Category Archives: art

Travel Word Play on World Poetry Day 2014

The Greek philosopher Aristotle reckoned that ‘adventure is worthwhile’, thus giving travelling the thumbs up, while Edgar Allen Poe is quoted as saying that ‘to elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.’ Both are worthwhile and both are necessary, in my books, so to give a nod to World Poetry Day 2014, I’ll share some of my favourite poems that I relate to travel.

I want to start with one that takes me back to my life in England, to a time when I’d catch myself in moments of routine and yearn for a different life, one that I hadn’t yet figured out. It’s sometimes difficult to put your finger on what you want, but reading this is a good reminder of how to feel alive, whether that be through travel or otherwise:

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones “it’s” rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

This poem, Die Slowly, reminds me of my own need to drink in as much of life as possible. I’m not sure that it is actually by Pablo Neruda, as suggested by some online sources, but nonetheless it reminds me of Neruda and takes me back some years to when I was studying Spanish, ideas of travel forming in my mind. I would read Neruda’s poems slowly in Spanish, trying to make sense of their meaning, and then look to the mirroring page of the book that my godmother had given me and read the English translation.

And this poem?  Neruda or not, I hear it. I chose to mix it up and live a little. And that included making the decision to travel and leave everything I knew behind. 

Throughout my travels I – like any traveller – have had to make choices about the howswhyswhens and with whos, and  so often I’ve had moments when I’ve thought: have I made the right decision? Robert Frost plays with this idea in his famous poem, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This poem speaks to me about making decisions that are right for you. Have I made the right decisions on my journey? Yes, apparently. Whoever I ask says the same thing: whatever path you chose was the right one. Or neither was the right one. Or something like that.

And so during my travels I’ve immersed myself in places and experiences that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and  I’ve connected with people and situations that I might not otherwise have come across. Like with any traveller, these interactions and experiences have left deep imprints. When I take a minute, such as now, to contemplate my own journey, I can relate elements of my experience to this classic poem by William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

The theme, one study source states is about the importance of connecting with nature in order to understand oneself and one’s place in the universe. For me, that has often been through travel.

And those daffodils? Those moments on my journey? Each time I remember them, meditate on them, I am back there, surrounded by sight, smell, sound and sensation. Each time, I feel life. 

Have any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you. Feel like reading over a few more? Have a glance over some of these travel poems.

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Back in England and still on the Banksy trail, this time in Bristol

Art goes technical with a car, an iPhone app and a sat nav

Modern art: art that requires a car, an iPhone app and a sat nav

Back in England, the pursuit of Banksy continued. Whilst London appeared to be a bit too much of a widespread maze in which to get lost, Bristol – Banksy’s hometown – seemed the better option to seek out some of his work. Real life work in real life places. No prints this time.

It was to be a trip centered on technology. There are benefits, apparently.

D-man, a long time fan of Banksy’s work, downloaded the Banksy Tour iPhone app. We wove in and out of city traffic, up dead-end streets and down bustling suburb highstreets in our hire car, tapping coordinates and street names into the sat nav and scanning sides of buildings as we drove by.

Some works no longer existed, others were carefully preserved. It felt a little like a grown-up treasure hunt.  Each time that we finally found a piece I was filled with an indescribable bubble of something, not too dissimilar to joy or satisfaction, maybe, and we’d park up and go and stand and stare for a few moments, occasionally muttering critiques too insignificant to report.

Maybe the most gratifying part of this urban adventure was spotting unknown works that may or may not have been anything to do with Banksy, pieces that acknowledged his style, themes and timing.

Because in amongst a sea of scribbles and expressions, there are some conscious pieces, pieces that are angry and articulate and beautiful, and they’re not all by Banksy.

