The piece inhabiting this room, titled Mozambique Institute Project, was part of a long research project started in 2009 by Catarina Simão in a re-examination of the political scope of public archives and their relationship with the recent history of Mozambique. The work focuses on two key political and cultural institutions from the country’s independence process and anti-colonial resistance movements: the Mozambique Institute, founded in 1966, still during Portuguese occupation, and the National Film Institute, a school created by the government in 1976, with some of the biggest film-makers and intellectuals from avant-garde cinema, represented by cinema novo, cinéma vérité and nouvelle vague, walking through its doors during that period.
Through her work, Simão investigates the literacy and cultural and didactic proposals that the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) set up in a collaboration with Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose methods had a seminal influence on educational reform in Europe and Africa and on the empowerment of oppressed peoples. With an analysis of the role that images, documents and archives play in building perception, memory and history, Simão uses this work to cast light on how raised political awareness gave rise to a specific culture inside the dynamic of struggle, understood as a further cultural manifestation.
To portray the process of national liberation, and with the decolonisation of knowledge as the cornerstone — or the recovery of a national cultural identity — for local populations, Simão brings together photographs, textbooks, newspaper cuttings and interview extracts. The formalisation of the work in the space takes inspiration from the mural newspaper Jornal do Povo (People’s Daily), placed in public spaces around Maputo to be read easily, and for free, by the public. In addition to these documentary elements, the artist screens Effects of Wording, an essay film which, with found and recently filmed archive material, records the origin and development of the Mozambique Institute, and with a leitmotif of the linguistic policies that characterised independence struggles and the use of information access devices as tools of power. The film starts by simulating the viewing of a microfilm, a system to access information which is common in newspaper archives and archives, and leads on to a literacy book in Portuguese, the manual used in former liberated areas. Thus, film and photography underline the contradictions of combat: technology, used ad nauseam as a war or imperial propaganda machine to perpetuate power relations, is re-used to counter the devastation of the colonial legacy in the indigenous collective imaginary.