Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photo Friday - Travel

We are just back from a family reunion in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. We flew there from France and the rest of my immediate family flew in from Scotland.

Not so long ago this sort of thing would have been unheard of and near impossible - due to the distance, travel time, costs and dangers . Now, with local airports and budget airlines , travel is much more accessible and safe -at least for people in the West.

Its hard to imagine that people are still undertaking dangerous journeys across the sea in flimsy boats with a real risk of death-and spending all their life savings to do so.

This is a cayuco, a Senagalese fishing boat. They are normally used for fishing rivers and estuaries and not intended for sea crossings.
Basically they are a form of large canoe and this one was in a terrible state -and probably not exactly sea worthy at the start of the journey, never mind the end.

I've quickly removed the stone jetty from behind the cayuco to show the shape and size of the boat.

Tenerife is fairly close to North Africa and in recent years there has been an upsurge in the number of illegal immigrants trying enter European territory in the hope of making a new life.

Unfortunately, many people die in the attempt or end up exploited in a kind of indentured service to pay the huge amounts of money for the passage.

The cayucos are jampacked with people when they set out on the 8 to 10 day crossing and its not known how many cayucos sink on the journey. I have heard estimates that over a thousand people have died in the attempt to reach the Canary Islands since the 2006

90 men were rescued from this boat when it was intercepted. 6 people were in critical condition and sadly one man died later in hospital, probably from the effects of exposure and dehydration.

The coastguard emergency boat that intercepted the cayuco is in the foreground and the cayuco is visible behind.
When we arrived at the port to take photos we saw the bright orange emergency boats and initially thought there had been a training exercise rather than a real emergency.

It was only when we saw the rickety cayuco and the ambulances and men being lead off for medical treatment that we realized what had happened.
The Spanish red cross and medical teams were giving medical aid, food, water and clothes to the people from the cayuco inside these inflatable tents.

After medical treatment, the men are repatriated if their nationality can be established.
The cayucos are destroyed since unsafe fuel storage generally leads to the hull being impregnated with fuel. Plus so many people crammed onto a tiny boat leads to unsanitary conditions and the boats are considered hazardous to health.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Toussaint/ Fête des Morts

Here in France, the first of November is All Saints Day [la Toussaint] and second of November is the Festival of the Dead [Fête des Morts].

These two festivals have become somewhat interchangeable over the years, and its more common for people to visit their family tombs on la Toussaint. I've heard it said that this is mainly due to Toussaint being a public holiday here.

However, since there is a famous painting of families visiting a cemetery on Toussaint from 1888 [ Émile Friand] it would seem that this is definitely not a recent development.

Bunches or pots of Chrysanthemums are used to decorate the grave sites. This association of chrysanthemums and the dear departed now means that its bad luck to receive chrysanthemum flowers as a gift.

The cemetery in the centre of Nice is on top of the Colline de Chateau with a view over the sea and Nice old town. Most of the tombs are from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century and the sculpture is quite opulent-with plenty of angels and cherubs in stone.

This tombstone depicts someone rising from the grave at the last judgment when called on by an angel. I think a lot of modern visitors find it creepy to see a shrouded hand lifting up the stone.

I think this grave sculpture is really attractive-it was quite a different style and i liked the lady's peaceful expression.

Old cemeteries are often filled with children's graves-and its a reminder of how much the world has changed in the West and that most people can now expect their children to live and thrive and reach old age. And yet, such a short time ago, losing children to disease epidemics was commonplace.

This little girl is depicted here in her first communion dress, circa 1930, I think.
These little portraits were on a large family tomb which depicted many members of the same family and a considerable number of children.

The little ten year old and 4 year old somehow remind me of Mary Cassatt's painting the Sisters Some angels on pedestals, towering over the cemetery - very reminiscent of a scary Doctor Who episode called Blink where Angels statues come to life.

These angels were street performers at the Haut de Cagnes mediaeval fair. They moved quite slowly as if they were statues coming to life.

There was something quite freaky about them, even for people who more than likely hadn't watched the "Blink' episode of Doctor Who.

Some of the performers were on stilts and looked very imposing, especially when they moved suddenly. This woman was obviously taken by surprise when the tallest 'statue' started striding through the crowd..

[I've blurred the faces of non-performers in the photos slightly]

This little princess found the living statues very intriguing.

A little Knights Templar boy acting as a scale marker
Their clothing and skin was covered in a kind of clay -which must have made moving difficult- although it definitely added to the impression of statues coming to life.

The programme for the fair called them Living Gargoyles,which seems quite appropriate.

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