Archive for the 'Art & Culture' Category
Seeking Out Casa Del Carnaval In Santa Cruz

Music, colour, madness, and costumes explode into life all over Santa Cruz every February and March but even during the rest of the year it permeates the city as costumes are made, routines rehearsed, and stages constructed. Bottling that excitement into a yea round visitors centre and museum has proved elusive in the past so a month after its opening, I eagerky visited the Casa Del Carnaval or Carnaval House in Barranco del Santos inalnd at Tenerife’s capital city.


It’s not an easy setting for the 3 million euro purpose built centre as it lies below and between two of the largest bridges over the dry ravine that can decome a raging river in winters big downpours. Plenty of signs posted the way from the shopping and port area but I approached from the bus station direction to the Puente Serrador bridge and took the many stone stairs down. Higher up the barranco the drop from the towering Puente Galceran involves more steps, or a long rambling ramp, car access is possible but a bit of a labyrinth through back streets. Maybe a shuttle bus calling around the city would be a good future idea or get the open top tour bus to include the centre on its route.


The frontage looks bright, cheery, and modern, and the staff are very friendly and welcoming but on my late July visit it wasn’t all finished. I soon learned that it wont go full blown until September 2017. Until then it is free, a yet to be agreed low feel from September is expected to be a maximum of two euros. Undaunted I walked through the entrance hall lined with old Carnaval posters and large interactive displays. Pride of place went to the winning costume of the 2017 Carnaval Queen. I was pleased to see a few other visitors on this Saturday afternoon, I later read they had 4,000 visitors in the first month.

Heading into the biggest hall I was impressed by the huge circular, glass, back lit, display case, it gave a great feel of the splendour and sheer scale of Carnaval. There was a central bank of interactive stations with large video displays on various aspects of Carnaval, and earphones for a commentary in Spanish or English. It was very informative but the English option wasn’t working – ready in September. Further along were sets of virtual reality goggles to immerse yourself in the swirl of Carnaval, again only Spanish until September. Cruise ship visitors have been mentioned as one target audience so the English, and maybe German would be a big boost. At ehe nd of the hall was a mock up theatre stage, seating area, and racks of costumes for children to enjoy the dressing up frenzy. That´s another winning idea as school groups are high on the target audience list too, passing on Carnaval tradition to the next generation is a proud tradition.


Another exhibition hall featured costumes and history of the various groups like comparsas and murgas.There were also a lot of old newspaper front pages showing coverage on Carnaval through the years. Back in the entrance hall I popped into the cafe bar but that was just an empty shell with a few seats, it leads out onto a spacious outside terrace and will be a nice area to realx and discuss the exhibitions – hopefully from September. The cafe bar must be the key ingredient to making the museum at least partially self supporting. A second floor houses archives and a study area – again very commendable, I hope it all comes together, Santa Cruz needs and deserves a home for Carnaval history. A few years ago there was a permanent exhibition of Carnaval costum es in the Parque Bulevar shopping centre but it only lasted just over a year.


On my way out I did enjoy gazing upward at the magnificent structure of the Puente Galceran bridge. Tha t has stood the test of time and I hope the Casa Del Carnaval can do the same. I will definately be back to see the complete picture later in the year. In the meantime it is open daily from 9am to 7.30 pm.

The Greatest Story Ever Grown

Imagine a painting so enchanting and emotional it took your breath away, then imagine it housed in a gallery so stylish and beautiful it almost outshone the contents. That was the sort of Easter Thursday I found in Guia de Isora for the first of the four day Pascua Florida street exhibition of floral sculptures.

My last visit to the event, unique in Spain, was on a cloudy day but this year the sun blazed and the views out over Playa San Juan to the crystal clear island of La Gomera were as good as I have ever seen them. Taking the modern concrete ramp off the main road, a series of large straw cubes ringed with flowers eased me into onto the church surrounds. “Dice” was the name of this work, referring to the casting of lots as people waited for Jesus to die on the cross. Just beyond was the church plaza and a stunning piece “From The Sixth Hour” with an Agave plant representing nails through the lords hands as roses bloomed below. It was at that point the church bells peeled gently, I wasn’t the only one to stop and savour the moment.

