Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

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Day 4 – Kalaikhumb

Day 5-6 Khorog

On the other side of the river Panj  is a tributary of the Amu Darya or Oxus River. The river is 1,125 km long and forms a considerable part of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and the Pamir Highway follows the river to the city of Langar.

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Says: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Out of Dushanbe we pick up the River Panj several hours outside of the city of Kolub that was celebrating its 2700 years of history. Before reaching Kalaikhum, we traveled a winding, asphalt road, about 9 -hour drive before reaching  Kalaikhum.

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Modern hotel in Kalaikhumb with Afghanistan looming in the background

During this long trip we had several stops, one at a women’s cooperative to observe the local embroidery in Kolub. 2CCE5EA3-510D-4C57-9C1A-24E18B4D84A5Also a to visit to the Hulbuk Fortress, where, as guest, Mr. Khojaev, caretaker, presented me with roses in appreciation for the visit.

Hulbuk Fortress historically was an important stop over for the Silk Road between the 8th and 11th century. Destroyed by the Monguls, little remains or the original structure of the once mighty fort-palace. The citadel lies approx 30 km southwest of Kulob. Already in the Bronze Age, people settled in the area in sight of the salt mountain Chodscha Mumin, which rises 1334 m above the valley. This bronze cat that is now in the Dushanbe Museum of Antiquities was unearthed at Hulbuk Fortress:

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But mainly, as we drove along the road that clung to the side of the Tajikistan mountains, my attention was to the other side of the river and Afghanistan. The road on the Afghani side was like a mirror image of the Tajik side. Here are a variety of photos.

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Driving to Khorog, the road becomes mostly gravel, narrow, and leftover asphalt from the Soviet days. It was 7 hours of exhausting, bone-jolting drive but thanks to Zafar, my driver, we arrived into Khorog before dark and in one piece. The Serena Hotel in Khorog is worthy of a mention. It is an old Pamiri house converted to a hotel. Pamiri houses are square and follow the Zorestrian elements of wind, earth, fire, and rain. The view of Tajikistan’s mountains  are stunning and only a stones throw to the Afghan banks.

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Serena Inn hotel garden

 

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Across the Panj River is Afghanistan

The Pamir regions occupy a unique position within Tajikistan and is strongly linked to the contest between Russia and Great Britain in the Pamiri in the second half of the 19th century known as the “Great Game”. At the end of this contest, the two dominant superpowers in the region agreed in 1895 to form a Pamir Boundary Commission to define the borders that are still in force today. When Soviet power was established in the Pamiri, the region incorporated into Pamirskaya oblast in 1923. In 1925 a decision of the central executive committee of the USSR remanded the area as the ‘Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast’. After independence and the end of the Cold War, GBAO’s special autonomous status remains.

GBAO in Tajikistan is roughly separated into two parts: Western and Eastern Pamiri. The Western Pamiri are marked by deeply incised valleys and a multitude of villages inhabited by Pamiri mountain farmers who mails belong to Eastern Iranian language groups. All major rivers flow westward to the Panj (also know in antiquity as the Oxus).

The Eastern part, is named Murghab district has high plateau landscape. Predominantly Kyrgyz livestock herders who speak Kyrgyz, a Turkic language.

The capital of the Pamiri is Khorog combining river terraces with flat area at the confluence of the Panj, Shakhdara and Ghund rivers.

From Kalaikhumb to Khorog we see signs referrring to the Diamond Jubilee on fences and trees.

On July 11, 2017 His Highness the Aga Khan is marked his Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) promoted a worldwide celebration brings together the global Ismaili community, partners of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and government and faith community leaders in over 25 countries.Along the Pamir Highway villages have dedicated 2018 as a year of celebration so on Saturdays the villages come together for song and dance to show their appreciation. Along the road, we passed some Pamiri girls dressed in traditional Pamiri costume walking to the festival.

And today, Saturday, we spent at the festival where there was wrestling and dancing. I sat with an elder group of volunteers. Each neighbourhood gets together and with their own money organizes musical groups. Here is the Gulaken Folk group. E7A1E11B-550E-47EB-98C4-BFA6EEC42CEEThey are women my age who have just started to learn English and go to the Agha Khan center for lessons once a week. They have written their names for me using Latin letters. 9E6EAC28-93A2-40E9-A739-DD84E9C54C52

The local Khalifa (religious leader) organized a musical performance and food was blessed and given out for free.

