David Groves' Magical Vanuatu

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Postby Jeff Eline » 12/27/04 11:53 AM

David,

Very interesting article on your trip to this pacific island.

Was there a language barrier? And if so, how did it effect performing western magic (sponge balls, Jumping knot, Voodoo, etc...)? Specifically, how do you 'equivoque' to someone in another language?

Thanks.
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Postby Guest » 12/27/04 02:24 PM

I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

As far as the language barrier, there was some barrier, so I stuck to the visual material.

Vanuatu had been a colony for over a century governed jointly by the British and French governments (until their 1980 independence), so a pidgin English called Bislama has developed, a kind of bastardization of both languages mixed in with their own native languages. If you listen carefully, you may be able to make out what they're saying, and they may be able to make out what we're saying, but you can't bet on it. So I stuck to the visual.

Things that I could do for 4-year-old children were things that I could do for the ni-Vanuatu. Vanishing silks. Sponge balls. Coins from the ear.

However, something unexpected came up at times. Because poor people (that is, indigenous people who have moved to the city) have so little access to mass entertainment, they sometimes play a lot of cards. When I was in the open market, where the poor people sell their wares, I saw that some of them were playing cards behind their retail table. So I started doing card tricks for them.

I didn't report on this in the article (there was a lot that happened to me down there), but as soon as I started doing tricks, a big crowd quickly gathered, all these poor Melanesian people crowded around me. I started to do card tricks, but strangely, some of the tricks killed and some didn't. I never figured out what made some Western standard card classics fail.

A couple weeks ago, I emailed the owner of the bungalow on Tanna, and he emailed back the rumor that has grown up around my visit. Apparently, the rumor is that I never left the island by plane, but instead, turned myself into a bird and flew back to America.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 12/27/04 02:35 PM

Originally posted by David Groves:
I started to do card tricks, but strangely, some of the tricks killed and some didn't. I never figured out what made some Western standard card classics fail.
I'd be curious to know what worked and what didn't. Perhaps collectively we can figure out the pattern (if one exists).

-Jim
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Postby Jeff Eline » 12/27/04 03:55 PM

Thanks David.

For Voodoo, don't you have to use equivoque to have the proper hand 'chosen'? I'm assuming that Voodoo is the trick where ashes (or in your case warpaint) appear on the spectator's freely selected hand. How did that work without the aid of double speak?
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Postby Bill Duncan » 12/27/04 09:15 PM

David,
A study of which "classics" worked and which didn't would be VERY useful.
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Postby Guest » 12/27/04 10:06 PM

Originally posted by Jeff Eline:
For Voodoo, don't you have to use equivoque to have the proper hand 'chosen'?
I suppose it would be stronger that way, but that's not the way I learned it. I just ask them whether they're right handed, and whatever they say, I say, "Then put that hand [the right one] away." With the ni-Van, I used a translator.

I do Voodoo with borrowed lipstick, since California restaurants, clubs, and other institutions where magic is performed are pretty much nonsmoking environments.

I don't do Voodoo much, because I've never been able to get away with it 100% of the time. I do it only when there are certain conditions, including a sense that the volunteer doesn't quite have a strong sense of her own body, and is kind of floating through her life. Those people tend not to notice when you tag them.

The advantage of this trick is that it sends chills up their spine when you get away with it. They swear you never touched them. One variation of this trick that works a bit more often is Coin Under the Watch. But there weren't that many watches in tribal Vanuatu.
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Postby Guest » 12/27/04 10:12 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
David,
A study of which "classics" worked and which didn't would be VERY useful.
Yes, true. Once, I performed for some villagers who dressed in Western garb (donated old clothes from missionaries), but who didn't speak any English and had no Western education; very backward.

I was told that this poor old couple had been married for 40 years, and it touched me to envision these poor fiftysomethings as a young couple, and that they had spent all those years together, but that this kind of village poverty was all that they had worked toward all those years.

I performed Anniversary Waltz for them with a translator. I got kind of misty eyed when I talked about their cards melting together, "much as their lives have melted together over all these years." That one killed.

So did Torn and Restored Transpo, which is basically a Torn/Restored Card plot. Those two were definitely winners.
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