It was the first time they stepped on Portuguese soil. In their luggage, colourful clothing and accessories which Quilombo integrate in their cultural and religious manifestations. A discriminated culture – and yet little known here – that was in Lisbon between the 4th and 9th of March, represented by five guests.
The challenge came from IMVF as part of Project ?The Quilombo Path: From Africa to Brazil and back?: to bring to Portugal representatives of Quilombo culture – communities descendants of African slaves, who were taken to Brazil more than four hundred years ago and that today lie amongst the most marginalised communities in Brazilian society. Emilia, Francisco, Jacqueline, Maria José and Maria Antonia arrived from Brazil on March the 4th. Far from the everyday Quilombo ? the name that refers to where the Quilombo communities live – the five guests followed a busy schedule feeling at ease and visibly happy with the opportunity to share their personal stories, which also mirror the stories of an entire community.
In an intercultural week that was devoted entirely to them, there were crossed tales of disrespect for property rights – threats and disrespect caused by large landowners and businessmen who try at all costs to seize the Quilombo lands – and the struggle for basic human rights, such as access to health care or quality education. A week of powerful stories told by strong voices that without such strength would have already forfeited their right to be different and to self-determination, and to preserve their cultural legacy. This visit joined together interests of various organisations and institutions all long the week.
Sunday, March the 4th: an informal reception upon arrival
The atmosphere was informal at the reception in their honour on Sunday. For the occasion, the five Quilombo had the opportunity to be with Domingos Simões Pereira, Executive Secretary of the CPLP Community, who gave them a warm welcome and was very pleased to learn more about their culture. Referring to the Atlantic as only a river, he showed the commitment and willingness of the CPLP to render the respective peoples closer, increasingly more.
Monday, March the 5th: kilombos – the documentary is seen by its protagonists
In IMVF?s headquarters the whole team met: the Brazilian delegation ? the five quilombo, among them Maria José Silva, who is also President of the Association of Rural Black Quilombo Communities of Maranhão (ACONERUQ), the representative of the Palmares Cultural Foundation, and IMVF technicians that coordinate the project locally, the Cape Verdean delegation – including three representatives of the NGO Platform of Cape Verde, a partner of the project, and the Guinean delegation, the project researchers and representatives of the AD, local NGO partner to the project. It was a joint working session where the kilombos documentary was presented to who participated in it and who it serves as a means of disseminating the culture of the Quilombo people.
Tuesday, March the 6th: Parliament, ISCTE and ISCSP
Informed of the visit to Portugal of Quilombo representatives, the Portugal-Brazil Parliamentary Friendship Group was keen to receive the group, an initiative that with such an important symbolic charge that it was the highlight of the day.
But the day began early in the morning with a trip to the Vale da Amoreira Public Library where the Quilombo were received by a class of fourth graders, bilingual in Portuguese / Cape Verdean, who talked about the lives of children in the Quilombo. At the end of the day, there was still time for an informal chat with a working group of the Higher Institute of Labour and Enterprises (ISCTE-IUL) that has been dedicated to the issues of slavery and is currently working on creating a museum in Cacheu dedicated to this period of history. Recalling the visit of the Quilombo, in November 2010, to this region in the north of Guinea-Bissau, a trip back to the origins also promoted by the project, the meeting was very emotional and stressed the importance of this historical review for the two countries. The day ended at the Higher Institute for Social and Political Sciences (ISCSP), with the participation of representatives of the three countries of the project?s entourage in a Master class, which was promoted to share the reality of the Quilombo and left space for one of the most remarkable actions: the return to origins, the exchange between Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
Wednesday, March the 7th: International Seminar at Gulbenkian
On Wednesday, March the 7th, the International Seminar ?The Quilombo Path: from Africa to Brazil and back? took place. This was the main reason for the visit of the Quilombo. The event, held at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, brought to Lisbon a reflection on the African roots of these communities and had over a hundred participants. Among the topics discussed was a theoretical reflection on the quilombo identity, an attempt at cultural parallels between the Quilombo Communities of Brazil and the traditions of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, their supposed countries of origin, going beyond the reality of Contemporary Quilombos: the community life, struggles and rights, and the importance of valuing, disseminating and affirming Quilombo culture.
The seminar ended with the presentation of the documentary Kilombos – a film that consists in oral memories, an IMVF production directed by Paulo Nuno Vicente and cinematography by Luis Melo already available here. The initiative was accompanied by a photo and crafts exhibition representing the three countries involved in the action.
Thursday, March the 8th: To be a Quilombo Woman
In commemoration of the International Women’s Day, the Loures City Council joined IMVF to hear about different female life histories. Six participants – three Quilombo women, two Cape Verdean and one Guinean – before a crowded room spoke to the audience on their perspectives of beings women in their countries, the constraints they face and how they face challenges. A day that closed with a second visit to ISCTE-IUL for a workshop on ‘ Quilombo and Quilombos: territorialities, identities and contemporary challenges.”
Friday, March the 9th: A little taste of Portugal
A return to distant Quilombo, in Maranhão, could not happen without giving something back to those who gave us so much. The last day was for walking through Sintra and Cascais, with a symbolic stop at Cabo da Roca, the most western cape of Europe and the place in Portugal which is closer to home. In the tour they talked about the particularities of the Quilombo, the tabancas (villages) of Guinea-Bissau and the interior of Santiago Island. It was tour for discovery for all, where sharing and friendship showed how small the ocean that separates us can be.
The intercultural week was an initiative framed in the project ?The Quilombo Path: From Africa to Brazil and back? whose objective is to contribute to intercultural dialogue through the protection, valuing and dissemination of Quilombo culture. An IMVF project in partnership with AD – Ação para o Desenvolvimento (Guinea-Bissau), ACONERUQ (Brazil) and the NGOs Platform (Cape Verde), co-financed by the European Commission and the Portuguese Institute for Development Support.