Kabul in my heart

Kabul in my heart
By Jenny Ekberg
When I say “Kabul”, my four-year-old daughter squeals with excitement. She remembers the exhibition we went to (Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul); the the Grecian-styled statues, the tiles in thousand shades of blue, the buttery high carat gold. I think of a city of war, injustice, poverty and suffering, where patches of brilliant architecture, art and colours shine through dust. I think about people of strength, courage, survival instinct and complexity.

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No, I haven’t been there, I have only watched TV, movies, documentaries, art exhibitions and, above all, met lots of Afghans; all of whom have been amazing in their own right, some tough as nails, some very intellectual and witty, some bound by traditions, some trendy or glamorous, some just incredibly warm and hospitable. They have all made a huge impression on me, in particular their ability to move on, to not dwell on a sometimes unbelievably traumatizing past.

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I made this fine silver heart inspired by the people of Kabul. The architectural outside is crumbling but iridescent, and the inside is coated with that high-carat gold I have only really seen in old Afghan jewellery. It has a hidden compartment containing a piece of Afghan fabric holding incense. It is not straight, it has imperfections, but I think that it is my favourite piece of jewellery that I have made myself. It goes with my vintage tribal jewellery and my Free People clothes, and it smells great. I love it.

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Material: Fine silver with 22 K gold filling, cloth, incense.
Technique: Metal clay (PMC3), stenciling with slip, liver of sulphur/ammonia patina, cold joined.
Who is it for: Myself, and my daughter Zoë when she is older and maybe wants to borrow it.
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If you are a jewellery artisan and wants to know more about how I made this necklace, please contact me. I am happy to share all my “secrets”!

Image credits: Afghanistaninphotostumblr.com, National Museum of Afghanistan, Queensland Museum, Wikipedia, James St John, Brisbane.

Posted in Our jewellery, world, Art, silver, stenciling, metal clay, central asia, Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Kabul | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cult or not- what’s up in the Australian bush?

The site of A.J. Miller's compound in the bush near Kingaroy, Queensland. Land has been cleared to resemble a cross.

The site of A.J. Miller’s compound in the bush near Kingaroy, Queensland. Land has been cleared to resemble a cross.

The author of this post wishes to be anonymous, but is a male Queenslander. Edited by Jenny Ekberg.
This post has been changed from the original by the author.

A leader who is convinced that he is Jesus, that his partner is Mary Magdalene, that he died on the cross and performed “some, but not all” of the miracles described in the bible. An isolated, expanding compound in the Queensland bush. Followers who leave their families, separate from their partners, and donate their money to the “higher cause”. Suddenly, there are thousands of followers. To me, this screams cult, but some people think otherwise.

A.J. Miller and his partner, "Mary Magdalene".

A.J. Miller and his partner, “Mary Magdalene”.

At first, I thought it was all pretty harmless; the guy may be crazy but at least he preaches about love. The message seemed to centre on the fact that bad things that happen when you are a kid affect you when you get older. OK, this made sense. But then I watched this chilling documentary , and now I feel that maybe this guy is not an innocent silly hippie type. Wives are leaving their men. Children are involved. The messages, called the “Divine Truth”, can be dangerous. For example, diseases always have a psychological cause, even cancer. [Editor's comment: I am a senior lecturer in pathophysiology, so you can imagine what I think of this.]

I respect everyone regardless of religion; I am not religious but I have friends from pretty much every major faith on earth. I think religion is something personal, and “whatever floats your boat”. But this one feels wrong, scary, fanatical, consuming.

What do you think? Cult or not?

Images from the Courier Mail (local newspaper)

Posted in Australia, Life, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Saira Hunjan – the girl with the golden needle

IMAGE1She is known for her intricate, henna-like Indian-inspired goddess designs and for tattooing Kate Moss’s butt. She is also my favourite tattoo artist and if I had the money I would put myself on her two-year waiting list right now.
So who is Saira Hunjan?

She is from London, of Indian heritage and has been in the world of ink since she was 14 and did work experience in a tattoo parlour. With 10 years work experience, degrees from Central Saint Martins and Camberwell College of Arts and a bunch of A-lister tattoos (the Primrose hill crowd) on her resume, Saira Hunjan is definitely one of the Big Names right now. She has been featured in Vogue and the Guardian, and has been involved in collaborations resulting in her art now also being printed on clothing and stamped in leather. Saira has said in interviews she is inspired by art from Mexico and India, religious art, goddesses, death and gypsy art, resulting in intricate, detailed designs that celebrate feminine beauty. I am absolutely blown away by her designs, what more can I say. The art speaks for itself.
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You can see more of Saira Hunjan’s tattoo art on her website and her tumblr page ,

Images from Saira Hunjan’s website, The Guardian, SOMA magazine, Travelingbirds and Tigerdust blogs.

