day 18: New Buddha Statue

I am not religeous, but I do like Buddhism a lot, as a phylosophy and I love Buddha statues. I recently bought this one for my outdoor space, it is rather large, the size I had been looking for for a long time. It was intended as an ornament and as a reminder of wonderful times spent among Tibetans, Tibetan monks and their monasteries. Someone once said to me, where ever there is an image of Buddha, Buddha energy will be present. Kind of odd as apparently Buddha never wanted any imagery of himself made for worship purposes. The first images that represented Buddha were symbols. Human shaped Buddha's came much later and probably Buddha looked nothing like that at all.

Yet, since I have this statue facing my cottage, I feel much better, a kind of peace that subtly seems to radiate from the statue. It is not a precious statue at all, just a lump of mortar shaped by a mould. It has not been blessed in any way, yet I feel it very different than the other statue besides it. I am really happy with this Buddha statue, surprisingly so. Maybe it is all in my amagination, but hey, my imagination is as much part of me as any other part. Maybe the mystery will reveal itself one day, in the mean time I will enjoy its presence. The landlord's dog Piper seems to agree and happily settle in front.

Day 17: Sinterklaas tradition

Every year, Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicolas) also called Sinterklaas, arrives in Holland mid November to celebrate his birthday (eve) on the 5th December. Traditionally he arrives by steamboat from Spain, where he normally lives. He is accompanied by zillions of Zwarte Pieten or "Black Peters", who are his assistants. They are a cross between a boogie man and a clown, scaring the kids as well as entertaining them. He rides on a white horse on rooftops, drops presents through the chimneys and may visit you on the 5th December. Gifting is done with lots of fun, anonymously. Gift can be disguised, can be jokes, can be used to hackle someone etc. Gifts are often accompanied with poems/ stories in rhyme form. There are many secular songs related to this folk fest that became the inspiration for Christmas and Santa in many other cultures. He is a clip from the official arrival of Sinterklaas in the harbour of Schiedam.

There are not many traditions left in contemporary Holland, but this one seems to survive the ages where Christmas is merely a religious festival. These days gifting happens at Christmas time as well, but it can’t compete with the original Sinterklaas celebrations.

Day 16: lesson in trust

Just as I am trying to convince myself that going to Sydney for a long weekend to film at Mardi Gras 2010 is an extravagance I cannot afford, unexpected money is coming in to proof me wrong.

Day 15: Guy Fawkes

Silly man, tried to blow up the British Parliament a looong time ago. What that's got to do with New Zealand I don't know, but I enjoyed the traditional fireworks nevertheless, the smell, the vibrating thunder, the spectacle of light... It's is a childhood thing, New Year's Eve is my birthday and the New year is heralded in with lots of fireworks in Holland, brings back happy memories.

The strangest picture I have ever taken of fireworks.

day 14: when work is play

I have been quite busy lately, trying as best as I can to balance work, life, developing my house design and making a film. An increased workload became enjoyable last week, eventhough I was working on a Sunday. I was asked to make art on camera for a DVD production for the school where I work. I created 2 large mixed media works on paper, mainly a collage of mono prints about the theme of pilgrimage. These two relating to a tall tower (about 100m) in my place of birth; Amersfoort, which used to be a pplace of pilgrimage. 2 details on one panel and 1 shot of the entire second panel 0.8x2.4m

Day 13: Diwali-Tihar

Butterlamps in windows, on doorsteps, in flower mandala's on the street mark the start of the New Year in Nepal. Twice, some 20 years apart, I was fortunate enough to spend Nepalese New Year's in Kathmandu. These days electric festive lights take over, until one of the many power blackouts strike, allowing natural light to once again work it's wonder.

Happy Diwali (India), happy Tihar (Nepal), happy New Year (Nepal Era).

day 11: the view from here

Will I ever get tired of this view? I don't think so, better not anyway, as my new eco house with enjoy almost the same view. I am house sitting the first house I bought in this neighbourhood with my ex. When we split I moved next door into my second house in the hood. Then I seperated a bit of land, sold house no 2 and will build on lot no 3. So just hopping around the area. I love this little unknown corner of the city, quiet, surrounded by native bush and lots of native birds as there is a bird sanctuary close by.
Being back in this area for 1 week is a great reminder why I am going through the challenging process of building my house here.

