YOHJI YAMOMOTO told me:
Go anywhere you'd like, take my clothes I want a timeless universal feeling. Our meeting was short- of few words, deep silences and child- Like laughter. Those feelings I love, precious moments of a first encounter.
Long nights, long days, with many of my dream lying on the map of the world: China Africa Zanzibar? Helio Oiticia, a dear friend of mine and a great artist came to me in a dream, shouting "Carnival go to Bahia".Everything became clear. Ten years before, I had stayed at Helio's home in Rio.He made me discover Mangueira, one of the favelas, this place he loved and his wonderful friends, Nininha, Jose' Ramos and all the beautiful boys. I remember the preparations for the carnival under the shadow of the trees everywhere beautiful costumes being made ladies sewing and the sound of the machines shiny material like a butterfly wings men making shoes with great shapes and hats with feathers- pink and green the colors of Mangueira and my admiration for the architecture of the favela. I was fascinated by their dignity and their joy for living, loved the people and was sure that this was the place and the faces that I wish to capture in my work.
In November of 1988, I left to Brazil, laughing at the sight of myself at the airport with five big bags on wheels,filled with Yohji's clothes. Five huge rolling elephants. Could I learn to travel with them? I was used to traveling light, just my camera and a bag. I learned. I arrived in Rio and went to Mangueira. Everyone I cherished was still there, getting ready for carnival.
I felt the pulse of Samba running through my blood again. Nininha and the boys were more superb than ever, reflecting that ageless playful grow. I filled myself with energy, their love, an left for Bahia. In Bahia, The sounds are different. Africa came back to me.
Her people were also preparing for Carnival... dancing, and walking behind a big truck where singers are performing with hundreds of drummers.
The drums are so large they nearly touch the ground. I followed them. A huge crowd an narrow streets, a great way to discover the city. The burning hot sun is gone. It is here I will find the people I am looking for, getting lost in that crowd, moving like waves sometimes tender sometimes rough and back again to peace.
I was making friends slowly, sweating with them, losing a shoe and wondering how my five elephants were doing. Would I find them safe when I go back?
The march lasted till late at night. People constantly told me, Don't wear your watch! Don't carry your camera! Watch out!" I knew why. Behind the historical facade of the old city which attracted so many tourists during the day, I could feel the pain and suffering pulsating in the background.
It took much dancing and walking before I began to find people to work with, beautiful people with light in their eyes...but so often their joyous smile revealed
missing teeth because of malnutrition. I met the Washingtons, two beautiful boys. They renamed themselves in order to sound American. They kept watch over an old building, checking out everyone who entered and everyone who left.
Each resident had a windowless room with a cheap lock on the door. At night the Washingtons were dancers in a club for mostly men.
One night they took me there, disguising me with Yohji's clothes for men. A few minutes after my arrival,The police came and started to beat up
anyone they could grab.
I was thankful that I could hide beneath a table and not lose my camera. The Washingtons were very protective of each other and so sensitive to my mood
that when I was sad, they would buy me “acaraje'", a fried dough cake made of black-eyed peas, to make me happy again. After a few days, they moved in with me. Carlos did too. I met him in the port of Bahia as he was about to dive in the water.
He was following a long procession, "Festa da boa Viagem" (Fête du bon voyage), of crowded boats filled with musicians, making it's way from church to church, carrying the Statues of Saints. We arranged to meet that night in front of the church.
My studio was full of Yohji's clothing, hanging everywhere. Carlos was really surprised. The Washingtons were asleep on the floor.The next morning to get more mattresses.The place was turning into a dormitory: I knew it was the only way to work together, the light was good from only five to six in the morning and late in the afternoon when the colors turns to honey. We had to be together again.
Time in Bahia reminds me of Africa.
A friend will tell you that he will arrive tomorrow morning but he can easily come the day after. Carlos was a very religious Rastafarian. He knew all of Bob Marley's songs and believed strongly in self- sufficiency and love of nature. He was proud of the clothes he made for himself from the cotton bags that once carried sugar and wore no shoes so his feet would become stronger. For a few days, he did not want to wear Yohji's clothing but slowly a pair of Yohji's shorts and T-shirts became his own while a pair of shoes eventually found a way to his feet.
