Sketch of the day: Tenejapa carnival

The week-long carnival in Tenejapa in the Chiapas highlands includes several colorful elements, such as this “chasing of the cow”. The men dress in red ceremonial finery and, among other things, chase a woven-mat “cow” around the town plaza. (Later there’s “chasing the bull” at another plaza, looking exactly the same as “chasing the cow”, but at that event cameras aren’t welcome… so I figured sketchpads aren’t either). It’s a day full of symbolism and prehispanic references and local pride – also lost of whooping at jokes. It’s very contagious and after we left we spent the rest of the day going “i-e-e-e!!”

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Special costume including a stuffed ocelot.
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Even though he was standing still it was hard to get all the textile detailes!
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The procession’s drummer.
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The “cow”!
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Ocelot man from another angle.

Sketch of the day: grasshopper salesman

A Mexican street scene: one of the guys selling toasted snacks, peanuts and grasshoppers (chapulines) with lemon and hot sauce. (In addition to people selling macadamia nuts, creamy pastries, shoeshine services, oranges whole, peeled or juiced, cotton candy etc… and I haven’t even mentioned the textiles or child labour)

Chapulines

 

This guy was one of the least enthusiastic salesmen I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in African controlled economies.

Vale-tudo con jujitsu…

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The penultimate sketch.

I’ve got an exciting commission coming up for the Evangelical Lutheran Association for Youth in Finland, Nuorten Keskus: colouring-in pictures for young people based on biblical stories, to form part of a multimedia activity book called “Painiva Jumala”, “The wrestling God”. The book will come out in 2017 on Kirjapaja but they already needed the image for the cover: Jacob wrestling the Angel.

This is a pretty inconclusive and ambiguous story of how an anonymous person challenges Jacob to wrestle as Jacob’s on his way home to reconcile himself with his brother Esau, after making his fortune in the world… His two wives and two slave concubines and eleven children have already crossed the river and then this dude challenges Jacob to wrestle. They fight all night and in the end the only way the stranger can win is by kneeing Jacob in the groin, well, top of the thigh. When they finally introduce themselves, the stranger doesn’t say who he is but tells Jacob that his name should no longer be Jacob, but Israel, ‘he who has struggled with God’. – The theologians have an interpretation about this story representing humankind’s conflicted relationship with the deity, but I found it pretty unsatisfying, thin on motivation.

Nonetheless it presented an interesting compositional challenge: how to depict a wrestling moment where one party has the other by the neck (this is in the book’s title)  but neither is obviously winning. And it couldn’t look gay, as I’m assuming that teenage boys are still one of the most gigglingly homophobic groups of people in existence, and the Youth Centre does want them involved too. And it couldn’t just be a mess of limbs writhing on the ground. Many historical paintings of this scene show a pretty boring Graeco-Roman stance with the angel and Jacob grabbing each other by the shoulders, although Gauguin´s angel in “Vision after the Sermon” has Jacob in a headlock. I wanted something with verve and action. A few hours of wrestling videos later (Finnish Olympic wrestling; aikido vs jiujitsu; Californians doing Brazilian jujitsu) I settled for a kind of theolgical MMA: the angel has Jacob in a Brazilian vale-tudo headlock, but Jacob is countering with a vingativa from capoeira.

This, in turn, reminded me of the capoeira song “Foi no clarao da lua“, a showoff song crowing about how capoeira won over jujitsu in a moonlit bout, and goes into the details of the moves used: “No vale-tudo con jujitsu… a capoeira venceu!”.

 

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Early wrestling sketches from Krav Maga to aikido
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Here’s the general idea. In a ‘vingativa’ you get a leg behind the opponent and shove them backwards over your thigh. Landed me in hospital once.

book cover teaser

Sketch of the day: guajolotes aka turkeys

In honour of the US American Thanksgiving holiday coming up, here’s a sketch of turkeys! And the small boy who was chasing them gleefully. Turkey
These two black turkeys came high-stepping down the path like they owned the place. They were not much smaller than the smallest kids playing football on the path, and for a minute I was worried about how the beak vs cheek contact would go. But the Southside Team goalie stepped up and chased the turkeys back the way they’d come with an exuberant series of sideways leaps, as if he was swinging on invisible lianas or vaulting invisible fences. At one point he did go splat on the ground but the turkeys looked at him indignantly and beat a dignified retreat.
Turkeys are called guajolotes in Mexico and are one of the few animals to have been domesticated in Mesoamerica. Provecho!

Hammock croquis

You’d think that someone lounging in a hammock on the beach would stay still for more than five minutes. Not the case. My drawings of friends in hammocks ended up as express sketches – croquis – live drawing done with very little time.

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But once they moved and messed up my portrait I could still work on the ropes and knots.

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Hammocks define the outermost points of the person inside… it’s as if they wrap a plane around limbs and protrusions which makes for fun drawings. There’s something early-90s-computer-graphicksy about them.

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And you get to feel like you did something creative on holiday.

Mirerani hairdressers

This sketch was inspired by some hairdressers we interviewed in 2012 in Mirerani in Tanzania. Mirerani is a frontier-flavour mining town – the origin of all the world’s tanzanite, a precious stone. Our partner organisation was finding out about the social impacts of the tanzanite companies – and small-scale miners. Our interview with some women at the hairdressing salon turned into a major streetside spectacle.

Sketch Hair salon

Sketch: Seven Survivor

Seven Survivor is a Tanzanian band who play the urban music mchiriku. This is a sketch from a gig of theirs in November 2013. (Another famous mchiriku band is Jagwa Music.) Mchiriku is a frenetic genre based on high-octane staccato drumming. The rest of the instruments and the rapping seem almost secondary to the drumming, which sounds as if the drummer is on speed; or as if he’s anticipating the end of the world any second and is trying to fit in a lifetime of drumming into a few short minutes. The pace and intensity of the drums ebbs and flows but never falls below ‘feverish’. It’s a rhythm that you can only dance to by jumping up and down, but you’d have to do that very quickly – almost vibrating! – to keep pace with the drums. The band also featured a lethargic mini-Casio keyboard player; a rapper (the lyrics are political and worth getting into), another percussionist using sturdy sticks on a small coffee table, and a guy shaking home-made maracas made with nailed-together bottle tops. Here’s a link to one of their gigs. And the main man – the drummer – was in some sort of trance with his head thrown as far back as possible. You’d need to really be at one with the flow to manage to keep that level of intensity going for hours.

Sketch Seven Survivor