Cedo, numa certa manhã de Outubro de 2010, nas escadinhas da antiga Casa do Equador de São Tomé e Principe, conheci Alex-Keller Fonseca, o pintor.
O seu trabalho prendeu a minha atenção logo ao entrar no espaço. Fiquei curioso para descobrir mais sobre as histórias por trás dos quadros. Os jovens, mães, crianças, e famílias olhando para mim através das telas do artista.
No ano seguinte, na primavera de 2011, ainda perseguido pelas imagens na minha mente, resolvi ir e encontrar o artista em Sao Tomé. Passámos o mês seguinte andando de mota e caminhando na ilha juntos. Câmara no tripé, conversando com artistas e apurando o que realmente inspira as obras de arte.
Mas isso eram muitas entrevistas. O que realmente me interessava, apesar de gostar das nossas conversas, era captar as imagens por trás das palavras.Não desistindo, voltei a encontrar-me com Alex-Keller na primavera de 2012, desta vez em Lisboa, e decidimos passar à acção.
Decidimos de lançar a proposta de filmar em São Tomé mais 6 meses. Partilhar a historia por trás dos quadros que me cativaram há mais do que 2 anos. A história dessa terra envolvida em azul, cujo coração pertence ao verde do Obo misterioso. Um país onde surge uma arte marcante em côr e emoção, inspirada no quotidiano do seu povo.
I caught up with the Dircy Sil in Helsinki and she told me about her music, a mixture of kizomba, semba, and reggaeton. We talked about her life, the challenges, and the inspirations. She gives her advice to young, up-and-coming artists in Angola, and the world over.
Can Art Be a Marriage of Africa & Europe? René Tavares, one of the best known painters from Sao Tome & Principe talks about the nature of his work, and some of the challenges and inspirations he has countered on the way. Recorded while René was visiting Tallinn.
Saotomean Cocoa pod - soon to become chocolate. Photo by Inna Moody.
I’ve written before about Saotomean produce, such as the Pilolo Atomico, and Pepper & Vanilla but chocolate is the product Sao Tome & Principe is most famous for so today, I want to introduce you to the Corallo chocolate. For those who haven’t heard of Corallo, he’s is probably the best known man from São Tomé and Príncipe, surpassing presidents, and prime ministers.
The man is famous for producing excellent organic chocolate. And he has lived a life full of of adventures. He’s not ashamed to tell the story.
Not Many Export Success Stories
Sao Tomé does not have many export products. The main produce include sugar cane, coconut pulp (copra), bananas, breadfruit, plantains, cassava, and cornmeal – but none of this is exported.
And although efforts are being made to grow more crops for local consumption, large amounts of food still have to be imported, in some cases resulting in higher prices, than for example in Lisbon.
The only real success story is the chocolate.
The Corallo Chocolate Fame
Corallo’s chocolate is so good by some accounts, that it has been voted among the world’s best chocolate‘s by Portuguese experts.
The web is full of praise for the organic product. Just choosing a few, the famous Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey praises the deep flavors of red wine and tannins’. And Mercedes Sayagues from GlobalPost goes to the extent of saying that after tasting Corallo’s chocolate you’ll be unable to eat anything else – ‘earthy, crunchy, dusty’.
Incredible people of Sao Tome. Photo by Zita Kamugira
I write by hand in the moleskine that won my love. The flight to Praia delayed over an hour. TAAG flight leaving Luanda with a stop in Sao Tome and Sal. Leave Sao Tome with a good impression.
I did not go to Principe. It would take more time. Next time.
In the future, with that taste – that may not happen.
I met amazing people in Sao Tome. In total, 25 or 26 tapes of 40 minutes of footage each. On each tape, amazing people. I talked with fishermen on a boat at sea next to Goat Island.
Women with children raised going to the classroom learning to read and write in Santa Luzia, a rural area of Sao Tome. The classes are in a classroom at an elementary school.
In the next room, children follow the course. Many of them are sons and daughters of women who learn to read and write. Talked to some. Took pictures.
Some mothers take their children to school. Breastfeeding during class. The babies sleep in rags lying on the floor at the feet of mothers. Some attend classes standing.
One had a son in her lap, the other tied behind their back and a third in the belly. The class has only women. I talked to some of them.
They are the daughters of Cape Verdeans. One of them, 30 years, only now learning the first letters. I wonder why not study before. She says that her parents did not want her to. They did not think important, to place the children in school. Now she has decided to study on their own.
