Blog Entries tagged 'art'
Spin the Globe: Rebecca Walker in Bulgaria
AFAR chooses a destination at random—by literally spinning a globe—and sends writer Rebecca Walker on a spontaneous journey to Bulgaria.
In the course of a single impromptu trip, the World Wide Web went from being very virtual to being very real. The shift began instantly after my destination was revealed, 48 hours before departure. I was headed for the unknown; what else could I do but send 140 characters to thousands of people I had never met? “Hey Tweeps! What’s good in Bulgaria?”
Within 20 minutes I received a direct message from Petya Kirilova-Grady, a Bulgarian feminist blogger living in Tennessee who said she’d be thrilled to show me her Bulgaria. Her list, sent a few hours later to my personal email, included places for me to go, things to see, people to meet, and food to eat. My trip had officially begun. I didn’t know it then, but Petya’s generosity—and the miraculous nature of the Internet connection—would color every moment of my journey.
When I hit the tarmac in Sofia at 7 a.m., I felt buoyed by Petya’s spirit. Rather than bleak and unforgiving, the stripped-down airport—white on white, with huge windows looking out on blank runways and endless gray sky—was inspiring in its minimalism.
Once in the city, I noticed not the imminent rainstorm but the warmth of the people. Bulgarians strolled the spacious main street of Sofia’s posh Vitosha district in twos and threes, bundled against the chill. They held hands, linked arms, and talked quietly with heads bowed and pressed together.
Petya wrote that I must visit the 10th-century Rila monastery outside of Sofia, so on my first day I rode the local bus two hours into the mountains. At the remote hermitage, I found the sweetest, freshest air and meditated in the impenetrable stillness. I was alone but felt as if Petya was there, too; this person I had never met, who led me to this place I had never been. Back in Sofia the next morning, I fretted a bit about the connection. For a moment, I was determined to do my own thing, to reclaim my adventure. But then I roamed the streets aimlessly for a few hours and came to realize Petya was my adventure. She created the list, but even though I was following her bread crumbs, her magic trail, I was still tracking the unknown.
Which is how I ended up having coffee on my second day in Sofia with Petya’s friend, former world-class and national champion tennis player Magdalena Maleeva, who is also a founder of the country’s ecology movement and now the owner of the only group of organic grocery stores in Bulgaria. We sat in the café next to her main shop in the center of the labyrinthian city and talked about motherhood—how we loved it, how we wanted more children, how we were not ready for the time of cuddling babies to be over.
I asked about tennis—how could I not? Magdalena told me the story she must have repeated 10,000 times: Her mother worked at a tennis club and put all three of her talented girls in classes. Her mother pushed them. The Communist regime, in power from 1946 to 1990, pushed them. They all became tennis legends. “And now I educate corporations about going green,” she said. We laughed.
Rebecca Walker: Black is Cool
“…YOU CAN NO MORE SEPARATE COOL FROM BLACKNESS THAN YOU CAN SEPARATE HULA FROM HAWAIIANS, OR YOGA FROM INDIANS, OR FRENCH CUISINE FROM THE FRENCH. “
Rebecca Walker is cool. The origins of her cool aren’t located in some unquantifiable “swag,” nor is it strutting down a Fashion Week runway, cooing in a music video, or residing in a pulpit oratory whose cadence conjures protests of Southern trees bearing strange fruits. It isn’t even found in her casual Soho clothes or Noxema-clear complexion. Rebecca Walker’s cool stems from a mind, talent, experiences bred on both coasts (New York City and San Francisco, to be exact), and a pedigree of accomplishments that puts to shame many a slacker son and daughter of the 1%. Through her latest edited collection, Black Cool: A Thousand Streams of Blackness, one would say that Walker cites the ground-spring of her cool in a residence both less and more obvious, depending on your embrace of stereotype and level of social consciousness—her Blackness.
Biracial, bisexual, but far too multi-talented to be binary in any other way, for two decades Walker’s tackled the tough subjects of identity, community, power and justice placing her own life and experiences at the center of her discourse and making “the personal political” mean more than a lefty slogan. Considered one of the founding mothers of Third Wave Feminism and a leading multimedia voice from the Gen X generation, the Yale graduate and long-time contributing editor of Ms. has demonstrated all the modern renaissance woman can be. Whether working punditry at CNN or MTV, touring the college lecture circuit to inspire a generation of fresh, eager-eyed feminists, or writing the books they’re all talking about, including: To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism; Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self; What Makes A Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future and Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After A Lifetime of Ambivalence, the multiple award-winning Walker’s proven herself more than her last name.
