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'I've been hooked ever since': The complicated art of change ringing – CBC.ca

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Michael Connidis leads the way up a narrow chamber to a place many get to hear, but not see.

“This is the belfry in the church tower,” he says, with his arms stretched out pointing to eight massive bells that are hung mouth up, ready to be pulled by ropes that hang below.

The bells are over 100 years old and were mounted at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral at Dunsmuir and Richards streets for the centuries-old art of change ringing. 

“I just love it,” said Connidis, who is with the Vancouver Society of Change Ringers. 

The bells date back to 1905. The ones made in France have detailed embellishing compared to the ones cast in England. Some have a City of Vancouver engraving on them. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The practice dates back to 17th century England, where there are still thousands of churches with change-ringing bells. Here in Canada, there are seven, including three in B.C. 

Several times a week a small but devoted group of bell ringers gather in the ringing chamber to practise. They will also be ringing the bells this Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve. 

Alan Ellis has been change ringing for over 60 years. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Most of them aren’t churchgoers, but are attracted to the complicated process of sounding the bells.

As The North American Guild of Change Ringers puts it on their website, “Change ringing is a team sport, a highly co-ordinated musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding exercise that involves a group of people ringing rhythmically a set of tuned bells through a series of changing sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed according to learned patterns.” 

Connidis came to the art form by chance. He was walking past the church one day when he heard the bells and looked up to find people pulling on the ropes in the tower. 

“I’ve been hooked ever since…. I can’t describe how it just grabbed me,” he said.

You can catch the bells ring at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral on Dunsmuir and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver on the following days and times:

Christmas Eve – Tuesday, Dec. 24 from 10:25 p.m. until 11 p.m. 

New Year’s Eve – Tuesday, Dec. 31 from 11:25 to midnight.

Johanna Vandenberg, 24, was intrigued to learn more after reading a mystery novel set in a bell tower. After that it took three months of practice until she was able to ring a bell on her own. 

“I like the challenge. I like learning new stuff all the time and trying to be better at these kind of things and I just love the sound of bells,” she said.

While the bells are heavy — the heaviest weighs the same as a Volkswagen Beetle — ringing them is not a physically taxing job if you do it properly. 

The ringers stand in a circle with red wool mats in front of them. The mats are there to protect the ropes, otherwise the ropes would suffer damage and need to be replaced sooner than their current eight-year cycle. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Though the bells are heavy, anyone can swing them with the right technique. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

“I’ve rung with someone in [their] 90s, I’ve rung with people who are in wheelchairs, I’ve rung with people who are blind. So you can do it. It’s not a matter of strength but matter of finesse,” said Connidis.

Change-ringing is more math than music. 

Bell ringers memorize from what is called a book of methods, which shows in what sequence the bells are rung. There are thousands of possibilities. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Ringers have to memorize the sequence of how the bells are rung from what’s called the book of methods. And there are thousands of possibilities or permutations. 

“They weave back and forth. You learn the method by learning the pattern itself and then you have to learn where you start on that pattern on each individual bell,” said Connidis, pointing to the equivalent of a music sheet.

Johanna Vandenberg, 24, was intrigued to learn more about change ringing after reading a mystery novel. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

It requires teamwork and unwavering concentration, which is why there are three golden rules when you’re in the ringing chamber.

“The first is when we are ringing please don’t talk,” said Connidis.

Change ringing requires plenty of concentration. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The second is when you’re sitting down keep both feet on the ground.

“These ropes are potentially hazardous, they can catch you on your feet or ankles and flip you upside down pretty quickly, and it has happened,” he said. 

The third rule is to not touch any of the ropes, unless you’re invited to do so.

But the folks at the Vancouver Change Ringers Society are very welcoming and are always looking for volunteers to keep the tradition alive.

The bells will be ringing on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral at the corner of Dunsmuir and Richards streets. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

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MUSE NEWS: Highlighting the new Douglas Family Art Centre – The Kingston Whig-Standard

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Let me introduce you to the Douglas Family Art Centre, a new addition to Kenora. Come visit us downtown across Memorial Park from the Lake of the Woods Museum. The building incorporates the former land titles building with a new addition. It was designed by Nelson Architecture and built by Solid Construction; both local companies. The space is gorgeous. Inspired by the old building and the natural elements of our region the Art Centre is a vibrant place that engages the senses and the mind.

