Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 20, 2017

THE INTERNATIONAL SISTERHOOD OF QUILTERS UNITED – A LOVE SONG


Quilts exhibitions are alien realities for most males. It means diving deep into a world of women, mostly 50+ years of age. I have visited Quilts exhibitions all over the world, from USA to Switzerland, from France to Australia, from England to Indonesia. I have seen Japanese and Indian exhibitions, wonderful creations from South Korea, from Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

For me it is similar to visit art exhibitions of any kind. I happen to love modern art, wild and unpredictable, color compositions, abstract, non figurative. Often shocking and surprising. Installation and video art.


Quilts are the same. Classical motives, especially close to the origin of quilting itself, among the Amish People. Different techniques, Double Wedding Ring, Log Cabin, Trip Around the World, Jacob’s Ladder. Sophisticated and intricate Japanese quilts full of extreme detail, light colored Indian pieces and modern, non figurative and seemingly out of shape quilts from Korea. It is a true art experience and I thoroughly enjoy it.


But more and more it is also this encounter with a uniquely female culture with an amazing history of women that fascinates me. In times of less freedom and less emancipation than some places today, women expressed themselves through compositions of colors and fabrics and intriguing sewing, the process of binding several pieces of fabric together with embroidery, the special art of quilting is elegant and beautiful and very, very time consuming. The results are amazing, fascinating, often great pieces of art.


Below a detail from the same quilt:


Quilts with hidden patterns of embroidery, giving coded messages about safe places to stay, helped fleeing slaves on their way to freedom. Women came together in closed circles to do quilting together, away from male dominance and often abuse and exploitation of all kinds. They came together in a feminine fellowship unknown and inaccessible for men, a sisterhood of the deepest engagement and solidarity, often life saving, dignity saving, giving strength and identity and pride.


It is still so much a sisterhood of mature women, a coming together of all kinds and versions and expressions of womanhood.


Above a detail  from the above quilt, to demonstrate what quilting means, the sowing on top of the fabrics and colors and motives:


Today at “Salon International des Arts du Fil: Pour l’Am❤️ur du Fil” in Nantes, West France, we are around 5000 women and thirteen men. This is by the way rated as a very high representation of male individuals.


Are we welcome? Let me say it this way: We are not unwelcome. Not at all. We are just fundamentally uninteresting. We are totally overlooked, ignored, not paid attention to. There are no men on the stage, no male Mayor to open the event, no men at all.

A long line, no, a river of women in front of “Quiltmania”‘s Boot. This is Ingunn’s favorite quilt magazine.


It is a fabulous feeling to walk around like this, bumping into so many handbags and elbows and other parts and trying to move through the crowd of experienced, dedicated, targeted and rather uncaring ladies. To see their friendship and laughter, to listen in to the conversations around specially interesting quilts and follow their never stopping flow, a river of mature women-hood from boot to boot, from exhibition hall to exhibition hall, until we all congregate in the enormous line in front of the cafeteria.


I love it and I learn from it. For hours and hours I am dwelling and contemplating on the harsh realities of women, still in a majority of territories around the world. Dominated and led by elderly, lazy morons of all kinds and versions – us – males. This is one of the areas of life still totally dominated by females, female art expressions, built on female history of the proudest kind.


This is the world I have learnt to love because of my fabulous wife, who happens to be a passionate quilter.


Ingunn took some years to accept that I really enjoyed our many experiences at quilt exhibitions around the world, and not only was the humble donkey carrying loads of quilt books, magazines, fabrics and tools. It is amazing how heavy some feet of fabric can become, if you add enough of them.


I had to talk with this guy, David Butler, another of the 13 men today. He is of course married to a quilter like myself, but unlike myself gifted as a designer and rock musician, touring with his own band “Black Owls” and here to sell his book about quilt fabrics in dark colors, made for guys…..We shake hands in an understanding kind of way – we both know a hidden world from the inside and have both learned to love it! Of course I bought his book!


