Aux barricades, hmm? Aux fêtes, OUI !!!

Yes, Bastille Day isn’t until the 14th, but, nonetheless, festivities begin this weekend, and will also continue next weekend.  The full list is in the Current Events  section!

If you’re looking for French books, films, music or conversation, look no further:

There are 67 French-related organizations in New York City, under the umbrella of the Committee of French-Speaking Societies  which organizes a fabuleux Bastille Day Ball.  I’m just going to talk about a few of them.

If you’re looking for French film, theatre, lectures, books or even lessons, here are some great places to start:  the French Institute, Alliance Française (FI:AF)  which has all of the foregoing, all year round.   In addition to their midtown facility, FIAF also has language classes in Brooklyn. 

The Maison Française at NYU and the Maison Française at Columbia offer a wide variety of lectures, screenings and exhibitions. 

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in NYC  has been a  force for spreading French Culture in NYC.  You can find out about dual-language education programs here  ; they maintain a robust calendar of film, theatre, readings, festivals on their events calendar 

If you’re looking for books – in both French and English, head over to  Albertine the book store located in the Cultural Services building, or Idlewild  bookstore, which has locations in Manhattan and Brookyn.

If you’re looking for good conversation and good food, the Paris-American Club always has interesting guest speakers at its monthly luncheons.

If you’d like to be part of an on-line community of French speakers and people interested in the French language, check out New York in French.

For more general information about the French in NYC, take a look at French Morning which publishes in both English and French, and covers French activities in LA, Miami, San Francisco and Texas

You also might want to take a look at French District, which has 10 editions in the US (three are also in English), and a large directory of service providers.

To find out about Québecois artists appearing in New York, go to Québec’s international page   then scroll to “Events” at the bottom  

The Consulate General of Luxembourg has events posted on its website 

Belgium Consulate General in NY Facebook page and it’s Twitter feed  

For Swiss events in NYC, you can sign up for a newsletter through the Consulate’s website 

A great source for finding information on concerts by musicians from French speaking Africa and the Caribbean is Afropop  

Amusez-vous bien, mes enfants!

Art Deco and All That Jazz

Canapé Gondole, designed by Marcel Coard, ca. 1925, carved indian rosewood, indian rosewood-veneered wood, brass, and linen velvet.
Textile, Le Feu (Fire), designed by Yvonne Clarinvaland manufactured by Tassinari & Chatel, 1925 Warp: silk weft: tussah silk and its technique is compound satin weave

The turn of the 20th Century has become a hot topic this year, since 2017 is the centenary of the U.S.’s entry into WWI.  The Cooper Hewitt examines the period following the end of that conflict in The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, an overview of  the various European  trends –  considered hallmarks of refined taste – that influenced Art Deco, such as  Bauhaus, deStijl, Scandinavian and Viennese design. Covering two floors, the show contains  400 examples of interior design, industrial design, decorative art, jewelry, fashion and architecture inspired by these styles.  

Evening Dress and Underslip,designed by Gabrielle Chanel and produced by House of Chanel, 1926 blue silk chiffon with applied blue ombré silk fringe

The Roaring 20’s  was an age of new beginnings, as Americans threw off the strictures and mores of the 19th century and sought to put the war behind them.  It was an era when things moved faster.  Rapid industrialization dramatically shortened manufacturing times, thus facilitating mass production – and consumption.  The rise of the automobile and the airplane made transcontinental and intercontinental travel faster, easier and more accessible.  Design became sparer, more abstract, incorporating geometric and arabesque motifs influenced by advances in transportation and industry.  Musical tastes were changing, as African-American musical forms such as the blues and jazz entered mainstream America’s living rooms via sheet music and radio, and could also be heard  in the numerous cabarets and supper clubs that sprung up as night life – dining, drinking and dancing outside the home – became increasingly popular ways for Americans to shake off the post war doldrums. Cocktails and cigarettes became symbols of a newly liberated society.   This was the age of the Flapper:  having served their country in various capacities during WW1, women gained the right to vote in 1920, cut their hair,  shortened their hemlines, and started to claim their independence.  Changing norms and a sense of possibility infused those heady times.

 Here are some examples of what you’ll see in this wonderful show (it was hard to edit my selections). 

