A cycle of debates to challenge the colonial amnesia of Porto and the country patrimony

Three independent rooms from Porto came together to discuss the remnants of the city’s colonial past and founded the VAHA Porto Hub for this purpose. The opening event of this partnership is the result of a project that the Atelier Instituto, the InterStruc collective and the Rampa association have approved from the VAHA program – a network of cultural organizations from European countries and other neighboring areas based in Turkey that aims to achieve this to strengthen civil society by supporting non-institutional spaces – it is this Thursday and consists of the first online debate in a cycle entitled Post-Amnesia: Dismantling Colonial Manifestations. The event is accessible via the social networks of the three units and is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

This first debate is devoted to the theme of “Monuments and memorials” and reflects on three specific cases: the Monument to Portuguese Colonization (Porto), 1934, the Monument to Slavery currently under construction (Lisbon) and the Mãe Preta sculpture (São Paulo ), from 1955. To present the experiences of several cities with which “Porto hopes to learn”, Beatriz Gomes Dias, Member of the Bloco de Esquerda and founder of Djass – Associação de Afrodescendentes, one of the proponents of the monument to be implanted in Lisbon, Bárbara Neves Alves, communication designer and university professor in the Netherlands, and the Brazilian architect and researcher Felipe Moreira. Mamadou Ba, director of the SOS Racismo Association, will moderate the event.

“The Hub thought it would be interesting to bring to Porto a series of debates on the city’s colonial history. This debate is very absent in Porto and we have decided to work on the presence or absence of certain narratives and mainly get people from outside the city to participate, ”explains Nuno Coelho, communication designer and professor at the University of Coimbra, the member is of the association Ramp. “There is a dominance of narratives related to colonial history and an absence of narratives related to slavery. There is no mention in the toponymy, in the monuments or in any urban manifestation in public space that evokes or symbolizes Porto’s slave past, ”he adds. By involving stakeholders from outside the city’s geographic area who thought more about the problem, Thursday’s discussion will be extended to mandatory cases from cities like Lisbon and São Paulo and, in the following debate, to Luanda as well.

The monument to the Portuguese colonization was dismantled in the early 1950s and is currently located in Praça do Império manuel roberto

The Monument to Portuguese Colonization, currently located in Praça do Império, was erected in the Crystal Palace for the 1934 Portuguese Colonial Exhibition. The sculpture, which was then implanted at the entrance to the garden, by Alberto Ponce de Castro and José de Sousa Caldas, depicts six types of colonists: the missionary, the military, the merchant, the doctor, the farmer and the woman. “The memorial is problematic because it contains an implicit message of racism: it glorifies a colonial history and Eurocentric supremacy, and brings with it gender issues by depicting the only woman with bare breasts in a representation of fertility. This colonial exhibition also included the so-called “human zoos” with the exhibition of blacks who were brought to the exhibition from the old colonies, ”recalls Nuno Coelho.

What few will know, he comments, is that the memorial was dismantled in the early 1950s after an aesthetic discussion that had begun as early as the 1940s. “It was kept in a corner for three decades, but in 1984, at that time, the president of Paulo Vallada, also a settler, decided to bring it back to full democracy. Attempting to restore it [já num período pós-colonial], a symbolic act that we want to ponder. “More recently, the memorial has been spray-painted in protest, but has also served as a meeting place for the far-right PNR.

The second debate, which is planned for March 4th and has the motto “Routes and Toponymy”, extends the discussion to Africa. “We have invited three groups to take guided tours of their cities on three different continents, in which they will show the impact some events related to colonialism have on urban space, mainly on toponymy and even on the signs of shops” he explains the architect Paulo Moreira from the institute. The collective Cartography Negra (São Paulo), the Kalu Association (Luanda) and also Naky Gaglo (Lisbon) will take part in this session, moderated by the Brazilian art historian Isabeli Santiago, who currently lives in Porto.

One week later, on March 11th, again on a Thursday, the final debate of the cycle will take place on the more general topic of “History and Culture”, which aims to show how “the colonial legacy is structurally rooted in society”. He explains to Isabel Stein, a Brazilian researcher who is part of the InterStruc collective and currently living in Lisbon, “to understand the contemporary presence of these colonial features, how certain narratives have become hegemonic and how others have been marginalized”. The three guests are Angelo Delgado, author of the book Sem Ofensa, Compilation of Racial Episodes in the Portuguese Urban Context, Onésio Intumbo, Guinean photographer and sociologist who lives in Coimbra, and Manuel de Sousa, creator of the Facebook page Porto Desaparecido and author of the book Porto D’Honra. The moderation will be chaired by Navváb Aly Danso, an academic and activist who was born in Cape Verde and currently lives in Porto.

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