For more info on Keith Haring, click here.
For info on how to get tickets, click here.
US officials recently announced that American troops will be withdrawn from the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, that narrow strip of land that separates North and South Korea. The troops will be repositioned south about 75 miles to 'hub bases'. 50 years ago in July, an armistice was signed which led to a cease fire in the Korean War. WNYC's Judith Kampfner visited South Korea recently. Her path to the DMZ starts in Brooklyn Heights.
Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux painted his own beach fantasy in 1942. It's called the Village of the Mermaids. The foreground tells one story, and in the distance there's a surprise. Judith Kampfner went into the vaults of the Art Institute of Chicago to see Delvaux's painting with curator Stephanie D'Alessandro.
Cricket has been around in America since the Founding Fathers. The USA - Canada annual cricket match is in fact the oldest international sporting event in the world. But for most Americans, cricket is a joke - Robin Williams once called it baseball on Valium. But for a significant proportion of New York's Caribbean population nothing could be further from the truth. Judith Kampfner reports.
Kampfner: I've always thought of cricket as a sedate gentlemen's game, white flannels, long languid over arm bowling, lots of strategy but little action. Softly spoken commentators with poetic descriptions. At my recent introduction to West Indian cricket in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, the solemn commentator was there all right. He made quaint references to the cerulean sky and batting with aplomb
Commentator: There's a cerulean sky with some cloud cover
Kampfner: but the difference was that there was no hushed silence. People constantly blocked his view and chatted around him.
Men in crowd: Lovely shot. Beautiful baby
Kampfner: Cricket played West Indian style is a revelation. This is not the sexless sober game that is it in England. - The players wear figure hugging red and white uniforms and there's a block party atmosphere. You could be on a West Indian island. Ocean vegetation walls this secluded field at Sea view Park and 88th. You can't hear the Belt Parkway on the other side of the 12 feet high grasses... Stars from the West Indies team, past and present, have come to play with locals in a benefit game...About 5,000 people sit on rough bleachers or the grass. . Spectators eagerly volunteer information
Spectator: It's the game that's closest to life. It demands discipline to play a whole day you have to sustain that level of intensity.
Kampfner: cricket they tell me is the second most played sport in the world after soccer, 22 nations play it. But it's the Caribbean countries that feed into the game as it's played in Brooklyn
Spectator 3: Jamaica, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent, Barbados and Trinidad
Q: the celebrity players who are they?
Spectator 3: Well you have the present West Indian captain Brian Lara and then you have Joel Garner, he is bowling right now.
Kampfner: Joel Garner is known as Big Bird, he's about 7'3 they say and they say he has an arm span of 15 feet and Brian Lara - he is the opposite in size and he's known the Prince of Trinidad
Calypso song plays: Hail Capt Lara, your road was long, Hail Capt Lara, you are small but you are strong
Commentator: Brian Lara captain of the team comes forward the batsman gets three runs he's out
Kampfner: Since the commentator was speaking to the initiated, people tried to help me by offering comparisons to baseball, explaining the status of Brian Lara for example
Spectator 1: Brain Lara he's the Mickey Mantle of cricket.
Spectator 2: Here you have 7 different ways to get them out. In baseball you see the people making funny signals and signs, here you don't make signs, it's like a cat and mouse game between batsman and bowler.
Kampfner: it's a full day of solid play from 11 - 6, but there's continuous eating and drinking. Rum and Coca Cola, Vodka and Ginger ale.
Spectator 1: It's very festive. There's goat curry, jerk chicken, ice buckets, families, this reminds me of Jamaica.
(Kampfner asks) what were you eating just now?
Young Guyanese men: Duck curry and dhal -- we cooked it -
(Kampfner asks) and are you going to have more at lunchtime?
Young Guyanese men: yes we planned this. Do you want some?
Kampfner: At lunchtime people dance to music from a portable system. The cricket commentary, which has the most lasting impact, comes through song. In the calypsos which originated in Trinidad. Since the 1920's calypsonians have been telling the stories of famous games and lamenting their favorite players not getting picked for the international West Indian team.
Spectator 2: Oh music for West Indian cricket, I'd say its part of it, without music there's no cricket, especially in Trinidad with calypso music.
Q: what's your favorite calypso?
Spectator 2: oh cricket in the jungle. Song Cricket in the Jungle plays
Q: And any more?
Spectator 2: Oh there's Cricket Lovely Cricket
Song Cricket Lovely Cricket plays
Kampfner: All last week there were calypso performances in Brooklyn preparing for the Labor Day carnival. Famous calypsonians come to New York from the Caribbean. The most popular cricket calypsos work on 2 levels like the double entendre in this song.
Song Hit It plays
Kampfner: from The Mighty Gabby from Barbados who had hit called Hit It.
