Tag Archive for: monument

Why tapering a monument of freedom during the Pope’s visit?

The first visit by a Pope to Portugal took place on May 13, 1967, when Paul VI visited Fatima on the 50th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Maria at Cova da Iria in 1917. It wasn’t an official state visit as the Government of dictator Salazar didn’t like the fact that Paul VI had visited India in 1964, three years after the invasion of its colony Goa by the Indian state, considering the trip ‘an insult to the Portuguese nation.’

Thereafter Pope John II visited the country three times and Pope Benedict XVI once. The second visit of the Argentine Pope Francis to Portugal is the seventh of a pontiff in office to Portugal with Fatima as a common denominator. But this time also in view of the upcoming World Youth Days (WYD).

In connection with this, the Lisbon council is keen to ensure that the phallic sculpture by João Cutileiro (1937-2021)commemorating the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974 – isn’t visible during the catholic festivities and is willing to spend over 120.000 euros to hide the 90-ton and 6-meter-high obelisk during the Pope’s visit.

The original idea was to dismantle and remove the entire sculpture (to be returned to its place after the celebrations of the Catholic Church have ended) but the Councill then opted for a cheaper option of restoring the monument (which has suffered a number of fissures over the years) and keeping it under wraps during the religious encounter.

Officially christened ‘Cravo e Colunas’ (carnation and columns) – and popularly called the ‘dick’ – the phallic element of the work is meant to symbolize the virile force and vigor of the revolution. But the council believes it could be too much for the Pope to stage a mass next to the statue in Lisbon’s Park Eduardo VII and expose the young believers to the phallic vision of one of the country’s most famous modern sculptors. 

However, in view of the importance of this national monument, how can it be allowed to be covered in order to hold a religious ceremony? What is being covered anyway: the ‘penis’ or the celebration of freedom? 

WYD is costing the Lisbon council, the government, and the Portuguese Catholic Church combined over 160 million euros. Over 1 million visitors are expected during this bi-annual event, which runs in Lisbon from August 1-6. Despite all preparations, authorities have warned that traffic in the capital is likely to be chaotic in the five days affected.

Enjoy your week          Aproveite a semana                (pic Público/Sapo)

God created the black and white man; the Portuguese the mulatto (Anonymous)

It is often said that Portugal is not a racist country, despite enormous structural inequalities and decades of documented discrimination. All over the country, you can find monuments and statues dedicated to navigators – glorifying the epic 15th to 17th-century discoveries; crusading missionaries – converting indigenous people to Catholicism, and soldiers – fighting colonial wars in the 20th century against African independence.

But until now there has never been a memorial to Portugal’s pioneering role in the transatlantic slave trade nor any acknowledgment of the close to 6 million lives stolen until the 1960s when the country was still using de-facto slave labor in its colonies.

The forthcoming Memorial-Homage to the Victims of Slavery in Lisbon by Angola’s most successful contemporary artist – Kiluanji Kia Henda – will be the first of its kind. The installation – due to be unveiled at the Campo das Cebolas this spring – features 540 three-meter-high aluminum sugar canes, set five feet apart and painted in black. The artwork refers to the cold economic rationale that drove the lucrative slave trade.

Most of the Black population in Portugal today are immigrants and their descendants from the former Portuguese African colonies – Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé Principe – holding in their memories and histories a very different version of Portugal’s famous past.

‘Our history is full of blanks on how Africans have been portrayed, declares Christina Roldão, a sociologist researching the histories of Black women in Portugal since the 16th century. ‘It is important to know how Black people lived, not only for the Black population today but for everyone else in Portugal’.

It is of note that the memorial is not an initiative of the Portuguese government, but of the Djass Afro-descendent Association, an NGO founded by the Portuguese MP Beatriz Gomes Dias.

Interesting as well is the fact that the memorial’s artist comes from Angola, the country that suffered the most catastrophic loss of lives during the Portuguese slave trade. By the 19th century, Angola had become the largest source of enslaved people taken to the Americas, in particular to the sugar plantations in Brazil.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights – recently stressed that Portugal should do more to confront its colonial past and role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight the increasing racial discrimination and xenophobia in the country.

The Council also expressed concern at the rise in racist rhetoric in political discourse, singling out the far-right Chega (‘Enough’) party, whose sole MP Andre Ventura keeps making derogatory remarks against ethnic minorities.

Initiated by Black Portuguese and conceptualised by an African artist, ‘the slavery memorial will finally bring a visual counter-narrative against the supposed absence of racism and lack of racial prejudice in the Portuguese’, concludes Marcos Cardão, a historian of Portuguese culture and identity.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/EsqNet)