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The Sun Does Not Rise In The North

Do you think freedom exists? [1]

What are the (Black) geographies of freedom that are still to be imagined? [2]

What are the infrastructures of hope?

The advancement and proliferation of technologies of surveillance and the control of movements is a growing violation of individual and collective freedom — for many, borders are a geopolitical construct of physical and mental entrapments.

In the exhibition the sun does not rise in the north, de Miranda proposes one-person tales navigating between fictional and non-fictional narratives in the affective space of the border. The exhibition investigates the landscapes that witness hope, from the journeys of migration between Africa and Europe, set within a duality of existence and citizenship: one contemplating Europe and the other a return to Africa.

We are immersed within the contested border of Ceuta in Spain and Melilla in Morocco in these spaces of transition where the artist spent time with the territory and gathered testimonies. De Miranda gives a nuanced gaze into the familiar scenario of the ‘migration crisis’ and its relationships with the fortress of Europe, in underpinning the ongoing colonial politics of violent rejection of people that attempt to reach its soil every day.

the sun does not rise in the north examines the complex diversity of personal and collective histories interconnected between the migrant and the diasporic experience in Europe. It is a continuous relational praxis that de Miranda depicts and deconstructs through counter-narratives of belonging, as well as on the (re)elaboration of memory in post-colonial discourses.

The African liberation struggles, and revolutionary movements fuel the artist’s imaginaries. The building of an archive of transnational political efforts — one that reminds us to look onto the past for our current reflections, as a continuous entity in our horizons, and where liberation sits within the ongoing narratives of strength, resilience, and vulnerability. In the film o sol não nasce a norte (the sun does not rise in the north) and photographic works, the visual narratives give (back) dignity and grace to the characters through the poetics of (body) languages.

Here, and generally within de Miranda’s cinematographic geographies of affection[3], the main characters are in deep connections with the ecosystems and the landscapes: the sea, the forest, the mountains, the desert, the sand, and palm trees are mothering the fugitive and disposable bodies, waves are caressing the ears amongst ethereal soundscapes, symbolic spiritual colours of the sun, blood, water and trees. Clad in white clothing, they are calling for the sun. The bodies are aligned with its cyclical movement. The landscapes alternate between crisp blue skies, natural fog and blurry haze depicting the start and end of the day — and of journeys leading to freedom, alienation, loss or slow spiritual death.

In the film, the man says that the body has no end, but life does. In Bakongo philosophy, at sunset and sunrise, “the living and the dead exchange day and night. The setting of the sun signifies man’s death and its rising, his rebirth, or the continuity of his life. Bakongo believe and hold it true that man’s life has no end, that it constitutes a cycle, and death is merely a transition in the process of change.”[4] The movements and itinerant passages of those that have arrived, but only to leave, are captured in the memory of the soil, of the land that is archiving each of their steps. In the film, the archaeological digging of the land, what was once there and now buried, interrogates what else is left of our bodies without the earth?

Now you’re this, what is left. Your body turns into pieces that the wind carries away.


Whether it is in the film or exhibition space, the solar panels become sculptures of dominance and empowerment bouncing the light on the bodies to rise anew within new temporality and potential forms of being and living, until a final rupture. The visitors become active participants, navigating amongst the screens, also facing the immensity of the sculptures. They roam around amongst shadows and reflections — their own stories mirroring or in tandem with the main characters. The sun is represented in the metaphor of the mirror as what controls and sustains us all. The reflective light and sun are giving the rhythm of navigation, of landmarks and human footprints. The source of light is saturated and blinding, the eyes remain shut or resist a direct gaze — a regenerative moment surfaces where the knowledge of our double co-existence is virulent and unforgivable at the core of the character’s questions and provocations in which our acts of extraction to the land is laid bare for the viewers.

But how much sun must we store and sell? How many greenhouses must we produce in order to live in a land that sees no sunlight?


The sun does not rise in the north exhibition gives way to the monumentality of the landscape of hope and freedom, the infrastructure that are markers of state violence, and the architecture of surveillance such as the metallic gated border, fences that are to rip the skin, the overwhelming visions of capitalist accumulation through extractive mechanisms as a violation of the soil, sun, water are in parallel with the ever so present technologies of renewable energies to counterbalance the damages of the land that the same politics of rejection are encompassing every day. The mirrors are an ongoing metaphor of this reflection and our contemporary interrogation on the psychological and physical damages of a systemic nature.

The sun does not rise in the north is a moment for us all to belong within their existence and continuation to resist against the distant feeling of their alienation, confusion and estrangement, and a part of the journey that liberates us from the borders of our mental and spiritual prisons in understanding the ongoing relationship that the land and our bodies are just one.

[1] Quotes from the film are written in italics throughout the text, unless annotated and stated otherwise.

[2] A term taken from Saidiya Hartman’s introductory words in The Nation on No Map: Black Anarchism and Abolition by William C. Anderson (2021).

[3] A key term coined by De Miranda that has come to represent the deep interdependencies between the architectural and sonic landscapes, the body, and personal/collective emotional cartographies that are predominant in her practice.

[4] A quote taken from Chapter 2, The Sign of the Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art and Religion in the Americas from Flash of the Spirit by Robert Farris Thompson (1984), originally drawn from An Anthology of Kongo Religion: Primary Texts from Lower Zaire by John M. Janzen and Wyatt MacGaffey (1974).

Time, Reflection, Balance and Symmetry

The Island by Mónica de Miranda

The turbulence of this world’s colonial histories bangs in the brain a dreadful tune that is so violent that it appears the only way out of this gravitational whirlpool of despair is to keep on singing the songs of revolution and redemption. When locked in the noise of colonising regimes, we become distracted by the need to shout at this world’s past. This is an exhausting and taxing condition of oppression.

Justice is a slippery beast and may be sourced through many different channels. In the volume of protests, we sometimes forget to listen to the quiet voices that help us locate our dreams and the calm spaces of our minds. Colonialism is a vampire. If we lose our capacity to imagine our future, then the painful pasts that cause so much pain will be the forever soundtrack of our lives. Now more than ever, we need our artists to create more than images, words and music. Their crucial function in this time is to remind us that we must never lose our capacity to feel, contemplate and be.

Mónica de Miranda offers us a repertoire of uplifting escape routes from underneath the weight of history, the burden of colonial time and all its tyrannical nonsensical bone-breaking rhythms. The Island is a strange and beautiful abnormal place because it disrupts the colonial norm of things; there is within this work a radical conjoining of different temporalities, a doubling up of people in space that suggests the presence of ancestorial truth-seeking guardians is never far away. As guardians, they watch and wait as their purpose is to preserve and locate the critical scenes of exchange.

The Island is a world made anew, differentiated in time but not isolated in spirit. Within this world, the difficult things that make up feelings of tenderness are loud in the silence. This silence is firmly connected to the universe, inquisitive but at rest because it is balanced with all the conditions at work. The Island, for de Miranda, is not occupied land because it has a memory contribution that must be acknowledged and respected. De Miranda rejects those obsessed with discovery, demarcation and extraction. Welcome to her eternal now. De Miranda rejects the notion of Eurocentric time being an unstoppable linear process. Instead, this island circles back through and on colonial time to weave new narratives that give the dynamic of liberational thought and ways of being new powers that both aid and reinstate the extracted and negated harmonies of this world. The Island here is not part of any bordered state but a place where essential retuning work can be done, where the dualities and realities of diasporic life can be heard and explored as opposing but symmetrical connected conditions. Through this work we can come to understand that we are forever bonded as cosmic entities and if left unagitated we can float forever in respectful and imaginative space.

On The Island, the idea of reflection is alive. In bodies and soil. In mirrors and faces. In waters and food, reflection is an ever-present now. Here the self can be seen, heard and felt. However, reflection for de Miranda is not a form of haunting. The mirrored moments throughout this work do not cause fright; there is no screaming. Instead, they demand a sense of pausing so that the time of our complex histories can be played back, processed, rewound and re-channelled into a more harmonious mixed and shared understanding of what has been done in colonial time, and then magically and radically brought into different frequencies for the benefit of new and future understandings.

Dr Mark Sealy

Director of Autograph 1991–

Professor of Photography Rights and Representation

University of the Arts London


Mirages and Deep Time

As we emerge from the confinement of lockdown and assess the benefits and losses from our general syncopation, the artist Monica De Miranda explores a multi-media exhibition, Mirages and Deep Time through her characters, embodied personages from photographs, moving images and embroidered printed matter. These characters manifest as a form of intervention that bring her messaging on the materialising  new world order emergent  from the dissolution of the past histories into new histories as human activity shapes the evolving world. This so called athropocene has created multiple time lines and for the ade Miranda, the artist the artefacts of our time can never be reduced to mediums, illustration and narratives. All of these converge into Mirages and Deep Time and are embodied through her characters. There is a great reveal with this showing as identities and obfuscated narratives ostensibly crop-up from her visual cues and metaphors.

For the seeker, there are obvious fundamentals that need upending: the one thread that runs through one nation to the next is the global history of colonisation. The image of the thirsty traveler lost in a desert who sees water reflected in the sand that is not there refers to the falsify of desperation but humanity has shaped futures through imagination. How do we emerge into a new timelines with an imagination shaped not from desperation but from freedom. In the natural sciences, Wiener Heisenborg’s Uncertainty Principle establishes the delimitations of subatomic particles with regards to position and momentum. And in contemporary culture understanding the scope and meaning of decolonisation in an increasingly globalised world are all intangibles that are impossible to grasp.

By upending well known visual cues and cliches, Monica de Miranda’s Mirages and Deep Time circumscribes the problems with decolonial tropes. It is not a hopeless task, it is a continuous and unmitigated quest, one that requires hyper-vigilance and an understanding the limits of learned history. Mirages and Deep Time give scope to the spiritual and metaphysical aspects about rethinking Black history and identity in Portuguese history. It also advances the conversation towards nature and new forms of knowledge generation in addressing contemporary world’s biggest challenge in climate change in the age of anthropocene.

Path to the Stars, Mónica de Miranda (2022)

Path to the Stars follows a river. The river Kwanza. The film itself is like a river, drawing from many sources but cutting a path all its own. Combining, cinematic and theatrical aspects in equal parts, Path to the Stars tells a story of Angola’s liberation struggle on the river as told by Carlota, a guerrilla fighter, a woman, never named but embodied by actor Renata Torres.[1]

A photo

 Carlota lived and died during Angola’s independence. We know her from Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski’s account of Angolan independence, Another Day of Life. The single photo that exists of her comes from Kapuscinski’s book. Shortly after he met and took her photo, Carlota died in an ambush. We don’t know her last name or really anything about her. Sources are fragmentary, incomplete; they leave a trace, but offer little concrete to deepen our understanding. Like the bubbles children blow from bottles, de Miranda breathes life into the photo to create a possible story, a story that floats along a river, on a path to the stars – to somewheres, otherwises, and futures.


 Mónica de Miranda and Yara Nakahanda Monteiro wrote the film’s script, drawing on lines and the spirit of Angolan writer José Luandino Vieira and Portuguese poet Cláudia R. Sampaio. Inspired in part by Vieira’s O Livro dos Rios (2006)de Miranda’s film is an act of historically grounded poetic license, a riff, perhaps, on what Saidiya Hartman calls “critical fabulation.” Like the river plants with tenuous roots that bob around Carlota, floating Ophelia-like in the river, the script and film grow from the imagination to elaborate the experiences of those marginalized in official historical accounts. The story puts out roots down into the shifting sands, below the moving water, and reaches toward the light. De Miranda gives Carlota new life.

Vieira opened his book with a dedication, a tribute, and an epigraph. These are textual acts that, like pouring libation, recall ancestors and nod to interlocutors. He dedicated the book to those with whom he shared the prison of Tarrafal in Cape Verde for anti-colonial activities, in tribute (or as he says “re-tribute”) to Langston Hughes, and with an inscription of the words of Njinga Mbandi (Queen Njinga) of Ndongo and Matamba, as related by the Portuguese conqueror and historian António Oliveira Cadornega. De Miranda’s film draws upon all these historical layers.

Like a river’s tributary, Vieira moves through the first lines of Hughes’s poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”: “I‘ve known rivers:/ I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” Vieira begins: “I’ve known rivers. I’ve known rivers ancient as the world, full of inhuman blood.” Carlota speaks these words at the beginning of the film. Hughes speaks of rivers that nurtured civilizations – the Euphrates, Nile, and Congo – and of a river that symbolized the entanglement of dehumanization and industry – the Mississippi – a river that was also a great conduit of African American culture.

For Vieira and de Miranda, the river is the Kwanza. From its source in Angola’s eastern Bié province, the river travels north and then west, where it empties into the Atlantic. If the myth of Portuguese nationhood is wrapped up in the story of navigating oceans, made heroic in Luís de Camões’s poetic cycle Os Lusíadas, Vieira draws us to rivers, the pathways to and from Angola’s interior, to reframe Angolan national identity to the places where wars for sovereignty and against foreign control were fought, and where culture swirls, while never forgetting the connections to other lands, rivers, and civilizations and the violent history that Hughes, Vieira, and de Miranda demand that we conjugate together.

Citing Njinga Mbandi, Vieira reminds us that Hartman’s “critical fabulation” has ancient antecedents.

            In dubio chronichae, pro fabula…

Dizem que disse  —   assim mesmo, em latim — Njinga Mbandi, rainha, a António de Oliveira de Cadornega, historiador, na comprovada presença de Frei Giovanni Antonio di Montecúccolo, o Kavazi.

 Na nossa cidade de Santa Maria de Matamba, aos dezessete dias do mês de Dezembro de 1663, dia de Santa Olímpia Viúva.

 These few lines encapsulate the trouble with history. The citation in Latin, spoken by Njinga Mbandi, inflected by Vieira’s contemporary Angolan diction “assim mesmo, em latim”, written down by Cadornega and witnessed by the Italian priest, Cavazzi/Kavazi (again, an Angolan re-inscription of his name) enacts the transition from the oral to the textual as an act of chronicling. The writer intervenes to retrieve this from the past and put it to present use to imagine, to tell the story and the memories of those who did not write the official history books. In this case, the guerrilla combatants.

De Miranda deploys filmic invocations. The opening shot on the river is a gesture both to Vieira and to Sarah Maldorar, the first filmmaker of the Angolan liberation struggle (Martinican by birth), who interpreted Vieira’s A Vida Verdadeira de Domingos Xavier in the film Sambizanga, in which Maria, Domingos’ wife and not Domingos himself, is set as the main protagonist. Sambizanga opens on a river, although in this case, at a waterfall, full of the rush and tumble of the water’s energy. De Miranda’s title echoes visual artist António Ole’s film, On a Path to the Stars (1980), a poetic homage to Agostinho Neto, the first Angolan president, and himself a poet. Both Ole and de Miranda borrow their titles from one of Neto’s poems.


De Miranda builds Path to the Stars from these diverse sources. Like Maldoror before her, she offers a riposte to Maria Calafate Ribeiro’s question: “And now, José Luandino Vieira? Where are the women, the creators of new generations?” (2012) Precisely fifty years after Maldoror’s film, de Miranda’s perspective results in a different, but equally Black feminist intervention. She does not explain the anticolonial struggle, it is a given, but she reimagines it. Unlike Maldoror’s work, this is not narrative filmmaking. Instead, it is a reflection in moving images, sound, and words by a highly regarded Angolan-Portuguese visual artist.

De Miranda’s visual work uses her technique of putting still photography into motion, to great effect. The depth of field is balanced. Actors pause. The work is unhurried but never slow. At a table Carlota and her Shadow (played by Sunny Dilage) are seated side-by-side, the former in a white gown, the latter in a high-necked black dress, Victorian and stiff. They face the river and without expression eat roast hearts. The English expression ‘eat your heart out’ means, look at me and be envious. This scene expresses something else. Swallow your heart. Put fear behind you, put emotion aside, and look ahead.

In this scene, Carlota is twinned: as young and old, black and white, or night and day. De Miranda’s use of twins, doubles, and even triples, asks viewers to question time, difference, and similitude. An older woman guides a young girl, who naps on her lap. Three young women dance around a fire and stand still, returning the camera’s gaze, their long braids linked one to another, like chains of flowers. And three women: an astronaut, the older woman, and Carlota, embody different generations as their dialogue entangles the past and the future.

Theatrical elements are anti-naturalistic. Instead of realism that absorbs viewers into the story, de Miranda’s slowly moving stills draw our eyes to the relationship between the human and the natural world. Actors deliver lines that are closer to poetic recitation than conversation. We wonder: how do humans act under conditions of war? How do women act to achieve different futures?

Color and costume are elemental: black, white, blue, and camouflage. We never see a flag, and the colors so closely associated with the MPLA – red, black, and yellow – do not appear. We might catch traces of the flag in forms, if not in colors, as in the horizon, that “narrow line that divides,” or in the star or stars of the title, and the ambitions of the astronaut and the astrological maps of two male soldiers.

The soundtrack, produced by the artist Xullagi, is critical to the film’s force. It is layered and distorted, bending time and transporting us through space. Non-diegetic elements predominate, again offering an anti-naturalism that tugs at our conscience. We hear radio broadcasts, a speech by an African-American preacher, and transmissions from a space shuttle launch. Sounds bring the outside world in, and place this story within the larger arc of late 20th century history – of the US civil rights movement, of space exploration, of decolonization, and the distinct language of a liberation movement that spoke in local languages to elude the Portuguese military.

Two main characters, Carlota and the Kwanza, propel the film. Except when we see Carlota submerged, they often operate at different speeds. Carlota moves slowly, her features at ease, her gaze often distant. The river buzzes with life in and along its banks, and is dense with vegetation. People and their stories are temporary here, but the river endures. We see Carlota and her Shadow in a small boat, still, before a briskly moving background.

River and water evoke ancient temporalities that cycle and spiral, challenging the triumphant teleologies of political discourse. They demand we be present with them, or they will overtake us. The river is a teacher, never a student.


Stars are light, in a different time. They register hope, signal distance, and other worlds. Path to the Stars speaks of Angola’s liberation struggle, but its relationship to chronological time is ambivalent. We flow with the river and Carlota through the three acts of one day and into the next. Two radios, a plastic encased mirror, an astronaut, and soldier’s camouflage are the only indicators of a particular historical moment. Other temporalities coexist – the past, present, and future at once, astrological time, and the stars in the sky and the stars below Carlota’s feet.

What was once here is no longer. Landscape erases as much as it sets the scene. A building in ruins is an explicit visual reminder of change and decay. Overgrowth is stealthier. If the river marks the land like a scar and as a tattoo, vegetation hides the signs of war. The present can overwrite the past. But in the present: “when we remember, it is not with memory, but with its future.” Memory is one form of the past’s futures. Still, Carlota cautions, “when you visit the past, wipe your feet.” Because we must imagine other presents and futures too.

Stars sparkle with a future, even as they deliver light to us that left the star long ago. Stars are at the nexus of science and magic and at the center of cosmological time, the time of the universe. The female astronaut embodies this future-directed vision and desire in Path to the Stars, reminding us of Afrofuturism’s African as well as its diasporic sparks. Two soldiers study the astrological chart of the Chinese nation (a nation with a star flecked flag). Military precision should measure the distance between “consciousness and the darkness” and of “hate.” The soldiers parse the chart as if it were a map of pasts and futures, spiritual and mundane. One says to the other “we’ll transport ourselves from here to there, beyond. These centuries have been an intermediary phase.”

Photography scholar and historian Patricia Hayes describes liberation movement photos from Zimbabwe as crafted in the “future tense.” De Miranda’s film troubles those certainties. As Carlota says, “There’s no way to get the time right.”

[1] Angola’s anticolonial war began in 1961 and continued until April 25, 1974, when Portuguese military officers (who were fighting wars in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau) overthrew the Portuguese state. The Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola declared independence on November 11, 1975. However, the country soon fell into civil war, and the rival sides only signed peace accords at Luena in April 2002.

Trânsitos – The Island by Mónica de Miranda

by Ana Nolasco

In the movie The Island, 2022, some of the topics that run through Mónica de Miranda’s work emerge, among which I highlight an epistemological archeology – whether of natural or urban landscapes, or of different times, past, present and future – which explores the relationship between space and memory – individual and collective – and between transit and diasporic condition that currently, with the ecological crisis, have become a planetary condition. This work is accentuated by a turn to the telluric dimension and the geological time of the Earth and its agency. In this film, the traffic – of people, memories and places -, allows an incarnate gaze that oscillates between various points of view, undermining the scientific gaze based on the separation between the subject – pure fixed and disembodied gaze – and the object, questioning the supposed “neutral” scientific objectivity vs.  involved and distorted subjectivity.

The topos of the island thus appears in this work by Mónica de Miranda as a metaphor to question the notion of a universal truth – but which in reality is limiting, reflecting the gaze of the white, western, middle-class man – and as a space to imagine alternative paths. Islands are points of intersection of various cultures and, in the collective imagination, represent spaces of projection of a rebirth: since the Ithaca described by Homer in the 8th century B.C., to the Fortunate Islands described by Hesiod, through Atlantis described by Plato in Timaeus and Critias360 B.C., the descriptions of the Fortunate Islands by Lucius Samosata in the 2nd century A. C., in Histoires Vraies (Samósata 2012), until Utopia by Thomas More, 1516  –  which gave its name to the impossible dream – the islands have been, since antiquity, the ideal image of the cosmos, places of rebirth. The islands are thus, in the collective imagination, the spaces where new futures are projected. It is, in essence, Deleuze’s idea in “Deserted Islands”: the myths of renewal and rebirth are linked to the cosmogony of origin (Deleuze 2002, 14-16).

In The Island, inspired by “Ilha dos Pretos” (Island of Blacks) – a denomination of oral tradition given in the 18th century to a community of people of African origin that settled in the riverside area of the Sado River – Mónica de Miranda creates an imaginary island: a place where the ghosts of this community and its stories intersect with the geological sense of time, drawing a parallel between the dominion of the human being over itself and the predatory extractivism of nature; there, through the metaphor of the river as the non-linear time that transcends material constraints, is the place where alternative futures can be imagined.

To better understand the starting point of these ghosts in whose veins run the sap of the memories of rocks, pain, and dreams of this community, next I will present a brief contextualization of the so-called “Ilha dos Pretos”.



The history of the presence of Africans in Portugal is still little studied today. It is a little hard to imagine that in 1535, in Évora, as a visitor notes at the time, “in all places one could find black people” (Carmo et al. 2021, 54). In the 16th century, in port cities like Lisbon and in the Algarve region, enslaved African people constituted about 10% of the population – reaching about 15% in the 17th and 18th centuries – and, in the interior of the southern part of the country, about 5% to 6% (Henriques 2020, 62). They were used for any kind of task, such as agriculture or trade, and quickly became an indispensable labor force  –  a situation that would continue until the 18th century – as witnessed, among others, by the fact that in the Cortes of 1472-1473 the population asked the King not to take enslaved people out of the kingdom since “[…] sam causa de se fazerem terras novas e romper os matos e abrir pauys e outro proveitos” and in the 17th  century, Manuel Severim de Faria states that in “cultivating the land […] the farmers use Guinea slaves and mulattos2 (Henriques 2020, 67).

In the last quarter of the 15th century, many of these Africans were sent – both from Évora and other towns – to the Sado Valley to work in the saltpans, this region being, at the time, a place of crossing of trade routes and connection routes “between agrarian structures […] where scattered African slaves lived since the late 15th century” (Henriques 2020, 75). Only at the end of the 18th century, these people of African origin formed a cohesive community, settling on the left bank of the Sado River, an area more difficult to access and less inhabited” (…). Its presence was first noted by Leite Vasconcelos in 1895: “I had long heard about the existence of a special breed in the municipality of Alcácer do Sal; but nothing was known for sure. This race does exist and is originally from Africa” (Henriques 2020, 125), adding later that “the neighbors used to call these people Pretos do Sado or Pretos de S. Romão because there were many Black people there. “S. Romão was an island of the Blacks, I heard mention of several Mulatos” (Henriques 2020, 126).

The theories about the settlement of this community are diverse, as are their causes. As presented by Isabel Castro Henriques (2020), it is likely that several factors came together: the Pombaline laws prohibiting the import of slaves, of 1761, and the so-called Lei do Ventre (Womb Law), of 1773, although they did not abolish slavery in the country (only consummated in 1876), the former only applied to slaves from abroad who were granted freedom after 6 months, the latter only declared free those born after this date “whose slavery came from their great-grandmothers” (Henriques 2020, 169). The slaves that were being freed – or that ran away – settled on the left bank of the Sado River, where there was already a strong presence of people of African origin and where they could integrate the rice industry, then expanding in this area. The fact that rice cultivation in the 18th and 19th centuries to be prone to the emergence of malaria, due to the existence of stagnant water that favored the emergence of the Anopheles mosquito. According to an 1860 report, “the production of 16 hectoliters of rice […] a human life” (Henriques 2020, 145) and the consideration of Africans as the most resistant, makes credible the statement by Leite Vasconcelos, not documented, that Marquês de Pombal had tried to “acclimatize [people of African origin] in the sezonatic lands of Sado”, and/or the oral tradition, also referred by the same author, that “the ‘mulattos’ of S. Romão and neighboring parishes would be from the Sado River, where they would have been born. Romão and neighboring parishes would have come from convicts sent there by the powerful Marquis” (Henriques 2020, 127).

Today, there are practically no traces of this presence in Alentejo, but in the Alcácer do Sal region, African physiognomies and coarse hair still denote an African presence after several generations. In fact, in the Sado estuary, even today, the existence of these characteristics, due to the fact that they frequently intermarry (Henriques 2020, 174), the oral tradition that corroborates their origin, as well as, in this region, the toponymy of places such as “Vila do Negro” (Carmo et al. 2021, 56), “Quinta de Gâmbia”, “Mulatos2 or “Sesmaria dos Pretos”, among others, attests this strong presence to the point that an agronomist of the 20th century states that Pombal “promoted in Santa Margarida [do Sado] a colonization trial with blacks” (undocumented fact) (Caldas 1998, 237-238)..

A recent study argues that the presence of these enslaved African people may have contributed to the development of rice cultivation on the banks of the Tejo and Sado rivers because, in these areas, land was conquered from the salt and freshwater marshes of the river by means of earth dikes (Carmo et al. 2021, 56). As mentioned above, most of the enslaved people were from the coastal areas of Senegambia (an area that currently includes Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau), with about 2000 enslaved people arriving in Lisbon per year from this region. Considering that in these coastal areas there was already knowledge of technical solutions to control fresh and brackish water, and that the trafficking of the African rice species Oryza glaberrima by Portuguese ships has been documented, it is plausible that there was a transfer of traditional technical knowledge from these Africans (Carmo et al. 2021, 56).

However, few traces of this African presence remain: there are practically no documents about the enslaved people of African origin and their descendants – who were not considered as people in the full sense of the word, but close to animals, as denoted by the classification grids based on skin color introducing zoomorphic markers, such as mulattoes, goats, kids, which designated blacks or mestizos (); on the other hand, many of their descendants who currently live in the region are ashamed of their origins, because the contribution of their ancestors to the richness and diversity of Portuguese culture is not highlighted, and they are often discriminated against (Henriques 2016, 166-174).  Besides a certain way of building the reed huts, a testimony of their creativity remains, however: the song of the “Ladrão do Sado”, a work song of African origin, sung by the pound, which is the high point of the Cancioneiro Ribassadino (cited in Henriques 2020, 181).



In The Island, the story of this community is re-enacted mixing fiction and reality, and transported into a global meditation on the human condition as passengers on planet Earth navigating the universe.  In an unlocalized landscape, stories of human trafficking are told, stories of domination, of struggle, of love and hope, and of the capacity for physical and spiritual regeneration.

Two twins dwell in the forest, wandering between the scenes. Appearing frequently in the work of Mónica de Miranda, a symbol of individuation as a process of continuous re-creation – as in Twins, 2014 or “Karl Marx” and “When words escape, flowers speak”, 2017 –  the twins are here archetypes of consciousness and its ambiguity. A woman (Zua) and a man (Hermínio) – perhaps a reflection of the feminine and masculine side of a single being – weave narratives with other weave narratives with other characters that appear, juxtaposing various times and places in a dialogical process with the land, the stars, and the memories brought by the river. In this way, several times are intertwined: the geological time of the earth that began about 4.54 billion years ago from the process of the sun’s creation; the time of the so-called Anthropocene or Capitalocene (Haraway 2015) – which culminated in a process that began about 300,000 years ago with the appearance of the first Homo Sapiens that put an end to about 1 million and 750,000 years of peaceful coexistence of hominids with other species; the time of stars dating back 180 million years after the creation of the universe, 13.8 billion years ago.

The presence of quarries that dig and extract soil from the ground, the constant travelling of the banks of the Sado River where the geological strata can be seen, give the film a telluric dimension. The quarries crystallize here the intertwining of the erasure of the history of black Africans in Portugal, the transformation of nature into merchandise that, in the imaginary, went along with the change from nurturing mother nature to nature as inert matter, without agency. As Mónica de Miranda said, the quarries are “wounds on the land”[1], symbolizing this violence over bodies and land. Through images and text, a parallel is drawn between the extraction of land, colonialism in Portugal, and the violence exerted on women’s bodies, as a character states “the stones […] are the maps that crystallize our history […] they broke the earth to extract them/ the scars of our wombs weep and feel the emptiness of the undone stones.” In a way, the extractivist mentality – whose massification at the planetary level began with colonialism coupled with the techno-scientific revolution – made man homeless, both spiritually and physically, in the sense of “oikos”, home.

