Photo Essay: The Back Streets of Mindelo, Cape Verde

Posted June 10, 2013 by Kathryn Burrington in Photo Essay
One of an archipelago of 10 islands in the Atlantic Ocean, about 500km off the West African coast, São Vicente is home to the cultural capital of the islands, the town of Mindelo. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the islands a number of times but one of the most memorable days was on my first visit, when I took time out from a photographic assignment and simply strolled around the harbor town of Mindelo, photographing the cobbled streets,  crumbling architecture and the charming people I met along the way.
It was a Sunday afternoon and as I wandered around I came across people going about their daily lives outside on the streets: two friends listening to music as one braided the other’s hair; an older resident reclining in a deckchair quietly amused that I wanted to photograph him and a family sitting on the pavement playing wuri, a game played with beans moved around a wooden board.
By the harbor a large group of boys were practicing capoeira, their graceful moves a mélange of dance, gymnastics and martial art. It is thought to have been developed by slaves in Brazil who wanted to disguise their fighting practice as a dance so that their slave masters would not become suspicious. On the harbor-side a group of musicians stood in a row playing hand drums, pandeiros (similar to tambourines) and berimbaus (a type of musical bow). They provided the rhythm to which the boys moved.

As I watched, transfixed by their skillful steps, kicks and spins, I heard a hiss behind me. Looking around I saw a group of young men but I was perplexed as to why they had hissed at me. I quickly walked on, feeling rather offended and a little hurt (and disappointed not to have taken more photographs of the capoeira). A while later I heard another hiss and when I turned around someone was smiling at me! What was going on? Walking on I was soon too engrossed in my photography again to think any more on it.

On the road towards the beach I passed a wall covered in mural after mural depicting messages about protecting the environment with subjects from deforestation to endangered sea life, such the turtles that nest on the islands. The beach itself was sandy and fairly quiet but not very photogenic, being surrounded by bleak, barren mountains so I headed back to the old colonial buildings and cobbled streets nearer the centre of town.
The next day, when I resumed my assignment photographing hotels for The Cape Verde Experience, I chatted with one of the receptionists and mentioned the hissing. She smiled and explained “It’s just our way of catching someone’s attention. It isn’t rude at all!” So next time you take a stroll around Cape Verde and you are hissed at, just turn around and smile politely, they’re just saying hello.

About the Author

Kathryn Burrington

Kathryn has worked in the travel industry for over 16 years where she has specialized in the fields of photography, design, social media and writing. In her blog, Travel With Kat, she shares her joy of discovering new countries, cultures and cuisines. Connect with Kathryn on Google+

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