Bas-Cap-Pelé plays

I told Archie to go and explore Le Goguen Musée de l’Art Brut on his own (“brut” means raw or rough art). I was feeling sick and irritable and my broken toe throbbed. We were in Bas-Cap-Pelé  checking out some of the “attractions”. 

Le Goguen Musée de l’Art

One Desiré Goguen's sculpture. This one is a rocket ship made from barrels and astronaut's made from, among other things, tin cans.
One Desiré Goguen’s sculpture. This one is a rocket ship made from barrels and astronaut’s made from, among other things, tin cans.

This Musée Brut place had lots of found-art sculpture in the front yard. At first glance, it looked like a lot of junk, but hey, the guy seemed to have a sense of humour and he was recycling. He was offering something to the people who  passed by—a smile and something to puzzle over.

So Archie went over to explore the outside museum and took a bunch of photos.The Two Bishops in a Kayak that Archie speaks of actually had the tops of bleach bottles glued to their heads with some kind of ropey fiber or coconut husks glued onto that. The meaning I took was they were early missionaries plying the coastal water and out to convert the natives, but they just looked silly. Maybe that’s how they looked to the natives, too. 

3,000 plus monkeys

man with wall of stuffed monkey
Désiré Goguen with a fe of his 3,000+ stuffed monkeys.

Then Archie was invited into the inner sanctum and disappeared inside the “monkey house”. He came out smiling, looking delighted if somewhat puzzled. He told me about the 3000 plus stuffed toy monkeys inside covering every surface. 

Monkeys of every kind, huge ones, tiny ones, mechanical ones.  I’ve been in scary “fun houses” with skeletons and ghouls, but this seemed to be a silly fun house.  What would it be like going to bed with monkeys looking down at you from the ceiling? How could you dust that many fuzzy toys? 

Bas-Cap-Pelé is a playful place, we concluded. There were several really nice “terrains de jeu” for the village children with swings and slides and jungle gyms and grassy areas to run.  

Fifties reborn

Near one of these playgrounds  someone had erected replicas of a 50s style gas station and diner right in their backyard, complete with antique gas pumps and “White Rose Gas” and “Coca Cola” signs. They were really well done replicas.  The gas station was really just the owner’s garage  painted yellow and white with all the antique service station pumps and signs outside. Were there antique tools inside?  What was missing was, of course, an antique car but it may have been parked inside. I like to think it was the Ford my dad had back then.

railcar diner replica

Railcar Diner?

The railcar style diner was red and had rounded corners and a cute little striped awning on the front.  But it was done on a smaller scale than a real diner—kid sized (I think it might have been an industrial mobile office once). I almost felt like I was back in the 50s when buildings like these were shiny and new, heralding “modern” times.  How the world has changed. If I was a kid, I would have loved to play there. They put me in a good mood.

What makes these old guys so playful?

I am wondering what makes adults like Désiré Goguen and the man who built the replicas do what they do? As a child, at one point I realized that when I became an adult I could no longer play with my dolls.  That was just for kids. There was a sadness with that realization. Who made that rule?

I still have my doll family that my aunt bought me when I was seven-years-old. They’re stored in an old carrying case. They’re from the 50s too and my daughter played with them for a while.  I told myself that I was saving them for her but now I find that they represent so much joy and happiness that came from my childhood, I just can’t bear to part with them. Am I saving them for my grandchildren perhaps? The dolls are in their case just waiting to bust out and play with the next child that comes along, I imagine.

 The Bas-Cap-Pelé people who made these “attractions”, maybe they’re retired fishermen or farmers who worked hard their whole lives without much leisure time. Now they’re playing and inviting others to do so as well. Or maybe their lives were such that their outlooks have always been playful and good-natured.

From what I’ve read of Acadians, they rolled with the hard times, but enjoyed the good times. When the fishing and farming seasons were over, they filled their long winter hours with music making, collecting and hobbies.  Now it’s just more of the same. In any case, these grassroots expressions of the spirit of this place caught our attention compelling us to linger and explore this community a little more.  These folks had something to share and they wanted a reaction.