Category Archive for Art + Design
Life has not been crawling at a snail’s pace lately: I’ve been overwhelmed with dream jobs and trips this year. Bear with me, as I put together coverage from my trips to Africa and Asia. In this post, I’ll give you a tour of Cape Town’s colorful art in the Woodstock district.
But first, announcing my next destinations. I’m going back to Hong Kong, and for the first time, I’ll be in Cebu and Shanghai! I’m working on a number of travel projects, including a partnership with a new hotel group. I’m also doing a major network TV shoot in Hong Kong, appearing on-camera as host and also arranging the production.
Finally, whenever my filmmakers and I have a moment to breathe, we’ll capture stories about Asia subcultures for you. If you have tips for places to visit, especially in Shanghai and Cebu, please leave me a comment. (Above, I’m in front of the Cat’s Living cat cafe in Hongdae, Seoul.)
Now, let’s flash-back to my first time in Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu described post-apartheid South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation.” His words describe Cape Town’s Woodstock district particularly well. This neighborhood has developed from an inner-city slum into a colorful art haven. Locals live next to design studios, and in homes decorated by international artists.
Juma Mkwela took my team and me on a Woodstock art walking tour. He came to South Africa from Zimbabwe, and was a victim of the 2008 xenophobic attacks. Juma turned this tragedy into an impetus for change: he now uses art to educate children, and inspire social development in disadvantaged areas.
Not long ago, Woodstock was run-down with crime and drugs. In 2011, a local artist called Freddy Sam launched a revival project, aiming to bring pride and color back into the community. Today, Woodstock is a trendy hub with homes painted by dozens of international artists, mainly with messages of peace and love.
Using giant walls and buildings as canvases, these artists — coming from countries like Canada, UK, and China — created art in a mix of creative styles. We spotted what looks like an evil Bart Simpson. (Photography by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)
Many paid tribute to Africa, by depicting animals such as the ones we saw at Aquila Safari. An elephant eye stares out from this wall.
Pets are a popular motif. This dog painting integrates with the existing materials of exposed brick and cracked walls.
Some of the works are provocative. Argentinian artist JAZ made this “Not Eating” urban mural, showing a big cat devouring a man’s head.
Here’s another version by JAZ, with colors that match the rust of the pole in front. Juma told us that these murals revitalized the area, and created a sense of pride in the community.
The artists get permission to paint the walls, and work with residents to create a design. Many incorporate portraits of the homeowners, or elements that reflect their personalities. I suppose I’d live in this Victorian home with cute pastel elephants on the front.
Apartheid only ended in 1994, and locals still remember how it loomed over their lives. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, many chose to paint messages of tolerance. One of my favorites is this “One Heart, One Love” mural by Boamistura, a group of five Madrid artists.
I’m dressed rather internationally: a rainbow lion t-shirt from Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, leggings from Hong Kong’s Izzue, a fuzzy jacket from Peace Now Japan, and a scarf from San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The “most fabulous” award goes to New York’s Cern, who made this purple marvel starring the homeowner’s deceased white cat. I like how he used the curve of the gate to make an elephant’s forehead and trunk.
Juma walked with us all around Woodstock, pointing out hidden works and talking about their inspiration. Colors and cute faces peeked out from alleyways.
Andy Warhol would give a thumb’s up to this wall of product labels.
The Woodstock art initiative has truly uplifted the district. Children help out with the painting, and locals say they’re proud of their decorated homes.
What a coincidence: this segmented rainbow lion statue perfectly matches my Thailand t-shirt! Just by walking around and interacting with the designs, I felt uplifted. I’m a big supporter of using art as a means for positive change.
I could sense that the murals were made with passion. Some had important messages of anti-poaching; this one reminds us that hundreds of rhinos are still killed each year for their horns.
Some works were black and white, and abstract. This intricate design is by Yumanizumu of Japan.
Others encourage you to pose and have fun. Help, I’m being attacked by giant bees!