I must make it clear that I am the least religious person I know but I can still appreciate beauty, sincere sentiment, and well crafted art. Guia de Isora is cracking little town bursting with character and for the Pascua Florida the narrow backstreets are closed to what little traffic there is, allowing a gentle stroll around the 18 works, each with a brief description in several languages. But wherever you go, the recently refurbished church of our lady of the light draws you back to its large, partly shaded plaza – the crown of thorns made a nice centre piece.  You might think I was laying it on a bit thick if I said the birds were chirping sweetly as well – but they were.

Anyway it was time to explore the back streets to tick off all the works, not in strict number order, the map on each description was a rough guide to how the streets linked up. Back To Life in a long side alley may have looked like multi coloured wizards hats but it referred to the disciples waiting for the resurection. Passing along Calle La Vera it was nice to see the red crosses on the cultural centre, these are a regular feature but not one of the 18 main works. Next up was one good enough to eat. People were still working on a wall mounted work featuring fresh bread rolls weaved into the circular design. Some of the settings are cleverly tucked away, such as Sermon In The Garden, trailing up a narrow stone walkway. At this point several works could be viewed at once and also a tempting glimpse of the church, a couple of artists were sketching what they saw, very impressively, I was hopeless at art in school.

I took a few detours and back tracked to see a few favourite creations, it was good to see so many people enjoying the day. Forced to choose, i´d have plumped for “Unconditional Love”  simply because the heart design looked so wonderful with the majestic church in the background. Many gathered around the church plaza, a shadey cafeteria was doing a brisk trade and a small wind instrument orchestra struck up with some live classical offerings. On the following evening there would be live theatre in the streets but I grabbed a snack further down the road and waited at the bus station for my green chariot back to Los Cristianos.

Chrome Fur And Scales At Arona Carnaval

Quiet moments are few and far between during Carnaval season but in Los Cristianos Sunday morning was, if you’ll pardon me singing, Easy Like A Sunday Morning. It was a time to wallow in hangovers while taking a little air at the showground to catch the classic car show, and dog show that co existed nicely in the morning sunshine.


BMWs and Mercedes Benz jostled for attention but I was looking for motors that spoke to me, a VW camper van complete with a cross dressing hippie practically yelled at me. As an Oxford boy, a mini winked cheekily at me and a MG sports car purred gently as people worshipped every last nut and bolt. By now the dogs were getting preened, dressed, and ready for their big moment, they all seemed quite happy to be squeezed into all sorts of fancy dress get ups. Apart from the odd playful bark, they were fairly subdued, not even the prescence of a giant koala bear with yellow and purple balloons phased them. Some of the owners had cleverly inserted references to the Arona Carnaval theme of Las Vegas. A dog with a roulette wheel on his back brought a new meaning to mobile betting, and his owner looked very impressive decked out with a pack of cards skirt and a sign advising people to make their bets.

The main event for Sunday afternoon was the Coso parade, here´s a few of the groups that adorned the streets for a couple of hours, most of my shots are in a big spread in this weeks Canarian Weekly. The parade was advertised to start at 4pm but in true Tenerife fashion was almost an hour late, my attention was distracted not only by some of the skimpier outfits, but also the Cadiz v CD Tenerife game that was being relayed through my earhole. I always enjoy a mooch round while the participants are getting ready for the off, it´s nice to see the attention to detail, the excitement, and a little nervous tension. All the best floats and costumes include somewhere to stash plenty of liquid encouragement, for the first time in my memory there was no blazing sun for the procession, but the liquid was pre arranged so it would have been rude not to enjoy it.


After a hectic week, Monday night brought the sardine funeral, it gets ruder each year with men dressed as wailing widows following the giant sardine, exposing their fancy undergarments below the black outfits, and waving the odd exagerated manhood. It´s always great fun as the procession makes its slow progress around the streets and down to the beach. Past events have taught me that after a flurry of early photos I ca adjourn to The Devon Arms for a couple of pints of Dorada and still beat the sardine and friends to the sealed off enclosure near the shore. This years fish was a good burner, it took just the right amount of time to scorch off the multi coloured scales and cute make up job, and the fireworks put on a show worthy of New Years Eve.

