Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nigeria's fuel bill

Just came across some interesting stats:

N16.408 trillion (US$140 billion) is spent annually on putting diesel into generators in Nigeria. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Telecoms sector, N6.7 trillion is spent on diesel (to power base stations)
  • Petrol stations spend N43.98 billion
  • Factories N191.08 billion
  • Banks N11.7 billion
  • Insurance companies N80 billion
  • Residential N7.812 trillion
  • Businesses, N1.57 trillion

In terms of petrol to fuel cars, consumption is put at 300,000,000 litres per day.

At the current pump price of N70 per litre, that makes N21 billion per day, N651 billion per month, and N7.812 trillion or U$66.769 billion per annum.

Nigeria’s total fuel bill is therefore N24.22 trillion per year (US$206.77 billion).


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Historical determinism

Let me take a break from a spreadsheet that is doing my head in and post on a thought I had during a dinner party on Monday evening while the conversation and the Veuve Cliquot Rose flowed..

The good folk around the table were talking in intelligent terms about the pros and cons of Hilary vs Barack. With only superficial knowledge of US politics, I sat and listened and tried to weigh up the opinions that bounced around. And then it occurred to me that the terms of the conversation were in danger of obscuring a more important point - can anyone save America? Save from recession in the first instance, save from being an international pariah (a la Chomsky) in the second instance, but much more fundamentally than both, save from losing its number one superpower status? Relatedly, the other question occluded seemed to be: can the West resist losing being the centre of geopolitical gravity? In the back of my mind was Davos the week before, and the contrast between the gloom of the Western leaders and the zest of the Indian delegation. And how should Westerners respond to this seemingly inevitable gravitational shift?

It was interesting that as soon as I brought the issue up, no one had much to say. It seems that whether you think America/the West needs saving or not, most people succumb to a sense of fait accompli about the process. The sentiment can be summer up as, "we've had our turn, now its China's."

It was at that point that I had a weird Peter Hitchens/Martin Amis moment. My conscious-self regards Christopher's brother as a right-wing reptile slithering under his Daily Mail rock. However, sub-routines of thought apparently deeply buried were now opened to the light. I found myself thinking: hold on, the West has so much to value about itself. Why would anyone capitulate or throw these things away or want to devalue them on the basis of an unconscious historical determinism? What China and India have in their ascendant present is people, cheap labour and weak unionisation, conveniently contextualised in an increasingly global and technology-driven economy which places value on cheap flexible labour. True, just like the West, China and India have millennia of cultural, spiritual and intellectual traditions as the bedrock upon which their contemporary societies sit. However, we cannot simply allow notions such as democracy, human rights and centuries of thought evaporate under an emerging Sino-Indian alignment? Or can we? Or should we?

I guess what happened was I hit a layer of my sub-conscious which is fundamentally structured by a reactive attachment to occidental thought. Perhaps not quite Hitchensian or Amisian, in the sense that even sub-consciously, I am fully aware that the region that generated the notions of democracy, human rights, ideas of liberty and other grounding philosophical and political concepts etc has consistently failed to act out its founding principles, and has most often moved in the opposite direction in a murderously appropriative manner. The point is not to celebrate the West as the place where democracy et al is to be found along with roads paved with gold, against threats from outside. It is rather to ask the question: does the ceding of power to the East also mean the ceding of ethical and political principles that originate in the West? Must the Chinese model now take over wholesale? Is the West prepared to make a stand for principles that it has placed in world circulation?

Maybe it was the champagne doing the speaking, making my thoughts squirm with Nietzschean ressentiment. It just seemed that giving in to historical determinism like this is a denial of collective agency and spirit. Perhaps there's a Hegelian dialectic at work. The West will need to look at itself in externalised terms (through the optic of India and China post-ascendancy - say in 10-20 years) before it returns to its source and recovers confidence and modes of identity. Until then, we are on the track of the anti-thesis, and its down-hill from here. Westerners have nothing to say and nothing that can be said or offered, save to moan about the failing state of their economies and the failing health of the planet...

The last thought I had around the dinner table was: what value-add does China bring to Africa/Nigeria exactly? [Sort of an updated version of the Life of Brian sketch by the People's Front of Judea]. Nigeria doesn't need the money (even if some of the US$50bn forex reserves is already committed, are you telling me there aren't billions to spend still?) Nigeria certainly doesn't need the cheap labour. Nigeria can buy in the infrastructural expertise from the global market. So why would Nigeria go knocking on China's door, apart from based upon the idea that it lacks the will-to-autonomy that both China and India have in abundance right now?


Whither Tinapa?

It seems all is not well at Tinapa. I heard a few months ago that the Cross River State government is paying a hefty chunk of its monthly budget on interest payments to service the debt taken on to finance the thing. Then last week a friend came back from a visit there the week before to look at business opportunities. The place is deserted apparently. Another friend is pulling out too. Oh dear.

Apparently, there are issues about its legal status as an export zone. Will Tinapa end up being an elephant painted white with Duke written on the side, or can something be done to salvage the idea? Will "Africa's Premier Business Resort" become Africa's premier balls-up, or can smart brains and joined-up thinking make something of it all? If it cannot be a trade export zone for whatever reason, perhaps it could be turned into a retail/casino palace serving local and international tourists, a la Sun City? The point is, Cross River still has a lot to offer for tourists - Calabar is relaxed and has lots of culture (although undeveloped in terms of tourist infrastructure), Obudu, the Drill Ranch and primeval tropical forest are a short hop away, Cameroon is just across the border etc. All is needed is a bit more thinking, and another chunk of money...


Three nightmare

Please, if you live in the UK and are considering taking out a phone contract, do not go near Three. They have the worst customer service I have ever experienced. If you have the slightest problem, you end up being transferred to their call centre in Bangalore, where you get trapped in vicious circles and catch-22 logics. If you have to send proof of address or signature for any reason, there is no way anything you send will be accepted. They will not be able to tell you why they do not accept your proof of address - because that is a back office department the front office call centre staff have no access to. And, if you have to terminate, they will charge you a whopping fee. And, once you have terminated the contract, they will still send you another bill. All the while, you waste hours of time speaking to people who tell you the same unhelpful things.

Its interesting that a 'global' company like Hutchison (owners of Three) have such a dysfunctional customer service process and yet can still make money. What does that say about the telecoms sector in general? This experience speaks loud of why customer service outsourcing to another country can destroy the customer experience, and ultimately, doesn't pay. Three have just lost a customer, and, hopefully, anyone reading this who might have been thinking of switching to them.

It seems 02 is the best option if you want to use the phone in the UK and in Nigeria, abi?


On creationism

Thanks Olly for the pic...


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shameless publicity

A nice review of Every Day is for the Thief here.

I have loads to blog about but am time-poor.


Monday, January 28, 2008

On Madam Due Process

Critical appraisal by Dele Sobowale on Oby Ezekwesili's work for the last administration. Here.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

MYA backs ditching the immunity clause

At Davos - read here. Along with the appointment of Professor Asobie as Chair of the board of NEITI, the organisation I work for, there are signs of systemic thinking from the Presidency. Getting rid of the immunity clause will effectively destroy the licence to steal for state governors from now on, and seriously dent the plutocratic nature of Nigerian politics. With Prof Asobie at the head of NEITI, the organisation will be sure to make extractive transparency meaningful for the people. Things may just be looking up...


Tracey Emin: free-standing human being

Lovely little piece by Tracey Emin, on funding a school library in rural Uganda, here.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Quilombo Country

Interesting documentary project on Brazilian slave communities. Here's the intro text from the website:

Quilombo Country,” a documentary film shot in digital video, provides a portrait of rural communities in Brazil that were either founded by runaway slaves or begun from abandoned plantations. This type of community is known as a quilombo, from an Angolan word that means "encampment." As many as 2,000 quilombos exist today.

Contrary to Brazil's national mythology, Brazil was a brutal and deadly place for slaves. But they didn't submit willingly. Thousands escaped, while others led political and militant movements that forced white farmers to leave. Largely unknown to the outside world, today these communities struggle to preserve a rich heritage born of resistance to oppression.

The film ranges from the Northeastern sugar-growing regions to the heart of the Amazon rainforest, raising issues of political identity, land rights, and racial and socioeconomic discrimination. Included are examples of the material culture that allow the quilombolas to survive in relative isolation, including hunting, fishing, construction and agriculture; as well as rare footage of syncretic Umbanda and Pajelan├ža ceremonies; Tambor de Crioula, Carimb├│ and Boi Bumba drum and dance celebrations; and Festivals of the Mast.