Quite a few hint at the tumultuous history of Cape Town. Woodstock is next to District 6, where 60,000 people of all ethnicities lived together until they were relocated by force in the 1970s. Today, District Six is razed and empty.
I thought the most successful works were the ones that were vivid, had a connection to Africa, and made you think. Interesni Kazki’s “Zebra Suit” is a great example, and leaves the meaning open to your interpretation.
When Juma told us to look up, we all grinned and did the “Carleton dance.” It’s Will Smith, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!
Time to explore Woodstock Exchange or WEX, a modern building that incubates young artists and creative shops. The open space is very Portlandia-hipster, isn’t it?
Woodstock Exchange features public installations, like this swing. I’ll later take you inside the creative studios, where artists work and play.
I’m a fan of this sleeping dog statue by Frank van Reenen. Next door, there are multiple design and fashion boutiques, and art galleries.
We had a healthy lunch at Superette. I could eat their veggie sandwiches and protein-salad plates every day; everything is prepared with locally-source seasonal ingredients. For a drink, it’s hard to decide between the fresh lemonade, ginger kombucha, local roast coffee, and craft beers.
On a different day, we ate fresh seafood at Ocean Jewels in WEX. $4 US for a plate of grilled angelfish and sweet potatoes. Once again, I could have this daily!
Leave room for a drink at Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, described as a “Purveyor of Magical Infusions and Tasty Curiosi-Teas.” I tried brewed buchu, a South African woody plant that has traditional medicinal properties, and is drunk to help digestion.
Lady Bonin also serves gluten-free and sugar-free snacks. We tried the matcha, and rooibos with mocha.
Isn’t the street art in Woodstock incredible? Gotta love this blue fellow with Bam Bam hair. Thanks Cape Town Tourism and Juma for the inspiring tour.
I leave you with multicolored works by two Spanish artists. Okuda…
… and Remed. Without doubt, South Africa is a Rainbow Nation.
PS: Don’t forget, I will be in the Philippines (Cebu), China (Shanghai) and Hong Kong soon! Let me know your travel suggestions, and follow along my trips in real-time on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked in the right sidebar).
Ready for a double-dose of cuteness? My spooky friend John Skeleton has a special report for you — about the Hello Kitty cafe (My Melody & Kuromi pop-up) and One Piece exhibition in Hong Kong.
Quick, the “Sanrio Star Chef Institute” only runs until September 14 at Langham Place mall in Mongkok… so I hope you make it there on time.
If you miss it, you can instead visit the permanent Hello Kitty Secret Garden cafe (address: 19 Ormsby Street, Tai Hang near Causeway Bay). The “secret” seems to be arriving early, since this is a small cafe that is specially packed on the weekends. They don’t take advance reservations, and patrons often must line up for hours to get a table.
Back to John, who braved the Sunday crowds to visit the Sanrio pop-up. “If you’re looking for cute character goods in Hong Kong, Mong Kok is the place to go. The cuteness doesn’t just stop with plush dolls and accessories though.”
“Now at Langham Place, the kawaii invasion is in full swing, with a mini Sanrio village in the main atrium and Sanrio Star Dining taking over some of the stylish cafés in the upper floor.” (Address: 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, HK.)
As you can see from his photos, the mall is filled with your favorite Sanrio characters, past and present. The Twin Stars, popular in the 1980s, have made a comeback (probably because their retro-pastel color scheme fits with the current pastel-goth and fairy kei styling).
You know the 1990s revival is in full swing when you see Bad Badtz Maru, the angsty black penguin. For some reason, I always thought he was a crow.
Kiki and Lala seem to be teaching a molecular cocktail lesson. All the Sanrio mascots appear in a food context, since this is a theme cafe takeover.
As you ascend the elevators, the statues indicate there is cute food on the way. Panda cake rolls, anyone?
Hana Maru, the white seal from the Bad Badtz universe, seems to be directing the crowd into an orderly queue. Hong Kong locals adore Hello Kitty and friends, so this exhibition got an enormous attendance.
