91 Works From The Museum Of Contemporary Art-Plaza, La Paz, Bolivia

Pueblo de las Alturas by Mamani Mamani, Museum of Contemporary Art-Plaza, La Paz, Bolivia

Below are 91 pieces from the Museum of Contemporary Art-Plaza in La Paz, Bolivia, and above is Pueblo de las Alturas by noted Aymaran painter Mamani Mamani. If you’re looking for the planet’s largest online collection of works from this museum, you’ve come to the right place.

Situated in a restored 19th-century mansion on the Avenida 16 de Julio, or Prado, it’s worth visiting just to experience the building –according to Lonely Planet, the house is just one of four originals that remain on the Bolivian administrative capital’s main thoroughfare. Its stained glass panels and glass roof were designed by Gustave Eiffel.

The collection, spread out over two floors, is an eclectic mix of mostly contemporary work, primarily by Bolivian artists, and extensive enough to offer a good starting point and even some valuable insight into the country’s art scene of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The collection is strongest in reflecting and conveying the recent experience of the country’s indigenous population as it continues to be redefined by subsequent waves of post-colonial and contemporary history. That’s a common theme throughout much of the world, whose interpretations are only limited by the number of artists choosing to share those stories. Some of those told here are utterly fascinating.

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Chaiten, Chile, March 2013

Villarrica and Chilean Volcanoes

Yesterday’s eruption of the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile brought to mind my visit to Chaiten, a town even further south, exactly two years ago. Yes, I fully realize that to be a coincidence that only I will find entertaining.

Chaiten made headlines across the planet in May 2008 with a nearby volcano that bears the town’s name woke from a 9,370-year slumber. It blew a column of ash and hot gases nearly 31 kilometers into the sky and spewed ash as far as Buenos Aires. Half the town was destroyed and nearly five years later, much of the damage was still clearly visible, as evidenced by this photo of a house near the Gulf of Corcovado.

A few previous posts about Chaiten which feature a few dozen photos, a video notebook and plenty of notes are here, here and here. If you were to ask me to pick just one, it would be the first.

Villarrica, one of South America’s most active volcanoes, erupted around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, forcing the evacuation of about 3,500 people, according to the Associated Press. The volcano, which sits close to Pucon, a popular tourist and outdoor activities retreat, last erupted in 1984.

Officials are now bracing for rising river levels brought on by melting snow and ice. Villarrica is covered with snow from 1,500 meters and up, and capped by a 40-square kilometer glacier.

There’s a sublime beauty to the extraordinary power that produces volcanic eruptions, this one included. As one witness told the AP:

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” 29-year-old Australian tourist Travis Armstrong said in a telephone interview from Pucon. “I’ve never seen a volcano erupt and it was spewing lava and ash hundreds of meters into the air. Lightning was striking down at the volcano from the ash cloud that formed from the eruption.”

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Mannequin Monday #40

Mannequin, Quito, Ecuador

Yup. As I mentioned last week, ‘live’ additions to this weekly series won’t be hard now that I’m back in South America for a bit. There’s no shortage of bruised, tattered and torn mannequins here in Quito, like this one, sporting that lobotomy post-op look exceptionally well.

If you’re new to this series, an attempt to create the largest repository of blighted mannequins on the planet, you can and should catch up here. Enjoy and do spread the word.

By the way, this image also serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the 413th (!!) straight. When you’ve got a few minutes to spare, you can catch up with some of those here.

And if you missed it –and you probably did– I published a Piran Cafe Best-of page yesterday. Go on, check it out. Thanks.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi


Following up on my friend Lisa‘s suggestion, I created a Best-of page for this site today. It’s been long overdue and has been on my mind since right about the time I snapped this photo of the mausoleum of Vietnamese revolutionary hero Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi back in October 2010.

I included a link to a post about my visit to the massive mausoleum, I Wanted to Visit Ho Chi Minh Today, But he Wasn’t There, on that Best-of/Start page, which led to this one’s selection as today’s Pic du Jour, the 412th straight.

So where was he? My visit coincided with his embalmed body’s ten-week respite and annual maintenance trip to Moscow. The facelift is generally scheduled between September and mid-December, so if seeing his body is high on your bucket list, plan accordingly.

Three more photos are in the original post. More from my 2010 visit to Vietnam can be found here.



An Ecuador Jazz Primer in Four Parts

Ecuador Jazz 2015 festival schedule

I attended the opening night of the Ecuador Jazz 2015 Festival last night, part of an energized sell-out crowd treated to the incomparable and penetrating smoky contralto of Cassandra Wilson. Her’s was a voice that made me cry. I can’t begin to explain how fortunate I feel that my current stint in Quito coincided with Wilson’s first visit.

