THE SYNTAX OF A COMPOUND SUBJECT
Circulador is a research platform dedicated to promoting the cultural production, and analyzing mobility and artistic exchange, as well as the policies that govern cultural economy in Portuguese-speaking countries. With the main mission of publicizing the way through which the agents of this shared language space operate, it seeks to provide visibility to the cultural diversity that weaves the networks among its main urban centers with the rest of the world.
In the Portuguese language, the study of words, their arrangement and the way they relate to each other within sentences is called syntax. From the analysis of the disposition of different elements in a structure, and the possibilities of meaning that their connection presents and enunciates, we are able to perceive beyond the individuality of each element the functionality of a connected system, in which the possibility of mutation is also a constant. Also, the identification of the action that is performed, and who is doing that action, will always be crucial to understand and discover logics in the exchange of messages. In this sense, in addition to the verb, which is the driving force of an idea in motion, it is looking at the subject of the sentence that we can learn about the perspectives, specificities and details of what is practiced and presented in the form of discourse.
Looking at the cultural sectors in Portuguese-speaking countries however, we will find diverse subjects, syntactically independent and agents of their own circumstances of time and space. In the exercise of reflecting a possible collectivity, we propose here to think about the syntax of a compound subject, who from different nuclei articulates and exercises a coordinated action.
Connecting a territory dispersed in time and space—whose cultural heritage unites and the oceans separate—is a work that involves perceiving, listening and sharing. Talking about the economics of culture in a community that is diverse both culturally and in terms of its social and economic development, with asymmetric realities and contexts, poses the need of constantly redefining perspectives to deconstruct operational models. The effort of connecting these spaces involves the need to pursue and transmit an ever increasing amount of content, for their stories and narratives to travel further.
The last two decades have been marked by an increasing participation of the countries of the South in international cultural flows, with the consolidation of new centers of production, consumption and diffusion. Although these networks are still structured towards the North, the resizing of contemporary transnational dialogues is visible, which today are more plural and diverse. The year 2020, however, presents new challenges for the cultural agenda. The pandemic of the novel coronavirus has unleashed an unprecedented crisis, strongly impacting the cultural sector globally and exposing the fact that the diversity of cultural expressions is, more than ever, under threat.
It was from the metropolis of Wuhan, in China, that the new virus quickly spread along the paths of a hyper-connected and constantly moving world, and within a few weeks its epicenter was dislocated from Asia to the Americas. Struggling with a highly transmissible disease and an overpowering number of infected people and fatal victims, the health crisis that ensued forced the world’s largest economies to abruptly step on the brakes. Large metropolises emptied and plunged into an unprecedented silence, with almost one billion people entering forced or voluntary confinement between January and June 2020. The health crisis confronts humanity with a unique moment in its history, as it turned into a serious economic crisis, exposing and deepening the greatest weaknesses and problems of the neoliberal project and the entire global system of interdependent production and consumption chains, marked by mounting inequality.
After long periods of confinement that followed different strategies and guidelines, with profound economic and social impacts, especially in developing countries, the world cautiously resumes activities in a new normal. Amid new rules for social coexistence and displacement, governments and society tread carefully in new territory, seeking to resume economic activities to mitigate damage and prevent total economic meltdown. In a scenario of uncertainty, in which a vaccine may still take years to complete, the situation is constantly compared to the harshest times of the 20th century, such as the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and World War II.
In addition to the need for rapid adaptation of national health systems in the face of the pandemic of a new virus, the generalized suspension of activities poses unprecedented challenges to many sectors, both in terms of scale and depth. In this scenario, the cultural sector, whose primary elements are proximity, connection and constant exchange with the public, is undoubtedly one of the most affected areas. Theaters, concert halls, museums, galleries and cinemas were the first to close and will be the last to be able to resume their normal activities.
The pandemic crisis also accelerates the trend towards the digital sphere. In this urgent redefinition of spaces, the impossibility of a complete transition of the arts to the online universe is exposed, raising questions about its monetization for culture workers, and also about democracy and sovereignty on digital spaces. Although the virtual allows connections and synchronicities of different times and places, creating new spaces and ever changing speeds, it can also exclude significant portions of the world population from exercising their cultural and economic rights.
The crisis leaves bare, above all, the fragility of the cultural sector, which has historically suffered from underfunding and instability, and is plagued by deeply fragmented policies in the different spheres of public administration, as well as within the sector itself, in addition to the irregular and precarious working conditions of its professionals. This is even more true in developing countries whose institutions, systems, structures and policies for culture are in much more delicate situations. A growing crisis in global governance also affects the involvement of international organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) itself, whose guidelines, conventions or recommendations are met with barriers.
Culture contribute with US$ 2.2 billion annually, and employs around 30 million people worldwide—representing 3% of the world1 economy. It is essential that we understand the productive chain that supports an entire professional sector, seeing it as a real driver of socioeconomic development. It is equally essential that culture is perceived as central in the recovery efforts and in the reconstruction process during the pandemic and after it.
In this perspective, the #CULTURE2030GOAL2 campaign, which brings together different cultural networks in the world working to include culture in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, launched a very important manifesto on May 21, 2020, calling for culture to fulfill its potential in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing attention to the imminent risk to the wide diversity in the manifestations and practices of culture, in its form and content, the manifesto calls for social well-being, solidarity and sustainability to be at the center of short- and long-term cultural policies, and demands centrality for the instruments of international cultural cooperation in building more resilient communities. At a time when the cultural sector faces the need to reinvent itself completely, looking into the future ensures us that the challenges that have always existed will be even greater.
Following this orientation, we look at the specificities of the cultural sector in Portuguese-speaking countries, not by collecting data extensively, but by listening carefully to the paths and processes of becoming of different cultural agents acting on and transforming their spaces.
The scenario of serious crisis experienced on a global scale is particularly prominent in the group of countries we address here, and that find themselves at very distinct circumstances. The differences are revealed at the onset of the outbreak, its expansion and duration, passing through the economic and structural conditions to combat the epidemic, finally culminating in the responses offered by the Governments and by civil society. The structural and historical discontinuity, as well as the absence of regulatory frameworks, laws and policies in relation to culture are important traits of this group of countries whose cultural sectors are, in general, creative not only when it comes to their practices, but also their very survival.
Via videoconferencing software, we talked, during confinement, throughout the month of May, with five professionals from the culture sector who run institutions focused on visual arts, dance, audiovisual, literature, and cultural mediation and audience engagement in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde.
In Angola, with Alice Cruz, manager of the audio department at Geração 80, an audiovisual production company based in Luanda. In Brazil, with Lia Rodrigues, choreographer and director of Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Danças, in Rio de Janeiro. In Cape Verde, with António Tavares, artistic director of Centro Cultural do Mindelo (CCM), in Mindelo. In Mozambique, with Eduardo Quive, director of LITERATAS – Revista de Artes e Letras de Moçambique, based in Maputo. In Portugal, with visual artist Mónica de Miranda, artistic director of Hangar – Centro de Investigação Artística, in Lisbon.
With a more concentrated focus on the communities in which they are located, these institutions and projects share the common fact that they are centers of gravity and reference in their sector, contributing to the training and development of other professionals and people, as well as helping define a collective agenda. Getting closer to those who practice culture on the edge, more than a complete and technical overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in these countries, we seek to understand how these projects were affected in their practices, in their financial sustainability and in their strategies, as well as in their communities and surroundings, in order to know the specificities of each path. Throughout these pages, we can get a glimpse of the reality of complex capitals and metropolises and delve into the specifics of sectors that operate in different ways within the culture sector. Although not attempting to be an exercise in futurology, these conversations show us how important it is for us to remain attentive and present, ready for the next leap.
It is important, however, to offer the reader some context regarding the different systems in which each of our interviewees operates, so as to provide some initial perspective for analysis and understanding of the challenges they face.
1 UNESCO, 2015.
2 Culture2030Goal campaign (2020), “Ensuring Culture Fulfills its Potential in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic”, published in Barcelona, Brazzaville, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Paris and The Hague, on 20 April 2020.
With 10 years of experience in the Angolan audiovisual sector, Geração 80 is a production company which, dabbling in an unstable economic scenario and strongly dependent on the foreign market, knew how to find solutions and combine content production for ad agencies and corporations with high-quality artistic productions, increasingly recognized in the international scene.
The coronavirus crisis at the same time that impacted the dissemination and distribution strategy of the company’s first fiction feature film, Ar Condicionado , which had its international debut at the prestigious International Film Festival Rotterdam, presented different opportunities, such as the online initiative that brought together major international film festivals for the We Are One – A Global Film Festival, allowing the film to be accessed by people around the world. In this moment of crisis, as we will see, Geração 80 was also able to deepen the channels of communication and cooperation with government agencies in Angola, starting to produce and disseminate content for the national open television, opening perhaps a window of great importance for authorial production, the audience engagement and the structuring of the national market in a country with an incipient audiovisual sector.
But understanding the Angolan cultural dynamics also involves approaching its political and economic organization. Shortly after its independence in 1975, Angola experienced one of the longest civil wars in history, motivated by the dispute for political control in the country. For almost 30 years, financing the war became the Government’s top priority, which ended up neglecting investment in education and culture, thus hampering the sustained development of an institutional apparatus capable of enabling cultural consumption.
After the end of the war in 2002, Angola sets off in a process of national reconstruction, experiencing a decade of vertiginous economic growth, with ample participation of foreign capital and intense development of the oil industry. Despite advances with the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 2003, the creation of the Luanda International Film Festival (2008) and the enactment of the Cinema and Audiovisual Law and the Patronage Law (2012), the objective reality of the culture sector in the country points toward a yet unstructured and unstable setting.
In April 2020, already in the midst of the mounting pandemic of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry absorbed, as an austerity measure, the Environment and Tourism departments. The new head of the Ministry of Culture, Environment and Tourism is the biologist Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa, with outstanding contribution in the preservation of biodiversity. However, the former Minister of Culture, Maria da Piedade de Jesus, is the current Secretary of State for Culture, and the one directly responsible, in the Ministry, for managing cultural policies in the country. She spoke about the measures against COVID-19 taken in Angola during the online meeting organized by UNESCO on April 22, in the context of the Forum of Ministers of Culture.
In her speech, the secretary listed the financial support actions taken by the government to meet the demands of the sector, such as the allocation of funds for cultural institutions, closed since the beginning of the state of emergency; the creation of a credit line to finance tourism and artistic and cultural activities; and the extension of fiscal terms and conditions for cultural agents.
Maria da Piedade reinforced the important role that Angolan artists have in promoting fundraising initiatives. She also said that planning for the implementation of sanitary measures that would allow the reopening of facilities as soon as possible was in progress.
The minister announced, on May 19, that the 6,600 cultural and tourist agents registered in the country’s association record will receive baskets with staple foods as a way to lessen the effects of the pandemic, and that the Ministry has initiated talks with the industry’s workers to propose appropriate solutions3.
This set of responses, however, does not appear in the official communication of the Ministry of Culture, whose publications are scarce. Official communication is also absent from social networks, which usually follows a more dynamic pace.
In this setting, the affirmative stance of third sector associations and organizations in the country is noteworthy. An initiative worth mentioning is the Fundação Arte e Cultura Online, created on March 24 by Fundação Arte e Cultura, as a response to the limitations imposed by the state of emergency, carrying out training activities in culture, streamed on social networks. Also with the production company Geração 80, it produced several educational materials to be broadcast on Televisão Pública de Angola (TPA). Together, they have already made more than 40 informative and entertainment films that seek to raise public awareness for the care needed to contain the spread of the virus.
3 Source: Portal de Angola
Nearly the same age as the Brazilian democracy, Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Danças has been established in Complexo da Maré, Rio de Janeiro, since 2003, constantly articulating international networks, in search of overcoming structural bottlenecks and the gaps left by the inconstancy of cultural policies in Brazil. It is largely due to the intense circulation, production and artistic cooperation in the international, and mainly European, markets that the Company guarantees and ensures the continuity of a project highly anchored in a specific territory and community, that is projected to the world.