Poster, designed by Charles Delaunay and printed by Imprimerie R de Gonell, 1934, offset lithograph on paper.

Perhaps nothing personifies that age like its music and films. This exhibit showcases how jazz music and the social world surrounding it shaped design, with images of musicians and  dancers gracing everything from vases to textiles.  It also shines a light on the ambivalence – on both sides of the Atlantic – towards Africa and African-Americans, featuring textiles and jewelry inspired by  African masks and wildlife, along with  a video loop of short clips of performances by Louis Armstrong,  Josephine Baker and Lena Horne,  but also offering examples, such as the posters by Paul Colins, of how the contributions  of Africans and African-Americans were exoticized  and caricatured.  

Blues by Archibald Motley, Archibald J., Jr. (1891-1981), oil on canvas 1929. Photo, courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt

This 1929 oil painting Blues by  Archibald Motley Jr. (a significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance and in the Chicago arts scene) conveys the sights and sounds of a mixed race (or black-and-tan) nightclub in the late ’20s, where patrons could be free from the censures of white society, as racial barriers continued to be widely observed and enforced. 

Purse, (France)1910–30 cotton, glass and metal beads. Stitching on black cotton machine-made net; chain stitch using a hook and block cotton threaded with glass beads.

Egypt-mania was spawned in 1922 with the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, and imagery of that era, especially scarabs and lotus flowers, invaded every facet of design.  Cartier and other luxury jewelry designers offered their own versions of King Tut’s resplendent jewels in diamond encrusted platinum brooches, bracelets , earrings and cases, often accented by rubies, emeralds, onyx, coral, jade and lapis.

B3 Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer 1925, manufactured by Standard-Möbel 1927-28. Chrome-plated tubular steel, canvas. Photo courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt

At the beginning of this era, original works in American colonial designs as well as those from 17th- and 18th-century France and England still conveyed social status.  However, the International style of chrome tube furniture by renowned architects such as  Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer soon came to be seen as symbols of the future; not only was  this  metal used in emblems of progress like cars and radios,  but it allowed for a  cleanliness in design, marking  a break with Victorian stuffiness.  Because of chrome’s affordability, these new designs could be mass manufactured and widely diffused to an emerging middle class.

Zeppelin Airship Cocktail Shaker and Traveling Bar, J.A. Henckels Twin Works, 1928, silver-plated brass. Photo courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt

Airplane purse,designed by Josèph Andrée Chouanard; Automobile purse, designed by Rose; both manufactured by Beauvais Manufactory, 1928, tapestry and silk; Pair of Airplane Brooches, produced byCartier, 1930s, diamonds, platinum

Travel – in automobiles, trains, airplanes, airships and balloons – was a dominant motif of the 1920’s, found in jewelry, cocktail shakers, furniture and accessories.

Brooklyn Bridge, Joseph Stella, 1919-20, oil on canvas

The influence of industrial design, an appreciation of New York’s urban environment, and a fascination with travel are captured in Joseph Stella’s oil painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, whose fractured light through the suspension cables give it a futuristic undertone.

Renards (Foxes) Ten-Panel Screen, designed by Armand-Albert Rateau, ca. 1921–22. Gilt and lacquered wood, patinated bronze

The exhibit continues on the second floor focusing mainly on the influence the Parisian  1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes (hence Art Deco)  had on textiles, clothing, and home décor, not only those sold in luxury boutiques but also ones found in department stores.  You’ll also find examples from the Wiener Werkstatt and Italian Futurism that found their way into American fashion and furnishings of that era.

The exhibit continues through August 20th.  Be sure to see it.  But don’t stop there….


Mystery Clock, produced by Maurice Coüet and Cartier, 1929, carved nephrite, enamel, gold, cabochon emeralds, cabochon rubies, carved citrine, rose-cut diamonds, carved and calibré-cut coral, pearls, carved stone, platinum.

Also on the 2nd floor, you’ll find two ancillary exhibits.  In the room that had been the Carnegie family library (a/k/a the Teak Room)  is the fantastic Jeweled Splendors of the Art Deco Era:  The Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection.  Prince Sadruddin was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 12 years, as well as a  co-founder of the Paris Review and an ardent environmentalist. This collection, which is being publicly displayed for the first time,  was created for his Egyptian-born wife Catherine from 1972 until his death in 2003.  It is absolutely fabulous.

