*Picture of a street in Ilha d'Madeira in 2014, a few weeks before starting Sonvela Arte.
In this article I wanted to share some background info about the location we choose for the Sonvela Arte project, called Ribeira Bote (and Ilha d'Madeira). I also wanted to explain what my connection to this very interesting part of Mindelo is.
Ribeira Bote is one of the most historical (and cultural) neighborhoods of the city of Mindelo. At the same time it has a bad reputation, because of its socioeconomical situation. Although located within a 15 minute walk to the city center, locals still consider it the 'periferia'. A term with a bit of a negative tone, usually to describe low income neighborhoods.
If you picture the neighborhood on a map, pretend there is a little center in it. This is the part that is called Ilha d'Madeira. The part of Ribeira Bote with an even worse reputation, due to problems related with alcohol and drugabuse, among others. Ilha d'Madeira is a place most people would prefer to avoid.
So why create Sonvela Arte there?
Ribeira Bote is an important part of me, because this is where my family is from. My grandparents, who came to live here a long time ago, had a small neighborhood shop. My father grew up here before he left Cape Verde at the age of just 16.
I used to visit my grandparents a lot when I was there for a holiday, which at one point became a yearly thing. Although it was clearly a different part of town when compared to the city center and other neighborhoods, I always loved to go there. From my grandparents house, I would walk to my uncle's house, who also lived in Ribeira Bote.
What is very interesting, is how my 'relationship' with the Ilha d'Madeira area used to be. My family would actually tell me to walk around it, because I did not live in Mindelo. My unfamiliar face could be a reason for trouble if I would walk through this part of Ribeira Bote to see my family.
Translated, the name Ilha d'Madeira means Island of Wood, which comes from the houses that used to exist there. A big part of the residents are from Santo Antão, and used to built their improvised homes with any material available. Unfortunately, today you can still find little tin houses here, where people live in very difficult conditions.
When I started spending time in and around Ilha d'Madeira I knew the idea I had for the project was right. The neighborhood was mainly grey, with most houses not plastered and painted. This gave it a bit of a sad look. Knowing more about the issues around, I wanted to create a different dinamic here.
History and Culture
Ribeira Bote is known as the Zona Libertada, Free Neighborhood. This name comes from the story of what happened in 1974. People in the neighborhood stood up against abusive Portuguese soldiers in an event, which some say, led the way to Cape Verde's independence.
Another famous 'revolution' that is attributed to Ribeira Bote is that of Capitão Ambrosio. He stood up against City Hall back in 1934 when the people of São Vicente were starving. The people demanded that the gouvernment (of Portugal) stepped in to feed them, since the island was also feeling the consequences of the Great Depression.
The Mandingas de Ribeira Bote have been part of a very positive movement in changing the neighborhoods reputation. Today, many who thought they would never set foot in Ilha d'Madeira are there on the Sunday's before Carnival, when the Mandingas take over Mindelo.
Ribeira Bote is also known for its many artists and artisans that have represented it throughout history. The neighborhood still plays an important part in Carnival when it comes to designing the outfits in ateliers and the manufacturing of the floats that take part in the beautiful parades.