Saturday, 21 April 2012

Anchors Away

We've been staying a few days in the township of Whitianga which is on the eastern coast of New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula.

In the summer it is humming with activity but at this time of year the season is over, the weather is generally more settled and there are accommodation bargains to be had; at least that's the theory.

Our motel is the Anchorage at the Esplanade end of the main town waterfront - Buffalo Beach.  The buffalo referred to has got nothing to do with rampaging woolly animals.  It is the name of a British ship that wrecked itself on the shore in the mid 1800's.
At the local museum
The Anchorage motel's name is no doubt drawn from its geographical location and the odd assortment of discarded fishing buoys and flotsam that festoons the garden.  It is a time warp of New Zealand construction with an interior reminiscent of a typical seaside motel of the 1950's and 60's. The shower mixer tap is undoubtedly an original as wear and tear has made it virtually impossible to read the temperature markings.

Anchorage Motel Mixer
While clean, it is in serious need of refurbishment, there is no Sky television channels to occupy the day during inclement weather and the wardrobe door can only be opened partially, as the placement of the double bed prevents any further leverage.

On the plus side, the owners are very accommodating and the coffee sachets are replaced regularly.

I had not visited Whitianga before as all of my previous Coromandel visits had been on the western coast either in or further north of Coromandel Township.

The local Whitianga Museum is worth a visit and the displays are well done with explanation of the district's history which include the first visit to these shores by the great Polynesian navigator Kupe and centuries later, Captain Cook.  Cook's sitings of the transit of the planet Mercury give their name to Mercury Bay on which Whitianga is sited.

A quick $5 return journey on the local ferry is worth the money landing at the oldest stone wharf in Australasia.  There are some quick and easy bush and scenic walks to be had and over the hill is the lovely panorama of Flaxmill Bay.

Flaxmill Bay
Whitianga's current claim to fame is commercial and recreational fishing and catching the right tide is a favourite occupation among residents and visitors alike.

At this time of year the place is sleepy, which is just the way we like it. The locals are friendly and the small Bay Bakery at 34 Monk Street, nearest the Esplanade, creates some of the best value for money sandwiches I have purchased when travelling.

Catching the Incoming Tide

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Monday, 9 April 2012

The Singapore National Collections Online

The Google Art Project - the NHB Collections
If you haven't already done so, check out the National heritage Board Collections online.  These are part of the much broader Google Art Project which aims to capture the finest museum collections from around the world.

The Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries.Users can explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail, take a virtual tour of a museum and you can even build your own collections to share.

So even though I am far away from my 'happy hunting ground', the Asia Civilisations Museum and National Museum , I can still enjoy their collections from the comfort of my study.
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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Tutu Much

Image: Singapore Dance Theatre
The much anticipated tour of the Singapore Ballet troupe to Malaysia has been curtailed due to a late imposition of a sanction and more conservative elements of the host country labeling the ballet costumes as obscene.

Now while it is true that traditional ballet costume brings a new interpretation to the "the battle of the bulge", it should not be forgotten that this discipline uses the body as a form of creative expression.

Hence the tight costumes which show off the poise and grace of the movements to a greater degree. And I hasten to add, there is nothing inherently obscene about the human body.

History teaches us that the greatest Civilisations are those that celebrated diversity, welcomed innovation and encouraged cultural expression.  It also teaches us that those who follow a great dynasty by trying to impose restrictions, narrow the breadth of personal expression and punish those that step outside the norm are doomed to failure.

The earlier courts of India, China and Europe bare testament to the rise and fall of dynasties that were alternatively embracing and then restrictive in their rule. Singapore under the former PM Goh Chok Tong underwent a cultural renaissance of its own in the 1980's. Malaysia by comparison seems to be getting more conservative and restrictive despite the best efforts of its current Prime Minister, Najib Razak.

However the Tutu Tale doesn't end there. The Malaysian government in response to the universal derision that this ban engendered has been quick to say that "it did not receive a permit application for a Singapore ballet troupe to perform here despite organisers claiming the performances had been barred with no reason given".

Now I find this very hard to believe, even though the Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim has personally stated that he "“I love all forms of the arts and theatre. Ballet should be encouraged".

Someone, somewhere, clearly decided to withhold the license for the Singapore Ballet to perform. The troupe applied for the license months before it was due to tour and had performed across the Causeway for the last two years without causing a ruckus.

The end result of this spat is that 'Ballet Illuminations', for this is the name of the performance, will not be illuminating anyone in Malaysia over the weekend.
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