The Might Gabby: When I did my song it was to bring spice to the game of cricket and bring attention to the game, it was tremendously popular in the Caribbean.
Song Hit It plays
Kampfner: Perhaps cricket calypsos will bring more attention to the game. There will be an exhibition of the history of calypsos in Brooklyn next summer and cricket calypsos will be featured. The cricket fraternity in Brooklyn is becoming more commercially aware. Guinness and Red Stripe sponsor the big matches. And the larger community is taking note. The local paper The Canarsie Courier has been publishing cricket scores all summer for the first time in an effort to get more West Indian readers There are plans to build a stadium at Floyd Bennett Field and perhaps to host a game at the 2007 cricket World Cup.
For WNYC I'm Judith Kampfner
More on Calypso music
More on cricket in New York
Kampfner: Vivien Goldman a music writer traveled the world to see Fela Kuti perform.
Vivien Goldman: Nobody gave an interview like Fela the context was always extraordinary, once in a seedy hotel in Naples, Fela was propped up with one leg over the side of the chair, wearing these purple Y fronts, holding forth with a giant spliff, it was an unrepeatable performance, he was a one off.
Michael Veal: Fela is a great musician, people love his music and it is innovative and cutting edge and it deserves the larger hearing it is getting now. 10
Kampfner: Michael Veal recently wrote the first biography of Fela Kuti. He called it The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon. Veal, an ethnomusicologist at Yale, played saxophone with Fela's band in Lagos. He says Fela was an accomplished composer arranger and bandleader, a sophisticated African musician who's accessible to Americans.
Michael Veal: If you grew up on John Coltrane you know that sound of that modal jazz where you are emphasizing one tonal center - that minor key (music) if you grew up hearing James Brown - and he's being sampled by hip hop so its part of our soundscape - you are used to that ker chink chink scratchy guitar
(music), if you grew up hearing salsa you are used to those big horns. And that is the sound floating around New York City today.
Kampfner: Mix than with traditional West African band music and folksongs firmly at the core. And you get the unique blend that was Afrobeat.
Kampfner: Fela Ransome Kuti grew up in a prominent family in Nigeria. His first cousin is the playwright Wole Soyinka. He studied jazz and classical music in London but went home to embrace Africanism. His later politics and alternative lifestyle were not an attempt at rebellion. He'd been radicalized by his mother - a committed anticolonial activist. After he opened a nightclub in Lagos called Afrika Shrine, it became a center for critics of the military government. He made a compound for his entourage, called it a republic and himself The Black President. After he traveled to the US in 1969 he began each concert with a black power salute. He chose to sing in Yoruba and pidgin and he grew older, introduced traditional rituals into his work
Lyrics were his political weapon.
Michael Veal: Water no gets enemy - you can't survive without water - some people have interpreted those lyrics more metaphorically - water respects the flow of society, the direction. Fela was singing that the Nigerian leaders were not flowing in tandem with society's currents.
Kampfner: When Fela Kuti died in 1997, it was difficult to find most of his eighty albums in America .The music critic Vivien Goldman wrote his obituary in Rolling Stone and was concerned that he would only ever have a small cult following in this country. But a year later in New York, a group of young musicians of mixed racial and musical backgrounds put together an Afrobeat band called Antibalas.
Vivien Goldman: The first time I went to see Antibalas in this club in Tribeca, I got choked up. I never knew I would see anything like that again. I love the horns, the cross rhythms, the interplay between the voices, it's happening again maybe not in quite the same way but in a way which reflects our time and our place.
Kampfner: A packed storefront club - Antibalas is twelve musicians from a mix of racial and musical backgrounds. Duke Amayo is the only Nigerian in this musical collective. He was twelve when he first saw Fela perform and remembers Fela playing the saxophone with broken fingers. He had just come out of one of his stays in a government jail. Amayo wants Antibalas which means "bullet proof " to be a vessel to convey Fela's heroism and political struggle.
Duke Amayo: It has a lot to do with how the music itself echoes the streets of Lagos, and how you feel the environment and the pain of the people around and it got heavier and heavier over time with al the occurrences in the Nigerian political arena.
Kampfner: The music is currently being rediscovered, thanks to the release of some of the albums on a major label. Even so a DJ called Rich Medina is doing a lot to educate New York audiences at his Jump n Funk dance parties. He spins a huge collection of rare pressings of Fela records but he's not pretending to be a Fela expert.
Rich Medina: I'm not Nigerian, I'm from New Jersey, there's only a certain space I can understand
Kampfner: To bridge the credibility gap he spends time with West African immigrants in town
Rich Medina: Without research I'd be just another trendy DJ playing some chic African records.
