Discovering roots and reinventing our identity based on timeless traditions
"Whatever my brain imagines and my heart desires, my hands have to do it" - these words were uttered by Rui Santos, a tinsmith from the Algarve, to describe his work during the project 'The Art of the Tinsmith'.
São João de Messines village hosts this special workshop where the art of tinsmithery is preserved, integrating handmade (tinplate or tin) objects into today's routines. The challenge is to combine design with this art form and revitalize the profession.
In an age when personal relationships are increasingly mediated by technological devices, projects such as this rescue the collective identity of the community and take us back to a time when traditions played a key role in building individual and collective identities.
Besides national mores and customs - such as Fado - Portugal boasts local and regional traditions that attest to the diversity of our collective identity and which, unfortunately, with the passing of time, are disappearing. Most people don't know, for instance, that pagan traditions dedicated to the worship of the Sun (Feast of the Caretos in Bragança) or the beginning of Spring (Maias Parade in Portalegre) are still observed in Portugal.
In order to keep these and other traditions alive and strengthen our collective identity, we need to update them, bring them into today's context, and make them relevant to younger generations. This is where EDP's Traditions Program comes in.
Celebrating traditions and communities
The purpose of the Traditions Program is to fund and follow up on projects that aim at celebrating regional or local traditions in the municipalities where EDP's production centers are located.
It currently covers 94 municipalities, corresponding to the areas where the six EDP Produção electricity production centers are located (Tagus, Mondego, Douro, Cávado, Lima, Ribatejo, Lares and Sines).
Any legally constituted and registered Portuguese organization may submit non-profit projects, regardless of its origin, provided that the project focuses on a municipality covered by the program. This is because one of the goals of the program is to strengthen relations with local communities by celebrating vernacular identities.
The idea is to facilitate the transfer of traditional knowledge from generation to generation, while contributing to improving the self-esteem of local communities, as explained by the Program Manager Ana Pina.
This program has a very human dimension to it and is very close to people; it's not something we do from a distance. The idea is to create a relationship between the company and local communities: more than just funding projects, we follow up, monitor and create synergies in order to promote the autonomy of the projects, so that they become sustainable in the long term.
Ana Pina, Traditions Program Manager
Empowering the professions of the future
Curiously enough, technology, which has been moving us away from tradition, crafts, and closer communal relationships, may foster a genuine "return to the roots" in the future. Growing industrialization and automation have contributed to replacing man with machine and even to the extinction of some professions.
There is therefore the pressing need to find new occupations in which Man is (still) irreplaceable. Artistic work is one of the ways, as shown by the project 'The Art of the Tinsmith', funded by EDP's Traditions Program.
This project was born in the Algarve, in the parish of São João de Messines, and aims to preserve tinsmithery - or rather, to apply ancestral techniques to current solutions. If in days of yore people used to make buckets, pots, watering cans or olive oil recipients (with tinplate or tin), the idea now is to combine contemporary design with this art form and revitalize the profession.
Currently, these pieces are not accorded their real value - our history, our culture. I really like computers and the possibilities of IT, but I have to see it, I have to touch it, I have to make it with my own hands. Whatever my brain imagines and my heart desires, my hands have to do it.
Rui Santos, tinsmith
A focus on tourism
Empowering traditions through tourism is also a way of keeping them alive. An example of this is 'Pintar e Cantar dos Reis' (something like 'Kingly Painting and Singing'), an Alenquer tradition sponsored by the EDP Traditions Program which consists of bringing together the populations of several villages in the region, on the night of January 5, and making a journey on foot during which the so-called 'reiseiros' sing and paint traditional symbols (hearts, vases, stars) on building facades.
The Pintar e Cantar dos Reis Interpretation Center was inaugurated earlier this year, bringing this tradition to a wider audience through videos, written information and small merchandising items, created in partnership with universities.
A meeting of generations
One of the goals of the Program is to ensure the transfer of knowledge to younger generations, so that local traditions will not be lost with the physical disappearance of those who practice them.
'ID: Itinerant Memory' is an example of a project originating outside the areas where EDP Produção operates, but which was funded by the Traditions Program because it focused on the regions where the company's production centers are located. The result of a partnership between two associations (Mãozorra in Lisbon and Red Cloud in Aveiro), the project brought theater traditions and puppet workshops to homes and schools, thus creating a bond between different generations.
According to João Costa (Mãozorra Cultural Association), Teatro Dom Roberto sprung from the Italian tradition of Commedia dell'arte. While roaming through Europe, Italian travelers created - from the 13th century onward - variants of their show in the various countries they visited. This is exactly what happened in Portugal: a tradition was created based on Pulcinella (also known as "Roberto") but with local features.
Teatro Dom Roberto disappeared and it would be good if we could rescue it. Collecting memories is very important and has to be done quickly, because the people who still have them are disappearing.
João Costa, Mãozorra Cultural Association
One of the goals of the 'ID: Itinerant Memory' project is to collect ancient stories from the elderly population so that puppeteers can use them again.
The project's involvement in the Traditions Program reflects the desire to teach this art form to a wider audience and thereby perpetuate this over 200-year-old Portuguese tradition.
On the other hand, the Program has brought Teatro Dom Roberto to municipalities that did not even know of its existence, thus increasing the diversity of cultural activities in more remote areas.
How does the Traditions Program work?
Applications until August 31st
The Traditions Program is a way of breathing new life into traditions that are in danger of extinction, while also revitalizing local communities and contributing to inter-generational learning.
Applications for the 2020-2021 edition are open until August 31st. During this period, applicants should go to the Traditions Program website and fill in the application form with all the details of the project they would like to implement: the tradition they want to focus on; the activities they intend to carry out; the funding they require; the goals of the project; and how to measure the fulfillment of those goals.
The more detailed the application, the better its chances of moving through the various evaluation stages, from the verification of eligibility criteria to the qualitative assessment stage. Carried out by an external entity, the qualitative assessment stage consists of analyzing and rating several criteria in order to come up with a short list of the most promising projects.
Thereafter, a jury comprised of EDP representatives and experts on the topic will select the finalist projects until all available funds are allocated - €150,000 for the first year.
The finalists will then be personally visited by EDP so that Program managers can get to know the local context, the project details, and even negotiate the conditions for its implementation. Following this visit, projects with a positive evaluation will be declared winners.
The entire selection process should be concluded by the end of the year, and the projects should be launched in January 2021. The execution period for each project should be 6 to 12 months. Following this period, if positively evaluated, projects can apply for a funding extension in 2022, with new goals, for another 6 months. The Program will provide €100,000 for the second year.
For all these reasons, this Program is also an invitation:
To all those who want to preserve the memories of their homeland and celebrate our collective identity as a people - because, after all, the future needs origins.