Leonel Varela: I think we ought to do much more in terms of art for Sao-Tomeans to become more aware.
I can say in my point of view 65% of São Tomé does not know what is art. I can say that, it’s my guess.
It’s not only artists who know what is art… but in São Tomé… Sometimes I stay on a square to paint something .. Then people are passing, calling out at me: Fly-painter… Fly-painter.
This dude is not painting anything. This is nothing.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: So you want to say we’re missing something?
Leonel Varela: Something is missing.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: That thing is school, isn’t it?
Leonel Varela: It’s school. Education of the population. We need to invite people to paint too.
Leonel Varela: People in the street. Even the Palaye. Taxi drivers. I mean, anywhere there is a flow of people. Bring materials. Create a scenario there. Even bring a few canvas. Everyone sells their things. I mean encouraging people to like art.
Leonel Varela: I really like the work of Nezo. Then comes Malé. Guilherme too. Even René. Jesus. Julio as well.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: That means all of them?
Leonel Varela: Yes! Look, talking about you too! I’ve seen several paintings that I was surprised. That’s Alex, fuck! Already starting in the range. It’s true! You’re good!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: If you could send out one message about art, what would it be?
Leonel Varela: Usually art in São Tomé is defined by only a single center. Only one center. That is something that should not happen in a country. In a country art should be expanded. Should be expanded to all artists, for all locations. That’s what would be to develop art.
In São Tomé and Principe — an island nation the size of of Hiiumaa — isolation and beauty brings together a total of 13 local people, whose paintings inspired by island life . This is the story of these artists.
Mama Africa Store
Boy: Look at this bag here.
Store’s back room — Alex-Keller Fonseca with his easel and canvas painting— a favorite meeting point for the artists who come together almost every evening.
Boy: And this bag here? See?
15 days until an exhibition at the Embassy of Brazil.
Boy: And this bag here?
Embassy of Brazil
Alex-Keller Fonseca: This is another one that was already at the exhibition. That’s another.
She: Nice work.
She: This one is the one with two screens that you did, right? With a hinge in the middle? Are the screens tied together?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Yes, two canvases tied together.
Montage of Alex-Keller Fonseca’s paintings with music by Guilherme de Carvalho.
Catita’s Workplace at CACAU
Euritce Pires Barjona: The problem is that you men respond only to other men. So I have to defend myself!
Catita Dias: When women rise above your heads at the level of the work I’m doing he will have no hair. You’ll have the bitch above you! Really! I‘m talking seriously. One thing that bothers me enough is when a woman says she is looking for equal rights. Instead of equal rights for him that a man should have.
Catita Dias: Listen.. I’m talking about me, then you speak…
Catita Dias: Because the man must have a woman I totally agree with you that the just man should have one woman like you should have just one man.
Euritce Barjona Pires: We were talking about a picture he’s painting that says women today to climb over men’s heads. Isn’t that what the picture is saying? And he is painting the man from his forehead down.
Euritce Barjona Pires: I told him no. It’s not a question that women are rising over the head of men. They say there is democracy, and the rights are equal. But rights are not equal. Some things are not equal. That’s what we were discussing.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: They say those who have many is subject to color and and that’s true but I do not know. If it happens, it’s not a problem for me but on her.
And really. She is soiling her. She knows that.
Euritce Pires Barjona: My mother says, each has to tend for own their stuff.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Ah. So!
Euritce Pires Barjona: Not worth trying to stop you. My mother speaks like this: It’s not worth trying to prevent you…
Back at Catita’s Workplace at CACAU
Catita Dias: I don’t mean that I’m only answering for men. I’m also thinking of you. When I say that a woman is on top.. from the forehead up.. it’s because she has her head over your forehead, right? I’m not referring only to men. I can also work this idea just for women. There are men here who are already well on top!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Wow! Gosh!
Girl: For what?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Alright! Fire that bitch man! This thing has to be paused so well! Epa, Kris, a photo of the girl. Shoot now! A movement. Be quiet, listen!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: It’s beautiful!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Your uncle will not know! Xê!
Girl: My uncle will not know how?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Your Uncle will know how? I have a special chair for posing here for you. So why not? Seriously. It will be secure. You don’t want to do it in that space?
Girl: I don’t know.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Not today. Not today.
Girl: So how?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Another day. Here, here to say Tohu.
Girl: Not here, I live up there!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: This space here is where I paint.
