Snapshots #6

I love to scurry around charity shops where one finds ‘the world’ and its far reaching influences.

I gasped when I saw a silver Brazilian Penca (Penca de Balangadan) brooch nestling amongst bric-a-brac high up on a shelf. I knew it came from Salvador da Bahia where I had spent 3 adventurous months in December to February 1971.

The object was a collection of tropical fruits. Passion fruit (maracuja), guava (goiba), maize (Milho), pineapple (abacaxi) alongside the famous primitive musical instrument, the berimbau. Originally from Angola, it accompanied the Angolan defence dance Capoeira.

As I held the object in my hand, I could hear the batucada of Salvador, the capital of North East state of Bahia with a population of more than a million people. Today its population is nearer to 3 million with an extended luxury coastline for wealthy international gay hedonists.

The music from my time there has had a lasting effect up to the present day. I still enjoy the sounds of ‘Tropicalia’ and the famous singers who became household names such as Caetano Veloso, Gilbert Gil, Gal Costa and Jorge Ben. Even Chico Buarque is alive and well, still singing with Caetano to an enthusiastic new generation.

The Bossa Nova influenced my life as did the verdant vegetation. I created a tropical ‘Garden of Eden’ in my Notting Hill garden in the 80s and 90s with architectural plants which flourished due to the area’s microclimate.

The penca reminded me of my visit to the gaol in Salvador where the prisoners had a craft shop. One could buy wood and leather hand crafted artefacts and the money squirrelled away by the prison to give back to the prisoners on their release. I bought a large penche in mahogany (acaju) which graced my sideboard for years. I can still hear the sound of the iron gates shutting and the doors clanking just like in the film noir black and white Hollywood movies.

The silver penca is perched on my mantlepiece in Brighton alongside other precious mementoes, a part of my past life, forever gone but never forgotten.

Viva Brasil! Pra Frente Brasil!


Wikipedia. Tropicalia.
Wikipedia. Salvador da Bahia.