Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fisherman's Island, Madagascar

I went to Madagascar looking for the lemurs, but I found the people of this island most interesting. Its real name is Betania and is separated from the city of Morondava by a river of the same name. The river empties into the Mozambique Channel that separates Madagascar from Africa.
 Boarded an outrigger to explore the mangroves but other than a few crabs, there was not much in the way of wildlife to see, so headed for Fisherman’s Island.  The people subsistence here is mostly fishing and some shipbuilding.  There were a few pigs but plenty of chickens in the island.  Fisherman’s Island is just like any other tropical island with the coconut groves and the fine yellow sand.  Being inhabited, the sign of such occupation is notable with the usual debris lying around, the homes made of wood and whatever other material is found.  But the people appeared happy and were friendly.

 One curios practice that I noticed while walking on the beach is all of a sudden I found myself stepping into large circles of death small fish laying the sand, so I back tracked.  I was told that the small fish are laid on the sand for drying by the sun as a mean of preservation.  Again…where are the birds?  In other parts of the world they would be eating the fish.

 After the men return from fishing early in the morning, the community goes to the beach to sort the fish and repair the fishing next to be ready for the next day.  The women participate in the processing of the fish to have it ready to marked and then take it to the market in Morondova. To get there, they have to cross the river, part of the river is waded and the point it gets deeper, they board boats to get across. The process is the same in the return trip and there are always customers waiting for the water taxis to make the crossing.

 People were not too excited about being photographed but I saw a group of young women looking at me and their faces said “photograph me”!!! I approached them and they were thrilled.  They paint their faces yellow but for a practical purpose:  To protect their faces against the sun.  They made their own cream by taking the bark of the tamarind fruits and grinding it to a fine powder than then is applied to the skin.

 I must thank Air Madagascar for this opportunity to visit the island due to a flight cancellation.  Flights are frequently cancelled (I suffered 3) and they may arrive early as well as late.  And if they arrive early, they will leave early, and not follow the scheduled departure time.  Air Madagascar is the biggest problem for the development of the tourist industry in this unusual and beautiful country.  In the plus side, they flight brand new planes and usually half empty.  After returning to Morondava, cell phone call was made to find the status of the Air Madagascar departing flight…I did leave this time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Nansemond Indians Pow Wow

The Nansemond Indian Tribe’s Pow Wow took place 8/15-16/2015.  This is an annual event that takes place in Mattanock Town, the home of the tribe that is programmed to become the tribe’s tourist attraction in land formerly occupied by the Lone Star Lakes Park in Suffolk County.  It was recently ceded to the tribe as their ancestral lands and it covers about 70 acres.  This was the 27th annual Pow Wow and participants represent tribes from all over the country; some return yearly.  That is a reason for the variety of outfits seen at the reunion. 

The Nansemond Indian trace their ancestry back to the 1600’s and was part of the Powhatan confederacy that played a major role in the first encounter with the English colonizers in Jamestown.  The tribe did not fare well in their encounter with the colonizers who robbed their crops and destroyed their burial grounds and villages.  The tribe was recognized by the state of Virginia in 1984.

This celebration includes an opportunity for the members to show up in tribal regalia that are at times exuberant and colorful.  As you can see from the materials used, the outfits incorporate modern materials and free interpretation of original attires.  The women’s outfits are the most elaborate and are mostly designed and made by the users.  Considerable time and money, not to mention the pride of the users, have been spent on their designs.  Although there is not an open contest to identify a best outfit, it is obvious that one is present based on the participants eyeing the others outfits to prepare for the next year’s Pow Wow.  It is probable that these costumes may not be seen again next year.

Men’s attire is not as elaborate generally although some are at the level of complexity of those of the women.  They varied from just simple plain clothing to full chief and warrior regalia. Weapons are part of the men’s outfits in a variety of forms from tomahawks, to bow and arrows as well as fancy knives and shields, not to mention the rear turkey feather tails; these are worn by the most feared warriors and varied in size according to their war heroics.

 Dances are performed by tribal members of all ages and have different names such as slow, fast, chicken, war, women’s traditional dance and others.  All have in common dancing around in a circle accompanied by the monotonous drum beats and chants.  Some are extremely fast where the quality of the dancers is judged by their speed.  But regardless of the dance when it was over, the exhausted participants ran for a shady tent and a bottle of water and disposed of some of cumbersome outfits.

This Pow Wow takes place in August and I wonder why not in October in line with harvest of corn and other staples when the weather is cooler. Visitors will not have to seek the shade of a tree to add some comfort, and us photographers, will not have to deal with the harsh light conditions of a summer afternoon.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ireland II

Departing Belfast and following the coastal road counterclockwise, I arrived at Carrickfergus castle.   This place has historical significant since it is where various battles during the Nine Years War took place and where King William landed in Ireland.  But most interesting, John Paul Jones, the American Naval Hero of the war of Independence, aboard the Ranger, captured the HMS Drake offshore; the first American victory in British waters. Further up the road I passed by the Londonderry Arms hotel in Carnough, once owned by Winston Churchill.

Continuing along the coastal road, are the famous geological formation known as the Giant’s Causeway.  Upon arriving at a big parking lot, one boards a bus and is driven to the Causeway.  It is very popular attraction and probable rates as high as Yellowstone in the USA; both have the same geological basaltic formations, the result of volcanic activity except that in Ireland, these are at the seashore. Some rare plant species grow around the rocks as seen in the last image below.  Impressed?  Well, I was expecting something bigger.

 Derry or Londonderry, depending on what part are you in the political divide is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and witnessed the “The Troubles.”  Old signs of the struggles are all over the city the depicting the historical events of the late 1990’s.  Bu there are also newer happy ones replacing the old ones.  Wounds of those days are still visible in the statue of Queen Victoria in the Guildhouse who lost her hands due to a bomb placed there.

Derry is an interesting city with lots of beautiful buildings and as other places in Ireland, no overcrowded or impaired by heavy traffic.  They had done a great job of mixing the old with the new as in the Tower Theater below. Derry boast to have the only complete medieval walls of a city in Ireland and England…well…I had walked the walls in York and do not recall a break in the continuity of the walls And as with more cities in Ireland, there is always a monument to the fallen during the numerous wars of the British Empire; in this case in honor of the veterans of WWI.

Not far from Derry, is the Ulster American Folk Park that documents the Irish migrations to the United States. The buildings reflect exhibit the influence of the Irish migration to the United States.  The park is located in a farm that was owned by the ancestors of the famous Mellon family that migrated to Pennsylvania.

Some of the structures in the park were dismantled in the USA and rebuilt here, such as the interiors of a Virginia store, a stone house from Pennsylvania and a brick house from Tennessee.  There are also old Irish buildings that were moved here from Belfast.  One of the buildings is an old photography studio that is still used for visitors have the opportunity to dress and pose as settlers.  With much patience, the photographer was able to obtain a family photo.  Little did they know that it was to find its way to the web.

On interesting item I observed was an outside metal rigging with a central geared wheel.  At the end of the long pole a horse was attached that powered the rig. The geared wheel was connected to a metal rod that transmitted the rotations to the inside of a nearby house where grinding wheels were rotated to grind grains.