Heavy weaponry - original Banksy work given a chance to fade

Heavy weaponry – original Banksy work given a chance to fade

You can just about make out bits of an elephant with a rocket launcher on it's back

You can just about make out bits of an elephant with a rocket launcher on it’s back

Early Banksy contributions

Early Banksy contributions

A framed rat trap up a steep side street

A framed rat trap up a steep side street

Rose in a rat trap

Rose in a rat trap

The mild mild west

The mild mild west

Well hung lover, naked man, hanging man, whatever you want to call it

Well hung lover, naked man, hanging man, whatever you want to call it

Is it a Banksy? Policemen are often part of his cast, but the tag says otherwise

Is it a Banksy? Policemen are often part of his cast, but the tag says otherwise

Banksy has previously juxtaposed children with amunition, but the tag suggests this might not be his

Banksy has previously juxtaposed children with amunition, but the tag suggests this might not be his

Shopping astronaut that we accidentally stumbled across... courtesy of Banksy?

Shopping astronaut that we accidentally stumbled across… courtesy of Banksy?

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On the Banksy trail in some random little art town in the Netherlands

Banksy-meets-Basquiat-Exhibition-Holland-2013

Welcome to the small town of Laren in Holland, where you apparently stumble across big names.

It’s early Saturday afternoon and I’m in Laren, an old, affluent arty town some 30km southeast of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

I’m here to attend a Banksy exhibition, something that I find a little absurd. How can you take a street artist and put them indoors, restrained and commercialised? It seems almost to be bad form. And yet, here I am supporting it, kinda.

It just so happens that the day I’ve chosen to visit is the day that the Lionel Gallery have spread out the red carpet, trayed up the champagne flutes and parked a Maserati and a Ferrari on the driveway. It’s some sort of open day.

I am sporting a black hoodie and scuffed shoes. I have seen better days. In terms of dress code, I am definitely not the one expected to walk down the red carpet and part with big money, but not wishing to judge (or more likely, not wishing to miss out on a sale should I just happen to be one of the rich who likes to look like a scruff) the gallery staff treat me with the same niceties as all the suited and trendy media types who are mingling around me.

Prints for sale. Genuine ones. Not the $12 ones you might have seen in your local bookstore.

Prints for sale. Genuine ones. Not the $12 ones you might have seen in your local bookstore.

Banksy prints are dotted around this small gallery. The Bristol legend is sharing the stage predominantly with Basquiat, but I also notice gilded butterflies by Damien Hirst and some typically lavish LaChapelle prints added to the mix. There’s even a solo Picasso piece, tucked around the corner. An unexpected treat.

Basquiat, LaChapelle and Hirst

Basquiat, LaChapelle and Hirst

The pièce de résistance is an original Banksy, a spray can depiction, stenciled Fragile and framed. Banksy captured. There’s blind bidding taking place for this modern art piece, and some chats later I realise that:

  1. There is a whole different breed out there who collect art purely for investment;
  2. I would kinda love to hang a Banksy, but even original prints without a signature start at over US$8,500 and I’m really not that bothered about the spray can; and
  3. I’m not really sure how I feel about Banksy being commodified, put INSIDE and made exclusive. Street art? High art?  Money art?
Banksy captured.

Banksy captured.

Months later, other than the fact that I like some of Banksy’s social commentary, I’m still not sure what to think.

And, to make matters worse, I never did get a glass of that champagne.

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Wordless Wednesday #5: Cosy graffiti

Yarn bombing in Amersfoort, Holland

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Show me some Melbourne street art

www.travelola.orgI first became aware of street art tours when a fellow blogger posted photos of a trip that they’d been on in Buenos Aires. Street art seems to be growing in popularity and gaining acceptance; it’s been associated with enhancing community cohesion and giving disenchanted youths an outlet to express their frustrations. Of course there’s far more to it all, but I’m not the one to talk about this sub-culture. What do I know? I just like looking at some of the stuff. Little more.

With the rise of street art acceptance, street art tours were always an inevitable progression, and they’re too gaining in popularity. Go to London, San Franscisco, Bangkok or Melbourne and you can find a tour that promises to give you a taste of the latest contemporary art trend.

Whilst I have some questions about how such an underground scene sits within a commercial and mainstream context, I do lean towards street art over concept art, and so, following a tip off from a local, I skipped the tour and just went to the art direct.

This is easy enough for anyone to do as Melbourne’s laneways are infamous and printed up guides tell you exactly where to go. You’d struggle NOT to see any street art. But there is a good chance that without a guide you might miss the really good stuff, just like I probably did.