In fact, today, with the ecological crisis, what is at stake is the lack of land: there is no land that can support “a common home,” since there are not enough planets to make the modern lifestyle global. The promise implied in the modernization imperative – the universality of modernity based on the ideas of “liberty, equality, fraternity” – has been dropped by the elites, this time brazenly, like a mask (Latour 2017).

Economies based on aspirations on an unlimited growth – whether capitalism or socialism – and the concentration of resources in the hands of the powerful, have been accompanied by a narrative of what “nature” is, which has allowed it to be monetized and divided into units and turned into tradable commodities. These narratives about “nature” have served to secularize the notion of the earth as inert matter, without agency, whether the shift from the representation of nature as a nurturing – mother in Greco-Roman antiquity to its representation as the feminine, passive and submissive, and its soil as a womb to be extirpated[2] –   which accompanied the so-called scientific revolution in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries (Merchant 2016) initiated simultaneously with colonialism; whether it is the passage of its representation of a country like Mother India   –  inspirer of the Indian liberation movements – to the notion of the masculinized territory of the state – parens patriae  –  as guarantor of the preservation of natural resources not for the population at large but for international interests and free movement of capital.

As Vandana Shiva (1993) has noted, the secularization of land – previously a sacred space, source of sustenance and life – has turned it into a territory and an instrument of colonization, opening the way for the extraction of its resources.

In this context, the erasure of the history of the ancestors of the Sado riverside community is equivalent to the disappearance of their local context, uprooting them. The aura, as defined by Benjamin (2007 [1939]), emanated from the inscription of time in the very materiality of things, their process of making, their history; it is the same with people who are deprived of their history: they become a materiality without transcendence, without the connection with that web of life.


The autonomization and automation of nature and human beings, uprooted from the earth, destroy the holistic view of life and ecosystems, making them suitable for the application of scientific methods of analysis, measurement, classification, and evaluation in an attempt to calibrate and, as far as possible, redesign them. In this way, the real is reconfigured in order to adapt to scientific instruments and methods, through a symbolic taxonomy that dehumanizes it, justifying the extractivist mentality regarding nature.

In this context, Amílcar Cabral’s visionary holistic notion of soil is pertinent. For the agronomist, poet and leader of the liberation struggles in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, soil recovery and regeneration were inseparable from his liberation project. In the thesis he writes at the end of his course in 1951, The problem of soil erosion. Contribution to its study in the Cuba region (Alentejo) (1988 [1951]), presents his notion of soil as an active agent of a historical process “something that moves, that is, that constantly transforms” (1988 [1951], 3). This transformation is part of an interdependent triad formed by the rock (being that gives rise to the soil) (1988 [195], 8), by the climate (which “causes the disintegration of the rock which releases energies and increased dispersion increases chemical activity” (1988 [1951], 12) and by the activity of living things (micro-organic activity). The process of transformation of rock into soil is called weathering by Amílcar Cabral. Influenced, via Karl Marx, by Hegelian dialectics (and the notion of history as a permanent conflict; thesis, antithesis, and synthesis), he understands this process as a dialectical process: the negation of the rock structure that, in turn, has to be negated to create a new synthesis; the soil as a permanent source of life.

As is well known, historically, the Hegelian heritage – even its Marxist version – allowed negativity to be legitimized in the name of a future synthesis. But, in this case, Amílcar Cabral only preserves the notion of necessary tension in order to maintain the fragile balance, with the three elements – rock, soil and climate – must always be present in an eternal becoming, they do not exclude each other.


The agency of the earth has now been recognized: the notion of “nature”, or “environment” as a backdrop on which human actions take place is no longer sustainable. The activity of human beings is not necessary for the weathering of rocks, but influences it, having himself become a geological force. As Amílcar Cabral wrote in “About Land Use in Black Africa”, “of the main determining factors here is the social-being-man himself, whose action depends on the economic structure on which agricultural activity is based” (1954, 402). That is, there is an interdependence between human actions, social and material conditions, and the condition of the land.

Although the scale of geological time is for human beings an otherness that cannot be experienced, we are obliged – on pain of ceasing to exist – to take into account the existence of living beings – human and non-human – in the context of geological time. From this perspective, it becomes clear that human action, collectively, has acted only metabolically, that is, in a way that ensures its immediate existence. Chakrabarty (2021) has pointed out Arendt’s distinction between labor/work/action: the first is the condition of life itself which resides in consumption, that is, in the metabolic action of maintaining biological activities which is exhausted in itself; work, everything that is human artifice – artifice – including language, institutions, artifacts – which survives beyond individual human life. individual human life; the third distinction concerns political action. According to Arendt, “in order to be what the world is always meant to be, a home for men during their life on earth, the human artifice must be a place fit for action and speech” (Arendt 1998 [1958], 173) that is, to go beyond mere consumption that is exhausted in itself. As Chakrabarty notes “political action, in this sense, is that which helps humans to be at home on earth beyond the time of the living” (2021, 8). In this sense, it is necessary, as thinkers such as Chakrabarty (2021) note, Latour (2017) or Haraway (1997), among others, extend the political beyond the human.

Through proper cinematographic means, The Island creates a broader temporality, beyond the anthropocentric notion of time. In this perspective, the natural and cosmic elements – such as the stars and mountains – are neither static nor passive, but move and have agency. These different temporalities create monads incommensurable with each other: as the main character states “there are no worlds; we are worlds”. We are crossed by multiple time series in such a way that when we intervene in other time series, we also intervene in ours: as Chief Seattle, a Native American tribal leader, said in 1855, “all things are connected like the blood that unites a family […] the human being has not woven the web of life; he is only a thread of it. What you do to the web of life, you do to yourself” (cited in Shiva 1993, 103).

This notion of becoming, of eternal transmutation of things that descend from “worlds” and temporal scales that transcend our existence as human beings is highlighted in Mónica de Miranda’s film The Island: “we are constant flux, the wind that caused the erosion in the rock, the air I breathe in […] I am a plant that grows in the arid and dry soil/scarce water that springs up without a source/wake and glide in the form that dissolves into the ground I walk on”.

The aesthetic option of privileging the fixed camera and foregoing intermediate shots between scenes tends to neutralize the camera, intensifying “the spectator’s attention on the shot itself (and not on the following action)” (Deleuze 1985, 356) inviting him to take a position on the images.  On the other hand, the durability of the shots and the slowness of the declamation of the text allow us to discern not only the subtle changes in the shifting of the light over the landscape and the bodies, but also the autonomization of the word as a plastic and expressive element of the cinematographic discourse. The weight given to the word, the statism of the camera and the fact that the film was made “live”, without previous rehearsals, in a kind of spontaneous performance, “reacting to the place” [3], create a “theatricality that is properly cinematographic” (Deleuze 1985, 112), in which the word is often the narrative engine of the shots and an important element in the creation of a diegetic space woven by the interweaving of various temporalities. Thus, the statism of the camera, coupled with the admittedly artificial character of the actors and the neutral recitation of the text, prevent the psychological projection-identification of the observer, inducing an exercise of an intellectual character.

However, this formal option is not without a sensory reception: the film scores by slow shots that become purely visual and sound images disconnected from the action; close ups of touching fingers; bare feet entering the fresh water of the river; the treetops floating under a blue sky; a shot in which the camera takes on a subjectivity of its own, running after a child playing a game of goat-blind, all constitute scenes that are disconnected from the narrative, creating dimensions that the viewer’s senses and imagination.


Beauvoir, Simone. 1975 [1949]. The Second Sex. Lisbon: Bertrand. 1975.

Benjamin, Walter. 2007 [1939]. Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit. In Benjamin, Walter. Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit und weitere Dokumente. Commentar von Detlev Schöttker. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Cabral, Amílcar Lopes. 1954. “About land use in black Africa.” Cultural Bulletin of Portuguese Guinea 9, no. 34: 401-415.

Cabral, Amílcar Lopes. 1988 [1951]. The problem of soil erosion. Contribution to its study in the Cuba region (Alentejo). Dissertation, School of Agriculture of Lisbon.

Caldas, Eugénio Castro. 1998. Agriculture in the History of Portugal. Lisbon: National Publishing Company.

Carmo, Miguel, Sousa, Joana, Varela, Pedro, Ventura, Ricardo and Manuel Bivar. 2020. African knowledge transfer in Early Modern Portugal: Enslaved people and rice cultivation in Tagus and Sado rivers.  Diachronie. Contemporary History Studies: “Can the Subaltern Speak” attraverso l’ambiente? 45-66.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2021. “Introduction: Intimations of the Planetary”. In The Climate of History in a Planetary Age, Dipesh Chakrabarty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1985. L’image-temps. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2002. L’île déserte – textes et entretiens 1953-1974. Paris : Les Éditions de Minuit,

Haraway, Donna. 1997. Modest Witness at Second-Millennium: FemaleMan Meets-OncoMouse. New York: Routledge.

Henriques, Isabel Castro. 2016. Classifying the other: historicization and fluctuation of concepts. In Geometries of memory: postcolonial configurations. Organized by António Sousa Ribeiro and Margarida Calafate Ribeiro.

Henriques, Isabel Castro. 2020. The Blacks of the Sado. Lisbon: Colibri Editions.

Lanza, Roberto and Antonio Meloni. 2006. The Earth Magnetism. An Introduction for Geologists: Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer.

Latour, Bruno. 2017. Où atterrir ? Comment s’orienter en politique. Paris: La Découverte.

MerchantCarolyn. 2016. Exploiter le ventre de la terre.  In Reclaim. Recueil de textes écoféministes. Edited by Emilie Hache. Paris: Cambourakis,

Samósata, Luciano. 2012. Luciano, II. Coimbra: Coimbra University Press.

Shiva, Vandana. 1993. Homeless in the “Global Village”. In Ecofeminism. Edited by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva. London: Zed.

[1]Interview with the artist on 04.13.2022.

[2] As noted by Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex, “Nature, in its totality, presents itself [man] as a mother; the earth is woman, and woman is inhabited by the same obscure forces that inhabit the earth […] woman is meant to be dominated, possessed, exploited, as is Nature, whose magical fertility she embodies”. Simone Beauvoir, 1975 [1949], The Second Sex Lisbon: Bertrand, 109.

[3]Interview with the artist on 04.13.2022.

Art across culture: Diáspora and mobility in the work of Mónica de Miranda

by Ana Nolasco

Globalization, together with increased mobility, have rendered the concept of fixed Identity – linked to a particular place and history – obsolete. This development has led to a revision of the concept of Diaspora, focusing not just on the loss of origins, reiterated by their absence, but on its role in constructing the Identity, characterized by transition and constant learning from different cultures. As Baumann states,

“In view of late 20th century technological achievements such as telecommunication and the internet, the master narrative of a Diaspora’s …has become blurred and multiplied…however rather than thinking of a relational triangle, many globally distributed Diasporas …constitute a diasporic network or web with jointventure points and various gravitational centers.” (Baumann 2000:331).

In this way, the term Diaspora no longer refers, as in its traditional sense, uniquely to a transitional process, deviations from a point of origin, but to a cultural net with multiple nuclei.

Today, we are witnessing the beginning of an ontological shift in Man, one that is at the center of the diffuse feeling of uneasiness characteristic of this time. According to Flosser, this change would be the result of a shift in paradigm, from alphanumerical to digital codes. Alphanumeric based language has, in the course of time, been increasingly resorted too as a technical tool and thus been impoverished, robbed of that spirit only found today in poetry. In its routine use, this language is ill suited to express mixed or contradictory feelings, often coexisting within the user. Written language, Flosser points out1, belongs to a linear time paradigm. This is paradigm is characterized by the construction of a Universal History that omits the individual that writes it, erases sides that go against the idea of inherent progress to it. The alphabet itself, as the author points out, was initially created to facilitate commercial transactions among the ruling elites because of its particular usefulness in describing measurements, sums and general algebra2. It was only later, through continuous use that it became the dominant means of communication.

Mass production on the other hand, starting in the XXth century, created a rift between the work of art and its physical context, separating it from History, and extinguishing its aura, a process remarkably foreseen by Benjamin3. This development however, brought about certain potentialities, perceived by the author, such as film. Through film, the artist intervenes in reality and time, positioning himself as the creator (here Benjamin is mindful of the dangers of this power falling in the wrong hands), with greater, almost ultimate artistic freedom.

Using video-installation, film and photography to connect different cultural realities, Mónica Miranda explores notions such as transculturally, Diaspora and self-ethnography. She attempts to “further explore and conceive the term in relation to more recent forms of migration and transcultural experience. I look at the ‘diaspora’ through a transcultural comparison in a Lusophone postcolonial context” adding the she recognizes “the process that gave rise to the term diaspora” and understands it as “a form of ‘awareness’ that enables access to ‘recovering’ non-Western narratives and models for cosmopolitan life and transnationalities, struggling against fixed notions of identity and nation and attempt to define it through my work”.

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time transports us into the sphere of the fairy tale, while the narrator, an important legitimizing figure in oral tradition, relegates the action to the past tense. Herself the product of the mix of different cultures – with Luso-afro-Brazilian and English origins – Mónica Miranda reinvents her past in both geographic and cultural terms, combining documentary and fiction in the shape of a personal diary, a pseudo album/ family photo and video archive.

The project, comprising a website (, and different works in film, photography and installations, was three-folded: firstly, an exposition of the same name as the project, hosted at the Carpe Diem gallery, Lisbon, and consisting of a triptych video displaying transit images of places from the artists life history, Different cities spanning three different countries: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Luanda (Angola), Mindelo (Cape Verde), London (UK) e Lisbon (Portugal). A non-linear narrative that evokes the time lost in the cracks and fissures of everyday activities. What the author calls the emotional geography of the self, the mapping of emotional memories to their places of origin. The narrative extends over generations, in the artists words, “lyrically depicting loss and the pain of separation, weaving the thread that follows from one generation to the next.”

The second part of the project, entitled An Ocean Between Us, exhibited at the Plataforma Revolver during the Transboavista festival, Lisbon, consists of a diptych, where “the fluvial port and a stationary cargo ship become the stage for metaphorical transits”7. The port itself is the birthplace of the Diaspora, both for the colonizers, setting out to find new territory and commercial opportunities, and the colonized. During the Renaissance, Lisbon was an unavoidable commercial hub, harboring boats from Africa, Brazil, India, the birthplace of the slave trade that became one of the supporting pillars of maritime expansion which in turn is the foundation language heritage that unites Portuguese speaking countries. In Casa Grande e Senzala (Large House and Senzala – 1933), Gilberto Freire developed the concept of Lusotropicalism (Lusotropicalism), according to which the Portuguese, due to genetic, climatic and historical factors would be more incline to mix with other peoples. This idea embodies a generalized belief that has become part of an ideology within the Portuguese speaking community, and that, as the artist points out, results in an ambiguity that blurs the boundary between her own past and the collective history of past generations.

Against the deserted nocturnal backdrop of a maritime journey, where souls wander, in the style of Once Upon a Time, alone, to the rhythm of their fate, a mother, her daughter and a lost love, standing at the crossing of different cultures, become the metaphor for the melancholy of the Diaspora. This non-place, free from the restraints of chance and history, where space and time seem suspended, is a privileged standpoint for introspection in that it allows distance from oneself. The two characters, one masculine, the other feminine, are also, in the author’s opinion9, a metaphor of the self-divided, which in this place of introspection feels as if in a labyrinth of mirrors, each side recognizing itself in the reflection of the other.

This alienation of the self is, as Lacan examined, the birth of subjectivity, without which Identity could not exist. According to the same author, this moment marks the beginning of the mirror-period, a time when the child combines image fragments of his own body with imaginary ones. This alienation was also addressed by Julia Kristeva in her Essay on Horror, where she termed “abjection” the exact moment before the birth of subjectivity, when the child desires or shuns the outside world, depending on the presence or absence of its mother.

A moment that is felt however, as there of yet no distinction between within and wherein, as one of narcissistic desire of for oneself. It is, in Kristeva’s view, the impulse of desire, followed by its rejection and the realization of the boundaries of Self and Other, the disgust and rejection of the latter, that constitute subjectivity. Congruently, it is not possible in Once Upon a Time to pinpoint the self. The gaze is absent, disconnected, a dream vision with no defined place or time, where the characters have their backs turned to us, looking, searching, for a boat, maybe lost, that would reveal to us our own origin.

The third part of the project consisted of an installation, Home Sweet Sour House. In a series of 25 drawings, the author portrays every house she has lived in since childhood. These drawings were then translated into technical language by an architect, leaving however “the recollected personal features visible”. An archive of calligraphic apprehension of lived places; ,“In my research “house” is the place where the search connected to self takes place, a search of identity contextualized within the travels of the diaspora” 12. These contain disproportionate hallways with no exit and no doors, giving a physical presence to something emotional.

Artificial paradises

Besides the topos of the house, Mónica Miranda also turns to the island as a place of conciliation between different cultures, times and places, a metaphor that questions the existing dichotomy between what is cultural and what is natural, within and without, public and private.

Two particularly important concepts when considering the island metaphor are Fragmentation and Coordinates, as colonized islands were frequently defined and divided by dominating powers that imposed artificial limits and boundaries. Thus, in her series, Linetrap,

Mónica Miranda uses a line to undo a fixed and unique landscape, crossing the interior and exterior of the image to fix it. Sowing, an activity usually associated with the private world, is in this work depicted in a public place, touching, almost prodding, the public/private dichotomy.

Moving between the interior and exterior, these lines do not divide, but mend the rifts between colonizers and colonized, between the present island, and the past, lost archipelago.

From heterogeneous fragments, Monica Miranda rebuilds territories and recreates non situated landscapes, imaginary islands. These, being privileged points of cultural exchange due to their indefinability, have always been preferred places for the projection of myths, utopias, dystopias, arcades and Eden. By crystalizing the invisible Absent, they have been a creative catalyst common to many cultures through time. From the myth of Atlantis to digression in the Odyssey of Ithaca to Ithaca, the Island of Love or even the island in Robinson Crusoe, the topos of the island has a long tradition in Western Culture.

As a non-physical place of cultural and artistic representations, the Island in Monica Miranda’s work allows her to question the characterization of the landscape, and indirectly, that of the underlying reality. The western conception of a landscape, a Renaissance legacy of fragmentary contemplation, is present in the sense of estrangement from the whole, a very modern feeling that expresses the tragic dilemma of a Man that is only capable of knowing himself by dissecting, dividing and framing his own nature.

If the birth of the landscape as an artistic genre is intimately linked to the importance given to sight however, the Self implied was a male self, one that planned and conducted the setting from a fixed position. In this way, the portrait and de landscape as genres were, before the XXth century, defined by that sight, that look that shaped both nature and the Other as something to be enjoyed. They mirrored a power structure that set vertical and horizontal coordinates according to a dichotomist logic from which all values were derived.

In The Island (Archipelago series, 2014), Mónica Miranda uses fragments of several pictures taken from various points around the island to rebuild what is in fact a fictional island, one that is not dominated the fixed stare that ruled painting up until the XXth century, most powerfully characterized by Alberti’s Window. By creating an image from a moving perspective, The Island deconstructs the traditional paradigm. The landscape itself is not fixed, but the result of the movement of a body, a journey. There exists, in this sense, not a final scene, but a continuous process of reinvention, where different fragments, memories, times and cultures are constantly added.

While the original islands are located in the Pacific and Indic Oceans (S. Tomé e Príncipe, Cape Verde and the Mauritius Islands), these patchwork islands could literally be anywhere.

Set in a forest with no points of reference, the people in Twins are themselves a blend of cultures. The twins in the center piece evoke identity as a process of reproduction, projections of the desires that create the island, that give it its meaning and guide it. That guide us. It is a sort of mise en abyme, the reproduction ad infinitum of a duality in between two mirrors: the two twin girls have themselves a multi-cultural background spanning various countries, and build their identity on that difference.

This work shows us how acculturation and the appropriation of elements from different cultures can lead to a dynamic and creative process, symbolized in this case by the twin girls and the archipelago. Defined by the sea that surrounds them, isolates them but is at the same time their only means of communication with the outside world, the islands in the latter stand for what is self-contained, and ultimately alone. Identity as patchwork of multiple transitory cultures and half-crystallized alien utopias ultimately defines us all.

Final Considerations

While the Diaspora implies movement, migration and a consequent search for lost origins, it also brings together those that share this journey. If in the past this state was seen as a burden, globalization has shown it to be an alternative way of life and social organization, one that is more flexible and even creative, because it evades fixed traditional categories by hybridizing cultures.

Art, for its objective and material realization of things subjective, for a nature that is both universal and particular, speaking to each differently and everyone alike, is an especially adequate way of allowing creative dialogues between different cultures. By giving body to new life experiences, always moving, never finished, it is in line with the ambiguity, the mystery, without which the Self withers, stuck within rigid categories. By expressing the loss of identity and new models of transition, contemporary art gives body to the development of identity.

Multicultural art, for its wide scope and international reach, is at the root of it.

The Path to the Stars

Agostinho Neto, The Way to the Stars, 1953
Written by Ana Nolasco

This exhibition is conceived as a multimedia installation around three axis that constitute a whole. The first axis, starting from the Kwanza River as a metaphor for the strength of the struggle for liberation and the hope that continues to morph, unfolds in a second moment that reflects on the boundaries between history and fiction, from the point of view of voices silenced by canonical narratives. In a third moment, it reflects on the Anthropocene and on this desire to conquer the territory that imprisons Man and leads to its destruction, if it is not accompanied by the conquest of an inner spiritual freedom in
balance with the Universe.

The first nucleus includes, among others, a video taken along the Kwanza River that refers more specifically to the liberation struggle of Angola, through a poetic language, crossing several narratives: that of the Kwanza River, cradle of the Ndongo kingdom, which it represents the strength of Mother Nature, making the analogy between the woman’s body and the territory – the first body to be penetrated by the colonizers in search of material wealth – that links the land to the sea, the past, the present and the future; the warrior woman and her shadow whose stories are unraveling throughout the narrative; a boat that symbolizes the passage of ideas, people and memories, soldiers
who, on the lines of a map of Angola, try to read their future and a child who decides to travel to space. This video is accompanied by a series of photographs on the same theme that work on the issue of landscape representation, through a performative act, subverting the traditional concept of landscape that presupposes a disincarnated spectator – this is reduced to a mere look -, and fixed inspace and time. This conception, which has its roots in the Renaissance and in the primacy of the view of the European male subject that cuts nature apart, fragmenting it, is the landmark of the split, in modernity, between man and nature, with which man left to constitute a whole.

Another moment is the series Path to the Stars, a set of images of the struggle for liberation by PAIGC taken from the archive of Amílcar Cabral. In these images, the representation of the man is always made from the male point of view, celebrating the hero who by his warlike act proves his virility. But there is another story left in the shadow, that of the women who participated in the armed struggle and who are on the reverse side of the image. In the gesture of embroidering, between the inside and the outside, Mónica de Miranda creates a suture in the image, thus bringing the inside out
of the image. Aleida Assman distinguishes the memory from the official hegemonic narrative that is updated through speeches and rituals – which she calls a canon – from her surplus, accumulated in the shadow, the archive (2008). In as much as the past is a reconstruction carried out from the present, the archive memory constitutes the humus from which the renewal of history can drink, ending the possibilities for imagining different futures. These lines of embroidery do not divide, but undo borders through the gesture of care – usually associated with the female universe, the domestic space – re-inscribing in history the presence of the gesture of warrior women in the past. At the same time, when placing embroidered images in the space of a gallery, it questions the public / private dichotomy, instituted by the hegemonic western male look in which the public space was reserved for men.

Another core idea of the exhibition consists of the series Path to the Stars, which through a strategy of appropriation and irony, it plays with the semantic ambiguity of the relationship between titles and image, transposes it to a fictional space, crossed by the space race between the United States and Russia, struggles for emancipation throughout history.Just as the animals that symbolize these struggles are at risk of extinction due to the immense ambition of Man – like the tiger of the Tamils that are in themselves a well-known guerrilla for the revolution, or the wolf of Clarisse Pinkola’s book, Women who run with wolves (1989), for the struggle for female emancipation, among others – their own inner liberation is also hostage to that ambition.

Ironically, at the same time that it inaugurates the Anthropocene era – in which human action determines the evolution of the earth, the chemical composition of soils, seas and the atmosphere – Man also marks the probable beginning of its end.

The feminine is not understood here as a biological essence, but as a form of sensitivity that escapes the phallocentric view of the world, based on the supremacy of instrumentalist reason, in a vertical hierarchy in which “more” is always better, even if it means more misery, destruction and inequality.

Ecofeminism, in the sense of “ecois” – home – as encompassing the entire ecosystem and its spiritual forces – embodied here on the Kwanza River, proposes itself as an ascension platform from the female body and the Earth, capable of redesigning the past and reinvent a future that links the material to the spiritual.

R/evolutions, otherwise

R/evolutions, otherwise[1]

by Renée Mussai[2]

Intimately anchored in Mónica de Miranda’s concept of affective geographies and cultural affinities, the exhibition The Island – first presented as a new artist commission by Autograph in London, and later travelling to Lisbon as part of the exhibition Mirages and Deep Time at Galeria Avenida da Índia – was grounded in postcolonial politics and notions of memory, migration and belonging in lusophone Africa and its diasporas.

In its evocative fusing of fact and fiction, de Miranda’s multifaceted project quietly contemplates the complexities of Afrodiasporic lives and Europe’s colonial past through a distinctively Black feminist lens, drawing on liberation struggles and remedial matrilineal knowledge, kinship and ancestral embodiment to explore a long trajectory of Black presences in Portugal.

Led by a charismatic protagonist, The Island features a cast of characters whose entangled journeys are interwoven in non-linear temporalities and overlapping micro-narratives: archaeologists, lovers, mothers, daughters and anti-colonial freedom fighters personified by peripatetic twins in the guise of two young women. At once revolutionary and spiritual, they – individually and collectively – represent archetypes birthed by, in the artist’s words, ‘questions raised by both the masculinisation/feminisation of the so-called motherland and ideas of deep time’ (Mussai and de Miranda 2022). As dual figures of resistance and remembrance, they become guardians of lost memories, past wars and shifting reflections of selves, oscillating between transmutative states of mourning and fighting, fighting and mourning, in re/generative cycles of continuous becoming and gradual renewal. ‘Deep time’ here registers as embrace, as refuge, as geological and cerebral shelter, as vessel. Here, physical and psychological journeys are r/evolutionary, enabling extrication from the past and a liberating manifestation – imag(in)ing – of the future.

De Miranda weaves her characters’ intertwined storylines into a visual vernacular of still and moving imagery rooted in fertile notions of ecofeminism: mining intricate spheres of diasporic consciousness, identity formations and migratory experiences, the artist considers rocks and soil – and other elemental matter – as porous organic repositories of geological time and embedded memories, where ancestral and ecological traumas linked to colonial excavations continue to unfold, made evident as gender-based violence over bodies and lands, as well as ongoing mineral extractions.

Neither real nor imaginary, de Miranda’s island is inspired by a historical community of Africans who settled on the banks of the River Sado in southern Portugal, colloquially dubbed for centuries as ‘Ilha dos Pretos’ (Island of Black People). Its non-localised topography – shaped by monumental quarries symbolic of erosion and erasure, both in nature and in history – is reactivated through her figures’ powerful presences in this expansive landscape inscribed with historical residues. Within this decolonial reimag(in)ing otherwise, the metaphor of the island is deployed as both an ontological state of being and a utopian place of isolation and escape: a transitory space for collective projections evoking new and old freedoms where triangulations of past, present and future collide. Here, immersive ecospheres shaped by the reflective possibilities of water, its restorative properties amplified through de Miranda’s lens, appear as potent mediations on our evolving – and all too often destructive and capitalist – relationship with nature, reminding us to seek dialogical processes and healing across colonial wounds and internal conflict beyond anthropocentric notions of time.

Foregrounding poetic modes of intersectional world-building through subtly inferred racial, spatial, and temporal cartographies and imbued symbolisms, our attention is drawn to pertinent matters of agency: telluric references are perennially embedded in the artist’s sensorial cinematography, and carefully scripted visual dramaturgies are reflected most palpably in the film’s narrative, a collaboration between Mónica de Miranda and writer Yara Nakahanda Monteiro. Layered and nuanced, The Island urges us to consider different modes of being to develop a more conscious connection between the past, our bodies in the present and the polyvalent (is)lands we inhabit, and all that they hold towards regenerative possible futures.

[1] This piece was originally composed as the gallery wall text for the exhibition Mónica de Miranda – The Island, Autograph, London. (24 June  – 22 October 2022)

[2] Independent curator, scholar and writer. Currently Artistic Director of The Walther Collection, New York and Neu-Ulm, Germany; and former Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial & Collection, Autograph, London.

The Fighter in the Looking Glass

‘I will be free because I fight’

Mónica de Miranda, The Island (2021)


As in other memorable tales, Mónica de Miranda’s visual storytelling in The Island (A Ilha) revolves around a central motif: the mirror or looking glass. Concrete (via the made object) or natural (by way of reflection in water), mirrors appear again and again in The Island. Revealing invisible truths and deepest desires, the looking glass in de Miranda’s work becomes an intricate polyphonic knot: it both folds and unfolds a multilayered narrative. Through a film and a series of photographs, de Miranda uses the mirror as a structuring device allowing her to probe, in all their complexity and multiplicity, ideas of identity (self and otherness) and history (past, present and potential future). While the mirror, as a motif, is a well-established trope in art history, with this project de Miranda undertakes a reappropriation of the looking glass as a powerful contemporary metaphorical form. Indeed, de Miranda ‘reclaims the mirror’ and updates its symbolic values in light of her decolonial, feminist and ecological stances.

