The attack in Nice that happened on Bastille Day really hit home for me. Alexej’s mom lives in Nice, and we’ve visited her every August for the past three years. Our next visit is in just a few weeks. My family didn’t really have a recurring vacation destination when I was growing up, so Nice is the closest thing to a family holiday spot. It’s such a relaxed, beautiful city, full of delicious food, gorgeous nature, and vibrant culture. For such an idyllic city to be the target of such a tragic and senseless act on a national day of celebration is just unthinkable.
We’re so lucky that my mother-in-law escaped with just a few minor injuries. My thoughts are with all the family and friends of the people who were killed and seriously injured.
In an homage to joyful Nice, I wanted to write about one of the city’s most famous artists, Henri Matisse.
When I first visited Nice in 2013, there was a huge art festival going on throughout the city. The Matisse Museum at his home in the suburb of Cimiez was hosting an exhibition of his cut-outs, which then travelled to the Tate Modern in London and MoMA in New York City in 2014.
In 1941, when Matisse was 72, he developed abdominal cancer and had to have surgery, which resulted in him being bed and wheelchair-bound, and unable to paint or sculpt. Instead, he had his assistant, Lydia Delectorskaya, paint paper with gouache, which he cut up into shapes and arranged into compositions.
His first major project in this medium was the book Jazz in 1946.
After this, Matisse created large-scale cut outs, including his designs for the Chappelle du Rosaire de Vence from 1948. Despite being an atheist himself, Matisse created the designs in honour of his old nurse, friend, and sometimes model, Monique Bourgeois, who had become a nun in 1946.
My favourite Matisse work is Les Abeilles (The Bees), which was designed as a stained glass window for the chapel, but actually ended up in a kindergarten. The bees are actually a stylised aerial view of nuns going about their day. The little black and white squares on a colourful background is such a simple, yet compelling, image.
I used this as inspiration when creating a cover design for Alexej’s book, Multicultural Immunisation. The little squares in my design represent different people and cultures, but also the ‘virus’ in the immunisation model of Neo-liberal multiculturalism that Alexej critics in his book. The contrasting-coloured orange and green squares flow across the page, mixing and re-combining to create an aesthetically-pleasing (I hope) design.
This is an apt subject when talking about current politics, especially in the light of Brexit and the Nice attack. Immigration and multiculturalism are often the scape-goat for all modern problems, and it’s sad to see that these views seem to be winning out on national levels. In my view, it’s not as important that this man who perpetrated the attack had a Tunisian, Muslim background, the reason he did this senseless act was because he was probably angry and confused and thought he had no other way of making sense of his situation. There are angry, confused, ignorant people all over the world, and they often wrongly take their frustrations out on the innocent people who could be able to help them out of their situation. They don’t turn their frustrations into constructive actions, like joining a community group that helps other disadvantaged people, or petitioning the government to improve living conditions.
I’m currently reading a book by 'Professor of Thinking' Edward De Bono, who laments that although we’ve made huge strides in technology and science, humans still haven’t changed their thinking styles since ancient Greek times. Logic still rules over lateral thinking. De Bono believes that if more people could think differently about human interactions, there would be less of the societal issues that have plagued humanity for millennia. I think he makes a good point. Why don’t we learn compassion in school? Shouldn’t the main lesson we’re taught, whether in school, church, or from our families, be compassion?
I hope my children can live in a world with a bit more compassion and a bit less tragedy. Also, I want to take them for pizza and gelato along Rue Massena in Nice without any feeling of fear or sadness.