Based at Centro de Artes da Maré, it develops internationally recognized work combining choreographic production with socio-cultural and political issues, making artistic creation and training through dance a tool for citizenship engagement. Comprising a series of favelas in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Complexo da Maré is a complex territory that illustrates the inequality that characterizes Brazil and its challenges in facing the coronavirus pandemic.
After years of a state of exception, Brazil began its process of redemocratization in 1985. During the transitional administration of José Sarney, the first civilian to run the country after 21 years of military dictatorship, the Ministry of Culture (MinC) was created, established as an agency for the management of cultural policies and based on democratic ideals, seeking to separate itself from the history of censorship and propaganda that had marked the cultural scenario over the previous decades.
In October 1988, with the promulgation of the Citizen Constitution, the State was given the duty to guarantee the full exercise of cultural rights. However, in the 1990s, the Brazilian public sector went through progressive downsizing and de-bureaucratization, with the prioritization of tax incentive laws as a strategy to promote culture, and the two most important laws of the period are the Rouanet Law (1991) and the Audiovisual Law (1993).
Between 2003 and 2010, the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sought to re-institutionalize cultural policy, creating mechanisms for popular participation in decision-making. For the first time, the Ministry of Culture was built with a high degree of specialization, transversality and capillarity, in a robust administrative structure that placed culture as a privileged agent for Brazilian socioeconomic development.
It was in this period that the National Culture System (SNC) was idealized and implemented, developed over the decade and resulting in the subsequent approval of the National Culture Plan (PNC), in 2010, created to suggest public policies for the sector for 10 years, regardless of changes in the administration.
The period during which the PNC was active, however, saw the progressive dismantling of the cultural sector. In May 2016, after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the President in office Michel Temer announced the extinction of MinC, causing the organized civil society to mobilize against the measure, which prevented the ministry’s closure. However, Jair Bolsonaro, elected to the presidency in 2018, in one of his first measures as head of the Executive branch, consummated the extinction, transforming it into the Special Secretariat of Culture (SEC).
In addition to the budget reduction, the status of Secretary also meant less autonomy in developing cultural policy. Initially part of the Ministry of Citizenship, since November 2019 the SEC is part of the Ministry of Tourism. Thus, between 2016 and 2020, Brazil had eight different ministers and special secretaries at the head of the public administration of culture.
Amidst the rise in the far-right discourse, which increasingly reinforces the criminalization of artistic production, the coronavirus crisis finds the country completely at odds in terms of political guidelines, incapable of establishing a cohesive strategy to fight the pandemic. With a large portion of its population living in vulnerable conditions, the country became, in May, the second with the highest number of infected people in the world, and is struggling to implement social isolation measures in a territory of continental proportions. The current president, disagreeing with the effectiveness of confinement measures and systematic suspension of activities, confronts state governors and mayors on a daily basis, and denies the recommendations of WHO, a constant arm-wrestle between the different levels of Brazilian government.
Faced with the imminence of a major social crisis, on March 30 the National Congress approved emergency aid for informal, self-employed and unemployed workers—a category in which most of the cultural workers fit.
The Government is committed to providing, for three months, assistance in the amount of R$ 600 reais, for up to two people from the same family. In view of the possibility of a prolonged crisis, the President confirmed in May the benefit may be extended, however the amount can be reduced. The program is not specifically targeted to culture workers, but former Special Secretary for Culture Regina Duarte claimed it as one of the top measures by her administration.
In this context, the SEC did not pay any greater importance to the impact of the crisis and as of the beginning of the pandemic, hasn’t offered any special channel for management and dialogue with culture workers. On its online portal and through social networks, it operates with scarce official communications, and published, as a palliative measure, a Normative Instruction in the Official Gazette, establishing extraordinary procedures for raising funds, executing, rendering accounts and evaluating the outcomes of projects funded by the National Culture Support Program (Pronac).
