Canadian-Azorean Encounter By Elaine Avila
By Elaine Avila
More Canadians than ever joined “Encontro Pedras Negras,” an unpretentious, heartfelt writer’s festival in the remote mid Atlantic island of Pico, in the Azores. The festival, a part of the Azores Fringe, is named for Pico’s most famous writer, Dias de Melo, and his book Pedras Negras.
Activities included a welcome from the President of the Regional Assembly of the Azores and the Mayor of Madalena (the city at the epicentre of the festival), visual art openings, a discussion about Azorean writers and a lecture about those specifically from Pico, book launches, live music, readings, museum tours, traditional dances, a tour of Pico Island and Dias de Melo’s village led by his granddaughter Patricia Dias de Melo, the opening of Paim BookHouse Gallery in the ancestral home of Canadian author Manuel Azevedo, a presentation of the MiratecArts Writing Award to Carla Lima from São Miguel Island.
Writing sessions were inspired by direct encounters with nature. We wandered through the ”Galeria Costa,” a vineyard built with emblematic black lava stones the first Azoreans used as building materials, now filled with site specific art. Writers from throughout the Azorean archipelago stood and read pieces, adding literature to the vineyard. Another writing session involved planting ourselves throughout a garden in the Wine Museum, featuring some of the oldest dragon trees in the world.
Canadians of Azorean descent Lisa Furtado, Manuel Azevedo and I could make powerful links to writers who live throughout the Azorean archipelago, mainland Portugal and France. Writers gathered in intimate spaces, reading and performing emerging and published work for each other, always close to the sea. Being sheltered in Azorean villages, “Encontro Pedras Negras” was uniquely less of a marketplace, and more about writing and encountering each other, making connections to the past and creating the future. As Founder and Artistic Director, Terry Costa, also Canadian-born of Azorean background, the festival “is about realizing dreams for all the participants.”
Elaine Avila is an award-winning American/Canadian writer of Azorean descent who explores untold stories of women, workers, climate change, globalization, and the Portuguese in her inviting, bold, spirited, compassionate, wide-ranging plays which often incorporate music and humor. elaineavila.com