Dushanbe, city of roses

Roses in the parks, along the sidewalks and highways were an unexpected introduction to the Tajikistan capital, Dushanbe. A quiet, clean city with welcoming population, it was a small village in 1924 now has a population of 1.2 million. Dunshanbe means Monday in Tajik language. The Soviets incorporated this village and 3 others form a capital.

I begin with this unusual, beautiful introduction to Tajikistan: my guide and translator, Sitora Nabieva, singing the Tajikistan national anthem in Kohi Navruz Palace.

Three days to visit artisan masters began at the office of the Executive Director of the Union of Craftsmen of Tajikistan. With a delightful introduction and welcome, we were introduced to Khurshed Sattorov, Head of Fashion Design Studio and Nadia Imranova, Fashion Designer, both internationally known Tajik fashion designers. Both fashion designer’s employ women from rural communities to embroider, dye silk, and weave.

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Khurshed Sattorov, Fashion Designer

Tajikistan is a presidential republic, headed by Emomali Rahmon, president for life. On the day I arrived, Sitora noted that Tajikistan welcomed the 9 millionth citizen into their country, a country that is 93 percent mountainous with an abundance of water resources, minerals, and agricultural products.

The history of this area is complex with many invaders, empires, kings, and sultans. Tajikistan itself is a new country receiving its independence in 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union; its borders haven been drawn by Stalin when he divide Central Asia into countries. Tajikistan suffered a violent civil war between 1992 -1997 that might have seen another war-torn country like Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq. Fortunately for the Tajiks, an insightful leader, Emomali Rahmon, emerged and the country is on its feet, safe and developing. One of the most important points that my guide, Sitora, impressed upon me that the Tajik people are not nomads, they are settled peoples thus they have a great legacy in literature, science, and traditional crafts. Rather than trying  to struggle through the history, here is a is a quick synopsis from Wikipedia:

“The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the city of Sarazm of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age,  and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including the Oxus civilisation, Andronova culture, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Islam. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid Empire, Sassanian Empire, Hephthalite Empire, Samanid Empire, Mongol Empire, Timuride dynasty, Russian Empire, and subsequently the Soviet Union.  Within the Soviet Union, the country’s modern borders were drawn by Stalin when it was apart of Uzbekistan as an autonomous republic before becoming a part of the Soviet Union in 1929.”

Exploring Dushanbe, it is hard to miss the golden arch and bubbling fountains of the Ismail Samani monument in the centre of town. Commemorating the 1,100 anniversary of the Samanid State, this monument honours the Persian Samanid, whose time in power was one of peace and plenty, with great flourishing of the arts and sciences.3D467359-6607-4390-A3BB-BC49ACE93CD5Last year I visited the Samanid Mausoleum in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, where Isma’il Samani is buried.

Ismail Samani Mausoleum. See post: Soviets and Sodigans

Isma’il is known in history as a competent general and a strong ruler; many stories about him are written in Arabic and Persian sources.

Another monument in the extensive gardens is Rudaki, born in 858,in (Panjrud), a village located in the Smanid Empire  is now Panjakent, located in modern-day Tajikistan. Biographers write that he was blind at birth yet he was the court poet to the Samanid ruler Nasr II (914-943) in Bukhara.  Rudaki is  the Tajikistan’s  most revered poet. The setting of Rudaki’s statue in a rose garden is appropriate for this 9th-century ‘Adam of Poets’, whose poetry celebrated philosophical musing on the natural world.

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My guide and translator, recites a poem of in song about when the king wanted to make Samarkand the seat of government and leave Bukhara, Rudaki wrote a poem that successfully changed the king’s mind and he kept his court in Bukhara.

While strolling through Dousti Square, and living up to the meaning of its name, friendliness, we met tourists from Uzbekistan from the Ferghana Valley and, of course, they are friendly and, of course, we join to share photos together.

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Then off to the Art Foundation of Tajikistan, a foundation that supports and encourages the development and preservation of Tajikistan’s deep artistic legacy. Exhibitions and classes showcase today’s artisans and their dedication to keeping alive traditional Tajikistan crafts. Djamshed Djuraev, Master of Florentine Mosaics cleared his schedule to give us a ‘master class’ in his craft.

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Djamshed Djuraev, centre. Nassim, right. Sculptor, left.

