Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Passes of the Pyrenees

Posties and couriers are very frequent visitors at Beret HQ in Wellington, but the best deliveries are those that are completely unexpected.
This morning, I found a small parcel in my mailbox with two books from my German artist friend PLG (see here and here). One the famous Pyrenean book by Kurt Tucholsky (a 1952 edition in it's original language), but even more spectacular to me, a fantastic guidebook to the Passes of the Pyrenees by motorcar from 1912!
What a delightful book! Written by C.L. Freeston, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and full of maps and photographs, typically showing horse drawn carriages and early automobiles on what was already then a very advanced road network across the passes.
And yes, even a few berets, worn by pelote players, road workers and carriers.
If you have the chance to lay your hands on a copy, I'd highly recommend it.
I found several available on and even an e-book version in downloadable PDF.
Thanks, Peter

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Traian Băsescu in Pink Beret

Traian Băsescu (1951) is a Romanian politician, who served as the fifth President of Romania from 2004 to 2014. His two consecutive terms in office are marked by the adhesion of Romania to the European Union in 2007, but also open conflicts with the Parliament, leading to two failed impeachments attempts against him in 2007 and 2012.
Pictured here in pink camouflage on a satirical website, claiming “In this camouflage suit Basescu looks like a hero of the Resistance - Resistance to drink” and “very effective camouflage when he wants to hide from waiters that come with the bill”.

Mr Băsescu has some image problems with corruption…

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

The New Foulards Aotearoa!

The latest addition to the range of berets under the Boneteria Aotearoa label, and quite different at that too.
The brief for the manufacturer was a beret similar in quality and comfort to the Basque Super Lujo; the lightness of the Uruguayan Cataluña and the softness and smooth touch of an Auloronesa. And last, a very competitive price!
I think it worked out pretty well!
These berets weigh only 70% of comparable berets, making them excellent for summer and in-between seasons. Soft to the touch and super comfortable.
The bérets foulard Aotearoa come in a range of four plateaus (diameters) and in two distinct colours: Graphite grey and Fox; a beautiful brown with a hint of red.
All models @ $50.00.
In the same quality comes the majestic Txapeldun ('Champion' in the Basque language) in traditional black and a plateau of 36cm, @ $52.50

TOSHIBA Batteries

TOSHIBA, is a Japanese multinational conglomerate headquartered in Tokyo. Its diversified products and services include information technology and communications equipment and systems, electronic components and materials, power systems, industrial and social infrastructure systems, consumer electronics, household appliances, medical equipment, office equipment, as well as lighting and logistics.
For some reason unclear to many, berets featured highly on puppets advertising TOSHIBA batteries.
In line with the look of these batteries, Toshiba has been judged as making 'low' efforts to lessen their impact on the environment. In November 2012, they came second from the bottom in Greenpeace’s 18th edition of the Guide to Greener Electronics that ranks electronics companies according to their policies on products, energy and sustainable operations.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jacques Henri Lartigue

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894 –1986) was a French photographer and painter, known for his photographs of automobile races, planes and Parisian fashion female models.
Born in Courbevoie, France to a wealthy family, Jacques Henri Lartigue started taking photographs when he was seven. He photographed his friends and family at play – running and jumping; racing home-built race cars; making kites, gliders as well as aeroplanes; and climbing the Eiffel Tower.
Although best known as a photographer, Lartigue was also a good painter. He often showed-up in the official salons in Paris and in the south of France from 1922. He was friends with a wide selection of literary and artistic celebrities including the playwright Sacha Guitry, the singer Yvonne Printemps, the painters Kees van Dongen, Pablo Picasso and the artist-playwright-filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


The Brits might have a deeply-steeped tea tradition. The Kiwi's coffee culture is incredibly strong, Americans know where it’s at when it comes to iced coffee, but none of that compares to the strong tradition that South America has with its energy-boosting beverage of choice, maté.
Mate is an infusion made by steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant (a species of the holly family) in near-boiling water. It is traditionally drank from a calabasa gourd — though these days the drinking vessel can be made out of just about anything — with a silver metal straw called a bombilla. The straw is integral to the drinking process because it filters out the leaves. Drank straight, a sip of hot mate will taste a lot like a strong, slightly bitter tea and it has been enjoyed in the Southern Hemisphere for hundreds of years.
Mate has a long history in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Bolivia. It is not uncommon to see people walking the streets with mate in hand in those countries — some even with a thermos of hot water in the other hand to refill the drink as it gets low. It’s custom to add water to yerba mate around 15-20 times, until it loses its flavor. Drinking mate is often times a group experience; it’s a symbol of hospitality and friendship. A host will commonly pass mate around in a circle so every one can have a few sips.
Mate gives the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee, without the jittery feeling that some people get from caffeine. The LA Times proposes that it’s because one cup of yerba mate contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, which is twice as much as black tea but significantly less than a cup of coffee. (Other schools of thought believe that mate does not contain caffeine, but another type of stimulating compound which is the reason for the cleaner buzz.) 
One thing everyone agrees on is that it’s loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which only adds to its energy boosting power.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lesego Rampolokeng

Lesego Rampolokeng (1965) is a South African writer, playwright and performance poet from Orlando West, Soweto, Johannesburg. He studied law at the University of the North in South Africa, but he has not followed this path any further.
Lesego Rampolokeng came to prominence in the 1980s, a very turbulent time in South Africa. His poetry often criticises the establishment. His first instalment of poetry was Horns for Hondo (1991) and this was followed by End Beginnings (1993).
Lesego collaborates with musicians. He has performed in many countries and with musicians such as Julian Bahula, Soulemane Toure, Louis Mhlanga and Gunther Sommer
In one of his poems he claimed to "shoot the English with bullets that are British". In another piece of work, "Riding the Victim's Train" (on the CD / album The H.a.l.f Ranthology), Rampolokeng calls himself "a leper cast out in the desert, and cold, without a snout or paw in the pot of gold".

