As if to elevate our sublime Guatemalan experience into the realm of the surreal, the final part of our sojourn was spent at a resort owned by none other than Mr Francis Ford Coppola. It sits on the steep jungled banks of Lake Peten in the northern part of the country.
It’s tropical up here – just when you thought it couldn’t get any lusher – and from the balcony of our villa we are eye level with a rainforest canopy full of Howler and Spider monkeys whose noisy cacophony roars into life between the hours of three and five AM.
We visited the forest moon of Endor (also known as Tikal) on our first day here – the birthplace of the Mayan aesthetic and the place where it may all end on the 21st of December this year if you believe the Hollywood hype. Strangely though this magnificent spot does have a touch of Hollywood about it – Star Wars fans may recognise the reference at the beginning of this paragraph and the panorama shown above.
Every afternoon the rising heat and humidity gives way to spectacular thunderstorms which sweep across the lake discharging an almost unbelievable amount of energy and bringing with them some pretty amazing looking creatures (huge bugs) seeking shelter with us in what Lucy endearingly labelled “fenton&fenton’s jungle HQ”.
As a footnote, Guatemala reminded me that travelling is not to learn about other cultures like they were insects under the microscope of our gaze.
Rather we travel to find transformation in some way by being in those places with those people – and in that transformation lies beauty. On this journey we can emphatically say that we came home changed and the fenton&fenton aesthetic has evolved to encompass an even broader celebration of humanity’s self-expression.
Much of the aesthetic of Guatemala is a celebration of colour the likes of which we have rarely encountered. There is such abundant fertility here; the country teems with all manner of life, while also bearing the scars and instruments of the earth’s destructive power. Being here I felt a palpable sense of conversation between planet and people – and it is the expression of that conversation which seems to be at the heart of the Guatemalan aesthetic.
Lake Atitlan was born of an immense volcanic cataclysm eons ago – a destructive event to which even the worst of humanity’s efforts pales in comparison – remnants of the eruption have been found in Florida and Ecuador. Lake Atitlan formed in the caldera left by that eruption – a sublime scar left by the violence of the earth against itself.
During days in San Juan on the lake (above) and the market village of Chichicastenango (below), a traditional commercial hub for the various indigenous Mayan sub-groups, with the right guide and Lucy’s skilled eye for diamonds in the rough, we discovered just a little about the depth of artisanship of the Mayan people.
Seventy to eighty year old textiles still imbued with vibrant hue; combinations of colour that reflect all the elements of both the sky and the earth – the only question that remains is what to do with them when we get them home!
Guatemala… I had my concerns.
To be perfectly honest Lucy nearly had to drag me kicking and screaming onto the plane. I’m a nervous flier to begin with and the anxiety of wandering into unknown and infamously unpredictable territory weighed heavily on my mind.
I have had to disregard all that I’ve been told about Guatemala… as a political entity it has seen excessive and terrible social upheaval, violence and injustice and to this day it is plagued by the consequences of obscene inequality. Purely as a piece of real estate it represents an incredible paradox. Above the surface it exists as a series of astoundingly dramatic and serenely beautiful panoramas, while beneath this piece of earth smoulder the extremes of the creative and destructive potential of our planet. Three separate tectonic plates collide in this place – there are thirty eight volcanos within its borders – and the virtual daily “tremblors” serve perhaps as a reminder of the transient nature of all human endeavour.
Antigua itself is littered with expressions of Guatemala’s creative and destructive contradiction. Centuries old ruins – the remnants of past cataclysms – stand in defiance of the volcanoes which tower over the city. In 1979 UNESCO world heritage listed the city and in doing so froze it in time. Unfortunately I doubt that tectonic plates and volcanoes have much respect for such proclamations.
It was in Antigua that we began to discover the fruits both of Guatemala’s colonial and indigenous history. On one hand, beautiful old religious relics like these timber rosary beads and on the other, antique and modern expressions of the rich and incredibly vibrant textile tradition that began a millennia ago with the Mayan people.
Later we discovered that beneath the network of volcanoes in the area surrounding Antigua is the largest accumulated body of magma on the planet. As if to confirm the niggling feeling I had that being there was playing chicken with the beast, two days later Volcan de Fuego erupted. It was our last night in Antigua and we watched the glowing red spectacle from the safety of a distant cocktail party on the rooftop terrace belonging to designer couple Eric and Bobby whose abode is nothing short of an architectural and decorative wonder. Nero would have been proud - we felt a bit weird about it. Surreal would be an understatement.
At fenton&fenton we are all about a bit of in-house design... it's what makes our range so exciting, exclusive and various other superlative ex-words :) So in that vein we are introducing a range of premium hand-woven dhurries which we are designing ourselves... These require the skills of only the most experienced weavers as the colour combos are a lot more intricate and require a certain level of exactness to get them right.
This is the first to arrive, we call it Big Chev! It looks particularly impressive with the angles in our F.U.D. furniture. Loving it! There are a few more in the pipeline so watch this space folks.
Please contact us at the store for pricing details...