Discurso de Decolonialidade
Discurso de Decolonialidade has works by 15 artists from 8 countries – South Africa, Angola, Brazil, Cameroon, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Diaspora. Graça Rodrigues and Sónia Ribeiro are the curators. This exhibition explores some of the most debated concepts in political and cultural criticism today: memory, identity, tradition and contemporaneity. The broad debate of historical and cultural revisionism of these concepts has reached the universities by people who suffer various forms of discrimination. The victims of racism allow us to become aware that memory is often constructed. Similarly, the LGBT community allows us to know that identity is a mosaic of complexities, and not a binary web made up of opposites.
The exhibition was at Not a Museum, in Lisbon; from 24 June to 31 July. This text underlines the importance of its themes, analysing in detail some of its works.
In Ouvir, Ver, Calar, Nelo Teixeira makes clear what he is representing in the three senses. They are three figures who, before starting to communicate with each other, already want to tell us something: HEAR, SEE, QUIET. They are figurative representations, drawn by a single stroke, two-dimensional, that transport us to a primitive imaginary. Each figure has a prop, relatively similar to each other; in the first, we see something that refers to a spear/slingshot, in the second to a trident/spear, in the third to a menhir/phallic object. HEAR, SEE, QUIET are verbs and should be read together, as their meanings do not live without each other: we keep quiet because we hear, we keep quiet because we see, we see because we hear, we hear because we no longer want to see, we hear because we are told to be quiet. N. Teixeira reflects on the three senses without resorting to the classical Buddhist image. These verbs do not invoke any spirituality or morals, but rather cruelty, coldness and the complexity of what is simple.
Pilar da Vida is a sculpture. It is made with various techniques, assemblage, collage, and painting. It traces a symbolic path of life, from the bottom to the top, with several stages until reaching the final one. The sculpture inside the last square is a metamorphosis between a soldier and a dinosaur, evoking the duality of the centaur: half-human, half-dinosaur. Around it we see several brushstrokes that suggest that this sculpture radiates light, which is an enlightened being. The subjectivity of this work is expressed in the ambiguity of this figure – is it a new being to come or an old being to kill? In the middle of the pillar, we see another sculpture with a flag in its hand, saying Fast Car Racing, realizing that we are in the middle of a race. This expression refers to the speed of contemporaneity and the neoliberal meritocratic discourse prevailing in politics and the way we understand life.
In his work Memórias para curar o futuro, René Tavares shows the wisdom of São Tomé and Príncipe’s indigenous traditions. These paintings are recipes for various ailments: “Science of the earth to cure the past – river water, salt, bird”, “Race issues? Cure – bath of obó leaves”, “Medicine to cure anger – a seven-day psalm, food for the deceased, porcelain rose + cigarette”. The title reminds us of the importance that tradition has in the culture and life of a people. The future (whatever it may be) cannot turn its back on the ancestral heritage of a particular people. With this work, we understand how important this knowledge is for building a shared future that values and grows with difference – rather than destroying and discriminating against it. In this set of paintings, there is one that is isolated from the rest: “Bring back a lost lover – pau-três leaf, saraconta leaf, malé leaf, black chicken egg”. This painting is isolated from the rest because it represents a universal feeling of humanity: to bring back a past love.
The painter of São Tomé e Príncipe uses the irony and symbols of western culture to make us question. It leaves us an external perspective of the western culture, something fundamental to utterly understand it. In the painting United States of African Memories, we see the flag of the European Union (EU) and twelve flying pigs in a circle. These pigs are in the place of the twelve stars of the flag, which makes us question its symbolic value: is the EU the place of the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony? This is again the irony of R. Tavares. Will the European project be a utopia equal to the possibility of seeing pigs fly? For ethnic minorities, for the poor, and for the migrants who arrive here, yes. In the painting Short stories about immigration, we see the same flag, but painted in black. We notice once again the presence of the pig with wings. As the title suggests, this pig represents the dream of achieving a better life in the EU. However, many of these dreams end up drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, or suspended ad aeternum in a refugee camp. It also represents the misfortune and disappointment of those who have been forced to live in ghettos and who have never found in the EU the values of equality and solidarity that the European white elite still falsely preach.