My role as curator is to manage the selection and interpretation of art on display. There are two gallery spaces that present art exhibitions from regional, provincial and national artists. The main room of the former land titles building is a grand studio space where creatives of all ages and abilities make art in classes and workshops presented by Shelby Smith, the art centre programmer and/or visiting artists. There is a library for anyone curious or interested in anything art. Take a book out or enjoy one of the two lounges on the second floor. There is a multipurpose room for rent that is glowing with natural light and has a full kitchen. The MUSE shop features artwork from local artists and vendors as well as carefully selected creative gifts. There is artwork throughout the building as well, wood and bronze sculpture, photography and colour woodblock prints. If you are one who enjoys geology you will love the fossils in the Tyndall stone used in the interior and exterior of the building.

Exhibitions are displayed for three to four months. Currently on display are two exhibitions. “21 Pillows” is by award-winning Red Lake glass artist Cheryl Wilson-Smith. Wilson-Smith has hand-made over 10,000 glass stones, her interpretation of a moraine found north of Red Lake. You have never seen glass like this! Visitors are encouraged to touch and move any or all of the stones and pillows as you are inspired, leaving your trace on the landscape.

“To realize by moving a rock, throwing a stone in the water, [you are] altering the environment. So in my show, by moving the stones we are all altering the environment, for better or worse, we are all participating,” Wilson-Smith said of her exhibit.

“From The Vault” is an exhibition curated from the collection of the Lake of the Woods Museum. Many of the artworks have never been displayed before. Each piece tells many stories, about the period in which it was created, the life of the artist, or the lives of the many people who owned it. This exhibition features artwork important to this community donated by private and public collections. There are some mysteries on the walls we need your help with! Some artwork keeps its secrets close.

This fall, Shelby Smith is hosting three 10-week classes for children and teens. These classes are after school and explore many ways of making art. Spots are filling up! On Oct. 1 the Douglas Family Art Centre is partnering with Science North to present an artist talk with Cheryl Wilson-Smith at lunch and a fossil hunt later in the afternoon. On Sept. 24 Kris Goold hosted a sold-out workshop but it looks like Kris will offer another class so book your spot! If you’re missing out keep an eye on our website or become a member to get a heads up on the exciting things that are happening at the Douglas Family Art Centre.

If you haven’t been in yet, come down and take it in. The art centre is your place to discover and enjoy. We look forward to seeing you.

Sophie Lavoie is the curator at the Douglas Family Art Centre.

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France’s Colonial Legacy Is Being Judged in Trial Over African Art – The New York Times

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PARIS — Wearing a long, white tunic with the names of two African ethnic groups written on it, the defendant stepped forward to the bar, took a breath, and launched into a plea.

“No one has sought to find out what harm has been done to Africa,” said the defendant, Mwazulu Diyabanza, a Congo-born 41-year-old activist and spokesman for a Pan-African movement that denounces colonialism and cultural expropriation.

Mr. Diyabanza, along with four associates, stood accused of attempting to steal a 19th-century African funeral pole from the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in mid-June, as part of an action to protest colonial-era cultural theft and seek reparations.

But it was Wednesday’s emotionally charged trial that gave real resonance to Mr. Diyabanza’s struggle, as a symbolic defendant was called to the stand: France, and its colonial track record.

The presiding judge in charge of the case acknowledged the two trials: One, judging the group, four men and a woman, on a charge of attempted theft for which they could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of about $173,000.

“And another trial, that of the history of Europe, of France with Africa, the trial of colonialism, the trial of the misappropriation of the cultural heritage of nations,” the judge told the court, adding that such was a “citizen’s trial, not a judicial one.”

The political and historical ramifications were hard to avoid.

France’s vast trove of African heritage — it is estimated that some 90,000 sub-Saharan African cultural objects are held in French museums — was largely acquired under colonial times, and many of these artworks were looted or acquired under dubious circumstances. That has put France at the center of a debate on the restitution of colonial-era holdings to their countries of origin.

Unlike in Germany, where this debate has been welcomed by both the government and museums, France has struggled to offer a consistent response, just as the country is facing a difficult reckoning with its past.

“Our act aimed to erase the acts of indignity and disrespect of those who plundered our homes,” Mr. Diyabanza said.

Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

The restitution debate came to a head in France when President Emmanuel Macron promised in 2017 to give back much of Africa’s heritage held by French museums. He later commissioned a report that identified about two-thirds of the 70,000 objects at the Quai Branly Museum as qualifying for restitution.