I’m also pretty sure, though, that there are walls of undiscovered street art away from the tourist eye, and like with any industry, what the mainstream get access to is hardly representative of the overall scene.

For now, this was all I was getting.

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Do you reckon they’d let me buy the Ganesh spray job from Hosier Lane (see top pic)? Would anyone really notice if I bought those bricks, say for $1000,000? I’m just going to hunt down a Monopoly set.

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Melbourne in a day

Image from wikipedia.org

Image from wikipedia.org

I’d never really rated city tours, but then I’d never really rated cities, and yet the times that I’ve merged these two personal indifferences, things have changed and I’ve changed my mind.

Would it work for Melbourne?

Back during my travels to Peru in 2011, I had bussed into Cusco full of apprehension, excited to immerse myself in the oft reported beauty of this Incan-colonial UNESCO World Heritage city, but Cusco just confused me. With a scruffy exterior that seemed no different to other South American cities, dingy hostels and streets of competing touts and tour agencies, it took Yonathan from Free Walking Tour Peru to show me the snippets of the other Cusco before I started to even like the place. I ended up staying for nearly two weeks.

Then, when I first arrived in Australia and had only one day in Sydney, Max from one of Sydney’s free walking tours gave me my city bearings, a condensed (yet relatively comprehensive) history lesson of the city and an introduction to an end-of-day-glass-of-wine buddy from Sweden. Sydney suddenly seemed to make sense and I was comfortable and ready for the city

So Melbourne. Should I do a tour? Wander around by myself? How would I get to see snippets of Melbourne that would show me why the city is so popular?

It’s really European’, said a friend, ‘there are all these cafés, and the music scene is great. The creative scene is great’. Push. Pull. Why would I chase Europe when I was in Australia? I love Europe in Europe. I want to see Aussie in Australia. But a vibrant creative scene? Music? Art? Yes, please.

I was staying at the Pullman on the edge of Albert Park, a twenty-minute tram ride from the city centre up the wide, tree-lined grandeur of St Kilda Road. Crammed in amongst tourists and sharp suited and booted business types, I watched how people scanned in and out with myki cards, I listened to an English couple tell their young boy that his grandparents would soon be visiting. And then I was there: Federation Square.

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Arriving into the city

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Federation square entertainment

I skirted a group watching a contortionist climb into a small glass box and made my way downstairs into The Melbourne Visitor Centre, an underground hive that swarmed with adults and teenagers and children, with Spanish and German and English, with leaflets on the Comedy Festival, on city eats, on tourist buses. It was almost too much. I took a ticket and waited to talk to an actual person and shut out the hum of confusion, indecision and excitement that was going on around me.

Twenty minutes later I was on board the free Melbourne Visitor Shuttle. Relative calm returned.

But there is only so much sitting and looking through a smeared window that a girl can do, so it wasn’t long – maybe two or three stops – before I stepped off the bus and walked through the Carlton Gardens towards Fitzroy. A couple posed for wedding photos in amongst the elm and English oak trees. Virgin whites against lush leafiness. It definitely was a visual contrast to the dry, barren browns of Far North Queensland scrub, or the eucalypts and pandanus of tropical northern New South Wales.

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Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

In Fitzroy itself, I ambled along terraced residential roads and down boutique-lined streets, feasting my eyes on textiles and crafts and arts carefully arranged in window displays and drinking in the smell of freshly ground coffee rising from the cups of cool cats sitting outside indie cafés.

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Terraced Fitzroy life

And then I seemed to go wrong because somewhere along Smith Street it all stopped being cute and cool, and signs and shops started to sprawl into a bit more of a chaos (or maybe it was just normality, but I wasn’t chasing normal-anywhere life in Melbourne).

I headed back towards Gertrude Street. Despite feeling a little intimidated by the trend on display, I took a seat inside Sonido, only to realise that – even in Australia – I had again been drawn back to South America. I ordered a black bean and feta arepa, and it was beautifully simple. And filling.

