The latest issue of MIDAS – no. 14 | 2022
The magazine publishes in its cover the image “Dossier R – Mirror wall (study). R-Humor exhibition, 2020.”
© Catarina Simão.
- The image that makes the cover of the 14th issue shows a study for dossier R, the centrepiece of the exhibition “R-Humour” by artist and researcher Catarina Simão, at Galerias Municipais – Galeria Avenida da Índia (Lisbon), in 2020. Dossier R shows 245 photographs representing the makonde art existing in museums in Mozambique. The great majority of the photographs are from the Ethnology Museum of Nampula and, a small part, from the section dedicated to Ethnology of the Natural History Museum (Lourenço Marques, today Maputo). In 1961, the anthropologists Jorge Dias and Margot Dias requested the production of these photographs through the Scientific Research Institute of Mozambique. The Portuguese anthropologists had in mind the preparation of the monographic “V Volume” of the expedition to the North of Mozambique, which would conclude their work published between 1964 and 1970, “The Maconde of Mozambique”, but which remained only four volumes. Very little is known about the “V volume”. Paradoxically, with the rehabilitation of these 245 photographs for the exhibition “R-Humour”, we learn about the part of the Makonde sculptural expression that would be discarded if this volume were to be concluded by M. Dias. In 1991, these 245 photographs were donated to the curator G. Blesse, and are now the property of the Grassi Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig, Germany, from where the artist recovered them in 2019. In a “mirror wall” version, the most iconic representations of white are highlighted and placed in a 15 m mural, right at the eye level of the visitors. These images exalt the influence of the Catholic missions, as well as the transversal figure of the “assimilated”. As in other examples where white is presented in a caricatural way, here the representation is also through incorporation. Classical Western representations show the colonised as an Other, an object to be contemplated from afar. In this distancing there is a power that does not go unnoticed in the way each piece is photographed. Although these photographs have been credited to M. Manarte, head of the Photography Department of the Scientific Research Institute of Mozambique, the research developed by the artist for the exhibition R-Humor revealed that the photographer was another one: “an African employee, assimilated, who works as a photographer in this institute”. The black employee working at the Institute was Sebastião Langa, the Mozambican photographer who gained prominence after the independence of Mozambique, with a work that reflected an undetermined mix of urban influences, many colonial.
- Catarina Simão (b. Lisbon 1972) is an artist and researcher. In the exhibition “R-Humor” (2020), at Galeria da Avenida da Índia (Lisbon), the artist worked on the way in which the persistence of sources blinds them in the face of the need to imagine their overdetermination; and, in contrast, silencing, deferral and humour, appear as possible forms of relationship in the face of the incompleteness of the archive.
MIDAS is available in open access (Portuguese only): https://journals.openedition.org/midas/2997
Cover design by Elisa Noronha