Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Souvenirs from Mongolia

It was while standing in front of a billboard, in downtown Ulaan Bataar that I had a revelation: Princess Amidala's costumes in Star Wars Episode I were based on Mongolian traditional dress. I had not been in Mongolia long, when I saw this faded poster of a girl with the distinctive hairstyle, and it shocked me because it revealed that my favourite part of the Star Wars prequels - Natalie Portman's costumes - were not as creative or other-worldly as I had thought. They were very much of this world, and in fact harked directly from Mongolia.

Padmé Amidala

I loved Mongolia for many reasons. I loved the old Soviet-styled buildings; I loved the romance of the steppes; I loved the Cyrillic alphabet. I didn't know anything much of Mongolia before I arrived there. I had heard of Genghis Khan and the Gobi Desert, and that was about the sum of my knowledge. I also knew that it was a former communist country, and that intrigued me.

1993 Mongolian calendar. Not 'post', but surely one of my favourite pieces of ephemera.
I visited in Mongolia in 2004 - barely a decade on from the fall of communism in the country. The communist legacy so evident in the fabric of the city (the buildings, the city square, the monuments) was very foreign to me- and therefore very exciting; but it was the more distant past that truly captured my imagination.

Looking at images of traditional Mongolian dress evokes for me the era of Mongolian dominion over China and Russia. Today poor little Mongolia is geographically (and politically) squished between its two neighbouring super-powers. But once-upon-a-time Genghis Khan led the Mongols to conquer and unify a vast empire. For that he is celebrated and revered in Mongolia (although in most other places he is remembered as a merciless brute). And then the Chinese came in and took over the whole shebang...

So for my first item of show-and-tell on this blog, I want to share my Mongolian stamps featuring traditional costumes. Different ethnic groups across Mongolia have different attire, and they are represented on the below set of stamps. But when I look at these stamps, I not only see a once powerful empire, I also see Princess Amidala. And then I realise you don't have to go to another galaxy far far away to find glorious costumes to amaze and inspire: you just have to go to Mongolia.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

I heart post

I heart post is going to be my blog about my stamp collection. But my intentions are for it to be a blog about stamps. Not a blog about stamp collecting. Although the two concepts are of course related. This blog is going to be about so much more than just stamps.

I am not really interested in collecting in the sense of having a complete catalogue of every Australian stamp issued since the introduction of the metric system up until the present (for instance). Blah. Totally boring. Who can be that particular that they must have EVERY stamp? And who wants to bother with the ugly ones? And there are some completely hideous stamps out there. Stamps of footballers (bleaugh!) are my least favourite. Followed closely by stamps of cutesy cartoon characters and boring red roses (puke). I, for one, am not interested in ugly stamps.

Beautiful stamps!
So my own stamp collection is all about beautiful stamps. Beautiful images. Beautiful design. And interesting history. The history is the clincher - I love that stamps are so often commemorative. And therefore this blog is not just going to be about stamps: it will be about design, art and history. All these big fascinating things are rolled up into the small, humble postage stamp! Who knew?

Probably everyone had a stamp collection when they were five. I did. But I am guessing not everyone had a stamp collection when they were 23. I did. (And, yep, I was also the Secretary of the Dead Languages Society at University. Who knows why I didn't have a boyfriend for all those years?)

I even like stamps featuring Lizzy!
Anyhow, I still maintain that stamps are absolutely awesome. And I am hoping, dear reader, that after a few entries* you will also be convinced of their said awesomeness.
But why "I heart post" and not "I heart stamps"? Three reasons:

  2. I heart all sorts of stamp related paraphernalia. I heart postcards. I heart letters. I even heart aerograms, although I think I may have only received one in my entire life (it was from my Grandma Nellie).
  3. My gorgeous 8 year old cousin Madeleine loves post (Madeleine, by-the-by, is still at an age where it is socially acceptable to have a stamp collection; let's face it, she, and recently retired semi-professional Grandpa's are probably the primary demographic for Australia Post's philatelic department - let's try and buck that stereotype). After visiting Madeleine recently, upon saying goodbye, she asked "Cousin Helen, could you please send me some post please. I love post".

Well Maddy, I love post too.

*please come back for more of my ramblings.