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Monir Farmanfarmaian, Prominent Iranian Artist, Dies At 97

Prominent Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian has died in her home in Tehran at the age of 97, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday.

Farmanfarmaian, known for her mirror mosaics and reverse glass paintings, had her first solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2015.

The Monir Museum, devoted to her life and work, opened in the Iranian capital in 2017 at the historic Negarestan Museum Park Gardens. The museum displays 51 works by Farmanfarmaian.

“All my inspiration has come from Iran. It has always been my first love,” Farmanfarmaian told The Guardian in 2017 on the eve of the opening of the museum.

“When I traveled the deserts and the mountains, throughout my younger years, all that I saw and felt is now reflected in my art,” she said.

Born in Ghazvin in northwestern Iran, she studied at the Faculty of Fine Art of Tehran University.

She later traveled to New York, where she attended Parsons School for Design and Cornell University.

Farmanfarmaian’s art has been exhibited in Iran, Europe, the United States and in the Middle East.

She was forced into exile following the 1979 revolution, when some of her works and art collection were confiscated.

She returned permanently to Iran in 2004.

With reporting by The Guardian, ISNA, The New York Times and Harper’s Bazaar.

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Monir Farmanfarmaian, Prominent Iranian Artist, Dies At 97

Prominent Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian has died in her home in Tehran at the age of 97, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday.

Farmanfarmaian, known for her mirror mosaics and reverse glass paintings, had her first solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2015.

The Monir Museum, devoted to her life and work, opened in the Iranian capital in 2017 at the historic Negarestan Museum Park Gardens. The museum displays 51 works by Farmanfarmaian.

“All my inspiration has come from Iran. It has always been my first love,” Farmanfarmaian told The Guardian in 2017 on the eve of the opening of the museum.

“When I traveled the deserts and the mountains, throughout my younger years, all that I saw and felt is now reflected in my art,” she said.

Born in Ghazvin in northwestern Iran, she studied at the Faculty of Fine Art of Tehran University.

She later traveled to New York, where she attended Parsons School for Design and Cornell University.

Farmanfarmaian’s art has been exhibited in Iran, Europe, the United States and in the Middle East.

She was forced into exile following the 1979 revolution, when some of her works and art collection were confiscated.

She returned permanently to Iran in 2004.

With reporting by The Guardian, ISNA, The New York Times and Harper’s Bazaar.

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Boy Scout "Girls" Troops Gain Popularity in the United States

It is a tradition in some families for boys to join the Boy Scouts of America. And now it’s becoming a tradition for girls, too. In February, girls were officially allowed to join all activities in the Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA to reflect the change. But the girls and boys are in separate troops. VOA’s Deborah Block visited two all-girl troops in the Washington area to see how they are liking scouts so far.

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Boy Scout "Girls" Troops Gain Popularity in the United States

It is a tradition in some families for boys to join the Boy Scouts of America. And now it’s becoming a tradition for girls, too. In February, girls were officially allowed to join all activities in the Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA to reflect the change. But the girls and boys are in separate troops. VOA’s Deborah Block visited two all-girl troops in the Washington area to see how they are liking scouts so far.

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Adele and Husband, Simon Konecki, Separate

Adele and her husband, Simon Konecki, have separated.

The pop singer’s representatives Benny Tarantini and Carl Fysh confirmed the news Friday in a statement to The Associated Press.

“Adele and her partner have separated,” the emailed statement said. “They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment.”

Adele gave birth to their son, Angelo, in 2012.

The Grammy-winning British superstar has been private about her relationship, but confirmed she married Konecki when she won album of the year at the 2017 Grammys. In her acceptance speech, she said: “Grammys, I appreciate it. The Academy, I love you. My manager, my husband and my son — you’re the only reason I do it.”

Konecki co-founded Life Water, an eco-friendly brand of bottled water in the U.K. Funds from the company assists the charity that Konecki runs, Drop4Drop, which provides clean water to countries in need.

A representative for Konecki could not be reached.

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Salt Lake Temple Closing for Four-Year Renovation

An iconic temple central to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith will close for four years for a major renovation to help it withstand earthquakes and be more welcoming to visitors, leaders said Friday. 

Authorities are also keeping a careful eye on construction plans after a devastating fire this week at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

The Salt Lake Temple will close Dec. 29 to update the stately granite building and surrounding square, including elements that emphasize the life of Jesus Christ, church President Russell M. Nelson said. 

“We promise that you will love the results,” he said.

​Like The Vatican, Jerusalem

The building and square at the heart of Utah’s capital city is one of the state’s top tourist destinations, though only church members in good standing can go inside the building used for marriages and other religious ceremonies. 

When the project is done in 2024, the faith widely known as the Mormon church will host an open house to give outsiders the first glimpse of the 126-year-old temple’s interior in more than a century. 

A new visitors’ center and removal of a wall around the square in favor of a fence will also visually open up the flower-lined space to visitors walking by. 

 

“We want to them to think of Salt Lake just as easily as they think of Jerusalem or The Vatican as a place where Christianity really has its heart,” Bishop Dean M. Davies said.

Increased risk of fire

The work that will bring scaffolding, cranes and occasional road closures to downtown Salt Lake City also carries increased fire risk. Authorities are taking extra caution in light of the damage to Norte Dame by crafting a plan that includes a 24-hour fire watch, limiting welding and grinding to certain areas, and plenty of fire extinguishers. 

Investigators are still determining the exact cause of the fire at Notre Dame, which was under renovation when the blaze started on Monday. 

