In this blog I want to describe my experience at Wednesday Club, a weekly space provided by BUILD for over 60 adults with learning difficulties for social, learning and leisure activities. For two hours each Wednesday, I, along with other volunteers and clients with learning disabilities participated in bingo nights, arts and crafts, disco, and life-skills learning activities.
For my first visit to the Wednesday Club I arrived early in order to get acquainted with the staff who set up the space every Wednesday. Upon meeting the director of the Wednesday Club, who was both friendly and suave, I felt at ease. Being introduced to the rest of the staff, I quickly learned that many of them had learning disabilities but by being involved with the program for years they ‘climbed the ladder’ from being clients to earning staff positions. Seeing a new comer, some of them were hesitant and shy, maybe because I was holding a black folder with the research questions or I sat in the middle of the room observing their set up process. However, others quickly approached me, introduced themselves, and proudly shared what their responsibilities are and how long they’ve been involved with BUILD. They assured me that although it was calm at 6, by 7 PM the room will be filled with people and it gets quite hectic. As volunteers began arriving, I would introduce myself explaining why I was there and my goal for the research project and if I could interview them at one point in the evening. The first evening, the rooms were used for Disco, from which the songs of the 70’s and 80’s were blasting from the speakers, Art workshop, which walls were decorated in very impressive art of the clients, and a general room where volunteers and the clients could interact, drink a cup of tea or coffee, play a game or two. By 7 PM, the first floor and the three rooms of the Princes Street United Reformed Church filled with people, checking in, purchasing Bingo tickets, pouring themselves drinks and making decisions as to what room they would retreat to. The music lovers and dancers quickly retreated to the Disco room, singing to Jackson 5 songs, while the artists retreated to the painting room, showing me the drawings they previously completed and the current projects they were working on.
Although I was able to complete a few interviews with the volunteers that night, which was my reason for being there , I quickly became interested and infatuated with the atmosphere at the Wednesday Club. The excitement and the fulfillment that all of the individuals gained from being involved seemed unattainable anywhere else. The space provided an opportunity for both groups involved to break down social stigmas and relax, and enjoy themselves by furthering their social and artistic skills. From the interviews completed, it is clear that people keep coming back for years for multiple reasons. Whether it is to continue their involvement in the community, gain more experiences working with adults with learning disabilities, or just have fun, both volunteers and clients had several gifts to share and certain goals to fulfill. The Wednesday Club has been a perfect example of what local organizations offer to individuals with learning disabilities that the government and public organizations can not. The focus on relationships and activities that can promote several improvements in parties involved are successful which explains the passion from the staff and the volunteers. Wednesday Club which has been active for the past 43 years is a true success.
“Education is the transmission of civilization,” (Will Durant) therefore, factors such as what we teach, how we teach, and who we teach in our education system should send a message about your society. Afterall, Durant states it is indeed a direct representation of our civilization. As I have been volunteering with an organization, BUILD, for the past three months I have been observing how the English education system, as well as the society, regards individuals with learning disabilities. Furthermore, without the ability to control it, I have been analyzing the American education system as well. Does our society and the English society have full acceptance of individuals with learning disabilities, or are they still viewed as burdens? What kind of support is provided to individuals with learning disabilities? Is that support enough?
Rarely do we think of what teenagers and adults with learning disabilities have to deal with when they enter educational and social settings. BUILD, which is a Norwich based organization, uses a range of services to reach out to individuals with learning disabilities in the Norfolk area. These services include socials where individuals get to interact with mentors/volunteers and other participants of the program, one-on-one mentoring, educational programs and etc. Through this organization, individuals get to expand not only their social skills, but also gain comfort and confidence. Organizations like BUILD provide individuals with learning disabilities services and needed advice that the education and the government system does not. From the success of the organization, it is safe to say that the volunteers and the participants are doing something right. But it is also unfortunate to say that organizations such as BUILD is non-profit and relies on the donations of individuals. It is important to further question what kind of support the government and the education system in U.K. provide to individuals who might need further help, and whether that further reflects our society’s view on individuals with learning disabilities. Some of these questions I hope to further answer in my research paper.
One workshop that BUILD is hoping to hold within next few weeks with which I’ve been helping to organize is regarding educating participants of BUILD in government, policies, and voting system. When I heard the plan that the director of the organization is organizing, I was impressed and excited, because even I still need help with learning about UK political system. However, the demographics of voting are not positive. Although 80% of people with learning disabilities are registered to vote, only 1 in 6 participated in their local election and 1 in 8 in the last general election. Upon further research and discussion, it seems that the complexity of the system, and a shortage of accessible information keeps individuals from actually voting. Therefore, BUILD’s workshop would encourage individuals to get involved and educate in areas where the society and the education system fails to do so. The first goal is to have more accessible information about candidates and the actual voting system. I wonder for why the running candidates do not reach out to individuals who have learning disabilities. The possibility is that our society still does not view all individuals as equals, equals in learning, achieving the same level of success, or picking their next leader.
As I continue to volunteer with BUILD, I learn that such organizations pick up the slack of where the actual system fails. We should all further question what does our education system represent, is it a mirror image of our society?
Perfect space. Invasion of perfect space. Straight alleys, grass cut to the perfect inch, clean fountains with not even a leaf floating in sight, trees planted in a straight row with carefully calculated distance. Regent’s Park is one of the most perfect parks in existence, so are the Green and Hyde Parks. Coincidently they are all located in London, England. After spending a month in London and visiting the parks as well as having a few class sessions held in Regent’s Park I have learned to appreciate the high mannerism of English parks. After all, I am used to Central and Prospect Parks in New York City, where every couple of steps you will find young adults on blankets, playing music from their speakers on the highest volume possible, dogs running freely, and tramps, as the English like to say, trying to find a spot to spend a night. In London parks it seems that all of the above would be considered as poor behavior in a park. William Pitt said “The parks are the lungs of London,” therefore, I believe that the parks that we have explored are great representations of the London culture and its society.
I want to begin by discussing Green Park and Hyde Park which are both part of Royal Parks of London. Both are of great size; however, Hyde Park wins with 350 acres of space. Upon entering the parks, I was overwhelmed, by not only the perfection of the parks but also the beauty. In the busy and crowded London, it is surprising to find that such large, green spaces that provide a sense of escape. Escape. Throughout centuries, parks seem to do just that, provide leisure and relaxation for Londoners, no matter what their background or social class. With fountains, lakes, and open space for exercising, parks provide the “personal space” for every individual. Although Regent’s Park as well as the other two have a sense of perfection, it seemed that the London residents are comfortable using the park for their daily escape for jogging, laying on the grass, walking their dogs, or just getting their daily dose of fresh air.
As I have mentioned before, the care that goes into maintaining the beauty of London parks is of great task. It reflects the importance that parks have on the society, as well as the importance of order for the English. Parks are also the representation of London’s history. Green Park, besides being currently connected to the Buckingham Palace and its gardens, is said to have originally served as a swampy burial ground for lepers from the nearby hospital at St. James’s. Henry VIII enclosed it in 16th Century, after which the area was surrendered to Charles II who made it into a Royal Park. At the present time, there are government offices and corridors, linking the nearby Royal palaces, beneath the east side of Green Park and continue to run to the south.
Although at first I was uncomfortable with the perfection of the London parks and its well groomed grounds, I learned to appreciate the care and the history of each park. Residents of London have made parks as spaces of their own. I still prefer the smaller squares around Bloomsbury area that provide more intimate feeling, but I can say that there are no parks in the world like the ones here in London.
Nights out in London have been proven to be interesting. Whether going out dancing in Metra, seeing a Shakespeare play at the Globe, grabbing a drink at a random pub, or walking through Thames River at night and enjoying a festival, London has a variety of entertainments for those looking to get out of their “residence” spaces aka the Arran House. The choice is behind a Londoner on what to do for “a night out.” For a typical night out in London, one can expect to pay a visit to at least one pub to grab a drink or two, to chat with “drunk locals who seem as much part of the building as the rafters that support the roof,” staying until the closing time and then heading back to the locations of “residence.” Although pubs have been the source of entertainment in England for centuries and one can not find anything similar in other parts of the world, I have not been particularly impressed by the pub culture in England, but that maybe also be because I rather dance the night away than sit around drinking Ale. Luckily, I was able to find several locations in trendy London where they play music that I, an American, recognized and I had great friends with me who are amazing dancers and are willing to “break it down” on any dance floor. In comparison to the American night life culture, it seems that the Brits are laid back, satisfied with socializing and more focused on chit-chating the night away. While experiencing the actual night life in London, I was more interested in “classical leisure.”
Always being a fan of plays, musicals, theater and anything involving a plot , I was that one individual who was excited before every show we were going to see during our time in London. Some were more disappointing than others (shall I say…Marilyn Monroe in Blood Brothers) while others brought on tears, laughter, compassion and love. With watching two Shakespeare plays, As You Like It and Troilus and Cressida in the actual Globe Theater, seeing the creativity behind the staging and lighting of All’s Well That Ends Well, and an interesting idea of Arcadia which compares two different families in two different centuries yet again there are ways in which their lives are interconnected. Being that this was the first time that I had ever seen Shakespeare plays, I want to focus on the characters presented by the writer in Troilus and Cressida,As You LIke It and All’s Well That Ends Well.
Although Shakespeare has written plots from dramatical pieces to comedy, his comedian side seems to always pay a visit. In all of the three Shakespearean plays that we have seen, we have had a character who one might say is not only entertaining but is also the representation of truth and class differences. In Troilus and Cressida a character by the name of Thersites can be described as “a deformed and scurrilous low class fool.” Although throughout the play, the plot of the story does not focus on him, he provides the audience a laugh as well as a different outlook on the war that is going on between the Trojans and the Greeks as well as on the love triangle that is continuos throughout the play. In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, there is a more obvious character who we know will serve the comedic role. A character Touchstone, whose first scene involves a joker costume was an instant hit and a constant laugh. Hands down he has been my favorite character in all of the plays we have seen.
Shakespeare’s focus on his characters and his plots show realistic situations of actual people. His emphasize on the interrelationship between characters, most of the times very complicated relationships, Shakespeare was able to focus on history, love, and passion and make his plays educational in every sense possible. I was also very surprised that the plays that we have viewed all had recurring themes of sexuality. It is clear that Shakespeare was ahead of his times. And of course, the theme of love did not escape me. Shakespeare’s ideas of unconditional love, jealousy, and desire were clearly displayed by the actors who were lucky to be performing on the stages of the National Theater as well as the Globe Theater (although it is not the original!).
I have greatly enjoyed the varieties of the performances we have seen in London over this past month. I can not express how grateful I am for everything that I was able to witness. These experiences will stay with me forever. Thank You everyone and Professor Qualls!
“Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self, in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt, and, sometimes, discerned.” – James Arthur Baldwin.
We all identify ourselves whether it be through our gender, sexuality, nationality, race, economic status. Sometimes we make up our identity but often we feel pressured to identify with a certain group in order to feel a sense of security and comfort although having a certain identity does not always guarantee one comfort with the majority of the society. It has taken me a long time to gather my thoughts on identity because it seems that many “categories” of identity are superficial. Therefore, whenever I discuss identity, I try to focus on the individual. On individual’s “comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity.” As James Arthur Baldwin stated, identity is a garment that most of the the time covers the true individual. By our need to identify oneself we limit our being.
Upon arriving to London, it seemed that most of the society identified themselves by simply their economic status. In a country where monarchy and class are in their prime, there seems to be a focus on whether one identifies as being in the higher, middle, or lower class. While being in London, we have been discussing the construction of identity for the individuals who have immigrated to England and the effect that migration has had not only on the first generation but on the second generation as well. We have read works such as White Teeth by Zadie Smith that explores the migration and adaptation to postcolonial Britain, where the identities of the characters are defined not only by their economical status but also by the color of their skin, their cultural beliefs, their religions, their upbringings. In White Teeth, the author decided to introduce a wide array of cultures present in North London and explore how they mixed in a country like England which is a country “with immigrants.” Englishman Archie Jones, the family from Bangladesh, the Iqbals, biracial Irie Jones who struggles with not only her identity, but her hair, Alsana Begum, the wife of Samad Iqbal, second generation brothers Millat and Magid who are expected to be unaffected by the Western culture are all part of this mix. Some of their challenges include keeping their traditions and religions as part of their identities. Yet again such task is very “superficial” where one assumes that religion and cultural traditions are not present if one is also adapting to their current country of residence. Second generation characters such as Millat, Magid, and Irie struggle between the expectations of their parents and the society with their own wishes and their own chosen identities. They were not able to wear “the loose garment” and shed their given identities due to their historical past whether it be their origin, national past, or family history.
Irie Jones is introduced to us as a biracial teenager a daughter of the Englishman Archie Jones and Clara Jones, a former Jehovah’s Witness. Being a teenager and wanting to escape her given identity and fit in with the majority of the English society, she goes as far as straightening her hair but literary burning all of her curly hair off. Her need to limit her being by fitting into one category or the other causes her struggle. As readers we are exposed to Smith’s recollection of Irie, her obsession by the typical white family, her constant need for the separation from her parents, her need to look different in order to attract male attention. Alsana Begum, who was also married to Samad Iqbal, struggled by having the identity of a Bangladeshi wife. Although we as readers can see Alsana trying to break the barrier of being a quiet, submissive wife especially when it comes to making decisions regarding her twin sons, she is unable to break the barrier. She is reminded of her role, her identity by her friends, her husband, and her children. Alsana’s story is a great representation of what masculinity meant in postcolonial Britain where male superiority has existed for centuries, it is even more interesting that she was an immigrant whose own culture also places a focus on masculinity. Therefore, her struggle with her identity can not escape her. Neither Irie nor Alsana are aware of their separate entities of being individuals. They are so caught up in the identities given to them by their families that they forget to live. They forget to be themselves. Their identities are the opposite of being fluid, they are trapped.
After trying to explore identity in White Teeth, I am still questioning identity. Is identity something that we ourselves choose or is it always the result of the society?
I have to say I was pretty excited when I heard that Sir John Soane’s Museum is filled with THINGS. Not only THINGS, but precious antiquities and works of art. Little did I know that these antiquities would include Images from the Past: Rome in the Photography of Peter Paul Mackey, a wooden mummy case, a Chinese printed scroll dated 1711, and Italian sculptures right in one’s backyard in Central London. Upon entering the actual museum, I thought “This is what my future home will probably look like.” Full of things that no one else would understand for why they are kept in a house but John Soane had a clear mission. To collect items that sparked his interest, his passion, items that would be questioned by others not only during his lifetime but centuries later. That would explain his construction choices, the placement of certain objects, the lighting, the different feel of each room and exhibition. All of these choices have made for a great museum.
The tour guide at the door was not too happy when a couple of us acknowledged the fact that all we knew about Sir John is that he was an influential architect during the 18th Century. All he told us was to watch out for Sir John’s design of the windows, as how he intended for natural light to be used. With the words from the tour guide in mind: “Whether or not you will like the museum, you will not be able to deny that this is a special place” I proceeded to the living room, where Sir John actually did his “living” considering that this is the only room of the house that looked somewhat cozy. Observing his library filled with books of highest rarity, I knew I was in for a treat, and was going to find something that I was not able to in the rest of the museums seen in London.
The lighting of the constructed house was truly magical. Being a neo-classical architect upon constructing the museum in 1808-09 Soane used primary top lighting while including stained glass. After doing more research, the lighting and the architecture of Soane’s house seemed to provide toplit spaces and in miniature form an idea of the lighting contrived by Soane himself for the toplit banking halls at the Bank of England. Another aspect of the museum that I found fascinating was the room that holds all of the paintings collected by Soane throughout time. During the 1820’s and 1830’s, Soane collected works by contemporary artists, many whom were specially commissioned in order to encourage continuous painting by the students. Upon entering the room, one is under the impression that there is only one layer of paintings that are showcased in the room; however, upon a twist of a knob by a museum employee revealed layers and layers of art. As in a fairy-tale, Richard Westall’s Milton Dictating to His Daughters, Sir Joshua Reynolds’ The Snake in the Grass and Sir John Soane’s own sketches of Bank of London, Buckingham House, Cambridge buildings were all in front of me. As I moved from room to room, I could not believe the riches that Sir John was able to collect and keep within his house.
