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Sophia

Stories

Locked in

Dear readers,

I really hope you are still in good health.

I first planned to say “I hope you are fine,” but who is fine these days? It is a struggle for all of us, and above all, for the most vulnerable among us–the ones on their own, the elderly, the ones losing their jobs, losing their income, and of course the sick.

I also think about the ones being totally neglected in the news now, as if they disappeared from the globe. The many people stuck in camps in Greece. And also here in the refugee center people are living very close to one another. Difficult to keep social distance.

The job fair I talked to you about last time had to be cancelled the day before the event, so frustrating.

What do you find the most difficult these days?
I think, apart from being sick or without a job, it is hard to not be able to be with your friends or family in a specific situation. One friend just had a baby, another one lost her dad. I cannot go to them and share this joy or grief.

So no projects at the moment for me. And still, the days seem to pass by quickly. I chat a lot, to check on people, and I notice a lot of people check on me. That is such a comforting thought. We send photos and funny videos to each other. Very important: I rediscovered the good old mail. I sent cards and reading stuff to my bunch of newcomers who aren’t allowed to visit us anymore. Thank you postman for the deliveries!

I know I am lucky, being with my family, at home. I have been working outside, planting flowers, making the yard ready for summer. Some photos to make you enjoy spring:

Since I still had different fabrics, in joyful colors, I decided to make some mouth masks. I used old handkerchiefs for the inside since it is material that is soft and can be washed easily. For the outside I used different patterns, but also good quality fabric that can be washed easily. I washed everything before I started – to check whether it could stand high temperatures. When I finished them, I noticed they were still a little too big, so I need to adapt them at the sides ;-).







So let me know how you are feeling, in general? How is the epidemic dealt with, in your country?

Take care!
So long,

Sophie

PS: I wanted to bring Spring inside, my bouquet turned out to be huge

 

Stories

Building bridges, not walls

Hi there,

How are you?

I am enjoying the silence of an empty house. Hubbie is skiing, not in Northern Italy.

Last week he asked me why I hadn’t written anymore on the blog. I can’t tell. Days, weeks, seem to go fast. I realized I truly miss writing, the real writing, not the daily mails and texts that are just information, sometimes not even necessary.

What have you been up to?  Chatting is sometimes just entertainment, but it can be consoling too. I realized it is important to just ask how people are sometimes, to make – even if it is small – a connection.

It was International Women’s Day and quotes have been coming in through different media. I prefer those that say that women should be kinder to themselves. Less critical. That’s what I find hard to do.

In the work I do at the refugee center here, I have met so many strong, unique and positive people. Helping out makes me happy, but there are many things I cannot help with, and that is frustrating.

I am proud though, to be part of a project, a job fair, that is bringing people together:  connecting the newcomers (almost one thousand people are living in the center nowadays) in our hometown to local companies and organizations. It is a first step in finding a job, and having a job is a first step to integration. There are so many talents here at the center, and there are still many vacancies at the local factories and companies. The newcomers do not speak Dutch well yet, some speak French or English. It will not be easy, but I see it as a networking event, even if they don’t immediately find a job.  They might learn how to apply for a job, the possibilities of training and other educational info.

The event is tomorrow. A few weeks ago I had to give a speech to local companies to promote this. I have to admit I was nervous. This is not something within my comfort zone.

Lately I have been reading “Daring Greatly, How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead” by Brené Brown. Vulnerability is defined as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Brené says that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.”
This book helped me focus on what’s important. That you don’t need to do things perfectly. Fear of not reaching your goal, can just paralyze you and prevent you from just trying and doing great things, even if they aren’t perfect. The past year I have been doing a lot of things I hadn’t done before. And it is a challenge, a chance to learn. Just jump and do it. It gave me a lot of energy and satisfaction. Being vulnerable also means opening up to others, showing them your own fears and doubts (a total emotional exposure is not meant here ;-)). It both helped me reach out to others and I had the impression it enabled other people to feel more comfortable telling me their stories.

I am very grateful with the connection I made with so many interesting people. In the first place the newcomers who were so strong to open up and tell me what they had been through, but also all the volunteers that worked with me in the center. People in this project want to give newcomers a chance, see through the label of refugee, and believe in the talents, spirit, and motivation. It gives me hope.

I came across this short poem, and it is sad, but I want to share it anyway, just to create a better understanding of what it must feel like, for so many newcomers.

you broke the ocean
in half to be here.
only to meet nothing that wants you.

– immigrant

So we’ll try to not give our fellow human beings this feeling, ok?

And what have you been up to?
Have a good day, and count your blessings!

The photo on top is the lake next to the refugee center here in our hometown

Interior happiness

Architecture in Paris

Hi there,

Best wishes for 2020!

Did you celebrate well?
What are your resolutions? If you have any, tell me!
Do you want to know mine?

