Stay- Cinthia Marcelle and Jean Meeran
Obsessed as I am with Creole culture, mulattoism, mestizas and mixedness, I was chuffed to hear that Cinthia Marcelle from Brazil was coming to stay with me for a Very Real Time.
Cinthia told me that she wants to become familiar in Cape Town, because she feels invisible in her new space. She said she would like to cover herself up and merge with the city, observing the people, until she could make herself comfortable as if she were at home.
My identity-obsessed mind kicked in to gear. To me Cinthia looks totally like a Cape Town girl. She is a mixed breed, just like us here. But of course looking like a group of people hardly makes you one of them. Looking like a wall hardly makes you a wall either. But, the initial, and powerful, confrontation with the unfamiliar is the visual. And if you can blend in visually you can blend in visually.
But the environment will suss you out in a second. Cinthia walked around town with me, and people called out to her, asking her where she was from. They knew. The walls also knew. Our work is not camouflage; it is a blending that retained the distinctness of Cinthia and her one-month cityscape.
As soon as Cinthia was in position and covered up, she was at the mercy of the environment, including me. Progressively Cinthia would be swaddled in layers of fabric until her head would finally disappear. After the vague shape was formed would begin the excruciating task of precisely aligning the lines of the different blocks of colour of fabric with the lines of the walls. I would then take position to snap, and then sigh and walk back to adjust. Many to and fros later, as the lines began to coincide, Cinthia would begin to merge with the background. Inside that cocoon, it was humid, oxygen was low, and the pain of the positions was dazzling. After snapping away, I would unveil Cinthia, to face her audience of chattering people, or quiet buildings, or unconcerned cars.
The onlookers were appreciative. We were so well received that we were even stoned, in the best of Old Testament tradition. Cinthia was crouching in beret, shirt, skirt and socks in front of a public toilet wall at The Grand Parade. A semicircle of observers were checking us out, intrigued. Suddenly stones rained down on us. But nice discrete pebbles, not head busters.
I turned to the crowd; hands raised to the heavens, and in best Aaron (if not Moses) voice, boomed, "WHO HERE, IS THROWING STONES?"
The crowd gave me a baleful look. Then an older man pointed out the perpetrator, a gawky, grinning, attention-seeker.
"It was him!" said the fingerer.
The attention-seeker chirped in his defence that he is friends with me, and so what of it if he throws stones? Friends because of a bit of banter we had earlier were he tuned me, "Ja, I checked you, you got no spool in that camera bradther."
So the stone thrower was hustled away by the fingerer. The whole time beret, shirt, skirt and socks wearing Cinthia was crouching, muscles shivering, in front of the toilet wall.
New situations always fascinate me: the sensation of the unknown, of how you know things and the meaning created around those.
I met Jean without taking note of his color. My color is more natural to me than what I thought. The discovery took place in a very real time. Jean recognized my mixture and I realized how important that encounter was. The inside spaces compose the outside spaces.
Only Jean can see me all the time. He is the one who shapes my stay (which is always a revelation to me). Our work is transference of strength. My presence is not a disguise - it is converted into city. I am revealed as a wall and the colors come out. I am blended into things; mestizo me to the crowd.
contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (Cinthia), email@example.com (Jean).