The Mirror House – Kuwait

1DSC_9140Lets just say, if my husband came home from a business trip abroad and found me on the floor with broken pieces of glass and plastering all over the wall, I think he would have had me committed. Thankfully this was not in the case of the lovely Lady Lidia.

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For what started out as a small mirror mosaic project to cover her daughters writings on the wall, turned into her greatest life long work, her pride and joy, The Mirror House of Kuwait. We were greeted by this tiny, Italian woman, with years of life knowledge and life experience under her belt. Yet somehow she maintained her zest and passion for life and she couldn’t wait to share it with us.

We started with a lesson on mosaics and the story of her beginning, but we were quickly whisked away and literally taken on a once in a lifetime journey through what can only really be explained as living surrealism. 

She met a young Kuwaiti man in the UK and he stole her heart. She then moved to Kuwait in the 50s, settled down, got married, had a family, lived life, survived wars, survived parenting, and found comfort in creating.

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Her story is a cherished love story. Her husband, Khalifa Qattan, was a very well known and respected pioneer in the Arab art world.  Yet, he very rarely called her Lidia, he preferred to call her lady, even up until his last days on this earth. Swoon! She brags that when she arrived in Kuwait, most of the houses were still built of clay. Yes, she has seen Kuwait change over the years there is no doubt of this. I asked her what the biggest change she witnessed was, expecting to hear the standard, “oh we used to be able to drink and now we can’t” or, “we could wear short skirts back then and no one bothered us about it” but no, to my surprise, she said the greatest change came from within the family unit.

The family unit has changed.

When she first moved to Kuwait she testifies how most children were being raised by their parents, both moms and dads were raising their kids. She shares that in today’s times children are being raised by nannies. It’s quantity over quality of children that has become important. There is a whole generation of children being raised by nannies and no longer by their parents. And you see it filter over into the Western culture within Kuwait too. All too often it’s the nannies with the kids at birthday parties or afternoon activities, very often alongside the parents, even then parents take more and more of a back seat.

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Her symbol piece for the family unit.

Anyway, getting back to the tour. What a ride. She took us into every room where different themes are represented, from the earth to outer space. Her birds were my personal favourites. On the top floor we even got to appreciate her husbands works. a dedicated gallery to his finest pieces. I loved this part. He was a visual communicator for sure. The statements he made with his art were honest, bold and unapologetic. He loved being Kuwaiti and was so proud of that, but he was despising what the nation was becoming, the changes that the country was going through and he used his art as his voice. It still speaks volumes today. I definitely learnt a lot about the history of Kuwait on this tour, It was interesting for sure.

In the rooms next to his gallery are works of her own. It was fascinating to see these two worlds showcased on one floor. Two very different minds with similar view points being expressed in two very different ways. It was remarkable.

My favourite piece belonging to Lady Lidia was the piece with the two keys. These represent the keys to a woman’s heart (men, pay attention).

They are:

1 – Respect

2 – Generosity (not as in things or money, but rather time and affection). If you get these two things right her heart will be forever yours.

Her art therapy rooms are quite something, too. Darkness, with colour of lights and lights of colour.

Admittedly, I spent an hour on my bed in the afternoon with a warm cup of tea processing the experience. Trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. I was most certainly over stimulated for the better part of the afternoon. And wonderfully so. I will never forget this morning at The House of Mirrors. For anyone living in Kuwait, you need to move this to the top of your ‘to do before you leave’ list. This experience has the backing of both Trip Adviser and Lonely Planet.

I left informed and inspired.

If you have a House of Mirrors experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Special note: One thing that makes this experience even more unique is that you become a part of the visual experience. With the mosaics being mirrors, your reflections are integrated. Thus making everyone’s experience unique to them. 

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Cheers,

la

 

Martyrs House – a suburban pocket of war

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As I drove into the neighbourhood, the site of the house took my breath away. I parked the car and made my way inside. This house, this moment in time, has been restored ever so slightly to make it safe for visitors to walk around. And walk around I did.

Al-Qurain Martyrs House is a museum dedicated to those brave Kuwaiti souls who gave their lives for their country. During the invasion of 1991 a group of Kuwaiti men formed a resistance group that fought against Saddam’s army. This house, in an ordinary Kuwaiti neighbourhood, became the hide out and headquarters for the 31 member group known as the Al Messilah (Kuwait Force). At the time of this particular attack on February 24, 1991, their were 19 members present and sadly 12 lost their lives while 7 managed to survive.

