At the National Monument to the Overseas Combatants, in Belém, we can see a listing by year and name, of all the soldiers who perished in a war that lasted thirteen years. Names without a face, fragments of futures that never were, lives cut off in the spring of adulthood. It troubles me this archivist-like format – as if negating the individuality in each of these names. It troubles me this cold distance of an historical fact without any umbilical cord with the PRESENT.
When the military honour their dead, they respond in unison ‘PRESENT’ as a way to recall them in their absence.
The goal of the photography project PRESENTE is to document the memory of the Colonial War in the Mora Council in the present time. To gauge the state of this memory, the project will approach new generations and also those who lived through the Colonial War period. The latter can be direct or indirect participants in the conflict.
In regards to the youth in the Mora Council, the aim is to register their memory about the historical facts as well as, along the process, to help them discover their families’ ties with the Colonial War.
As to the generations who lived through the war period, the aim is twofold:
- to document former combatants and their current situation – who they are, what they are doing, their private memories and also, when existent, photographs they might have from their time overseas or from that period.
- to document family members of those military who perished in the conflict – in particular, to record their life stories as well as of the deceased.
For fieldwork, key contacts are to be made: a request for the collaboration of the League of Overseas Combatants in Mora as a way to facilitate personal contacts, interviews, and to access pre-existent images. For this purpose, fieldwork might also include travels to other places in the country away from Mora. Photographic material will be developed resorting to both digital and analogue equipment. Film of medium format will be primarily used in portraits whereas digital format will be used to document the whole process and also to record documentation.
The overall aim of ‘PRESENTE’ is to gather a set of documentary images which can introduce us to this silent presence of the Colonial War running in the privacy of households, in family conversations and between comrades. My intention is thus to bring the subject of the Colonial War into the present day, or a way to bring that silent memory into public awareness and discussion.
My approach seeks to materialise a contemporary language able to capture or reflect on the memories of the Colonial War. In this vein, the approach is guided by major references in photography as in the works of Taryn Simon, Alfredo Jaar, and Pieter Hugo.