A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.
An Encounter with the Exotic at the York Theatre
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Sunil Kumar Thankachan (note scary sun glasses), Shivani Thakkar, Leah Vincent, Aparna Sindhoor, Anil Natyaveda, Pratheesh Sivanandan, Mathew Valdez & Edward Carrion. October18, 2017, York Theatre, Vancouver
Today I went to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre’s York
Theatre for a production, Encounter, presented
by them and by Diwali in BC which featured the Sindhoor/Natyaveda –NavarasaDance Theatre (India/USA).
I had no idea what to expect and the only word that would
come to mind was that I was going to witness something exotic.I was not wrong. But at the same time I found
that I found parallels with my own experiences in Argentina including living
under a military dictatorship in which life was cheap.
Del lat. exotĭcus, y este del gr. ἐξωτικός exōtikós, der. de ἔξω éxō 'afuera'.
1. adj. Extranjero o procedente de un país o
lugar lejanos y percibidos como muy distintos del propio.
My Real Academia Dictionary of the Spanish (I am an
Argentine by birth ) defines exotic as something coming from another country of
faraway place and seen as different from one’s own.
Because I am 75 I am a person born and raised in another
century. In that mid 20th century Mexicans lived in Mexico (and
slept with big hats under a cactus) Germans lived in Germany and wore short
leather pants, Americans were either cowboys or wore funny uniforms to play a
game they called football.
Of India, China, Japan
and la Cochinchina (the old word for
Vietnam and still used in Argentina as a place as far away as can be) I knew
nothing. I had in 1950 never seen anybody from the East with the exception of
Filipinos as my mother was born there.
One day, in that year of 1950 my father brought four of
his friends from his job. He worked (besides being a journalist for the Buenos
Aires Herald) as a translator at the brand new Indian Embassy. His four
friends, all with beards and wearing turbans got out of a Hillman Minx, a car
as strange as anybody from India, China or Japan. I had never seen a Hindu
although my father corrected me (and confused me even further) that they were
My father was a very good cook so he treated his four
friends to curry. I spent a whole week attempting to explain to my friends who
the visitors had been.
I believe that sometime in that mid-century Hindoos
Around the year 2000 I figured (!) that nostalgia is
something we feel only when we are not in the country we have that nostalgia
for. By that dictionary definition above it would seem that the exotic is
something from a country one has not been to.
In spite of living in a multi-cultural Vancouver,
Encounter was indeed exotic and unpredictable. I did not know what was going to
happen next in this theatrical play with dance and song, in which the most
important persons (and not on stage) were Beth Kelley and Sonia Bologa who are
listed in the program as Costume support.
Missing from cast was Rinu Janardhanan who was denied a visa as well as Liji Krishnan.
In Vancouver we traditionally call them fast dressers. This troupe of seven,
Aparna Sindhoor, Anil Natyaveda, Prateesh Silvandan, Leah Vincent, Sunil
Kumar Thankachan, Shivani Thakkar, and Matt Valdez on stage was constantly
changing from the costumes of scary soldiers to the more traditional ones. That
they were able to do this so quickly and seamlessly attests to the efficiency
of the fast dressers.
Aparna Sindhoor & Anil Natyaveda
The choreography and direction of performers Aparna Sindhoor
and Anil Natyaveda included stuff I have never seen before but I did note a wee
bit of hip-hop and yoga. A number featuring the soldiers and that scary Major
General played by the usually pleasant and happy Sunil Kumar Thankachan, all
carrying what looked like heavy replica rifles, was outstanding.
The reason for the soldiers is that encounter in Indian
(South Asian) has a different meaning. It is about a planned (seemed to look
like a chance) encounter between the military and those that they want to get
rid of (arrest and summarily kill) so as to take away their land and livelihood
so that large companies can then exploit those resources. Because this, unfortunately, may
sound familiar to many, Encounter is dedicated to all indigenous people
around the world who suffer that fate.
The show is really that of the two principals Aparna
Sindhoor and the remarkably agile dancer and choreographer Anil Natyaveda. The play was written by S M Raju and Aparna Sindhoor and based on a short story by Mahasweta Devi.
A lot of the action happens on and around a tall pole on
stage left that was described by Aparna Sindhoor as the centre of all activities
(including spiritual ones) of the village featured in Encounter.
At one point Anil Natyaveda starts on the top of that
pole. Only someone of my age (75) will remember those Ripley’s Believe It or
Not rectangles in newspaper comics of the past century. There were quite a few
(besides those of sleeping on beds of nails) that featured Yogis who if we were
to believe it had never come down from that pole!