After the liberation of Kuwait a few days later, H.H. Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, ordered that the site be transformed into a historical museum which will commemorate the sacrifice and heroism of these Kuwaitis. It has become a symbol of national pride. It stands tall as a reminder to future Kuwaiti generations of how their forefathers fought against their Iraqi invaders, and the price that they, and many coalition soldiers, had to pay for them to maintain their country.

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What struck me first was the sheer damage that had been done over the 10 hour battle. But what came next is actually what stayed with me. There is a strange unexpected peace within these walls. You see the destruction yet you hear the birds chirping. You imagine the chaos, yet you feel the stillness of the air.

I looked closer at the inside of the house. The tiles in the kitchen were probably thoughtfully and carefully chosen.

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The ceiling fan in a bedroom resembles a wilted flower.

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For me, the detail that still lives within the walls, carries the voices of family gatherings, children laughing, the memories of lives lived, and now the sorrow of lives lost as well.

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The cars outside still parked as they were on that fearful morning.

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If you find the opportunity to explore this fiercely patriotic country, or perhaps you already live here and you have family and friends visiting, then this is a trip that is an absolute must. It was an hour well spent, we were able to walk around freely and if anything, the locals in the area appreciated the fact that we were interested in their history and a place that was clearly very important to them. I got the sense that they respected us for paying our respects. One gentleman took the time to come talk to me in broken English and explain the history, even happily leaving me with English translated booklets with further information. Yes, this trip is a must. It will move you.

Cheers with a humbled heart,

la

Living in a Sepia World

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no filter – this is real life

Sepia – a reddish-brown color, named after the rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish Sepia (1,2,).  Sepia tones are most commonly associated with photography. In film photography chemicals are applied to a black and white print producing the warmer hues of sepia for a visual effect or for archival purposes. Now in the days of Instagram and digital post processing the same effect can be added as a filter to achieve the look of aging photographs.(2)

My sepia is the colour the world turns when the sand from the desert rolls in. For those of us living in Kuwait, these sandstorms create a surreal 3-dimensional sepia toned world.

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For newcomers to the region, these sandstorms are intriguing, but for us who have been here a while, they are hazardous, and simply awful. The sand gets in everywhere. It seems to linger behind for days. They are common for this time of year as seasons change and the full force of summer approaches. To learn more about these sandstorms click [here].

When I lived in South Africa, I was blessed daily with waves of colour rolling in from every direction; everyday, all day long, no matter the weather or season. Growing up with that visual abundance, I definitely became accustom to it. It was only when I moved to the desert 10 years ago, when my colour range reduced that I truly realised how blessed I had been all along.

We really do live in a beautiful colourful world. Every colour adds such dynamism to life and the world around us, pause for a moment wherever you are and look around, see the colours around you as if feasting on them for the first time. For us here in this sepia season, the dust will settle, and the blue sky will make her appearance again, but until then stay safe, stay indoors. That said if anyone is brave enough to venture out to take photographs, please remember to use your UV filter on your lens, you don’t want these little particles anywhere near the inside of your camera. Share your photos in the comments section below, especially from yesterday’s sandstorm, we would love to see them!

Until the dust clears for us in Kuwait, lets fill our timelines with the colour blue and stay inspired. #itsablueworld

I will leave you with a few images of what inspires me these days; African skies and Kuwait textures!

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Cheers,

la

Sources:

1 – Wikipedia contributors. “Cuttlefish.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 May. 2017. Web. 25 May. 2017.

2 – Wikipedia contributors. “Sepia (genus).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 May. 2017.

3 – Wikipedia contributors. “Photographic print toning.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 May. 2017.

Al Shaheed Park phase 2 – at first glance

It’s no surprise that Al Shaheed Park is one of my favourite places to photograph here in Kuwait City. I have been waiting a long time for phase 2 to open and when it did this past week I couldn’t wait to get down there and see for myself how it compares with the original.

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The creators of this gorgeous park have kept consistent with the look and feel of phase 1 beautifully and have managed to continue with the theme – a representation of Kuwait incorporating both old Kuwait and new Kuwait. That said, phase 2 comes with it’s own design uniqueness and promises to inspire and engage it’s audience from the minute your eyes meet the land as you rise up from the escalators.

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A prominent new attraction is the miniature of old Kuwait and new Kuwait villages that both inform and encourage us to imagine times as they once were.

One of the most interesting features I found was the modern design of the new mosque, I’ve never seen anything like it, when I hear mosque I automatically think traditional, but this was anything but. Truly original.

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Lastly, I couldn’t leave you without sharing this amazing water feature, literally bursting up through the ground.

