Lydia Matthews (Professor, Parsons Fine Arts) curates Susan Meiselas and Alfred Jaar in a project exploring the aftermath of Portuguese colonialism

Casa Comun, Rectory of the University of Porto, Porto, Portugal // May 14-June 27, 2021

TRAVESSIA (an experimental, expanded documentary project co-created by Susan Meiselas in collaboration with nearly 50 participants from the Black community in Porto), and Muxima (a 2005 video by Alfredo Jaar shot in Angola being shown for the first time in Portugal), focus our attention on the aftermath of Portuguese colonialism in different geographies. Both projects highlight the ongoing socio-cultural challenges that produce conditions of precarity and resilience in the lives of African and Afro-descendant people on both continents.

For six months during the Covid pandemic, Meiselas and Matthews collaborated with local scholarly researchers from University of Porto’s Sociology Program through zoom and mobile phones, inviting multigenerational members of Porto’s Black community to virtually guide them through the city’s streets. During these walks, community partners revealed aspects of Porto that remain invisible to many local residents. Sharing memories from daily life–stories of struggle, joy and Black resistance–this ever-expanding network of participants inscribed narratives onto photographs and, in the case of artist Dori Nigro, embedded them within video performances to co-create an alternative city map based on personal experiences. Their seemingly absent-yet-present voices can be further accessed through AR triggers designed by Cinthia Bodenhorst: symbols inspired by Angolan sona drawings, pre-colonial ideographs that elegantly embody African systems of logic, memory, flexibility and resilience.

Titled after the indigenous Kimbundu word for “heart,” Alfredo Jaar’s 2005 cinematic elegy references a single popular folk song, Muxima—a beautifully haunting piece written by Liceu Viera Dias who was a founding member of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola in the 1940s. Jaar describes this as a “cinematic elegy dedicated to the people of Angola”:  through ten Cantos, he traces unavoidable issues within the country’s history  such as the impact of Portuguese colonialism, a thirty year civil war, the impact of the oil industry and another devastating pandemic that continues to haunt the country to this day: the HIV/AIDS crisis.