plus there are historic and modern stat­ues eg Copernicus, Goethe, Chopin.

    Wide salt stairs, from which one can admire St Kinga's Chapel (started in 1896) in its full splendour, lead inside. Opposite the entran­ce to the chapel is the main altar with a statue of St Kinga, car­v­ed by Józef Markowski. The chapel walls are adorned with salt reliefs featuring various scenes from the New Testament and decorated by the Wieliczka miner sculptors. It is here that the only exist­ing underground salt-carved monument of Polish Pope John Paul II.

     Cathedral

    Chapel

    There is reception room that is used for priv­ate functions, including weddings. The chamber has walls carved by miners to resemble wood, to resemble medieval wooden churches built all over Eastern Europe. A wooden staircase provides access to the mine's 64m level and a lift returns visitors to the surface.

    Many shafts were dug throughout the time the mine was op­er­ating. See the preserved mining equip­ment, small under-ground brine lakes, and salt-hewn spaces. The underground ex­hibition features a unique collection of horse powered extracting tread­mills of three different types: Polish, Saxon and Hung­arian, and machines to haul the salt to the top of the surface.

    There is wide range of exhibits: specimens of beautiful salt cryst­als, ancient utensils for salt production, documents and maps, paintings and sculptures from the non-existent und­er­ground chapels, ceremonial mining weapons, a Miner’s Union Horn, a collection of mining lamps and tools illustrating the various historical stages of salt production locally.

     Żupny Castle

    B] The Aboveground World is located in Żupny Castle, built on the hillside above Wieliczka, started under the C14th reign of Casimir III the Great and compl­eted in the C16th reign of Sigismund I the Old. It was built in a square form­ation, in­cluding liv­ing quarters outside the castle walls. Until 1945, this defensive castle was the administ­ra­tive and business headquarters of the salt mine

    The Saltworks Castle has a great collection of salt cellars – the oldest, silver Baroque salt cellar was made in the C17th in Augsburg. The most interesting include the por­c­elain salt-cellars with figurines of African girls carrying baskets, made by the Meissen manufacturers. My favourite collection exhibits the small works of salt art: silver saltshakers and dishes, armoured strong boxes, bronze ornam­ents and the C16th silver-mounted horn of the Diggers Brotherhood, the treasure showing the mine's wealth. The Gothic Hall displays portraits of mine managers. 

     Biblical sculptures


    silver salt cellars and shakers
    The Krakow Salt Works Museum Wieliczka duration of sightseeing tour about 3 hours in total with the route length of about 4km. Tourists can only visit the mine with a guide.

    C] World War Two
    The complex of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camps was located nearby and slave labour was readily available. So the mine shafts were used by the Germans to create war industries here, doubly suitable because the underground spaces were safe from Allied bombing raids. How ironic that thousands of Jews were trucked from the slave labour camps in Plaszow and Mielec to the Wiel­iczka mine; ever since the laws of Polish king Sigimund August (mid C16th), Jewish settlement in Wieliczka was banned until 1867.

    As soon as the Soviets were about to liberate the area, the German war industry was disassembled and transp­orted to Lieb­enau slave lab­our camp in the Sudetes mountains. The Jew­ish lab­ourers were trucked to camps in the Czech Republic and Austria.

    In 1978, was placed on UNESCO World Heritage Site because The Wieliczka salt mine reflects all the historic stages of devel­opment in mining techniques from the 13th to the C20th, while the preserved devices and tools document the old systems of working the deposits, drainage, lighting and ventilation of the mine in a unique manner by world standards. In 2010 a sis­ter mine 28ks apart, hist­oric Bochnia Salt Mine, was added to the list of UNESCO World Her­it­age sites. In 2013 Żupny Castle was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.




    0 0

    After over a decade of austere Cromwellian rule, the restorat­ion of the monarchy in 1660 led to a resurgence of the arts in England. The court of King Charles II ((1630-85) became the centre for the pat­ronage of leading artists and the collecting of great works of art, which served a) as decoration for the royal apart­ments and b) to glorify the restored monarchy and rein­force Charles’ position as the rightful king. Now an exh­ibition called Charles II: Art and Power at the Queen’s Gall­ery is on at Buckingham Palace, until 13th May 2018.

    In May 1660 Charles II made his triumphant return to the thrones of England and Ireland, end­ing a dec­ade of republican Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. After 14 years in exile, Charles II was keenly aware of the im­p­­ortance of princely tradition and magnificent display in en­for­cing his right to the throne and his position as Head of the Ch­urch.