I talked to a grandmother in her fifties . Her 7 year-old granddaughter attends class in the next room. When classes are over, they go home together.
We asked to see women in return. A walk of 500 meters uphill. Many are barefoot. They sing. First, the hymn of Sao Tome. Then, in Creole language, the national language. Their shrill voices in unison regret thrill. The melody is sad. But it is also joyful. I do not understand what they sing.
Those women who follow uphill barefoot children in her arms, back, drawn by the hands are always with a smile on their faces. For a moment we’re all happy. Along the way begin to emerge either house.
I see men sitting on porches, chatting in small groups.
With the trip to Sao, I completed visiting 13 countries in Africa since April last year. In all these countries, women are always impressive. They work at home, on the street, take care of their children, accept that their husbands have other women.
I asked to visit their grandmother. She studies in the living room until daylight disappear. A lamp helps to illuminate the environment. When it gets dark, she will prepare the dinner. The rest of the tasks is the next day.
There is enough power in Sao Tome. In the neighborhoods outside the center only their generators. Who has no generator is in the dark.
I hear stories of misuse of public money. The people living in poverty. I do not know if the path of misery. Hunger think no more. There are fish. There are breadfruit falling trees. There are banana. The STP seem to lead life with dignity. But everywhere complain about the lack of jobs, poor schools.
On the roads into the interior, we come across women and barefoot children carrying their lives in the heads.
Cans, bowls, boxes, pots.
I met amazing people.
I write at the TAAG flight between Sao Tome and Sal. I drink two bottles of red wine to help me (dis) organize ideas. I feel a pleasant numbness, a happiness almost potentiated by the combination of alcohol and altitude.
Maybe that’s why there are so many disconnections in this future post. I met amazing people.
Arlindo, who will have its story told in brief. Fishmongers who have learned to do more sophisticated dishes with fish scraps that were thrown away. An Italian who planted coffee in Zaire, Bolivia and is now chocolatier in Sao Tome.
Amazing people. Amazing people.
Perhaps the effect of African fevers that sooner or later affect the non-Africans. Soon we will leave, but the people will torment us. In these travels, I look less and less authority and more and more amazing the people who insist on tapping on our way.
It is not always easy to identify the people amazing. It takes training. It takes less. It takes less and less. And I need less and less.
– Carlos Alberto Jr.
Carlos Alberto Jr. is a journalist for TV Brasil, and in the past years has visited and written about 15 African countries. This story was first published in September 2009 in the Diary of Africa (Diario da Africa)
Later, in October 2009, Beth Santos followed up with her own project, making sure laptops were used throughout the school.
Now, this June-July 2010 Beth Santos went back to Sao Tome for her second trip, trying get the project running. She has pledged to do that every year at least once, so to make sure the project stays of track.
Read Beth’s *very* detailed diary of her project on her blog, follow the Facebook backlog, and see the videos of the kids, asking them how they like the project below.
If you’d like to participate in funding more laptops, get in touch with Beth through her blog.
Rabbit Pufferfish, Lagocephalus Lagocephalus. Photo by O. Alvheim 2010.
Bob Drewes from the California Academy of Sciences reports on Dr. Tomio Iwamoto‘s findings in the Gulf of Guinea, documenting a strange dieoff of the Rabbit putterfish. A Norwegian research vessel, the Nansen, is conducting a scientific trawling expeditions in the area.
According to several staff of the Nansen, such die-offs have been seen before, especially off the coast of Gabon, south to northern Angola, but appear to have become somewhat regular since 2007, usually in March-May.
No explanation has yet been given.
The vessel monitors water salinity, current velocity and temperature at all transects trawled.
None of the Rabbit puffers they studied showed any signs of disease or physical trauma; however, about 4 miles offshore of the town of São Tomé, they came upon a current boundary lined with floating dead puffers.
Jens-Otto Krakstad and Dr. Iwamoto examining dead puffers. Photo by O. Alvheim 2010
In their report to the STP Fisheries, they consider the possibility that rapid changes in temperature/salinity could account for these die-offs, but so little is known of the oceanography of the two islands that a positive explanation is elusive.
Xavier Muñoz Torrent, working out of Barcelona, Spain, posted this story on our Facebook. If you’d like to share your story from Sao Tome & Principe, you can do the same (or click the orange “Submit Your Story” button above).
