Tuesday, 31 August 2010

2001 Circuit around the Cape Verde Islands - Fourth Stop - Santo Antão island

Cova crater

Almost everyone travelling to Santo Antão takes the ferry, leaving  from São Vicente, to Porto Novo on the South coast of the island, but I decided to fly to Ponta do Sol, where I would be staying in, on the North coast. Considered one of the most mountainous islands of Cape Verde, some of its remote areas are still innaccessible. It is an island of harsh ravines, precipices, intricate terracing and ingeniously irrigated areas running across the slopes.

Having stayed at a guesthouse ("Chez Louisette") owned by a Capeverdean who had been an imigrant in France, allowed me to visit the island together with other French tourists,  on  very well organized guided tours over three days which covered most of the island, even some of those inner areas you would not consider visiting if you were on your own.

On one of these tours we stopped at Ribeira da Cruz, where the production of "grogue" (a local sugar cane alcoholic drink) is stil hand made, using a large machinery driven by oxen plodding round and round in an almost never ending sequence of circles, called the "trapiche".

Sugar cane in bloom (Left). "Trapiche" (Right)

Cruzinha da Garça, which mostly impressed me with it's dark cliffs against a strong blue sea, was home to a few Jewish families, who in their condition of exiles escaping the Inquisition or forced "degredados" started arriving and settling on this part of the island around 1548.

Cruzinha da Garça

From Ponta do Sol I walked to Fontainhas, which is "perched like a fairy tale village on a high and precipitous spit of land above a deep ribeira". It is located in the Northern part of the island and as I was walking there, met several children and young adolescents, who then had to walk for hours up those labyrinthic lanes to go to school (every single day). The mountains dominate the whole area around the village and to both sides farms in the form of paddies and stone walls are to be seen.

Ponta do Sol village (Left). Fontainhas village (Right).

On the way to Coculi I met this lady, one of the many who work for endless hours collecting stones and transporting them across some difficult track towards a delimited area in the valley, where they have to break them smaller and have them filtered, so as to obtain a  thin mixture similar to sand, used for construction purposes. I was impressed with the amount of hard work involved, but even more impressed when she (another Capeverdean mother bringing up their children alone) invited me to the house she had built herself with the help of her two daughters and son (still young adolescents).

Moved, not to say almost "inspired" by the visible strength of these women and men I headed to the airport on my way to the next stop, Santiago island ...


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Providing the tools ... or ... just ideas ...

As I was handed a bag full of second hand  large size T-shirts, which very much look like being new,  to take to Cape Verde, I was also given two crochet and knitting magazines with quite a few interesting models to be carried out by anyone who might feel sufficiently encouraged by the images and use some of the theoretical skills displayed in those magazines, and put them in practice.

 I'll have to buy crochet and knitting needles, plus an amount of thread of various strong and vibrant colours to take back with me, as this type of material is not only very expensive in Cape Verde but most of the time difficult to get, at least where I have been going to.

The whole thing reminded me of a programme developed by a group of Germans in which the Angolan ladies of a small  rural community started making rag dolls of a particular artistic beauty and detail, to be later sold at the International fairs. (In the last handicraft fair the hundred dolls in display were sold out after just a few minutes). The one I managed to buy is to be seen in the pictures underneath.

Soon after having discussed this issue with my colleague Ana, I started thinking of some of the many handicrafted objects I had bought in Cuba and Angola (of South African origin), which would need seemingly easy "tools" to be made and  ... in which way to have them  adjusted to "African trend"  or tradition oriented models, for my "adolescent " students of Calheta to make in the next year workshops ...

Coloured coconut masks (using paint and sand).

Papier maché doll and pine cone female turkey.

These are just ideas ... I'll have to work out whether it might be possible ...

(Note: All the  handicraft pieces in the pictures above belong to my private handicraft collection).

Friday, 27 August 2010

2001 Circuit around the Cape Verde islands - Third stop - São Vicente island

View over Mindelo bay

In São Vicente I was welcomed by the parents of a musician I had long met in Portugal and it's at their home in the suburbs of the capital town that I stayed at, during my visit to the island. I must confess that although I was given the privilege of becoming acquainted with quite a few interesting people through them, whom I would not have met otherwise, the permanent sequence of convivial events didn't allow me to randomly meet local people in the streets or even visit some of the things I would have liked to visit.

São Vicente, known as "a small pearl" of West Africa and the island of poets and musicians, "exhibits" much of its old charm, with fine colonial architecture, historical buidings, a replica of the Tower of Belém, cobbled streets, etc., and "excels" in cultural events and activities, amongst which is the hosting of the yearly three day Baía das Gatas Music Festival (created by a group of musicians, inspired by Woodstock, according to what is said), the International Meeting of Amateur Theatre groups (Mindelact) and the well known Carnival parade every year, just to mention a few.

Famous Painters who have their own "ateliers" open to the public are among some of the "interesting" personalities worth mentioning (Manuel Figueira and Tchalé Figueira).

The island boasts beautiful beaches scattered around, whose waters I bathed in, from São Pedro to Laginha beach, in the heart of the city, not to mention the one of Baía das Gatas.

Laginha beach

I strongly feel I should go back sometime, to wander about on my own, without "restrictions" of any sort and "taste" the night life atmosphere ... let the "enchanting" musical achords "caress" me till dawn.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Street Art in Lisbon ...

The Urban Art Galery (GAU) together with Friday's Project enterprise is going to launch   a competion and show of Street Art in Lisbon, in an attempt to support Graffiti, as an emerging "Art" in Portugal. Seven sellected "Graffitis" shall "earn" the right to be exhibited at the Galery street panels (Calçada da Gloria and Rua da Palmeirinha). I am curious as to whether they will be better than these ones I "found"  along one wall in rua  da Artelharia I!!! ...

2001 circuit around the Cape Verde islands - second stop - Boavista island

Barrier of canes to avoid the advance of the sand at the entrance of Sal Rei village (the main village on the island)

Having  previously decided to alternate mountainous islands and flat ones, I headed to Boavista island, my second stop along the Cape Verde circuit.

I stayed downtown at a familiar like hotel where I was joined by two Italian couples, who along with me visited the whole island under the "supervision" of our local guide and driver.

Santa Mónica beach (Left) Ervatão beach signaling out Caretta Caretta turtle nests (Right)

I was deeply impressed by the 55 km of amazingly beautiful white sand beaches, some of which are breeding sites for loggerhead turtles. The warm waters of its outstretching beaches were (still are) of an "appealing" colour, even if to reach some of them one might have to walk for endless hours.
Of such a similar and unique beauty was Odjo d'Mar, a sweet water lake we stopped at one afternoon.

Odjo d'Mar (Left). Medicinal plant, whose glue like juice is used to imobilize limbs when fractured and broken or when there is no plaster available (Right)

Shipwreck of the Spanish freighter Santa Maria  (dating back to 1968) on Santa Maria beach (Left). Ruins of an ancient potery factory on the beach of Chaves (Right)

Several shipwrecks are to be found along the coast. It is said that the actual sinking of the ships was mainly due to the coast reefs, the strong currents, and the amount of iron of the cliff rocks having  played tricks on the ship compasses, though I have read  that a few of those "accidents" were deliberately provoked by Cape Verdean sailors on board of some of those ships (particularly during periods of  severe droughts and famine on the island) to generate a phenomenon known as "moia", which allowed those ashore to climb on board during the night, so as to steal necessary goods, the greatest of which was coal.

Whether these accounts are true or not, is irrelevant ... because there will always be an underlying mystery surrounding such events.

To come across some flowers of non-desert origin was almost magical, as I reached Fundo de Figueira village.

Ruins of the abandoned village Curral Velho (Left). Typical house in Fundo de Figueira village (Right)

Sand desert of Viana

The musical genre "Morna" was first heard here in the 19th century ... morna is a feeling of longing ... a lament ... a cry ... a touch of sadness ... a "sprinkle" of morabeza ... and this is how I felt on the eve of leaving Boavista behind on my way to São Vicente.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Memories ... (still)

I can't remember the day I was born, but according to my Mother and other people who gathered to see me soon after I came out of the room I was born in (traditionally in middle class and well to do families, the act of giving birth was confined to the household, though  "conducted" by a doctor or an accredited midwife), I looked like a "gipsy", because of  the huge amount of hair and a slightly darker skin than it would have been expected (or even appreciated) ...

