Jungle Book

Jungle Book

The last of the 10 handmade journals commissioned by my friend Riitta had this on its cover. It was a book and it had jungle plants, hence the name (I’m often stumped what to call each design).

The image is a mishmash of river and island memories…of which there are many, because I have been living in or near water since I decided, at 25, to spend the rest of my life with a salty sailor (who keeps the sea as a mistress).

I was inspired by the limestone islands of El Nido, the jungle surrounding the Essequibo, the tepuys of Venezuela, the birds of the Orinoco and the Rio Dulce, and the green mangrove water of Sadgroves Creek in Darwin, though I kept the design light and simple, no grand or profound truths in this little illustration!

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chévere

chévere
This is not an exclusively Venezuelan word…but it gets used a million times a day by everybody, here.

Chévere (CHE-vreh), used as an adjective, can describe a person who is extremely well-liked, cool, nice, fun, good, clever, and so forth.

It also describes things, places, events, situations that are great, fun, entertaining, agreeable, excellent. Una pelicula chévere…(an excellent movie), “el destino más Chévere del Caribe…”(“The coolest place in the Caribbean…” -from an advertising campaign by Venezuela’s Ministry of Tourism).

Whittled down to a word or two, it is used in expressions like “¡Que chévere!” (Awesome!), the statement “Chévere.” (Cool.) or the question “¿Comó estas, Natalia…chévere?

Of course I am…having a fantastic time, painting these fun little canvases of Venezuelan slang words, as a kind of side-project while I am waiting for gourds to dry…

We will be sailing away this week, after four fantastic months in Venezuela. As always, I hate to leave, now that I know the place reasonably well, have made friends, finally feel relaxed and at-ease, established a ‘home routine’ (not much more than reading a lot and painting), going about on my own. We have so much to thank Venezuela for. Despite the troubles and the difficulties, it is a gorgeous country, and the people really are super pana. We also made huge inroads in learning the Spanish language while we were here, and I will never really be able to speak the language without remembering these past four beautiful months.

But there’s also so much to look forward to: Jamaica, Cuba (woo hoo!), Colombia, Haiti, Guatemala, Panama…Chévere!

Hasta luego, mis panas!
chévere

8 tracks : : chévere!

A bunch of tracks, purchased during our four months in Venezuela, that served as a kind of background to our stay. As my Spanish improved, so did my enjoyment of the music I heard around me, which suddenly spoke to me out of the chaos of exotic-sounding words.

I made friends with a dapper old gentleman who owns a music shop near the local market, and he gave me a short, intense education in salsa music…which resulted in my now having almost everything ever published by Oscar D’Leon and Willie Colon! The Argentinian Giulia y Los Tellarini is kind of like a female version of Tom Waits, with her ruined, husky voice, and smoky songs of nostalgia and damnation.


N.B. I don’t particularly LIKE Francisco Montoya, but he is an absolute must, in order to capture the true feeling of the country. This type of music is called Musica de Los Llaneros (Music of The Rangers), and is their version of country western, here. All the male singers have high, goat-like voices, and bleat to the accompaniment of a harp (strummed and plucked like a guitar), a small guitar called a cuatro, and maracas. They play it in taxis, on buses, absolutely EVERYWHERE. And most popular of all of them was Montoya. There was no escape. A playlist of Venezuela wouldn’t be complete without him.

super pana

super pana
A Spanish-English dictionary will tell you that pana (PA-nah) is corduroy or velveteen.

Not very cool…and, again, no help in the streets of Venezuela, where pana can be used as an adjective to describe people who are nice, cool, amiable, congenial.
En Venezuela, la gente es super pana.
The gregarious lady taxi driver, Paola, who yesterday made a crazy U-turn on the highway so that I could try a cocada (coconut smoothie) from the best stall in the area, was very cool, very pana.
super pana
It can also be used as a noun, and refers to your best friend, your bosom buddy, your homeboy/girl.
The friends I usually hang out with? Mi panas.

No Hay Culebra

No Hay Culebra
Along with learning proper Spanish, picking up some of the local slang words is unavoidable. These words get used so much in everyday speech—and because a huge part of my language education is comprised of striking up conversations with anyone who seems friendly and inclined to talk to me—that I have had to learn them, simply to understand what is being said.

Literally, no hay culebra means “No snake” or, “There is no snake”, and a dictionary can’t help you here, it is only likely to confuse you.

It is used, for example, at the market…when some vendor tries to overcharge me for something. It never fails to get them to lower the price to something more usual (not necessarily a bargain, but at least the price for locals, and not the extortionist rates levied on foreigners).
No Hay Culebra

An expression known mainly to Caraqueños (from Caracas), it almost always gets a delighted laugh when I use it, because it is so slangy. A lot of Venezolanos, from other parts of the country, are unfamiliar with it.

‘Russian’ gourd

Russian gourd

When I started painting my third gourd, Kris commented that it resembled the painted wooden spoons and other kitchen utensils from some province in Russia.
Russian gourdTo heighten that effect, I took some inspiration from Russian illustrator Ivan Bilibin when I painted the faux woven red and gold band around the rim of the gourd.
Russian gourdBut then I was told I had ‘ruined’ the traditional Russian colour scheme (black, red, gold and green) by adding purple, orange, metallic copper, slate blue, and white. Hee. Couldn’t help myself.