Girl: You paint where? Here?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Here. See that Goody there. This is my guardian. Grabbed me. Come here man!
Girl: I told them that I’m pregnant?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: She saw you.
Girl: How do you see me?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Well, pregnant.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Those two there!
Girl: No, it was Zulmira!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: So you are twins?
Girl: She looks like me! Ah!
Euritce Pires Barjona: You coming to Sao Tome to tell me I can’t dance?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Look there, often times your can go to..
Euritce Pires Barjona: He doesn’t know..
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Europe has dance schools, you know that?
Euritce Pires Barjona: Hey, he doesn’t! Kris can’t dance! Then he comes to tell me that I can’t dance. I find this very funny! I told Kris, this can’t be. How can you tell met that?!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Your meeting, very sweet, very good. Or what do you think,Kris?
Euritce Pires Barjona: Let’s dance, I’m not tired. But you don’t know how to dance that’s the problem, isn’t it?!
Leonel Varela: The government itself should create something. Create an art school right here in Sao Tome. Sao Tome has no art school!
Leonel Varela: Unless João Carlos or Malé who have spaces and sometimes even encourage and invite people to do workshops. Only that! But there has to be a school of fine arts for the people!
Leonel Varela: To speak of heritage, the only thing I can talk about and the one thing that I love more than my own work is Tchiloli. Tchiloli moves me a lot. I mean, I love Tchiloli, in various scenarios.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: But we have Puita, Ússua, Socopé?
Leonel Varela: Yes, but Tchiloli touches me more.
Leonel Varela: Jesus. Hello, Jesus!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Interesting.
Leonel Varela: I’m here. Kris and Alex are over here at my house. Begin to clean your house too!
Leonel Varela: Yes, because they are coming up to mess up your house. So wait, they will-will-will come up soon!
Ya, OK, see you!
Jesus Quaresma: The first exhibition that I did, people were amazed. What’s this? Exotic things. There are people who are not used to art. Then they began to say this and that? Shovel shovel it and nothing! The biggest challenge is acceptance. Acceptance.
Jesus Quaresma: For example I do this work. I like this work. This work inspires me. I want just like it is. Even if a client comes and says: Oops, I want a Palaye.
I mean, I tell him: No, there’s no Palaye. If you want, you can order a Palaye and I make a Palaye for you! Even if the person does not accept, I do not care. It’s what I want to do and that’s the end of it!
So, I think art is in this spot here.
Jesus Quaresma: I’ve worked a lot on Puita... Puita. The Carnival, our typical carnival. And that’s one thing that people are forgetting. They are entering the Brazilian world. And they are forgetting our typical carnival. That’s 3 or 4 people who play guitar, sing traditional songs. Strum on tin cans.. So…
Alex-Keller Fonseca: It’s called Trundo, right?
Jesus Quaresma: Yes, Trundo .
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Trundo in this case in dialect, is Carnival?
Jesus Quaresma: Carnival, yes.
Catita Dias: And what I was talking yesterday about educating our population for example.
Jesus Quaresma: Mhmh.
Catita Dias: And do not show to invite. Because they do not have this form, does not have that whole thing lacking conditions .
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Ya ya ya .
Catita Dias: But we would do it in a public square. Or at least a market. Paint in a market with the entire population even there are 15 or 10 people with negative criticism but 100 around with good criticism. Good stuff. There’s a big movement.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Look, it’s true that it’s only with criticism that we develop certain things.
Catita Dias: Will be an incredible thing!
Catita Dias: The initiative is like this. Paint with all the artists is something no journalist has yet made in Sao Tome.
Jesus Quaresma: No, no.
Catita Dias: Nobody. If we invaded the Cococo market. With that population all that exists there.
Jesus Quaresma: Mhmh. Mhmh. Creates more impact.
Catita Dias: And each artist to paint in one corner. Let’s get one thing. That’s incredible. I will repeat. That’s incredible!
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Ah, you’re at work? Good, then. Good. Ya, ya.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Thanks, we are fine. Alright. Together forever.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: There’s a friend. You’re scared camera, eh?
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Oh.
She: I want to see where I’m going on television. Images. Get it? No exhibition because the exhibition is not mounted. But your image. Your photo. Even. Get it? With your curriculum passing. I do not want to do like Cristiano did. Cristiano instead of giving me thing so I could help he went by himself did everything alone.