And with the scheduling of the 11-day event as well which concludes with an outdoor performance at the Plaza del Teatro in Quito’s historical center on Sunday March 8.

Besides hosting the likes of Wilson and English soul sensation Joss Stone this year, the festival also provides an impressive venue – the Teatro Nacional Sucre, or Sucre National Theatre— for regional and national acts to share the spotlight with some of their better known contemporaries. Organizers of the festival’s 11th edition have made room on the program nearly each day for local acts, which provides me with the perfect excuse to put together this quick primer on Ecuadorian jazz, beginning with a small selection of groups scheduled to appear here through March 8.

I can’t go into too much detail on each of the four performers listed here because they’re as new to me as they are to many of you, so consider this as little more than a decent starting point, with some videos and links, on the country’s jazz scene from which to explore further. Feel free to mention or leave links in the comments to more Ecuadoran jazz artists you’re familiar with. Enjoy!

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At La Iglesia de El Sagrario (And a Free Quito Walking Tour)

Woman praying at the Iglesia de El Sagrario in Quito

This was snapped inside the Iglesia de El Sagrario, a chapel that dates back to the early 17th century that’s attached to the 16th century Quito Cathedral.

A massive structure, it’s really a chapel in name only. And a busy one, too, just before noon, with a steady influx of worshippers and tourists entering and exiting through its impressive wooden doors. Despite the traffic and the loudest, creakiest church floors I’ve ever walked across, a few moments of solitude can be found like the one above at the smaller altar on the church’s left side.

A stop at the El Sagrario, which also serves as the mausoleum for Antonio José de Sucre, one of Simon Bolivar’s generals and closest friends, was part of a walking tour I joined in yesterday with the aptly named Quito Walking Tour, a free three-hour stroll around the Ecuadoran capital’s historical center.

Starting at San Blas Plaza, the route covers most of the city center’s most notable structures and locales, including the Basilico del Voto Nacional, the Plaza Grande, Plaza de San Francisco (so far my favorite), Calle La Ronda and the Plaza Santo Domingo before concluding at the Plaza del Teatro.

Guide Peter, an Irishman based in Quito, does a terrific job, highly recommended. If you’re passing through, the best way to get in touch is via Facebook. Tours generally begin at 10am. Yes, tips accepted and encouraged.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 409th straight, was made on 24-Feb-2015 in Quito, Ecuador.


Escaping the Frenzy, Briefly – a Quito Sunday Afternoon Photo Walk

Calle Olmedo, Quito, February 2015

If you want to escape the frenzy of Quito’s typically busy historical center, go there for a stroll late on a Sunday afternoon when it’s pleasantly dead. Like it was a few days ago.

It was hardly deserted, but missing was the rush, the dust and diesel of the work week. The suits and ties. The scarf and underwear peddlers. Even a pair of drunks, on the verge of swapping blows in the center of the Plaza del Teatro, were moving in slow motion, speaking deliberately but annunciating with nary a slur.

The hookers, all three of them, leaning against a drab gray shuttered building on Calle Manabi, stared blankly towards the dozen or so people gathered across the street waiting for a bus. There was no urgency in their vacant stare. Or in their half-hearted come on. Sunday is a lazy day, a day of rest. Commerce, much of it, downshifts.

I was assured by a shish kebob vendor that there is plenty of activity on Sunday mornings, the family-friendly variety, when a several block area of the centro historico, some 30 kilometers of road in all, fences out car traffic, handing the old town center’s narrow cobblestoned and torturously steep streets to walkers and bicyclists.

By the time I arrived the cyclists and most of the hoofers were gone, but the streets hadn’t fully recovered and traffic remained at a minimum. For now this late Sunday speed appealed to me. Maybe I’ll leave the apartment earlier next week. Or the week after.

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Have You Ever Heard a Ululation?

Ait Iktel, Morocco 02

You probably have, quite likely in a film set in a mysterious North African desert locale, but just didn’t know what it was called. You certainly can’t forget this high-pitched trilling howl that rapturously pierces the sky at any gathering where it’s shared.

Commonly practiced in various forms in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia and the Persian Gulf region, in Morocco, where this photo was taken, it’s used primarily in celebration and welcome rituals.

This was part of a traditional ahwash, or ahouach, in the village of Ait Iktel, a Berber village in the High Atlas mountain region about 100 kilometers south of Marrakech that I mentioned in a post last week here and here. (A 36-photo photo essay from the celebration is here. Please check it out if you already haven’t.)

Unique to this corner of the country, an ahwash is a traditional folkloric song and dance performance unique to this corner of the country, where women and men, standing opposite each other, chant, sway and sing as if engaged in a rhythmically sublime poetic conversation.

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