Where Imagination Begins

Workshops and art exhibitions at Cic El Almacen Preview
Los Dolores and Artisan Fair, Mancha Blanca Sept 2019

The CIC El Almacén, known by islanders as the Warehouse, is to host a special visual arts course led by the art critic Fernando Gómez de la Cuesta. To those of us who have ever lived in the UK, it might not sound to have the cutest or catchiest of titles, but it certainly promises to be a comprehensive study.

The Center for Cultural Innovation (CIC) will be the place where the two day course, Stories From (The Bowels Of) An Exhibition, is developed, through a training workshop that will take place on 20 and 21 September, facilitated by the historian and curator.

The course will analyse the processes related to the conception, development and production of an exhibition. The aim of the course is to reveal the least known parts of the exhibitions, in the seeming normality, but mystique, of the arrival of the works in the room and their unpacking. The course will further explore how display pieces are arranged in space and the design that is given to the exhibition or the importance of the illumination.

Stories From (The Bowels Of) An Exhibition will have an eminently practical approach, as the facilitator will be collaborating alongside the artist, Daniel Jordán, whose exhibition Murmulla All The Theater is currently exhibited in the CIC Cube’s Room in The Warehouse.

Between them they will lift the veil of the assembly of an exhibition, so that the participants in this experimental workshop can become explorers of the ins and outs of this creator’s artistic project, accompanying curator and artist to the very entrance of the exhibition, through their different pieces

The course is organized by the Culture Department of the Cabildo de Lanzarote, co-ordinated by the councillor Alberto Aguiar, and is aimed at students and graduates in Fine Arts, History of Art or Humanities, as well as cultural or public managers especially interested in learning more about the curatorship of exhibitions.

Fernando Gómez de la Cuesta holds a degree in Law from the University of Barcelona and a degree in Art History from the Universitat de les Illes Balears. He has been director of the Fundació Palma Espai d’Art of the City of Palma de Mallorca. He has also been Commissioner of the Base Zone of Casal Solleric, as well as director of the PalmaPhoto Photography Festival (2013-2015). He collaborates in publications such as “ABC Cultural”, “ART.es” or “Sublime”.

Fernando has curated exhibitions in centres such as Es Baluard Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma, Instituto Cervantes de Prague, and the Starke Stiftung in Berlin.

The best advice I can offer any person interested in taking part in this course, would be for them to contact The Cabildo with any enquiries. I worked with some wonderful, thoughtful and pro-active curators in the UK but I don’t recall ever hearing of such a course being made available to them. This certainly sounds a wonderful opportunity for anyone prepared to grasp it.

It seems to me another example of how often Lanzarote links the prosaic to the profound and of how its artists seem to ensure they can always recognise that first flowering of a creative idea. In the schools and art galleries in England I used to facilitate a course called Where Imagination Begins and it seems many artists here have already been able, and with courses like this many more will be able to in future, identify the very spot !

The importance of identifying the well-spring is often realised much later in the creative process and enables artists and facilitators to work side by side, or artists to collaborate with professionals from other art forms to produce multi-disciplinary work, reaching out to a wider audience and enriching the offer made to that audience.

Lanzarote is excellent at ensuring the artists and artisans alike have an input into religious, social, political, historical, conservational and cultural events.

We witnessed this just the other night at Pregon En Honor, Senora de Los Dolores 2019 in Mancha Blanca. At an outside event, assembled in front of an audience of 1,000 or so, were representatives of the church, local municipalities, historians, scholars, folklorists and the new lady President of The Cabildo.

The event was to commemorate, or if you prefer, to continue, the mythology of a priest of Tinajo who thrust a wooden cross in front of an advancing lava flow from Timanfaya as he begged assistance from Heaven. When the eruptions ceased and the lava flows changed direction the villagers promised to build a special place of worship and thanksgiving in gratitude. However, the residents became so consumed with harvesting crops and repairing what damage had been done that, several years later they had still not got round to building that church. Legend has it that ´a strange woman´ then appeared to a young girl tending goats on Mancha Blanca and told her to remind the villagers of their promise. The girl, Juana Acosta, did so, and the church of Nuesta Senora De Los Dolores was soon built. Huge by the standards of most on the island, the church stands in splendid isolation on the very centre of junction of cross roads.

We have often stopped and marvelled at the church and its gently ornate interiors, but every time we do so I remark how the church appears, perhaps by some trick of perspective created by those cross roads, to be built on a diagonal and always appears to be looking over its shoulder.

On this night of annual commemoration it seemed strange to us to see crepe vendors, temporary fairground rides and performance stages, all with their garish lights and humming and buzzing machinery, surrounding the church. Nevertheless one by one the dignitaries took to a microphone to speak to the gathered masses.

Each was introduced impeccably by the best presenter of events we have ever seen. We don’t know his name, because he is rarely mentioned even in the small print, and he is not given to proclaiming his identity when he sees no need to, but wherever you Go Compare you will find no compere to compare.

Tonight he presented several dignitaries to speak and although all we heard was indecipherable Spanish I would guess from the smiling faces and friendly gestures that each welcomed the others´ specialist viewpoints and contributions. There seemed to be much good humour between the speakers, all appreciated by the crowd, and the President spoke effortlessly, engagingly and without notes in a tone that seemed to suggest she was welcoming these special contributions to what was effectively a cultural and non-partisan evening.

Various projections signifying the salient points of the story behind the festival were shown in enlarged pictures on the outside church wall and there was even a fascinating film and audio show, watched by all the speakers and the musicians as well as the ever-increasing audience.

The music delivered by Rancho de Pascua Archinch was glorious, soaring out into the late evening air, and they also played as they paraded around the church before entering it to pay respect to the statue of Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores. The audience were then informed there would be a timple concert beginning in a few minutes time on a nearby stage.

Politics, Religion, History, Culture and Arts all reside in one place, and that’s where imagination begins !

Two days later, on the Friday, we travelled back up to Mancha Blanca to visit the artisan fair at the same venue. On the way we decided to seek out venue, where the following day we would be attending our first of their classical concerts for a piano recital.

´Somewhere near Eurospar´ was not a sufficiently reassuring direction, but that is exactly where the Camel House was, and is, in Macher. Down the little side road, left at the roundabout instead of right to the superstore and keep driving on to the end of the road.

Keep an eye on these pages in the next few weeks for our exclusive interview with the wonderful pianist Veronika Shoot and our exclusive all across the arts interview.

So knowing it now would be easy to find the following evening, we set off for from there up to Mancha Blanca. Somehow the wrong turn back round La Asomada somewhere took us on a very contrived route, all serving to remind us that it was Friday 13th and we had just been a bit unlucky in covering about fifty kilometres for a twenty kilometre journey !

We strolled round more than a 130 craft stalls, all manned by artists or artisan depending on your point of view, and all manned by artists or artisan who were, depending on your point of view, either so enthralled by their own creativity that they couldn’t remember to try to sell its product, or were too polite to interrupt strolling passers by.

There were children’s toys and knitwear items, and some incredibly ornate but sturdy house furniture, but what most quickly caught our eye was a stand selling hand carved wooden bicycles, with wooden handlebars, wooden seats, wooden pedals,… (if you tried to ride one you might find out they wooden go !) and whether they were for function or for show they were aesthetically beautiful. There was also a wonderful ceramics stall where we had quite a chat with a man who created his own caricatures of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dali, Freddie Mercury and Cesar Manrique.

The man works from photographs but says the models are his own interpretations, and they were clearly unique.

It was a pleasure to stroll around in relative peace and quiet, as today being a Friday with many people still working, the following day was likely to be the busiest of the event.

So we left the car park to seek out a new restaurant we had seen opening six weeks ago in La Santa, right on the sea front, near the harbour. This is an area we have loved for years but that, although beautifully quiet with enchanting views, has long been in in need of a facelift to attract people to stick around.