My "fate" had been "anticipated" then  (I  physically looked  a lot more like my father and his "side" of the family - the Andrades, than I did my Mother and her side of the family - the Guerras) ... I am sure (though I haven't been told) that a  couple of  those old  and "wiser" members of the family together with the servants (who were supposed to copy every movement they made) must have promptly kneeled and prayed to the Lord above, begging him not to let me have any other resemblance to the Andrades (being quite an interesting person, my father, irrespective of having the same social status of my Mother, was considered "ideologically weird"), which was not at all advisable.

I would later in my  life conclude they were right in having had all those fears, though I would rather substitute the word "weird" by "ahead of his time", which taking into account the Portuguese society of the epoch, didn't particularly "favour" him.

These are  my first photos. According to my Mother (who was 32 years old then) I was a few months old and the photos were taken at the Rheumathology Institute where she worked as a doctor.  The two girls (sisters) beside me in one of the photos - the Branquinho girls,  would later get even closer to our family, as Maria José (to be seen on the right) got married to my brother  Miguel.

My judgement may be bias, but though I can easily be identified as "an Andrade specimen" ... I don't look that "bad" ...

It was my birthday yesterday ... and looking through some old photos I came across this one taken on my seventh birthday party (one of the few parties I remember and probably the only one where I am to be seen smiling). Sitting next to me is my Grandmother (on my mother's side), who brought me up until I was nine years old.

I may still resemble the "Andrades" ... I may even bear their name ... but (for the record) ... as an adult I have "identified" myself a lot more with the  strong personality of the "Guerras" ... (particularly the women).

Monday, 23 August 2010

Cascais and its charm ...

Cascais has a charm of its own ... that's undeniable.

It has kept the elegance of its royal past, which dates back to 1870 when it was turned into a citadel by King Luis II and later Summer residence by King Carlos I, but it must have been (I believe) during World War II and the influence of the exiled Royal families that its final "touch" was determined.

I hadn't been to Cascais for a while ... but woke up this morning wanting to get on the train along the coast and just stroll around the city, "re-visiting" the beaches, the House/Museum Count Castro Guimarães and Casa de Santa Maria.

To my surprise I was granted the privilege of visiting the Lighthouse of Santa Marta (dating back to the Seventeenth Century) now turned into a small Museum and the recently inaugurated "House of the Stories"- Museum of the Portuguese painter Paula Rego (2009) for the first time.

The Bay beach (Left). The Queen beach in the heart of the city (Right).

Museum/House of the Count Castro Guimarães (Restaured by the Count in 1910), as seen from the outside (Left) and as we walk into Gandarinha Park to visit its Museum (Right)

Cascais, as seen from the fortress (Left). The Lighthouse of Santa Marta and Casa de Santa Maria (Right)

Casa das Histórias - Paula Rego Museum 

"Every picture tells a story", said Paula Rego ... and this is as true of her paintings as it is of the images of Cascais ...


Saturday, 21 August 2010

"Bits and Pieces" ...

From left to right ; from the top to the bottom row - Francisco Balacó;  Antonio Medo; Álvaro Gonçalves, Policarpo Alves; Carlos Bastos; Manuel Santos; Manuela Rocha; Luis Brito; Manuel Marreiros ; Olinda; José Veiga; Ana Coimbra; Nelson Barreto; José Moreno; Maria Louro; Diamantino; António Magalhães; Pedro Moreira; Henrique Silva; Ana Mafalda; Domingos; Azevedo Júnior; Leonor Bandeiras; Rui Miranda; Carlos Rodrigues; Feliz Ramos ; Reis; Luisa Vieira; Eusébio Flores; Cristina Nogueira; Hélio Santos; Helena Santos; Campos; Graça Couto; Rui Pignateli and myself)

Coming across this Christmas card, gently handed to everyone who worked at ANA Training Centre in 1988 by its Head Director, made me go back in time ...  and inevitably think about the inumerous changes ... the ones, which have affected many of us and those which still affect some of us and go beyond the historical event  of having had ANA split into two enterprises ...

