Friday, May 6, 2016

Can I see the bees that killed the attacking Muslims?

Bedik tribe village of Iwol in the remote southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

In the history of the remote Bedik tribe in remote southeast Senegal, Muslims wanted to convert the tribe to Islam. The tribe didn't want to be converted. So the Muslims attacked. 

"It was terrible," explained Chief Keita. "Many Bedik were killed." Then the Bedik prayed. Their Spirits had mercy and sent bees to kill the attacking Muslims. 

"Yes, the bees live in a tree right near here in the middle of the village," explained Chief Keita. When I asked if I could photograph the bees, the chief replied, "of course you can." 

"They look like ordinary bees. I will show you where they live in a tree here in the center of the village. Right near here.

"And it’s totally possible to take a picture of the bees.
We can send a boy to see if they are there.  If they are there, you can go and take a picture.  If not, you did not come at the right time."

Here's what I saw.

Chief Keita explained that the bees live in this tree. Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

From my journal that night:

As we waited for the messenger boy to come back, a gentle breeze came over us. Somehow I felt I was listening to a story that, like a musical score, needs to be interpreted to fully understand. 

I felt I was like Napoleon’s soldier who found the Rosetta stone, but instead of linking texts, might this be the Rosetta stone to a deeper understanding of the roots to today’s spiritual and cultural beliefs? 

Somehow here with the Bedik we still have a balance between Mythos and logos. Yet somehow clear understanding seemed tantalizingly just out of my reach.

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2016

Monday, May 2, 2016

How an American can get wine from Ningxia China

Recently I received an email asking how someone in the USA can get wine from Ningxia province of China. Several times I've also needed to get any Chinese wine as samples for speaking events.

Getting the stuff in the USA, let alone from a specific province, is difficult and often the quality is disappointing. 

But if you have an unquenchable thirst for Chinese wine, try these:

1) Sift through this site, but know that many of the wines might not be available:

2) Dragon’s Hollow grows grapes in Ningxia only for export to USA. Founder David Henderson is a great guy with extensive trading experience in China. Try contacting him directly:

3) If you happen to have a friend in the UK who is coming to the USA, have them go into Berry Bros & Rudd at their St James’ to scout for Chinese wine. Or they can try the BB&R web site:

4) While I haven't checked lately, the Great Wall Shopping Center in Kent, Washington, did offer a bottle of Changyu wine for $18. (Warning, even though Changyu is China's largest winery, the wine should be experienced in the spirit of adventure without great wall-sized expectations.)

If you order or get Chinese wine in the USA, please let me know the outcome.

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2015

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Did my karaoke or President Xi force sale of China's Chateau Junding for 15 cents?

China's food service conglomerate, COFCO, is selling their 55% share of Chateau Junding for 1 yuan (that's about 15 cents). 

Chateau Junding in Shandong Province.

This news evoked a flood of memories, some painful.  Chateau Junding was the very first winery I visited on my inaugural China wine trip in 2009.
Chateau Junding, with its restaruants, tasting rooms, gift and wine shops, golf club, golf course and underground cellars all sit on 400 hectares (almost 1000 acres).

Since I had never done any kind of business or journalism in China before, I didn't really know the protocol.
Night view of stone bridge leading to Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.
It took months of email introductions to finally get a dinner appointment with some Junding bureaucrat when I arrived to Beijing. 

But the guy must have liked the way I used chop sticks because a couple of days later I was flying to Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, to meet with head marketing director, Ms. Lin. In fact, she actually met me at the airport for the hour drive to Junding.

Chateau Junding winery, with Phoenix Lake in the background, seen from nearly 1000 acre estate vineyard, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

The place was huge. They gave me a golf cart to get around on the nearly 1000-acre Junding estate for 3 days of photography.
One of the roads to Junding's Golf Club.
Workers tend the expansive Junding golf course so clients can catch a perfect 18 holes before dinner and wine at Chateau Junding seen on the other side of Phoenix Lake.

Assistant winemaker taking sample in barrel cellar at Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.
This bottle  of wine, created for the opening of the Chateau Junding winery, lists for RMB27998 (US$4442). Asia, China, Shandong province.

The whole Chateau Junding concept was to attract luxury consumers and government officials to an opulent lifestyle, like the Cab Sauvignon retailing for a cool US$ 4,442 a bottle.The idea was that it should be given as an expensive business gift as everyone knew the price.

Dining in one of the many restaurants and private rooms at Junding winery near Penglai in the Shandong Province, China. This photograph was taken of an important regional wine director in 2009, at the height of spending on government officials.

One of the days during my visit, Junding hosted a handful of Chinese government officials and the head of the regional Winery Association. After a dinner enjoyed with some Oregon wine I had stuffed into my suitcase, we headed down to a huge entertainment center.  

Now these guys were hot on karaoke. And they just assumed I, being from the United States, knew all the English-language songs ever written. And worse, they thought I could sing. 

It was terrible. I couldn't even remember all the words to "Hey, Jude." Luckily, the marketing director knew the song and had a great voice.

Fortunately for me, the Chinese officials drank a lot of wine, a really lot of wine. We're talking bottles of wine each. At the end of the karaoke evening, I carried out some really important government wine people out to their black Buicks.

I got lost trying to find my way around all of the restaurants, private rooms and entertainment centers.

But current President Xi's straight-laced program of anti-corruption and austerity policies put screeching brakes to the karaoke and spending lots of yuan at the winery resort, especially for government officials. 

Now the expansive estate is visited more by busloads of curious Chinese tourists than actual clients.

