The exhibition Return – Traces of Memory marks the 40th anniversary of the moment that became known as the return of the Portuguese nationals to the metropolis following the decolonization of Portugal’s African colonies, which reached its peak in 1975.
From 1974 to 1977, the majority of Portuguese or residents of Portuguese descent left the territories belonging to the former Portuguese Colonial Empire. These Portuguese were named the “returnees”, a term that took on a pejorative connotation and that betrayed the tensions accompanying the end of Portuguese colonialism in Africa, the return of this population to the former empire’s capital, their integration into a society undergoing profound social and political transformation.
The exhibition Return does not pretend to crystallise the name historically given to these displaced persons; it seeks, rather, to create a space for thought, reflection and openness toward examining the tensions, contradictions and perplexities that accompanied them.
Neither does Return pretend to re-enact history. First and foremost, it is an exhibition about memory of the return and, by extension, the memory of the empire — and the power of its demise — in contemporary Portuguese society. A memory created from historical sources, personal testimonies, photography and artistic concepts.
Return has been conceptualised to give shape to this complexity. Aimed at being a moment of reflection and critical thinking, it does not provide an interpretation of events; rather, it offers simultaneous interrogations of the post-colonial condition or the human condition of appropriation, exploitation, displacement and loss. Its presents multifaceted views originating from the fields of art, literature, anthropology, history and politics to reflect and think about this memory based on its weight in the present times.