Questioning how he was able to store Roman sculptures made from stone and marble in his back yard, I left thinking that Sir John was one talented architect who had a major influence on the city of London but also someone who had major appreciation for art in general. His collection definitely required major monetary contributions which a person like myself will probably not be able to have as a collectible in “my future home.” However, I do love the fact that the house is being used for the purposes that he set out for. It is a museum, a structure that allows students as well as any other individuals wishing to stroll through this house, to observe what this one man could find and collect.
For the past few weeks we have been bombarded by tours, museums, tube maps, and sightseeing. We have been living the life of the London tourist. However, just last night, for the first time during our trip here, Anthony, Flow, Jeyla, Audrey, Rebecca, and I got a chance to play tour guides to fellow Dickinson students Gina, Luis, and Leslie on layover on their way to study in Malaga. Having been on many Karl-Qualls-Tours, the six of us were fully capable of navigating the city and hitting all the major tourist attractions in the four hours our friends had before they needed to get back to the airport. We took them to the South Bank, Big Ben, Parliament, the Roman Wall/Tower of London, the London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, and St. Paul’s.
But having already seen these sites, and been in London now for about three weeks, another tour didn’t seem that exciting to me. I went along just to be with my friends, but ultimately I learned something about myself along the way, and it has to do with IDENTITY: I’m now a Londoner. Leading the way, knowing the tube routes, does that make me a Londoner? Knowing the history, the significance of each spot, does that makes me a Londoner? Or was it feeling so jaded the past few days that the thought of more sightseeing made me a little sick? I think it was a combination of both. But seeing the look in Leslie, Luis, and Gina’s faces, the excitement they felt at seeing Big Ben for the first time, made me realize that now, we members of Humanities 309 are no longer tourists, but rather Londoners. And it is not because of any reason other than our ability to give that moment of awe to a group of our friends. -Megan
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On Sunday night three members of my posse Leslie, Gina and Luis flew into Europe. For the academic year they will be studying abroad in Spain however their layover for a night was in London. A couple of students decided that it would be great idea to take them out and see our new home, London. Granted they would only be here for a night so we decided to cram in our best London Tour in the span of literally 5 hours.
Jeyla and I wasted no time, and rushed on the tube towards Heathrow airport. Our tube cards only go up to zone 3 on the tube, and whenever Jeyla and I passed the boundaries of a new zone we felt petrified that we were venturing out too far. However we got to the airport safely, picked them up, and quickly returned to the hotel. As soon as we arrived they visited some other Dickinson friends of theirs, ate, and we headed out on the town.
Now when I say that London is a beautiful city at night, I am not giving it enough credit. It was definitely a night to remember, in that we saw, what we as “Londoners” thought were the most important tourist attractions in such a short time span. We walked bridges, greeted Big Ben, climbed statues, took pictures, walked skate parks, saw bridges rise and fall, and of course had an amazing time with great friends. I felt so blessed that I was able to take my friends out in the city that I have grown to love, and even more amazing, that I knew my way around. The time spent that night is one I will cherish forever. Next adventure will definitely be in Spain!!!! See you then. -Anthony
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Arrival Time 3:00 pm Sunday
Last Sunday we got a visit from three of our Dickinson friends, who on their way to study abroad in Malaga, stopped by to get a taste of London! Luckily, we had the day off on Monday, so Audrey, Megan, Jeyla, Rebecca, Anthony and myself decided to show Gina, Leslie and Luis everything that we have seen in the past two weeks. Interesting enough, we all had the opportunity to see something we had never before witnessed. For instance, Tower Bridge was raised, gracefully, to allow a ship to continue to make its way down the Thames. It all happened in a matter of about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, but it was my first time seen a bridge being raised, and it was Tower Bridge for that matter! It was a magic moment.
(Video of Tower Bridge rising coming soon)
We walked along the Thames, from the National Theatre to the London Eye to Big Ben to the Tower of London, across Tower Bridge and over the Millennium Bridge towards St.Paul’s. We spoke of everything we knew about, taking the time to explain to them (the “new tourists”) why St.Paul’s was so special and why London Bridge isn’t as cool as Tower Bridge, and to answer their questions on what is Westminster Abbey so important or what is inside the Tower of London… among many, many others. I definitely took some time to show off my knowledge of Nelson Mandela, as we made a quick stop at his statue located near Westminster Abbey. It was a night full of fun, recollection of knowledge and moments that will always be unforgettable.