In an interview before the class, Djamshed explained the process: Florentine mosaics are cut pieces of stone fit together with each other in such a way that you can’t tell that the finished work is, in fact, made up of many little bits of semi-precious stone.With other mosaic styles the spaces between the tiles/pieces are quite obvious, indeed, are meant to be seen. In the technique of Florentine mosaics  each piece of stone – often minute in size – is carved, shaped, filed, measured, and re-filed until it meets perfectly with its connecting piece. Below is part of the process .

Tajikistan has dedicated 2018 as the Year of Tourism Development and Folk Craft. So I could not have come at a better time to meet master artisans in so many fields of traditional crafts.  There are many that I would like to write and will post especially on this subject. E5237437-0A02-46CB-8732-175E0423EB51However, a mention here of the Ceramic Master, Sukhrob Saidov, who is a 10th generation potter and whose family originated in Bukhara. Tajik pride themselves in their hospitality to join for tea, fruits, and hot round, chewy bread. The hospitality and generous spirit to share what they have touched my heart.

Glass…I finally found evidence of glass production  in Central Asia, at least up to southern Tajikistan. In the museums in Bukhara, glass was no where to be found but here in the Museum of Antiquities that displays ancient artefacts of the many cultures and religions that influenced the Silk Road, I found glass remnants.

Tomorrow I begin the journey along the Pamir Highway. Internet might be non existent so it may be over a week before I post again.

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-map by Henry Cookson Adventures

In the meantime, I will leave you with the Center piece of the Museum of Antiquities, a 5th century Reclining Buddha, unearthed from a Buddhist monastery complex in Amina Tepe in southern Tajikistan.

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Dushanbe to Beijing

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Map created by Pablo of Henry Cookson Adventures

Here I go again…this time starting on the Pamir Highway (the old Soviet road known as M41) in Tajikistan and making my way to Beijing, China.

 

Pamir Highway is a road traversing the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. It is the only continuous route through the difficult terrain of the mountains and serves as the main supply route to Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. The route has been in use for millennia, as there are a limited number of viable routes through the high Pamir Mountains. The road formed one link of the ancient Silk Road trade route. -Wikipedia

Pamir Mountains. Mountains of  Tajikistan Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range located in Central Asia which are formed by the junction or knot of the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains; in Victorian times they were known as the ‘Roof of the World’. They are also known by the Chinese name of Congling or ‘Onion Mountains’…

Mountain peaks as high as 7,143 metres will be skirted and some as high as 4043 metres will be passed over.  This is a high altitude exploration following the migration of material culture along some of the lesser known routes along the Silk Road. I will visit remote communities and artisans over 6 weeks such as…

-In Tajikistan meetings with artisans  such as  Djamshed Djuraev, Master of Florentine Mosaics
– Dilmurof Sharipov, Jeweller
– Daler Mehtojev, Painter
– Karim Rakibov, Kundal Painting Master…to name a few.

-In Kyrgystan:Afghan Palmir community in southern Kyrgyzstan

– In China some highlights are :

Hotan Silk Factory: An important oasis on the historic silk road, Hotan has long been famous for the quality of the silk it produces. Watch the silk-making process first-hand, from boiling raw silk cocoons and spinning thread to weaving generations-old ‘ikat’ (atlas in Uighur) patterns, resulting in richly designed, colourful silk fabrics.

Sunan, China a meeting with Ke Cuiling, a skilled artisan, who has spent her entire life to preserve Yugur culture through clothing. National costumes are noted for their high collars, intricately embroidered designs, brightly contrasting colours of blue, red, black and white, along with tasselled, trumpet-like hats. Yugur are the smallest population of China’s 56 recognised minorities and are Turkic-speaking nomadic descendants of Mongolian Uighurs.

I hope to write as I travel but the roads are rough and long, and the Internet often scarce but I will try and I hope you will follow along.

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This Old House

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” – James Baldwin

In March of 2018, I’m not tramping through the alleyways of Cairo, or watching glassmakers in Bida, or meeting the director of Karakalpakstan Art Museum in Nukus, or sitting with silk farmers in the mountains of Syria. No, my task is to sell my family home of 100 years (98 and ½ years to be exact) in Colorado…the home of four generations.

