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Fringe Islands by Maria João Dodman


Fringe Islands

They arrived at the fringes of Europe for a weekend of reflection, exploration, sharing and learning. They were an eclectic bunch, diverse in their ways of being and seeing the world from equally diverse backgrounds, paths and cultures. But, their connections and their shared goals were immediate. They came together harmoniously in their love and respect of nature and of each other. They shared common values of tolerance, acceptance of the other without orientalism, exoticism, classism or any other ism that did not value the collective wellbeing. 

Some arrived in freedom, completely at ease among the enchanting nature of these islands that once upon a time, were a destiny for the unwanted, condemned to a life of servitude, victimized by colonialism and insularity. Some arrived in search of themselves in an attempt to find the familiar and inject it with new hues of renewed love.  Some arrived in search of refuge, running away from the solitude of city life, of rampant capitalism, of traffic jams, of incessant noise. And some, well, at least one, arrived to make peace, to find ways of reconciling with a painful past of isolation, rigid religious and social constraints that openly rejected her personality and her gender. 

They all found solace in the miraculous nature of the land, and in the boundless energy of Terry, an ingenious soul that each and every year brings us and others together in artistic expression. They engaged in learning about the island’s writers, but also about the land itself and an old world people oscillating between tradition and modernity. They were curious about one another in that healthy curiosity proper of engaged citizens. They dialogued; they debated; they even recited erotic poetry in the early hours of the following day. Oh my Lord! On the pier, they offered colour and art to the bustling of the to and fro. One of them at least, watched carefully the reaction of the locals, their smiles, and their empathic response. 

This one, this voyeur, was the one who came in search of reconciliation. She found it in the liquid calm of Terry’s eyes, in the hugs of others, in their kind smiles, in their authentic souls. She also visited the animal whisperer, the maker of smiles in stone and in the furry faces of those she cared for with extraordinary patience and devotion. She left aware that the old attitudes, those that had oppressed and clipped her wings, were on the way out. Aware that Terry and others were there to stay, to impact positive change. She recalled the wise words of paulo da costa: the importance of the margins or fringes as site of versatile creativity. She left reassured. She wondered about the others and when she would see them again. This is us, this is Azores Fringe Festival!

Maria João Dodman, PhD
York University, Toronto, Canada



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