A postcard from Jane.

Today, to my surprise, I received a postcard from Jane. Jane Morris. She lived in England between 1839 and 1914. She was a model. In those Victorian times she was one of the three grand ladies of painting next to Elisabeth Siddal who was portrayed as Ophelia by the great painter John Everett Millais and Dorothy Dene, one of the three muses I am writing about in my new novel. Dorothy was no doubt the most beautiful of the three but she was a kind of Marilyn Monroe and died at a too early age of 39 presumably of laudanum overdose but probably due to an abortion that went wrong.

Anyway, Jane Morris was as a model rather surprisingly probably the most successful of the three women. She was married to a known and respected painter and by that was wealthy compared to others. And she was the lover of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the prince charming of the pre Raphaelites. Jane is the most portrayed and Jane was no doubt the least talented of the three models in those days. Dorothy was an actress and Elisabeth Siddal a very talented paintress. Jane however was a model of vry humble working class descent, her talent being a mystifying beauty and an enduring inspiration to both Rosetti as her husband William Morris.

So, Jane wrote me a few days ago from London. Having lunch on a boat not far from the Tate where her portraits hang, in between writing her lifestory. A couple of months ago we’ve met in a café just around the corner where I live. She told me about her life and I told her about mine. You see, I identify as much with Lena Dene as my table partner identifies with Jane. Lena is, as you might already know from my other writings, the younger and unknown sister of the fore mentioned Dorothy and in real life was named Isabell Helena Pullen, a cockney girl by birth. Anyway I talked to Jane, or her reincarnation, that day and was struck by the amazing resemblence of her with the Jane from way back then. During the following months I researched for my book and in the process thought of this Jane many times. I saw her portraits hundreds of times. And now I received this wonderful postcard. Seems she’d been thinking of me too in the past time and as she wrote followed my advice, went back to London and started writing. I wonder what will come of that.

Hopefully we’ll meet again soon.

© 2012 Alice (Lena) Anna Verheij

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The Story of Mary Lloyd.

She was a beautiful and praised model at the end of the 19th century. Then she was forgotten.
Until 1933 when a newspaper article told her sad story to it’s readers. The she was forgotten again.
Until 1996 when Dr. Martin Postle, a British art historian discovered photographs of Lord Frederic Leighton’s atelier just after he died showing multiple paintings for which Mary posed. Just like she posed for Frederic Brock when he made the Victoria Memorial years later. Then she was forgotten again.
Until I saw the painting by Frederic Leighton titled ‘Flaming June’ and learned about the dispute regarding the model who sat for Leighton when he painted this painting. That triggered and puzzled me. And when I found out about Mary’s story there was no way back for me.

Mary Lloyd, the forgotten model is the main character in my upcoming Dutch language novel (hopefully to be translated into English later) De Engel van Kensington (The Angel from Kensington). Although large parts of Mary’s life are unknown and impossible to retrieve from the past the story of Mary Lloyd, the upper middle class girl who became a painters model and lived a rather quiet life, is a beautiful story full of 19th century fin de siècle atmosphere, 20th century interbellum excitement and love.

Mary Lloyd who at seventy was still a beautiful woman leading a poor life as a seamstress and housekeeper but looking back at a wonderful modelling career, deep friendships, beautiful art a two loves of her life. So, what really happened in Mary’s life?

The Angel from Kensington is planned for publication before Christmas 2012. The story of Mary Lloyd starts again today.

Alice Anna © 2012

I am me.

To start the day off in a positive way, I give you this.

I am what I am. I am me.

Like most people are ‘me’ for themselves. And though it might sound silly to say this, it is in fact one of the strongest statements one can make. Because it underlines personal pride and strength. I wish everyone could state these three little words in all confidence realizing that they really are who they are. With all defects but also with the beauty and strength they have. Unfortunately many people never get to that stage in their lifetime but I am hopeful that one they everyone will.

So, what and who is that ‘me’ that I am?

