Monday, April 29, 2013

News Update: Further Entanglement

After the January 2011 Revolution, a transitional government of technocrats was created under Beji Caïd-Essebsi (BCE). This government managed to stabilize the country and organize elections for a constitutional assembly efficiently and rapidly in October 2011. Order prevailed. As in my current work-in-progress, one could see established structures (in my case, squares and circles, a nine-patch) still in place,

if a bit frayed around the edges.
The Constitutional Assembly had a one-year mandate that ended in October 2012. It has finally produced the rough draft for a constitution…a very rough draft. Called "The Best Constitution in the World" by the president of the Constitutional Assembly, others have openly called it "The Constitution of Shame." The problem : the separation of State and religion is threatened. It confirms Islam as the religion of Tunisian society, which was in the old constitution. However, it names Islam as the religion of the State, which would allow for the ruling religious party to bring back the subject of the Shariâa (religious law).

In addition, no mention of international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is made, and there exists no mention of freedom of thought and freedom of conscience, which are necessary in a democracy. And it proposes a regime heavily weighted toward a Parliamentary structure that would allow theocratic dictatorship and therefore a return to a repressive regime. During the revolution, we saw slogans for political and social change that had nothing to do with religion. The Constitutional Assembly has not listened to the Tunisian people and does not provide any sort of improved document. Experts maintain this is a step backwards. It would appear, then, that things are becoming more and more entangled, disintegrated, eroded.

The subject of elections remains unarticulated. Yet, a glimmer of hope appeared last night when BCE declared that he would be a candidate for the presidency. At 86, this prestigious lawyer and nationalist hardly needs to seek glory and may be the only person who can garner a majority of votes and save the country. The glimmer is only that, however. The TV program was jammed at the scheduled time and had to be aired later--shades of dictatorship and censorship. The rough draft of the constitution would put a maximum age of 75 for the position of President of the Republic, a thinly-veiled manoeuver to exclude BCE by the ruling religious party.

And as expected, scandals continue to rock the government. The most recent: Sixty-seven delegates to the Constitutional Assembly have received double paychecks because they have other positions as government employees, as well as four ministers. Additionally, yesterday was the final date for ministers to provide a complete financial statement that includes all assets. How many will comply? 

Indeed, when held up to the light for scrutiny, Tunisian politics look more and more entangled.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Old Rocks, Anyone? Part 1

My house sits in the middle of a plain, however, about 20 minutes away there is a low hill--more like a bunch of bumps when one looks from a distance. And yet, to stand on those mounds is exhilarating for one stands on the rooftops of an ancient Roman city, Uthina, among the largest colonies in Africa. You must watch your step--a hole in the ground might be a whole room under your feet, maybe a house...
First Berber, then Punic, Uthina had its golden age about 2000 years ago under the Romans who nailed down the essentials to perfection. Sections of a complex aqueduct system may still be seen. The engineers built solid pillars for sections that ran above ground.
The water cisterns are huge and still partially intact. 
Somewhat like long, high ceilinged rooms, 
the cisterns are lined up one against the other.
With a guaranteed water supply, they could then construct public baths, 
of which there are at least two
with indoor toilets that had good, solid seats. 
Notice the niches that gave each person a bit of privacy.
Shish! Two thousand years old and this wall is still standing. Roman masons knew how to do the job. I can't even get a mason to fix the cracks in the walls right.
This is not just any pile of old rocks and 
I'm glad I'm not an archeologist...all I want to do is dig when I visit Uthina! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sketching on Fabric

Ever notice how "they" make you feel guilty if you don't keep a sketchbook or art journal? It’s all over the internet and blogland, it's a trend—you have to do it to increase your creativity and inspiration, and enhance your visual vocabulary and artistic voice, etc., etc., etc.

OK !

So last year I decided that since I really didn’t like sketching on paper (bores me silly, I'd rather be stitching), I’d try sketching on fabric, …maybe just once a week. I turned to my garden for some interesting subject matter with permanent marker in hand and a piece of white cotton fabric from a shirt.

My first sketch—a branch of blue flowers on a bush. For the background, I added scraps of fabric around it and stitched them down by machine.
Then, I thread painted the flowers and leaves by machine 
and started to add some hand stitching.
It then required a frame of some sort into which I extended lines from the central panel.
Seemed empty. An idea of needle turn appliqué. 
However, it would have to go all the way around.
The uneven, raw-edged overflow made such an interesting border that it stayed.
The central background required more hand stitching in a simple running stitch.
I added the backing and machine quilted the appliqué with black thread. 
 And finally, after a year, this piece is finished—whew !
"Blue Flowers in My Garden" (14"x16"/36cm x 41 cm), April 2013, hand & machine appliquéd, hand & machine embroidered, machine quilted.
Here’s the problem. Every time I sketch on fabric, it turns into something bigger. 
Need I mention the pomegranate tree quilt? Imagine if I did a sketch every week...? 
OK, that's it, I can't keep up! No more sketching on fabric--or at least not until I get through my 
"To-Do-List." At last count, it contained around 20 items waiting in line. That's a big back burner...

Linked to Nina Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Garden 2013, 2

Every morning, my kitchen patio greets me cheerfully.
All plants on the patio table (on the left) took up residence elsewhere 
to take advantage of the rain (free, automatic watering system).
The table now contains collections of shells, rusty items, foot rocks, and bird nests. 
The "g" makes me laugh.
The plant table looks resplendent.
Among the new additions, I am particularly pleased with my old smokers 
(originally for beekeeping), of which I had four. 
 I planted them and grouped them on two pieces of marble, 
then sat them on tiles (for height) and added a small rock pile. 
This one reminds me of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
 As I slowly clean out the garage, I come across interesting items to recycle.
This wire box became a sort of shelf when I turned it upside down 
and put it on pieces of marble. 
I found some old cement blocks (easily thirty years old) that exude character. 
My dogs broke one of my bamboo fences so I salvaged a piece. 
An old pot gets a new life.
This funny cactus is called le coussin de ma belle-mère (my mother-in-law's pillow!) and insists upon multiplying in the oddest ways.

I have several that have produced dozens of babies. So I cut off plastic pop bottles and planted them, then tucked them into my kitchen patio garden.

And some of the succulents are blooming.
The bathroom set, which a friend gave me when she remodeled, has finally found a place along the alley garden. An empty spot between two fig trees seems ideal. I constructed a bamboo trellis for a jasmine plant. After removing the broken feet, I painted the outside of the tub and admired its solid cast iron construction. Then three strong, young men moved it onto cement-filled cement blocks.
I would have liked to mosaic it, however, I'm trying to be realistic about how much I can work into a day. I'm still testing positions for the tank, toilet, and sink.

More cleaning out and my next project: This old stove requires serious recycling. 

My husband says it can't be planted. 


Now I have to prove him wrong.