IT ALL STARTS WITH SOME GREEDY LITTLE BASTARDS

On the creation of my beautiful Lao silk carpet – Part 1

Silk-18.jpg

It will take 20.000 silk worms to produce the yarn for my carpet.

Here is the first update on a nice little project, I just started with Lao Magic Carpet.

I have ordered a hand made silk carpet, and the entire process will take approximately six months.  I will follow the project and visit from time to time to photo/document the creation of this marvelous symbiosis of Lao traditional design and the 5.000 year old tradition of handicraft in Turkmenistan.

My carpet is also a love story – between Lao Magic Carpet owners Lani and her husband Ismit, who came to Laos from Turkmenistan more than 20 years ago. Ismit brought the proud handicraft traditions from his homeland. Lani contributed with the beauty of Lao design. Together they created Lao Magic Carpet, which is also a social enterprise, offering training and employment for disabled Lao youngsters.

Silk-25.jpg

The silk worms will only eat the leaves. The mulberries are used for marmelade and tea.

Of course, the story of my carpet begins with the silk worms.  Greedy little bastards, they are, and ugly too, if you ask me!

Lani has taken over a former government research center and created her own silk farm in Hatxayfong district an hour’s drive down the dirt roads from Vientiane Capital.

The research center was established in the 1960’ies with Japanese development assistance as part of the effort to make Lao farmers abandon the growing of opium poppies in favor of other cash crops.

With expert assistance, Lani is now developing her own production of silk, based on Lao silk worms.

Silk-15.jpg

Dr. Souphanthong Vilaysak has worked with silk worm development his entire career.

Dr. Souphanthong Vilaysak got his education with Japanese assistance more than 30 years ago, and he has devoted his entire career to the development of the worms – which are the basis of  high quality silk.

“The worms are greedy and extremely sensitive. They will only eat mulberry leaves of the finest quality, and they eat an enormous amount during their short life. When the worms are small, they can only eat the fine and soft top leaves of the mulberry tree, because their teeth are not yet developed,” Dr. Souphantong explains to me.

Silk-22.jpg

Lani is plucking mulberries for me. She says that they will be good for my health, supporting a proper sugar balance in the body.

I ask Lani to make a quick calculation, of what it will take to produce the yarn for my carpet. She gets busy on her smart phone calculator. The numbers are staggering: It will take about 100.000 worms to produce the 15-16 kilos of yarn, needed for my carpet. To do so the greedy little bastards will consume 1.500 kilos of mulberry leaves!

“You have to be very careful with the worms in the process. It is very easy to harm them. Just a perfumed hand is enough to kill them.”

Stay tuned for chapter 2, once the yarn is ready for dyeing. 

Silk.jpg

The small cocoons are heated up to extract the yarn. Each cocoon contains up to 120 meters.

 

BRINGING THE WAR TO AN END?

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 09.44.20.png

Here is an upcoming event in my hometown Copenhagen that I am really sorry to miss.  My long time friend Tri Minh and my new friend Linh has something to tell us. You guys back in Denmark will have the first chance to be there, when Tri Minh and Linh face the darkness.    Next, I am going to push them to come to Hanoi and share their project with us in Vietnam, and meet their roots together.  For now, please check their announcement below. 

IMG_5614.jpg

 

Face the Darkness: When a child of Vietnamese boat refugees meets a child of Viet Cong

More than 40 years after the Vietnam War, the ghosts of the past are still passing through the country and dragging the border between north and south. Between the South Vietnamese government with support from the US and the North with support from the Soviet Union and China. The war ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon when the North Vietnamese army conquered the capital city. North Vietnam / the Viet Congs won. South Vietnam lost. After the war, the South Vietnamese fled and in the period 1975-1985 Denmark received a total of 3,700 Vietnamese boat refugees.

In 2018, the dancer Linh and the musician Minh meet randomly in Denmark. One is a child of Vietnamese boat refugees, the other of Viet Cong. Without even having been there during the war, they discover how many prejudices they face. Together, they decide to confront the prejudices and battle in an alternative way. To get it out of the body – to see and feel if they can get on the other side and reconcile the two oppositions.

Face the Darkness: When a child of Vietnamese boat refugees meets a child of Viet Cong is a performance battle between live music and dancing. The dancer Linh and the musician Minh are fighting each other through their art form and are confronted with the past and their knowledge that their families have fought each other in the Vietnam War. The question is whether they can understand each other through art or whether they will continue to fight their parents’ struggles?

The performance revolves around the collision of different backgrounds, the encounter with the other, and the complex process of dealing with past, memories, repressed anger, and grief. It can be experienced at Teaterhuset’s scene Vox from March 13th.

Duration: 45 min. incl. 15 min. artist talk.

PURE MAGIC BY LAO HANDS

Carpet-3

Ancient handicraft from Turkmenistan and the best of Lao design traditions join hands in MAGIC LAO CARPETS.  

The little workshop is so quiet that you can almost hear the fingers knotting the fine silk threads with amazing speed.  The young women are sitting there two by two or four by four focusing intently on transforming the colorful flower photos into handmade silk carpets of the highest quality.

MagCarp-6.jpg

We are at Magic Lao Carpets a small workshop and a showroom in a Vientiane alley. Slowly, slowly the most beautiful and unique carpets are emerging to be sold to affluent customers in Laos and abroad.

“The carpets are made by up to 700.000 knots per square meter.  This means that two girls can do approx. 2 cm. per day,” owner Souvita Phaseuth tells me. She goes by the name of Lani in the local community.

MagCarp-12

Magic Lao Carpets has been set up by Lani and her husband Ismit, who immigrated to Laos from his native Turkmenistan 30 years ago.  He brought the 4.000 year old carpet making craft of Central Asia with him to his new country. Lani on her part has brought the Lao traditional designs into Magic Lao Carpets.

Surely, you cannot fly on these carpets, but their amazing beauty does make you want to.

Carpet-9.jpg

“Just use your hand and feel the quality.” Lani and her husband have developed some real magic in Vientiane.

In the courtyard, two young women are giving the finishing touch to a stunningly colorful carpet made to order by a boutique in the UK.

Behind them two other women are busy spinning the fine silk thread, which is mostly produced by the company’s own silk farm. MagCarp-3.jpg

Magic Lao Carpet is not merely a business, but also an important opportunity for young disabled Laotians to develop skills and make a living.

Souvita Phaseuth: “We offer training and accommodation to our workers, who would otherwise have great difficult in making a living, being dumb, deaf or suffering from other physical disabilities.  Some choose to return to their villages and set up their own small businesses, while others continue to stay with us.”

MagCarp-20.jpg

Magic Lao Carpet is located at Ban Nongdouang Tai in Vientiane’s Sikhottabong district.  Opening hours: 9:00-17:00 Mon-Sat.

 

 

 

 

“TO REMEMBER THEIR NAMES”

YAD-2.jpg

A day at Yad Vasem, the Holocaust Memorial on Jerusalem’s Mountain of Remembrance is meant to be an unforgettable experience, and that is exactly what it is.

Israeli architect Moshe Safdie has created the sombre structures, which in their austerity amplify the bone chilling walk through the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind: The extermination of 6 million jews during the Nazi occupation of Europe.

YAD-6.jpg

David (our 75 year old guide) walked us through the history from the early anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns of the 1930es, through their incarceration in ghettos and work camps, and finally the ENDLOSUNG – the systematic extermination of men, women and children in the gas chambers of Auschwitz Birkenau and other killing factories.

Now sitting in my cozy room at The American Colony Hotel, where Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen used to hang out, I realize that the strongest impact of Yad Vasem does not come from the horrible photo displays of human cruelty.

YAD-10

What is still with me tonight is the dome of portraits, symbolizing the ongoing documentation efforts. Thousands and thousands of names have been entered in books, with dozens of volumes standing on black shelves under the dome. A third of the shelves are still empty, waiting for new names to be registered properly. In a small room next to the dome sits a kind elder lady with her computer. After so many decades she is still receiving incoming documentation on victims and survivors.

What is also still with me is a crude sculptural structure of broken concrete pillars, symbolizing that the lives of 1.5 million children were torn in half by the Nazi killing machine.

What is still with me most of all: David’s low voice statement that the Holocaust happened, because ordinary men and woman from all walks of life contributed to the persecution and killing of six mlllion fellow human beings. In all fairness, Yad Vasem has also registered the names of those people, who risked their own lives to assist the jews: This register of heroes totals 26.000 names.

YAD-7

SURVIVING THE TRUTH

ThuyDuongShoot-8

Duong with Self-portrait, 2018

There is something about Vietnamese artist Duong Thuy Duong that makes you want to explore – to find out more about what is inside this quiet painter and her enigmatic works of uncanny self-portraits, kitchen-tableaux’s, railway stations and hovercrafts, all in the most beautiful colors – often a more enchanting blue than any blue I have seen before.

Duong does offer a key to her door in the form of a famous Nietzsche quote: “Wir haben die Kunst, damit wir nicht auf der Wahrheit zu Grunde gehen.” (We have art so that we do not perish because of the truth).

Duong’s website  leaves it to her paintings to speak for themselves. A brief CV gives you an insight in her educational background in Germany and the most important exhibitions. That’s it.

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 13.45.30

Now we know a bit more in Hanoi, because her (and my) friend Ly Truong curated Duong’s present exhibition in Hanoi. After working with Duong, Ly shared her thoughts in her beautiful handwriting and pinned her observations on the entrance door to the exhibition premises in Dang Thai Mai:

There is a “black hole” in Duong Thuy Duong’s universe and you will feel its strong magnetic field when you look at her paintings. The journey might begin in her kitchen – a mother of two daily space’s, and end up on a highway where you might ask yourself “What is this? Is this the end of the world or is this the Eternity, where am I?
In my situation, I was lured by her stunning self- portraits that looked like old photos turning yellow and green. They make me curious about what’s inside this woman’s head. In her paintings, every object is moving and vanishing. They are so lively, they seem so catchable, they are so real, but also so distant. They make me want to cry…

ThuyDuongShoot-4.jpg

Duong with Self-portrait, 2018

On a chilly Hanoi morning Duong offers me a few more clues to what inspires her: Mozart’s Requiem is among her favorite music along with the Russian composer Rachmaninov and his Concerto no. 2 for Violin.

The Danish movie director Lars Von Trier is on top of her movie list with Dogville and Melancholia.

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 14.33.37.png

Lunar Eclipse, 2018

Duong’s eyes light up, when I ask her about Berlin, where she lives with her two children (of 9 and 8) and her boyfriend:

“I am longing to go back to Berlin tomorrow. I love that place. The Germans are warmer than they may seem to be at first. I do not feel like a foreigner in Berlin. There are so many nationalities living there, so foreigners are just a natural thing.”

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 18.46.22.png

No name, 2007

Born in 1979, Duong does remember the bad old days in Hanoi’s extreme postwar poverty.  She recalls days with very little food and plain sugar as the only luxury. Playing alone in a small courtyard, which served as a playground.

“We were poor, but we had things others did not, because my father’s younger brother had gone to Germany. He sent home pacakages from time to time.”

Duong has no plans to move back to her native country:

“My beloved Hanoi does not really exist anymore.”

Thuy_Duong-6.jpg

**********

The Duong Thy Duong exhibition venue: Dang Thai Mai, House 19B, Lane 12.

“FAREWELL TO MY MENTOR”

JohnSpeech_2.jpg

Ambassador John Nielsen: ” I will never be able to fill out Peter’s footprint.”

Today I hand over this blog to John Nielsen, Danish Ambassador to Yangon, and his farewell speech to our friend Peter Lysholt Hansen.  Family and friends from all over the world paid their respects to this formidable man.

 

Dear Lien,

Dear Khoi,

Family and friends

It is still difficult to grasp that Peter is not here anymore. Just a few months ago he was still vivid, energetic and good humored as always. Filling the rooms where he entered, sharing his visions and thoughts so everybody understood it. It’s tragic and unfair that he is not able to enjoy his retirement in his newly built house in Long Bien together with you – Lien and Khoi.

Peter was a very good colleague and friend of mine for more than twenty years. He was one of my mentor, when I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I owe him a lot and learned a lot from working with him.

DK_Family 2

Farewells from the family in Denmark

He was a tremendous asset for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the countries he served in. He worked 24/7 to make a difference. For Denmark, but not least for the people in the countries, where he was posted. In whatever position he was put in, he always managed to show substantial results and represent Danish values.

He could be very stubborn when he pursued his objectives and never ever turned away from a dispute. He met people eye to eye, at all levels and always got his message across, whether he was with people in the countryside or with a minister.

He fought hard for justice and freedom of speech in the countries he served in. His last professional challenge was his defense for two jailed Reuter journalists in Myanmar.

Peter loved to get out of the office and to visit projects in the countryside and talk to farmers, labourers, students – people from all walks of life.  He often conveyed  messages from these meetings to ministers or highlevel officials and asked them to take action if he had noticed any injustice.

LienKhoi.jpg

Lien and Khoi saying the final goodbye to Peter

He was innovative and never afraid of trying out new ideas. I worked very closely with him on the decentralization of the Danish development cooperation. Many may have forgotten today that this was the most comprehensive reform of Danish development Aid and Peter was one of the main architects of this reform. He set the direction and managed to devolve responsibilities to the Embassies against a lot of internal resistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lost a leader by example, a charismatic and sometimes undiplomatic diplomat, who made a difference.

