Saturday, 31 May 2014

Le Cargo by Faustin Linyekula at Teatro São Luis, Lisbon - The 30th of May 2014

I didn't know what to expect out of this performance once the Congolose choreographer and dancer Faustin Linyekula, the solo artist on stage was unknown to me but I must confess the fifty minute performance had me hooked onto him and his storytelling.

 "I am a storyteller but I am not here to tell stories. I am here to dance", he stated as he took us along with him on the journey back to Obilo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he spent part of his childhood. An intimate journey he shared with the audience ... a journey that had us immersed in the night dances his ancestors used to dance and that he used to listen to as a child ... a journey of his own doubts ...

In the quest of whether his internationally acclaimed works had made any difference in the course of the history of his country there was the firm conviction that "mere art can stand up against the enormous ugliness of life."

Engaged in a physical dialogue with the music of Flamme Kapaya Linyekula danced majestically, moving every piece of his body and interspersing his raw moves with very subtle moves of his fingers  and supple body rocking.


The circle of stage lights arranged on the stage floor which he stepped onto half way through his story telling played an important role in casting huge projected shades behind him in what may have been the ambiguous image of a man who despite being connected to his ancestors is nevertheless alone and apart.

The sense of loss was rather strong as the dances and stories were repeated simultaneously and as he unplugged the stage lights connecting the audience to a laptop flashing a slide of his trip home.

I loved the simplicity of the means Linyekula used  to share such a powerful story ... his story ... the story of a storyteller who wonders if telling a story can make a difference.

Having been made aware that Festival Alkantara, under whose auspices he was invited for the second time to Lisbon, may no longer continue and having heard that a manifesto was going on Linyekula mentioned it as he was thanking the public after the final ovation, believing people's voice might make a  difference.

"You have to be pretty crazy to believe stubbornly - in spite of the twistings of history, the wars, the revolutions, the regimes - in the celebration of beauty." - Faustin Linyekula

Coreography and performance: Faustin Linyekula
Music: Flamme Kapaya and Obilo drummers
Production: Studios Kabako, Virginie Dupray
Co-production - Centre National de Danse- Pantin Studios supported by DRAC - Île de France and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Friday, 30 May 2014

My father's notebook by Kader Abdolah ...

Having read a novel by Kader Abdolah a month ago I decided to buy all of his published books translated into English and thus opted to pick My Father's Notebook, his first published book, which I have just finished reading.
The novel depicts the rather troubling story of Iran (a country I intend to visit soon) as seen through the eyes of a deaf-mute tapestry mender from a remote province where despite the beauty of the Persian rugs and an ancient cave associated to a legend nothing else seems to be worth mentioning.

The cave with an ancient cuneiform inscription becomes a mystery throughout the whole book and the heart of the symbolism which both Shahs and Ayatollahs tend to take advantage of at different periods in the unfolding of the history of Iran.

A notebook written by the carpet mender in the same cuneiform script found in the cave ends up finding its way into the hands of his son who has been forced  to flee abroad and as it is gradually being deciphered we as readers are taken through a myriad of traditional Iranian folk tales, poems and mostly a journey of discovery on which a strong paternal bond, a sense of belonging and loss are highlighted.

There is something rather special in regards to the way Kader Abdolah writes as we are subtly embedded in the saga of the family and from a certain point onwards  feel the pain, the nostalgia and even the remorse of its characters as if they were our next of kin.

Of the many extracts I could have copied down two have had an impact on me, maybe because they are connected to loss and longing, two aspects which often make up the overall national Portuguese characteristics .

"Loss is an experience that eventually leads to a new road, to a new opportunity to think of things in a different way. Losing is not the end of everything, but merely the end of a particular way of thinking. if you fall in one place, get up again in another. That's a cardinal rule of life." 

"A nightingale once sat with a bright petal in its beak,
But this memento of its loved one merely made it weep.
Why bewail this token of your heart's desire? I cried.
It makes me long for her all the more, the song bird sighed."

"A stunning and ambitious novel by a singular literary talent - My Father's notebook is at once a mastered chronicle of a culture's troubled voyage into modernity and the poignant, timeless tale of a son's enduring love."

"My Father's notebook is a touching and evocative portrayal of individuals adrift in a harsh world. Its method of using a family saga to clothe the bare bones of history is by no means new but in Kader Abdolah's skilful hands the reader forgets the convention and focuses on the humanity."

Friday, 23 May 2014

The latest book I have read ...

I have just finished reading "The tremendous world I have inside my head - Franz Kafka" by Louis Begley, which because of being a biographical essay pleased me enormously in as much as it provided me with an insight into the world inside Kafka's head and his ambivalent and tortured soul.

In the form of four chapters on Kafka's family and employment, his Jewishness, his love life and his final illness this extremely well written book unveils facts of his emotional life that I, similarly to many, consider to be crucial for one's understanding of his writing.

 " Begley cannily allows Kafka to speak his own words as much as possible, weaving selections from letters, journals, novels and stories into a biographical narrative."

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Last considerations regarding the Armenian circuit ...

Certain trips might end up being reduced to a number of images, souvenirs and not much more, though I must consider I've either been lucky or privileged because mine have lingered on my mind for reasons, which go beyond what is visible.

Trip companions and guides should not affect one's ultimate objective or at least the one behind the setting off into a particular country but the reality is they might  and once more I've been privileged because my latest solo trips have had me surrounded by rather interesting people, exceptions not being accounted for due to their overall insignificant influence. 

Exceptional guides, who seem to do more than what they are expected to and thus convey a genuine interest in doing what they are doing, as well as in the people they have under their guidance, not to mention their knowledge, capacity to impart it and professionalism are rare but do exist, Armine, the amazing young lady who captivated us all being amongst those.

I still recall her special story telling voice as she caught our attention whilst reading out those intriguing Armenian legends on the bus ... her personality ... her persona ...

Marie France and little Castille deserve to be mentioned as having been the trip companions I spend most time with and whose little gestures and precious moments I hold onto dearly.

Armenian people' s endurance and sense of nationality touched me and that's certainly something I will hold onto forever.

Note: The last downloaded four photos were kindly sent to me by Marie France and Annick.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Searching for answers ... or Searching for Sugar Man ...

As I was reading the news a few days ago and came across the suicide of a 36 year old Academy and Bafta award winner I instantaneously asked myself the almost obvious question - why should a promising young producer have put an end to his life ... before even having taken notice of who the person was they were referring to ...

It wasn't but a few moments later that Malik Bendjelloul's name rang a bell and I realised I had recently bought  the documentary that ultimately brought him such notoriety. I hadn't watched it yet, though I must confess I felt an immediate urge to, as if praising his life achievement might "bring him to life", which is in a way what he did (I would find out later) by bringing back to life a myth of the 70's, a rather mysterious American singer, Sixto Rodriguez, whose "Cold Fact" songs had had a tremendous impact in South Africa's youth, an impact only the South Africans seemed to be aware of, once he was virtually unknown in the USA, where he had had his first album produced and had sold  6 records.

Malik Bendjelloul's documentary details the efforts of two Cape Town fans of the late 70's  to find out who this Rodriguez really was, what had become of him and whether the rumour of his suicide on stage was true.

The whole documentary is inspiring, powerful and magic, as magic as the poetry of Rodriguez .... his voice and above all who he really is personality wise... his wisdom ... his humbleness ...  and his "greatness" in spite of leading a life of hard manual work.

Late in life he was granted the privilege of performing in South Africa for an audience of thousands of  supporters who once felt "supported" by him, namely throughout the apartheid period, as well as many who were indirectly affected by decisions taken by the "apartheid" fighting generation. 

Many questions were answered though many more were left unanswered ... an aura of mystery will always linger on in regards to Rodriguez and so will it as far as Bendjelloul  is concerned ...

An absolute "must" documentary ...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Armenian illuminated manuscrip painting reproductions taken from Armenishe Miniatur

One of Armenia's contribution to the world of Art is said to be the illuminated manuscript. Extensive sets of pictures were used to illustrate manuscripts of the books of the Bible with the intended purpose of aiding to worship. 

Very few examples  are said to have survived which pre-date the Arab conquest in 640 and the subsequent repression of Christianity  by the Muslins is acknowledged as having strongly affected  the artistic activity, though from the end of the Arab occupation in the 9th century it flourished again.

The large number of this latter that survived till our days does testify to how valuable they were considered and how well guarded they were in times of war. Thought of as pledges for the salvation of both donors and creators the manuscripts are very seldom anonymous productions, including the names of those involved.

Having bought a book on those I couldn't help photographing some of its pages, so as to share them with the people who haven't had any direct or indirect access to them.

The Presentation of the three Kings - 6th and 7th centuries - Edshmiastin (left). The Mother of God with the Child  - 989 - Edshmiastin (right).

Meeting Maria by the fountain - 10th century - Gospel. Cod. 283, page 3 (left). The Christening of Christ - 1033  Gospel. Cod. 283, page 4 ((right)

Four Apostles - 1018 - Gospel. Cod. 4804, page 7 - Talasha Monastery - donor - Kchot

The birth of Christ and the visitation of the three Kings - 1038 - Gospel. Cod. 6201, page 5 - donor - Taron (left). Crucifixion - 1038 - Gospel. Cod. 6201, page 7 - donor - Taron (right)

The Evangelist Mathews - 1053 - Gospel. Cod. 3733, page 3 - Monastery of Sandghkawank - donor - Arsharunik - Painter - Howhannes Sandghkawanezi

11th century - page of the Gospel, Cod. 963 (left). Title page of St; Marcus gospel - 1256 - Gospel from Seitun, Cod. 10450,  - Monastery of Hromkla - painter - Toros Roslin (right).

Crucifixion - 11the century - Mughni Gospel, Cod.7736, page 19 - Arscharunik

Sailors throwing Jonas into the sea - 1286 -   Taken from a book pertaining to Hetum II - Cod. 979, page 199.

The Annunciation - 1330 - Gospel. Cod. 2929, page5, Vaspurakan - painter - Kirakos (left). The sacrifice of Abraham and the Annunciation - 1319 - Gospel. Cod. 7456, page 4 - Arzkz, Vaspurakan -  painter - Vardan (right).

The Mother of God - 1579 - Gospel. Cod. 5579, page 25 - Chisan, Vaspurakan - painter - Chatschatur Chisanzi.

(To be continued)

Shadowland by the Company Pilobolus - CCB, Lisbon - The 14th of May 2014

Shadowland seemed to be the most adequate show my daughter and I should be going to on her birthday, not only because it was a rather special day, but because of being within the realm of Artistic performances, which is what her adult life has been about and also the fact that it was related to shadow projected dreams and the long and unexpected journey most of us have to endure to reach the no land and make it our "land".

In rhythmic compasses which were sometimes ballad-like and yet other times frenetically harsh as rock the choreographies were both acrobatic and poetical bringing out the best of the contemporary dancers on stage as they "built" the ongoing human sculptures and scenarios of the story from up front and behind the screen. Many of the "projected" images were outstanding with multimedia techniques and the ancestral Chinese shadow theatre being at the heart of it.

I believe we, as viewers,  must have almost certainly put ourselves in the shoes of the girl in search of her path in what took one hour and a half ... an eventful path with symbolic encounters that must have also made us ponder on our own life's path.

Pilobolus ' performance ended with an extra surprise for the audience ... the building up of monuments which still define our identity ... - The Portuguese guitar ...  The  Monument to the Discoveries .... the Lisbon crows ... the bridges on the river Tagus ... an d finally a thanking word in our language  ...

A majestic performance, which is really worth being watched ...

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Teresa Milheiro and her puppets ... or the passage to the other side

I have been recently given the opportunity of discovering an exquisite side of creative puppetry construction and the ultimate pleasure of being introduced to Teresa Milheiro's artistry and her thirteen puppets on display at Museu da Marioneta in a temporary exhibition - Passage to another side - on the Portuguese dramaturg Gil Vicente's revisited characters.  

The thirteen puppets are fairly tiny little creatures with a voice of their own ... the "voice" their "constructor", similarly to Geppetto, has instilled on everyone of them. They are little jewels, not because they have been made of noble metals but because of what they stand for symbolically.

In The Devil/Angel one torso double character representing the struggle between the good and evil within ourselves, the artist has used gold (simbolysing power, money, corruption and lust) to make the Devil and silver (imparting purity) for the angel.

The Dumb, depicted as an intoxicated football fan living a miserable life and venting all his frustations in the football games ends up going to heaven because of his poorly spirited life being turned into a Mosquito, according to the artist.

The Emperor said to belong to the group of the powerful and untouchable lot, this being the reason as to why it was saved by God in  Gil Vicente's Barca da Glória, depicts the selfish and destructive power of those being supported by the complicity of their entourage, being transformed into a flying Melanocetus, an awful looking fish as dark as oil (allusion to the oil power), whose wings may be of no use.

The Pope represented as a physically decaying character symbolising the Church and the Religious power is turned into an Opisthoproctus fish with tubular-shaped eyes looking upwards as if to give the illusion of praying to the skies, though the underlying idea is to convey the fact that one does not see what one has no intention of seeing.

The Dumb and the Mosquito; The Devil/Angel and The Pope and the Opisthoproctus (from left to right).

The Devil/Angel (detail)

The Gossipmonger symbolising Human trafficking and obsession with image and perfection turns into an Octopus upon dying, which represents the mafia with all its tentacles. Gold has been used for the eyes, thus representing the profit and money-like obsession. 

The Gossipmonger and the Octopus

The Pope and  the Opisthoproctus; The Emperor and the Melanocetus; The Devil/Angel; The Palestinian (from left to right)

The Palestinian, being the only solo character has similarly to the Jewish character in Gil Vicente no right to salvation because of not wanting to convert. For teresa Milheiro this particular character represents the average Muslin and not the Terrorist and therefore its focus is on the suffering of a people in an endless war.

An unexpected surprise ... (whilst waiting for Plaxus Polaire's performance). It will be on display till the 31st of August  in one of the rooms pertaining to the cloisters of the Monastery of Bernardas, where Museu da Marioneta is housed and is really worth being looked at for the beauty of the little puppets and their symbolism but above all because of Teresa Milheiro's creative artistry.