Throughout the centuries, literature and visual culture have often used the mirror as an allegorical tool. When Lewis Carroll gave Alice a mirror in 1871, it was to offer her the possibility of entering a world of fantasy[1]. Then, more than 60 years later, in Virginia Woolf’s The Lady in the Looking Glass (1929), a woman is described facing a mirror: ‘She stood naked in that pitiless light. And there was nothing. Isabella was perfectly empty.’[2] If Carroll used the mirror as a device for his main character’s transition into womanhood, and if Woolf deployed it as a means to reflect on ideas of loneliness and emptiness, a century later I would suggest that de Miranda positions her model in front of a mirror not to invite her to escape her condition, but to imagine all that is possible, to visualise a different past and a distinct future: ‘I breathe, I sigh, I exhale the warmth of a future, the forgetfulness of the part, I inhale the present, the place from where I never left and I forgot that here I review myself in you, in wait of the emptiness that transcends and casts my reflection […] the reflection where I see and mirror myself’ (34′10″–34′59″).

In The Island, de Miranda reinvents the parabolic charge of the mirror as an object of empowerment: questions are both asked by and answered by the same purposeful main character, a forceful black woman. In many ways inspired by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, for the artist, the mirror is not only used to externalise parts of a woman’s psyche but also to envision women’s wishes and their tenacity. As such, the externalisation takes very concrete shapes. In the four photographs entitled Mirror Me, a woman faces a mirror wearing – in succession – a captain’s cap, a cowboy hat and a horse-riding helmet. Through the duality created by the looking glass, de Miranda evokes gendered ideas of power, function and influence, and adopts the mirror as an apparatus for potentiality: conceptualising alternatives and turning desires for equality into actual images. The mirror as a ‘manifesting device’ can also be found in the feminist poetry of Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, as it can in the work of African American artist Carrie Mae Weems, who regularly uses a mirror as a compositional instrument to shape her photographs and self-portraits in particular, such as in the series Mirror, Mirror (1987–8) or Not Manet’s Type (1997). In Weems’s work the mirror suggests the figure’s fully-owned agency and invites the viewer into a considerate contemplation. In line with this thinking, de Miranda’s work endorses the mirroring device as an externalisation of black women’s manifold views and visions. Although the evident, yet strange, precept of mirrors is the revelation of one’s reflected image, in Mirror Me the optics are imaginary.

For de Miranda, the looking glass is a means by which to formulate desirable futures, but it is also used as a mechanism for revisiting history. In the film, which expands on the narrative of the photographic still images, the mirror as an artefact occurs at least twice (6′16″ and 34′): firstly, when the main protagonist, lying on her bed, is seen through a wall mirror – perhaps insinuating a form of reverie about times to come – and secondly when she is seated opposite the mirror, musing about the past – conjuring intricate historical narratives. In these two scenes, as in others, de Miranda weaves together individual destinies with the impact of traumatic episodes in our shared history.

In The Island, the ‘mirroring effect’ is also introduced by the surface of the water. Streams, rivers or the sea, and the images that form on them by way of reflection, are used to summon history and awaken its forbidden chapters. In Whistle for the Wind de Miranda’s main character is seen overlooking a vast expanse of water as if searching for answers about a troubled past. Indeed, de Miranda’s fable takes place on an island known for its link with Portuguese colonial history. This very real island, a few kilometres away from Lisbon, is also known for its seventeenth- and eighteenth-century folk tales, in which the enclave was disparagingly named ‘a Ilha dos Pretos’ (the Island of Black People). As such, the island becomes a direct geographical reference to Portugal’s violent colonial past, where mirrors – crafted objects or natural phenomena – channel the uncovering and acknowledgment of generations of enslaved people, as well as recreate and reaffirm their legacy. In another context, but appropriate here, the late scholar bell hooks explained how ‘the politics of slavery, of racialised power relations, were such that the slaves were denied the right to gaze’[3], linking here the island’s history to acts of vision, the performance of looking and the centrality of reflection, while turning the mirror into a powerful political tool.

De Miranda not only ‘reclaims the mirror’ as an apparatus but also subverts its meaning by placing a black woman in front of it. Refusing to look the other way, spurning history as told by dominant forces, the mirror becomes an epitome of agency. ‘There is power in looking’, as bell hooks stated – indeed, for Mónica de Miranda the look in the rebellious mirror is a strategy, crafted for a fighter to gaze at[4].

[1] Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, 1871.

[2] Virginia Woolf’s The Lady in the Looking Glass1929, p. 19.

[3] bell hooks, ‘The Oppositional Gaze. Black Female Spectators’, Black Looks: Race and Representation, South End Press, Boston, 1992, p. 115.

[4] bell hooks, Ibid.

Of becoming (and of death), 2019

by João Silvério

The work of Mónica de Miranda can be understood as an agent that continually reconnects artistic processes with the transitory condition of the spectator. Regardless of the themes that she investigates, or of socio-political reflections that strap in her identity a real and emotional sense with the place and history of those who inhabit it, her works contain part of her self-referential experience but not always autobiographical, because it is not a testimony of the journey but of someone who recognizes herself in the transition and in the territorial change.

This change, or this logic of circulation, lies not only in the fact that she has lived in several countries and known different cultures, but essentially in the way she interprets the temporal relations and the memory of these experiences, that contribute to the construction of meta-narratives which are articulated under a line/time; as an information flow that integrates seemingly diverse places and temporalities. This abstract line locates places that intersect at different moments of time, and in the specific case of her work they are not reduced to a linear determination of the past, but rather to recognize the temporal correlatation that allows an active relationship of the subject over the present.

In this sense the exhibition “Atlantic – Journey to the center of the earth” is exemplary of her work process for two main reasons. The first is present in the title in which we can infer two apparently contradictory planes, the first being the word that determines an immense and mutant geographic mass that is the Atlantic Ocean; and the second is the Journey to the Center of the Earth, a reference to Julius Verne’s utopian work that is close to her. However, the placement of the hyphen amplifies this transitory possibility which, although present in her work, is an aggregating element that expresses the multiplicity of senses in the reception of the same by the viewer, having as a structuring line the reference to two substances: water and earth which are opposed in their constitution.

The second reason that leads me to this brief reflection is the duality between the ocean and the earth, a physical but simultaneously immaterial differentiation, an imaginary that goes back to the beginnings of humanity, and for this same reason metaphysic: between fluidity and solidity. It is riven by the need to know what is hidden beneath the earth which naturally supports the ocean and breathes in the volcanic mouths of the Atlantic islands of the Macaronézia, such as the Azores or, in this case in particular, the Cape Verde archipelago, specifically in Ilha do Fogo (Island of Fire).

Monica de Miranda recognizes in this island an intensity of the life of our planet in the sense that it is renewed by the volcanic eruptions that ferment of fire and of lava that immediately cools and everything crystallizes, everything transforms and updates; in an approximation to the paradoxical duality that the presence of the volcano contains: between life and death. The photographs of women dressed in black with bare feet, as in “Untitled. From the series City-Scapes” and “Formation”, or the artist’s own body in the diptych entitled “Horizon”, are relevant in the sense that this figure transmits the idea of ​​osmosis with the burned soil in which its own regeneration survives the desertified landscape. The volcano is a presence that rises in the landscape and is also a recurring image in the collective imagination and visual representation throughout history. But in this work of Mónica de Miranda is, above all, a sign that presents a second skin that models and transmutes the landscape, not only by the visual mantle that covers all in an ash relieve, but because it announces an interior and organic experience that resides in an unknown place, so close to the center of the earth, whether this model is an imaginary and fictional construction or a given geological matrix.

And as a fictional construction the intervened pigmented and waxed series of photographs -entitled “Bedrock”- rescue this intermittent materiality which, while present, merges into the printed image affirming in artist’s gesture the intervention on the image as a recording of a journey; a time that is updated in its finalization.

Under the same methodology, a sculptural object in the form of a library shelf, contains black sand inside a box in its base. This natural element, the black sand, is also subject to the logic of the image but escapes to the photographic, contributing to the construction of meta-narratives that are pointed by references that approach  territorial mapping. However, this mapping is only recognizable if we take into account the geography of places and the temporal correpondence that is continually reorganized in the becoming that Monica’s work represents, in each layer, or in each register that welcomes her affections, and undoubtedly in her politic reflection that confronts us as image/time of the places that Monica de Miranda seeks in the correpondence of the Self with the Other.

History Revisited, 2019

South circular consists of a double video projection, a spatial structure where the viewer is assigned his seat, three photographic panels and a pyrography. With an approximate running time of twenty minutes, the video first shows us two women — twins, a recurring theme for the artist — in the shadow of nondescript ruins over the Tagus.  There’s no sound. Three disparate elements, then — a female pair, a structure in ruins and a river surrounding Lisbon and winding through the city’s outskirts — lay the foundation for a historical inventory of a military defence line that with time assumed a different role and another meaning. This anachronous defence wall sets a paradox before our eyes — it began as a military defence complex to keep the French from the capital during the invasions at the beginning of the nineteenth century; and now, more than a century later, it’s a territory where a by-and-large African population coming from the Portuguese ex-colonies, along with people from rural areas, and others, established their communities when they found themselves with no means to live in the prosperous, much-desired capital.

In 1899 this fortified line was called the Lisbon Trench Camp; only much later, at the end of the 1990s, was it deactivated. The wall perimeter (observable in the pyrography, the piece called Military road) consists of a circular line going around the north side of the capital and along a large portion of the south bank. That was Mónica de Miranda’s itinerary for her research.

The artist visited crumbled-down forts, and others that still stand — São Julião da Barra being one of them — with an aim of offering an existence in the present tense to a few of these war structures.

Along her itinerary, Miranda encountered the inhabitants — communities, mostly African, who through the decades cemented their presence in an act of defiance, also self-determination, establishing roots along the fort line, preserving their cultural heritage while also sharing it with other communities. South circular is a multi-voiced choir singing of a tension between memory, nostalgia and the urgency that tints our modern view of the city and its inhabitants — the “legitimate” dwellers, and the outsiders. Using sound mixing and visual editing with a keen sense of rhythm, Miranda bares a narrative web of places and moments of historical significance, turning them into a series of heterotopias in flux. This is embodied in the characters in the video, all of them facing a common enemy. There’s Zia, a female fighter in fatigues, a warrior setting up a new defence barrier — a wall, maybe — as she keeps building a home for herself, while listening to news of the Angolan revolution on the radio — some current, others dating back to the Revolution of April 1974. And there’s the urban knight going along the old military road, passing old defence posts now housing the homeless, travelling the hills from residential areas Mira Loures and Olaias to Alto de São João Cemetery. The road circumnavigates the capital, never entering it.

In this redeemed geography, duality is the constant — two men talk; twins face each other or go in opposite directions; pairs of landscapes at first glance seem to be one and the same, but then you look again and they’re not. All of these are metaphors for time and space opposed, for past and present constantly intersecting. Where you once had epic ruins, and then abandoned ruins, a new urban landscape was born and cemented, and now exists separately from its surroundings and has an identity of its own, alien to any notion of belonging to the city — and in turn the city resists including it, obeying an inherited logic of Europe as a territory where all that is different or in any way not clear-cut will be segregated.
In the video, in a dialogue between two men on a stage in Mira Loures, that felling of loss, of common ground not found, is given voice.

“Is Europe like this?”
“I don’t think so. But I don’t know Europe. Never been there. I only know what she says.”
“What does she say?”
“Don’t let them in. Keep them out. Look down over there, to the left of the city. That’s where the wail comes from. Look. Listen.”

What we see is not a film set, but a concrete stage built especially for the community, for their cultural activities and events. Finally, never used for its intended purposed, it became yet another ruin — except unlike those other ruins, the ancient forts defending the capital, this stage, a contemporary ruin, has never served the community.

With her piece, Miranda set out to register a memory of an interrupted, fragmented, paradoxical geographical line, a memory that lives on in words and speech, and in the Kimbundu chant “Humbi Humbi”, a hymn to freedom sung with the city seen from afar. It’s the opposite of memory as historical construct, as political act. It’s not the narrative of a Portuguese Overseas as told in books on the Portuguese Colonial Empire, which the twin sisters diligently go over page after page, revisiting history — an act of freedom performed at the border of Lisbon, the city they won’t enter.

Tomorrow is Another Day

by Cristiana Tejo , 2018

Text for exhibition “Tomorrow is Another Day”

Tomorrow is another day é uma expressão que aponta desde um lugar presente para o futuro com um olhar expectante sobre as memórias e as heranças do passado, trazendo para o discurso as falhas e as ausências da história e da política e apontando para um amanhã esperançoso alicerçado na reimaginação. O título da exposição refere-se ainda, à vontade de fazer arquitetura que quebra cânones vigentes no momento pós-independência no continente africano em que a arquitetura adquiria a capacidade de despertar utopias e implicava também um compromisso com a democracia, com a liberdade social , produzindo lugares de valor inestimável. Trata-se, portanto, de uma tentativa de reflexão da reconciliação entre o que já existe e aquilo que nunca foi e que um dia talvez será algo diferente, entre o velho e o novo, entre a memória, história e a distopia e utopia ideológica.
A exposição é composta de séries de fotografias e de um vídeo desenvolvidos pela artista Mónica de Miranda. Numa primeira instalação fotográfica, Babel Tower (2018), o cenário de intervenção artística é a Tour de l’Échanger, uma torre, em Kinshasa na República Democrata do Congo, que já foi uma das mais altas na África aquando de sua construção (1970-1974), projetada pelo arquiteto franco-tunisino Olivier-Clément Cacoub a pedido do ditador Mobutu para servir de homenagem a Patrice Emery Lumumba, a principal liderança na luta contra a dominação colonial belga. O seu formato é uma mistura de signos arquitetônicos que versa entre arranha-céu, pirâmide e cidadela, o que parece exprimir uma vontade de poder. Cacoub foi também o responsável por Gbadolite, considerada por muitos como a Versailles do Congo, além de muitos outros projetos na Africa de língua francesa antes, durante e depois das guerras por independências. A torre não chegou a ser terminada por várias décadas, sendo concluída recentemente com dinheiro chinês.
Monumentos são erigidos para fixar símbolos, exaltar a memória de acontecimentos e de personagens que fizeram a História, a partir da perspectiva do poder. São feitos de forma sólida para transmitir a imutabilidade da glória e fazerem perdurar essas narrativas por gerações. Edifícios também são monumentos erguidos para encarnar visões de mundo e organizar nossa maneira de estar e apreender o tempo e o espaço. Esta nova série de trabalhos de Mónica de Miranda sugere-nos uma outra categoria: o corpo-monumento. Desenvolvidas em Kinshasa e Maputo, as obras partem do patrimônio construído antes e depois das guerras de independência para assinalar a apropriação e a ressignificação de dogmas de poder e de cânones de beleza e da estética helenística por meio da presença e do protagonismo da mulher negra. Ausente dos livros de história e das narrativas oficiais, a sua presença constante nas obras aqui apresentadas transforma-se num corpo-monumento. As gêmeas acrescentam ainda a representação da dualidade e da alteridade, num jogo de semelhanças e de diferenças em ambientes naturais e arquitetônicos, em que ruína e resiliência nos projetam para um terreno de reinvenção social.
A dramaturgia e a representação foram usados em muitas teorias das ciências humanas e na arte como instrumento de análise e de transformação social, a exemplo do Teatro do Oprimido de Augusto Boal, justamente por explicitarem de forma potente os elementos que compõem as dinâmicas da sociedade. Tomo emprestada esta lente de observação baseada no teatro para ler o trabalho Beauty (2018), núcleo central desta mostra, e que conta com a colaboração do artista Chullage na construção do som. Primeiro pela instalação trazer em sua composição elementos que nos remete à arte dramática: as cortinas, a estrutura, o backstage. Segundo, porque ao adentramos nesta instalação e olharmos para o espelho contido nela somos jogados para dentro do vídeo como agentes participantes. Poderíamos pensar numa espécie de teatro decolonial com sua dramaturgia própria, personagens, atores sociais, narrativas, em que se explicita as dinâmicas que animaram e ainda animam as relações que se perpetuam na contemporaneidade com referencias ao passado e construção do presente, da filosofia da estética em relação com a cidade, e que questiona quem somos nós nesta peça?
A série fotográfica Still life (2018) apresenta os espaços de aprendizagem de escultura na escola de Belas artes de Kinshasa uma das mais antigas de Africa. Modelos clássicos estão presentes tanto em réplicas de estátuas greco-romanas quanto em anotações e desenhos anatómicos minuciosos no quadro. Ao mesmo tempo, observamos a trasladação e a transgressão destes códigos e técnicas para esculturas com traços africanos.
O percurso expositivo encerra-se com a fotografia You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming título retirado da famosa frase de Pablo Neruda que tem inspirado por décadas movimentos de resistência contra ditaduras e o fascismo, recém-acordado nas Américas e na Europa. Palavras estas que foram entoadas na marcha das mulheres, em janeiro de 2017, nos Estados Unidos, e que viraram lema no Brasil desde o assassinato da deputada negra Marielle Franco, em março deste ano. As flores, que tão frequentemente são associadas à fragilidade e à beleza femininas, são cada vez mais lembradas como oferendas à luta, a um amanhã promissor e de fato transformador. Com a conscientização da importância da interseccionalidade e a união das mulheres, quem poderá deter esta nova primavera?

Reconciliations at Sea: Reclaiming the Lusophone Archipelago in Mónica de Miranda’s Video Works, 2018

by M. Neelika Jayawardane , 2018

Barthes conceived the photograph as a literal “emanation of the referent”, from which radiant energy from once-present “real bod[ies], which w[ere] there” links observers in present time to beings who existed in the past.1 He referenced, here, the way in which Sontag envisaged these radiations to be much like “delayed rays” from stars, emanating through space and time; these rays—carrying not just proof of life, but life itself—reach observers far removed from their moment and place of existence, forming what Barthes called “a sort of umbilical cord” linking “the body of the photographed thing” to our gaze.2 Like ethnographic recordings of voices from the past, the material object of the photograph, and light—which he called a “carnal medium”—not only bring back the departed, but the milieu in which they lived out their lives. If the sonic conventions of the time are reproduced in voice recordings, photographs subtly convey the norms of personal posture and relationality to others, as well as the relationship between one person to another, and to the external world – social, economic, political worlds. This “carnal medium” of light arrives at the doorstep of our present moment, bearing evidence of whether our loved ones’ environments provided them with the stability necessary for sustenance, or made their lives precarious and unviable.

I suggest, in this essay, that there is another facet with which we might engage when we look at photographs, especially when it comes to records of the past to which we have personal attachment, to those images containing narratives with which our own are inevitably entangled. This added dimension is especially palpable when the photographs are those through which immigrant, exiles, and otherwise dislocated persons make sense of their experiences of being “out of place”. When we see a photograph with actors and landscapes significant to our personal emotional geographies, we imagine, sometimes, that they have power to help us recreate our own fantasies of belonging. Often, these compulsive and repetitive re-enactments are an attempt to recapture moments of compromised power and loss. Through memory and creative re-creation, we conjure up stage-play worlds in order not only to revisit but recreate otherwise inaccessible scenes from the past. These worlds we re-construct serve as material locations onto which we can project can project idealised versions of personal history, re-enacting scenes of damaged pasts, wilfully inserting ourselves as actors onto the scene.

Reading Sontag reminds us that the pleasure we experience in taking and looking at photographs is indicative of our “[p]oignant longings for beauty […] for a redemption and celebration of the body”; however, we know, from her writing, that “other, less liberating feelings are expressed as well,” including the “compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing”.3 This desire to stage, distill, and record—an impulse that has become more obvious in this second decade of the 2000s than it was during Sontag’s lifetime—has linkages to displaced persons’ compulsive rituals of repetition. Whilst repetitions and revisitations of a task can be lauded as a conduit to a meditative state—part of the methodology of striving for completeness, for union with the task, and mindfulness—they can also be an indication of woundedness. Rather than a mindfulness and presence that lead to alleviation of anxiety, we (consciously or unconsciously) return ourselves to a damaged or unresolved past precisely because it is the source of anxiety. Yet, we often find that our repetitive returns offer no clarity, alleviation from pain, or understanding. Rather than allowing us to find release through acknowledgment, our rituals are re-enactments of trauma, directing the choices we make in life and making us return, obsessively, to the source of pain.

If Barthes famously theorised that photographs have the uncanny ability to recall absent persons back to life—I, as a person currently living in another century, but intrinsically tied to the political and economic realities produced by the century in which Barthes’ and Sontag’s words were written—am interested in tracing the ways in which image repertoires work in our worlds, and how the discourses of transnationalism, migration, and displacement might be networked with their thoughts about photography. How might we, the remainders and reminders of the twentieth century’s upheavals, regard images of now-inaccessible worlds? How might these images act as conduits to self re-fashioning, as we attempt to recreate and insert ourselves into narratives of belonging that have become unavailable to us?

It is these frameworks—the ways in which we return to image-worlds in order to articulate dislocation, as well as to re-stage home and belonging—through which I want to respond to Luso-Angolana photographer and video artist Mónica de Miranda’s photography and video work. The visual self-narratives that emerge out of her films, “An Ocean Between Us”, “Once Upon a Time”, and “Field Work”, in particular, become conduits to psychological and emotional explorations, wherein geographical travel, open oceanic vistas, “middle passages” of canals connecting the ocean to rivers going inland, and tenders – boats used to transport goods and people to larger ships at harbours – are used as metaphors for precarious existences as post-colonial subjects, of life created in in-between spaces, of estrangement, as well as the powerful desire to recreate and reconstruct “home” in the artist’s own terms. In addition, de Miranda uses various cinematic techniques, including fractured narrative styles, three-screen installations that play the same narrative with slightly different timing, and soundscapes that recall both the freedom represented buy the ocean and the technologies of the state that attempt to control migratory bodies—including radar and satellite sounds—to mirror dislocation, desire for boundless freedom, and the difficulties of economic and geographical mobility for many from the geo-political Third World.

In my engagement with de Miranda’s video works, our desire to relocate our diasporic bodies and experiences through return—to investigate the emotional cartography of an imprinted “home” location, and to “put to rest” the voices, smells, and image hauntings we experience but cannot consciously identify—is read through my own experiences of dislocation and attempts to navigate myself through to a “homespace” using images, words, and thought. I know that sometimes, after much time lost at sea, we may find eventual acceptance of what seems unacceptable in the beginning – to not long for one nation or physical location to call home, to find belonging in unbelonging, to feel not-incomplete within a state of flux and formlessness.


Among more privileged travellers, the act of photographing and the photographs themselves have long been used to narrate mobility, access, and power. But for the “other”, less powerful communities, photographs are evidence of their dislocation and fracture. At the same time, they also assure us of a once-stable history—evidence of belonging and of belongings, ordinary customs and rituals repeated, of banal moments recorded as part of the story of rootedness in a geographical and cultural location. Our collections of familial and familiar circles are conduits to self, even when they do not depict us directly. They help us re-establish familiarity, belonging, self, and connection to those who are no longer in our realm of contact, creating a bond between our capacity for visualising belonging and stability. These acts of looking are indicative of our psychological need for returning to pasts that are no longer physically or emotionally available. Yet we know that images are not stable – physically, they deteriorate; and conceptually, socially, and politically, they shift meaning, confounding those who wish for photographs to contain stable, documentary narratives or confirm the past that they know to be “true”.

For those who came from families well-connected enough to networks of power and privilege – who had access to cameras, rolls of film, and even home movie-making equipment – there is an abundance of uncanny evidence, residuals of absent persons to whom we are narratively and genetically connected. We return to these images when we lose those in the images to death. Sometimes, we return to them during those instances when we lose our own tethering to our stable understanding of self. In mourning for a beloved other to whom we attached ourselves, and to re-collect the beloved self—unmoored by pain—we return to our two-dimensional stockpiles that faithfully preserve worlds we can no longer access. For others, the photographic record is less abundant, or altogether absent. If there is a violent rupture in one’s history, resulting in disruption to family attachments to home-spaces, there will inevitably be an absence of images.

The resulting lacunae in family image banks also result in ruptures to our pathways of imaginary return, creating estrangements between genealogical contact zones. Whereas friends from more stable political and national narratives will look to family and national albums to locate themselves, those whose histories were violently interrupted will have the added burden of longing for what is regarded as a completely “normative” twentieth century experience: layers of photographs, moving from sepia-toned, white-bordered and staged studio portraits to those taken at home using 35mm cameras and Polaroid Instamatics, each layer of images illuminating a family’s movement through visual technologies of the last century. That separation from “normative” narratives of modernity leaves us with an abundance of longing; we recreate returns, and build image banks that signify the contradictions of displacement – to establish belonging and right of return, and the impossibility of return.

Marianne Hirsch, in her seminal article, “Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile” – detailing the ways in which traumatic memory is transmitted in families of those who survived the Holocaust, and the effects of that “received trauma” on the second generation—named the phenomenon “postmemory”.4 Hirsch explains that this transmitted trauma, as well as the alienation created by not having been present there—and thus unable to share the experiences that caused and created one’s family’s upheavals and suffering—produces powerful longings in the generation born to survivors, who long to be a part of a world to which it is impossible to return, partly because of temporal shifts, but also because that world has been physically destroyed.

Children of survivors live at a further temporal and spatial remove from that decimated world. The distance separating them from the locus of origin is the radical break of unknowable and incomprehensible persecution; for those born after, it is a break impossible to bridge.5

Hirsch explains that despite the geographical and temporal distances that separate the next generation from their parents’ “decimated worlds,” the depth of trauma, “mourning and memory […] imparts […] something akin to memory.”6 This “belated” generation grows up “dominated by narratives that preceded their birth”, with their own experiences and narratives being “evacuated” by the experiences of their parents; yet, despite their intricate connections with their parents’ trauma, they find that they are unable to fully understand the traumatic memories of their parents, or be able to re-create their worlds.7

“Postmemory is a powerful form of memory precisely because its connection to its object or source is mediated not through recollection but through an imaginative investment and creation.”8

Hirsch points out that latter generations, who arrive post-trauma, are only able to access the “voids” of disappeared worlds through creatively producing aesthetic works connecting their own longing to belong to what is, essentially, a received, and imagined version of the past; this hunger, she argues, produces “diasporic aesthetics of temporal and spatial exile that needs simultaneously to rebuild and to mourn,” inventing in order to “relocate” themselves in time and space.9

Here, I wish to emphasise that I am not equating the experiences of Holocaust survivors and that of their children with those of other displaced people of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; rather, I am attempting to note that there are fractured parallels, with varying degrees of separation, between the experiences of the “post-memory” generation and other displaced people’s children’s experiences. This is especially true when it comes to their desire to insert themselves into their parents’ worlds, a desire that is heightened by photographs depicting their parents’ past lives. The children of postcolonial migrants—displaced as a result of “ethnically-motivated” pogroms, systematic violence and state-sponsored brutality, and at other times from more difficult to identify structural and economic violence—similarly seek out visual evidence of the pasts that they cannot be a part of, but to which they feel powerfully connected. For the immigrant, the exile, and the displaced—whether that displacement is a result of economic, environmental, or violent political upheavals—repetitive returns to often idealised, lost locations, via images of family events in which they may not even have been old enough to be a part, is an act of circumnavigating the trauma of dislocation. Photographs and rarer collections of moving images become containers of emanations of the past, essential to narrating the condition of being post-violence, post-war, post-colonial.

Because of their desire to recreate the worlds they lost, postcolonial immigrants, refugees, exiles and asylum seekers are often accused of having “[t]oo deep an attachment to territoriality and locatedness”;10 this inability to move beyond “nationalisms, essentialisms” is regarded as a negative characteristic associated with immigrants.11 Attachments to territory and former identities produce unseemly fissures in their persons and identities when they relocate to new territories. These ruptures—material evidence of having been ejected violently, of not being able to mould the self into new social and physical geographies—prevent them from cultivating the desired native’s seamlessness; this appearance of having little to no apparent breakage – an idealised characteristic in the “native”—is what the second generation often attempts to mimic.

Visual theorist Griselda Pollock named this uncanny, inexplicable existence of another place within our memory “‘natal memory’—that is, the imaginary sense of belonging created by the familiarity of the first places that we learn to know before we learn their geographical, historical or national identities.” Pollock suggests that although our conscious persons may not be able to identify the significance of a particular location to our being, “places, colours, smells, geology, vistas” survive in us; it is “often unrecognized memory of place and space associated with where we are born [which we absorbed] without the fear of separation […] Thus it marks our earliest and slow emergence into a sense not of place as a topographical landscape but of emplacement in a phenomenological world.” Because this imprinting is something that came into existence prior to our knowledge of and attachment to nation, “natal memory” cannot, she argues, be associated with “the locus of any kind of nationalism.” However, Pollock is cautious about over-romanticising our unconscious attachments, or pointing to natal memory as evidence of an “essential” sort of belonging to a place; she points out,

“…when we learn that these deep impressions are in some sense, false, for they are not the grounds of a consolidated identity, but merely a contingency, the chance of being born there because of whatever vagaries of one’s parents’ political or economic migrancy, then a profound dislocation occurs within the psychic spaces furnished by visual and spatial memory. It is at this level of collision between knowledge and phenomenological sensation of the given world that the experience of dislocation is produced and can become thereby a motor or a topic for some other kind of working through: in analysis, writing or art.”12

Thus, far from being a location of peaceful reflection and belonging, “natal memory” is theorised “as a source of uncanniness and anxiety,” and a form of imprinting that is formed when a rupture is experienced, or “only when dislocation effects a caesura between emplacement and location.”13 It is this “uncanny anxiety” that creates fruitful—if, ultimately, never providing a complete sense of belonging, ease, and “closure”—collaborations between diasporic artists, writers, and the locations that they were forced to leave behind as children. The caesura created by migration and displacement—the long pause between consciously present memories firmly attached to a location, and the unconscious desire to return to an often-unidentifiable place—becomes the motivation for producing work that attempts to create a tangible homespace, or investigate our uncanny anxieties that are a result of dislocation.