Well let’s say it like this to explain it a little…

I am proud of myself. When people ask me if I was a guy then nowadays I can safely say that I never was because I at least do understand that physical construction doesn’t define masculinity or femininity because it’s in the mind and the heart. And right after that I would probably pinch them in the butt. I am also a lesbian in love with geeky stuff and gadgets and fashion and I do wear lipstick. Every day. Wether you like it or not while kissing. Oh and when I have a girlfriend I really do love her until the other side of the world. And although I love the female attire I am pretty damned good with heavy camera’s and equipment, look stunning in trekking gear and I can most certainly read maps and find my way around. Anywhere. Anytime.

Ok, I am also transgender in the sense that I transitioned without dying first. Pretty smart thing to do as it saves me the long waiting for reincarnation without certainty of the outcome. And it was not a nice thing to do. It scared the shit out of me, was painful and it ruined most of my private and professional life. Friends proved not to be friends, work proved not to be something that I could take for granted so I lost my businesses and ended up in heavy debts. It ruined my marriage and my God(s and Goddesses) I have cried so many tears that it could fill a mid size mountain lake.

On the other hand, I just restarted life as if nothing had happened. I learned a new trade and some new tricks and even became frikkin happy at times. And that was a first. I’m struggling often, am depressed every now and then but also regularly in love and f*cking amazing in what I do and create. And I have lost the ability to be scared of most of the crap that other people fear as their worst enemies. I learned the relativity of money and the joy of true friendship, the beauty of a song and I even sing the damned song myself every now and than. Never thought I would do that. And on top of it all, I learned to write and visualize and although the fight is sometimes long and hard I am out there and you, yes you, are reading my scribblings. Which is quite nice actually and I thank you for taking the time to do so. Oh, and did I mention that I do have three great kids? No? Well then, here it is: I do have three great kids!

Thing is my dear friends, I can do so much and so much more than all these grey mice living their grey lives in a grey society. I live with color, sound and images, words and stories, friends and lovers and in spite of the occasional backdrop (ok, a few too many sometimes) I do all that with energy and strength. And I do that without having to thank a white bearded old sucker high in the sky sitting on an imaginary cloud of nonsense. (I feel more attached to the vivid, colorful Hindu Gods anyway.) And I do all that and I am who I am because I endured and I never really gave up. While struggle and depression have become an integral part of my life, shining and radiating and being awesome from time to time is the better part of my life now. And for all intents and purposes (I love that Shakespearean line) I am proud that I live my life to the max of my ability and I am proud that I have so much love in me that there is no way that in my lifetime I can get rid of it all. And if you didn’t join me in my current efforts to make a difference in a positive way I sure hope you will join me soon in one of my next endeavours. And if there is no new endeavour coming from me than I am either disappeared and vanished somewhere or I am to be cremated. And that is for as far as I am concerned still a long, long time from now.

I can only hope, dear friends, that you will see the real me in this picture. Because this one stands for who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do and how I am in the happiest moments of my life.

So, as I said, I am me. And I don’t have a clue why I write this today other than I just felt the urge to do so. Maybe it’s just because I love you and I think you are worth that love.

© 2012 Alice Verheij

Uitgave nieuwe roman.

In de zomer van dit jaar schreef ik mijn eerste Engelstalige roman in de bergen vijfentwintig kilometer noordelijk van Kathmandu. Daar, in het kleine plaatsje Kakani van waaruit je over als slagroom soesjes op een zee van laveldel blauwe lucht drijvende witte toppen van de Himalaya uitkijkt. Na enkele weken was het boek dat zich in mijn hoofd gevormd had als manuscript klaar.

Het is maanden verder. De laatste loodjes van mijn laatste eigen redactie op het manuscript zijn zwaar. Zoals loodjes horen te zijn. Over enkele dagen vlieg ik weer naar Nepal en zal ik vanuit het vliegtuig Kakani kunnen zien liggen. Ik ga er vrienden zien en in de verloren momenten zal ik er de laatste hand leggen aan mijn eigen redactie van dit boek. Ik weet nu al dat er een paar passages ernstig veranderen. Zo moet het ook zijn. Je maakt iets tot op het punt dat je aanvankelijk denkt dat het klaar is maar dan laat je het rusten en rijpen. Na een tijdje buiten zicht gerezen te zijn blijkt het laagje deeg een luchtige volle cake geworden. En dan gaat die uit de vorm, wordt aangekleed en opgesierd. Klaar voor consumptie.

