Manizales Book Festival: Week 235

Soma - Tyrannus Melancholicus - Screen Print from the Feria del Libro de Manizales

It was that time of year when ambitious students print up their zines, tastefully display their most shocking art, and try to earn a bit of beer money. It was time for the Feria del Libro de Manizales.

The Manizales Book Festival had its main installation on Santander Avenue, outside the Palogrande Campus of the University of Caldas. Along the large, white building were tents and book vendors from all the main bookshops in the city. In between those were stalls of secondhand and special interest books.

However, my favorite part of the book festival were the student stalls in the courtyard of the building. There were around 15 of these little cardboard stands filled with cleverly designed notebooks, buttons, and zines.

Buttons from Tyrannus Melancholicus - Found at the Feria del Libro de Manizales

The first purchase I made was a screen print of a burning car from a vendor named Tyrannus Melancholicus. I was kind of surprised that even though it was an original piece of art, it was still cheaper than a paperback book. The same designer also had a zine about bread and a corresponding collection of cute buttons.

Larva graphic anthology - Feria del Libro de Manizales

Another exciting discovery we made was of a publication called Larva. Barret had been wanting to find graphic novels in Spanish to practice reading, but the hardcover volumes we found were a bit too pricey to justify their purchase. Larva, however, was not only on sale but it was also a sample of some of the best comic artists in Latin America.

Notebook by La Libreteria Ediciones - Feria del Libro de Manizales

The last purchase I made was from a Medellín-based designer called La Libretería Ediciones. At first glance, the cover of the notebook appeared to be a watercolor of a very busy public square. Then I noticed the dead man leaking blood on the cobblestones while two soldiers looked on. I loved the contrast between the softness of the media and the actual content of the imagery.

I hadn’t bought nearly as many books as I had hoped to, but I did walk away with a lot of work by Colombian artists. And I count that as a definite success.

About: Feria del Libro de Manizales

About: Tyrannus Melancholicus

About La Libretería Ediciones: lalibreteria@gmail.com

About: Larva 

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Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Week 229

Yellow Jesus statue at Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Manizales, Colombia

We didn’t quite know where we were going when we set out Sunday morning; we were just heading in the direction of a giant yellow statue. It is quite visible, especially from our apartment in Cable.

It took us about half an hour, but we eventually found our way to a steep street lined with speakers blasting tinny melodies. The home of the yellow curiosity was Ecoparque Los Yarumos. It was early in the morning, so there were only a few families pushing their kids through the turnstile and into the park grounds. I was kind of surprised it was even open and staffed before 9am.

Barret and I had a quick stroll around before we found the cafeteria and bought two pintados. That’s the local term for a cup of milk with a splash of coffee. It comes in a sage-green plastic cup that is so thin the bottom tends to bulge from the weight of the liquid. I like the milk to coffee ratio, but Barret’s not quite convinced.

View from Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Manizales, Colombia

We found a bench near the top of the park and looked out over the city. While the view was great, it kind of felt like you needed kids to enjoy all the activities at Los Yarumos. There was a nature trail, but it was closed till the afternoon and only accessible with a guide.

Neighborhood playground: Manizales, Colombia

Not to worry though- it was a beautiful day and the walk back down was spent photographing Manizales architecture. Many of the neighborhoods are built terrace-style using cinder blocks and red bricks. The front of the house has a finished, painted texture, while the less visible parts of the house tend to be exposed brick.

Green house with purple tile work: Manizales, Colombia

I feel like the architecture is not wildly different from the US, but there are unique touches that remind me that I am somewhere foreign. The most obvious difference would be the bright color combinations. However, the tile work and the dainty decorative metal also catch my eye.

Font on an old public school: Manizales, Colombia

Even things that might seem standard are interpreted in surprisingly different ways in Colombia. Concrete sidewalks have patterns etched into them and I’ve even seen some hand chiseled curbs. It was Barret who noticed that the metal bars on windows tend to be on the inside of the house while the glass is on the outside.

Sidewalk texture: Manizales, Colombia

These are just some of the things that keep me busy during my walks or my ride to work. I might see these kinds of details every day, but I’m not bored with them yet.

Mi Tierra & The Botero Museum: Week 224

Entrance to Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Mi Tierra is reached via a long hall lined with vintage posters and punctuated with a neon sign. Unlike the bars on the other side of the church square, there was no one waiting outside to hustle you in. And unless you knew about the bar, the inability to see into the venue from the sidewalk might be a bit dissuasive.