Evening view of Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

So the place is for sale.

Oh yes, there is one minor caveat to the Chateau Junding sale price: besides paying the 15 cents, the buyer must also pick up the tab for the debt on the property. For that bring an extra 392m yuan (a bit more than US$ 60,000,000) and controlling interest of the place is yours.

Farm vehicle in front of vineyard and buildings of Chateau Junding winery near Penglai in the Shandong Province, China.

They do have a great karaoke machine. So I keep wondering if it was really my bad karaoke or President Xi's policies forcing COFCO to sell Chateau Junding?

As government policies and winery sales swirl, workers still tend the vineyard.

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2015

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What year would you say this photograph was taken?

Northern Ethiopia, Africa.
                                      2015 AD

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2015

Which of my submissions for the new Family of Man project work for you?

Here's my submission for the new Family of Man project photographs. 

In 1939 Edward Steichen curated a show called the Family of Man for New York City's Museum of Modern Art. He asked 30 photographers, including Cartier Bresson, Eugene Smith, and Dorothea Lange, to document the common links of humanity worldwide. 

Family of Man became the biggest-selling photography book in the history of photography. 

So this year an outfit called IPA (not the beer but the International Photography Awards) takes inspiration from the Family of Man Project, to document parallel circumstances in the world today. 

The categories are Birth, Childhood, Youth, Love, Marriage and Old Age. I submitted the following photographs:

Which ones work for you?

Childhood: Children at the Gate.    These Konso children came out to greet me; then proceeded to give me a hard time because I was an adult and only knew a few words of Konso.  Konso tribe, Buso village, Edge of the Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

Childhood: Growing up with Booze.   A drunken Himba mother in traditional clothes allows her child to play with the booze bottle she just finished drinking at the open market in the frontier town of Opuo, Namibia. Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa.

Youth: A Himba tribe girl (already married as seen by the head gear) reacts at seeing herself in a photograph for the first time in her life. I think I've seen this same look on girls in Portland area malls. Himba tribe, Namibia, Africa.

Youth:  As part of their tribal initiation into manhood, these 12 and 13-year-old Bedik boys run all day for one month through their village of Iwol. Then they will spend 5 months living in the "bush" by themselves. Tribal chief Keita told me the initiation is for the boys to "learn the secrets of life." Please sign me up.   Bedik tribe, Senegal, sub Saharan Africa; West Africa, Africa.

Old Age:  Old lady with her grandson in the Bedik tribe village of Iwol.  Senegal, sub Saharan Africa; West Africa, Africa, 

Old Age: On my first trip to the Bedik tribe in remote corner of Senegal, the Chief's mother wore traditional clothes. Three years later on my second trip to the Bedik, she still had the porcupine quill in her nose but was wearing an elaborate hand-me-down European style outfie. Bedik tribe, Senegal, sub Saharan Africa; West Africa, Africa. 

All photographs and text © 2016 Janis Miglavs

Monday, January 11, 2016

Wine Photographer Janis Miglavs seen in Photo District News

For the non-photographers, Photo District News is the magazine targeted towards professional photographers. So now after 40 years of using a camera to support a family and lifestyle, can I officially consider myself a professional photographer?

Before I head out on each assignment, I do this little meditation to clear my mind, so I'm approaching every winery with an explorer's excitement about seeing it for the first time. So no matter how many wineries I've visited, it/s fun and a brand new experience.

Workers in the vineyard at Changyu AFIP Global winery, Ju Gezhuang Town, Beijing city area, Miyun County, China. China wine country.

Vineyards in Beng (also called Bu) village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, in the Heng Duan (Hengduan) Mountain Range, Yunnan Province, China, Asia. China Wine country.

North America, USA, Washington, Washington, Yakima Valley, Yakima county. Stone chapel a top of Syrah vines at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima AVA.

The sun sets behind San Vicente de la Sonsierra village perched on a hill top overlooking vineyards in La Rioja region of northern Spain.


Winemaker Paul LeRoy in the barrel cellar at Hermannhof winery in Hermann, Missouri, USA.

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Water Spirit commands the village women to quit polluting the spring

I went to the isolated Bedik tribe in the most remote corner of southeast Senegal to find how their beliefs compared to those I grew up with.

Iwol village, Bedik tribe, remote southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

When I asked Jean Babtist Keita, the Bedik Chief of Iwol village, about God, he explained that they had one Super God and many Spirits.

Chief Jean Babtist Keita, Iwol Village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

Chief Keita told me a story to illustrate their idea of a Spirit: "Once our women went to the village spring to fetch water. But they did not take care of the place. They were spoiling the water."

Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

"One day when they went there, they saw into the water a face, a white face, a bearded face.

 Chief Keita continues: "They were afraid. They rushed back home.

"When they arrived, I asked them, 'what did you see?'

"'We saw a white face on the water,'

"Are you sure it was not your own faces? Did you bent down and see your own faces?

"'No,' the women replied.

"Then I knew certainly it was one spirit. Maybe the spirit in charge of the water, who wanted to tell them to take more care of the water.

"From that day, the women tried to take more care of the place.  Since then nothing more."

Kids going to fetch water. Iwol Village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

This is my illustration of the Water Spirit from Chief Keita's description.

A Water Spirit came to warn the village women to quit polluting the spring. Chief Jean Keita told me that the Water Spirit had a white face with a beard and wings that looked like bat wings. Guess what? After seeing the spirit, the women took better care of the village spring.  Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

When I asked Chief Keita to sketch a spirit, this is his drawing. He said that everything was accurate, but he didn't know how to draw the feet.   Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs