Well, Here We Are.

We didn’t expect 2020 to turn out like this, did we? I certainly didn’t as I watched fireworks erupt over the Bosphorus at midnight, marking the start of a new decade. Kids peered into cars unceremoniously stalled in traffic on Inonu street, persuading drivers to turn their music up loud, and danced in the middle of the street. A few days later, thunderstorms across Istanbul forced people to stay indoors all day. At the time, I didn’t mind being cooped up in the house with four adorable cats and some nice humans for company. Little did I know that we were going to be doing a whole lot more of this in the months to come.

I’m currently in Bangalore, India, where we’re in the middle of a 21-day nationwide lockdown. There’s a lot to focus on—the dire situation in hospitals across the world, the sections of society that are hit hardest by this pandemic, information about the virus itself, the morons in power in countries like India, the United States, Hungary, Brazil, China and the United Kingdom and their ability to colossally mishandle this crisis.

But right now, I’d rather focus on art. Art, in its various forms, has been adding colour and some semblance of normalcy to our lives at the moment—inspiring us, distracting us, sustaining us. And so I offer you this—a list of cool things to read, look at, listen to and do from around the internet.

Visual Art

1. The Quarantine Diaries, The New York Times

This is giving me life. Quoting from the article:

“History isn’t usually told by the bigwigs of the era, even if they are some of its main characters. Instead, it is often reconstructed from snapshots of ordinary lives. A handwritten recipe. A letter written by a soldier at the front. A drawing of a kitchen sink. One of the most famous works of academic history — “A Midwife’s Tale,” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich — came from the diary kept by a woman living in Maine from 1785 to 1812. It won a Pulitzer Prize.”

2. CoronaMaison

A very cool experiment of sorts, where people from across the world draw their “ideal isolation room” using the same template so “all the rooms look like they’re part of the same building”. Talk about getting through this together using collaborative drawing!

3. Suddenly We Had To Decide Where Home Was, Deb Monti

“So many people have lost so much from this virus and yet I’m still consumed by the petty disruptions in my own life.”

“…and still the sun rises, oblivious to tragedy”

Artist Deb Monti’s striking acrylic paintings are accompanied by notes she took while under quarantine in Spain and the US.

4. Art in Isolation: An Ongoing Visual Diary in Our Uncertain Times, The New York Times

A beautifully curated collection of art that chronicles our present realities. Also, the NYT is open to Op-Art submissions—get in touch at opart@nytimes.com with “Op-Art” in the subject line.

5. The Alipore Post

You’ll find a wide variety of art, poetry and music from “hidden corners of the internet”, thoughtfully curated by Rohini Kejriwal, on The Alipore Post. You can also follow the page on Instagram.

6. Creativity is like Breathing, The Oatmeal

Funny, thought-provoking, and relatable as always.

Writing

1. James Baldwin Might Have Been Most At Home In Istanbul, Hilal Isler, Literary Hub

“…Baldwin told him, he couldn’t settle in any one place because he didn’t really belong to any one place. ‘The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it,’ he said, and I wonder if this holds true for others, too. Those of us who move between nations, between homes. Those of us who grow identities, like skins, only to shed them, expand into new ones. Those of us who carry our sense of belonging like belongings, turtles and shells. We arrive at night, unannounced, battered suitcase in hand. We move our things into a four-level-split in suburban Calgary, or out of a modest apartment in 1950s Harlem, and all of it can feel like home, or none of it can.”

2. Stories about my Brother, Prachi Gupta, Jezebel

This essay is gut-wrenching to read, and yet terribly important:

“Growing up as an Indian-American kid in a white town of football, Christianity, and old steel mills was deeply isolating. Research suggests that immigrants and ethnic minorities face a higher risk for suicidal behavior than the general population, and children of immigrants deal with the added stress of trying to exist between two cultures. There’s a ‘psychic violence’ that happens to our community, my therapist Reka Prasad told me. ‘Mental health has to be a priority for us,’ she explained, ‘because we have to deal with very real things in the world that white people don’t.’

Yet, according to the American Psychological Association, Asian-Americans are three times less likely to seek therapy than white people. The stigma in our culture is strong: Therapy is often dismissed as ineffective, and seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness and an inability to control emotion, especially among men.”

3. Light, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Granta

A beautifully written, striking work of fiction that was the regional winner (Africa) of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize:

“Her mother’s disappointment is the first time the girl becomes aware that the world requires something different than she is. It dampens her for a few days that worry Enebeli, and then she returns, but there is a little less light to her.”

4. How My Tiny Kitchen Saved My Soul, Madhuri Sastri, Human Parts

A nice read, and seeing as how we’re all basically “quarantine cooking” to pass the time/add some variety to our otherwise monotonous routines, it might strike a chord.

5. The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare, Nathaniel Rich, The New York Times

Okay, so this is straight-up journalism, but ever since I read this piece last year—far too late considering it was published in 2016—I haven’t been able to put it out of my mind. It’s one of those stories that alters your worldview, alerting your mind to things that you hadn’t realized deserve scrutiny—like the source of the water we drink, or the nonstick pans we use for cooking because isn’t it great how nothing sticks on them? And while it reveals disturbing truths, it’s also a story of immense bravery and grit.

Music

1. Unknown (To You) by Jacob Banks. Jacob Banks is a Nigerian-born British singer-songwriter from Birmingham whose music is transcendental.

2. This live delivery of Where You From by the refreshingly forthright Riz Ahmed—actually, just listen to his entire album “The Long Goodbye“.

3. The Riot’s Gone by Santigold, an old favourite. I listened to this a lot back when I lived in Jerusalem, and it still manages to take me back to those evenings spent walking around Baka.

Photography

A list of some of the photographers I follow (generally on Instagram) and whose work I find intriguing:

1. Corina Kern is a German photojournalist based in Israel.

2. Bernat Armangue, a Spanish-born visual journalist who has worked in South Asia and the Middle East.

3. Deepti Asthana, an engineer-turned-photographer who uncovers stories of women in rural India.

4. Australian film photographer Patrick Clelland‘s Instagram feed is so easy to get lost in.

5. Haruka Sakaguchi is a Japanese documentary photographer based in New York.

* * *

Stay inspired!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s