25 06 2017


One Summer afternoon

25 06 2017

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Weird weekend

25 06 2017


It was a strange, disorienting weekend. The weather veered from rain to the return of the baking heat. I spent Friday night at a friend’s vegetarian restaurant and then we ventured to an obscure location in an industrial building in suburban Fo Tan. A shadowy group of people had gathered in a dark room to watch one of the trippiest movies of all time:

Walking back at midnight, back in Shatin, by the river, I felt utterly disoriented . I had no idea where I was or what I had just seen (and this despite the fact that it was my third time to see the movie!  I had somehow forgotten its impact).

The next day I accompanied my boyfriend to a number of cute little Parisian bars in Tai Hang, through surging post-Ramadan crowds in Victoria Park, ran into a friend at the bakery at the Mandarin Oriental hotel and was suddenly ushered into a property exhibition where, to my surprise, my boyfriend promptly bought a flat.

A strange, anything-goes weekend!

Queendom of the Merina

25 06 2017


Above, a sculpture from an exhibition of Malagasy art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum titled “Kingdom of the Merina” and below, Madagascar’s “mad queen” Ranavalona I. 


I was recently reading about the interesting historical figure of Queen Ranavalona, who ruled Madagascar with an iron fist from the 1830s to the 1860s. Traditionally described as a cruel tyrant, and sometimes said to have been insane, she has recently been subject to some historical revisionism. Her rule, which relied on forced labour and featured the violent persecution of Christians, was undoubtedly brutal. But postcolonial historians have wondered if her determination to stop European colonialism in its tracks and preserve Madagscar’s traditions and sovereignty (unsuccessful in the end) deserve attention as mitigating factors.

Among the hallmarks of Ranavalona’s rule was the widespread use of the tangena justice system, a kind of trial-by-torture reminiscent of that used in the witch trials of medieval Europe. An accused person would swallow the poison of the tangena tree. One source quoted by wikipedia says: “The accused would be fed the poison along with three pieces of chicken skin: if all three pieces of skin were vomited up then innocence was declared, but death or a failure to regurgitate all three pieces of skin indicated guilt.[4] Those who died were declared sorcerers. According to custom, the families of the dead were not permitted to bury them within the family tomb, but rather had to inter them in the ground at a remote, inhospitable location, with the head of the corpse turned to the south.”

In 1838 some 20% of the population may have died this way, in an anti-Christian purge.


The sweet scent of Madagascar

25 06 2017


The Art of Xiyadie

25 06 2017


The gay-themed paper-cut work of a rural Chinese artist known as “the Siberian butterfly”, or Xiyadie, which is part of an exhibition titled “Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now” at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

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21 06 2017