Well, be happy of course. Be happy with small things and precious moments with friends & family. Meet other people, or maybe really see and get to know people and treasure them for who they are. Listen. Embrace the uniqueness and try to not to focus too much on the differences that are upsetting. Be good and be patient. But not too tolerant, no, not tolerant for injustice. See the humor of awkward situations. Laugh a lot, laugh out loud, with tears if necessary. Be grateful.

I started this blogpost at the beginning of December. And then time just faded away. We left for Mexico in the middle of December, to visit Oldest and his girlfriend. X-mas was wonderful, our family gathered on the beach.

In November we went to Paris, my two sisters and I. It was a late present for my sister, whose birthday party was half a year ago.

Image result for charlotte perriandSo I want to take you to Paris! I won’t go in to everything we did, but I’ll just focus on the most special visit, to the exhibition of Charlotte Perriand, at the foundation Louis Vuitton, located in an impressive silvery artwork. It lasts until February 24th.  Go if you are interested in interior design, or just art in general, a really must-see exhibition!

Walking up there, in the Bois the Bologne, and seeing this magnificent building was a treat for the eye. The architect is Frank Gehry, also the designer of the Guggenheim in Bilbao among many others. The interior is huge and unique.  Upstairs you can go outside and have splendid views from the different terraces.




So who’s Charlotte Perriand? One of the biggest and inventive architects from the past century. She worked with and for Le Corbusier and was a specialist in designing interiors for small apartments. She was so far ahead of her time in seeing the necessity of living in limited square meters. Also her engagement in society is shown in the expo.  It was her wish that all natural resources and cultural heritage be available to all people:

Laisserons nous perdre cet héritage!
Il faut continuer la tradition
en allant de l’avant
Libérer les richesses naturelles
et culturelles au profit de
tous les hommes

Chaise longue and Fauteuil grand confort

A scale model of an apartment

Small apartments and student dorms, meticulously designed to fit everything in 

A kind of cubicle, prefabricated

The exhibition is large and elaborate. Charlotte’s life was long and she kept on working in so many areas. She lived in Japan and Brazil for some time and mingled that inspiration in to her work.

Of Japanese influence

She loved to wander on the beach and collect stones and other natural material she found and use their shapes into her own creations.

Equally as important, other works of contemporary artists are shown in this exhibition.  To name a few: Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier (of course), Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró…

Fernand Léger

Alexander Calder

Le
Corbusier

taking a rest in le fauteuil grand confort 😉

And what else did we do? Just walk under the blue autumn sky.

In the Musée des Arts Décoratifs we found two other interesting exhibitions: Marche et démarche, about the history of the shoes and Affiches Cubaines, on graphic design in Cuba.

Did you know that foot binding – lotus feet –  in China had also a sexual purpose?

Cuban art

Remember poor Marie Antoinette? Picture by Erwin Olaf

She was an inspiration for art, fashion and of course the movie industry. We visited her last residence, before she was guided to the guillotine. The exhibition “Marie Antoinette, metamorphosis of an image” is held in the prison where she spent her last weeks. Vive la république!

Just one last minute tip, to satisfy our culinary aspirations. Two great restaurants (need to book upfront!): Fluctuat and Caïus.

It was just two days, in one of the loveliest cities of course, and being immersed in art, I can happily end by these words of Charlotte:

Synthèse des Arts:
Elle joue à travers le temps, les continents.
Harmonie de même origine, mettant l’homme en état d’euphorie.
Elle enrichit son regard sur les choses,
elle le rend libre.

A la prochaine! Sophie

Interior happiness

Dalì and Magritte


A day in Brussels.

Have you visited this exposition already? Were you impressed?

For me visiting a museum is a good way to relax. A good way to be inspired, set my mind on other things.

Dalì and Magritte are both phenomenal artists. All their works combined in one expo is fabulous. I loved it.

Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.
Salvador Dalì

The works are hung together by connecting subjects, for instance “dream x hallucination,” “Georgette x Gala,” and “softness x desire.”

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor gala in Dali's paintingsImage result for photo gala and salvador"Gala was Dalì’s muse and lifelong partner after they met in 1929. Gala has long been considered equal part muse and monster. She was first married to the poet Paul Eluard. The couple had an open marriage, and Éluard took pleasure in introducing Gala to new lovers, including Max Ernst who left his wife to join the couple in a sometimes fraught ménage à trois (did you see the Netflix series You Me Her?  Well they must have been inspired by Gala). Over the decades Dalí painted her repeatedly – as a giant head smiling serenely in a barren landscape, with a lamb chop resting on her shoulder like a military epaulette, as a fractured Raphaelesque Madonna, or calmly opening her shirt to reveal her left breast.

