Fragile Stones of Raqqa by Maria Trabulo, at Galeria Presença

These stones are fragile.

These stones cry.

These are not just stones.

Fragile Stones, 2022, video screening, sound, 35mt


Maria Trabulo’s most recent work is a testimony of time and history. As the artist has accustomed us, her work is meaningful and significant and her praxis is up-to-date, relevant and valuable. She combines arts whose dimension is plural and cross-cutting, among them the field of History, Anthropology and Science. This is proven at Galeria Presença, where geopolitical issues are explored through a varied artistic creation.

In an investigation first presented to the public in 2022, at MAAT, this work now reappears developed and matured, with a re-oriented and reconfigured perspective. With new and previously unseen pieces, the exhibition Fragile Stones opened on May 13 and ends on June 24.

Maria Trabulo presents a reality that, whilst not unknown, should be remembered: the importance of legacy and heritage. In other words, that which not only portrays and represents, but also constitutes Cultural Heritage. The latter sustains and builds a large part of the collective memory of a community and country, contributing to the senses of identity and belonging.

Although this is a universal matter and concern, especially in view of the unprecedented events of recent years, which have been discussed publicly, the object of the artist’s work is the Rakka Museum. This important institution in Raqqa, Syria, founded in 1981, was squatted by the Islamic State between 2013 and 2017, and used for different purposes, including as a restaurant. It was exploited, looted and devastated; not only the estate, but also the physical structure, especially through excavations.

During that period, numerous Syrians who fled to Germany rescued archives from this museum, to which others have since been added. More recently, there has been an effort to re-establish the museum, as we see in the video that bears the same title as the exhibition. Over thirty-five minutes about reconstruction and reunification, we see interviews with the workers and archaeologists dedicated to the recovery, preservation and conservation of the Rakka Museum and Aleppo Museum, with whom the artist has worked since 2018. These voices exemplify a unique sense of community and resistance. A resistance to oblivion, destruction, loss; a “duty of memory”.

Maria Trabulo mainly uses documentation from Raqqa and the Syrian Heritage Archive. In particular photographs from the 60s and 90s of excavations, places and artefacts devastated by the conflicts, where she intervenes plastically. With admirable technical precision, the artist adds three dimensions and texture to the artefacts, freeing them from photographic limits and bringing them closer to us. The titles point to the originals, indicating the object, the place and the date of each. The material used by the artist, as in the sculptures in the Gallery’s first room, is a mixture between clay and sand, where a symbolic part is Syrian.

We must highlight the sculptures where Trabulo alludes to or recreates architectural elements of the Raqqa museum, in particular staircases, shutters and floor mosaic patterns. Through dialogue and bonding, the pieces also relate to the space and to us. And from them we see that the artist, aligned with the deep meaning and dense content of her object of study, produces works that, although formally, visually and plastically delicate, are firm, sober and contribute to an intense aesthetic experience.

Fragile Stones displays a paradox between the cultural weight of artefacts and archaeological grounds, and a consistent perseverance to the passage of time and its challenges, in contrast to an inevitable vulnerability to what crosses and hits them.

Maria Trabulo’s art, although delicate, harmonious and a reflection of fragilities, is complete, solid and greater than itself, extending beyond its physical and material condition.


Constança Babo (Porto, 1992) has a degree in Photography from the Escola Superior Artística do Porto [Porto Superior School of Art] and a Master's Degree in Artistic Studies - Theory and Criticism of Art from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. It already has an important number of critical texts, mostly published in the online magazine ArteCapital, from 2015 to the present, with some texts of exhibition guides related to galleries, as well as the production of press releases. In addition to the writing work, she also dedicates himself to the photographic work of exhibitions and art events.

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