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South American dining @ Sonido, Fitzroy

After handing over the solo experience baton to another female traveller I got back on and off the tourist bus a couple more times. I looped through the areas surrounding Lygon Street, up past shoe stores and pizza and gelati parlours, and then on through the grounds of the University of Melbourne .

In an effort to keep the day cheap I didn’t get out at the Queen Victoria Markets nor the harbour area but instead watched women, men and children clamber back on board laden down with bags and bags and bags of new purchases. Sculptures down the Harbour Esplanade distracted me from any further thoughts of retail therapy, particularly the upside down Cow up a tree sculpture said to draw attention to the issue of flooding and droughts in Australia.

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Ready for some modern art?

Ending my Melbourne day tour down in the Arts Precinct was possibly a bad idea. I wandered around the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and I stood and stared, tried to make sense, to understand obscure splodges and installations, but clearly my creative evolution has some way to go as I remained baffled about what constitutes art in a modern world.

It seemed, although at times beautiful, to be a party of concept driven madness, and I wasn’t cool enough to get an invite to that party. Nope.

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Capturing the sound of crystals. Interesting and thought provoking, but art? Okay, maybe.

And so I got back on a tram with a fair idea of where I’d head the next day for a follow up snoop around. I fumbled with my myki card, held it up against the scanner. This time it beeped, and I saw a load of credit disappear in a flash. As we trundled back down St Kilda Road, past the Royal Botanic Gardens and La Trobe’s cottage, I felt that end-of-city-day weariness and then, there it was, a teeny bit of homesickness, of longing for my family and friends.

Had Melbourne – with its café culture and the leafy façade, with its spacious layout and cultural buzz, with its European association – gotten under my skin and reminded me of a world I once loved? Or, was it showing me that I could maybe love a city, after all?

I stepped back off the tram into late afternoon sunshine and wrapped myself up in a scarf to fend off the fresh autumn breeze. Back at the hotel I took the lift up to the eighth floor, flung myself and my aching feet onto the bed and into the simple luxury of a nondescript hotel room. This, I thought, could be pretty much anywhere. It’s nice, sure, but nothing special. That, out there, however, is Melbourne. And Melbourne is, well Melbourne. Not England or a Euro blend, but Melbourne, familiar yet unique.

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Art, consciousness and a whole lot of doof at Eclipse 2012 festival

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Recycling the eclipse

In my sheltered world, hippies and trancers don’t live harmoniously side by side. In my stereotyped view, people who dance to trance are off their heads on party drugs that sustain them through hours and days of dancing to a repetitive beat. In my head hippies are natural and flowing and mix with creative crowds, preferring didgeridoos to synthesizers. In my world, hippies don’t attend trance parties, or doofs (if you’re an Australian partyer). At least, this is what I used to believe.

The Eclipse 2012 festival would show me otherwise.

The event will host a huge music lineup of the world’s leading musicians and DJ’s, outstanding artists and decor crews, a dedicated workshops and intentional healing space, extensive food and market stalls and a perfect viewing platform only a short distance away from the eclipse centre line of totality path. Link

My world started to expand and any preconceived ideas about 24/7 beats and dancing, about everyone being cocktailed to the highest high, about being disconnected from the world in order to appreciate the world started to shift. I knew it would happen. Why else was I here?

Apart from the total solar eclipse itself. Oh yeah. That was the real reason.

But if it was just about being present at the total solar eclipse then I could have instead nestled in amongst astronomers from around the world on purpose built viewing platforms somewhere else, somewhere close.

No, from the moment I’d heard about the festival I’d been determined to go. I wanted to fling out my arms and dance uninhibited at whatever time of the day I pleased, I wanted to be filled with thoughts and ideas about the future direction of the world, I wanted to immerse myself in a new experience and surround myself with beauty in all its forms. What an indulgence.

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DJ set backdrop on the Sun Stage

The Eclipse 2012 festival ticket and website were the first giveaways to something beyond a primitive party, making reference to a ‘spiritual’ festival, to ‘healing spaces’, to consciousness raising, to an array of workshops and speakers and films designed to inspire change and open the mind.

And why else do we travel?