And so a play that was full of exotic wonder, action and
violence which included an extraordinarily choreographed rape scene by four black hooded men
with Aparna Sindhoor being the victim, was enough to dampen the evening with
thought and a purpose to action. Not all plays have to have a happy ending. This
one has a wallop of an ending. Some of us were too shocked to clap.
Encounter is on at 8PM until and including Sunday.
I picked up
Lauren at the end of her Arts Umbrella Dance class today. She is 15. She has a
sister 20, a father Bruce and her mother Hilary. Today she did not object to my
question ("Who is the most efficient member of the Stewarts?") and immediately raised her hand accepting my opinion that she is the
most efficient (perhaps the only one) of her family.
Casi-Casi go up our stairs. He does it gingerly. I believe that like his two
masters, Rosemary and yours truly, he must suffer from arthritis. Casi-Casi
is 12 years old.
you see here I took around October 14, 2011. Looking at it made me think on how
we go back and forth interacting (as in passing by or passing through) with
people (and animals) and never give it a thought. Would either of them know or remember this?
I may have
been 7 or 8 and my mother organized my birthday party on an August 31st
in our Melián 2770. People came, a piñata was broken, a tail was put on a
donkey and a cake was eaten (I passed on that as I have always disliked
birthday cakes, even others’). And yet of one of those parties there is an
image that is seared in my memory.
had a very long but narrow garden. A tiled path was on one side from the gate
at the street to where it went on to form an L when It hit the outside wall of
our bathroom which was next to our kitchen.
seeing this beautiful young woman greet me at that bend. She was Inesita O’Reilly my first cousin
and godmother. She was I know
now 19 years older than I was. We had met 19 years before (of this meeting I have no
recollection!) when she was present at my baptism.
second meeting I remember nothing except for that L-shaped incident.
years after, beginning around 1965, Inesita was one of my most loved woman in
my life. She died this year.
about it has made me attempt to recollect all those inateractions between us that
may have included a kiss, a hug, a chat, a laugh or sharing a pizza on Avenida Cabildo.
I have no
idea if Casi-Casi is able to delve into this process of transfer. I think that
in this picture the cat was at his young peak while Lauren was a child about to
Today as we
were eating our breaded chicken breasts Lauren felt something at her feet. She
said, “Well, hello Casi. How are you?”
which memory transfers are being seared in her memory?
Malcolm Parry Editor
at Vancouver Magazine - June 1974 to
December 1987 and August 1989 to September 1990.
Those dates above are important not only for Parry who is
now one of the last of the surviving and authentic journalists (he works for
the Vancouver Sun) but also important, I firmly believe for this city and by
extension to me.
To me because I have a huge filing system of many
cabinets with slides, negatives and photographs of many of the people of this
city since I started working for Vancouver Magazine in 1977 who either lived
here or passed through.
The reason of this is that Parry (and I have written
about his very subject before many times) had an office at Vancouver Magazine
during his tenure there that I liken to Ukraine. Ukraine is a
country with few mountains that might have blocked the passing of invaders in
many years and centuries past.
Parry’s office always had its door open and people came
and went to see him unencumbered.
Since for many years I was the photographer du jour (at
Vancouver Magazine) every day my files reflect that Parry open door.
In one most important way former Georgia Straight Editor
Charles Campbell had that Parry open-door and equally important Campbell had
his ears and eyes open to all kinds of ideas from would-be contributors.
The colour photograph of artist Ed Varney (whose birthday
is today) I took for Vancouver Magazine when Rick Staehling was the art
The second Georgia Straight tear sheet is unusual (or at
the very least unusual in the world of magazine and newspaper journalism in
Vancouver today) in that Campbell was keen on my idea to combine my photograph
of Edwin Varney withhis art work.
As for Varney I wish him a happy birthday today and hope
that he does not give up the ghost on culture and art as our city needs people
Edward Clendon River - Michael Turner & Modigliani
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Edward Clendon River, October 15 2017 - The Rosedale Hotel - Vancouver
Today Sunday October 15, 2017 I photographed a handsome
young man in bed at a local hotel, the Rosedale on Robson. When I returned home I watched Richard
Wallace’s 1943 spy thriller,The Fallen Sparrow with John Garfield, Maureen O’Hara (since this was
a sort of noir film in b+w I had to imagine her red hair) and a villainous Walter
At one point this was the dialogue:
John 'Kit' McKittrick (John Garfield): Finally, here to us.
