Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bedik reincarnation tool

I went to the tiny Bedik tribe in remote southeast Senegal to learn about their myths and dreams. In the village of Iwol, chief Jean Keita told me about a special instrument they used to tell if a person has come back from the dead as a baby. 

The tiny Bedik tribe has a small round instrument that tells if the new born is a reincarnation of a deceased relative. Bedik tribe, Senegal Africa

Chief Jean Baptiste Keita: 

I myself had a dream about a dead ancestor coming back into my family. 

My dead father come to me in a dream and talked with me.  Some days after the dream, my wife delivered a baby.  When the baby was born, he started crying.  Crying.  Crying. 

We saw the baby is not ill, but he’s crying. What can be the cause of that?   

In our village we have this small round instrument, maybe something like a small wheel. When we put that instrument on the wall, if it ever adheres, if it gets stuck when it is thrown against the wall, it means the dead parent, the dead person has come back.  If ever it falls down, it means it’s not him.

So we took that instrument, threw it against the wall.

It stuck.

Journal thoughts:
Interesting that the Bedik use a circular instrument to determine whether the new born is a deceased relative. I immediately thought of the serpent which in some myths forms a circle as it eats its own tail thus representing rebirth, reincarnation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Himba shaman: "There is a secret only you know."

From my Namibia journal May 7, 2003
(This will be the introduction to my first book on African Myths)

Mbahuma, powerful Himba tribe shaman, near Epupa Falls, Namibia, Africa

Deep inside a mystery rattles my spirit. Today, Mbahuma, the most powerful Himba tribe shaman, mentioned a secret. His one eye watched carefully. Where the other eyeball should have been, was just an empty hole with draining fluid. I had heard that the best shaman had some deformity.

Under a scraggly, thorny shrub of a tree at the top of a dry rocky creek bed, Mbahuma told me: “You’ve been looking. You are trying to learn many things. You will find it.”

“But there is a secret,” continued Mbahuma under that lonely tree. “A secret only you know.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Visiting an African Disneyland-like Museum of our Modern Beliefs

God wanted to give human beings their fullness right from the beginning, but they were incapable of receiving it, because they were still little children.

Against Heresies

St. Irenaeus (125-203 A.D.)

Chief Jean Keita, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.

Bedik tribe, Iwol village
Chief Jean Baptiste Keita:

-->"Our village was founded more than 900 years ago.  It was the first village which have been settled all around here.  The first one here.  And it has been in continuous existence until today.

(While the Bedik had a designated historian who I met on my first Bedik trip, it wasn’t until very recently they had any written language, French. I don’t know how the chief arrived at 900 years and forgot to ask for an explanation. But if Chief Keita was accurate about the age of Iwol village, that’s about the time Angkor Wat was completed and the second crusades got underway. )

"What makes the village so different is the specificity of the place. It is really wonderful here. You can see it is surrounded by big mountains, with big trees, sacred trees. 

"And you see, there are many sacred symbols here. You heard yesterday about the baobab tree, and the sacred Fromager tree here.

Sacred site, Bedik tribe, Iwol village, Senegal, Africa.
"We are Bediks. We are animists. And for that, we preserve our ancestor’s way of life. And Iwol is the only village which has preserved its tradition.  It’s been the same since ages.    It hasn’t changed.


"We are the only people that have remained rooted in their traditions. We are the only ones who have preserved in tact our tradition. 

"And we live only in this place.  We are quite restricted.  We are not numerous, we Bediks."

Bedik village of Iwol, Senegal, Africa.

Personal journal thoughts: 

Was this the religion of our ancient ancestors? Did storytellers like Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and Constantine whisper their variations of the Bedik stories I heard into followers’ ears just like players in the telephone game?

My being tingled with the pure joy of mystery. There was more here than I could see and immediately understand.   

I certainly was in a Disneyland-like museum of our modern beliefs.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mother's dream brings dead son back to life

While studying with the Bedik tribe in Senegal, Chief Keita told me about a woman's dream:  

Chief Jean Keita, Bedik tribe, remote SE corner of Senegal, Africa.

"Some of the young village boys went to another place to work for money. After two years in the place, one of the boys died.

"The rest of the boys said: 'Hey, we must go back home, but let's never say to the people that our friend is dead. Let's keep the secret.'

"So they came back home and said nothing.

"That night the dead boy's mother had a dream that her son has come back. She dreamt that her son came back to the family. She didn't know that her son was died because the friends said nothing.

"The following night the dead boy came into the mother's house.

"His friends were actually expecting such a situation. When one of them heard a noise, he ran into the room and found the dead boy standing there. And he said: 'you don't need to go away. We have said nothing.'

"Then the dead son appeared exactly like all the other people. The guy lived many years, maybe another 40 years. He died only last year.

"You see, the mother's dream has become true."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Remote Suri Tribe: woman caused The Fall of Man but with a twist

Ethiopia's Suri tribe Chief Bolugedung told me the ancient story about how originally man had a direct connection to God. But the woman broke the link.

Chief Bolugedung wears a baboon skin hat indicating he is one of the two major chiefs, Suri tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia.
Chief Bolugedung explains: "There was two first persons, a man and woman. Originally, they have a rope up to the sky which came down to earth. 

"Man and woman could climb the rope any time to visit with God. The only rule was man and woman could not bring anything with them when climbing the rope to visit God.

Woman working flour on a grinding stone, Suri tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa the Birthplace of Modern Man.
"One day the woman decided to bring her stone, the stone women use to grind flour. (Grinding stone.) As soon as she started to climb the rope, it cut. The rope fell to the ground. Man and woman also fell to the ground.

"So after that, the two persons had to stay here on the earth. They don't have a rope to climb up to God. From that time they have to only live here."

My image of the Suri Fall of Man story. Suri (Surma tribe), Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

So the remote Suri, in Africa, the Birthplace of Modern Man, say that the first man and woman had a direction connection to God. But they lost it. They disobeyed. And it was the woman's doing. 

From everything I've learned, I conjecture this Suri story is older than the Fall of Man stories in the Bible.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What I didn't ask the farmer in the Birthplace of Modern Man.

In Ethiopia, for the Myth Project, I needed an image, a symbol, to represent agriculture in a more ancient time.

Driving on a remote pot-holed road out to the Omo region, I saw the perfect shot about a 1/2 mile away. A farmer working with a wooden plow pulled by oxen. The perfect ancient agriculture image.

Now, looking at the photograph on my 5K monitor one year later and 10,000 miles away, I regret not connecting with the farmer. 

Here he is working with same tools used by our ancient ancestors in the birthplace of Modern Man—Ethiopia, Africa. But he is in the 21st century. What gets him up each morning? What is his perspective about life on our planet? What are his dreams?

I only have a symbol, without the person. I could have had both.

Oh, what a huge opportunity missed. 

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: http://www.snooth.com/wines/china/

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: http://www.chinafinewines.com/default.aspx

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: http://www.bbr.com/region-14-china

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