The secretariats of culture within states and municipalities have been seeking different ways of offering mechanisms to support the sector and its workers, especially through public notices and calls for projects, as is the case of such initiatives as Teatros e Centros Culturais na Rede (Theaters and Cultural Centers on the Web) and Conexão Casas de Cultura 2020 (Culture Houses Connection 2020), of the Secretariat of Culture of São Paulo; the #CulturaEmCasa platform, of the Secretariat of Culture and Creative Industries of the São Paulo State Government; and the open call Cultura Presente nas Redes (Culture Present Online) of the Secretariat of Culture and Creative Economy of the State of Rio de Janeiro, among others.
Important Brazilian civil society initiatives, however, seek to bridge the gap left by the main body responsible for culture in the country. Among them, we highlight the research Impactos da COVID-19 na Economia Criativa (Impacts of COVID-19 on the Creative Economy), from the Creative Economy Observatory of Bahia (OBEC-BA), which, aiming to provide facts for decision-making in the public and private sectors, publishes biweekly newsletters with preliminary results and periodic analyzes, from consultations with more than 2,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations working in the Brazilian cultural sector.
The indifference in dealing with the needs of the artistic class has caused a stir and mobilization in the sector. In May, the #LeideEmergenciaCultural (#CulturalEmergencyLaw) movement started off social media campaigns, with the objective of pressuring the National Congress to approve the bill for the transfer of R$ 3.6 billion from the central government to the states and municipalities, for emergency interventions in the cultural sector. Authored by congresswoman Benedita da Silva and presented by congresswoman Jandira Feghali, both from Rio de Janeiro, the proposal defines a series of guarantees and special conditions for culture workers, emergency income for informal professionals, monthly subsidies for the maintenance of artistic and cultural spaces and financing of public notices and open calls, as well as payment for goods and services for the sector. Called Aldir Blanc Law4, the act was approved on May 26 in the Chamber of Deputies, having been subsequently approved in the Federal Senate, on June 4th, being now at the mercy of the presidential sanction of Jair Bolsonaro for its final approval.
4 The law honors Brazilian composer Aldir Blanc, who died as a result of COVID-19.
Under the tutelage of the Cape Verde Ministry of Culture and Creative Industries (MCIC), Centro Cultural do Mindelo (CCM) offers a broad and diversified program, serving for years as an instrument of cultural mediation and audience engagement. Working in close cooperation with a comprehensive network of collaborators, it is an important space for the city’s cultural life, and the closing of its doors during the quarantine imposed by the coronavirus crisis impacts the entire cultural scene of Mindelo.
Since the 2000s, the Government of Cape Verde has been implementing structural reforms, gradually bringing cultural and creative industries to the fore, through the formulation of policies, with an increasingly engaged Ministry. Based on a circuit of fairs, festivals and other events, with support for the circulation of artists, and the establishment of routes associated with the material and immaterial heritage of the country, the archipelago sees cultural tourism as a strategic economic asset. The investment in capacity-building, valuing the cultural diversity present on the islands, has strengthened this strategy for economic development, enabling sustained growth over the past few years.
The country has gone through three crucial phases in its economic development since its independence in 1975. The first (1975–1989) emphasized policies for food, health and education for its population; the second (1990–2000) prioritized political democratization and market liberalization, and the third (2000–2010)5 sought to strengthen citizenship, with extensive modernization and institutional reforms.
In 2014, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) presented an important report on Cape Verdean creative economies, recognizing the importance of political resolve in enabling structural changes and achieving a sustainable development model based on cultural expressions, highlighting the Strategic Intersectoral Plan for Culture (2010). Currently, the Ministry of Culture and Creative Industries (MCIC) also plays a prominent role in the country’s internationalization strategy, in line with the main recommendations and normative instruments, and actively engaged with international organizations.
The connection with foreign countries, driven by the constant flow of tourists, exposes, however, the archipelago to greater vulnerability in the face of epidemics, and the impacts of COVID-19 were felt with the greater control of international borders. Still in January 2020, well before the arrival of the coronavirus in the country, Cape Verde’s National Directorate of Health drew up a contingency plan to guide actions to fight COVID-19, following WHO recommendations. After the decree of a state of emergency on March 28, the government created emergency lines and direct support, in addition to monitoring portals with updates of diagnosed cases and ad campaigns to engage and raise awareness of the population. After the sharp decrease in the number of visitors to the islands, the cultural sector was also impacted by the closure of cultural institutions and the general halting of activities.