Through her explorations of the Afro-Portuguese world, Mónica de Miranda’s works reflect on the history of contact between Portugal and its archipelago of (former) colonies around the world, filtered through her own fictionalised narratives and experiences. Using a wide-cast net along the Lusophone archipelago, De Miranda maps currents that carried bodies, ideas, and emotions, hinting at the fact that most who were in the way of the tidal wave of empire did not have the power to change or affect history. The resulting disruptions are reflected in the elusive, fragmented, and reconfigured narratives that emerge in her films, “Once Upon a Time” (2012), “An Ocean Between Us” (2013), and the research project leading to the installation “Home Sweet, Sour Home” (2013). For each project, de Miranda revisited locations significant to her family’s memory and her own search for belonging. Her films and installation work locate – through reflecting on personal and family narratives – the ways in which displacement, travel, and colonial and post-colonial violence on the body have triangulated across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, imbedded in the maps that determine physiological, psychological, and emotional makeup of her subjectivity. All three works are, in the artist’s words, a “search for home…biographical work,” in which she places herself “into the scene,” combining “documentary work with fiction.”14 Much like the works of the “postmemory” generation of artists, who produced aesthetic works that were expressions of their longing to belong to disappeared and decimated worlds of their parents’ memory – de Miranda, too, rebuilds a narrative for herself; her works are a form of contemplating loss, mourning, and re-creating in order to “relocate” herself in time and space.

De Miranda’s films operate in the tradition of works about exile, dislocation, and displacement, as well as the less politically fraught genre of travel. Her mode of narrative sits strategically between fiction and documentary, exceeding the possibilities permitted by realism in order to get as close as possible to a truth that eludes traditional documentary and autobiographical practices. Her films are, thus, imagined autobiographies that narrate her experiences of being out of place, as well as the possibilities opened up by the enriching processes of contact. Various figures—sexual and romantic attachments, as well as de Miranda’s friends—who come in and out of frames also act as conduits to temporary homes, especially in the absence of the familiar, reflecting psychological and emotional considerations about the effects of being a product of amalgamation and erasure.

Her methodology begs an interpretation of her use of moving image technologies to mobilise her declarations of agency, arrival, and presence, wherein the camera becomes part of her investigations and her mobilisation and self-exploratory processes. Where image banks establishing family lineages and belonging to landscapes are scarce, she creates a film—a mobile set of tens of thousands of stills, themselves composed of unstable digital pixels—set at sea, with momentary anchorings and disembarkments on landscapes, only to return to a central narrative of dislocation. It is through the processes of filmmaking that she engages in reconstructing belonging and resituating her own identity, inserting her presence into a series of oceanic and landscapes, each of which were created through the momentum of the Portuguese colonial project. In “Once Upon a Time” (2013), “An Ocean Between Us” (2012), and “Home Sweet, Sour Home” (2013), she revisits locations significant to “memory and belonging”. All three works are, in the artist’s words, a “search for home, a biographical work,” in which she places herself “into the scene,” and combines “documentary work with fiction.”15

In her films, she relies almost solely on visual strategies to explore the significance of cityscapes, landscapes, and oceanic bodies to her project of re-mapping subjectivity and re-conceptualising self through memory, imagined reconstruction, physical return, and creative production. “Once Upon a Time” offers the ‘emotion of motion’ in the form of a voyage,” taking into account audience perceptions the visual elements of films, “such as light, shade, textures, and colors that contribute to the comprehension of the filmic narrative.”16 The strong presence of nostalgia, “of a distant time, and a sense of disconnection to a space”—communicated using “light, shade, textures and colors” —almost becomes an identifiable character.17 de Miranda notes that her choices of “chromatic and light arrangements are important for the creation of the narrative and the viewer’s perception of the meanings and contents of the narrative.”18 Together, these elements, along with her use of “long shots and takes” reveal “memory [as] an archive of images”; they help us meditate on her experiences of navigating through personal spaces in which her family had once lived, or—in the absence of the physical home—the larger cultural and geographical environments they had occupied.19

In both films, the sea, itself a location of both anxiety and meditative acceptance of impermanence, having form and formlessness, at once life-giving, and life-destroying, is often a metaphor through which artists and writers engage with the presence of dualities. De Miranda notes that for her, the “ocean symbolically represents the unconscious desires, and the relationship represents the dualities within the self” (39). In her films, the sea—the entity that separates Portugal and its former colonies, and also creates a platform for connecting disparate landscapes—is developed as a metaphor for liminality. This water—blue as it may be in de Miranda’s imaginary—can also turn black with death; it is the body that permitted the voyages of colonial desire, camouflaging centuries of terror and swallowing so many African lives into anonymity. Yet, even as we recognise the sea as vast container of mourning that resonates with submerged narratives of painful separations and atrocity, de Miranda also regards it as a place in which one may find consolation, and even reconciliation.

“An Ocean Between Us” (2012), a high definition colour video with sound, is shown on a double split-screen. It is a narrative about migrants and immigration, caught in transitory, in-between spaces, and the nostalgia and longing created by being thus suspended between place and time. She writes that the film is “geographical (hi)story-telling that tells my stories of immigration and personal histories of diaspora. It is an exploration of having to live in “spaces of non-belonging and detachment”; she refers to these transit-spaces as “no (wo)man’s lands” where she found little refuge, which became “a metaphor for my experience of immigration”.20 It begins with the sounds of the harbour, before images appear. The first image is of a ship at sea, on the right screen; then, on the left screen, we see de Miranda in white, standing, facing the ship and the vastness of the ocean. After this, we see the interior of the ship, and a male figure in a white, tropical suit and a hat walking past shipping containers. Later, on the left screen, we see the man on a boat, as the anchor is lifted in the right screen facing the sea; the largeness of the waterscape frames his body. We see de Miranda, also on the boat, alone in the space of a cabin—the walls of which are plastered with photographic prints. She is asleep at a table laid out for a meal—her head on the white tablecloth. The man and a woman walk up and down the stairways inside the boat, which is anchored—de Miranda says—in a canal “along the dock by the port of Lisbon, waiting for the ‘last call’ to departure to Luanda [Angola]”.21

Accompanying the long slow, shots of the boat, showing its two passengers as they stand facing the sea, or as they walk up and down staircases connecting the two stories of the boat, we hear sounds distinct to a harbour. The soundscape of this film, in particular, are evocative of the “acoustic traces of travelling and migration.”22 On the top layer of sound, we hear boat engines, horns to warn other boats. But beneath those dominant sounds, we hear the sea, always present—so much so that it dominates the soundscape of the film. The boat, and the liminal space of the canal are the main locations of the film’s narrative, as well as the two main metaphorical strategies de Miranda employs. The space of the boat, de Miranda theorises, is “a discursive boundary; a subjective limit in the viewers’ eyes, a dual interrogation of self as spectator and self on screen.”23 She references Michel Foucault’s words about the metaphorical power of boats, wherein he theorised the vessels as “‘a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in, on itself and the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea.’”24

De Miranda specifies that the figure of the migrant is represented in the film by the meanderings of the couple – a man and a woman—both wearing white. They represents the colonial project’s construction of the “self” and “other”, resulting in post-colonial subjects who struggle to reconcile the presence of both self and other within them (32). We see them in frame after frame, situated in this liminal location of the canal—as well as the intersection of sea-faring history and the territories on which Portugal continues to maintain a footprint. They are both stationary and mobile, traversing in-between zones—anchored in the waterway between harbour and sea, the spaces of staircases connecting one story of the boat to another, and the spaces in-between each other. Yet the figures are not without power or agency; because some observers may recognise that the female figure is de Miranda, they may also realise that she is also the primary investigator and explorer, directing the narrative.

The installation work, “Home Sweet, Sour Home,” explores her memories of her maternal family’s homes in Angola—as well as other homes in which they resided, however temporarily, in various locations in the Lusophone world, including Luanda, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro and Mindelo, as well as in London, where the artist completed her university education. De Miranda “re-created”, through her imagination and through the act of drawing representational sketches of the houses and interiors, guided by stories she was told about those spaces; that this was an exercise in re-creation, of making “memory maps” was especially apt for her mother’s and grandmother’s houses in Angola, which she never inhabited, and therefore did not have first-hand knowledge of.

Her “journey home” began with her re-enacting her revisitation of each house or apartment building in which she and her mother and grandmother lived; she attempted to actually find some of these homes, going to each country and city, tracking down addresses. Some, she says, were easy to find; others no longer existed—demolished, and replaced by a new building. Because of those disappearances, she had to “recreate spaces” that resembled the architecture of the time, in line with her mother and grandmother’s stories. Then, she began the process of making architectural sketches of the interiors.

“Because the houses were represented through my memory, they were projections made of affections, where some of the proportions of the drawings were influenced by my relationships with the people with whom I shared the house. Some rooms in the work are larger than they are in reality, other rooms do not have doors or windows. I include corridors that do not connect rooms to one another, and represent fragmented places that symbolize fragmented relationships lost in space and time. These places codified in a language that was too personal and emotional, needed translation, therefore I contracted some architects to redraw my houses and translate them into architecture sketches, so I could understand the projection of my own emotions contained through the house drawings in a more rational way.25

Altogether, she had twenty-five “maps” of houses, including “squats, to temporary accommodations…family houses and hostels with addresses in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and the UK.”26 These maps, rather than being to actual scale, “are architectural projections of [her] memories of the houses [she] passed through between childhood to adulthood…[they] symbolise struggles and conquests, insecurities and securities, absences and presences, oscillating between feelings of belonging and exclusion.” De Miranda tells me, in a conversation,

My mother’s homes…I don’t remember or know what they looked like; I only know them through my grandmother’s stories. Bringing this out of memory was cathartic; drawing them involved connecting with the unconscious, coupled with the archetypal idea of a house. What I came up with, in my drawings, were emotional spaces; the rooms were often bigger or smaller than reality. They tell a lot about immigration, and my struggles to belong and find home.”27

She understood, through this exercise, that the “imagined home” is an emotional location, a “place of affections that exist as a powerful evocative space.” 28 The houses that she ended up re-presenting, she realised, “are archetypes, remnants of memory that mark life events […] such as: birth, death and separation from parents, initiation, marriage and divorce. The transition from childhood to adulthood was registered here through a change of address and country of residence and a drastic change of accommodation (when we moved from a family home to a squat).”29 In attempting to trace and recreate “home” through these imagined returns, she attempts to “return to lost origins” and document her own memories – overlapped as they are with her mother’s and grandmother’s, as well as her “own personal myths and fantasies”; our “notions of home and family” she found, through her research, “are a place of arrival and departure, a place of intersection, a place of rest, a commonplace but also a place of struggle and uncertainty.” 30


“Once Upon a Time” (22 mins), is a three-channel, high definition colour video work with sound; the triptych installation creates a three-dimensional effect, with each screen streaming disconnected narratives that are, nonetheless, inter-connected, pushing the narrative forward. The narrative begins with images of an airfield, a plane landing, and a control tower. Then we see a docked ferryboat, out of which passengers stream out, rushing to their destinations. It is only after these images of arrival that we see de Miranda, in a white dress, standing at the sea-shore of an unnamed city, the silhouette of a mountain looming in the dark, against the backdrop of palms waving in the blustery night wind, the lights of the city pinpricks in the background. The embracing warmth, and the moisture in the air are palpable. At times, her face is superimposed against the lights – they become stars in the black sky. Then, against a montage of scenes showing roadways and rushing vehicles, in the screen on the right side, we see a man, wearing a simple white undershirt and a white “plantation hat” with a black band—the costumery of the tropics—facing us. His image fades, and we see more cars rushing, and his figure walking into distance in the middle screen. The montage of shots we see next are of the interior of a building; on one screen, we see the man standing, facing an open-shuttered window, out of which early morning light streams into a dark interior. On the far right screen, we see de Miranda, standing against another window—this time, with no shutters—revealing a green land rising up to an escarpment, and a blue morning sky. The middle screen continues to show a long shot of a darkened roadway—speeding past from the interior of a vehicle; as the montages on the other two other screens fade, we continue to see the speeding roadway, conveying the sense of a continuing journey. Much of the remainder of the film contains a variety of interiors, showing de Miranda, other male companions, and her daughter as they sleep, awaken, walk through the space, stand at windows to look out at the vistas before them, interspersed with sounds of speeding motor vehicles. At others, we see montages of greenery, horses being put through training, and even wild antelope—with de Miranda standing before them, observing. She wears white, and stands motionless, even as rain begins to fall. Another montage shows her on the centre screen, lying on the sea-sand with her daughter lying on her stomach, whilst the two screens on the right and left show mirrored reflections of the sea breaking against the shore; in the next montage, we see her again on the seashore—but this time, she is alone, walking, then lying on the sand, facing the ocean. Before her, great, hulking ships list a little in the sea within reaching distance, rusting in the salt. This montage, in particular, indicates the ways in which memories we cannot call our own often hulk in our horizon, rusting, ever-present, powerful.

“Once Upon a Time” allows de Miranda to explore a different fantasy—to accomplish, as though in a “fairytale,” the object of finding home. The film’s structure is based on archetypes of the fairy tale and the “hero’s journey” that mirror our psychic impulse to journey towards self-discovery, indicating our desire “for personal growth and transformation”. However, she reminds us that her work also “engages with lived experiences and personal memories” where she is able to explores her “inner fears and desires [using dark undertones conveyed by] forests, seas, abandoned buildings, shipwrecks, journeys through the wilderness” that symbolise her psychological states, her unconscious, her “fears or repressed feelings.”31 Because these are “stories that [she] performed through the enactment of [her] life stories,” the film is an expression of her own “collective unconscious” and her own quest for “courage or for a sense of home”, of being in the Lusophone diaspora and trying to find belonging.32 It was a project that took three years, a time when she did not have much money in hand; she describes the feeling of making autobiographical work, especially from a precarious position, as process of unclothing oneself: “I was very naked, in a way…It’s my story.”33

The narrative structure of “Once Upon a Time”, she notes, meanders “between cities, houses, airports and roads, private rooms, family houses, hotels, places of private life, in places of my own memories but simultaneously set also in those ‘nonplaces’ belonging to no one.”34 She was able to re-visit places in which she had once lived, or where her family had set roots: Portugal (where she was born, and lived till she was nineteen); Brazil (where some of her family had migrated; and Luanda, Angola (where her maternal family had its roots). The making of the film allowed de Miranda to make herself present, be in the flesh in locations that extended the territory of Portugal—a trans-oceanic territory over which the small Iberian country continues to casts a long shadow, and over which her own history is mapped. The process of filming – of returning to locations in which her family has made “home”, however transitionary and precarious these homes may have been—itself becomes a tool of investigation; using the “play of time-space compression” intrinsic to film-narrative structures, she creates metaphors of movement, flow, dislocation that echo her geographical displacements and lack of access to standard notions of belonging and locatedness for all diasporic people.35 The process of making films – as well as the narrative conveyed by the film and the material body of the film itself – thus allows her to use references to transitory spaces to “recreate a ‘third space’, a space that is related to concepts of landscape, territory and home defined through a self made fairy tale.”36


De Miranda’s video work and stills form an unusual arc that warrants methodological attention to the complex ways in which she uses visual vocabulary to address the persistence of uncanny reminders and reminders of past encounters, and the ways in which these “remainders” continue to make themselves present in both Portugal and its colonies. Portugal casts a shadow over a spectrum of the world, with large landmasses and islands becoming colonial possessions in what became Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and Cape Verde Islands in Africa, Brazil in South America, and a slew of islands, smaller territories, and coastal cities in South Asia—Goa in India, Colombo in Sri Lanka, and Macao in China, among dozens of others. In each of these locations, the Portuguese disrupted existing trade linkages, monopolising sea routes. In de Miranda’s works, we see traces of the restless journeys that the Portuguese began making five centuries ago, resulting in amalgamated subjectivities onto whom these journeys of conquest continue to be superimposed. Sometimes, we realise, that this history imprints itself on zones of contact and conquest in ordinary and ubiquitous ways; at others, it brands them in more painful ways.

Despite the thread that speaks to powerlessness in the face of power, her work still positions the agency of the photographer at the centre of the narrative. She interweaves the larger discussion about migration of both people and practices with her own intimate experiences of being an in-between person—geographically and genetically speaking—in the world that unfolded.

If map making and navigation cultures were essential for fuelling imperial drives, de Miranda, too, becomes skilled at mapping and navigating not only physical landscapes and seaways, but the less charted territories of Lusophone subjects—and her own—interior selves. She explores the unfamiliar and the estranged, wilfully inserting all that is perceived as “other” about herself—and the strange other within herself—into landscapes that do not quite recognise her as part of its definition of self. She deconstructs a relationship that was initiated and subsequently based on unequal power structures and violence, but also remakes that world into something approachable, as a landscape of experiences into which she can insert herself and make familiar.

On the surface, her work is a conversation about identity and belonging. In her video works, especially, the personal overlaps with colonialism and subsequent globalisation. But they also speak to the attempt to reconcile a history that is not altogether palatable, honouring fantasies and desires for unification that all who have experienced violent interruptions to their bodies and psyches undoubtedly imagine at some point in their lives. De Miranda’s interest in exploring the “self” and “other” imbedded within her person, the existence of a shadow person within her that follows her is an important part of the narratives; a continuous thread of conversation about the existence of shadow selves—and reconciling those shadows with the self that one recognises and presents to the public—is embedded into the structure of the stories. She uses the technology necessary for creating moving image works to converse with that shadow person, to bring “him” to the present, and into the same spaces as she currently exists. These shadowy others who follow each other in the various landscapes appear in the form of female and male figures— beautiful, young people wearing white, gliding between doorways and windows of sea-facing apartments, and stepping up and down stairways connecting stories of large cargo vessels at sea.


When I look at de Miranda photographs, I see a visual reflection of all the ambivalence I experience as I attempt to tidy up my own memories of travel, migration, displacement, and attachment to things that are no longer there. Sometimes, I refuse reconciliation—theories about hybridity and the rich spaces of possibility created by liminal zones seem too glib, only available to the privileged immigrant.

Sometimes the nature of mourning renders us unable to look at images—either because death, destruction, and distance has made their subjects too terribly remote or because the complex and ambivalent anger that accompanies mourning leaves us too divided to know whether to weep for or rage at the beauty of the image.

The colour fields used by de Miranda—washed out blues and hazy greens—resonate with emotional vistas, drawing us to locations and conversations that exist only in intergenerational memory. These moving images are tableaux that help us ease estrangement and bridge geographical and temporal distances. “Home” remains an unreachable location, a pinging reminder imprinted into our collective family and community memory; it remarks on the way that past attachments stay ever-present, indicating absences and melancholic presences that insistently wound our present.

We shape our survival narratives to surround and protect the wound of absence. The body contains nostalgia and longing; it tells a story about how we are all vulnerable in certain spaces, and how in such spaces, we attach ourselves fiercely, sometimes, to things that don’t deserve – and cannot bear – our love.

Bibliography of Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, New York: Hill & Wang, (1981).

De Miranda, Mónica, Geography of Affections (2016).

Griselda Pollock, ‘Back to Africa: from Natal to Natal in the Locations of Memory’, Journal of Visual Art Practice, 5: 1+2 (2006).

Hirsch, Marianne. ‘Family Pictures: Maus, Mourning, and Post-Memory”, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture,15:2 (1992-9.

— ‘Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile’, Poetics Today 17: 4 (1996).

Sontag, Susan. On Photography (1977), New York: Picador, (2001)/

1 Roland BarthesCamera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill & Wang, 1981), pp. 80-81.

2 Ibid, 81.

3 Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977) (New York: Picador, 2001), p. 24. See also: PDF of On Photography at

4 Hirsch first refers to the term “post-memory” in ‘Family Pictures: Maus, Mourning, and Post-Memory.’ See: Marianne Hirsch, ‘Family Pictures: Maus, Mourning, and Post-Memory”, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture,15:2 (1992-93), pp. 3-29.

5 Marianne Hirsch, ‘Past Lives: Postmemories in Exile’, Poetics Today 17: 4 (1996), pp. 659-686; p. 662.

6 Ibid 662.

7 Ibid 662.

8 Ibid 662.

9 Ibid 664.

10 Griselda Pollock, “Back to Africa: from Natal to Natal in the Locations of Memory”, Journal of Visual Art Practice, 5: 1+2 (2006), pp. 49–72; p. 62.

11 Ibid. 62.

12 Ibid. 62.

13 Ibid. 62.

14 From a Skype conversation between M. Neelika Jayawardane and Monica de Miranda, 16 June, 2017.

15 From a Skype conversation between M. Neelika Jayawardane and Monica de Miranda, 16 June, 2017.

16 Mónica de Miranda, “Once Upon a Time”, Geography of Affections (2016), pp. 21-22.

17 Ibid. 22.

18 Ibid. 22.

19 Ibid. 22.

20 Mónica de Miranda, “An Ocean Between Us”, Geography of Affections (2016), p. 33.

21 From a Skype conversation between M. Neelika Jayawardane and Monica de Miranda, 16 June, 2017.

22 Mónica de Miranda, “Once Upon a Time”, Geography of Affections (2016), pp. 25.

23 Mónica de Miranda, “An Ocean Between Us”, Geography of Affections (2016), p. 45.

24 Foucault (1967: 47), quoted in Mónica De Miranda, “An Ocean Between Us”, Geography of Affections (2016), p. 31.

25 Mónica De Miranda, “Home Sweet, Sour Home”, Geography of Affections (2016), pp. 55-56.

26 Ibid. 51.

27 From a Skype conversation between M. Neelika Jayawardane and Monica de Miranda, 16 June, 2017.

28Mónica De Miranda, “Home Sweet, Sour Home”, Geography of Affections (2016), p. 53.

29 Ibid. 59.

30 Ibid. 51.

31 Mónica De Miranda, “An Ocean Between Us”, Geography of Affections (2016), pp. 34-35.

32 Ibid. 34.

33 From a Skype conversation between M. Neelika Jayawardane and Monica de Miranda, 16 June, 2017.

34 Mónica de Miranda, “Once Upon a Time”, Geography of Affections (2016), p. 19.

35 Ibid. 19.

36 Ibid.19.

The move away from the singularities of class or gender as primarily conceptual and organizational categories, has resulted in a awareness of the subject positions of race, gender, generation, institutional location, geopolitical locale, sexual orientation that inhabit any claim to identity in the modern world. What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of the originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These in-between spaces provides the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood singular and communal that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself.
Homi Bhabha, The Location of culture
We always stem from one place. A place which lies on the intersection of thousands of lines, as many lines as those which entangle us, spur us on and arouse our interest. This can be a place with physical, genetic, symbolic coordinates; it can be somebodys place in a city, as in a social hierarchy. It can be something or someone or somewhere that acts as a place where all sorts of lines intersect: physical and chemical lines, genetic and social, ethnic and economical, aesthetic and ethical lines. These intersections turn this place into a unique focal point, filled with multiple contexts and multiple possibilities, a focal point which synthesises different places into one singular space. It is not a matter of topography but of topologies.

In such a place, Geography would only be able to draw maps of some impersonal, pre-individual unconsciousness, a realm where our bodies and identities are shaped and where urbanism and architecture, hairstyles and fashion, streets and songs are determined. The place where we are born, where we live, where we die. But this is not, after all, the Geography of physical spaces; it is the Geography of those places where we construct ourselves also as memory and dream. Places from which we become what we are, in all those spaces that we intersect with. Places that we take along with us as baggage, like tourists or migrants, and places that we invariably find when we wake up. Places where we ourselves are always a place.

These New geographies strive for new cartographies. The difference is a leap into contemporary realities.

Monica De Miranda renounces old certainties and constructs herself within her own moving place. Wrapped up in a multiplicity of spaces, she expresses her own place, even when she intends to do something else. She knows that the place isnt what she sees. But that in itself doesnt make her an artist. The art lies in making sensitive that which usually remains insensitive in those places.

The increasingly intense connections between places and the massive roaming of certain places into others demand nowadays a new timed geography, a new cartography of affections, as well as new media, new substances, new forms and new codes. Only then can all the forces implicated in these complex spaces be made sensitive. These are all things that we find at play in Mónica de Mirandas work.

Mónica brings an infinity of places into one place. She also evokes new geographies, as when she intersects maps and photographs of bodies, each body alluding to its own place, where different identities cohabitate under ones own identity.

In New Geographies, distances are measured by affection. That is why the artists place is near the familiar place, the place where one is married, has friends, interacts socially, travels, immigrates, works. It is from that place that she participates in eternity.
Mónica works from her own place, from the place of her relations, in a place that belongs to all and which is made of an infinity of lines that connect collective and personal places. A new place made up of old places.

Delving into sculpture and video, photography, installation and multimedia , Mónica shapes a unique place. Here, the multiple intersections of all the lines her work evokes is expressed by the intersection of hybrid media that question borders and propose a place that is born from those multiple intersections.

Always attentive towards the territories she is exploring and with, which she intends to establish dialogue, Mónica recognises the proliferation of the insensitive lines that pin-point the location of culture and of human bodies, of art and of life, and she intersects them, thereby showing us the hybrid and multiply determined place that create them.

Its a clowns marriage, that which the artist undertakes; a union where sacred and profane cohabitate. A car radio picking up tunes from around the world on the streets of London intersects the local and the global. Mónica doesnt just make conventional dichotomies more extreme, she constantly experiments with a crossing of real and metaphorical borders, weaving a new cartography of affection, which reflects a new subjectivity and exhibits all of these new places, where our contemporary live is built.

Panorama: dormant ghosts. ,Exhibition Panorama, Banco economico Luanda Angola , 2018

by Paula Nascimento, 2018

Translated by Ana Naomi de Sousa

“aqui tudo parece
que era ainda construção
e já é ruína”i

Caetano Veloso

No conversation or reflection on the history of architecture and urbanism in Angola can avoid considering the Portuguese colonial project and its impact on the formation of Angola’s cities.

Whilst any city is the result of an articulation of time – past, present and future – and is, as such, an object consisting of many identities and experiences, this interaction does not always occur pacifically.

The history of Angola’s cities is, as Isabel Castro Henriques notes, “the expression of a process of colonial domination, materialized in the urban space and its buildings, as well as in its social hierarchies, subject to the rhythms of history, economics, and politics” i. Urbanization was one of the principal political activities of the Portuguese Estado-Novo regime, allowing for and legitimising architectural and urban production and resulting, in Angola, in constructions that expressed a particular tropical language, rooted in the architectural principles of modernism and adapted to the location, geography and local climate.

This Tropical-Modernist architectural legacy is in no way representative of the principles of Estado-Novo colonialism, and in fact served as the basis for a rupture from which a new narrative emerged, of an egalitarian and democratic society – one that never really existed on the ground. In Angola, not only did the urban plan lead to the erasure of existing places and the imposition of new social ideals, but the modernist utopia of freedom was also largely a failure.


The post-independence period saw the emergence of different styles of building that reflected new Marxist political ideologies, as well as apartment buildings constructed by Russians and Cubans, among others.

After the end of the civil war, Angola experienced an economic boom, the result of rising oil prices, and the emergence of a capitalist economic model. These changes led to a flurry of new building under the banner of national reconstruction, including vast housing and infrastructure projects, as well as the appearance of large-scale, private real-estate ventures.

The speed and scale of new real-estate and infrastructure projects in Angolan cities is proportional to the state of abandon of the historical architectural legacy. Efforts to preserve and restore old buildings have been largely ineffective, not only due to their technical complexities but also to the perceived lack of political and economic incentives, as well as the impossibility of disassociating this built heritage from its historical context.

Restoration, here, means not only recovering the built forms, but also looking critically at history in order to establish a dialectic between past and future, drawing links between the built forms and their new occupants so as to create new memories.

Although built heritage is often discussed, these concepts have been side-lined by commercial interests and because of their conflicted relationship with history – if this architectural legacy represents a past from which we want to distance ourselves ever-more, then the skyscrapers and urban projects emerging now are the simulation of a “New Angola”, brimming with a subtle desire to erase history and memory.


The remnants of different political, economic and social actors that become visible and material in the morphology of cities is what makes them unique; furthermore, it is in these spaces that (new,) ever-more distinct and singular identities are formed, as the memories of different social groups come into play.

It is this geography of tension between a past that is present and a present that is uncertain, full of the spatial-temporal contradictions typical of trans-historical (post-colonial) locations, that serves as the starting point for Panorama, Mónica de Miranda’s post-archival research project, which explores the links (past and present) between colonial and post-colonial memoryii. Working in, and on various different media – photography, video and installation – the artist, whose academic and artistic trajectory has navigated themes such as urban archaeology and personal geography, traces a critical process of historical deconstruction and (re)construction of the Angolan collective memory.