Kampfner: In fact Medina's passion and commitment was obviously appreciated by expat West Africans who were among the crowd of 600 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. These monthly events which have been going for two years, are part of an ongoing project devised by Rich Medina and an independent art curator Trevor Schoonmaker. Its aim - to create awareness for an art exhibition about Fela's life. So far they have succeeded in getting the exhibit on at the New Museum of contemporary art. The show has broken attendance records for the downtown museum. Curator Schoonmaker commissioned young international artists to make work which reflects on Fela's life because, he says Fela has become a cult
Trevor Schoonmaker: It was his intensity and dedication that made him so ferocious, he was a charismatic attractive man - you could see all his musculature and more
Kampfner: In a life size painting there's Fela in a tailored orange suit There's a halo around his head... In the middle of his chest is an elongated heart on fire. It's in the shape of Africa bound by barbed wire. He's blocking out his face with a microphone in one hand, grabbing his crotch and holding a cigarette in the other. As well as impressions of Fela, there's a sculpture with a massive acrylic oil slick reflecting his satire songs against the petroleum industry, there's an imaginary video where worshipping fans musicians and dancers wind their way around Fela. Many of the pieces in this show, play with Fela as both icon and sexual athlete. He married 27 women and called them his Queens.
Trevor Schoonmaker: In front of us you see small cameo like oval portraits in indigo blue - drawing of each of the 27 brides and one of fela larger in center what looks like a wonderful altar piece and the sound comes form 27 speakers - each for one of the brides.
Kampfner: Fela married them all in one ceremony as a gesture of respect for the polygamy of African tradition. That's what his apologists say and among the dozen Afrobeat bands in New York, there's an all female group called Femme Nameless who adopt the make up and look of Fela's dancers.
There's a confluence of events and people - musicians, writers and visual artists promoting the complicated legacy of Fela Kuti
Trevor Schoonmaker: Fela created a community and he's still creating a community after death in New York
Kampfner: He's died of AIDS at the age of 58. Even though he mocked it as a white man's disease and wrote a song called Condom Scallywag, he is now despite himself, a focus of aids activism especially aids in Africa.
Kampfner: If we keep going, one young Afrobeat musician told me, Fela will be as big as Bob Marley. For WNYC Radio I'm Judith Kampfner
Click here to visit the New Museum on the web.
Play List for New York and Fela Kuti
Fela Kuti Coffin For Head of State
Coffin For Head of State
Fela Kuti Expensive Shit
Water Get No Enemy
Monday Morning in Lagos
John Coltrane The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions
James Brown Funk Power
Give It Up or Turnit A Loose
Rhythm and Smoke The Cuba Sessions
Cerca De Ti Chispa Y sus Complices
Prof YS and his BB Band Money No Be Sand
Rich Medina Kuti Especiale not on commercial release
Femme Nameless ESSA not on commercial release
Kampfner: Tony Kushner jokes that much of his first musical is misremembered. Like the young Jewish boy in his story, he did live in Lake Charles, Louisiana and like him, he was eight years old when President Kennedy died. And he did learn about politics, economic struggle, and music from his black maid, who in his play is called Caroline Thibodeau.
Caroline: Thibodeau. I wear white hose, my knees aren't on display. I wears a white dress, they like their maids that way. Don't want them dressed for play
Kushner: I was and am very fond of her, although she wasn't a warm...
Kampfner: Is she still alive?
Kushner: Oh yes very much so. She's going to come and see the show and she's read it and it's dedicated to her, actually. We didn't have a warm relationship when I was a boy but I very have strong memories.
Noah: Wish me good night
Caroline: That not my job.
Noah: How come? Why are you so sad all the time?
Caroline: That ain't your business; you are a nosy child. How come you like me?
Kampfner: The world of 1963 is a rapidly changing one and we see it through the eyes of Caroline and the boy Noah. The director of "Caroline, or Change" - George C Wolfe:
Wolfe: I have a nickname for it I call it southern black Jewish magic realism. Chagall meets Romare Bearden on the way to a deeply intimate story.
Kampfner: Previews at the Public Theater start on Oct 28th. For WNYC I'm Judith Kampfner.
Kampfner: When ex Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev swept up a grand staircase of the New York Public Library to address a private dinner on the eve of a new exhibition, he said: It's a landmark event, we are grateful to you - this is a period Russians know very little about, . He's not the first prominent Russian politician to grace these rooms says Edward Kasinec chief of the Slavic and Baltic collection.
Edward Kasinec: Trotsky and Bukharin- were readers in this library - but after 1917 they became the leaders of the new Soviet state - they knew about the glories of this library. They said - please come we are in need of hard currency, these books have been nationalized confiscated, please purchase some of these treasures - and we did.
Kampfner: And so the NY Public Library became a major repository of pre -communist treasures . Called Russia Engages the World this exhibit begins in 1453 when Russia inherited the leadership of the Orthodox Church from Constantinople. It ends in 1825 when as a great world power her explorers got as far as California, India and the South Pacific.
