SERENITY AT SHOP M ´AROMA
by Norman Warwick
There was a gentle coming-out-of lockdown song in the air as we strolled into the beautiful, welcoming and immediately uplifting little cornucopia of commerce and craft that is Centro De Artesania, in Yaiza. We could see immediately that it has somehow been made lighter and more spacious since we last called.
It is really a collection of four or five arts and crafts shops centred around a calm and tranquil outdoor restaurant offering croissant and coffee, and a wide array of tapas served by smiling management and staff. Interesting paintings and carvings adorn the ´garden wall´ and there are some of the terrifying sea monsters (or just fish as we call them in Lanzarote) polished as shining statues inside a small gallery within this must-see venue that is Centro de Artesania.
We took about three hundred photos in the gallery and then slowly wandered through establishments like Atelier Sandra. (left)
Dee looked in a clothes shop with dresses hung outside in casual browse-inviting style. (right)
It was all colourful, and interesting but it was Shop M´Aroma that caught my eye. As our cover photograph clearly shows, it is a curio of colours, crafts and quirkiness. We were therefore delighted when the proprietor agreed to take part in a brief interview for these pages.
I was expecting to travel along the who, what, when, where and why road that usually provides a linear narrative of anybody´s life but was delighted to find my interviewee taking diversions of her own as she answered my questions that opened with
who are you ?
I am Marian Minnebo. I was born in the Holland, the Netherlands and was born in Haarlem and grew up in a little town called Heemskirk which is currently one of the most famous villages in the Netherlands because there are lots of things happening there. I decided to leave the lowlands because I don´t like them any more, for personal reasons. So I looked around and decided to come to Lanzarote, and here I am, for one and half year, with a store ! Sooner than I thought.
So what was it that brought you to Lanzarote?
I came here for the first time in 2016 and the first time I put my feet on the ground, I thought, this is home., and here is where I want to live. I was ready to leave Holland as my whole family lives abroad. My brother is in Tasmania, one sister is in France and my other sister, who has lived in California for forty years comes here, mostly, now so I don´t know what will happen. I didn´t like the Netherlands any more and so I came here, and now this is home for me. Lanzarote seems to be a place that either you love it or you don´t love it and I love it and it feels like home,
I certainly know what Marian means. The first thing Dee and I said to each other when we first arrived on holiday was how ´safe´ the island felt to us. However I want to challenge Marian on a choice of vocabulary.
You say you have a store. Really? This is a store?
Well, a shop maybe.
A store? A shop ? I think of this as a fantastic art gallery ! So how did you decide this was the kind of merchandise you wanted to deal in?
I have always been interested in what we call the New-Age timeline, I was raised as half-Budhist. Although my dad was raised as a strong Catholic, he turned his back, not on God, but on the catholic church. Budhism is not a religion, it is a teaching. Anyway, this opportunity here came along when the previous owner of this store decided to give up in the bad time of covid etc and I took over and opened on 23rd July 2020, selling New Age merchandise and some arts objects and I was making my own soap and selling it. This counter here in the middle of the store is soap of a hot procedure. Its glycerine and it doesn´t need to harden. You can throw it in the mould and wait until it gets hot and then I cut it with a hot knife that I used in my bee-keeping period, with which I used to separate the wax from the honey, so that was very good and useful. Over there on that other shelf is soap produced by a cold procedure. You press it and it needs to harden over a period of about four weeks. It is made from ingredients of Campon de Marseilles in France.
Marian speaks with such passion about this that I am convinced there must be an artist inside her somewhere.
´I think so, perhaps. The soap making is a quite complex procedure that I have to follow carefully, so yes, there may be an artist in here. I make my own soaps and bath salts. I started with eight types, different ´flavours´ and four of them I scrub with almond oils and put them in a jar and people like to taken them abroad on holiday and they can fitted into hand-luggage. Its really good, and people seem to really like my bath salts and keep coming back for it.´
I wonder if her customers realise they are purchasing something unique that Marian has created that is actually very different from any similar product available on the supermarket shelves.
´I think so, yes. Customers come for further purchases and that might be something to do with growing doubts about liquid soap in plastic bottles. There is much greater awareness now of cleanliness and edology and the dangers of poisons dangerous to the skin. That´s a serious matter, and then you have a plastic bottle and we don´t know where that will end up when it is empty. So more and more people seem to prefer the soap box and I think that´s good?´
Marian´s charming premises, whether a store as she calls it or the art gallery I see it as, is in fact one of a handful of similar premises gathered around the café that is the heart of the place and I wonder whether there is a co-operative feel about among the vendors, as I remember from Piece Hall in Halifax or at Weaving Words, Touchstones Arts and Heritage Centre and the Pioneers´ Museum had in Rochdale when I lived there.
´Not yet but it is developing. I have met with a soap-maker in Uga and have promised to visit her market stall again soon. And she has been here and said she thinks it is very beautiful´.
This small complex stands on a starting point for several tourist routes and with coach journeys being a massive part of the island´s tourist offer I wonder if the venue has become a resting place for tourists to look around.