Magritte’s muse was his wife Georgette, a middle-class catholic woman. They married in 1922. She appeared often in the paintings but is only occasionally named, mostly in private portraits.  Georgette was a far more modest woman than Gala.
Did you know Paul Simon wrote a song about René and Georgette Magritte?
Georgette et René .jpg
Image result for georgette magritte painting"
Above, René and Georgette, Georgette painted by René. Under ‘The Enigma of Desire’ by Dalì

My friend Leen and I talked about how much you can see in Dalì’s paintings. They are indeed often as an image of a dream, where people, places, memories and desires come together in a weird way.

The work of Sigmund Freud was profoundly influential for Surrealists, particularly his book, The Interpretation of Dreams (1899). Freud legitimized the importance of dreams and the unconscious as valid revelations of human emotion and desires; his exposure of the complex and repressed inner worlds of sexuality, desire, and violence provided a theoretical basis for much of Surrealism.

Dalì and Magritte met in the spring of 1929, in Paris. In the summer of that year, Magritte traveled to Spain, to Dalì’s house. Gala and Paul Éluard joined the party, and Dalí began an affair with Gala.

There sure was a rivalry between the two artists. Dalì was financially successful from the early years, in contrast to Magritte who needed to take commercial work to survive. Magritte only received a decent income from his art in the 50’s. They also were very different on a political level. Magritte followed the Belgian communist party and Dalì supported the facists and falangists. It was more a sentimental political favoritism than an ideological one.

If you want to know more, I found a deep analysis on this blog by Alexander Adams.

Image result for rene magritte graphic design"After having seen the expo, we also went to the permanent Magritte museum, which has many works of Magritte and also goes deeper into his personal life. Magritte did a lot of graphic design in the beginning.

But if you are intrigued, do visit this beautiful exhibition, it is open till February 9, 2020.

And if you have seen it, let me know how you felt!

Ciao, Sophie

 

 

 

 

Stories

Beyond Borders

Dutch version below

Hi There,

Beyond Borders  is the title of our new project. The opening was last week Tuesday in the Town Hall of my hometown.

So what does this new project is about?
Well, it won’t be a surprise. It combines two of my passions, photography and working with people. And these people are, of course, the inhabitants of the refugee center here. We – me and two very good photographers, Manu and Marie – made a portrait of seventeen people, focusing on their job, hobby or dream job.

Why?
Well, often people ask me if it is tough working at the center. And honestly, I usually feel happy when I am there. The people are all very kind, polite and grateful. I feel surrounded by warmth and appreciation. But when I am in the outside world, it becomes different.  I hear criticism, judgments, lies… It is easy to talk about a group of people, not knowing them. The criticism really shocks me by times, certainly because so many people from the center have shown their vulnerability by telling me what they had been through. Believe me, it is not something people here often encounter, not even in a lifetime. Most refugees who come here are still very young and have been through a lot.

Melany, Venezuela, Baker

Sanaz, Iran, mother

Our goal?
Taking off the label of  “refugee” and  showing these seventeen people as real people, with dreams, professions, children, hopes, diplomas, talents, ambitions.
A few people also wrote about having to flee from their own country.  Their words are heartbreaking.

I’m still stuck…

I’m still stuck between the past and the present… Between love and hate…

I’m still stuck between sadness and joy… Between my old and new country…

I’m still stuck in the hearts of dead and alive people… Am I dead or alive?

I’m still stuck… And I still have that idea that when I open my eyes every morning…

I’m starting to get used to this new country…

I tried hard to figure out the causes of these wars and revolutions and the wrong policies that have taken over the country. I’ve looked at the legends of history and between the geography papers. All I found were a few words about the greatness and authenticity of my country…

And now I have only found a wounded child screaming. And a mother looking for her children between destruction and blood. A daughter follows her, runs away from the enemy…

We didn’t know what homelessness meant until we became refugees. We go east, west, north, and south. We’re crossing seas and oceans with bags on our shoulders, but our eyes are looking behind us. We’re looking at a country where we’ve left all our dreams and memories.

Every day and with every sunshine, refugees pray to God in the language of hope. Wishing that he finishes wars worldwide. So that they can go back home.

By Mohamad, Syria, actor

How?
We tried to bring diversity in land of origin, profession, age and sex. Most of the people I asked to join the project I already knew from teaching. Everyone was very happy to work together. On one hot summer day in August, we built a photo studio in our house. It was a beautiful day, working and laughing and eating together. Our models behaved as professional models! And we are all very proud of the result.
Mourad, Palestine, Fisherman

Alexandra, Venezuela, make-up artist
Merhawit, Eritrea, baker

Where?
You can admire our photos on banners in Lommel, until the end of December. And please follow us on Instagram @portraits.beyondborders

Next?
This team of people is great, and we want to go on. In November the photo banners will be placed on the playground of the high schools. We would like to combine this with a talk with the students. We can talk about why certain countries are so dangerous and why people need to go away and how it feels to come to a new country, where you have to start all over.