“Quilombo Country” is narrated by Chuck D, the legendary poet, media commentator and leader of the iconic hip hop band Public Enemy.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tai Solarin/Mayflower

How come people don't talk about Tai Solarin and Mayflower school these days? Or do they?


Monday, January 21, 2008

Teju Cole on Qarrtsiluni

Here. You can download the mp3 version at the bottom or right-click and save-as here.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

The decline of the West

Another buzz-word enters the media lexicon: fuel poverty. Here.


Meteorite in Sokoto

A meteorite falls in Sokoto city. People proclaim portents. Somehow this story turns into a theatre piece in my head, a la Complicite. Here.


The Genealogy of the Durbar

I'm reading Andrew Apter's excellent The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria. Chapter 5 (available in pdf here) examines the role of the Durbar horse pageant in the formation of national identity, reaching its apogee as an essential element of post-imperial 'national' culture during the Kaduna durbar that formed part of the 1977 FESTAC celebrations.

Rather than attempting to devise a pure linear historical path, the chapter traces parallel and interconnecting lines of descent - a complex and pluralised genealogy he couches in terms of the mother and father's lines.

On the one hand, he rehearses the exogenous history of the Durbar in colonial India which the British imported into Nigeria via Lord Lugard's durbar at Lokoja on Jan 1st 1900 (signalling the end of the Royal Niger Company as an independent militarised force and the commencement of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria). On the other hand, Apter traces elements of an internal history, via the Hawan Dawaki, the Jukun Puje festival etc. He successfully shows how the colonial/imperial elements of the Durbar were appropriated as part of a resurgent national (and pan-African) culture by the time of the 1977 petronaira-funded festival. The very act of this appropriation formed part of a retrenched northern hegemony, articulated in cultural terms. In other words, the essay is an excellent account of the relationship between culture and power through the emergence of the Nigerian post-colony.

Given the power that culture has to constitute/invent a tradition and form the basis of a re-imagined national identity in the terms Apter sets up, one might therefore contextualise the failure of the Abuja carnival as part of a more general failure to re-imagine Nigerian identity in contemporary terms. It highlights the argument I have raised many times on this blog about the importance of re-connecting the social imaginary with its cultural origins, not as part of a nostalgic/conservational project, but as a means to reformulate identity in the language of the present and the to-come.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The size of Africa

This is an arresting image (from the Times Atlas). In your mind, which is the biggest: the US, India, Western Europe or China? How big do you think Africa is in comparison?


The meaning of 'a light disagreement'

A friend's former washaman-cum-gateman called her a few days ago. He was begging for her to get him a job, as he'd recently been sacked. She asked him why he had been relieved of his duties. He said that he had had a 'light disagreement' with someone and they'd fired him. He then continued to demand that she help him find work. She responded that she couldn't help him until he told her exactly what had happened and what the light disagreement had been about. Seeing that he was hitting an insurmountable barrier to his needs, he decided he'd tell her. Apparently, he had beat up a woman. However, he added quickly, 'she didn't die o!' In other words, it was a 'light disagreement' because the woman he beat up did not actually die in the process.

Elsewhere in the world, this man would have been locked up long ago...


Friday, January 18, 2008

Sukur, Mountain Kingdom

A good write up (text and pix) of the recent Nigerian Field Society Abuja Chapter trip to Sukur, here.


Ghariokwu Lemi and the Art of the Album Cover

An exhibition of the artwork of Ghariokwu Lemi (the artist behind those Fela album covers) at the newish Centre for Contemporary Art, Yaba, Lagos. The show runs out on 20th January so make it snappy. The show is curated by Bisi Silva. Her blog is here.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gas, Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling...

Some days the news here seems like so much hot air. Literally. In the Guardian Nigeria today, two stories struck me.

First, I read that the Oil companies have persuaded the Federal Govt to extend the final deadline on gas flaring to December this year (it was supposed to come into effect at the start of 2008). So another 12 months of polluted air and bright night skies down in the Delta then..

