Friday. 5/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Power forward

It’s a story that has repeated itself across Latin America. The regimes might be different – and time in power varies – but the manipulation of democracy is the same. Often, the leaders arrive as a breath of fresh air: the end of an ancien régime dominated by elites with bold promises to do more for society’s downtrodden. Then comes the subsequent refusal to relinquish power.

The case of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega (pictured), however, is unusual. The party he belongs to, the Sandinistas, seized power in the Central American nation in 1979 and he emerged as its leader. A self-declared leftist revolutionary, he subsequently served as president from 1984 to 1990, until he lost an election and left office. Not content with fading quietly into the background, he lost several elections until finally winning in 2006 thanks to a string of savvy political manoeuvres – and he hasn’t relinquished his grip on power since. On Sunday, Ortega will run for his fourth consecutive term, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that now allows re-election, in a poll that is widely seen as a sham. Scores of potential opponents have been arrested since the summer.

Nicaragua is an example of a revolution gone wrong, with increasing authoritarianism stamping out dissent and institutions bending to the president’s will. Some feel that Ortega has recreated some of the hallmarks of the country’s Anastasio Somoza dictatorship that preceded the Sandinistas power grab. For others, he’s more in the vein of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro: seemingly indifferent to the will of the people and relying on repression to survive. Both also lean on their wives for validation: in Maduro’s case, former National Assembly president Cilia Flores and, for Ortega, his vice-president Rosario Murillo. And the similarities don’t end there: just like Venezuela, Nicaragua is an impoverished nation that’s being brought further to its knees by a once-revolutionary leader who needs to realise that it’s time to go.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / South Africa

Promised land

For South African novelist and playwright Damon Galgut (pictured), who was awarded the prestigious Booker prize this week for his satire The Promise, such acclaim has been a long time coming. Set in South Africa during its transition out of apartheid, the novel charts the decline of a white family near Pretoria through a series of funerals. It is a case of third time lucky for Galgut, who was nominated for the award in 2003 and 2010. The Promise is his ninth novel (his first was published when he was just 17) and its title has a dual meaning: the unrealised promise of racial equality in a unified South Africa and that which the family matriarch makes to leave her house to a black servant, causing a family rift. Though the novel addresses death, apartheid and political decline, it has also been praised for its humour. “Humour is a form of defence, right?” Galgut told Monocle. “If you’re in dire times, as long as you can still find something to laugh at, there's a little bit of hope.”

Hear our full interview with Galgut on this week’s edition of ‘Monocle Reads’ on Monocle 24.

Arts / China

Moving images

China’s strict coronavirus-related restrictions on movement have prevented the country’s art collectors and curators from travelling to international events recently, which is why global fairs hoping to attract Chinese collectors are now going straight to the source. The inaugural Design Miami/Podium x Shanghai, a fair of collectable design, kicks off today and runs until 14 November. It’s fitting that Design Miami’s first foray into Asia is to Shanghai, China’s art capital.

The fair’s theme is “Wu Gan: The Art of Design” and it will host 20th-century and contemporary works in the former British consulate at No 1 Waitanyuan (pictured), a beautiful heritage building. Every piece in the exhibition will be available for purchase and potential buyers can also browse the displays in an online tour. The timing is no accident: the fair coincides with Shanghai’s crowded autumn art season – a sign that global players such as Design Miami won’t let travel restrictions block their access to the lucrative domestic market.

Climate / UK

Shock waves

While the focus this week has been on world leaders’ actions (and inactions) to deal with the climate crisis, it is creative works by artists that can help to bring the story to the public consciousness. Tomorrow, Berlin-based artist Rindon Johnson’s first solo exhibition in London, Law of Large Numbers: Our Selves, opens at the Chisenhale Gallery. Johnson’s work looks at how themes including capitalism and climate interact with our sense of self. The exhibition combines technological innovations with physical materials such as leather, wood and stone, and it allows visitors to be transported to the watery epicentres of the climate crisis, which was recreated by Johnson through a continuous live rendering of ocean weather data. “I realised that my show is at the nexus of the changing of our climate, and the physical and philosophical climate that is changing all around us,” Johnson tells The Monocle Minute. “It was a profound and scary thing to realise.”

For more from Rindon Johnson, tune in to today's edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Fashion / Italy & USA

Walk of fame

Those looking forward to the release of Ridley Scott’s film House of Gucci later this month were treated to a teaser this week as the brand made Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard its spring/summer 2022 catwalk. Creative director Alessandro Michele announced in May that Gucci would take a step away from the fashion calendar and present a modest two shows a year instead of five – but there was nothing pared back about the fashion. Michele is betting on a return to Old Hollywood-style glamour in tune with predictions of another Roaring Twenties on the horizon. The often bare-chested models conveyed a cinematic loucheness and the show was more about seductive styling than clothes. Hollywood’s classic “hooker with a heart of gold” trope seemed to be the underlying narrative, with bondage-inflected lingerie used to accessorise Gucci’s typically eclectic mix of cowboy hats, 1970s tailoring and Prohibition-era sequins. Michele’s more-is-more approach is something we might all want to emulate for the coming party season.

Image: James Chororos

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Bombas

Randy Goldberg is the co-founder and chief brand officer of Bombas, the New York-based sock-maker founded in 2013. Using its one-for-one model, Bombas has donated more than 50 million items of clothing to homeless shelters and charities across the US. The company has expanded into making other essential items such as T-shirts and underwear. Recently, the brand has launched in the UK, its first market outside the US.

Monocle Films / France

The secret to baking bread

Paris baker Christophe Vasseur runs the successful corner shop Du Pain et des Idées and knows the secret of the perfect loaf.

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