Dye Artisans Keep Ancestors’ Traditions Alive

Dodging waves at low tide, a barefooted, shirtless Mixtec man is carefully walking along the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. He navigates his way through the gray rocks on a quest to catch a particular kind of snail, Purpura pansa. When he catches one, he presses just the right part of the snail’s foot to encourage it to secrete a neurotoxin directly onto a skein of cotton yarn. The milky liquid stains the yarn in a greenish color. As it oxidizes, the color turns blue and finally becomes a brilliant reddish-purple hue.FILE – A laborer collects thread that has been dyed and left to dry in the sun, in Calcutta, India, June 1, 2005.Extracting colors from snails is an ancient dyeing method that the Mixtec people have been practicing for around 1,500 years. Like their ancestors, Mixtec dyers do not hurt the snails. They carefully return them to their habitat. They give them time to recover and recharge. They also stay away from the snails during the mating season.This group of Mixtec dyers is among more than two dozen artisans whom author Keith Recker profiled in his book, True Colors — World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments.FILE – Vendors sell marigold flower garlands in Allahabad, India, Oct. 19, 2017.Recker is interested in natural dyes because he finds them fascinating.”There is usually more than one thing happening in the union between the natural coloring substance and fiber,” he says. “I think the eye is much more entertained by this complexity than it is by chemical simplicity where you only have one weave length, one vibe coming to your eye from the fiber.”To explore traditional techniques and personal approaches to natural dyeing, Recker embarked on a journey and met with artisans from all over the world, from West Africa to Bangladesh to China to Northern California to Mexico to Uzbekistan.”Before 1856, when the first synthetic dye was invented in England by a chemist who made a beautiful purple color out of tar, all colors were natural. They were made in some vividly amazing ways,” Recker notes. “Dyes were mostly extracted from plants, but in some cases from animals.”Most of these artisans not only keep their ancestors’ handmade natural dyeing techniques alive, they pass them to younger generations as they train other artisans in their communities.Colorful journeyArtisans come from different artistic and cultural backgrounds, however, their work is similar in many ways.FILE – Pigment extracted from the cochineal insects are displayed at a Cochineal Campaign lab in Nopaltepec, state of Mexico, Sept. 30, 2014.Audrey Louise Reynolds, for instance, is an artisan living in Upstate New York. She extracts beautiful colors from turmeric, while Rupa Trivedi in Mumbai, India, creates a range of colors from marigold, hibiscus and rose flowers and coconut husks. With much trial and error and online research, the self-taught artist understood the principles of natural dyes and started her business 15 years ago.Maria Elena Pompo, who moved from Venezuela to the United States and from engineering to fashion design, also developed her natural dyeing technique through experimentation.”She colors her clothing with recycled avocado pits,” Recker says. “She goes around Brooklyn, collecting avocado pits from Mexican restaurants and uses them in a very precise way to create a whole range of blushes and yellowy apricots and pink browns. It is very low impact because they’re things that would otherwise go to trash.”FILE – A man crushes a cochineal insect to show its red color in Huejotzingo, Mexican state of Puebla, Sept. 25, 2014.Red is one of basic colors artisans use in dyeing fabrics, but they extract it from different resources.  In southwestern Mexico, the Gutierrez Contreras family members who are weaving textiles using old Zapotec traditions are famous for working with cochineal.”Cochineal is a red color that comes from dried beetles,” Recker explains. “That sounds terrible, but the body of these dried beetles is made of carminic acid, which is still the safest red colorant we’ve known of.”Carpetmakers Fatillo Kendjeav and his family, in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, extract a variety of red shades from madder roots. They use other natural ingredients to deepen the authenticity of their carpets, such as walnut hulls to create deep browns, and pomegranate skins to create a beautiful bronze green. They also use onion skins, apple, grape and mulberry leaves to create different shades of yellow.
Recker notes that these artisans tend to use such natural plants not only as colorants, but also as food and medicine.True color advocates
As many people have become more conscious about natural foods and healthy eating habits, some see wearing naturally dyed fabrics as another step toward a healthier lifestyle. These dyeing techniques also have a lower impact on the environment as they encourage recycling and reusing practices, says Recker.”If you learn how to use natural ingredients available around you, you can easily refresh an old, tired T-shirt, or a scarf, or a sheet and give it a new life instead of throwing them away,” adds the author.Even if he does not inspire readers to do it themselves, Recker hopes raising awareness about natural colors will press the fashion industry worldwide to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Lebron James Weighs in on China-NBA Tensions

