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Monday, April 29: Day 7 – Street Art

Off to Belem on a free walking tour. It is a metro ride away. Two of our credit cards were rejected by the ticket machine so we ended up paying cash.

In one of the squares there is a statue of Alfonso de Albuquerque. He was a Portuguese statesman and Duke of Goa, India around the year 1500. They referred to him as the “Genghis Khan of the Seas.”

Next we ate yet another custard tart at the original factory and shop located in a converted nunnery since 1837. The secret recipe was passed down from the nuns, and it is known now by only 5 people who don’t travel together. I am sure that you can find recipes that are similar on the Internet.

We saw Jeronimos (St. Jerome) Monastery constructed in Manueline architecture (late Portuguese Gothic). It was built starting in 1501 to commemorate the return of Vasco da Gama from India.

Along the shore the Monument of the Discoveries shows the prow of a Portuguese caravel (ship) with 33 Portuguese monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists, and religious figures prominent in the country’s history. Each idealized figure is designed to show movement towards the front (the unknown sea).

Henry the Navigator is at the point. He founded a school for explorers but never sailed himself.

Belem Tower is a key landmark on the Tagus River and Lisbon waterfront. It was never actually used as a fort because no one ever got past the other 8 forts. In 1755 an earthquake destroyed much of Lisbon. The tidal wave was higher than the tower. We were told that these earthquakes are likely to occur every 250 years. Math tells me that it is time to move on!

Our afternoon featured a Street Art tour. After a difficult ride in a hot van through narrow winding city streets (at this point I thought our tour was doomed) we arrived at the Blue Wall that runs for 2/3 of a mile. It is an open air gallery featuring various types of art and many expressive faces. The Blue Wall is the outside wall of a psychiatric center. When the airport opened a new runway and planes started flying over the wall, some of the patients had to be relocated.

In another part of the city the neighborhood of Quinta do Mocho (translates as owl farm) is inhabited by people from African colonies. The neighborhood was built as housing with low rents for these people that have nowhere else to go. For many years this area suffered from violence and racism.

In 2014 there was a festival called O Bairro i o Mundo (the Neighborhood and the World). The organizers invited street artists to paint the blank walls of the apartment blocks, while at the same time putting on theatre, music, and dance. The project aimed to rejuvenate Quinta do Mocho through art, hoping to remove the stigma that had existed for so long.

The neighborhood now has over 67 murals and is the largest open-air urban art gallery in Europe. The art helped bring the people together and end the violence. The visual results are amazing, and the neighborhood has been revitalized.

Some of the paintings have special significance.

This one shows the importance of education for children.
Women have to work several jobs because of high unemployment among men. There are classes to train African women living in Portugal how to act and speak “white” so they can get domestic jobs. The mural shows a woman taking off her white mask after her work is finished for the day.
See the woman wearing a roof on her head. It symbolizes that they take their home with them wherever they go.
The eye shows that people in the neighborhood have to watch over themselves and each other.

This website gives more information about the neighborhood and the art.

A Decade of Change Part Two: Quinta do Mocho

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