Wednesday, July 23, 2008

1st Photo Cuba Exhibit in Chivirico

Our delivery angels arrived from their mission to bring our student's photos to Cuba for an art show! German, the gallery director, asked us to create a show to bring there. Alan and Ruth two of our Photo Cuba students were kind enough to bring the matted prints with them on their recent return the Cuban town of Chivirico, the wonderful little town where we held the Photo Cuba! workshop. This is their account...

Hi, Guys -

I'm sure you're eager to hear how your/our opening went at the gallery in Chivirico, so here goes... We got through customs with no problem, despite our angst re the valuable cargo we were carrying. Perhaps it was because we entered via VIP that everything went so smoothly?

Left to right: Arisdán, Ruth, Juan Carlos, Alan, and Carlos, most of the core team for the show.
Anyway, Sunday night we met up with the usual suspects - Carlos, Arisdan, Juan Carlos - and after hugs and some more hugs, we arranged to set up the show the next day. With everyone's assistance, including that of Norbey, the photos were hung relatively quickly. After much deliberation on the part of German (whom we did not see after that, as he had to go to a conference in Santiago) and Norbey, the photos were hung according to the age of the subjects. It did make a statement. It was interesting to watch the two artists moving the display around till they were satisfied with the placements.

While the work was going on, people were wandering in and out, so the show had an informal following right from the beginning. Grandmas were dragged in by the little boys. Mothers came in, babes in arms. The old. The young. They all dropped by. Pointing, smiling, laughing. It was a real high for everyone! Oh, I forgot to mention the delighted reactions of our immediate group when they first opened the package of our photos.

The next couple of days were the lead up to The Opening. Carlos tacked up around the village posters that Scott had sent along with us. We stuck one on the window of the bar at the hotel. Sierra Mar photocopied and hung posters in their three restaurants. The local journalist gave us some publicity, though we're not exactly sure in what capacity. Carlos alluded to different things he was arranging (a band? a dj with recorded music? rum?). Along the length of the porch, some women, whom we think were from the library, strung paper flags and paper lanterns and chains that they'd made from newspaper. This was to be An Event!

Thursday at 8, it all came together. The folklorica band (The Aguilleras) inside, and the dj with his speakers and turntable on the porch (do they still call it a turntable?). A woman in-the-know took hold of the mike and reminded the townspeople of the importance of the occasion and encouraged people to come on in. And they did. We were told by several people that there had never been so many people in the gallery before. Norbey was thrilled and said he hoped that this would bring in more people when they had there own exhibits in the future. The band played on, Norbey made a wonderful speech, which we understood enough to tell you that he was extolling the virtues of photography as an art (Alan photoed the speech - copies on request) and that he was warmly thanking the Canadian photographers for their contributions.

Speaking of contributions, on behalf of the group, we donated to the gallery the equipment for hanging stuff: metal tape measure, fishing line, nails, tape, scissors, hammer and other stuff. (Of all the gifts that we left behind, I think that the little hammer that German had asked us to bring was the biggest hit; his smile lit up the gallery.) We also supplied the rum for The Opening, but I doubt there’s any left for next time. Not to worry, there seems to be an almost limitless supply on Cayo Damas, the little island, and it’s only a paddle away. There was a spoken word performance and lots and lots of acclaim and applause for everyone (including all of you) and everything!!!

The rum flowed. Glasses were clinked in congratulations. And the crowd overflowed onto the porch. A tango, or two, was danced spontaneously - this is Cuba, after all.

So, the matting around your pictures is slightly smudged. Fondling does that.

A tourist asked if your photos were for sale. We said "No." "Pity" was the response. But, hey, what a compliment!

Was the evening a success? You bet! Poor Norbey was so tired and so eager to close up for the night so he could go home to his family, but he let the last stragglers have a last look, and he let us drag the evening on a little longer before we finally let him lock the doors and call it a night.

When I went by the next day, he was there. He was still smiling.

The subjects of our photos and their families (that means pretty well everyone in town, I guess) have thoroughly enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame. Now it seems that everyone wants a piece of the action and everyone wants their photo taken. (Several times over.) With hopes of hanging in the gallery next time 'round. I think we'll have to ask Carlos to coach them not to ruin the Kodak (there's an anachronism for you) moment by excitedly informing our subjects that the camera is trained on them. Plays havoc with what would've been the perfect shot.

In closing, everyone is fine. Arisdan and his wife seem to be on the mend and are "starting over". By the way, his English is improving in leaps and bounds (Carlos has been tutoring him). Juan Carlos is as sweet and lovely as ever and has just been granted programming papers. Eldis is working on fulfilling his dreams re photography; he wants to document the before and after changes that are coming to town. The gas station has been painted and has new modern pumps (though the cash register wasn't working, so the station was temporarily inoperable.) The lady in the next village - the woman who'd had the thyroid op - has recovered and is full of smiles. Dr. Leo at the mud baths is scheduled to go on a long-term mission to Venezuela, possibly leaving before February. He's sad that he's going to have to leave his wife and baby for eleven months at a time, with a month's leave between missions for the first two years. He's fretting that the turbine for his water pump at home will cost five months salary to replace. He'd like a little camera. He's philosophical. He's fine. And man, oh man, does he give an extraordinary massage.

Gladys's baby is due in about two months. She's finding it increasingly difficult to walk up and down the mountain road - wow, it's so hot there and not even summer yet - those with cars, including tourists, help her as much as possible. She'll be working one more month and hopes to be back at work in October/November, in time for the next tourist season. Yoli, Dora, Sandra, Glenis and the rest of the gang are well and as lovely and loving as ever. Some concern over jobs and income over the slow summer season. The main concern seems to be that they'll have to live on fish till the fall. They and rest of the staff bent over backwards for us.

Hmmmm. What else? It was different without you guys there. Sure, we had fun, but it just wasn't the same. Thanks for letting us take care of things on your behalf. For those of you going back in February, we know that you're going to enjoy returning as part of the Chivirico family. As for the first-timers, for sure they're in for a treat.

In answer to your question, yes, we took zillions of photos to document this pivotal event in all our lives. We're working on narrowing the pics down to our "Best Ofs". When Scott and Trina get back from their fact-finding mission in Italy we'll arrange to let you have a look at the new photos. Maybe at Shirley's party in May?

Oh, we delivered the photos that some of you sent along with us. Squeals of delight from everyone, along with requests that we take even more pictures. Their having to wait till February for the next delivery seems of little consequence to the people. Time kind of stands still in Chivirico.

So much more to tell, but all for now,
Alan and Ruth