Children of colonialism break the silence and tell their stories

They are not actors but have accepted the challenge of taking the stage to share their memories and those of their parents about Portuguese colonialism.

Memories that in some cases they only discovered during the preparation of the show "Os Filhos do Colonialism Português" ("The Children of Portuguese Colonialism"), which opens this Thursday at Culturgest, in Lisbon.

Sitting on the floor while Patricia braids her hair, Soraia recalls what it was like to arrive in Portugal, leaving "a huge house with a number of servants" in Beira, Mozambique, and living with her "as if it was a favor" in a poor neighborhood at the outskirts of Lisbon. The two are exchanging personal memories of the time of Portuguese colonialism and, already with catembe (mix of wine and coca-cola) being served, are joining the conversation Joana, Paulo, Celise and Claudia, the six non-actors who star in " Os Filhos do Colonialismo Português," a show created by the company Hotel Europa, which opens this Thursday, September 26, at Culturgest, in Lisbon.

No, that's not how the play begins. This is just one of the moments in which the six stories that cross Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde and Portugal, dazzled by the recreation of balls in the 'musseques' or Beach Boys music videos, photographs and very personal letters that create a close proximity between who is on stage and who's watching.

On the stage, everyone has in common colonial memories in the family and a curiosity to know more about this heritage. A curiosity that led them to answer the call of André Amálio and Tereza Havlíčková to participate in workshops on colonialism, a theme they have been investigating for seven years, having already taken to the stage shows such as Passaporte, Libertação or Portugal não é um País Pequeno.

"In Passaporte, for example, [Mozambican] singer Selma Uamusse told a little of her story, but then also interpreted the stories of others. I decided that in this show I wanted to cut off any intermediary process, from someone doing something to another, I really wanted non-actors who have nothing to do with dance, theater or other performing arts to talk about their life stories and the history of their parents' life," explains André Amálio.

This biographical side leads Teresa to classify the show as "very simple, pure and true" believing that, for this very reason, "it can speak to all people, even to those who are not used to go to the theater."

"One very funny thing happened at these workshops: there was a process of identifying these people who saw that there were others besides them feeling that this past they inherited was important to them in the present," recalls Amálio.

Taking on the challenge that was thrown at them, these "children of colonialism" began a process of investigation and discovery of memories of their parents' colonialism, some pieces told by themselves during the show.

Contrary to what happened with the creation of the other shows, "only after doing the workshops did I feel that I liked to interview their parents because I realized that in many cases there was a hole here," says André Amálio. Questions that had never been asked and answers never before given. And there were those who wondered if their parents would adhere to the idea, says Claudia, daughter of a former combatant with post-traumatic stress, during the show.

Therefore, there were many doubts faced by the group. "What will my parents think of what I am doing here? And that was the great barrier that was later overcome: how far can I go, what can I say, what is fair, what is right," recalls André Amálio.

"This was very interesting in this work: in many of them, the broadcast was made here, through this [show creation] process, because we went to interview their parents, and they listened and did the interviews. That was a giant step that was taken here by them and which I think will now be taken by the people who come to see it. It's funny to see how theater works this way."

Integrated in the Memórias Coloniais ("Colonial Memories") cycle, which will take place at Culturgest, in Lisbon, until October 5th, the show will also have performances in Coimbra and Porto in February next year. And the group's desire is that it can be presented in many other stages, as has happened with previous shows, still in circulation.

"Filhos do Colonialismo Português" is the last show around colonialism that André and Teresa will present. To end this phase of his work and also the Memórias Coloniais cycle, on October 5 André Amálio will use his extensive archive of interviews, books, videos and photographs revisiting his theatrical creations in a 13-hour performance. "I will go through all this seven-year work, bits of interviews that were never heard will be heard then. The public can come and go as they please, at any time, I will be there at 1 pm. The idea is for people to be able to hear the long versions of the interviews. In other processes / shows, sometimes we had fantastic interviews but because the show has a certain duration, it was necessary to cut, to choose. This was a very violent process for me: an amazing life story, a two-hour conversation, to just use two minutes, two and a half minutes. That's why I decided to end with this long performance."

Regarding the way colonialism is viewed today in Portugal, André Amálio has no doubt that "there is a movement in the most varied areas - from the Academy, to activists, fine arts, documentaries, theater - that wants to discuss colonialism, wants to stop having fairy tales about our colonialism saying that we are different from others. No, we were no different from others and we can live with it, we can recognize, accept, learn and move on. There is this whole generation that has not lived colonialism, that wants to do it, that has this need. "

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