Toni Donne (Maureen O’Hara): What is it you really want?
John 'Kit' McKittrick: The girl that looks like you shouldn't ask a question like that and you
Beginning with Garfield calling O’Hara a girl and the
rest of what he said I immediately understood that the dialogue would not wash
in this 21st century.In fact
most, if not all of the films I saw with my parents in Buenos Aires in the 50s
and others and some more recent simply would make many people uncomfortable.
I have a male writer friend who tells me that he now does
not compliment women, “I say nothing.”
While walking on Broadway this afternoon a woman (young
she was) was coming my way. I knew that I had to either avert my glance or
unfocus my eyes. And even though I am an Argentine I have learned not to turn my head and look back.
Six years ago my architect friend Abraham Rogatnick (he was 82) died.
Before he did, he told me as he confronted this modern world, “I am not long
for this world and I am glad.”
Sometimes I concur.
It was in July of 1994 that the editor (I have forgotten
his name) of the staid Canadian literary magazine based in Toronto, Quill& Quire called me with the assignment to
photograph the young Vancouver poet Michael Turner.
I have forgotten the circumstances as to why I suggested
to Turner that I photograph him in the best room of the sleazy hotel (and
exotic dancer lounge) The Marble Arch. I told him that I wanted to photograph
him in bed, smoking a cigarette and to convey that he had recently had sex with
a woman lounging on the bed behind him.
I sent the photograph to Toronto (via FedEx as the
internet did not quite work well yet). When the magazine came out, two days
later the editor called me. He said, “Alex, we had instant hate letters thanks
to your photo. It has been exciting around here. Thank you!”
It was obvious that he was pleased at my sexist
photograph that objectified the woman behind him. But a man photographed in bed
does not suffer that now-so-relevant epithet of being objectified.
In that spirit (in spite that I now sort of share with
Quill & Quire the idea of being moribund and or staid) I contacted
yesterday the male performer of the New Zealand theatrical/circus troupe The
Dust Palace which performed its last show last night at the York in something called
The Goblin Marketwhich I saw twice. I
told him I wanted to photograph him in bed.
If you consider how gruelling the Goblin Market act was and, for so many
days, you would think that Edward Clendon River would have turned down my
request. He was flying off to New Zealand at 4 in the afternoon today. He
said he would be delighted to pose for me at 11.
Taking Clendon’s photographs was an exciting situation
because the man is a perfectionist.He looked at every picture I would take
with my Fuji X-E1 and would change his pose in this way and that way. I was finished by 11:45 and agreed
that the last photograph was the best.
I asked him why he was keen. It would seem that living in
the Southern Hemisphere does have some limitations even though they (those in
the Southern Hemisphere) do get to the see the Southern Cross on the night sky.
He was happy to take any opportunity that came his way.
Our work was truly a collaborative effort and the idea of
pleasing someone while pleasing yourself is a rare high for me these days.
The room at the Rosedale Hotel was beautiful. Clendon had
a large wall to ceiling window overlooking the Vancouver Public Library and the
condo towers that surround and hide (alas! ) our CBC.
Because the room was not large I had to use my camera on
the wide angle part of its zoom lens. Because of that his torso looks a bit
more elongated and because his face is further away his face is smaller, too.
I told him, “You look like a Modigliani painting.” He
smiled and we both knew we had something.
One of the loveliest of the books I read in 2015 was Mark
Vanhoenacker’s slim Skyfaring – a Journey
With a Pilot. I wrote about it here. Vanhoenacker responded to my thank you
email by warning me that in a couple of years Boeing 747s would no longer be
coming to Vancouver. I received this recent communication from him which I
would like to place here. Anything this man writes soars it is so good. In his article for the NY Times (link is below) Vanhoenacker writes about the soon loss of that wonderful ariplane that the 747 was. Perhaps that airplane is why all of us should be jealous of President Trump.
My apologies for this group e-mail to readers of Skyfaring and How to Land a Plane who’ve contacted me.
Many of you were kind enough to send in your window seat pictures (posted at the skyfaring.com gallery)
and stories about flying, and many of you also told me how much one
particular aircraft—the Boeing 747—has meant to you or your families
over its long years of service.
particularly keen to share my article because I asked several of you
for permission to quote your e-mails about the 747 in it—so the article
is a way for me to thank at least a few of you for having written to me.
If you are a fan of this legendary aircraft, I hope the article will bring back some happy memories of it.
My apologies again for the group e-mail, and all the best,