This night will be remembered as the time when we all felt like true Londoners! The night when “Professor Qualls [(or Quallzie, as Jeyla calls him)] would be proud!,” the night when I described the system of Apartheid as a system where “whites segregated that shit to the T!”
Departure Time 2:00 am Monday
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I’m normally pretty good with directions, but for some reason during our stay in London I have managed to disrupt that pattern in some pretty fantastic ways. My group has had to run for a good 20 minutes because of my decision to take the wrong tube line when we could have just walked to our destination in 10 minutes in the first place. I led a friend on a two-hour walk trying to find the hotel that was only two blocks away. Oopsies. But when a few friends stopped in on their way to Malaga, my sense of direction seemed to be right on. They were incredibly jet-lagged so taking any additional steps than those that were necessary was not even an option if we wanted everyone to be happy by the end of the visit. To get from the Tower of London area to St. Paul’s Cathedral isn’t necessarily that difficult, but the way my luck has been going I was nervous about how we would get from point A to point B without stopping at any tube or bus station. Thank goodness for our walking tours. Just when I was getting nervous about where we were, I looked up and saw a pirate ship on the sidewalk. Normally, such a site might throw me for a loop, but in this situation it was a sign that said ‘don’t worry, everything is working out’.
It was at the pirate ship that I realized that London has become more than just a big city with a confusing street lay out. This bridge connects to this theater which is caddycorner to that cathedral. It’s not a home for me yet and I’m not sure that it will be any time soon. But it’s not a place in which I feel completely out of place anymore. I am familiar with some of its alleys, I have a good-ish grasp of which tube stops are on which line, and I know which areas of London have which personalities. The pirate ship is in quirky Southwark and not in the swanky West End. It’s also something that can help a group of Dickinson students around London on a fun night of exploration. I only wish that I was more at home in the city that I could have climbed aboard and said Argh. Another time. -Audrey
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Seeing Big Ben lit up at night, running across the streets, crossing the Millennium Bridge, witnessing the Tower Bridge being lifted. This was all experienced in one night when my three good friends from Dickinson had their 15 hour lay-over in London’s Heathrow Airport before going on their way to Malaga, Spain for their study abroad program. The adventure began when Anthony and myself decided to pick our friends up in the Zone Six area of London which is farther than one would expect to be from our “regular” Zone Three expeditions. It was fairly easy to get to the airport on the Picadilly line on the tube and we were pleasantly surprised to see out friends hanging out at the arrival gate. As we made our way back to the Arran Hotel we explained to them what we have seen so far of London and of course they have seen our facebook photo albums to go along with our stories. Arriving at the Hotel, Anthony, Flosha, Megan, Audrey, Rebecca and myself decided that we wanted to show Leslie, Gina and Luis the “real London” which meant a lot of walking in the few hours that they have had left to spend in England. It has been a great experience to have spent a month exploring London with my fellow Dickinson class mates, some whom I knew while attending Dickinson and some whom I got to know better by living in the Arran Hotel. However, a whole new appreciation came upon me when three of my friends, whom I have known for almost three years, were able to explore London with me. As we made our way to Embankment stop, we made sure to show them Big Ben peaking through the bridges, the Westminster Abbey, the statue of Nelson Mandela, the Tower Bridge, the Globe, London Bridge, and of course the magnificent Saint Paul’s. We ended the night by taking a ride in the legendary London double decker bus. I can just imagine how exciting it must be to be able to see another European country before heading to their destination of Spain. Their arrival to London also made me realize how easy it is to travel across Europe, and seeing London full of lights gave the city a romantic notion for me instead of the historical side that I am used to.
I am so happy that we were able to not be tourists for a night and show someone else around this beautiful city. Quallzie would be proud! –Jeyla
As I sit in the Hindu temple observing the religious practices, a sign reads “please observe silence.”