Since I left the USA in 1971 to marry my husband in Lebanon and move to West Africa, my cultural identity, lifestyle, family, community ties have not been that from where I came. After nearly fifty years, twice the time outside of the USA, my identity is chameleon-like or camouflaged. I don’t think too much about my heritage except now as I am letting go of the last property of my family heritage, I offer my appeasement to:

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Both sides of my mother’s family arrived in the late 1600s to the ‘new world’. My father’s family arrive in the mid-1800 first through Canada then to Colorado. My parents were raised in a small community along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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Loveland, in northern Colorado, at foothills of Rocky Mountains

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Original neighborhood on 6th Street

There, one of the family homes, has remained in our family. Three years ago my, then, 92-year-old mother decided to move to Florida and live with her daughter, my younger sister, Lynn Kitchen. Mother could no longer maintain the house and decided to sell. For many reasons, I felt a responsibility to keep the house in the family. So purely on an emotion decision, I bought the house from my mother. Soon to realize that maintaining such a house when I do not live in the USA was an expensive burden. Yet engulfed in guilt, I chastised myself, “how could I spend much of my time writing about other people’s heritage when I cannot save my own?” But money was flying out of my bank account going into a property with which I could not build a future. With a heavy heart, I began to clear out, throw out and hold on.P1000511

March and April and May, these months, I polished the brass door knobs and wax the wood floors; I piled the last of the boxes and bags on the lawn for the charity to haul off; I jotted down historical notes of this 1920 house and whispered out-loud to my great aunt who built the house those many years ago. I readied the house and garden to see the day when the FOR SALE sign was hammered into the lawn along the corner sidewalk.

The house is cleared of things now.

 

It is different, emptied, probably more like when it was first built…an empty vessel to put memories into; now an empty vessel again, waiting.   P1000280

So in honor of my family heritage, this is the story of 610 North Jefferson as told by cultural historian, Carl McWilliams and my mother, Pollyann Baird:

Harter House was constructed in 1920 at a cost of $32,255.53 (with inflation, today, that amount would equal: $404,074.70). Designed by renowned architect, Robert K. Fuller, the house is among northern Colorado’s best examples of the Craftsman style of architecture. When the house was built, the lots were graced by five stately elm trees, today it is professionally landscaped with green lawn, heritage rose garden, cedar trees and shrubs, and several Norwegian maple trees.

 

The 2-storey house features an irregular plan It is supported by a concrete foundation and has solid brown brick masonry walls. There is a full basement beneath the home. The home’s solid brick walls are laid in common bond, and there are battered brick piers at the corners. Cream colour stucco, with false hall-timbering, appears in the upper gable ends on the south and west elevations, and in the upper half storey on the east elevation. The roof is broadly pitched, and features intersecting clipped gables, green asphalt shingles, and widely-overhanging boxed eaves. An original sleeping porch is on the north elevation. There are three brown brick chimneys.

The Craftsman-style porch features brick steps flanked by black wrought iron railings, brick flooring laid in herringbone pattern, and brick pedestals with large urns. The windows feature decorative window boxes with Craftsman detailing.

 

The interior of the home’s main and upper floor is divided into ten rooms including a vestibule, parlour, dining room, kitchen and breakfast room, conservatory (smoking room), an office, sleeping porch, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and attic. There are six room in the basement, the largest of which is the billiards room and used to practice ballroom dancing. Other rooms in the basement include the fruit cellar, laundry room, coal room, a boiler room, and workshop with an original built-in work bench.

The home has tongue-in-groove maple flooring, except in the parlour which has oak flooring. The interior wood work is stained natural brown with distinctive diamond-shaped motifs adorning the interior. The main stairway is pure Craftsman with a square newel post, carved balusters, curved hand rails, and wide stair risers that give way to a graceful ascent to the second floor.

 

All original light fixtures are intact as are the original bathroom fixtures including a pull-handle flush toilet.

 

The fireplace tiles are similar to those found on the façade of the Rialto Theatre in Loveland, which were designed by Earnest Batchelder of Pasadena, California. Thirteen decorative tiles echo the glorious past of medieval masters by depicting Viking ships, knights, castles, and stylized animals and birds.P1000323P1000302

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From the parlour, French doors open onto the dining room. All walls feature shoulder high panelled wainscoting. Onto these panels, European (most probably Germans from Russia who arrived in Loveland in 1902) applied a grey-blue paint stippled on with a sponge – a technique named “Tiffany finish”. The original chandelier and scones were specially designed to match the painted walls.

