Posts Tagged ‘art’

Anyone who’s walked past the wonderful sculpture of the fishwife in Puerto de la Cruz is already familiar with the work of Julio Nieto. But pretty though she is, she’s only the conventional tip of the iceberg when it comes to his creations.

Some of his other sculptures are products of a vivid and fantastical imagination that clearly knows no bounds. So it was with childlike delight that we discovered a street exhibition of his work in La Orotava’s plaza when we visited between Christmas and New Year.

I can’t do them justice with mere words, so I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

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It was another stunning day in La Orotava and the flower carpets as always added a sea of vibrant colours to the already ridiculously picturesque old streets. But although the carpets were sensational, there were other things which caught my eye this year. Images and scenes which brought home to me the real essence of La Orotava’s rainbow coloured celebrations – the first was the sight of four toddlers sitting on the ground picking petals from  flowers.

Child Labour in La Orotava

Child Labour in La Orotava

The carpets are clearly the magnet for the thousands of people who visit La Orotava, but having photographed the carpets over the last few years, I was looking to try to take some different shots, so this year I focussed more on the people creating the flower carpets.

No...it definitely goes there!

"No...it definitely goes there!"

I find them incredible to watch; each family member’s role is clearly defined from the most mundane snipping petals from flower heads to the careful placing of each individual flower to create evocative images. The younger kids are entrusted to carry bags of sacks, a bit of petal pulling and some laying the grass seeds in the less detailed sections…watched closely by the supervising abuelo who barks stern words when they get over enthusiastic. There are even individual carpets created solely by children. It really is an all round family affair which ensures that the tradition will be carried on ad infinitum.

A message of world solidarity...even if the Chinese person has an odd shaped head

A message of world solidarity...even if the Chinese person has an odd shaped head

The family atmosphere even extends to visitors and although by midday La Orotava is buzzing with people, the chances are that if you’re a resident of any nationality, you’ll bump into someone you know.  At various points we bumped into Colin Kirby (admittedly there aren’t many people with blond hair wearing a CD Tenerife shirt, so Colin’s hard to miss), Phil Crean (composing a photograph with a patience I just don’t possess) and our friend, Jose, who we hadn’t seen since last year’s carpets.
As Colin mentioned in his blog, an attempt to ‘storm the tower’ to get some aerial shots was thwarted. But at least we weren’t physically rebuffed like some overly keen young local lads who also tried to rush the entrance to the Iglesia de la Concepción’s tower.
Thanks to Jose, I did manage to get halfway up the tower at one point and snapped a few quick shots before being shepherded back to ground level by a trainee jobsworth. To be fair, I understood his reluctance to let just anyone up on to the roof. It’s not designed for spectators and somebody falling with a splat on a flower carpet might have been spectacular, but would probably have ruined the day.

From a Room with a View

From a Room with a View

To get the full sense of what is going on a few circuits are required to see the streets being transformed from being full of crates of exquisitely coloured petals and grass seeds into an open air gallery for floral masterpieces.

The heat of a June day combined with La Orotava’s muscle testing slopes can make it a test of stamina, but the rewards are always worth the effort and anyway a rest stop at a Guachinche every so often rejuvenates. One of the things I noticed was that carpets retain a similar theme each year. Some alfombristas stick to traditional designs or religious imagery whilst others use more contemporary designs which need a bit of contemplation to figure out. Thankfully Jose provided priceless information when we were stumped. I just couldn’t make out what one carpet was at all until he pointed out it was a fallen angel.

Heres Angel...but wheres Buffy

Here's Angel...but where's Buffy?

As the day progressed, the town became a little less manic and ironically by the time many of the carpets are having their last petals placed, between 4 and 5pm, the streets were relatively quiet. It’s a good time for photographs, but we were shattered. I knew that I really should complete another circuit; that the best shots lay out there waiting for me.
“Home?” Andy suggested.
“Absolutely.” I answered without hesitation. At least for us it’s only a five minute drive.
We strolled past the church again and headed down hill. A little kiosk beside the church was buzzing with some of the alfombristas who, now that their work was done, were enjoying the late afternoon sunshine with a caña in their hands. It looked inviting.
“Cerveza?” Andy suggested.
“Absolutely,” I replied without hesitation.

