Monday, 31 May 2010

The children who participated in the workshops in Cape Verde during 2009/2010

None of the workshops in Cape Verde would have had any importance, had it not been for the children who participated in them. Many of these children had never had photos taken, except for school identification purposes and so I would like to show them my gratitude by having their group photos published, as I believe some of them will play an important role in their communities one day.

Calheta de São Miguel, Santiago island
"Cape Verde in the perspective of the children of Calheta" workshop - April 2009 and "Arts and crafts" workshop - February 2010

Second row (left to right) - Gerson, Ismael, Kevin, Patrick, Pedrilson, Veinilson.

First row (left to right) - Patrick, Keven, Neuza, Marline, Leinira, Simone, Juliza, Ana, Josseanne and Lavínia

"Free time occupational workshop" during August 2009- Sal island
Standing (left to right) - Zé Carlos, Deivi, Leonardo, Perry, Samuel, Thiery and Airton.

Sitting (left to right) - Hélio, Clóvis, Bruno, Daiana, Djayde, Camila, Mana and Loridania

Some  very young village children, who followed Hélio (standing up) and ended up participating in the "free time occupational workshop" during 3 days

Calheta de São Miguel, Santiago island
"Painting and decoration of masks" workshop - February 2010
Jilson, Nessa, Keven Patrick, Renildo, Bruno Miguel, Nilson, Júnior, Denilson Keven,Edgar, Aldino, Valdir Nataniel, Elisiana, Larissa, José Domingos surrounded by the Bd sport active director (Beat Clerc) and a local teacher (Bernardino)

Calheta de São Miguel, Santiago island
" Reporters" workshop - February 2010
Second row (left to right) - Cesaltina, Ludmila and Zezito

Front row (left to right) - Zézinha, Anícia, Carina and André

Bd sport active group who participated in the "Development of the Portuguese Language reading and writing skills" workshop - March 2010 (without the masks, once these children also participated in the masks workshop)

Because not all were present when the group photos were taken, I am including photos of those children taken during the various workshops.

Márcio, Valter, Keven, Beto ("Arts and Crafts" workshop)

Ivanilda and Justina ("Arts and Crafts" workshop)

Tarine and Verónica ("Arts and Crafts" workshop)

Eduardo, Pedrilson and Andelson ("Arts and Crafts" workshop)

Carlos, Larissa, Diogo and a young man whose name I don't recall as he only participated one full day in the free time occupational workshop in Sal

Leandro  and Yanick who participated in the free time occupational workshop in Sal

Ismael, whose face cannot be seen in  any of the group photos but who participated in both the  " Cape Verde under the perspective of the children of Calheta" and the "Arts and Crafts" workshops in Calheta de São Miguel.

 Bd sport active girls

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The "Schoolboy play" or " There is no subject" by Roman Paska

I  had read  quite a bit about this puppet play and its author, prior to having decided it would be one of the chosen plays to watch during the International Festival of puppets and animated forms, but  in no way did it correspond to what I was expecting.

It definately exceeded  all of my expectations. I was absolutely overwhelmed  by the whole setting of the scene - three tables and a number of throughly sellected objects, four amazingly expressive puppets on stage moved by two puppeteers, one of them the author of the play, who also gave voice to the puppets, inflecting it in three very distinct accents in English, so as to reinforce the origin and personality characteristcs of the very different schoolboy puppets (one of them being Hitler and another one Wittgenstein), as the sequence of scenes unfolded from table to table as if progressing in different scenes within the same scenario - a boarding school where "identity crisis happen to everyone from the most famous to the most notorious and the most ordinary of individuals".

The text was dense and deep with specks of humour, though the interspersed music (at the right times) helped to lighten the plot. There were moments in which I felt I was no longer watching a puppet play but back at the boarding school of nuns I was at, through childhood and adolescence, reciting well known poets,  wondering about the essence of existence and other problematic issues .

"The search for selfhood is a rite of passage we all have to endure" ... and that's what this play was about ... no subject and every subject.

Author and direction: Roman Paska
Puppeteers: Roman Paska and Gabriel Hermand-Priquet
Scenography and costumes: Roman Paska and Donna Zakowska
Lighting design: Stphen Strawbridge
Sound design: Paul Prestipino

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Expressing my gratitude

Whenever I travel to Cape Verde, namely to Santiago island, I  always carry with me a lot of  school material and artistic items to either work with the children or leave behind for both children and teachers to use. Books, games and small useful gifts are also among the things I carry.

In this last one year and a half,  six workshops were carried out (5 in Calheta de São Miguel, Santiago island and 1 in Espargos, Sal island with  a total number of 102 children and young adolescents). 

In none of the workshop reports  have I mentioned two people, whom I feel I should express my gratitude to:

Sandro the manager of a store in Moscavide, where I have bought most of the school material and the gifts for the children, because of having helped me sellect some of the items and many times reduced the total price I had to pay for them, therefore allowing me to save some money to spend on any other material which might still be necessary ...

and Lourdes, who owns a photo shop for doing very much the same in regards to the disposable cameras I bought for the "reporters", the photo albums and photo frames, not to mention the printing of the whole amount of photos I duplicate for each of the children involved in every project, so that they may remember them one day.

Sandro and his co-workers  in the store

 Lourdes working at her photo studio

I would also like to acknowledge the team who works at Bulhosa bookstore in Twin Towers, Sete Rios for the precious help and support.


Friday, 28 May 2010

"A festa da fita"

There are countries where some  specific "rituals" play an important role, namely when they are "cross-road" moments towards different  levels and stages of life.
Some of these rituals seem so distinct from the ones we are used to in western societies that  there is an almost natural tendency to either consider them "weird" and lacking any relevance or too folkloric to accomodate within our taste.

As I was working on Sal island last August, I came across a "festa da fita", whose literal traslation is "the ribbon party", which marks the green light at the cross-roads of pre-primary/primary school education, meaning children will no longer attend kindergarten, having reached an age and "responsibility level" that will allow them to move forward onto primary school.

Being given a ribbon is what most  5/6 year old children look forward to, once it means they have achieved the minimum required level so as to move ahead, based on their learning and behavioural attitude development.
It  is as an important moment for them, as it is for parents and teachers alike, while they gather to participate in the  ritual ceremony.

I was impressed, or  I should maybe say surprised to see the children dressed up like "young adults" ..., this being part of the whole ritual ...
A ribbon, like a  prize medal is something one is entitled to because of  personal effort  and commitement...

How wonderful it would be if we were all able to win our "ribbon" along the chalenging circuit stages of life!..

Photo of  5 year old Loridania as she was awarded the ribbon - Espargos, Sal island (Cape Verde) - 2009

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The presence of art in one's daily life

I feel Art should "invade" our enterprise walls, so as to remind us that there are other issues beyond the working routine, sometimes deprived of any strokes of creativity and which are, surprisingly enough, unknown to many and looked down by many others within the Aviation milieu.

Notwithstanding the fact that I may partly understand why there is not much space for "canvases" of  unprecise colours in a world of precison, others in so called underdeveloped countries like Cape Verde have managed to incorporate both within the same "space".

I have seen it at ASA in the form of colourful paintings hanging from the airport walls depicting characters of the everyday Cape Verdian life, or even  the ceramic life size sculpted characters sitting proudly outside the Terminal building.

The richness of the simplicity portrayed in the Cape Verdian art and handicrafted forms of art is touching and astonishingly creative ... as simple and creative are the people, who excel their talent in a wider variety of expressions, taking advantage of inexpensive materials, when it comes to panting and sculpure,  though "impregnating"  them of inner significance and national pride.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The sublime beauty of nature ...

According to Ansel Adams "You don't take a photograph, you make it" ... and that's precisely what I felt when I captured the natural beauty in these two photographs.

I "made" them ... I made them mine.

Photos "taken" at Lake Atitlan, San Palopo, Guatemala and  Seurasaari, Helsinki, Finland

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Lost and found ...

I woke up this morning with a children's story on my mind and as I moved around the house trying to get ready for work ... the main character' s thoughts submerged me, as I unsuccessfully tried to remember the title of the story and even the character's name, though the only thing I seemed to recall was that it was an umbrella left on a bus, whose unexpected trip ended in a mouldy "lost and found" room overcrowded with other "relatives" of his and a few other characters he had never considered being with, let alone talk to.

The whole story is filled with his toughts as time goes by and the initial hope of sighting someone walk through the door to collect him seems unlikely.

I woke up this morning with heavy rain falling down ...  and a sad sensation of feeling lost and wanting to be found ...

(Helsinki - photo taken on a menacing rainy day that never came)

Monday, 24 May 2010

Angola "revisited" ...

My daughter was telling me yesterday that I tend to regularly inject my African memories into my daily routine, and the truth is I can't help doing it, not so much because I miss being in those far away territories but because some of the experiences I went through in some of those countries, namely Angola, have had a bearing on the way I see things nowadays.

As I was watching a photo exhibition organized by a Human Rights Organization, I came across a photo taken in 1997, depicting an Angolan family, underneath which was written as follows "(...) our interview was interrupted by two plain  cloth policemen and we spent the rest of the day in a police station and  finally got transferred to an immigration office (...)".

Engaging into conversation with anyone who could  eventually reveal the real situation in Unita invaded areas back in 2001 would arbitrarily lead to police retaliation or having to pay a fine as  in accordance with the seriousness of the "crime".

Taking photographs of Angolan statues, rivers and even the sky without having requested previous written authorization (with the exception of Agostinho Neto's mausoleum, which could not be photographed), was subject to pecuniary penalization or subtraction of the camera involved in the "crime".
I went through this situation and for having taken a picture of the sky soon after my arrival to Sumbe province, which I was visiting for the first time, I had to deliver a pallet containing 20 Cuca bottles (local beer)  and 4 bottles of wiskey to the emigration leading officer, in order to have my camera back.

What I felt to be an excess of security consciousness, based on the provided explanation, regarding airports,  rivers and even  other keys areas,  was to be later changed to what I then considered to be a form of corruption, that is to say, to do whatever you needed to do, even  the simple act of selling vegetables, fruit and fish in specific areas not contemplated in the law, irrespective of there not being any regulatory rules, you had to pay, that being the case of the already miserable street vendors and fishermen. And to further add to the situation, the applied fine depended on "arbitrary" factors, such as the colour of your skin, the clothes you were wearing or the amount of mercandise, etc.

In 2006, I somehow changed my opinion about the whole system, which policemen always seemed to be involved in, when I was stopped for over speed  limit,  whilst walking down Luanda bay.
It sounds unbelievable but it is true. 

I initially felt that maybe because of the proximity of the fortress overlooking the street I was caught on, in over walking speed limit, I should have slowed down ..., but the naked truth was, policemen had not been paid their salaries for quite a while and in a subtle "begging" yet  blunt way, made some money out of those, whose argumentative capacity was not enough to win over the imposing force.

"Opportunity makes the thief "or is it  the necessity that leads to it?

Note: Two paintings I bought in  Luanda in 2006

Friday, 21 May 2010

Cape Verde ...

It shocks me to hear  many Portuguese people, who have sellected Cape Verde as their holiday destination say upon their return that the only thing they found worth seeing were the beaches ...

They reduce the description of their stay to ...  the sun ... the sand  ... the warm temperatures of the sea ... and eventually the food provided by those huge resorts located along the coastline, whose atmosphere can only  be compared to the atmosphere of any hotel in Europe.
... and if anyone tries to engage into a conversation related to cultural issues and the people... they look at you as if in  disbelief as to what you are trying  to say, and  disdainfully  respond "What culture?" ... "What people?", displaying an utter indifference and ignorance.

The beaches in Cape Verde are undeniably enchanting ... but so is the people, once you get to know them for who they are and the way they affectionately give themselves to everyone  ... 

and ...  then there is their example of tenacity and struggle against adversity that very few of us have ever had or will ever have  ...

and ... I could just continue talking about the wide variety of music genres,  and ... the singing poetry in everything they say ... and  ... a never ending sequence of  everything that makes Cape Verde a very unique and special country  ...

Nessinha and Elias

Nessinha and Elias are two small children living in Calheta who have "gained"  two Portuguese "Godmothers" who will provide them with whatever may be necessary for them to attend school.

Elias will be attending Primary school next September, whilst Nessinha will be starting pre-primary school.

Elias already mentions Gabriela, whose name he knows by heart, as the lady who sent him some  "special" clothes and school material from Portugal.

Nessinha does not  yet know what my next visit to Calheta will hold for her, as Sandra will provide for her future needs.

Although they come from  very distinct families, once Elias lives with both parents who have financial difficulties to cope with and Nessinha has been "droped" at her great grand mother's because her father was virtually an adolescent when she was born, both children are well cared for under the circumstances.

 But being loved is one thing and being allowed the privilege of attending school is another ...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Consciousness awareness ...

"El trabajo voluntario es una escuela creadora de consciencias" Che Guevara

As I was travelling through Cuba, I came across this meaningful statement  by Che Guevara in Santa Clara.
I feel that consciousness awareness does not necessary lead  us to doing anything, unless we are willing to actually get down to doing something about it.

Having been to Africa several times doing voluntary work has further reinforced the idea I had that many children simply can't go to school because of not having the money to pay for the school fees, or when they do, because their parents or relatives do make an effort not to breach the rules set up by the Government (this being the case in Cape Verde), it does affect the precarious budget of their families most of the time.

I would be lying to myself if I ignored this fact ... , this being the reason why I will be soon supporting one of the children who are in need - Leinira, who has got a few brothers and sisters and whose parents have been making a tremendous effort to keep them  all at school, naturally hoping to ensure a better life for them. There are three more girls within the community who also need to be helped ... and I just hope I can find someone who will voluntarily want to help them ... 

From top to bottom - Leinira, Neuza, Simone and Tarine.

Note: The school fees are 10/20 Euros a year (primary/secondary respectively) including the school insurance and a light meal a day.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


I was astounded by the meaningful beauty of the stage sequence of "Void" as it unfolded  ... 

The two brilliant performers incorporated theatre acting, dance, singing and guitar playing and everything else they could, from their long  interwoven rasta hair to the magical ... almost indescribable sound of the olive oil can adapted guitars  to create an atmosphere that easily transported me back to the islands of Brava and São Vicente, I haven't been to since 2001. 

The many who stood up to applaud the performers of "Void"  at the Theatre Viriato in Viseu last weekend, paid tribute to Clara Andermat´s staged work but also to the Cape Verdian culture.

Leaving behind ...

The first cemitery I visited, with a different intent than to mourn those who no longer lived among us, was in Macao, as part of a group tour in which  we were to become "acquainted" with those who had once settled and lived there, by reading what had been written on their tombstones.

It is undeniably true that one cannot dissociate death from life  ... and bearing in mind what Chuck Palahniuk once stated  - " We all die. The goal is not to live forever, the goal is to create something that will"  - everytime I walk onto a cemetery yard, be it in Guatemala, in the heart of isolated mountains or ... in Finland right in the middle of a peaceful area surrounded by bushes and overlooking the sea or even by the side of a road in Tunisia ... I can't help but wonder (even when there is nothing written on the tombstone) what those,  whose resting tombs stand before me, created and left behind.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

As if ...

I don't exactly know what Mia and I were expecting to find within our souls, as we flew to Helsinki in search of an image taken by Faye in Tuusula, which was now the cover of a postumous publication, "The angel of the North", dedicated to her on the second anniversary of her death ...

It may sound ridiculous to have wanted to catch a moment we didn't share ... to possess an image which was not ours ... but which we wanted ... as if we could bring to life the minute it was taken ...  or as if we could have her back with us ...  and wipe away every moment that followed ... as if ... as if ...

And in this sequence of  our many "as ifs "... we let ourselves be taken by images we knew she had not taken ...  but  which she could have easily taken, had she been with us ...

But had she not ?... in every place we visited  ... as if the three of us were holding hands as in  a recent past ... in every thought we needn't share ... in every tear that unhesitatingly rolled down our faces .

"Time has gone by
And yet this day
is still a gentle touch of your arms (...)"

... as if ...

Monday, 17 May 2010

The sense of personal religiousness ...

I have always been drawn to the atmosphere of silence reigning inside churches from an early age ... though at the time, there seemed to be more to it than just the religious silence ... I was strongly attracted to the naïve looking angels observing every move I made ... from every angle of the heavily covered walls with paintings depicting scenes of heaven and hell and various sculpted versions of Christ,  the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and Saints in all shapes and forms ... the strong mixed scent of fresh flowers, burnt candles and incense ... the almost inaudible prayers of the reclined old ladies kneeling down ... in virtually any corner of every church ...

Whilst travelling through Guatemala and Mexico I witnessed the fact that the act of walking into a church is not much diffferent than going to a friend's ... silence is not what is expected of you when visiting the ones you care for ... or those you want to talk to ...

The whole solemn attitude which caracterizes us, religion worshippers in Portugal particularly in celebration dates, turns into a joyful party around there ... with colourful baloons hanging in and out of the church walls ... gaiety filling the air ...  (Inside a church in Almolonga, Guatemala) ...

 ... and if the situation requires seriousness of expression, it can even assume the craving for the "under the wings" protection type of approach you'd look for in a father or an older and wiser brother ...

(Demonstrators  fighting against government resolutions camped outside the church of San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico)

The expression of religiousness is in fact vey personal and has to be looked at as such and not be misunderstood as it often is.