Given all these lofty accomplishments, it seems almost bad manners to mention that Walker is the famously estranged daughter of womanist activist and Color Purpleauthor Alice Walker. Named one of The Advocate’s “40 under 40” and Time Magazine’s “50 Future Leaders of America,” Rebecca Walker has beaten back broadcast-whispered charges of nepotism with a grinder’s aplomb. It’s her tenacious talent that’s kept her pinnacled as a sought-after voice and frequently published cultural critic of note. Hers and the gifts of her talented circle are on earnest display in a work about a much dog-eared subject of “Black Cool” without the social science “pathology” invocations that usually accompany the subject. As you’ll see, for Walker the subject is so much more than a dissected “cool pose” leading to jail or hell. It’s as multi-faceted as the lady herself.
By Rebecca Walker
Kara Walker is tall, fashionable and reserved when I meet her in the lobby of the chic Residence Du Parc, a brutalist landmark of poured concrete adorned with iconic examples of modernist and postmodern art. Outside huge windows, Turin is celebrating itself: Italian flags drip from every window, flutter along every boulevard.
Kara wears flat leather oxfords, tights and a paper-thin leather jacket. She eyes me somewhat warily as I extend my arms for an embrace and launch into small talk, which I normally detest. Luckily, my bags have been lost and I indulged in a truly remarkable spa treatment the night before, so I have plenty to talk about.
She's been working on the installation of her show we're both here in Italy to support. The necessary projectors have not arrived. The show is to open in five days, and today we have to teach a class to art students. I sense she'd like to get back to the gallery, and the class is a distraction. She twirls her hair as we wait for the taxi.
At the class, the students are on fire. They've studied our work and want to know about memory and myth, the creative process and its demands. Kara and I sit behind a paint-splattered table and do our best. I'm jet-lagged but exuberant, thanks to a piping-hot cappuccino; Kara is laconic and soft-spoken. But then I see it -- a gentle smile, then a big laugh followed by a series of confident assessments of student work.
As the day wears on, we find a groove. We tag-team it, develop a rapport, give everything we can in the time allotted. Driving back to the Du Parc to recover and prepare for dinner, we talk about our kids. Hers is starting high school, into fashion, gorgeous. Mine is 6, getting ready for soccer camp, and I miss him with an ache I can't begin to put into words.
The next five days are a whirlwind of activity. We teach the students, I present my memoir Baby Love at Il Circolo dei Lettori on the same night that Jonathan Franzen reads from Freedom. I introduce Kara's show, A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, to a full gallery, and Melissa Harris-Perry and Jennifer Richeson follow up with talks about the black body and the neurological workings of prejudice. The press descends and recommends.
The Root: How did your collaboration with Jay-Z begin?
Dream Hampton: Jay and I met over the phone. I'd reviewed his debut album, Reasonable Doubt,for the Village Voice and situated the record in what I considered ourgenerational zeitgeist: the billion-dollar crack industry. It was mycontention that back then in the '90s in New York, when everyone wasself-defining around hip-hop, selling crack had been as, or more,definitive: It included intergenerational schism, hyper-capitalism andcartoonish misogyny.
Boys were able to act out a fantasy of being a provider -- first byhelping their single moms with utility bills, later by takinggirlfriends on trips to the mall. I was interested in patriarchalpower, and the setback in intergender dynamics this crack-cash created.
I'd invoked all of that in a Voice review, and Jay, who thought I was a dude, asked to speak to me. He thanked me for the review and toldme he felt understood. I said, "Yeah, I'm from the east side of Detroitin the '80s; if there's one thing I understand, it's drug dealers."
"In ten years, 50 percent of the world will live in cities. The home is something that becomes an emotional incubator and resuscitator. It is not about tricks but about the way in which you reorient a person’s perceptions by focusing on water or on a tree or on a texture of a wall, making the home a meditative space."
Love, crave, dream of this house by the inspiring architect David Adjaye.
More from interview with him here, at New York Magazine.
“Unlike the ideas that we believe, myths are ideas that possess and govern us by means that are not logical, but psychological, and so rooted in the depths of our soul, where even the light of reason struggles toreach.
This is because myths are simple ideas that we have idolised because they are comfortable, they don’t create problems, they facilitate our judgement; in a word, they reassure us, removing any doubts concerning ourworld view, which unstressed by a succession of questions, calms our blessed consciences.
Free of all risk of interrogation, they confuse the sincerity of acceptance with the depth of sleep”.
Beinecke Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale, via Lily Diamond.
I spent many, many hours here. Watching the light shine through the marble walls, and staring at the Isamu Noguchi garden from the downstairs windows.
Just taught in Holland at the University of Utrecht. Scheduled to speak in Sweden next week.