Author Archives: Sara

About Sara

I hope to inspire your desire for wanderlust, introduce you to artists and artisans, past and present, and tempt you to dine on cuisines from around the globe.

Züri Fäscht 2016 Countdown

Grossmunster Zurich

Swiss cross graphics lighting up the Grossmünster. Projection by Swiss lighting artist Gerry Hofstetter.

As our out-of-town guests will tell you, we like to include a trip to Zürich on the itinerary when they visit. We often head there on our own too.

This photo was taken during July 2013’s Züri Fäscht party. Züri Fäscht is Switzerland’s largest festival. A weekend-long street festival filled with music, fireworks and other special events (all FREE!!!). The next one takes place July 1 – 3, 2016, so there’s still plenty time to make your travel plans. Don’t wait too long though, it’s a popular event.

Thinking about visiting Zürich sooner? Pop on over to the travel post that I recently had the pleasure of writing for Maureen Richmond’s blog bluemopheads.

Georgian Letters of Protest (and Hope)

For this week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post on “Letters,” participants are asked to consider how an “image might convey something bigger: a snapshot of how we communicate with one another, even if we don’t speak the same language.”

While I can’t communicate in the Georgian language, the powerful imagery of the banner shown below prompted me to seek out its meaning.

Save Old Tbilisi

Save Old Tbilisi.

The balcony’s elegant scrollwork is reminiscent of the gently curving lines of the Georgian script. The clenched fist and bold graphics suggest the words have something to do with resistance and strength. Thankfully, as I learned, the banner’s message is stronger than the decaying ironwork that displays it.

Save Old Tbilisi

Decay and protest in Lado Gudiashvili Square.

The banner hangs on one of the crumbling classical late 19th century buildings bordering Tbilisi, Georgia’s Lado Gudiashvili Square. In 2011, information about a radical redevelopment plan for the Square and its historical buildings surfaced. As part of the government’s misguided ongoing campaign to “clean-up” the city to attract investors and tourists, modernization of many areas of Tbilisi had already resulted in the destruction of architecturally important buildings.

News of the Square’s pending redevelopment prompted a group of concerned citizens to establish an “Occupy Gudiashvili” movement. They organized peaceful protests, urging the government to stop the destruction of the buildings and start reinforcing and restoring them. Then, in May 2012, while no building permits had been issued and city officials denied approving the controversial plans, the demolition of one architecturally significant Gudiashvili Square building, known as the “Blue House,” seemed to be illegally underway. The “Occupy Gudiashvili” group continued with their protests, garnering considerable media attention for their cause.

The Square’s radical redevelopment has, for the moment, stopped, “…the Austrian owners have now pulled out, thanks largely to public pressure and the exposure of alleged corruption within the Tbilisi Development Fund. Today the Fund now owns Gudiashvili Square, although it remains leaderless.”

Tbilisi Old City

An early 20th century building near Lado Gudiashvili Square, Tbilisi, Georgia. The monumental Kartlis Deda or Mother Georgia statue is visible in the distance.

The presence of historical buildings give us a visual connection to our roots. They encourage us to learn about history and use that knowledge to create a favourable future. As a child, I was intrigued by the sleek futuristic world presented in the TV show The Jetsons. As an adult, I’m saddened at the thought of losing old world charm and craftsmanship. Many cities have successfully modernized without destroying their connection to the past.

The future of Tbilisi’s many historical neighbourhood’s remains uncertain. The გაამაგრე გუდიაშვილის protests, like the buildings’ decay, continue. If, like me, you see the value in preserving historical architecture, consider joining the efforts to save old Tbilisi.

To view other participants’ submissions for this week’s “Letters” photo challenge, please visit the links posted here.


Additional Reading:

Newsflash from Tbilisi: Demolition of the Lermontov House
Tbilisi Architectural Heritage Group
Tbilisi Destroys its Past: The Old Town is Transformed
Tbilisi Forum for Architecture
Tbilisi, Where Restoration Means Redevelopment
The Georgian Alphabet: A Gallery of Specimens (

It Followed Me Home

The moment that I walked through the Rietberg’s green glass doors (you can find an earlier post about the art museum here), this giraffe beckoned to me. Its vibrant beadwork and simplified form grabbed my attention again as I was leaving the museum. Then, it followed me home.

Beaded Giraffe from Africa.Beaded Giraffe from Africa - Detail Photo by Sara Lynne Moffatt

The only information available about this beaded artwork is that it was made in Africa. Curious to know more about the history of beading in Africa, I did a bit of googling. Of course, this called for a new Pinterest board, one dedicated to African beadwork.

Known historical references indicate the use of beads as a medium of ornamentation and communication dates back thousands of years among the people of Africa. While ostrich eggshells are among the earliest materials used in African beadwork, glass beads are used extensively today.

Maasai Women

Maasai women wearing colourfully beaded collar necklaces (source).


Yoruba beaded crown and divination tapper (source).

Beaded Sashes Durban South Africa Photo Clive Reid

Beaded sashes for sale in Durban, South Africa. (source)

Sadly, much of the history of glass beads in Africa is rooted in exploitation. Today, one non-profit working to develop beading as both a viable source of employment for its artists and to fund community projects in South Africa is Monkeybiz.


Artworks created by the artists working with Monkeybiz are available in shops around the world. They can also be purchased directly from the organization via their website.

As I look at the wonderful beaded giraffe that followed me home, I wonder about the person who made it. Who is she or he? Where in Africa are they from? What is their daily life like? What motivated them to use the patterns and colours selected for this piece? What do they dream of? And wish to thank the artist for making it.

Photographs: 1 & 2 by Sara Lynne Moffatt (my first time using a prime lens and manual settings, I’m now hooked 🙂 ), others as per the links found in the captions.

Additional Reading:

Between the Beads: Reading African Beadwork
Eloquent Beads: The Semantics of a Zulu Artform – From Africa Insight, Volume 13, no. 2, 1983
The Secret Life of Beads
Yoruba Beadwork – and Essay by Michelle Assaad