Panorama is both the title of the project and the name of an iconic hotel constructed in the 1970s on the Ilha de Luanda peninsula, with panoramic views over the city bay and the sea. Once one of the most emblematic and charming hotels in Luanda, it has been long since closed down and abandoned. Hotels bear the symbology of the journey and of diasporic transit, and are one of the reoccurring architectural elements in the artist’s work. In Hotel Globo (2015) the building almost seems to constitute a resistance to the rapid changes occurring around it; whilst the Panorama is the materialization of decadence, a shipwreck resigned to its fate.

The duality between past and present (and future), permeates the project entirely, as is evident in other works such as Fall (Queda) or Angolan Home (Casa Angolana). The first is a direct allusion to the fall of empire and to the environment to which we are transported; the Kalandula waterfalls. Here, an old, colonial-era guesthouse is engulfed by nature. The landscape remains intact and absorbs the “foreign” architecture.

The second refers to the phrase “Portuguese Home”, echoing both the search for an original, Portuguese identity, and the debate about political, cultural and artistic identity. Here, we are confronted with an idea of an Angolan home, completely preserved, yet which does not conform entirely to type: this Angolan Home is a modern house, a reflection on the debate about the origin and authenticity of this architecture. The wax effect applied to the images lends them a sense of the eternal, a reference to the importance of preserving physical objects and, as such, collective memory.

The inclusion of figures such as the twins who appear in Karl Marx and When words escape, flowers speak, amplifies the significance of identity: the double-identity of twins can be confusing and overlap – but they are, nonetheless, distinct and individual. The fictionalization of history with micro-narratives adds temporal dimensions which refer not only to the colonial past, but also to Angola’s more recent history; and to its future.

Panorama is not urban archaeology, nor is it simply a meditation on the presence of the colonial past in a post-colonial context; or on individual, versus collective memory. The images are not only a record, but exist on a frontier which allows for a wider reflection on individual and collective strategies of identity formation which, as advanced by Homi K. Bhabha: “initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation in the act of defining the idea of society itself”iii.

By underlining the way in which the empire acquired a material form in the everyday urban context, permeating and conditioning the collective imaginary, Panorama reveals dormant ghosts, conjured up by the acceleration of time and space. It reminds us of the need for different interpretations of the reality surrounding us, of the importance of considering and, as such, not forgetting that which is produced in the articulation of cultural differences – moments of confrontation that play a crucial role in the construction of the cultural identity of the country.

Paula Nascimento

i Isabel Castro Henriques e Miguel Pais Vieira (cit) – “A cidade e o Pós-colonial – Parte II” in Nuno Domingos e Elsa Peralta (org)

ii Mónica de Miranda – Sinopse de Panorama

iii Homi K. Bhabha – The Location of Culture, Routledge Classics, 2

No longer with the memory But with its future Mónica de Miranda, 2022

No longer with the memory

But with its future

Mónica de Miranda, 2022

“no longer with memory but with its future” brings together a new body of work by Monica de Miranda. Her interdisciplinary practice investigates convergences between politics, identity, gender, memory, and place and the complexities of identity construction within her own geographies of affection.

The multidisciplinary project is articulated around three complementary research axes: continuities and discontinuities of history, by making parallels between the liberation struggles in Africa and the struggles of the diaspora; women’s struggles throughout history – colonization, gender, and identity; and a reflection on the Anthropocene, and on the paradigm shifts that humanity faces.

The title “no longer with the memory but with its future” reflects the dialectic relationship between past, present, and future through creative engagement with historical traces to project and imagine new futures. It displays a cosmovision towards new modes of understanding human subjectivity, moving forward the necessary discussion around the relations between human aspects, such as language and politics, and the environment in which we dwell.

The exhibition is constructed around a central piece, the film Path to the Stars – which takes its name from the homonymous poem written in 1953 by Agostinho Neto[1]. The film was shot along the Kwanza River, the longest river in Angola and the cradle of the kingdom of Ndongo[2]. Through the vitality and strength of mother nature, an analogy between the body and territory is created. The river is intrinsically related to the history of the Atlantic, as the land around It was the first body to be penetrated by colonizers in search of material wealth. As past, present and the future converge in the waters of the river; the water works as a material that unites all animate and inanimate beings in sharing the consequences of their actions, intertwining social, cultural, capital and geophysical flows.

By introducing a black feminism point of view and the “oppositional gaze” (bell hooks) in which gender and race stereotypes are deconstructed, the film follows the journey of a heroine from sunrise to sunset. She is confronted by her own shadow and by different temporalities and micro-narratives, which propose a counter-narrative composed of complex biographies that overlap and interact: the past and the anti-colonial freedom fighters, the uncertainty of the present, the desire to belong, a projection of the future, and the longing to reach a symbiosis with nature. The central piece of the exhibition works structurally and conceptually as a river from which branches and layers of stories and metaphors unfold. The film’s soundtrack, a soundscape composed by Monica’s long-time collaborator Xullagi, expands the experience of the video and interacts with the other pieces, creating a completely immersive experience.

The text piece that opens the exhibition is a fragment from a poem that becomes a prologue to the film narrative. Monica’s use of hypertext both in the film’s dialogues (the characters) and in the poem, functions as a metanarrative that disrupts the linearity of the images and introduces a new body – one that manifests itself through a voice that calls attention to memory and the future – and another dimension made up of disjointed temporalities and multiple rhythms.

The exhibition is also composed of a photo installation that explores the relationship between femininity and nature. Sisters or Twins have been a recurrent image in the artist’s work – they amplify the meaning of identity; twins carry a double identity that confuses or overlaps, but is always distinct and individual, and highlight the in-betweenness and the double self – a characteristic of the hybrid subjectivities of diasporic identities. In these same waters, the sisters emerge in the present.

Monica’s use of allegory introduces a particular cosmovision and new ways of considering human subjectivity, language, and politics. They, challenge us to think of our multiple dimensions as humans and our relationship with the environment that surrounds us. To understand the environmental crisis and new global eras –the Anthropocene and Capitalocene – it is necessary to question and enter into dialogue with the concepts of natural history and human history, as Dipesh Chakrabarty suggests. In this way, the artist engages in a broader reflection on environmentalism through an intersectional lens, allowing us to see how social issues exacerbate environmental issues.

In Path to the Stars, the territory is not merely understood as the physical space of the river, land, forests, and inhabitants of this ecosystem, but as a space where relationships between humans and the environment occur. It is also their history, memory, culture and spirituality – the space where individual and collective identities are built.

At a time when humanity is facing numerous challenges, such as growing discrimination, global warming, wars, and ecological disasters, is the project “no longer memory, but with its future”, provides the basis for meaningful discussion on belonging, and creates an opportunity to share and seek future directions through creative reflection and imagination.



No longer with the past but with its future

Word installation, steel

Variable dimensions



Path to the Stars

HD Video, color, 34’41’’

Music: Xullaji




3 Inkjet prints on vinyl

198×450 cm (198×150 cm each)


[1] Agostino Neto, Angola’ s first president.

[2] The Kingdom of Ndongo (or the Kingdom of Dongo, Angola (Ngola)) was a pré-colonial state located where Angola is today, created by the Ambundu/Mbundu ethnic group. The Mbundus spoke Kimbundu, a Bantu language, and occupied a large part of West-central Africa, along the lower Kwanza and middle Kwango (Birmingham). During the 16th century, as the Atlantic slave trade expanded, Ndongo encountered a new reality with the Atlantic as its backdrop. Because of its location and the contact with the Europeans, Ndongo was closely linked to the Atlantic and therefore exposed to the effects of the slave trade on a world scale. Ndongo society lived through a series of transformations resulting from contact with different ways of thinking, languages, religions, and a diversity of products that became part of the day-to-day life of the local population.

Panoramic in Moving Fragments, Or Monica de Miranda’s Twin Visions of (Un-)Belonging

by Ana Balona de Oliveira

In the recent project Panorama (2017), Mónica de Miranda returns yet again to looking at modernist architecture in Angola. In Hotel Globo (2014-2015), she had already critically examined the changing urban surface of Luanda through video, photographic and performative incursions into the interior landscapes of the 1950s Hotel Globo. The modernist hotel is still functioning in Luanda’s downtown, whose architectural heritage has been increasingly replaced with gentrified high-rise luxury buildings. In Miranda’s work, the Globo became a spatio-temporal and affective ‘lens’ through which her bodily gaze looked at the multiple geographies and histories of the city – colonial, post-independence, post-Cold War, post-civil war – in order to think the complexity of its layered present and to imagine the possibility of different futures.[1]

In Panorama, the abandoned Hotel Panorama – located on the island of Luanda (Ilha do Cabo) from where its guests once had panoramic views of the city and the Luanda bay, on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean, on the other – becomes the main protagonist; or so the title of the entire installation seems to tell its viewers. But, in Miranda’s non-linear – and, in fact, fairly non-narrative – visual story, there are other architectural ‘characters’ in various locations in Luanda and beyond. Furthermore, many such vacant spaces appear occupied by actual, if always enigmatic, characters; in the case of Panorama, these are twin sisters. In Hotel Globo(2014-2015), Once Upon a Time (2012), An Ocean Between Us (2012) and Erosion (2013), among other previous works, the artist herself appeared on screen alongside male collaborators, whereby she hinted at the possible narrative existence of a couple as much as at non-binary notions of identity (as far as gender, sexuality, race, nation and culture are concerned) and at a non-masculinist gaze. In these works, the characters lend themselves to being perceived as different versions of a self that could be simultaneously male and female, European and African. In Archipelago (2014) and Field Work (2016), the twin sisters made their first appearance within Miranda’s oeuvre, as another strategy to address the ‘in-betweenness’ and the ‘doubling’ of self and other and here and there that is proper to the hybrid subjectivity of diaspora. Appearing as children in the latter installations, in Panorama the twins have grown up.

As we shall see, by drawing upon the name and history of the Hotel Panorama, the Panorama to which the installation as a whole refers poses larger questions, if always deeply personal and affective, on history, memory, desire and a condition of (un-)belonging to manifold spaces and times.[2] It also examines the notion of the ‘panoramic’ gaze and of its purportedly all-encompassing visual knowledge and pleasure. The work disrupts such a conception of the gaze and the attendant possibility of fully containing, retrieving or fixating the ever-changing processes of personal and collective becoming, particularly those marked by the diasporic experience. So, although contemplative, the gazing subjectivity in Miranda’s work is far from totalized and totalizing and, instead, avowedly fragmented and fragmentary. The gaze – bodily, psychic and geographically and historically situated – is split into many gazes. It does attain some sort of panoramic view, but only by the juxtaposition of its fragments. Such fragments do not equate the separated and categorized parts of a given totality that is divided into components only to be thoroughly mastered and seamlessly made whole again as an object of power/knowledge.[3] They do not equate mere playful signifiers either, lending themselves to the endless game of reification and commodification of histories, spaces and identities proper to what Frederic Jameson famously called the postmodern cultural logic of late capitalism.[4] The fragmented and fragmentary nature of Miranda’s panoramic visions – inhabited, affective and spatio-temporally situated landscapes of architecture and nature – resist the depoliticized moment when meanings get lost and a concern for agency is done away with. Meanings are always contingent and positional, ever-changing and relational, but, as far as being and becoming are concerned, they are also arenas for struggles of recognition and resistance.[5]

As to history, memory, desire and the condition of (un-)belonging to manifold spaces and times, Panorama’s multiple and multiplying gazes do not redeem a sense of loss of stable points of origin or rootedness – an origin that could only mythically be seen to allow for a unified vision, knowledge and experience of the world, of the self and of communities. Rather, such a loss is positively embraced in the ethico-political activity of (un-)belonging to an always shifting network of routes across continents, islands and oceans.[6] Grounded in her own autobiographical experience of being from both Europe and Africa, Portugal and Angola (with the United Kingdom and Brazil also partaking of her affective geography), the longing that arises from the loss of a stable sense of belonging does not fall into the mythic traps of nostalgia. Instead, it is transmuted into a cosmopolitan and communal desire for being at home in the world (this cosmopolitanism having, however, always to remain deeply critical, as the ability to move across borders is a privilege that a majority of impoverished subjects worldwide cannot afford).

Angola is one of Miranda’s affective landscapes of Atlantic belonging. Born in 1976 in Portugal to an Angolan mother and a Portuguese father and maintaining familial connections with relatives who stayed in Angola upon independence in 1975, Miranda’s work is deeply marked by family memories and experiences and, more broadly, by the collective histories of Portugal and Angola. In Panorama, her focus on the psychic and physical remnants of several pasts – colonial, post-independence, post-Cold War, post-civil war – within natural, urban and architectural landscapes of Luanda and beyond serves the larger purpose of examining the contradictions of the present and imagining alternative futures.

With the demise of the Cold War in the 1990s, and the definitive end of the thirty seven year-long civil war in 2002 (won by the MPLA, in power since independence), Angola entered a period of economic liberalization and accelerated growth, serving mostly its elites. One of the most visible and tangible manifestations of such economic, political and social changes has been a profound transformation of Luanda’s urban landscape, propelled by fierce real estate speculation and gentrification. These operations have had as one of their most problematic consequences the forced removal of the poor populations of centrally located slums or musseques to faraway peripheries that are not serviced by public transportation networks. Many such slums grew exponentially during the civil war, as people had to flee war-torn areas and look for easier access to resources, whose transportation throughout the country was prevented by the war. The other consequence of the profit-seeking real estate speculation and gentrification in Luanda has been a disregard for architectural heritage, all too quickly and conveniently classified for demolition so that space becomes available for high-rise office buildings, shopping malls and parking lots – a process which has become characteristic of a globalized capitalism to which Angola now fully belongs.[7]

Panorama addresses such complexities by focussing on the surviving, albeit abandoned, modernist buildings of the Hotel Panorama (Hotel Panorama, 2017) and of the Karl Marx Cinema in Luanda (Cinema Karl Marx, 2017), as well as on the constructed natural landscapes of the botanical gardens of the Floresta da Ilha (When Words Escape, Flowers Speak, 2017), still functioning in the vicinity of the Hotel Panorama on the island of Luanda. But Panorama’s non-descriptive and contemplative narrative also unfolds outside the capital, more specifically, in the province of Malanje and in its capital city, similarly called Malanje. Located about three-hundred kilometres east of Luanda, this region (like many others) was deeply marked by the liberation war against the Portuguese colonial rule (1961-1975) and by the civil war (1975-2002). As to the former, the violently repressed revolt of the cotton-field workers in the Baixa do Cassange in the Malanje province on 4 January 1961 is usually considered the first of a series of events triggering the beginning of the liberation war in Angola in 1961 (commonly called ‘colonial war’ in Portugal, with 1963 marking the beginning of the war in Guinea-Bissau and 1964 in Mozambique).[8] As to the civil war, it began immediately upon independence in 1975, as a Cold War proxy conflict waged by the three liberation movements: the Soviet Union and Cuba-supported MPLA, the Zaire-backed FNLA, and UNITA, supported by apartheid South Africa and the US.[9] Malanje was severely destroyed throughout the many decades and several phases of the conflict, and progressively rebuilt thereafter. But this area also has an impressive pre-colonial history, and a colonial history of resistance and struggle against the Portuguese presence from the 16th  to the 18th centuries, and against Portuguese settlement since the 19th century.[10] At a more personal level, the city of Malanje was also the place where Miranda’s mother grew up. Like Luanda, it is a space where intergenerational family memories and collective histories emerge in the very material fabric of modernist architecture from the colonial period – which has been re-appropriated in various ways after independence and after the civil war, even when ruined –and of natural landscapes. The latter are shown to be as thickly woven by history and memory as architecture, not only when the vegetation appears to infiltrate and occupy the buildings, but also when nature is portrayed on its own.

Fall (2017) is a photographic installation whose fragments make up an unstable panoramic view of the area surrounding the Calandula Waterfalls in the Malanje province, called Duque de Bragança in the colonial period.[11] It is accompanied by an archival black-and-white photograph of the falls meant for their touristic promotion around the 1960s, which Miranda found in a Lisbon flee market.  This image provides a centrally framed and frontal view and seems to evoke a paradisiac nature, a kind of lost paradise, untouched by man. Unlike it, Miranda’s panoramic colour version highlights how this purported paradise is far from natural in any straightforward sense and, rather, deeply embedded in history. The artist underscores the sense of constructed-ness of the landscape by presenting a panorama that is comprised of uneven fragments, a diagonally layered juxtaposition of multiple frames that, in turn, evince a plural and bodily gaze, moving in the landscape. Furthermore, she directs her gaze less to the falls – peripherally represented in her composite images – than to the adjacent spaces from which they can be observed, calling attention to the situated-ness of the gazing subjectivity and avoiding the history-effacing fetishization of natural landscape found in the touristic image. The camera focusses on the remnants of a modernist hotel also from the colonial period, which is abandoned and yet re-occupied, re-appropriated by the local vegetation. The way Miranda’s photographs frame some of the landscapes within architectural structures recalls how the hotel’s verandas and ground-floor arcade once constituted the privileged ‘lenses’ through which its guests looked at the falls and, more broadly, how any visual panorama is inescapably positioned. As Donna Haraway insightfully wrote, ‘one cannot relocate in any possible vantage point without being accountable for that movement’ and ‘vision is always a question of the power to see – and perhaps of the violence implicit in our visualizing practices’.[12] Haraway rightly argued for ‘the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structured and structuring body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplification’.[13] Miranda’s images continuously remind us of this situated-ness.

The Fall to which the title of these works refers evokes other falls besides that of the Lucala river: the historical falls of the pre-colonial African kingdoms, of the Portuguese colonial empire, of peace upon independence, of the Marxist utopia; the ruins of modernist architecture and of its attendant dreams; the ruined nature, due to war and the capitalist exploitation of natural resources. As nature is de-exoticized and de-mythologized as paradise, Fall is obviously reminiscent of the biblical idea of losing innocence and of being expelled from paradise. Miranda does succeed at ‘expelling’ the viewer from any such notion. This polysemic Fall is also evocative of the groundlessness of the diasporic subjectivity, eventually able to transmute homelessness into unhomeliness, root into route, to be at home in the world. Finally, all these meanings pertaining to Fall are made visually manifest also in the diagonal display of the panorama.[14]

Miranda also photographed in the city of Malanje, although exact locations are never given. In Swimming Pool, the artist presents several views of an abandoned open-air modernist swimming pool, built in the colonial period and currently surrounded by musseques. Like the hotel in the Calundula Waterfalls, the swimming pool in Malanje was a leisurely site destined mostly for the white population, shown to have been re-appropriated after independence and the civil war. Today, it is not as abandoned as it might seem at first sight, since it is actually used as an improvised site for the storage and making of building materials, as the soil-filled swimming pool and adjacent spaces make evident. Like the Calundula hotel, it appears as a kind of ‘lens’ through which to contemplate the surrounding landscape, which is never too visible. One can only imagine the view from the three diving boards above, or from the lateral amphitheatre, spots that would allow one to observe not simply the now absent water, but also the landscape beyond the swimming pool’s low walls. Similarly to her Calundula images, a multifarious sense of fall emerges here, albeit not explicitly in the title. The swimming pool is a space where the fall into (rather than of) water occurs, and where nature is immediately perceived and experienced as constructed, and so more readily demystified.

In the city of Malanje, Miranda also photographed Angolan House (2017). This is a set of images where inhabited modernist twin houses from the colonial period are portrayed in the present as having been re-adapted, while retaining the original design.[15] They have become almost identical, but not quite. Local vegetation again partakes of the re-occupation of space, this time domestic. In Miranda’s work, actual homes and houses serve the purpose of raising broader and at the same time deeply personal questions concerning the unhomeliness of diaspora, the hybridity of its ‘in-between’, doubled and doubling subjectivity, and the political, social, economic and cultural impact of migration on urban space. The physical and psychic loss of the Angolan family home is transmuted into an Angolan Housethat encompasses multiple, quasi-identical twin houses, both kept and transformed over time. Intervened with wax and pigment typical of the encaustic process, these images give rise to what I have called in the title of this essay a twin (or split or double) vision of (un-)belonging. That is, an old technique used to pre-empt the loss of images by protecting them from the damaging effects of the passage of time conveys a deep sense of transformation evident in the accumulation of layers of scratched wax and pigment. Usually used to preserve paintings, the encaustic underscores the constructed nature of the photographic record and of memory, both able to retain only partially and subjectively what they make present again or re-present. The result is a vision of both the past and the present, of here and there, of self and other that avoids the pitfalls of the nostalgic loss of the home to become critically future-oriented in the world. Similarly photographed in the Malanje area and intervened with wax and pigment, Like a Candle in the Wind (2017) asks of natural landscape the questions that Angolan House raises by means of domestic architecture. Here too a fall of sorts seems to be at work, as wax could indeed have dripped from a burned-out candle on this encaustic-processed photographic surface, whose title is retrieved from the lyrics of a well-known song about ‘never knowing [where] to cling to’.[16]

Back in Luanda, one can see how similar strategies of photographic representation of modernist architecture and natural landscape serve the purpose of examining the city’s past, present and future, through the affective and ethico-political perspective opened up by personal and collective history, memory and desire. The diasporic condition of (un-)belonging to manifold spaces and times emerges by means of a bodily, moving (even while appearing to be still) and gazing subjectivity that is also geographically and historically situated.

In Hotel Panorama (2017), we find another instance of juxtaposed images – this time of the abandoned modernist hotel on the island of Luanda – making up a panoramic view of the façade that faces the Atlantic. This is accompanied by an archival black-and-white panoramic photograph of the hotel’s other façade, facing the city and the bay, taken between the 1960s and 1970s. The panorama shown in this image is not only architectural, but also literally inscribed in neon on top of the building as the hotel’s name. Designed by the Portuguese architect Carlos Moutinho very likely between the 1950s and 1960s, the iconic Hotel Panorama became progressively decayed during the civil war and was eventually abandoned. A renovation and augmentation plan was designed in 2007, but never carried out. Miranda’s colour and composite Hotel Panorama redirects the viewer to the landscape of city and bay that the archival image occludes, but the visual access to it only occurs as filtered by the architectural ‘lens’ of the Atlantic-facing façade. It is through the entrance, opening onto a wide window on the other side, and the ground-floor arcade that one can contemplate the urban and maritime landscape in the background. On the other hand, Miranda’s panoramic view of the hotel draws attention to the empty verandas of the modernist façade, whose Atlantic view remains outside the frame. Filtering and fragmentally displayed, one also observes how the architectural panorama of the empty hotel is inhabited by the vegetation in the foreground.[17]

Shot in the botanical gardens of the Floresta da Ilha (Island Forest) near the Hotel Panorama on the island of Luanda, When Words Escape, Flowers Speak (2017) portrays the constructed, although apparently neglected, natural landscape of the functioning gardens.[18] These images show the gardens occupied by twin Angolan sisters, centrally framed holding their hands with their eyes closed amidst a mix of vegetation. The information that this setting is a botanical garden is not given, but one senses the constructed-ness of the landscape as soon as one notices that the twins are standing between two swirling paths. Miranda analyses botanical gardens in this and other works – such as Archipelago (2014) and Field Work (2016) – in order to recall their weighted colonial histories of collecting, cataloguing and displaying specimens for European knowledge and pleasure. She examines the ways in which the spatial remnants of such colonial impulses have been re-appropriated in post-colonial times. In more personal terms, like an affective collection of portraits gathered and transportable in a family album, botanical journeys and archives also allow Miranda to think about the formation of diasporic identities between past and present, here and there, self and other, which the almost identical – but not quite – twin sisters and paths underscore. The twin Angolan sisters re-appropriate this territory with a meditative – rather than nostalgic – shared presence. Portrayed in an inward-looking moment, they seem to be listening to the manifold pasts remembered and futures foretold by the landscape itself.

 From the island of Luanda, the twins move to the Alvalade neighbourhood, where they are seen wandering in the closed-down modernist Cinema Karl Marx, called Avis before independence. It was designed in the early 1960s by João Garcia de Castilho, the Portuguese architect of many other modernist buildings in the city (such as the open-air Cine-Miramar, designed with his brother Luís Garcia de Castilho in 1964).[19] In Cinema Karl Marx (2017), Miranda’s camera focusses on those spaces of the abandoned movie theatre from where the activity of watching used to (and, in her images, does) take place: the long veranda marking the building’s façade and, inside, the amphitheatre made up of the now derelict chairs. These viewing spots are inhabited by the multiple, bodily, gazing presence of the twin sisters, moving in the architectural landscape of the Karl Marx even while they appear to be still. Indeed, movement is here both physical and psychic. When the twins sit down in the empty amphitheatre, whereas one of them peers out at something outside the frame, the other looks back at the viewer, who, occupying the place of the cinema screen, thus becomes a screen of sorts, not only gazing but also being gazed at. Like the panoramas discussed previously, Miranda’s panoramic view of the cinema’s exterior façade is comprised of several juxtaposed frames, which evince a moving gazing subject not simply inside but also outside the image (even if the camera viewpoint seems centrally placed and fixed). The multiple shots, alongside the history told by the name change of the Karl Marx, its current ruined condition and its artistic reactivation, make evident the very passage of time in the fabric of space, the mythic nature of totalizing visions – be it of the gaze, the subject, history, society, origin or identity – and the imagination of alternative, shared and sharable futures. Panoramic futures, avowedly made up of moving fragments.

[1] See Ana Balona de Oliveira, ‘Os Hóspedes do Globo: (Des-)Mapeando a Memória da Cidade Vertical com a Horizontalidade do Corpo’, in Buala, 8 November 2016,; Ana Balona de Oliveira, ‘Globo Lodgers: (Un-)Mapping the Memory of the Vertical City with the Horizontality of the Body’, in Mónica de Miranda, Geography of Affections 2012-2016(Lisboa: Mónica de Miranda, 2017), pp. 111 – 123.

[2] The idea of the panorama had previously emerged in the work Panorama (2009), shot in Lisbon’s outskirts.

[3] See Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, trans. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980).

[4] See Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1991).

[5] See Stuart Hall, ‘Cultural Identity and Diaspora’, in Jonathan Rutherford, ed., Identity: Community, Culture, Difference (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990), pp. 222-37.

[6] See Édouard Glissant, The Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997); Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (London: Verso, 1993); James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass., London: Harvard University Press, 1997); Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1994).

[7] See Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2015); Jon Schubert, ‘2002, Year Zero: History as Anti-Politics in the “New Angola”’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 41, Nr. 4 (2015), pp. 835-53.

[8] Other events include the attack on the São Paulo Prison in Luanda on 4 February 1961, and the attacks on the coffee plantations in northern Angola led by UPA (União dos Povos de Angola, later known as FNLA, Frente Nacional para a Libertação de Angola) on 15 March 1961.

[9] MPLA refers to Movimento Popular para a Libertação de Angola; FNLA, to Frente Nacional para a Libertação de Angola; and UNITA, to União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola. Agostinho Neto was the leader of the MPLA between 1962 and 1979, and independent Angola’s first president. The MPLA was the Marxist-Leninist liberation movement which fought against Portuguese colonial rule beside the FNLA led by Holden Roberto and the UNITA led by Jonas Savimbi. It has been in power since independence. The Angolan civil war was a Cold War proxy conflict, having continued throughout the 1990s until Jonas Savimbi’s death in 2002.

[10] This was the area of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Ndongo was ruled by Ngola Kiluanji in the 16th century and his daughter Njinga Mbandi, Queen of Ndongo and Matamba in the 17th century, is still seen in present-day Angola as a symbol of resistance against Portuguese occupation. Her statue used to be located at the Kinaxixi Square in Luanda but is now placed at the entrance of the São Miguel Fortress, where the National Museum of Military History is housed.

[11] Waterfalls had previously been examined in Lost Paradise, a part of the Archipelago (2014) installation.

[12] Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn 1988), pp. 585.

[13] Ibid., p. 589.

[14] The notion of the fall had previously emerged in the work Falling (2013).

[15] In Field Work (2016), one could also see a Twin House. In Archipelago (2014), besides the young twins, there were also twin islands of sorts in the panoramic Island.

[16] Bernie Taupin, Elton John, Candle in the Wind, 1973.

[17] For an indoor image of the Hotel Panorama, see Ana Magalhães, Inês Gonçalves, Moderno Tropical: Arquitectura em Angola e Moçambique, 1948-1975(Lisboa: Tinta da China, 2009), p. 61. For a brief synopsis on the design, see ibid., p. 211.

[18] The new Luanda Botanical Gardens are going to be constructed on the hills sprawling across the Miramar, Boavista and Sambizanga neighbourhoods, with a privileged view of the bay. Boavista used to be the area of the Roque Santeiro market, one of the biggest open-air markets on the African continent, now dismantled. Sambizanga, a poor yet proud neighbourhood whose history is inseparable from that of the struggle against Portuguese colonialism, is going through demolitions. These two slum areas are located in the vicinity of the elite Miramar neighbourhood, and the changes they have been going through will entail a radical transformation of seaside northern Luanda.

[19] See Walter Fernandes, Miguel Hurst, Angola Cinemas: A Fiction of Freedom (Göttingen and Luanda: Steidl Verlag and Goethe Institut, 2015), p. 221.

