Green Living … Decor

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Living in an urban environment certainly has its many advantages, but most of us city folk still pine for the great outdoors. And if weekend or vacation outings just aren’t enough, there are plenty of designers out there who have created ingenious green designs that bring tiny little pieces of nature into our homes and urban settings.

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Some of these are simply creative home products designed to mimic nature in clever ways, but some of them are the real deal. After all, the feel of a plastic plant can’t compare to that of a real, living and breathing one. Whether it’s moss or grass planted onto a moist and nutrient-rich sponge or a clever arrangement of soil and grass, these products and design elements are sure to help sate your hankering for nature until your next vacation or weekend trip into the great outdoors.

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Mithila or Madhubani, Naive Art style of Bihar

madhubani2 weddingOn a wall in the Delhi Crafts Museum, several years ago, I spot mural painting  in the Mithila folk style. This is traditionally an art form done by women, painted on the walls of houses, in celebration of major events such as births, marriages and festivals, are very common in teh sate of Bihar. The Mithila style form the collective of naive styles of paintings done upon hand made paper, plastered walls, timber structures in India. As vast as its expanse, so follows the variety.
Even from afar, the murals were striking. They were large, almost 6-7 feet in height, and spread across the entire wall in a series of arches. Each arch contained one painting. This one below, for instance, shows the Goddess Durga astride her tiger, framed inside an ornamented arch.
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After a nice cardamom tea in a terracota cup, my husband and I decide to browse the art shop on the premises.

Rice and textile handmade paper are jutted with paintings of God and Goddesses along with domestic scenes. The colours are bold, and the flat filling-in of colour outlined made images are visually stimulating. Large elongated almond shaped eyes stare intensely at you while decorative patterns juggle for fit in. Below the painting, the artist signed her name: Shrimati Mundrika Devi, from a village called Jitvarpur in Madhubani District, in the state of Bihar.

When I look a little closer at the painting, I found myself loving the “double-line” approach. All the outlines were double lines, with the inner portions either left blank, or filled in colour, or filled with little lines. Here’s a close-up of one of the small ducks at the top of the mural: see how the double lines and colouring contributes to the rich detailing? Every object in the painting, from the smallest flower, to the largest human, was painted with the same careful attention.
After five minutes of staring closely at small aspects of the painting, I found myself slipping into the shoes of the painter – what was she thinking, Mundrika Devi, when she drew these? Were the walls of her home also filled with these paintings? Did she lose herself in the lines as she painted, did she forget to make dinner? Or did she, as she cooked and tended her house, look again and again at her creation, mentally adding little details?
The more I visualised the life of the painter, the more the painting appealed to me. This was not “Art” as a leisure activity for those with spare time and money. This was art enterwined in the daily life, in the very heart beat of a woman. The very sort of a space, am searching for myself to don to my brushes and paint.

Narural calamities inspire Artists

We do not run short of hearing happenings of natural calamities on a more regular basis for a couple of decades now. They are claimed to be the result of climatic change due to global warming. Some of these calamities have stunned the world by their might and destruction ratios. A few jumps to anyone’s knowledge when mentioned, like the Asian Tsunami, Haiti’s earthquake, and more recently Japan’s nuclear disaster as a result of a massive earthquake.

However, some fantastic art have emerged out of the mind of artists and illustrators taking inspiration from the theme. Some of them are pure regal to the eyes by the profusion of details captured and rendered. Designers and artists have the fortunate ability to create things of beauty out of any type of inspiration, however bleak it is. Colours, forms, mood and essence play a riot in their minds with the abstract permutation that is shared by only the pure scientists.

We say they are mad sometimes …

                                    

Enter Eco Street Art, Exit Grafitti

Now this article might not please some people, but it has been found from clear evidence that Graffiti art is a pure form of expression of frustrated feelings towards the society in the form of art. Sometimes, it becomes a real creative expression which spells wonders, but at many, an easy way of violence and deviance.

Being from Bristol where Graffiti art is the real mecca where all global artists converge and look for a place to poster their art, I should say, it is not a very nice thing to see explosions of anger and cynicism on your way each day you pass by it. Sometimes, it plays on your pscyche and make you feel more depressed on a dull gloomy day.

I have to celebrate artists like Banksy though, who through their expression have taken art to a different level. It has put Bristol on the world map of street art. The recent riots in the small part of the city however, gave way to other people to voice their outcry against tesco among the graffiti, making it all look a dubious place.

I recently stumbled upon Eco street art by Eco Green House. It is a marvel where eco themes have been created by artists in a greener definition of their art. This is an elogious endeavour to add some plants in the city, in corners where concrete is the ruler. If these expressions grow, we can have a greener, freshner look of cities around the world where nature can reclaim its place.

Graffiti art crimes are an inherent part of the urban jungle, each piece teetering on the wall of appreciation. Lately a form of street art is emerging that tips the scales towards applause and accolades.
Enter, ‘eco-street art.’
In a general sense, it is art that uses nature as a template, painting with various natural elements or adding extra awareness to the overlooked nature within the city. As this genre of art proliferates, I hope it will shine a spotlight on environmental issues and change the way we view our surroundings- possibly tightening our relationship with the natural world. Or at the very least, ignite a sense of wonder as we pass through our busy day.

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Think outside the box. – An art project by Sean Martindale.
I love this piece of eco-art, it’s a great metaphor for our environment. ‘We can make things better, let the green ideas flow.’