I am not only minding the house but also Barney the dog and Kitty the cat, they both know me and give lots of unconditional love. Pets are great!

day 10: relative traveling fatigue

I am very titred today, a busy day at work followed by an exhausting slow journey home, not my home, I am house sitting this week, so a bit out of my routine. What a whimp I hear you say, I agree. Today is nothing compared to another journey I took in Nepal.

This is footage from 2007-2008. I was on my way from the capital Kathmandu to Lumbini on the border with India. A very different kind of travel with an maximum average speed of 40km/hours on rattling busses with noisy video players, loud horns, barely leg space and hard seats. Somehow that journey seemed less tyring than the half hour I spent today in the traffic jam on my way home. Part of the journey I traveled on the roofrack of the bus, just like I did 20 years earlier. Still as much fun, plenty of fresh air, no noisy music videos, great views, but a little more dangerous as these days electric wires can hang dangerously low accross the road. Riding busses in Nepal is not very safe, but apart from flying or walking there is no alternative. Danger is lurking around every corner, but traveling with the Nepalese is never boring, they make great company making you forget about the torturous long journeys that are only interupted by short chai stops. The scenery, well you can't get much better...

Day 9: enrichment process

The first bit of mulch the new mulcher produced.

I am making space for the new eco cottage I am planning to build. I need to clear bushes and the odd tree, none to precious fortunately. It is my intention to recycle everything that needs to make way on the site. All trunks and branched have been chopped to firewood size, the twigs and leaves are mulched so they will enrich the soil they sprouted from. Once the building is done I will restore the garden with native planst and trees, some from cuttings I have taken before I started chopping.

I also intend to have a small vege garden and have some chickens. It is a small site and steep, but with enough space to practice permaculture on the smallest of scales. The house will be super insulated. have solar panels and underfloor heating with a heat exchange pump. It is all part to an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint while increasing comfort levels (older NZ houses aren't the best, often draughty, barely insulated and poorly heated). I can't wait for the house to be ready because I am ready. I know the house will enrich my life greatly. It will be worth the wait.

For other posts from this series please visit:

day 7: to busk or not to busk...

I used to play music when I was in my 20's, accordeon, tin whistles, spoons. I wasn't that good, but I loved it and even earned money playing in a medieval inn in the city of Delft. I saw musicians playing on the Sunday market, entertaining the crowds. I love buskers. They can brighten the dullest of places, like the tunnels of the London Tube stations. I want to play again, sing again...

Day 5: start-up

Who wants to start the working week being nagged by a PC prompting you to press 3 buttons at the same time in order to the blimming machine going? Not me. It defies logic. Why button twice when once will do? It is a scary thought that PC's dominate. I am so glad I have a Mac. It assumes intelligence, intuition, logic and values my time.

Day 4: Yay day with tulips

The sign reads: This bed of (5500) Daydream and White Dream tulips honour the people of Dutch heritage who have made Wellington their home. Orange is the national colour of the Netherlands. That's me :)

You can never, NEVER have too many tulips. Seeing all these tulips made me melancholy as I woke up this morning thinking: "it would be nice to drop-in on my family", but they are 20.000 km away. I left The Netherlands in 1988, I have changed so much that I feel I could never resettle there if I choose to. I can play being Dutch, but so many other non-Dutch aspects of me would find no expression there, making it difficult for me to feel whole. So Wellington is home, my base in the world where I feel comfortable. I can't help but lament the fact from time to time that it is impossible to just pop over for a weekend visit. There should be a sign with this bed of tulips: This bed of pink tulips honours the queer people of Dutch heritage who have made Wellington their home.

Day 3: Yay day.

As I scootered through the city hills on my way to the pool, I got sidetracked to the Otari School fair. I found this Iranian hand-embroidered woolen cloth, a large Chinese bowl, an interesting ceramic object from Malaysia, a handpainted tray from New Zealand and a wooden sculpture from the Pacific Islands, all for only $21.00. Retail therapy that did not break the bank. All objects will find a place in my new house and garden.