Globo Lodgers:(Un-)Mapping the Memory of the Vertical City with the Horizontality of the Body1, text for Museu do Chiado exhibition, 2015

This essay examines the aesthetic, ethical and political relevance of the performative and portraiture-based quality of the video and photographic work by Monica de Miranda. I shall focus on the way in which bodies – notably the artist’s own body but also that of collaborators – inhabit porous spaces whether by moving or by standing still. Such spaces are opened up by the possibility of passage, both metaphorical and literal, contained in “windows”, “corridors”, “staircases” and “elevators”, between indoors and outdoors, between architecture and landscape, emotional as much as physical. The performances for the camera by Miranda make up visual and sound narratives, non-linear and of a contemplative nature, where memory and desire, autobiography and ction intertwine. In Hotel Globo (2014-2015), the diasporic lodgers of Miranda’s interstitial spaces are also passengers between the several times and historical moments of Luanda.The city’s increasing architectural verticality, appearing to contain a desire for the erasure of history and memory, is opposed by the horizontal lassitude not only of the “utopian” ships from the Cold War, half-sunk in the bay, but also of the bodies lying down in the rooms of the modernist hotel from the colonial period, where old forms of occupation gave way to a dynamic of artistic conviviality.

Miranda’s Hotel Globo is also, or even mostly, about that passage, intimately connected to the spatial and architectural, the temporal and historic, the identity-based and diasporic: the bodies’ performative passage through the affective and mnemonic, personal and political spaces of architecture and landscape. In their meditative and transitory dislocation, without possession or property, these bodies nonetheless re- appropriate space in a manner which is passive only in appearance; they undertake an active reinvention, even when languid, of dwelling. In this, they replicate the constant reinventions which the passage of several generations of guests through the Hotel Globo inscribed on the skin of its walls, on the skeleton of its oors and staircases, corridors and elevators, verandas and windows, and in the content of some of its rooms, abandoned by guests. From best hotel of the 1950s colonial Luanda and meeting point for businessmen coming from the provinces, to accommodation space for Soviet pilots managed by the estate company Anghotel in the post- independence period (marked by the beginning of the civil war in a Cold War context), and secret shelter of UNITA refugees in the beginning of the 1990s, the Globo was never really a touristic inn. Besides its foreign guests, it always received, for the most part, Angolans coming from the interior or the diaspora, like, for example, the anthropologist, writer, lmmaker and painter Ruy Duarte de Carvalho (1941-2010) after his move to Namibia in his last years, passages he recorded in watercolour. Almost always empty, it has recently become a meeting point for artists in downtown Luanda, an area undergoing erce gentri cation and in which the architectural heritage from several historical periods survives ever less to the growing tendency, inspired by models such as those of Singapore and Dubai, of high-rise luxury building.Some of these skyscrapers also remain empty, but for being too expensive to be bought and inhabited, while others, like new ruins alongside the old, are simply left un nished for lack of funds. These changes have been examined by several Angolan artists besides Miranda, such as Kiluanji Kia Henda, Délio Jasse, Edson Chagas and Angel Lhosvanny Cisneros.

The Globo’s reinventions across its many decades – during which it became a witness to, and an ever more isolated survivor of the major political, social, economic, cultural and urban changes of the country and Luanda – is evoked in Miranda’s installation through the oral testimony of Mário de Almeida. Almeida is a descendant of the hotel’s current owners, his father and uncles, and of the rst proprietor, his grandfather Francisco Martins de Almeida. Francisco was a Portuguese medical doctor from Beira Alta who settled in Gabela in southern Kwanza, where he married Mahinda, a soba’s daughter named Francisca Pereira after marriage. Extracted from an interview by Miranda so that only Almeida’s voice is audible and accompanying the installation’s video component, his testimony recounts histories from the colonial period, the post-independence, the long civil war (during and after the Cold War) and the post-war, drawing from his own experiences and those of relatives, guests and workers. Hotel Globo also includes eighteen acrylics of the original blueprints of the hotel’s renovation project, designed in the 1990s by the architect Carlos Penim Loureiro at Almeida’s invitation, but never built for lack of nancial and institutional support.4

The protagonist couple of Hotel Globo’s video – the artist herself and a friend collaborator – evokes vaguely the couple behind the building’s construction. Their bodies do not cross paths inside the 1950s modernist architecture – neither in each of the projections that make up the video diptych, nor in the visual encounter that the double projection could prompt on the gallery wall – except for a moment in the beginning of the video when the female face, on one side, and the male body, on the other, emerge simultaneously but no less isolated, phantasmatically re ected on windowpanes. Just like the Globo itself, bodies still waiting or already apart. Witnesses to Luanda’s contrasts, alien and frozen in time (to use the phrase with which Almeida describes the Globo in his account), these guests of history and memory become loose characters of a ctional narrative, resistantly horizontal visitors even when they move vertically, who try to map in vain the contradictions of an almost unrecognizable city through the modernist lenses of the Globo’s verandas and windows. They cartograph Luanda’s urban landscape with their gaze, but always from the very activity of mapping with their own bodies the interior architecture of the hotel, slowly walked across and inhabited, from dawn to dusk, from the intimacy of the room to the panoramic view of the veranda on the upper oor. The resulting map or cartography makes up a rhythmic collection of visual and auditory fragments shown in a diptych format. This double projection, in itself already fragmented and fragmentary, is marked by constant passages between visibility and invisibility (including moments of partial and total black-out) and by connections and disconnections between the two sequences of screened images. These seem to replicate the encounters and misencounters unfolding in the loose narrative, for whose ethics and politics the projection’s interstitial and liminal aesthetics thus contributes. In the performative rhythm of their halting, walking and looking, the bodies of Hotel Globo produce a geography that is personal as much as social, psychic as much as political, in line with the diverse writings of Guy Debord, Michel de Certeau, Henri Lefebvre, and Judith Butler.These bodies invert the ânerie theorized by Benjamin, for the capitalist modernity of the city is observed from the interior of the building instead of the street and arcade, through windows rather than vitrines.The focus on space from the subjective interiority of memory and desire also calls to mind Gaston Bachelard’s poetics of space, and the idea of looking at an always simultaneously interior and exterior space from the physical and psychic body, an always bodily and situated gaze, evokes Donna Haraway’s “situated knowledges” – fundamental feminist contribution – more than Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological lessons.Haraway writes:

One cannot relocate in any possible vantage point without being accountable for that movement. Vision is always a question of the power to see – and perhaps of the violence implicit in our visualizing practices … I am arguing for the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structured and structuring body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simpli cation.8

These are bodies that traverse space with the gaze, but implicating themselves precariously, transitorily, with no pretension of territorial conquest and occupation, or epistemological totalization in the manner of certain Enlightenment empiricisms and rationalisms. The resulting map or cartography can only constitute itself, then, as a kind of un-mapping or un-cartographing, a reshuf ing of the city’s current coordinates from the three storeys of the Globo, from the several layers of history and memory – collective and individual; colonial, anti-colonial, post-colonial, post-Marxist and post-civil war – that they “lodge” and that Almeida’s oral narration, contiguous to the video installation, summons continuously. This un-mapping can only be fully understood also from the perspective of the desire for the inscription of memory in the present and for the future that the never built renovation project, positioned next to the video, evokes. The way in which Globo’s isolated lodgers inhabit it – bodily, psychic, horizontal, both when they lie down and when they walk along the corridors – turns them into a metaphor of the building itself: isolated in the city centre; island surrounded by cranes and concrete; decadent oasis, but communal and alive; suspended in time, but pulsating; phantasmatic re ection emerging in the glass panes of the surrounding skyscrapers’ mirrored surfaces that came to characterize Luanda’s downtown and bay.

Not only Hotel Globo, but also, for example, Once Upon a Time (2012), An Ocean Between Us (2012), Erosion (2013), Archipelago (2014) and Field Work (2016), as well as previous works by Miranda, and even her work as researcher and educator (always connected with the artistic), claims ethico-politically for a historically conscious, socially egalitarian and multicultural relationship (in its most complex sense) of individuals and communities in space.Despite claiming for this relationship through different visual strategies in her practice, these always seem to involve an aesthetics of body positioning and movement in urban, architectural and domestic spaces and landscapes, from which the artist does not subtract herself. On the contrary, she usually operates through the inscription of her own bodily subjectivity in the spaces she examines. In one way or another, these spaces always belong to a personal cartography punctuated by the artist’s several affective and emotional geographies. These are diasporic and Atlantic and include notably, though not exclusively, Portugal and Angola.10

In fact, some of Hotel Globo’s images had already appeared in that major project – Once Upon a Time – of which this and other works constitute chapters. Once Upon a Time was shown at Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa in Lisbon from the end of 2012 to the beginning of 2013. It also unfolded in the routes contained by both An Ocean Between Us, exhibited at Plataforma Revólver (Lisbon), and Erosion, shown at Appleton Square (Lisbon). Filmed between Lisbon, Mindelo, Rio de Janeiro, London and Luanda, Once Upon a Time is described by Miranda as a “travel diary” and a “tale of stories of misencounters, desires and memories”.11 In this work, the artist examines the notions of home, origin, root and belonging as passage, route and journey, as multiple and transitory paths, as a hybrid condition of “in-betweenness”, “unhomeliness” and “unbelonging” arising from the diasporic experience. This condition is neither fetishized nor exoticized, but lived through and, therefore, problematized and endlessly negotiated, in line with the theories of Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha and James Clifford, among others.12 Hall warned us of the danger of de-politicization at work in the post-modernist rei cation and commoditization of identities.13 He was referring to a certain post-modernism, close to what Hal foster called a post-modernism of reaction, as opposed to a post-modernism of resistance.14 Hall urged us to resist such a danger by claiming for a notion of identity as positioning, as multiple simultaneous positionings that, always contingent, to be sure, halt here and there the potentially interminable deferral of meaning proper to the semiotic game in order to acquire a meaning, an agency, a politics.15 Likewise, the passages that are always detectable in Miranda’s visual and sound archives, in her affective archaeologies and cartographies, take place in various shifting zones

11 Mónica de Miranda, “Once Upon a Time and An Ocean Between Us”, in Re-Viewing Empires and Their Fantasy Objects, programme, non-numerated page.12 See Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, in Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, ed. Jonathan Rutherford (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990), pp. 222-237; Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1994); Avtar Brah, Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (London: Routledge, 1996); James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass., London: Harvard University Press, 1997).

13 Hall, “What is this ‘black’ in black popular culture?”, pp. 104-114; Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, pp. 222-237.14 Hal Foster, “Postmodernism: A Preface”, in Hal Foster (Ed.), The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (Port Townsend, Wash.: Bay Press, 1983), pp. ix-xvi; Hal Foster, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (Seattle: Bay Press, 1985).15 Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, pp. 229-230.(Seattle: Bay Press, 1985).


of contact and border-crossing – ports, airports, roads, ships, oceans, islands, archipelagos, cities, buildings, hotel rooms; indoors and outdoors – without getting lost in inde nability, the endless deferral of meaning or unlimited semiosis.16 These contact zones are home; never permanent and natural, always contingent and arbitrary, an “endless, ever un nished conversation”, physical and psychic transit – but, nonetheless, home.17

In the meantime, Hotel Globo did its own course. It is marked by the theme of the curatorial project in whose context it gained a life of its own. Together with video works by other artists from Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Portugal, it was commissioned for the exhibition Ilha de São Jorge, with which Beyond Entropy participated in the 14th Architecture Venice Biennale in 2014. The Biennale was devoted to the general theme Absorbing Modernity, 1914-2014, proposed by the curator Rem Koolhass. In disparate ways, all the videos looked at the manner in which architectural modernity was “conceived, developed, built, dwelled, absorbed, rejected” in these ve Portuguese- speaking African countries.18 So, in Hotel Globo, the theme of the origin as route, the home as journey and identity as diasporic hybridity also emerges as a re ection on architecture, the history and memory of architectural modernism, the way in which it crossed oceans to impose itself colonially on African territories, and how it was re-appropriated, reinvented and

16 On the notion of unlimited semiosis, see for example Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss and Arthur W. Burks, 8 vol. (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1931-1966).17 On the notion of contact zone, see Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (Routledge: London, 1992). The notion of cultural identity as a kind of “un nished conversation” is Stuart Hall’s (see John Akomfrah, The Un nished Conversation, 2012, video installation, and John Akomfrah, The Stuart Hall Project, 2013, 98 min., UK).18 Vaz Milheiro, Serventi, Nascimento (Eds.), Ilha de São Jorge, p. 7.

Geography of Affections


Mónica de Miranda

subverted by the speci city of these contexts both in the colonial and post-independence period.

In the bodily spectrality, performatively wandering, of Globo’s horizontal lodgers, and in the horizontality of the ships forgotten on the bay with which the video opens (already seen in communion with the horizontality of the body on the landscape in Erosion [2013] and Falling [2013]), we thus nd an ethico-political work of memory. Without forgetting the violence of the past and without losing sight of the ways in which imperial ruinations – both economic and social, in line with Ann Stoler – persist in the landscape of the post-colony open to global capitalism, this work of memory calls for the critical examination of the present and the active imagination of alternative futures.19

As Jacques Derrida noted in the context not only of his elaborations on the notion of “hauntology”, but also of what he termed “spectropoetics” – which, in line with Jacques Rancière, can only constitute itself as a politics,20 a spectropolitics – one of the ethico-political tasks of the present is precisely to learn to live more justly, which here, for Derrida, means “to learn to live with ghosts, in the upkeep, the conversation, the company, or the companionship, in the commerce without commerce of ghosts”.21 He adds: “this being-with specters would also be, not only but also, a politics of memory, of inheritance, and of generations”.22 He, who obsessively chased

19 Ann Stoler (Ed.), Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2013); Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2001); Achille Mbembe, Sortir de la grande nuit: essai sur l’Afrique décolonisée (Paris: Découverte, 2010).20 Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (London: Continuum, 2004).

21 Jacques Derrida, The Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Routledge/Kindle Edition, 1994), exordium.22 Ibid


etymological spectres, in a kind of poetics of spectres and politics of memory, inheritance and generations also in terms of language as writing, difference and deferral,23 also called our attention to the fact that specters belong, just like us, spectators, to the frequency of a certain visibility – in the case of the specter, the visibility of the invisible – and that the screen “always has, at bottom, in the bottom or background that it is, a structure of disappearing apparition”.24

It is precisely this fragmentary structure of disappearing apparition but apparition nonetheless – in line with George Didi-Huberman’s notion of surviving images and images “in spite of all”,25 and Hall’s warnings against meaning’s endless deferral and the need for a politics of identity and representation –26 that is possible to detect in the bodily, architectural, urban and maritime surfaces of Hotel Globo’s screens. Resisting historical amnesia and the concomitant architectural erasure, Miranda expresses, by means of images, the desire for historically conscious, communal and creative forms of occupying and producing space. Regarding both Miranda’s work and the building inspiring it, Hotel Globo could be said to harbour in its very name the potential for an open and universalizing hospitality – the utopia, perhaps, of an alternative experience of globality.

This essay was originally written for a lecture presented on 22 July 2015 at MNAC-Museu do Chiado in Lisbon. With the phrase “Globo Lodgers”, I am making an indirect reference to Night Lodgers (2007), the title of the documentary by Licínio Azevedo on the residents of the modernist Grande Hotel in Beira in Mozambique.* FCT Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Lisbon (CEC-FLUL), New University of Lisbon (IHA-FCSH-NOVA).

The rst version of Hotel Globo was commissioned in 2014 for the collective exhibition Ilha de São Jorge, curated by Beyond Entropy for the 14th Architecture Venice Biennale. The second version was produced in 2015 for the solo exhibition Hotel Globo at MNAC-Museu do Chiado, for which Miranda was nominated for the Novo Banco Photo award in 2016 (see Ana Vaz Milheiro, Stefano Serventi, Paula Nascimento [Eds.], Ilha de São Jorge – Objects, Buildings, Cities, Landscape and Visions [London: Beyond Entropy Ltd., 2014]; Mónica de Miranda, Hotel Globo [exh. cat.] [Lisbon: MNAC-Museu do Chiado, 2015]; Novo Banco Photo 2016 – Félix Mula, Mónica de Miranda, Pauliana Valente Pimentel [exh. cat.] [Lisbon: Museu Coleção Berardo, 2016]). Hotel Globo’s video and sound components were exhibited in the group show Uma Delicada Zona de Compromisso, devoted to Ruy Duarte de Carvalho (10 December – 7 February 2016, Galeria Quadrum, Lisbon). The solo show Hotel Globo # 2, which took place from 12 November to 11 December 2016 at Espaço Espelho d’Água in Lisbon, included a new photographic series.

Some of the building projects in Luanda’s downtown and waterfront have involved the demolition of slums and the forced removal of their inhabitants to the peripheries. See Jon Schubert, “2002, Year Zero: History as Anti- Politics in the ‘New Angola’”, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 41, No. 4 (2015), pp. 835-853; Rui Soares de Oliveira, Magni cent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War (London: C. Hurst & Co, 2015).

In the work Home Sweet Sour Home (2012), Miranda had already made use of blueprints as a kind of archive. In this case, the blueprints of several houses where the artist had lived were redrawn from memory.

Henri Lefebvre, Henri Lefebvre: Key Writings, ed. Stuart Elden, Elizabeth Lebas, Eleonore Kofman (New York, London: Continuum, 2003); Guy Debord, The Society of Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994); Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1988); Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997); Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York and London: Routledge, 1999).

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Mass. And London: Belknap Press, 1999).Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston, MA.: Beacon Press, 1994); Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn 1988), pp. 575-599; Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Donald A. Landes (London: Routledge, 2012).

Haraway, “Situated Knowledges”, pp. 585, 589.

For a complex view of the notion of cultural identity in the British context, see for example Stuart Hall, “What is this ‘black’ in black popular culture? (Rethinking Race)”, Social Justice, Vol. 20, No. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 1993), pp. 104-114.10 Miranda was born in Portugal in 1976 to an Angolan mother and a Portuguese father who left Angola upon independence in 1975.

23 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976); Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference (London and New York: Routledge, 2001).24 Derrida, The Specters of Marx, p. 125.25 Georges Didi-Huberman, L’Image survivante: Histoire de l’art et temps des fantômes selon Aby Warburg (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 2002); Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

26 Hall draws from Derrida’s notion of différance, but only to the extent that it does not culminate in a depoliticizing “celebration of formal ‘playfulness’”, and retains the Derridian notion of trace precisely for pointing towards the idea of an incessant deferral of meaning which, however, keeps traces of previous meanings (Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, pp. 229).

Future Horizon(s): Text from catalogue Novo Banco Photo, May 2016

by Gabriela Salgado

We have known an abundance of metaphors connected to travel, such as images of ships, the coastline landscape and the sea, nature and unidentified buildings in Mónica de Miranda’s photographs and films. These evanescent stages are at times inhabited by two figures – a man and a woman – who appear occupied with a pursue of something located elsewhere, outside of the realm defined by the image. An acute sense of impermanence is suggested by the shifting of places, moods, countries and landscapes, and permeates de images with deep nostalgic overtones. Such is the case of her series entitled ‘Once Upon a Time’ (2013), which are conceptually articulated as a travel diary, a patchwork of memories, desires, projected homes and imagined communities in flux that trigger personal catharsis.

If we take Edouard Glissant’s work ‘Poetics of Relation’ published in 1990 as point of departure for an analysis of belonging and territory, we are faced with a deconstruction of the self, where journeys and ‘errantry’ come into play.
More significantly, Glissant invites us to view identity as a rhizome, which can no longer be defined as fixed roots, legacies and places, but as a product of their interrelations. Thus the author regards ancient myth, religious texts and other foundational articulations of western culture as narratives of people without roots. From Homer’s Odyssey to a number of biblical tales, displaced communities and individual travellers accounts, histories of diaspora are woven in our human consciousness as a seamless and assiduous pattern. But let us examine the notion of diaspora, which refers to a dispersion of people away from the area in which they and their ancestors have lived, in light of Mónica de Miranda’s artistic practice.

Following the implicit logic of body politics and in contrast with geopolitics – which focuses on the link between power and geographical space – Mónica de Miranda locates her subject of study in a fluid subjectivity that exists in virtue of its affinity with others. In this unstable territory, home becomes a shifting paradigm where the journey of the self is essentially a constant attempt to belong to a community of shared meaning. Surpassing the limitations of identity politics, the artist’s entire art production becomes an exercise in emotional geography.
In her series ‘Once Upon a Time’ (2012) home is a territory delimited by the body, and as such, it was graphically depicted in the text- based work Come home to the place you never left which functioned as an epigraph to her epic travel ‘novella’ in chapters, the video triptych Once Upon a Time. A compelling example of the artist’s attempt to re enact geography, the triptych offered a rich panoply of fragmentary imagery collected during the artist’s transits through three continents. With these series, she performed an unpredictable card game of sorts, where she shuffled places with which she has emotional ties – Luanda, Rio de Janeiro, Mindelo, Lisbon and London, and merged them in a single narrative. The ‘relational identity’ of the characters – to employ Glissant’s thinking – is linked to the experience of contacts among cultures and not to a singular sense of filiation and belonging that is rooted in one place. Here is where travel is summoned: the second chapter of the journey that is Once Upon a Time is fruit of the artist’s proximity to the fluvial port of the Tejo river in Lisbon. In the video diptych An Ocean between Us, the fluvial port and a stationary cargo ship become the stage for imagined transits: as a passage between worlds, the liner evokes the journeys that connected the continents through the big waters, providing a ground for the encounter of people and for the expansion of trade. Conceived as a set of light boxes and a video projection An Ocean Between Us dealt with spatial ambiguity: we see ships as symbolic umbilical cords that unite stranded parts: an ocean and a river, a lost love, and the promise of a re encounter become elements of a catharsis.
In her recent video Hotel Globo (2015) the artist invites us to immerse ourselves in a singular place, a building that can be interpreted as a still vessel anchored in the city of Luanda: the Hotel Globo. Built in 1950 by émigré Portuguese doctor Francisco Martins de Almeida on the site of his medical clinic, after settling in the prosperous city of Gabela, in the province of Kwanza Sul, legendary for its alleged production of the best coffee in the world. Conceptually, the derelict hotel stands as a symbolic enclave of recent Angolan history, as its fabric contains imprints of colonial Lusophone Africa and its aftermath. The fragmentary narrative of the film is displayed in the artist’s signature diptych format, where a silent couple inhabits rooms that equally served as places of passage to traders from the countryside, or nests for romantic encounters, but also as refuge to militias during the civil war. Significantly, Angola’s twenty seven year-long armed conflict became one of the hardest collateral effects of the Cold War in the confines of the old colonies: a surrogate battleground for imperial confrontation where human lives ostensibly came at a lower cost.
The couple’s nonchalant wandering through the hotel facilities seems to wake up ghosts as it rehearses an indefinite personal drama in the decaying modernist atmosphere of the building, which stands in permanent need of restoration. In this work, as in Mónica de Miranda’s previous films, there is a stasis, a sense of immobility that refers as much to still photography as to a philosophical position in regards to the subject matter: relations are as impenetrable as the nature of the locations in which they dwell. A metaphor for the social and economic wreck brought by the furious neoliberal impulse of Angola’s real state speculation that is deforming Luanda, the building, according to his present owner, stands in a timeless zone, stuck between a promising past and an inevitable demolition.
Also in connection with the idea of dereliction and speculation, her series ‘Archipelago’ (2014) are not only pertinent for their examination of the topics of exoticism and power, but also for the nostalgia of autonomous and uncorrupted nature typical of the era of the Anthropocene, furthermore entangled with personal and collective memories.

In light of de global threat on the environment, and as a way to reconfigure the archive of Lusophone diasporic communities poetically, the artist is engaging in a new body of work, which draws from post-archival practices placing nature at the centre. In this new work, the very ontology of photography will be addressed in the form of multimedia installations, as its subjective authority will be replaced by multiple perspectives of the image, by means of the fragmentation of photographs – as she did previously with her works Erosion (2012) and Island (2014). Here, the archive will be ‘displaced’ to make visible the histories of migrant communities and their interconnectedness with places of origin.
As Glissant did with his literary work, perhaps the artist’s new vision is to draw from the unconscious of people to provide a memory capable of transcending non-history.
In doing so, the image will seek to articulate itself as a fruitful sum of future horizons.

Transatlantic connections: seas, memories and places in the work of Monica de Miranda

If I study, I seek only the learning that treats of the knowledge of myself

Michel de Montaigne

During the period between the years 1605 and 1609 the number of geographical publications in Europe grew exponentially to reach the same figure as all the books published since printing began in 1550. This phenomenon was directly linked to the enormous impact that colonial expansion was having on the minds of Europeans. Books relaying the voyages of discovery, with their depictions of unknown territories and the magical presence of ‘other’ cultures, became favourite reading material. The civilisation that invaded Latin America at the turn of the 16th century was dancing to the rhythm of the creative explosion known as the Renaissance. In that light, America appeared to be, according to Eduardo Galeano, ‘one more invention, incorporated alongside gunpowder, the printing press, paper and the compass, to the imminent birth of the Modern Age’ .

In the context of colonial expansion and the birth of capitalism, travel was a vehicle to connect economic and political interests to natural and human resources. As much a reflection on those impulses as an expression of the interconnectedness proposed by globalisation,  a considerable number of artists articulate travel, migration and displacement as the conceptual armature of their work.

Travel in Monica de Miranda’s imagery becomes a metaphor for what Walter Mignolo calls ‘the colonial wound’: as a way to explore her multiple movements and those of her family through places linked by a common colonial matrix she builds her own emotional map in a variety of mediums. It could be argued that the stations chosen for her transit suggest a reflection on decolonization that in the Zapatistas’ terms would carry us towards a world that would fit many worlds: a proposal for a pluriversal -as in opposition to uni-versal – reading of reality.

Following the implicit logic of body politics and in contrast with geopolitics – which focus on the link between power and space – the artist locates the subject of study in the individual. In this territory of subjectivity, home becomes a shifting paradigm where the journey of the self is essentially a constant attempt to belong. Surpassing the limitations of identity politics, Monica de Miranda’s entire art production becomes an exercise in emotional geography.

Home as a territory delimited by the body is graphically depicted in the text-based work Come home to the place you never left, presented in Carpe Diem as a prologue to her epic travel ‘novel’ in chapters, the video triptych Once upon a Time. The most compelling example of the attempt to re enact geography, the triptych offers a rich panoply of fragmentary imagery collected during the artist’s transits through three continents. The video weaves a complex story where fictional and real places intersect personal spaces of memory and longing to build a non linear narrative.

Having resorted to maps in previous bodies of work, as in Where u From? of 2007, Monica de Miranda’s latest production reaches the poetic climax of the unsaid by shuffling places with which she has emotional ties – Luanda, Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Mindelo –  as in an unpredictable card game.

In another work in the exhibition, Home sweet sour house, the artist employs drawing to create a series of memory renderings of all the houses she has inhabited in her life. From the imprecise contours of childhood homes to her current domicile, the descriptive exercise is interrupted by the passing of time, whereas broken by conflict, exile or migrations and unsettled by the ambiguity of feeling. The result is a codified language in need of translation. Later interpreted by an architect into technical renderings, the hand drawings became pristine plates showing sensible layouts that nonetheless retain the personal features brought back from memory: rooms of uncertain proportions encapsulate the names of people who occupied them. Home sweet sour house is, once again, a repository of memory, a personal archive made of expressive calligraphies that reconstruct space from oral tradition. Orality is in this case connected with motherhood. Through interspersed images of a mother and her daughter it presents a connection as deep as the large sea that the self needs to find its bearings. This link of motherhood and the ocean and rivers is evocative of the female figures of syncretism Yemanjá and Oxum, mothers of the waters and wombs of history. The video lyrically describes loss and the pain of separation by means of oral knowledge, building a thread passed from generation to generation in a landscape of broken ancestries, where continuity rests only in blood vessels.

The second chapter of the journey that is Once upon a Time which is presented at Plataforma Revolver in Transboavista has been made possible by the artists proximity to the fluvial port of the Tejo river in Lisbon. In the video diptych An Ocean between Us, the fluvial port and a stationary cargo ship become the stage for metaphorical transits: as a passage between worlds, the liner evokes the journeys that connected the continents through the big waters, providing a ground for the encounter of cultures, the expansion of trade, and also for the inception of slavery. Conceived as a set of light boxes and a video projection An Ocean between Us deals in spatial ambiguity with melancholic undertones.

Ships for maritime travel become stages where symbolic umbilical cords unite the lost parts: an ocean and a river, a mother and a daughter, a lost love, and the promise of a re encounter are the elements of a catharsis. The various chapters of this travelling exhibition aspire to present an archaeology of the self through passages and landscapes. In it, travel becomes a vehicle of knowledge, where representation can never be trusted as the depictions of places reside within the realm of the unconscious, and memories are the tools for an exercise of healing the personal – and colonial – wound.

Gabriela Salgado


London, September 2012

Symbolic Geography

by  Emilia Tavares, 2015

Exhibition at Museu Chiado, 2015

Mónica de Miranda’s early pieces and artistic career have been largely based on a discourse that focuses on “contact” between cultures, whereby she takes a critical look at the issues of alterity and “personal geography and urban archaeology,” as she states on her website.1

Using a range of media, from photography, video and installation to sculpture, the artist often uses herself as a fundamental axis in her art, immersing herself in ongoing biographical research that brings together memories, passed-down stories, shared realities, historical facts, theoretical context and fait-divers. Despite the many facets of her work, it cannot be reduced to a mere treatment of the diaspora or multiculturalism, a concept whose legitimacy and historical sense appears to be increasingly contaminated by political and economic manipulation. As has been argued by some theorists and activists, from Okwui Enwezor to Paul Gilroy, multiculturalism should be replaced by an approach to cultural models that is based on “renegotiation”, rejecting any “rei cation, the ideology that espouses the naturalisation of the Other’s culture”2.

