The impermanence of everything…
The impermanence of everything…
I am sitting in my garden late in the afternoon on a December day in Lagos. A cool, dry harmattan breeze blows across the terrazzo patio. I hear the garden gate squeal as metal rubs against metal. I am aware of someone entering. A security guard hands me a white envelope with the words neatly embossed:
ETSU NUPE’S PALACE
Wadata, Bida, Niger State, Nigeria
Surprised and intensely curious, I am careful not to tear the envelope so as not to damage the contents. I pull out a beige, one page letter. It reads:
I had not a clue that I had been considered for a community service award in Nupeland, After a short time, I realized that I had 48 hours to get to Bida where Nupe Days and the ceremony was to be held. Airline tickets to and from Abuja had to be organized, drivers, food, appropriate clothes, money, accommodations …. so many people to call upon to help me put together this trip. Everyone pitched in to get me to Bida on time!
Arriving in Abuja, there was another 5 hours to drive over broken, rough, potholed roads. After checking into Bab Hub Motel and changing my dusty clothes, I visit the glassmakers of Bida on my way to the palace and give my respect to the ETSU.
The programme laid out each days activities:
Horse stables throughout Northern Nigeria—Sokoto, Kibbi, Niger—and from Burkino Faso came to Bida to race their best horses. The prizes ranged from money to generators. The races only began once the ETSU was seated.
Dusk is short-lived in this part of the world and during harmattan season, the dusty air envelops everything. As soon as the sun sets, all activities come to an abrupt end and everyone rushes to get to the road as soon as possible.
From the race ground, I return to the motel and change clothes for the award event. There are cultural shows, music, and speeches before the awards are presented:
Then I hear my name being called to stand in front of the high table to receive the Merit Award.
I wish to express my profound appreciation to His Royal Highness the ETSU Nupe for the award. I also extend my appreciation to all the Nupe Traditional Rulers of Niger, Kwara, Kogi and the FCT Abuja. My profound gratitude also goes to the entire Nupe Kingdom, all Nupes within and outside Nigeria for the honor. A special thanks goes to Alhaji Abubakar Mahmoud (Dangaladima Nupe, Hakimi Etsu Audu) who has been a friend of the family for his role in coordinating this recognition.
**Most photos were taken by my driver, Yacubu, with my camera. The first photo of the ETSU is a photograph from the royal photographers. The last 4 pictures of receiving the award was taken by royal photographers. ***All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the permission of Lesley Lababidi 2019.
ARCE* hosts book launch for Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo! Thanks to ARCE for hosting this launch, what I re-learned and remembered is the importance to celebrate an accomplishment. Usually, we just move onto the next thing but to stop and put a flag in the ground and breathe for a moment, gave such joy.
*ARCE Founded in 1948, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is a private, nonprofit membership organization comprised of educational and cultural institutions, professional scholars and private individuals. ARCE’s mission is to support research on all aspects of Egyptian history and culture, foster a broader knowledge of Egypt among the general public, and strengthen American-Egyptian cultural ties.
American University in Cairo Press – Facebook posted a short essay on:
Or read on in October Newsletter: https://conta.cc/2E1ZgHN
Mantiqti Arabic Newspaper promotional interview.
Humphrey Davies interview in Arabic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPNE0urSO8Q&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3A5Gs4uD6tDoMiYlm5_ydtSNDFYCYn9WGpgC0FkiLOtGIuSXiDKdvq-xw
Last year my plan was to end my China trip in Kashgar, go over the border into Kyrgyzstan by way of the Torugart Pass (elevation 3,752 m (12,310 ft) , then onto Tash Rabat, Naryn… But at the last minute the border was closed and I rerouted the trip by plane from Urumchi, China to Bishkek. But this year, I was able to cross the Torugart Pass and enter Xinjiang Provence. But not before, I fell and broke my professional camera…so pictures from now will be from my IPhone 😦
Western China, the Xinjiang Provence is a fascinating area not only because of the northern and southern Silk Road routes that skirted the Taklamakan Desert but also that much of the Great Game was played out with Kashgar as the pivot point for explorers and adventurers. Xinjiang Provence borders with countries – Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and India. This area of China is Central Asia with customs, food, traditions, religion, and language similar with its neighbours. It is the convergent point of varying cultures and empires, Chinese, Turkic, Mongol, and Tibetan empires; furthermore, it is home to the majority of the world’s Uyghur population.
Kashgar, officially known as Kashi is the regional capital of this Xinjiang Provence. The Prefecture of Kashgar borders with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan and is China’s western most city which lies on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Kashgar is a city of great ethnic diversity, including the Uyghur, Han Chinese, Kazakhs, Hui, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Mongols and Russians. The city has 2000 years of history and is located where trade routes met and continued to China, the Middle East, and Europe.
I had expected to find Kashgar a maze of adobe houses, city walls, fortresses, mud walls and narrow alleyways with a vibrant, traditions of the Uyghur community. But those days are gone. I was told I was 15 years too late. (Read Tony Steward’s Kashgar Sunday Market 1995 for what Sunday Market once was.) The Chinese government concerned about potential earthquakes and unsafe structures began to remove all traditional housing and provide new housing for each family in high-rise , earthquake-proof apartment complexes. Some areas were renovated to the original look of the old city that give an idea of how these areas once looked.