Luckily Tiffany, one of my colleagues, was in the know. She rounded up a large group of people from our training program and we set out on foot for the Chapinero venue. It was about ten o’clock when we arrived only to discover a metal gate blocking the entrance. Our hearts sank.

Someone rattled the gate and called down the hall. A minute or two passed without a sign of movement and then we heard footsteps approaching. It was Arturo, the owner.

Mi amor,” he affectionately called out to Tiffany. “¿Cómo estás?

Stuffed dog decoration inside Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Of course the bar was open. Come in, come in. I wasn’t quite sure if they had opened up just for us, or if they just kept the gate closed when the venue wasn’t busy. It kind of seemed like in Bogotá, if there were enough people, anything could be reopened.

Interior of Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

During the day, Mi Tierra was an antique shop. There were no windows, so the musty smell of second hand goods filled the room. Some of the items were displayed while the rest were pushed aside to make space for the small dance floor and six tables. The most accessible items around the dance floor were wigs, hats, instruments, a wheelchair, and a small crocodile statue.

A crocodile statue and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

We sat down at the largest table, the one with a vintage hairdryer, and began ordering drinks. Many bars rush you to order, but it almost felt like it was an afterthought for Arturo. “Tranquila,” he advised me when I wasn’t sure what I wanted or even how to say it. Take it easy.

Ordering drinks at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Out of nowhere a birthday cake appeared for Arturo’s partner. We all sang happy birthday in English and then in Spanish. After the candles were blown out, Arturo grabbed the microphone for a heartfelt serenade.

A birthday celebration at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

The fact that such a large group of foreigners were invited in for a small birthday celebration just goes to show how friendly everyone was. While I had met a lot of nice people so far, it was the first time I felt such a generous ‘welcome’ in Colombia. If I’m ever back in Bogotá, you know where I will be.

The bar at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

On my last day in Bogotá, three colleagues and I went to the touristy neighborhood of La Candelaria. It is one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city and many of the buildings are beautifully preserved.

Our first stop was at the Plaza de Bolívar. It dates back to 1539 when it was first called the Plaza Mayor. Nowadays, it is a massive paved area that fronts the Catedral Primada and the Capitolio Nacional (Nation’s Capital). The plaza usually attracts more people on the weekend, but this Saturday it had two strikes against it: it was raining and Colombia was set to play that afternoon in the Copa América.

El Presidente, 1997: Botero Museum, Bogotá

El Presidente, 1997

Just down the street was the Botero Museum. It was founded in 2000 with the donation of 203 artworks from Fernando Botero himself. More than half of the art was his own work, while the rest was that of international artists like Calder and Bacon. Not only was it a priceless collection, but it was also free to the public.

Mujer delante de una ventana, 1990: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Mujer delante de una ventana, 1990

While the international art collection was great, I was really there for Botero. His inflated figures are both fascinating in form and grotesque for the greed they represent.  Their fleshy figures devour their clothing and their small eyes sink into their faces, like raisins in pudding.

I could have spent all day La Candelaria looking at national treasures. However, some of the most important Colombian things can’t be found in a museum; they can only be found on a big screen TV. It was time to head back to the hotel to watch the Copa América.

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velásquez, 1988: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velásquez, 1988

How to get to Mi Tierra: Calle 63 #11-47 (In front of Parque Lourdes), Chapinero, Bogotá

How to get to the Botero Museum: Calle 11 #4-41, Bogotá

Hombre con Perro: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Hombre con Perro, 1989

Letters Home: Week 219

WWI letter from the NSW State Library collection: Sydney, Australia

A month after the WWI armistice was signed, the NSW State Library advertised their desire to purchase the diaries of returning officers from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The price was determined by the quality of the entries as well as the rank of the officer. Of the 500 strong collection, many diaries came from stretcher bearers. The highest paid diary set belonged to Major General Rosenthal. He received 75 pounds.

For the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, the NSW State Library hosted an event called Letters Home. Since most of the material in the collection is one-sided, three panelists were asked to craft their own response to a WWI letter of their choice.

The fourth and youngest member of the panel was an actor named Brandon McClelland from a show called Anzac Girls. I’ve never seen the show, but with his gorgeous voice I imagined his character cradling a dying nurse in his arms while whispering you’re going to make it- just hold on! He administers the last bit of medicine available, but it is the sound of his voice that guides her back to her senses.

