Isabel lives on the foot of the hill. This special place is called Assomada de Trás di Munti. From the yard in front of the house you can see into the deep valleys of Santiago Island, you can see the dusty road going to the village Fazenda and of course, you can see a deep blue sea in the distance. On January 2014, at the end of my stay in Cabo Verde I visited this place for a first time. And it wasn't only the view that was magic. It was also the family of Isabel, her daughter Mariazinha, and two adopted granddaughters: older Marcia and little Luciana. In that day, I was welcomed in the house, they offered me freshly collected beans called Baixinha to take to my home country, and they showed me their only night lamp, a small solar lamp that Marcia uses to learn. I took a photo of them with ceramic plates that were created collaboratively in previous weeks and then I had to leave. But I already knew, I have to return to this site and create an artwork with them and for them, and for me too, for my curiosity and my wish to understand.
The place where Isabel lives with her family is about 15 minutes walk from the village Trás di Munti. The houses in the village have electricity, there is a public well in it's center, a primary school and CAO, Center for Arts and Crafts, where mostly women work with ceramics and textile. Both Isabel and Mariazinha do the ceramics in traditional style and Marcia is learning quickly. Isabel is working at home in her “studio”, a low, dark house built from stone, where chicken often enter. When her plates, animals, crosses and pots dry, they are put together on one spot, covered by dried cow manure and dry branches and then burnt. Next day the ceramics is ready. Their work is often funny, not perfectly round and smooth, but full of life. Because of little imperfections, Isabel isn't selling very well. On the other hand she is also a healer and that brings income. Every year they plant corn, beans, pumpkin. If it rains, they have what to eat and sometimes they save for the next year. But in a dry land as Cabo Verde there are years when there is not rain at all. Water has a big value.
There is no well close to Isabel's house so the water is brought by a truck and put in a big tank on the hill behind the house. It is a place, where Mariazinha takes care of cows. Some are hers, some have another owner. Early in the morning Mariazinha milks the cow. After dry summer as in 2014, when there is literally no crop, Mariazinha needs to find another source of income, so she goes to the town Praia to help in other houses and she sells animals: cows, chickens, pigs. Marcia now studies in a secondary school in Tarrafal, so most of the week she stays there and only in weekend she returns home. She is a good pupil, she has a talent for drawing and work with clay, but her wish is to be an accountant.
And Luciana, the smallest, is playing around the house, in complete freedom, playing with dogs and cat, with her used and dirty dolls, or with anything she finds around. She is smart and she likes to joke, as her grandmother too. Mariazinha smiles a lot and her smile is contagious. While Marcia is the most serious and her face almost shows a suspicion, she is kind and hard-working.
Isabel's family isn't poor. Not in my perspective (or in the perspective of rural capeverdians). Their house is getting bigger piece by piece every year. To the contrary of many families from this area, they don't wish to move to Europe. Although Isabel visited Portugal and she liked the experience. But the main reason, why I don't consider them poor is a simple happiness in their life.
In 2015 I returned to Cabo Verde with an artistic project for Isabel's House. I wanted to paint large scale murals on the house and also to film the everyday life of this family during one month. Before the travel I wasn't sure about what to paint. I didn't want to paint my personal motif, I preferred to use a painting as a way to focus on and celebrate what is already present in the place. I asked every member of the family what they like most/what is most important for them in the house. Isabel chose a rainwater, Mariazinha a cow, Marcia her sketchbook and Luciana a doll. I chose different wall for each of them so when you look at the house from every angle, you can see at least one painting. In addition, I decided to paint one of their dogs, Merda (shit in portuguese). Dogs have low value in Cabo Verde, they have little purpose for human survival and so they aren't very well treated. Also we painted one wall together with Marcia – it depicts different pots and containers used for water.