Tavira Ilimitada: Expressive Art with a Social Conscience

Lynne Booker

 A civic initiative in Tavira is taking the city by storm. Starting from an idea by António Almeida and the owners of the well known Casa das Artes, the project has mushroomed and now involves nearly 30 local organisations who want to make their stand in promoting multiculturalism. Tavira is an ideal birthplace for such an initiative. For most of its history Jews, Muslims, Christians and atheists have lived peacefully together in Tavira. Nowadays, of the 25,000 residents of the city, 3,500 are foreigners from 60 or so different countries. Tavira thus presents opportunities to learn about many different cultures and traditions and to create a true multicultural and multinational community. 

The programme of activities began on 19 March 2011 and has included art exhibitions, various performances, social events, competitions, conferences for all ages and nationalities. The programme is open to new participants with new ideas for activities or for groups or individuals to dedicate what they do already to the concept of Tavira Ilimitada. The ideas have been pulled together by Tela Leão, a cultural programmer by profession.

Tela Leão with Peter Kingdon Booker
Tela Leão with Peter Kingdon Booker

Participating in the keynote conference on 21 August were Dr Jorge Botelho (Mayor of Tavira), Rui Tavares (historian), Paul Smith (Ambassador to Luxemburg), Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia (President of the International Romany Union), José Cultileiro (Ambassador) and Jorge Sampaio (UN high Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations). 

The theme of anti-racism provides an excellent platform for people of all ages and talents to express themselves artistically, in writing, in theatre, through film and through music. Already the organisations Min-Arifa and AAPA have worked with the Army in Tavira as the Infantry Regiment Nº 1 dedicated the 215th anniversary of its foundation to Tavira Ilimitada. Artists resident in Tavira and who belong to the Casa 5 association have presented their work at Casa 5 art gallery. These artists include Edwin Hagendoom, Jill Stott, Marika Raake and Fernando Ricardo. Throughout the month of August, Casa 5 displayed photographs taken by their own associates of various nationalities who live in the Tavira area. And from 20 August to 10 September work by artists from Luxembourg will be exhibited at Casa das Artes.

From 13 - 20 August there was a week long celebration in the area around the Santa Ana Hermitage. Many artists have been working under the direction of Dora Iva Rita and the joint installation inaugurated the festival Days of Santa Ana - a time of celebration, music, art, dance but most of all of participation! Performing were, The Barbershop Quartet, Cleftomania, the Jazz Ensemble Second Adolescence, the Faz Fato line dancers and Richard and Carmen Hoke dancing salsa. The closing party was arranged by ATAI (Tavira Association for Aiding Immigrants) and youngsters from the Irene Rolo Foundation, and included Brazilian musicians and a Bulgarian DJ. 

Portugal´s famed love of poetry found its way on the streets of Tavira on 28 June as young actors interpreted poems in the Biblioteca Alvaro de Campos. On 12 and 25 August at 9.30 in Lura dos Livros, the work of poets Sebastião Leiria and Álvaro de Campos (the pseudonym of Fernando Pessoa) were celebrated in a session led by the journalist Sebastião Santos.


Matthijs Warner of Casa 5
Matthijs Warner of Casa 5

The regular Music in the Churches (Saturdays at 7.30 pm) is back in September but with a difference. The focus will be on music by composers who represent countries all around the world and will feature works by Mozart, Daquin, Rimsky Korsakov, Migliavacca, Bach, Villa Lobos, Albéniz, Brouwer, among others. These composers all found their life´s work away from their own homelands and if they had not succeeded in establishing themselves in foreign lands, their music would not exist today. So much of the world´s great music has depended on composers finding acceptance in foreign communities.

Tavira Ilimitada is not only a celebration of the different nationalities living in the area, it is also about creating in the longer term one world rather than the parallel universes which the different groups often inhabit. Although language is sometimes a barrier, the arts can make an excellent medium for conveying ideas. In a world where gloom and doom seem ubiquitous, it is refreshing to see different nationalities combining to paint a positive picture of the future.