THE ARTS ARE STEPPING OUT AGAIN
by Norman Warwick
In arts-related news from Lanzarote this month we learn of events that seem to signal, if not a return to normality, at least a determination not to allow the arts to become contaminated by covid.
Sidetracks & Detours have, for example, learned of a specially commissioned sculpture commemorating the 100th year of the birth of Cesar Manrique, the island´s most loved artist. Dolores Corujo, President of the Cabildo, (Lanzarote Government) recently visited the current storage place of a sculpture of the great man, where it waits to be officially placed on permanent display in the island capital. This art work has been funded by generous public donations, corporate sponsorship and government funding.
The President met with Astrid Perez who is the Mayor of Arrecife, the island´s capital city, and also present was artist Manolo González and musician Roberto Fuentes as well as honorary members of the Cesar Manrique Sculpture committee, to discuss the location and unveiling of the Manrique sculpture, centenary anniversary. Sidetracks and Detours look forward to the official unveiling, in a prime position, where the sculpture will serve as a permanent reminder of all Cesar achieved on Lanzarote´s behalf.
Dolores Corujo has also worked in a hands-on capacity for the arts by proposing that the traditional styles of Lanzarote Roseta embroidery receive official recognition. She suggested the art-form, or craft, be declared an Asset Of Cultural Interest Of The Canary Islands. Whilst also known as Tenerife lace, the rosetas, made of white or ecru thread, to make table-mats as an insertion in table cloths, have traditionally been sewn by women of Lanzarote, too. Historically, the practice of this craft supplemented the income of many families on the islands and indeed, the Canary islands Descendants of Louisiana still teach their methods to members.
Meanwhile, the Cabildo´s Central Data councillor, Paula Corujo reminded us that we should also, perhaps, tip our hats for an exhibition of traditional Lanzarote clothing and headwear. We can do so by attending, or even checking out on line, Sombreras, an exhibition (left) of traditional outfits worn over the centuries by the Lanzarote women living in the rural and coastal areas of the island. The exhibition was opened to coincide with International Women’s Day and top celebrate the females of Lanzarote who, even b before the volcanic eruptions of the eighteenth century, worked back-breakingly hard and made personal sacrifices to make vital contribution to household budgets on the island before the influx of tourists in the nineteen sixties changed the economic status of the Lanzarote.
The chief requirements of female clothing in those days was that it offered protection from both wind and sun and the head wear that provided this was a cone shaped straw hat with a wide brim and thick, black band, of ribbon, known as a Sombrera de La Graciosa. Not only did this item offer that protection but it also enable women to balance their workloads on their heads. La Graciosa is a small barely inhabited island that lies over a short straight of ocean to the north of Lanzarote, and local communities on Lanzarote would wear items of only the slightest diversification, such as the Sombrera de San Bartolome, identifiable only to the discerning eye by its slightly wider rim. This signified the wearer was married lady or widow. There is also a white cloth bonnet that, with a blue or pink lining, has a very wide rim that fastened at the neck by a ribbon. This was, indeed still is in remote parts, worn by unmarried girls working in the fields, and is known as a Sombrera de la Campesinos. The exhibitions shows at the Casa Amarilla, Yellow House, in the centre of Arrecife. The exhibition is appropriately called Sombreros and there are rooms full of different style hats bedecked in various colours or ribbon denoting status and locality. we have been fortunate enough to visit this exhibition and were also interested in and impressed by the garments of clothing, scarves, blouses, skirts and aprons in beautiful, rich colours.
We were also thrilled earlier this year, a few days before we were locked down and live arts event were laid dormant for a while, to see the unveiling and inauguration of a statue in Las Brenas. Fortunately we knew who was represented by the statue, as the worst calima we have experienced in five years of living here pretty much obscured the statue from any further away than nose to nose. Nevertheless, the ghost of Victor Hernández Gopar, one of the island´s most loved poets was surely attending, in spirit, this special commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of his death. For much of his life he had been employed as a foreman at Janubio Salt Works, just up the road from our home in Playa Blanca. During that period he took his own writings and collected poems and songs out into the local communities. I was fascinated to learn that he was a kind of Woody Guthrie of his day, reciting poetry and singing songs against social injustice. He told of the hard labour and poverty heaped upon the famers of the fields and the workers at the salt works. There is a historical importance still attached to his words and music as they accurately reflect the social inequalities of the time. Local folk lore groups still include Gopar´s work in their current repertoires, especially in the Yaiza district where the salt pans are located. Such was the fame and favour he found during his lifetime that Gopar became known as El Salinero, and that nickname was attached to his real name when the theatre in Arrecife was named after him.