The Atlas Of Sao Tome & Principe – A collection of maps, charts and other geographic information on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe and the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa) is now available in digital form.
During the past six months by a group of people passionate about geography, members or sympathizers of the Caué Association, Friends of Sao Tome & Principe in Barcelona, working to gather all cartographic materials available on those islands, to make a new site accessible for free and open for participation.
So What’s the Content?
The collection is structured in a simple classification of maps:
Location maps, and general topography,
Geography of population,
Urban and regional geography (maps of districts and cities),
The basic for the maps is the National Atlas (published by the Office for Research and Education in 1983) that had an eminently educative function and, therefore, is very useful for those who want to get an essence of the geography the country – even today. Apart from that, more detailed cartographic materials were added from the web.
One of the highlights is Neco Brangança’s study of some of the most important Roca’s, as well as the antique maps found in the atlas. Through the study one can see the evolution of strategic importance of the islands had to West Africa.
The site’s cover image is a painting (oil and acrylic on canvas) of the young artist Olavo Amado, a member of the “school” of Teia D’Arte, and represents an “Atlantic Africa”. Painted upon my request.
Olavo wants to show the weight of the world to sustain for Africa or African people (the Atlantic), or as he said rightly “to sustain the African World.”
The colors represent a mix between the land and the roads of Sao Tome (of dirt, and sometimes mud) and the suffering and the survival efforts.
Saotomeblog is inviting You to contribute stories. The following story was submitted by Sergio trough Facebook. You can also use the big organge “Submit Your Story” button above on the right.
Since Kris has kindly invited me to write something on my experiences in Sao Tome, please allow me to mention just 7 of the things I loved from that beautiful country:
7 The Local Talent
My admiration and personal tribute to the people currently devoted to the promotion of local produce, their own people and the art. I was taken aback by the passion and simplicity shown by Joao C Silva whilst serving a delicious, rich and wide menu at his stunning and wonderfully placed Roca Sao Joao … I real ‘trip in flavours around the country’. Equally impressed with the artistic talent and the ‘complex human simplicity’ of Rene Tavares, with whom I shared more than 1 beer ;). mostly honoured with the frequent company of another great artist, major person(ality) and, as fate had it, ‘pensao’ partner Mr Kwame Sousa, meu irmao.
6 Café & Cia
Incredibly good times experienced… very nice people met, in this sort of haven for Europeans and other foreigners desperately looking for a WI-FI and a cup of coffee at the right rhythm of their ‘leve-leve’ service. Many of my best memories have their origin or end in there.
5 The Weather
Hot and moist for the most part but enjoyable. Living in London makes you go from wearing more layers than an onion to virtually rip your shirt off as soon as the thermometer reaches the 20ies and you are close to a patch of grass… But in STP I’ve experience a variety of amazing microclimates and mini local all-of-a-sudden storms. Monte Café and the Jardim Botanico being an absolute delightful for me.
4 The Fish
…. Beautiful, fresh, rich, plentiful, tasty, abundant and in wide range ‘peixe’. As a vegetarian I would not last long in Africa, so I would never forget the fact that I was able to enjoy a different nicely cooked and extremely fresh fish course every single day of my stay in ST.
Most likely not originally from Sao Tome but carefully, beautifully and widely preserved and practiced in the Inland dancing scenes. About the sexiest dance I have ever witnessed … (would like to say ‘experienced’ as well, but that was a skill that escaped all my mastering efforts).
2 Fruta Pao
;) well, most fruits and vegetables in STP would do really, for their diversity, their freshness and incredible flavours… but the fruta pao won me over for being so useful, versatile, cheap and tasty. Qualities I share with it myself ;)
1 The People
Mostly humble and incredibly welcoming. Even though sometimes I felt myself to be insultingly white sometimes and clueless (pure ignorance, I must admit) they were all incredibly welcoming and pleasant. The humbler, the better.
The first shipment of 3 tons, composed on 1,2 tons of white peppers, and 1,8 tons of black peppers, produced for export, left the country on last Wednesday, with destination France. This is lot should already have been transported in 2009, however due to the requirements of the French market.
A primeira remessa de 3 toneladas, composta por 1,2 toneladas de pimenta branca e 1,8 toneladas de pimenta preta, produzida no país para exportação já terá deixado o país esta quarta-feira, com destino à França. Trata-se de um lote que deveria ser exportado em 2009 mas, devido às exigências do mercado francês.