The centrepiece of GOMA’s Summer 2013 – 2014 exhibition is the installation Heritage by world-renowned artist Cai Guo Qiang. Cai’s vision is that of a pristine utopia, untouched by worldly influences.
Ninety-nine animals from all parts of the world have gathered at an unspoiled waterhole and the most unlikely combinations of creatures are drinking together in harmony.
The perfect stillness of the scene is broken by a single drop of water falling from the centre of the room. Do the ripples represent the imperfections of our world as they alter the reflections of these magnificent creatures?
When I told my friends we were going to holiday in Belgium the most frequent comments they made were: “Make sure you buy some lace/drink some beer/eat some chocolate.” I couldn’t ignore these instructions and needed no encouragement to indulge in all three.
Belgian lace is world renowned and has been made since the 15th century. In Bruges there are lace shops on every street, with window displays showcasing everything from simple bookmarks to elaborate tablecloths. The workmanship is beautiful.
The Volkskundemuseum, or Folklore Museum, in Baalstraat, Bruges has an exquisite antique lace collection and some of the pieces are more than 200 years old.
Climb the stairs to the exhibition room in the attic to see delicate collars, mantles and shawls displayed in glass cases at low light levels.
It’s not even necessary to imagine how these garments were worn as there are also paintings showing the wealthy citizens of Bruges dressed in all their finery.
The finest Belgian lace is still made by hand. Look carefully in the doorways as you walk through the streets of Bruges and you might just see the next beautiful piece being created.
The Rotorua Museum of Art and History is located in what was once the famous Bath House. The geothermal spas inside the building were known across the world for their therapeutic benefits. The viewing platform on the roof affords a panoramic outlook over the city of Rotorua and its lake, but it was the details in the Elizabethan style roof itself that captured my attention.
One of my passions, apart from travelling and writing, is quilt making, and everywhere I go I always see great quilting designs. Gates can be elaborate and highly ornamented or plain and practical but they all provide endless inspiration for new patterns. I am still to put the inspiration into practice but when I do I’ll have plenty of photos to reference.
On the Thames Pathway at Hampton Court Palace, London
In the cemetery at The Abbey Church of St Peter, Salzburg.
Symmetry and simplicity – the gateway to the Bedouin Desert Camp, Wahiba Sands, Oman
Entry into the churchyard at Holy Trinity Church, Bosham, England
A portal between the old town and the new, Rothenburg, Germany
The gates of Buckingham Palace, London. No one heard me knocking!
There are more than 500 forts and watchtowers in Oman and there is at least one visible on the coastal horizon anywhere you look. Their Arabic architecture is beautiful in its simplicity and varies according to the time in which each was constructed. They were built to protect the coast from invaders and were often used as seats of power and administration. Many have been restored as records of the past while others have been left in their original state.
Rustaq Fort is the oldest and tallest and is famed for its towers. It is surrounded on all sides by date palm groves which appear lush in contrast with the desert beyond.
Nakhl Fort is more than 350 years old and has been restored with traditional materials, furnishings and household goods and it’s as if the inhabitants have just stepped out for a moment. The small dark rooms provide welcome relief from the searing heat outside.
The fort at Bahla is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been undergoing restoration for more than a quarter of a century. Mystery surrounds the reconstruction though, as each time a section is completed it falls down again and experts have been unable to find a reason. The area has been a centre for black magic for centuries and local legend says that the spirit of a man stoned to death for wizardry in the seventh century wanders at night destroying what has just been built.
Nizwa fort is the largest of all and was built as a stronghold of defence. If attacking forces were able to get past the pits of poisonous snakes they were sure to be foiled by boiling date syrup poured from holes in the lintels above the doors. At a height of 45 metres the tower affords spectacular views of the city, the mountains and the desert. Inside there is a museum which features displays of traditional Omani clothing, jewellery and everyday artefacts, and photographic exhibitions of Omani crafts including the last indigo dyer and his workshop.
Today it’s the Ministry of Tourism that keeps watch over these ancient buildings, preserving them for all to experience.
I am a lover of symmetry, patterns and design and the arabic architecture of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque gave me plenty to admire. The Mosque is in Muscat, Oman, and its white Indian sandstone stands out vividly against the stark mountains which surround the city. It is open to the public, both Muslim and non Muslim, in the mornings from Monday to Thursday and the only restrictions are that visitors are asked to wear appropriate clothing which covers arms and legs and women need to wear a head covering.
The ladies’ prayer hall is intimate and peaceful, while the main prayer hall is almost overwhelming in its decoration. There are ornate carved doors, tiled mosaics and Persian style niches. The carpet, which covers almost all the floor area is the second largest in the world and took four years to be hand woven in a single piece. All this is overhung by a Swarovski crystal and gold plated chandelier – the largest in the world, truly magnificent and perfect in its setting.
Outside we wandered at will, explored the colonnades and marvelled at the dozens of mosaic niches which tell stories from the Koran. Even the gardens were set out in straight lines with matching designs. Symmetry was everywhere and I loved it.