“…The series reveals the manner in which the artist gives himself over to the reality of the people who inhabit the spaces portrayed while at the same time conveying an historical and sociological perspective on the Mozambican contemporary reality, seen through this quarter of its capital city. (…) It is striking how the artist uses light to give life to the depicted elements. From colour to the objects themselves, his work carries us into an inhabited reality.”
As I was going through some of my boxes that have been in storage for the past year, I came across a program from a photography opening I attended in Lisbon, Portugal. It was called BESphoto, and it’s an annual competition/exhibition that showcases the photography of artists from Portuguese-speaking countries, now in its 8th year. My initial memory of this experience was of attending with my awesome couchsurfing host and eating a million pasteis at the reception, in addition to drinking many glasses of free champagne. But when I thought about it further, I remembered a particularly profound series of photos by Mauro Pinto, a native Mozambican, who actually ended up winning the competition. His photos, from a series entitled “Da Licença” (Excuse Me), were of the insides of homes in the Mafalala Quarter of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city. What I love about these photos is how much character can be found in these sparse living places: the plaid shirt draped over the back of a chair, the assorted photos of Christ, the promotional wall calendar are not simply manifestations of poverty, but are also signs of personality, signs that people really live there. These spaces are positively alive. Though each living space might fall under the broad blanket of “going without,” each space is different and distinct, which is why Pinto displayed the photos in sequestered boxes (above). We are meant to see the humanity and individuality in these photos rather than lumping them all together into an assumed category, and I think that’s powerful.