Vancouver-based artist Haejin Lee constructs stunning abstract ceramic sculptures, which seem to disintegrate. Usually monochromatic in color, Lee’s pieces create an internal monologue between a surreal dreamscape and chaos.
photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 — Setiel sits in the shallow brackish water wearing a thin coat of mud. She doesn’t say anything or complain, though the longer she sits the more she shivers. Her silence and patience make you want to reach out, offer a shirt, build a fire. Anything to warm her. She is always cold now, even on days like this, perfect endless days when the water’s warm and laps softly at your thighs. She gazes over the empty beach, past the hardened tracks of animals. The village is quite a ways off. There are a lot of bones on the shore. Setiel is perhaps 30 and has been sick for several months. Behind her stands the old healer, Galte, who scoops up more sediment and paints it across Setiel’s shoulders. The mud is supposed to be curative. Supposed to do what nurses in the clinic could not and draw out the evil spirits that haunt Setiel and cause her wasting illness. She and Galte go down for the cleansing many times. Each one the same. Galte paints Setiel with mud, chants a command at the spirits, rinses the mud, and the evil, away. Then the women wobble back to shore arm in arm. A few weeks after this photograph was made, Setiel died. She was buried somewhere near the lake, stones piled atop the grave to keep away hyenas and jackals. I wasn’t there to see it. At our last meeting we stood outside her house of sticks, my notebook open to a fresh blank page. It was mid-morning and already hot. Fishermen were walking home with their catches. She wrapped herself in a bright red blanket and told me she wasn’t afraid.
Setiel’s story appears in the August issue of @natgeo magazine, and is part of our ongoing project, #NGwatershedstories. You can find a short video of her and this Daasanach ritual on National Geographic’s web site. We’re very grateful to Setiel for her patience, and her willingness to share these intimate moments during what turned out to be the last few weeks of her life.
The organizers of ESC Vienna left nothing to chance: Difference was everywhere. Public spaces were covered with images of difference; streetcar and subway announcements employed the voice of Conchita Wurst; a Euro-Village was built on the square in front of the Vienna City Hall, and most popular of all, pedestrian traffic lights in the central districts were replaced to show same-sex couples waiting with red or crossing the street with green.