May 27, 2010

A Little Beijing Shack Inside the Reina Sofia

"Come with me to China," I beckoned to him as I led us through the doorway, into the shack. "Oooo, it even smells like China," I cooed.
"How do you know? Have you been to China?" he inquired.
"No, but I know very well the smell of Chinese shops." (as a frequent visitor to these types of stores, I'd know the distinctive musty aroma of dried herbs and mushrooms anywhere)

Chinese Migrant Shack at Reina Sofia
Chinese Migrant Shack at Reina Sofia
Chinese Migrant Shack at Reina Sofia
Chinese Migrant Shack at Reina Sofia
I found this recreation of a typical family shack especially memorable because it pays meticulous attention to all sorts of authentic shabby details: dirt-stained clothes and shoes, well-used cooking utensils, a sack of rice, an industrial-size bottle of cooking oil, a thin well-worn mattress held up with bricks, a discoloured cutting block, replete with a rusty cleaver, a Chinese musical soundtrack of popular songs, a window overlooking the other shacks outside, and yes, this home also comes complete with the fragrance of 'eau de China'. A shack of this modest dimension would normally house a family of four.

This installation is an example of why I think art can play an important role in enlightening society. Some art puts us inside a physical space we would never otherwise have the opportunity to be in and once inside this space, our imagination bridges the gap between us and 'that which is foreign', and we come away with a better intuitive understanding of 'that which we didn't know before' and this knowledge often transcends words. We simply feel it on a visceral level, we know it with our limbic brain.

Showcasing the 'making of the Chinese new worker class and 30 years of migration', the Culture and Arts Musem of Migrant Workers Museum, Beijing District 2010, is a part of the The Potosí Principle exhibition, a cooperation between Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Now on until September 6th.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía,
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52

All photography by Shehani Kay

May 20, 2010

A sip of Cuban spirit

Negra Tomasa's various Cuban dolls
Negra Tomasa 1
Negra Tomasa 2
Negra Tomasa 3
Negra Tomasa 4
Negra Tomasa 5
Negra Tomasa 6
Negra Tomasa 7
The Priestess joins the band on stage
Negra Tomasa 8
Negra Tomasa 9
My first night flitting across the dance floor of Negra Tomasa left me with a keen desire to learn how to salsa for real. I mean, let's face it, salsa dancing is like sex with your clothes on with multiple partners and no bad hangover and awkward goodbyes the next morning... well, unless the dancing continues at home, that is. I can fake a salsa but there's no comparison to knowing the steps. My first night, I found my dance card quickly filled up with skilled and buff partners whom I simply followed to great success. What fun I had, laughing and dancing to a live Cuban band until 5 am.

My mistake was letting my friend convince me to go back a second weekend in a row. My usual rule is, if you had an amazing time at a bar/disco, for god's sake, don't go back the next weekend unless you want to feel the keen slap of disappointment. Slap. My second night reminded me of the importance of having a dance partner who can lead you properly and well. I found my dance card filled by one eager man from Ghana who was a relentless over-complimenter.
"You are so beautiful."
"Has anyone told you, you look African because your lips are so plump?"
"Umm... yes." (it was Grade 8 and I think that mean little boy was trying to hurt my feelings)
"You are the best dancer here."
"Umm.. er... thanks.."
This last obviously coy lie made me very wary of the night ahead so my friend and I quickly escaped to home sweet home alone but not before some random Spaniard twirled me and kissed me on my forehead on my way out the door.

Ahhh Negra Tomasa, you are a capricious and promiscuous lady.

Calle de Cádiz, 9
cover=10€ which includes a mojito
915 235 830

All photography by Shehani Kay

May 14, 2010

Metro Stories: cussing out the bullies

* Warning: there's bad language and swear words in two languages in this post. For those with delicate and refined sensibilities, perhaps you'll want to avert your eyes and skip this post.

Since I moved to Spain I have often fantasized about what it would be like to tell someone off on the metro who is being an asshole. The language barrier really inhibits me all the time. Joder (fuck), mierda (shit), gilipollas (stupid asshole), puta (slut), and cabrón (motherfucker) just don't flow off the tongue in a natural way for me. I'm always left eating my words and seething in silence. Only recently have I decided to allow myself to swear and make sarcastic remarks in English, just to let off some steam. I mutter things like, fuck, jesus fucking christ, what the fuck? and "sure, why don't you take your sweet fucking time" and "yup, in the middle of foot traffic is a really great fucking place to stop". Still, I haven't become so bitter as to push people out of my way like some other folks. These bullies will shove you, step on you, yell at you and in general be complete fuckwits. Because I don't speak enough Spanish to give them a coherent piece of my mind, I'm often left feeling frustrated and impotent.

