Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Memory that resists

A scene from the documentary The Silence of Others

A few weeks ago, I read in an article that the impasse regarding Brexit negotiations is considered, both by Remainers and Leavers, humiliating for Britain. According to one poll, 90% of the respondents agreed that the way the UK is dealing with Brexit is a national humiliation. The author of the article, Professor of Political Psychology Barry Richards, referred to an increasingly influential body of psychological theory which emphasises that “the need for dignity is basic to our psychological make up. To feel that we have been stripped of it is very threatening and destabilising.” He makes the distinction between feeling humiliated and feeling betrayed and his advice is to avoid endorsing and amplifying the sense of humiliation. He also suggests that the word “humiliation”, and others (such as “traitor”, “betrayal” or “treachery”) shouldn’t be used in the debate.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

First thoughts on the National Plan of the Arts

There were two occasions for a first appreciation of the National Plan of the Arts (NPA): its public presentation, on 18 June, and the reading of the document. I'll start by sharing my thoughts on the first.

The room where the presentation took place was packed. Many colleagues, journalists, people representing private organisations that support the cultural sector and the arts. One could feel the good mood and the expectation, mixed with some distrust (“Will this be it?”). I believe that that moment of encounter and everything one felt in the air was a positive sign that the sector is made up of professionals who are still very much interested and ready to get involved in a common effort that may value, support and strengthen their work and their contribution to society.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Sour lemons, sweet lemonades

National Portrait Gallery, Washington (Photo: Ben Hines)

In a training course for culture professionals last month, I showed the photo of a two-year-old black girl admiring the portrait of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. She seemed awestruck and she reportedly told her mother that the woman on the painting was a queen and that she wanted to be a queen too. The point I wanted to make was that black people, or other so-called minorities, rarely do they see people looking like them as part of the mainstream narratives presented in museums; rarely do they come across the stories of people who look like them and who achieved something in their lives; people they could look up to.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

The great privilege of public life

Poster image of "The Coat", presented in 2017 by the Grupo de Teatro da Nova in Lisbon.

The recent blackface episode at a school in northern Portugal and the kind of comments it attracted was another indicator of the worrying lack of (non-virtual) meeting spaces for dialogue. Many did not understand the racism criticism of an initiative aimed at celebrating cultural diversity (from "countries" such as Africa, China and Brazil) and ended up accusing the critics of racism and hate speech. The exchange of comments on the Facebook page Blackface Portugal is revealing of the incomprehension, and even of the ignorance, around this matter. But can we say that we were shocked or surprised? Is this not a reality known to us on which, no matter how much we feel like saying "they should have known better", we cannot turn our backs? We cannot, because it continues to influence the education, thinking and notions which big part of our society holds on this matter and several others. It is these notions that end up conditioning the freedom of many citizens and perpetuating all kinds of racism and, in some cases, violence.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Where do we go from here? This is the real dope

My presentation at the ICOM Europe | ICOM Germany conference "Museums, Borders and European Responsibilities - 100 Years from WWI". Read here.