The show begins in a remarkably spiritual room for a secular library. We see and hear the religious influence of Byzantium. One Russian visitor is amazed to find valuable pre-Revolutionary books and paintings
Student Ekaterina Eilina gazes at a dark skinned Madonna and Child framed in gold. It may have been owned by the Tolstoy family.
Ekaterina: I'm personally shocked in a good sense of the word to find that something like this is preserved with its gemstones and pearls because I know a lot of it was robed or destroyed - something like this with all the richness of decoration
Kampfner: The faces of icons are lit by the amber glow of the library's swinging lanterns. They almost seem to be scattering incense
In a corner Olga Hizza a painter sketches a tiny enameled saint. Her mom likes the way printed material is next to coins, vestments .
Irya and Olga:
Irya: Different means of arts - different
Olga: Various objects are put together in such a way with a dark backing and it almost reminds me of an altar of a church and the music gives it an ambience - in this beautiful room which is so gorgeous.
I love these beautiful spaces they make me feel very safe.
Kampfner: As we leave the vespers and chants and enter the library's crowded lobby, a Russian Orthodox priest in black gown and tall hat looks very much in place in this classical European building. He hopes visitors will appreciate a religious heritage that was forbidden for 75 years.
Priest: If you look at the Russian history religion played a role in over a thousand years so 75 years is only a droplet in time. Religion played such an important role. I think in time many westerners and Americans will understand what the spirit of Russia is about
Kampfner :The great exhibition hall is filled with cases which document a powerful Europeanized Russia.. Olga and Irya begin to talk about their bond with the old country. - thirty years ago Irya was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum--formerly the Tsars Winter Palace. Olga's story attracts an audience.
Olga : when my mother worked at the Hermitage,we would hang out and wait for her me and my friends and the guards who knew us would actually let us sit on Peter the Great's throne. They would actually let me try some of the garments of the princesses because I was fascinated by them and I went looking for them. I was convinced they were hiding behind someplace .
St Petersburg was built exquisitely by Peter - he invited Italian architects..
Kampfner: The building of St Petersburg unfolds in maps, technical diagrams and panoramic sketches.
Irya: Not only him Katherina the Great I would say she was like the Medicis she bought art from auctions and sales ..those were very very educated people
Kampfner: Catherine consolidated what Peter had begun. As a patron of literature, she invited French philosophers, acquired libraries and and wrote plays. She presided over a glittering court there's a rare drawing of a young Catherine in a packed stateroom. The library's Edward Kasinec.
Edward: what is remarkable about this engraving to me ..is look at the right side there are shelves which are groaning with German and Swedish silver which is used in its brilliance to impress the foreign diplomats with the wealth and majesty of the newly crowned Empress.
Kampfner: And the walls and tables groan with books on geography and diaries of explorers. Color plates of flora and fauna and exotic peoples. Visitor Ekaterina Eilina reads a description of tattooing in the South Seas.
Katya: I am fascinated with the whole direction the exhibition is taking..
Russia and China. Russia and the Pacific. To me in school it was always Russia and Europe but there were so many more expeditions.History was only represented from a communist and socialist perspective.
Kampfner: Stories of Russian exploration to the New World, to Alaska and Hawaii were not taught during the Cold war. Nor was the detail about Catherine's refusal to send troops to help George 111 against the rebellious American colonies. This pleases a Russian American visitor. Peter Koltypin fought as an American in WW2 and has a son serving in Iraq.
Peter: Catherine replied to the British that it ill becomes a civilized monarch to interfere with the growth of a nation and none of this is talked about.
Kampfner: Catherine's leadership is mostly overlooked in school books the world over - In fact she's ridiculed for tales which include her penchant for bestiality. Sergei Dreznin is a composer who has come to the exhibit looking for information about Catherine for an opera he's writing.
Sergei: She was a woman of enormous sexual energy - so gifted, probably the best woman of her time. Kampfner: There's 2 things here that rather struck me.. like there's this kind of naughty picture.. Sergei : everyone's been talking about it..show me where is it?
Kampfner: We're looking at a little water color of Catherine in flagrante with an army officer
Segei: You are kidding ! ( laughter ) Kampfner: And what about the story that she died making love to a horse? Sergei No horses, no there were no horses who needs horses when you can have a Russian man?
Kampfner: A little risqu humor adds spice and sparkle to a show that reveals a period in history that both Americans and Russians are ignorant of.
Sergei: This exhibition is as much for Americans as it is for Russians as it is for me. We didn't know our history - it was served up on a platter with a red ribbon.. we didn't want that plate we want it now.
