Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is it an ease, or familiarity?

May 23

For the past two day or so we have had bad stomachs. We ate something bad, maybe some pork, or the yucca, not sure, at some point we even thought it was a virus, but it must have been the food. I say we to include most people in the house, my mother, father, Gisela and myself. Magaly did not get sick, due to her not eating what we all are. Strangely though my cousin visiting from Sao Tome did not get sick either, and she ate exactly what we ate. For me this sickness included vomiting and, well, the runs, for some it was only one of the two. Gisela had difficulties during the night, for her the vomiting struck late, while trying to sleep, where for me it struck during the evening and by night time I had gotten rid of what ever poison disrupted the natural equilibrium of my belly. We are better, but it is always a reminder that being in a foreign country has it moments of cleanliness, well, that is what I call it; a moment of purity.
Yesterday was the day of our presentation at the UCV. Gisela was not able to attend. She was not feeling well enough to travel to Praia, but I had to go. I noticed while driving there, that I was running of two pieces of bread for the entire day; strange how the body sometimes can be poised in its cleaning process; never did I feel hungry and now that I think of it I wasn’t really weak either. The meeting went well. Magaly had been there already, having chosen to go to Praia earlier that day to connect to the internet and get some work done. Partly I think it was her wanting to escape the small city of Assomada. She went to Praia for there in the such an expansive space was familiarity, the ability to get lost, to be busy and not think or have time to think of the prisms that Assomada forwards; this with relationship to reality of poverty, time, sorrow, etc, but these are speculations. I am sure if she could she would stay down there, where access is more the type she is used to, but why then leave a country to reside in a foreign space if not to access the truth of that space, maybe that is it, I wonder if, now a days, people who reside in First World countries are interested in the truth of another country, or city, or town? Not sure!
The presentation had a good showing. I described it to Gisela yesterday as there being three groups of people in attendance. We had the established Quo, those who make more traditional works, who run most publicly funded spaces of exhibitions and cultural production, the likes of Jose-Maria, director of Palacio Di Cultura. We then had a second group, and they were the distraught artist and intellectuals, who don’t care for such traditions if it’s not critical and encouraging concepts of the Now. They are most likely the ones who have traveled and experienced art and artist in a different way and feel that those ways should become visible works here in the island. The third groups were the young teenage artists who are mentored by the first group. They are the ones who have spaces in Palacio Di Cultura, where they practice and speak of traditional practices and materials in art. They are the ones who most likely speak about art history, whereas contemporary discussions are most often only accented. All three groups are important for they demonstrate the planes of activity currently working in Praia. In my talk yesterday, after hearing critics of the second group about the first group, I forwarded a though for debate and discussion; hoping someone in time may approach me on it. I asked that Praia be looked at in its own content, often in need separation from Western contexts, that it be looked at as a city that is going through its modernity. If so most artists would respond to it as such, in a modern way, making work relative to a city which is in that process. Seeing that we are in a global world, of access and mobility, there are some who have traveled and experienced post-modern works and as such expect a higher level of critical work to be done. This dual state is interesting and actually need each other. To omit one in to place the arts here in grave danger, for it would be silencing and Truth.
Magaly and I met people and have set up some workshops. We’ve been invited to participate in an exhibition being done by the second group mentioned above and we have been given open access to the spaces that the traditionalist house. All in all it has been a great experience. The residency was taken well and participation looks to be in play.

Why Assomada?

