Monday, May 30, 2011

Markets and Molas

I was absent- mindedly looking back through my GCSE Textiles sketchbooks earlier and found a cushion I made based on the theme of "Layers." I looked at Latin American markets which led to me discovering the Mola- the traditional clothing worn by the Kuna Indians in Panama and Colombia

I remember being captivated by the simple, vibrant beauty of these panels which are stitched onto jackets and skirts. The Mola started as a form of body art but was later transferred to clothing when missionaries found the tribe.

A traditional Mola
Molas are made using a Reverse Applique Technique where several layers of bright fabric have a design stitched onto them and layers are then cut away to reveal the different colours. They can take up to 6 weeks to complete because all the rough edges have to be stitched under. All girls living as Kuna Indians are taught to make the Molas from a young age so the tradition doesn't die out.

The Kuna Indians photographed with their Molas to the left of the photo

I translated my findings into a cushion for my final piece which I split into quarters and demonstrated different layering techniques on each quarter, including the reverse applique used by the Kunas.

The Final Product!
I find the tribal traditions still in existance in our world so interesting- the way that a whole society can remain untouched by the modern technology that is so present in our world nowadays and still live in their own little self- sufficient eco- system is amazing. Sadly many tribes are being forced to integrate with modern society because the tribal lifestyle simply isn't practical nowadays. The Kuna Indians are doing their best to preserve their ancestry and traditions and, for the benefit of all of us, I hope they do.

PS. One blog worth checking out is The World Effect where they show photography from all corners of the globe capturing everyday life everywhere from China to France to Mexico to South Africa

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Watch Out For... La Romería del Rocio

Spain's biggest pilgrimage is coming up in June when over 1 million people take to the streets and countryside of Andalucia to worship the Shrine of the Virgin Mary, sing, eat, dance and celebrate in the small village of El Rocio in Huelva.

It is generally a very traditional event with most people travelling on foot or on horseback, the pilgrimage was first established 800 years ago and it is still going strong. Of course urban legends and myths surround the statue at the shrine as with any great religious figure: the hunter who found the statue in the trunk of a tree claimed it could cure disease, infertility and mental illnesses.

The fiesta atmosphere done best by the Spanish

Despite being a religious festival there is a great party atmosphere to be found, as with any Spanish Fiesta: women wear bright gypsy skirts and men wear traditional wide- brimmed bolero hats. Accompanied by the sound of tambourines, flutes and guitars the crowd sings traditional folk- songs such as "Viva La Reina de la Marisma" (Long Live the Queen of the Marshes) as they enter the village and set up camp for the next two days.

The Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Rocio- the centrepiece of the pilgrimage taken by 1million people each year

First time visitors have the chance to baptise themselves by dipping their hats in water and pouring it over themselves and everyone enjoys the traditional food and music and general festivities until the village empties and becomes quiet again for another year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Holiday Wardrobe

Its no secret that a holiday wardrobe is one of the first thing that springs to mind when you see summer on the horizon. A new website this year is Style- Passport, a website designed to give you a entire holiday wardrobe in one place, quite literally selling everything from Carmex to Kaftans, you can even choose between Festival, City, Spa and Beach to narrow down your search: definitely one to watch!

At the top of my summer wardrobe wishlist this year is a pair of espadrilles in classic navy blue. They just scream summer and will be perfect in the day with a pair of chinos (ordered from River Island this weekend) and a shirt or with a cute sun dress in the evening.

Espadrilles come from the Catalan region in North- Eastern Spain and were originally the footwear worn by peasants because of their cheap materials, nowadays they are popular with everyone.

Espadrilles were originally designed to be worn by the poor
This summer I am also trying to add a more festival feel to my wardrobe-- I lust after a leather satchel like the one found on Style- Passport:
Festival chic done perfectly by Vida Vida
Aside from that the classic Breton top is a must and no one does them better than the masters of nautical stripe, Petit Bateau. A fashion classic!

Hope this little peek into my list of summer must- haves (believe me, the list is much longer!) has wet your apetites a bit! Happy shopping xxx

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Weekly Shop

There's just something about French markets...

It's definitely most exciting when you happen to stumble across a market you didn't expect to find. Two summers ago my family and I were staying in a teeny- tiny village in the Alps as we were driving down to the South of France when we found a tiny market selling everything from crockery to clothes and doorknobs to food!

La Condamine Market in Moncaco is one of the most famous in France, for me the thing that makes markets so popular for tourists is that they are able to gain a snapshot of the country without have to look deep off the beaten track, something tourists are often wary of doing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

From Russia With Love ♥

This Easter I had the chance to visit the two incredible cities of Moscow and St Petersburg with my school. By the time the trip came around I was sick of being looked at by people with somewhat bemused expressions wondering what in the world had possessed me to go to Russia. However, having spent a week there I can safely say that it is a truly wonderful country (even if the people don't smile much) and the remnants of its past simply add to the cultural mish- mash I found there...

St Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

The week began in Moscow where we spent 2 days accompanied by a fantastic guide whose knowledge of her country was incredible: I challenge any English tour guides out there to give the founding dates of the major cities in the UK! We visited the legendary St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square and I was particularly delighted to see the Faberge Eggs in the Hermitage Museum in the Kremlin. Along with visiting many other amazing historic building along the way. In terms of decoration on their buildings Britain doesn't have a patch on Russia. 

Despite this, for me the best thing was the eclectic mix between Soviet and Tsarist architecture in Moscow in particular. To be driving along past seemingly never- ending blocks of dull, grey tower blocks and then to round a corner and be faced with an imposing cathedral rising out of the greyness complete with gold plated onion domes and impossibly ornate carvings was something I never quite got used to throughout my stay.

Our stay in Moscow ended with a visit to the Red Square at night (below) and a surprisingly comfortable 440 mile train journey through the night to St Petersburg. St Petersburg was not the capital of Russia when Stalin was in power so it has not been affected by Communism in the same way Moscow has, I could totally see why St Petersburg is called "The Venice of the North," built around a series of canals and lakes with cathedrals, palaces and everyday buildings all painted in beautiful colours.

 Moscow's answer to Harrods! The world famous Gum shopping centre in the Red Sqaure, Moscow

In St Petersburg our visits included the Yusopov Palace (the murder site of the wicked Rasputin under the reign of Tsar Nicholas II), the Winter Palace and the Summer Palace among others. 

I was told before we left that no palace in England will ever compare to what I will see in St Petersburg and I agree wholeheartedly. In the Summer Palace one could find a room made entirely of amber, a ballroom covered with gold leaf and a living room made entirely of marble.

 Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg

All in all the trip was one I will remember for a long time. As well as all the sight seeing we enjoyed trips the Russian equivalent of the X Factor but for Ballet, a very enjoyable evening at a Russian Folklore Show (I hope to dedicate a whole post to that evening soon) and had enough Borscht to last a lifetime!

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg
Inside the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace, in the outskirts of St Petersburg

My Very First Post

Welcome to The Culture Files!

This is the first of what I hope will be many posts... What I plan to do here is spread the word about the joys of travel and discovering countries and cultures. I am a born and bred Francophile but basically love travelling wherever and whenever possible. In the future I want to be able to have a job which would allow me to indulge my passion for travelling (but also my passion for designers shoes and handbags!) and never EVER be bored...

Enjoy! Any feedback would be very welcome so let me know what you want to see more of and I'll do my very best
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