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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

The camera never lies: World Press Photo winners capture life as we should know

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 06:00 PM PST

African migrants desperate for a phone signal, Syrian rebels attacking a government checkpoint, Filipino typhoon survivors rescuing religious icons – these are the pictures claiming top prizes at this year's World Press Photo.

A picture of African migrants standing on the shore of Djibouti City at night, their glimmering phones held aloft to catch a weak signal, won the World Press Photo prize recently for American photographer John Stanmeyer of the VII Photo Agency.

The silhouetted figures facing seawards are straining to pick up a cheaper mobile signal from neighbouring Somalia, hoping to establish a tenuous link with relatives abroad. "So many pictures of migrants show them as bedraggled and pathetic ... but this photo is not so much romantic, as dignified," says jury member Susan Linfield.

Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants heading from nearby countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in search of a better life in Europe and the Middle East. "It opens up discussions about technology, globalisation, migration, poverty, desperation, alienation, humanity," says jury member Jillian Edelstein of the photo, which was commissioned by National Geographic magazine.

Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic, from Serbia, won first prize in the spot news stories category for a dramatic narrative series from Syria depicting a rebel attack on a government checkpoint.

France's Phillipe Lopez of Agence France-Presse won the spot news singles category with a photograph of typhoon survivors in Tolosa, the Philippines, carrying religious iconography in front of a field of rubble.

Getty's Brent Stirton, a South African, topped the category for single staged portraits with a picture of five blind albino boys from West Bengal, India. Dressed in matching pink shirts and blue trousers, they appear to gaze stiffly at the camera. – Reuters

Serbian photographer Goran Tomasevic, Reuters, won 1st Prize in the Spot News Stories category. Shot on Jan 30, 2013, the picture shows Syrian rebel fighters taking cover amid flying debris and shrapnel as a tank shell, fired towards them by the Syrian Army, explodes on a wall after their comrade was shot by sniper fire, during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus. EPA/Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

French photographer Phillipe Lopez, Agence France-Presse, won 1st Prize in the Spot News Singles category. This picture taken on Nov 18, 2013, shows survivors of typhoon Haiyan marching during a religious procession in Tolosa, on the eastern island of Leyte. One of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, Haiyan left 8,000 people dead and missing, and more than four million homeless after it hit the central Philippines. The photograph, with a devastated landscape as its backdrop, had already been chosen by Time magazine as one of the top 10 images of 2013. EPA/Philippe Lopez/AFP

South African photographer Brent Stirton, Getty Images, won 1st Prize in the People Staged Portraits Singles category. This image taken on Sept 25, 2013, shows a group of blind albino boys photographed in their boarding room at the Vivekananda mission school for the blind in West Bengal, in one of the very few schools for the blind in India today. EPA/Brent Stirton/Getty Images

US photographer Sara Naomi Lewkowicz won 1st Prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories category. This portrait taken for Time magazine on Nov 17, 2012, for a series on domestic violence in the US, shows Shane and Maggie fighting as Memphis ran into the room in Lancaster, Ohio. As the fight continued to rage, Shane told Maggie that she could choose between getting beaten in the kitchen, or going with him to the basement so they could talk privately. EPA/Sara Naomi Lewkowicz/Time

German photographer Julius Schrank for Dutch magazine de Volkskrant won 1st Prize in the Daily Life Singles category. Taken on Mar 15, 2013, the picture shows Kachin Independence Army fighters in Myanmar drinking and celebrating at a funeral of one of their commanders who died that day before. The city is under siege by the Myanmar army. EPA/Julius Schrank/De Volkskrant

German photographer Markus Schreiber, Associated Press, won 1st Prize in the People Observed Portraits Singles category. This moment taken on Dec 13, 2013, shows a woman reacting in disappointment after access to see former South Africa President Nelson Mandela was closed on the third and final days of his casket lying in state, outside Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa. EPA/Markus Schreiber/AP

Argentinean photographer Emiliano Lasalvia won 1st prize in the Sports Action Singles category with this image that shows Pablo Mac Donough of Dolfina falling from his horse during the Argentine Polo Open in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec 1, 2013. The picture was provided by La Nacion newspaper. EPA/Emiliomo Lasalvia/La Nacion

This picture taken by Dutch photographer Carla Kogelman on July 19, 2012, won 1st Prize in the People Observed Portraits Stories category. Entitled 'Ich bin Waldviertel', it shows two sisters, Hannah and Alena, living in the rural village of Merkenbrechts, northern Austria. EPA/Carla Kogelman

Swedish photographer Peter Holgersson won 1st Prize in the Sports Feature Stories category with this picture of Swedish athlete Nadja Casadei feeling better just before her last treatment in Lidingö, Sweden on Dec 19, 2013. Casadei has participated in the World and European Championships in heptathlon. In autumn 2013, she was diagnosed with cancer and by Jan 2014 she completed her chemotherapy. She has continued to train throughout her illness, hoping to be healthy and ready by the summer for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. EPA/Peter Holgersson

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, OnOffPicture, won 1st Prize in the General News Singles category with this image taken on Nov 21, 2013, of a temporary accommodation for Syrian refugees in Sofia, Bulgaria. Military Ramp, an emergency centre in an abandoned school, provides housing for about 800 Syrian refugees, including 390 children. EPA/Alessandro Penso/OnOffPicture

US photographer Steve Winter, National Geographic, won 1st Prize in the Nature Stories category with this shot of a cougar walking a trail in Los Angeles' Griffith Park, captured by a camera trap on Mar 2, 2013. To reach the park, which has been the cougar's home for the last two years, it had to cross two of the busiest highways in the US. EPA/Steve Winter/National Geographic