 

A central vacuum system was installed to remove dirt and dust through tubing installed inside the walls to a collection container in a remote utility space in the basement.  Inlets  installed in walls throughout the house that attach to a hose and was meant to be a labor saving device.

 

Also built in 1920, the garage is located north of the house and is connected to the residence by a brick garden wall, where there is a wood gate with a pergola covering. There is a small, pentagon-shaped garden in shed located at the rear northeast corner of the property. Brick garden walls effectively tie the house, garage, and the natural features into a cohesive harmonious landscape design.

 

The Harter/Borland House is historically significant as it has been associated with notable persons of Loveland – Charles A. Harter, Maude E. Harter Borland, Eugene W. Borland, and Pollyann (Castle) Kitchen Baird. The property is architecturally significant for its fine expression of the Craftsman style of architecture and because it was designed by prominent Colorado Architect Robert K. Fuller.

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Left to right: Eugene W. Borland, Maude (Stanfield) Harter Borland, Pollyann (Castle) Kitchen Baird, Charles A. Harter

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1979 Auntie Maude (88 years old) with my children, Omar and Saadiah. Note the luggage on the stairs, Auntie Maude, in her day, called it a ‘grip’.

Robert K. Fuller was born in 1886 in Fort Collins. Robert grew up in Fort Collins and attended Colorado A&M and Cornell University where he received his degree in architecture. By 1910, Fuller had opened and architectural firm in Denver. By 1920, Fuller had designed some of his most notable buildings, including several Colorado courthouses and schools. Work credited to Fuller in Loveland include the Harter House, the Rialto Theatre and Loveland High School, renovation on the Lovelander Hotel and the original Herzinger & Harter Building.IMG_6583 (1)

The Craftsman style house, at the time, was the most popular style of the day. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement led by Gustav Stickley, the Craftsman style of architecture was principally influenced by the work of brothers, Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene. Popularized throughout the country by pattern books and magazines, examples of the style included both elaborate architecture designed, Craftsman houses as well as more modest bungalows. Stickley philosophy of design stressed comfort, utility and simplicity through the use of natural materials and a lack of pretention. As publisher of the Craftsman, a magazine he founded in 1901, Stickley sought to expound upon the concept of ‘total design,” which sought to integrated the house with its surroundings through all aspects of design: house construction landscaping, interiors and furnishing.

Gustav Stickley’s concept of “total design” is clearly evident in Robert Fuller’s design of the Harter House, executed in 1919. From the complementary architecture of the house and garage to the unifying brick garden wall, to the duplicate pergola roofs over the front porch and gate to the home’s harmonized interior fixtures and furnishings, Fuller’s design embraces all of the elements of the Craftsman style.IMG_6463IMG_0432

A little family history:

Charles A. and Maude E. (Stanfield) Harter were the home’s original owners. In the spring of 1919, they commissioned Fuller to design the house in a style which they referred to as a “Brittany Bungalow.” Construction work on the residence was completed by a contractor named Danielson. Mr. Harter passed away, of complications from Bright’s disease and diabetes, in November 1920 having lived in the new home for less than a year. Mrs Harter, though, lived the rest of her life until her death in December 1992 at the age of 101. Along the way she married her second husband, Eugene W. Borland on December 24, 1926, and eventually passed the house on to her niece (my mother, Pollyann (Castle) Kitchen Baird who, in 2015, sold the house to me, great niece of Maude.

Born in 1889, Charles A. Harter was son of prominent Loveland pioneers Samuel B. and Emma B. Harter. The elder Mr. Harter arrived in Colorado Territory in the years prior to 1871. Determined to capitalize on the burgeoning mining industry, Harter made his way to Caribou, a bustling mining camp located west of Nederland, near the Continental Divide. There Harter entered into a partnership with John Lewis Herzinger, in a mercantile business, they moved their business to Loveland and purchased a corner lot at what is today the northwest corner of East 4th Street and North Cleveland Avenue. At this location, Harter and Herzinger constructed Loveland’s first brick commercial building, a two-storey edifice with the Herzinger and Harter Mercantile on the ground floor and a grange hall on the second floor.

