Between 1961 and 1974, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) waged wars of liberation against the Portuguese fascist and colonial system. Established between 1956 and 1962, these three movements fought for independence after almost five centuries of colonial rule and resistance to it. The Revolution of 1974-1975 brought an end to the Estado Novo regime and paved the way for independence. Guinea-Bissau became independent in 1974, followed by Mozambique and Angola the year after. In the latter two countries, internationalised civil wars broke out against the backdrop of the Cold War.
In these historical circumstances, political decolonisation was regarded as inseparable from the decolonisation of culture and visual art forms. Culture and art were a field producing transformative effects on society. The African Revolutions were a period of freedom of the word, of the image and of forms of representation. For Amílcar Cabral, leader of the PAIGC, the fight for liberation was a ‘cultural fact’ and a ‘factor of culture’. Political resistance was a form of cultural resistance, in the same way that cultural resistance was a form of political resistance.
In the context of the culture of transnational liberation and internationalist solidarity of the sixties and seventies, liberation movements piqued the interest of photographers and filmmakers. Magazines, books, photography, and cinema were perceived as fundamental tools to mobilise popular support and promote the fight for decolonisation at international level. Photographers such as Augusta Conchiglia and Tadahiro Ogawa, among others, documented the armed struggle and life in the liberated zones, where different forms of social organisation were being tried out and radical education projects were being implemented. Meanwhile, young Portuguese deserters and absentees refused to participate in the war and sought exile in France and other countries.
Once independence was won, photography books documented the process of construction of the new nation-states. Between militantism and formal experimentation, these books revive the tangible dimension of the first years of independence, a period marked by the adoption of Marxist-Leninist political models and the quest for a decolonised image.
Bringing together an unprecedented group of books, photographs and documents produced between the sixties and eighties, this exhibition shapes a spatial and temporal constellation of the aesthetics of liberation. In addition to a vast group of books, magazines, posters and documents, the exhibition includes photographic and cinematographic works from the sixties and seventies by Augusta Conchiglia, Moira Forjaz, Silvestre Pestana and the cooperative Grupo Zero. The exhibition “Generalized Visual Resistance – Photobooks and Liberation Movements: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde” also includes recent works by Daniel Barroca, Welket Bungué, Filipa César and Sónia Vaz Borges that question history and memory, reshape the visual forms of the aesthetics of Liberation and examine the persistence of colonial structures in the present day.
-Catarina Boieiro and Raquel Schefer, exhibition curators.
Exhibition organised within the context of Saison France – Portugal 2022