To me, there is a very thin line that separates the secular world and a religious world. Such a thin line that it is almost blurred. For me the “real world” seems to overpower the religious world. I can not help but to question whether liberation and equality exist in the “real world” even if religion may not always promote such values. The blur might exist for me because of my complicated story. I grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan with an Islamic family from my mother’s side and a Christian family on my father’s side. I was able to follow Islam religion by attending a Mosque once in a while, following the holidays, and observing my grandmother and my uncle praying for 30 days during Ramadan. Besides such factors, I have never considered my family too religious or “straight laced,” even before coming to the United States, the influence that the U.S.S.R. had on Azerbaijan allowed me to grow up in a Westernized country, where religion was not the driving force behind the society. Needless to say, I have not been to a Mosque in over nine years and since coming to the United States, my grandmother and uncle gave up their “duty” of praying during Ramadan. However, there are many principles that I still follow and believe in and will most likely remain in my life.
Traveling to Sikh Gurdwara and the Hindu temple has proven to be an experience that not only has allowed me to explore Sikhism and Hinduism but allowed me to question how I have interconnected my religion with my daily “real world” and furthermore question whether it is possible to be both religious and still live in a secular world. Therefore, I have tried to research how first and second generations have tried to maintain their religions while living in a very westernized world of England and how certain beliefs and concepts cross that blurred line that makes it impossible for someone like myself to follow strictly one religion.
Both, Sikhism and Hinduism have a following in London and England in general which would explain the large structures that were built in order to provide a space for practicing. Both of the religions have extensive histories and have specific worshipping rituals that include praying a few times a day, meditation, holy days, promote non-violence, and encourage continuous learning. One aspect of both religions that stuck out to me was the relationships the Temple, and the Gurdwara to form with younger generations because here is where the blurred line comes into play.
Upon taking our tours, the topics of abortion, marriage, female and male roles, and liberation ran through my mind. My desire during the tours was to chat with those “youngsters” practicing in the Gurdwara, females who were sitting in the back while males were praying in the front of the Temple, males who are training to become monks and gurus and anyone else who is a first, second, or third generation individual trying to get rid of the blurred line and have their religion and their westernized culture exist together.
Although, I was not able to chat with any individuals besides our tour guides, I was able to find a few stories told by Second Generation Sikhs on the BBC website. In many recollections, the Sikhs such as Sody Singh Kahlon, mentioned being an eternal student and scholar. The attitudes of older generations and how they encourage younger generations to maintain their religions differ in Sikhism and Hinduism. When mentioning the “youngsters” during our group tour, it was made clear that the Sikhs encourage their younger generations to adapt as much as they can from the religion while continuing to live in “the real world” that is now England. Their focus is to pass on as many of their religious teachings as possible but the elders are also willing to learn from younger generations who live their lives in the western world. Although geographically the Gurdwara was separated from Central London, it seemed that their religion is accepting of changes, of equality of women and men praying in the same space.
The Hindu concepts seemed to be true original roots of caste systems, gurus, cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. When it comes to the younger generations, Hindus still seem to hold men in a higher position than they do women. My conclusion is based on the fact that men and women were separated in the praying room, with men sitting in the front of the room and being allowed to offer their prayers to Gods first while women follow. Also, the young men, no matter what generation, are encouraged to become priests and then follow on to hopefully become monks. Instead of incorporating their current worlds with their religion, the men are encouraged to follow their religion strictly. And here is when the line presents itself for me. Certain ethics in Hinduism seems to cloud over my “real world” believes such as into pro-choice when it comes to abortion, in the right to pick your own partner in marriage. How can one separate their daily beliefs while still following their religion? Is there a way to separate praising God and living your daily life?
I am sure adjusting to the life in a Westernized country such as England is tough, especially for the first generations that are caught between their ethics and ethics of their parents. As of now, I have been choosing the “real world,” over the religious world because I have not found a way to interconnect the two worlds together. I do have a lot of respect for those individuals who have found a way to cross the blurred line and be happy.
A description under Cradle to Grave by Pharmacopoei states:
“Cradle to Grave explores our approach to health in Britain today and addresses some of the ways that people deal with sickness and try to secure well being.”