Well on Wednesday I finally got my chance to speak up. I was coming home on a very crowded metro and when the doors opened at Lavapies station a lot of people were trying to get out. There was this British brute who grunted "move it" and began pushing behind me to get all of us out the door faster. As soon as I heard English, I went into instinct mode and so I turned around and said, "Will you stop fucking pushing?!" I could see my admonishment trigger a look of surprise at being called out in his mother tongue and then a flash of anger ignited in his blue eyes. His fleshy face reddened. "Then move faster!" he retorted, to which I replied, "We're moving as fast as we can!" He snorted and said, "Yeah right." So I shook my head and said, "You're a fucking twat!" as I walked off the metro carriage. He went ballistic behind me and began screaming, "Come say that to my face you cunt.." etc. But I kept on walking calmly away and I soon lost him in the crowd. He was freaking out so much, people turned around to look to see what was happening! The Bulldog was bellowing out in what sounded like a battle cry. "Arrrggghhh!!" Que fuerte! My heart thumped hard in my chest as visions of him chasing me down and beating on me crossed my mind but I shook that fear off and kept on walking up the escalators, out the door and into the lively, people filled streets of my barrio.

The thing is, if it had been a Spanish gilipollas or even a Morrocan cabrón, I wouldn't have worried that he'd get violent on me. We'd just heatedly exchange swears and cusses, gilipollas and putas. However, the threat of violence felt very much more probable with the British bulldog. Perhaps it's because British friends of mine have often regaled me with horrible stories of bloody bar fights that bubble up from nowhere in the UK. Why is it that beneath the thin, flimsy veil of respectability, stiff upper lip and civility there lies a barbaric violent streak in the breast of the British bloke?

Photography by Shehani Kay. Original street art found near Metro Puerta del Angel

May 8, 2010

The Open Door

The Open Door
The hobbit-size storage room door on my floor was opened for visitors so I took the opportunity to snap a photo. There's something other worldly, mysterious and tantalizing about this open door. Who knows what visions of Cthulhu lie down the corridor and behind the little doors... what secret gardens and Narnias hide from our view.

This is a followup to the Fifth Floor series of photos I took back in March.

Photography by Shehani Kay

May 7, 2010


demon eyes
Negative thoughts are like demons who watch for every opportunity to stick a dagger in your heart. These demons have many spies and these many spies have many eyes with which to peek under your every rock, into your every crevice and closet.

This week I've been stalked by the demoneyes and I'm trying hard to shake off their penetrating stares and cackling laughter. Some time this week I sipped from the poisoned goblet and drank deep the rotten roots of my youth. Some wounds are so ancient and painful, they still sting and fester when scratched. This indiscretion allowed the darkness to billow like storm clouds in the prairie skies. So as this storm thunders around me and these demoneyes keep their vigil, I too will keep my own vigil and ride out this bad weather. I shall stay aware of my black self talk and remember well that feelings are as impermanent as clouds on a breezy day.

Happy Friday! I'm off to have some wine with friends, my antidote for mal humor.

Photography by Shehani Kay. Seen near Viaducto de Segovia in Madrid.

May 2, 2010

The Many Charms of María Pandora

María Pandora
María Pandora
María Pandora
María Pandora
María Pandora
María Pandora in Plaza de Gabriel Miró, 1 in La Latina is a place where you can gaze upon a gorgeous sunset near Jardine de las Vistillas while sipping on champagne cocktails. The quaint charm of this book-filled, candle-lit, antique knick-knacked, art festooned bar is disarmingly lovely. Although a bit pricey for this lass, I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the delightful plate of sliced fruit, sweets and corn nuts that came with our drinks.

I ventured out of my barrio to say farewell to a friend who is leaving us for the sun and quiet of a village near the beach in Malaga. Since I have always wanted to visit María Pandora, I was really pleased that I was not disappointed with the ambience.

For more info on Pandora, you can visit their facebook page.

All photography by Shehani Kay
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