French Art Shop
Ponsonby Road is being rebuilt storefront by storefront, rebranding itself ‘a new precinct’. I turn up my collar, stride in straight lines toward the French art shop. Nonchalant to money spent, glances of mouths full and building material litter. The new footpath grinds the soles of my cheap shoes.
I spend at least twenty minutes balancing opacity, light fastness and viscosity ratings of uliuli. Imagining an unborn universe within the 750 ml container of gesso I hold in my right hand, sticky dark matter in a jar!
Ochre is also known as “Yellow Oxide”. I compare labels on un-opened tubes of ochre with the colour splash on the tube of Matisse. I ask the sales person, who tells me it is a colour renamed by different brands of manufacturers. Imagine the exploding universe radiating beautiful yellow oxide.
To Albert and Reina
Albert, your paintings on the wall engulfed my consciousness, so much
so I felt I was swimming in the middle of a lava field; the shifting
waters of time; adrift in the Va'animonimo.
Jazz was playing on the sun coming through the windows to the
garden. Birds were looking in & Manoa was waiting to make an
entrance for us all.
Reina prepared hot coffee. The pineapple pie we made the night before glistened.
We talked in the middle of the night, is Albert allowed pie? Does he like pineapple?
Should we make something else - just in case,
we were excited at the prospect of impressing you both too.
Reina’s mana & beauty brought all the folds together, as she poured
coffee & got us all talking. Nervously at first, then we began to pull on
the red threads of memory & bloodlines, recalling with you both.
As I sit here retelling, it is dreamlike & bright like the sun blazing painted on
your window; when Manoa came & rubbed against me then looked up at me
beside the chair, I felt chuffed.
Fa’afeti Albert & Reina, your love emanated within the room, reminded
Penny & I of the gift of our love, how it comes to settle in gardens &
upon the surface of painted lines of memory, elegant & always unfinished.
we are not a number
(a transcription poem of Taslima Akhter's article in Time magazine's "lightbox")
— not only cheap labor and cheap lives. We are human beings like you. Our life is precious like yours, and our dreams are precious too. - Taslima Akhter
embracing in the aftermath of the collapse.
garment workers rescued from the rubble. Around 2 a.m., I found a couple embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were buried under the concrete.
The blood from the eyes of the man ran like a tear. I looked at who they were in their last moments as they stood together and tried to save each other — to save their beloved lives. They are witnesses in this cruel history of workers being killed.
What a harsh situation we are in, where human beings are treated only as numbers. As a witness to this cruelty, I feel the urge to share this pain with everyone. When I saw the couple, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I knew them — they felt very close to me. The death toll is now more than 750. I don’t know who they are or what their relationship is with each other.