Despensas – a tradição de Rabo de Peixe

a photografic project by Rubén Monfort

13 set - 17 nov 2019

Fotography Exhibition

Despensas – a tradição de Rabo de Peixe 

Rubén Monfort

13 set – 17 nov 2019

Educational Service

OPENING – 13 set | 6pm

Rubén Monfort lives in São Miguel for five years. In 2018 he accompanied and documented, with interviews and photographs, the Despensas of Rabo de Peixe, a unique tradition in the national territory, with old and imprecise origins. Although the Despensas are danced in a lot of situations throughout the year, it is during the celebrations of the Holy Spirit that they go out on the streets to dance with castanets, singing traditional challenge songs, a form of improvised singing accompanied by accordions, violas and violins. In groups of 15 to 20 men, they are divided among the Despensas of the Sea and the Despensas of the Land, alluding to the two main activities of the village that occupy their participants, the land and the sea, although nowadays professions sometimes mix in each Despensa.
This installation synthesizes this research and this vision. When we enter, we are received by the photograph of a room of the Holy Spirit, attracting us by its size and centrality. On the left, we see images of the preparation of the party: a group of men in a rehearsal, one of the
houses of the Holy Spirit, one of the members of a Despensas da Terra Mr. António Silva playing the accordion, the cow bought by a group of Despensas to be shared among its members, women preparing food to receive the members of the Despensas in their house,
the holders for the decorations of the street, the branch of rosemary with which the priest will bless the massa sovada (sweet bread). To the right of the center image, the party itself: musicians from Banda Lira do Norte de Rabo de Peixe before the beginning of the procession, tails of dresses that drag branches of cryptomeria in their passage, different groups of the Despensas as they perform their dances, the emotional union of men singing to the Holy Spirit, the Despensas singing inside houses, the continuation of the festivities at
night on the street, the calm to which everything returns when it’s over.
In this mostly male celebration, there is only one moment when women can dance with men, entering the circle formed by them. The visitor to this exhibition is also invited to enter the circle to see the party, the people, their moments, expressions and details. The small size of the island proves to be illusory: it holds surprises with the Despensas, still unknown to many people around here. To know a place is to know the seasons, approach it slowly, learning the habits, the rhythms, the faces, the names. Rubén Monfort remains here and slowly enters, listens and tries to understand. His work demonstrates an aesthetical care of the framework, a purified sense of composition, tonal contrasts, an attention to detail. But this aesthetics, being his own, doesn ́t yield to the temptation to exoticize the “other”, enhacing difference in benefit of his author’s mark. Rather, he gives primacy to the party, its moments and the people.
These people are there before his gaze, the mark of his gaze. This description (in the continental and island sense) is an unusual form of respect and humility, and a very particular way of giving back what was given to him by the people of the Despensas of Rabo de Peixe.

Luísa Cardoso

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