Now I continue to put Quilts shows in my calendar and continue to accompany Ingunn. Enjoying the art and the colors, enjoying the depths and uniqueness of the sisterhood of Quilts and quilting.

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Posted by: thebluemusicblog | March 17, 2017

SOUVLAKI AND REFUGEE OFFICE

It was interesting to visit the largest refugee camp in the North Greece. I am impressed with the way Greece has handled the refugee crisis. Several hundreds of the former inhabitants in this camp have either moved north inEurope or being relocated to apartments in Thessaloniki. There were only 310 refugees left in this camp, but nobody really know when the next wave of refugees will arrive. A lot depends on the development between Turkey and the EU.


Above you see the director of this camp, a very interesting young man with welcoming words to us representing the YMCA. At the side of Lisa another Greec employee at the camp.


The camp used to consist of a number of tents, but the standard had come up and most of the refugees live in containers. in a few months there will be built 120 real homes on the field at the one side of the camp.


There are separate areas only for women in the camp, as well as prayer rooms for different religions. as you can see above there is also an Orthodox chapel built for the camp. Here are no refugees from Syria. apart from 8 people from Pakistan all are from Afghanistan.


Paris, the Vice President of Thessaloniki YMCA is holding the welcoming speech at the official opening of the World YMCA Refugee Office in Thessaloniki.


Next are two young Orthodox Priests praying for and blessing the office.


National TV was present as well and covered the event.


Lisa Kalivatsi, the Refugee Secretary of the World YMCA, now officially located in Thessaloniki.


John from REACT and Henry from Syria. Henry has decorated the window in our Refugee office, and he has been very active in the REACT programme here in the YMCA, playing theatre together with actor John. Henry and I got to know one another, and then he introduced me to his sister and his parents.


The whole family of Henry plus REACT members. Henry and family are on their way to the Netherlands in a few days. Any YMCA connections there?

Ingunn and Lisa in Athens next day. After interesting and full days in Thessaloniki we flew down to Athens to visit the National YMCA in Greece and Athens YMCA.


Nikos Bibiris is an old friend from my time in YMCA Europe. it was a real pleasure to reconnect with Nikos and we had lunch together with him and two board members. The conversation was stimulating. What is the position of the YMCA in the world today? What are the development trends we have to deal with? How do we regard Islam today? The refugee crisis?


The chapel on the top floor of the YMCA building in Athens has as its central motive Jesus as 12 years old in the temple of Jerusalem.


The word “Souvlaki” in the title of this blogpost indicates that it is not only about the Refugee Office. It is also a photographic walk through some interesting spots in Athens. I could not resist this outcry for peace!


Utterly beautiful, isn’t it? It is a sin to walk past such a picture without grabbing it.


Just around that beautiful window I found this rather pitoresque signpost to Acropolis.


This is Blue Music, or at least Blue Soccer!


This is simply for contemplation.


Like this aristocratic cat was doing in the spring sun.

Back to more serious work. After an inspiring lunch downtown we say goodbye to Joannis and go for a visit to Nikes branch in the outskirts of Athens.


To the far left here is Lefteris, the Vice Mayor of the Nikea Municipality and the physical instruction director for the local YMCA. The man to the right is the chief of the Air Force Military Police in Athens and a veteran volunteer at the YMCA.


The Colonelfro the Air Force, his brother and Lefteris, a great politician and YMCA leader, they all are!


Here we are photographed together with the Special Olympic team in the YMCA.


Here with the Managing Director of the Nikea YMCA, professor in Theology and a great local YMCA leader.


In the late evening the Vice Mayor of Nikea, Lefteris, asked if we were interested in visiting a nearby refugee camp where the YMCA and the municipality of Nikea had plans for some activities. We accepted the invitation, and accompanied by the colonel who is the chief of the Air Force Military Police for all Athens, we had no problems in getting access and be showed around by two staff.