It is an understatement when I say that I was surprised to see an exhibit titled “Living and Dying” which is located in Wellcome Trust Gallery in the British Museum. The gallery explores how people around the world deal with “the tough realities of life and death.” The exhibit further explores health challenges shared by many through out the world, and the ways that those individuals might deal with them based on their cultures, beliefs, and areas of residence. Creatively displaying visual representations of photography, quotes, documents, captions, and instillations the exhibit investigated people’s reliance on relationships in order to maintain their well-being. Exploration of people’s relationships with each other, the animal world, ancestors, land and sea for their well being are included.
As I walked down the stairs of the British Museum to the ground floor expecting to see the Aztecs (Mexicana) exhibition featuring tribal sculptures, history, and art instead I was greeted by Cradle to Grave. The central installation consists of two lengths of fabric illustrating the medical stories of a man and a woman. Created by Susie Freeman, who is a textile artist, David Critchley, a video artist, and Dr Liz Lee, a general practitioner, each piece contains over 14,000 drugs representing the estimated average prescribed to every person in Britain in their lifetime, tucked away in ‘pockets’ of knitted nylon filament. This specific piece explored the approach to health in Britain and the personal approach of the piece demonstrates that maintaining well-being is more complex than just treating illness. With 14,000 drugs, the artists included photographs and some treatments that two individuals have gone through. The common treatments for the man and a woman included an injection of vitamin K and immunisations, and both individuals have taken antibiotics and painkillers at various times. Other treatments were more specific such as for asthma and hay fever that the man suffered from when younger and quitting of smoking at seventy due to bad chest infection. The piece showed his death from a stroke at the age of seventy-six, “having taken as many pills in the last ten years of his life as in the first sixty-six.” The woman’s treatments included contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy. She was successfully treated for breast cancer. She is still alive at eighty-two although she does suffer from arthritis and diabetes.
Trying to figure out the purpose of the exhibit, I believe the artists are trying to explore the factor of living in the “modern” society and how treating an illness is not the only factor that needs to be taken into account. By representing two individuals, a male and a female, in the British society through photographs with their own captions written down, and objects such as contraceptive pills, a glass of wine, and needles allowed the viewers to relate in some way to the lives these characters have led and how it affected their health.
Surrounding the installation, representations of health in countries such as Tanzania, China and India were included. “Facing HIV/AIDS” explored the approaches these communities have to the AIDS epidemic. The stigmas attached to being diagnosed with AIDS in these societies prevent many from seeking treatments; therefore, the need for education programmes, community workshops and poster campaigns which aim to make it easier to discuss and practice safe sex. “Praying for Health” showed how certain communities use prayer and traditional medicine to treat their illness. In contrast to the British healing, it is a very different approach. Focusing more on the person and the higher being rather than the pharmaceutical companies and the business aspect, societies in Tanzania, India and China focus on the being and their needs. Although the treatment of such illnesses such as HIV/AIDS can not be done only through traditional healing, their approach should serve as a guide to western societies where a more humane way to treat patients. There needs to be an infusion between the two worlds.
So this is an overdue post comparing our experiences at the National Gallery and the Tate Modern.
When we were climbing the steps of the National Gallery we were anticipating the beautiful pieces that would be displayed by world renowned artists. We were excited to see the works of Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Van Dyck as well as artists who are unfamiliar to us. While standing in front of Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child, observing his rather passionate and intricate work we felt a disconnect between our previous assumptions of how the work was suppose to affect us versus our actual interpretations. Based on our shared knowledge of these artistic “masterpieces” we hoped to feel the sense of awe. Although we were privileged to be viewing these works, we left feeling rather “eghhh” (for lack of a better term).
Our experience at the Tate Modern JUXTAPOSED our feelings of incomplete satisfaction at the National Gallery. We were immediately intrigued by the modern and uncommon artistic works. These revolutionized pieces made us question the true meaning of art. IN our interpretation of the works found at Tate, modern art in Britain completely attempts to move away from traditional, classical art found at the National Gallery. Although we do appreciate classical art, modern art speaks to us in a different form, and it relates to the ways in which we seek to see the rest of our society— in distinctive ways. The Tate Modern seems to be “pushing the envelope” when it comes to artistic expressions and we enjoy that sort of rebellious attitude.
Overall, art is an interpretation of the individual and it can exist in various forms. It is always inspired and interpreted.