It reminds you of the ocean, perhaps those bands of colour off the coast of Okinawa where the ocean abruptly moves from the transparency of glass to deep and dark blues. Or maybe the snowy cap of Mt. Fuji set against clear skies. The cloth in front of you is a product of indigo dyeing and so it makes sense that your mind would leap to such beautiful, distinctly Japanese sights. You can see the telltale marks of centuries of Japanese craftsmanship. But, if you were to hold it in your hands you would realise it’s more than that. Japanese it may be, but it’s something more now. Tougher, more durable perhaps? The dye is as long lasting as ever but this material might be a bit stronger than average, as Catherine Quinn of Mottainai told me,
“the linen, is really hard-wearing and that is really important to me, the idea that you know it’s not gonna wear away quickly.”
Catherine works out of Conway Mill in Belfast, appropriately it’s an old linen mill, refurbished in 2011 and home to a variety of artists. On its top floor these days, when she isn’t dashing around the rest of
Coming across a herd of goats perched on a tree on your way to work can seem surreal, but not in Morocco. Dotting the semi-desert region in Southern Morocco is the Argan tree, which for centuries has been the source of life for the country’s Berber population. Goats brave their way up the tree’s gnarled and thorny branches to forage for its olive-like fruit, the very crop that nowadays dominates much of Morocco’s rural economy.
Argan oil is the latest fad in the cosmetic world, but Moroccan women have been applying it to their skin and hair long before it appeared on our supermarket shelves. This honey-colored oil with a nutty flavor is yielded from kernels found inside the Argan fruit. Traditionally, it was always produced by the delicate touches of the Berber farmers, however the world-wide demand for the product has forced the manual methods to give way to contemporary mechanical extraction tools. Its popularity also poses a threat to the already endangered tree.
In light of this growing hype about these products, women-run Argan co-operatives in Morocco have been employing sustainable measures to protect the Argan tree and the thousands of women who work in the industry.
Let’s face it — half the beauty of any country is in its people. Vietnam is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people are genuine, kind and present. They live for today, and hold their communities tight. Vietnam’s in the midst of an exciting and historic time, with one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia and plans to be a developed country by 2020.
As a woman, I take special note of the role women play in societies I visit. After returning from Vietnam earlier this year, it was clear that the women are driving much of this financial change and globalization, but continue to face serious economic and social inequalities themselves.
This woman breaks for a few moments in a small alley to escape the harsh sun and busy streets of Hanoi.
About 60km southwest of Hanoi, a young woman was rowing myself and five other travelers in a rowboat down Yen River to Perfume Pagoda. Motorboats passed us frequently driven by men, while the rowboats keeping our pace were only…
Whether you’re visiting Kigali for a couple of days or living in the city, Grace Mukeshimana is the best person to meet in Rwanda’s capital city for a memorable sisal basket weaving experience. She will happily share her knowledge and skills with travelers who want to know more about the art of basket weaving and jewelery-making using the basket weaving technique.
Culture In Kigali
In the morning, Grace welcomes guests at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center for a 2.5-hour weaving experience. With the help of an interpreter, she educates on the history and cultural importance of the craft in Rwanda, including the entire process, the meaning of every pattern and where the vibrant colors come from. Next, visitors make their own earrings or small Agaseke baskets under the meticulous supervision of Grace. Best of all, you take your creation home, together with additional sisal fiber of the color of your choice and a needle in case you feel like practicing.
This exciting hands-on experience can be booked via Vayando.
Weaving with Grace, a Vayando experience
Since President Kagame first took office in 2000, not only has the policy towards gender equality changed, mentalities have too. The new generation of women is now ambitious and hard working to become financially independent and self-sufficient. The parliament alone is a proof of that with 64% of parliamentarians who are women; the highest rate in the world. Women now have the right to obtain credit, inherit land and share marriage assets. Long gone are the days when girls barely attended primary school, let alone secondary school.
Evidence has shown women can bring financial security to the family, or at least contribute to it, and many have started earning money, joining cooperatives and opening their own businesses. In villages such as Cyeza, they also hold regular “gender empowerment” meetings that both men and women over 18 can attend to discuss the role of women in society.
I wanted to see how this worked on the ground, and decided to visit one of the country’s many artisan groups: the Abarikumwe Association.
Walking down the hill to fetch water with the women of Abarikumwe
Whether it’s for freedom, adventure, spiritual experience, confidence, independence, or community, women are taking to motorcycles with an increased voracity.
Three years ago, Debra Teplitz, 44, decided to silence the voice in her head that said, “Nice Jewish girls from the North Shore of Chicago don’t ride motorcycles.” Like so many women who are learning to ride in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, Teplitz has confronted personal challenges, societal stereotypes, and cultural expectations to embrace the freedom and independence of motorcycling.
For many female riders, mastering a motorcycle has served as a catalyst for other long-awaited life changes. While their riding is at an all-time high, women on motorcycles are nothing new. We’ve been riding longer than we’ve been voting. Nonetheless, there are a lot more of us now. Women are one of the fastest growing demographics in the powersports industry.
Why Women Ride: The Faces of Female Motorcycling
After her divorce in 2007, Wendy Lamparelli, 51, was ready to buy a bike to fulfill a lifelong dream. Fearing for her safety, Lamparelli’s mom and kids begged her not to, so she ended up with a convertible instead. But the dream…
WHAT DO YOU THINK about women explorers? It is my view that men and women have have a different approaches to exploring. While men seek to conquer, women seek to understand. Perhaps this is the reason that women explorers traditionally get short shrift.
I didn’t discover my “inner explorer” until I was in my 40s. After several personal losses left me feeling depressed, I packed up my apartment, lit out for India and spent six months traveling from one end of the subcontinent to the other. Since then, I’ve been back to India six times, and many other places, too.
What I discovered is how alive traveling and having adventures makes me feel. And I’m not the only woman who feels this way. There’s a scene in the second Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers, when Aragorn asks Eowyn, “What do you fear, m’lady?” and she answers, “A cage.” Laura Dekker, who sailed around the world when she was 16, said in her blog she was far more haunted by memories of Dutch social services threatening to lock her up than she was scared of pirate kidnappings, treacherous seas or being shipwrecked.
I wake in Vrindavan.
I wake with two problems on my mind: money and food. I slept without dinner and no breakfast is available; and the day before, I tried two ATMs and both were out of money. So, with a mixture of hope and trepidation, I haggle for an auto and go straight to the ATM. The sound of the money dispensing is more delightful to me than all the temple bells in this moment. Even in a holy city like Vindravan, money is necessary.
Above, Krishna and his gopis in the Vrindavan of myth and legend.
From there I go directly to Govinda’s Restaurant at the ISKCON Temple for breakfast. As it is an “ekadasi day” — a day without grains — I have a strange breakfast of fruit, juice, a mango lassi and kind of potato dosa. Then I have their thick herbal tea and a coconut laddu.
With money in my wallet and food in my tummy, I feel so much better about life and about the day. These things do matter, and I don’t agree…
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