Monday, 15 November 2010

With my head in the sky....

Today we started out with a bus ride around San Francisco. With the sun shining the city was picture postcard in it's beauty, and the highlight was passing by the home that once used to be Alice Walker's residence. The architecture of this city blends both the traditional Victorian stick houses with modern day architecture, in ways that keep the skyline with open spaces and a harmony of styles. In an uncrowded open air bus, the city held a charm and the people everywhere just engulf you with a friendliness that is unparalleled, in my experience of travel to date.

The Jewish museum was our next port of call where we saw a project titled : As it is Written, which involves a Jewish woman named Julie Seltzer who has chosen to train as a scribe. The project is to write the Torah which is the sacred book of the Jewish faith, over a period of a year, using the museum room as the site at which she does this. She sits in the museum on most days and writes this text in the traditional methodology that is mandatory. A Torah is always standardized with strict laws that govern how they must be written : 62 sheets of parchment paper, 248 columns, 10,416 lines and 304,805 letters. Every Torah must be copied from another existing one and each word must be verbally said aloud before inscribing it. I found this process fascinating because Julie Seltzer is a woman, and traditionally Torahs are only written by men. So in doing so she breaks a huge taboo; yet, she faithfully upholds the sacredness of this ancient tradition in all other ways.

In another room of this museum I saw a selection of works titled Reclaimed :paintings from the collection of Jacques Goudstikker. A Jewish art dealer from Amsterdam, his collection was looted by the Nazi's when he was forced to flee from Netherlands, leaving behind approximately 1,400 art works of historical significance and extreme financial value. In February 2006 the Goudstikker family were successful in reclaiming 200 art works from the Dutch government. The paintings showcase imported goods like Chinese porcelain or luxury English silver, French wine and Japanese silks which were what the middle classes of that era held as being reflective of their wealth and status; and so these paintings were much in demand as they reflected aspects from their daily lives. Normally I am not a great admirer of this style or genre, but these works, not very large in scale, were quite precious in nature.
We returned to revisit the Asian Art Museum again today because it is a space that one can go to many times. I say a beautiful exhibition of traditional Japanese screen paintings. The skill and delicacy of brush work is comparable for me to the Indian traditions of miniature paintings in many ways, only the subjects are so different as is the scale.
Today I felt hugely grateful for Surendran nudging me back into photography, by gifting me a camera when we last travelled to South Africa. After years of adamantly putting aside my camera with a "forever" attitude; today it has blended itself back into my life almost like a silent lover returning to re-seduce me all over again. There is another concentration and focus that "seeing" through a lens offers me.
Tonight I shall head back to a Thai restaurant for my favourite roast duck with jasmine rice. It is yummy beyond description and I fear my waistline is soon going to resemble the duck too! So quack quack and lights out on that note!!

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