BoatPLH_2

Peters last wish was to have his ashes strewn in Hanoi’s Red River

I have had the honour to follow in Peters footsteps first in Vietnam and recently in Myanmar. And I must say, that although my feets are bigger than his,  I will never be able to fill out his gigantic footprint. Peter left behind him, both here in Vietnam and in Myanmar, impressive results and fond memories for many people. The staff at the Embassies in Vietnam and Myanmar were proud of working for him, occasionately also arguing over ideas with him, but always with good humor.

Personally, I will miss the many times we met privately. Peter always greeted me with the words “hva’ så” or what’s going on. On these occasions we sat down for many hours with coffee or a glass of wine and reviewed the situation in the world, in Denmark and not least gossiping about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and common friends. I will remember his sharp analysis, an analysis which was always  accompanied with laughter and good humor.

We often talked about our joint passion for Vietnam, the fantastic Vietnamese people but also about our families. I had hoped to continue our encounters  here in Peters beloved Hanoi or in Myanmar. Now I will keep the memories and content of these talks for myself as they are certainly not suitable for others!

PLH_Funeral-3

Qui came to pay his respects – he was the Ambassador’s driver during Peter’s tenure at the Danish Embassy in Hanoi.

I also came to know Lien and Khoi through these conversations and felt how happy and proud he was when he talked about you. As I got to know you both, I understoodwhy. Peter and Lien wasa power couple with tremendousenergy in the diplomatic circles in Hanoi, Seoul and Yangon. Always filling the room with good humor. And Khoi matured in school and in size and is todaya young man.

Lien and Peter took both very good care of Charlotte and me, when we visited Vietnam in 2010. Charlotte still tells the story of how you, Lien, drove her around in the narrow streets of Hanoi on a motorbike. She is still trembling, I believe.

Lien, you have lost a fantastic husband, whom you made very happy. I hope you will keep the good memories of Peter and you know you have a lot of friends in Myanmar and Hanoi, who will want to see you and always be there for you.

Khoi, you have lost a father, who adored you and was so proud of you. I always noticed  how happy Peter was, when I saw you together. He was also very ambitious on your behalf and really wanted to give you the best he could.

After 45 years in the Foreign Service, with 28 years in 8 different countries, Peter was about to retire. I had hoped to see him in Hanoi on his morning trips looking for his favorite pho bo, or riding his motorbike through the streets of Hanoi, with Lien at the back. Sadly, this is not going to happen, but I will keep the memories of an outstanding personality and good friend.

Today, let’s talk about Peter, share good moments.He would have wanted us all to keep our heads up and look forward even in this difficult moment. Let us remember him as the loving husband and father he was, but also for his hard work for the poor, his tremendous energy,innovation and good humor.

Finally, I would like, on behalf of his colleagues at the Embassy in Myanmar,  the staff at the Nordic House in Myanmar,  and hundreds of people in Yangon to convey our heartfelt condolences to Lien, Khoi, the family in Vietnam and his daughters Mia, Christine and Sarah in Denmark.

Lets all honor Peter with a minute of silence!

John_Family

 Xin cam on

WARHOL IN MALAGA

WARHOL_Malaga.jpg

Robert Mapplethorpe’s legendary portrait of Warhol on display in Malaga.

MALAGA’S PICASSO MUSEUM HOSTS A BEAUTIFUL ANDY WARHOL EXHIBITION THIS SUMMER.

Malaga’s Picasso museum is graciously hosting a marvelous Andy Warhol exhibition this summer, totally overshadowing the rather mediocre collection of Picasso’s own works in his hometown.

Some of Andy Warhol’s finest works are on display: The Monroe series, the Mao wall, the Shah of Iran, the Campbell soup cans, the super 8 takes of Bob Dylan, Susan Sontag, Allen Ginsberg, and many others, who whirled around in Warhol’s frenetic Factory years in New York.

Malaga-21

A screening room with original takes brings you right back to the ‘White Light – White Heat’ nights of the Factory, complete with Nico, Lou Reed and their Velvet Underground.  A truly amazing experience in the middle of the beautifully renovated old town streets of Malaga.

Malaga-16.jpg

Mao Tse Tung according to Warhol.

Right at the entrance to the Warhol exhibition is one of my own all time favorites. Richard Mapplethorpe’s phenomenal photo of Andy Warhol, shot in 1986, the year before Andy Warhol died.  Mapplethorpe himself was hugely famous in his own right along with Warhol and the other celebrities.

Mapplethorpe’s short life is beautifully cronicled in this essay SEXUAL OUTLAW written by his former lover, Jack Fritscher.

Malaga-18.jpg