APAW: People at Work in the Middle East

Nancy Merrill’s weekly A Photo a Week challenge has the topic of Work.

On our trip last year to Egypt and Israel, we had the opportunity to photograph and meet many people at work.

In Egypt, we witnessed several craftsmen working at their craft:

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Crate maker on the island of Fares – he is the only person left in Lower Egypt who makes these mango crates by hand, which are greatly in demand. Here he works with one of the women in our group in making a crate.

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A weaver in Aswan – many of our group members bought one of his beautiful scarves!

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A snake charmer in Fares! I captured this scene with my zoom lens from a bus window – I didn’t get anywhere near those cobras!

We also encountered agricultural workers and fishermen on the Nile.

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A young farmworker on his donkey on Besaw Island.

In Israel, we encountered more cosmopolitan workers.

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Our guide, Hani, explains the architectural features of ancient arches in Jerusalem.

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A bartender and restaurant worker in Tel Aviv

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A jewelry maker at the Israel Diamond Center in Tel Aviv

 

 

 

Journey to Egypt, Part 18: The Crate Maker of Fares Island

December 31, 2018

Our dahabeya Aida docked this morning at the island of Fares. We were going to see a local craftsman, the last crate maker in Upper (southern) Egypt. Transportation to the crate maker’s home was via “tuk-tuk,” two passengers per vehicle!
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We bumped and jostled along the dusty roads of Fares village, observing our surroundings through fringed open sides.
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We could peek at our driver through a heart-shaped cut in the material in front of us.
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Our little caravan of tuk-tuks finally arrived at the crate maker’s home and were taken around to the back of the house.DSC_0416
We saw piles of date palm reeds, the raw material of the hand-made crates, which were stacked up behind the craftsman’s work space.
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The crate maker’s work space

Mohammed (the crate maker – not to be confused with our guide of the same name!) has his reeds shipped to him from elsewhere, from mature date palms (at least a year old). The reeds have to be dried but no longer than 20 days. The dried reeds are strong, yet pliable for splitting and cutting holes in them.

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One of the crate maker’s assistants

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years.  We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.

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First, he cuts the reeds into the lengths needed.

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Mohammed uses pieces that have already been cut at the correct length to measure other pieces.

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He then cuts the section of reed lengthwise with a scythe, which requires great precision.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.

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Mohammed steadies the section of reed while he uses a large nail and makeshift hammer to cut holes along its length.

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As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

However, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week.

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An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

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Sample of one of Mohammed’s more elaborate creations, which was passed around among us.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.
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As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years. We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.

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These piles of reed sections are ready for assembling the crate – the pieces with holes drilled in them will anchor the side pieces (the narrower pieces in the other pile) that fit through the holes.

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An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

SONY DSCHowever, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week. Because he was kind enough to invite us to see him at work, three women from our group became his temporary assistants!

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Mohammed hands Lizz some materials…

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…and shows her what to do.

Through demonstration and imitation,…
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Assembling the base of the crate

…Lizz, Kathy and Michelle were able to be efficient crate producers, and with their help, Mohammed was able to finish twice as many crates in the time we were there!

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The vertical pieces are fit through the holes on the horizontal pieces.

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12 horizontal pieces and 4 vertical pieces form the frame.
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They’re almost finished as Mohammed fits in the bottom cross pieces.
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Michelle takes over to help make the next crate.

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Michelle slides a horizontal piece through two verticals to construct the frame.

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Photo op! Mohammed will not actually have Michelle make the lengthwise cut!

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Michelle helps finish a frame.

A small crate with a handle was given to Lizz as a gift for being a great assistant! Everyone was given an ankh made of date palm reeds.
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Kathy was the last volunteer.

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Kathy hammers a length of vertical piece into a hole.

Two of the finished crates!
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We thanked the craftsman and his assistants and family and said good-bye, then we headed back to our tuk-tuks for the ride back to where Aida was moored.  As we approached the pier on the river, I saw a snake handler with several cobras! (Fortunately, we were some distance away; I took this photo with my telephoto lens!)
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CFFC: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Busy or People Working.”

