Arts and Letters Adviser Report March 2017

By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

Lisbon is new to me. It is like a huge Museum which one could explore for many, many days or weeks! – here there are not only male chubby cherubs, but girl angels as well – in the main city squares, flanked by or flanking beautiful, proud, brave female ‘marbles’ (statues) ! Here there are suggestions of so many eras, leaders, conquerors, beliefs, arts and changes – the senses are tantalised and challenged – for how many of us truly know the colourful history of this small country, tucked away on the edge of the Atlantic? How many of us truly know ‘why’ a particular tile represents this or that district? Or even ‘who’ visited – and when?

Histories, castles, gardens, foods, tiles, paintings, fabrics, architecture and language display the rich mixture of influences that have shaped the country and its culture. After many changes, 1974 was the year in which Portugal became a republic. Currently their President is respected and loved. It is usual, I am told, that a president in this country would be called by his surname – not so for this president who has had only one year in office! – The former academic, specialising in International Politics, is Marcelo Rebelo de SOUSA. Many call him President Marcelo – with a smile and huge respect! Young people like and respect him. There is an authenticity evident.


In addition to the city places and churches, I think that the Moorish Castle and the National Palace of Sintra provide significant information of the eras and changes that have flavoured and shaped Lisbon; her arts and those of the surrounding regions, up to this time, presided over by President Marcelo.

5000 BC         The slopes of the Moorish Castle were occupied by Neolithic communities.

8th c.               Muslims conquered Al-Andalus; current Portuguese and Spanish territory.

10th c.                        The castle was established administered by the Caliphate of Codoba.

11-12th c.      Preserved sites provide archeological evidence of occupation by Islamic peoples.

1109               Castle invaded by King Sigurd 1 of Norway – “the Crusader”

1147               Following the conquest of Lisbon by King Alfonso Henriques, the castle’s Muslim rule ended.

1839               King Ferdinand 11 restored and renovated the castle in the romantic style of the 19th century.

1995               UNESCO lists the Sintra Hills (where the castle is located) as Cultural Landscape, World Heritage.

2000               Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua management with ongoing restoration and revitalisation.

The coats of arms, paintings, symbols, inscriptions, latticework and extraordinarily beautiful, carved wooden ceilings ARE all outstanding works of art.

The timeline and information relating to events, kings, princes, spies, birth and death in the National Palace of Sintra is equally colourful, and includes:

1501               King Manuel (Sintra) hears of the discovery of Brazil

1584               Four Japanese Christian princes are welcomed in the Palace before continuing to Rome for an audience with the Pope

1755               The Lisbon earthquake, often quoted here, damages the Palace

1910               Proclamation of the Republic and the Palace is declared a National Monument!

Histories and mysteries enchant and there is an interactive centre of Sintra Myths and Legends for people to enjoy and ponder.


Labelled during the years in which many of us grew up, these were artists who addressed power, especially patriarchal power, at its quotidian level of social engineering as well as its grip on art history.

The ‘Picture Artists’ were born in Cold War America, during the schizoid cultural meshing of unparalleled national prosperity with the daily threat off looming nuclear annihilation.

Their works are stark. Clear. Unmistakably EXPLICIT!

That same explicitness is vital today, in communications, the arts and societies.

Questions and fears exist in our worlds, today, in 2017. People need the explicit!


‘TO’ or ‘FROM’? – SPAIN

Relishing rich, literary flavours Anna NICHOLS explores from the Far House – Ca n’Alluny, home for almost 50 years to English poet, Robert GRAVES. One wonders whether the host of literary luminaries who followed Graves to Deia, Mallorca, were running ‘to’ or ‘from’ familiar worlds.

Gertrude Stein encouraged Graves to decamp, in 1929. A generation of writers and artists followed, including Agatha Christie, Evelyn Waugh and Edna O’Brien. Did their experience on the island significantly influence the nature and depth of their works; and if so, what was it that they made explicit, from this experience? Financial Times, Smart Arts Feb 2017/pp22-26 ‘Take the Write Road’/



GREECE…Greece is about to run out of cash by the end of July and furthermore it is alleged that more than half their households don’t pay any tax….

