Susanne Wenger at 100!

The òrìşà is like the many aspects in our unconscious: suffering, aggression, creativity, purity, love, wisdom… One can choose any of these roads towards the invisible, and make it alive inside oneself. – Susanne Wenger (1915-2009)

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The Òşun Sacred Grove and Forest might have been lost to the world if it were not for the dedication of an Austrian artist, Susanne Wenger, born July 4, 1915, and who came to Osogbo, Nigeria  in 1960. She studied the Yoruba language, culture, and religion dedicating her life’s work to the restoration and protection of the shrines and grove.

To celebrate Susanne Wenger’s art, to honor her life’s work of perseverance in protection of Yoruba heritage, from my collection of Nigeria Magazine, I offer this gift.

Gods and Myths in Susanne Wenger’s Art

The Example of Batik Cloth

by Stanley P. Bohrer and Susanne Wenger Alarape

Nigeria Magazine, 1976, Issue 120.

Gods and myths-2-008Gods and myths-2-001Gods and myths-2-002Gods and myths-2-003Gods and myths-2-004Gods and myths-2-005Gods and myths-2-006Gods and myths-2-007(click on separate pages to enlarge)

Article in Obelisque Magazine, Osun Osogbo Grove, January 2015: http://nomad4now.com/articles/osun-osogbo-grove/

Go to post: Osun Sacred Grove and Forest http://nomad4now.com/2014/02/25/osun-sacred-grove-and-forest/

For more information go to :

http://www.susannewengerfoundation.at

http://www.susannewenger-aot.org

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Osun Osogbo Sacred Groves

(Music in clip by Orin Orisa. Adedayo Ologundudu, Yoruba traditional songs of praises for Orisa: Osun Yoruba Spirit of Rivers.)

Ramadan Kareem! A sweet story – kunafa

Spinning of Shredded Wheat on Ahmed Maher Street
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Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijiri calendar, is the month for fasting for Muslims. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Faith. The benefits of which are given in the Qur’an, “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you so that you may be more able to guard against evil.” (Qur’an 3:184) The faithful abstain from eating and drinking between dawn and sunset. The month of Ramadan, especially when in the summer with the long days and heat, is met with unhesitating and heightened anticipation.

One of the pleasurable anticipations of Ramadan season are the morsels of sweets, lightly spiced with cardamom and dipped in syrup, pancakes stuffed with cheese or nuts, or the the Ramadan favorite, Kunafa—layers, top and bottom, of buttery, crunchy shredded wheat stuffed with white goat cheese and soaked in lemon sugar syrup.

“Kunafa is said to be of Fatimid origin,” says 62-year-old haj Ali Arafa, the owner of Cairo’s most famous kunafa outlet. Arafa grew up in his grandfather’s confectionery shop in the working class quarter of Al- Sayeda Zeinab, where he still works today. “It was introduced by a physician at the court of the Khalifa Abdel-Malek Bin Marawan,” he explains. “Some princes were having a hard time fasting because of their voracious appetite. So the doctor worked to develop a dish that would not only be delicious but would have a long-lasting warming and filling effect. The doctor then instructed the princes to eat great quantities of this heavy dish just before dawn. As a result, they never went hungry during the day again.”
(Al-Ahram 14 – 20 October 2004)

These are what sweet dreams and stories are made of…but to satisfy a sweet tooth, there is a beginning. In the case of kunafa, its travel to sweetness begins with the spinning of shredded wheat…

Before modernization, to make shredded wheat the process began with the dough dispersed through a sieve and cooked on a hot copper tray that was heated by a wood or coal oven set beneath the tray. Today, the process of making shredded wheat uses electricity and a mechanical oven that resembles a rotating tray-like skillet. The dough is much like a pancake batter. The equipment used to cook the dough is a hot iron that rotates while the dough is released through a metal funnel similar to a sieve. The kunafa threads emerge onto the iron tray that functions like a skillet. One rotation of the tray and the baker retrieves the strands. The sieve is adjusted for different widths of the thread.

raw shredded wheat

Kunafa is sold throughout the year but during the month of Ramadan the demand triples. Kunafa ovens can be found throughout Cairo particularly in Darb Ahmar and Sayyida Zeinab and on Ahmed Maher Street. People buy the raw shredded wheat from the stores and make their own sweet dishes at home.