The Salt Lake Temple’s earthquake-mitigation project will be a major undertaking, and involve excavating underneath the temple to install a base-isolation system that will prevent damage by largely decoupling the building from the earth. 

The area sees seismic activity, including a series of small quakes that have occurred in recent months. Plans for this project, though, stretch back more than a decade.

Much of the square will remain open during the construction, including the building where the faith’s famed Tabernacle Choir sings.

​Serving 86 languages

In a nod to the 16-million-member church’s increasingly global membership, the project will also allow the temple to serve people in over 86 languages, rather than only English. 

Leaders declined to say how much the project will cost.

Temples aren’t used for regular Sunday services, but thousands of church members visit every year. It is one of the most popular destinations for weddings. While it’s closed, local members will go to a number of other nearby Utah temples. 

More colorful palette

After it reopens, changes will include a return to a more colorful Victorian-era palette rather than the mostly white style adopted during another extensive renovation in the 1960s.

The faith’s temples have rooms where couples are “sealed” in marriage, chambers for ceremonies on theology and morality and celestial rooms used for prayer and reflection. 

They also have ornate baptismal fonts designed for use in ceremonies to baptize dead relatives, though there’s been occasional controversy over members posthumously baptizing public figures against church policy. The faith teaches proxy baptisms give the deceased the choice to join the faith in the afterlife. 

New temples are typically open to the public for a brief time before being dedicated, after which they’re reserved for members only. 

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said the renovation will likely bring more congestion downtown, but he’s hoping curious tourists will keep visiting during construction.

“People think of The Church of Jesus Latter-day Saints and most people think of this temple,” said Herbert, who is a member of the faith. The renovation “shows the vitality of Salt Lake City. We’re not closing things down. We’re expanding and growing.”

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Ghanaian Rapper-Turned-Director Taps Traditional Themes in 1st Film

A new film called “The Burial of Kojo” is a tale of family tensions with an overlay of magical realism. Set in Ghana, it is first feature from Samuel “Blitz” Bazawule, an Ghana-born musician and director who wanted to avoid the cliches of many films set in Africa, themes of war and famine. 

Bazawule maintained creative control of the project by using the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, and he hired a Ghanaian cast and local crew. The Burial of Kojo is now reaching a global audience on Netflix.

Bazawule lives in Brooklyn but says the story is reminiscent of the tales that he heard as a child in Ghana. It concerns a girl, Esi, her father, Kojo, and his brother, Kwabena.

“One of the brothers goes missing on a mining expedition,” Bazawule explains, “and his daughter has to go on the magical journey to rescue him.” The quest lands Esi in a dreamlike world.

Rapper and filmmaker

Bazawule, known as Blitz from his days as a rapper, wanted to move from musical to visual storytelling, and this film includes both. He wrote its script and composed the film’s soundtrack. With several short films already under his belt, this was his feature debut.

The project was initially self-funded, and he completed the film by raising $78,000 through the website Kickstarter. That “gave us the autonomy that we needed,” Bazawule said. “We didn’t have anyone looking over our shoulder, we didn’t have anyone telling us what to do, what not to do. It was always us deciding with ourselves, does this make sense for this narrative?”

Showing on Netflix

The film is being shown on the streaming service Netflix as part of a distribution deal with ARRAY, a Hollywood company founded by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, that highlights the work of filmmakers of color and women directors.

“Netflix is in 190 countries, so that’s a lot of places where you can find beautiful work,” said ARRAY’s Tilane Jones.

It’s good for movie lovers, Bazawule added, and international filmmakers are also finding an audience. 

“You build credibility for the stories that you’re telling,” he said, with fresh faces and new voices bringing art from countries like Ghana to the screen.

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Ghanaian Rapper-Turned-Director Taps Traditional Themes in 1st Film

A new film called “The Burial of Kojo” is a tale of family tensions with an overlay of magical realism. Set in Ghana, it is first feature from Samuel “Blitz” Bazawule, an Ghana-born musician and director who wanted to avoid the cliches of many films set in Africa, themes of war and famine. 

Bazawule maintained creative control of the project by using the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, and he hired a Ghanaian cast and local crew. The Burial of Kojo is now reaching a global audience on Netflix.

Bazawule lives in Brooklyn but says the story is reminiscent of the tales that he heard as a child in Ghana. It concerns a girl, Esi, her father, Kojo, and his brother, Kwabena.

“One of the brothers goes missing on a mining expedition,” Bazawule explains, “and his daughter has to go on the magical journey to rescue him.” The quest lands Esi in a dreamlike world.

Rapper and filmmaker

Bazawule, known as Blitz from his days as a rapper, wanted to move from musical to visual storytelling, and this film includes both. He wrote its script and composed the film’s soundtrack. With several short films already under his belt, this was his feature debut.

The project was initially self-funded, and he completed the film by raising $78,000 through the website Kickstarter. That “gave us the autonomy that we needed,” Bazawule said. “We didn’t have anyone looking over our shoulder, we didn’t have anyone telling us what to do, what not to do. It was always us deciding with ourselves, does this make sense for this narrative?”

Showing on Netflix

The film is being shown on the streaming service Netflix as part of a distribution deal with ARRAY, a Hollywood company founded by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, that highlights the work of filmmakers of color and women directors.

“Netflix is in 190 countries, so that’s a lot of places where you can find beautiful work,” said ARRAY’s Tilane Jones.

It’s good for movie lovers, Bazawule added, and international filmmakers are also finding an audience. 

“You build credibility for the stories that you’re telling,” he said, with fresh faces and new voices bringing art from countries like Ghana to the screen.

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