Herança: Ana Vidigal and Nuno Nunes-Ferreira at Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea – Museu do Chiado
The exhibition Herança, at Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea – Museu do Chiado, is the result of an encounter between the work of the artists Ana Vidigal and Nuno Nunes-Ferreira, based on a profound reflection and a deep research on family memories, colonialism, Portuguese traditions, national hegemonic identity and the colonial war.
In an effort towards «historical reparation», as written by Raphael Fonseca, Ana Vidigal recaptures nostalgic product packages from the Estado Novo period, marked by their «portugalidade», and transforms the message of the slogans to mend the memory and reestablish the truth. Slogans such as «I had a farm in Africa», changed to «I had a farm war in Africa», or the enigmatic sentence, vaguely hidden by correction fluid, «From dust I came and to dust I shall return… But then… I, who am… will be dust… of…» evoke the brutal truth of the war and the death of its combatants, covered up by a fabricated image of a romanticised, promising Africa, full of charms and attractions, treasures and exoticism.
Nuno Nunes-Ferreira, taking the pile of magazines about Angola, spread out on the floor, forms the country’s map. The long pattern formed by these magazines reveals an issue of Portugal Ilustrado, whose main subject on the cover is the idyllic and paradisiacal Angola. Another magazine, open on a certain page, of unknown origin, reveals another article about Angola and a photo of a group of indigenous people in tribal clothing. The author of the text, also unknown, comments on the profuse images and praises the happiness of the indigenous people.
The feeling of colonialist possession is all over the exhibition, then marked by the harshness of the truth, shown by Nunes-Ferreira, in the hell experienced by Portuguese soldiers in Africa during the colonial war.
In a mosaic effect, Nuno Nunes-Ferreira exhibits a triptych made up of newspapers clippings about combatants and ex-combatants. In this triptych, we see photographs, among them a clipping that seems to report events at the end of the war. An intriguing photo announces a different return. The soldiers, before landing to return to their families, are dressed in civilian clothes. The photo records only the uniforms and empty boots left abandoned by the soldiers on the quayside. The way they keep the shape of their bodies summons up the sacrifice of war, the discarded inert bodies, or the absence of the body, as in Van Gogh’s boots evoked by Heidegger.
Herança is on view at Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea – Museu do Chiado, in Lisbon, until September 26.