Júlio de Matos Photography

JORNAL OVIBEJA (03/ 04/2005) [back]

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JORNAL OVIBEJA

ALENTEJO OF YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW, AT THE "SABOR A ALENTEJO" PAVILION

At the “Alentejo Flavours” Pavilion there is an Audiovisual Exhibition, “Alentejo of Yesterday and Tomorrow - Keep or Fulfil the Dream” (conceived and designed by architect Júlio de Matos). Entry is free, every fifteen minutes, and small groups of fifteen people may enter a universe where the Alentejo is revisited in its spatial-temporal dimension. The circuit comprises twelve “moments”, which visitors go through at the sound of words with the flavour of the Alentejo.

At the beginning of this "journey" you are in the company of the poet Fernando Pessoa, who on one of his train journeys visited the Alentejo plains. In the words of the poet, Alentejo, its immensity and torrid temperature, could well resemble hell: "If hell exists, I've found it, because if it is not here, where the hell would it be?" But you must not confuse hell with "calm", especially when it is a noble "calm", full of possibilities.

Everything is born from its land, "the water and the lack of it," and it is precisely the lack of water that makes the history of the Alentejo people. At this stage of our journey, dozens of glass bottles suspended, like a tree of life, show us their empty or half empty insides. This is the reality that the people of the plains live with. And it is in this passing time that leisure is born. Leisure, a word that explains “time that does not change", an expression of José Saramago, permeates the days in the plains. This is the third moment in the exhibition, illustrated by dozens of watches loaned by the Serpa Clock Museum, which shows time "broken into pieces".

Next are the harvesters, "eternal goddesses, simply women", immortalized in the figure of Catarina Eufémia, who struggle against the "impossibility of Fertility". The image of the fields shaped by the hands of those who do not give in to the time that passes, marks this stage of the journey. And the poetic references follow one another...

In the words of Pedro Ferro, everything in the Alentejo is horizontal except the men. It is this horizontality, coupled with the strength of the people who inhabit this land, which endows these fields with a very singular character as though a silent battle were being waged between Man and Nature.

Then there are the moments when "Space" is the important factor. In the fields where the Alentejo people work from "sun to sun”, they submit themselves to nature, this being their "sad wealth". It is through the noble star, which dominates the landscape, that the Alentejo people come into their own. The words that guide us along our route reinforce that and tell us that "a lack of sun means the end of the Alentejo".

But space is also made of the whitewashed walls. Lime, an element that "whitewash stroke after whitewash stroke" covers the stains of time, is part of the story of this land from where the gerund sprung which replaces "to live" by "living", providing existence and its actions with an extreme density. And it is by living that often one "goes away" from the land and "violates" the law that dictates that we are from the land where we were born. From the image of tarred roads in motion, which lead the children of the land far away, the fall of the Alentejo appears to emerge. Modernity and oblivion hang over the plain, which unhurriedly watches the void left by the death of those who work it.

After travelling the twelve paths that make up this exhibition, visitors can "rest" for six minutes in a large auditorium that displays powerful images and simple but strong words about this blessed land. "The meadows that provide the bread and wine, that bring the honey and cheese" are images that flash before us. And with the irrigation channels from Alqueva, which has raised the hopes of a people, we say farewell to this space that is no more than a hymn to the Alentejo, its people, and those whom they inspired to write beautiful words.

Prey to emotion, which is impossible not to feel after visiting this space, we are now drawn to the opportunity to enjoy the fine produce of the land, because the "Alentejo Flavours" Pavilion introduces visitors to some of the best regional products: cheese, wine, sweets, bread, sausage, etc. They are more than reasons to believe that the Alentejo is not limited to being just a large area of land where water is sometimes scarce...



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