Among the government measures aimed at supporting culture workers, it is worth mentioning the EnPalco100Artistas program, created through MCIC and implemented by Bureau Export Music Cabo Verde (BEMCV). The program hires artists representing different artistic languages to perform from their homes and continue to get paid for their work in this moment of suspension.
The first edition, which started in April, was very well received by the artistic community, and in May a second edition may receive financial aided from the European Union. In addition, according to the governmental resolution of March 30, culture workers registered with the Single Social Registry can request Rendimento Social (Social Income), an emergency lifeline for workers in the informal sector, which offers financial assistance proportional to their income, extension of tax payment deadlines, special conditions for debt negotiation and compensatory interest exemption for those who have fallen into debt.
The government has also sought a direct dialogue with professionals of the sector, having held a video conference meeting in early June between the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and the Minister of Culture and Creative Industries with the Cape Verde’s Event Producers Association, which presented a set of proposals to leverage the sector during and after the crisis caused by the pandemic, among which the urgent need for the progressive formalization and regulation of creative industries in the country.
Based off the city of Maputo, LITERATAS – Revista de Artes e Letras de Moçambique (LITERATAS – Magazine of Arts and Letters of Moçambique) emerged out of meetings in the library of the Centro Cultural Brasil-Moçambique (CCBM). The initiative by young journalists celebrates its eighth anniversary, and today is an important platform for visibility and articulation of the cultural sector in the country. By actively contributing to the building of bridges not only with government institutions, but also among civil society agents, the magazine advocates increasing structuring and innovating in the ways culture operates.
Together with education, culture management has always played a crucial role in the construction of country ideals and projects for Mozambique. However, between 1975, the year of national independence, to date, Culture has been spread over more than nine different government agencies. Since 2015, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been the central body responsible for the coordination, direction, planning and implementation of policies and strategies in the areas of culture and tourism in the country.
The Liberation Struggle, with a socialist project for the country, proposed revolutionary culture and education, directly involved in the creation of national cultural institutions and in the application of its policies. From the 1990s onwards, after the period of the civil war and the opening to the capitalist market, there was a transition from a State that intervened in and produced culture, which marked the years of independence, to a merely regulating state6.
The progressive downsizing of the Mozambican State further increases the intervention by international agents in the country, including in the field of culture. Although the cultural scene in Maputo is vibrant and creative, most cultural events, programs and activities are often created or made possible by government agencies in foreign countries such as Germany, France, Portugal, Brazil and the United States, as well as through UN agencies and other international organizations. Through incentives to the sector, these institutions design policies and offer most of the mechanisms available to culture workers in the country. Although essential in a context of international cooperation, they operate according to their own agendas and their involvement can have side effects, hindering autonomous development.
Thus, Mozambique seeks to set institutional bases to help in the structuring of certain sectors. The creative sector is seen as a tool for job creation, linking culture to development and valuing the country’s rich cultural and artistic traditions. In this sense, two international cooperation programs stand out: Fortalecendo as Indústrias Criativas para o Desenvolvimento em Moçambique (Strengthening Creative Industries for Development in Mozambique), and the Programa Conjunto para o Fortalecimento das Indústrias Culturais e Criativas e Políticas Inclusivas em Moçambique (Joint Program for Strengthening Cultural and Creative Industries and Inclusive Policies in Mozambique), both carried out between 2008 and 2011, in joint initiatives by UN agencies such as UNCTAD, UNESCO and the ILO. As an important result from the latter, we can mention the significant efforts in the creation of the Mozambique Cultural Information System (SICM) which, without effective input, has not evolved to become a functional system—a weakness, however, common even in developed countries.
6 LANDGRAF, F. L. – Políticas culturais em Moçambique: do Estado socialista ao aberto à economia de mercado, São Paulo, 2014, p. 4.
The COVID-19 pandemic stressed the need to map the Cultural and Creative Industries in the national territory, as a way of enabling support and offering meaningful solutions to the sector. The Ministry launched on March 28 a new platform with the objective of assimilating what is happening and being produced in the arts sector. In the midst of a state of calamity and pressured by workers and entities, it was also forced to offer, simultaneously to those efforts, emergency initiatives and support lines.