National Basketball Association superstar Lebron James says he believes a Houston Rockets official didn’t consider the “consequences” of his actions when he tweeted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, sparking tensions between the league and China.”I believe he [Houston GM Daryl Morey] wasn’t educated on the situation at hand,” James told reporters Monday. “So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but emotionally, physically, spiritually … Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative because of that too.”The Los Angeles Lakers star took to Twitter to clarify what he meant. Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk About that.— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 15, 2019″Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that,” he said. “My team and this league just went through a difficult week.  I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.”The controversy started when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”Morey has since deleted the tweet but the response from Chinese companies and the public was swift, with many suspending ties with the Rockets, one of the most popular teams in China because of its former star center, Yao Ming.The NBA issued regret over the tweet but many U.S. politicians urged the league to respect freedom of expression by its employees. 

Egypt Says Archeologists Uncover 20 Ancient Coffins in Luxor

Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry says archeologists have uncovered at least 20 ancient wooden coffins in the southern city of Luxor.A brief statement from the ministry says Tuesday says archeologists found the coffins in the Asasif Necropolis.The necropolis, located in the ancient town of West Thebes, includes tombs dating back to the Middle, New Kingdom and the Late Periods (1994 B.C. to 332 B.C.).Photos from the ministry show colored coffins with inscriptions and paintings. The ministry described it as one of the “biggest and most important” discoveries in recent years.The ministry says it will release further details at a news conference on Saturday.Egypt has sought publicity for its archaeological discoveries in the hopes of reviving its tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

Trump Calls for Spicer Votes on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

President Donald Trump is trying to influence votes on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” 
Trump on Monday tweeted that viewers should vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. The president called Spicer a “good guy” and wrote “he has always been there for us!”
Spicer tweeted his thanks with instructions on how viewers can cast votes.
Spicer has been paired with professional dancer Lindsay Arnold as they compete for the mirror ball trophy.
He says he’s doing it “to have fun and make it a really good experience.”
Trump supporters have embraced Spicer, but opponents have criticized the program for inviting him.
Spicer told USA Today there’s no question a “huge” amount of his votes come from Trump supporters.
Dancing with the Stars airs Monday night.

Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo Share Booker Prize

A panel of judges rebelled against the rules of a prestigious literary award by naming both Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo the winners of the 2019 Booker Prize in London.Peter Florence, the head of the judges, said they had been told “quite firmly” that they could only pick one winner. “The more we talked about them, the more we found we loved them both so much we wanted them both to win,” he said at a news conference Monday.Evaristo, the first black woman to win the coveted prize, was recognized for her novel “Girl, Woman, Other.”  Atwood won for “The Testaments,” the follow-up to her dystopian 1985 masterpiece “The Handmaid’s Tale.” At 79, Atwood is the oldest to win a Booker. This is her second nod by Booker judges. She also won in 2000 for “The Blind Assassin.”The duo will split the $63,000 prize.As the two came to the stage to accept the prize, Atwood said to Evaristo, “Neither of us expected to win this. I’m very surprised. I would have thought that I was too elderly. And I kind of don’t need the attention, so I’m very glad that you’re getting some.”This is not the first time the prize has been shared. In 1992, “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje shared it with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger.” The rules were changed after that.The Booker is awarded to the best English-language novel published in Britain and Ireland.This year’s other contenders were: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”; Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte”; Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport”; and Chigozie Obioma’s “An Orchestra of Minorities”.