Help?
For the photos we were supported by the local Rotary (Neerpelt) and the restaurant Nomad. But if we continue, we need more support. You can send me a personal message if you can help our team of wonderful people.

At the opening, these are the words I spoke:

Dear Alexander, Alexandra, Ana, Diego, Elvis, Gabriella, Ginger, Jakub, Luisa, Mahmoud, Mario, Mariam, Matta, Melany, Merhawit, Mohamad, Murad, Ninette, Patricia, Ricardo and Sanaz,

You are all amazing people and we feel very grateful for working together on this photo-project.

We have learned to know you
Little by little

You have showed us your openness
By telling us the stories
Of wars in your home countries
Of your struggle for human rights
Of your journey by plane, by boat, by foot,
during days, during months, during years
crossing many borders

All in your search for a better life,
far away from your home and your family

You showed us your strength,
By telling us the stories
Of your fight against hunger, cold and rejection
Of your desire to forget
Of your battle against dehumanization
Of your hope of being accepted for who you are

You taught us
To stay positive
To believe in the goodness of other human beings
To have faith
To fight for the future of your children
And to continue to live
No matter what

You were confronted with the limits
Of a new country, a new language and a new culture

You crossed borders
Between your past and your future
Between your homeland and our homeland

We only hope the best for you

May you know peace
May you find happiness
May you know love
May you find faith in a better future

We wish you well

All of you

Ninette, Burundi, model

 

Dag lieve lezers,

Nog even in mijn mooie moedertaal!

Ons nieuwe project ‘Beyond Borders’ staat nu aan het Huis van de Stad in Lommel. Wij – Manu, Marie en ik, hebben samengewerkt met zeventien modellen van het Parelstrand, het vluchtelingenopvangcentrum hier in Lommel.

Op het Hertog Janplein kan je vanaf 1 oktober de reizende foto-expo ‘Beyond Borders’ bewonderen. Initiatiefnemers zijn Sophie Tournier, Marie Bouly en Manu Bloemen. Zij kenden elkaar al langer en beslisten om een nieuw project op poten te zetten rond het tijdelijke opvangcentrum op het domein Parelstrand. Hun drijfveer? Een mengeling van engagement, naastenliefde en passie voor fotografie. Maar vooral de drang om mensen in beeld te brengen. Geen asielzoekers, geen vluchtelingen, geen transmigranten, geen labels, maar gewoon… mensen. Het resultaat is een boeiende fotoreeks van 17 portretten van bewoners met als thema ‘Beroepen’.

Al sinds de opening van het Parelstrand begin dit jaar, ben ik aan de slag gegaan als vrijwilliger: Nederlandse les, het project 945 in Beeld, wandelingen en bezoekjes organiseren. Ik kom er vaak.  Een aantal bewoners staat erg dicht bij me. Je kan niet met mensen werken, zonder betrokken te raken (ondanks de steeds goed bedoelde raad: waak over je grenzen!). Niemand vertelt zijn levensverhaal bij een eerste ontmoeting. Nadat het vertrouwen gewonnen is, gebeurt dat wel. Luisteren is meestal  voldoende, heb ik gemerkt. Soms kan je ook concreet helpen, maar vaak niet.
Patricia, El Salvador, Engineer

Mariam, Palestine-Ukraine, student-singer, 15

Hoe pijnlijk en hartverscheurend de verhalen van de bewoners ook zijn, het moeilijkste vind ik de commentaren van mensen van buitenaf. De kritiek, de oordelen zonder grond. Daarom ben ik heel blij met dit project, en om met fantastische mensen te kunnen werken, uit alle hoeken van de wereld.
Jakub, Ghana, carpenter

We hebben hier thuis de fotoshoot gedaan. Een hartverwarmende dag. Iedereen was blij en gemotiveerd, we hebben samen gegeten, gebabbeld, gelachen…

In november staan de fotobanners in de secundaire scholen. De mensen van ons team willen graag komen praten met de studenten, om zo rechtstreeks te kunnen praten over wat er in hun geboorteland en de wereld gebeurt. Directer en actueler kan je de jongeren niet aanspreken. Zo hopen we om bij de jeugd meer begrip en empathie te creëren.

Voor de foto’s zelf hebben we reeds sponsors, maar voor dit educatief project zijn we nog op zoek naar steun. Een persoonlijk berichtje graag indien jullie willen helpen.

Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected.
Kofi Annan

Ik wens jullie allen een mooie dag, met weinig zorgen. Lieve groet, Sophie

From left: Merhawit & Abraham, Melany, me, Ninette et bébé Shanah, Mohamad, Matta, Ricardo