Archive for September, 2009

Colorful Mandarin Ducks

The Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata), or just Mandarin, is a medium-sized perching duck, closely related to the North American Wood Duck. It is 41-49 cm long with a 65-75 cm wingspan.

The adult male is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and “whiskers”. The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange “sails” at the back. The female is similar to female Wood Duck, with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a pale tip to its bill

Mandarin Ducks, which are referred to by the Chinese as Yuan-yang, are frequently featured in Oriental art and are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity.

Mandarin Ducks, symbol for a happy couple

Pillows with mandarin duck desing make great wedding gifts in China, so do curtains and bedcovers.

When one duck carries a lotus flower and the other animal a lotus fruit, this expresses the wish for a marriage blessed with many sons.

“Mandarin ducks in the dew” is a Chinese expression for unmarried lovers, though.

Mandarin Ducks, are referred to as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity. A Chinese proverb for loving couples uses the Mandarin Duck as a metaphor:
“Two swimming mandarin ducks”.
The Mandarin Duck symbol is also used in Chinese weddings, because in traditional Chinese lore they symbolize wedded bliss and fidelity. In reality, though, the ducks find new partners each year.


Versatile Watercolor Artist Barbara Philip

Born: Barbara Anne Burrows, 20 December 1952, Salisbury, Rhodesia.(Harare, Zimbabwe)
Matriculated: Dominican Convent, Salisbury, Rhodesia. (Harare, Zimbabwe )
Qualification: National Diploma in Interior Design @ Durban Technikon .1973

Happy Angels

Happy Angels

A Brief History:

Barbara She started at a young age in school virtually “living ” in the art-room, matriculating with distinction in art, and away from school never being without her sketchpad, drawing anything and everything. After school she was delighted to go to Art School in Durban and be able to spend all day every day drawing. For career purposes she specialised in Interior Design and went on to work for Martin Jarvis Assoc. Interior Designers until 1974 when she left to marry my Dad, John Philip, and move to South Africa.

John had a construction job in Graaf Reinet, building schools, so while living there in a caravan, Barbara began painting in oils full time. It was idyllic! In 1975 they moved to Cape Town, where she continued to paint. It was there that she began to take on commissions, and has continued with them ever since. In 1976 she took a job designing greeting cards until 1978 when my oldest brother, John Oliver, was born and they moved to the family farm in the karoo near Burgersdorp ( Eastern Cape ). Charles, and Susan were born shortly after John Oliver in 1982 and 1985. Here, John took up farming as a career and Barbara soon found that feeding babies and oil painting were not compatible, so she began painting in watercolour, which has remained her principle medium to this day. Oil painting is still more of a hobby and a form of relaxation therapy.

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche

Man leaning

Man leaning

Barbara has also started her own range of greeting cards, which now includes some 300 designs taken from paintings done over the years. She has designed 10 book covers for Christian Publishers (CUM) in Vereeniging, as well as three aerogramme designs printed and distributed by Clifton Products in Cape Town. In June 2002 she was invited by the Watercolour Society of PE to run a workshop, and in 2005 began giving art lessons in her studio on the farm.

For Barbara, living on a remote farm has restricted her exposure to the public eye, so it became necessary to take regular trips to festivals and exhibitions in order to show her work. In 1991 John started to frame her watercolours, which made it easier to transport and display the paintings. In 2001 John Oliver, also an accomplished artist, designed a website that he and his mother would share. This has been a great success, making it possible for Barbara to show her work to the whole world while living far from the city life in beautiful rural surroundings. This lifestyle of peace and quiet has been the perfect setting that fuels her creativity.

Thailand Beach

Thailand Beach

Young Shepherd

Young Shepherd

Exhibits and Solo Exhibitions:

1990 until 2000 Bloemfontein. monthly Art Market.
1993 – Bethulie. First solo exhibition
1995 – Grahamstown Festival
1995 – The Caledon Flower Festival
1996 – Exhibit at the Wildlife Exhibition in The Cape Gallery (Cape Town)
1996 – Kimberley Art Market
1996 – The Shell Festival (Jeffrey’s Bay)
1997 – Exhibit at The Sun Gallery (Cape Town)
1998, 1999, 2001, 2002 – Oudtshoorn. The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 – Port Elizabeth. Solo exhibitions at Floraland Nursery.
2000 – Exhibits at Game sales at Willem Pretorius and Boshof in the Free State.
2001 – Burgersdorp. “Hagenhuis” Solo Exhibition,
2001 – Johannesburg. Koi painting exhibit at the De Wet’s Koi festival.
2002 – Johannesburg. Koi painting exhibit at the National Koi Show at Cresta Centre.
2002 – Johannesburg. Solo exhibition in Midrand at “The Art Company.”
2004 & 2006 – Port Elizabeth. – Solo exhibition at Walmer Park.
2005 – Port Elizabeth. Walmer Park. Art Expo.
2005 – Bloemfontein. Homemaker’s Expo
2006 – Ermelo Solo Exhibition.
2007 – Kirkwood Game Festival.
2007 – Durban Solo Exhibition at the “Fresh Paint” Gallery.

Navratri – Nine Nights of Goddesses



Navratri, the festival of nights, lasts for 9 days with three days each devoted to worship of Ma Durga, the Goddess of Valor, Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Ma Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. During the nine days of Navratri, feasting and fasting take precedence over all normal daily activities amongst the Hindus. Evenings give rise to the religious dances in order to worship Goddess Durga Maa.

1st – 3rd day of Navratri

On the first day of the Navratri, a small bed of mud is prepared in the puja room of the house and barley seeds are sown on it. On the tenth day, the shoots are about 3 – 5 inches in length. After the puja, these seedlings are pulled out and given to devotees as a blessing from god. These initial days are dedicated to Durga Maa, the Goddess of power and energy. Her various manifestations, Kumari, Parvati and Kali are all worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman.

4th – 6th day of Navratri

During these days, Lakshmi Maa, the Goddess of peace and prosperity is worshipped. On the fifth day which is known as Lalita Panchami, it is traditional, to gather and display all literature available in the house, light a lamp or ‘diya’ to invoke Saraswati Maa, the Goddess of knowledge and art.

7th – 8th day of Navratri

These final days belong to Saraswati Maa who is worshipped to acquire the spiritual knowledge. This in turn will free us from all earthly bondage. But on the 8th day of this colorful festival, yagna (holy fire) is performed. Ghee (clarified butter), kheer (rice pudding) and sesame seeds form the holy offering to Goddess Durga Maa.

The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahanavami. On this day Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country.

¤ Navratri Celebrations

Navratri Festival coincides with the end of the rainy season. This season is considered to be an auspicious one as it is generally associated with the sowing of seeds, and watching new seeds sprout – a sign of prosperity and abundance. Most people consider it the best time of the year to undertake or start new ventures.

22-Maa Durga face
¤ Durga- The Holy Deity

The Navratri festival is dedicated to the Mother Goddess. Known by other names such as Durga, Devi, she occupies a special place in the Hindu pantheon. She represents Shakti, the cosmic energy that animates all beings, and is also considered to be prakriti (nature), the counterpart of purusha. Together, they are responsible for the creation of the world according to the Puranas and Vedas (ancient Hindu Scriptures).

¤ Worshipping of Diverse Goddess

This nine-day festival is celebrated in a unique manner. A different form of the Mother Goddess is worshipped on each different day. On the first three days, the Goddess Durga (Goddess of Valour) is venerated. The next three days are spent in the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth). and the last three days are a celebration of the Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Learning and Arts). Together, the three goddesses are worshipped as the feminine equivalent of the Hindu Holy Trinity.

¤ The Rituals Performed

This festival symbolises health and prosperity, and is celebrated in a very traditional way. People perform yagna (sacrifice offered in order to procure purification through fire) or havana (symbolic ceremony involving the purifying aspects of fire). During both the ceremonies, ghee (clarified butter), paayas or kheer (rice cooked in condensed milk) and sesame seeds are poured into the holy flames to the chanting of mantras (holy verses). Each cycle of oblation culminates with the priest summoning Swaha, the consort of Agni, or fire. Some believers fast (vrat) throughout the nine days, whilst others settle for a daylong fast. Fasting is considered to be one of the most popular means of self-discipline and spiritual development. On the fifth day, known as Lalitha Panchami, it is customary to gather the books in the house and place them before a sacred lamp in order to seek the Goddess Saraswati’s blessings. Artisans also lay their tools at the feet of the Goddess for a more prosperous trade.