May 23rd

Went to Praia today, again, not saying it out of un-welcomed repetition, just out of a frequency which needs to be noticed. Today’s journey was mostly motivated by Gisela. She was invited to do a small training session with Reis di Polon, a contemporary dance group in Praia. They have been going for the past fifteen years and are the only known dance group of this genre in the island, as such they are unique and need special noting. I will speak more on them towards the end of this entry. My mother and cousin, who’s visiting from Sao Tiago came along, and she brought her beautiful four month old daughter Eduarda. The day was hot so we first stop for some cold water. I grabbed a coke, cold and refreshing just like the commercials. I noticed it didn’t have an ingredients list on it, no surprise there; maybe they feel not enough people read such things to warrant printing prices. My mother and cousin went on their errands and I went to the university, where wi-fi was in play and I could get most of my internet work done. I signed up for a new blog, http://www.cicer-assomada.blogspot.com/, that’s where I will look to house most of these journalistic accounts, among other places. I figured it would be good to transmit these words, these processes of adjustment and goal. While at UCV I saw Angelo again, said what’s up and touched on yesterday’s meet; we continue on good vibes. He introduced me to a film maker, also Cape Verdean, but residing in LA. He did a recent film, a journey of sorts through the different islands of Cape Verde asking the question of what is Cape Verdianess or Cape Verdianity; Caboverdianidade. We are meant to meet this Sunday for a spell and by then I hope to have locked in his name; so bad I am with such things.
I introduced my mother to Angelo after she met up with me in Restaurant Di Sofia, the intellectual hangout for politics, social critics, high gossip and other stuff. While there eating a piece of cake we also ran in to Abraao the artist/presenter and my mother began to mention how we were somewhat relatives. This activity is an interesting one, the act of chasing down a family line, a cultural lime of proximity, where the space of foreign can be dismantled and the familiar becomes the remaining resonance. Through it I think we found out that we are great second cousins or half orphans of a third kind; not sure yet! He was in a hurry and later that night I came to find out why; he had his television talk show to gear up for; the name of the show also escapes me now! So many escapes! My self, mother and cousin, and little second cousin, went out to eat and then made out way to see Gisela and the studios of Reis Di Polon. We were slightly invited to a special performance by the group’s leader, Manu Preto. I say slightly because the invitation was for Gisela, but she then invited me, and I then invited my cousin and mother, but we were welcomed the Cape Verdean way, with open arms. For my mother it was something she always wanted. She would later say that two great things happen to her recently, one was the special Batuke session that was presented just for her, in her home; commemorating her twenty five year marriage anniversary; when one takes in to account that they have actually been together for almost twice as long, well, it is truly a landmark occasion for sure. The other great experience she has recently felt was this special, personal, performance by a group she has admired for a long time. It is here that you realize that as accessible as these types of groups are, there are many who have never personally encountered them. The groups become these mists which hover over one’s head, and you never realized that it is actually within arms reach. For foreigners, visitors, or such, these are the first things we try to access, maybe time gives us this reason, being that we are away from our everyday, or it could be that we feel that that’s where the culture really is, in its special groups and their productivities. In the West we’ve learned to only act on what has traversed the spaces of the everyday, architectures that stand out, musical landscapes that have been promoted to special heights, art that has been deemed particular and important; such historisized events are what we get used to seeking when we travel and so we usually access these spaces that local citizens have only heard off. This occurrence can happen in many places, but it strikes me here in Sao Tiago for the island is a small place and the a site of cultural production like the studios of Reis di Polon is extremely accessible; more so then any contemporary studio of such stature in the West would ever be.
We had a special showing of a solo by the lead choreographer, Manu. It lasted about fifteen minutes and was completely engulfing. There were make shift props suggestive of fishing rods, chairs, sail boats, metaphorical ships, volcanic rocks, oversized books expressive of literature and knowledge and it the midst of all this was Manu, a capturing figure with his afro ad high hair line, it reminded me of mad scientist sparse hairs when they work in a lab, such stereotypes work when it comes to memory. He is not a large figure and not young either, but he still moves with the same meaning and gestures I am sure he expressed when he was young. I will speak more about the piece on a separate paper I look to do on his solo. I will say now that we spoke about it for a short period of time and in that time I mentioned wanting to talk to him more.
On our way back Gisela and I talked about levels of critic and how, or when, are they appropriate. We both felt some critic could be given to the solo we experienced and wondered if such critics are welcomed, after all we are here partly for that, to engage such spaces and make them unsteady so as to further them. But for this performance we were invited, and critic is valuable only when given permission or when asked for, for closed ears hears no wrong. Gisela, in her experience with the company today, felt a bit intimidated by the stiff bodies she first experienced, the man were all very muscular, all with dreads and were all very serious; such a beautiful image she said, one used surely purposeful by the Manu, the choreographer. What she first thought were arrogant attitudes from professional dancers not wanting to give merit to a white Euro minded dancer/choreographer, soon subsided as their stiffness was more of nerves then of any kind of superiority complex. She found some of them to be very strong dancers physically and others slightly less. She showed then some amalgamated movements from her favorite choreographers and dance genres, and it was received well she tells me. Some told her that they have limited technical experience and this is where they would like to strengthen themselves. I asked Gisela how some of them would benefit from a stint in NunArt Residency in Barcelona, where most participants are contemporary dancers, and she said some would take great advantage others she wasn’t very sure; attitudes would have to change so such opportunities could be taken in greatly. She will be doing some more workshops there next week, where I will also be meeting with Manu for extended talks.