Meanwhile, we are told that the Independent Power Plants (IPPs) that OBJ signed off on via billions of dollars of contracts have not come on stream as planned because of the lack of gas supply. The Forcados-Lagos gas pipe for one has been blown up several times by thugs.

So, we have gas being wasted into the air, destroying lungs, the environment, hope. Nearby, we have power stations that don't work because there is no gas. Am I missing something?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Festival sur le Niger, coming up next month

Click to enlarge. Be there, or be a very boring person indeed...


Gbenga vs Moji

I'm sure like many of you, I've been following the Gbenga Obasanjo/Moji Obasanjo divorce case with interest. I didn't blog about it yet because I found it so sad that what must be painful details from someone's personal life are hung out to dry.

This piece in today's This Day however is more interesting, with its focus on the alleged benefits of being the son of the President.

Allow me to paste the most interesting para from the article to save you the bother of clicking the link:

"“The Petitioner earns from commissions paid to him as an Agent to a construction company with various construction projects, which was recently awarded an 11 billion Naira construction contract.
“The Petitioner has several construction contracts from Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“The Petitioner owns substantial shares in an Oil Trading Company, Linetrale Trading Company Ltd, a Company engaged in importing, selling, supplying and marketing of petroleum products.
“The Petitioner also collects oil allocations from Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“The Petitioner receives payments from Health Aids Support Services, an HIV consulting firm currently working on a transaction with MTN, and some state governments.
“The Petitioner receives commission for brokering different deals on behalf of foreign companies and earns a sizeable commission therefrom.
“The Petitioner received Commission for the supply of 800 vehicles to Ogun State.
“The Petitioner has substantial investment in some Oil Blocks.
“The Petitioner has substantial investment in Glo Oil Ltd. and Hyster Investments Ltd."

Anywhere else in the world, an investigative journalist team would have a field day with all of the above...


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nigeria goes nuclear?

Dont laugh: the Nigerian govt is at the early stages of planning its first nuclear power plant - click here for more. I'm not sure if the international community would welcome this development. How well could the site be protected from militants, given the inability to find peace in the Delta? With Nigeria's track record on maintenance, would this technology really be welcome? How would the eventual deccomissioning be planned?

Rather than go with the UK and think nuclear, a more enlightened approach would consider the latest advances in alternative energy, such as heliostatic systems as shown in the image on the left. A bank of mirrors focuses the suns rays onto a steam turbine, generating cheap low-carbon electricity. The entire city of Seville is soon to be powered by one such system. With the availability of land in Northern Nigeria, and the vastly cheaper costs involved compared to nuclear, as well as the reduced security risk, this seems like a more sensible option to explore. Each station is capable of producing (at current technology levels), 10 to 15 Mw of power. Each city would in time have its own heliostat station, decentralising power via a smart grid system, reducing transmission issues in the process.

For more on heliostatic power, see


Fuel shortage

Rumours of a fuel shortage flash flood around Abuja. Within minutes, all petrol stations have queues, and the black market self-organises itself with powerful efficiency. Unemployed youth swagger around, marshalling jerry cans along the road by the stations, ready to offer instant fuel for the mark-up cost of not having to wait. A man drives gently into the back of my car as I wait. I shout at him for about 3 minutes then calm down. Definitely vipassana is doing something. I have learnt to observe with equanimity the sensations of anger, rather than to get immersed within the feeling..

In 2008, its high time those that make big money out of importing fuel, and the links they have to ensuring the refineries don't work, are exposed. A tiny cartel of importers holds the country to ransom, as do those who block the development of a viable energy sector - most notably the people that flog the generators.


Lagos soul..

"Lagos is a seductress. Like a vain courtesan, she demands your attention. She cannot be ignored. She bats her eyelids at you, lifts her skirt and entices you, pulling you in into her ethereal light promising pleasures never a cost. You must shower her with expensive gifts and copious attention lest her deeper beauties remain hidden."

Taken from this newish blog. Thanks Toyin for the link.