Big Deal As Arona Carnaval Hits The Streets

Loud, brash, and fun. Three terms you could apply to Veronicas in Playa de Las Americas, and Las Vegas, the American gaming capital, which just happens to be the theme of the 2017 Arona Carnaval. I had the ZZ Top version of Viva Las Vegas buzzing in my head as I dived into the preparations for the Cabalgata opening parade in the slip road outside the Veronicas strip.

Often thought of as the Los Cristianos Carnaval, the Arona Carnaval always kicks off in Playa de Las Americas on a Saturday evening. A good mix of early evening revellers and afternoon sports watchers in the local bars, were spell bound by the frantic last minute adjustments to costumes as the music and dance groups assembled on their alloted starting grid. Coaches on the main road above arrived packed with feathers, sequins, drums, and high heels as year long plans came together in a blaze of colour.

So what´s the difference between the Cabalgata and Coso closing parade? The opening parade is less outrageous as it features many of the younger groups, everything is more accessable at ground level ( the big high floats come later with the Coso) and it has more of a family feel to it. The candidates for the showpiece events like Carnaval Queen, were there in more formal wear and free of the metal support cages that help them glide across the big stage when trying to win their crowns. The hopeful six for the main crown looked magnificent in their matching red and silver outfits.

There´s always at least a nod towards the theme of the year, playing cards were a safe bet this time. Lots of old characters were lurking, religious figures in particular, the church is the main butt of the jokes at Carnaval time. Lent was always strictly imposed on the poor people at this time of year, taking meat out of an already limited diet. In recent years there has been a big influx of cartoon and super heroe influenced costumes,call me old fashioned but I like to see the fairy tale figures out in force.


Cinderella was flashing her twinkling slipper, and the Queen of Hearts was shadowed by her little white rabbit. The parade is a long walk down through the golden mile to the Oasis shopping centre, so those with heavier outfits did their best to pace themselves.The royal candidates got chauffered in open top cars while others gave the illusion of getting a lift but still had to do the foot work. As an official opening, the Cabalgata throws down the gauntlet for the entertainment to come over the following week and a bit. Many of those taking part in the first parade will also pop up again in the Coso, along with lots of cheeky works in progress that will give the organisers a few grey hairs as they wait to see how far the jokers will go.


Prepare to dance, and prepare for late nights. The showground in Los Cristianos will be the focal point for the duration. There´s a fun fair a short stagger away, with a giant sized ferris wheel, listen out for the sound of beating drums, roll those dice, and off we go.

Feasting The Senses At Ten-Diez Creative Art Awards

A packed hall was buzzing with appreciative conversation at the opening night launch party of the fifth Ten-Diez exhibition. Some were drawn by the colours, others the styles, and still more by the innovation, but all shared a mutual love of the creative arts.

For the fifth year Costa Adeje is the focal point as Ten-Diez continues its mission to make a wide range of affordable art accessible to the south of Tenerife. Based once more at the Baobab Suites just above Bahia del Duque the exhibition is under the banner of the Ten-Diez Creative Art Awards. For founder and driving force Mark Fradley, himself an accomplished photographic artist, it was the combination of a selective process that started with 260 entries from as far afield as Tokyo and the eastern block countries. The 34 exhibitors include many based in the Canary Islands with around 13% from beyond and all this year’s works are displayed for the first time with Ten-Diez.

As I weaved my way around the hall my vision was constantly distracted by different subjects and ways of expressing them. Sculptures from Francisco Armas Padron offered a multi dimensional centre piece and a thought provoking study. As a child of the 60’s I found the vibrant pop art of Max Mala striking a chord with me and it would wake up any wall. Seigar’s photo studies appealed on several levels, specializing in reflections in urban settings. Javier Gee added a new twist to photos of natures own artwork by adding a human interloper.

All of the works are for sale and many of them are easily manageable sizes. A visit to the gallery will open up all sorts of memories, emotions and maybe even inspiration to take up the brush, camera, or chisel yourself. Entry to the hall is free and it’s open daily from 10 am to 11 pm until 26th November.

 

 

 

 

Art Meets Magic In Santa Cruz

Sat in a dark room watching a 1902 fantasy film and chuckling like a drain. Not how I had expected to start my art and culture trip to Santa Cruz but I wasn’t moaning. My how I chortled as a space rocket landed in the eye of the man in the moon! Maybe I should rewind a little before you think I’ve lost my marbles.

