Santa Luzia, Dali and Shamans

Otra Vida at anchor, Santa Luzia

Santa Luzia is an unpopulated island, a rare thing indeed these days.  I don´t mean an unpopulated rock, of which there are plenty in the world, but a true island with hills, valleys, beaches.  People have lived here in the past, but life was hard due to limited fresh water, and the island was abandoned in the late 19th century with the population moving to other islands in the Cape Verdes. 

We anchored off Santa Luzia for five days.  Landing by dinghy is challenging due to the surf and we only did so once, anchoring the dinghy outside the surfline and swimming ashore.  I also snorkelled off a rocky outcrop near the boat which promised lobster and garoupa but delivered neither, and the spear gun remained in the dinghy.

Dali-esque dream landscape

With the warm sunshine and the moderate cooling breezes this was a special stop.  The hammock got plenty of use.  Late afternoon sun turned the slopes of the island into a Dali-esqe dreamscape of endless sand, boulders with long sharp shadows, and black folds of volcanic rock highlighted in the fading light. 

Strange clouds over Santa Luzia
There is a tangible familiarity to this view, a clear recognition of the forms and shapes and colours and shadows here in some of Dali´s paintings.  This comforting recognition will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Alt Emporda area – Dali´s paintings are peppered with iconic visual quotations from Port Lligat, Cadaques and Cabo de Creus – rocks, bays, fishing boats, the curve of a hill.  But there are other landscapes in Dali´s paintings too, and they are not from that area.  It is many years since I read a lot about Dali but as I recall he did little travel in his early life beyond his journeys to and from Paris, and I certainly can´t imagine him having made a journey to the Cape Verdes – in those days a considerable undertaking indeed.

Full moon rising over the island

Now Santa Luzia surely isn’t the only place in the world that has reddish-orange volcanic gravel, black volcanic hills, boulders, and an aspect open to the setting sun.  But the point is that the places Dali visited physically, as far as I know, have nothing close to such a landscape.  Where did it come from, and in such detail?  Dali, Breton, Bunuel and the other surrealists were trying to access dreams and report back what they found each in their own way.  Dali may not have visited these landscapes physically, but somehow in his dream life he did, and what he found in his dream life seems not to have been based on any likely experience he had in his waking life.  It came from somewhere else.

Watching the sun go down behind Sao Vicente

Jung would point to the collective unconscious.  Others would point to astral travel or any number of new age or ancient wisdom explanations.  There are interesting parallels between these concepts and the worldview of shamanic tribes that I am reading about in preparation for travel to the Amazon basin in the next months.  Oversimplifying considerably, our modern day western view of reality seems to offer two broad choices: the existentialist view of a dead universe of random combinations entirely without meaning, or the religious view of a supervised duality requiring uncritical subservience and largely dismissing direct experience.   The surrealists and the shamanic tribes both seem to point to a possible third choice.  It is shaping up to be an interesting few months.

One Reply to “Santa Luzia, Dali and Shamans”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful pictures so that other people can glimpse these wonderful views – shamans and surrealists – what an interesting idea –

    have a great day Martin – with blessings xx

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