By the way, Rem Koolhaas's interactive Lagos DVD is now out, here. You can buy it in London at the RIBA bookshop. There's an interesting review of the DVD here (scroll down to see the blogger's comments). I think the para pasted below provides the basis for a pretty powerful critique of Koolhaas' minor obsession with Lagos:

"I'm a bit dubious about Lagos being some sort of future model for London and New York and so on, though. I think there's something true about this, but I don't think it's a good development. I both share and reject the American love of hierarchy, the sense you get in New York of a super-entrepreneurial superpoor class ready to shine your shoes for a dime. Capitalism loves that superpoor class, loves the sense of economic dynamism that comes from there being a huge variegated hierarchy rather than a superflat society where everyone is equal. Now, I'm sure Sao Paolo is more exciting than Stockholm, but in principle I have to say I prefer Stockholm. I prefer flatness and safety. I don't want "a bit of rough" in my cities. And I don't want to have to say that only the poor have "soul"."


Monday, January 14, 2008

Representation and Auntie

BBC World's coverage of the Nigerian government's challenge to the tobacco companies this evening began with what appeared to be random archive footage of the Delta: gas flares, muddy patches of ground with kids in shorts wandering about, an old woman's saggy breasts stuck in there for good measure for half a second. As the vo developed the story, only then did we see images of Abuja (a modern-looking city), where the story (ie the court case) is actually taking place.

One day, perhaps, we might see a story about, say, a dispute at the High Court in Aldwych, central London, begin with images of some run down estate in Salford or Glasgow (packets of glue, a used syringe, a scowl of hoodies against brick and graffiti..), or perhaps some hopelessly decimated mining community up north, or perhaps again an ancient oil spill of the Scottish coast (if ever there was). Why not show some birds mired in oil, struggling to flap their wings, then falling over, Amoco Cadiz style? There's pretty much the same level of relevance between the two examples.

Yet again, the BBC is complicit in reproducing stereotypical images of Africa which feed the subconscious western fantasy of there being truly pathetic people somewhere south of the Sahara who must always be helped. Yet again, the hideously white bunch from White City (how appropriate) do their bit to re-hash and re-circulate racist cliches with the same old lazy-ass excuse for journalism.


Teju Cole on Amazon



Smoking ban in Nigeria

The Federal Govt is suing three peddlers of death for UK22bn. The case is due to start soon in Abuja. A smoking ban in all public spaces in each prosecuting state (and then all states) would be a good starting point. Its such a joy to go into pubs, bars and clubs in London these days, without getting your throat messed up and your clothes impregnated with smoke and toxic chemicals from cigarettes in the process.

It would be also be a nice idea if those working for BAT and co in Nigeria start to leak documents which prove conclusively that they are targetting children/underage smokers. Pressure should also be put on Oyo State govt to close the BAT factory in Ibadan down, with well thought-out plans for alternative employment for the workers.

Thanks Indar for the link.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

More on Burial

Good interview with the mysterious Banksy-of-electronica/dubstep, Burial, here. I've been doing yoga with Untrue on the headphones the past few nights - it works quite well. Reading the interview reminds me of those nights after the club, queueing for Bagels at that place at the end of Brick Lane at 4am...

Our film club at Salamander watched In the Mood for Love tonight. What a gorgeously rich text! Even after three viewings, it is yet to reveal itself fully. Its funny how no one has compared Ang Lee's Lust, Caution to the Kar-Wai film (or have they?). Both are strongly influenced by Hitchcock movies (Lust, Caution by Notorious, Mood by Vertigo). Both feature Tony Leung being cool as ice smoking cigarettes. Both feature Maj-Jong symbolised as the game of exile. Both are period pieces, and on and on. I have to say, although Lee's film is a cracker, Mood is the better film for me. The mimesis of the Leung character and his forlorn neighbour - play-acting their partners' affair until it turns into a romance of its own, is a profound exploration of the relationship between identity and artifice. The slo-mo-to-violin sequences are just stunning, with the Maggie Cheung character sashaying up the stairs in her qipao being the essence of understated eroticism. And the end scene at Angkor Wat... well go and watch it (or watch it again) and you'll see what I mean.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Louise Bourgoise

Just a taster for the mesmerising work of French sculptor Louise Bourgoise. Her show at the Tate Modern runs out on the 20th of this month. Apologies for the crap picture quality from my phone camera.

A life-size man made of black knitwear and stuffing lies on top of a woman. Their arms form continuous bands around each other (you can see hers clearly here). He is not penetrating her. We move around to the back (this angle) and see his balls and his limp penis exposed to view.

