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Cape Verdean Maritime Exhibit inaugurated

Cape Verdean Maritime Exhibit inaugurated

NEW BEDFORD — Jenny Rodrigues, Mary Rodrigues and Edward Askew went to the Whaling Museum last Tuesday with a special purpose: to pay homage to a distant relative in time, but very close in their hearts.

Mary Rodrigues's husband was the grandson of Captain John Theophilo Gonsalves, a Cape Verdean whaling sea captain who may have been among the first Cape Verdean businessmen who arrived in New England shores. Some of his artifacts are now part of the Cape Verdean Maritime Exhibit dedicated Tuesday at the museum.

"This is so wonderful. The binoculars here were his," said Mrs. Rodrigues a bit emotional, but with intense pride pointing to the glass case in front of her.

Born in the Island of Brava, he sailed for the first time at the age of 11 years and became a cabin boy during his first voyage aboard the bark Roman II MV. Over the next 50 years Capt. Gonsalves made 32 whaling voyages, 20 of which as Master of New Bedford based vessels, including the final voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, (1920-1921). His long career included colorful events from quelling a mutiny onboard the schooner E.B. Conwell in 1905 to evading a German U-boat onboard the schooner AM Nicholson in 1917. Capt. Gonsalves, while owning property in New Bedford, died in the Island of São Nicolau in 1928.

His is just one of many Cape Verdean immigrant stories now unveiled by the museum's permanent exhibit of Cape Verdean Whaling and culture of the Cape Verdean American experience.

The exhibit explores three primary themes: Cape Verde as the crossroads of the Atlantic, the portrait of a Maritime Community, and the enduring cultural ties between Cape Verde and the United States.

The inauguration took place on July 5 to coincide with the 36th anniversary of the Independence of Cape Verde.

As the whale men had to pull together in stormy seas, the Cape Verdean Gallery Committee of the Whaling Museum, co-chaired by Gene Monteiro and Dr. Patricia Andrade, had also to pull together, as Dr. Andrade described it.

"Everyone had their own ideas of what they wanted, but we all ended up on the same road," she said. "I believe that the end result is going to be phenomenal."

With a wide proud smile, she then spoke on a more personal note.

"We are excited about this exhibit because it tells the story of the Cape-Verdeans," she said. "My grandfather was a whaler and it's nice to finally tell the story of the Cape-Verdean whalemen, the Cape-Verdean people here in New Bedford and their historic significance."

In the late 1800's many Cape-Verdeans made their way to America as crewmembers of American whale ships. Some evolved so proficiently and their legacy — an important part of New Bedford's history — has now come to fruition in the new gallery.

This exhibition had been a long time coming, James Russell, President of the Whaling Museum, told the crowd in his opening remarks.

"It's the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of staff, a lot of committee members, board members, and I think you can see from the number of people that are here in the Bourne building just how wonderfully it has been received," he said. "We think we've hit a home run, we feel like the Red Sox when they won the World Series."

Among the invited guests were city and state officials, congressional representatives, Dr. Pedro Graciano de Carvalho, Consul-General of Cape Verde in Boston and Dr. Graça Fonseca, Consul of Portugal in New Bedford.

Dr. Maria de Fátima Lima da Veiga, Ambassador of Cape Verde in Washington, was the keynote speaker at the inauguration, which she described as a historic event.

"For us, it is extraordinary the fact that we were able after such a long wait, after dreaming of this day for so long, [that] we were able to inaugurate an exposition specific to Cape Verde in the Whaling Museum," said Ambassador Veiga. "[It is] just extraordinary... seeing how the Cape-Verdeans participated in this inauguration, and the pride they feel in having in this exposition a testimony referencing those that had to fight against seas and tides to be here in the United States, starting the American dream, but also keeping their eyes on Cape Verde, because they were here but also aiding Cape Verde."

New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang took the opportunity to speak about the changes that have been taking place at the Whaling Museum.

"The Museum years ago told the story with a very narrow lens. Over the past decade the museum has made tremendous strides in putting together a much clearer picture of New Bedford's entrepreneurism. And it truly is a mosaic," said Mayor Lang. "It's honoring, respecting and telling the accurate story of how each of our communities, so dear in New Bedford, contributed to this much success of the city. This is a very important moment for New Bedford because it brings another community into the family of the history of whaling."

The arduous task of bring the collection together was left to Dr. Gregory J. Galer, Vice President of Collections and Exhibitions at the museum.

"It's been an interesting process. I have to admit that I didn't know a lot about Cape Verde or the Cape-Verdean community here. I've only been here at the museum about a year and a half. So, I've learned a lot in the past year," Dr. Galer told O Jornal a few days before the official dedication.

He also said the Cape Verdean Gallery Committee helped acquire the artifacts, which were donated or loaned.

"I've really seen people's personal connection with these things. How emotional people are about their personal heritage, their family heritage and the connection of Cape Verde into whaling and to New Bedford. When you see specific artifacts that can relate to that, you can really see the embodiment of this history in these objects," he said.

There were some tricky factors in putting together the display, according to Dr. Galer.

"It can't all be paper, and we can't fit everything into the space," he said. "But I think people will be surprised by the variety that they will see."

The idea is to set up these exhibits as "living beings," he added.

"Things rotate in and rotate out," he said. "We have some things on loan that we only have for a small period of time, or others that were donated that will be on exhibit permanently. People, even recently as last week, were offering more materials."

Informações Adicionais

  • Fonte da Noticia, Cortesia de/News provided, Courtesy of: :
  • Manny Santos

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