It is worth the trip into the city to explore the second phase of Al Shaheed Park. You will be amazed to see how the layout of landscaping within the park organically becomes a part of the city skyline.

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Enjoy,

la

The Secret Garden

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Tucked away in the neighborhood of  Salmiya in Kuwait, just off Bagdad street, you will find The Secret Garden.

At first glance, it’s a little dusty plot of land sprinkled with colour. But then something magical draws you in.

I went on Sunday morning, with everyone heading to the office, I found myself being wonderfully distracted by the details within this carefully carved out space. There is plenty of parking and it’s really easy to find. This urban community garden took off in 2014 lead by a lady named Mimi.

The garden is a constant work in progress with the community all coming together to plant and grow and keep it alive. It’s an amazing place to teach children about plants and encourage them to participate in growing and looking after their own. With gardening taking place on most Saturdays in the cooler weather it’s a unique Kuwait experience and one that should be taken advantage of before the heat of summer lands on us with full force.

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Over the weekends this place is buzzing with people, conversations, small farmers stalls and fresh initiatives. But when the hustle and bustle dies down and the clutter of people clears, that’s when you get to take in the finer details of this special place, and that is what adds to its magic. The chairs waiting to be sat on, waiting for conversations. The freshly stitched creations waiting to be admired.

It’s in this silence that I realise that this Secret Garden is actually a lot like my Kuwait experience. My first impression was that Kuwait was this dusty plot of land, but it’s only when I embraced it with an open heart and mind that I truly started to find the hidden gems within. This garden is an environment that fosters kindness and community.

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My absolute favourite feature of this Garden is this Wall of Kindness.  I don’t know why I never knew about this wall before. If you find yourself in the area and have something you are willing to re-home, please keep this spot in mind.

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Essentially it is a unique space that has been created at the hands of the community for the benefit of the community with kindness at its core. Stop by during the quiet hours of midweek mornings to absorb the hidden gems or embrace the hustle and bustle over the weekend, there is something for everyone.

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Cheers,

la

Inspiration from the streets

Lindy-Ann and I find that when we are feeling uninspired we need to look at other art forms for a fresh perspective. If you have been following me on Instagram (@dgdesignsnphotography) you may have noticed lately that I am really inspired by the urban art scene here in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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What is urban art?

Urban art is a term that refers to the various art forms found in or about a city. Including graffiti, architecture, sculptures, street photography, and the application of yarn or Perler beads to buildings.

To be honest, I have missed out on appreciating urban art for a long time. Even though I worked as an interior designer at a firm just south of Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., I just hurried past on my way to the Metro. It wasn’t until someone asked me what my favorite thing about Kuwait was and I tried to think of something other than my amazing friends, that I realized it was the urban art that spoke to me.

Driving is worst thing about Kuwait, seriously Israelis do not compare. However, it was sitting in traffic at the longest streetlight rotations of my life (10 minutes long!) when I started to look around and  noticed that the bridges were painted with themes of the Gulf. I pointed them out to my Liz, who had been driving the same roads 2 years longer than me, and she was amazed she had never noticed them.

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As I started to look for inspiration around the city, I found that there really is art everywhere. In Kuwait there are also the swanky blue and white water towers, the geometric and iconic Kuwait Towers, and my favorites spot with painted steps and graffiti by the fabulous the Cocoa Room restaurant. (If you are in Kuwait it is a must!)

Now living here in Tel Aviv, I’m inspired on a whole other level by the gorgeous Mediterranean, landscapes, and ancient ruins melding with modern urban art. There are sculptures of people climbing walls, giant flower pots in the center of traffic circles (kicars in Hebrew), and streets of graffiti. There is literally art everywhere, it is a photographer’s dream.

We recently went on a graffiti tour of the Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv, with a fantastic tour guide, Guy Sharett from StreetWise Hebrew. He educated us on a few artists, shared about the gentrification plans for the neighborhood, and helped us slow down and see hidden gems around us. Guy also noted that there is a clear distinction between a street artist and a kid with a can of spray paint, there are unwritten rules of respect among the artists and a vandal doesn’t abide by them. Unfortunately, this along with some of the edgy content lends to the negative stigma of graffiti as an art form. I walked away thinking about how these artists are sharing in creation of the city’s culture and that their art is out there, however temporary it may be, for people to appreciate or if nothing else, start a conversation.

If you are feeling uninspired or negative about your current city, I challenge you to take a closer look and notice the urban art around you. See what speaks to you, some of it won’t and that’s ok, but you may be surprised.

cheers,

kdg