Vintage landscape: Tokyo

Japanese festival, Library of CongressShichūhan’ei tanabata matsuri (The city flourishing, Tanabata Festival), 1857, by Andō Hiroshige, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The print shows tall bamboo decorated with cutout ornaments and paper streamers bearing wishes above Tokyo’s rooftops during the festival, which begins on July 7. Tanabata, or “evening of the seventh,”  honors the yearly meeting of two deities/stars/lovers, Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair).

The Sunday porch: Frankfurt

Full view 1, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 2016, enclos*ure“Big Trees” (Pohon Besar) by Joko Avianto of Indonesia, on the facade of the Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt Art Club), Frankfurt, Germany.

left view, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 2016, enclos*uree

The sculpture was created in 2015 for the exhibition Roots: Indonesian Contemporary Art at the Kunstverein.

Full view 2, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 2016, enclos*ure

detail1, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 2016, enclos*ure

detail6, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 2016, enclos*ure

[“Big Trees”] consists of 1525 woven stalks of bamboo imported from plantations in West Java.  Bamboo is historically associated with traditional craft. . . .   [Avianto] borrows and reinterprets traditional Sundanese (West Java) weaving techniques to construct his exaggerated sculptural forms.  His innovative process of breaking the long compact fibres of the columns between each node of the bamboo stalk makes it pliable while maintaining its strength.  This allows for the bamboo to be manipulated, bent and woven into soft curvilinear lines.  An underlying concern for Avianto is the changing socio-economic and cultural values associated with bamboo cultivation.  This includes the decline of village owned and cultivated bamboo forests in West Java due to a new wave of global industrialisation, and the aggressive monoculture of the palm oil industry.

— from the sculpture’s label at the Kunstverein

You can watch a 4 1/2 minute video of its construction here.

detail3, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 2016, enclos*uree

And from a hill,
The earth is masses
Of cane, bamboo,
And other grasses.

— Donald Hall, from “Bamboo

Among the mountain gorillas

Last Saturday, we hiked into the Volcanoes National Park to see the mountain gorillas.

A baby mountain gorilla.

It was an amazing experience.

Mother and baby mountain gorillas.

When we arrived at the park headquarters, we asked to see one of the gorilla groups who normally live closer to the edge of the park. We didn’t feel up to one of the really strenuous hikes. However, nothing is certain with wild animals, and we walked (and climbed) for 2 hours before we found our group (the day before, they had been right inside the wall of the park).

I would have liked to have taken some photos of us tackling the steeper parts of the trail (and skirting the edge of an old volcanic crater), but I was too busy trying not to die at the time.

Earlier — after the first (easy) 40 minutes or so — our guide had stopped and given us a Rwandan saying: if you kill a cow, you cannot stop eating until whole thing is gone, tip to tail (this obviously originated before the freezer). Then, he said that the trackers ahead of us had just radioed back that our hike would be 10 cows long, and that we had already eaten 4 cows. However, only the 6th cow would be a big one.

Holy cow! (An American saying.) I climbed up much of number 6 on my knees and came down it on my bottom. Thank goodness for our porter’s hand and my walking stick.

When we found the gorillas, though, it was well worth it. They were lovely — smaller and fluffier than I had expected. Their fur had a healthy sheen, and they seemed quite content to spend an hour with us. Throughout the visit, our guide made low “hrrmm hrrmm” sounds, asking the silverback’s permission to stay; sometimes he would rumble back similar sounds in return. Several times, the little ones showed off by beating their chests.

A baby gorilla in the ferns.

For more pictures and story, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on the first thumbnail to scroll through large photos and captions (and there are some travel tips afterwards). To see a short video that I made, go to this link. Continue reading “Among the mountain gorillas”

On the road

The farm in yesterday’s post overlooks the Nyakabingo tungsten mine, located about 10 kms. north of Kigali.

The mine was the first stop on a two-day bus trip organized by the Foreign Ministry for diplomats. We felt a little like we were on a school field trip — only one with a police escort and a press van.

While we were at Nyakabingo, I turned down the invitation to see the mine from underground and instead photographed it from an upper road.

Paths and steps descending the hillside of the mine. About 700 people work there removing tungsten, a chemical element used in incandescent light bulb filaments, x-ray tubes, and superalloys.

The afternoon itinerary included a stop at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.

The Lodge is one of two “swishy” (as Bradt’s Travel Guide puts it) places to stay in the vicinity of the Parc National des Volcans and the mountain gorillas. The other one — the Virunga Safari Lodge — we toured last month. Both cost around $500 to $600 per night per person.

Paths to the five cottages, with the volcano in the background.

Sabyinyo has the advantage of being only 10 minutes drive from the entrance to the park headquarters. Like Virunga, it offers accommodation in individual cottages.

A Sabyinyo cottage. The lodge levies a $58 per person per night community fee, and the community also receives a 17% cut of the lodge’s profits.
Two other cabins.

Also like Virunga Safari Lodge, the landscaping is kept simple so as not to compete with the gorgeous views.

The view from a cottage window.
One of the views at Sabyinyo, somewhat obscured by clouds.
A path through the bamboo.
Patio at the entrance to the main building.
A large fern by the patio steps.
Another very large fern near the main building.
Ferns and other wild plants along the path.
A smaller wild fern
Fern detail.
Impatiens native to Rwanda.
The water retention pool.
Small stream gorge filled with bamboo and eucalyptus.

We ended our day in the village of Susa, largely made up of 96 homes built with the assistance of the Rwandan government.  The people who live there include Genocide survivors, Batwa (pygmys), and Rwandans formerly living in exile in Tanzania.

Village homes with tanks that capture rainwater runoff from the roofs.

As the light began to fade, we were greeted by dancers.

Susa village dancers.