He participated in the 2001 Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Butterfly's Tongue

Many berets, or boinas, on both sides of the political spectrum, in the film Butterfly’s Tongue.
Butterfly's Tongue or Butterfly (La lengua de las mariposas, literally it can also be translated as "The Language of the Butterflies"), is a 1999 Spanish film directed by José Luis Cuerda. The film centres on Moncho and his coming-of-age experience in Galicia in 1936.
For Moncho, it's an idyllic year: he starts school, he has a wonderful teacher, he makes a friend in Roque, he begins to figure out some of the mysteries of Eros, and, with his older brother, a budding saxophone player, he makes a trip with the band from their town in Galicia.
But it's also the year that the Spanish Republic comes under fire from Fascist rebels. Moncho's father is a Republican as is the aging teacher, Don Gregorio. As sides are drawn and power falls clearly to one side, the forces of fear, violence, and betrayal alter profoundly what should be the pleasure of coming of age.
The film is adapted from three short stories from the book Que me queres, amor? by Galician author Manuel Rivas. The short stories are "A lingua das bolboretas", "Un saxo na néboa", and "Carmiña".
The film was nominated for the 2000 Goya Award for Best Picture, and it won the Goya Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Michael Selekane

Pretoria-based artist Michael Selekane was born at Uitvlag village in Mpumalanga in 1986, to Catherine Selekane, a single mother and domestic worker. At birth, Michael was abandoned by his biological father who was made known to him only recently. His sudden introduction to his biological father was traumatic - often reflected in his work. Shortly after his birth, Michael was left in the care of his grandmother (“Gogo”) and uncles when his mother left Mpumalanga to seek domestic employment opportunities in Pretoria.
 His art reflects a visual take of people's everyday struggles as seen through his eyes. His works were criticised by buyers for contrasting each other. "I am inspired by social issues, especially politics. I also look at my personal life and find it fascinating to paint about it," Selekane said.
One of his works is titled Julius Malema Train. In defining the art-work, he says: "As you can see the train is overflowing with people. Everyone is fighting to get on the train. Malema is always using propaganda to get more people to support him. Youths who do not understand politics join the ANC youth league because they know they will get top positions." He says he used the train as a metaphor because it is unreliable. "A train is never on time, and it cannot be trusted. Just like politicians. They speak about this today and tomorrow they are singing a different tune."
Selekane works in oil and enhances it with bright, natural colours. In an attempt to preserve the natural environment, he also creates works of art by mixing recyclable newspapers. His influences includes post-modernist and impressionists such as Gerard Sekoto, Dumile Feni and Michael Mmutle.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lefifi Tladi

South Africa has a long history of beret wearing, typically among activists and artists. Earlier Gerard Sekoto featured on The Beret Project, this long post is about Lefifi Tladi.
The thinker, poet and painter, Lefifi Tladi was born in 1949 in the township of Lady Selborne in Pretoria. The township fell victim to apartheid’s forced removals as a so-called Black spot, an area of land that Black people bought legally in what the government considered as White South Africa. People who lived in Black spots were told to leave their places and later removed forcefully to make way for White people.
Owing to his goatee beard, he was nicknamed Jomo after Kenya’s post independence hero, Jomo Kenyata. In 1966 Tladi co-founded a youth club, De-Olympia in the township of Ga-Rankuwa. De-Olympia organised art exhibitions around the townships and homes of diplomats in and around Pretoria. Unfortunately, after three years running, the apartheid forces closed it down.
In 1969 he co-founded the jazz band, Malombo Jazz Messengers, which was later, called Dashiki Malopo, the trance-inducing music of the Bapedi, influenced Dashiki’s compositions. Initially Tladi played African drums in the band before he focused solely on poetry and painting. Dashiki’s live performances across the South African townships merged music with poetry that was heavily influenced by the socio-political situation in the country.
Tladi burst into the national South African political scene during the 1970s through participation in the Black Consciousness Movement’s cultural events. Groups such as MDALI, Batsumi, Malapanetharo, Black Arts Studios, and others around the country participated in the cultural events. Since most political and cultural leaders were either jailed or exiled, the Black Consciousness filled this vacuum in the country.
In 1976 Tladi skipped bail after he was arrested for participating in the students’ insurrection that begun in Soweto. Tladi went to exile in Botswana.
Tladi returned to South Africa in 1997. Currently his paintings are exhibited in museums and galleries across the globe. He performs with different bands and individuals such as Tlokwe Sehume, Zim Nqawana and The Brus Trio among others. From his home in Ga-Rankuwa, in Mabopane and at different universities, he hosts poetry and art workshops.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Berets from Cuba

One wouldn't think so, looking at all the Ché wannabees and lookalikes, but Cuba isn't really a beret country. 
Berets are typically worn as part of a uniform, be it for school children, police or military and to keep the memory of Ché Guevara alive. 
The Basque community living on the island doesn't seem to have held on to their traditional headgear.
But, Cuba isn't the country it once used to be. These days super model Gisele Bündchen, one of the richest women in the entertainment industry, is welcome to do photo-shoots for Victoria's Secret - a rather capitalist cosmetics concern.
Good on Gisele though, she does so while wearing a Basque beret!