She: Anything copies and saved as. But put “.doc”. This “.rtf” you have at the end. Replace it with “.doc”. To see if the program opens the “.doc” here or not. Could be. Just put “.doc”.
She: Epa, you have to type everything again! If you open a file, save as “.doc”. If there’s problem, just put it in a direct email if necessary. Copy it. Forward for me. Then I copy the email and we’re done!
— Curriculum vitae.
Francisco Julio: There is a lady with a basket on her head that has ..
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Palm wine?
Francisco Julio: No, this is not palm wine. Palm oil. Palm oil. Once we have fish. Then we have fruit. Bread. Saotome. And so if we conclude, we mix it all. And it’s a dish typical of Sao Tome and Principe.
Francisco Julio: Speaking of Palaye. Even it’s something that seems so old. Today we speak of supermarkets and all that stuff. And this has continued here, I don’t want it to disappear. That’s culture. It’s in the culture. Because anywhere else you’ll go you’re no longer see this. Ah, you will no longer see it.
Francisco Julio: This means it’s culture and we should preserve it. So I really like to paint Palaye. I paint them with much love. Not in the sense of sadness because I make this effort or feeling or what. But it’s something that represents what’s preserved.
Kris Haamer: Here there is no motorcycle?
Girl: No, not here.
Dio Lima presents Palayes in his works, but this is the first time he talks to a Palaye about it
Palaye: The mamba fish mamba is very important. He is a very good fish. Very good cooked.
Dio Lima: I’m here to show you what I do. You live in the reality that I show.
Dio Lima: Women and poverty. Because it’s part of our culture. The culture of a people. Who is it at the most basic level. Who will go to a Danco Congo for example. Who goes to Socopé. Who goes to Tchiloli? That’s our culture.
Dio Lima: Expressing the woman. Who is our mother. That is our culture. She is part of our culture.
Dio Lima: Generally Palaye go barefoot kilometers and kilometers And that’s what I picture here. So much sacrifice. Cracked feet or the gravana feet — it comes dow to sacrifice. They have food for his life.
Dio Lima: I think here there’s a bit of modernity. Because usually a woman carries a bowl on her head? And here there’s no bowl.
Dio Lima: My heritage and my heart. The woman I like. And what God gave me. And that’s what is inside my head. I try to disclose for people to feel that I’m alive and I’m here to show you who I am.
Olie Ribeiro: The title of this picture speaks Party Trough. Party Trough is about Palaye. Palaye and our mother, isn’t she? The African mother. It has to do with the difficulty she passes. Day to day, to raise her children. Making-do one daily bread for the sustenance of their children. Without help from her husband. She’s the father, she’s the mother, herself alone.
Olie Ribeiro: African Women, the way they live. The difficulty they pass. To raise their children earning bread. To give their children an education, health, nutrition without help from her husband.
Dio Lima: She started drawing and there I saw it one way and said so why don’t you paint? Oops, we already are together because I am an artist and having a girlfriend artist here in Sao Tome is everything and all I want from life...
Catita Dias: Who paints do not. But not who plays with paint, as I have come to play, yeah, yeah.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: But I’m saying beyond you, without having someone, if the person is any more of the family in this case? Relatives?
Catita Dias: Even a visual artist?
Catita Dias: No, no. I don’t have relatives who are artists. But I do have a musician. Comes from the art that I really like too. I also make music. I’ve a few tracks finished.
In the art there’s inspiration in what touches me. What I want to do. What I feel good doing.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: I mean that the music inspires you too?
Catita Dias: At the level of painting? Yes, yes, it does.
Kris Haamer: And this last work you are here painting now. What is the concept, what is the story, why this picture?
Catita Dias: This picture is about the distance of .. as a family seeing the time. Is not it?
Kris Haamer: To see the time?
Catita Dias: To stop and see the time. It is those families sometimes you come to one of the farms and they are so still. Not to see someone new come. Not to see the things that are in the area. But there are things that they will see for thinking and wondering beyond what they see. And what does this picture work. That is the time to see.
Boca De Inferno
Euritce Pires Barjona: Ah ah ah! Push a little, it was good! Ah!
Great Intervention plans don’t materialize, but the artists taking part in events to teach children CACAU recycling through art.
João Carlos da Silva: Not here. Here you will not shoot anything. Inside you will not shoot anything. Not here. Do you realized what I’m saying?
Kris Haamer: Why not?