Georges Melies was a true genius, illusionist, director, magician, and producer, the French impresario loved fantasy and fables and combined them with horror, humour and ground breaking special effects to mesmerize audiences in his glass sided Paris theatre. The free exhibition La Magia Del Cine (Magic Of The Cinema) is filling the two floors of the Espacio Cultural at the Caja Canarias bank HQ in Santa Cruz until 15 October. It reveals the passion and dedication of Georges Melies with the help of drawings, sculptures, props, and film clips. The great man embraced all the new delights of his age like stroboscopes, magic lanterns, and shadow puppets, all enhanced by painstaking cutting of photos and film. Several of his short films were being played around the exhibition with the tinkling piano soundtracks adding to the atmosphere of the well staged halls. A Trip To The Moon is his most famous work and is still visually stunning, try to pop in to the exhibition, Monday to Friday 11 to 2 pm and 5 to 8 pm, or Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm.

Next call for me was the Summer Art Exhibition at Ciculo De Bellas Artes in Calle Castillo, the main shopping street near the port. It’s more about modern, cutting edge art here and this seasonal show features bright summer images, they even have some deck chairs so you can sit and contemplate the exhibits. All the works here are for sale, some are very small and manageable, they open week days 10 am to 8 pm, apart from August when they close at 2 pm, and this show goes on until 24 September with a 3 euro entry price or free if you have a residencia. Back outside I had a stroll around the sale filled shopping area, a quick dive down a few side streets rewarded me with some interesting graffiti art, part of an urban project called Submergete En Santa Cruz. Most of the settings for these wall drawings were a bit neglected and were cheered up no end by some artistic intervention.

I’ve always had a liking for strange art and one place I can guarantee strangeness that goes off the scale is El Tanque, the former giant oil tank between the bus station and the Auditorium. The first time I went they had a series of large Rank Film style gongs hanging from the high iron rafters and large fluffy cod ball type sticks to hit them with. The acoustics in the cavernous tank are eerie and the almost total darkness makes it a good setting for light shows such as the current show, Irradiacion De La Energia by Milton Becerra from Venezuela.

The darkness also makes it a rather difficult place to move around in, UK health and safety would have a hairy fit. I could see a couple of the large lighting projections as I tried not to trip over anything. There were a few other people in there, I made a pinging noise like a submarine sonar but they never responded, it was also sweltering hot. The free exhibition is on until 26 August, open Tuesday to Friday 5 to 8 pm, and Saturday 11 to 2 pm. It was almost a relief to get back outside and onto my air conditioned Titsa bus back to Los Cristianos.

Pascua Florida Brings Flowers And The Glory To Easter In Guia De Isora

As the instrument of Jesus’s death, what beauty can there possibly be in the cross? The answer in Tenerife is a whole world of beauty, as The Passion was being played out down in Adeje, I joined a stream of fascinated visitors on a stroll through the back streets of Guia de Isora on the west coast to see the 17 Pascua Florida flower sculptures.

Now in it’s eighth year it’s an eagerly anticipated visual treat as creative artists from all over Spain pool their talents to depict the unfolding of the Easter story. It was a dull, cloudy, and slightly chilly Good Friday as I arrived in Guia de Isora but as I turned off the main road towards the church I could see plenty of people milling around the three crosses of Cavalry by Carlos Curbelo, a local artist and one of the driving forces behind the exhibition. To the right of Jesus’s cross was that of the good thief, and to the left, that of the bad thief, quite a gentle introduction but once near the church plaza the full scale of the work started to be revealed.

Thursday was a preparation day as the works were installed, each with multi language posters of work and artist name, and a little background, plus a map of all the numbered works in their various streets. Voices floated through the air as people discussed the creations whilst enjoying the bars and cafes around the church. It wasn’t long since the Good Friday service had ended and I took advantage of the open doors to the Church of Our Lady of the Light, it was magnificent inside. The outside tower was shrouded in scaffolding for essential repairs but the collection boxes inside were not for that cause, they were for Caritas, the catholic charity that helps the poor and unfortunate with food and clothing needs.