Kampfner: Sergei's opera includes an aria for Catherine the Great in which she sings, don't forget me. In this the 300th anniversary year of the founding of St Petersburg The NY Public Library has remembered. For WNYC, I'm JK
More on the "Russia Engages the World" exhibit
Listen to Dylan Thomas reading "On The Marriage of a Virgin"
He had an appetite for women and drink but he said his chief love affair was with language. Described as the most musical poet of the twentieth century, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas came to America at the invitation of the 92nd St. Y in 1950 and audiences treated him like a rock star. He collapsed in room 206 of The Chelsea Hotel three years later. On the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Judith Kampfner remembers him
Kingdom as Thomas: Good evening culture vultures, I welcome you to this roly poly word binge in which I throw my lyrical weight around
Kampfner: On stage behind a podium, Bob Kingdom describes himself as embodying his Welsh countryman, the great lyric poet Dylan Thomas. The scene is Thomas on tour in America. Kingdom does Thomas in his own words - he would begin a reading sending himself up. Like an edgy comedian might today...
Kingdom: with the face of an excommunicated cherub a nose that is polished every day...a body when clothes one cruelly described as looking like an unmade bed.
Kampfner: In a corner of a room at the 92nd St. Y, there is a death mask of that cherubic face made by a New York sculptor. The lips are powty. The brows are furrowed. As if in a tipsy dream which he'll soon shake himself out of. His lust for life and bohemian character endeared him to NY audiences says David Yezzi who's director of poetry at the 92nd St. Y. And there was an added appeal; Thomas seemed to step out of the mists of an ancient druidical country.
Yezzi: There was a degree of exoticism about his persona and his reading voice... he was such a gorgeous reader. The kind of organ tones. I think were not something that audiences were accustomed to
Dylan Thomas reading And Death shall have no dominion
Kampfner: Thomas in the booming performance voice which got him regular work reading poetry on the radio. Though he didn't have the most singsong Welsh accent and didn't speak the Welsh language, he was influenced by it. It's an ancient tongue - with sonorous cadences, which is still widely spoken. Welshmen have a verbal parlor trick - they like to rattle off the longest word says Bob Kingdom
Kingdom. (Welsh word which ends in) gogh gogh gogh - the idea of having that long word is fun
Kampfner: Thomas enjoyed creating with those odd sounds. He also from childhood, picked up the oratory of the Anglican Church. He said rhythms had rolled over me from the Welsh pulpits. Just like a preacher, he interacted with his audience says Bob Kingdom.
Kingdom He wanted his audiences to respond as he read - he said he left holes so that the listeners experience could creep in the cracks.
Kampfner: Today the current poetry scene invites audience reaction in an energetic two way process. Thomas introduced Americans to the idea of poetry as performance says the Y's David Yezzi.
Yezzi: It was really Dylan Thomas who rises to the popularity of the poetry reading in recent times and so in a way he was really the forefather of the poetry that kids are listening to today.
Owen Sheers: He strikes a chord that hits you at below meaning
Kampfner: Owen Sheers is a young Welsh poet who is town now to commemorate Thomas.
Sheers: You get a big thump in the guts and the heart
Kampfner: Welsh rugby players often invoke a Welsh word which has no vowel -(hooil) Hywl . It means a kind of patriotic spirit. As if the mists of the valleys and the swell of the male choirs for which Wales is famous take over your soul. When Dylan Thomas read he had hywl.
For WNYC I'm JK
Welsh Tourist Board
Welsh Assembly Government
Bob Kingdom's Dylan Thomas Return Journey
WNYC Poet in Residence
A Child's Christmas In Wales
Visit Old Amsterdam/New Amsterdam at WNYC
The Dutch word for still life is "stilleven" which means arrested life - as if captured in a photograph. And in fact, modern food photography owes a great deal to the techniques pioneered by the Dutch oil painters of the seventeenth century. Those towering bouquets of flowers and exotic fruits were more sumptuous than real life. That same illusion of reality is seen today in the food art of catalogs billboards and magazines. Judith Kampfner reports.
Kampfner: Lisa Homa is a New York food stylist.
Lisa Homa: I created a little puddle of honey which is a beautiful amber color and that has some nice highlights in it.
Kampfner: A smooth oval dollop of honey. A soft light shines through it. Lisa Homa cooks and arranges food for magazine photo shoots and advertisements it looks natural but it's carefully planned. In this photo there's a waterfall of objects.
Lisa Homa: then you have a leaf which is not edible but adds a pretty texture to the plate and then something a little bit taller which is a fig and part of that is cut open which has an allure to it and that draws someone into the photo.
Kampfner: And the eye moves onto the linen cloth on the oak table it's restful and satisfying.
Lisa Homa: In this particular photo we did use a dark background, a charcoal or chocolate colored background. I think that is similar to what you might see in some of the seventeenth century still life painters.