May 25th

Yesterday was Gisela’s birthday. She is not only a resident but my partner; if this hasn’t been said yet then let it be said. The every day crew of the house hung out in the third floor of the house, with a kind of barbeque, an incredibly delicious cake, and some sangria; specially made by the honored guest. Gisela took it all in stride, it positive vibe for sure. We had guests: a television presenter/artist, a mentor/capoeira teacher, a director of a day care and a teacher of primary school and a nurse; at some point and through some points they all passed and shared this day with us.
Later in the day we stepped out. My cousin Beto who came up from Engenio—an actor who works part time as a metal worker, creating skeletons for these cements homes in Assomada and beyond—came up the mountains to hang out. My mother’s godson Sidi also joined Gisela, Isabella, Beto and I out on a walk on the streets of the small city. We partook in an event of young kids, a product of a mobile company gimmick to get more customers; capital strands reverberate their talons here interestingly too, the image is not as polished but the undercurrent is very much the same. At least there I saw an incredible hip-hop act by the name of Detroit. They were a group of about five to six kids and they were just amazing. They had the pop recipe down packed when it comes to contemporary forms of hi-hop and they delivered it extremely well. The songs all had great hooks and their words, spoken in Kreolu, were off the mark. They commented on the young city much like Batuke ladies discuss history and politics, this young kids in hip-hop find their voice and it speaks of the sameness of young urban life; But what creates the life, is it the music or is the music a response to the life. In the states we knew the answer, but the answer here, or in any other country where such conversations are being had by young urban kids, are not so simple in definition. I will conclude this entry by again expressing how good these kids were; just amazing.

May 26th

Yesterday the residents had a meeting of plans. Time is increasingly getting shorter and those events once so distant are now only one of two weeks away. We talked about our everyday plans for the week, how and when we will look at the site for our exhibition, where we will meet, who and how we will get this, this for that, so we can do that other thing, and have the impression of that other, other thing, ye, artist’s yapping. I actually love these moments, they’re what this residency was created for. On elements of critic and difference, space and distance, foreignness and contemporary, I wonder what the responses will be by the Cape Verdean creatives. I’ve been careful not to advertise any of these events, these words mentioned above of extemporaneous platters, for they are to be critict in fermented spaces, cooked in the pot of discourse. The final days of work are coming and Magaly is well off on hers, producing some good things, an amalgam of images that challenge the role of the foreigner, transplanting and transposing change in herself and the country, asking the questions of what is it that is fixed in this emerging and submerging culture, and are locals really local to the space they inhabit? Is locality a point of reference or a process of dissemination? Gisela is balancing sight, visually separating herself into two parts, which both house difference and complexities. She is made to look at herself as others see themselves through her, at the same time, looking for, what maybe the first time, her self walking with self, asking why have I not had to ever look at who I am. As for me I am complicating my art and my life, creating fissures between two planes I feel I have control over, all-the-while knowing feelings are fleeting things. Art here merges in a space of self evaluation and responsibility, constructs and conducts itself through supposed affirmations of host and guide, problamatizing the very act of Foreign Member. What’s the outcome?
We spent the after noon in Calheta, a north east beach of volcanic rocks and black sand. Nestled at the end of a dry river end, the beach is small and local; it’s my mother’s favorite spot. Gisela immediately upon seeing a large mound near the shore decided she wanted to dance on it, and she did, with Magaly taking images and others wondering, What the heck is this chick up to? Magaly as well was approached by two young girls, full of smiles and happy that she gave them a football, they would later come back asking for photos which were taken, but that would have to mailed Magaly said and you guys here don’t have mailing addresses. She smiled directly at me, for it was I who said there are no street names in most places, let-alone house numbers, you reach someone’s home by asking; I smiled back. We continued to walk on the lava sculptures; Gisela and Magaly collaborating on a piece about shadows and movement, water and reflections. I took in the breaths of this mist, waives bantering in my ears, the rocks seasoned and cleaned by the constant slap of salt water, the waives ever increasing with the coming tide and I at the tip, looking at the expansive nature of the beast called the Atlantic. I reached a level of fear with the though of being lost in it, not a surprise for many I am sure, for such an outlook at the ocean could easily raise one’s thoughts on death. But I wondered about what lay below it, below this large mirror which hides its depths; it is possibly why I make work on it because it continues to intrigue me. Magaly at some point floated in a bed of clear water, a small pool made by the coming tide. The weather was gray, cloudy, slightly windy but not cold. The sun snuck out like a daring teenager from time to time, but not enough to make me have a dip in the ocean. We made out way back up the mountain soon after, back to Assomada in the Hilux trucks, one of Toyotas finest moments of engineering; those things are beasts going up mountains.
Later that night we went to a concert, paying homage to two great local singers, Pantera from Assomada and Jose-Carlos from Guinea-Bissau. We finally drove to Praia after my mother was finally convinced. I am trying to drag her out as much as I can, for as she says, once we leave she will go back to her boring ways; just the two of them, one who likes to be active, the other who likes his space and comfort. Being that we were in a Hilux driving through the turns of the hills, we also picked up some people. We popped them in the back of the truck to join Magaly, Gisela and Sidi. We had a great time. The performance took place in the Assembly; a beautiful building. It’s where most high delicate meetings take place, politics of the highest form. The performance was great, can’t name you any of the performers, but they put on a good show. The sons of one of the honored persons sang and they too seem to heading in the ways of their father. I will in time come back to fill in such names, for they are important. Seeing as I am not a journalist, I often find it bothersome to chase down names and particular titles and such, it leaves me free to wonder in thought and write in thought, but worry not, as I will in time fill such spaces. We got back home around one in the morning, safe and tired.

