Norodom Sihanouk, the artist politician, lived an extraordinary life at the center of power through much of the tumultuous 20th century. Major events include French colonization, WW2 domination by the Japanese, reassertion of French authority following WW2, independence from France, Vietnam War, Khmer Rouge, and then, the 21st century. He left us in 2012 at the age of 90 years old. In Cambodia he is known as Samdech Euv, “Father Prince”
The ancient kingdom of Cambodia had become a French colony by the time Norodom Sihanouk was born, grandson to the contemporary king, in 1922. In WW2 1941, the Japanese took control of Cambodia and, bypassing his father, installed 19 year old Norodom Sihanouk, as king, upon his grandfather’s death. Following WW2, the French sought to reassert their colonial authority in Cambodia and much of Indochina, while Sihanouk sought independence. Independence was achieved in 1953, and in 1955 Sihanouk abdicated the throne and formed a political party. His father ascended to the throne. Upon his father’s death in 1960, Norodom was appointed head of sate, which post he held until the military coup of 1970, during the Vietnam War, which ushered in the US backer Khmer republic.
The 1975 Cambodian civil war brought Pol Pot to power, Norodom back from exile, initially as a supporter. But a year later, in 1976, he resigned and was placed under house arrest until 1979. This was the period of the infamous “killing fields”. When the Vietnamese overthrew the Pol Pot regime in 1979, Norodom went again into exile; and, in 1981, formed a resistance party.
In 1991, peace accords were signed and in 1993 Norodom Sihanouk was reinstated as head of state and king of Cambodia, which he retained until abdication if favor of his son in 2004.
It is said that from 1966 to 2006 he produced at least 50 films, a number of which he also acted in.
The “naga”, the multi-headed serpent which is often the beneficent protagonist in Hindu Mythology; its mortal enemy being the “guardas”, the semidivine birdlike deity.
Nagas are multiheaded. The even number headed naga is said to symbolize the female, physicality, mortality, temporality and the earth; whereas the odd number headed nagas represent the male, infinity, timelessness and immortality.
The banknote features the flowered fragment from the larger painting by Ivan F. Khrutski, “Wife with Flowers and Fruits”.
The renowned artwork has been featured on the stamp issue shown here.
Ivan Fromer Khrutsky, 1810-1885, appears to have painted mostly still lifes. His first known works date from 1832, when he was about 22 years old. By the time he was 26 years old, he was receiving awards for his works. And here you and I are, centuries later, conversing about him, considering his work. Indeed, his work is beautiful.
Belarus celebrates Ballet set to the music created by the legendary Eugene Aleksandrovich Glebov, the stellar talent from Belarus. Born September 10, 1929, he received essentially no musical training until he was 20. But then he burst upon the musical scene like a bright shining star. He was accepted into the prestigious Belorussian Conservatory at age 21 based upon evidences of prodigious organic talent exhibited by music written in his uneducated youth. And he did not disappoint. For much more on the life and work of Eugene Aleksandrovich Glebov (1929 – 2000), click here.
Depicted, is a scene from the 1969 Ballet entitled Vybrannitsa, “The Chosen Lady”. The Ballet was created based upon the poems of Yanka Kuprala. Some poems of Yaknka Kuprala are reproduced below.
This is the National Academic Grand Opera and Ballet Theater of the Republic of Belarus.
The following poem is by Yanka Kupala and is entitled “Young Belarus”. It is reproduced from here.
The free wind has sung free songs to thy name, Green woods caught them with friendly voices, The sun called with its flame to a seed-time far-famed, The stars poured faith into broken forces.
And in time of storms, troubles and mighty desires, Thou hast budded and bloomed, long-awaited, In a life-freshet, over the land of thy sires, Thou hast flooded and poured, unabated.
Thou has flooded and poured, in a bright tale of life, Through field, woodland, hill and vale streaming… From thy native flower-copses thy crown is made bright, Like a swan’ plumage, brilliant gleaming.
Thou dost quiver and echo with songs of the bards, Long-past years thou dost raise up and nurture, Today’s forward leap thou wouldst never retard, Boldly facing mysterious futures.
In the sun thou goest bold, lovely flower of fire, Gently sowing forth dreams, gold-adornéd; Thou fearest no neighbour, though great be his ire, Thou fearest no path briared and thorny.
From end unto end, frontier mound unto mound, On the breezes renewal is borne now, And, embracing the soul, without limit or bound, Mother-joy for the better day born now.
Now there are no axes among forests green, Felling young pine-trees in frosty winter, Now there are no reapers from dawn to dark seen In summer with scythes ringing, glinting.
Strength is known in the hands, without tears songs are blithe, Desirous of glory, breasts quiver, In their books a new law, with pens of sun-scythes, New people are writing for ever.
Blossom them, and raise, soaring upon eagle’s wing, Souls, hearts and thoughts slumbering dully, Awaken and forth into great spaces, bring Strength by the witch-noose unsullied.
Send messengers forth, send unto the world’s bound, As falcon from falcon-nest winging. Let them fly, fly away unto warriors sound, Set the thunder of good news far-ringing.
Enough, dearest country, in field, wood and brake, Hapless orphan, thou spendst night’s long glowering, Enough of thy heart’s-blood wrong drank as a snake, And cold winds blew, through thy bare bones scouring.
Arise from the depths, thou of falcon-born race, O’er sires crosses, their woes, degradations, O young Bie³aruœ, come thou forth, take thy place Of honour and fame among nations.
—– Yanka Kupala
The following poem is by Yanka Kupala and is entitled “From Forebearers’ Ages, Long Since Gone”. It is reproduced from here. From forebears’ ages, long since gone, A heritage has come to me, Among strange folk, among my own, Me it caresses, motherly.
Of it to me dream-fables sing Of first thaw-patches, vernally, The woods’ September murmuring, An oak-tree lone, half burned away.
Memories of it, like storks aclack Upon the line have woken me, Of a mossed fence, old, gone to wrack, Fallen near the village, brokenly;
The dreary bleat of lambs that pours Out in the pasture, endlessly, The caw of the assembled crows, On the graves in the cemetery.
And through black night and through white day I keep, my watch unceasingly, Lest this my treasure goes astray, Lest by drones it should eaten be.
I bear it in my living soul Like torch-flame ever bright for me, That through deaf darkness to my goal, Midst vandals it may lighten me.
With it lives my thought-family. Bringing dreams of sincerity . . . And its name, all-in-all must be My native land, my heritage.
For other stories from Eastern Europe on this website, click here.
Lifting the flag of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.
The image has become a national symbol, and is now included on Eritrean currency. An interview with the photographer can be found here.
The EPLF has been noted for its egalitarian approach. 30% of its constituent fighters were women, which significantly affected the traditionally conservative paternalistic outlook of the nation.
The EPLF captured numerous Ethiopian soldiers in battle. But in contrast to the way the Ethiopians treated their captured, the EPLF did not mistreat them. The taught them the principles of the EPLF. They instructed them in world politics. They trained many of them in crafts and trades.
Eritrea consists of nine nationalities. Tigre, Tigrigna, Saho, Afar, Kunama, Nara, Bilin, Hidarb, and Rashaida. More information on this can be found on the Eritrean website here.
These nationalities are depicted in the banknotes in a series of tryptich portraits, that is, three-paneled illustrations such as in many of the classics. The artist who designed these banknotes is Mr. Clarence Holbert, the first African American to design an African banknote. He passed away January 9, 2018. His memorial was reverently attended by representatives of Eritrea, and can be read about here.
The reverse of the currencies reflect scenes from Eritrean life. As recalled by Mr. Holbert, the currency “features the everyday people of Eritrea because Eritrean President Isaias had given specific instructions that money not feature cabinet or government officials or their relatives.”
The Nakfa region, inhabited since ancient times, came under Italian control in 1890. Italy lost control during WW2, and Eritrea was “awarded” to Ethiopia as a part of a federation in 1952. In the 1960s, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea as a province. This instigated the independence movement. In 1977, the Eritrea Liberation Front laid siege to Nakfa, and, took it in their first major victory. Eight subsequent attempts at recapture failed, during which much of the above-ground town was destroyed, and during which also, the Eritreans developed an significant underground facilities. Independence was secured in 1991.
“Nakfa” is now the name of Eritrea’s currency. It is taken from the town which had become the main base of the Eritrean independence movement. Nakfa is famous for its extensive underground entrenchments developed in the time of the resistance. Included are hospitals, printing presses, a radio station, college and factories, in addition to rings of trenches and minefields.
The following paragraph is from this blog post with this photo of the Nakfa territory. A special test for tourists is also the sites of the liberation struggle situated in bleak mountains of the Sahel, northern angle of Eritrea. Hence one must be willing to enjoy the arduous journey across the rough terrain mountains to visit these miraculous EPLF defenses, trenches, bunkers of Nakfa, Himbol and the Roras Plateaus, and the Denden terrains.
Zanco Mpundu Mutembo was arrested and handcuffed with chains which he broke in the presence of 18 soldiers armed with guns.
Mr. Mutembo was ORDERED TO BREAK FREE FROM THE CHAINS OR BE INSTANTLY SHOT DEAD.
Shockingly, he broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took shots of what seem like magical power.
He dropped out of school after his father’s death and joined the political struggle led by Robert Makasa and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe .
In 1957, having already made his impact in Northern Province, suffering imprisonment and beatings in the process, Mutembo, along with seven others were sent to Kenya where Dedan Kimathi was leading a rebellion against the colonial rulers. Their mission was to learn how to carry out their own rebellion back home.
Before Kaunda and others would speak, Mutembo would go on stage first to tell the crowds how bad the colonial government was hence the importance to fight for independence.
Early 1960s, Kaunda wrote a letter to the governor, Sir Arthur Benson, to protest against a clause in the constitution that gave Europeans an upper hand in the legislature. Mutembo took up the task to deliver the letter to Government House (now State House ).
On his way out, however, he was arrested and tortured. At about 15:00 hours that day, he was taken to Kaunda’s office in Chilenje where he was celebrated as a hero.
About 03:00 hours the following day, Mutembo was taken to Cairo Road where he climbed a tree with a megaphone to denounce the new constitution. At 06:00 hours, he started proclaiming his message, but was soon surrounded by police who threatened to shoot him if he did not get down. He was arrested.
Today, the tree still stands opposite the Main Post Office and later came to be known as “Zanco Tree “.
Mutembo appeared in court after having been involved in a political brawl in Matero . He had been badly beaten in the fight and lost two of his front teeth, a mark he still bears. When the judge asked him to demonstrate to the court how he had been beaten, the young freedom fighter walked across the courtroom from the witness box and, reaching where one of the prosecutors – a white man – was standing, and punched him in the face, giving him a bloody nose. His action was a blatant show of rebellion in the face of the colonial government. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison plus four lashes for punching the prosecutor. He was sent to Livingstone State Prison where he was held in chains.
At Force Headquarters, after being interviewed, he was taken to a room where 18 military officers stood with guns at ready. He was then handcuffed to a chain and ordered to break free or get shot. Shockingly, he pulled so hard and broke the chains in full view of soldiers and photographers who took photos of what seemed like magical power. It was from these photos that the Freedom Statue would be crafted by casting experts.
Mutembo was also given an official vehicle – a Land Rover station wagon – bearing the initials of his status “SNNRG” (symbol of the nation Northern Rhodesia Government) and a Union Jack.
A statue was made depicting the scenario when Mutembo broke the chains in 1963. On October 23, 1974, during the celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of Zambia’s independence, the Freedom Statue was unveiled and became a symbol of Zambia’s freedom from the British colonial regime, and has earned its place on some of the country’s most important articles, including its currency. The statue is a reminder of Zambia’s fight for freedom. It is displayed at the Government Complex along Independence Avenue in Lusaka.