Dat aankleden en opsieren gebeurt in december. De laatste correctie door een Engelstalige redacteur ook. En wanneer dat allemaal is gebeurt wordt mijn nieuweling opgediend. In Nederland en in Nepal. Een synopsis:

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story, want zo heet ze, is een verhaal over een jonge vrouw die in haar vroege adolescentie vanuit een vluchtelingenkamp met haar familie migreert naar Nederland. In het kader van een third country resettlement programma van de Verenigde Naties. Eenmaal in Nederland begint de integratie in de Nederlandse samenleving. Een samenleving die wonderlijk is maar die met de openheid van een kind benaderd wordt. Maar ook een samenleving waarbinnen haar familie als een soort cocon in stand probeert te blijven. Laxmi verwijderd door haar jeugd en de contacten met leeftijdsgenoten zich van haar familie. Meer dan haar jongere broer met wie ze optrekt. Haar oudere broers werken vooral hard, haar ouders worstelen met hun identiteit in dit land dat niet biedt wat zij zo nodig hebben.
Voor Laxmi het Beldangi kamp in het Jhapa district in Nepal verliet had ze een vriendje: Jigme. Een mooie jongen van haar eigen leeftijd maar uit een lage kaste waar haar eigen familie in een hoge kaste leeft. Jigme werd getolereerd door haar ouders en broers en zusje. Eenmaal in Nederland echter blijkt dat Jigme naar Amerika gaat. Hij en Laxmi proberen contact te houden want de liefde is niet verdwenen. Laxmi’s ouders, vooral haar vader, willen dat er een einde komt aan de vriendschap tussen Laxmi en Jigme en vind een ander voor haar. Maar een gearrangeerd huwelijk is voor Laxmi vooral een gedwongen huwelijk en na een ruzie verlaat ze het huis en haar familie.
Enkele jaren later, Laxmi heeft dan een bloemenstalletje samen met een vriendin die ze van de inburgeringscursus kent, staat ineens Laxmi’s oom Suraj voor haar. Suraj leeft in Amerika en vraagt Laxmi haar vakantie bij zijn gezin door te brengen.
En al die tijd dat Laxmi in Nederland is denkt ze terug aan haar oude leven. Aan wat er in het kamp gebeurde, aan de mooie dingen maar ook aan de moeilijke en soms gruwelijke ervaringen uit de tijd dat ze een vluchteling was. Tot ze beseft dat de vlucht nog niet voorbij is.

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story komt in januari 2012 uit. De Nederlandse druk zal uitgegeven worden door WoordenStorm in samenwerking met de Empowerment Foundation in een beperkte oplage. De Nepalese druk wordt in Kathmandu uitgegeven later in 2012 en zal niet beschikbaar komen voor de Nederlandse markt. Het boek zal uitsluitend via internet te bestellen zijn. De opbrengsten van de verkoop van de roman komt geheel ten goede aan het werk van de Empowerment Foundation en meer speciaal aan het Headwind project dat bestaat uit de uitgifte van de roman, de productie van de documentaire film Headwind en de fototentoonstellingen. Headwind is een Empowerment Foundation project met als doel het vergroten van de bekendheid van het vluchtelingenvraagstuk van de Bhutaanse bevolking die in het begin van de negentiger jaren uit het zuiden van Bhutan is verdreven door hun koning en zijn leger.

~

Uitgave: 310 pagina’s middenformaat paperback met full color cover
Prijs: €18,95 inclusief BTW maar exclusief verzending
Distributie: via de auteur en de Empowerment Foundation (www.empowermentfoundation.nl)
Voorintekening: kan vanaf heden plaatsvinden door een email te sturen naar alice@empowermentfoundation.nl 

A Bhutanese story from the past. History re-told.