    He ordered royal regalia and crown jewels to repl­ace those sold off or melted down by the Parliamentarians, and his coron­ation in April 1661 was the most extravagant since that of El­iz­abeth I. See the stunning altar plate in West­min­­ster Abbey, including the silver-gilt alms dish by Henry Green­­­way, a metre in diamet­er, and a solid-gold chalice and gold paten.

    Charles planned to regain legitimacy, amongst other ways, by re-claiming his fath­er’s fabulous art collection. Although the royal resid­en­ces had survived the Civil War largely undisturbed, the Common­wealth government had sold off much of their contents. Par­liament commanded that all persons holding goods formerly bel­ong­ing to Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria or the new king were to return them with imm­ed­iate eff­ect. This order was later made leg­ally binding through the 1660 Act of Indemnity and Oblivion.

    King Charles II
    by John Michael Wright in c1661
    282 × 239 cm


     
    Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlem­aine and Cleveland, 
    by Peter Lely

    Charles II had placed an order for a large group of paintings from the dealer who had sold works to his father in the 1630s. Among these were Pieter Bruegel the Eld­er's The Mass­acre of the Innocents c1565–67 and Georges de la Tour's St Jerome c1621–3. In the same year the King was pres­ented with great paintings, sculp­ture and furniture by the States of Holland and West Fries­land. And, to strengthen the alliance between the two countries and to discourage Char­les II from agreeing to a treaty with his cousin Louis XIV, they sent Paolo Veron­ese's Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria c1562–69 and Titian’s Mad­onna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel c1535–40.

    Having grown up surrounded by his father’s art collection, Char­les II knew that paintings promoted pleasure and decoration, and also promoted the king’s power. Soon after his return to Eng­land, he appointed the portraitist Sir Peter Lely as official Limner and Picture Drawer. Lely was seen as the natural successor to Van Dyck, the first holder of the post established by Charles I. The miniaturist Samuel Cooper became Royal Picture Maker in 1672. In 1674 Italian Antonio Verrio, who had assisted the artist Charles Le Brun at Versailles, was commissioned to decorate the newly built State Apartments at Windsor Castle.

    The two great groups of drawings (by Hans Holbein II and Leonardo da Vinci) that came to King Charles came from Thomas Howard 14th Earl of Arundel, the first signif­icant English collector of drawings. They were gifted in thanks for the restitution of the noble family’s lands.

    Charles II's new court style was influenced by the lux­urious French fashions he had seen at Louis XIV’s court when his exile started. His royal apartments at White­hall Pal­ace were filled with elaborate decorative arts, including tap­es­tries woven in Parisian workshops and silver furniture in the French taste. The royal palaces were the setting for lavish masques and balls attended by poets, writers, scientists, act­ors and beautiful women, several of whom were painted by Sir Peter Lely in a ser­ies of Windsor Beauties, including portraits of the King's mis­tress Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlem­aine and Cleveland.

    An image of the restored monarchy was painted by John Michael Wright in c1661. The King wore St Edward’s crown and parliam­ent­ary robes over the Garter costume, and he carried an orb and sceptre which were made specially for the. as the earlier reg­al­ia had been destroyed during the Interregnum. The King is seat­ed in front of a tapestry apparently representing the Judgment of Solomon, which may allude to the king’s wisdom.

    The gallery is displaying artefacts from the King’s Touch Cerem­ony in which each monarch touched tens of thousands of members of the public suffering from scrofula. God would cure the unsightly swelling disease VIA the Royal touch. The weekly ritual had bec­ome so popular that the palace was com­pelled to issue tokens to tens of thousands of scrofula sufferers, proving they had been blessed by the King’s hand. See the 1662 “Pro­cl­amation for the better ordering of those who repair to the Court for their Cure of the Disease called the Kings-Evil”.

    silver-gilt alms dish by Henry Green­­­way, 1660
    embossed with The Last Supper and the royal Stuart arms
    West­min­­ster Abbey

    The exhibition also shows how the king used science to build his reputation, countering the traditional view of Charles II as the Merrie Monarch who loved women, pleasure, parties, horse racing, yachting and theat­re. Clearly patronage of these popular pastimes was a sure way to gain the support of the country, and to enjoy himself. By contrast, science was a source of intellectual fascination for Charles II, a tool for improving the navy and milit­ary, and a way of identif­ying himself with other powerful European princely patrons of science. In 1660 he founded the Royal Soc­iety which included other great scientific minds like ast­ronomer Edmund Halley, who worked from the newly established Royal Observ­at­ory in Greenwich. And Isaac Newton.

    The book Charles II: Art & Power by Martin Clayton and Rufus Bird was published by Royal Collection Trust in Dec 2017. It includes glittering silver-gilt plate from the high-altar of Westminster Abbey during the King's coronation, old master paint­ings, tapestries and spectacular furniture i.e the rich material world of Charles II's court.