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Town Talk: Indigenous feast kicks off Harmony Arts Festival

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Cantonese opera master Hoi Seng Leong and his student Yuk Fung Cheung performed the Fragrant Sacrifice finale from The Flower Princess.


Drag performers Shay Dior and Jolin Starr, real names Ban Dang and Matt Ngan, flanked Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden artist in residence Paul Wong at a performance including classic Cantonese opera.


Malcolm Parry / PNG

WONG’S WAY: Cantonese opera master Hoi Seng Leong appeared at the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden recently with Yuk Fung Cheung, who is a student at his Richmond-based academy. They performed the Fragrant Sacrifice finale from The Flower Princess, which some call China’s Romeo and Juliet story. As in Shakespeare’s day, Cantonese opera long had men play female roles. That spurred the garden’s artist in residence, Paul Wong, to add contemporary Asian drag performers and make the sold-out evening part of the five-day, 14-event Alternative Pride schedule.

Yuk Fung Cheung and Hoi Seng Leong of the latter's Cantonese Opera Academy performed The Flower Princess's finale, Fragrant Sacrifice.


Yuk Fung Cheung and Hoi Seng Leong of the latter’s Cantonese Opera Academy performed The Flower Princess’s finale, Fragrant Sacrifice.

Malcolm Parry /

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They were fronted by Shay Dior (real name Ban Dang) who co-ordinates Ricecake dance parties and heads the House of Rice group of Asian drag artists. Much-lauded multimedia artist-curator Wong received a 2005 Governor General’s Award in visual and media arts and, in 2016, the $30,000 Audain Prize for lifetime achievement in the visual arts.

Inez Cook and Lauraleigh Paul Yuxweluptun'aat served salmon, oolichan and other fare at the Harmony Arts Festival's Indigenous Feast.


Inez Cook and Lauraleigh Paul Yuxweluptun’aat served salmon, oolichan and other fare at the Harmony Arts Festival’s Indigenous Feast.

Malcolm Parry /

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FROM THE SEA: West Vancouver’s Harmony Arts Festival began when an event titled The Indigenous Feast served salmon, halibut, clams, smoked oolichan and bison ribs. Dishes were prepared by Salmon n’ Bannock restaurant owners Inez Cook of the Nuxalk nation and Remi Caudron from the nation of France. Lauraleigh Paul Yuxweluptun’aat’s BigHeart Bannock Catering & Cultural Café provided bannock. Mohawk blues singer Murray Porter entertained. The new-this-year event’s 180 diners likely reflected on the nearby Capilano River providing feast fare for millennia before its 1950-founded Park Royal shopping centre offered corresponding bounty.

With the HSBC Building's pendulum behind, Tiko Kerr launched his Affinities-series paintings including one titled A Theory of Relativity.


With the HSBC Building’s pendulum behind, Tiko Kerr launched his Affinities-series paintings including one titled A Theory of Relativity.

Malcolm Parry /

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NEW TWIST: Vancouver art adherents recall the many paintings in which Tiko Kerr depicted familiar landmarks in a rather psychedelic way. Burrard Street Bridge, downtown towers, City Hall, etc., writhed and contorted in super-saturated colours, but always instantly recognizable. But the drugs Kerr ingested weren’t LSD. They were anti-retroviral TMC 114 and TMC 125 that Health Canada banned until 2005. That’s when globally lauded HIV/AIDS physician Dr. Julio Montaner and sympathetic politicians broke the federal deadlock, thus permitting their import and literally saving Kerr’s life.

Tiko Kerr was still in his distorted-city-buildings phase when he painted Vancouver Sun Run participants crossing the Cambie Bridge.


Tiko Kerr was still in his distorted-city-buildings phase when he painted Vancouver Sun Run participants crossing the Cambie Bridge.

Tiko Kerr /

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The changes in his art are as dramatic as his personal-health ones. For Kerr’s current exhibition in the HSBC Canada Building lobby’s Pendulum Galley, they are mostly large paintings in the collage manner. That locale is dominated by Alan Storey’s 30-metre-long metal pendulum swinging seven times a minute. At its 1987 installation, some said the frequency would make observers feel sick. Not so sick as Kerr became and, with his time all but run out, barely survived.

A poster of Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum backed Stephen Holmes and Kirsten Robek at the Cinematheque's Film Noir series opening.