¤ Navratri Celebrations in Different Parts of India

Navratri is celebrated in different regions of the country with a lot of vim and brio.

In West Bengal, it takes the form of Durga Puja, an occasion to celebrate the Triumph of Good over Evil. According to legend, a vicious buffalo-demon, Mahishasura, had raised hell at the gates of heaven, causing widespread terror. The Goddess Durga was actualised by the combined efforts of all the deities to slay him. Thus, Durga astride a lion, with an assortment of weapons in her 10 hands, slayed Mahishasura. Durga is also worshipped as Shakti, and beautiful idols of the Mother Goddess adorn elaborate pandals (marquees) for five days (starting from the fifth day of Navratri). Believers (and non-believers) flock to these pandals with gay abandon. On the tenth day of the celebrations, the idols are carried out in colourful processions to be immersed (visarjan) in a river or a pond.

In the state of Punjab, people usually fast during this period, for seven days, and on Ashtami, the eighth day, devotees break their fast by worshipping young girls who are supposed to be representatives of the Goddess herself by offering them the traditional puris (sort of deep-fried Indian bread), halwa (a dessert primarily made of flour and sugar), chanas (Bengal gram) and red chunnis (long scarves). In this region, the festival is predominantly linked with harvest. This is the time of the khetri, (wheat grown in pots in the urban context) that is worshipped in homes, and whose seedlings are given to devotees as blessings from God.

¤ Dussehra or (Vijaya Dashmi)

The festival of Navratri also coincides with the festival of Dussehra or Vijaya Dashmi. Vijaya Dashami (literally meaning ‘The Day marking the Triumph of Good over Evil’) falls on the day after Navratri, and is associated with another legend where Lord Rama killed the demon-king Ravana. In the northern parts of India, Ram Lilas draw from the epic, theRamayana, to bring the life and times of Lord Rama back to the common folk through dramatic representations.

¤ Celebrations in South India

In the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the festival of Navratri is celebrated in a different manner. Women adorn their houses with dolls (Bommai Kolu), draw traditional designs or rangolis (patterns made on the floor by using various coloured powders and flowers), and light lamps. During this festival (also known as Kolu in the state of Tamil Nadu), families proudly display traditional wooden dolls and gather to sing songs and depict scenes from the various epics, for a period of ten days. Another runaway hit is the sundal, a special sweet made from lentil and brown sugar. Families and friends exchange the traditional gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets on this occasion.

¤ Garbha and Dandiya-Rasa– The Highlights of Navratri

The festival of Navratri acquires quite a fascinating and colourful dimension in the region of Gujarat, and in some parts of Rajasthan and . The highlights of the festival are the extremely colourful dances of Garbha and Dandiya-Rasa during which, both men and women dressed in the traditional attires of dhoti-kurta (traditional Indian attire worn by menfolk, comprising a long shirt and a long flowing garment worn over the lower part of the body), and chania-choli (mirror-work skirts and blouses), put up stunning performances to the vibrant rhythm of music. These dances are performed around the traditionally decorated terracotta pot called the garbi that has a small diya (lamp) burning inside signifying knowledge, or light meant to dissipate the ignorance, or darkness, within. Dholak players (drummers) accompany the dancers, and groups of singers sing songs handed down generations.

Today the commercialisation of these dances seems evident, with the traditional and delicate rhythms being replaced by alternate forms that are quite far-removed from the original versions.

As a dance form, the Garbha is mainly performed by women. The leader starts with the first line of the song. Other dancers who sway gracefully, with their arms describing movements in perfect synchrony to the rhythmic clapping, or beating of sticks then pick this up.

Yet another variation of the Garbha is the Goph Guntan, or the string dance. As the dancers execute the movements, they hold on to one end of a rope in strands, while the other end of the rope is tied either to the ceiling or a wooden pole. Gradually, as the dancers weave in and around each other, a braid is formed. It is quite an interesting sight as it takes a certain degree of skill and accuracy to intertwine and untangle the braid without falling out of pace.

Another dance form that is popular during the Navratri celebrations is the Dandiya-Rasa, performed mostly by menfolk forming complex circular patterns to represent the lotus and other floral designs. These dancers hold the dandiyas (small wooden sticks with tiny bells attached at the ends) and dance in complex concentric circles. The dancers rhythmically beat the sticks even during a series of complicated moves that they must execute while sitting, standing or lying down.