That theatre has been pretty redundant throughout 2020 due to the coronavirus, but just lately we have noticed names appearing on their calendar, and you may have noticed our very positive review of Pancho Corujo´s performance there on Saturday 26th December at 8.30 pm in what was promised to be a 75 minute performance, appropriately titled Life And Return Passages, that actually ran for over two hours ! This was a performance of music that that traced the round trip undertaken by many Canarians to Latin America with music as a common thread. Melodies created in Latin America that today belong to the cultural collection of the Canary Islands. Included were not only recognizable boleros, milongas, Venezuelan waltzes, zambas or vidalas but also the melodies they carried from the islands, such as folias, mazurcas and songs that today make up the cultural richness of the Canary Islands. In addition, some Canarian Christmas songs were included. We heard pieces that draw a line from Mexico to Argentina and a selection of the most important pieces of Canarian music arranged for the first time for the piano of Juan Francisco Parra and the voice of Domingo Rodriguez El Colorao.
Sadly, due to reduced availability of tickets we unable to see Maru Cabrera, one of our favourite contemporary singers on the island, at the smaller theatre round the corner in Arrecife known as Cic El Almacen (The Warehouse) on Friday 18th December at 8.30 pm for a sixty minute performance. Maru´s life dances and evolves around the creative world. Since she was a young girl, she has understood music as a vital means of enjoyment and expression. During her university studies in Madrid, and whilst performing concert after concert, she developed and expanded her understanding of sound, before she eventually began composing her own material. After her return to Lanzarote and taking her songs out into the public arena, and has become one of the leading singer-songwriters addressing the current landscape of the Canary Islands.
We are also now looking forward to an intriguing ´audio landscape that has been published called Ildefonso Aguillar: A Life In Music, reflecting that artist´s life of playing with the lead instruments in the volcanic orchestra: Land, Sea and Wind. You will notice his name in other reviews of his arts exhibitions, at Cic El Almacen earlier this year, guided by the wonderful Estefania Corujo, who has a series of Visitas Guiadas from mid-December to mid-January at Casa de la Culture Augustin de la Hoz, and more recently in a glorious exhibition in Lanzarote Art Gallery.
So it certainly seems that the Cabildo (government of Lanzarote), too, also seem intent on ensuring that the arts will soon be alive and kicking once again on Lanzarote and to offer a plethora of locations and artists for residents and tourists alike to go and see. What with Yaiza being officially declared a ´historic city´ and news, also, that the island´s already unique cactus garden and other tourist centres will soon be serving new gastronomic and culinary delights we can perhaps roll in this new year with even more delight than we will roll out this old one.
It is so uplifting that Miguel platforms our reviews of arts and culture events occurring here on the island at his Lanzarote Information on-line site , especially when I am able to re-draft them, as I have for this article, for readers of my own daily blog here at Sidetracks & Detours even whilst island print media outlets such as Lancelot and Lanzarote Gazzette Life are also doing so much to reach other audiences and to keep the arts alive on The Canary Islands.
Even today, as Boris Johnson has joined the rest of the UK by tightening the locks on England, there are wonderfully innovative arts initiatives still taking place and a plethora of media outlets trying to support those events and the artists involved. All the national newspapers still carry regular arts columns and there are ´volunteer´ freelancers like Steve Cooke at all across the arts, supporting the scene in the North West Of England with his aata web site and social media pages as well as weekly features in The Manchester Evening News Media Group.
So , let us all step out whenever we can or are allowed to (literally and figuratively) support the arts, and find our comfort and solace in doing so, and if in doing you stumble over something wonderful that should be shared with others, let us know here at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will carry that message down all the sidetracks & detours we can find and talk to everyone we meet,…(see cover photo at top !)