Old Kashi town:
Renovated old town:
But the streets take on an eerie silence with much of the traditional workshops selling tourist trinkets from Taiwan and Pakistan rather than authentic working/living areas. Though disappointed that did not stop me finding lots to do and see!
Some must see sites: the British Consulate and Russian Consulate, two Kashgar institutions where diplomatic intrigue of the Great Game of the 19th and early 20th century was played out. After reading “Foreign Devils of the Silk Road”, I first asked my guide if there was anything left of the two embassies. Though they are both hidden: the British residence behind a hotel and converted into a Chinese restaurant and the Russian Consulate still maintaining the atmosphere in a quiet courtyard is a boutique hotel. Both consulates were built in 1890 and in operation until 1949 when the People Republic of China took control. Within these walls, the consuls were listening posts of the Great Game by expanding routes, military and political manoeuvres. Explorers and archaeologist used these two consulates to take breaks from their conquests and discoveries of the Silk Road.
Remains of British Consulate:
Sir George Macartney (1867-1945) British consul-general in Kashgar founded the British Consul in 1890. He and his wife, Catherine Borland, remained in Kashgar until 1918. The Consulate became a place to rest for adventurers like Aurel Stein, Paul Pelion and Sven Hedin. After WWII the Consulate- General was revoked and transferred to British India and was changed into “India-Pakistan Consulate”. Pictures of Sir George Macartney and Lady Macartney and family remain at the entrance of the residence. Lady Macartney turned the British consulate:
“into an island of European civility, with cuttings from English gardens, exotic flowers and pear and apple trees. Ping pong tables were set up indoors and tennis courts were built nearby. Brahms records provided melodious lullabies and eventually a piano was shipped over the mountain passes”.
She also was known to have assisted the archaeologists who found the library at Dunhuang.
The Russian consulate, in the spring of 1893 according to a treaty between China and Russia signed in 1881, started architectural work in the old town of Kashgar to build a consulate. This consulate covered an area of 15,000 meters. In the compound, houses were built in conformity in Russian old architectural style. At the end of 1918, China and Russia broke diplomatic relations, its staff escaping to Russia or other countries. In 1925, China and Soviets resumed diplomatic relations but in 1956, the Soviet Union consulate in Kashgar was cancelled.
Remains of Russian Consulate:
The tomb of Yusuf Khass Hajib Balasaguni (1019-1085)offers respite from tourists in the gardens and mausoleum of this Uyghur poet, philosopher, statesman, and vizier. He was born in Balasagun in modern day Kyrgyzstan but moved to Kashgar around 1069, there he wrote the book Kutadkau Bilig – Wisdom of Happiness, which explains social, cultural and political lives of the Uyghurs during that time.
I was invited to spend an evening with an Uyghur family who opens their home to travelers. The dinner is in a traditional Uyghur dining room that is only used for guests and for the family at festival times. The three most important food to welcome a guest are two types of rock sugar and semsa, a fried bread. After that, dumpling soup and plov (pilaf) are main course. The table is decorated with colorful china, fruits, nuts, sweets as everything a family has is put on the table to welcome the guest.
The evening is complimented with a chapter or story of Dolan muqam music played by masters who have traveled over 100 kilometers to perform this evening, special permission had to be obtained so this is one of the most unique performances that one can see these days in Kashgar.
Dolan muqam is a 1000 year old artistic form of the Uyghur’s expression integrating music, literature, dance, drama characterised by unrestrained singing that reflects their ancestors hunting lives and culture. The accompanying musical instruments include satar, tambur, dutar, rawap, kalun, tambourine. There are various themes, and rich tones, the story telling and songs are passionate. The music was designated by UNESCO a part of the intangible heritage of Uyghurs. This group has performed in Europe on several occasions. The oldest of the group says, “old people in Europe look the same.”
In Kashgar, it is obligatory to visit Id Kah Mosque built in ca. 1442 by Saqsiz Mirza but other structures were built from 996 CE. It is the largest mosque in China and is reported that up to 20,000 worshippers come to the mosques on days of the feast. If you read on any site that women are not allowed, when I arrived, everyone was allowed to visit except during Friday prayers.
Afaq Khoja Mausoleum is a complex built by the Khoja family from 1640 with halls, madrasah and mosque later added. Within the mausoleum are the remains of Yūsuf and many of the Khoja family are interned there. The Khoja family arrived from Uzbekistan and the family ruled the region in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was told to me that Muslim families who could not go to Mecca for the Haji could receive the same benefits if they made a pilgrimage to this spot 8 times. (I don’t know if this information is true or not.)
The tiles are mostly original and made by different artisan families. The Islamic architecture is beautiful and the rose gardens and cemetery allows for peaceful contemplation. Read more at:
If you have ever heard of Kashgar, it is most likely because of its renowned Sunday Market. There are some fabulous photographs and descriptions about this market on the Internet but, unfortunately, the market’s glory days has passed. It has been reduced to a simple livestock market where farmers hope to sell their sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, yaks and yattles (breed of 50-50 yak and beef)
There are reasons for the reduction of activity in the market but I won’t get into that here. However…good news…I went to find the men who pull dough to make noodles … and I was not disappointed.
Below are various pictures from the Kashgar market and around the town:
Want more information on Uyghurs and Xinjiang Province in China, go to Josh Summers: Far West China. It is excellent!
“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:
This Old House
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”