There is a strong contrast between his powerful shoulders and the fragile vulnerability of his private parts. This is not sex, this is the deepest form of embodied love: two bodies intertwined and conjoined.

A major theme of her work is to break down our conventional understanding of sexual difference. We are not presented with male or female sexuality. Rather, we encounter the erotic surface of being. All distinction beyond that into male, female, hetero or homo is secondary, superficial and reductive.


Tata's Nano Car launches today..

There was already a buzz around town when I was in Bombay last week about the launch of Tata's People's Car, with the no-frills version retailing at just over UK1000 equivalent, and rapidly becoming known as the "one lakh car" (it costs 100,000 rupees). With India having a projected middle class of 500,000 000 in the next decade, its a very smart move. Quite what effects this has on fuel prices or the planet is another matter, as is the impact it has on car markets around the world, especially as Tata should also complete on the Jaguar deal shortly. With Tata offering the full spectrum of cars from entry-level to luxury, US car manufacturers in particular may come under yet more intense pressure to survive. And China is only just getting started on reverse engineering every western car currently available!


Salcado's Crack

Waiting for a friend to arrive at the Tate Modern - we were off to see the Louise Bourgoise - I ventured to inspect Doris Salcado's crack - a gash that runs the length of the turbine hall. I walked down the steps from the side entrance fully expecting (and almost wanting) to hate it. I'd read how she interprets it as being about how racism divides society. It all seemed a gimmick, an exercise in filling space with a one-liner...

So I avoided picking up the pamphlet with yet more of her interpretation, and decided to experience it first-hand, without any interpretative schema provided in advance.

I sat at this spot (picture on the left), for a good 20 minutes. The opening sent me on a journey in all directions. I thought of the wound and the scar, and its peculiar temporality and ontology. The smooth skin before, the rupture, the suture, the healing, the scar. Healing from a gash is never complete. Nothing is fully ever over. The body writes the experience onto the body in the form of scar tissue. When Salcado's gash is closed up, the scar will remain written into the smooth high grade concrete of the turbine hall's floor... Then I thought - almost inevitably - of labial spaces, and the thickness of the cavity - a paradox of emptiness being a form of fullness - the viscosity of space and the uncanny nature of the orifice. Each side of the scar creates a kind of pregnancy in the space between. Empty space is never empty. Ultimately, we have always to arrest ourselves from thinking of space and time as quantifiable, when in fact more fundamentally they are qualia of experience. We go looking for discrete intervals of both, and we stay at the surface of being..

I had many other thoughts as I sat there. Sometimes we need to throw away whatever the artist tries to tell us (as if we need our hands holding up to their work), and just sit and experience it. The artist should just do. It is up to decide what it might all mean..

As for the Louise Bourgoise - its too much and too rich to write about. She went straight in at number one as my favourite sculptor (knocking off Anish Kapoor). Its on till the 20th of this month only, if you're in London.


Marylebone High Street

Waiting for a shop to open on my last morning for a while in London on Wednesday, I ordered an espresso on Marylebone High Street. Then, the sound of horses. Rushing outside, perhaps a hundred of them clip-clopping past. They were military. Each rider had to hold at least another horse as well as the one they rode. The horses were beautiful, pure-bred latencies of energy, contrasting nicely with the urbanity.

London is home. Its where extraordinary events like this happen every day.



Burial's second album, Untrue, is the sound London makes at 3.30am. An instant dub-step classic, the music combines garage's two-step rhythms with the spectral frequencies emanating from the city's unconscious. You can order it online via the link above, and its also on Itunes. Its a landmark record, along the lines of Massive Attack's Blue Lines and Portishead's Dummy.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Yoruba Bata: A Living Drum and Dance Tradition from Nigeria

Nice mini-doc on a Bata troupe...


Le maison Gandhi

I enjoyed visiting the house where Gandhi lived in Bombay immensely...


The top floor has about 20 vitrines - scenes from the life of Gandhi. The models and the scenography are astonishingly good. Here, Gandhi meets the poet Tagore...


Apartments by Charles Correa

Loved the double height verandas going all the way up. Nice use of cantilevering as a gesture towards traditional bungalow-type balconies on a high rise.


Church of the Salvation

In the grounds of the church by Charles Correa.


Mary in the church

Looking distinctively hindhi...


Buddhist prayer hall

On the outskirts of Bombay. This place was a Buddhist university 2000 years ago. The acoustics were incredible.


Tantric buddhism

A Tara figure in the style of Tantric Buddhism. An exquisite blend of the spiritual and the erotic..


The Buddha keeps watch

There were two 6m high Buddha figures standing watch either side of the prayer hall...


Pali in palimpsest

Pali was the text/language of Guatama Siddhartha



carved out of the volcanic rock 2000 years ago..


The positions of the Buddha


The benefactors

Bas relief of some of the benefactors to the university..


Where Bombay has its clothes washed


Igatpuri town just after dawn


Dhamma Giri at Igatpuri

Where I did the vipassana course.


Cricket practice

At the Oval Maidan, downtown Bombay.


Chowpatty beach

Taken from the Hanging Gardens.


Bombay view


Inside the Berliner Dom

The main cathedral in Berlin, at Sunday mass just before Christmas. As I took this picture, the huge organ to the left of the picture was playing, the lower notes vibrating through the air. A few minutes later, the choir started singing. It was an experience of the divine.


The Altes Museum

of antiquities, on Museum Island.


The Pleasure Garden

Near the Cathedral and Museum Island.


Hans Scharoun's Library

As featured in Wings of Desire.


The Berlin Philharmonie

By Hans Scharoun. Completed in 1963, this building is astonishingly good. My archi-friend MM considers it to be the finest building in Europe.


The Berlin Philharmonie

Renzo Piano's theatre in the Daimler-Chrysler quarter (to the right of the picture), echoes the golden studded outer fabric of the Scharoun original.


Inside the Philharmonie

The great and the good of Berlin gather for the evening's concert.


The auditorium

It had perfect acoustics, naturally. Check all the ceiling baffles.


The interval

Loved the tables. Notice the slighly odd floor tile colouring. I noticed this design quirk in several Berlin buildings.


Scharoun space

Inside the Chamber music hall next to the Philharmonie.


Potsdamer Platz

One of the few remaining segments of the wall still standing, right near Potsdamer Platz. The guy in the uniform charges one Euro per shot. This being a shot of a shot, I got it for free.

In 1991, I was here with my mates as angry men smashed the wall down with hammers. The area was rubble mounds and much closer in feel to Wim Wender's film Wings of Desire than now. I could only just recognise where I was and where I had been.


The Sony Centre

Part of the new Berlin urbanism - the Sony Centre atrium, just down from Potsdamer Platz. I was not moved.


Das Volk

A view of the queue from the steps of the Reichstag. L.S. Lowry in Berlin...


The Reichstag

The queue to get in and see Foster's glitzy glass dome was about 2 hours long and it was near freezing. Are these people crazy?


Architecture near Brandeburg Gate


The Jewish memorial, Berlin

Not to be confused with Libeskind's building to the south of the centre, the Jewish Memorial is a huge open area of concrete pillars of varying heights. Towards the centre of the square, the ground dips so the top of the pillars around you is high above. A remarkable use of public space in the heart of a European city. Memory congealed into concrete, where all forgetting is itself forgotten.


The Jewish Museum

By Daniel Libeskind. This building alone is worth a trip to Berlin. His best building and a powerful experience.


At the Jewish Museum, Berlin

Visitors are encouraged to walk on this sea of metal faces in this desolate space, creating a chink-chinking noise. Powerful stuff..



The Holocaust tower

Inside the museum, you enter a room called the holocaust tower. Its a cold and bare concrete chamber, with just a chink of daylight high above. On one wall, a ladder leads to the ceiling, but the bottom of the ladder is about 15 foot in the air. You can hear the traffic going by and the sounds of Berlin outside faintly through the gap at the top of the room. One of the most profound experiences of architecture possible.


The diaspora as space

Outside the museum, there's a set of tall pillar like columns with silvery spruces growing out of the top. The pillars are set on a diagonally slanted slope, so walking around and between them is slightly disorienting. The idea is to convey the dizziness and confusion of being forced into exile, and the experience of not quite being at home in the diaspora. Another simple yet highly effective spatial device. The main skin of the museum is seen on the right.


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