Skip to content


by mana on August 13th, 2011
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal; Photo by Chez Mana

In the summer of 2011, I traveled across many borders, rediscovered friends, savored music and feasted on works of art that throughout questioned notions of identity, and physical boundaries.

At the Montreal Jazz Festival, three outstanding musicians caught my attention. Anouar Brahem, a Tunisian composer and master of the oud who combines Arab classical music with jazz, and traditional folk performed his Voyage De Sahar. He was accompanied by two French artists, Francois Couturier on piano, and Jean-Louis Matinier on accordian. That night, the world felt like an enchanting place.

Anouar Brahem's Poster

Anouar Brahem's Poster; Photo by Chez Mana

The delicately complex tunes carried me to all the regions that had left an imprint on their work. The humming of Anouar Brahem added a chanting mood. The whimsical accompaniment of the accordion and the way that the piano adapted itself to the rhythms of the oud made me feel as if I was flying over a varied landscape. The music came and went in such precision and innovation that it felt light in its complexity and rigor.

Chez Mana with Anouar Brahem and Jean-Louis Matinier

Chez Mana with Anouar Brahem and Jean-Louis Matinier

Next to me sat one of my favorite Canadian painters, Sophie Lambert.
As we absorbed the energy of the performance, I felt togetherness. The sounds transcended physical boundaries while preserving the individuality of each. The duo between Matinier and Brahem was so tango-like that I felt uneasy listening in between them, yet happy to have the opportunity.

Talking to Brahem afterwards, I learned that one of his collaborators was unable to get a visa to come to Canada. I then remembered the real world which is wonderful and horrible at the same time. It is the aesthetics that helps us tolerate the unhappier part of the world.

Anouar Brahem, Francois Couturier, Jean-Louis Matinier; Photo by Chez Mana

In Paris, I met with former classmates from grade school and university. The first reunion was at the Espace Louis Vuitton, where the exhibit Trans-Figurations represented eleven contemporary Indonesian artists. Tintin Wulia displayed her project (Re)Collections of Togetherness. With her work, the topic of borders, and boundaries came back. Wulia studies the relationship between political borders and personal identity. In this installation, Wulia’s chosen symbol of borders was passports. Through her work, she dissolves the physical boundaries in the modern world and shows that boundaries have meaning because of the social values that we attach to them. Our own identities cross many boundaries.

The feeling of togetherness continued when I met my friends and acquaintances. Nowadays, we were dispersed all over the world as a result of the historical events that had swept over us like a giant wave. The joy of being there was all the greater because of the many roads we had traveled from our common starting place.

Then came the breathtaking work of Michal Rovner at the Louvre. She explores the themes of archaeology, memory, and territory with works that are deeply influenced by the conflicts in the Middle East.

Rovner chose to install her exhibition at the Louvre in the rooms devoted to Syria, Jordan, and Palestine and the medieval moat. She creates her works in situ, projecting her videos directly onto the walls and ancient objects creating a dialogue between her moving figures and the ancient inscriptions. With her work, she abolishes the borders between periods and cultures, reinforcing the feelings of togetherness through human social experiences.

In this summer of 2011, I reconnected with old friends and found new connections to artists whose work I had not previously known. Through it all, there ran a feeling of togetherness, of bonds that are enriched by our origins and movements across boundaries. Those bonds remain rooted in our social identities through different cultures, which we construct ourselves despite the forces that may drive us to different places and ways of life.

From → Musings

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.