Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Afghanistan comes to the Melbourne Museum

Just the word Afghanistan conjures up images of warlords, the horrors of war, repression of women, the feared Al Queda, the loathed Taliban, a country of 'uncivilised' peoples and more. And yet in years gone by this country was rich being strategically placed on the route of the Silk Road. Just the name conjures up exotic images of traders dealing in the riches of both East and West. Of Gengis Khan, Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. And right here in Melbourne we have a wonderful exhibition showcasing the Hidden Treasures from the National Museum from the capital Kabul. This relatively small exhibition of 230 stunning treasures is on until 28 July 2013. I encourage you to visit. It is an 'eye opener'. 

The treasures come from 2000 BC until 200 AD. The delicacy of some left me gasping. Of course there is gold, gold, gold and I particularly liked the 'crown' which is featured in much of the publicity. How fascinating to learn that this beautifully detailed piece could be 'dismantled' and carried in separate pouches when moving from location to location. 
Each 'tree' can be removed from the 'headpiece' (all pictures Melbourne Museum)

Much of the Kabul collection was only discovered by 'chance' during the mid-20th century by a Russian archaeologist.  Then with the ravages of war they were thought to be lost. Fortuitously staff from the National Museum, Kabul secretly placed many of the treasures you will see here in Melbourne in the vaults of the central bank of the Presidential Palace. They were uncovered in 2003.  
Detail of this ivory plaque designed to decorate furniture
Perhaps my favourite piece is a painted glass beaker from Begrum - 100 AD. The glass work in the exhibition is amazingly detailed. 
Glass originating in Egypt
Of course one can't go past the beautiful jewellery discovered at Tillya Tepe. The tombs discovered here were all intact and the jewellery from the tombs is worth a visit just to see them. 
Jewellery - 100 BC - 100 AD - Yes I will have one of these!
I was thrilled to see that my special friend and asylum refugee Najaf Mazari will be talking in conversation about his book 'The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif' on 8 June 2013. Najaf has a wonderful Afghan Traditional Rug Shop at  461 High Street, Prahran, Tel: 9529 2068. Stop by. It is worth a visit to meet Najaf and sip tea in his 'Aladdin's Cave'. During the exhibition both of his books - the newest one is 'The Honey Thief' - will be in the 'library' at the Cottage. They are both inspiring stories.  And you will find one of his rugs as soon as you step inside the Cottage door. 
Najaf with his co-writer Robert Hillman
So take a morning or an afternoon (last entry 3.30) at the Melbourne Museum before 28 July. You won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Mirka Mora - 85 years young

I've been holding off writing about local identity the artist Mirka Mora for ages. I've been wanting to photograph her as she walks the streets of Richmond pushing her pram laden with dolls, treasures, supermarket shopping and all sorts of other paraphenalia. How much more enchanting to see an older woman with a pram rather than a 'wheelie walker'. Why is it that when you want to see someone you have seen constantly that suddenly you can't find them anywhere! It's rather like losing a treasured object at home and then suddenly it turns up. Well sadly Mirka and the pram haven't turned up. But I want to celebrate her 85th birthday so I can't wait any longer!

Detail of the mosaic at Flinders Street Station
Mirka is unique and I love that her artwork adorns Melbourne in surprising places. Perhaps my favourite piece is the mosaic at Flinders Street Station. It is virtually hidden by the hideous Taberet sign out the front but it is worth fighting your way through the crowds rushing past. You will find it on the southern wall nearest the Yarra. Whenever I pass it I stop to have a look. Suddenly others will stop also - it's amazing how nosey people are!
What talent
Of course it includes her famed 'doll' faces and other fantastical images. That is what makes Mirka's art so fascinating. It is like no other. 
Happy sunny faces
Mirka's work is of course featured at the St Kilda restaurant - Mirka at Tolano now run by renowned chef Guy Grossi of Grossi Florentino fame. Tolano Galleries was founded by Mirka's husband Georges as an art gallery and later became the Tolano Restaurant. I have fond memories of spending many an evening in the crowded and popular restaurant enjoying the quirkiness of Mirka's wall paintings which have been 'saved' hopefully for prosterity. 
The Dining Room at Mirka at Tolano (from their website)
Mirka needs no surname in this city. This creative icon seems never to have said no to a blank wall - or even an elephant. In an earlier post on 4 September 2012  I noted that she had painted one of the elephants dotted around the city to celebrate the 150th year of the Melbourne Zoo. There seems to be no stopping her.
Mirka's elephant with her trademark 'angels'
So prolific is our Mirka that even our local french patisserie is also emblazoned with her work. In an earlier post of 10 July 2012 I spoke of the delicious calorie laden Almost French in nearby Swan Street. Mirka adorns the walls - after all with her French background what could be more appropriate. 
Almost French mural
 Her creative life continues apace - I read recently that she has just designed an iPhone cover!
What an inspiration. Age seems not to have wearied her. And so I say Joyeux Anniversaire Mirka - 85 years young. (And I will keep searching for Mirka and her pram) You'll find her book Wicked but Virtuous in the 'library' at the Cottage - happy reading.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The extraordinary Abbotsford Convent - a quick introduction

It's hard to describe how amazing the buildings of the historic Abbotsford Convent actually are (the photo above heads their website). The site is ENORMOUS. What an impression it makes. For some reason it reminds me of France. It stands so grandly in its grounds (saved from the developers by an extraordinary campaign over many years - hooray for the voice of the people) and we are so lucky to have it. This cultural precinct is now 'home' to artists, restaurants, a school, an outdoor cinema, function centres, galleries and much more.

Walking/Bike Path along the Yarra River

Abbotsford is the neighbouring suburb to Richmond and it really is a must see/must visit site. For me the best way to really 'see' the buildings is to approach along the 'mighty' Yarra River walking path (or speeding bikeway - so be careful!).If you do choose to walk to the Convent - which I recommend - then park the car at the eastern end of Gipps Street, Abbotsbord as close to the river as possible. (there is a huge Salvos store on the corner). Then walk towards the river but don't cross the footbridge (that's for another blog!). Walk to the right and down the stairs, turn left and walk along the river bank with the mighty (!) Yarra on your right. You'll think you are in the country and yet you are just 4 kilometres from the city centre. A 10 minute stroll will bring you to the convent - you won't miss it. Of course you can drive right to the door - but...
And suddenly there it is
I recommend you pick up a map and explore the grounds and buildings, take a tour, or just wander.
Unique one-off pieces to buy, commission or just feel
Walk though the grounds, visit the working artists studios (what talent we are producing), have a coffee or lunch at one of the cafes or take a picnic and relax on the lawns looking down to the river and across to Richmond.
Have a picnic under the trees

Enjoy an evening under the stars at the Shadow Electric Open Air Cinema. There are all sorts of Festivals held at the Convent including the Slow Food Festival. Just visit their website to find out what is on whilst you are staying in Melbourne.
Coffee anyone? Or fresh bread from the Bakery

Everywhere a reminder of its past

The sad history of the convent are for another time. In the meantime - take a wander and explore. This is now a happy, creative and rather special piece of Melbourne.
Farmers Market fresh produce

And it's right next door to the very special Collingwood Children's Farm (more later!) and the award winning Collingwood Farmers Market (more later!) which is held from 8-1 every second Saturday of the month.  Why not combine them all in a day long visit. Just a thought!