South India Inspired

Last weekend I escaped increasingly hot and sticky Bombay for a late birthday weekend in Kerala. I had high expectations about the beautiful sunshine, delicious food, scenic backwaters and charming colonial architecture. All those expectations were exceeded, but what really struck me was the quality of life people enjoy here. It’s striking how few people are living on the streets, and how comfortable and secure the average home looks. The streets are cleaner than anywhere I’ve ever visited in India before and literacy is the highest in the country.

We spent our first night in Fort Cochin where we clambered over the iconic Chinese fishing nets, visited the colourful-kitsch Catholic Basilica, shopped for antiques (adding a wonderfully embellished Ravi Varma to my collection- more on these amazing pictures soon) and generally pottered about.

I thought the washed-out, sun-bleached colours at this ginger factory were incredibly beautiful!

Ever since I read Arundhati Roy’s remarkable novel ‘God of Small Things’ I have been intrigued by the political situation in Kerala. Speaking to local people didn’t leave me any the wiser- the general consensus seemed to be that the Communist and Congress party took it in turns! Still, I loved the carefully painted political manifestos- so much chicer than graffiti!

After Cochin we headed far from the crowds to Lake Vembanad where we stayed right on the shore of the lake in a very secluded boutique hotel owned by Malabar Escapes.  It comes highly recommended! There are just two rooms in separate traditional buildings, the brilliant chef comes each afternoon to ask what you would like for dinner that evening, private yoga classes can be arranged at sunrise, there’s a nice pool for cooling off and the unspoilt location couldn’t be better!

Sitting on our verandah in my (rocking!) planter’s chair and watching the lake transform in the changing light, I felt like a very contented grandmother. In the best possible way…

The lake is at the heart of life here and when we set off on a boat across the lake and into the smaller channels we discovered thriving communities of both people and wildlife going about what seemed like pretty idyllic, albeit simple, lives.

Christianity is the biggest religion in Kerala and I loved the gaudy colours of this ebullient church we gently floated past…

South India also has an incredible tradition for beautifully ornate jewellery, and gold in particular, which inspires and informs several of Mawi’s designs. Including these wonderful pieces from the Punk Rajah Collection:

Mawi Punk Rajah- Tube and Spike Earrings £193

Available Here

Mawi Punk Rajah- Double Claw Set Necklace with Onyx Gemstone £524

Available Here

Mawi Punk Rajah Claw Set Crystal and Spike Necklace £386

Available Here

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The Real Life ‘Black Swan’

Darren Aronofsky’s brutal, Oscar-winning movie ‘Black Swan’ has sparked a cultural obsession with all things balletic that extends to fashion. Chloe’s heart-stoppingly pretty, ballet-themed SS11 collection epitomises the moment…

I was a religious ballet fanatic throughout my childhood and early teens, but I must admit I spent most of this movie cowering behind squirming hands. The mood of distorting fanaticism and painful, uncompromised commitment to the beauty of the art did ring true, but, like many others, I found the dramatic pitch that Aronofsky ramped ‘Black Swan’ up to uncomfortable, perhaps even at times ‘unnecessary’.

Perfectly timed therefore is the BBC’s documentary, ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ which goes behind the scenes at the English National Ballet and chronicles a year in the life of this hard-working company- giant egos battle it out, ballerinas battle back from injury, dancers rehearse ballets to unfeasibly tight deadlines, wardrobe mistresses are ordered to entirely re-design with just days to go… all with the every-present scythe of government cuts perennially looming.

The speechlessness of ballet and the seemingly effortless execution that the art demands, can render dancers ethereal, inhuman figures in the popular imagination. So, this series is refreshing in its successful attempts to reveal the ‘normality’ of the dancers- their lives behind the swan and prince costumes: we see charming ballet dancer Max Westwell in a bar drinking a pint, looking as athletic and strong as an Olympic rower and telling the camera of the unintended  amusement he creates when, in such a context, he tries to convince strangers that he is in fact a ballet dancer! The contrast between the dancers as people and as ballet professionals is fascinating. Judith Mackrell discusses their strange ‘voicelessness’ in the studio further in her excellent review of the series for The Guardian.

The ‘Agony and the Ecstasy’ is equally worth watching whether you’ve always been a ballet fanatic, or you’ve never quite seen what all the fuss is about…

Watch the series online HERE.

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