To my Bhutanese friends,

the (unedited) story below was penned down and published on an independent news website. It’s an untold story like many stories from the southern Bhutanese. It tells about the gross human rights violations that happened in the early nineties of the last century in Bhutan. The problem with stories like these is the absence of physical evidence so people can only base opinions on oral reporting of the events.
In Europe over the years projects were started to re-tell the stories of the people who have been oppressed and dislocated during the second world war. These project collected these stories and the basis was always recording first hand experiences told by the people themselves. It’s project like those that are continuously raising awareness of what happened and the threat of such situations in society.

Until now, the stories from the southern (and eastern) Bhutanese, have not been captured and saved for history.

But I am sure that just like the story below they have a function in society. They remind everyone of what has happened and might in the end even proof to be of great importance to find justice for the people who became victims of a derailed regime.
It is therefore that I republish this, and it is therefore that I seek confirmation of this story.
So, can anyone confirm this specific story. First hand? And has anyone stories like these? If so, please let me know because I would like to collect them, list them and republish them on a dedicated website so that history will not be forgotten and not be deformed by propaganda.

This idea for document unwritten history came to me because of the problems concerning registration of refugees in the camps and the hunger strike of the past few weeks by a brave group of women in the Beldangi camp. It occurred to me that if stories untold become stories unwritten history will become blurred and truth fades away.

Namaste,
Alice 

— from APFA Bhutan —

Reviewing Eviction Options – Historical Human Disaster

Previously published on 23 November 2011 at http://www.apfanews.com

By Santi Ram Poudel

Dorona is the most remote and backward ‘Gewog’ (block) of all the inhabited area of Dagapela that can be logically argued through the availability of goods and services both in terms of forward and backward linkages. It had a dispensary in a two roomed single floor house at Nimtoladara with the staffing of a compounder and local peon and other was the Extended Classroom (ECR) of Powgang Primary School at Tharphu with the provision of one full time teaching staff and a local temporary teacher. The ECR was three roomed shed with wild bamboo messed walls and the double-pitched roof freely standing at the mud floor.

None of the houses were ever served with the public utilities and other infrastructure services for public goods. Furthermore, the most embarrassing situation was that due to the lack of any public built spaces; the ‘Gup’(Mandal –popularly elected block representative) had to run the office from their respective private houses. And till 1992, none of the Gups had the formal education, and this was not the qualifying criterion for that representation. The central had looked this area with least priority both in terms of capacity building and infrastructure development. May be with this reason, people used an idiomatic way of rating the civil officers as ‘am not afraid of such a high profile chaprasis (forest guards) and why should I fear of Dzongda’(Chief District Officer). Such was the exposure of the people from this block who couldn’t distinguish the comparative level of a Dzongda to a forester.

Some Phenomenal Incidences
Firstly, the officiating Gup left the country to join the antinational movements on September 1990 thereby creating a type of void between the grassroots people and the administrative authority for the proper and accurate communication. Taking the advantage of vulnerability of people, the remoteness and guardian-less condition, some 4 unidentified men took control of then on duty compounder at the midnight of September 29th, 1990. The staff didn’t surrender them but was helpless. The outfits then set the dispensary on fire where the inferno destroyed everything, the facility and the structure to ashes. On the same night they abducted the health staff leaving his wife and children there at miserable condition hardly anyone there to take care of them. This was all the movement of Dorona block.

Later when the country’s situation was normalize after a month or so the authority accused the local inhabitants not only of Nimtola village but for every household of the gewog for their involvement and not acting as a true citizen of Pelden Drukpa. People tried their best to convince their innocence, the authority turned their deaf ears and ultimately compelled everyone to leave the country.

Nimtoladara Meeting
The then Dzongda Hisey Dorji of Dagana District called a meeting for the people of Dorona block on April 4th, 1991 to convey the message of HM to the people of the block and also to review some of the occurrences that took place during the southern uprisings. The meet was conducted to find out the peoples’ involvement in the uprising that was against the prevailing regulations and give the clean sheets to the people. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9.00 am but due to commuting problems it actually began at 10.00am.