Posted in Art, tattoo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fresh off the bench: amethyst cluster dream catcher necklace

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By Jenny Ekberg

Just finished this necklace after tweaking, re-shaping and re-patinating for the millionth time; my version of the obligatory dream catcher necklace. I made it in fine silver using the same techniques as for my Kashgar ring, and with LOTS of effort and help from my husband managed to set this irregular cluster of amethyst crystal tips, as dark as the darkest violets in a springtime forest.

So, here are the facts:
Material? fine silver, amethysts, liver of sulphur patina
Inspiration? architecture in Kashgar, China
How long did it take? About 3 months (note that I can only work at the bench a stolen night here and there)
For who? Myself this time!

It is 00.30 so I better go to sleep. Outside the darkness is like black velvet and the poodles are howling at possums jumping on the roof like drunken ghosts.
Good night!

Posted in central asia, china, gemstone, kashgar, metal clay, Our jewellery, silver, stenciling, uyghur, world, xinjiang | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Soul in limbo: Memetjan Abla

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At midnight, between the 7th and 8th of March, Uyghur artist Memetjan Abla (Abdullah) boarded Flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur. He was on his way back to his wife and daughter in Beijing, after winning an award at the “Chinese Dream: Red and Green Painting” art exhibition and culutural exchange conference, held March 4 to 6 in the Malaysian city. As we now know, he never made it; the plane turned into fog somewhere mid air.

Who was Memetjan Abla? Or, who is he? I guess, that we must consider that he is gone, although it feels like he is still in limbo.
Slowly, a portrait starts to emerge of a passionate painter, who used oil as his medium. He was from Kashgar, where he taught art at middle school. His colleagues speak with distraught eyes of his passion and hard work; how he lived on 2-minute noodles while studying in Beijing, determined and focussed. In the photo, his eyes look just like that, serious, maybe even feverish.

His paintings convey to me what I think the soul of Kashgar would be like. I have never been to Xinjiang, but when I look at Memetjan’s paintings, I feel like I am standing there, on a roof in the old town, watching the strangeness of the changing city, along the Uyghur people in Outlook (above) who watch with distance the New People’s steel houses appearing like mushrooms after an autumn rain. It is something about the light and the colours that captivate me completely; the purple and yellow in Outlook, the January white in the winter market scene, the shimmering in the crumbling Kashgar old town houses.

What else do we know about Memetjan, who’s life just got put on some kind of hold just like that? He was 35, born in the same year as me; as a Generation Xer he would remember the Wind of Change, Chernobyl and the end of Apartheid. He might have listened to the same music as I did. He was talented, strongheaded, determined, fashinating, brilliant. About all the rest, all his thoughts, fears, emotions, dreams, I can say nothing. Just that his art will never die; his portraits of Kashgar and the Uyghur soul will never disappear, they are a mark in time, a barometer, an encyclopedium burning with iridescence.

But still.

It’s such a tragedy.

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You can read about Memetjan Abla in this blog post by Beige Wind (The art of life in Chinese Central Asia), and find his art work on Memetjan Abla’s own web site here .

Image sources: Memetjan Abla’s website, Beijing Cream, CNN.

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Posted in Art, central asia, china, kashgar, uyghur, world, xinjiang | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kashgar ring

Kashgar ring, made by me
I dream of one day going to Kashgar, hopefully with my family. I made this ring inspired by photos I have seen of the old town in Kashgar; beautiful, unique, colourful, threatened by demolition, but very much alive.

How did I make it? I made the ring from fine silver metal clay (PMC3), using a stenciling technique according to Kelly Russell’s instructions in the book PMC Technic (edited by Tim McCreight). I gave it a vibrant Liver of Sulphur-patina and set a large iridescent freshwater pearl in the centre.

Who did I make it for? My mum, for Christmas.

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Kashgar image sources: MichelCaster.com, ibtimes.com, tripadvisor.com.

Posted in central asia, china, kashgar, metal clay, Our jewellery, silver, stenciling, uyghur, xinjiang | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Lucky horse shoes

fine silver bronze hs
By Jenny Ekberg
There is something about horse shoes. How can something so rustic feel so magical?
As a child in Sweden, I would watch in awe my practical, earthy grandparents Ida and Nils turn silent and supersticial when stumbling over a rusty horse shoe whilst digging in their garden. Inspired by old Central Asian Turkoman silver necklaces, and by jewellery artist Pamela Love (see my post about Pamela here), I suddenly got an urge to make my own spiked horse shoes. These are my first attempts; one in fine silver, one in bronze. Already, they are amongst my most worn pieces of jewellery; they are extremely versatile and do feel a little magical, actually.

Left: bronze horse shoe necklace with varigated silk cord. Right: Fine silver spiky horse shoe necklace, and real old horse shoe from India in my bedroom.

Left: bronze horse shoe necklace with varigated silk cord. Right: Fine silver spiky horse shoe necklace, and real old horse shoe from India in my bedroom.