The Arte no Quintal (Art in the Backyard) program was launched on May 11, in a meeting with artists and promoters to assess the impacts and actions to be developed. Launched together with an app, the program is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, UNESCO, Banco ABSA and Galeria do Porto de Maputo, and its main goal is to support artists through income generation, organizing concerts and programs of varied cultural expressions, streamed on online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the government also launched an official COVID-19 website, compiling real-time data on the expansion of the pandemic in the country and the preventive measures being taken, of which only one adopted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism regarding the operation of hotels, resorts and their facilities during this period. In the search for information and official guidelines, the Ministry’s official profile on Facebook is the platform with the most updated information on specific measures for the culture sector.
It was through this profile that the National Institute for Cultural and Creative Industries made a live stream with its director, Ivan Bonde, who, talking with the cultural researcher Belarmino Lovane, presented, in the smallest details, the Arte no Quintal program, explaining how it would work and taking questions. With a quite clear title, Arte no Quintal: From the Skepticism of Artists to the Positioning of the Ministry, it pointed out the way in which the bridges of dialogue between the cultural sector and the public institutions are still under construction and maturation.
The investment on the online sphere represents an apparent challenge for the State, which still seeks to create and consolidate connections in the physical world with professionals in the sector. In this scenario, we will see how REVISTA LITERATAS, born in the virtual environment, perceives the present transition and adaptation of cultural practice as an opportunity for growth and consolidation of its performance. Constituted by a network of professionals in voluntary work, during the pandemic the magazine managed to launch three books, organize the African Week of Maputo (which counted with the participation of the Minister of Culture and Creative Industries of Cape Verde, Abraão Vicente), in addition to a series of debates involving artists, academics and intellectuals from the CPLP countries.
Hangar – Centro de Investigação Artística (Hangar – Artistic Research Center) was a project created at the height of the financial crisis that Portugal experienced between 2010 and 2014. Initially following an itinerant model, the project later occupied a space in the Graça district, with the support of an urban requalification program of the Lisbon City Council. Created by artists and curators, and operated independently within a network, Hangar works in the field of the visual arts, with a focus on the transatlantic relations between Portugal, Africa and the Americas. In this way, it reflects one of the sides of the emerging post-crisis cultural scene in the country, which expands its horizons and seems to understand more and more the strength of its historical multiculturalism.
Originated from associativism and networking, the project developed itself in dialogue with government institutions and created a path based on the available structures and mechanisms, notably through financing and support programs for the cultural sector. In this process, a gradual institutionalization of the project can be observed, with the burden of permanently occupying a space having become a reality and with the recent prospect of being able to structure a team of professionals that have a work contract. At a time when the structures of the Portuguese State for culture – which are more solid than any of those of other countries presented here – oscillate, the Hangar project is called to reinvent its sustainability and is faced with the importance of the international partnerships and connections created along its trajectory.
Since 2014, Portugal’s recovery path has often been described as a true revival for the country. Among the many mechanisms that were created to recharge the economy, the provision of Golden Visas7, together with a strategic investment on the restructuring of the tourism sector, are seen as crucial measures for such an improvement in this period. Both measures, combined with the incentives for qualified immigration, helped the Portuguese economy, in 2017, to reach its peak growth in nearly two decades8.
Tourism, more than ever, plays a central role in the Portuguese economy and impacts many neighboring sectors, such as culture. The Portugal brand, created in a wide publicity effort in the country, promotes the Portuguese capitals as cities full of history and culture, but also creative and innovative, focused on the future. In this context of increasing flow of immigrants and tourists, cities such as Porto and Lisbon start to witness a gradual boost on their cultural scenes, with the opening of new museums with bold architecture, following known guidelines to make territories attractive through culture.
At the height of the financial crisis, the same year that the country resorted to the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial support, the Ministry of Culture of Portugal is extinguished and all of its services are relocated and integrated into the Presidency of Council of Ministers. However, after the constitution of the 21st Government in 2015, the Ministry was restored to its original form, headed today by Minister Graça Fonseca, who, one year after the official launch of the National Arts Plan (2019–2029), which considers culture and artistic practices as an inherent part of national education, finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented crisis.
