Tag Archive for: Portuguese

‘China is very powerful, with a clear vision. But it’s a secret state’ – Ai Weiwei

The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (1957, Beijing) is one of the most influential and creative names in contemporary art.
In 2020 he was elected as the most famous artist by the international journal The Art Newspaper.

His father, Ai Quing (1910-1996) – writer and well-known poet – was in the 60s the object of purges against intellectuals and artists, that Mao declared counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. 

Weiwei grew up in the far north-west of China, where he lived under harsh conditions, due to his father’s exile to a work camp in the Gobi desert. ‘The farthest place you can find on the map of China’, as he describes it himself.
Upon Mao’s death in 1976 the family returned to Beijing.


As an activist, he openly criticizes the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights.
He was arrested several times and detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge and had his passport confiscated.

After being allowed to leave China in 2015, he subsequently lived in Berlin, Cambridge (UK), and since this year in Portugal.
In Montemor-o-Novo to be precise, in the Alentejo province.

This year he opened his first solo exhibition in Portugal.
Rapture (meaning ecstasy but also abduction) – with 85 pieces his biggest ever – reveals work from the different phases in his life.

For example, photographs taken during the 80’s – when he still lived as an unknown artist in New York. A serpent made of backpacks, symbolizing the more than 5000 children killed in the 2008 earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

A set of boxes with three-dimensional scenes from the days the artist spent in prison in 2011 and his video film Coronation, about the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the city of Wuhan.

But also works created last year in Portugal with local craftsmen and materials. Such as Pendente, a 10-ton marble toilet paper roll – produced at B Stone – which the artist sees as a symbol of a world struggling to free itself from the pandemic.

Odisseia – the massive tile panel made at the Viúva Lamengo factory – representing the odyssey of refugees around the world and last but not least a statue of the artist himself – brainless and sitting on a chair to which he is handcuffed – made of cork in collaboration with the Corticeira Amorim company.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Weiwei declared that “The one-party system controls the army and the police, there is no freedom of expression and no independent judicial system. The CCP will rule China for a long time, even beyond our imagination.”

Rapture is to be seen until the 28th of November in the Cordoaria Nacional in Lisbon.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Lusolobo)

The only food the Portuguese are more crazy about than fish is soup.

Caldo verde is a thick soup made with thinly-cut strips of Galician kale and potato, and always a lump or two of chorizo floating in it. It is thought to originate from the northern Minho province in the 15th century and goes very well with Broa.

Broa de milho is cornbread consisting of plain flour, cornmeal, yeast, water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter. It is often used for dipping in soups and stews. In the past, broa de milho was considered a poor man’s food but is enjoyed today by all tiers of society.

Açorda is bread soup in numerous varieties. Most have a smooth and thick consistency and contain olive oil, salt, herbs (coriander), garlic, eggs, and boiling water poured over diced bread.

Bolinhos de bacalhau or pasteis de bacalhau are little deep-fried patties of salt-dried cod and potatoes.

Bifana is a sandwich that consists of pork steaks simmered in a garlic sauce and then placed inside a bun. It is suggested to have appeared first in Vendas Novas. When beef instead of pork is used, the snack is called prego. Both are such fast-food classics that Mc Donald’s produces a McBifana and a McPrego for the  Portuguese market.

Sardinhas assadas are synonymous with Portugal. First, the sardines are coated with salt before grilled over a hot charcoal grill. You usually eat them on a simple slice of bread with soaks up the delicious juices. There is even a sardine festival in Lisbon on the 13th of June when the city is filled with smoke.

Caracóis are seasonal and available from May until September. When you see signs saying ‘Há caracóis’ at cafés and restaurants you’ll know they are around. 

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is a simple dish named after the 19th-century poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato. It combines clams and a flavourful sauce based on olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine, and fresh coriander.

Queijo da Serra is the country’s most famous cheese from the mountainous region of Serra da Estrella. The primary ingredient of this soft and salty cheese is unpasteurized ewes milk to which thistle is added to coagulate the milk.

Pasteis de nata is the famous egg custard tart, originally made around the 18th century by Catholic monks and nuns in Santa Maria de Bélem in Lisbon. The tart was made from leftover egg yolks, used in the starching of nuns’ habits. The owners of the shop Pasteis de Belém – a former sugar refinery next to the Jerónimus Monastery – are said to have acquired the recipe – they still use – in 1837 directly from the monks.

Stay Healthy                         Fique saudavél   (pic tasteatlas/expatica)

‘We can say anything, language has no limits’ – Georg Steiner.

Saudade is a unique word in Portuguese that has no direct translation in English. It means something like a melancholic or nostalgic desire for a person, place or event far away, either in space or time.
Esperto is another example. On the ball, brainy, smart, canny, with-it and intuitive, all help to approximate its meaning. In Brazil, the word can also mean someone who traps or fools others into trouble.

The Portuguese language exists more than 800 years and is spoken by over 260 million people (3,7% of the world population). It is – after Mandarin/Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindustani and Arabic  – the sixth most used language in the world.

Official vernacular in the nine CPLP (Portuguese Language Speaking Community) countries – Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome & Principe and East Timor, in use on virtually every continent and predicted to be spoken by over 380 million people in 2050.

Its expansion is closely linked to the history of the Portuguese Discoveries in the 15th century and still today echoes of Portuguese can be heard in the streets of Goa (India), Malacca (Malaysia) and Macau (China).
Although it was Portugal that expanded the language in the past, nowadays Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil, Angola and Mozambique are mostly responsible for the growing interest in the Portuguese language.

