In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world-view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”
On my frequent meanderings around the streets of this small Mediterranean island, I regularly come across sites, such as these. Beautifully decaying doors and facades – portals to another place in time. Often, starkly juxtaposed by the surrounding modern, steel and glass (which, it appears, is the de rigueur architecture of Malta, sprouting up all over the place), one could very easily walk right past these exquisite, woefully neglected, facades without even noticing them.
In fact, since taking these photos, some of these doors and facades have already been relegated to large skips, to be disposed of. Or, I like to think that they will have been salvaged by some enterprising dumpster-diver, to be restored to their former glory elsewhere on the island.
A very enjoyable travel story that we worked on, in Valletta, the enchanting ancient capital of Malta – and also the European Capital of Culture 2018 – for ‘Morning Calm’ (Korean Air’s in-flight Magazine).
What a revelation, on our Malta walks, to find so much nature, and tranquility, particularly after having recently read that the tiny Mediterranean island is equated with the word: ‘cementation’ – and, in some areas, quite justifiably so. Where we live, for example, we are surrounded by deconstruction, reconstruction, new construction, behemoth cranes, and all the constant racket (and dust!) one can expect from the aforementioned.
On my frequent meanderings around the streets of this small Mediterranean island, I regularly come across sites, such as these. Beautifully decaying doors and facades – portals to another place in time. Often, starkly juxtaposed by the surrounding modern, steel and glass (which, it appears, is the de rigueur architecture of Malta, sprouting up all over), one could easily walk right past these exquisite, woefully neglected, facades without even noticing them.
“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.” Frank Lloyd Wright – The Natural House
It’s official, I have joined the ranks of the walking masses!
Not that I haven’t always been a walker (Florio and I once walked around an entire West African country – albeit tiny, but 930km is by no means a stroll along the beach – oh, hang on, actually we’ve done that too!), but the point is I have never been one to gravitate towards what the masses do – right from my young punk rock self, back in the day in the UK, drawn towards a scene where we were then considered ‘outcasts of society‘ (that’s the polite way of putting it – you really don’t want to know the shocking names we got called, or what we got thrown at us, as we strutted past a bunch of market traders on a weekend, cockily showing off our newest Crazy Color barnet (fair/hair, get it?) de jour – red, blue, pink… .).
“Och aye, Helen Jane, you’ll grow out of it“
as our old lovely Dad was apt to say – rather wistfully. Somehow, though, thankfully I never did. Ok, not that I sport a different tropical-bird-coloured hairdo every week (he was right about that part), these days, but I do still tend to steer away from what the masses do, preferring to go down the route less travelled, which could mean making the very easy choice of Kinshasa, DR Congo over, say, a nice pre-planned itinerary holiday on a Greek island, to going out of my way to find a less-trampled country pathway, where I feel sure there will be little chance of bumping into anyone else.
However, after spending the last week heading out of the door just before the sun comes up, iPhone in hand, walking purposefully down towards the sea, only to find dozens and dozens of other people who gravitate to the seafront early every morning too, running or power-walking along the promenade, I can certainly see the attraction, can’t you?
Mind you, I do veer off the promenade as soon as possible, for an – almost – solitary walk over the rocks, bar the occasional dog walker or a lone guy practising Tai Chi, away from the masses. Just how I like it.
A good friend of mine posted a comment on her FB page yesterday, in response to some of the disturbing comments, about the migrant and refugee crisis, left on another FB page: ‘I’m not mean but let them in will be the end of gsy it’s hard for locals to live now all most of them will do is go on the dole and get free houses let there govoment sort it out in stead of putting all the money they get in there pockets so they have a good life and there people go with OUT’ JB of the Channel Islands. My friend asked if I would comment, as my husband, photojournalist, Jason Florio, has recently been documenting the boat rescues for MOAS, onboard the Phoenix, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya.
I saw your FB post earlier, S., and, yes, it makes me extremely sad, and aghast, that people can be so myopic and so grossly uninformed – to put it politely. And, I did think twice about posting this link from Migrant Report : ‘The Pictures That Need to Be Seen‘ (caution – the images are truly shocking and devastating). But, in light of some of the comments I read on the above mentioned FB page, I believe the images should be seen, if only to wake, shake, up some of the commentators.