Not yet. There is room for coaches to stop here, but they tend to stop at the Aloe Vera museum about a mile and half down the road, and just too far away for the tourists to walk back this far. It would be nice to see more people here, because the economic situation is bad, but I am surviving and things will get better, Last Saturday, for instance, we had thirty six flights in from all over Europe, and on Sunday there were twenty six. We just need BoJo to change ! We also have our annual Iron Man race a week on Saturday and we are on the race route here, so I was thinking I could hand out an A4 sheet with my card attached to all the runners and cyclists as they go past ! And then take what I have left them and hand them out to people arriving at the airport.´
Whilst some of her goods are self-manufactured I wonder how Marian decides what other products might sell and how she might source them,
´We all have Google and Google is our best friend. With that I could look at similar stores even back in Holland and see what were popular scents and flavours and what were their best-selling products. I´m always looking for new lines, and they don´t always sell immediately but that doesn´t matter.´
Lanzarote of course is enthralled still by the work and the mantras of the late Cesar Manrique, and I always feel the arts are more closely wrapped with culture and are seen as a more integral part of everyday life here than they are in the UK and many other parts of the world. I wonder therefore how Marian´s Budhist temperament and her love of the arts and the island helped her cope with the trials of covid and the pressure of moving to another part of the world and whole new lifestyle.
¨Well, I am grateful to my dad, who has passed away now but raised me with Budhism. When covid came down, several of us of this approach to life formed a WattApp group, including my brother in Tasmania and have kept ourselves very positive. There is still so much and a lot to be proved about Covid and those of us who are suspicious of what we hear are becoming more and more so. Our eyes are being opened all the time. There are rumours growing over the whole world that covid is being used to cover up much more scary things that are continuing to happen.
But, although it is a small island, Lanzarote is big enough for me. If I want to travel I can do and can visit friends in Holland. I had plans to travel earlier this year in March and those plans are now on hold until November. But I can always travel, but home is good.´
I´m curious to know whether Marian would consider her wanderlust to be fairly typical of Dutch people.
´I think so, yeh. And at the moment people, many people, are emigrating from Holland to live somewhere else in the world because they are tired, of the government. There is a sense that they are corrupt but most people are just ordinary and decent and are not corrupt.´
Nevertheless, Marian is here, happy and smiling, in what we might view as the centre of serenity. What is it I wonder, that she offers her customers and why would she advise anyone to visit Shop M ´AmorA
´I like the fact that my customers are already happy when they come in here, but I love to make them even happier by selling them product I know they will enjoy. I have created soaps that help skin care against acne and similar maladies, and that has sold so well I need more. I have a customer from Paris whose daughter suffers from acne but who is getting much better skin condition by using my soap. My customer bought three pieces when on holiday here and then phoned me from her home in Paris to see if she could order ten more pieces because it had proved so helpful. So that´s a good reference. I make people happy and I love that.¨
To bring this interview, which in fact had been a very free and easy chat, to a conclusion I asked Marian whether, ten years ago, she would have envisaged herself living here and where she might envisage herself in ten years time. Retired as a millionaire, perhaps?
Back then I wouldn´t have foreseen this at all. But a millionaire in ten years time? No, not that, I don´t do this for that. I do this to keep myself busy, to be happy and to have a little talk with customers. In ten years though, I do think I´ll be retired, having sold my store. I´d like to continue as an ´artist´ and maybe I could sell my ´recipes´ with the store so that sopmebody else could continue selling them here.
I always like to seek out the soul of any artist I speak to, so I have to ask Marian which piece of music she most associates herself with.
´Sometimes I like to play, really loudly, The Rolling Stones. I was raised on them by my dad. Sometimes, though, I need meditation as well, so I play New Age music. I love that music and I love long walks with my dogs. I can sit for hours, though. at Los Hervidores watching the sea.´
Marian has mentioned how her dad has influenced both her musical taste and her spiritual outlook, and so I wonder finally, what book might have had the most profound effect on her.
´The Wheel Of Re-Birth; that means a lot. I believe in re-incarnation and in fact I believe I have lived before on Atlantis. That was a big continent, of course, and I think our mountains here are perhaps the tops of Atlantis and maybe that is why I have the feeling of coming home, you know?´
When The Wheel Of Re-Birth, written by H K Challoner, was ﬁrst published back in the in the nineteen thirties, it was hailed by one critic ‘as a classic of reincarnation’. Today many more people are coming to accept that more than one life on earth is needed for man to develop his inherent capacities towards perfection, and serious thinkers such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Huxley, Albert Schweitzer, C. G. Jung, Benjamin Franklin, and others have been able to accept it as a reasonable hypothesis. A further edition of this book is therefore timely and helpful. The author claims the story to be based on memories of a series of lives, showing how a group of people, through the working out of the basic law of cause and effect, came to understand the true purpose of living and changed their relationships from hate and conﬂict into sympathy and harmony. The method by which these memories were recovered is explained in the opening chapter, and the record of each life is followed by a discussion with a Teacher bringing out the true value of the experiences undergone. Those who are disturbed by the apparent injustices of life and are seeking meaning and purpose in their existence will ﬁnd, in this book, very suggestive indications of a deep spiritual law which moulds our living and gives it reason and direction. A new introduction brings the edition up to date and seeks to clarify some of the popular misconceptions current about the doctrine of reincarnation.
Given Marian´s Budhist beliefs and that there is so much stock to admire in her shop I wondered how she might react to my trying to sneak a take-away souvenir. I asked her what she would miss most if I grabbed something and made a run for it.
´Don´t you dare. You can´t take my scrub in almond oil !´
Well, I didn´t want to go breaking her heart, so I settled instead for purchasing a dark and sullen, yet somehow majestic, framed photograph of Salinas de Janubio, (right) just a mile down the coast from this beautiful little spot. It shows clearly the two ´windmills´ that are about to be restored and put into working order again. The photograph was taken by Christian Piesch and will now alway remind us not only of our visits to to Salinas De Janubio but also bring back memories of our visit to this lovely little arts centre and the bright, bubbly Marian and our interview.
If you haven´t visited the centre yet, i promise your time will be well spent and very enjoyable.