Originating from Latin – from which it evolved into Galician-Portuguese – the language that would become Portuguese, began to be spoken in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula around the 6th century. It was expanded to the South with the Christian reconquest, at the same time influenced by Arabic from which many words derive, such as almofada (pillow), aldeia (village), alface (lettuce), alfândaga (customs) and açafrão (saffron).

The testament of King Afonso II – dated June 17, 1214 – is considered as one of the oldest written documents in Portuguese. It marks the beginning of the period of ancient Portuguese that would last until the publication in 1572 of the first book in modern Portuguese, The Lusiads, Portugal’s national epic by Luis Camões

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared in November last year the 5th of May as ‘World Portuguese Language Day’. Unfortunately, the opening celebration could only take place online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Público/Sapo)

‘My grandparents had five children, three boys, and two girls. They all looked different,’ says Ermelinda – my 64 years old neighbor – when I ask her what actually makes the Portuguese Portuguese.

‘João was the smallest with his 166 cm. Both his hair and eyes were dark brown. Manuel was just about 190 cm. He had black hair and very dark eyes. Ana was also tall, 180 cm but she was blond and had greenish eyes. Cecilia just looked like a Swedish girl, with her blazing blond hair and crystal blue eyes. António had beautiful hazel eyes, his hair was brown too. Now, would you please tell me, who looks the most Portuguese ?’

The ‘typical’ Portuguese doesn’t exist in a country that has been occupied by a great number of civilizations – Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Celts, Swabians, and Arabs.
On top of that, 400 years of slave trade has added black African genes to the population, something the white community here doesn’t like to be reminded off.

According to Manuel Sobrinho Simões – Head of the Pathology and Immunology Department of the University of Porto – Portuguese indeed have a remarkable mixture of genes. ‘If there is something typical of the Portuguese genome pole, then it’s the enormous diversity.’

The country is about twice as big as the Netherlands but has – with 10.3 million – much fewer inhabitants. In the last couple of years, urbanization has increased at the expense of the countryside and the coastal region has become more densely populated, younger and richer.
The two largest cities – Lisbon at the river Tagus and Porto at the river Douro – cover together only 5% of the territory, while 60% of the population and 50% of the industrial companies are located there.

The national territory can – according to the Ministry of Environment – roughly be divided into:

40% forest (pine trees, eucalyptus, cork oak)
30% farmland (agriculture and livestock)
20% urban area (towns, villages, railways, roads)
10% inland water (rivers, lakes, dams)

Over the past 22 years, farmland has decreased with 2000 km² while urbanization increased with 1000 km². During the same period, forestation increased with 2000 km² – an equivalent to about 250.000 football fields!

The bad news is, that this year already three-quarter of the increase has been destroyed by wildfires, including the tragic one in Pedrógão Grande, killing 64 people. And the nightmare hasn’t stopped yet!

(photos Público & Observador)                                                   Bom fim de semana

Portugezen kijken ernstig. Bijna net zoals de vele standbeelden, die in dit land niet van beroemde militairen uit een ver verleden maar van dichters en schrijvers zijn.

Als je een Portugees vraagt hoe het gaat, krijg je vaak als antwoord ‘mais ou menos’ (‘zo-zo’). Dat wil overigens niet zeggen dat hij of zij zich niet goed voelt. Eenmaal wat langer in het land valt aan de melancholische cultuur amper te ontkomen. Geen droefgeestigheid met een verdrietige blik op de wereld maar weemoed, waarin juist veel schoonheid en vreugde zit.


Misschien wel het bekendste Portugese woord. Onvertaalbaar en ongrijpbaar voor een buitenlander volgens Fernando Pessoa, Portugals beroemdste moderne dichter (Fernando Pessoa)

Saudade is een gevoel van tegelijkertijd verlangen, hunkeren, verlies, afstand, afwezigheid, droefheid, liefde en gemis naar een persoon, plaats of gebeurtenis. Het is meer dan heimwee, omdat je saudade ook kunt voelen over iets dat nooit gebeurd is of waarschijnlijk nooit zal gebeuren.

Het woord is ontstaan tijdens de Portugese ontdekkingsreizen in de 15e eeuw om uitdrukking te geven aan het verlangen naar diegenen, die naar onbekende streken vertrokken.

Het enige medicijn tegen saudade is geheugenverlies  – Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Saudade is een beetje zoals honger. Het gaat alleen over als ‘aanwezigheid’ gegeten wordt  –  Clarice Lispector


De muzikale expressie van saudade is Fado, het traditionele Portugese levenslied. Fado betekent lot en er is geen muzieksoort waarin melancholie en fatalisme zo wordt gecultiveerd. De muziek ontstond in de kroegen en bordelen van de volkswijken Alfama en Mouraria in Lissabon.

De eerst zangers waren vissersvrouwen, waarvan de man vaak niet uit zee terugkeerde. Ze zongen dat we het lot moeten accepteren, ook en vooral als dat wreed is. De belangrijkste fadozangeres was Amália Rodrigues, die van arm volksmeisje uit de Alfama uitgroeide tot wereldster.

O salty sea, so much of whose salt
Is Portugal’s tears! All the mothers
Who had to weep for us to cross you!
All the sons who prayed in vain!
All the brides-to-be who never
Married for you to be ours, O sea!
( Fernando Pessoa in Portuguese Sea )

Geniet van het weekend    –    Tenha um excelente fim de semana