Report: South Korean Pop Star Sulli Found Dead at Home

News reports say South Korean pop star and actress Sulli has been found dead at her home south of Seoul.
A report by Yonhap news agency said the 25-year-old was found Monday afternoon. The report said police have said there were no signs of foul play at her home in Seongnam.
Repeated calls to the Seongnam Sujeong Police Department and Sulli’s agency weren’t answered.
Sulli’s legal name is Choi Jin-ri. She debuted in 2009 as a member of the girl band “f(x)” and also acted in numerous television dramas and movies.

Columbus Statue Vndalized: ‘Stop Celebrating Genocide’

A statue of Christopher Columbus in Rhode Island has been vandalized on the U.S. holiday named for him.The statue in Providence was splashed from head to toe with red paint Monday, and a sign reading “Stop celebrating genocide” was leaned against the pedestal.People stop to view red paint covering a statue of Christopher Columbus on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Providence, R.I., after it was vandalized on the day named to honor him as one of the first Europeans to reach the New World.The word “genocide” was written in orange paint on the rear of the pedestal.The statue has been the target of vandals on Columbus Day in the past.The New World explorer has become a polarizing figure.Native American advocates have pressed states to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.Police are investigating, and a spokeswoman for Mayor Jorge Elorza says the statue will be cleaned Monday.

On 2nd Anniversary, #MeToo Sees Some Backlash to Movement

Surveys show an increasing number of male managers are uncomfortable working closely with women since a string of prominent men lost their jobs after being accused of sexual misconduct. The #MeToo movement launched two years ago this month after accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein went public. Since then, people have shared their stories of sexual assault and harassment online. VOA’s Dora Mekouar takes a look at what some are calling the “Me-Too backlash.”

Biles Dazzles on Floor to Win Record 25th World Championship Medal

American Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history on Sunday when she won the beam and floor finals to take her career tally to 25 medals.Soon after securing a convincing victory on the beam in Stuttgart to overtake Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo’s record tally of 23 world medals, the 22-year-old Biles successfully defended her floor title to win medal number 25.The four-time Olympic champion is now the owner of 19 gold medals across four championships against 12 for Scherbo, who competed in five world events between 1991 and 1996.Making her final appearance of the week in front of a raucous crowd, Biles wasted no time as she landed a superb triple-twisting double back flip — known as the Biles II – on her first pass.Biles’s double layout with a half turn — another skill named after her — put her out of bounds for a 0.1 penalty but she did enough to post a winning score of 15.133.“Honestly, I just couldn’t move. I was so tired,” Biles said of her final pose on the stage.“This is really the best worlds performance I have ever put out.”The Americans took a one-two finish as Sunisa Lee finished with 14.133 for the silver medal, while Russian Angelina Melnikova came third.Olympic Champ Simone Biles Says She was Abused by Doctor

        Simone Biles watched as her friends and former Olympic teammates came forward to detail abuse at the hands of a now-imprisoned former USA Gymnastics team doctor.Drawing in part from their strength, the four-time gold medalist acknowledged Monday she is among the athletes who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar.Biles, who won five medals overall at the 2016 Olympics, released a statement via Twitter outlining that abuse. 

BEAM BRILLIANCEEarlier, Biles delivered a polished routine on the beam before a full twisting double tuck dismount for an impressive 15.066.Although Biles had twice before won the world beam title, in 2014 and 2015, it has not always been plain sailing for her on the apparatus.Her slip on the landing of a front tucked somersault at the 2016 Rio Olympics meant she had to settle for a bronze in the event. Last year again, she dropped off the beam during the women’s all-around final at the world championships.But she has regained her swagger this week, under the watchful eyes of balance beam coach Cecile Landi, and posted top scores in all four attempts — qualifying, the team and all-around finals and Sunday’s apparatus final.“It meant a lot because Cecile has really been working on bringing my confidence back up to where it used to be on the beam,” Biles said.“To go out there and nail the routine, just like I do in practice, it felt really good and I knew she was really proud.”As another title-winning score was announced in the arena, Biles punched the air in jubilation before joining celebrations with the U.S. team.“I was really excited,” she added. “I thought it was going to be at least 14.8, 14.9, but to see 15, I was like well that’s pretty crazy, so I was very proud.”Last year’s winner Liu Tingting of China took silver with 14.433, while team mate Li Shijia won the bronze.Biles finished her campaign in Stuttgart with five gold medals from six events to mark ideal preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.Her barnstorming run included a record fifth all-around gold, an individual vault title, as well as helping the U.S. to a fifth straight world team title. 