Kampfner: Lisa Homa's images are of food and domestic objects captured in an exaggerated and dramatic way. Displayed against an artificial backdrop. With revelatory lighting picking up different textures. This aesthetic was pioneered by Dutch still life painters from the seventeenth century. The director of The Institute of Fine Arts at NYU Marriet Westermann comes from Holland. As a young child she found it almost impossible to believe that paint could make objects look so convincing. She later learned one device the old masters used was to put opposites together to complement them.
Marriet Westermann: If you look at a Dutch still life painting by William Claez. Heda who tended to gather together wonderful silver vessels and glass and opaque things next to translucent things; soft tablecloths next to hard metal, a lot of attention to sheen - that sort of thing always strikes me as prevalent in your average catalog for Pottery Barn or Williams Sonoma.
Kampfner: The pages of a shiny new house wares catalog can be an engrossing fantasy. Dutch still life paintings were the same. They were aspirational pictures. Even if a middle class householder couldn't afford Chinese bowls, fine goblets and rare fruits, a homeowner could feel he owned what was in his painting if he hung the image on his wall.
Westermann I see the paintings as both about that consumer culture, that new consumer culture where everybody could have new silver and new glassware but also they are themselves new objects of a high luxury end.
Kampfner: Art critics in the Netherlands of the seventeenth century made it clear - still life was on the bottom tier. But if you were an ambitious artist, this work offered opportunities for technical experimentation. And you could earn good money. The young Dutch Republic was prosperous and Protestant. Artists avoided religious subjects and celebrated the secular. Because competition was fierce, painters had niche specializations such as the breakfast table or the flower basket Today, in New York, everyday, food and goods are arranged for sale and there's an artistry - though shopkeepers might not know it.
Westermann: When you see those still lifes in the Union sq green market they are still lifes indeed. The apples have been stacked just so. If the merchant is smart about how he or she puts it out there - the vision has already been informed by still life. When you see a shopping window that looks attractive - these things are designed just as the best still life is of course very carefully designed.
Kampfner: Although the Dutch who came up with the title "Still life" and made it a commercial success, representations of domestic objects have been around since antiquity. A Roman historian described birds pecking at painted grapes on a mural. What the seventeenth century Dutch had which they exploited to the full, was - a type of paint.
Westermann: Oil a wonderful slick medium that you can move around and paint over and build up in many layers and create a sensuous sheen - the softness of a peach, the crumpledness of a piece of a paper . That kind of capacity is really developed in oil paint .it would be wrong to say that was invented in Holland but they ran with it.
Kampfner: In Amsterdam, the treasure house of art is at the Rijksmuseum. Thanks to Radio Netherlands we interviewed their specialist in Dutch still life paintings. His name is Taco Dibberts.
Dibberts: This painting is incredibly complex and has a very fantastic table with pastries and oysters. You have a rough yellow paint which shows the structure of a lemon and then the lemon peel so you know exactly that you are dealing with a lemon and not with an orange or any other fruit. Also the oysters, that was a subject that was painted often - oysters were found in the Netherlands but it's a challenge to paint the watery substance of the oyster.
Kampfner: The humble oyster may have been a local staple but much of the produce depicted was imported.. Dutch exploration of the East and the New World was at its height. Botanists recorded the new plants in microscopic detail .Still life painters adopted some of their scientific curiosity. And liked to show how they could dissect objects. These cut out sections help to make the food enticing.
Dibberts: We see a fig that has busted open with the red meat inside.
Homa:It's much more interesting to show a whole cake with a slice cut out of it and the show the interior and the layers and the texture of the crumb and the the crumbs on the plate.
Dibberts: There are these objects that artist particularly loved. One was the painting of bread which we have her or a pastry broken open and the contents falling out
Kampfner: As a food stylist Lisa Homa arranges her images to awaken the senses - we linger over the photos wistfully..Though modern gourmet ingredients may be very different from the food in the oil paintings, the sensibility and techniques of food photography owe a debt to the past. CuratorTaco Dibberts.
Dibberts: Dutch seventeenth century still lifes have a huge impact on how we perceive food and how we exhibit food and objects in today's photography and advertisements.
Kampfner: In the 1970's and 80's art historians gave philosophical interpretations to Dutch still lifes. Each food had a symbolic meaning. These were celebrations of God's creation or warnings of the transcience of life. The predominant current view is that these were essentially very skillful and beautiful commercial pictures, celebrating domestic upscale life. Less transient but eeffectively the same as a glossy magazine or a stylish catalog today.
For WNYC. I'm Judith Kampfner
Kampfner: Oded Halahmy, an Iraqi Jewish sculptor likes to put an outline of his hand on his menorahs. But instead of the word menorah, he uses the term preferred in the Middle East -hanukkiyah in the single, plural hanukkiot. Some of the lamps in his Soho studio are eight feet high.
Halahmy: Well I remember it on the hanukkiot in Baghdad. We have them in our home you know and the symbol on the hanukkiah can be 2 hands one on the right and one the left.