Day 2: playtime

When lunchtime comes, even during short morning or afternoon tea breaks, games are pulled out and taken to the lunchroom. Who can say that they play games with their colleagues at work just for the sheer pleasure of playing games? I am very fortunate that I can. I like my colleagues and enjoy their company very much.

Day 1: shifting perspective.

This is one out of one hundred and nine photo's I took today. The days preceeding that day were grey as my mind only saw grey. I'd lost my mojo, shit happens, but I did not want to stay there and remembered the advice I once gave to a friend who had lost her mojo. "Take a picture a day" I suggested. Using a lens to view the world and your life provides a different point of view that allows for a shift in perspective. The day I took his picture I began to see beauty everywhere including in grey objects.

New blog: as if ... you only live once.

I intend to mark and honour each day for it's contribution to a life well lived with images and words.

This concept is inspired by my friends Lynsey and Marica and their site:

May you be inspired to copy this or develop a similar creative practice.

Jewelry of Impermanence

This jewelry is handmade and based on traditional "Sung 'Khor" or paper amulets from Tibet. Tibetan Monks make these amulets for the faithful who require protection for safe travel or from disease. They consist of a mandala with prayers on paper and may contain protective herbs. The paper is folded inward making images and texts invisible. The amulets are blessed.

The contemporary versions I make are created along similar principles. The concept is that the amulets contain:
mandala's on paper or special paper
contains a prayer, Tibetan, Christian, an affirmation or loving messages.
they are energised using 'Quantum Touch' breathing techniques

Contemporary Amulet 1
by Marcel Baaijens
Printed rice paper from Nepal with poly cotton thread
30mm square

I conduct workshops in which participants can make their own,
draw their own mandala's (geometrical or symbolic representations of the universe)
write their own prayers, affirmations or similar
include and herbs or essential oils
wrap their amulet
and energise their amulet using quatum breathing techniques

This amulet is my private one
60mm square
It took 3 hours to make.

The amulets are worn on the body near the heart, it's energy brushing off on the wearer. Is this effective? After attending a presentation by Mr. Emoto from Japan I am convinced it is. Mr. Emoto who featured in the documentary "What The Bleeb" has done interesting experiments with water, photographed water crystals exposed to both loving and hateful words. The photo's say it all. We humans are between 70%-90% made of water. Have a look at this link:

Contemporary Amulet 2
by Marcel Baaijens
Printed Nepalese rice paper with poly cotton threads
30mm square

The jewelry is made om temporary materials that will disintegrate after some time encouraging the wearer not to get attached to their precious jewel and let go of whatever it is the maker wished for. This ties in to the Buddhist concept of non-attachment as a way to achieve happiness.

Om Mani Padme Om,
by Marcel Baaijens
containing print with hundreds of Om Mani Padme Om's in Tibetan script.
32mm square

Jewelry of an impermanent nature challenges the notion that jewelry is very precious and should be treasured. This jewelry will guaranteed fall apart at some stage, unless you lock it away in a safe, but then you will not reap the benefits it has to offer.

Orininal amulet by Lama Sajan,
not for sale
approx. 15 mm square

Original amulet from Ladakh, India
This one has fallen apart with time.
60mm square, prints of this mandala (below) are reused for some of the contemporary mandala's

For orders or further information contact Marcel: marcel[dot]baaijens[at]gmail[dot]com

Whirling Dervish

Whirling Dervish is something I wanted to film while I was in Turkey, but it never happened. Two days ago I learned about a Mukabeleh happening just down the road from me and I was invited to come along with Adele a friend of my friend brenda. She needed footage and I had the camera, that in itself was exciting enough. On top of that we both were after similar footage, of the edge of the robes, soft, out of focus, kind of abstract. So off we went. Below is a short clip from the evening, without sound ( on purpose).

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust” Rumi.

Amersfoort 750

Marcel at age 2.5 in his medieval outfit.

On the 12 June 2009 it is 750th anniversary of home town Amersfoort, The Netherlands. In 1959 the city was 700 years old, I was only 2.5. I still remember attending festivities of people dressed in medieval clothes. My parents had Vespa Scooters and belonged to the local Vespa club.  I love this old city, as a kid I was fascinated almost obsessed. After 6 pm traffic was so minimal that I was allowed to ride my little bike to the city centre (1 KM). I would ride around in circles on the cobbled streets, couldn't get enough of it. The last year I lived in The Netherlands I was fortunate enough to live in a 16th century attick within the old city walls, loved it!