Charles A. Harter grew up in Loveland and attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs where he met Miss Maude Stanfield (my great aunt), also attending Colorado College. They graduated and married in 1916. After his father’s death, Charles took on the family business. In early 1919, the Harters commissioned architect Robert K. Fuller to undertake two project. One was to design their new home at the northeast corner of Jefferson Avenue and East 6thstreet, and the other was to design a major addition to the Lovelander Hotel, which was owned by the Harter family. Charles was diagnosed with Bright disease and diabetes and died in November 1921 at the young age of 31. Auntie Maude was 29 years old. In 1926,  Maude met Gene W. Borland who had founded the Loveland Realty Association, House of Neighbourly Services, and was a successful investment banker. Maude managed the Harter family farms and ranches almost to the day she died in 1992, active in DAR, and many community projects throughout her life.

My mother, Pollyann, lived with Auntie Maude and Uncle Gene and attended Loveland High School where she met my father, Richard S. Kitchen. In 1992, after Auntie Maude’s death, my mother inherited 610 North Jefferson. In 2015, I took over and today, the story ends but not the memories…

In this old house…an attic treasure, a first edition book, The Secret Garden inscribed with a poem from Dudley, my grandmother’s suitor, when she was attending college in Tennessee.

 

***Recognizing that millions of people are forced to leave their homes or their homes are destroyed by natural disasters or by war leaving refugees, homeless, and untold grief, I am grateful to have the opportunity to leave this house peacefully and with love.

 


To read more about the grief of letting go of a family home read:

“Goodbye to the House My Grandmother Built.” By Yasmine El Rashidi

Watch the movie: Nostalgia:”A mosaic of stories about love and loss, exploring our relationship to the objects, artifacts, and memories that shape our lives.”

 

Red Walls of Bida – Revisited 2018

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ETSU of Nupe
Emir His Royal Highness (Bahagadochi) Alhaji Yahaya Abubaker greets people with the traditional royal gesture. The umbrella is significant as it provides shade to spotlight the Emir, the symbol of authority and the seat of traditional power.

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The people of Bida greet ETSU with raised right hand, closed fist in the traditional salute: Ranka-shi-deddy – May your life be prolonged!

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ETSU of Nupe
Emir His Royal Highness (Bahagadochi) Alhaji Yahaya Abubaker

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Our entourage presents gifts to the ETSU and praise his wisdom and thankful for his time and attention to our visit.

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In 2015, I took my first trip to Bida. The reason for this trip was to offer condolences to the family of our chief protocol officer, Alhaji Essa Ndagi, whose many years of service in our company was appreciated and still today, who is sorely missed. I decided to stay on a week and explore the area. The series of reports from that trip can be accessed at the end of this post.

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NIger Sate – Wikipedia

From Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, it takes a sane driver five hours of hard driving over extremely poor road conditions to arrive in Bida. An exhausting, dusty trip but well-worth the effort.

Bida is the second largest city in Niger State, in west-central Nigeria, an area with which I am fascinated. It is an area inhabited by Nupe people who are renowned for traditional industries that include blacksmithing; aluminum, brass and silver smithing; glassmaking and beadwork, weaving and cane weaving, woodcarving, and carpentry.

Nupe glassmaking, beadwork and brasssmiths (tswata muku) are found mostly in Bida.

 

Brass and glass-making traditional crafts have a long history in the area along with reed weaving and carved wooden stools. The Niger River runs through the state from which it is named providing an abundance of reed for weaving.  The woodcarving tradition of the Nupe does not depend on the ceremonial or ritual use of artifacts.

 

 

Except for cloth weaving, the traditional crafts are guild-organized crafts in which membership is largely hereditary, and are done by men. Only textile weaving on a vertical loom is a traditional craft by women.

The colours are the traditional colours of Nupe, weaving done by women.

Glass making can be traced to the Ancient Egyptians about 3,500 years ago. The earliest archaeological finds of glass objects in Egypt date back to the reign of the Pharaoh Thutmosis III (1504-1459 BC). The most famous of these is the illustration in the Annals of Thutmose III at Kar- nak. (Paul T. Nicholson ,”Glass Vessels from the Reign of Thutmose III and a Hitherto Unknown Glass Chalice,” Journal of Glass, Vol 48, 2006.)  In the last century BC, glass blowing (see Egyptian glass blowers here) was invented in Syria or Mesopotamia which gave rise to a variety of glass objects during Roman times. Glassmaking, the process of making glass from sand and soda ash, is said to originate in Egypt. However, there are those who disagree that the first true glass was made in coastal north Syria in the kingdom of Mitanni, Mesopotamia and brought to Egypt. (Paul T. Nicholson). 