Kampfner: The thumb is slightly bent?
Halahmy: I felt like to make a bird of peace - it looks like a dove head for peace and that's what I'm using in my hanukkiah.
Kampfner: An artist can make the menorah personal or political or abstract. There is no religious prescription. Form needs to follow function only in as much as there have to be eight candles with a different servant candle called the shamash for the lighting. Daniel Kestenabaum who heads up an auction house which specializes in Judaica explains that unlike some items of Jewish usage the menorah does not have to conform.
Kestenbaum: A Torah scroll that was written at any time in any period of the world will look the same but the Chanukah lamp has this charming dispensation in that there aren't particular laws instructing the user that it must be a particular shape. It's wonderful when the Jew has this possibility to utilize his love for the precept and exercise his artistic bent.
Kampfner: Interest in rare Hanukkah lamps is growing - individuals and institutions come to Kestenbaum for grand antique menorahs. From the fifteenth century onwards the lamps took on the characteristics of the countries they were made in. Eastern European Menorahs are very solidly built
Kestenbaum: They would utilize clocks in the centerpiece they would have roundels which might have stated the names of members of the family which utilized these lamps, Polish eagles or the double headed eagle representing Russia, they were made of brass.
Kampfner: The Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side has one of the world's largest collection of menorahs displayed to show the geographic variations. But some of the lamps of Iraqi sculptor Oded Halhamy will be on a special display at the Yeshiva University Museum. Curator Gabriel Goldstein says they will be lit in great hall of the Center for Jewish History - the first time the center has had an Iraqi Chanukah celebration.
Goldstein: Its one of the most ancient Jewish cultures stems back thousands of years the whole culture of Iraq is of great interest now - current events make people very aware.
Kampfner: Music from the Midrash Ben Ish Hai Iraqi Jewish choir from Queens and Long Island. Will herald the lighting of menorahs which have a strong Middle Eastern influence.
Kampfner: Halahmy was born in Baghdad at a time when 40% of the population of the city was Jewish. He was part of the exodus of Jews who left Iraq for Israel in the 1950's. His work is nostalgically influenced by his childhood - gates to the old city of Baghdad, spoons from his mother's cooking. Palm trees are on the back plates of his menorahs and pomegranates form the base of the candles.
Halahmy: The pomegranate - it's a symbol of love fertility and prosperity, for me it's a very beautiful and sensual and I attract to use it in the Hanukkiot.
Kampfner: Each menorah is individual - and Halahmy's relationship to his sculptures is equally dynamic.
Halahmy: This statue we are standing in from of it's title is King of Kings - sometimes in my studio, the statue talks to me and I talk to it and this one said in Arabic - Ya Allah
In God we trust
Kampfner: so your statues talk to you in Arabic, English and Hebrew?
Halahmy: yes and I talk to them back the same way.
Kampfner: Halahmy sent one of his menorahs to the coalition authority at the Royal Palace in Baghdad and it was lit last Friday in a Chanukah ceremony in the throne room of Saddam Hussein and attended by American Jewish soldiers as well as the small Jewish community. Not all menorahs can have diplomatic significance or be of museum quality. Mass production results in Disney lamps and plastic electric candles.
Kestenbaum: So many lamps have made in China at the bottom - that's a reflection of our era.
Kampfner: At Daniel Kestenbaum's auction house, he's come across an exceedingly ugly 1850's German lamp with a 9-headed griffin which sold at Sotheby's for $50,000! But the majority of menorahs tare family treasures cherished for their beauty and symbolic power. Hanukkah celebrates Jewish history when the Temple was desecrated and then rededicated.
Kestenbaum: As delineated much further in the Apocrypha in the book of Maccabbees, this was seen to be an enormous political victory, guided by God, it became something Jews would always want to commemorate and the lighting of the candles brings ideas of liberation and freedom
Kampfner: Early in 2004, Oded Halahmy will go to Iraq to open a center for Jewish culture. It will be his first trip back since 1951.For WNYC, I'm JK
Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux painted his own beach fantasy in 1942. It's called the Village of the Mermaids. The foreground tells one story, and in the distance there's a surprise. Judith Kampfner went into the vaults of the Art Institute of Chicago to see Delvaux's painting with curator Stephanie D'Alessandro.
Gulpilil: I don't know which I'm going to sing
Kampfner: When he sings he usually accompanies himself on the clapsticks but today, David Gulpilil, grand man of Australian aboriginal movie stars, sings a capella.
Kampfner: Australian indigenous people still gather around a campfire to tell stories. Each dance and each song has a story. This one's about a lyrebird. Each animal has a part in what's called The Dreamtime - the creation of the earth. Each person has a totemic spirit - David Gulpilil s is an eagle. His ancestral land is in Arnhem Land in the north east of Australia. He's brought a new way to they tell the stories and to get them out to the world.
