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Entries in hats (7)

Monday
Jan302012

Tschumi's Alesia

Bernard Tschumi Architects. Alesia Museum, Burgundy, France 2011

Bernard Tschumi's interpretive centre for the battle of Alesia, 52 BC, where Julius Caesar's army surrounded Vercingetorix's Gauls: the site, in Burgundy, has this building referencing Roman wood fortifications, and will eventually have a second stone building up a hill, referencing the besieged Gauls. 

The battle was actually a long freeze: Caesar's troops circled the base of the plateau with 18km of 4m high fortifications, blockading the garrison of 80,000 soldiers at the top.  Vercassivellaunus, Vercingetorix's cousin attacked the Roman fortifications with 60,000 men, but Caesar's forces held the line.  Aside from the delight in typing the wonderful names of the Gauls, it occurs to me that these were very large armies, in modern terms the size of the Canadian Forces in total.

Caesar's eventual victory marked the end of Celtic power in what is now the territory from France and Belgium to northern Italy.

The exterior screen of Tschumi's Alesia museum is wood, the shape and pattern bring to mind the Greek key meander tiara of Alice of Battenburg: there is something both victorious and celebratory about this circlet sitting on the Burgundian plains.  Its pattern puts the screen into motion, it dazzles.  


Tiara of Princess Alice of Battenburg, circa 1903, her marriage to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark.

From their fortress the Gauls could see the Roman encirclement, which would have been nothing as solid as this single-point museum, thus the museum roof has been turfed as a displaced ground plane to indicate the original view from the Gallic heights. 
The roof planted with trees and shrubs is also a reminder of helmets with leaves and branches stuck into a netted cover as camouflage: a military strategy as old as war and still in use.

Image from from the Axis Reenactment Forum, where hot battles rage over reenactments that put Italians into German camo and vice versa

Wednesday
Jul062011

summer solstice wreaths of Latvia

from the archive of Adolf Cops. Camp Sidabarene, Milton, Ontario. Celebrating summer solstice in the 1950s. Solstice, or Jani, is still celebrated each year in Sidrabene.

Zile Liepins wrote in On Site 24: migration about a summer camp at Milton, Ontario, built by Latvians who left Latvia in the 1940s, emigrating to Canada.  This was in the context of a larger discussion of Latvians who stayed, dreaming of life somewhere not Latvia, while in Canada, especially at the summer solstice, they dreamt of the Latvia they knew.  The picture, above is from Zile Liepins' family, taken in the 1950s and shows the wreaths of wild flowers the women wear for the solstice.

This video, below, is from Latvia, taken in 2006 and shows the making of the wreaths – flowers for women and oak leaves for men, accompanied by much singing, singing, singing, which is also what they are doing in Zile's photo. 

Tuesday
Jul052011

Queen Meda's wreath

The Queen’s wreath found in the antechamber of the tomb of King Philip II of Macedon and associated with his wife, Queen Meda. gold, 80 leaves and 112 flowers surviving, circa 310 BC, 10.2'"diameter

A real crown: The Queen’s wreath – a gold myrtle wreath found in the antechamber of the tomb of King Philip II of Macedon

This is from an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford (until 29th of August, 2011): Heracles to Alexander The Great: Treasures From The Royal Capital of Macedon, A Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy and is a collaboration between the Asmolean and the Royal Tombs at Aegae.

There are no images on the Ashmolean site, but an amazing and extensive collection of photos and maps can be found here, posted by Elisabeth Carney.

Monday
Jul042011

Virgil's muse

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. The Reader Wreathed with Flowers (Virgil's Muse), 1845. 34 x 47 cm. Louvre, Paris.

This is the painting for July on my calendar: Corot, The Reader Wreathed With Flowers (Virgil's Muse).  A realist portrait of a mythical subject: how tenderly it is painted.  Can one imagine going outside to read a bit, wearing a delicate circlet of ivy on one's heid?  well no, but why couldn't we?  Why couldn't we wrap our brows with cool leaves?  a garden crown.

Virgil wrote Aeneid (29-19BC), a bloody legend about Aeneas's travelling wars from Troy in what is now Turkey, to found Rome by way of Carthage, just outside what is now Tunis.  It starts with an invocation to the Muse:

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger,
long suffering also in war, until he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people
came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.
Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,
noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many
trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?

ah.  It was Juno's fault.  We mortals are simply blown hither and thither by a quarrelling pantheon.

The 1840s: Nash was building in London, Ingres painting in Paris, the Irish famine occurred and Charlotte Bronte published Jane Eyre.  Georgian elegance and French empire neoclassicism were about to be pushed aside by a rough gothic realism.  Corot is sited between neoclassicism (mythological landscapes and gods) and impressionism (actual landscapes and people drawn from real life).  Virgil's muse is a rhetorical figure, but the painting of her is of a very real, serene woman, her foot firmly places on the earth, her broad forehead wreathed in ivy.  In the language of flowers, a Victorian conceit, ivy indicated both endurance and fidelity – there is something about Corot's muse that is as solid and as still as a rock.  

