The MTA, the NYC Subway transit authority, has a call for artists to design installations for several stations. I submitted these images with the concept of taking people on a journey thru Madagascar with a dynamic, color filled dose of nature, culture and adventure while they hustle along underground. The images, mostly shot on a point and shoot and while I was in motion, should sync well with the fast paced New Yorkers streaming past.
Decided this year to skip J’Ouvert the folkloric musical procession that opens the West Indian Labor Day festivities and just stroll Eastern Parkway, meandering through the almost 2 million attendees. The smell of bad weed, BBQ and sweat is omnipresent, as is the incredible costumes which root from each of the island’s cultural traditions.
I recently completed my first film which was funded by a 2014 grant I received from Getty Images and Lean-In.org. The piece was made for Girls Gotta Run, a nonprofit organization out of Washington D.C. that facilitates running clubs in Southern Ethiopia for young women. The video was crafted to be watched as one runs on a treadmill and to immerse the runner into the rural Ethiopian countryside, placing the viewer alongside the girls as they complete a 5k run. It has an Ethiopian musical soundtrack, information about the organization as well as historical facts about Ethiopia throughout. Within the 30 minutes are also two short videos I shot as well, one on the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony and another on the Ethiopian Jewish Community.
Please share with any runners you know and let me know how it goes!
In Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, the daily drinking of this ancient beverage is part of a ritualized cultural ceremony rich in history and sometimes hours in length. The beans are freshly roasted, incense is burned and multiple cups are passed around. The 30 minute video I recently completed for an Ethiopian nonprofit has this 2 minute video about the ceremony with-in it. Check it out and share with any coffee freaks who might enjoy.
“Ethiopian Buna (Coffee) Ceremony is a long process, averaging around 1.5 hours. While these coffee ceremonies can be an everyday occurrence, a major purpose is to come to a certain important conclusion — someone asking for a hand in marriage or looking for resolution to a conflict that cannot otherwise be solved.
First, a fire is built to roast the coffee beans. When the coffee has roasted, the woman who’s preparing it — dressed to the nines, by the way — carries the metal pot that the coffee’s roasting in around the room so that everyone can capture the aromas. Think of when a sommelier asks you to approve a glass of wine at a restaurant — if it’s not up to par, you can send it back.
The first cup enjoyed during the ceremony is known as Abol. This is the strongest cup, and therefore has the most significance. If you’re looking to resolve a conflict, you must show up during this stage — anytime afterwards during the ceremony would be pointless.
The second cup is known as Tona: water is added to the cup but it still maintains a significant amount of strength. If a resolution isn’t reached by the second cup, then a third cup does not happen.
The third cup of the coffee ceremony is Baraka: it’s the weakest cup, but it symbolizes acceptance, resolution, and joy. People celebrate at this cup, and the younger generation is often invited to drink that cup.“
I was honored to receive the Getty Images/Lean-In grant which took me to Ethiopia to work for a female-centric nonprofit. I then went on to work with Green Mountain Coffee and do some personal projects.
In January of 2015 I spent a week photographing in the Ethiopian coffee regions for Green Mountain Coffee. Here is a small sampling of the 3000 images I made. The job called for mostly landscapes (to be used on the boxes of a new product) but I couldn’t help but to capture the workers as well and also show the processing of the beans.
“The rumble of distant drums rolls across Prospect Park, breaking the pre-dawn tranquility that envelops central Brooklyn on Labor Day morning.My watch says 4 a.m.-the J’Ouvert celebration must be underway. Quietly slipping out of my apartment into the cool of the night, I note the irony of being late for Carnival, an event that by nature defies time. Still,I quicken my pace, cutting across the park, drawn towards the percussive din and faint strains of steel pan. Emerging near the zoo entrance on Flatbush Avenue, I come face to face with a group of devils.“
“The devils, along with hundreds of less elaborately clad partygoers, are ‘jumping up” and “wining down” to the Pantonic’s rendition of the popular calypso “In My House.” The band and dancers pulse as one, inching down the road toward Empire Boulevard, then bumping up against the Adlib Steelband and merging into a mile-long sea of humanity.”
“As the nighttime slips into dawn, the J’Ouvert procession lurches down Nostrand Avenue, past Gloria’s Roti Shop (Watch this video with the Wire actors and Anthony Bourdain!) and Alan’s Caribbean Bakery, and finally begins to wind down. I catch my breath, and like thousands of other participants, wonder if I will have the energy to make it up to Eastern Parkway later that afternoon for the main Carnival event.”