It’s interesting to note that the usual star of the show — Miss Hello Kitty — is not the main focus. In fact, Kuromi and My Melody are the major players since they have their own temporary cafe here.
These gates welcome you into the culinary institute of Kitty. Notice that her pink hair bow is topped with a chef’s hat, forming a vaguely phallic symbol.
The kid’s face on the far left says it all. This is fun, fun, fun.
Everyone can pose and take photos with the giant statues of Sanrio characters. The backdrops are designed for 3D interaction, so that you can pretend to ride an ice cream truck with Hello Kitty, or take the cone from her hand. (I went to a similar exhibition in Songshan Park, Taipei — photos coming up soon.)
Every section was packed with people, especially families. John and his friend ate lunch at one of the themed eateries, “a collaboration with ishiyaki+café, known for its Japanese stone pot (ishiyaki) dishes.”
He says, “While the food is normally worth the price, now you can find enjoy your favorite cuisine surrounded by My Melody and Kuromi.”
“My latte, wrap, and scrumptious dessert were graced with the image of the mischievous Kuromi…”
“… while My Melody was featured in the stone pot dish surrounded by fresh salmon sashimi.”
“If you plan to visit, make sure you arrive well in advance, as the wait time was five hours when I stopped by! If you’re willing to brave the queue, ishiyaki-café’s My Melody and Kuromi pop-up café is more than enough to satisfy your craving for food, sweets, and extreme levels of cuteness.”
Langham Place also has a Little Twin Stars Pop-up Café at the moment. How creative are these decorations? I’d be tempted to eat the pastel Twin Stars macaroons, Kuromi berry tart and Pom Pom Purin pannecotta.
Remember that this Sanrio food fiesta closes on September 14 in Hong Kong, so get there stat.
Mr Skeleton went to another quirky Hong Kong exhibition, this time starring your favorite Japanese anime pirates.
“Avast, One Piece lovers, and prepare to be boarded! One Piece Docks in Hong Kong’s Times Square!”
The Straw Hat Pirates seem to have left a souvenir on top of the Causeway Bay clock. Unfortunately, the One Piece ship has sailed, but you should still check out Times Square Mall for its ever-changing free exhibits. (Address: 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay)
My Pirate reports, “First appearing in 1997 in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump, Oda Eichirō’s beloved manga has spawned 74 volumes to date and has also become a hugely successful animated television series.”
“One Piece (ワンピース) is now a global phenomenon, and Hong Kongers are also in love with the story of Monkey D. Luffy and his quest to become the Pirate King.”
“I visited Times Square to relive these favorite moments with Luffy and his crew, and an 11-meter-tall replica of their pirate vessel! If you’re brave enough to face the lines (up to 90 minutes!), you can even board the vessel for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity.”
“Inside Times Square there is more pirate mayhem to be found, including life-sized statues of One Piece’s most memorable characters, and massive displays of the many figurines available.”
This little boy seems more enraptured with the toys than the gargantuan Battle Frankies, a type of battleship.
“Don’t forget to check out the Marketplace, where you can find a wide range of One Piece goods.”
“And be sure to get your picture with everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic reindeer, Tony Tony Chopper.”
Photography is allowed — unlike in Japan, the attitude towards photo-taking is more relaxed in Hong Kong. Regardless, this statue seem to be crossing her arms to say “forbidden” (or “dah-meh”) in Japanese.
Hong Kong always has funny, kawaii exhibitions — most are free, and open to the public. When you visit HK, make an effort to find out what’s currently on (most take place at PMQ, Langham Place, Times Square, and Tsim Sha Tsui terminal).
We also posed for photos at a Batman display — I’ll put those up soon too.
Thanks to John Skeleton for the photos and guest post on my blog! Stay tuned for the news about where I’ll be next… hint, I’ll be in three very different cities.
Who is your favorite Sanrio character? Do you watch or read One Piece?
