He who believes is strong;

he who doubts is weak.

Strong convictions precede great actions.


Note to self.

I got this note from my beautician, who always makes me to take an ‘inspirational’ message from her jar before I leave. The first message I took, along the same lines as the one quoted above, seemed cryptic and ominous, so we tossed it. Then I grabbed this one but Kamini said take another instead, until I re-read it and realised it speaks of the inner strength and confidence we each have innately.

I decided to keep it, because it holds much value to the experiences in my life right now and how I approach them.

We are all made from Stardust

As incoherent and directionless as these blog posts may be, I have decided that when the inspiration hits, its best to get what’s tangled up in my head out. For now… This is a visual diary, a catalogue of field notes of the things life is telling or showing me to take ‘note’ of. I would like to borrow from Beth:

“My philosophy is that regarding the quotidian as art down to the detail renders so much more out of life… Sometimes beauty is very ugly, and sometimes the ugly is very beautiful.”

This year has been a heartbreaking one for our family. I lost a dear uncle, or rather as I’d like to remember him: a father. His family is devastated. He left a wife, son and daughter behind and as I watch from the fringes, I see how they are trying to navigate life without him. He was a true presence, a leader and down to earth kind-hearted man. It has been just over three months since he left us; he was recovering from a heart transplant and we all thought and hoped he would pull through. But God, consciousness, the universe had other plans.

Lately, I have had a significant amount of occurrences or references to stars. Stars, the glitter you see when you look up into the night sky. The ‘suns’ who are many light years away. The first reference was a talk my cousin invited me to called Origins of the Universe. Dr Petri Vaisanen, an astronomer from The South African Astronomical Observatory, said something that stuck with me: we are all made from stardust. I had never heard that before and it made me realise that we are connected to much more beyond this earth! Over at National Geographic, they featured Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and his wife, Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, on their book Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars: 

“Our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies…”

The second reference is one of the latest posts by Maria Papova, over at Brainpickings which features the work of  Vija Celmins and writer Eliot Weinberger who:bring to life in the limited-edition MoMA book The Stars — an uncommonly poetic ode to the resplendence of the night sky.” Vija Celmins is a visual artist best known for her photo-realistic paintings and drawings of natural environments.

Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins’s – producing a negative image of the night sky

The third is a Krista Tippet interview with Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, in a podcast titled: Reimagining the Cosmos. In reply to Krista’s comment that science is essential to the fullness of understanding of humanity just as literature and art and music are, Brian responds:

We’re thrust into this world on this rock that’s orbiting a nondescript star in the outskirts of an ordinary galaxy. Wow. I mean, can you imagine being thrust into a more bizarre and strange reality than that? And what we’ve been doing for thousands of years is just trying to piece by piece get some understanding of where we came from, where the universe came from, and where it’s all going. So, to me, that is not distinct from what the poet does or what the philosopher does or what the great writer does or the composer does. They just do it in a different language.

Lastly I am reminded of Miso, Stanislava Pinchuk a Ukrainian born artist, based in Melbourne, who I discovered a few years ago on Instagram. I was and still am mesmerised by her simple, delicate, cosmic tattoos.

Miso

SV - Miso
Miso’s home-made tattoo above and point artwork

Lately, the star reference has become a serious tattoo consideration of mine…but even more so, it has got me thinking about my own human insignificance in relation to the entire universe! To those who have lost a wife, an aunt, a mother, a father, an uncle or a loved one: I know that to lose someone you hold dear is the most heartbreaking time but perhaps they are not too far.

Perhaps they are looking down at us from the night sky.


Feature Image: NASA, Astronomy Picture of the Day, 4 August 2005

Artist Portrait: Vija Celmins 

Miso artwork

 

Effective Procrastination: A list of Personal Style Influences

I should be writing an essay about the urban theory of Addis Ababa, and even more urgently, designing a green infrastructure solution to Kampala’s urban issues but I have chosen to squander my time musing over the current influencers on my journey to a more ethical approach to my personal style.

Side note: Hereafter, I do solemnly swear to apportion the rest of the remaining hours of my day to my studies…

“Whether we consider ourselves ‘fashionable’ or not, we all wear clothing and therefore engage with fashion.”

Intent Journal

But first, a list of my personal style inspirations:

  • Archana Paladugu’s take on her personal style and conscious living on her blog  To The Universe, with Love. Her writing is witty and so darn funny. And I have decided to adopt her approach to use this platform to effectively catalogue my field notes on style, simplicity and the art of slow living.
  • Sartreuse, a style blog by a student on her journey to a ‘well-edited wardrobe with a french twist’.
  • Okay, to most people, my obsession with all things French is no secret. And yes, it is very trendy right now to to aspire to all things Parisian and French, but I will profess that in another life, I was French, or in the next I hope to be! So of course the epitome of ‘French cool girls’ who inspire me are: Jeanne Damas and Leia Sfez.
  • Emma Loughridge’s effortless and comfortable style, and her love of books and flowers.
  • Garance Dore, (another French inspiration, now based in New York), her illustrations, her features on other stylish women and the brand empire she has built.
  • Madelynn Furlong from Wide Eyed and Legless and her keen eye for styling. I first came across her curated closet posts and her style has since evolved from stark minimalism to a more personal take to curating her own personal style.
  • Aja Edmond sophisticated simplicity and the brand she is building.
  • The Olson Twins and their clothing label, The Row, for its ‘mid-century modern; east meets west’ vibe. And I feel that if I waltzed around in their clothing I would have a decidedly more zen approach to the stresses of daily life.
  • Anushka Rees from the blog formerly known as Into Mind, on her practical advice and steps to building a mindfully curated closet.
  • Cuyana and Eileen Fisher the brands, their philosophy – all that they stand for.
  • Intent Journal as my guide to being more conscious about the clothing I chose to wear, to value it and a reminder to not be a slave to fast fashion.

This is a growing list, which I suspect will evolve, as I uncover what defines my personal style.  Follow my pinterest board for visuals on my obvious inclination to a laid-back effortless take on winter wear for this season.

Who are your personal style influencers? Do share.


Featured Image: pinterest board

Towards the Management of Territorial Forces in Hout Bay

How can the natural and anthropological systems of Hout Bay co-exist to contribute to urban resilience across scales?

Conflicts between urban growth and landscape protection for sustainable development have been the subject of discussion worldwide since the late 1980s. Although humans have interacted with the biophysical environment since the beginning of human history, the scope and intensity of these anthropological interactions have increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. Historically, most human-nature interactions took place at the local scale, although there were some large-scale human migrations and other broad activities, such as trade and wars. However, present interactions between natural and human systems at the regional, continental, and global scales have emerged as special concerns because human survival is dependent on the conditions and resources available in the natural environment.

Natural systems undergo processes, flows, and rhythms that differ from those of urban socio-cultural systems. While the former takes place over eras or epochs, the latter, in contrast, may occur within shorter periods of years or even months but with adverse affects on the sensitive natural systems. The magnitude and accelerating rate of contemporary urbanization is reshaping land use locally and globally in ways that require a re-examination of how natural-human systems relate to each other.  The interrelations among these systems, which vary spatially and temporally, result in territorial forces which effect sustainability and urban resilience.

SV - Hout Bay Metro Context-01

The study area of the Hout Bay River catchment represents a microcosm of the development challenges facing Cape Town and South Africa; including densification, unemployment, social division, and the mismanagement of environmental systems. Hout Bay is a largely residential development situated on the western edge of the Cape Peninsula, 22km away from the inner city of Cape Town. Originally a fishing and farming community, it has since developed into a place of cultural diversity but with economic inequalities and disparities in living conditions across apartheid-induced spatial and racial lines, all within a geographically distinct and confined area.

Context - Locality-01-01

Hout Bay is a prime example of how anthropological interventions have led to the destruction of sensitive environmental conditions and the manifestation of social issues. This project considers the parameters of the natural systems to allow for the immediate and future needs of the community for urban development and social cohesion which aims to build urban resilience at the scale of the individual, household, community and city.


Featured graphics: Author’s own

A Capital in Bloom

 

Oh Academia! The demands of working and studying part time is threatening to break my resolve. The fact is that my life right now is dictated by deadlines. I mean the origins of the word deadline is enough to send me to the grave!  Well according to Robert Charles Lee, via Quora, deadline was a military term, meaning a line of weapons fire aimed at killing anything moving, regardless of enemy or friendly troops present. It was also a prison term, meaning a line drawn around a prison and prisoners crossing it will be shot!

So in an attempt to ward off the impending doom, I hope to use this space as a place of reflection and dialogue. To use  every ‘hand-in’ as an opportunity for growth and refinement.

Below is abstract that I recently submitted for a course titled Aspects of City Design, where each student was asked to select a country or city in Sub-Saharan Africa to study and unpack an urban theory related to its formation.


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Addis Ababa is a city that developed autochthonous, as compared to other African cities, with the exception of a brief occupation by the Italians in the second half of the 1930’s. The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, represents the growing phenomena of exponential urban growth experienced by African cities. With a growing population composed of 78 ethnic groups, Addis Ababa is the undisputed metropolis of the country, where it hosts the seat of the Government of Ethiopia, the seat of Government for the Oromia Region, including home to other international organizations, namely the headquarters of the African Union (AU). The city’s position on the international stage is secure as Addis Ababa prides itself as the diplomatic capital /heart of Africa, and it has become one of the fastest transforming urban environments on the globe.

