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Enduring Ideals: Norman Rockwell’s Traveling Exhibition features Rockwell’s ‘Four Freedoms’

The Norman Rockwell Museum says the works rallied the public behind the war effort and the exhibit "demonstrates the power of illustration to communicate ideas and inspire change

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American artist Norman Rockwell is shown in an undated photo. VOA

Norman Rockwell’s most celebrated series of paintings is embarking on a multi-year tour across the U.S. and to Europe.

The exhibit titled “Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms” opens June 2018 at the New York Historical Society and ends with a five-month run starting June 2020 at the Memorial de Caen museum in France.

The exhibit features Rockwell’s works “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom from Fear,” “Freedom from Want,” and “Freedom to Worship,” inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address.

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It will also appear in Dearborn, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Stockbridge, Massachusetts; Houston, Texas; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Norman Rockwell Museum says the works rallied the public behind the war effort and the exhibit “demonstrates the power of illustration to communicate ideas and inspire change.”(VOA)

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60 Years Later, 6-Year-Old Eloise from a beloved Children’s book Series Continues to Delight People in New York City

Kay Thompson never thought of Eloise as a children’s book

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Kay Thompson
This unpublished illustration by Hilary Knight features Eloise slumped in a chair in the Plaza's enormous, opulent lobby. (Collection of Hilary Knight, © Kay Thompson). VOA

NEW YORK, August 5, 2017: Sixty years after she captured America’s heart, six-year-old Eloise is still making trouble at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Eloise is the central character in a series of beloved children’s books, written in the 1950s by Kay Thompson, who died in 1998, and illustrated by Hilary Knight, who’s very much alive at 90.

Kay Thompson
Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight on the set of Funny Face, 1956.

Thompson, who at various points in her life was a radio personality, a vocal arranger at MGM, and a popular cabaret performer, amused her friends with the voice of a little girl called Eloise. One of those friends thought the character might make a good children’s book, and introduced her to a young artist named Hilary Knight. Knight says he and Thompson hit it off right away. “She was the most fantastic, interesting, funny, tough lady,” he recalls with a laugh. “She was incredibly talented and I never had so much fun in my life.”

They ended up working on four books together, and a new show at the New York Historical Society looks at the creators of the series.

Life at the Plaza Hotel

Eloise has an absent mother, a close relationship with her Nanny, her dog Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee and the staff of the Plaza Hotel, where she skibbles about and makes a lot of mischief.

Kay Thompson
Eloise left her mark on everything, from mirrors at the Plaza, to readers around the world.VOA

Jane Curley, the exhibition’s curator, says Eloise became part of the cultural zeitgeist. “She landed at the Plaza in 1955, in the midst of the staid Eisenhower era, when role models for women were [traditional stay-at-home moms] June Cleaver and Donna Reed. And all of a sudden here’s this wild irrepressible six-year-old rushing around barging into things, getting into trouble. And she struck a chord.”

In fact, Curley adds, “The Plaza was flooded with six-year-olds looking for Eloise coming in and saying ‘is Eloise here?’”

They still arrive, looking for Eloise. Plaza concierge Hatusumi Komiyali suggests they check the elevator. “If the elevator comes up really, really slow, that means she did it again. That she pressed all the buttons!” she says with a laugh.

The Plaza celebrates its most famous resident, even if she’s fictional. Children visiting the Plaza can have an Eloise tea in the Palm Court, with pink cotton candy, go to a store with all kinds of Eloise merchandise, and even stay overnight in the Eloise suite on the 18th floor, designed by Betsey Johnson.

Kay Thompson
Young visitors can enjoy a stay in the Eloise Suite at the Plaza Hotel. VOA

It’s a riot of pink and each guest has a personal experience, says the hotel’s PR director, Ariana Swerdlin. “Whenever you come in, Eloise writes you a note.”

Ten year-old Annie Clark visited the Plaza, dressed like Eloise, in a black skirt, white shirt, pink sweater and a red ribbon in her hair, and carrying a plush toy turtle, like Eloise’s pet Skipperdee.

Kay Thompson
Eloise fan, Annie Clark, poses in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel.

“I think that I do kind of relate to her, because she lives in New York City. I can be mischievous sometimes,” she admitted. “But not always, like her.”