As Inocência Mata writes, “from the early 1990s in Portugal, people began to look at things with ‘multicultural eyes’, eschewing the tendency towards homogenisation that was the legacy of the colonial ideology promoted by the Estado Novo. However, the perception and acceptance of the other as a different ethno-cultural entity that forms part of the nation’s body is still a nascent (and recent) phenomenon. Initially this happened through an ostensible (and mostly negative) discourse about the other (…)”3. In spite of this, it opened the way for “a rst step towards – !aboutBourriau, Nicolas – Radicant – Pour une esthéthique de la globalisation. Lonrai: Denoel, 2009, p. 192.Mata, Inocência – “Estranhos em Permanência: A Negociação da Identidade Portuguesa na Pós-Colonialidade” in Manuela Ribeiro Sanches (org.) – Portugal não é um País Pequeno – contar o império na pós-colonialidade. Lisbon: CECULL/ Cotovia, 2006, p. 295.

Geography of Affections


Mónica de Miranda

the recognition of the existence of the other, (…)” which also meant “that this rst step ended – and often still ends – with the labelling of folkloric aspects that mark out global objects and current practices, thus pushing the culture of these communities towards the margins of society.”4

The work of Mónica de Miranda is based in a territory where history and the collective and individual memory are constantly ctionalised, allowing it to assume different cultural modes, deconstructing the classi cation of otherness through a critical look at multiculturalism, and posing frank questions about the sensitive realities that the artist is investigating – in this case, the situation in Angola. The inclusion of a critical and diachronic look at the reality of colonised countries in her work, in particular in her coverage of the Hotel Globo, promotes “the inherently re ective construction of an ambivalent relationship.”

The video piece Hotel Globo, in a version especially edited and produced for this exhibition5, once again positions the work of Mónica de Miranda within an emotional geographical space, as in her earlier works Erosion (2013) and An Ocean Between Us (2012). The lm is complemented by a sound piece – an interview with Mário de Almeida, the son of the hotel’s owner – and a series of architectural plans for the restoration of the building, drawn up in the 1990s.

The Hotel Globo is a key building in Luanda’s history, having been constructed in 1950 by Portuguese doctor Francisco Martins de Almeida, in collaboration with the businessman Joaquim de Almeida. At the time it was considered to be one of the city’s best hotels, located in the Ingombotas district at the heart of the city.

Inocência Mata – Ibidem.The original video was created for the project Ilha de São Jorge, presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2014.


The hotel has survived to this day in one of the cosmopolitan districts of the city that have been heavily subject to the recent wave of real estate speculation, and this issue forms the basis for the artist’s narrative, which features images of the urban landscape, the port of Luanda and examples of the expansion in the city, with all its inherent contradictions.

Mónica de Miranda often places herself at the centre of the narrative for her projects, producing a performative work that adds meaning to the role that she plays in different works. In Hotel Globo, the realm of ction also provides the structure for the project, making reference to broader themes in Western visual culture. The appendages of exoticism and cultural paradox are represented by a couple who “live” in the hotel in an erratic and fragmented fashion.

This ctional couple is a reference to the couple behind the construction of the hotel, which made them key gures in the city’s past: the Portuguese doctor who travelled to Africa and met an African woman, Mahinda, the daughter of a chief, marrying her and thus taking on all of the imagery of miscegenation and its cultural consequences. Mónica de Miranda does not reject stories of an idyll, but rather uses each detail about people’s experiences of the hotel, past and present, to highlight certain differences, the paradoxical nature of history and its apparent symbolic mutability.

The lm takes the form of a diptych, a structure that underlines the idea of a paradox, room for contradiction, the mutability of memory and historical constructions. The familiar tension between interior and exterior is tackled with frequent backlit shots, with the characters placed in a borderline positions, gures from the past facing a present clouded by fading memories of their geographical past.

The interior space that the lm shows is on the borderline between modernist construction and the bourgeois notion of “a harmonious and

Geography of Affections


Mónica de Miranda

comfortable interior”, ensuring that “our imagination can embrace exotic and historical worlds”6, and reveals the decadence of the bourgeois illusion through the use of a space, within a colonial context, which at times breaks away from the modernist view of the interior as a space that should be considered as a whole.

The hotel ended up as lodging for Angolans mainly, and guests often stayed there long-term or due to adverse political circumstances, such as when it served as a haven for UNITA political refugees during the civil war. The modernist style of this building, like many others, was ultimately rooted in its local environment, which allowed it to provide a home to people outside the colonial control of public space.

An attempt to have the building restored by an architect in the 1990s failed due to political reasons and a lack of interest from banks and other institutions. Mónica de Miranda saw this as an opportunity to fashion this slice of Angolan society and culture into a world of made-up possibilities, which can be seen in the collection of architectural plans presented at the installation as a mirror of the lm. Today these plans are nothing more than traces, the remains of a symbolic promise to rescue the building from the ravages of time, and a desire to view the constructed space as a source of differentiation, not homogenisation, for ways of living and our memory of them.

The use of this space, built in the context of a modernist architectural culture under colonial rule, with all of the attendant features, represented an enclave for a certain type of community life within the contemporary landscape of Luanda. The memory of this is looking increasingly threatened by major nancial speculation within the urban area. When we look outside the hotel, which preserves its symbolic function and retains the objects

Mitwon Kwon – “Flânerie d’intérieur” in Renée Green (org.) – op. cit., p. 113.


left by its former inhabitants, the landscape either appears nocturnal or shrouded in the ruins of the past or is presented as an anodyne promise, robbed of its character, as is typical of globalised development.

Hotel Globo reiterates the need to preserve places as symbols of the construction of the collective memory, emptied out of ideological discourse for the creation of this memory, but as micro-histories of emotional geography, playing an essential role in setting each city and its history apart. This work also stresses the urgent need to rethink models of development, and for such models to be courageous in addressing their relationship with the past.

Geography of Affections

Visual geography and recording Europe

by Shaheen Merali

The use of visual geography within the visual arts has a long and discerning history. Initiated and operating in the tradition of European exploration and research, visual geography represented the results of habitually institutionalised fieldwork by the use of paintings, photographs, drawing, prints, sculpture and other forms of the visual arts. The symbolic value of representation through the visual arts provided a system of cross-reference often of previously unrecorded subjects and subjectivities that had remained localised and widely unknown in the old world1. Prior to the expeditions from predominantly the western world, the circulation of this specialised form of the visual arts through print and publication allowed a mapping of the world according to their research and studies; a form of mnemonic system of patterns and images that accompanied ideas or associations which would assist in articulating a new world outside of the European project and subject.

The circulation of visual geography within the artworld and its institutions including museums, auction houses and collections as well as its presence in educational establishments and societies provided, and continues to stipulate within the contemporary, the accented history of development versus underdevelopment. This binary polarisation justified action around difference and its suppositions with a dualism that accommodated the ruthless power struggles resulting from colonial imposition and continuing within cultural and intellectual postcolonial struggles.

The early work by the artist and researcher, Monica de Miranda, between the years 2007-9, is based on the evaluation of her personal understanding of geographical accounts, within an urban archaeology that becomes despondently centralised in her later videoworks; An Ocean between usErosion and Once upon a time (2010-15) and the photographic works Archipelego, Line trap and Airport. The seminal work Black House (2009), part of the Black Flags series, acts as a middle passage to her practice. Black House is a barren, permeable structure of a small hut or shed like construction, sparsely erected from black fabric over a metal and wire frame. Barrenly lit, the sculpture is an overwhelmingly eerie experience of an indoor space suggesting a transitory dwelling rather than one that proposes any robust sense of belonging.

Black House, like many of her early projects, often engaged in rethinking urban life, and reimagining and reanimating the infrastructure in their experimental use of materials and formats which included screenprinting onto coloured fabrics, sporting objects covered in sequins and the use of text to drive the context of her insights. Since 2009, de Miranda’s oeuvre has gradually traded the explorations in sculptural forms for a confidence in lens-based articulations, of multiple projections, duratran lightbox and panoramic prints. This shift in the later works allowed de Miranda to open her gaze to geographies on the move; people, places and architecture in a restless poetry that retains factors including a feeling of greater voyeurism and surveillance, providing ample meaning beyond the preceding works’ polemic and redemptive states.

The recent work is effective in its suggestive abilities of urban malfeasance, often emotive and remotely sited narratives unsettled between a polyphony of systems and supporting networks of departure, transition and arrival. The photographic and videoworks explore the cruelty of fate, the remainders for the constrained within the messianic power of cities and states. Similar to the visual propositions of the Canadian artist Stan Douglas and the Algerian born, British based photographer Zineb Sedira; de Miranda examines the physical manifestations and the interweaving threads of culture, power, politics and histories. Her subjects, when present, remain weary for each thing that has changed, often looking outward from the safety of venetian blinds in a state of examination, half occluding their identities with hands and hats.

References to the colonial past remain fashioned; the subjects as characters wear white clothes, a necessary accoutrement in the humid tropicality of the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Erosion series (2012), de Miranda returns to visual geography in a contemporary fusion of two images, the high rise and the seashore, as the emblematic collision of progress and nature. The eroding hulk of a beached cargo ship no longer remains useful, its reason or presence discarded, through which de Miranda accentuates the malaise and deathliness for the places and lives it had destroyed for its treasonous cargo.

de Miranda, continually offers figurative details in her works, suggestive elements, often eroded from multiple usage and the climate they traverse, to suggest as she does so cryptically, “Come here to the place you have never left” as a central text in her installation Once upon a time. de Miranda suggests a dueling tryst that it is probable in that we never really leave a place in the same way that places never leave us. She repeatedly suggests in these figurative details that we do not know who are all these protagonists. How is the urban advocating a particular cause or idea of the constant flow of people, when the settled lens should make comprehensive the roots of trade and commodities.

In Back Pack Paradise, Biting NailsRoad Lines and Where r u from? maps and places, names of cities and states persist as part of the body, as a grafted nationhood, correlating global travel with the rise in graffiti and tattoo subcultures. In Road Lines, the palms are presented as maps of places and travel, forced by cheap deals. In Biting Nails, the video focuses on a single character of a woman, whose nails are ‘painted’ with flags from different countries, gradually she bites her nails, violently tearing these boundary markers from herself. The transitory metaphor of flight and loss is highlighted in the acerbic text “I am not really there or here” on one of four screen-printed Black Flags series (2010). In the 2009 installation Battle of Europe, much the same notion was implied by presenting 11 EU Blue boxing punchbags, hung in a tight circle that contained the viewer more within its broader circle of influence rather than allowing the Schengen experience of borderlessness.

Staging and conceptualising the crisis for postcolonial internationalism and multiculturality, de Miranda explores its implausibility, the detente history that affects the ex-colonies and colonial subjectivities in a globalised world that has recanted its debts and is currently whirling to new economic instructions. Her work Changing Hats suggests such a lack of balance and the buffoon as the new subjectivity is explored in Remain to stay…. Forever.

de Miranda’s graphic yet uncompromised visual responses to the European Union competes with the collective nightmares from historic and geographical colonial haunting. Side by side they twitch as an ugly unconscious mechanism of denial that repudiates the interdependent relationships of cultures and people. Her recent photographic works including Hotel Globo and Sleep Over provide the overlapping argument of the singular community fast withdrawing to become a place of values where European essentialism thrives; most importantly where de-colonisation so necessary to move beyond visual and portrayed geographies of race and places, is indissolubly bound in corridors and pylons that maintain the illusions of progression and control at all costs. As the writer Ralph Ellison states ‘the true artist destroys the accepted world by way of revealing the unseen’2

1 The term is often used to refer to the Eastern hemisphere specifically to Europe.

2 Ralph Ellison, ‘Introduction’. Romare Beardon: Paintings and Projections, exh. Cat. Albany : The Art Gallery, State University of New York, 1968

Between arriving and departing the place to stay.

by Carlos Alcobia, 2013

Around the Sea
And then to come and go
These are just two sides of the same journey
The train arriving
It’s the same train of  departure
The time of the meeting is also a farewell
The platform of this station
It is the life of  that  place of mine
Milton Nascimento

A temporary space contained between displacements , and inhabited by ambiguous and sometimes conflicting  desires. It is this diffuse and precarious space that Monica de Miranda revisits with the purpose of preparing its emotional cartography.

Once upon a time is assumed as an investigation process about the desire to stay, where memory is a promise of reunion with personal mis-encounters. In this project  Monica seeks to know the outside world through an interior act, promoting a re-visitation of the houses in which  she lived and developing a fictional narrative around the mis-encounters of her life. It is a new “ Volta  do Sea” (1)  , in which she  seeks to achieve what is close by going in its contrary direction .

This is a sensitive search to the paths of home, and previously driven by a set of five artist residencies (Cape Verde, Angola, Brazil, the UK and Portugal),that  also suggests a process of catharsis by the artist. I refer to the need for emancipation through the confrontation with her origins and documentation of issues relate to absence, displacement, and loss associated with those.

Once upon a time gives us a moment to reflect on the intimate spaces of occupation of the artist. They are physical, emotional and symbolic places, that are located at the confluence of different ways of life of the artist but that compel us to experience narratives where it no longer becomes possible to distinguish between fictitious and biographical elements.

I think it is this constant duality that invites the viewer to take part in the narrative, making one to look through airports, train stations and other places of passage, the turning point is oneself own moment of mis-encounters. They become moments of suspension, sustained between arrivals and departures, memories and fictions, revolving a walked floor or a floor for walking, in search for traces of a life in transit. An emotional archaeology or a diary chart of possible impossible narratives. Once upon a time is a portrait of a world in post modernity, marked by convulsions of wandering, uncertainty and precariousness.

The dematerialization of the object follows the dematerialization of identity. We move through a board as mere spare parts and aggregates, driven by the needs and workflows of capital. We are witnessing the effects of deterritorialization advocated by Deleuze and Guattari or should argue that this precariousness has always been present?

Just the fact that today the crossroads of mis-encounters where we walk became a node that is tied by means of a communication aphasia. What values can we share if we are all moving parts?

It is in this raging sea that Monica de Miranda tries to drop anchor recovering the ground of  her memories. Some of these memories beside ground have a voice, and it is through their evocations that become unforgettable. These are, for Jaques Lacan, symbolic memories that emanate from the feeling of not belonging. The photographic series “Erosion”, which integrates the project Once upon a time, deserves to be highlighted as an exercise of reconstruction of those imagined memories.

In it  Monica de  Miranda  invariably arises  laying on the floor in a direct contact with her   “land”  of origin, and subsequently staging  encounters with  “familiar scenarios but that she had never really travelled to . Yet it is through these lines that Monica now seeks ways to undo the arrival knot.  Erosion redeems the bond between mothers, mother earth and mother-artist, who here sustain each other in a long and timeless embrace that alienates the distances and eliminate temporal discontinuities.

It is an exhausting process but redemptive in the end of a road that marks the beginning of the next. Once upon a time is a map drawn through promises of permanence and reunions.

It is in this map that Monica de Miranda seeks to show us the way to her own  After all it is a path where travel becomes momentarily our own residence.


(1)“A volta do mar” (The return of the sea) refers to a technique developed for maritime navigation and perfected by Portuguese navigators during the Age of Discovery. Seeking to enjoy favourable winds and currents and avoid areas of lull due to the Coriolis effect these sailors described a wide arc that distanced them from known geographic references. Without this understanding of the functioning of the compass, the exploration of the Atlantic winds would not have been possible.

Once upon a time…an Ocean between us…and nevermore…

by Maria de Fátima Lambert, 2012

Lisbon | Mindelo | London | Luanda | Rio de Janeiro (1)

So far my cultural identity has been an “imaginary home” a place of imagination, thoughts and feelings. Home here will be perceived to have no fixed physical locations—instead, home may relate instead to a mental or emotional state of refuge, belonging or comfort. Mónica de Miranda, 2012


“Ce qu’on voit dans les voyages n’est jamais qu’un trompe l’oeil. Des ombres à la poursuite d’autres ombres.”2

What better way to affirm the journey, but through film? Undoubtedly different authors expressed this conviction. With regard to the works of Monica Miranda, We are located in the video production (also installation oriented) and photography – embedded that video to which it refers, thus closing a circle of thought that is psycho-geographic.

The identity will have the nationality of the self. And the self will be pasting this, overlapping layers that do not match the chronology or the sum of the months, and the dissolution of decades … Layers of existence that reside in locations identified, mapped and circumscribed.

Monica  de Miranda continues a research aimed to gain knowledge of  her own  cultural matrices, recovery in ancestry, the result of clarity and rigor that   goes from the sociological  and anthropological to the aesthetic.

There are no  legitimate revenue streams, existing or general strategies to  access to the supposed authenticity of identity – being  it one, or being it plural. Each author will have their reasons and proceed accordingly to access it and, in this case, these options are entrenched and determined

The I [read the identity] is a search  , some authors, in successive assumptions of themselves  described it as self-portraits and, often, are self-representations.

Sometimes representative axiology  is assumed for self-enactment that after its externalisation it validates and  introspects itself . Thus, we have sought in the images of external personhood , adding to them attributes , working them in places converted into scenarios and exacerbating certain canonical stipulations: a mixed ideological requirement  and aesthetic celebration.

The personality lives in the imaginary succession of time and  in its compound of over locations ,  Sto. Augustine[3]already knew  that. It resides on the unequivocal  grading, crisscrossed  with  duration and instant  at the intersection of places (which is inevitable) and its ephemerality, in more or less  the lucid science of guessing belonging . For that belonging is not just the result of an analysis, critique and reflection (for indexing  subjective  epistemologies  ) before raises the “close, closer”, in a prototype  of the others  – all those who cross, or only interact and hunch each other ; those who were only a mythical belief – excerpts from an inheritance adulterated or not, those who know are not known but lived as complete. All existing at the same time as  the author – Monica de Miranda – in order to recognize the path ancestry: gathers them so. The time that mobilizes, also implies a sense of historical time, not only biographical, chronological and the mythical. Safeguarding the typological distinctions, they are involved, contributing to its definition in the current coordinates.

It might be thought of a  miscegenation of times,  places and hence aesthetic. Not that from there it originates any contamination , instead a consolidation and mastery that results in artistic work.

The gaze is not neutralized, either in suspension of contexts or circumstances.

there are no  naive gazes to be authentic at 100%. Perhaps only in scope that moved Voltaire,  Almada Negreiros[4] or Manoel de Barros. These authors and according to the corresponding periods in which their activity was developed – the supposed naivete and waste of  parts  and of different authenticity, spontaneity, irony, criticism, lucidity and many other qualities and principles, providing axiologies  were they were consistent. However, their reflections lead,  to direct paths in search of the most genuine and consistent assertions. So to  build up visions wishing to regain (= earn back) what has happened or existed of essential in the lives of others, even to life itself and individuated as an inconclusive outcome that needs to be clarified, repudiated and / or celebrated.


 I can see now, at the end of my map zone that this book is shaped as an architectural ensemble.5

The viewing of a video implies distinct phases – in terms of aesthetic perception – which are unlikely to generalize because of circumstances arising from spectators. Moreover, the video itself is a product of the conditions, contexts and the author states, as well as its intent and operational decision. As for the aesthetic reception, in the Once upon a time  at first, “strikes up,” noting the images with analytical order, so to speak, trying to capture / see. In a second “phase” that requires the viewer to engage  in an acuity, fulfilling the act of isolating (if possible …) elements that are stabilized (like there were a house) in  the images in each of the 3 screens.

The task can be risky and stressful, in what is being  requested to each one, and may  be imposed before the 3 projections: redounding ultimately a sense of achievement and overcoming perceptual / aesthetic. Lets explain why:, finished editing the film and subsequent deployment / sedentarization in the space of technological devices to do the projection of video, necessarily affect the reading of content (imagery and semantic). The viewer (aesthetic subject) gets closer or distant in  an aggregator process that operationalizes the pragmatic motives and explores the psycho-affective conditions regarding the appropriation aesthetic (and scope) of the work –  as aesthetic object.

It is then here rendered  the potencial  of  establishing  individual maps , defined from  the stimulus  that viewers can develop through their contact with the video installation – Zones of Contact.

The video makes present – before the subject that experiences – a complex plurality, curiously clear and shared on the multiple nature (and synchronous) of iconographic content and semantic. Provides a certain complicity, artistic corollary of deliberations which direct  the design and hence the production.

Contemplation is a requirement. The time it takes to contemplate, in this work does not match the  “real” duration of the same. It is a typical case of experiencing lasting psychological duration and not the one that is timed. It is the chronology of each one of us, more than what  succeeds in other cases , because the hieratic predominates in  the capture of images and its presentification (alone and together) as it infect us. Be this a  explicit case that relates to this slowness d’apres Milan Kundera or the poetic duration  term that Peter Handke made  explicit! Extrapolation of imagery of the stillness and duration is a form of fighting the transient .

It’s an aesthetic that evokes the current concept of Tableau vivant contextualized and injected from  anthropological and societal purposes. Heiress  of this pragmatic that combines visual and performing arts, popular in the XIX  century , when actors and extras – professionals or amateurs – recreated and staged situations and stories that  then were decoded by an elitist or wider public. In this case, Tableaux vivants configure episodes, converted to actuality and simultaneously  turned into fables.

The actuality is reflected in what the author wanted, the tales also belong to her, but also to anyone who visualises the videographic piece installed. In artistic practice, which is much distant to the free “entertainment” game, without concept, the images established and choreographed by Monica de Miranda and the hieratic stillness  have become evocative of the happening  factor, promoting  an ephemeral topic.

Given some “stills”, isolating them, so some passages of the triptych dominates the static form of appearances: being of the artist herself, her daughter and the man – who here embodies  the masculine gender and both the identity  of one or  another mate of hers.

The character of each – Mother / Daughter / Man – has the valence and pragmatic adjacent to the figures / persona  in a Greek theater, ensuring character and typologies of belonging – social, ideological and existential. They  represent them beyond themselves , a symbolic assumption, acquiring the “scenarios” that inhabiting  an allegorical function.

The option for the joint in three projections, with times out of compass by reference to space and time contained in capturing images, confers greater stability in stance and on the claim of the  people “typified”, objects and scenarios, more than there were the  induction of an  effective  dynamism .  It generates a paradox: it is known that there is a situation before and after of the situation/ fixed location  but this does not become something irreversible. As if we knew that the duration of the scene engenders a strategy to dominate the chronology,  for reassurance .

Progressing: the assumptions of historical content (privacy versus socio-cultural contemporary history) crossed by poetic images, injected into the presentation of circumstantial ages (Biographical times) privileged , they dominate the passage of time. Through an acting  dynamic,  in active principle of causality, are the product simultaneously, of this slowness of decisions that presided over the convocation of the  drawn scenes, giving them an almost ontological acuity in his own irreversibility. That is, regardless of the decision, or the acting or its absence  or cancellation , what happens is unavoidable, hence the appearance of this passive stance surpasses  the triyptic  videographic images. In certain passages, the development of movements, such as walking, sitting, lying down, pull over … further accentuates the stop, giving it a supra-existential relevance.


“…a fine voice is the most universal thing that can be figured; and while the narrow individual that uses it presents himself before the eye, he cannot fail to trouble the effect of that pure universality..”6

The photos do not replace the real , they ttransform it , making it more absent because they reverse  the record. They allow to expand and extend their  intrinsic  knowledge  to whom sees them or  to whom know that.

Photographs should be read because the whole framework has the concept of an Atlas, according to Aby Warburg. That is, the Atlas is a visual way of knowing; allows  to give shape to a wisdom in a visual mode. The images contains a superior knowledge and / because visual. Recalling the study of  Georges Didi-Huberman[1], Atlas – in this sense – presents itself as “epistemic paradigm of knowledge.” The sequence of photographs associated with the result of the video, a kind of atlas embodies  a individual / personalised , which integrates an argument ( a script), and can be applied (with appropriate safeguards, by a process of projective-introspectionn) to others. The photographs are understood in this context as pages.

As a book, they let themselves  be “handled” by favoring different interpretations of the world, reinventing readings – of each one of us , agreeing with their circumstances – Ortega y Gasset dixit …

The images designed by Monica de Miranda are structured from a thought transferred in composition. Looking at the pictures alone, seizes up what is a “secret geometry” of its composition, heiress of established knowledge (canons) – going back to the Renaissance – by Leon Battista Alberti-. It should be noted that the secret geometry and depth have been applied to works of art of the 20th century , notably by authors like Madeleine Hours or Bouleau Charles, among others. The visual thinking which governs the composition can be latent, or underlying applied therefore.

Each element in the photograph occupies a space that is yours and only there could be – is the conclusion that one has, it seems to stabilize an area of  perfectibility. Hence, also, the legitimacy is urgent because of the “delay” (topic about which reflected rather the purpose of the video by the author). This concern in the organization of the image to be, is denotative of aesthetic principles that are assumed to be primordial because revealing the contents and ideas as  fundamental. Each unit is indispensable for the  visual reading of the whole that is the picture – and the selection of pictures, and the consistency of this series. Each offers a unique presence and is individuated exemplar of a whole, can extrapolate from the parameter of the author / biography  to others  that determine it.

The elements / visual singular units are located in internal and external plans, equivalent to the desired conceptual:  the evident  notes disclosing an extreme intimacy  give rise to gigantic  factors  (and public) of social and human. The architecture of the interior of the house or hotel accentuates the figure . The fact that is there  does  not gain the right  to dwell  or of  a “home.” Is “home” but also holds out the possibility that it is a place of passage, of transience double meaning: someone who travels there or internal displacement  of  the” I” of “selves” (in analytical terms).

Figures monopolize the attention of the viewer, linking it to excerpts of spaces that are shredded depending on your aesthetic  and symbolic interests  – as mentioned before. It is a kind of “traveling”, which is brought about from the photos and videos, and has no place in those  addresses  or actual scripts. However, presides over an imperative demand to the visitor who takes a seat and becomes a belonger of the story.

Power would undertake, along with the author, a sort of imaginary pilgrimage, following the highlight of the tour to the sacred places selected by Monica de Miranda.

[1] By myself, I live and I am in Lisbon… I have been in London… Never been to Mindelo… Never been in Luanda only dreamt about it. I do not live in Rio de Janeiro but it always lives in me

[2] Cf. St. Augustine, Confessions, written in the 3rd Century AC.

[3] Almada Negreiros, portuguese artist, poet, writer, born at the Island of S.Tomé, 1893;Manoel de Barros, contemporary brasilian poet, born in Mato Grosso (Cuiabá), 1916.

[4] “Les routes et les pays ne nous apprennent rien que nous ne sachions déjà, rien que nous ne poussions écouter en nous-mêmes dans la paix de la nuit.” Amin Maalouf, Le Périple de Baldassare,Paris, Grasset, 2002, pp.36-37

[5] Giuliana Bruno – Atlas of Emotions, NY, Verso, 2002, p.5

[6] J.W. Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, ebook The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction, Vol. XIV, Copyright © 2001, Inc. (consultado em 29 Setembro 2012)

[7] Cf. texto de Georges Didi-Huberman in Catálogo da exposição Atlas – como levar o mundo às costas, Madrid, Museu Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 2011, p.14 e ss.

The tress have routes , we have feet

by Fernandes Dias , 2009

Text exhibition “Underconstruction “, Lisbon

The constant negotiation between the local and the global, the foreign and the familiar, has become a basic condition of modernity. (Jean Fisher, 1992)

It remains the contribution of the borderline artists to perform a poetics of the open border. (Homi K. Bhabha, 1993)

Mónica de Miranda is an artist of the cities.In a time of crossbred cities, which benefited a great deal of the arrival of people of multiple cultures. Immigrants? Cosmopolitans? A glance treated with care to the immigrant populations in the city of our time, to their complexities and new opportunities, allows us to show several things; one of them that the traditional counter position between origin and destiny it does not seem to turn out to be already very clear not even defined . The categories of immigrant and of cosmopolitan are superimposed when a significant part of the metropolitan city is formed by people of very varied conditions and positions, who in everyday weave economical, social and cultural bonds between very different worlds. Form the telephone booths, form the cell phones and form the Internet there is the circulation of love, money and business, and there is trans-national nets being created that make connections with many other points of the planet. On the other side, the cities became more heterogeneous, for example music and dance have new and richer modes of fusion, thought the function of the migrations had some heighten on this. Nevertheless , immigrants also change , in a way that their double relationship between the host country and the native land produces in itself an aesthetic that, by its turn contributes for changes to occur in the host country and in its cultural expressions. In this project, abstract subjects like globalization, migration, multiple identity, cultural hibridity, are re-contextualized through real situations marked through the work in the Great Lisbon, mapping what Mónica calls with great claim a Bigger Lisbon.