SHUBRA: off the beaten path

Emblem is from Khedivate Egypt 1867-1881

Emblem  from Khedivate Egypt 1867-1881

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Organized by: Amr Abo Tawila, Shaimaa Ashour & “Shurfa”‬

The Shubra Group

The Shubra Group

 

A morning tour of Shubra, a district in Cairo, is an unusual way to spend a Friday morning. But for a group of young Egyptian professionals, it does raise the question, ‘why’?  Taking advantage of a new event organized by Megawra, young Egyptian’s want to know their city and the organizers at Megawra have responded with a tour to Daher, Shubra and after the summer to Dokki.

What is there to see in Shubra? Plenty!  We wandered for 5 hours. Of course, the organizers had done their research with plenty of information to impart at every stop: streets are lined with 19th and 20th century architectural gems, old churches, the Mamluk Khandazar mosque, schools and hospital, and remnants of the past such as photograph studio, knife-maker, and even a WWII bunker.

Below is a mosaic of a day in Shubra. (Pass the cursor over the photo for the caption.)

Follow City Walks on  Facebook or Twitter at #ShubraCityWalk

See old photographs of Kitchener of Khartoum Hospital (now Shubra General Hospital), here (http://shoubrahospital.com) .

To see “elevator baskets in action” in Shubra, go to Cairo Colors

By special request, a slideshow of pictures:

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Cairo Colors

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Elevator Baskets

Elevator Basket Seller on his way to older building to sell brightly-woven baskets that are used as an elevator for goods, much like a ‘dumbwaiter'; however, these baskets are hoisted out of a window or over a balcony. The lady of the house calls out for supplies, lowers her basket and the grocer puts the goods inside, the price is known and payment lowered or put on account.

The brightly woven baskets are something new to the elevator basket market, usually the baskets are simple reed baskets as seen below (elevator baskets in action are photos taken in Shubra, but this is typical all over Egypt). Whatever the choice, using them saves energy (climbing up and down a lightless stairwell), convenient, and environmentally friendly!

Mohamed Tanamly offers a vivid explanation of the word, sabat (basket):

The correct word for the process of collecting/ lifting up small items with a dropped down baskets is named after the word for basket, for the process itself. People would use the word “Sabat”. While it refers to the basket itself, but by implication, is refer to the use of the basket to describe the process. It’s something akin, in English, to the work “trucking”.

Undreams

 

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Undreams*

An unfinished tapestry, pushed deep into the unlocked drawer, brought unshed tears to her eyes. After her grandmother’s death, the unowned tapestry was now hers to keep or, perhaps, upkeep.

The granddaughter unjammed the drawer, unwrinkled the unvalued tapestry and tugged at it, slowly, to unravel an unloved memory.

Her grandmother had worn the hijab when she unfortuitously was forced to flee. She was unbearably young, unable to unidentify herself from the only life she had ever known.

She had untangled, untamed dreams. But in her flight, unwontedly flushed with misery, those ungratified desires were undreamt.

It was someone, unremembered, who pushed the cloth and needle into her hands. “Here, stitch and stitch and don’t look up. Unthink what you thought, unclench strings of yesterday.”

Her un-shining needle pricked the un-colorful cloth.

Each day when an unfed child cried, she undecorated the embroidered cake she would never eat.

When the rain unrestrainedly covered the ground, she unstitched the coat she would never wear.

When a mother moaned, she unwrote the poem she would never read and unmeasured the music she would never sing.

When unutterable screams surged through the un-dawned day, she unclimbed the mountain she would never see.

The granddaughter cradled the unfinished tapestry in her arms. Her fingers unexpectedly pulled a thread, undoing one stitch and then another.

Unwinding undreamt; for her grandmother’s true tapestry was sewn with love.

*Undreams ,won an international poetry contest sponsored by Persimmon Tree. Published at http://www.persimmontree.org/v2/summer-2015/international-poets/?utm_source=June+16%2C+2015+-+Final&utm_campaign=June16Final&utm_medium=email.

See American University in Cairo Facebook page:

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See American University in Cairo Press website: 

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On the night of April 14, 2014, over 200 girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria, by terrorists.

