José de Guimarães’
alphabet of drawings
in dialogue with the tradition of proverbs of
the peoples of Cabinda.
Between 1970 and 1974, José
de Guimarães reinvented his
drawing techniques, producing an alphabet that was influenced by the ideographic
language associated to the tradition of pots in the territory
of the former ancient kingdom of Ngoyo (XV-XIX), in the
south of Cabinda, in northwest
Angola. This language was not
solely visual or decorative. It
communicated different messages, sayings, meanings, ideas,
carved on the lids of various
household objects, such as pots
and tureens, that are presented
here in projected images.
José Guimarães’ African Alphabet is based on a process of “osmosis” between European and
African art. It reinforces the
importance of the symbol as a
mediating element between art
and all other dimensions of human existence, understanding
its role in cultural transmission.
The pot lids contain proverbs,
fictions and reveal the tremendous metaphorical richness of
the kingdom of Ngoyo.
This vocabulary is introduced
in the room dedicated to the
“origin” of José de Guimarães’
poetics, that highlights the relationship between European art
and African sculpture, articulating fetishism, appropriation
and poetic experimentation. It
makes it possible to reconnect
the museum’s collection with
the active traditions of African
territory. Projected in images,
the reliefs of various African
utensils haunt and illuminate
José de Guimarães’ alphabet.
Between 1970-74, José de
Guimarães developed his systematic method of anthropological approach in Angola, focusing on the territory of the
former Kingdom of Ngoyo, in
the southern zone of the enclave of Cabinda (Angola). He
was impressed by the communicative form of these peoples,
expressed here through projected images from the collection of the National Museum
of Ethnology (Lisbon) and the
study by José Martins Vaz, Filosofia Tradicional dos Cabindas
através dos seus testos de panela,
provérbios, adivinhas e fábulas (The Traditional Philosophy
of the Cabindas through their
pots, proverbs, riddles and fables) (1970).
Objects of ritual, moral and
family communication, these
tools speak and tell stories.
José de Guimarães found inspiration in the communicative
power and effectiveness of this
language to build his own artistic lexicon, which, has been
a constant element throughout
his career, although it has undergone several changes.
FOR ALL AGES
FOR ALL AGES