João Carlos da Silva: Here there is no work. Take your camera from here. Here you will not shoot anything. I’m talking to you. Here you don’t shoot. Take this camera away from here, please. This machine here.
Kris Haamer: Wait, wait.
João Carlos da Silva: Walk. Wait wait my ass. Come on. You realize this very well what I’m saying. Come on.
João Carlos da Silva: Hey, security. This gentleman will not shoot anything in here, nothing inside. OK? This gentleman does not film anything here. Come on. Ai, ai films. Shoots in there.
Kris Haamer: What?
João Carlos da Silva: What’s the fuck? Here you do not shoot!
Jesus & Julius playing the guitar. Pictures of Alex and Rasta and some young people creating work using recycled wire and stones.
Miguel Angel: I am creative nowadays due to the difficulty. Difficulty because I’ve been wanting to do something and do not have adequate materials. And so I make an effort. I create a way, I discover a way. And this has led my work. I feel that I am alive. That is important. This is very important.
Miguel Angel: Here’s the questions that are here. Because satisfactory life seems something so illusory. Something so illusory. We eat, we live every day. We go out to party, but there is always a gap. We try to fill that gap but we never, ever manage.
Miguel Angel: We have the essential and will. Wanting to do something. But legs to walk. It is the short pitch. The leg and short. Where do you come and where I’ll stop. Of all live. Lifetime satisfactoria seems an illusion. Difficulty and a good part. Because …
Kris Haamer: Challenge?
Miguel Angel: Mhmh. It’s a challenge. And life is always like that. And the difficulty helps man find himself. Right now our dream causes us pain. We can not but go beyond. We remain in this discontent. This pain. Trying to imagine how it would be.
We go south, to Angolares city, inhabited Nelito Pereira and Nezo. Bulawe music playing in the background. Pictures of Alex and mother with children in the Hiace. Pictures from the mother of a young Alex about the image of a woman in the window.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: But the car you have is your car, right?
Nelito Pereira: It is. There is a public transport here in ministry … that links with Angolares.
Nelito Pereira: In my works I try to convey more .. and the positive side of people.
Nelito Pereira: Green we have here. The Danço Congo in the city of Angolares is different from Danço Congo in the capital.
Quina So. Bulawe.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: The state doesn’t talk about it to make at least a gesture?
Nezo: But it’s not enough. Because we need to involve the whole society of São Tomé. Entrepreneurs. Civil society. Why? Because we must get the state to pass a law. The law of patronage for example.
Nezo: That would allow the participation of entrepreneurs in this type of activities. The state tax creates an exception, a benefit of some kind for an entrepreneur matched against regarding his participation in any sporting or cultural event.
Nezo: And one day the state must choose one kind of cultural activity as a strategy. Brazil sells lots of art. And it’s a source of revenue for Brazil. Cuba, for example. Who does not know Chachacha, Salsa, Son? Art is also a product that one can sell. Today music is also part of an industry. And an industry that sells quite a lot.
Nezo: We paint also for other people.
Alex-Keller Fonseca: You mean there is a connection?
Nezo: There is an interaction between the artist that produces and the public. And we’re creating an identity at the level of fine art. Isn’t it so? And this is a journey made by very few people. There is very little documentation in relation to the artists who came before us. But we are doing our part.
Nezo: Guilherme. Alo, Guilherme. Whoa, how? I call you, you do not … I called, you did not see on your phone call? It was yesterday. I called yesterday. Ya, OK fine. No, I will go later. Yeah, I know, it’s on the 21st. The launch of your album. Ya.
Music by Guilherme de Carvalho touching the release of her disc space in Cocoa.
Guilherme Carvalho: I can say, ending poverty to live totally happy. And well, we all have a home. And not? What is the minimum we should have. And worthy, is not it? Maybe this is es … wake up and see this for my greatest happiness.
Exhibition day arrives. Night. Alex-Keller was invited to present his exhibition in the Angolan capital of Luanda. In Angola Alex-Keller gave interviews to two TV stations — this is the place where we will show them, as soon as I manage to get the footage.
Children: Show me, show me!
Lisbon: Images of Alex-Keller Fonseca in various parts of the city and the father together
Alex-Keller Fonseca: Actually my life is a manifestation of the thoughts circulating my mind. Through my work I intend to express the everyday and the rebirth of the African mother. With all her suffering and uncertainty whose traditions will be reflected in the new world through children.
The girl: Zandindin-zandandandan e canaééé..
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