All posts by easyteas

“Malaysian – Cardiffian – a harmonious fusion between two cultures, two cities and two lifestyles” – Zainah

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I am sat at my cafe having a cuppa and reflecting on the last 10 years living in Cardiff. It has been eventful in many ways, yet calming at the same time.

My husband and I actually met in 1991 when we were both studying at Cardiff University. In 1995 we got married in Kuala Lumpur during his year out for his Architecture degree. We returned to Cardiff a happily married couple and stayed for another 12 months. He could have continued his degree at another university, but opted to stay in Cardiff instead. Looking back I think it was because we felt at home in Cardiff but didn’t quite realise it yet.

We left for Malaysia and lived there for another seven years. In the following years, we had two daughters and several jobs. In April 2003, we felt we needed a big change and my husband wanted to study an MsC in Environmental Design. We had the whole of the UK to choose from, but chose Cardiff again. We felt it was the right place to bring up two very young children. When we arrived in Cardiff on the 18 August 2003, it was like we never left. I even caught up with Eastenders within a week!

Cardiff was wonderful for us and our children. Unfortunately recession hit and my husband was made redundant from an architects firm in Cardiff. I was still working at a solicitors office on a part-time basis.

Unable to find a job after 12 months, we made a huge decision for my husband to go back to Kuala Lumpur to work. The plan was for me to try to sell our house and move to Kuala Lumpur with the children once the sale was completed. When the house was put up for sale I had an uneasy feeling. We were well rooted in our lovely Penylan/Roath community and it seemed a little scary moving back to Kuala Lumpur after eight years in Cardiff.

Well, it’s 2013, and we are still here! We had to find a plan B and decided to open a Malaysian Cafe on Wellfield Road. It ‘s called called KL Canolog, named after KL Sentral – the main train station in Kuala Lumpur.

So, we are now in a perfect place. If I were to think back about what we remembered most about Cardiff is probably Roath Park. We used to imagine having a picnic there whilst our two young daughters ran about appreciating the fresh air, the lovely flowers and the friendly Welsh people. This still holds true to me but in the last few years I have had to face animosity for being foreign, for presumably overstaying, for taking what was not ours, basically negative press everyday. This seemed to be everywhere in the UK and not just Wales. We were able to overcome this as there was that Cardiff part in us and in our three children (oops I forgot to mention we adopted my son in 2006 from Malaysia). So we embraced the bad and good.

The 18 of August marks our 10th year in Cardiff (if you include our student days that’ll be 15 years). This is where we call home. We are supporters of the Welsh Rugby team and Cardiff City FC. We are very happy to share our Malaysian heritage with our community and feel that it is time we gave back to Cardiff what we have been enjoying for example Welsh cakes, barra brith, chips from Chippy Lane, to name a few.

I am also getting involved in several causes like the Depressed Cake Shop which has gone global from London to Cardiff, San Francisco and in Kuala Lumpur (organised by my sister living in Kuala Lumpur). This cause has also been mentioned on CNN and the LA Times. It is personal to me as I suffered a major breakdown before KL Canolog opened and have suffered with depression for most of my adult life. My father suffers from it too and it was difficult growing up with depression being such a taboo in the Far East. My daughters and I will be doing the Memory Walk on the 15 of September to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Sadly my mother-in-law is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. My life has changed from working in an office and being surround by four walls and the law. I am a lot happier and I feel working at KL Canolog has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who are giving back to society and trying to make it a better place to live.

Made in Roath is also fabulous and I am blessed to have met Wayne Courtney and champion for everything good. I would also like to thank Miss Cakehead who is a genius! She has made it possible for me to be brave about my depression.

With everything we have been through, I have come to realise that you can’t take the Malaysian out of us but at the same time you can’t take the Cardiff out of us too. A harmonious fusion between two cultures, two cities and two lifestyles.

Zainah Ismail first came to Cardiff in 1990 to study Law at Cardiff University. After graduating with an LLB Degree, she worked as a banker in Kuala Lumpur. In 2004, Zainah started working at Geldards LLP before deciding to start a Malaysian cafe-deli called KL Canolog with her husband. Besides being involved with The Depressed Cake Shop Cymru and taking part in The Memory Walk, Zainah has recently involved herself with Free Cakes for Wales which provides cakes for adults and children who are unable to afford a birthday cake. Zainah currently lives with her husband, her two daughters and son in Penylan.

