Tag Archives: Art

Of Geoffrey Bawa & Being Overrated


Anoma Pieris from , is an Associate Professor in Architecture at Melbourne University, whom I have had the pleasure of acquainting over the last few years on matters to do with Architectural theory.

I have always maintained that Geoffrey Bawa is overrated, and that the propping up of Bawa as an Architect goes beyond his skill as an architect and there are other elitist socio-political reasons as to why Bawa is revered and beatified by Sri Lankan society at large, for this I have of course taken much criticism for being pompous – one shalt not criticise Bawa and live in Sri Lanka at the same time.

Anoma Pieris responds to this question and identifies why Bawa is is so overrated, and why that is so wrong, a view I am delighted to always have held.

This cultish reverence of Bawa has in many instances given Sri Lankan Architecture students very little outside Bawa to aspire to, it is important that a more diversified balance amongst Sri Lankan architectural greats is maintained.

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Qur’an Recitation From Prison

This is a boy from Burma who was arrested in Malaysia for not having proper papers. He may well be a Rohingya who fled persecution to Malaysia, though I don’t know.

This is one of the most melodious Qur’anic recitations I have listened to, I say this on the authority of having listened to a lot.

Please do listen, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Non- Muslims, this isn’t an attempt to proselytise you, you will most certainly appreciate the voice and melody in this.

Where is the fairness in the world when Justin Bieber can roam freely and a boy like this is in prison ?

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At The Barber’s

IMG_8960

I have not actively been taking photographs for more than a year now. For most people, most certainly for me, photography as a pastime works best when the mind is settled and has time to take time off. Mine hasn’t been over the past year or more, for various reasons, rigorous academic research I am sure has a lot to do with it.

Hopefully I will be back to taking photographs like I once used to, I refer here to the frequency with which I actively went out to take photographs, and not the quality.

Hopefully this image above, taken when I wondered off into a cheap barber shop on a whim just to look someone in the eye and take a photograph is a start.

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The Skater

Image of a skater and his skateboard taken on the Northern line.

I have not been uploading photographs for a long time. Work and a lot of other things have kept me occupied. I intend to upload more frequently though!

Enjoy the rest of the week.

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Should Rebecca Black be burnt on the stake?

“Not so long ago, if you wanted to issue a 13-year-old girl with a blood-curdling death threat, you had to scrawl it on a sheet of paper, wrap it round a brick, hurl it through her bedroom window, and scarper before her dad ran out of the front door to beat you insensible with a dustbuster. Now, thanks to Twitter, hundreds of thousands of people can simultaneously surround her online screaming abuse until she bursts into tears. Hooray for civilisation.”

That’s how Charlie Brooker, one of my favourite columnists of The Guardian put it about the absolutely disgraceful vilification campaign against a thirteen year old American girl on almost every internet and print circle, Rebecca Black.

Rebecca Black sings a song called ‘Friday’ which was released on YouTube and iTunes. At the time of writing, the song has been viewed in excess of a staggering 66 million times! No mean feat for a thirteen year old girl.

This column is not about promoting Western music and I have no intention to do so. The song has very innocent lyrics and watching it on YouTube may help the reader to better understand this article, the reader is at absolute liberty to not want to watch it.

I have watched it on YouTube and I must admit I found the lyrics, the melody, the acting and everything about the whole video to be nauseatingly childish and immature. But that’s just me, clearly the song wasn’t made to suit persons like me and I am certain there will be a lot of others out there who may actually like it. Nonetheless, there has to be an explanation as to why it has become such a popular hit.

According to Charlie – Here’s how it may have happened.

That’s in effect what happened the other week in the Rebecca Black “Friday” affair. In case you’re not aware of it, the trail of events runs as follows: 1) Parents of 13-year-old Rebecca pay $2,000 for her to record a song (and video) called Friday with a company called ARK Music Factory, a kind of vanity-publishing record label specialising in creepy tweenie pop songs. 2) The song turns out to be excruciatingly vapid, albeit weirdly catchy. 3) It quickly racks up 40m views on YouTube, mainly from people marvelling at its compelling awfulness. 4) Rebecca is targeted on Twitter by thousands of abusive idiots calling her a “bitch” and a “whore” and urging her to commit suicide. 5) She gets very, very upset. 6) Thanks to all the attention, the single becomes a hit. 7)Rebecca becomes an overnight celebrity, goes on The Tonight Show, and donates the proceeds from Friday to the Japan relief effort. So the story had a happy ending, at least for now. But it marks a watershed moment in the history of online discourse: the point where the wave of bile and snark finally broke and rolled back.

So that ended well, what if it didn’t?

We mustn’t forget that the person in question is a thirteen year old girl who is using her talents to do something that would harness it, amongst other things of course. What moral authority do we in society have to cause such misery to a thirteen year old girl just because we dislike the style of her music?

It is more so dangerous in such a connected world as ours where malice can spread with the click of a button and could go on to maim or worse destroy someone psychologically and even render them handicapped.

The problem one may be inclined to think in this case is that those who levelled insults against this girl didn’t necessarily dislike the music, but it was an attack stemming purely from insecurity which in turn stems from a paranoia deep within that their own weakness of not having enough strengths to channel their talents to exhibit in something may be noticed by the larger society around them.

This debacle concerning Rebecca Black and her song, Friday – is somehow something that would bother only those here in the West or only a handful in urban Sri Lankan society. However what I wish to highlight is the intrinsic and inherent albeit controllable issues within our own societies in Sri Lanka. There are many a talented children and youth in Sri Lanka whose talents are not harnessed or worse, scorned upon in abject selfishness, perhaps because someone close to the critic wasn’t the person exhibiting the particular talent that is in question.

Talent takes many forms in society; it may be in the sciences, the arts or in sports. Society tends to give more priority to certain forms of talents, not necessarily because there is a dearth in that particular talent but due to the supposed prestige attached to it. This is more intrinsic to the South Asian societies where Doctors and Engineers and those of similar ilk are preferred to Journalists or Photographers forgetting that whatever talent we have should be used to invest in our life in Aakhira and not for this world.

I am unable to give due credence to the veracity of this, but a prominent Islamic scholar and activist is said to have proclaimed something similar to – “I’d rather be a street sweeper in an Islamic society where I can work my way towards a better life in Aakhira than living in a corrupt un-Islamic society”.

Be a critic of talent if that will harness the talent and not harm it, be vociferously against the use of talents if the said talent is used for purposes that don’t serve an Islamic purpose be it an immediate purpose or a greater purpose, there is no talent that can not be used in an Islamic sense – it is absolutely pivotal that where you see talent you should harness it at best or stay silent about it at worst.

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Drawing the first lines

 

As published in the Sri Lankan Islamic monthly, The Trend. Please note that this has been written to suit a Sri Lankan society, particularly Muslim and may not necessarily be strictly applicable to others.

Art and culture has been the driving force of many an European advancement in the past few centuries, indeed it has been the driving force of many global expansionist movements – of course what may have started with art may have ended with serious consequences, political or otherwise. Art and culture can take a whole plethora of forms and can generally be morphed to encapsulate almost everything if not anything that happens around the world today. Art may span from the possibly mundane in that it considers the manner in which one cooks, eats, or drinks to the way one talks, stands or sits – of course in addition to the general understandings of art as those being akin to painting, music, drama or fashion.

Art is appreciated for its beauty as a primary human response – where humans tend to appreciate the aesthetic value of the substance of that which we call art.

This first piece that I write will serve as an introduction to this column to outline the facets of art and culture and the Islamic ramifications therein that I may wish to dwell upon in future issues. For this reason, it is important to set things aside, clear our heads and get a relatively unadulterated panorama that outlines what art and culture are. Indeed they are related but hardly the same.

Art, as an isolated term is described by the Irish Art Encyclopaedia as a “.. a global activity which encompasses a host of disciplines, as evidenced by the range of words and phrases which have been invented to describe its various forms. Examples of such phraseology include: Fine Arts, Liberal Arts, Visual Arts, Decorative Arts, Applied Arts, Design, Crafts, Performing Arts, and so on.”

Art is but one limb of culture that is a far grander body consisting of several limbs.

Art is known to have defined many cultures in a political, social and economic sense and is today a multi-billion dollar industry. The political ramifications of art are numerous and art has been the silent worker that creates a ground for political influence across many spheres. The influence of one nation on another and with it possible economic dependency cannot come if one group of people do not assimilate and are not indoctrinated by another nation’s art and culture – only when this assimilation takes place does it become convenient for another nation with imperialist (economic or otherwise) motives to control another people with or without tangible consent.

Many political revolutions around the world, peaceful or violent, needful or needless have evidence to suggest that art was a vital media through which ideas were promulgated.

Art and culture is the most fluid form of disseminating information which is so easily received by most people. One would appreciate that rap music effectively gives out messages to most societies that academics have in certain instances failed to expose. The likes of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley of yesteryear and perhaps K’naan of today are singers whose music has influenced millions of people who have in the past and now begun to question their circumstances than just taking it for granted. A number of Bob Dylan’s songs like ‘Blowing in the wind’ and ‘Times Are a-changing’ were used as anthems for US civil rights and anti-war movements. The early lyrics of his songs had embedded in them a variety of political, social and philosophical connotations and were not merely ‘music to the ears’. Just look around a bookshop or a music store and Bob Marley is all over the place or speak to a ‘brotha’.

This is why Art and Culture in an Islamic sense is extremely important and has to be cultivated if Muslims as a community are to be recognised in the glory that they once were. Islamic art begins with the 7-8th Centuries and then sharply recedes during and from 17-18th centuries. Muslims today admire the virtues of this one millennium of great art and culture which they gave to the world in the likes of Moorish Spain, Baghdad and Istanbul amongst others.

However Islamic mannerisms, as derived from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have not permeated into common global usage and are not held in esteem except in Muslim countries and a few scattered communities in Asia and the West.

Indeed, British gentlemanliness, French cooking, German philosophy and many other things European are what seem to be defined as the benchmark of cultural mannerisms today – surely they are the global elite and it is human to want to imitate the trendsetters of the world. But, indeed there was a time when it was the other way around and Islamic influences were the ones that were imitated by the west because Muslims were the then global elite and imitating them would have been the ‘cool’ thing to do.

In issues to come, this column will feature book and film reviews, global art trends, photography, architecture and most things ‘arty’ with an underlying Islamic theme of course. Until then, be vigilant of the arts around you and ponder how an Islamic culture can evolve from the current pillars of art we have around us.

Photo credit.

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Happy 2011, Trafalgar Square.

The National Gallery, London.

Photo of the National Gallery taken from Trafalgar Square.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Also, the last Kodachrome was processed today – well technically yesterday – 30th December 2010. No more film roll developing hereafter, digital photos are here to rule. Read more here.

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