Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Magical Mehndi - It's transformative powers

Photograph by Glenn Katz © 2009 All Rights Reserved.
Mehndi design by: Surinder Marbha

for the royal and the rich, mehndi was a custom of applying intricate decorative patterns on their bodies, mostly on the hands and feet.  The practice has survived over 5ooo years.  

It is a ritualistic process applied with a paste called henna.  Henna is obtained from the henna plant or lawsonia inermis tree.   Its leaves are dried and crushed into a fine powder, then made into a paste.  The application of the paste results in elaborate patterns that stain the skin a reddish color, which can last anywhere from several days to several weeks.  

The practice is so ancient that no one knows the exact origins of this custom.  The ancient Pharaohs used henna to stain the fingers and toes in the mummification process of their dead.  It is believed that the royal Mughal invaders introduced mehndi to the Asian subcontinent during the 12th century AD.  

It may have been adopted into the Hindu tradition when thousands of Hindus converted to Islam.  Skilled artists applied mehndi in intricate and delicate floral Arabian patterns, then the style slowly started changing to the Indian paisley pattern.  

The henna paste was applied to women and some men during auspicious ceremonies, specifically during marriage.  According to the Kama Sutra, mehndi is one of the sixty four arts of women.  It epitomizes a woman's transformation in which she becomes a temptress to her husband.

Mehndi has also been used for cooling, medicinal purposes, as well as a natural dye for the hair.  As time passed, mehndi began to be used not only for the royal families but for the general populations.  

Mehndi is practiced in many parts of the world.  From the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, & India.  It is a ritual integral in the adornment in Hindu, Muslim, and Sephardic cultures.  
Photograph by Leticia Alaniz © 2008 All Right Reserved.
Caption: A Hindu woman shows the pattern on her hand, while her son peeks thru with  curiosity.
New Delhi, India

It is taught and practiced largely in the oral tradition, with patterns and recipes passed from one generation to the next.  One of the most common beliefs about mehndi is the color of the henna on a bride's hands.  If the color is deep and red, it is said that the love between the husband and wife will be strong and long-lasting.  

Mehndi is magical, and there is no exaggeration.  It has transformative powers -- the metamorphosis of man and woman into husband and wife.  This became part of the vocabulary of expression of love, a second birth, a ritual of transcendence, religion, language, and beautification as a form of worship.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I'm Going To Sleep"

"Voy a Dormir"
Photo by Leticia Alaniz © 2011
Model Juliana Thompson
Voy A Dormir is the title of Alfonsina Storni's last published poem and she meant her poem to be literal and for eternal life.  I'm Going To Sleep was her farewell letter from the mundane world.

Alfonsina Storni was perhaps one of the greatest Latin American poets of the modernist period.  She was born in Switzerland in 1892, to Argentine parents that were in the beer producing industry.  

At a very young age, her family moved back to Argentina and opened a tavern in the city of Rosario.  She worked many different chores in the tavern but became more curious with an acting career, and she joined a traveling theatre company in 1907.  

After touring with the company she returned to the city of Rosario and became a teacher. She taught primary school and developed a passion for writing.  Her first published work was for Mundo Rosarino and Monos Y Monadas local magazines, as well as Mundo Argentino.

She decided to remain in anonymity for much of her writing, which led her to move to Buenos Aires in 1911.  The following year her son Alejandro was born, the illegitimate son of a journalist. 

In 1920 she published her book Languidez which won her the First Municipal Poetry Prize and the second National Literature Prize and soon after published Ocre.  

Her writing style became more and more a reflection of her own life and afflictions, with a strong feminist theme.  She reclused herself even more, living a life of solitude, which affected her health and mental stability and caused her to leave her job as a teacher.

Her writing became a dramatic lyricism, with erotic tones unknown in those days.  Feminist thoughts became a major theme as can be seen in Mundo de Siete Pozos (1934) and Mascarilla y Trebol (1938).

After her friend Quiroga, a writer, committed suicide, Alfonsina Storni sunk into a deep depression.  She was diagnosed with cancer and was left to live with her disease alone.  She wrote very little in those days.  

One day in October of 1938, Storni sent her last poem, Voy a dormir (I'm going to sleep), to La Nacion newspaper.  She left her writing desk and laid down her pen and ink forever.  She walked towards the sea at the quiet beach of La Perla, in Mar del Plata, Argentina.    

Alfonsina Storni (May 29, 1892 – October 25, 1938)

She walked into the sea deeper and deeper until she drowned.  Later that morning workers found her body washed up on the beach.  No one knows why she was such a solitude figure and why she was so depressed, sad and isolated. 

Her death inspired Ariel Ramirez and Felix Luna to compose the song Alfonsina y el Mar (Alfonsina and the sea").   The song has been performed by Mercedes Sosa, Tania Libertad, Nana Mouskouri, Mocedades, Andres Calamaro and many others.