As you know, S., Florio has been documenting, for MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), onboard the Phoenix, their boat rescue missions in the Mediterranean; thankfully, he didn’t witness this particular horrific incident, but some of his colleagues have – and it’s not the first time they have either. Before Florio began working with MOAS, I was horrified by the news reports… how the hell could parents be so irresponsible as to take their babies and small children – and, in some cases, send their 14 year son, completely alone – on such a dangerous and life-threatening journey?! It was completely beyond my comprehension. However, I have since watched numerous interviews Florio has recorded, post-rescue, onboard the Phoenix – with many migrants and refugees – and the consensus is that the majority (particularly those from Syria, for example) would have done anything not to leave their homes, their professions – many are lawyers, doctors, nurses – behind and/or risk the lives of their whole family, to venture into the complete unknown. But, when your life is in constant danger; you live under a brutal dictatorship; you are forced to join the National Service at any early age, for an indeterminate amount of time, paid very poorly – and not allowed to leave until you are too old to follow your life ambition to be i.e. a doctor (Google: Eritrea); your basic human rights are ignored (Google: Ethiopia); the list goes on – there is often little choice, other than to move on, to find a better life.
Is that so difficult to comprehend? Maybe so, for those of us lucky enough to have the freedom to sit comfortably each day, eating our three square meals, as we watch the 6 o’clock (mostly edited just so, so as not to offend – too much) news, from the safety of our homes, through the impenetrable barrier of a screen; without the perpetual worry of a bomb dropping on your home, or your children being fatally wounded by shrapnel, whilst out playing in the street… . Imagine that. And, yes, we can argue the fact that the countries where thousands, upon thousands are fleeing from (the numbers are staggering) need to address what is going on, the people smugglers need to be stopped, and so on… but all of this will take time, a long time, to even begin to put right. In the meantime, these thousands of people men – women, children, babies – are on a survival mission, and they need sanctuary now, after having left behind everything that is familiar to them; often taking little more than a memento of their home with them (such as a letter from loved one, a tattered copy of the Koran, protected by a plastic bag, a postage stamp, a local coin – all real things, that people have shown Florio, during interviews). And, don’t even get me started on what they have to go through, even before they pay thousands of dollars to get on one of those nowhere-near-seaworthy-enough-to-make-it-to-Italy-boats!, out of lawless Libya… this subject is well documented. Just check out more of the links on Migrant Report, and, in time, through some of the interviews Florio has conducted (just think rape – on both men and women – torture, kidnapping, imprisonment, starvation, forced unpaid labour), for a forthcoming documentary from MOAS.
The images of dead children are shocking beyond belief and have been condemned by many as ‘sensationalism’, ‘headline-grabbing‘, ‘emotive‘… . Yet, the reality is, is that this is happening on an almost daily basis, out there in the Mediterranean, and many of the people fleeing towards a ‘better life‘ are already aware of the immense dangers they face, and possible death. Again, how can we (us, the ones who watch the teatime news, as another tragedy at sea unfolds, from our comfortable armchairs) possibly comprehend what propels people to take their whole family, walk out their front door, with just the clothes that they are wearing, and – in many cases – walk across deserts, other countries, to take such unimaginable risks?
So, perhaps now it is time to take the kid gloves off and face the harsh reality, see those images close up… . After all, it’s nowhere near (nowhere near!) the utter wretchedness that many, many people are enduring every single day, in an attempt to find that better life.
On my many meanderings around the streets of Malta, I often come across sites, such as the above. Beautifully decaying doors – from another place in time – starkly juxtaposed by the surrounding modern, steel and glass environment. Yet, conversely, you could very easily walk right past these exquisite, woefully neglected, facades, without even noticing them.
What is behind the doors… now, that’s what I’d truly like to see… .
If you are new to the story, in short, in 2009, photographer, Jason Florio, myself, and three Gambian team mates, two donkeys and a cart to carry camera and camping equipment, walked around the small West African country of The Gambia – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘, on what would be the first fully documented circumnavigation of the country, completely by foot.
On the way around, we were warmly welcomed by many, many different Alkalo’s – male and female – who Jason then photographed. The formal portraits of the chiefs and elders became an award-winning body of work, entitled: ‘Silafando – a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘.
If you are in The Gambia, there is still a few more days to see the ‘Silafando‘ exhibition (until 30th April, 2015), at Gaya Art Cafe, Bertil Harding Highway (next door to Senegambia main craft market). And, to see and read more of the back story of the 930km walk, then please visit our ‘930km African Odyssey‘ blog.
‘In Nigeria, Concern Universal‘s approach to improving rural sanitation and hygiene has led to the emergence of inspiring women leaders.
Our approach, known as Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), creates an environment where entire communities are mobilized to end open defecation, and in the process, opens the door for women to become powerful agents of change‘ CU
Read more about the creative and inspiring community projects that NGO, Concern Universal, are helping to facilitate in Nigeria, and many other parts of the world, you can check out their website.