Posted in central asia, decor, jewellery by others, Our jewellery, uzbekistan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just had to post this…

Zoeby Jenny Ekberg
My daughter Zoe, 3, was very excited about having this particular flower in her hair. She is just so cute in this picture that I simply couldn’t resist posting it.

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Elegant simplicity: Diamond rings by Coco and Chia

diamond rings
By Jenny Ekberg
Due to my neck injury, I have recently spent quite a bit of time in bed, making intricate beaded bracelets in bold and iridescent colours. I have surrounded myself with hand printed Indian textiles in ocher, crimson and deep purple; with moroccan lanterns, incense and fairy lights.

After such sensory overload, I always find myself gravitating towards elegant, simple forms. For me, the sleek lines of these rings by US jewellery designer Coco and Chia represent the core of beauty, back to basics, back to the earth. If I wasn’t already married, these would be my ideal engagement or wedding rings (I know my husband would love them too).

Image: Left: Diamond and sterling silver stacking ring set. Right: Wedding ring set, oxidised sterling with white diamonds.

Posted in jewellery by others, pick of the day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fesenjan – Persian comfort food for a queen (Iranian stew with pomegranates, saffron and walnuts)

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By Jenny Ekberg
It is winter here in Brisbane, and pouring with cold rain. We are all cuddled up indoors wrapped in warm Indian blankets, hand printed in vivid colours. We are drinking hot chocolate and have lit candles all over the house. And the best of all – we are all encapsulated in the wondrous aroma of fesenjan, an amazing Persian special-occasion-dish, slow cooking for hours on the stove. Containing walnuts, saffron (my favourite spice) and pomegranate suryp, this dish truly is fit for a Persian queen. Or for a slightly chubby, spice-loving little 34-year old Swedish woman in a rained out Australian suburb and her rugged up family. Recipe for my version of Fesenjan follows below.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup pomegranate syrup. Click on this link to view my easy recipe of how to make syrup from either pomegranate juice or whole pomegranates.
  • 1 to 1.5 kg of diced chicken or lamb or eggplant (veggie option!)
  • 2 small sliced onions
  • 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • an average sized pinch of saffron (about 1/6 of what is shown in my photo above; see also notes below about saffron
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (ground; I grind it myself)
  • 3 cups of stock (chicken, beef or vegetable; try to go for the non-MSG option!)
  • juice from either 2 limes or one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste. plus a little more sugar if you need to make it sweeter at the end.
  • a large saucepan/pot with a lid and a rack/oven dish to toast the walnuts on.

For serving:

  • saffron rice (see below) or plain rice
  • Natural yoghurt
  • optional: pomegranate seeds, barberries (the same thing as berberis), sultanas, edible flowers for decoration

Directions:

1. Toast the walnuts very, very lightly on a rack/oven dish at 160 degrees C/ 320 degrees F. This only takes a couple of minutes; stir them a few times so they don’t burn. When you start to smell them, but they are not burned, they are ready. Let them cool and grind them in a mortar until they are like a course meal.

2. Fry onions and garlic in some olive oil in a large sa on low heat until slightly browned.

3. Add cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the powdered walnuts, pomegranate syrup, saffron, stock and sugar, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

5. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for 20 min.

6. Add your meat or diced eggplant. Let it all keep simmering.

7. After another 20 min, add the lime or lemon juice.

8. Cook for a loooooong time. If you are using chicken, at least 2 hours. If using lamb, at least 4 hours. Eggplant: you can get away with 1 hour. The longer the better! Stir it every now and then, and add water if it gets too dry.The sauce will start to darken as the oils come out of the walnuts, and the delicious aromas of saffron and pomegrantate will start to fill your house with happiness.

9. Adjust salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Serve with rice (plain or saffron rice) and natural yoghurt, and if you like, add some pomegranate seeds, sultanas and/or barberries on top. If you want to make it extra fancy, do what I did and decorate with some vibrant edible flowers.

Saffron rice: Just chuck in a couple of saffron thread with the rice as you cook it! It makes the rice yellow and fragrant; I love it.

Savour fesenjan with your loved ones around a table full of laughter, or alone enjoying the silence. But make sure that you eat this dish in a warm, cosy atmosphere.

Note about saffron: Saffron really varies in quality. I have gone into a spice shop and found really cheap saffron sold in a big pack. It didn’t taste much at all. Make sure you get what you pay for. Good saffron has a really strong, distinct aroma and flavour. I am incredibly lucky; I have a good friend who regularly travels to Tehran and brings me a year’s supply of the real deal each time.

Thanks to my wonderful Persian friend and colleague Dr Fatemeh Chehrehasa for cooking this dish for me multiple times so I know what it should taste like, for supplying me with the “red gold” (saffron), and most of all for your friendship.

Posted in Iran, Recipes, world | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments