FREEDOM

FREEDOM
# 030
Sunday, September 23, 2018
SMS-pier, Waterkant #5, Paramaribo, Suriname.
55º09´173´´, North, 005º49´520´´ West

The huge wooden summer shed on the quay that faces the ship gradually transforms into a reception room, office, dressing studio and rehearsal space. Things are getting serious. We could comfortably settle here if the Fool’s Fate wasn’t an ongoing traveling onward. There’s even a panoramic kitchen thrice as spacious as our own in the artist saloon down the deck. This famous saloon, home to countless late night cabarets, now is a deserted and tidy museum piece that dazzles the curious onlookers visiting the ship. The biggest adventure is making the theater play that already promises to become quite a feature by the sheer fact that there’s not much of a theater routine in town. A shaky roof has closed it’s only theater hall. The title of the play is ‘Praise of Freedom”. It’s about an Amsterdam sailor, ambassador of the city’s free spirit, who returns to the country that has been for centuries the city’s property and back yard. Actually, the bulk of it’s first inhabitants are being brought as slaves by similar ships. The very existence of the country is due to slavery and this theme, being still very much alive, engages the actors. Now, the captain returns in an attempt to break the chains of social conventions, that are very much alive as well. The play ends in an carvalesque climax. The designer of this costumed fraternization is a talented 14 years old kid picked up from Paramaribo street-life who sleeps in the wheelhouse.

The premiere is delayed by half a month. The fools are gratefully adapting themselves to the southern speed of life. Already, the ship herself marks the pace by crossing the ocean at bicycle speed. We took advantage of the last half a year interlude to carry out a serious set of small repairs and replacements in the motor room, some overdue by decades. We introduced some unheard innovations like a tightly strung sunshade over the main deck or the dinghy hoisted to the stern. After a face-lift of paintwork and patchwork, the centenary lady becomes the bizarre, blue sculpture playing a beauty adrift. But as appointments and time tables become indefinite, so do destinations. Let the trade winds set the course. But where is my crew? Suriname people are terrified of the sea. The ship resembles, paraphrasing Pirandello, ‘A Stage in Search of Six Characters’. Before each of the six shows, another local personality gives a short lecture about freedom.

LIBERTAD
El enorme cobertizo de madera en el muelle frente al barco se transforma gradualmente en una sala de recepción, oficina, taller de costumes y espacio de ensayo. Las cosas se ponen serias. Aqui podríamos establecernos cómodamente si el destino de los locos no fue un continuo viaje hacia adelante. Incluso hay una cocina panorámica cinco veces más amplia que la nuestra en el salón de artistas. Este famoso salón, que ha albergado innumerables cabarets nocturnos, ahora es una pieza de museo bastante desierta y muy ordenada que deslumbra a los curiosos que visitan el barco. La mayor aventura es hacer la obra de teatro que ya promete convertirse en un gran evento por el simple hecho de que no hay mucha rutina de teatro en la ciudad. Un tejado inestable ha cerrado su único sala de teatro. El título de la obra es “Elogio de la Libertad”. Se trata de un marinero de Amsterdam, embajador del espíritu libre de la ciudad, que regresa al país que ha sido durante siglos la propiedad de su ciudad. En realidad, la mayor parte de sus primeros habitantes están siendo traídos como esclavos por barcos similares. La existencia misma del país se debe a la esclavitud. Esta tema sigue siendo muy vivo, involucrando a los actores. Esta vez el capitán regresa en un intento de romper las cadenas de las convenciones sociales, que son también bastante vivas. La obra termina en un clímax carvalesco. El diseñador de esta confraternización disfrazada es un niño talentoso de 14 años, recogido en las calles de Paramaribo que ahora vive en la timonera.

El estreno se ha retrasado por medio mes. Los locos se están adaptando con gratitud a la velocidad de la vida sureña. Ya, la nave misma está marcando el paso al cruzar el océano a la velocidad de una bicicleta. Hemos aprovechamos el último interludio de un medio año para llevar a cabo un conjunto serio de pequeñas reparaciones y reemplazos en la sala de máquinas, algunos retrasados por décadas. Hay algunas innovaciones inauditas, como un toldo bien tendido sobre la cubierta principal o el dingui alzado a popa. Con su nuevo facelift, la abuelita centenaria se convierte en una escultura absurda azul jueganda la hermosa a la deriva. A medida que las negociaciones se vuelven indefinidas, también lo hacen los destinos. Que los alisios marquen el rumbo. Pero, ¿dónde está mi tripulación? La gente de Suriname están aterrada del mar. El barco comienza a parecerse, parafraseando a Pirandello, “Un Escenario en Busca de Seis Personajes”. Antes de cada uno de los seis espectáculos, otro personaje local ofrece una breve charla sobre la libertad.

LIBERTÉ

L’immense abri en bois qui fait face au navire se transforme progressivement en salle de réception, bureau, atelier de costumes et espace de répétition. Les choses deviennent sérieuses. Nous pourrions confortablement nous y installer si le destin des Fous n’était pas un périple toujours en avant. Il y a même une cuisine panoramique cinq fois plus spacieuse que la nôtre dans le salon des artistes. Ce célèbre salon, qui a abrité d’innombrables cabarets nocturnes, est désormais une pièce de musée assez déserte et ordonnée qui éblouit les curieux qui visitent le navire. La plus grande aventure est de faire la pièce de théâtre qui promet déjà de devenir une grand event par le simple fait qu’il n’y ait pas beaucoup de théâtre dans la ville. Sa seule salle de théâtre s’est vu fermer par un toit instable. Le titre de la pièce est “L’Éloge de la Liberté”. Il s’agit d’un marin d’Amsterdam, ambassadeur de l’esprit libre de la ville, qui retourne dans le pays qui a été pendant des siècles la propriété et l’arrière-cour de la même ville. En fait, la pluspart de ses habitants avaient été emmenés comme des esclaves par des navires similaires. L’existence même du pays est due à l’esclavage. Ce thème est encore très vivant, engageant les acteurs. Cette fois, le capitaine revient dans une tentative de briser les chaînes de conventions sociales qui sont également assez vivantes. La pièce se termine par un climax carnavalesque. Le designer de cette fraternisation costumé est un gamin talentueux de 14 ans ramassé sur les rues de Paramaribo qui dort dans la timonerie.

La première est retardée d’un demi-mois. Les fous s’adaptent avec gratitude à la vitesse de la vie du sud. Déjà, le navire lui-même marque le temps en traversant l’océan à la vitesse d’une bicyclette. Nous avons profité de l’intervalle d’une demie année pour mener à bien une série de réparations et de remplacements de petite envergure dans la salle des machines dont certaines retardées des décennies. Nous avons introduit des innovations inédites, comme un parasol tendu sur le pont principal ou l’annexe hissée à la poupe. Après ses retouches bigarrés, la grand-mère centenaire juste est une bizarre sculpture bleue jouant la belle à la dérive. Comme les rendez-vous ont la tendance de devenir indéfinis, il en va de même pour les destinations. Que les alizés mettent le cap! Mais où est mon équipage? Les gens de Suriname sont terrifié par la mer. Le bateau commence à ressembler, paraphrasant Pirandello, à “Une Scène à la Recherche de Six Personnages”. Avant chacun des six spectacles, une autre personnalité locale donne une courte conférence sur la liberté.

BREAK THE CHAINS

# 029
Sunday, July 01, 2018
SMS-pier, Waterkant #5, Paramaribo, Suriname.
55º09´173´´, North, 005º49´520´´ West

The French Fool Frederic found himself in the jungle, teaching the captain of a small marroon community to fire the outdated cannon that no-one knows how it landed there. He himself learned the trade of shooting by restaging historical battles in full armor. In that way he took part, watched by the Queen of England among other heads of state, in the battle of Waterloo, be it two hundred years afterwards. The cannon’s barrel turned out to be choked with paper and jute as a result of futile attempts to make it work. It had to be thoroughly cleaned. The first trick is to mix flour with the gun powder to produce a fair amount of smoke. The powder you get by bus from the gun shop in French Guyana. The crucial point is not to exceed the dose of powder in proportion with the barrel. The cruel thing is you’re dressed up as European pirates to teach the descendants of run-away slaves to manipulate the very instrument that enslaved them. At six in the morning, the cannon gives the starting shot of Keti Koti, local slang for ‘break the chains’. It is the name of the country’s biggest festival that celebrates 155 years of the abolition of slavery.

Meanwhile, Frederic is becoming the national artillerist. Successfully we tested one of the outmoded cannons of Fort New Amsterdam, this time for the inauguration of an exposition about the five ethnic groups that make up the country and that these same guns brought together. In this country, the subject is very much alive. Our ship, descendant of the Dutch fleet that brought these guns and slaves, chooses the subject for her next show. She’s moored opposite the very building where they were traded. More surprisingly, the subject returns to home town Amsterdam to which the prestigious ‘Rijksmuseum’ dedicates an exposition. Today, the infamous slave registers get published on line, the bookkeeping of the last thirty years of Suriname’s human merchandise, with which the concerned can trace back their grand-mothers. Convulsed histories. Contemporary slavery outpaces all of it.

THE BOOMBOAT

# 028
Saturday, May 12, 2018
SMS-pier, Waterkant #5, Paramaribo, Suriname.
55º09´173´´, North, 005º49´520´´ West

THE BOOMBOAT

The arrival of the Ship of Fools provoked a small revolution on the last jetties that belong to the Suriname Maritime Company. Expectations were high. The Company, in a heroic attempt to remount the inexorable slope, speeded up the pace of patching the worm eaten wooden jetties so as to make a fine impression on the expected great run of crowd. For the same reason our neighbor geared up to prepare his jungle wood art craft shop. Then, the Company used the Fool’s arrival as the perfect excuse to chase away a enormous dilapidated pontoon that had squatted the quay for years. After having failed to become first a floating casino and then disco, it now sticks in the mud, 60 meter upstream, most likely for ages. It illustrates pretty well the state of the Company and, by extension, the Nation. It seems, reality hardly makes an impact on high expectations and devout intentions. In fact, the only vessel the Suriname Maritime Company still operates is the former ferry to the other side of the Suriname river, made obsolete by the new bridge. It functions occasionally as the National BoomBoat after the striking example of many a BoomBus that crisscross town as driving disco. At Dutch Kings day, two hundred Dutch virgins, who as stagiaire usually are bicycling around town in shorts, went collectively swinging there. A big blot on our paradise are two BoomBars that explode aloud at erratic moments. Our landing place seems doomed. So seems the Night Cabaret. The crowd never ran. There’s no club culture, no homogeneous public, no drinking habits, no money even for the drinks, nor, so far, a solid programming that could beat this all. But the quay retains an extraordinary beauty. A wooden roof alongside and as long as the ship serves as an antechamber for friends and guests and protect us from the enthusiastically alternating sunshine and rain showers. Everybody remains extremely cheerful.

Fifty miles upstream we find ourselves in another paradise, called Klaaskreek. We went by car. It’s a small ‘transmigration’ village of a Maroon community that was evicted from the jungle for the creation of an artificial lake. The maroon are the descendants of the slaves who escaped from the Dutch colonialists. They celebrate an impressive and heartfelt Heritage Festival with storytelling, singing, dancing and a fashion parade, all four wrapped up in an engaging contest that shows euphoric winners. A festival of pride and faith. To reach the catwalk, you’ve to plough through the mud. We met the Minister of Tourism as this festival is supposed to attract tourists, but except for the crew there’re hardly any. And we’re hardly tourists as we participate by making music and playing with the kids. It looks like this community is gong to play an important role in our next show, since our new director and other partners belong to it. I risk to lose my beloved role as “The Fool’s Captain” that fitted me so well in Cape Verde to play instead the Bad Guy, a resurrection of the Colonial Captain who created mayhem. We go for an happy end. Leaving the village you see an huge bill board with a hot line crisis number, indicating that huge problems might match the huge heartiness we felt at the celebration.

A JOLLY ENTRY

# 027
Sunday, April one, 2018
SMS-pier, Waterkant #5, Paramaribo, Suriname.
55º09´173´´, North, 005º49´520´´ West

A JOLLY ENTRY

Arriving in Paramaribo feels like the coming home of a lost brother. The fools come back to the home country of sweet folly. It feels like sailing back to the Amsterdam of the seventies and find it back much more joyfull. You’re being received in your own language, even if the warm welcoming lady dancers sing in maroon. The press is fully present, with a battery of pictures and serious questions. They have the sense of sound anarchy and love the artistic craziness of the fool’s way of live. We’ve hit the target. A school of four-eyed fishes swim around the ship, prying with one pair above and with the other under the water. It seems they welcome a little stirring in a national mood that is getting weary of her lethargy facing corruption and rising prices. The fools offer their ship, seating and experience as a platform for a play that could become a satirical & grotesque musical for a public of all ages scattered over a range of islands and countries that neighbors and matters to Suriname. It seems some friends actors and directors take up the challenge.

Some misunderstandings accompanied the fools entry. First, the captain realized too late he mixed up the tide table. So instead of easily sliding inside the Suriname river, the ship had to plow against the strong downstream current. Arrival time glided from 11.11 AM to 12.12 PM. The waiting friends, singers and visitors kept their faith where board radio and mobile telephone failed. The National TV-news and some friends already slipped away. Hardly in time, by sounding the potent ship horns, we managed to point out the blue spot that approached in the huge river bend.

Then, I arranged with our friends to stage a practical stunt by waiting for us on the quay demanding we bring them back to Africa. After all, the country we brought them to is too much of a chaos. That proved too much for their patriotic feelings. In their perception the joke would be that the ship would arrive, this time, to bring them back forcibly to Africa. Finita La Commedia ! So they staged, among their welcome songs, a loud protest. Except, some of the singers, indignantly, really thought we came to bring them back and had to be comforted by explaining them that this is a theater ship.

And the National TV-news soon returned. They must have been jealous of their colleagues of the National TV-news for Kids that just made a nice reportage. That night, the Fool’s arrival was the first item on the news. Cheerfullness first. Quite a difference with the sourish Dutch National TV-news that covered the first night of our opera back in 1990 as a mixed message at the very end. Curiously enough, critical media too are explicit in their reporting. We promise a lot. Now, we’ve to beat with facts the indifference that always lurks.

The ship is moored in the very heart of the town, at a few minutes walk in between the presidential palace and the central market. She faces the central bank that I suspected quite empty. That presumption, according to the TV reporter, is quite erroneous. Anyhow, in this very heart of the nation, in the hull of the ship, we present the night cabaret that earlier bloomed and boomed in the Basque country, in downtown Barcelona and Amsterdam. For six months this stage is ready to welcome a Paramaribo public most eager for surprises. They crave for the crazy performer, the silly dress designer, the burlesque dancer and the comic actor who could bring a twisted kink to the local art scene. Schoolteachers and parents are happy to trust their children for an odd theatrical tour through the ship. We’ve a crowd funding campaign going on that smoothly brought the ship to America. Now we need you to help funding the return ticket of some of these performers. Or better, alert your artist friends and kick them off for the game.

 

People don’t forget to support this beautiful people on their amazing journey! https://leanfund.us/projects/14 so the journey can continue!

PARAMARIBO RIVERSIDE

# 026
Monday, March 12, 2018
Saint-Laurent-du-Maconi, Guyana, La France.
52º18´401´´, North, 005º57´117´´ West

PARAMARIBO RIVERSIDE

High tide averted the danger of being stuck in the mud forever. The biggest danger of seduction maybe has been the august largeness of the river, far beyond the majesty that presented us already rivers like the Neva or the mouth of the Rhône or even the Amsterdam IJ riversides. The ship now faces down town Saint-Laurent. The other horizon is a green line called Suriname. Our closest neighbor, the steam ship Edith Cavell, wasn’t that lucky. Or was she? She run aground almost a century ago and has been grown since into a most fascinating jungle island. She’s competing to be my favorite ship wreck but she still loses to the Papillon that lays upside down on the squatted Amsterdam ADM ship yard and that, at party times, becomes a hauntingly beautiful night scene. Maybe I’m sentimental because this very ship Papillon saved us back in 1994 by bringing crew & show to Germany when a pathetic lawyer had our ship impounded. Scandalously, the whole crew, used to ten private cabins, had to sleep in Papillon’s communal hull.

Here, Papillon is Saint-Laurent’s only celebrity. He wrote a novel about his escape from the forced labour camps when the jungle already blossomed in the world’s second most beautiful ship wreck. The city owns it’s origin and existence to these camps with which France got rid of its criminals and tramps. The camp’s guillotine, now hidden in a secret place, still was in function. The disgrace of grandeur. At present, French Guyana seems to be the best organised and most prosperous, decent and boring country of the whole South-American continent. Except, it’s not South-America. It’s Europe, being a department of France. It smells a colony. Child benefits is a way of living. But the Fools face the other side of the river. Suriname beckons us to come. A beautiful, albeit somewhat decrepit quay in the historic heart of the capital is waiting for us. We’re preparing a new chaotic chapter with a warm-hearten public that curiously enough speak the language the locals use in my own country.

LAND IN SIGHT

# 025
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Saint-Laurent-du-Maconi, Guyana, La France.
54º01´685´´, North, 005º30´618´´ West

LAND IN SIGHT

The Fools are up the river Maroni. The world change from blue to green. After a fortnight of an undisturbed horizon abounds the jungle around. Still at sea a fucking couple of turtles prepared them a jolly welcome. In the river they got stuck in the mud, catched by the low tide. The Dutch have an evocative expression for this: “With the balls in the mast” (met de kloten in de mast). A nautical imprudence. At hardly a mile the city is visible. The biggest danger now is the ship sinking more and more in the mud. Already the city shows a beautiful wreck that has stranded in 1925 and that is covered by palms and jungle.

Nautically speaking, crossing the ocean in this periode and at these latitudes requires a seacraftmanhip worthy of a Sunday sailor. You know in advance that the currents and the winds are steadily pushing you forwards and that in the worst of cases the gentle breeze turns into a fresh breeze. Even if the motor explodes and all the sails torn apart, you´ll still be at the other side in a few weeks. How much mdutch hsre treacherous is the Mediterranean where from the imperial sky suddenly a severe gale could descent. The only condition obviously is that the capacity of your pumps is bigger then the holes but here the fools dispose of an ample margin. The reputation of the transatlantic trail must be based on a kind of initiation rite: “Go West, Young Man!” It´s charm must be its stilness when time shifts tones. It´s challenge must be the vastness of the ocean¨- and your loneliness, where nobody will come to your rescue. Most exiting are the flying fishes that desperately keep on offering themselves for dinner. The small ones fly for one or two meters and keep rebounding in the waves. The biggest ones go sturdy like a cruise missile and, taking the ship for a wave, take to the air. One made it straight to the steerhut, probably in a desperate bid for personal revenge. The ship cat Moretti prefers them served fried.

Things change drastically once speaking about sails and sailing. The powers of even a pleasant breeze again bended the main gaff and two booms. They´re supposed to pull hundred and sixty thousand kilo of iron. Upon departure, we proudly hoist seven sails to make a nice picture. But after two days only the smallest one still is in function. Simon and Miguel emerge as master sailors and got mending and welding four sails up again. Simon is our dudeplayer who grew up in the Galician Ria of Pontavedra, notorious for its mists and tides. La Costa del Muerte. Miguel comes from an Andalusian village right from the mouth of the Guadalquiver from where Columbus set sail. His village owns it´s name to measuring the depth to the mud. In vain. The sailing is the beginning of an endless proces of experimentating, improvising and improving. We discover with wonder that the ship is eager to return to her original vocation of a sailing vessel. In 1928 she got a one cylinder motor and said goodbye to sailing. Nothing is definitive. With sunrise we stop the engine and make 3-5 miles. Exercises in Eternity. This is pretty sensational news. In it´s lowest gear you cut the ocean like a good old cheese and bring down the diesel consumption to a fraction. This is an open invitation to cross the pacific following the trade winds to Australia. The cheese is rationed. The last packet of wine, never rationed, we threw to a passing fishermen canoe. That was just before gettting stuck in the mud. They made the international sign of booze.

As dramatic are the improvements the mechanic Frédéric gradually introduces in the motor room. For decades the motor is miraculously run by a linguist without much passion nor talent for mechanics. He undertakes action only when things turn wrong. His chief engineer master Niels hates sailing and usually is only to be consulted at distant control, with some luck within telephone reach from the sea. Sometimes he comes over to exotic destinations, just to make sur that everything is OK or else to save the ship from disasters like sinking. Now glimmers a new dawn. Stiffened tubes and petrified bolts are being replaced, peevish taps greased and spanners and wrenches positioned in order, ready for battle.

The best compliment in Africa we got the last days on the island of São Antão when we offered the schoolteacher to bring all the local kids on board for a theatrical visit. He didn´t say “How nice!”, he just said “That´s important!”.

AMERICA

Logbook # 024
Monday, January 22, 2018
Tarrafal, São Antão, Cabo Verde.
25º18´401´´, North, 016º57´117´´ West

AMERICA !
The sea keeps on calling. Strong winds keep pushing westward. The sailors long for new horizons. Partir, c’est mourir un peu. Scandalously, we leave this generous folk who’s now massively preparing their most frenetic annual ceremony, the carnival. Already they celebrate, as a foretast, their lusciously dancing parades. One of the carnival companies is based in the Quintal das Artes, the former prison next to fish market. While welding they protect themselves by sunglasses. They weld the bracelets, wings, headgear, costums and instalations whose exhuberant designs are being kept secret. This free art space serves as our land base where the artist Hermes dos Reis created a new iron tree. Only with that particular mix of intrepidity, danger, chance and luck that ‘s hidden in the word azart, the crew manage to fix this tree on top of the mast, braving the swinging of the winds and waves. For this operation, the harbor is happy to give the quay for free, just in the same way as the ship stayed one week more after the festival. The company that constructed the complicated flanges that connect the mast with the tree refuses payment. The price of fame, albeit fugacious. The bounty of three free minutes on the national news. And the sound of “Capitáloco” that rebounds in the small streets..

There’s a new bizarre tree showing in top of the mast to dazzle the inhabitants of the jungle. Four disproportionate kitchen utensils are hanging in the rear mast, a giga corkscrew, a mega cooking pot, a giant funnel and a super soup spoon, each measuring a metre. Iron crows circulate around the crow’s nests. The Fools depicted by Hieronymus Bosch finally set sail on their eternal pilgrimage.

The first destination is some hours westwards, a little village on the island São Antão. We drop the anchor just opposite the local bar on the beach. The island is famous for it’s fruit, vegetables and grogue, the local brandy made of sugar cane. Here, we take these provisions, we shave the vegetation around the ship and prepare the five sails to cross the ocean. We sail to the carnival of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, on the border river with Surinam, that promises to be quite furious as well.

 

The Fools sail through paradise while you defy storms and gales. We’v become Africans: as long as there’s something we do not need anything. But on arrival in America the tank will be quite empty and you’ll enjoy spring. Support Now

IL KAPITANO LOKO

# 023
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Porto Grande, Mindelo, São Vincente, Cabo Verde.
24º59´366´´, North, 016º53´258´´ West

 


IL KAPITANO LOKO

The Cabo Verde Festival of Fools is fun. At eight in the evening the World Premiere is about to begin. “Captain Fool” awaits his public at the main gate of the Grand Port. From far is visible that three persons are approaching. It’s pretty clear the whole concept of Azart is out of tune. Time to look for another job. Wrong! It’s nothing more then a Cabo Verde no-stress test. Half of the tribune fills up and laughs for two. The comedy works! That’s due to the wholeheartedness of the local public and especially their children who innately spend their days smiling. Part of the fun is the reality character of the show. As entrance ticket the public brings the food that first turns into the subject of the comedy and then into the evening dinner of the hungry crew. It’s mostly rice, pasta and oil. With daily about eighteen table companions it’s jolly high tide again at the fool’s table. Half of them are the local fellows that collaborate with the festival and the new sculpture in the mast. Two actors use ship and stage for a theater play located in a madhouse and turn it into pure beauty. At night time a new ship orchestra is being born: clarinet, German flute, guitar.

And the French pirate plays his innate dedication to Bacchus. One high point of the show is the hole in the ship produced by a water spray under the stage. Panicu! Panicu! With his starboard clock the captain bravely manages to close the gap, at distance control. After the premiere an authentic hole under the waterline materializes, enough to fill a bathtub in an hour. The brave crew close it with teflon and a screw. There exists no captain without a crew. They are the real fools. It took ten years of sailing before they addressed me as “Captain” and some other years to get used to it. Now the people here start using a “Commandante” that gets Che Guevarian dimensions. Il Capitano Loco is the nickname befitting best.

Wind, chance and caprice determine the Fool’s course. Shall we take part in the Mindelo Carnival that is the island’s party high time? Or maybe we find a quay on some other Cabo Verde island to present the comedy? Do we sail the thousand kilometer upstream of the Rio Grande de la Magdalena? Do we change course and set sail straight to the Pacific instead of South-Africa? Next year tells it all.

NO STRESS

022

Sunday, December 17, 2017
Mindelo Harbour, São Vincente, Cabo Verde.
24º59´333´´ North, 016º53´026´´ West

NO STRESS

The small town of Mindelo is a country in itself, far away from anywhere. Abundant smiles accompany us everywhere. Pedestrians, women and street dogs are treated with full respect. Our land base is the “Backyard of the Artists”, the former police station where we found a co-director, five actors, a violinist, a lot of friends and the rehearsal room where before the jailbirds used to sing. In this backyard the sculptor Hermes dos Reis is constructing a new absurd tree to be put in top of the main mast. Our land based vehicle is parked there, the “Blue Carriage”, painted in the ship colors with which we’re gonna make a festive parade in town to announce another Festival of Fools. The Fools encounter a new country, the Capital of No Stress. You’re lost, if stressed.

Rehearsing is quite a challenge. The actors are working in day time, so rehearsing starts with sunset. Since there’s no electricity in the room, we work with pale lamps. An actor won’t show up because a rare rain forces him to help his mom to fix the roof or put the buckets. Another actress won’t show up because her whole neighborhood went out of electricity. Or sometimes, despite their laudable motivation, they don’t show up at all. Concentration only strikes by divine inspiration. One of the actresses is a seven year old girl who’s very talented at distracting. She and her mom will be seated on honorary chairs aloof from the stage. Most encouraging already are the abundant smiles of the friends of the friends who just walk into the rehearsal room.

And where the Fools present their festival? Will it be the “Cabotage Quay” or the “Ship Cemetery of the English”? The first place is very official, the first quay from down town, with guards and dependent of the permission of the harbor director in person himself. That meeting is scheduled two days before we’re supposed to use his port’s facilities. The second place is more of a dark place where decent families won’t venture at night time. With two imposing wrecks it is still in use as a cemetery of ships that are double in size but half of Azart’s age. We would squat this decrepit and messy quay side that has the attraction of carnival in hell and would be a paradise for our documentary filmmaker. It’s a stress reliever not to have to choose our-self between these exiting locations.

Over the years we’ve seen theater directors that came from Holland, Russia, South-Africa, Australia, France and Spain. For the first time, by default, the captain himself has to play the playwright and director. He’s quickly losing his embarrassment because in this outlandish place nobody is checking him out. It reminds of the first time he dared to speak in public. In outlandish Russian he distributed Brezhnev-masks to the rock stars in the Moscow Olympic Theater without anybody checking out. Now, fortunately, the director of the local theater group likes the play and helps out with ideas and with disciplining his actors.

BACK TO BASIC

021
Monday, November 27, 2017
Mindelo Harbour, São Vincente, Cabo Verde.
24º59´333´´ North, 016º53´026´´ West

BACK TO BASIC

It feels like the ship sails a century backwards into history, chucking modernity rapidly overboard. Daylight lasts from seven to seven and telebanking, electricity, clockworks, news, agendas and garb quickly become a sideshow. Staple food on this island are potatoes, onions and fish. Tomatoes keep a pre-war taste but are at 3 € a kilo barely affordable. That reminds us of those dozen fishermen who slept a hundred years ago in the net room that now is our theater costume room. The fishing nets served as their mattress and in the middle a huge cooking pot served them potatoes, onions and fish. Like many of the locals, they were often kids working for a grab penny. But the cheerfulness of the Cape Verdian poor is without doubt inversely proportional with the protestant rigidity that characterized the old-time crew who dreamed about the eternal Jerusalem without having a clue about what really matters.

Besides sailing backwards, the ship sails southwards, towards other time zones in which the notion of the hours and dates fade away. It lures, to dismiss time. It’s quite a surprising novelty to find yourself waking up with the sun. As big a novelty as when you find yourself cleaning the guts of fish when you for thirty years persistently pretend NOT to fish dead fish but living souls instead. But what you do if poor fishermen throw fish flying on deck as a present? Anyhow, the strongest urge not to forsake modernity and electricity completely is the necessity to communicate with the world. Last millennium, a mere twenty years ago, I used to take a bar stool and a handful of coins to the nearest pay booth. It was the seasonal autumn work to try to reach a three dozen Italian, Spanish or French aldermen of culture about a summer show. You organised a tour by consequently phoning them with a wacky accent until getting to know their secretaries. Then you send them an old-fashioned letter deliberately with orthographic errors. The Fools Are Boarding Town. Now the situation is reversed. Now we rely on improvisation once arrived. But more then ever we need the connectivity to tell the story and share them with our fellow travelers all over the globe.

We anchor the ship in front of the fish market. With the dinghy we first land on the crowded mole where the fishermen bring their night catch. That mole now is our navel cord with the town. Straight behind the fish market is a former police prison transformed into an artist area. We speak there with a local theater group about sharing a theater festival around New Year and with a sculptor about restyling the Hieronymus Bosch tree in the foremast. Within a day we have the key of the prison and a rehearsal room. A story worth a documentary. Despite a luring Southern pace we cannot resist improvising a whole range of lofty assignments. The last one in this island will be to optimize the rigging and sails of the ship so as to ease the crossing of the ocean.