This car of ours is supposed to be our best ally, as we daily traverse the city from end to end. Don’t even consider walking here. You’ll have more chance of survival in an earthquake than you would during a romantic walk through Manama. So a car you would think, would be the safest way to move around here. Not so! Melchior’s on-road performance manages to turn this nice little SUV into a rolling hearse/ashtray.
On the way to the office, located in Manama’s old souq, we almost transformed the car and ourselves, into Manama’s latest “street art” performance. Understand: we nearly got ourselves plastered into a wall…
What a relief then to reach the office safely. Actually, not. You see, we say that a first impression is the right one. Mine was clear: our office is deeply depressing. Located in a tiny dying mall where the only sign of life comes from the kitschiest philipino restaurant ever. Decorated with the same Christmas ‘embellishments’ of the past decade. In which a plastic Santa Claus sits gloriously amid a forest of screens airing 24/7 the most vulgar philipino TV shows imaginable.
Just enough time for us to grab two coffees and take possession of our AC-free office (not cigarette free I hasten to add). Don’t get us wrong, we love this atmosphere.
Eman called us; she wanted to show Melchior an amazing workshop. Eman is an Omani native photographer. A hell of a woman to run into in this part of the world. Highly sophisticated yet adventuress, she brought Melchior to a Spotlight Bahrain workshop. This “group of youths”, as they define themselves, aims to help, support and give unique experiences to visually impaired persons. This evening was dedicated to an awards ceremony, not of any kind though. A jury was to review photographs taken by blind persons. How exactly could one of the most visual art forms be performed by somebody unable to see? This is precisely the point on which a traditional photographer could use the tremendous advice Spotlight’s crew was providing in this workshop, Melchior told me. Because they reminded us that photography is not only a visual process but on the contrary, in order to take THE photograph you should be able to listen to all your senses. For sure sight can help you take a picture, but hearing, touch, smell and even taste make you take a photograph. Through hearing you can appreciate the distance, through smell you can sense your environment, through touch you can feel shapes, through taste you understand your model and thanks to all of them combined, you just see…
What a lesson! And Melchior confirmed that he was astonished by the results. The visually impaired persons back there were true photographers.
We all know the region’s obsession with malls. The thing is, we’ve heard about those mega shopping metropolises for some time now, but we’ve never been in one. So when we were told that our office was located near one of them, you can imagine our excitement. And then our disappointment in discovering the dying place. It was time to fix this and finally see a proper MALL. That was Friday’s task.
And far from being disappointing…
It’s massive. Getting there is a nightmare but once you’re in, it’s just consummation wonderland. Flashing lights vomit, 5 floors down to hell, over-the-top hallways arrogantly displaying worldwide brands… should we rejoice or be disgusted? I’m not sure yet.
Why is it that as soon as I click a picture with my shitty phone camera I’m directly told by mall security that it’s forbidden but when Melchior does it with his outsized professional camera he gets no warning? Lucky b*****d… Even Eudeline, Melchior’s sister, told me she was waiting for me to get caught. But how could I’ve known it’s forbidden?
It was time to get out of this strange place, reminding us of the West “same same but different”. We needed to replenish our souls and fill our bodies with normality. That’s why we went to Boho Baha’s Farm Fest.
Tagline: “Boho Baha is a platform for us to create experiences that highlight the immense creativity in Bahrain”. Artists in every corner. Musicians on stage and down here, out there, in the crowd, next to you…
Normality? It was everything but. Bahrain is a paradox – full of surprises. In the afternoon, you live the “American nightmare”, in the evening, a Middle East style “Woodstock”. Children running on the half sand, half grass ground. People enjoying some great bands, performing sometimes soul, sometimes alternative rock in complete communion. Yousif is responsible for bringing us down here, and we are still very grateful for the efforts he makes in introducing us to Bahraini artists. Both him and Eman are of great help to us. Yousif told us that previously in approx. 2003, Bahrain was famous for its underground party scene.
On the way out, our sight was snapped up by a “badass bikers” group. You could think that Bahrain doesn’t make sense but in fact, this country is on the road again, very much alive and unleashing senses.
To be continued…
Spotlight Bahrain :