Back outside I was faced with the circular Creator Of The Universe, as with the majority of works it was another Carlos Curbelo offering. Taking a right turn I picked up the trail, The Spear by Jordi Abello stopped most people in their tracks in time to admire the thorn lined windows of local houses. Angela Batista contributed St Mary’s Pain, an outpouring “waterfall of tears from a broken heart”. The tight back streets included plenty of occupied homes, they must have found it quite a squeeze to get by without disturbing the works. The Trial by Teresa Henriquez Arbelo took over a narrow alley with three question marks representing the three judges that presided over Jesus. Not everyone showed total reverence to the art works, a cheeky little pet dog from the bottom of the alley trotted up and down the steps loving the extra attention. Pilato drew me in for a close up look to check that the water pouring from the jug was indeed made of a very realistic flow of flowers

Just around another corner The Falls featured an overturned cross (top photo) with flowers sprouting along it. Pascua Florida gives a great excuse, as if you needed one, to explore the sedate but delightful town of Guia de Isora, small gaps in the streets give clear views down to the coast of Playa San Juan and outer stretches of Costa Adeje. Back on the trail The Last Supper from Jordi Abello led on to Judas by Cristina de Leon, the noose representing the suicide of Judas after his betrayal.

Feast Of The Cross from Zona Verde towered in front of another house as the route wound back into a more commercial area and pointed me back towards the church square. Agnus Dei provided a striking finish with its huge spider like hands. It was an amazing and satisfying tour, something unique in Spain, it seems cruel that the hard work will be removed after Easter Sunday but it will return bolder than ever next year.

 

 

Motors Mutts And Mourning As Los Cristianos Carnaval Bids Farewell

The mormons who tried to convert me on my way to the sardine funeral wouldn’t have seen the irony of their timing but it made me chuckle. The closing act of the 2016 Los Cristianos Carnaval is a time to mock the hypocrisy of religion and the mourners were dressed in a mix of black widows weeds and some very saucy under garments.

The previous morning had shown that Sunday is no day of rest for the carnaval organizers, the showground was spilling over with classic cars from all over Tenerife and dogs were being poured into their Sunday best for a pet competition. The odd dog bark struggled to be heard as the motors purred and the bodywork sang a nostalgic tune. The car show was bigger than ever with wheels occupying tarmac outside the cultural centre as well as in the main arena.

I’m no petrol head but proud names demanded my attention, Riley, Mini, Cadillac, Bedford, and even a little red Corvette caught my eye, there was even a small pang of home sickness at seeing a Morris truck, well I am a Cowley boy. I was waiting for an enterprising salesman to jump on a soap box and try a cheeky auction, I was also hoping for a few seductive young ladies to drape themselves over a bonnet or two – dream on. At the sidelines owners were brushing their dogs, dressing them, and posing them for passing cameras.

Fast forward to Monday night and the giant sardine was putting on a brave and cheeky face but it knew it had to perish in the flames to satisfy time honoured ritual. The history comes from lent when the catholic church told the poor people to fast while the clergy and their rich friends wined and dined in fine style. Sardines dredged from the sea were many peoples only illicit supplement to their enforced diet so it became a sign of rebellion and discontent. The sardine funeral always ridicules the church leaders, there was a shortage of popes and cardinals this year and the mourners were less wild than usual – heaven forbid we lose the subversive undercurrent.

The sardine drew a large crowd to the cultural centre and the Cuban influenced music encouraged feet to dance as final preparations were made for the long journey through the back streets and down to the beach. There are always a few holiday makers taken by surprise at the bizarre spectacle of the giant fish being trundled along with a large following of cheering, drinking, and singing enthusiasts. Avenida Suecia squeezed the parade slowly along, a few mourners wrung out their emotions but they weren’t throwing themselves to the floor like Premier League footballers so much this year.

It’s quite a logistical challenge threading the sardine through the car park at the bottom of the port road, imagine having to make an insurance claim for scratches to your car – hit by a giant fish! Eventually the crowds parted and the sardine was ushered into its enclosure on the beach, fireworks were inserted into its body and a flame started the crackling and popping as it dissolved into a ball of fire as fireworks tore through the sky. It was a fitting farewell for a big, brash, and visually stunning carnaval.

