Baishakhi Mela: Bengali New Year

Last Sunday was Bengali New Year and the biggest celebration outside of South Asia took place around Weavers Fields, Allen Gardens and Brick Lane. 110,000 made it a record-breaking event.

Included in the festivities was a mechanical animal parade. We were down there for other reasons and didn’t get to see too much of the festival, but did manage a glimpse of a few floats starting off on the route. Here’s a few pictures of those. If you were down there and have some pics of your own to share, add them to the Flickr pool.

Baishakhi Mela Boat 2

Baishaki Mela Float

Baishaki Mela Dancers

Baishaki Mela

Baishaki Mela Flower Float

Baishaki Mela Turtle

Baishaki Mela Elephant 3

The Pig Who Lives on Bacon Street

Speaking of ROA, I thought I’d kick off the week with another awesome animal piece – created (ironically?) on Bacon Street, E1. (Isn’t he cute?)

ROA's Pig on Bacon Street

Bacon Street is one of those side streets off of Brick Lane – down the end near the bagel shops – a sticker-plastered, graffiti-painted, fashionably-grimy, market-chic little side street with a secondhand Sunday market selling everything from doll’s heads (bodies sold at a different stall down the aisle somewhere) to silverwear, trainers, tyres, electronic parts from 1942 and broken scooters.

Bacon Street & Bike

It’s got abandoned bicycles, chubby vendors soozing in lawn chairs outside of corner shops, bustling Brick Lane voices and street music in the backdrop and still, as always, the faint smell of South Asian spices. Here’s an old pic  from last summer of the sign at the Brick Lane end, also written in Bengali.

Bacon St.

Anyway, it’s called Bacon Street. Enough said.

59 Brick Lane

I finally got down to Brick Lane to see the new widely discussed, and controversial 90ft “minaret”  or “structure” or “minaret-shaped tower” that now sits at 59 Brick Lane.

This building used to be the site of a French Protestant church, funny enough, which then transformed into a Methodist Chapel and later into a synagogue before it became the Jamme Masjid Mosque that it is today with the men’s entrance on Brick Lane and the women’s entrance around the corner on Fournier Street. Sermons are delivered in Sylheti Bengali as the majority of worshipers are Bangladeshi immigrants. 

Erected mid-December, the controversy falls around the fact that it was built with public money and the whole complicated debate of the place of religion vs secularism in communities. Original plans for Tower Hamlets Council regeneration scheme included a set of hijab-shaped gates as part of a “cultural trail” around Brick Lane.

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Morning Map of Moments

  • Funny how trying to learn a new language can keep you up at night, head running through words and phrases. Silly things like Aami ackta mota kalo biral ardoor korbo. I want to cuddle a fat black cat. Only, I’d rather say “fluffy”. Does anyone know the Bengali word for “fluffy”?
  • Speaking of felines…while walking to work, a shiny white-coated cat with a black tail looks at me and then rolls in a small patch of sun on a dusty concrete driveway.
  • 52 bus, southbound toward Victoria. Next to me, a man in skinny gray jeans with floppy indie hair, absently reading a copy of the Metro, doodling circles in the margins with a red pen. I can hear the tones of Manic Street Preachers on his iPod.
  • A bright yellow book with the cut out words Guerrilla Advertising lands on my desk. I flip it open to page 30. A campaign for World Water Day in Sydney. Public bins with handles, giant straws or slices of lemon perched on the rim placed in public spaces with a series of messages: “Polluted water kills 6,000 people a day.” “Over a billion people drink worse.” “A fifth of the world can’t get clean drinking water.” The bins were all overflowing with rubbish. Clever.