Marcel on his first bike.

I was told that the city of Amersfoort was rather strict and that Sundays were stricly reserved for rest and church, no other activities allowed. Citizens with costumes were encouraged to wander the old city in their costumes so that tourists would not find a boring deserted city.

Below is a short news reel from 1959.

More old footage.

New Little Video

Please watch this video with a headset to get all the nuances of the sound.

In memory of Amy Szostak

Amy Szostak (1975-2009)

For about 5 years along with Chris Barrand and Brooke Dallimore
I supported Amy with her art practice.
The first time Amy came into the studio of Art Compass she screamed!
Angy at people who patronised her.
Soon we gained her confidence and trust,
With that Amy’s amazing artistic journey began.
Just before Art Compass closed
We managed to round off Amy’s Raidar the Viking story:
Under the title: Scream! Jorunn’s Saga
It went on air as a radio play in 2006.

The story is really a kind of autobiography,
A collection of the complex parts that made up Amy.
Every character in the story IS a part of Amy,
A realised part, or a part she aspired to.
Simultaneously all characters were modeled on real people,
And the imagined and real relationships with them
She illustrated her story skillfully in her unique style.
She created well over 100 pieces,
A collection worth preserving
A collection worthy to be included in national archives of New Zealand!

Amy was a unique (outsider) artist, singer, songwriter, composer and writer
She called herself "Special Star" as she hated the label "special needs"
Amy was indeed a special star.
She sought fame, First of all for herself
But also with a much bigger goal in mind
She wanted recognition, fame, happiness and success for all those
who are marginalized because they live with a disability of sorts.
She was an advocate, a fighter,
Sadly her body gave up
Before her lively spirit completed its mission

Amy, it was a great privilege to work with you.

Click HERE and you will be taken to Amy's story. You can listen to the radio play or read the script.

Himalayan Collection (pastel drawings)

This collection was created in 2005 during a 10 day visit to Ladakh in Northern India, an area with Tibetan culture and architecture. The capital Leh is so high that you need a couple of days to get used to the altitude and thin air. It took two days by jeep accross a number of passes between 4000 and 5600m to get there, an amazing journey, met some great people. I did a lot of filming too, some of which will be included in the feature length documentary I am working on.

'Lest We Forget'

During my time in Europe I have come across many reminders of World War II; scars in buildings, people, countrysides, attitudes, political systems, etc. This image is from 'The Gate of Death'. It's significance and seeing it for real sent shivers down my spine that stopped me in my tracks as I approached the former concentration camp Auschwitz I. Entering Auschwitz I, now a museum, is free (of charge) these days, so is leaving.

Many minorities were targeted for extermination by the Nazi's. 'Lest we forget' is a sentiment often heard and used as the reason why places like Auschwitz should be preserved. I could not help but notice that not all minorities who were singled out for extermination by the Nazi's were remembered through words, images, anecdotes or statistics. Unlike others they were not given a 'human face' in the exhibitions.

I found no references of any kind to those exterminated because they had an intellectual disability or mental illness. I only found a single reference to homosexuals in a display that explained the different badges prisoners were forced to wear for identification, such as the yellow star identifying Jews and pink triangles identifying homosexuals.

When I asked various museum staff about where I could find references to crimes committed to these minorities they did not have an answer, they did not know! If they don't know, how can the public at large ever find out? How can ignorance be transformed into awareness?

Leaving these crimes invisible creates a danger zone, a zone of shadow, the shadow side of being human, the zone where crimes are committed.

It is light itself that exposed Auschwitz I & II eventually. Without light we are lost, I am lost, without light I cannot be an artist, without Light I am back in the dark 'closet' , without light I cannot be me, without light I do not exist, therefor it is Light I will continue to seek even in dark places like Auschwitz.

'Frei'(German for free) the last word seen before prisoners entered the 'Gate To Death' to Auschwitz I.

IJsbruiloft / Ice wedding Marken

This is a silent movie I came across on YouTube of a unique dutch folklore event: a wedding on the frozen harbour on the island of Marken.