Thursday
Mar042010

Geles

So there it is, how to tie a gele.  The material is either aso-oke – a Yoruba hand woven cloth, silk or printed cotton, but heavily starched.  How starched is subject to fashion, evidently they don't make them so stiff these days, but I found that on a Nigerian website so not sure how straight or cool that comment is.  Many of the commericial sites show them in rayon and quite floppy.

They are outstandingly beautiful when you see them on new Canadians parading down the horrible strip that is 17th Avenue SE in Calgary.  The women are like tall flowers, and I'm not being patronising here, they really are stunning.  The dresses and matching or contrasting geles are stately, calm, solid and absolutely individual.  I'm sure there are nuances in how one pulls out the top of the wrapped material, invisible to many of us, but again, subtle indications of class, wealth and self-worth. ´╗┐

One does wonder how long it takes for such subtleties to disappear when there are so few people to take account of them.  Or do they become frozen, unable to develop with fashion trends in the original culture.  I remember hearing of people who had emigrated to Canada and, on going back to England, found that the England they had known was completely gone, and they appeared as relics from a bygone era.  It does happen. 

Wednesday
Mar032010

Fascinators

A Fascinator, ready to wear.

There is a kind of English hat called a fascinator, generally worn on the side of the head.  There is no hat part, usually just a little disc or a comb with strange feathers attached.  
Camilla wore one for her wedding to Prince Charles. By Philip Treacy, it was an aureole of feathers trimmed close to the quill so it looked like a halo of wheat.  A mystical sort of crown to say 'take that!' to everyone who doesn't want her to be Queen Camilla.
I find this kind of hat as bizarre as the makaraba, but not as much fun.  It really does smack of 'society' and general uselessness, part of an ethnic dress code that means much to those who wear them.   Sarah Ferguson wore one to Diana's funeral – black, gay, defiant; Sarah the renegade princess who escaped. Her fascinator was a little black box with thin black feathers shooting out of it, worn over her ear.

It is all seriously  frivolous, and as we here generally only wear hats when it is freezing out — thick, woolly things – I do wonder where it is that Canadian society allows frivolity.  Certainly not in its dress.  Hats have traditionally been indicators of social status, the best hat being the crown.  Indeed, the top of a hat is still called the crown.  In Canada, and in the US, supposedly we do not have a rigid social hierarchy revealed through sartorial codes so perhaps the hat as a defining moment is no longer readable.   Something must have replaced it, I don't believe there is such a thing as a non-hierarchical society.   Just can't think what it would be right now.

Tuesday
Mar022010

Makarabas

Makoya Makaraba. design 3: Look at the Score. The Makoya Mararaba website is subtitled 'the genuine south african hand painted fan helmet'.   Makarapas are plastic hardhats usually worn by miners, cut, bent and painted to make soccer fan headgear.  The original makarapa was produced in 1979 by Alfred Baloyi at Evendale as protection against flying bottles during a match.  He has parlayed this into Baloyi Makarapa, which also produces well-decorated vuvuzelas, the football trumpets.  He seems to have a trademark on 'makarapa' with a 'p'.

Michael Souter, a Cape Town graphic designer started Makoya Makaraba (with a 'b'), a township community project near Cape Town at Diep River that trains unemployed people in makarapa production.   
One senses a lawsuit in the offing, as Baloyi's story on his website ends with 'Baloyi's authentic Makarapas will now be marketed under the name Baloyi Makarapas (TM) ensuring that not only is his role as the originator of these unique creations recognised, but that his hard work is rewarded and his intellectual property protected'.
But, but, Makoya Mararaba is a community project, and its website states, heroically, 'We are a small company that train and help uplift the people from the Township communities on the Cape Peninsula ... We strive to create permanent and meaningful employment for individuals from previously disadvantaged backgrounds'.

Ha!  However, FIFA's website ignores these two projects and presents Newtown Projects in Johannesburg, part of an urban regeneration project.  Newtown Projects is going into high production for FIFA 2010.  They 'stumbled' upon a robotic arm from the automobile industry.  Paul Wygers, an architect who started Newtown Projects makarapas says, ingenuously, 'there are two pinch points in the process; cutting them and painting them.  If you can get rid of the pinch point of cutting them, which is the most labour intensive part of the whole process, you can up the numbers'.  They can do 1000 makarapas a day: huge employment opportunities for painters.  They too employ the underemployed, about 35 painters on a production line, some of whom just do the base, some brushes, some airbrush.  
Baloyi started by doing 2 a day, who knows how many Makoya does in a day, maybe they too have a robotic arm but somehow I doubt it.  Makoya's makarabas start at R270 (CAD36).   Baloyi's basic makarapa is R99 going up to R299.  (CAD13-40).

There is such an exuberant graphic sensibility at work here, hardhats become fantastic, towering sculptures absolutely integral to South African soccer culture.  FIFA 2010 is a powerful endorsement of South Africa's survival, its culture and its future —attention will be diverted away from corruption, poverty and South Africa's support of Mugabe.  These enormous sporting events, like the Vancouver Olympics, really seem to propel both cities and their regions into some other stratosphere for the duration and when it is all over, so many things have changed.