Zainah was photographed at KL Canalog by Jon Pountney

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“Butetown is my hometown” – Beatrice

Gavin Porter Giving a tour of Butetown-by Angelo Gianpaolo Bucci

Butetown and me have never been more than acquaintances. As a journalism student at Cardiff University back in 2009, I used to walk down Bute Street only to head to the Bay, unaware of what laid behind the terraced houses that decorate the sidewalk: I would glance at the African shops and the colourful murales on the right hand side of the street and assume I knew something about the place.

I couldn’t be more wrong about it. I ignored that since the early 18th century Butetown has been the multicultural spot of the city, a place where people from different continents lived in the same Victorian house; nor I knew the first Yemeni and Somalis sailors making landfall to the Bay where also the founder of Britain’s first mosque in 2 Glynrhondda St, Cathays. I knew very few about Butetown up until March 2013 when I visited the Diff again after working in London. This time I was determined to learn more about the area for personal and professional reasons.

On the personal side I needed to know more about African culture and migration. Despite being in Italy from Congolese parents I haven’t lived in an African community and so my knowledge of the  continent and its cultures was limited to what I read, watched and was told. The hunger for information wedded so well with my professional soul as I started to work on a documentary on migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Back in 2011 and throughout 2012 few trips brought me to Oslo, Brussels and Istanbul. And in these cities I couldn’t help but notice the urban isolation of African migrants. In Istanbul, tall, muscled men would appear during the day, selling goods on the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn and disappear when the sun sat down, like invisible presences. After doing some research and discovering how few has been written on these communities, I decided to work on a reportage called “Where we are”, with the aim of discovering and let emerge un(der)reported ethnic groups and cultures, baring two questions: are these groups isolating or isolated? How are people living there?

With these queries in mind and the will to avoid the same old representation of migrants, I began working with Gianpaolo Bucci, an Italian filmmaker who quitted his job at RAI, the equivalent of the BBC in Italy, to focus on social issues and human rights.

From a reportage confined to few European cities, the project became an ambitious multimedia documentary to be shot in 12 different cities of the world. It brings the name of (IN)VISIBLE CITIES.

Among those cities, Cardiff was the first stop and Butetown the main focus.

Butetown and me have always been acquaintances maybe because nobody properly introduced to each other. Our relationship status updated in March 2013 when the first episode of (IN)VISIBLE CITIES was shot and when I befriended with people who have lived in the area sometimes for their whole lives.

It was a long chain of people introducing us to other people that made everything possible. Never the “everyone knows everyone” expression was more adequate. Although Butetown might appear as a closed space, confined between a railway and the Taff river, it is a “town” where doors are literally always open. This works for historic institutions like the Butetown History and Arts Centre as well as for private houses. So shows the way Himmat welcomed us.

Himmat came to Butetown few years back after living in other areas of Cardiff and in Denmark. He’s originally from Sudan, but loves the idea of his two little girls growing up in an environment where children gather in the yard and don’t even notice whether they’re from Yemen or Somalia or Malta.

Race was never an issue for the Borge’s either, an eleven-people-family whose ethnical roots can be traced back to Malta, France, Somalia, India … just to name a few. So it’s entrenched their love for Butetown that one of the daughters, sitting in the loud and crowded kitchen a stone away from the Bay touristic restaurants, proudly told me she’ll never leave, because that’s her “hometown”.

Very few people told us about government benefits, how they have struggled to get where they are or crime, but those who did have diverse opinions on these issues. Some mentioned about how Butetown is considered or is a “tough area”, or has been isolated by the government or the place has been a safe haven for multicultural groups. But mostly we discovered intimate stories and African tradition we did not know about.

Like when we first met Maher, a single dad who lives near what was the historic Loudoun square. After recounting his tales of a former sailor coming from Sudan, he let us in his kitchen where we had a taste of Sudanese culture. Maher’s house was filled with a pungent and exotic perfume which he revealed being an incense women use before getting married. Back in the days, his mother might have used that too. He smiled when showing some pictures of his family and parents, especially his mom, who had two long excavation on her cheeks, apparently scarves resulting from a traditional mark made to differentiate tribes. He commented only by saying: “That’s what they do!” Like he wasn’t part of the Sudanese frame anymore.

This is something that happens to migrants and second generations: crisis and loss of identity. I experienced it myself when others were asking whether I feel Congolese or Italian. British actress Thandie Newton talked gorgeously about her identity crisis as a girl born from Zimbabwean mother and British father, in a TED Talk. But finding the same paths in people in Butetown just brought me closer and closer.

