When Men Become Bears and Goats

The special exhibition Bears and Other Masks portraying Romanian New Year’s Eve traditions was inaugurated at the Romanian Cultural Institute last Thursday.

If you choose to travel to Romania these days, you might not only spot people singing Christmas Carols around Christmas trees or curious eyes exploring the treasures hidden under the tree. You may also catch sight of men wearing bear coats stomping their feet to the beat of drums and pipes followed by a procession of costumed children. You might also observe women wearing masks and coloured costumes, clattering their wooden jaws to the rhythm of pipes. After all, these are some of Romanians astonishing New Year’s Eve traditions, all nearly 2000 years old and still celebrated in Romania today.

When Romanian photographer Dragos Lumpan became aware of the value of these ancient traditions, he initiated in-depth research in the small village of Vintileasca that would last 5 years. The result can now be admired at the Romanian Cultural Institute: vivid, colourful pictures displaying the symbolic masks in the context of contemporary urban lifestyle. The author has succeeded in capturing these moments of celebration in a natural and authentic way. “I see my role as an observer. But I also wanted to draw attention to these ancient traditions. We want to keep them alive – they shouldn’t be locked away in museums”, explained Dragos at the exhibition.

The bears and goats represent gods of ancient religions. “It is a very old, pre-Christian ritual”, continued Dragos. “The ugly masks are worn to chase away evil spirits.” This is why the ritual is accompanied by a lot of noise. The performance is done to make the New Year start well. “But nowadays, we don’t see it as a spiritual ceremony, it is a cultural celebration. There is a very pleasant atmosphere: people dance and spend time together”, he says.

The masks involved in the ritual are all expertly hand-built with feathers, metal and coats, giving the custom a very original touch. It is real traditional art!

The exhibition is open until 15 January 2010 and admission is free. For more information please visit
By Julia Sahm

Insight into Mexico City

Mexican author Ángeles González Gamio lectured on the history of Mexico City at the Instituto Cervantes in London

Mexico City, the country’s economic, industrial and cultural centre, represents the second largest metropolitan area in the world with a population of more than19 million people.  Ángeles González Gamio, who has written several books on the history of the capital, made the perfect fit for this passionate introduction, taking the audience on a historical tour of the city in her lecture last Thursday.

With Mexico City’s buildings breathing history, there was a lot to say about its architecture. According to Ángeles, the building structure reflects the mentality of the city which has seen many different rulers and cultures in the course of its history. Interestingly, the huge metropolis used to be a small settlement in a valley surrounded by several lakes. It was originally called Teotihuacán and stood between the lakes. Later, the Aztecs would install their empire on the lake’s shores. They managed to create an effective system of dams and canals. When the Spaniards arrived (mistaken for the god Quetzalcóatl and his people, therefore warmly welcomed by the Aztecs), they were amazed by the beauty of the city’s fertile gardens, canals and temples. History shows that they took it over brutally and began to build a Spanish city they called Mexico. The colonial rulers brought wealth to the capital and started building an impressive city. Its architecture  became renowned by the eighteenth century. It was in no way inferior to what the best of Europe had to offer.

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the cut with the Spanish mentality was also mirrored in its buildings. The Mexicans started looking towards France and imitating their architecture. The 19th century was generally chaotic, with the Mexican rulers trying to curb the power of the Catholic Church  and by the twentieth century Mexico City had become a modern city.

In 1910 the social movement changed Mexico’s way of thinking. The result was a new nationalist feeling with the aim of recovering the indigenous heritage. As a consequence, art became accessible to everybody, Mexican music emerged and a Neo-colonial and Art Deco style started to appear in the city.

Ángeles completed her historical tour by showing pictures of her favourite spots managing to transmit her passion for Mexico City to the audience, making it a very insightful evening. Later, the lecture was nicely brought to an end with original Mexican beer, courtesy of the Mexican embassy.

By Julia Sahm

Losing two brothers and gaining one

The remarkable documentary “Good Intentions” crowned the UK Jewish Film Festival that took place in London from 7th to 19th November.

Eluding the tribulations of the economy and stepping into the wonderful world of cinema was the invitation headline of the 13th UK Jewish Film Festival this year which included the inspiring documentary “Good intentions”, and offered much more to the festival than mere escapism and entertainment.  This “groundbreaking TV drama” centres around two female chefs from Palestine and Israel, who are invited to co-host a cookery show in Israel. This is a novelty in the ongoing dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, in their world of opposed communities, full of prejudice towards each other. Amal and Tamil, the two chefs, face enormous hostility when they decide to become friends.  “Should I say 'I can’t kill you because you are a friend of my mum’s'?” is the outrageous question of Tamil’s son as he is getting ready to join Israel’s army, to which Tamil’s husband exclaims wearily: “We can share as much humus as we want – there will never be peace. It is either them or us!”

Meanwhile, her partner Amal is declared a traitor and has to cope with the opposition from her embittered brother who lost his legs in an Israeli attack. Battling against the walls of prejudice and fear, Amal and Tamil decide to overcome these obstacles and to build bridges through the cookery show.

“Good intentions” is part of a drama series aired on Israeli television showing both Arabs and Jews interacting for the first time on prime time television broadcast both in Arabic and Hebrew. It is based on true stories, inspired by “The Parents’ Circle – Family Forum”, a peacemaking organisation that brings together Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in the conflict. Their stories have been woven into the series, making the experience even more absorbing and intense.

In a discussion following the documentary, two members of The Parents’ Circle shared their experience as peacemakers in Israel. “Each of us must choose a path” explained Robi Damelin, whose son was killed in the conflict.

Her choice was to follow a road of education. Her knowledge grew as she discovered and learnt that Israelis and Palestinians generally don’t know or speak to each other – and therefore don’t understand one another. Robi passionately believes that her work can make a difference. “This is real, there is no fiction” added Ali Abu Awwad, the narrator of a fascinating story, and former anti-Israel activist. “I have lost two brothers in the conflict” he said, “but I have gained one”.

Attending the festival was throughout an enriching experience and the impact that the documentary had on us will surely endure.

If you are interested in learning more about “The Parents’ Circle – Family Forum”, please feel free to visit their website:

By Julia Sahm

Global Marketing and finding the right words

A challenging equation which can build or destroy a brand

Creative Culture would like to share an article about Global Marketing and the importance of choosing the right words.

A study conducted by e-spirit shows how major global brands sometimes still under-estimate the importance of the global roll-out and finding the right partners to make their messages travel the world, in the most relevant and impacting way, culturally and linguistically.

Creativity does not translate, it adapts. This requires briefing, de-briefing and teams of talented creative specialists who understand the global needs as well as the local requirements.

The investment will always reveal being worth it.

By Melanie Chevalier