Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SEOUL SEARCHING


I don't drink coffee, a little architectural misdesign with the old ticker means on some days my heart can get real angry just looking at a picture of coffee beans. 
But tea I love.

Tea ceremonies even more so. 
Years ago I watched the movie Red Cliff and smiled at the idea of a woman tea master distracting a power hungry general (Cao Cao) by endlessly making him tea, moving through ritual the way Sheherazade might tell a story whose end means to get her killed. She makes Cao Cao tea long enough for the wind to change direction and favour her lover Zhou Yu's warships.
Thanks to the Seoul InternationaI Writers Festival which is run by a fantastic team of individuals I went #SeoulSearching today and spent the entire day at a temple with female monks (nuns) learning how to stay silent and meditate, eat vegetarian food, the history of the Korean flag and alphabet as well as - yes you guessed it - make tea. Just call me #teamaster I too will avert many 'wars' with my new skill. My 'guests' for the day enjoyed my bamboo leaf tea. It was neither too mild nor strong which would be Korean code for what some Batswana call dibese/mbodza (a rubbish meal). Don't laugh, this is serious business.



The movie Red Cliff is here and the tea ceremony is around the 20 minute mark.


Monday, September 19, 2016

THE WEARY, WARY AND UNWARY, ARTIST AS AN OBJECT OF PRECARITY

It is 1960 Zora Neale Hurston author and anthropologist, who at this point has published numerous articles, plays and books, received two Guggenheim Fellowships, an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Morgan State College as well as Howard University’s Distinguished Alumni Award having earned an associate degree there in 1920, dies.
She has suffered a stroke the year before, and at her passing her neighbours have no recourse but to take up a collection. It is in the end insufficient to purchase a headstone, and she is buried in an unmarked grave.

Return to 1945, Hurston writes to W.E.B Du Bois suggesting as Valerie Boyd tells us in her “She Was The Party” essay “a cemetery for the illustrious Negro dead […] Let no Negro celebrity, no matter what financial condition they might be in at death, lie in inconspicuous forgetfulness”.

It didn’t happen.

Sitting together at a festival in that other south, South Africa a fellow poet and I thought of this exact …predicament quite a few years ago. We had just learned that a celebrated and much loved female musician, for all intents and purposes, had just died on stage far away from home because at her age and after all her brilliant and hard work – factor in rapacious contracts scribbled by shysters- she still needed to work. At this point her talent alone was never going to be enough.

Back to Hurston, thirteen years later, in the year 1973 Boyd tells us that ‘a young writer named Alice Walker traveled to Fort Pierce to place a marker on the grave of the author who had so inspired her own work’ on it she places the words,


“Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South”