Hassan for example, was the youngest of the people we talked to. Born Somali in Denmark and now a happy resident of Butetown, he confessed he’s a bit confused about his cultural identity and hopes his children will have a clearer vision about this. Hassan is a poet, one of the group that together with producer Gavin Porter, created a two-day show on Somali culture in Butetown. The pièce, De Gabay, took place early in March and introduced to other people living in Cardiff a culture that is now embedded in the history of the capital.

I could go on and on talking about people met in Butetown and how they broaden the idea of (IN)VISIBLE CITIES, but it’s better not to spoil the contents of the documentary, that will soon be screened in Seoul in South Korea after being promoted in the U.S.

Not too long ago our chase for African migrants led us to Los Angeles and then continued as we crossed the US from coast to coast.

No question we’ll be back in Cardiff to show the documentary as well and catch up with what are now not only protagonists and makers of this adventure, but also friends.

Ngalula Beatrice Kabutakapua is an investigative journalist and photographer born in Italy but with Congolese roots. In her seven years spent working in the media she has collaborated with media companies such as The Guardian, L’Espresso, Radio France Internationale and the BBC. Focused on international development, migration and human rights issues, she has also been a staff member of the UN Department of Information and is currently an editorial trainer for the US-based NGO World Pulse. She is an active volunteer and works in Italian, English and French.

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“I’ve become the most employed life model in the UK – the UK’s most naked man” – Andy

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My first ‘proper’ girlfriend was Sian. I used to visit her every now and then, catching the coach down from London. Back in the day, Sian would take me to Pillars for snacks, shopping in the arcades, to the ‘animal wall’, Spillers Records, a dusty old book shop… But this is now. Sian and I have swapped locations. She lives in London, and I, mostly, live in Cardiff. I don’t see Sian anymore, as that was then. That was 33 years ago.

And me? I’m 48, live in a van, and am, usually, as naked as the day I was born.

Cardiff has changed over the years. Cardiff has been spruced up. Cardiff has had a facelift. It’s a bit unfinished and tired in places, development land in the Bay is laying fallow, modern estates of twenty years past are so soon decaying… Cardiff’s heart is pumping, but its pimped up and requires feeding. The shops and pedestrian zones demand regular re-invention and a fatty, corporate growth. It’s as if Cardiff wasn’t ready, wasn’t right for the glitz and shimmer of town centre apartments, the footballers wives lifestyles. It’s limbs, it’s Roath’s, Cathays’, Canton’s and Grangetown’s, they are where Cardiff’s at.

I think I’ve aged better than Cardiff. You can see my history on my face. There’s no mask, no veneer, no lick of paint. I’ve grown craggy, I’ve grown brave, I’m wild now, a feral human… My eyes shine bright like the gleaming windows of the smart, dressed stone Victorian town houses that hem in Roath Park. There are lines gathering about them, lines of laughter, of sorrow, of astonishment and dismay. Those lines are as the rivers Taff, Ely and Rhymney that flow over the damp, dank creases of the cities weather beaten skin. My body is tighter, taughter. It’s straining to bursting. My body is the vehicle for my voice, the voice that it holds captive behind its sinew curtain, within its bone cage. And it creaks. And it’s slower to bend. And as I speak, I ache…

And Cardiff aches and snaps at times. It’s people spark at each other. It’s architecture has raised eyebrows. I see violence of fists and of the demolition ball against the backdrop of a screaming birthing of gleaming towers. I see it’s roads slow to a halt, but, always, there is movement over tarmac once more, an edging forwards, a traveling through time and space. There’s a fidgeting to the Bay, a trembling to Whitchurch, a lurching to Llanrumny. Cardiff breathes in and out a mass of humanity, several times a day. And the humans grow up, grow old. And the city changes. It’s forever changing…

And I’ve changed. I’m 48, live in a van, and am, usually, as naked as the day I was born. More so, in fact. Swaddling’s not my thing. I’m my partners muse, an artists muse, I can be your muse. I’ve become the most employed life model in the UK, the UK’s most naked man. I work for colleges, universities, artists, hen party’s, TV… I run drawing sessions in bars in the evenings… I’ve been filmed naked with Lacey Turner and Caroline Quentin… My bum’s been booked for theatre, appearing live, on stage, an avant-garde performance arse… I’ve been interviewed by the owner of the UK’s most famous bottom, for Radio Four…

