In Fernão Mendes Pinto’s Peregrinação (Pilgrimage) which was published in 1614 we find, as Rebecca Catz notes, a highly colorful yet critical work for its time. Pinto’s work, is severely critical, albeit indirectly, of the Portuguese adventure of ‘discovery’. As Catz notes, the Portuguese “mission to conquer and convert all non-Christian peoples … was viewed, in the fiction of the work, as a false and corrupt ideal”. It is quite likely that it is for this highly advanced and reflexive critique, as much as for his conflation of autobiography with fiction, that Pinto was rewarded with the nickname Fernão, mentes? minto! (“Fernão, are you lying? I am!”). Nevertheless, Pinto’s place within the Portuguese maritime hagiography is memorialized in the gargantuan Discoveries Monument in Belem. A Koboi performance took place at this monument on the 9th of July 2018, highlighting the historical bond between Belem, the port from which the Portuguese adventurers set sail, and Malacca, their prized possession for 130 years (1511–1641) . For details please visit https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/nuntengporta
‘Kaza Nunteng Porta’ is Kristang (Melaka Portugese) for ‘House Without a Door’. It is the title of the latest Koboi Project series shot in Belem, Lisboa. This series addresses notions imperialism, globalization, migration, miscegenation and tourism in the course of my expansive Koboi Narrative. In impromptu photo-performances that took place at the Alfonso De Albuquerque Monument and the Discoveries Monument in Belem, Lisbon on 7th and 8th July 2018 respectively, I recast two important Portuguese memorials to discovery and ascendancy in an allegory of diasporic identity. In the course of each performance I raised my Pazaham Neeyappa banner with its image of Tamil movie SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth and played audio clips on a megaphone. The audio included Fausto’s A Guerra é a Guerra and Soundararajan & Janaki’s Ulagam Ulagam and a rendition of Jingkli Nona on the cello by Tara Rajah. I also played verses from the Malay pantun (poem) Kalau Roboh Kota Melaka and the lyrics of Ulagam Ulagam spoken in Portuguese by Hugo Moss. At the heart of each street intervention was the convivial engagement with the passers-by. Cards presenting the state flag of Melaka were handed out.
Or perhaps ‘Post Photo-conceptual Performance’ … a tag I have been developing to locate my practice at the junction of photography and performance. While the tag needs much refinement, I think the praxis itself seems now, after 5 years of the Koboi Project, to be reasonably developed. I had the privilege of delivering a Masterclass in Performance Art as Faculty at the International Ismaili Diamond Jubilee Arts Festival in Lisbon, which ran from the 5-9 July 2018.
In this class, I shared my preparations for two impromptu photo-performances that took place at the Alfonso De Albuquerque Monument and the Discoveries Monument in Belem on 7th and 8th July 2018, respectively. I took the workshop participants, who were amateur and professional artists from the global Ismaili diaspora through my preparations for the two street interventions. They participated in my search for a meaningful action. We began the class within the designated presentation space and finished outside absorbing the architecture Portugal Pavilion and the masterclass itself into the spectacle and symbol of the event. In the light of his exercise and the images it produced, I have clarified for myself the stations of my process and have articulated them in a set of 12 words and images.
The second Koboi Performance went well today (8th July) in Belem, Lisbon. Among the highlights is meeting Amir Kabani and his family at the site of the Discoveries Monument. Amir gracefully and effficiently facillated the paperwork involved in enabling me to participate as Faculty at the International Art Gallery of the Diamond Jubliee celebration of the global Ismaili community. Thank you Amir and the team at the International Art Gallery.