Again we saw a well regulated camp in good conditions. in this camp there were more than thirty unaccompanied minors – a great responsibility for the employees.
Acropolis is residing majestically over Athens and we are walking on and in and through history wherever we turn our steps. The Greec society is continously in a deep financial crisis. Still the population is able to demonstrate hospitality and solidarity with other people in difficult situations. The World YMCA is grateful that we are being invited in by our Greec friends to learn from them and to collaborate with them for the good for the refugees, especially the young ones.

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | March 14, 2017

GREAT MEMORY LANE TO THESSALONIKI 

It is great to return to favorite places of your youth! Not to say that I am old now, but some years ago, when I last sat foot in Thessaloniki, I was even younger than today. And it was and still is – a great city with great people and a terrific YMCA! I salute my good friends in Thessaloniki YMCA and say thank you for a wonderful hospitality and welcome back.

J. Boutaris – a famous man of my younger days. He was the famous wine maker Boutaris, who provided the YMCA with the most exquisite quality wines, I still remember the taste of his Retsina, like a warm summer wind through a pine forest. Now he is the Mayor of the city of Thessaloniki and finally I met my hero of younger days. He gave us a great message when we visited him this morning in his beautiful office. He talked to us about the past, of the days of the Ottoman Empire, of the time when one third of the population was Jews, one third was Turks and one third Greec and how they were living harmoniously together.


While we were looking out at the splendid view from the Municipality, the Mayor drew the lines over to the modern situation with ten thousands, hundreds of thousands of refugees and how the local population was able to welcome them, to see the need of people in difficulties because they have been through crisis themselves, but also because of the history, the past, the days of cosmopolitan population of the city.

We are impressed and touched by the positive message from the leading politician of the city. But then he is and has been a long standing member of the YMCA, even its President for some years. And he is talking so well about the collaboration with the YMCA through the  REACT project – Refugee Assistance Community of Thessaloniki.


The standing of the YMCA in the local community can only be illustrated by the main square of the city being called Y.M.C.A. Square!


Dimitris, board member of the local YMCA as well as the National YMCA and Lisa Kalivatsi, the latest employee of the World YMCA, the Secretary for Refugees placed here in Thessaloniki. I have known Lisa for most of my life and she personifies the Thessaloniki YMCA in the best possible way. Tomorrow we are opening the World YMCA Refugee Office in the YMCA building here with three Mayors and National TV present. I am proud to have Lisa on my staff!


Anna is the leader of the REACT programme and is showing us the impressive exhibition of art made by refugee children.


Some of the Syrian children REACT us working with in the YMCA.


John, Ismini, Palestinian translator,  Dimitris are all staff of the REACT programme. Most of the children have never attended school, so now REACT is offering after school activities for the children.

John is an actor and activating the children in different ways. We watched them, and afterwards the parents approached us to express their gratitude for all things the YMCA does for their children. Moving experiences.


P.Gavriilidis, Vice President of the YMCA, Johan Vilhelm, J.Boutaris and another political advisor.


And here the whole meeting in the Mayor’s beautiful office. Look beyond and you will agree!


NBA is not here, but Thessaloniki YMCA introduced basket ball to Greece and has the most superb basket ball museum in its new building.


We were shown around and I told them about my contacts with the President of Harlem Globetrotters and how they want to collaborate with the YMCA.


Maybe I shall ask them to come to Thessaloniki? Then they showed me the first basket concept of the local YMCA and we all had a good laugh!


Christina was showing us around in the museum.

Georgios, Lisa, Doukisa, Georgios are sports staff if Thessaloniki YMCA and great hosts at the museum of basket ball! Thank you!


What a proud part of the YMCA history!

Panos,  Emma and Vasillis ending the evening programme sharing with us on the Camping programme and leadership development. Emma is hopefully one of the new Change Agents being recruited just now!

What a rich and full day – a great walk down memory lane – and a walk into the new future of the YMCA – thank you Thessaloniki – thank you Lisa.

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