Did you know Cape Town is so colorful? My face says it all: I loved it here. On Day 1, I experienced the city’s kind people, diverse neighborhoods, soulful cooking, and intriguing history.
Follow my rainbow shoes, as I explore the South African city by land, air and water.
Cape Town’s colorful architecture inspired me to dress accordingly. I’m wearing a Goth/rainbow tie-dyed tank top by Gladnews (the Japanese brand in Shibuya 109). My bunny ears hoodie jacket is by Peace Now. The cute Batman leggings are from Hyoma in Izzue, Hong Kong.
We started the day bright and early, with a private helicopter ride. There’s no better way to see the scenic city and its beaches on the Atlantic Ocean coastline.
I was here with my two filmmakers, thanks to Cape Town Tourism. Photography in this post by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann. They captured a cinematic shot of helicopters landing with lens flare.
Up in the air — what fun! We felt safe during the helicopter ride, which was smooth and not too noisy. We could even communicate through microphones.
Out the window, we saw this mountain range with a Mohawk of African trees on top.
Cape Town began as a Dutch trading settlement, founded in 1652. As you’re probably aware, the city has a tumultuous history from the days of slavery and apartheid, to independence under Nelson Mandela. Today, Cape Town has a new and developed vibe, and is a safe destination for anyone to visit.
From any point in the city, you can see the famous flat Table Mountain, covered with a “tablecloth” of clouds. Next to it lies the Devil’s Peak, domed Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill.
We flew over Robben Island, in Table Bay. Since the late 17th century, the Dutch have used this as a jail primarily for political prisoners, and as a leper colony. The first post-apartheid President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was famously imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years.
Today, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. Many visitors take the ferry here, and go on tours led by guides who were formerly prisoners on the island.
Next, our driver took us to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, a favorite destination among both locals and tourists. We sampled artisan bread, and browsed African goods in the gift stores. I posed beneath the Ferris wheel with my lion backpack from A Bros Products, Hong Kong.
Lots of quaint buildings dot the V & A. There are many attractions for families including the Two Oceans Aquarium, and four museums.
We went on a short boat ride around the harbor. A seal leaped out from the water!
A bunny popped out too. The kids on the boat were rather amused.
Onward to the Bo-Kaap district, distinguished by this row of rainbow-colored houses. This was the traditional neighborhood for the Cape Malay, an ethnic group descended from the Indian and Malaysian slaves brought over by the Dutch East India Company.
One of the oldest houses is now the Bo Kaap Museum, filled with photos and objects that chronicle the district’s history over the years. Our guide told us about the insane Dutch system of racial classification: Cape Town was divided into black, white, colored, and Indian (each with sub-sections). Many of residents were mixed, and rules were applied indiscriminately.
People of “lower” classifications were forced to relocate, often to segregated townships. They received worse treatment in prisons, and limited opportunities for jobs and businesses. I can’t believe that the apartheid system lasted in South Africa until 1994 — only 20 years ago.
Today, Cape Town feels peaceful, and the city is a mix of cultures. Wale Street, found under Signal Hill, is full of character. In this mostly Muslim community, these houses are painted every year before Eid.
The colors match my sandals with a rainbow platform heel, from Shinjuku Studio Alta. I felt like wearing bright clothing the entire time I was here.
Faldela Tolker lives in the purple house. She offers a unique cooking tour: visitors come into her house to learn how to make Cape Malay specialties, and eat lunch at her table.
Faldela is one warm, sassy lady! We loved her stories and sayings, like “salt is love.” From the staircase, I glimpsed her grandchild peeking at our table.
She served us samosas, with spicy sauces on the side. Next came a hearty tomato bredie (a distinctive stew with Indian flavors) and rice. We finished with sweet koesisters, a traditional syrup-coated doughnut, washed down with cardamom tea. It ended up being one of the most memorable meals I had in South Africa, and certainly the warmest.
Faldela then showed us how to fold and stuff samosas. She laughed at my bunny hoodie and insisted on trying it on! There’s so much heart in this home, and I’m so grateful I got to join her Cape Malay cooking “safari”.