Box, produced by Van Cleef and Arpelsand manufactured by Strauss, Allard & Meyer, 1928, lapis lazuli, calibre-cut and other diamonds, frosted rock crystal, jadeite, white gold

In it you’ll find over 100 examples of luxury cases, compacts and other small items, mostly for women,  from notable houses such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Bucheron, made between 1910 and 1938,  featuring  exquisite craftsmanship and complex designs executed with diamonds, lapis lazuli, coral, cabochon rubies,  enamel, gold and platinum.  It will come as no surprise the Prince and Princess collected  Persian miniatures and manuscripts . 

This exhibit is on through August 27th.  And since you’re on the second floor,  

eModel D25 WE Radio, 1952 and E15 WE Radio, 1953, both by Crosley Rdio, molded pastic and metal

Also stop by The World of Radio , where you can see eight decades worth of radios,  and a rare public showing of  “The World of Radio” a 16 foot-wide cotton batik mural by Canadian artist Arthur Gordon Smith that covers one wall. 

Radio was made possible by Giulio Marconi, inventor of the long-distance radio transmission, and in the 1920’s radios became smaller and sleeker.  Powered by household electrical outlets, it quickly became part of Americans’ household furnishings – think of those large wooden radio cabinets – and a shared family experience. Over time, with the development of the transistor, radios in the 1950’s became even smaller, portable, and multi-functional, like the clock radio.  You’ll find not only  models from the early days of this medium, but also an iPod nano with an FM tuner, bringing this show into the 21st century.

You’ll also find sketches for radio designs and photographs of the interiors of homes showing how radios were incorporated into domestic environments.

detail, The World of Radio, Arthur Gordon Smith, 1934, cotton batik

The highlight of this exhibit for me was the 1934 batik mural The World of Radio  whose center  depicts the singer Jessica Dragonette, standing atop a globe with an NBC microphone held up by the allegorical figure of Radio.  She is surrounded by skyscrapers, airplanes, zeppelins, and other icons of the age’s technological breakthroughs. If you look closely at the mural, you’ll see that the lines that radiate from her – seemingly rays of light –  are actually made up of music notes. 

This exhibit is on display until September 24th.  However, I urge you to see all three of these shows before the main one closes on August 20th.

The Cooper Hewitt is on Fifth Avenue at 91st Street.

Spotlight on Canada

Photograph taken by Jared Grove (Phobophile) with a Nicon Coolpix 3200. (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

July 1st marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation as “one Dominion under the Name of Canada” – whereby the colonies – Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada (later to become Ontario and Québec) – were unified per the British North America Act of 1867.

The sesquicentennial got off to a great start earlier this year when Canada was named The Best Place to Visit in 2017 by The New York Times.   On a personal note, one of my favorite vacations was a 2001 cross-country trip where I returned to NYC via Canada, going from Vancouver to Toronto via train.  The Canadian Rockies were absolutely magnificent (photo below), as were the skies over Alberta.

Canadian Rockies August 2001, photo by ER Daly

The good news kept coming this spring when the critically acclaimed musical Come From Away  went on to win a tony for Best Direction.  It’s still playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre – if you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to – you can find my review here.

The evening of July 1st, the Empire State Building will be lit in red and white to mark Canada Day, and other festivities include:

Canada Day Cookout  at Dirt Candy, 86 Allen Street from 5:30pm to 11:59pm

Joe’s Pub will host the 15th Annual New York Rocks the Great Canadian Songbook,    once again produced and emcee’d by Jeff Breithaupt and featuring an all-star line-up of singers backed by Don Breithaupt and the WORKIN’ FOR THE WEEKEND HOOSE BAND, no Canadian hit song will be safe from (northern) exposure. This year’s all-star line-up includes: Marissa Mulder, Ophira Eisenberg, J’Sun, Carolyn Leonhart, Jamie Leonhart, Jeremy Kushnier, Christina Bianco, Alyson Palmer, Tyley Ross, Greg Naughton, Shelley McPherson, Michael Halling, PJ Griffith, Victoria Lecta Cave, Amy Cervini and The Breithaupt Brothers.  7:00pm, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette Street.