Every year, the last weekend in April (this weekend!), our church has a huge rummage sale, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We always need a lot of volunteers.
STAS13-IMAG0363.jpgThe sale takes over nearly every room in the church. We have a clothing room (above), housewares (below – the biggest department), Housewares, always a busy, popular department.holiday, antiques, jewelry, toys, baked goods, books/CDs/DVDs, and outside there is a furniture tent and hot food (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.).20160421_111420Our church also does mission work. One of our missions is feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless. Des Plaines has a local PADS shelter on Fridays at a nearby church, where homeless adults get a hot meal for dinner, breakfast, sack lunches, and a place to sleep for the night. Different churches sign up for the Fridays they prefer and get volunteers from their church to work the shifts and make or bring food.  Some people work in the kitchen, preparing for dinner…20150227_190349
and then serve the food to the guests.
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In the summer, we have at least one church service outside, with special invited musicians and ice cream afterward! This is the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Ensemble.20150705_095043.jpgEmergency workers are important in any community.  The American Red Cross collects supplies for people in disaster areas.IMAG0367-RedCrosshelpTeaching is a lot of work, even during special events when we look like we’re having fun (and sometimes we are)! Here’s a teacher holding up the flag of her alma mater during an annual College Day rally.
Sandy Rywelski holds up WIU flag next to her class.
The music teacher works hard – and so do the kids – with the different age groups to put on an annual show for the different grade levels. Here is the 1st-2nd grade music show.
20150415_134623.jpgA student helps out on the last day of school by cleaning the chalkboards.269
For children, school is their workplace and for very young children, play is their work; it’s how they learn. These kindergartners love building things with blocks.
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And in December, everyone works hard on holiday projects. Here, a teacher’s assistant helps kindergartners make gingerbread houses.
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Sometimes, people work to provide entertainment for others, either as volunteers or for tips, such as at a summer concert in the park.
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While kids are getting their balloons, the band plays.
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People with special talents perform for tourists for tips, such as this young man in Tallinn, Estonia.
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Waiters in Japanese restaurants “perform” for diners, cooking their food right in front of them.
IMAG1924.jpgSome of the hardest working people work on cruise ships, in kitchens…20170324_103302or as stewards, such as this one trying to hold a tray of hot soup steady for the tourists on the windy deck of a ship in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.The steward holds on tight to the tray of soup.
Some athletes and actors make millions entertaining the public. They might even get a trophy, such as when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016!20161103_001137.jpg
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Go Cubs Go! video

 

 

 

 

Artful Photos: Soviet Art

If you would like to share artwork you have photographed or created, please include a link to your blog in the comments! I would love to see the art other bloggers have admired! 

In early January, Dale and I went to the Chicago Art Institute, to see a couple of temporary exhibits. One of them was called Revolutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

20180106_142816There were several sections to this exhibit, including magazine covers, theatre, plastic arts, propaganda. Many of the revolutionary posters from the Bolshevik Revolution were primarily black, white and red. Red was the color that seemed to dominate many forms of art in the Soviet Union.  I noticed a lack of a variety of colors used in most of what was on display. I may post more of the artwork featured in this exhibit, but today I feature two of my favorite items: a chess set and a robot.

First is a fancy chess set created by Natal’ia Dan’ko, called The Reds and the Whites.
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The artist Alexandra Exter (1882-1949)  created a marionette “robot” for a film that was never completed by Danish filmmaker Peter Urban Gad. Exter emigrated to Paris after a career in Russia that included making festival decorations in Kiev and teaching color at a Moscow art school. She had introduced stage design as an area of study in 1918 and continued instruction in this area in Paris.

The set of marionettes she created numbered at least 20 and “treated the human body as a sum of lines and planes in movement.”
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There were photographs (gelatin silver prints) of other marionettes from this set, Marionettes for an unrealized film by Peter Urban Gad, although it is uncertain whether they were also made for the film. The pieces were created in 1926-27.20180106_144234 (2)

The marionettes in the photographs actually appeared in a 1928 Punch and Judy sketch. The performance included “raucous interaction” by lively carnival crowds.

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The exhibit overall was interesting, but I was struck by a lack of imagination and creativity, perhaps due to restrictions imposed on artists. It bothered me that the Soviet leaders, professing the goal of egalitarianism and exalting the worker, seemed to bend over backward to show the workers’ daily lives and prescribed that realism in their art.  Did they not think that the “proletariat” was able to appreciate art for art’s sake? If museums were free, and the workers had leisure time, wouldn’t they enter an art museum to view the works of the world’s best painters? The beauty, the colors and designs…there was a sterility in Soviet artwork: instead of nature, abstractionism or fantasy, what we saw was the stark realism, the drudgery of workers’ lives. Over a door in the back of the exhibit was this sign, which seemed to be part of a poem describing what is lost in modernization and urbanization, but for me put into words what I was feeling:20180106_152401