California Becomes First US State to Ban Fur Products

California has become the first U.S. state to ban all production and sale of animal fur products.Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill that will make it illegal to make, sell and even donate any new item made using animal fur starting in 2023.The bill excludes used items, taxidemy products, fur taken with a hunting license and fur used by Native American tribes for religious purposes.Violators of the ban will face fines of up to $500, or even $1,000 for repeat offenses.“The signing of AB44 underscores the point that today’s consumers simply don’t want wild animals to suffer extreme pain and fear for the sake of fashion,” Kitty Block, the head of the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement.But the Fur Information Council of America condemned the ban as being part of a “radical vegan agenda” and has threatened a court challenge.Along with the fur ban, Newsom also approved a ban on the use of most animals in circuses. Exceptions will be made for dogs and horses.“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare, and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom said in a statement. “But we are doing more than that. We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames.”

Washington Celebrates Freedom to Read With List of Banned Books

Banned Books Week happens every year as many children in America begin a new school year. In honor of the occasion, local libraries organize readings of Harry Potter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird and hundreds of other novels. Despite many of them being considered classical literature, they continue to be banned in some school libraries. Natalka Pisnya has the story narrated by Anna Rice. 

Robert Forster, Oscar Nominee for ‘Jackie Brown,’ Dies at 78

Robert Forster, the handsome and omnipresent character actor who got a career resurgence and Oscar-nomination for playing bail bondsman Max Cherry in “Jackie Brown,” has died. He was 78.Forster’s publicist Kathie Berlin said he died Friday at home in Los Angeles of brain cancer following a brief illness. He was surrounded by family, including his four children and partner Denise Grayson.Condolences poured in Friday night on social media. Bryan Cranston wrote on Twitter that Forster was a “lovely man and a consummate actor.” The two met on the 1980 film “Alligator” and then worked together again on “Breaking Bad” and the spinoff film “El Camino,” which launched on Netflix Friday.“I never forgot how kind and generous he was to a young kid just starting out in Hollywood,” Cranston wrote.His “Jackie Brown” co-star Samuel L. Jackson tweeted that he was, “truly a class act/Actor!!”Actor Robert Forster arrives for the international premiere of “What They Had” at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Sept. 12, 2018.Stumbling into actingA native of Rochester, New York, Forster quite literally stumbled into acting when in college, intending to be a lawyer, he followed a fellow female student he was trying to talk to into an auditorium where they were holding auditions for “Bye Bye Birdie.” He would get cast in the play, the fellow student would become his wife (they had three daughters), and it started him on a new trajectory as an actor.A fortuitous role in the 1965 Broadway production “Mrs. Dally Has a Lover” put him on Darryl Zanuck’s radar, and Zanuck signed him to a studio contract. He would soon make his film debut in the 1967 John Huston film “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.Forster would go on to star in Haskell Wexler’s documentary-style Chicago classic “Medium Cool” and the detective television series “Banyon,” and worked consistently throughout the 1970s and 80s in mostly forgettable B-pictures.“I had four kids, I took any job I could get,” he said in the same interview last year. “Every time it reached a lower level I thought I could tolerate, it dropped some more, and then some more. Near the end I had no agent, no manager, no lawyer, no nothing. I was taking whatever fell thru the cracks.”Hollywood storyIt was Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown” that put him back on the map. Tarantino said he created the role of Max Cherry with Forster in mind. The performance opposite Pam Grier became one of the more heartwarming Hollywood comeback stories, earning him his first and only Academy Award nomination. He’d ultimately lose the golden statuette to Robin Williams, who won that year for “Good Will Hunting.”Since then, he’s worked consistently, appearing in films like David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive,” “Me, Myself and Irene,” “The Descendants,” and “Olympus Has Fallen,” and in television shows like “Breaking Bad” and the “Twin Peaks” revival.