Listen to the song inspired by Alfonsina Storni:
Alfonsina y el mar:

Written by Leticia Alaniz © 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Shop On Main Street

The Shop on Main Street: In a small humble Slovak town in Czechoslovakia, an inept poor carpenter, Tono Brtko is assigned "Aryanizator" of a small shop on the main street.  The post has been given by his facist brother-in law, Mark Kolkotsky whom is arrogant and egotistical and is blaming Tono for not rising to higher rank in the army. He offers Tono the post as the controller of a button shop owned by an old jewish widow.  Tono's greedy wife Evelyn is seduced with the promise of fortune, but Tono finds that the shop owned by the deaf and senile seventy year-old widow, Rozalie Lautman is bankrupted and the old lady is financially supported by the Jewish community that promises a salary to him to help her.  Tono is disappointed with the arrangement, but he befriends the old widow and develops a sincere friendship with her.  He helps her improve the shop with his carpentry skills and repairs her furniture. He keeps his wife happy by informing her that he has taken over the shop as master and brings home the salary.  When the jews are expelled from the town by the fascist law, Tono decides to protect the old widow, putting his own life at risk. 

Ladislaw Grosman wrote the short novel The Trap, which later became The Shop On Main Street.  The story was written with a very humanistic approach and has a sense of raw truthfulness.  The film at times comedic, is a picture of Slovak fascism with all the provincialism and with its consequences all the more horrifying.  Centered around the friendship of Tono Brtko and Rozalie Lautman, the author, whom is a master of style  wove into the story the tragedy of fascism in the life of a very simple old woman, among the many jews that were expelled and exterminated.

This is one of the most emotive films I have seen, set During WWII, The film was made near the height of Soviet oppression in Czechoslovakia and features beautiful cinematography in the verite style with intense editing and camera work which won it the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1965.  

The film is directed by master filmmakers Jan Kadar and Andelmar Klos.  Starring Jozef Kroner as Tono and Ida Kaminska as the widow Rozalie Lautman.

125 MIN

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mystique Of Carmenere

Carmenere grape, Chile
Carmenere is one of the classic grapes from the 1800's.  It was born in Bordeaux, France and was known to be called the Grand Vidure.  Historically, Carmenere had been difficult to grow in cold, humid climates, and was all but vanished from the European soil when a plague called phylloxera, caused by a louse, ravaged the French vineyards.

Grapegrowers tried to revive it along with the region's other five key red grapes: Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot. But it proved hard to revive as farmers tried to graft the remnants of vines onto new, hearty roots, and was essentially lost.
Carmenere was imported to South America in the 1850's, along with other Bordeaux varieties, prior to the European outbreak of phylloxera.   European grape growers planted vines in Chile, and started their winemaking.  
For more than a century,  Chilean farmers assumed the variety they were growing was merlot, until a DNA analysis, confirmed by french ampelographer (the branch of botany that studies the cultivation of grapes), Jean Michel Bousiquot discovered the truth in 1994.
It became Chile's own signature grape as it did not exist anywhere else.  Similar to merlot, but much deeper in color, it is the purplest of all red grapes.  It is rich in berry fruits and spice, with smooth well rounded tannins, making this a very pleasing and easy to drink varietal.  
Carmenere is dark and smoky in intensity.  It is rich and bold and has almost no transparency when poured in a glass.  
Now disappeared from its homeland, Carmenere came back to life with a second chance.  Chilean vintners, realizing they have something few other wine regions do, have staked a claim on carmenere as their flagship wine.
Chilean producers have made the grape far more accessible to the average drinker. Santa Rita offers it in both its 120 brand of value wines and a reserve bottling. Its 2002 carmenère(Vineyard Brands, $5-7) is big on the smoke and tannins, but it's also an excellent introduction to the grape. Chilean wine giant Concha y Toro also offers affordable varietal carmenère under its Casillero del Diablo label.
Salud to Carmenere!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Maiden Of The Used Books by Arístides Vargas

Photograph by Leticia Alaniz © 2011
In this photo Marti Ethridge as the Maiden and Laura L. Watson

 Playwright Aristides Vargas brings to life love, deception and repression all driven by a dysfunctional family.  The head of the family is almost always the father, but in this family he is the perpetrator of direct assault to all of its members.  The well written play will entertain you, move you, and make you laugh at a family that mirrors society in all of its sarcasm.  

It is a thought-provoking and poetic piece about a young girl who is sold to a much older general.  Forced to live in the harsh and realistic world of military power and repression, the maiden, barely at the beginning of her adolescence, attempts to run away and is hit by a bus when her husband and commander attempts to engage in sexual intercourse with her.  While battling for her life in a hospital, she looks back over the events of her past only to realize she must make one of the most important decisions she has ever made.

The play explores with breathtaking imagery contemporary relationships of love and deception.  Director Cora Cardona of Teatro Dallas presents this masterful work in a unique and imaginative exploration.  The production stars J.P Cano, Lydia Enriquez, Laura L. Watson, Marti Ethridge, Edgar Estrada, Armando Monsivais and Sergio Rodriguez.

April 22- May 29 2011
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm

All Performances at Teatro Dallas

or call 214-689-6492

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Introducing The Blog

There are many things that come to mind when you are faced with a blank page.  What can be an interesting opening line to start a first post on a blog?  I cannot come up with one.  It is puzzling as I am a person whom likes to write about so many subjects.  For starts, I will list a few of the subjects that this blog will be about.  In no particular order:  Films, Filmmaking, Photography, Travel, Art, Food & Wine.  Thanks for becoming a reader on this blog.


Yours Truly,

Leticia Alaniz