Boko Haram has abducted 2,000 girls, women since 2014 –Amnesty

“Undreams” is for all those imprisoned in exile, forced from their homes, separated from friends and family, their way of life banished—the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Chibok girls and millions more…

Read Malala Yousafzai’s “My Open Letter to the Abducted Chibok Schoolgirls.”

Follow: https://twitter.com/csrchildren

Sign Petition to commission monument to remember abduction of women and children in Nigeria. This monument is a constant reminder of human failure to protect the innocent. Not a popular concept for a government or nation but a reminder that might stir actions in the hearts of those able to protect.

*Copyright 2015 by Lesley Lababidi. All rights reserved. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

Red Walls of Bida – Introduction

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In 1949, the year that I was born, Nigeria Magazine published an article,

“The Red Walls of Bida”.

Sixty-five years later, I find myself on the road to Bida.

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Nigeria Mag #30 1949

Bida is located halfway between Lagos and Kano. The city is the capital of the kingdom of the Nupe, a Muslim people with a great past.

Since December 2014, I was in the process of arranging a trip to the central, northwest region of Nigeria with our Public Relations Officer, Alhaji Essa, who is a native of Bida.  Our plans ended abruptly when Alhaji Essa suddenly died of a stroke on January 27, 2015. With great sadness but with more determination, I decided a trip to Bida was more of a necessity than one of curiosity.

Alhaji Essa had been with the company for nearly 25 years (read memorial). My request to visit his hometown pleased him and he had arranged a detailed program for my stay in Bida. But now, I would be delivering the Lababidi’s condolences to the family of Alhaji Essa.

From Lagos, I called the elder, Alhaji Galadima, who indeed confirmed that the family was waiting for my visit. Too, I had done my research. With a copy of the Nigeria Magazine article in my bag, I was keen to see if I might recognize changes from 65 years ago.

After a short flight to Abuja, I set out on a four-hour drive to Bida over roads with unrelenting pothole damage. The scenery is that of the Sahel, a semi-arid climate in the middle of the dry season. But one thing is clearly different from the article of 1949, no longer under colonial rule, Nigeria soon would hold its 5th quadrennial general election since the end of military rule in 1999.

Along the roadside and at regular intervals, candidates advertise for people’s attention. From Minna to Bida, the use of scarecrow-fashioned models surprise me. My first reaction is that these forms are derogatory toward the candidate, but soon I realize the message was quite the opposite.

In 1949, our author of ‘Red Walls of Bida’ (his name unrecorded except for the initials W. H. L.) drove from Lagos in what he called an ‘American Two-Toned Touring Sedan’.  My car is not nearly so memorable—a 2010 Toyota. However, we (W.H.L., me and my driver, Yacubu) arrive into Bida over the same road,

“an avenue of mango trees which lined the road. Almost every branch bore large clusters of golden fruit, made more golden by the evening sun. No prettier sight could be imagined, and no triumphal arch more glorious than this long canopy of trees.” (Nigeria Magazine,#30, 1949)

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Mango trees line the main road into Bida.

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1949

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Bida was once surrounded by a wall as were many cities in antiquity. (One city in Nigeria that the fortress walls and gate still stands is Kano). These walls were designed to withstand lengthy sieges.  Open spaces within the walls were reserved for the production of crops. However, mud walls are not built to withstand the march of time and neglect. Today, only two short examples of the red walls of Bida remain. The open spaces are fill with a sea of cement houses and corrugated metal roofs that intermingle with mud-brick dwellings.

main street 2015

main street 2015

Continue Reading about Red Walls of Bida, here.

 

 

Read about Bida Glass – Bangles and Beads DSC_2233 Read about Bida Brasswork, hereDSC_2131Read about Bida Blacksmith hereDSC_2506 (1) For history of Nupe Kingdom, click here 

***Nigeria is often in the news — often the news is not good, however this article centers the spotlight on Nigerians, the culture and their good work to keep traditional crafts alive. Throughout the developing world, heritage crafts need support, if not, the ancient techniques will vanish only to be read about in a dusty old book. Please support heritage crafts wherever and whenever possible. By doing so you help preserve ancient techniques, encourage skills and apprenticeships, and support the local economy.***

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All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required. Excerpts and photography from Nigeria Magazine, ed. E.H. Duckworth, Government of Nigeria #30, 1949.