The crisis of the novel coronavirus has strongly impacted the country’s cultural field, and the Ministry’s focus is to respond to the sector’s emergency needs, which after two months starts to put greater pressure for new structural changes, denouncing the lack of support to self-employed workers and demanding the resolution of old problems.
To manage the crisis, the Ministry launched an official website and hotlines as soon as the first institutions had to shut down. With the slogan Não Paramos – Estamos ON (We Don’t Stop – We’re ON), the platform communicates special measures to support the arts, with video messages from the Minister explaining the government’s initiatives.
In addition to publishing special measures for the use of funds already allocated and accountability, on March 27 the Ministry launched, through the Directorate-General for the Arts, the Linha de Apoio de Emergência ao Setor das Artes (Emergency Support Line for the Arts Sector), financed through the Ministry of Culture’s Cultural Promotion Fund. With one million euros available, subsequently increased by other 700,000 euros, the support line will benefit 311 projects out of 1,025 requests received. However, the institutions’ bureaucracy impacts the effectiveness and speed of responses, and the mobilized sector has been organizing since the beginning of the pandemic to put pressure on the Ministry, which has again published new lines of support to respond to workers whose needs had not been contemplated initially.
Civil society initiatives have been deemed essential in guiding government actions and presenting important results that will first serve to strengthen the sector. This is the case of the research spearheaded by Manuel Gama, a researcher at POLObs (Observatory of Policies on Communication and Culture at the University of Minho), which seeks to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on the Portuguese cultural sector through an extensive survey of data obtained from the workers. Also, the initiative called Ação Cooperativista – Artistas, Técnicos e Produtores (Cooperative Action – Artists, Technicians and Producers) started a debate between several structures for joint articulation on the actions necessary to face the crisis caused by the pandemic, in an important effort to systematize the Portuguese cultural and artistic fabric, seeking to identify who are their workers and what are their working and survival conditions at the moment.
On May 18, Portugal proceeded with the first phase of the De-Confinement Plan, approved on April 30 and reassessed every 15 days. The plan specifies the reopening of bookstores, libraries and archives at first, followed by museums, palaces, galleries and monuments. Since June 1st, cinemas, theaters, auditoriums and concert halls have been authorized to reopen with reduced capacity, with seating reservation and physical distance.
Since May, the cultural sector has taken to the streets identified with the hashtag #VIGILIACULTURAEARTES – E SE TIVÉSSEMOS FICADO SEM CULTURA? (#VIGILCULTUREANDARTS – WHAT IF WE HAD GONE WITHOUT CULTURE?) attracting an increasing number of workers from Portugal’s culture and arts sectors, setting in motion a true movement for labor unity demands. After protests in various parts of the country, and anticipating a summer with a drastically reduced number of festivals and other cultural events, by the end of May, DgArtes announced the opening of three support programs for the arts offering 2.8 million euros.
After the most critical stage of the pandemic of COVID-19, Portugal has announced on June 7, the Programa de Estabilização Econômica e Social – PEES (Social and Economic Stabilization Program), with the main objetive of offering stimulus measures to enable the gradual return of economic activities and the normalization of social life, without neglecting sanitary measures. Effective until the end of 2020, this plan includes among its actions the Cultural Program in Networks (30 million euros); a Support line for adapting spaces with preventive measures from COVID-19 (750 thousand euros); a Support line for independent cultural facilities (3 million euros) and a Social support line for artists, authors, technicians and other arts professionals (34.3 million euros).
Furthermore, the program creates a joint working group with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity and Social Security and the Ministry of Finance, to study working conditions and careers that can be beneficial to artists, authors and stage technicians. Also, PEES determines that a study will be conducted by from the Portuguese Observatory of Cultural Activities, to expand the qualitative and quantitative data on the sector.
7 Residence visas for foreigners who were willing to invest in Portugal or who bought properties over 500,000 euros.
8 National Statistical Institute of Portugal (INE)