Besides the Underconstruction exhibition, there is also the launch of a book with the same title, a cycle of cinema, conversations, dinners and parties in several associations, walks and visits to some neighbourhood districts, taking the project further into its already recognized diversity. What Mónica de Miranda intends is to create space so that the migratory and trans national flows are seen by themselves as a diversified and multifaceted reality as a platform for creative opportunities and a place of transit for personal, social and cultural changes. “At the heart of its strategy is the principle of interculturality, which should involve a gradual and systematic promotion of spaces and processes of positive interaction, a possible generalization of relations of trust, mutual recognition, for discussion, learning and exchange. Strategy of the artist and of artistic creation that is always a privileged place to capture and to create dynamism to these dimensions, even that utopian these are present.
Her artistic approach has led her to understand, and to create visibility of how much of the city’s immigrant population lives within the city , in Greater Lisbon, out of what remains of the military road built for the defence of French invaders at the beginning of the century XIX. A “fortress Europe” finds here historical territories to protect the city from new invasions of foreigners … But also, even there in the suburbs and in the margin, or perhaps because margins are under construction, unfinished and fluxional more definitive than other forms of urbanity, which in its turn create constant redefinitions of culture and identity.

The Works with which the exhibition starts and ends are a symbol of exposure of everything that is in the middle. I mean, as a kind of precipitate of multiple flows and movement of people and cultural dimensions. When you enter, “Public Works”, a cement mixer, a mixer camouflaged. Machine-building par excellence, refers to the activity most often practiced to a very large number of immigrants in Lisbon. Inside itself everything moves and is mixed, and it is equipped with wheels, it occupies a temporary space, transitional, of under construction. But the mixer in the exhibition is fully covered, obscuring the machine, which could
so be transported from the area of building works, and get camouflaged in the context of art. Covered by a fabric with a pattern of palm trees, which in our imaginary (even if there is so many of us!) refers to the places of origin of these people. The last piece that you see, “Black House”, reinforces the idea of process. We finished the building, but a temporary building. Made of the rest of a material used in the scaffolding work in construction.
Itself a migrant, born of migration, when thinking about migration, Mónica de Miranda does also a refection of herself and the environments where she had lived and her own social relations. Which make part of her creative process, marked by collaboration and participation with her personal circle of friends and relatives, as shown in the video of the journey through the landscape of the old, and todays military road. And that process extends to other fellow artists , scholars and critics, as in happens in the exhibition that includes works by other authors, that present themselves sometimes collective works. As well as other activities that make this project.
We do not know what will be our civilization when it really finds other civilizations by means other than the shock of conquest and domination. We must admit that this meeting has not yet been held in the form of a genuine dialogue. So we are in a kind of interval in which no more believe in the dogmatism of a single truth, and still we are not able to overcome the skepticism that we had fall into. Work of Monica Miranda like this can help us understand this situation and, hopefully, to open the borders of the fortress.

Redrawing the lines.Postcolonial Lisbon and other modern European fortresses

by Manuela Ribeiro Shanchez, 2009

Text book “underconstruction”, Lisbon

In the so-called postmodern world, a world in which boundaries between disciplines, art genres and discourses, the popular and the erudite, are supposed to be blurred, a world in which borders between nations and identities, the inside and the outside, are described as porous, and cultures celebrated for their mongrelisation, other limits and interdictions seem to persist or, alternatively, return with a vengeance. Are we inhabiting a post-post-modern moment, the comeback of modernity?

In an striking parallel to walls and fortifications around continents and countries such as Fortress Europe and the wall dividing the US from Mexico boundaries between the social and the artistic are increasingly kept under surveillance, not only by social scientists with their classic suspicion of volatile, imprecise, or unrealistic artistic languages, but also by artists, curators and critics, now eager to preserve their own distinctive field aloof from political and social issues, afraid the latter may contaminate their pure, aesthetic intentions. The cultural turn with its close association of the poetics and politics of cultural phenomena, namely as a way of questioning the disciplinary surveillance of the hard core of knowledges and powers, and the ensuing interdisciplinary dialogues is wearing off, just as nationalism and ethnic identities seem to harden around religious and other differences, a tendency that, not the clash of civilisations, but the threat of the crash of the global financial and economic system may reinforce.

Despite such redrawing of disciplinary boundaries, an unexpected consensus has emerged in the last years. If social scientists appear to be increasingly suspicious, at least in Portugal, of issues of multiculturalism and ethnic and racial difference, art practices and discourses seem to share this positioning, albeit for opposite reasons, but recurring to an identical argument: the mistrust of the smallest hint at some kind of political correctness. Behind the apparent dissent, there emerges another consensual approach: the universality either of citizenship ideals or artistic criteria, according to an implicit certainty, as regards western or European superiority, no matter how much postcolonial approaches may have tried to unsettle them.

Of course, things are more complex than this argument makes it seem. Difference and multiculturalism are still being engaged with, frequently as a form of official, paternalistic, discourse on intercultural affairs or conflict management, in which voice is supposed to be given to those who lack it. The marketing of difference is another still – but for how long? – striving field, with its investment on expressions of a presumed hybridity that ultimately ignores complex forms of identification that cannot be summed up under the motto, to take a familiar example, of Lisbon as a Creole or multicultural city. This is also a way to entertain a kind of wishful thinking as regards the proverbial European respect for the Other that ignores the asymmetric contexts that posit, define, difference, and those who have culture and are thus to be tolerated.
The actuality of Europes multiculture (Gilroy) is not to be disputed, unless it leads to ignoring other barriers in postcolonial Europe which result from the increasing precariousness of labour and other emerging social question. These do not, however as some are all too ready to claim , make of racism and other forms of discrimination, in which economics are only one among the issues at stake, mere secondary aspects.

Although images of contemporary Greece bear sometimes a striking familiarity to those that French banlieux exhibited in 2005, thus putting into jeopardy what some Europeanists still like to regard as the site of the continents origins or roots, one cannot haste to simplify the comparison, although it also begs for a more differentiated approach, as concerns ethnic and racial issues in post-post-modern times. Nonetheless, the fact is that the attacks and raids on public buildings, such as universities and schools and other public spaces, as well as the assault on private property as the more visible element in those events that cannot, of course, in both cases be reduced to its spectacular impact – demand a more complex approach to a wide range of phenomena that contemporary societies in Europe are facing and that inherited social models cannot give response too.

This also applies to political discourse. Cosmopolitanism has been traditionally associated with a precise form of imagining space, i.e., the city as the civilised locus of democratic exchange, of negotiated differences around a common citizenship, a tension that can no longer be subsumed under the slogan all equal, all different, a supposed dialectics between the Self and the Other that does not take into account not only the complex processes of identification, but also the dissent that people, who take seriously what it may mean living with difference on effectively democratic terms, have to encounter.

But how is cosmopolitanism to be practiced, if the city persists in creating barriers between insiders and outsiders? If traditional boroughs of Lisbon are inhabited by recent immigrants, they are easily fixed into specific territories, such as Martim Moniz, Praça de S. Domingo or Restauradores, some parts of Alfama, former Jewish and Moorish ghettos , a testimony to the ever permanent multicultural character of the city, as well as its more tolerant and racist moments.

Those who have settled longer ago, and whose descendants were born in Lisbon, seem to have been relegated, banned, to non-places, the banlieux, the banned sites, where project housing is the privileged location for reporters to invent sensationalist news on criminality, violence and difference, in order to divert a bored and impoverished white middle class during torrid Lisboan summers from other social preoccupations. Thus the majority can find a compensation for their frustrations in their superior manners, their European civilisation which ethnic minorities or immigrants do not share. While enjoying kuduro concerts and other African or Creole sounds in the open air during the citys summer festivities, indigenous locals seem to view with suspicion the invasion of summer resorts by Black, mainly male, youngters, as was the case of the famous Arrastão event (, or the idea that living with difference entails a serious questioning of received paradigms as regards who belongs to the nation, Europe, or the West.

Are mongrelisation and hybridity a way of disavowing the actual, imposed borders on those whom discourses of difference insist on segregating through subtle exclusionary practices?
Is citizenship, as a form of providing equal rights to everyone, a way of ensuring effective equality to those who want to belong, but insist on clinging to last but not least, because they feel they are not wanted – their (re)invented difference?

The spaces now occupied in Lisbon by project housing the problematic neighbourhoods, from quartiers problématiques in French, where second generation immigrants mainly live ,cohabiting and interacting with poor white populations are delimited, reminds us Mónicas work, by a line formerly traced by the military road, in order to contain foreign invaders during the Napoleonic wars. Significantly, the event that contributed decisively to build a new form of collective national memory against an invader, after the Castilian or Spanish one, seems to reproduce the need of the nation, a persistently invented tradition, to define itself as something homogeneous and pure against potential contaminations.

But paradoxically, the same neighbourhoods frequently described and discriminated against as ghettos, resist that all too familiar labelling, as they insist on drawing from their own tradition and the locally found one, thus pointing to the inevitable interdependencies of (post)colonial histories, despite their intrinsic violence. Thus the (in)famous Portuguese house the title of a famous fado, that my generation cannot avoid associating with the authoritarian and repressively petty bourgeois atmosphere of pre-democratic and colonial Portugal reappears under new guises, according to unexpected perspectives and juxtapositions, now clad to follow Mónicas suggestive installation, in Black, and something else.

This points to other stories beyond a proverbial Portuguese tendency to mix racially and culturally, an inevitable consequence of any colonial setting, apart from all kinds or more or less apartheid measures, differently introduced according to diverse geographical and historical contexts.

And it seems to underline, as well, the tense negotiations lived by those who inhabit the borderlines of what is still defined as national (Portugueseness) and the transnational (European), as the images in the video High Life depict in an imaginative way.

Blackness seems to be accepted in Lisbon in order to market the city as part of a cosmopolitan global space, characterised by the juxtaposition of the exotic and the familiar, as is the case of Luanda-Lisboa kuduro, increasingly popular in London too. The music and nomenclature of Buraka Som Sistema translate well into the vitality of such enterprises and experiences that are easily co-opted by, but also resistant to, economic interests. But if fado, the Portuguese national music par excellence since the late 19th century – the age of the invention of traditions (Hobsbawm/ Ranger) is increasingly understood as a hybrid form of music, and globally marketed as an exotic form of world music, it is nonetheless regarded as a mainly Lusophone manifestation. Although seen as the result of the mixing African origins with Brazilian sounds and transatlantic travels, the Atlantic still seems to resist the adjective of Black, in consonance with other narratives on Portuguese imperial histories.

What other ways of imagining space and time can be thought of as alternative to the understandings that, despite proclaiming the blurring of boundaries and disciplines, are still prone to ensure the segregation of those who belong and those who do not according to surveillance procedures that define the territorial limits to be inhabited? How is one to unravel the tight knots that are still part of a consensual idea of Europe and its nations? How are barriers and suspicions to be questioned ? What about strategic defensive moods that divergent discourses and knowledges, ultimately partaking of similar, although apparently distinct, discourses on their legitimacy and efficiency?

Perhaps by attempting to break, persistently, stubbornly, the boundaries, making increasingly obvious the common contexts that inhabit them and legitimate the segregation of difference under different disciplinary and political banners.

Abandoned places, destroyed neighbourhoods, such as those depicted in this book, thus serve less as a way to stimulate a meditation on ruins, evidencing the transitory character of a universal human nature, as the Baroque allegory emphasised (Walter Benjamin), than to point to the (unequal) transits across the (Black) Atlantic and beyond it. Houses shattered by the will to modernise retain nevertheless the traces and fragments of lives, unfulfilled in their aspirations, but nonetheless fully lived, bringing evidence to the ways in which they influence and were influenced by an urban space that cannot be simplistically equated to a classic cosmopolis.

The contemporary, postcolonial space resists, but therefore begs for, more diverse forms of culture, regarded in their full modernity, and less in their exoticism as global Black cultures, either in their vernacular or avant-garde moments.

Everyday life does not have to be the exclusive object of social sciences, and art cannot be seen as the realm of artistic discourses. Both should be considered in their tensions, and productive conflicts in post-colonial Europe, namely in those countries, such as Portugal, that have built their national identity around an alleged exceptional role in world history, a role that has not avoided the countrys traditionally subaltern role in local and global contexts.

In a moment in which the redrawing of boundaries seems to be the more effective, artistic projects such as the present one can be a reminder of the complex interdependencies and encounters with diverse demands and aspirations deriving from the concrete everyday experiences of all those who strive for a better life, regardless of increasing economic restrictions and inequalities.

Lisbon as a contact zone: from temporary communities to images of the city

by Lucia Marques , 2008

Text for exhibition “Novas Geografias”, Lisbon

Only during this last decade, and mostly from its macrocephalic capital, has Portugal started to become aware of its cultural diversity as a country of “origin” but also of “destination” of migratory fluxes. We have become accustomed to mentioning the travails endured by the wave of Portuguese immigrants who, during the fascist dictatorship, went to France looking for a better life. However, we often forget all those who continue to look for a better future in this country of “pioneers of European colonization”; we seek refuge in an idea of tolerance which creates distance towards others instead of embracing them.

In comparison with other Portuguese cities, Lisbon has a particular way of reflecting this historical construction of the identity of a Nation-State, based on the contacts and experiences that result from the colonial process. The former centre of an “empire” which has yet to be revisited critically, it is still the urban area that assembles the greatest concentration of foreign residents in Portugal. In some cases, it is precisely in Lisbon’s most central points – such as different areas of its historical core, from the glamorous Bairro Alto to the stigmatized Martim Moniz – that diverse groups of people assemble themselves and are temporarily organized as “communities”. These groups encompass people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, not just Portuguese speakers. These “foreigners”, often discriminated against as being “immigrants”, are Lisbon’s most invisible inhabitants: they are rarely included in the widely disseminated representations of the city; their social existence is erased from an urban identity that only rarely has been described as “multicultural”. However, it is in the artistic arena that “interculturalism” has taken its most decisive steps in Portugal, so that this constitutes in fact an important road to integration, especially in the fields of contemporary music and dance .

These “new lisboetas (lisboners)”, to whom documentary filmmaker Sérgio Tréfaut wisely and provocatively gave expression in 2003-2004, are also the main protagonists of Mónica de Miranda’s most recent works for the “New Geographies” exhibition in Lisbon. These are works of art that have stemmed from a creative mapping of informal or temporary networks of people and places. They question the post-colonial borders of identity that structure our ideas on nationality.

In the works of art created specifically for the exhibition at Plataforma Revólver, namely Greater Lisbon – A to Z (2008), Tuning Lisboa (2008) and Where r u from (2006-2008), Lisbon is reconfigured according to the different communities that have established themselves in the city, as a result of the global impact of Diaspora movements. In this sense, we can equate the city with linguist Mary Louise Pratt’s meaning of the term “contact zone” as a “colonial border” . We can also be reminded of the meaning that African-American artist and theorist Renée Green drew from the term “contact zone”. She emphasized the relationship dynamics of the “negotiations” that occur in social spaces, referring to the “contact zone” as a meeting point, both spatial and temporal, of people who were formerly separated by “geographical and historical hiatuses” and “whose paths now intersect”. In this process, the “dimensions of interaction and of improvisation of colonial encounters” are key . More recently, curator Lesley Wright applied Pratt’s concept to “Portuguese art” and demonstrated the role played by travel in defining a certain social and creative context which addresses the nomadic condition of cultural identity, as well as the new transnational contaminations which shape contemporary artistic production.

Mónica de Miranda is interested precisely in this phenomenon of hybridization and cultural redefinition. She herself is the product of the miscegenation that characterizes Portuguese genetic history (descending from the Celts e the Lusitanian’s and marked by centuries of contact of Northern African Moors and with Jews). The daughter of a Portuguese father and an Angolan mother, Mónica was born in Amarante (1976), grew up in Porto and completed her artistic training in London, having also lived in Brazil. She based herself in London 8 years ago and currently divides her time between London and Lisbon, while searching her deepest identity contradictions. The migratory condition of her life story thus coincides with her living experience of Lisbon: here she scrutinizes the way in which the multi-ethnic communities that make up the city take so long to actually be included in the city’s image, while, at the same time, constitute its most vital focal points.

Chemistry of London

by Guy Brett, 2008

Text for exhibition “New Geographies “, London

I think it could be argued that an expanded space – physical and conceptual – for art has developed alongside, parallel to, an expansion of cultural complexity and diversity in the life of the average citizen of London. This process probably began in the 1950s when the term ‘globalisation’ was unknown and migrations of the world’s peoples had not reached the scale they have today. The London avant-garde art scene, beginning in the 50s, has represented almost laboratory conditions for the clashing and fusing of cultures, even if the established institutions for a long time were not aware of it. There was an extraordinary type of reciprocity about these clashings and meetings, and a kind of equality, because each individual, according to their origins, had different mental sets in which there were elements of freedom and elements of restriction. Certain demands for liberation within British society – from traditional authority, patriarchy, snobberies and class – drew young people to London from relatively more hidebound social structures. They often brought with them other forms of liberated thinking or acting in comparison with which Britain was still ‘uptight’. These opposites mingled in the process of working out a humane set of values.

Similarly, the notion of a space for art expanded beyond the narrow terms of an object displayed in an art gallery to the discovery of new contexts, new materials, new collaborative, participatory and performative structures. Mónica de Miranda herself epitomises both the complexity of cultural traces which make up identity and a diverse and flexible art practice. Certain of her works are tuned to the pristine art gallery, where contemplative time is needed, and others take the form of videos, graffiti painting in the street, performances, collaborative projects with other artists and with children and so on. Many of her works have a visual structure of overlays and fusions, such as her Road Lines (digital photographs, 2005) where map fragments of different cities merge together in the palms of people’s hands and the map lines of roads evoke the creases and veins in the human skin.

However, with all this talk of movement, crossings and hybrids there is something that is changeless and constant in identity: the individual’s memories of childhood. George Eliot asks in one of her novels: “Would we love this world so much if we had not spent our childhood in it?” Her question assumes the intensity of childhood impressions. It seems there is some sensory bond to place, atmosphere, colour, touch, taste, sound and smell that survives even an unhappy childhood. Perhaps the persistence of childhood memory corresponds to the stillness, focus and brilliancy one can find in a work of visual art.

Imagined Geographies

By Paul Goodwin 2007

Text exhibition “New geographies” , London

As a geographer, Ive always believed wholeheartedly in David Harveys self deprecating maxim that geography is too important to be left to geographers . Harveys warning was not just a sudden bout of self flagellating humour designed to debunk the over inflated egos of geographers in their professional colonisation of all matters to do with space and place. He made it as a political intervention in the context of the debate about the role of geographical sciences in describing and mapping the contours of an ever changing, global expansion of capitalism to all areas of life. Although he didnt state it, Harvey must have had artists somewhere in mind as his intervention hinted to the endless possibilities in the expansion of what he calls the geographical imagination. In other words, artists can reach spaces of the geographical imagination that geographers cant reach.

This is exactly the thought I had in mind as I entered the 198 Gallery in the heart of urban London, to see Monica de Mirandas NEW GEOGRAPHIES exhibition. The first thing the visitor sees as one enters the gallery is a wall mounted light box, London A-Z (2007), which on first glance is a standard map depicting London boroughs and main transport and road arteries. As you explore the map further, you see that the place names dotted around the map are actually places from around the globe arranged in accordance with the location of communities from these places in London. London becomes a world city, a city as a world. In Mirandas creative mapping of the city, Melbourne brushes against Tunis, while Mombassa lies just on top of Jerusalem. Ealing becomes resolutely Polish while Afghans are dotted around Southwark. Traditional cartographic precision and certainties are lost as they are displaced and decentred. Racialised urban hierarchies are overthrown and re-imagined as a patchwork quilt of glocalised cosmopolitanism.

As you move further into the exhibition, new geographies surround and envelop you on all sides. Tuning (2007) takes you on a panoramic video journey across London to a shifting car stereo soundtrack of music, talk shows and jingles of various multicultural hues and languages. In The Back Of Our Hands (2006) consists of seven light box mounted pictures of hands of various ethnicities and colours with composite maps projected on them, while Where Are U From? is a spectacular series of wall mounted hanging pictures of the artist and her friends with various maps transposed onto their bodies reflecting personal life journeys. In all these works, cartography is forced to confront real bodies: flesh and blood, an embodied sense of place as opposed to the disembodied geographies of traditional maps. Miranda is putting the body back into mapping, a return to the spirit of the medieval mappae mundi . By integrating symbolic and corporal images and non-representational elements into maps, the artist is able to disrupt linear and one-dimensional cartographies of power and social control.

The geographical imagination is expanded in other ways in this exhibition beyond the map. Dominant images of national identity and territorial integrity are challenged and exposed in works such as Biting Nations (2006) and Flags. Biting Nations is a video of national flags painted onto nails being bitten, chewed and spit out nervously by various performers. The sound track of the cracking and spitting out of the nails juxtaposed with the images of national flags being mutilated induces a subtle and uncanny sense of unease in the viewer. Are we troubled more by the sights and sounds of cherished national symbols being mangled before our very eyes? Or is it the bodily self-mutilation being displayed that we find so disturbing?

States is another piece that disrupts hegemonic images of nationalism. Eight multicoloured flags are arranged in a parade on the gallery wall reflecting the pomp and ceremony of national flags as markers of identity. Some of the flags are generic but others show the colours of national flags related to the artist and her partner. On all of them are images the artist and her partner dressed as clowns kissing, thus softening the hard surface of national and nationalistic flags with a ludic, playful and absurd dimension.

Indeed, images of clowns in love, wondering through various assemblages of real and virtual places, are also themes in Wedding Series (video) and Wonders of the World (4 mounted light box images). In the former, the artist and her partner are filmed getting married in a registry office in London dressed in full clown regalia, whilst in the latter the clowns are depicted all over the globe with iconic places and monuments (Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, Statue of Liberty etc) serving as a backdrop to their joyful and jocund imaginary honeymoon. In these works some of the rough edges of multicultural urbanism are smoothed out by enticing the viewer into a virtual dreamscape of interracial relationships, love and play that appear to transcend the mundane and often aggressive realities of urban living in many of the worlds great cities. The figure of the clown as urban flâneur, globe-trotting mongrel and purveyor par excellence of a spread love philosophy, seems a fitting harbinger of the utopian promise of a new metropolitan cosmopolitanism already hinted at in the very streets surrounding the gallery.

As I leave the exhibition and head out into the Brixton night, Monicas world of cosmopolitan mongrelism doesnt seem very far away from the sights and sounds around me in the Brixton cityscape. Nail parlours jostle for space with exotic food and fashion stores. Brixtonites in all shapes, hues and accents rush past me at all angles. I look at my London A-Z and think about all the painstaking and meticulous attention to detail and exactitude displayed in its representation of Brixton: geographers and cartographers hard at work. Yet the new geographies I saw, heard and experienced in Monicas exhibition and that I encounter everyday in the bewildering streets of the great metropolis are completely absent from my map. Maybe Ordinance Survey need to start hiring artists like Monica de Miranda. Or even clowns?

Paul Goodwin is geographer, urban theorist and gallery educator based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Cartographies of Affection

by Rui Mascarelhas, 2007

Text for exhibition “New geographies”

by Gabriela Salgado, curator

London, September 2012

The move away from the singularities of class or gender as primarily conceptual and organizational categories, has resulted in a awareness of the subject positions of race, gender, generation, institutional location, geopolitical locale, sexual orientation that inhabit any claim to identity in the modern world. What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of the originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These in-between spaces provides the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood singular and communal that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself.
Homi Bhabha, The Location of culture
We always stem from one place. A place which lies on the intersection of thousands of lines, as many lines as those which entangle us, spur us on and arouse our interest. This can be a place with physical, genetic, symbolic coordinates; it can be somebodys place in a city, as in a social hierarchy. It can be something or someone or somewhere that acts as a place where all sorts of lines intersect: physical and chemical lines, genetic and social, ethnic and economical, aesthetic and ethical lines. These intersections turn this place into a unique focal point, filled with multiple contexts and multiple possibilities, a focal point which synthesises different places into one singular space. It is not a matter of topography but of topologies.

In such a place, Geography would only be able to draw maps of some impersonal, pre-individual unconsciousness, a realm where our bodies and identities are shaped and where urbanism and architecture, hairstyles and fashion, streets and songs are determined. The place where we are born, where we live, where we die. But this is not, after all, the Geography of physical spaces; it is the Geography of those places where we construct ourselves also as memory and dream. Places from which we become what we are, in all those spaces that we intersect with. Places that we take along with us as baggage, like tourists or migrants, and places that we invariably find when we wake up. Places where we ourselves are always a place.

These New geographies strive for new cartographies. The difference is a leap into contemporary realities.

Monica De Miranda renounces old certainties and constructs herself within her own moving place. Wrapped up in a multiplicity of spaces, she expresses her own place, even when she intends to do something else. She knows that the place isnt what she sees. But that in itself doesnt make her an artist. The art lies in making sensitive that which usually remains insensitive in those places.

The increasingly intense connections between places and the massive roaming of certain places into others demand nowadays a new timed geography, a new cartography of affections, as well as new media, new substances, new forms and new codes. Only then can all the forces implicated in these complex spaces be made sensitive. These are all things that we find at play in Mónica de Mirandas work.

Mónica brings an infinity of places into one place. She also evokes new geographies, as when she intersects maps and photographs of bodies, each body alluding to its own place, where different identities cohabitate under ones own identity.

In New Geographies, distances are measured by affection. That is why the artists place is near the familiar place, the place where one is married, has friends, interacts socially, travels, immigrates, works. It is from that place that she participates in eternity.
Mónica works from her own place, from the place of her relations, in a place that belongs to all and which is made of an infinity of lines that connect collective and personal places. A new place made up of old places.

Delving into sculpture and video, photography, installation and multimedia , Mónica shapes a unique place. Here, the multiple intersections of all the lines her work evokes is expressed by the intersection of hybrid media that question borders and propose a place that is born from those multiple intersections.

Always attentive towards the territories she is exploring and with, which she intends to establish dialogue, Mónica recognises the proliferation of the insensitive lines that pin-point the location of culture and of human bodies, of art and of life, and she intersects them, thereby showing us the hybrid and multiply determined place that create them.

Its a clowns marriage, that which the artist undertakes; a union where sacred and profane cohabitate. A car radio picking up tunes from around the world on the streets of London intersects the local and the global. Mónica doesnt just make conventional dichotomies more extreme, she constantly experiments with a crossing of real and metaphorical borders, weaving a new cartography of affection, which reflects a new subjectivity and exhibits all of these new places, where our contemporary live is built.

The move away from the singularities of class or gender as primarily conceptual and organizational categories, has resulted in a awareness of the subject positions of race, gender, generation, institutional location, geopolitical locale, sexual orientation that inhabit any claim to identity in the modern world. What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of the originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These in-between spaces provides the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood singular and communal that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself.
Homi Bhabha, The Location of culture
We always stem from one place. A place which lies on the intersection of thousands of lines, as many lines as those which entangle us, spur us on and arouse our interest. This can be a place with physical, genetic, symbolic coordinates; it can be somebodys place in a city, as in a social hierarchy. It can be something or someone or somewhere that acts as a place where all sorts of lines intersect: physical and chemical lines, genetic and social, ethnic and economical, aesthetic and ethical lines. These intersections turn this place into a unique focal point, filled with multiple contexts and multiple possibilities, a focal point which synthesises different places into one singular space. It is not a matter of topography but of topologies.

In such a place, Geography would only be able to draw maps of some impersonal, pre-individual unconsciousness, a realm where our bodies and identities are shaped and where urbanism and architecture, hairstyles and fashion, streets and songs are determined. The place where we are born, where we live, where we die. But this is not, after all, the Geography of physical spaces; it is the Geography of those places where we construct ourselves also as memory and dream. Places from which we become what we are, in all those spaces that we intersect with. Places that we take along with us as baggage, like tourists or migrants, and places that we invariably find when we wake up. Places where we ourselves are always a place.

These New geographies strive for new cartographies. The difference is a leap into contemporary realities.

Monica De Miranda renounces old certainties and constructs herself within her own moving place. Wrapped up in a multiplicity of spaces, she expresses her own place, even when she intends to do something else. She knows that the place isnt what she sees. But that in itself doesnt make her an artist. The art lies in making sensitive that which usually remains insensitive in those places.

The increasingly intense connections between places and the massive roaming of certain places into others demand nowadays a new timed geography, a new cartography of affections, as well as new media, new substances, new forms and new codes. Only then can all the forces implicated in these complex spaces be made sensitive. These are all things that we find at play in Mónica de Mirandas work.

Mónica brings an infinity of places into one place. She also evokes new geographies, as when she intersects maps and photographs of bodies, each body alluding to its own place, where different identities cohabitate under ones own identity.

In New Geographies, distances are measured by affection. That is why the artists place is near the familiar place, the place where one is married, has friends, interacts socially, travels, immigrates, works. It is from that place that she participates in eternity.
Mónica works from her own place, from the place of her relations, in a place that belongs to all and which is made of an infinity of lines that connect collective and personal places. A new place made up of old places.

Delving into sculpture and video, photography, installation and multimedia , Mónica shapes a unique place. Here, the multiple intersections of all the lines her work evokes is expressed by the intersection of hybrid media that question borders and propose a place that is born from those multiple intersections.

Always attentive towards the territories she is exploring and with, which she intends to establish dialogue, Mónica recognises the proliferation of the insensitive lines that pin-point the location of culture and of human bodies, of art and of life, and she intersects them, thereby showing us the hybrid and multiply determined place that create them.

Its a clowns marriage, that which the artist undertakes; a union where sacred and profane cohabitate. A car radio picking up tunes from around the world on the streets of London intersects the local and the global. Mónica doesnt just make conventional dichotomies more extreme, she constantly experiments with a crossing of real and metaphorical borders, weaving a new cartography of affection, which reflects a new subjectivity and exhibits all of these new places, where our contemporary live is built.

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