A poster of Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum backed Stephen Holmes and Kirsten Robek at the Cinematheque’s Film Noir series opening.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

NOIR NOW: Executive/artistic director Jim Sinclair opened the Cinematheque theatre’s Film Noir series with 1947’s Out of The Past starring Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum. That was an era when Washington’s scaredy-cat relationship with communism saw “unamerican” directives wreck careers and bedevil any major movie not starring collie-dog Lassie. So-called B movies largely escaped the paranoia, though, as tightwad efforts can do in America. The resultant film noir flicks allowed land-of-the-free audiences to fear fear itself again, albeit with popcorn easing the psychic burden. Stephen Holmes and Kirsten Robek, who once acted together in Shakespeare’s ultra-noir play, Macbeth, sat “on the edge of our seats” for the Cinematheque’s Out of The Past, the latter said. They’d likely have squirmed more on a planned 2001 post-wedding flight to New York five days after the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. Instead, they honeymooned at Tyax Lodge on the Upper Bridge River Valley’s Tyaughton Lake where an aircraft crashed fatally recently.

Boogie-woogie pianist Michael van Eyes kicked off Friday-night jazz concerts at the Penthouse Cabaret's top-floor Tyrant Studios.


Boogie-woogie pianist Michael van Eyes kicked off Friday-night jazz concerts at the Penthouse Cabaret’s top-floor Tyrant Studios.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

EIGHT TO THE BAR: That’s another name for boogie-woogie, a piano-based jazz style with steam-train cadences. Like jazz itself, boogie-woogie formalized in the early 20th century. Some see hints in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 written 100 years earlier. Whatever its origins, local boogie-woogie pianist Michael van Eyes belted it out recently in Tyrant Studios. Presenting jazz Fridays and stand-up Saturdays, that bar-theatre is located above the Penthouse cabaret main room where exotic dancers portray a different iteration of boogie-woogie. It’s one that etymologists link to the Bantu term mbuki-mvuki that roughly means “to dance wildly, as if to shake off one’s clothes.”

Ron Burnett still had eight years heading Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2010 when Bob Rennie staged a $441,500 gala.


Ron Burnett still had eight years heading Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2010 when Bob Rennie staged a $441,500 gala.

Malcolm Parry /

PNG

SUMMA CUM LAUDE: Artist Mark Soo’s upside-down clock spun backwards when a 2010 gala-auction staged by realtor Bob Rennie raised $441,500 for Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Varsity president Ron Burnett’s own time ran out recently when he retired to acclaim for literally putting ECU on the map. That was the map of False Creek Flats after a lengthy spell on Granville Island. London-born Burnett could have headed any number of big-time institutions with commensurate paycheques. Instead, he served ECU with energy and conviction for 22 years. Time well spent, forward or backward.

DOWN PARRYSCOPE: Should a certain first lady tire of domestic shenanigans and return to her birthplace, Rodgers and Hart’s 1937 Babes In Arms show song might be tweaked to: “Social circles spin too fast for me. My old Slovenia is the place to be. … That’s why the lady is a Trump.”

malcolmparry@shaw.ca
604-929-8456

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ONE Championship And The UFC Represent Global Duopoly In Martial Arts

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is unquestionably the king of mixed martial arts in the western world, but ONE Championship is perhaps even more dominant in the east.

Chatri Sityodtong and Dana WhiteCredit: Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images and ONE Championship

With their meteoric rise to prominence over the past seven years, ONE has seemingly pressed all the right buttons in establishing itself as a viable rival to its Western counterpart. In Asia, ONE is the largest martial arts organization. One of the promotion’s missions has been to unite the continent’s 4 billion people on the shoulders of the many country’s connections to the various disciplines.

“In the same way that Starbucks offers many flavors of coffee and tea, we offer all martial arts,” said ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

“We have earned that reputation over the last couple of years, and so instead of mixed martial arts, as a fight fan and as a martial arts lover, you now get to see all forms of martial arts for the very first time in history. So you will see matches of, you know, Muay Thai versus Tae Kwon Do, or Tae Kwon Do versus Kung Fu, and the list goes on and on.”

According to Sityodtong, who was born in Thailand but is part Thai and Japanese, this makes ONE Championship the world’s largest martial arts organization.

YANGON, MYANMAR – JUNE 30: Aung La N Sang celebrates his historic title win, claiming the ONE Middleweight World Championship during ONE Championship Light Of A Nation at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on June 30, 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar. (Photo by Dux Carvajal/ONE Championship/Getty Images)

While the UFC has taken a more in-your-face approach in its rise to prominence, with president and face of the organization Dana White serving as the perfect microcosm for the American mixed martial arts community, Sityodtong has taken a different route.

“Every region in the world had a sport that represented it,” said Sityodtong. “In Asia, there was nothing. I thought to myself, there had to be a way to highlight each of the martial arts that originated from the variety of Asian cultures, and ONE Championship was it. The term MMA has a negative connotation in Asia, in the sense that it’s all about bloodsport, profanity, people who throw stuff at press conferences. That works in America, but not in Asia.”

