VOLTAS by Elaine Ávila PART II
At Encontro Pedras Negras, we too have rituals:
- The visiting of the high school and elementary school to encourage the next generation of artists in every discipline: writers, musicians, theatre artists, painters, puppeteers, singers, songwriters
- The tour of the island to see and be inspired by its beauty (including a visit to Aldeia da Cuada, a village founded in 1676, which was abandoned by emigrants to American 60 years ago, now devotedly restored into an unique accommodation/restaurant)
- The reading of poems inspired by the Azores in gardens
- Terry Costa’s theatre warmup, which helps us celebrate and experience feeling with our entire bodies
- An honest discussion of the obstacles we face
- Reading excerpts of each other’s new books, to celebrate their launch
- Writing in an outdoor space
- Sharing of our dreams and our plans
- Presentation of the award to an artist who exemplifies the spirit of the festival
- Visiting the spaces created on the island to encourage the creation of every type of art (this year we saw Italian photographer Stéfano Folgaría’s 300-year-old home, German author Rainer Würth’s emergent artist retreat centre/garden/jam patio, French singer-songwriter Nina Soulimant’s centre/garden)
- Events for the community (these included superb work: an art exhibit at the main museum, featuring Martine de Baecque’s lithographs, Pieter Adriaans’ watercolors from his residency on Flores, Martim Cymbron’s oils and acrylics from his residency on Pico; two book launches-- A Viagem de Juno by Almeida Maia, and In-Pico by José Efe, with paintings by Judy Rodrigues and the musical debut of Pieter Adriaans Azorean suite on viola da terra).
These rituals were developed by Terry Costa (for full details on his work, the events and the participants, please see colleague Sandra Henriques Gajjar’s terrific blog: https://www.tripper.pt/local-events/azores-fringe-festival)
These rituals have a deep power. They foster courage.
The culture of the Azores can be very traditional. Writers from history are constantly celebrated and those writing now are rarely mentioned. Despite the efforts of many publishers and authors, books published locally are frequently unavailable in the bookshops or public libraries because these publications are not considered prestigious enough. It is difficult for Azorean writers to be published in mainland Portugal, creating a vicious circle. This can be true for all the art forms, each in their own way. This has the effect of discouraging Azoreans from articulating their own experience.
Terry Costa created a remedy: Encontro Pedras Negras, named for writer Dias De Melo’s great novel, Pedras Negras, which is brave enough to critique the impact of whaling and immigration on his community on Pico. Encontro Pedras Negras inspires us to write (and speak) courageously about the challenges of our own time, many of which we discussed: how do we acknowledge the legacy of slavery and piracy in the islands (rarely spoken of), listen to the women’s stories—now and throughout history, evolve away from our dependency on gas and oil (perhaps not unlike our transition off our dependency on whales), go back to more agricultural self-sufficiency on the islands? These conversations were held throughout the weekend, as we recognized affinities in each other.