BOBA KANA MUTHU WZELA
IT IS FORBIDDEN TO SPEAK HERE!
With a title that evokes silence, this exhibition by JRicardo Rodrigues (Lobito, 1964) was nevertheless created as a form of dialogue. A dialogue with the tradition of European painting found in the galleries of the MNAA, and with the old quarter of Mocambo (today's Madragoa), near the geographical space where the Museum still stands. Although a place of freedom, this neighbourhood was also a universe of forbidden languages, namely Angolan Kimbundu and Umbundu, which have been, since the fifteenth century, living testimonies of the presence of African culture in Lisbon.
Much of that memory, along with its influence on Portuguese culture and history, is relatively unknown to the public. Even if recorded by historiography, actual people, confined to silence for the most part, seldom appear as objects of representation. This silence, impossible to overcome with documentary images, thus explains the imaginative exercise one is invited to undertake. An exercise where the relation with the MNAA's collection and with the Mocambo originates from an absence.
The exhibition's aim is to Reveal Memory from Forgetfulness, both the name of the project the artist has been developing for almost a decade and these works' context.
By crossing times and places and by staging situations, JRicardo Rodrigues has created the protagonists of unheard stories. The stories of a Marquis of Pombal with African roots, of fictional or allegorical characters that once belonged to a vanished neighbourhood, of objects and words that carry a weight greater than themselves. Thus, from what at first is only an invitation to look, we are, subsequently, compelled to reflect on what then takes the form of a question: how is memory constructed, erased, or reimagined?