Across the street lies Atlas Trading, a 70 year old spice shop with bins of exotic flavors. I’m not sure what “ass seeds” are. In the back, we even found cannabis and opium scented incense.
My crew and I ended the afternoon by taking the cable car up Table Mountain. Can you believe we did all of this in a day? Everything is close together in Cape Town, so you never have to travel far to reach attractions.
Before boarding the “aerial cableway,” each group takes a photo in front of a green screen.
When we left, we saw that this image was superimposed on various backdrops, and packaged as a souvenir! So touristy and cheesy that we had to get them. I can’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we look.
From the top of Table Mountain, we looked down at the rocky coastline and city. I admit we were a bit spoiled by the views we had already seen from the helicopter ride.
On the way back, we ran into a dassie, a squirrel-like rodent found only in southwestern Africa.
The dassie lives on rocky outcroppings, and since there are tourists carrying food on Table Mountain, they’ve become rather bold.
Melissa is doing a big no-no… One shouldn’t touch these wild animals! At least she didn’t get bitten, unlike the peacock that pierced her skin during our safari.
Back to my room at the Taj Hotel. I lay on the bed and stared out at this view of the mountain ranges.
A million thank yous to Cape Town Tourism, for bringing us to this fascinating and beautiful city! Coming up, I’ll take you on a tour of the street art, fashion designers, and African cuisine.
Did you expect South Africa to look like this? Don’t miss out on the bonus photos of my trip, on my @lacarmina Instagram.
Space witch disco! One of my current favorite designers, Killstar, sent me some dark fashion to model.
Take a walk on the witchy side… and find out where you can see powerful masks and totems, up close.
My outfit of the day had a spooky-spiritual vibe, so I wanted a location that reflects this: the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The stark exterior, designed by famous architect Arthur Erickson, created the perfect lighting and backdrop. I felt like a sorceress, arriving in an alien land.
Nearby, there was an outdoor exhibit of longhouses and Pacific Northwest totem poles. Some of the carvings symbolize the moon, much like my Killstar La Luna crop top.
I paired it with Killstar’s Occult maxi skirt. The fabric is stretchy and comfortable, and the long length gives a dramatic impact. This original print, featuring stars and symbols, is also found on Killstar’s Occult racerback dress and pullover sweatshirt.
I can’t get enough of this coffin purse, branded with the alchemy symbol for sulfur. With a handle and chain strap, the coffin bag is large enough for your necessities, and fastens with a secure silver clasp.
I’ve been all over Moat House Eyewear ever since they reached out to me on Instagram. This British company hand-makes stylish sunglasses — out of wood! Because of the natural materials (ebony, oak, walnut) and handmade process, their sunglasses have a special vibe, much like the totem art behind me.
My ebony cat-eyes have a faint and lovely wood smell, and don’t worry, there aren’t any splinters. (Scroll to the end of this post for photos of my kitty posing with them!)
I guess I’m on a wood kick these days, since that’s also the material used for my SVNTY iPhone case. My old plastic one fell apart, so SVNTY stepped in and sent me one of their artisanal cases, engraved from wood. I think the spooky totem-face behind me wants to join the selfie!
Unlike the usual plastic or rubber phone cases, these ones feel sturdy and natural, yet are still light-weight. Once again, this is something you won’t find in typical stores. SVNTY’s Etsy selection includes original carvings of a geisha, moon, King Tut and Marilyn Monroe. The cases fit a variety of mobiles including iPhones and Samsungs.
I’m taking a photo of the powerful totem poles on display at the Museum of Anthropology. These spiritual sculptures date back to the late 1800s, and were carved from large trees by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
These mysterious figures remind me of the Easter Island stone statues (moai). I’m rather obsessed with visiting this island (Rapa Nui), so I chose the Easter Island / Pink Floyd “Division Bell” image for my case (get it here).
Especially in the summer, it feels nice to be wearing materials like cotton and wood. The sunglasses and phone case never feel sticky.
