On a cold New England day, I came across the work of another artist of the Sirocco, Sheryl Roberts. This piece, Sirocco, captures the movement, fluidity, and complete rupture of space and time through the winds that this blog has been following since early 2016.
Rippingham Art Gallery sells of Roberts’s work (see here) and writes, “Born in 1971, Sheryl taught art in schools and colleges in Yorkshire for 15 years before becoming a full time artist working from her studio in Hyde Park. Fascinated by the mystery of the moving skies and visions of light on windswept landscapes, she aims to capture the imagination of the viewer and invite them in to this eccentric world. Her work has been much acclaimed through exhibition and sale throughout the UK.”
On Roberts’s personal webpage, her latest series is described as “directly inspired by the changing chaotic skies in imaginary lands – a place she finds mysteriously fascinating.” She continues that it is ‘ A place that evokes emotion as reflective light seems to divide light in every direction.’
“Sirocco” is the ‘place’ and moment that I have been attempting to photograph on the SiroccoBlue instagram page. I hope to one day capture light, reflection, and transition, and the seas as Sheryl Roberts has in her wind-inspired collection!
“Like” SiroccoBlue on Facebook for the next writing on the Sirocco, Flamenco, and themes of movement and translation across cultures!
SiroccoBlue doesn’t usually review (much less promote) large organizations, but we have found incredible customer service at the River St. Whole Foods location in Cambridgeport (the old Fourth Ward).
Whole Foods located in the Sun at the base of River St.
End of River St., taken from Central Square
Especially in terms of language and receptivity, this particular branch in the Cambridgeport community offers some models for the local, family-owned operations that has been our focus since the Amherst Life Blog and Amherst Life Blog days of our youth.
Indeed, the kind, genuine, courteous, multilingual staff at the Whole Foods on River St. deserves recognition and they also provide us with some key paradigms… People who speak Portuguese and Spanish feel comfortable in a store where the employees are allowed to speak to customers in their native language(s). The same is true, both for ease of informational transfer as well as comfort, of street maps and eco-friendly information: people feel part of a community when they can work and live in their languages of choice:
But back to the business front: that horrific internal policy that prohibits staff from speaking in their languages to customers stigmatizes certain languages as “other” and a “threat,” and cuts off the connection between the public and the institution. It forces communication to abide by the imagined language norms of a society (and they are alleged because this is a multilingual society) and therefore the equally imagined cultural patterns and values of that society. By enforcing an English-only internal language policy the organization is enforcing, too, an English-only culture that gives no space for the co-existence of other ways of communicating and being. The message, in establishments that forbid employees to speak to each other and to customers in their languages, is clear: one language and one culture shall prevail. Simply put, that is not a friendly business atmosphere even though the supposed reason behind this type of control is to make sure that monolingual English speakers do not feel uncomfortable or feel “others” are speaking about them. (News to all: if you are annoying, people will find all kinds of ways of talking about it via metaphor, glances, looks, codified body gestures that resist intelligibility. Communication is going to happen no matter what). Again, we digress…
The point here is that the staff at River St. is a multicultural group that is extremely sensitive to the customer: they know how to engage, they know when to be a “light presence,” they can speak across all of their languages, and they know how to determine when a customer wants to branch out of the “norms” and have a conversation. That customer (customers, really, para ser correctos gramaticalmente) would be us: the SiroccoBlue team who walks through the store proudly hollering out greetings in full quisqueyaneo, “muchacho, y qué; dímelo mi reina, como tu tá” and sometimes in Portuguese, “e aí meu amigão, beleza?” and proudly receiving the response to the call, “como tu andas mi amor; pero esse muchacho, ese é un pícaro!; beleza meu rei,” among others.
Yes, sometimes folks call Whole Foods “whole paycheck.” The things are expensive, including that delicious lunch/dinner buffet. But we keep going there because of the staff and the sense of personal connnection and service that River Street is fully engaging. We throw down $15 because they people look at us in the eye and greet us, they speak to us in our languages, they don’t feel they have to hide their language use. It is a paradigm para la comunidad!
A special thanks to for your dedication to maintaining a personal and personalized connection to the people that spend their hard earned cash at Calle Río. Gloria, Johan, Dulce, Wanda, among others: te felicitamos del corazón, qué clase de trato, de caballería, qué gente más chévere. They are the front line of an organization that, in other locales and states, can come off as a bit impersonal, transactional. Certainly not the case at River Street.
See our next post as we extend this language-based paradigm to Andala Café, just up River Street in Central Square.
These photographs were taken in 2014 at what is termed “um portal” in the capital city of the state of Bahia, Salvador (Brazil).
Um portal (a doorway or threshold) is a spiritually active geographic position in the city. Here, too, is a crossroads of wind systems where the bay (Bahia de Todos os Santos) meets the open Atlantic Ocean.
Please send us a line to order prints or our customized cards: SiroccoBlue7@gmail.com
Da Bahia a Rhode Island
O sol é o mesmo e os seus contos são parecidos
embora surgam na nossa consciência em línguas
diferentes, igualmente belas todas
Na Bahia, aplaudem o por do sol em certas praias urbanas,
pessoas desconhecidas jogam bola
é um rito das perguntas
das possibilidades de cada dia, do universro que a noite carrega
da visibilidade da lua que predomina
In Manhattan, otra ciudad de mar y rio,
silent witnesses contemplan
the antiquated nostalgia of gold
illuminating Newark across the river
la história de los grandes inovadores de música
haunting and yet still opening possibilities
for the generations to come
The sunset is the rise and fall of a generation
of an epoch
The sun tells the same mysteries
of passing and crossing
The same silent witnesses
stand in the only way they know how
struck by the messages
and the questions
Silent witnesses along the coast
Silent witnesses of light
Gather along the shore
to live in the transition of day to night
Silent witness of the sea, of ports
Standing, struck, arrested by light.
By Sirocco Santos, 2011. Photography by SiroccoBlue (with the exception of the Woody Shaw album cover, of course).