But in the two years following the report, only 27 restitutions have been announced and only one object, a traditional sword, has been returned — to Senegal, in November 2019. The remaining 26 treasures that were designated for restitution, to Benin, are still in the Quai Branly Museum.

And the bill supporting these exceptional, or case-by-case, restitutions has yet to be voted on.

Calvin Job, the lawyer for three of the defendants, said in court that the bill, by focusing on exceptional rather than regular restitutions, reflected “a desire not to settle the issue.”

“We should enshrine the principle of restitution in the code of law,” Mr. Job said.

Given what they perceive as hurdles, activists from Mr. Diyabanza’s Pan-African movement have staged operations similar to that in Paris at African art museums in the Southern French city of Marseille and in Berg en Dal, in the Netherlands.

At times, these actions have epitomized growing identity-related claims, coming from French citizens of African descent living in a country where a racial awakening has started to take place in recent months.

“We have young people who have an identity problem,” Mr. Job said in an interview, “who, faced with a lack of action, a lack of political will, have found it legitimate to do the work that others don’t.”

Speaking to the judge, Julie Djaka, a 34-year-old defendant who grew up in a Congolese family, said: “For you, these are works. For us, these are entities, ritual objects that maintained the order at home, in our villages in Africa, that enabled us to do justice.”

Marie-Cécile Zinsou, the president of the Zinsou Art Foundation in Benin and the daughter of a former prime minister of Benin, said that, although she did not share the activists’ methods, she understands “why they exist.” “We cannot be ignored and looked upon down all the time,” she said.

“In France, there’s a post-colonial view on the African continent,” Ms. Zinsou added, saying that some prominent French cultural figures still doubted that African countries could preserve artworks.

Such grievances on France’s post-colonial legacy were in full play on Wednesday at the trial as a small crowd of about 50 people, most Pan-African movement activists, were barred from entering the courtroom by the police because of concerns about the coronavirus and because some feared that their presence could disrupt the trial.

Activists shouted “band of thieves” and “slavers” at the police officers cordoning off the entrance to the courtroom and they chanted, “Give us back our artwork!”

Prosecutors on Wednesday asked that a fine of 1,000 euros, or about $1,200, be levied against Mr. Diyabanza and a suspended €500 fine be levied against his associates. A verdict is expected on Oct. 14.

Activists in front of the courtroom on Wednesday welcomed the recommended sentences, which they found modest, as a collective victory.

“We all are defendants here; all of us should normally be at the stand today,” said Laetitia Babin, a 45-year-old social worker born in Congo, who had arrived from Belgium in the morning to attend the trial.

“It’s not up to them to decide how artworks are returned to us, it’s up to us,” she said.

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Kamala Harris Talks Art, Victoria & Albert Museum to Cut 103 Jobs, and More: Morning Links from September 30, 2020 – ARTnews

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News

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum will cut its staff by 10 percent. The 103 roles set to be lost are mainly in the the retail and visitor experience departments. [The Art Newspaper]

At an event called “Artists for Biden” last night, Kamala Harris addressed her love of contemporary art in a conversation with Catherine Opie, Carrie Mae Weems, and Shepard Fairey. Here’s what she had to say. [Bloomberg]

Although museums are often criticized for the whiteness of the art collections, their fashion holdings tend to exclude Black creators, too. [The New York Times]

Related Articles

Museums

The Centre Pompidou in Paris could close for three years to undergo “essential” renovations. The news comes as the museum prepares to open a major space in Massy, France. [The Art Newspaper]

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. will devote a show to works featuring First Ladies of the United States. Included will be photography by Annie Leibovitz and the dress worn by Michelle Obama in Amy Sherald’s painting of her. [The New York Times]

Sweden has set aside $1.1 million for the creation of its first Holocaust museum, whose focus will be survivors hailing from the country. [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

What if the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s controversial renovation project isn’t so bad? Tom Christie considers the case for Peter Zumthor’s latest project. [Los Angeles Times]

Art & Artists

Kyle Chayka recommends eight books for getting through creative block, including works by Lawrence Weschler and Octavia E. Butler. [ARTnews]

The National Gallery’s long-awaited Artemisia Gentileschi retrospective gets a five-star review, with Jonathan Jones calling the exhibition the “most thrilling” one he has ever seen at the London museum. [The Guardian]

For the past couple years, artist Dawn Markosian has been creating Santa Barbara, a soap opera–like film and photography project that grapples with her mother’s choice to leave her father. [The New York Times]

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