I travel so much that I rarely do posts about my hometown, Vancouver. In fact, there are a lot of fascinating places to visit here, such as the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The immense collection of ethnographic objects, especially by tribes in this region, make it well worth the $17 entry (or $9 on Tuesday evenings).
The most outstanding works are the towering sculptures and totem poles, made by BC First Nations artists. Bill Reid is celebrated for his carvings such as this Haida bear.
The imagery is forceful, and tied to aboriginal legends. I’m always in awe at how the artists envisioned these figures, which seem to come from another world.
Totem poles and house posts usually depicted supernatural “crest animals,” which symbolized a clan or family’s history. These stylized forms were usually carved out of red cedar, and might include images of the Thunderbird, raven, wolf, eagle and salmon.
On the other side of the world, the people of Easter Island made art with similar aims in mind (or so we think… there’s still so much that we don’t know!)
The UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA) also had extensive displays of modern First Nations art. One gallery showcased works by youths, in media like poems and photographs. I liked seeing the cute Japanese manga influence in this one.
In the back, glass cases hold thousands of artifacts from tribes in Canada and worldwide. The British Columbian masks stand out from the rest, with their captivating patterns and expressions.
Walking through this room, you can feel the spiritual power of these objects. I noticed unique design elements, like a beak curled up to form a second face inside.
These are by the Kwakwaka’wakw – try saying that three times fast. Doesn’t the mask with the flopped-hair look like an emo boy?
The MOA lets you compare indigenous art from all around world: Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Korea, China. These ranged from intricate costumes to… sticks.
Don’t miss this iconic sculpture by Bill Reid: The Raven and The First Men. It depicts the Haida creation story, where Raven opens a cockle shell and releases humans into the world.
Not a bad way to spend a summer day in Vancouver. Simply drive to the University of BC, and you’ll see signs pointing to the Museum of Anthropology. You can also explore the nearby beaches and Japanese garden. Then, you can get lunch near the waterfront, at Granville Island or on West 4th.
All photos by Joey Wong, except the cat and iPhone snaps by La Carmina.
What do you think of my spooky Kill Star outfit of the day? I hope you enjoy these posts that combine fashion with something cultural and travel-related.
Are you familiar with Pacific Northwest native art? Aren’t these forms impressive?
Let’s turn the post over to my Scottish Fold cat. Basil Farrow wanted to take selfies with me, so I obliged.
His flat-face is a bit like the Easter Island figures. Basil enjoyed sniffing the wood phone case.
When you order a case from SVNTY, you can request a custom name engraving. Mine is marked with La Carmina & The Pirates, in our logo font. There are several types of wood to choose from — including cherry, rosewood and maple — and the matte plastic border creates a snug fit.
It’s funny that this Moat House sunglasses shape is called “cat eye”… when my Scottish Fold is round all over. I suppose he’s more of an owl than a maoo.
Moat House has glasses for both men and women, in a variety of modern designs. Check out their full collection and order from their site.
Love supporting independent brands, and handmade local goods.
Basil can’t wear sunglasses because he doesn’t have a nose or ears… but he insists on suntanning anyway.
I leave you with some of Joey Wong’s images of Vancouver. He says (and I agree): “Vancouver has to be one of the most underrated and undiscovered cities I’ve been to.”
“No doubt the geographical setting is one of the best in the world with the downtown core being enclosed by beach, sea, and mountains. The scenic beauty is stunning, the food is plentiful and fresh, multiculturalism is real, and I know very few other places where you can be hiking in the mountains and then 30 minutes later be chilling at the beach. It has the contradictions that keep things interesting: small city vibe + cosmopolitan flair, copious amount of wealth + Downtown Eastside, an old European history + a new Asian influence.”
“I am disappointed when people overlook Vancouver. It’s not that cold, and it definitely isn’t that wet. Just go. Actually, better yet, don’t. Keep the city a secret.”
So give it some thought. Perhaps you’ll run into me, shooting outfit photos!