The festivities aren’t limited to just one day.  During the entire month of July, you’ll be able to see a diverse collection of Canada’s finest theatre, literary and musical artists, when the Soulpepper Theatre of Toronto will be in the Big Apple with a full company of artists to present a month-long festival  at The Pershing Square Signature Center on 42nd Street, performing their adaptations of classics such as On Human Bondage and Spoon River, as well as ensemble creations such as Cage and Alligator Pie, no to mention a concert series and forums on innovations in the performing arts.  Every evening there will be a free cabaret performance in the Signature Cafe and Bar (check the schedule for show times;  most start between 8:30pm and 9:30pm).

If you’re looking for more information on Canadian events in NYC, check out the Canadian Association of NY (CANY)  a member-run organization that has been the focal point for the Canadian community in the NYC area since 1864.  CANY hosts social, cultural and business events throughout the year;  on their website you can fin a list of Canada Day 150 events. 

You can find more information on Canada, and Canada in NYC on the Consulate General’s Facebook page  and their Twitter feed .

This year also marks Montréal’s 375th birthday – Fort Ville-Marie was founded in 1642.  You’ll find more information about Québec and Québec in NYC on the Facebook page of the Québec Government Office in New York  and also on their Twitter feed .


Austrian Cultural Forum Celebrates 15 Years in NYC!

Austrian Cultural Forum on 52nd Street. Photo by David Plakke Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York

Talk about time flying!  I used to work at 52nd Street and Madison Avenue in the late 90’s, and I remember when the site of the Austrian Cultural Forum was an empty lot.  The building (only 25 feet wide) is a testament to the ingenuity of Austrian architect Raimund Abraham, as well as to the creativity of the staff who program its space.  The ACF is celebrating its15th Anniversary with a special sound exhibit Homages, featuring 15 newly composed or arranged recorded pieces by contemporary Austrian musicians, each paying tribute to one particular pivotal artist whose work was influenced by New York. The 15 commissions (each 3 to 5 minutes) are spread throughout the public spaces of the building, embedded in LED light boxes.  You’re given headphones and an audio device – as you get near each light box, the music begins. Many pieces are experimental and almost all have some electronic music component. I especially liked the homages to Charlie Mingus (Peter Herbert),  Philip Glass (Patrick Pulsinger) and John Zorn (Max Nagl).  On opening night, there was also a fabulous performance by the Talea Ensemble of works by Steve Reich, John Zorn and Olga Neuwirth.   Homages is running only through Monday, April 24th.

The Austrian Cultural Forum has a robust program of performances, exhibitions and lectures throughout the year.  Take a look at their calendar – they host over 100 free events a year.  The ACF also has a library of more than 11,000 volumes of contemporary Austrian literary, artistic, historical, and political works.

Congratulations to Christine Moser and her staff for a great celebration!  And to everyone who made these 15 years happen!

Apply to NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program

Applications are now being accepted for the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)’s  Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program! The program is open to artists working in music and composition, dance and choreography, performance art, theater arts (acting, producing, directing) and literary arts including fiction, non-fiction, playwriting, storytelling, and poetry. This includes folk and traditional artists in these disciplines. 

The program will run from June to September 2017, and will bring performing and literary artists together to nurture a productive environment for collaboration. The application deadline is Wednesday, April 26, 2017.  More information here.

French Culture and Language in La Grosse Pomme!

The French language and French culture is found throughout the globe.  According to the Organisation internationale de la francophonie,   French is spoken by 274 million people on 5 continents.  This article focuses on France, which has the largest French-speaking population in New York City that has grown exponentially over the last dozen years or so.    

There are 67 French-related organizations in New York City, under the umbrella of the Committee of French-Speaking Societies.   I’m just going to talk about a few of them.

If you’re looking for French film, theatre, lectures, books or even lessons, here are three great places to start:  the French Institute, Alliance Française (FI:AF)  which has all of the foregoing, all year round.   In addition to their midtown facility, FIAF also has language classes in Brooklyn. 

The Maison Française at NYU  and the Maison Française at Columbia  offer a wide variety of lectures, screenings and exhibitions. 

