Week 3 - To Wete and back

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As the cinemas in Chake and Wete were owned by the same guy (and as it turned out use the very same equipment.) we journeyed first to Wete to meet the man and to see Pemba’s finest audio-visual technology. I do love Pemba. It’s so much greener than Unguja (the proper name for Zanzibar island); it’s still the rainy season here. It’s more hilly but there are also more paddy fields. I’d forgotten ox carts, and enormous mango trees bearing enormous mangos.

When we found the cinema in Wete we waited first for the owner and then we waited for him to go home again with our vehicle so he could bring his electronics. Nowadays many films are available on [considerably lighter] VHS cassettes so many cinemas in this region have taken to using domestic playback equipment and a hefty video projector. Actually the size of the projector may have been an indication of its era rather than its capability. While we were waiting I took a picture of the cinema as an ox cart was passing –wonderful.

Inside, the cinema was only a shadow of its former glory (no surprise). Piled in the foyer were rusty 35mm film spool canisters. The tiered seating, mostly in position, though many seats had lost random chunks of foam. Many ceiling panels that would have provided cosmetic and acoustic insulation were missing. The screen had presumably been a bit lacklustre at some stage because it had been "freshened up" with a coat of whitewash. Now horribly greyed the best advice we could think of would be to give it another coat.

The VHS player and projector were set up on a table in the centre isle, aligned with the front row of seats. An extension lead was plugged in, high up on a sidewall and several more extension leads were daisy chained together, to reach the table. There was the usual improvisation – 2 pin plugs in 3 pin sockets and later when an amplifier and loudspeakers arrived there was yet more twisting of bear wires in the dark. Then there was the new style tracking control… the VHS player had no screws retaining its cover –allowing instant access for servicing and thus ensuring minimum interruption to everyone’s viewing pleasure.

It has to be said that despite the condition of the screen, and the daylight pouring in through the ventilation gaps at the top of the sidewalls that the picture was a good size and of "reasonable" quality. The sound was quite effective too and altogether it was far more like watching a film in a cinema than a video at home.

What really impressed me though was when we went up to the projection room and found the two 35mm projectors were apparently still working. The films canisters I’d seen in the foyer were in fact "current" screenings recently received from (or to be returned to) somewhere in the Indian sub-continent.

While in Wete we checked out the Sharook guesthouse… and surprisingly for the effort of asking the owner offered a 20% discount for festival goers.

On the way back we bought some "haluwa". I remembered having this in Wete before – I think it’s renowned for it. The closest I’ve had in the west is "Turkish delight" a kind of oily jelly, served warm, spiced with cardamom and speckled with pistachios (or were they peanuts?) – an excellent snack for long car journeys (not).

Stopped to buy some mangoes and noticed a bao game lying on the floor of the shop – quite good looking and worn from years of use but not as attractive as the one already in Kentish Town – lucky for Pemba.
Also saw some kids selling fruit not unlike those yellow tennis balls – apparently these were bongo fruit – expensive and much sort after for tropical fruit juice drinks and cocktails.

Back in Chake Chake (so good they named it twice?) we went to Tibirinzi Fun Park, the venue for the opening night of the festival in Pemba. Now this was a curious sight. Set up as a permanent fairground this offered a big wheel, a merry-go-round, swing chairs, and a relatively tame "big dipper" ride. It looked like the rides had not been serviced in 30 years, yet I met someone later in the evening who had claimed to have ridden the big wheel recently – the scariest ride of her life.

We went and checked out the cinema in Chake too. This was in slightly better condition (ie the original cinema screen just needed washing) only that near the front where the sloping floor starts going up again there was a lake of rainwater.

Week 3 - To Wete and back

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