This picture taken on Aug 10, 2013, by photographer Fred Ramos, El Salvador, won 1st Prize in the Daily Life Stories category. It shows clothes found on Feb 1, 2013 at 3:45pm at a sugar plantation in Apopa, San Salvador. The items are believed to belong to a missing girl aged between 17 and 18 whose time disappearance is still unknown. The North Central American Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) is one of the most violent regions in the world. In many cases, clothes that are found become the only means to identify victims. EPA/Fred Ramos

US photographer Tyler Hicks, New York Times, won 2nd Prize in the Spot News Stories category with this moment showing a woman and children hiding in the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi after gunmen opened fire on Sept 21, 2013, killing at least 39 people in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya's history. They escaped unharmed. EPA/Tyler Hicks/New York Times

This image for Time magazine, by French photographer William Daniels, Panos Pictures, won 2nd Prize in the General News Stories category. Taken on Nov 17, 2013, it shows demonstrators gathering on a street in Bangui, Central African Republic, to call for the resignation of interim President Michel Djotodia following the murder of Judge Modeste Martineau Bria by members of Seleka. EPA/William Daniels/Panos Pictures/Time

Polish photographer Andrzej Grygiel, PAP-Polska Agencja Prasowa, won 2nd Prize in the Sports Action Singles category with this shot of a competitor at a slalom contest during the International Ski Championship in Szczyrk, Poland, on Mar 24, 2013. EPA/ Andrzej Grygiel/PAP

French photographer Denis Dailleux, Agence Vu, won 2nd Prize in the People Staged Portraits Stories category for this image of Ali, a young Egyptian bodybuilder, posing with his mother in Cairo, on Feb 3, 2011. EPA/Denis Dailleux/Agence Vu

Exploring domestic violence through bharatanatyam

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Using the power of movement, bharatanatyam dancer Kamini Manikam explored the issue of domestic violence in Lipstick.

THE art of movement is one of the oldest art forms. The human body instinctively responds to situations through movement before the mind and tongue can verbalise an answer. For centuries, people have danced in response to an instinctual need for emotional expression.

As a tribute to women and to highlight the issue of domestic violence, the Tanjai Kamaala Indira Dance School presented a new age bharatanatyam recital at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre last weekend.

Featuring soloist Kamini Manikam in five repertoires, Lipstick: Celebrating Womanhood Series 1 – Spectrum Of Estrogenic Love, explored the power and beauty of a woman's love.

The show started promisingly with Kamini performing the invocatory item, Woman, Thou Art Beautiful. Moving with dignified grace, she was angelic, alluring, and cheeky. Her footwork and abhinayas were clear as she danced from one stanza to the next, describing the beauty of the face, limbs and figure.

A tender touch: Instead of full-on dancing, Kamini chose to illustrate her story through gestures like cradling a baby. - RICKY LAI/The Star

A tender touch: Instead of full-on dancing, Kamini chose to illustrate her story through gestures like cradling a baby. – RICKY LAI/The Star


In Two Becomes One, she tried to blend bharatanatyam with Peranakan culture, danced to a Malay pantun and English song. Kamini mostly walked around stage holding a pretty umbrella and sat on a box, pondering. While the effort was commendable to incorporate Malay and Western music genres, it was jarring and I couldn't decipher the concept of romantic love here.

The highlight of the night was obviously Epitaph Of Broken Vows. Dressed in black, and with long, flowing hair, Kamini, portraying an abused victim, launched into an emotionally charged monologue on marriage and relationship. Facial expressions are often easier when words are uttered so it was hard to see the concept of abhinaya projected here. Though a bit melodramatic, her acting was convincing enough as some audience shed tears.

Her monologue ended when video clips of two abused victims were screened on stage. One of the victims (name withheld), then appeared on stage and shared her story. The distraught woman, 32, depicted how she was punched, kicked, beaten, slammed against the wall, raped for 14 years and had a thumb chopped off before she successfully fled from her husband.

"Only my hand is cacat (handicap), not my soul," she said, amidst hushed silence. "With my nine fingers, I'm still able to provide for my children. My willpower and strength helped me through. Instead of feeling bitter, I have to look at the brighter side of life so please don't feel sorry for my fate."

After the climax, the next two numbers were mild, as the choreography was kept simple. The fusion of the various Malaysian and Western lullabies didn't work too well either. Instead of dancing full-on, Kamini chose to illustrate the movements by using simple gestures and a background video.

Perhaps her intention was to ensure the masses understood what she was portraying. Yes, the storyline was clear but it left me wanting more.

Kamini was angelic, alluring and cheeky all at the same time in the opening number.

Moving with dignified grace, Kamini Manikam was angelic, alluring and cheeky in the opening number.


Some of the musical interludes by the live musicians led by carnatic vocalist, Bhavani Logeswaran, were far too long and unnecessary. This was presumably to allow Kamini time for a costume change.

In Intimacy With God, Kamini did well in the thillana, the final part of a traditional bharatanatyam repertoire. The thillana was presented in praise of the various religions practised in Malaysia. Her attractive white costume brought out the spiritual nature of the religions and she excelled when dancing the Hindu, as that is her forte. But again, one could make out the other religions only because of the backdrop (for instance, the picture of a mosque or church would be shown as she danced) and the music.

This being her first solo production, Kamini's effort is admirable, especially since she was the choreographer, producer, director and costume designer. With some fine-tuning, the second instalment of Lipstick: Celebrating Womanhood Series 2 should be better.


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