Africa Locked up in Beijing

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Yesterday’s post brought up the subject of stains and maps which reminded me of this rust spot on an unidentified utility box in downtown Beijing. We were on our way to the Beijing Ancient Observatory which, by the way, is an excellent place to have a little peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the megalopolis: the inner court is cool and quiet and the ancient astronomical instruments are, well, simply beautiful. Most of the pictures online don’t do justice to the intricacy of the metalwork. You really need to get up close to appreciate the waves and dragons and clouds. And in addition to that it was only 10 yuans in 2010. Anyway, this spot of rust caught my eye as we walked eastwards towards the observatory. You know how it is: suddenly something in the stream of information bombarding constantly your brain just pops up and a usually trifling detail lights up like a beacon. There was a lot to experience in Beijing, trillions of details that are so different from my everyday environment, but somehow this shadow of Africa caught my eye. Could there be a more accurate random rendering of a continental form?

There seems to be some symbolism in play here. China is currently investing heavily in Africa taking advantage of its rising markets, but regardless of the rising star of many African countries and communities, equally many places are still in a kind of lockdown, stuck at circumstances that are beyond words while there are untold riches just around the corner.

Universe has a fanny way of pointing out things.

My Heroes: Quinn McDonald


I stumbled upon Stefan G. Bucher’s book 344 Questions – The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, And Artistic Fulfillment a few months ago and, being a bibliophile and loving books with a twist, naturally bought it. Which reminds me, I need to get me some more bookshelves – and a larger home for this one has no free wall space for shelves anymore. The paintings and stuff need their share too. But anyway, it’s a great book. Instead of giving answers or reciting inspirational stories it asks you questions and makes you write down your own tale of growth. The name says it all: inside you’ll find some 344 questions such as ‘How do you define freedom?’ or ‘What is your worst case scenario?’ and you are supposed to write down (or draw or whatever) you answers.

One question is ‘Who are your heroes?’ ‘Wow,’ I thought when a reached that page, ‘do I even have heroes let alone creative ones?’ I never had an idol as teenager, not, at least, in the way most think about being a teenager fan of someone. I suppose I was (and am) a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien but that’s it, no pop idols or gorgeous film stars: instead of a poster of a rock star I had the map of the Middle Earth on my wall.

But an idol is not the same as a hero, not to me. A hero is someone I not only admire but someone who inspires me, who’s skills and philosophy I respect and hold in high regard. A hero is someone who I want to emulate, to be in the same league with. A hero is someone I would want to learn from, someone who inspires me into reaching higher. An idol moves me with her work but a hero makes me want to better myself. But until recently I used to get easily envious of the people I admired thinking that I could never achieve the level of skill they had. I used to think that I wasn’t skilled enough as if skill was something one is born with, not something that is achieved through practice. I though that I was too old, that it was too late for me to begin the practice. So when I saw something I admired, I sooner or later begun to feel sorry for myself instead of allowing myself to be inspired by them.

But heroes are important, and this book made me realise this fully. So I though about about who would count as my heroes and begun, as instructed, to write a list which is still not finished yet – and never will be as new heroes will appear throughout my life. But in this book every question is followed by a follow-up question(s) and the question about my heroes was tailed by ‘Do they know that they’re on your list?’ and ‘Do they care?’ In order to answer these two questions I will write posts about my heroes to let them know they are on my list. Whether they care or not is not that important, it is more important to me to let the world to know I hold them in high esteem. They inspire me and that in itself is enough.


The first person I would like to nominate as my hero is Quinn McDonald, an artist and a life/creativity coach. I came across her book Raw Art Journaling – Making Meaning, Making Art which then led me to her blog. I am inspired by her art and creativity, especially by her wonderfully, but only seemingly, chaotic colours and especially by her maps (see one here). But she her words are even more inspiring. Her blog posts on creativity, personal growth and thoughtful observations on everyday things are thought-provoking. She writes fearlessly – it seems to me – about personal issues that are without doubt difficult and painful. Her blog opens up a story of personal growth, a story of how she became who she is today, which, I’m sure, reassures many readers that their lives too can be turned around. Quinn says it’s hard work but assures that it can be done. I am truly grateful for her words.

The two tea stain works here were inspired by her post Tea-Dye Projects (Loose-Leaf Journal Pages). For about a month I placed every herbal infusion -bag (above) I used and my morning wet loose leaf tea strainer (below) on a piece of watercolour paper and let it dry there for a moment. I wrote down the date and the tea and ended up with two series of stains. The photos are not that good because of the lighting, but you get the idea.


The End of the World – As We Know It



Had I been a peasant (or even a noble) in the Middle Ages I surely would have feared the worst after spotting this weird phenomenon two weeks ago at about 7.30 in the morning. At first it I thought it was a some kind of halo (the optical phenomenon, not the game) since it was close to the almost full moon and there was diamond dust in the air but the colour was wrong. It was, of course, a light pillar from the ice rink at the school yard close by. But it was mind-boggling anyway, especially since here was only one pillar when there are several lights around the ice rink.

There were similar circumstances two years ago: diamond dust and bitter coldness. Then every light in the neighbourhood turned into a light pillar. It was fantastic. Like different coloured gigantic light sabers or laser beams. Sadly it didn’t have a tripod at hand back then and it was too dark to get good enough colour photos since the exposure time was too long for handheld shooting. But thankfully the black and white setting worked out just fine. A colour photo would sure have been nice though.


Can’t wait so see what happens the 21st of December, the next Friday. No end of the world but I’m pretty sure there will be interesting news on the 22nd.

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