Sityodtong has gone on record multiple times, including a direct one-on-one conversation with me, saying that he would not sign Conor McGregor if he were a free agent. Sityodtong feels strongly that McGregor’s persona is a poor fit for the culture and identity he has crafted for ONE.

YANGON, MYANMAR – NOVEMBER 03: Aung La N Sang prepares to face Alain Ngalani in an Open Weight Super Bout during ONE Championship: Hero’s Dream at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on November 03, 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar. (Photo by Dux Carvajal/ONE Championship/Getty Images)

“MMA is kind of an Americanized version of what martial arts is. Real, true, authentic martial arts has to do more with values and how it impacts the human soul. It’s about the way of the warrior, about integrity, humility, honor, respect, courage, discipline, and compassion. It’s about the true values of martial arts which is extremely significant here in Asia.”

The ONE Championship way appears to be a personal preference for Sityodtong, but it is also a calculated approach that originated from paying close attention to what resonates with Asian people. The proof is in the numbers, reach, regional reviews and the immeasurable responses from crowds at their events on hand to cheer on the fighters who have been given the platform to become icons in their countries.

SINGAPORE – MAY 26: Angela Lee celebrates her submission win against Istela Nunes at ONE Championship: Dynasty of Heroes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 26, 2017, in Singapore (Photo by Dux Carvajal/ONE Championship/Getty Images)

Angela Lee of Singapore, Aung La N Sang of Myanmar and Eduard Folayang of the Philippines are to their countries what McGregor is to Ireland, and even bigger than Daniel Cormier, TJ Dillashaw and Rose Namajunas in the United States.

“We’re absolutely packing stadiums. We are filling thousand-seater arenas with passionate martial arts fans. We have the support of local governments, most importantly, the support of our fans. We have the most fantastic sponsors and partners on board that believe in what we’re doing, that believe in our vision,” Sityodtong concluded.

ONE Championship has been able to launch and reignite careers by focusing on the personal stories of the fighters. Spotlighting their backgrounds, personal and professional struggles and their overall journey. Recently, ESPN ran a piece on former NBA MVP Derrick Rose’s immense popularity in China.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA – AUGUST 21: (CHINA OUT) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls point guard, takes a selfie with fans on August 21, 2015, in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

While Rose was born and raised in Chicago and has never competed in Asia professionally, the people of China are drawn to his perseverance and desire to play, despite suffering the multitude of injuries that have slowed what looked to be a Hall-of-Fame career. In the United States, his country of origin, he has largely been reduced to the subject of memes and unfortunate gifs.

It is this contrast in the view of professional athletes that Sityodtong and ONE Championship have honed in on. They worked used these values to rebuild the careers of fighters like Aung La and heavyweight champion Brandon Vera.

With business flourishing, ONE Championship has ramped up its lineup of live events. The promotion is scheduled to produce 24 live shows in 2018 and 36 in 2019. The UFC is scheduled to deliver 47 live events in 2018, but some may argue that less is more when it comes to combat sports events.

The fewer shows, the more each one feels like an event. Though that’s purely a matter of fan or media preference.

ONE may not be emulating its global competition, but it is definitely aware of its presence. By establishing new divisions of its property like the ONE Super Series (kickboxing) and Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series, it has produced layers that can compete, or perhaps surpass Glory Kickboxing, Bellator Kickboxing and the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter and Tuesday Night Contender Series.

ONE signed Giorgio Petrosyan and Yodcherry Sityodtong to bolster its kickboxing venture while ONE Warrior is designed to focus on the rising martial arts talent in Asia. It is in its second season and airs on affiliate networks and the ONE Championship official YouTube channel.

Franklin is a former UFC middleweight champion turned ONE Championship ambassador and Vice President who hosts the show along with Jonathan Fong. The duo travels across Asia searching for talent and experiencing local cultures.

The athletes compete in professional bouts with the chance of earning a contract that can exceed $100,000 US currency. It’s like a mixture of traditional reality television, White’s Lookin for a Fight, Tuesday Night Contender, Ultimate Fighter and the American singing competition, The Voice. Franklin does a lot of teaching and coaching of the prospects, which is part of his background. In the role, he’s more than a talent scout. It’s almost partly like a mentorship and it’s a pretty unique presentation overall.

The UFC holds a firm grip on the attention of Western MMA fans, and the organization is prospering, but ONE is holding down its region of the globe equally. Fans can only wonder and/or hope that one day we might actually see a cross-promoted event between the two organization’s top champions.