Different communities have different variations of these dances. and the heady mix of jubilation and enthusiasm is all-pervasive.

Grasse, France The Perfume Kingdom


Grasse, in southern Provence, is found 16 km north of Cannes. It was originally best known as a centre for leather tanners, but this gave way to perfume production, for which the town is still famous today.

It is a pleasant and quite sizable town, with an old town holding an excess of medieval buildings, narrow streets, and cafes and restaurants.

One particular highlight is the town hall – don’t miss the interior courtyard, with its decorative fountain, and the view across the town centre.

There is a daily market in the main arcaded square and there are lovely views from the town.

The Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Puy is also worth a visit – it contains three paintings by Rubens.

The town has a museum celebrating Art in Provence, and there is also an International Museum of Perfume.

Grasse Perfume

Grasse has had a prospering perfume industry since the end of the 18th century – Grasse is the center of the French perfume industry and is known as the world’s perfume capital (la capitale mondiale des parfums). It produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas (for perfume and for food flavourings). This industry turns over more than 600 million euros a year.

Grasse’s particular microclimate encouraged the flower farming industry. It is warm and far enough inland to be sheltered from the sea air. There is an abundance of water thanks to its situation in the hills, and the 1860 construction of the Siagne canal for irrigation purposes. The town is 350 m above sea level and 20 km from the Coast (Côte d’Azur).

Jasmine, a key ingredient of many perfumes, was brought to the South of France by the Moors in the 16th century. Twenty-seven tonnes of jasmine are now harvested in Grasse every year.

Grasse old town street, calm and colourful.

Grasse, Côte d’Azur, France; looking over La Plaine de Grasse, where roses used to grow in their thousands.

Once tiny and awaft with aromas, Grasse is now hulking and pungent with diesel fumes. A hilly place crowded with expatriates dreaming of a quaint, semi-rural home, Grasse is not much of a tourist attraction; it’s one of those sad places with a magical name but an ambience that has slipped away while no one was looking and the town planners were out to lunch.
Still, tourists keep on coming as it’s only 20 minutes or so from Nice or Cannes, the small old town area is of some interest and the perfumeries do a good job of freely entertaining and educating while later extracting €uros for minute, smelly bottles.

Grasse’s famous, historic Fragonard perfume factory, with free museum, multilingual tours and golden gift shop.

Hint: if you’re driving to Grasse leave the wheels as soon as possible in one of the underground parks, trying to find a roadside space is near impossible, not to mention the casual French habit of battering their way into a tight space may cause trouble with the rental agency when they see the dents. This photo was taken from on top of one of the town centre car parks.

The diminuitive, admission-free Fragonard museum displays some fine perfume-related artefacts. Among other Grasse perfumeries with free tours and museums are Molinard and Galimard.

An English language tour explaining the ancient perfume distillation process.

Grasse has been the centre of the world’s perfume trade since the 18thC due to the fine climate and sheltered habitat that permitted extensive flower farming, though of course these days most perfumes are synthetically produced. Still, two-thirds of France’s flavours and scents are produced in Grasse every year and it’s an essential stop for ‘nose’ training.

Testing perfumes on paper strips in the delightful – though slightly pushy – Fragonard shop.

At the beginning of every August there is a Jasmin Festival [Fête du Jasmin or La Jasminade] involving flowery floats cruising through Grasse crewed by nubile maids in who throw flowers into the crowds. The town also hosts free firework displays, parties, music groups and street activities.

Visit Grasse (Provence, Alpes-Maritimes) travel, gites and hotels

Holidays nearby

Looking for something close by? See a wide choice of hotels, holiday villages and holiday rentals at:

Airports near Grasse

Nice airport at 32 km Toulon airport at 105 km

Tourist Classifications for Grasse

– Listed as “Ville d’Art et Histoire” (ie focus on preserving the town heritage)
– approved Station Classée (resort paying particular attention to facilities for tourism)

Places to visit near Grasse, Provence

Explore places of interest within about 70 kilometres on a map at places near Grasse. Some places to visit within 30 km: 24 km: Antibes (Riviera town) 19 km: Biot (attractive town) 25 km: Cagnes-sur-Mer (Village and Chateau Grimaldi) 15 km: Cannes (Important Riviera resort) 26 km: Cap Esterel (Holiday village) 32 km: Frejus (Coastal town) 9 km: Gourdon (Most beautiful village) 23 km: Juan-les-Pins (Beach resort) 22 km: Saint-Paul-de-Vence (Popular hilltop village) 31 km: Saint-Raphael (French Riviera resort) 22 km: Vence (Attractive town)

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (film)

The Story of a Murderer

The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 1985 literary historical cross-genre novel (originally published in German as Das Parfum) by German writer Patrick Süskind. The novel explores the sense of smell, and its relationship with the emotional meaning that scents may carry. Above all this is a story of identity, communication and the morality of the human spirit. In 2006 it was turned into a feature film by the same name directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Hurd Wood and Alan Rickman.


Set in 18th century France, Perfume relates the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, “one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages”.

Born lacking a personal odour (a fact other people find disquieting) but endowed with an incomparable sense of smell, he apprentices himself to a perfumer and becomes obsessed with procuring the perfect scent that will make him fully human. In the process, he creates perfumes—presumably based on pheromones—that powerfully manipulate human emotions, murdering 25 girls to take their scent.


Grenouille (French for “frog”) is an unwanted Parisian orphan who, having little personal scent, is rejected by others because they are disturbed by his lack of odor. He has an extraordinary power to discern odours, and comes to loathe the scent of other people. He becomes apprenticed to a tanner at the age of eight, and after work explores the city. One day he smells a divine scent and follows it, and is shocked to find that the source of this beautiful scent is a young woman. He kills her to get a better smell of her scent, but after death the scent ceases. He dedicates his life to preserve this perfect scent.

In his quest to isolate and preserve scents, he becomes apprenticed to a great perfumier, Baldini, and proves a talented pupil, making Baldini the most popular perfumier in Paris. But Baldini cannot teach him how to isolate the scent of glass and iron. He falls ill with small pox but, on discovering that techniques other than distillation can be used to preserve such odours, he miraculously recovers and resolves to journey to the city of Grasse to further his quest.

On his way to Grasse, Grenouille becomes so disgusted by the scent of humanity that he spends seven years in a cave on top of the Massif Central. One day he wakes with a start from a nightmare of being suffocated by his own body odour, and realises with a shock that he has no personal scent at all.

Grenouille journeys to Montpelier where an amateur scientist, the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, uses Grenouille to test his thesis of the “so-called fluidium letale”. The Marquis combines a treatment of decontamination and revitalization for Grenouille, and subsequently, Grenouille looks like a clean gentleman for the first time in his life. Grenouille in turn tricks his way into the laboratory of a famous perfumier. There he creates a body odour for himself from ingredients including “cat shit,” “cheese,” and “vinegar”, whereupon he is accepted by society.

Moving to Grasse, Grenouille once again becomes intoxicated by the scent of a young woman, Laure. He decides that she is not quite mature and resolves to kill her in two years time. Meanwhile he embarks on a career of serial murder of beautiful virgins to form a base for the scent he will make from Laure, while at the same time refining his powers until he can preserve any smell.

Eventually Laure’s father pieces together the pattern of murders and realises that Laure is to be the next victim. He flees with Laure but Grenouille pursues them and kills Laure, capturing her scent.

He is eventually apprehended and sentenced to death, but on the day of his execution the intoxicating scent of Laure combined with the backdrop essences of the twenty-four virgins he murdered, overwhelms all present, and instead of an execution the whole town becomes a massive orgy.

Grenouille is pardoned for his crimes, and Laure’s father even wants to adopt him. But the experience of the power has dissatisfied Grenouille, because he is not loved for himself, but for the perfume which he created. He realises that he had always found gratification ‘in hatred, in hating and being hated’, not love. He decides to return to Paris upon finding that the satisfaction that he initially felt has transformed itself into hatred and disgust.

In Paris, Grenouille approaches a group of low-life people (thieves, murderers, whores, etc), who do not notice him approaching. He deliberately douses himself with the perfume he created, while among the group. Overcome with desire, they tear him to pieces and devour the remains. They feel slightly disgusted having just eaten a human being, but they feel overwhelmed with happiness. They are “uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of Love.” – “Love” is deliberately capitalized which is open to interpretation.