* * *

Earlier today we made contact with the SOS for children (http://www.sos-ro.org/site/content/view/28/61/lang,en/), a home for kids without a family. Being that it is right next to our residency, and that I had already connected to some one who works there with my intentions, I lazed on it till now before approaching the main persons in charge; today was the day. We were received very well by the director of the Assomada chapter. Gisela went with me and the both of us express the what the residency was and what it would like to do with the institution: to build a relationship with it, and for it in turn, to utilize the talents that will be passing by Cape Verde through such a portal. With our conversations we brought with us some soccer balls for donation, this was after Beto (Associacao de Capoeira, Liberdade e Expressao, http://www.capoeiracaboverde.com/) told me that it was best donating some balls to the institution—so as everyone can play with it—then give balls to individuals. It was Beto who set up the meeting for us today. Came here nine in the morning, military time it seems to accompany us there, but we were sleeping after our night drive from Praia. We ended up meeting at eleven. After we handed out the balls and got the open door from the organizations for future residency projects we were taken on a tour. The working lay out is an interesting one, SOS tries to take on the structure of a nuclear family, morphed somewhat. There are ten individual homes within what they call the SOS Village. Each home is named after an island of Cape Verde. The homes are headed by one mother and in each there are a maximum of ten kids. The director of the Village is a man, well, he was today at least, and he is titled as father of the village; he also lives in the village. This breakdown is very similar to old traditional family villages in most parts of Africa. So I was un-bemused by its replica here, but interested with SOS’s other sites around the world; what structures did they adhere to. The area is full of plants, bright colors and shaded areas. There’s a field, gravel, for playing many outdoor sports, there is also a basketball court and facing these two sites is an auditorium. When leaving I took a pictured of a mural of a word map and in it were flags in all the areas that there are SOS sites; this is actually the first thing you see when you enter the village; pretty cool, the world should always be an aspiration for kids.
The connections are set and another goal of the program seems to have come into sight as predicted. For the slow movements which are part of the island, I seem to have worked with it rather well. It could be that I see the complaints some may have with regards to slowness and realize how characteristic it is of the place. I have accepted it, truly. The country is a small place, and we think that by it being small things can get done much faster, but small places are often miniscule when it comes to modernity’s road; modernity likes big, expansive, exhaustive and energetic. It is massive and when it moves, it moves. A small country like Cape Verde may have spurts of speed, but it will take some time for it to become modern and locomotive through out. It still likes familiarity and like most close nit families, it does not like to be rushed.

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