The Salmarina looks certain to be a success, especially as the little promenade area seems to be undergoing a bit of a rebuild.

Two charming staff members had a chat with us as they took our orders and we learned this is now the third in a chain of such establishments with similar venues in Playa Quemada and Playa Honda and that yes, they did realise they were working with one of the best views in the world ! We could hear the waves breaking along the shoreline just outside and the laughter of children playing at the most outrageous dives off the harbour wall into the water some twenty feet below.

My sirloin steak ´kebab´ was cooked to my preferred point of perfection, and the peppers and vegetables were delicious. The French Fries were proper chips and one bonus point was duly awarded along with another for a perfectly cold beer. Dee’s goat thing (locally sourced) was drawing all sorts of sounds of approval from her, and she seemed to quite enjoy whatever her white wine was too. When I had finished an exquisite dessert of cheesecake and chocolate ice cream, we ordered two coffees to take to an outside table and sat for half an hour or so, counting the diamonds on the water and watching a lone surfer who trains at this time (7.00 pm) every day, according to our friendly waiter.

It was then time to head back to Mancha Blanca, where we found that the huge free car park (one of several) that had been half empty two or three hours earlier when we had left, was now doubly full, but somehow we found a space not too far at all from the centre of the activities, where we understood there was to be some folklore music and dance performed.

The Nanino Díaz Cutillas Folk Festival reached its thirty-first edition in 2019 and was celebrated during the Virgin de Los Dolores event on the evening of Friday 13th with a varied and wide line-up that included five outstanding folk groups from Lanzarote and the Canary Islands. The musical meeting was organized by the Cabildo to take part within the program of events of the Feasts of the Virgin of Sorrows on Friday, September 13 and Mancha Blanca became the epicenter, for a day, of the folklore of the Canary Islands.
The program designed by the Department Of Culture, led by the councillor Alberto Aguiar, included an outstanding representation of the island of Lanzarote itself, by the folk groups El Pavón and Guanapay. They were joined by Coros y Danzas de Arrecife, that has this year seen its 60 years of existence recognized with the Gold Medal Of The Canary Islands. Two groups from fellow Canary Islands were also incorporated to demonstrate a very important relevance in the development of folklore throughout the Archipelago in recent decades, by groups like Sabinosa, of El Hierro, and Estrella y Guía, of Gran Canaria.

Alberto Aguiar suggested in his press announcement that together these groups form, “a very complete and varied poster, which we hope will delight lovers of music in general and of our folklore in particular. We invite the entire population of Lanzarote not to not miss it.´
And so it transpired many hundreds of visitors to the day’s market event and religious ceremonies that are part of the Feasts of the Virgin of Los Dolores stayed on to see the performance.

Many newcomers arrived, too, for these night time activities whilst scores of others, like Dee and I did, disappeared in the evening to find a bar or restaurant and then returned in time to watch the dances. The entire population of Lanzarote? Well, it was certainly a huge crowd around the square of the church of Mancha Blanca in Tinajo. Well done Cllr. Aguiar !
Here representing Lanzarote, the Musical Group El Pavón was founded in Tías, by a group of enthusiasts of popular and folk music. Their musical activity began in 1991, at which point they took the name of the old town of Tías, where they subsequently performed their first performance in public on June 13, 1992 in the town’s municipal theatre. Their career since then has been marked by four significant recordings and since 1997, they have organized a Popular Music Meeting that bears the name of the group and attracts high attendance by the public as well as the participation of groups from other islands. El Pavon and their own festival frequently pay homage to individuals, musical groups and associations that have stood up for the dissemination of the signs of Canarian identity.

El Pavon, tonight, was the only ensemble not to perform with dancers, but the changes of mood and tempo were bewitching throughout their five song set. The twenty musicians played happy and sad, fast and slow but always beautifully.