“In Brooklyn, home to the largest West Indian community outside the
Caribbean and host to a Labor Day Carnival that draws close to two million
participants each year, J’Ouvert is a relatively new phenomenon. Over the
past decade Brooklyn’s J’Ouvert has grown from small groups of Dimanche
Gras (Fat Sunday) revelers to a massive predawn celebration attracting
nearly 100,000 steelband and old mas enthusiasts. This inquiry will trace
the emergence of Brooklyn’sJ’Ouvert festival in the larger context of New
York Carnival, and consider the event’s role in the revitalization of older
Carnival traditions in Brooklyn’s Trinidad-American community.”
“For the moment J’Ouvert remains a grassroots celebration of Trinidadian
pan, calypso, and ole mas–deep cultural symbols that offers transplanted Trinidadians and their American-born children the possibility of connecting across space to their native homeland, and back in time to their African ancestors who processed through the streets of Port of Spain with drums and Camboulay torches to celebrate their independence from slavery. But if novelist and social critic Earl Lovelace is correct in contending that the “Emancipation-Jouvay spirit” has the power to transform official Carnival into “a stage for the affirmation of freedom and the expression of the triumphing human spirit,” then Brooklyn J’Ouvert may serve as a source of inspiration not only for Trinidadian immigrants, but for all Afro-Caribbean New Yorkers who struggle to assert their humanity and self worth in their new North American home.”
A couple videos of the processions of steel drum bands.
Please note, as J’Ouvert gets hammered in the press for the violence that happens around it, note the elders in this next video simply rejoicing in their home countries folkloric and aged traditions.
Ethiopia is a million different things and tastes, affronts, foibles and wonders. One thing it was not was a place you felt threatened by personal violence. Ethiopians were fun, interested, helpful and cool. Ethiopia is considered to be one of the safest countries for tourists in Africa.No muggings, no assaults, no rape, etc.. But, taking a stroll on the sidewalks of Addis Ababa is a completely different story. One must be hyper-vigilant and incredibly in tune with their environs as at any moment a giant gaping hole may lay underfoot. These tombs-to-be are deep and dark, some studded with jagged metal rods waiting to impale you and very in size. Some will just destroy a knee. Others will swallow you whole and your family calling the consulate. The lack of streetlights doesn’t help your sad cause. They just sit quietly in wait, hoping your absentmindedly wondering if your bowels are going to explode before you arrive at your hotel or if you’ll be denied that needed Visa extension and get thrown in jail when exiting the country or how the current government can say they honestly received 100% vote of a recent election or what really qualifies as a colonization as pizza is almost as popular as injera. If these suckers don’t get you the traffic will. Look 100 ways before crossing any street.
My second favorite night of the year (my first) is the post-parade Pride celebration which usually takes place on the Piers of the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan. The NYPD seem to be limiting that spot more and more so this year the streets bore the colorful, messy and lusty brunt of this rather bacchanalian celebration. Mostly composed of lesbians and transgendered people of color, tens of thousands of revelers drink, flirt, smoke blunts, grope and dance into the night. That is, until the mounties clomp in to ruin everything. But, until then, it’s seemingly a free for all and it’s positively sublime.
After three months in Ethiopia (https://instagram.com/joshuakristal/) I was in bad need of some beach time. Diani Beach, which is two hours from Mombassa, Kenya on the Indian Ocean was bucolic, relaxing, affordable and the scuba and snorkeling was damn good. It was working as I could feel my brain sinking into a more relaxed state but my cerebral decompression time was cut short by a poor mans safari I took in the Tsavo West National Park. I stayed at a unique lodge that was about 40 feet in the air and, as they provided water for the animals, it was more like staying in a zoo. Zebras, elephants, water buffalo and monkeys all made their way to the lobby area to drink and jostle.
While scuba diving I had a bit of a panic and slammed my hand down on some coral. It started to bleed instantly and now, about a month later it is healing, rather slowly and still itchy. Coral is crazy business. Not as crazy though as the site of older European obese women with hot, muscular young African men strolling hand and hand on the beach. So great to see, stoked for them. (This movie chronicled this phenomena native to Kenya.)
Been in Ethiopia for a month now and recently returned from the north. Aksum, which 2000 years ago, was the helm of an African empire, was where Queen Sheba reportedly comes from and where Christianity was introduced to Africa only 6 years after that willy Jew got whisked back up to Gods bosom, was wind swept, cobblestone street laden and full of life.