A journey through the diversity of the Portuguese language at the Electricity Museum

Like an emissary of the Portuguese Language Museum (São Paulo, Brazil), the exhibition 'A Língua Portuguesa em Nós' (The Portuguese Language Within Us) showcases the history and diversity of the Portuguese language at the Electricity Museum in Lisbon. Until October 21.

Nine panels explore the timeline of the Portuguese language, introducing the exhibition ' A Língua Portuguesa em Nós' [The Portuguese Language Within Us] which takes over part of the Electricity Museum in Lisbon until October 21. "A long, complex and beautiful story that starts with Latin," says Isa Grinspum Ferraz during a guided tour with journalists before the opening this afternoon.

A very small version of the 33-meter originals that line the walls of Estação da Luz, an iconic building in São Paulo where the Portuguese Language Museum was set up in 2006. And without the technological means that the new museum will have when it reopens in December 2019 (following the fire that closed it down in December 2015) "using objects, statements, songs, and also texts and photographs," says Isa Grinspum Ferraz, one of the people in charge of the contents of the Portuguese Language Museum in São Paulo.

Two audiovisual experiences, which constitute two important attractions at the São Paulo museum, complete the exhibition. The Museum's most symbolic experience - the Language Square - is presented on a small scale at the Electricity Museum. This is an immersive installation in which the visitor is confronted with erudite and popular poetry, read by such well-known voices as Chico Buarque or Maria Bethânia, or in the form of songs.

The second experience is part of the 'Language in Everyday Life' axis. Again, this section will only feature a small sample of what will be displayed in São Paulo in December 2019, when the Museum's reconstruction works are expected to be completed - a €60 million project sponsored by EDP Brasil, which will bear one-third of the investment. Two of the 12 short films will be screened in Lisbon, focusing on music and cooking.

Extended collection

The idea of producing this exhibition came from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to keep the museum alive, said the head of the organization's cultural department Paula Alves de Sousa.

"Coming to Lisbon is a great satisfaction for us. It is the culmination of a long journey. Our idea was that the Portuguese language should speak to its people. The Portuguese language is alive, so we wanted to bring life to the museum itself. The museum was kept alive through the exhibition," she said.

The exhibition visited Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique before coming to Portugal. And this made it possible to collect statements from visitors. "This itinerancy has brought about the opportunity to collect the sounds, the accents, and especially the feelings of those who visited the exhibition in Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique. And now we're doing it here [in Lisbon]. These statements will then be added to the Portuguese Language Museum collection in São Paulo," says Hugo Barreto, Content Director of the Roberto Marinho Foundation, who began developing the project in 2002 - "the first museum entirely dedicated to a language."

There is a reading area with games and experiences specifically designed for children, as well as an area called 'Cápsula' where visitors are invited to videotape a statement about their relationship with the language. Some people sing, others recite poetry, and others simply say 'Hello'.

Exhibition will stay in Óbidos

Lisbon is the last stop of this traveling exhibition, which will then acquire a more permanent character in Óbidos. Following an agreement between the Museum, the Roberto Marinho Foundation and the Óbidos City Hall, the exhibition will stay in Óbidos for at least three years.

Back in São Paulo, restoration works are still in progress. Over four million people visited the museum between 2006 and 2015.

"This museum is different from all other museums in Brazil. It's a museum with a twist: visitors are part of what is being visited because they are visiting themselves, visiting their own identity, their essence. After all, we dream in Portuguese, love in Portuguese, hate in Portuguese. It's a museum that has always awakened a powerful affective identity among Brazilian and international visitors. It is no accident that it was voted by Trip Advisor as one of the two best museums in Latin America," Hugo Barreto points out.

"This is a museum that offers visitors something like a cosmological journey through the universe of their own language. And what we have here is a small representation of the contents of the museum, created from an approach by renowned scholar José Miguel Wisnik, with this idea of ' A Língua Portuguesa em Nós' (The Portuguese Language Within Us). 'Within us' in a triple sense: we, the speakers of this language in its various versions; we, the navigation unit that spreads this language around the world aboard Portuguese vessels; and we ('nós') in the sense of the 'knots' ('nós') which tie and untie us, entangle and disentangle us in the relations between the various Portuguese-speaking countries.

In addition to the statements collected during the exhibition's journeys, the contents of the renewed Portuguese Language Museum will be expanded "with the language's geopolitical dimension and economic value," says Hugo Barreto. "According to Instituto Camões, Portuguese is the fourth language on the Internet and the third on Facebook. I was impressed with these figures."

Along with the exhibition there will be literary panels (October 13), workshops for families (October 14), a film cycle, and a seminar.

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