The Hon. Toze Cassandra is the Regional President of Principe. This older of the two islands is semi-autonomous within the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. President Cassandra is unforgettable; rather tall for these islands, he has a palpable aura of dignified authority but it is strongly laced with kindness and humor. The first time we met was during GG II when we were summoned to the presidential offices to pay our respects. For obvious reasons, not one of us had a tie, which I learned later was required protocol inherited from Portuguese colonial times. Since I could not officially enter his offices, Toze actually came out into the high-ceilinged hallway and met with us for half an hour; as I recall we ultimately ended up sitting on the floor.
The second formal meeting was last year during GG IV, and I made a major point of bringing a tie and a major point of letting him know that I had brought the damned thing all the way from the States just to meet with him! As I said he is a man of great humor. Last year at this time, I described our summons, a couple of days later, to a beer party with his entire cabinet on a remote beach.
Yesterday we were due in his “chambers” at 3PM- we did not learn this until about 12:30 which is not a lot of leeway. But, I was ready; a hand-painted frog tie (my sister-in-law does them). The picture below is of tropical bioformal attire.
Velma our poster project coordinator cleans up just fine, but I had forgotten to bring a tie for our photographer, Andrew (who, by the way, is my nephew). Trying to find a tie on Principe Island within an hour is just a skosh difficult. The new manager of Bom Bom Lodge, is a Frenchman, Francois Chapuis, so I figgered there was a chance… I got a long, languid, mildly amused look followed by, “Peut-etre, vous desirez un Hermes?” No joy. Now late, we roared up past the newly refurbished airport, stopped in front of a little wooden house on stilts, and our driver Joao, ran inside…we heard muffled exclamations.. he then emerged with a rather elegant, tasteful Brooks Brothers-ian blue tie!!
Down we raced to the central plaza. As we prepared to enter the palatial abode, I noticed a tall man on the street corner in shirt-sleeves, speaking ardently into a cell phone. I caught his eye, and waved the bottom of my tie at him…a very broad grin in return.. it was of course, His Excellency President Toze Cassandra, totally tie-less!
The rest of our audience was delightful, as they always have been. It is probably best described in Andrew’s pictures below.. our posters and biodiversity message have been as warmly received here on Principe as they have been on the big island.
On the way past the airport we stopped at the little blue house on stilts… the gentleman within turned out to be the driver Joao’s brother. What he is doing with a tie of that quality on Principe I will probably never know, but now he also owns a unique hand-painted frog tie by Linda Raffel. And Linda is undoubtedly the only Bay Artist with one of her pieces in the Gulf of Guinea Islands.
Here’s the parting shot.
See you soon!
all images © Andrew Stanbridge
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund (GG I), Hagey Research Venture Fund (GG II) of the California Academy of Sciences, the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) and Africa’s Eden for logistics, ground transportation and lodging (GG III-V), STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/., Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bonfim, Salvador Sousa Pontes and Danilo Barbero of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study, the continued support of Bastien Loloumb of Zuntabawe and Faustino Oliviera, Director of the botanical garden at Bom Sucesso. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals, George G. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murakami, Hon. Richard C. Livermore, Prof. & Mrs. Evan C. Evans III, Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Taylor, and Mrs. Sheila Farr Nielsen for helping make these expeditions possible. Tax-deductable donations in support of this work can be made to “CAS-Gulf of Guinea Fund.”