I have Cardiff to thank for this. It’s the right size for a city. It’s easy to get stuff moving, to build on an idea, to drive a project to success. Cardiff enables personal re-invention as fluidly as it re-invents itself. Cardiff’s a city on a human scale. And when it gets me down, when the planners, politicians, businessmen and all their associates, that band of corporate bland, when they piss me off, I head to Roath Lake. I sit in my van. And I watch the duckies…

Originally from South East London Andrew has been in Wales for 25 years and has experienced living in the Valleys, Brecon, Talgarth and Cardiff. Since moving to Wales he has become, amongst other things, a mountaineer, a poet, youth inclusion specialist, an activist and of course, the most naked man in the UK! He currently lives in his van with his partner Becky and his dog, Rowan. They mostly park up near Roath Park and welcome visitors who often are treated to a cup of fresh mint tea. More info can be found at about.me.

Andy was photographed at Roath Park Lake by Lann Niziblian

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Project Cardiff – new exhibition at Milkwood Gallery

Marc Thomas photographed for Project CardiffA new exhibition featuring the work of We Are Cardiff photographer Lann Niziblian is launching this weekend at the Milkwood Gallery, Roath.

The exhibition will feature portraits from Lann’s Project Cardiff – ‘a portfolio of photographs of people how have been identified as making a positive contribution to the creative life and soul of the city.’

A selection of the images has previously been shown at the Senedd and they will now hang in the Milkwood Gallery from 2-24 February.

Exhibition Dates: 2 – 24 February 2013
(Private View: 2 February 2013 from 6.00pm)

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10.00am – 5.00pm

Venue: Milkwood Gallery, 41 Lochaber Street, Roath, Cardiff CF24 3RU

Image is Marc Thomas, Editor of Plastik Magazine, with thanks to photographer Lann Niziblian.

Two Cardiffs Caught on Camera: Images of a City, Stories of its People

We Are Cardiff photographer Jon Pountney publishes ‘Cardiff before Cardiff’

Cardiff Before Cardiff book cover jon pountney

During the 1970s and early ’80s, hundreds of prints and negatives of Cardiff were taken by the photographer Keith S. Robertson.

These were left forgotten in drawers in an artist’s studio in the city, with the photographer being told that his years of work had been burned and destroyed.

However, exactly two years ago the photographs were finally recovered by another photographer, Jon Pountney, who realised their value immediately.

The result of his restorative work on the photographs, and the reaction generated from the people portrayed or who have seen them, is published this week by Y Lolfa in a new book called Cardiff before Cardiff.

Jon Pountney
Jon Pountney

“I discovered the prints and negatives whilst renovating Warwick Hall, a building in the Gabalfa area of Cardiff, and was instantly struck by the quality of the prints,” explains Jon Pountney.

“The pictures were amazing; ordinary people going about their day, looking as if they could step off the page… What was very striking was the rich vein of community, smiles, winks and laughter.

“A couple of these pictures were stamped ‘Keith S. Robertson’, but that was all. So I created a new blog, called Cardiff before Cardiff, and shared a few photos on the website in an effort to learn more about this photographer. They were seen by a journalist, who subsequently put a number of the prints in a newspaper. The response was immense, and resulted in me being able to reunite Keith with his photographs once more.”

In Cardiff before Cardiff, Robertson’s powerful black and white images show the people and streets of Splott and other areas of Cardiff during the 1970s and the early ’80s, and Pountney’s work revisits some of those same areas today, showing how little has changed, and vice versa.

“Ever since I found those photos, I’ve been shooting Cardiff in a response to Keith’s work,” adds Jon. “It’s inspired me to step out into the streets of Cardiff and make the work I’ve always wanted to do. In this new book, my pictures appear side by side with Keith’s, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Alun Gibbard
Alun Gibbard

The book’s author, Alun Gibbard says, “What has breathed life into Cardiff before Cardiff is the response of the city’s people. On seeing the black and white images in the press, on the blog and Facebook, people began to respond. Someone would recognise themselves in a photograph, or their father, mother or child. Some saw photographs of their family for the first time.”

Jon Pountney and Alun Gibbard will be signing copies of Cardiff before Cardiff in the city’s WHSmith on Thursday, 20th of December between 4 and 5pm. YourCardiff has also published an interview with Jon today.

 

 

 

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