I spent a lot of time in the hot sun looking for a beautiful girl. I wanted to find someonewith a beautiful heart. I just had to keep walking, taking buses and not giving up. While a part of a huge, sweating lambada wave, late at night at a street fair, with couple kissing and fishermen docking their little wooden boats, I spotted Sonia in the middle of the dancing crowd surrounded by sisters. Our eyes met and we both laughed She joined the Yohji's dormitory.
A few days later, we all went to the ocean to offer presents to the Goddess of the sea: "Iemanja'"; perfumes and lots of flowers.. The crowd was dressed in white, lace and crisply ironed cotton. We wore Yohji's clothing and felt in harmony with the people and the place. I sensed that Yohji was looking at us and smiling as we jumped from rock to rock, afraid of losing our shoes in the sea Chispita was our little princess. She had just turned thirteen.
She spent a great deal of time playing with Yojhi's clothing. I was fascinated by the way she managed to adjust the clothes to her tiny body
even though they were too large. On the seventh and last day of Carnival, while wishing my feet could fly, I saw her sitting on a rock, legs crossed high heeled shoes a sexy panther dress and one long glove covered with diamonds Later, I learned she was hiding long, self-inflicted scars. She had done it in jail so she could get out.
Two singers joined us, Tatãtao and Betão. They were famous ones from he Araketo and the Olodum groups. Life became very hard for us in the small studio. It was time to leave. Two wonderful friends lent us a house far away from the city, near nature, next to a river. We moved there, full of joy and the thought of freedom.A dear friend of mine, Michel, came from Paris.
He cooked us the most delicate and beautifully presented food which we happily ate after working. Sometimes he arranged the clothes, or he would try to catch a big toad for Sonia: he wanted her to believe that a Prince was hidden there. Unfortunately, Sonia only believed in her fear. We had a great time working together enjoying the space, the river where Michel would have everyone to swim naked at night, and pushing candles that lit our faces in little transparent glasses. We would make far away trips in packed buses.
One day we found ourselves in a tiny village. From away, I saw a big orange tent. As I got closer, I was happy to discover the "Cirque Montreal", a small country circus. I passed the little gate under one of Yohji's umbrellas. They were so full of wonderment that they started to play with it. Like magic, I knew I could work with the clowns and their children. We stayed for the night show.
A big storm nearly took the tent off. The audience was screaming. The only two light bulbs went out and the music went off while the trapeze girl was on the tightrope. Yohji's jackets were the show's ultimate success.....
After Bahia, I moved to São Paulo. I wanted to be in a big city, walking and getting lost through the working class suburbs and the rich neighborhoods. I went to Cubatão, one of the most polluted places in the world, a valley surrounded by factories. People lived there, dying slowly. Their eyes had turned Yellow. Their children were born crippled. They warned me not to stay.
Their concern touched me deeply. Luizmar, the friend I took along, and I said that we would never forget Cubatão. Back in Rio, I again worked everywhere. Waiting for the light early on the morning, on the beach with Neville talking passionately about his next movie in Amazonia, watching Helena dance while waiting for the wind to blow under her skirt matching the ocean's waves and on the railroad tracks with Paolo; looking for our little, wooden, yellow train with passengers hanging on both sides while going to work.Yvo and Helcius took me to their island in their little white plane.
They treated me so kindly.
I wanted so much to go and pick up Nininha and Jose' Ramos from the favela in their helicopter so we could fly in the sky together. I met their friend, Helena, while swimming in the sea. She took me to her parent's island. There were millions of motor boat racing each other as if they were on a Los Angeles freeway.
I spent my last night at the top of Mangueira, where the earth meets the sky and you can see all of Rio shining below like some rare gem, at the home of Joanilson, a great musician and woodcarver. His little wooden house was filled with many friends composing new songs _ great voices and sounds.
From his porch, I could see his three little children huddled together on the bed, sound asleep, exhausted after a long day of playing.
I wanted to hold in my heart all the love I felt that night, The mistery of Mangueira, light bulbs here and there casting strange shadows on the walls forcing you to simply let your body move in the direction it wants to...Mangueira where you have to know your way to find your way
When morning came, it was time to leave.
Après 22 ans de New York, je n'arrive pas à racconter ce voyage en francais et je m'en excuse. Je tiens à dédier ce livre a' la mémoire de Fiume Yamomoto dont j'admire les photos.