Becas & the intangible heritage of Porto

António Guimarães, alias Becas, has been present in Porto’s nightlife for decades and marked it significantly. A 100% night bird, he somehow made it to the Porto Creative Mornings last Friday, to tell us about the history and present of nightlife&creativity in this city. And so I discovered that Aniki Bóbó does not only stand for a film, nor Passos Manuel is merely a street: one used to be an iconic bar (existed since 1985 but closed in 2005, though), and the other, cinema for authors’ films and a stage for many other cultural events, still exists and is back to life since 2004 thanks exactly to Senhor Becas.

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This cultural space is situated in the Coliseu of Porto, recuperated by the architect Pedro Gadanha. Its particular atmosphere attracts famous musicians (the opening concert was of Anthony and the Johnsons), but also brings out new talents.

And Becas, he’s an electrotechnics professor who somehow went off the beaten path, became an organizer of all kinds of cool events and even a DJ himself!

The only trouble with him is that he wouldn’t put his memories on paper (nor record them in some other way). And that means some precious memories of Porto as it once was might be lost forever.

 

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The intangible Portugal.

Heritage is not only about the material structures, of course. There is a whole range of oral traditions, performing arts, rituals, festive events, practices and skills to be thought of in that sense. People still have a basic need of physical and mental belonging to a particular context and those intangibles are still living and so much needed in the present times.

However, until recently, the traditions, practices and skills have been treated separately, country by country. Namely, the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is quite a 21st century thing and it has been just 10 years since its adoption now.

There’s a world intangible heritage list, with one entry from Portugal so far – the Fado, which was inscribed in 2011. It’s defined as the popular urban song of Portugal, emerged at the beginning of 19th century and associated primarily with Lisbon and maybe Coimbra. The keyword to fado is saudade (the untranslatable word for longing and melancholy and feeling of loss).

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Another intangible asset of Portugal, shared with several other countries and planned to be inscribed in the world heritage list is the Mediterranean diet. There have been some problems in the course of inscription, as far as I know, but having been to Portugal I can say there’s no better example of a living tradition! Something to be investigated and lived in-depth, so I hope, as there are senses and heritage and present time in the mix!

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There’s a museum dedicated to fado in Lisbon, they mapped a few fado-related things, which can be seen here: http://roteiro.museudofado.pt/

There will be an exhibition in Tavira (Algarve) dedicated to the Dieta Mediterrânica – Património Cultural Milenar, linked to its inscription, something to keep in mind for next February/March. Link: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00482&activityID=00094