The Bida glass makers in oral history past down over the centuries repeat that their ancestors came from Egypt via Chad, the Bornu Empire and migrating from Kano to finally settle with the Nupe area thus bringing with them the knowledge of glassmaking.

The actual process of glassmaking is considered a secret to the glassmaking guild in Bida. However, I was given a sample of the glass and description of the process was explained. Below is raw glass, processed once a year from sand and soda ash brought from Lake Chad or now, Kano. The fire in the ground bakes the sand and soda ash and takes two weeks. Also, recycled and melted glass bottles are used  to make beads and bangles. For full process, READ Bida Glass

 

 

Road to the workshop of the guild of glassmakers called Masaga.

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Bead and bangle makers atelier. DSC_0261

 

Before any bead making begins. Wood has to be chopped to make the fire. The clay oven is made of the red clay from Bida. It is repaired or built again once a year. The bellows operator carries on the rhythmic air flow into the furnace by a constant push and pull of the wood staves.P1020037  Pre-warmed glass is melted onto the iron rods. The long tongs are important. The man spreads out the melted glass with the tongs. The broad lamelliform knives are used to form the lumps of glass. Iron rods, tongs, and knives are the only tools that are used.DSC_0279

 

The tools are coated in the red clay of Bida and then the iron rods are heated and the clay bakes. This allows the bead to slide off the rod with relative ease when ready.

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Glass Bangles

 

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Below from left to right: Ayo Kuti, me, Allah Omar (bangle maker), Eba Mustafa (bead maker), bellows man, Alhaji Galedima, and two elders, young boy.

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Read: A Memorial to Alhaji Essa Ndagi, here.

Red Walls of Bida – Introduction here and here.

Bida Glass: Bangles and Beads here ; Bida Brass-work here : Bida Blacksmith here.

Roman Glass in Britain and in Bida here.

 

(All rights reserved, copyright 2018. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required)

Cairo Sounds on Thursday Night (3)

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 El Tanbura
 
El Tanbura was established by Zakaria Ibrahim in 1989 in Port Said, when he brought together the masters of the simsimia, encouraging them in the revival of their musical heritage. Most of them had stopped playing: their music was no longer in demand, as people followed the fashion of pop culture music. Today, El Tanbura includes 20 members – master musicians, singers, philosophers, as well as fishermen, builders, plumbers and vendors, ranging in age from 25 to 84 years. Their instruments are their voices, the Simsimia, theTanbura (big lyre), Nay also Kawala (end-blown, reed flute), tabla (vase-shaped drum), triangle, Sagat (small cymbals), Shakhalil (kind of castanets) and Riqq (open, wooden frame drum with jingling discs in the frame). Their collected oral repertoire consists of more than 20 hours of traditional songs and much remains to be documented.
The award-winning El Tanbura has performed to enthusiastic audiences in countries all over the world from Canada to Europe, to Australia and Africa. They are regularly invited to participate in international music festivals, such as WOMAD in England, Abu Dhabi and WOMEX in Spain and, most recently, WOMAD in Russia.
In collaboration with their English partner, the production company, 30IPS, El Mastaba has produced two albums of international standard for El Tanbura band “Between the Desert and the Sea” and “Friends of Bambouti”. The Center has also produced three albums in Egypt entitled “Nouh El Hamam”, “Ahwa Qamar” and, most recently, an album of resistance songs spanning several decades, “January 26”.

– El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music

Thursday nights in Cairo are filled with parties, dinners, weddings but if you have a couple of hours and an adventurous music lover, check out a variety of folk music brought to the el-Dammah Theatre by Zakaria Ibrahim, researcher and founder of El Mastaba Center. c2228c89-922e-4bbd-b9d5-4869d1c4e8c1

El Dammah Theatre, managed by El Mastaba Center for Folk Music and located at El Balakesa Street, Abdeen.  Ticket: 30 EGP Winters: Thursday at 8pm

For more information please visit our website : www.el-mastaba.org

For more Egyptian traditional music see:

Cairo Sounds on Thursday Night (2)

and

Cairo Sounds-Egyptian Folk Music (1)