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Newsletter: 2023 August

Van Gogh Sunflower paintng TCG August 2023

"The way to know life is to love many things."

- Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist painter 1853- 1890

Twelve months ago, we started to share dates and information on festivals and cultural observances around the globe. To add fun, we included Q&As on the lesser-known facts about the countries or events so friends and readers can use them for cross-cultural small talk. Here is August’s list:

  • 1st August: Switzerland’s National Day
  • 6th August: Bolivia’s and Jamaica’s Independence Days
  • 9th August: Singapore’s National Day
  • 13th-15th August: Japan’s Obon (also known as the Festival of Souls)
  • 14th August: Pakistan’s Independence Day
  • 15th August: Assumption Day (Catholics & Orthodox); India’s Independence Day
  • 17th August: Indonesia’s Independence Day
  • 31st August: Malaysia’sNational Day

Instead of repeating and featuring the same YouTube clips, for those who are new to this newsletter, you can refer to last year’s article; it has the information about August’s national days:

Here are two more Q&A facts:

Q1. Which country is the top exporter of Brazil nuts? While the Amazon regions of Brazil and Bolivia produce ~90% of the world’s total, Bolivia triumphs over Brazil as the biggest exporter of Brazil nuts. According to 2021’s data, Bolivia exported $163M (~ 46%), followed by Peru: $49.8M (14%), Brazil: $42.1M (12%), Germany: $32.4M (9%), and the Netherlands: $20M (6%). Brazil nuts are energy dense, rich in antioxidants, and highly nutritious. Do consider adding some to your diet. (source: OEC & Wikipedia.)

Q2. Do you know the National Dish of Malaysia? Yes, it is the “Nasi Lemak”! Originating in Malay cuisine, consisting of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, lit translates to “Fatty Rice” or “Creamy Rice” because of the coconut milk. It is a popular dish for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even supper in the Malay archipelago region (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, parts of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.). Nasi lemak is served with a spicy chilli paste (sambal) and usually includes garnishes, such as small fried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, hard-boiled or fried egg, and fresh cucumber slices. The upscale version may include fried chicken, beef rendang, or cuttlefish sambal. What I miss most and can’t find in today’s Nasi Lemak is the simple stir-fried water convolvulus (kangkong). If you know where to find one, please tell me! (source: Wikipedia.)

“Have fun exploring August!”

TCG August 2023 Van Gogh painting bedroom


A Journey A Month…

Your Story. Our Story. The Human Story.


I thought I knew Vincent Van Gogh, having had the opportunity to see his works in European and American museums. Years ago, while in Tahiti, I visited the Gauguin Museum, so I learnt about the turbulent yet mutually inspirational friendship between Paul Gauguin and him and the influence of the Japanese Ukiyo-e style on European arts.

Yet, when I went to the recent Van Gogh exhibition in Singapore, I discovered things I never knew. For many years, my art journey gravitated towards the Renaissance and Romanticism periods; I love masterpieces by the Dutch Golden Age painters, and I can stand admiring any Rubens’, Frans Hals’, Rembrandt’s, and Vermeer’s works for hours. Eventually, I adopted the impressionists after visiting the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Still, it was more the works of Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, etc. My Modern Arts appreciation stopped there, i.e. post-impressionist art was not in my vocabulary because I find it difficult to fathom.

While I had the opportunity to stand before Van Gogh’s masterpieces, I found it difficult to believe anyone would pay $39.7 million (now deemed over $80 million) for those fifteen “pathetic” sunflowers in the vase. So, out of sheer curiosity, I went to the Van Gogh Exhibition in S’pore. Instead of his famous paintings, I just wanted to see what I might not have seen before; With that, I began to discover Vincent’s world, his earnest attempt to paint for others, and how serious he was about his vocation as a painter.

TCG August 2023 Van Gogh paintings collage

Suddenly I saw Hokusai’s Great Wave in Van Gogh’s Starry Night; Vincent had never travelled to Japan but was a keen collector of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. Because he had a love for many things and a mind to embrace differences, we now have a unique masterpiece, possibly inspired by an exchange of two great painters from distinctly different cultures thousands of miles apart.

As for the Sunflowers, Vincent saw them as a representation of life, joy, and the sun’s life-giving energy. His Sunflowers series showcased the flowers at different stages of maturity, capturing their life cycle and the beauty of nature’s transformation. They were not the “pathetic” uncared-of flowers I had earlier thought they were. It was much deeper than that.

Many people think Van Gogh was mentally unstable, yet he only wished for people to take him as he was. Very well-read, he was undoubtedly more brilliant than most. Though he only sold one painting in his life, his works are now worth millions, and many, myself included, are just beginning to discover the depth of his soul through his works.

Here is Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry,Starry Night):

Starry, starry night ; Paint your palette blue and gray; Look out on a summer’s day; With eyes that know the darkness in my soul. Shadows on the hills; Sketch the trees and the daffodils; Catch the breeze and the winter chills; In colors on the snowy, linen land. Now, I understand what you tried to say to me…

This summer, let the Starry Night and Sunflowers inspire us. Let’s embrace the differences around us to discover the mystery and beauty of life. Quote Vincent Van Gogh:

“There is nothing more artistic than to love others!”

The world is fascinating simply because differences exist!

Join us to spread the words, share the vision, and do our parts.

At TransCultural Group (TCG), we are determined to play our part in making the world a better place. We have launched an e-book for Youth. We have also uploaded the complete series of “Food around the World” on our YouTube channel.

Please share it If you love our effort, and please give us a “like” and subscribe to our “YouTube” channel (it is free!) Come support us!

Crossing Cultures – Beyond Boundaries

Secret Garden of N

Keng Keng Tan
Founder & CEO
TransCultural Group