Gulpilil: I'm teaching now the young ones to make film. we go out, we take cameras, we come back and edit them, we write stories and all that things - it's something to do with my people, I want to show them what I learned from the beginning.
Kampfner: Over a long career, David Gulpilil has appeared in Mad Dog Morgan with Dennis Hopper, The Last Wave with Richard Chamberlain, Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee and Philip Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence . It began quite miraculously when word about his prowess at tribal dancing made it out from his remote community to British director Nicolas Roeg. So at the age of 16 in 1971, Gulpilil found himself in Walkabout . He thought that he'd be a cowboy riding over the desert like his favorite movie star John Wayne but discovered - he was asked to play himself.
Kampfner: White children who are stranded in the hostile outback come across an aboriginal boy who helps them to stay alive. Here, he spears a huge lizard for a frightened little boy in school cap and blazer.
Late in the film he does a courtship dance for the teenage white girl. Critics raved about his beauty, his athleticism his sexuality. He spoke no English in Walkabout because he knew no English at the time. Even today after thirty years of movie making, Gulpilil prefers physical expression to dialog.
Gulpilil: Word especially English sometime hard for me but I do it a lot with my eye and with my body movement that make me that
I m really performing it. I never get nervous, I never shame.
Kampfner: That's because he's tied to his culture and refuses to turn his back on it and won't do anything to compromise it. He still considers himself first and foremost a traditional dancer.
Gulpilil: I have to sing dance and do right dances and sing for right tribes - my mothers side Yerricha? And father's is Doorah?
Kampfner: There is no written aboriginal law but each clan has the rights to different dances and songs and Gulpilil always asks for the requisite permission because he's only been initiated into the rituals of his family. As the first Australian aboriginal actor in international cinema, he has set a good example at maintaining cultural authenticity says Faye Ginsburg, an anthropologist and filmmaker at NYU.
Ginsburg: David is a traditional aboriginal man and he recognizes that songs dance and language even are a form of cultural property that people have had delivered from ancestors and people have caretaking responsibilities towards them.
Kampfner: There's one role which he has been cast in many times and that's the role of the tracker which is also the title of his new film. But that's because historically that was the most common job for aboriginal men on the frontier in colonial Australia.
Ginsburg: You see David approaching the environment in these films - it appears magical because you can't imagine how in that barren environment, he is able to see traces of water and where people have been - so it appears to be a mystical or magical relationship.
Kampfner: It all appears so natural because - when Gulpilil isn't acting, his day job is tracking - on the northern tip of the continent far from the Australian film industry.
Gulpilil: My country is surrounded by rivers and swamps and Thousands and thousands of crocodiles I hunt and collect eggs...that's like a part time job.
Kampfner: Though he got to dance in Paul Hogan's film Crocodile Dundee, Gulpilil was not happy with his small role or the meager amount of money he earned according to filmmaker Darlene Johnson .She's just completed a documentary about Gulpilil's career. In her film she shows how although he catapulted into the limelight, having tea with the Queen and partying with John Lennon, he didn't become a rich movie star.
News clip Young aboriginal actor arrives in London en route to the Cannes film festival - official British entry
Johnson: Thirty years later look where he is now - he lives in a humpie - there is no running water and no electricity - I mean one of his dreams is to have a house and not to live in tin shed.
Kampfner: But in his last two films - Rabbit Proof Fence and The Tracker, directed by Rolf de Hoer, Gulpilil has had more artistic involvement and better pay. The Tracker has given him his first starring role ever. It also won him his first ever Australian Film Institute award for acting. He's on screen throughout the movie and you can't take your eyes off him says NYU's Faye Ginsburg
Ginsburg: He's compelling - he plays the part of the tracker with stoic grace - it's a part anyone can identify with
Kampfner: American audiences can get more easily involved in foreign movies about indigenous people than they can about Native American issues says Ginsburg. She points to films which have done well here like Atanarjuat , the Inuit movie and Whale Rider and Once we Were Warriors which are both about the Maoris in New Zealand.
Ginsburg: there s no guilt, the question of complicity isn't raised and it's exotic
Kampfner: Gulpilil is working on his own script which he will make next year. Darlene Johnson is planning to make a film about her mother and her Koorie - eastern aboriginal heritage. Though Gulpilil has been a great trailblazer, and though Rabbit Proof Fence had plucky little heroines, there's been a hex she says on Australian aboriginal women in the movies. And she intends to break that.
For WNYC, I'm Judith Kampfner.
Home furnishings catalogs have evolved over the past couple of decades into glossy, sumptuous celebrations of domestic life (minus the mess). They're a far cry from the fuzzy line drawings of a Sears catalog at the turn of the last century. But Judith Kampfner says that some of the eye popping splendor in current catalogs begins much longer ago than that: with the 17th century paintings of Dutch Still Life masters.