The general public were asked to sit at the ground like an amphitheatre stage, the performers at the front and the audiences facing towards the authorities that comprised of the Dzongda, the security chief Maj. Chachu with his armed military team and other local government staff. Dzongda was the all in all speaker to address the meeting. He began using really harsh language to scold the people and at times using bad mouthing. He took out a typed letter from his gho pouch and showed to the people mentioning that the very letter has been sent by the king. He didn’t read the letter but referring the document began saying that king isn’t happy with the people of south and got really infuriated with the type of situation prevailing in this region. He told that the king was caring the southern people more and had undertaken many physical development to facelift this area in spite of many developmental challenges. But he began losing faith and trust towards you all. You all used a plate to eat the food and used that same tool to pass the excreta. He questioned to the people whether or not the royal family would ever use the facilities of the local area.

There was a pin drop silence; no one had the courage to break such timing due to two reasons, first- all the participants were 100% illiterate comprising of shepherds, cattle herders and mere farmers to understand and explain the authority and second the people from the gewog never committed such act and lacked the background knowledge and factual information. Then it was dzongda himself to break the ice and said that you people pretend. Again he asked the mass to provide with the names of people who were involved at torching the dispensary building. Again no one uttered a word.

He took out another hand written paper that contained the names of all the people of the Gewog and began to read the names and segregate the people into two groups; one group was the clean sheet category and other the black list, people who had hands for the physical destruction a type of indirect challenge to the king and country. There were just two people on the clean sheet category namely the man who provided the list and second was his father in law family where as rest of the people were totally grouped under black list. The list was secretly prepared by the ‘Gup’ through the help from the local clandestine individual, a kind of espionage and was based on the personal relation of such providers.

Again referring to the letter send by HM, he began briefing that king has opened three options to the black listed people and told that it was mandatory to choose the best options for each family and told that early the better. The options opened were:-

Eviction Options

  1. Leave the country immediately with no conditions.
  2. Serve the compulsory detention term of 13.5 years.
  3. Face the extermination of public shooting at Capital’s national stadium.

Each family from my ‘Geog’ (block) had to choose the best among the above three alternatives provided by the state administration through the local bodies. Each option were detailed and explained to make it clear so that the ordinary layman can understand and reach at decision.

For the 2nd options, it was mandatory for each and every individual who were black listed by the government and were over 18 years to serve the prescribed period. Had the people been interrogated and had chance to express their involvement or prove their innocence, it would have been fair to enlist but how rationale was it to rubberstamp the list provided by such miscreants.

Extermination threat was made more convincing through the justification of numbers of bullets per individual southern population and public announcement was made that RGOB had bought 10 bullets equivalent to each southern person very recently from India’s goodwill. And some examples relevant to such practice were highlighted naming Chabda, Mahasur and others and there could be similar fate for everyone and the people were threatened to take the matter seriously and give the prompt response.

For the first option, if people were interested to opt then government would immediately make the sufficient arrangement at the earliest possible. What people have to do was just submit in writing that the person would be leaving the country at own will. People also had to mention that they were not forced by any law enforcing authorities and need to sign it that would automatically convert into the legal documents.

People watched the government’s move for about one complete year with a hope that government will be little flexible and considerate enough on these options but the situation further ruined. There were no any indications of improvements and at each and every step there came a barrier at every mode of activity. Within the extremism there reached a critical stage where people began saying that it is worth to be sanity than to end the life. People can tolerate to certain degree and when the level crosses the bearing limit then it’s obvious to shift the position in regards to uncertainty. Sadly, at the end people were compelled to sign the eviction form preferring madness than facing unnatural human disaster. When the autocrats think in an ethnic superiority conditions with total dominating and hate feelings towards minority population then there could be chances that such exterminations would prevail in the broad daylight where history has shown many such lessons.

During the process of eviction, people need to submit and surrender all the testimonies in regards to Bhutanese identity, be it citizenship card, tax receipt or property registration certificate. It’s those documents that show the proof as Bhutanese and once such documents are seized then it is obvious to brand the people into different categories, call it by illegal immigrants, economic emigrants, homeless dwellers or people of nowhere.

Now can we term this entire phenomenal move to be at people own will or some externality compelled to leave from the place of birth and citizenry?