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in NYC  has been a  force for spreading French Culture in NYC.  You can find out about dual-language education programs here ; they maintain a robust calendar of film, theatre, readings, festivals on their events calendar 

If you’re looking for books – in both French and English, head over to  Albertine, the book store located in the Cultural Services building, or Idlewild bookstore, which has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

If you’d like to be part of an on-line community of French speakers and people interested in the French language, check out New York in French 

For more general information about the French in NYC, take a look at French Morningwhich publishes in both English and French, and covers French activities in LA, Miami, San Francisco and Texas

You also might want to take a look at French District,which has 10 editions in the US (three are also in English), and a large directory of service providers.

To find out about Québecois artists appearing in New York, go to Québec’s international page then scroll to “Events” at the bottom  

The Consulate of Luxembourg has events posted on its website 

Belgium Consulate in NY posts events on its Facebook page   

For Swiss events in NYC, you can sign up for a newsletter through the Consulate’s website

A great source for finding information on concerts by musicians from French speaking Africa and the Caribbean is Afropop  

I realize I don’t have everything in here, so if there’s another organization I should know about, just drop me a line!

Irish Culture – Beyond St. Patrick’s Day

Detail of stain-glassed window depicting St. Patrick in St. Bennin’s Church, Kilbennan, Ireland. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (, or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

As today is the day many people of Irish and non-Irish heritage will march up 5th Avenue in honor of Irish saint Patrick (who’s also the patron saint of New York City), here’s a short run-down of Irish cultural activities in the Big Apple.

New York  boasts a number of Irish performing arts/cultural centers. The Irish Arts Center hosts theatrical and musical performances, as well as classes in Irish music, dance and language, not to mention lots of programs for kids!

The Irish Repertory Theatre is back in its renovated space, presenting a full calendar of classic and contemporary works by Irish and Irish-American playwrights.

Just across the East River (and only one stop from Grand Central) in Long Island City, Queens is the New York Irish Center, an intimate space that’s great for concerts,  films and theatre, and has low ticket prices.   The Center also hosts classes in Irish music and language.

The American Irish Historical Society hosts lectures, seminars, readings and performances throughout the year. Its library and archives contain a wide variety of rare books and artifacts from the 17th century to the present.

Glucksman Ireland House NYU hosts concerts, films, and talks, as well as readings by writers, poets and playwrights throughout the year, many of which are free, the others of which are really low cost.

In the fall, Origin Theatre produces 1st Irish, a festival of Irish plays, readings and films that’s simply wonderful.  Every year I attend several of the performances, and they’ve all been great.  Mark your calendars NOW!

The Yeats Society hosts events related to the great poet, and also sponsors an annual poetry competition.

If you’re down by Battery Park, stop and visit the Irish Hunger Memorial at Vesey Street and North End Avenue. It blends very well into its surroundings, and you may take a moment to realize you’ve found it.  Designed by artist Brian Tolle, this calm and pastural site representing  a rural Irish landscape, contains a rebuilt 19th century Irish stone cottage, set in a field with walls made of stones from all across Ireland.


Weendu – Bringing African Artists and Artisans to New York

WEENDU closed it’s New York showroom in late March, 2017.  However, you can still contact them through their website.

I recently spoke with Lydie Diakhate, who runs the New York showroom  Weendu featuring handmade furniture, accessories and art made by artists from Africa and the African diaspora.

Clarisee Djionne and Lydie Diakhate of Weendu

Liz:  How long has this showroom been open?

Lydie:  Since June last year, not quite one year. 

Liz:  What’s your biggest challenge so far?

Lydie:  It takes time, and you have to take the time.

Liz: That’s true especially in a city like NY where you’re constantly competing against other people…

Lydie:  All the time; you really have to find your network, your path, your space… especially for us because we are very specific and unusual – we are not about mass production.  As you know, everything is hand-made, so the production is completely different.  It’s really a specific market and it takes time to find the right people, the way to build your image, your network, your relations.  This is new – it’s really the first company like this in New York.  Our desire is to have a long-term presence and to grow. 

Liz: Tell me how Weendu was started.

Lydie:  It began with Clarisse Djionne, she’s the owner and founder.  She works with private designers from Africa, and she’s involved in the arts – she had a wonderful gallery in Dakar for a few years so this is really her field.  As an interior designer, as a collector, she’s very involved and very dynamic.  Her dream has always been to have a place here in New York because the U.S. is an amazing market, it’s the place to be, so many things are happening, and what is new and avant-garde is happening here, too. 

It’s changing in Africa, slowly; now there are beautiful designers in every country in Africa, but we are missing the visibility and the infrastructure to be able to diffuse the work. But the market is growing, it’s very competitive, and African designers are very well trained.  Contemporary design in Africa started in the ’90‘s, first in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, because of the CSAO, which is a huge market that takes place every two years, with artisans from all across Africa in all fields – food, furniture, baskets – everything. There was a lot of passion and enthusiasm for contemporary design, so they started a salon (show) for it.

At the Dakar Biennale they started to show contemporary design.  In St. Etienne, France, which is a very important place for contemporary design, they hosted various African designers for two years.  So African designers were becoming more and more visible, they had increased access to training, as well as more opportunities to interact with other designers – this is very important.  So now we have competitive designers with amazing skills, and their work is at the same level as other contemporary designers from around the world. 

That’s really what we want to show here in the United States, those designers who are at the same level as the others.  We want them to be seen as contemporary designers, first.  Then that they are living in Africa, using African materials, getting their inspiration from Africa, but they are contemporary. 

Painting by Senegalese artist Camara Guyeye


Liz:  How do you find your designers – is it at the salons, or people you know…

Lydie:  Clarisse knows the designers from her work as an interior designer.  When I met Clarisse, she had already selected work by several of the artisans. I’ve been a journalist for a long time, so I already knew these brands when I met Clarisse, which made it very interesting and easy, because we agreed on the selection of works to showcase, I really loved the work of the designers, and I knew them. 

Liz:  How did you meet Clarisse?

Lydie: Through Diagne Chanel, a Senegalese artist, who put us in touch with each other.  It was interesting, as Clarisse and I had been in the same world for many years, and I used to go to her gallery in Dakar, but we never met. We finally did meet in Senegal, and then she came to New York to open the showroom.  She was looking for someone living here in the U.S.; I was very enthusiastic about the idea – that’s how it happened!  We showed at the ICFF (International Contemporary Fine Furniture Show in NYC) in May, that was really the first step for Weendu.  We’ll do the ICFF in New York again in May this year.

Liz:  Will you be doing other fairs?

Lydie:  Yes, we went to Miami in October, but because of Hurricane Matthew they shut down the city for two days, so the show was up for only a few hours – it was so sad. But for those few hours we met wonderful people, we had good conversations… I think that Miami is a great place, for design

Liz:  You also showed at Wanted Design in Industry City in Brooklyn in December.

Lydie:  Industry City is a really interesting concept, you have all these different businesses:  bakeries, chocolate, designers, marketing firms, it’s all very creative, the spaces are amazing.  Wanted Design is an interesting concept, they’re doing a great job, I hope we can work with them again.

Liz:  Who is your target audience: is it designers or individuals looking to furnish their homes?

Lydie:  The people we try firstly to reach are interior designers, architects, upholsterers, concept stores…

Liz:  Tell me about some of your designers.

Lydie:  We have metal furniture by Hamed Ouattara whose studio is in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Armoire by Hamed Ouattara


Tekura, based in Ghana, makes wood furniture

Table by Tekura


in fashion – the artist Marielle Plaisir has a new brand where she’s using some of her paintings on clutch handbags and scarves

Clutch by Marielle Plaisir


Fatyly makes tableware – she’s Senegalese, studied at Central St. Martins in London, and is now working with a company based in Limoges, France.  It’s all high quality (gold trim), hand-made, with a very traditional aesthetic from West Africa: it’s very specific – the big earrings, the hairstyles, the dark lips – she uses this image and makes it very contemporary.  She has also been working with ceramicists in Africa for many years.

Plate by Fatyly


Liz: Are you looking at the diaspora as well as the Continent?

Lydie: All the connections…   Marielle Plaisir is from Guadeloupe and  lives in Miami – she uses fairy tale images in her paintings to tell a story.  She’s interested in the different identities on an island.

Painting by Marielle Plaisir


Liz:  This brings me to my last question, about you.  I met you several years ago when you were showing a  film about Bamako, Mali, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art  – now you’re running Weendu New York.  Tell me about your trajectory.

Lydie:  It’s the same for me, it’s art.  I just finished a documentary about the African-American sculptor Melvin Edwards, who works with iron and steel – his work is just beautiful.  I would like to continue to do films about art

Liz:  You also founded a documentary film festival in Accra, Ghana.

Lydie:  Yes, I lived in Accra for 2 years, and the festival ran for 6 years.  But you know when you live abroad it’s not always that easy, so I stopped.

My desire has always been to showcase contemporary African art, so I wrote, organized film festivals and conferences, all with a focus on contemporary African art, to show people that Africa is contemporary. 

Liz:  I think the word is getting out.  Here in NY you have the African Film Festival; in May, 1:54 the Contemporary African Art Fair is coming back for a third year; African musicians are featured at the summer festivals here and throughout the year in various venues, there’s Afropop  Also since the late ’80’s the West African community in New York has been growing.

Lydie:  You see how things are changing:  now, lots of people, galleries and collectors from around the world, and major museums are coming to the Dakar Biennale to see African art. In every country in Africa there is something going on in film, in art, in music.

Hopefully people in the art field in Africa will be able to build a new market and be in a better position to put Africa on the art scene.   

That’s why we’re here, we’d like to be able to help the artists from Africa to have a home here;  to support them, to distribute their work so they’re more visible.  But it takes time…

Liz:  I think in New York is that it takes persistence – you just have to keep on going out, meeting people, going to the shows, going to the events, and what makes it harder is that people come and go…  You finally connect with someone and six months later they’re off to London or Bamako or wherever their next journey is ….

Lydie:  Yes, and that’s hard sometimes to explain that to people who don’t live here… nothing is fixed, everything is moving… one week a store closes, a new one opens, then a building is torn down, a new one replaces it…

For me this is a beautiful challenge – I can bring together everything I like – I’m very happy to be able to work with these beautiful artists, but it’s a challenge.. they’re not well known, most have never had an exhibit in the U.S.

Liz:  And you’re competing with people from all over the world, so that makes it harder.

Lydie:  That’s what I like about New York.  When I first came here, I was surprised by all the different languages, the different cultures, and this is just really wonderful. So for me it’s been very easy to adjust to New York.  You don’t ever feel like a foreigner. 

Weendu Design  is located at 195 Chrystie Street, and is open to the public.  You can find more information on their website  

Chinese (Lunar) New Year Festivites

Chinese New Year, by Zhang Min, giclée print, 1997 at Museum of Chinese in America

Saturday, January 28th, marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar year  4714 , also known as the Year of the Fire Rooster.   The Chinese zodiac moves in a 12-year cycle, with other Rooster years falling in 1945, 1969, 1981, 1993 and 2005; however, the last Fire Rooster year was 1956. 

Lunar New Year, heralding the beginning of the Spring Festival, is celebrated by many countries in East Asia, where it is also known as Chinese New Year, Sŏllal (Korea), Tsagaan Sar (Mongolia), Losar (Tibet), Tet (VietNam) and Imlek (Indonesia).

Families gather together for a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve, and clean their houses to sweep away bad fortune on New Year’s Day.  Traditionally, children would be given red envelopes stuffed with ‘lucky money’ and positive wishes on New Year’s Day, but now, there’s an app for that!

Year of the Rooster red envelope

Fire Roosters are known for being trustworthy, punctual and responsible (especially at work), not to mention active, amusing, popular, outspoken, loyal and charming. On the other hand… they are also known to enjoy the spotlight – but can be vain and boastful.  Serena Williams, Eric Clapton, Beyonce and Roger Federer were all born in the Year of the Rooster.

The traditional holiday lasts for 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival for young lovers. Here in the Big Apple there are a number of celebrations over the coming weeks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, January 28, the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, gets things going at 11:00am, at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. (Grand Street at Chrystie St.)  There will be performances, vendors, and giveaways. The main event, the Firecracker Ceremony is scheduled for noon. You might want to bring your ear plugs!

Starting Saturday, January 28th, with the Chinese New Year Temple Bazaar, Flushing Town Hall in Queens will be hosting a variety of events throughout February to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

At the Asia Society, celebrate the Year of the Rooster on Saturday, January 28th with crafts, music, kung-fu demonstration and theatre.  More information here.  Their New York location is at 725 Park Avenue (70th Street), with offices in 11 other cities around the US and the world.

Join The Korea Society on Saturday, January 28th, to celebrate Sŏllal, the Korean New Year,  a day of fun-filled family activities: enjoy storytelling based on Korean folk tales, play a Korean hand-drum, learn brush painting, compete in traditional games, and more! The Korea Society is at 950 Third Avenue, 8th floor.

Sunday, January 29th, join the festivities at Madison Street to Madison Avenue  which include a variety of  cultural performances and a wide-range of fun, kid-friendly activities inside heated tents, including Chinese face painting, calligraphy demonstrations, paper-cutting, and a themed photo booth. Starting at 11:00am, inside the Harman Music Store, 54th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.  Sponsored by the Confucius Institute for Business (CIB) at SUNY.  

Sunday, January 29th, Celebrate Chinese New Year in Sunset Park, NY’s “other” Chinatown in Brooklyn, with a parade and free performances. A fun family outing whatever your ethnicity, Chinese New Year events in Sunset Park are organized by the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, a community service organization founded in 1987.  Noon to 1 p.m.: Parade starts at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street in Brooklyn.

Saturday, February 4th, Celebrate the Year of the Rooster in the most diverse community in the United States! March with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce in the Flushing Lunar New Year Parade organized by the “2017 Lunar New Year Festival Committee,” a coalition of community groups led by the Flushing Chinese Business Association (FCBA) and the Korean American Association of Queens (KAAQ).  Meet up with the Flushing Chamber (39-01 Main Street, Suite 511) between 10:00AM and 11:00AM for some hot coffee and donuts … then, head off to the parade which lasts approximately an hour.

Saturday, February 4th, China Institute will host Chinese New Year celebrations, including family workshops and a concert.  You can find more information on these and other programs here.  You’ll find the China Institute at 100 Washington Street; note that there’s a temporary entrance: 40 Rector Street, 2nd Floor.

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is hosting several  Lunar New Year events:   you can start on Saturday, February 4th, and learn how to make dumplings with Joanna Lee and Ken Smith, authors of the Pocket Chinese Almanac (you can listen to my podcast with them last year here); Saturday, February 11th, MOCA will have zodiac themed arts & crafts, lively dance performances, festive food sampling, storytelling, and much more for the whole family; and  on Sunday, February 12th, you can join Joanna and Ken at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant, where they’ll teach you how to order dim sum.

Sunday, February 5th, from noon to 4:30 pm, Check out Chinatown’s Annual Lunar New Year Parade for tantalizing visuals, delicious treats and mesmerizing cultural performances. This party features all sorts of vendors, food, and festivities for all ages to welcome the Year of the Rooster. The parade winds its way through the main streets of Manhattan Chinatown on February 5, and parade starts at 1pm. Show up early to grab a prime spot along the route! Suggested viewing locations: East Broadway or by Grand Street / Sara Roosevelt Park.

February 8th, 6:00pm, the Flushing Chamber of Commerce Lunar New Year Celebration   attendees will enjoy family-friendly performances and get to savor Lunar New Year delicacies include a prosperity toss, roasted suckling pig, golden dumplings, longevity noodles, and more.  6:00pm – 8:30pm Flushing Town Hall, 173-35 Northern Boulevard   

Saturday, February 11th,  Ring in the year of the Rooster at Brookfield Place in partnership with the New York Chinese Culture Center. Get ready for energetic dance and music performances, as well as demonstrations of Chinese customs such as a martial arts demo and theatrical players in full traditional makeup-up and regalia. Guests of all ages should show up early: there will be a dynamic, colorful Lion Parade led by lion dances throughout the space before the show begins. Starting 1:30pm

Looking further ahead, from March 9th to the 18th, you can enjoy Asia Week New York, an annual ten-day celebration of Asian art  with exhibitions, auctions and special events presented by leading international Asian art specialists, auction houses, museums and cultural institutions.