LONDON: Dr. Iffat Sultana, professionally known as a dedicated teacher (Assistant Professor, Iqra University), is a mother who focuses on her daughter (Syeda Alishba Amin-ud-Din) with special needs transforming her disability into ability by means of education.
London MANGA Show opens today!
LONDON: From smashing social boundaries to chasing Pokemon, the power of Japanese manga to inspire and entertain fans around the world surges forth in a major London show opening today.
The largest ever manga exhibition to be held outside of Japan takes visitors to the British Museum on a journey from the art form’s traditional roots to the multi-billion dollar industry of today.
“Manga is the most popular form of storytelling today,” the museum’s director Hartwig Fischer said at the launch of “Citi Exhibition Manga”.
Displays trace manga’s evolution from the comics and dramatic designs by famous Japanese artists such as Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) to the global phenomenon of Pokemon and the Oscar-winning animations of Studio Ghibli.
“It’s something about the engagement that makes manga special,” said Nicole Rousmaniere, curator of Japanese arts.
“It’s a visual language that relays content very, very quickly. This is because of the power of the line,” she told AFP.
“I believe that in Japan it makes a lot of sense that when you are doing calligraphy when you are looking at characters, your brain is already conditioned to have that pictorial content.”
Visitors will learn how to properly read manga, which translates as “pictures run riot”, and about the influence of “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka (1928-89), who created iconic characters “The Mighty Atom” (later known as “Astro Boy”) and “Princess Knight”.
Young urbanites help revive Poland’s mazurka folk dance
WARSAW: Couples spin to the lively tempo of Poland’s mazurka folk dance in scenes reminiscent of peasant life from centuries past.
To rhythmic violin and accordion, they could almost be back in the simple cottages of Mazovia, the region around the Polish capital, Warsaw, for which the dance and music were named.
Taken across Europe and beyond by Polish soldiers and migrants some 200 years ago, the traditional mazurka evolved, before later almost vanishing.
But now it is making a comeback and not only in Poland, putting a spring in the step of urban youngsters and getting pulses racing and hearts pumping.
“It was forgotten, but when I see all these young people who come to learn from me, I forget I’m old,” says fiddle player Jan Kmita, 83, one of the last surviving masters of the mazurka.
He has spent hours teaching youngsters the up-tempo rhythms and steps at workshops in Warsaw.
The Polish mazurka, also known as the Mazur, Mazurek or Oberek, “doesn’t really have much to do with the ones we know in France”, says Nicolas Roche, a French violinist keen to learn from Kmita.
“It has a very specific sound, rhythmic subtleties and a manner of conveying rhythm that is completely different, with slowdowns, accelerations, a whole swing, a feeling that’s very different,” Roche told AFP.
Choreographer Piotr Zgorzelski, who specializes in Polish folk dances, describes the dance steps of Polish mazurka as “minimalist, with no jumps”.
Couples stay very close, twirling “like a whirling dervish, but they do it together… a good dancer can even spin with a full glass on their head without spilling a drop,” he says.
Zgorzelski also said that he had seen interest in mazurkas burgeon among young urbanites keen to reconnect with the rural origins of their ancestors.
Among the mazurka’s ardent new fans, Agata Kotlicka, a 27-year-old professional speech therapist, says: “We enter a trance, we can forget ourselves, we don’t need alcohol to feel it.”
Self-taught Kmita received his first violin at age six and played his first wedding when he was 12.
Forgotten about over the years, his talent was re-discovered by a group of folk enthusiasts, who have spent 30 years crisscrossing Poland in a quest to find and preserve traditional music.
Janusz Prusinowski, a 50-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist, is one of those who stumbled across Kmita nearly three decades ago.
“We came across these old musicians, it was like discovering Atlantis, a Poland doomed to disappear,” he told AFP, of his first encounters with elderly mazurka masters.
It turned out that “Poland wasn’t a land of musical illiterates but a people able to speak with an original musical language that (Frederic) Chopin himself drew on,” says Prusinowski.
He co-founded Warsaw’s annual Mazurkas of the World festival that has been leading the mazurka revival for 10 years, now also in evidence in dance halls and other organized events.
Mazurkas are dynamic and bold, with accents often placed on the second or third beat and tempo changes that can take dancers by surprise.
Some experts believe that their earliest traces can be found in transcriptions of religious music dating to the 15th century.
According to Warsaw University musicologist Tomasz Nowak, the term itself first appears in 1708 in a musical notation at a Bernardine cloister in Lowicz, central Poland, where a Catholic nun suggests interpreting a passage like “a real Mazur”.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, Polish soldiers fighting for French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte took their music wherever they were deployed, even to the Caribbean.
Similarly, a couple of decades later, Polish insurgents who lost the struggle against the army of the Russian tsar fled to France, taking the mazurka.
In France, the dance became fashionable, changing and evolving as it was adapted to local tastes.
Meanwhile, back in the Polish countryside, the mazurka could be heard at wedding parties until the 1950s.
But it was all but forgotten with the advent of radio and the new music it broadcast into villages.
Poland’s communist authorities tried to transform folk dances like the mazurka into “national dances”, making them elaborate stage shows to tour at home and abroad.
The 2018 film, “Cold War” by the Polish-born Oscar-nominated director Pawel Pawlikowski, focuses in part on how these stage shows were developed.
The last vestiges of the mazurka survived until the 1980s in the depths of the Mazovian region, despite the indifference and even contempt of locals.
After the 1989 collapse of communism, Poles embraced synthesizer-based pop music, turning their backs on some of the music of the past. “We started to be ashamed to play these old tunes,” Kmita told AFP.
But shame has turned to pride, as young mazurka enthusiasts have begun flocking to dance halls giving a new lease of life to the music and dances of their heritage.
“It’s only just beginning, the mazurkas are going to survive, they were nearly dead and now they’re coming back,” Kmita says.
“They must like it, I think,” he adds, modestly.
Pak artist Alishba presents her work to Barrister Imran Hussain MP
LONDON: Artist & Disability Rights Activist, Syeda Alishba Amin-ud-Din (an 18-year-old-girl with special needs) was welcomed by British Shadow Justice Minister Barrister Imran Hussain MP at his office here today.
Accompanied by her mother Dr. Iffat Sultana (Assistant Professor, Iqra University, Karachi), Alishba presented one of her paintings to Imran Hussain at the conclusion of the meeting.
While Dr. Iffat focuses on her daughter, transforming her disability into ability by means of education, Alishba believes that all girls with unique abilities should not give up (as they are smarter, courageous and resilient than they think they are. No disability can stop them).
Alishba is presently exhibiting her works at Zari Gallery. This is her third exposition at London.
A relevant piece published earlier: