Morocco: The Fishing Port

After a few days in Marrakech, Chris and I took a short trip to the seaside town of Essaouira. Swirling with seagulls, the beautiful 18th century is famous for its ramparts upon which Orson Welles shot his "Othello". The city, with its French, English, and Italian built architecture, feels both very European, Moroccan, and African all at once. The people felt more conservative than in Marrakech, in both dress and attitude towards the swarms of tourists trying to take their picture.

Usually I have not encountered the same resistance from people towards drawing as I have seen towards photography. With drawing, you are in a more vulnerable position since you have to wait and finish, so it feels less predatory and more reciprocal to me than photography. But in Essaouira, the people in general felt very hostile towards it, and one man was furious and ripped up the drawing I had done of him.

The only place this was not true, was in the fishing docks where everyone was very friendly, and interested in what I was doing. As an international port, the center of the city is the fishing dock where fishermen go out in bright blue fishing boats all through the day and bring back their fresh catches to sell on the docks and into the medina.

Early in the morning, the men prepare their boats and repair their nets to go out to sea.

Men wait as the fishermen bring in the latest catch.
Men and women along the docks wait to sell fish, rays, sharks, eels, lobsters, crabs, and any other type of sea creature you can think of.

Also at the fishing docks is the shipyard where a dozen ships are put up on dry-dock for repairs.

After drawing so long at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, it was wonderful to be able to see a completely different type of shipyard.  Here the men were repairing a sardine boat, with ribs exposed.

The Sea Music Festival

A couple weekends ago I got the chance to return to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut while The Sea Music Festival was going on. It was great getting to see the performers and the audience interacting because they were both equally excited to be singing the songs they all knew by heart.

The seaport was full of characters, who looked and sounded like they had stepped out of the 19th century. It was amazing to see how a place can be transformed by the people occupying it, and how the whole place came to life when they sang the shanties.

(They each signed by their portraits!)

The highlight of the weekend for me was seeing The Barrouallie Whalers. They are a group of men from St. Vincent and the Grenadines who, in the recent past, hunted the pilot whales off the coasts of the islands as their profession. Today they sing the unique whaling shanties they sang on the whale boats, many of which share similarities to the shanties sung by "Yankee" whalers in the 19th Century.

It was amazing to see these men sing with such intensity and passion, ,and you could see their whaling days come alive in their voices as they sang.

The even had a short demonstration where they reenacted the sighting and hunting of a whale in a whaleboat out in the Mystic harbor.

Towards the end of the day, there was a concert featuring a group of women from the Mystic area called The Johnson Sisters, the Barrouallie Whalers, and a group of French shanty-men from Brittany, called Nordet. The began by singing songs individually, but as the concert went on, they all began to sing together. Whether they knew the words to begin with or not, they began to show the real power behind songs like sea shanties. The songs were developed aboard ships where people from all over the world sailed, and often didn't speak the same language. The songs have simple, chant-like lyrics, so that, no matter the language the sailor spoke, he could join in and keep pace with the work.

The men from Barrouallie and the people from Connecticut and Brittany could not look any more different if they tried, but these people could come together, from all over the world, to sing songs and fight to keep their world history alive.