RUSSIA…although Putin may hope to resurrect the time when US and Soviet Union were the two great nuclear superpowers and the main arbitrators of global order, Moscow correspondent, Neil Macfarquar, writes that “…a cautious view emerges in Moscow.”

AUSTRALIA…Australia features in International newspapers because of what is perceived as a strong move ‘to the right’ in relation to following Trump’s ‘new and dangerous’ decisions affecting border policies. Our leaders, opinion polls, the White Australia policy renunciation of 1973, and current fears and realities feature…..Waleed ALY, columnist, broadcaster and politics lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, warns that ‘silence’ is NOT an adequate answer! The New York Times International Edition Feb 22, 2017,p.12.

The vital issue of National Security, of course, generates questions that need answers. Some are not brave enough to ask the questions. Others are, and they are not necessarily wrong, bad, racist or easily frightened – they happen to hold sacred the notion that ‘life is infinitely precious’, freedom is also precious, and women have freedoms and rights in our society. The brave are aware that it is not just religious freedom, or opportunity, some seek, but what is at times being sought is significant CHANGE to our boundaries, our socio-political and judicial laws. Policy changers and the role of our Senate are charged with newer, heavier significance, implicit and explicit challenges and huge responsibility! Right now, silence may be an adequate answer; waiting an essential practice; courage essential. Border policies are designed to protect our nation, our people and what is genuinely sacred to us, within the parameters of our own boundaries of Respect.

NETHERLANDS/BELGIUM/DENMARK …Lillian PLOUMEN, minister of foreign trade and development cooperation in the Netherlands, has established a nongovernmental organisation to raise money for aid groups whose funding may be threatened by new executive orders signed by Trump. These orders are to prevent American aid to international organisations who discuss abortion as a family-planning option, with clients. The issues are complex and this posits only the bare bones – Belgium and Denmark have already pledged 30 million euros – more will be needed. New York Times International Edition Feb 22,2017,p.16



CARNAVAL NA CASA!! ……between the tropical rhythms and the Portuguese drums, the fiery combination of musical genres takes place here, in symbiosis with the drums and tambourines of the typical Brazilian Carnival.


Two masterpieces of silent film brighten another edition of

Invicta.Musica.Filmes, illuminating the big screen of Sala Suggia

in cine-concerts, with Charlie Chaplin’s ‘CITY LIGHTS’

revealing a less familiar facet of the famous film-maker –

his composer side!


There exists a strong sense of glamour and nostalgia in music, film and literature, here in Portugal.

In the book shops, in a range of languages, including language English, many classics, Agatha Christie and titles like Deborah Moggachs’ ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, abound.

In filmclips accompanying Portuguese singing ‘Ed Shot’, are shots of Russell Crowe in ‘The Water Diviner’! …and…The Cinematic Horn Ensemble takes the audience on a journey to the unforgettable soundtracks of some of the greatest box-office hits of all time, including Braveheart, Harry Potter, Independence Day and John Williams grand music and songs from Star Wars! Arrangements of Star Wars Saga and Sinfonia No 1, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by Johan de Meij – Cine-Concerto – Banda Sinfonica Portuguesa 2017

ITALY – ‘A record-breaking bestseller and multiple literary prize-winner, “The Whisperer” came from nowhere to become an astonishing Italian publishing phenomenon! Il Giornale: ‘the most eaqerly awaited thriller in the world? It is written by an unknown Italian…’

I bought this novel for 3.95 euro, in a second-hand bookstore! – it is extraordinary!! Donato CARRISI, born 1973, studied law and criminology. His novel has depths that are rare, thought-provoking, and I would not even dare to compare this writer with any I have formerly read. THE WHISPERER translation Shaun WHITESIDE. Abacus 2011 UK (reprint) or


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