Due to its brief colonial history, Addis Ababa offers a unique opportunity to link postcolonial development with the modernization efforts of the precolonial and colonial past. In this essay, the distinct socio-political eras will be discussed in relation to its transnational exchange which contributed to the shaping of Addis Ababa: from wandering capitals to city (1886– 1935), the Italian East Africa (1936-1941), Imperial modernity (1950-1960’s), the Socialist regime (1974–1987) and the current federal democracy that has been in practice since 1991 and the effects on the urban development of the city. My argument follows the provocative and complementary propositions made by philosopher Olúfémi Táíwò and historian J. F. Ade Ajayi. Táíwò who argues that Africa was already becoming modern before European colonialism, and Ade Ajayi contends that colonialism should be treated as an episode rather than as the determining factor in African history.


Featured Diagram: Addis Ababa major road network and urban developed area. Author’s own.

A CASE FOR LIVING SIMPLY

I am on a journey to an attainable and realistic way of living. I have decided to join the community of minimalist enthusiasts, yet I found the need to establish a perspective on minimalism that’s true to me. In Enoughism, Essentialism and other names for Minimalismminimalist duo Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, list the many labels used to describe minimalism:

Sometimes people avoid minimalism because the word itself sounds extreme, radical, subversive; afraid of stepping outside cultural boundaries, these people avoid simplifying their lives because they don’t want the label: minimalist

If minimalism seems too austere, you can re-label your flavor of simplification—and we suggest any of the following –isms:

Intentionalism
Enoughism
Essentialism
Selectivism
Curationism
Naturalism
Stoicism
Epicureanism
Appropriatism
Simplism
Lessism
Practicalism
Livingwithinyourmeansism

…Call it whatever you want: no matter which –ism you prefer, the only thing that matters is that it helps you live with intention.”

I am guilty of avoiding the label ‘minimalist’, as I do not comfortably fit into the austere, bare and black and white brigade.  I have decided to adopt ‘Living Simply’, which for me stands for a way of self discovery and means a practice of being considerate about what I let into my life and why. What you let in, often will tell you a lot about yourself and Margaret Everton in an article for Kinfolk, titled The Essential Non-Essential, describes the heart of essentialism:

“Without the guiding discrimination of our inner voices, our lives can be filled randomly with things that may be generally good, but not the best. A cultivated selectivity can transform plain objects into relics of our life story.”

I want to nurture my aesthetic and intellectual ideals around minimal living. I see minimalism as a tool (not a doctrine) for personal improvement – introspection and growth. To me it is less about the sparsity of things (which I think is commonly believed), but it is rather an intentionality behind everything, essential for true wellbeing and happiness.

In a series on this blog titled Simple Living, I plan to feature inspiring essays and editorials on minimalism that focuses on a type of minimalism that doesn’t force you to get rid of the things that bring you pleasure, but enables you to wisely differentiate between what is really happiness and what is just suffering in disguise. A journey of distilling all aspects of life to simplify, elevate and empower.


Feature Image Source: pinterest

WHAT BOOKS DO FOR THE SOUL


“On the surface, reading can seem like a solitary experience. But any reader knows that books open up worlds, make us fall in love, feel less alone, more human, and ultimately, more understood.”

-Eye Level

I woke up on a Saturday morning with the usual grab of my phone and a one-two-click down the rabbit hole I go… also known as Instagram. I then came across a post by Eye Level, a recent follow of mine. Caroline Donofrio and Uli Beutter Cohen created Eye Level as a space to celebrate literature in a new and different way, a mutual craving of theirs: “Eye Level is a bi-monthly love letter to all things literary.”

Of all the wonderful ways books have enriched my life, one of the best has been the curiosity it has afforded me. It is intriguing to get into the mind of another person – you gain a lot of insight about the individual, specifically by what they gathered from a book. In the first issue of Eye Level,  Isaac Fitzgerald , a book editor for Buzzfeed, is interviewed and when asked what his favourite quote or passage of literature is, he answers:

“There’s this play called The History Boys, and in it, there’s a line where a teacher is talking to young men about what literature can do. He describes that moment when you open a book, and up until then, you thought you were the only person who’d ever had that thought or felt that feeling. Then suddenly, it’s like a hand coming up through the page and grasping yours, and you are no longer alone. That connection, to me, is everything that’s important about literature.” 

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Girls at Library (GAL), another wonderful space that celebrate “women who read, for women who read”, by peeking into the lives of women discussing their bookshelves and how it has shaped their personalities, personal stories and lives. One of my favourite bibliophiles, Emma Loughridge ,who shares her love affair with books mainly on her Instagram feed and her Tumblr, was featured on GLA. When asked what is the power of story, Emma responds:

I love that, in reading, you can visit a new world and completely immerse yourself in the story, the characters, everything. It’s my favourite escape. If I’m having a bad day and need to check out for a while, I’ll grab my book, leave my phone somewhere and get lost in the words.

Many of my life-changing reads have been recommendations by friends and the complete escapism one experiences from a book is where I find the most enjoyment. For further insight into the rewards of reading watch the wonderful animated essay What is literature for? produced by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton and his team at The School of Life .


Featured Image from my Instagram feed; reading The God of Small Things by Arundhathi Roy.