Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Annual festival reinforces Portuguese link

Posted by Kimberly on October 20, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
October 20, 2007, page 1 & 2 (683 words)

Yesterday marked the first day of the three-day annual Lusofonia Festival consisting of products, events and knowledge across ten countries and regions, including Macau.
Held on the grounds of the Taipa Houses Museum, it seemed a fitting stage for exploration and education of the Portuguese culture, designed to sustain a common bridge between each place.
The stalls are comprised of Brazil, Cape Verde, Goa, Daman and Diu, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, East-Timor and, of course, Macau.
While the event is expected to last each day from noon to midnight, with free admission, it apparently didn’t get off the ground until the early hours of yesterday morning with some stalls, such as the Portuguese one, still being set up.
“It came in different pieces [their self-made stall] and everybody worked till nearly 5am to set it up,” said Maria Amelia Antonio, who has been a part of the festival since its beginning ten years ago and in Macau, for 25 years.
“I think that every year the festival is improving,” she said adding that all the countries attempt to create better ideas each year.
“It’s very difficult because we don’t have enough support to do better,’ she said, referring to the budget offered and suggesting that the group spends “at least four times the amount that is given to us.”
The main reason for that, she explained, was because they were the only stall to offer free tastings of Portuguese products including chorizo and sangria.
“This is a festival, not a fair,” she said, adding that we want people to come here and enjoy the food and products form Portugal.
“They don’t pay anything for that because that is the spirit of the festival, to see a different way of life.
Augostinho Martins, of the East Timor stall echoed the sentiment of spirit, adding “it keeps us united.
“It gives people a chance to know more about East Timor, adding that he was sure that tourism also played a part in spreading the festival’s existence, trying to spread what is good about our country.”
As for his country’s most famous product, in Augostinho’s opinion, it’s coffee.
“We bring coffee here to show it’s one of the best quality in the world,” he said.
Of his country’s recent freedom five years ago, when Portugal agreed to recognise East Timor’s independence on May 20, 2002 he said, “we still have problems in standing up and going ahead and the country to provide the most help has been Portugal.”
He added that he was not ignoring the assistance provided by others, but that “Portuguese is poor in Europe but is still willing to give to Timor, and it gives great motivation to the Timorese.”
Of course, being Portuguese, Maria has nothing but praise for her heritage saying “this festival is very important as it plays a very significant role in establishing our identity in Macau.
“Macau is a Chinese town but has grown up mixed with these countries. They all have a role to play, bringing something that makes up this culture,” she said.
For Maria “it’s important to preserve these influences otherwise Macau will become exactly like other places in the world.”
Holding on the Portuguese culture is equally important to Augosthino who says of the language, “we adopt Portuguese as the official language but the youngest find it difficult to choose as the language they speak the most is Indonesian.”
He added that with some of his country’s young people studying here in Macau, it shows a respect and desire to learn of their country’s heritage.
For Maria, there is only one thing that would improve on the festival and that is space.
“There are cultural parts of the countries that could be shown but we need more room,” she said yet admitting that they did not want to move, as the ambience was most conducive for the festival.
“Perhaps we could use the garden next door to the museum to make the space bigger, then people could probably do more things,” she added.
The festival will continue until October 21.

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