Cirque du Habaleeno in Town

Posted: July 13, 2012 in beTwixt & beTween

The worst thing that could happen to someone, supposedly creative, is the loss of faith in what he is doing.

A few months ago I lost faith in what I was doing.

Until .. a double headed deus ex machina suddenly descended upon the stage of my mind where I was performing. I was finally free!

I am now working as a Business Development & Art Director at Mlabbas; designing t-shirts and art related objects. I still have a lot to learn and a lot to say about this new hardcore artistic development in my life.

In brief I returned to drawing a few years ago. I wasn’t able to rip out this passion out of my heart. It took me sometime to catch up; actually I am still catching up.

Enough about me and let me tell you about my first solo exhibition, Cirque du Habaleeno, that was held at Jacaranda on July 3, 2012.

Yes, apparently we are still talking about me ;-})

Cirque du Habaleeno and its performers arrived to Amman thanks to Barbara Rowell and Rana Haikal (Jacaranda Images), whose decision to allow this macabre circus set camp at their lovely art space was truly inspiring to me as an illustrator and a writer.

It was time to bring out to the world the Habaleeno universe that was floating in the circus of my mind for over a year and a half. The first performer I met was a clown called Habaleeno.

Four more characters arrived. The story was constantly developing in my head. I had it outlined.

When Barbara showed interest in Habaleeno and his lot I found myself drawing five more characters and giving everyone a back story. I ended up producing 10 large portraits (the performers), two interconnected landscapes (The Cirque’s Front Yard) and a large portrait (A Tango Under the Tent feat. Habaleeno and Mon Mon).

My exhibition is on display until July 20 so if you are in Amman do pass by and meet the performers and get acquainted with their vicious macabre disposition.

It was an amazing experience and I am grateful to everyone who attended the opening night. A big thank you goes out to Imad Shawa (Mlabbas) for his staunch support and for printing my first t-shirt design, V for Palestine, and of course a bigger thank you to my Other Half, Nesrin, who is still bearing with my madness, and my family.

The following lines are my answer to the simplest of questions that could arise from such an exhibition:

WHY CLOWNS?

The first circus movie I watched was Charles Walters’ 1962 Billy Rose’ Jumbo that we had on a VHS tape. We still have it; it is in my parents’ house collecting dust. The tape itself might be covered with dust but the fond memories it gave me are as fresh as the day my mother inserted that tape in the video player to divert me from my divine mission as a child – to drive her mad. The magic of that movie is still with me to this day.

Wait … don’t just brush off my Cirque du Habaleeno as a fantasy the result of celluloid dreams.

Sometime around the early 80s my parents decided to take me and my sister to a circus that was visiting Jordan. I believe it was called The Russian Circus. It was my first time under an actual circus tent. I vividly remember how my parents, my sister and I sat at the top of the bleachers with pop corn and soft drinks in hand. We smiled, laughed and gasped in suspense at the performances that were delivered by talented individuals, who dedicated their lives to entertaining others. It was a night of pure magic under a starry Amman sky.

A second magical night that happened in the late 80s, quite possibly with another Russian Circus, although the name eludes me now. This time I found myself sitting a few centimeters away from a lion that kept eyeing me from behind the steel cage that was erected moments before the circus ring hosted a lion trainer and his beasts. Another magical night was spent under the tarpaulin tent.

Sadly at this time and age it is hard to go to a circus especially in the Middle East so I found myself one night drawing some lines on an A4 paper. The lines soon connected into a smiling clown and that is how Habaleeno and some of his friends walked into my head.

I hope you find some magic under my Cirque du Habaleeno tent.

Thank you Mom and Dad for taking me to the circus!

I haven’t included the snippets of back story material that I wrote about each performer so as to give you an excuse to visit my exhibition before it ends, however, here is a brief glimpse into the story of Cirque du Habaleeno. I hope you enjoy reading this prelude that I am planning to expand into a comic book.

Cirque du Habaleeno

No one knows from where the members of Cirque du Habaleeno originate.  Sightings of this mythical circus in countries like France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Armenia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Palestine date back to as far as 1915.

Whenever Cirque du Habaleeno visited a city its population of stray cats and dogs started to dwindle. There were also some cases of missing individuals. Police authorities weren’t able to link the bizarre happenings and disappearances to the members of the circus.

In 1977 and after digging through his grandfather’s belongings Gerard Sova found 10 line art portraits of Cirque du Habaleeno performers.

His grandfather Mikhail V. Derida was an avid comic artist and a commercial illustrator. Along with these portraits Gerard also found his grandfather’s leather bound memoires that were entitled The Scribblings of a Smelly Sardine, in which he chronicles the time he spent traveling with the circus and its monstrous-looking members.

This is an excerpt from the opening prologue of Derida’s memoirs:

Got me a ticket to the Circus of Mind, where a clown called Habaleeno and his gang of misfits will perform tonight.

“Lights please! Ladies and gentlemen! I am Mustachio, the ringleader, and tonight we shall feed your thirsty and hungry imaginations with impossible feats and revelations!” a man dressed in a red long jacket with fervor announced.

Bemused by such a proclamation I look forward to a hellish program of stupendous strength, slithering stoic beauties, sleight of hand and sly sorcery. Pop corn, candy and refreshments in hand I peer into the void beneath my feet and between the bleachers to see stars center stage under a tattered tent, where I was once a child of life, while mean melodious music escape the intestines of brass instruments played by disfigured band.

Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for following my work as a writer and an illustrator :-})

Mike V. Derderian (Sardine),

A Homo sapien, a writer, a comic artist and a fierce windmill slayer trying to get a hold of a banana in a world governed by apes …

Comments
  1. I shoud`ve been there! :(

  2. mikevderderian says:

    No worries Haitham :-}) If you are in Amman it is on until the 20th of July :-})

  3. mikevderderian says:

    Thank you Miss Hill :-}) I am glad you liked my work. I hope you were able to meet the Cirque du Habaleeno in person :-})

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