Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hidden Beauty

ok, on friday i went to sharjah to see the exhibition for Steve McCurry and, of course, as usual when i go to sharjah i had bad feelings.

let's start from the fact that, to see the 50 pictures on show, i had to undergo 2 and a half hours on the usually stinky bus kindly offered by emirates transport. i arrived at sharjah bus station and the usual smells of the city overwhelmed me in a moment: deep-fry something (there was a food stall just beside the bus stop with the sign "Eat Healthy! Food on the Go", but i wonder how healthy can be a bunch of something deep-fried in over-used canola oil... mmmmhhhh, my conception about food might be polluted by the fact that i'm italian... don't know really), rotten fish (the bus station is built on the site where the fish market is - with all the consequences arising from fish and seafood displayed on outdoor stands at 50C degrees), sweat, exhaust fumes, sweat, sweat and sweat again.
among all the 7 emirates, sharjah is my less favourite one. with all the bachelor immigrants from the indian sub-continent it looks like a kumbamela for men only (and it has almost the same smell of someone waiting one year to have a holy bath in the ganges river - sorry for my cynism, but these people could at least take a shower, they are not living in the streets of kolkatta anymore...).
i didn't want to take a taxi because of the traffic jams in the roads, so i took a deep breath and started to walk in aphnea through rolla, an area where every woman would feel uncomfortable (and, still, it's not the first time i go there, so i prepared myself wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt).
eyes. eyes. eyes everywhere. eyes staring at you. eyes staring at everything which looks like a femal-sexed human being. eyes which sticks on your face your skin your clothes. eyes like glue, you feel you cannot detach them from your body. (sometimes i used to take a long long shower just after passing through rolla, but even after the shower i would feel dirty.) so, head down, eyes on the pavement. you don't have the luxury of siteseeing in rolla, any eye contact is something to avoid like plague. it is the worst thing which could happen to you and it could lead to the most undesirable of situations, especially being a western woman alone in the street at evening (and this f*****g museum on friday is open only from 5 to 8 pm).

so, eye on the pavement i arrived to the heritage area and i can finally look ahead of me. no signboards for sharjah art museum. no road signs. nothing. i approached two indian woman very afraid of me and when i asked them where the museum was it turned out they didn't speak english and one of them just pointed the enclosure where the souq and other heritage buildings are and she ran away in a hurry (am i so scary???). i walked in the enclosure and started to check the buildings one by one: national theatre, theatrical society, bayt someone, bayt someone other, masjid, islamic museum... i saw a poster of "the afghan girl" picture hanging on the wall of bayt naboodah (i remembered this one...) and entered inside, where the two receptionists (a pakistani and an emirati) couldn't speak english so they just gave me a map of sharjah (that actually i already know par coeur) and some other brochures and started again to chitchat with each other.
from the map i realized that the museum was in another area not far, the so-called "arts area" (while i was in the "heritage area"), so i turned to the right on the corniche and walked again. it was so humid i was sweating already since i got off the bus, but at least my consolation was that i disguised in the surrounding smell...
finally i arrived to a building whose signage said "sharjah art galleries" so i entered the place and i found a big patio with wrecked garbages displayed on the four sides like they were avantgarde sculptures (no, they were just debris taken from sanaya area, where they sell car spare parts... sorry, but not everything can aim to the status of contemporary art. if something is shit, it is shit, it is not manzoni's "artist's shit") and a huge hole at the centre i guess due to refurbishment of that artistic space. i walked on the wobbly wooden planking placed on the hole tibetan bridge-style and exit from a side door opening on a square, where, in front of my unbelieving eyes, was finally standing (thanks god) the monumental "sharjah art museum".

the place is very big and, at the moment, it's hosting also another exhibition showcasing the thousands of postcards the museum received over the years from artist from all over the world (nothing interesting in my opinion).
i found the museum personnel very helpful and kind and i finally walked in the rooms reserved to the exhibition "Face of Asia". the silence was appeasing, too bad that an indian family came along with grandpa, grandma, dad, mum and three children ranging from 5 years to 6 months... three generations of indian talking, crying and running all around while i wanted to concentrate on the beauty and inner meaning of each picture. boeuf, c'est la vie!
the exhibition was really amazing. and interesting. i was a little disappointed that the section of Afghanistan was not very good despite the wide coverage that McCurry made on the country in almost 30 years, but in the end the whole exposition was an hymn to life: the streets of Jodhpur with the blue buildings and men in colorful dresses playing chess, the monsoon in India, some hindu festivals in Kerala and Varanasi, the dentist in Kabul, the monks in Angkor Wat and Tibetan and Nepali believers on their pilgrimage to Lhasa... sometimes asia is more beautiful on a picture than when you really trip over it in the streets of sharjah, but this is another story.
like another story are the 4 emirati girls arrived with their black abbayas and veils and designer handbags having their defile' while taking quick glances at every room from the corridor and exclaming "helwa!" for the picture of 12 years old Sharbat Gula (the afghan girl on National Geographic cover).
one of my favourite pictures was a photo taken during the monsoon in India: an old tailor caught in the waterflood upto his neck with his old sewing machine on his shoulder. he was smiling...
life is beautiful, even if sometimes we are too frustrated to notice it.
for me, my frustration, my anger and my dissatisfaction just left me when i exit the main door of the museum to allow myself to see the beauty of indian kids playing in the square adjacent the museum with their huge eyes wide-opened reflecting the moon.

sometimes i'm selfish.
but sometimes i'm sentimental.
this is another hidden beauty of human beings i think: swinging moods and destroying prejudices.

then i took the bus and got back to abu dhabi, but that's the end of the story...