That’s the problem with this colourful family affair; it’s very difficult to drag yourself away from it.

Click here to see a slideshow of the La Orotava Corpus Christi Carpets

An evocative image made from sand and soil

An evocative image made from sand and soil

I always like to take a trip up the hill to La Orotava the day before the main Corpus Christi celebrations to watch the alfombristas (carpet makers) put the finishing touches to the main sand tapestry outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).

The weather hasn’t been kind to the alfombristas this year. An unseasonable heavy downpour of rain a couple of days ago must have caused a few squeaky bum moments, but a sloping canopy saved the wonderful work of art. An alfombrista told me it’s actually the idea of wind that…errr puts the wind up them, so not the disaster it could have been.

This years offering is quite magnificent, as good as that of two years ago and the centrepiece is an incredibly vibrant image despite being created solely from volcanic soil. Don’t take my word for it, here’s a preview of the near finished masterpiece which will be unveiled in all its glory tomorrow.

The Centrepiece of the Sand Tapestry 2009

The Centrepiece of the Sand Tapestry 2009

Have a look at more images here.

Take me to John Connor“Buenas Tardes,” the voice stopped me in my tracks. Not because a stranger had just greeted me in the street, but because this stranger was over 6 foot tall and was a robot.
At any other time this would have caused me some concern and thoughts like, ‘this is it; this is exactly what the Terminator movies tried to warn us about,’ would have raced through my brain. But as I happened to be in the middle of MUECA 2008, Puerto de la Cruz’ street theatre festival, I merely smiled, mumbled a ‘buenas tardes’ back and moved on.

Although the Spanish Met Office had issued an ‘orange’ level weather warning for the western Canary Islands, and winds of up to 120 kph had been predicted for areas above 2000 metres. Puerto de la Cruz remained a blue sky’d oasis for the duration of the festival. We’d only managed to get a glimpse of the fun on Saturday night as two friends were in town which we used as an excuse to go to one of our favourite local restaurants, Cha Paula. As usual the food was first class; the best chipirones (small squid) in town, glistening pimientos de padron of which one on ten really did kick you in the head; cheese from El Hierro drizzled with spicy sauces and country wine which was far too quaffable to be good for you. It was so good that we lingered too long and the waiter started moving tables from around us.
“Sorry,” Andy apologised to him. “We were too busy talking, we didn’t realise you were shutting.”
“No, señora,” he held up his hands. “It’s not a problem. Sit as long as you like. It’s just that the bar upstairs is opening and they have darts. Some people are not very good.”
He shrugged his shoulders and looked up toward the open wooden balcony above. It was a surprise to hear that darts were popular with young Canarios, but we got the point, or rather as we didn’t want to get the point, we supped up, paid the ridiculously low bill and left.

By then we’d missed most of the street performances so Andy and I headed back down the following day. The town was even busier than the previous night. It was full of Domingeros, dressed in their Sunday finest. The street festival had attracted lots of young bohemians as well and the old town was filled with fireaters, jugglers and people playing all sorts of weird instruments. One man was playing what looked like a wok; quite melodic it was too.
Ready for Lift Off, Circo en el AireMost of the action was taking place around the harbour. On one side lithe young lads spinned and twirled in front of a group of adoring chicas (and I thought break-dancing was way out of date). The bottom end of Plaza Charco had been turned into a faerie grotto of sorts and whilst most faeries entertained groups of bewitched toddlers, a couple of quite vain faeries preened, fussed, fiddled with their hair and pouted to the delight of the older kids and, as they were a particularly attractive pair, some captivated dads as well.
Whilst steel bands drummed and actors played out grim tales, the highlight was the Circo en el Aire; a troupe of acrobats who flamenco’d, twirled and swirled on, and above the harbour’s cobbled streets. At one point two of them enacted a dance routine suspended in the air by silk ribbons that was borderline erotic and incredibly sensual; not what you expect on a Sunday afternoon. It raised the already hot temperature a few notches I can tell you.

It was a wonderful, magical festival with a warm atmosphere which had more to do with the fact that the town was full of people with beaming smiles than the hot sunshine. It was simply Puerto doing what Puerto does best. It was one of those special days when the thought hit us head on like a juggernaut – this wonderful place is where we live.