The music itself was not the catalyst for me to part with AU$350. Despite there being six stages, I barely recognised any names in the line-up, other than the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop and Tijuana Cartel, both on the Earth Stage, the only truly live stage at the festival. If I’d ever been into the trance scene or had stood longer on Australian ground, I’d probably have been aware of the reputation of some of the other acts, but it was all new to me. No bad thing.

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Inspiration

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Flowertime

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Food and relax stops

Getting involved in yoga and craft classes, lounging out listening to learned folk discuss current thinking in relation to the upcoming cosmic and spiritual shift (including the impending end of the Mayan calendar), dancing under the sweet kiss of sprinkling water, of being surrounded by sculptures and murals and living art, that is what convinced me to join thousands of people for a week of celebrations rather than huddle quietly with the odd cluster of scientists and astronomers for one night only.

And so the days went by and people stomped and bounced day in, day out, taking moments to refresh themselves with fruit juices and wholesome, fair priced curries, to solar shower away a thick caking of dust, to chat and catch-up with friends, new and familiar.

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Daytime Sun Stage raving

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Sprinkler dancing @ the Sky Stage

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Doofer in training

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Beach feel flake out

Polka dot dresses and exaggerated face paints, tutus and lederhosen, basking on the branches of living art, taking dips in crocodile cleared waters, window shopping the work of artisans more concerned with their craft than making a sale, catching a ride on a motorised sofa, relaxing in the women’s shelter, watching fire art, learning to hula-hoop, re-gathering at camp for water refills and sustaining snacks.

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Daytime lazing

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Sun, shade and crocodile warnings

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Tutus and wobbles

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Doctor dress-up

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Parasols, fishnets and boat sails

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Brace dancing

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Sofa riding

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Art branch moments

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Face painting

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Base camp catch-ups

And sleeping. It’s amazing how one learns to sleep through a constant beat.

Through life and travelling I have had the good luck to meet and share time with a real range of people – a spectrum so broad that my mind should find no space for stereotypes. Yet I still have my assumptions, my preconceived ideas based on everyone I’ve previously met and everything I know. And of course it’s limited.

Stereotypes have some basis and function, maybe to act as a compass to enable us to find ‘our type’ and fellow ‘types’, maybe to guide the un-established personality and set them off in a specific direction. Maybe they offer some tribal comfort? I guess the only real danger is not being able to see beyond them.

At Eclipse 2012, stereotypes loomed large, on an ocular level. If you wanted to see society’s versions of a dreadlocked, grungy hippy, a dancing nymph dressed in floaty tie-dyed skirt, a yogi in lotus meditation, they appeared. If you looked for the sweaty, gurning raver clutching a water bottle and repeating moves in their own little world or sporting Day-Glo, hot panted outfits, they too existed. The Japanese wedding in a fusion flurry of traditional-clubbing kitsch, the self-important eco-speaker, the meticulously costumed regular festival goer, the wise old earth mother. They were all at Eclipse 2012.

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Temples (and makeshift church)

But sometimes hippies chewed their faces up. And sometimes pig-tailed raver chicks needed no more than the music to get high.

Stereotypes flipped, were stretched and distorted. Earth mother surprised me with her mushroom journeys. Famous drummer intrigued me with his gentle nature. Dreamy types brought considerate, well-behaved children to basket weaving classes. And the raver sat with a stranger during a bad trip, talking them through some crazy moments until a place of relative calm was reached.

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Morning at the Moon Stage

More often than not, the festival was a whole lot more wholesome than one might expect. Good food. Good company. Good support. Good dancing. Beyond good.

Of course the craziness existed. As with many a party, a continuum of personalities coloured and enriched the event. But it’s what most those people did that made the event; they spoke, they performed, they danced, they painted, they played; they – an army of artisans and thought-leaders and revelers – created a beautiful visual and sensual feast of celebration.

If you believe this random mix of humanity, of intention, of consciousness, cannot exist side by side, then Eclipse 2012 was a great example that we can.

Let’s dance.

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Chill out and kick back stage

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Live creativity

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Light, sound and DJs

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Accessorising

 

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