Even the men were moved. Peter FitzSimons, a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, asked the audience of predominantly retired women, “who thinks Brandon had the best voice ever?” As people cheered Peter joked, “he could sell fly spray to housewives and they’d think they got sex.”

Peter is also a non-fiction author and he was just in the process of finishing up a book about WWI. When it was time for his response it felt both memorized and off-the-cuff at the same time. He leaned into the podium with an aggressive stance and tore into his monologue with white-hot rage.

Peter apologized to Langford Colley-Priest, the stretcher barer from Neutral Bay whom he was replying to, for the unnecessary carnage. The men who ordered the pointless military maneuvers that kept Priest’s stretchers filled round the clock were never held accountable. Five and a half thousand men died in one battle alone and not one yard was gained.

The last panelist to read her response was Jackie French, an award-winning children’s book author. She was a firecracker of a woman in a red poppy shirt and red lipstick and wasn’t afraid to cut to the chase. “Has anyone ever killed someone?” Jackie asked the crowd. “Has anyone ever had someone try to kill them?”

Many years ago she had been taken hostage by a Basque terrorist organization and had been in a very difficult situation in which she had not been able to save a three-year-old child. From this experience Jackie emphasized that these letters and diaries should not be read voyeuristically. The reader should enter the piece after having thought about what they would do in that situation. Would they be willing to make the same sacrifices that the soldiers did?

At the end of the evening we left with a taste of what it had been like to be a soldier on the frontlines and also with a piece of fruitcake burning our tongues and warming our bellies. Because it was prohibited to send bottles of alcohol, soldiers were often sent sticky soft fruitcakes laced with rum and brandy. You could smell the alcohol from a few feet away.

Jackie was the 6th generation in her family to have sent this cake to an overseas soldier. “Only have a small piece if you are driving!” Jackie called out from the podium.

In an ideal world, she would also be the last generation to have that opportunity and the cake would instead become what it was that evening- a little piece of history enjoyed in the comfort of a library.

About: The NSW State Library WWI letter collection

The Finders Keepers Markets: Week 217

Finders Keepers Market Autumn/Winter 2015: Sydney, Australia

The Finders Keepers is a super hip craft fair that takes places twice a year inside the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. It is pretty much Etsy in flesh and bones and it draws quite a large crowd. The hall was originally a locomotive workshop, so it definitely lends a shabby chic atmosphere to the markets.

Barret and I paid a small donation to enter the event center and we were immediately swept away by the crowd. There was everything from clothing to candles in the shape of doll heads that, when burned, exposed a waxy pink brain.

The Finders Keepers Market- You Me & Bones Candles: Sydney, Australia

My guilty pleasure at craft fairs is quality ceramics and the best products I found were at a small booth called Skimming Stones. The artist who designed the collection of six plates worked in collaboration with a Japanese ceramic company named Kihara.

Skimming Stones plates at The Finders Keepers markets: Sydney, Australia

The result was an interesting fusion of Australiana with the traditional blue and white colors of Arita pottery. Barret and I couldn’t resist a plate with the kookaburra. They are very cheeky birds that sound like monkeys and one once stole the food right out of Barret’s mouth.

The Finders Keepers Markets - Fluffe Cotton Candy: Sydney, Australia

The queues for the food trucks were very long, so I made the sensible decision to buy a piña colada flavored cotton candy with a pink umbrella. Later on, while Barret was distracted, I made another sensible decision to buy a ceramic necklace in the shape of a giant piece of macaroni.

Flower vendor at The Finders Keepers market: Sydney, Australia

There was so much to see that it took us just under two hours to visit only half of the booths. I was also trying to photograph all of the cute stuff I saw, but it wasn’t easy with the crowds.

Bowtie vendor at The Finders Keepers market: Sydney, Australia

Towards the exit, and a few stalls down from a Polaroid booth, Barret and I found screen printed tea towels. At this point we were running low on cash, but we scraped up enough for two. One had Sydney scenes and the other had sketches of terrace homes. I had a sinking suspicion that our luggage was going to be overweight, but it was definitely worth it.

Vendor business cards at The Finders Keepers markets: Sydney, Australia

About: The Finders Keepers

About: You, Me & Bones candles

About: Skimming Stones plates

About: Fluffe cotton candy

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