‘Cheerleader’ By- Sandrine Estrade Boulet

An eco street art project created for the social networking movement, ‘Green Drinks’ and hosted by the ‘Eco Store’ in New Zealand.

Injera – Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s golden grain

I came to know about the famous Injera only 10 years ago after meeting some incredible Eritrean friends in the UK and Ethiopian one in Vietnam. With their country, culture and personality, I discovered the richness that inhabits the people of this majestic continent, often forgotten about in the name of poverty. And so blatantly ignored that they once ruled over with their sophistication, culture, arts and wealth of natural resources. What sadly survived is the beauty of their persons and their pride into what they still carry till date, and fortunate we are to have a little glimpse of it through their unique culinary delight in the name of the Injera. Almost every country has its own version of pancakes, but the Eritrean and Ethiopian one is quite …. unusual in all its form. Firstly, unlike many pancakes, it is NOT made of wheat !. It is the result of the fermentation of an ancient grain of our planet called the Teff. This grain is so rare now that almost all of us do not know about it. It requires some very demanding soil quality, climatic conditions and care to grow, which sadly have all dwindled now. When most of the Western Middle Easter region of the Red Sea relied on wheat and barley, the Eritreans and Ethiopians had their bountiful crops of nutritious Teff. They surely were proud of the teff and maybe this also contributed to the well known legend of the Queen of Sheba and her land laden of gold ! … As it the teff surely  has its equivalent in its weight of gold being extremely nutritious, and with its wide cropping, we could wipe the face of malnutrition known nowadays in this unfortunate part of Africa.

There nothing to describe the sight of the pancake made of teff with all the accompaniments displayed in a bright colourful plate. Just like a plate of  feelings one feeds off meeting someone unique. The taste lingers to stay for a long .. long time.

My friend Betty, from Ethiopia confessed to me that she still struggles into making the perfect Injera. But of course, I found out, that was not true. She was perfect material for a ripe homemaker, as thus a young woman’s skill in making this delicious pancake in Ethiopia, would be rated. It is a whole institution in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eating the Injera is all about sharing human affection. When one is taken into a house as a guest, it is a custom to mouth feed a piece of Injera by each member of the family to the guest. It a blast of taste, flavour, texture yet mopped gently by the gentle soft moist Injera. Just like a true friend mops away all that comes its way in friendship by its very precious affection. Eating the Injera does not fail making an impact, and it certainly leaves an imprint.

Just like it did on me.

Here a quick video tour onto how to make the Injera. (courtesy : Hannah Pool, UK)

The Injera would appear like a large flat pancake made with of Teff, one of the most ancient grains in the world. It rarity and non availability in the West has prompted many of the Eritreans as well as the Ethiopian, who also share the same, to be creative and replace this wonder grain with an amalgam of flour made of other grains. But nothing can match the wonderful lightness and taste of teff.

In making injera, teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, as with sourdough starter. As a result of this process, injera has a mildly sour taste. The injera is then ready to bake into large flat pancakes, done either on a specialized electric stove or, more commonly, on a clay plate (Amharic mittad, Tigrinya mogogo) placed over a fire. Unusual for a yeast bread, the dough has sufficient liquidity to be poured onto the baking surface, rather than rolled out. In terms of shape, injera compares to the French crêpe and the South Indian dosaias a flatbread cooked in a circle and used as a base for other foods. The taste and texture, however, are quite unique and unlike the crepe and dosai. The bottom surface of the injera, which touches heating surface, will have a relatively smooth texture, while the top will become porous. This porous structure allows the injera to be a good bread to scoop up sauces and dishes.

In Eritrea & Ethiopia, a variety of stews, sometimes salads (during Ethiopian Orthodox fasting, for which believers abstain from most animal products) or simply more injera (called injera firfir), are placed upon the injera for serving. Using one’s right hand, small pieces of injera are torn and used to grasp the stews and salads for eating. The injera under these stews soaks up the juices and flavours of the foods and, after the stews and salads are gone, this bread is also consumed. Injera is thus simultaneously food, eating utensil, and plate. When the entire “tablecloth” of injera is gone, the meal is over. What a wonderful eco-friendly way to eat ! And it makes the perfect couple’s delight … no washing up to do.

In Somalia, at lunch (referred to as qaddo), the main meal of the day, injera might also be eaten with a stew (maraq) or soup.

Injera is eaten daily in virtually every household, and preparing it requires considerable time and resources. In Eritrea and Ethiopia, the bread is cooked on a large, black, clay plate over a fire. This set-up is a stove called a mitad (in Amharic) or mogogo (in Tigrinya), which is difficult to use, produces large amounts of smoke, and can be dangerous to children. Because of this cooking method, much of the area’s limited fuel resources are wasted. But in 2003, a research group was given the Ashden award for designing a new type of stove for cooking injera. The new stove uses available fuel sources (including dung, locally called kubet) for cooking injera and other foods efficiently, saving the heat from the fuel. Several parts are made in the central cities of the countries, while other parts are molded from clay by women of local areas.

Outside of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Plateau, injera may be found in groceries and restaurants specializing in EritreanEthiopian, or Somali foods. It can also be found in Israel where large numbers of Ethiopian (Beta Israel) and Yemeni Jews have settled.

I found it to be easily available in Paris’ main Organic Food Groceries in various forms, but still waiting to see them in the UK. But in the meantime, I keep on practising my Injera making with other flours …. and still enjoy it !