BLOG 34 / Speeches Bands and Tapioca: Inauguration Day in Itaparica! / by steve joseph

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Tonight was THE big night for the first public lighting of my stained glass work. I really didn’t know what to expect but during the day, Augusto, the Program Manager here at the Sacatar Foundation, and Marcelo, the Media Publicists, kept on telling me certain things that ‘might’ happen... like there might be speeches and there might be music. 
     I arrived at the little park in front of the church at 5pm, to find a few sweet ladies sitting on the bench facing the church. They arrived early for the best seats in the house, and looked like they all knew each other. D. Cassimelia Pedreina, an elegantly dressed lady in a green dress and pearls stood out. 
     My one concern was to get inside the church to make sure the timer was set, and the lights would turn on at the set time of 6pm. The keys for the church could not be found, so Augusto and Marcelo were off on a motorcycle to get them back. 

D. Cassimelia Pedreina (in green) being interviewed by web-tv.

D. Cassimelia Pedreina (in green) being interviewed by web-tv.

While waiting I met friendly woman who was there from a local web-tv station. She was filming and interviewing people using her iPad, and she knew pretty good English. She introduced me around and told me the about D. Cassimelia Pedreina, who she just finished interviewing. D. Cassimelia is the local powerhouse who was the main organizer, along with Augusto, making things happen for my project in Itaparica. We had a short conversation with translating help of the web-tv woman.
     Soon a florist arrived and entered the side gate to the church with THE set of keys. I ran over, got the keys and told someone to phone Augusto and tell him to come back. 

A new arrangement of fresh flowers, palms inside the church.

A new arrangement of fresh flowers, palms inside the church.

I ran inside the church and checked the timer. It seemed right. The coordinator of the church opened the two large blue doors of the church, and had done a real beautiful new arrangement of statues, fresh flowers and small live palms behind the alter and set up a lovely small table right at the entrance to the church with Our Lady statue as the central figure and more flowers and plants. 
     There were for certain movers and shakers of Itaparica at this event, and I was introduced and photographed with them all including Mayor Marlyda Barbuda, the new female mayor, the outgoing mayor, people in the congregation of the church, and some locals I recognized.

François Starita interviewing D. Cassimelia Pedreina.

François Starita interviewing D. Cassimelia Pedreina.

So the timer is set, and I just have to circulate and meet people, which I enjoy. Throughout the night lots of strangers came up and introduced themselves, mainly in Portuguese, and asked if I made the work, then congratulated me with firm handshakes, kisses, hugs and placing their hands over their hearts. Wow, I didn’t expect to be able to meet so many of the people face-to-face that were following the progress here in Brazil and who were SO excited about the work, so for the next hour I did. Another web-tv person, François Starita, asked if I could explain about the work on video, and for the next 20 minutes I spoke with him. We spoke often throughout the night, He was a blond European, but also a dual citizen of Brazil who lived in town... he spoke perfect English. 
     Nice thing, both Marcelo, Sacatar’s Media Publicists and François Starita, will be putting together all this photo and video footage and will be sending it to me in the coming weeks. 

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By this time the square is filling up, at the most it was probably about 200 people. At this point we hear and see, I’m not kidding you, a marching band lead by a fantastic male baton twirler and flag team, marching toward us. All different aged students, lots of drums and brass, and super high energy. The square is not super huge, and they had a well rehearsed, very coordinated choreography figured out, to navigate the square in an inventive way while playing. They played a few songs then stop and stare up at the church.... I realize everyone in the square is looking up at the window. It is 6pm, the time the work should light.  
     Augusto runs to the back of the church to coordinate the ringing of the bells, and I run inside to manually switch the lights on. The timer will kick in soon, but I could not wait another minute. I switch it on and hear a combination of sounds... the eruption of applause, the band beginning to play, fireworks go off on the bay, and the bells ringing. In two seconds I was back in front, seeing everyone looking up, clapping and smiling. Definitely a goose bump moment. 

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Next it was time for speeches and more music. Talk about the Revolution and meaning about the work by three or four speakers. They really know the history here, and Itaparica was the where the battles were fought and won. I was asked to say something as well, so I thanked Sacatar and my friends back in the US for supporting the work, said something about being welcome in this beautiful community, and how it is not so often that art can make a difference in peoples lives. I then offered to seriously come back if they can find another church for me to work on, and put two thumbs up, which I thought a bit corny, but the crowd seemed to liked it. A very short and to the point speech, with Augusto translated for me. 
     Next D. Cassimelia Pedreina walked to the alter in the entrance of the church. I was on her side to help physically support her and her walker. She made a gesture of blessing. At some point a recording of the national anthem was played from the parked car that had  a sound system of speakers in the trunk. 

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Now the fun part! As the last of the speeches were finishing, a table appeared and a parade of trays of food and a huge pot of hot tapioca magically appeared through the front door of the church. Savory breads and sweet home made baked items of stacked treats for the crowd, along with soda. At some point I ws given a cup of hot tapioca and was handed a napkin with five different bread items, which I woofed down... Then had a second hot tapioca. Man that stuff is good! The crowd and the marching band were all fed and trays of food were passed around. There was only a little food left over, these very generous cooks have definitely done this before!
     Casual groups of friends formed and chatted for a bit. The marching band relaxed, the sound system played nice quiet music, including a song by the “Brazilian Elvis.” Soon the band reconfigured, started a new tune, and left the square by the same road from where they entered. It was sad to see them go, with the music fading down a side street. I was really enjoying this and after a year of planning and two months of work I didn’t want it to end, but it had to. I was so glad I planted the thought in the minds of the crowd to find me a church so I can return. My new dream is to do more permanent stained glass window projects like this one, around the world.
     I found some of my fellow residents and returned back to the Sacatar Foundation, where we heated up some lasagna that was left for us by our cook. Two more days here then an exciting teaching gig in Argentina.

Special thanks to the following for supporting this project:
The Sacatar Foundation, Greg, Archie, Stan, Sharon, Thomas & Anita, Dita & Dave, Fred & Susan, Cousin Midge, Cousin Connie, Bob, James, Jennifer, Seth & Sarah, Fred & Sharon, and HITlights LED, and last but not least my family: Peppy-Jo, Rita, Patty, and Johnny & Annie. 

Information here on the Sacatar Foundation Residency.
Help fund supplies for this Brazilian stained glass window by making a donation by writing a check. Please made the check out and mailed it to: Joseph Cavalieri, 216 East 7th Street, apt 10, New York, NY 10009, USA. Thank you for your support! - Joseph