That’s a fantasy, but fans of both brands can dream.

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Sissi's Crackdown on the Arts in Egypt Captured in One Satirical Pop Song

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“O mister shiny, brown-faced date. Four years have finally passed in disgrace. For too long we’ve been with that dummy face, O mister shiny, brown-faced date, such a dummy, like a broken vase, a loser all the way, desperate gold-digger. They took our land and promised you a grape, they stole our Nile and gave you a tap. And when you dug a canal it was a trap, to steal our money in just a snap. You’re such a hopeless case, O mister shiny, brown-faced date.”

It doesn’t take too much to realize that the song titled “Balaha” (“Date”), written by the popular Egyptian poet Galal el-Behairy, is aiming its barbs at President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. The land taken from the Egyptians are the islands of Sanafir and Tiran, which Egypt returned to Saudi Arabia, and the canal is the waterway parallel to the Suez Canal that Sissi ordered dug and has turned out to be a white elephant that cost a mint to the Egyptian people, who were asked to donate to fund it. “Balaha” is a fictional figure, not quite normal, who appears in an Egyptian film. It is also Sissi’s nickname.

This satirical song was set to music by the singer Ramy Essam, known for his role in the Arab Spring as a revolutionary poet; his song “Get Out,” directed against former President Hosni Mubarak, became the hymn of the Tahrir Square protesters.

The subversive “Balaha” clip has garnered 4 million views on YouTube and Essam had to flee Egypt for fear he would be arrested for insulting the president. Essam is apparently now in Sweden but he moves around the Arab countries and Europe, where he is very popular.

Since the Egyptian police cannot capture Essam, it has incarcerated the man who wrote the words to “Balaha,” after el-Behairy added insult to injury and published another book of poems titled “The Finest Women on Earth.” To understand the gravity of the offense, one needs to know the story of the great Muslim warrior Amr ibn al-As, who told a group of believers in a sermon that he had heard Mohammed say, “If Allah gives Egypt into your hands, take from it many soldiers. These Egyptian soldiers are the finest soldiers on earth.”

This Muslim tradition from the time of the prophet naturally became a common description of the Egyptian army by its commanders. When the poet Behairy distorted the phrase and turned “the finest soldiers on earth” into “the finest women on earth,” he set out on a dangerous collision course with the army and those who value the prophet’s words. “My blood is boiling and don’t dare tell me this is about freedom of expression,” the journalist Ahmed Moussa shouted on the television show “I Guarantee It,” which he hosts on the Sada El Balad network. “Who approved the distribution of this shameful collection?” he asked. Indeed, an embarrassing question, because the collection of poems appeared at a book fair in Cairo. A party was even organized in its honor where the author signed his books. The terrible offense is two-fold: insulting the army and distorting the words of the prophet, which immediately sparked a backlash that led Behairy to military court in late July, where he was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560).

He was also tried for publishing “Balaha,” charged with harming state security according to the Egyptian anti-terrorism law.

Not only did the song raise the level of censorship in Egypt, which was already tight under Sissi. According to a human rights group, at least 12 artists have been arrested this year, including directors, playwrights and even a belly dancer for what is called “publishing false information” or harming the army and state security.

For example the theater director Ahmed al-Garhy and the playwright Walid Atef were sentenced to a two-month suspended prison sentence for staging a play, “Suleiman Khater,” at the Cairo hunting club. Suleiman Khater was an Egyptian solider who in 1985 killed seven Israelis near the Egyptian-Israeli border. Khater was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor, but a year later he was found hanged in his cell. The authorities said he had killed himself and the public believed he had been executed. In this case as well, the authorities woke up too late, because the play had already been seen in the theater in Alexandria two years earlier, and then at the theater in Cairo before the storm that broke in February.

The theater management quickly dismissed the director and the playwright and closed down the play, claiming that it harmed the good name of the army and had not received authorization from the censor. In that same month, Sissi said that any insult to the armed forces was “high treason” and would be punished by a heavy prison term. The sentence meted out in late July was not particularly heavy, but it made clear to the artistic community in Egypt what the new boundaries of discourse were.

These boundaries were dictated by regulations published by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly last month. They state in part that every cultural or artistic performance, local or international, requires a permit from the Culture Ministry after coordinating with “the relevant authorities” – that is, the intelligence forces. The artistic community can only recall with longing the time of Mubarak, despite the strict censorship laws, when the boundaries of freedom of artistic expression were much broader than those instituted by Sissi since he took control in July 2013.

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Arts on Central

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  1. Arts on Central  nwestiowa.com
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