 

 

Coso Parade Sews A Seam Of Jollity And Colour Through The Heart Of Los Cristianos

Noses were pressed against the ropes dividing the Coso parade route from the pavements and bars for hours before the off. It’s the big showpiece spectacle that everyone flocks to on the final Sunday afternoon of carnaval celebrations and it always excels beyond expectations.

The back road below Guaza Mountain was throbbing with activity as all the groups and vehicles assembled. The infant and senior Carnaval Queen had been elected and the dance groups had strutted their stuff in the week so an end of term exuberance replaced the competitive edge. Vianney Casiana Garcia Chinea burnt brightly in her orange and black winning fantasy, and Nayara Plasencia Gonzalez was magnificent in her pink and gray Infant Queen winning design. All the runners up also got to shine, they may have been high up on lorries but they were all floating on the adulation of the 25,000 crowd.

Some of the parade entrants had already revealed the glories of their outfits during the weeks events but many had saved their big wow outfits for the Coso, others were making their first appearance, and plenty of the crowd that packed the route joined in with their own home made fancy dress contributions. Hotel and apartment roofs and balconies were well subscribed, bars and restaurants along the road side were run off their feet, and mums and dads dutifully lifted their offspring to new heights.

It’s a thirsty old business having fun on this scale, volunteer organizers made sure bottled water was plentiful but for those wanting something a bit more uplifting the floats and multi layered costumes became instant drinks cabinets. There’s always a lot of interaction along the route, everyone wants their photo taken with the joyous characters and they were always ready to oblige. The pulling power of Tenerife is never clearer than at these big set piece festivals, the mix of languages and home countries was as diverse as those taking part. Schools, youth, and dance groups are the driving force for much of the Carnaval celebrations, some of the youngest entrants had a bit of stage shyness but there’s always a helping hand and a few encouraging word.

Working its way up from Paloma Beach to the city centre and showground was the usual stop start affair, well who wants to hurry on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The brow of the hill is one of the popular vantage points, from there I could see the procession stretching back like a huge multi coloured serpent. Full marks to the drummers for keeping up the driving rhythm, and I’m sure there will be a few sore feet and legs after all that dancing. That wont stop the showground from rocking into the wee hours of the morning!

 

Los Cristianos Is Dressed To Thrill For Day Carnaval

A sizzling hot dog was thrust into one hand and a cold beer into the other and I was still just outside the showground in Los Cristianos, Tenerife, for the daytime carnaval celebrations. The parking area next to the Valdes Centre had been hosting the late night shows all week but now there was a youthful feel with a noon start and top acts from Spain’s top 40 pumping out infectious dance tunes.

Local supermarket shelves had been depleted as a multi coloured fancy dress army swept through like thirsty locusts and small groups gathered around clinking bags on the upper walkways of the commercial hub. The BBQ greeting was a tasty welcome and I even managed to eat and drink while clicking away at the sea of wonderful costumes that awaited me.

The previous weeks cabalgata opening parade was a bit more regimented, this afternoon revealed the hard work that had been going on in many homes to deck out entire families in original and amusing outfits. The bank of speakers ensured the music was heard and felt and the bars and food stalls inside the showground were also doing a roaring trade as inhibitions were loosened. Traffic was diverted from a couple of the main roads into the city centre and the crowd ebbed and flowed down towards the seafront as police and the fire brigade kept a discreet and watchful eye on the fun.

There was another focus for the party, Plaza del Pescadora near the old beach had it’s own smaller stage and was featuring zumba and dance. I felt quite exhausted just watching the energetic exertions of the dance groups but plenty of holiday makes were drawn in to shake a leg. A fancy dress competition was lined up for late in the afternoon and each new batch that arrived brought more admiring glances, the Ghostbusters, and The Bee Gees complete with a mass of chew sets, were among my favourites. They were all winners in my book and more music and dance followed their spell in the spotlight.

I headed back up through the showground and the crowd still had plenty of energy. The big stage featured late night into early morning music and dance each night of carnaval and the fun fair next door was enticing screams of enjoyment as super heroes and cartoon characters crammed into gravity defying seats. The day carnaval is a fairly recent addition for Arona but it has proved to be a roaring success, and there’s still plenty more to be squeezed out.