Many of us don't physically look the same ..., though I believe most of us look better ...
Some of us "are" ANA and some of us "are" NAV, with two "being" INAC ...
Three of us are no longer alive ... and some of us are "dormant" ... trying to "survive" ...
Some of us have retired ... and one of us left the enterprise not long after this photo was taken ...
Few of us are about to retire ... but  the rest of us have still a long way to go ...
The outside building still looks the same ... but many changes have "taken over" the inside ...

I  can't help thinking of the poem "Bits and pieces", whose author I don't recall ...

"[...] You think on the many who have moved into your hazy memory. You look on those present and wonder"... and yet "You find you are made up to bits and pieces of all who ever touched your life and you are more because of it ... and would be less if they had not touched you".

2001 Circuit around the Cape Verde islands - First stop - São Nicolau island

Having never been to any other Cape Verde island but Sal (for professional purposes), in  2001 following the reading of "Notes Atlantiques" by the French ethnologists Jean-Yves Loud and Viviane Lièvre, which further raised my curiosity, I decided it was time for me to finally "discover" Cape Verde and "travel" beyond the dozens of books I had already read about the islands and the Cape Verdean culture.

My first stop was the windward  volcanic island of  São Nicolau, first inhabited in the sixteeth century, where West Africa's first seminary was established setting up the high educational standards which characterised (I believe) the overall high school education  in Cape Verde over a significant period of time. 

Although I had heard of the frequent droughts,  and the arid lunar like landscape what impressed me most, amazingly enough, was the intense green colour of the varying folliage on the hills and valleys ...   (it had been an exceptional year ... it had rained enough to cover the whole island of "specks" of green).

I stayed at a hillside Pension just a few minutes away from the town Square, whose roof top dining patio provided its guests with one of the nicest views over the city.  The day after my arrival and by suggestion of a German guest also staying at Pensão Jardim, we climbed to the highest point of the island - Monte Gordo (1,312 m high). A fairly hard climb for me, I must confess, but whose effort was payed off with  the awarding of some of the most amazing views. It is said that the biggest dragon trees are to be seen on the way up, though I only  manages to photograph middle sized ones.

Small chapel in Cabeçalinho, whose church bell is a wheel-rim (Left). Bending tree (Right), considered  a symbol of Cape Verde ( It is said Cape Verdeans may "bend", but don't break irrespective of the hardships they have to face).

Dragon tree (an officially endangered species) on the way up to Monte Gordo

My last two days were spent  on trips to Tarrafal, a small village located by the sea with a fishing harbour, a well known tuna fish factory and beaches of black sand rich in in titanium and iodine.

I was impressed with the island and when it was time for me to leave and fly back via Sal (once you didn't have direct flights between  the windward islands) on my way to Boavista island ... I  felt a certain anguish ...  (almost similar to the Cape Verdean anguish of having to leave though wanting to stay) ...

All photos taken by myself except the top photo in which I had reached Monto Gordo taken by Dr. Achim Lewandowski.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Solidarity gestures ... (still) or the forthcoming trip to Cape Verde ...

 Ivanilda (Left) and Paula (Right)

Ivanilda has got herself a "godmother". Paula has decided to pay for her school fees and has bought her a pink dress I'll be giving her in two weeks. I didn't resist buying her a swim suit as well, as I have decided to take more than just Nessinha to the beach. I think it might be a lot funnier for her if I take a small group of children to play with her on the beach, this being the reason why I have also bought some swim shorts for Eduardo. 

A violet T-shirt, some white pants and a  brown monkey scarf I have bought for Leinira together with a  blue and whiteT-shirt, some  blue shorts and swim shorts I have bought for Eduardo (Left). A pink dress Paula has bought for Ivanilda and a three piece bathing suit I have bought for her (Right).

A  green and whiteT-shirt and a skirt that goes with it, together with  a beach set with bucket, sand moulds and spades I bought for Nessinha, as well as a swim suit Carla has bought for Leidina.

I have been given a huge amount of toys by Cristina (God bless her), for which I can't find space in my baggage  this time but which I am considering  taking  with me next year (at least some of them) or come up with an idea of having them sent, as most of these children have never had any toys with the exception of the ones they make themselves. 

Every gesture is welcome and the truth is the few colleagues and friends who have helped me so far, have already made a difference in these children's lives.