Quantum Creole, by Filipa César
Quantum Creole, exhibited at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – Project Space until 2 September, is the result of a long research process (approximately ten years) conducted by Filipa César in Guinea-Bissau, translated into other projects such as Spell Reel (2017), the first feature film by the artist/filmmaker. It is also the result of her collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of 20 people (musicians, researchers, actors, designers, among others). It is also the second address of this traveling project, which has already been exhibited at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW, Berlin). In November, it will be in San Sebastián (Tabakalera – International Centre for Contemporary Culture).
With Leonor Nazaré as curator, the title of the exhibition, Quantum Creole, is the same one that Filipa César chose for its pivotal work: a film-essay, a hybrid documentary object with approximately 40 minutes (with a fictional trait as well), and the recovery of issues related to collective memory. The main focus of Crioulo Quântico is the artisanal and ancestral production of panus di pinti (in Guinean creole, “comb cloths” when loosely translated into English). In Guinea-Bissau, these fabrics have always been part of the national identity. They are worn by the majority of the population on a daily basis, either as garments (in the transport of children or in shrouds, for instance) or as part of a spirituality associated with different rituals. In the colonial period, the panus di pinti, with geometric motifs, double-sided and binary in color, were also vehicles of subversive messages calling for resistance against the occupation perpetrated by the tugas. Deeply revered, the Guinean weavers (fisiais, in Guinean creole), while not taking ownership of the cloths, have an important position in the Guinean social hierarchy, as guardians of collective techniques, memories and languages.
The film-essay is part of an installation that contextualizes it and refers to specificities of the Guinean cultural tradition. Not only with the presence of panus di pinti, but also with other ethnographic objects, such as the manjaca baskets, the bijagó mats and the gourds. A crocodile and turtle carapace are also laid out in a minimalist wooden structure, alongside materials associated with cloth weaving, such as palm trunk fibre, cotton (cotton wool and blooming cotton) and polyester thread rolls, which, imported from China, replaced cotton, whose plantations predominated in the colonial period. The film itself makes more general references to Guinea-Bissau’s cultural traditions, and presents an imagery that refers to the current state of the country, especially its emerging urbanity.
The installation shown in Lisbon is different from the one shown presented at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, since the film screened in the Portuguese capital contains, through a process of overlapping images, excerpts of different performances and conferences organized by Filipa César on January 12 at HKW. In total, three hours of interventions on language-related research. In fact, Quantum Creole reflects on the proximity between punched cards, traditionally associated with textile production, and the binary code at the origin of computing.
According to Gomes Eanes de Zurara, guardian of the Royal National Archive of Torre do Tombo (between 1454 and 1475), 51 Portuguese caravels arrived in Guinea in 1446. Nuno Tristão, navigator, explorer and slave trader, was the first to reach the Guinean Rivers of Cape Verde. However, this was not the beginning of the conquest of the territory and the subsequent colonization process. Tristão and those accompanying him were liquidated (on the Cacheu River) by the natives (of the ethnic group known as felupes), who pierced their bodies with arrows, probably poisoned, doing the same to the wells that the invaders use to quench their thirst. The Portuguese withdrew and only later return. Another example of how the historical narrative can be devised based on the perspective of the perpetrator.
The bravery and resistance of the people of this region began to take shape in the Portuguese consciousness. In the struggle for independence undertaken by the former colonies, Guinea-Bissau’s overseas territory, under the command of Amílcar Cabral (PAIGC), was known to be the one where fighting was most brutal and violent (according to data provided by the Armed Forces General Staff, 2240 Portuguese died). Like the tragic fate of Nuno Tristão, it is also unknown that the mulattos, children of black women with white men (Portuguese serving a sentence and exiled in Guinea, known as lançados) played a key role, from the beginning, in supporting the indigenous population, as an effort to resist the Portuguese occupation. Quantum Creole is also a political manifesto, which condemns neoliberalism and its more or less visible relations with the imperialist past and subsequent subjugation and exploitation, shamefully exerted on the black man by the pretentious white man.