A book for precocious grownups

The irony is that Kay Thompson never thought of Eloise as a children’s book. Knight points out its subtitle is “A book for precocious grownups, about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel.” “To her dying day, she said it was not a child’s book. It offended her, you know, that people considered it that.”

Curator Jane Curley agrees. “She didn’t like children very much and she would waltz into Doubleday’s [book store] and pick up stacks of her books out of the juvenile section and plunk them down in the grownup section and then walk out.”

The centerpiece of the new exhibition at the New York Historical Society is a large portrait of Eloise that Knight painted for Thompson’s birthday, in which the six-year-old is posing like English royalty.

Kay Thompson
Two years after the painting’s well publicized disappearance, Knight received a phone call from a muffled voice telling him where to find his artwork ― in a trashcan and ripped in pieces. (Collection of Hilary Knight, © Kay Thompson)

Curley says the painting hasn’t been displayed for 57 years. Thompson donated it to the Plaza, where it hung in the lobby, but it was stolen on the night of the Junior League Ball in 1960.

The mystery of the missing portrait

The disappearance made headlines, Curley says. “Walter Cronkite announced on national TV, ‘Eloise kidnapped from the Plaza Hotel.’ Kay offered a reward. There was a great amount of excitement but the portrait failed to show up.”

Two years later, Knight got an anonymous phone call telling him the portrait was in a dumpster on New York’s East Side. He picked up the damaged painting and put it in storage, where it’s been, until it was restored for this exhibit. But the mystery remains. Who took it?

Curley thinks she knows. “I strongly suspect that this was Kay Thompson’s best stunt ever. She was tired of Eloise. It was 1960, she’d taken the three books out of publication and only left the original book in publication. So, to have the portrait disappear was a great exit.” (VOA)

 

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Ancient India Maritime History: Trade Links With Europe and Southeast Asian Nations

Excavations Provide Evidence About Ports that Played a Major Role in Overseas Trade in Past

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Ancient India maritime route
Ancient Indo-Oman maritime trade route. Wikimedia
  • The maritime history begins from the 3CE when the Indus Valley people initiated trading contact with Mesopotamia
  • Tamil Nadu being a coastal state had more than 16 ports across Chennai which had trade links with China, Egypt, parts of Europe
  • Presently in Tamil Nadu, a deep-sea port has been proposed in Enayam which would emerge as a major port for Indian cargo to be exported

June 27, 2017:

Before the incipience of air transport, mankind was dependent on sea links for transportation and trading of goods between continents. Sea was the major form of transportation in the past and even though people still use the sea for transport, most of the trading is now usually done through the air transport.

As we look back in time, the ports were the busiest place to be, because sailors were the only people who could get you and your goods across countries. In India too, we had ports down on the southern region so that we could access trade with all over Europe and Middle East countries.

The Ancient India maritime history begins from the 3CE when the Indus Valley people initiated trading contact with Mesopotamia. Indian Silk was one of the most traded product but later on, Indian spices took hold of most of the trading to the West surpassing Silk.

Tamil Nadu being the coastal state had more than 16 ports across Chennai and Tirunelveli which had trade links with China, Egypt, parts of Europe and South-east Asian countries. Archaeologists say ancient Tamil literature and excavations provide evidence about the existence of such ports that played a major role in overseas trade in the past.

C Santhalingam, the secretary of Pandya Nadu Centre for Historical Research told that these sea routes in Tamil Nadu can be traced to the Sangam Period which was from (3CE BC to 3CE AC) and said, “The historical coastal town of Kaveripoompattinam (Poompuhar in Nagapattinam district) recorded import of horses from Arab countries and finished goods from Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The port was also a major centre for the export of spices from South India.

Ancient port was built differently from the modern ports which are at the coastline as they were situated over the river mouths because the transporting ships in the past were not as big as the ones now, so the river mouths were the right places for safe docking of the ships.

Presently in Tamil Nadu, a deep-sea port has been proposed in Enayam in Kanyakumari district which would emerge as a major port for Indian cargo to be exported. The proposed budget for this port is 27,570 crore and the port would act as a hub for the global east-west trade route and also reduce the logistics cost for Indian traders dependent on transhipment in Colombo and Singapore giving rise to maritime link jobs.

prepared by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)