Guests groups from neighbouring Canary Islands also brought with them an important and illustrious history.

Estrella y Guia was founded in 1980, to bring about the unification of ancient components and emblems and the already disappearing groupings of the 1940s. Thanks to the efforts of those who have been part of these almost forty years of travel, the ensemble has established itself as one of the major reference points of not only Gran Canarian folk lore, but also in the conservation and dissemination of Canary Island traditions. Throughout a superb performance there was a complementing slide shown of their island of Gran Canaria and the sounds of this group were noticeably distinguishable from the Lanzarote sounds made by the opening band.

This was followed by Folcleric Group Guanapay, who have performed here on their home island of Lanzarote since 1954, having been formed from two sources; the Rancho de Pascuas and the Guanapay Society. They in turn had motivated young people to form the first Folchloric Group of Teguise in 1948.

Guanapay are currently celebrating sixty years of carrying the name of Arrecife, Lanzarote and the Canary Islands around half the world. They strive to preserve traditional dances of Lanzarote, interpreting them without embellishment so that they do not lose their root, their essence, because these dances are part of our identity. In this year 2019 Guanapay have been recognized by the Government with the Gold Medal of the Canary Islands. Several founding members joined tonight with a group of young people, men and women, who give new airs, to this musical tradition. This group maintains the purity of dances and songs of Teguise through a repertoire bearing the true hallmarks of the folklore of Lanzarote in general and Teguise in particular.

Indeed, their glorious set, that like the performance of the gran Canarian group was accompanied by dance, was full of songs familiar to us from visits to Teguise.

Folklorica Sabinosa, from El Hierro, have deep roots that have seen dances performed for Eva Peron when she visited the islands, and have won countless medals not only for their contribution to folk traditions but also for their contributions to the tourist economy. This set tonight was lilting and lively with some of the music and dance containing strands of great comedy between the genders. At times the music reminded me of a wonderful Canadian / Irish family group from Novia Scotia I once saw perform in London. The Rankins delivered similar sounds accompanied by foot stamping and hand clapping and Sabinos brought back all that and more.

They even gave us a weird, vaguely threatening percussive rhythm on one song, accompanied by what sounded like an Irish penny whistle and with the female vocalist singing the lyrics in a language that could to our untrained ears have been Spanish, Canarian or an island dialect thereof, or even Gaelic or Asian and all sounding somewhat like an Irish rebel song from a group like The Wolfe Tones. This, to me, was what music should be, all thrown together into a great, big Melting Pot, although the naysayers in the UK who have just banned that wonderful hit by Blue Mink for supposedly racist observations, would disagree.

In 1958 The Coros y Danzas Arrecife Group was born in Luis Morote Street (Arrecife), where a group of friends and family gathered in the Canarian courtyard of that house and formed the Tenderete. From this came the idea of forming the current grouping. When they began performing at the Feast of San Ginés, patron saint of Arrecife, there was so much enthusiasm for them that most of the merchants of Arrecife contributed a few amounts of pesetas to buy their first traditional costume. Islands granted by the Government of the Canary Islands. They showed why they are still so well regarded as their act kept the audience yelling for more at the end of a long show.

This incredible venue, the large, glistening white church in pastel light and shade, the name of the Virgin in large blue electric lettering displayed high on a mountain against a black night sky and the deeper light and shadow cast by stage illumination and fairground attractions were perfect. The notion, too, of almost invisible rocky wasteland stretching eternally away in the distance, and the beautifully coloured costumes of swirling skirts and starched breeches contrived to create a spectacle that somehow re-generated a faith even in this twenty first century Doubting Thomas !

Politics, Religion, History, Culture and Arts and the old and the new all reside in one place, and it at that place where imagination begins !

We drove home over Le Geria, arriving in Playa Blanca having been teased throughout our journey by an almost full moon playing hide and seek between low silver-lined clouds and at times ducking down and then somehow re-appearing from behind mountain tops.

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