Art is a form of communication. Ângela Ferreira is well aware of this, and has restated the importance of freedom of expression as a human right and cornerstone of democracy in the fateful story of a journalist from Mozambique.
Ângela Ferreira was born in Mozambique while it was still under Portuguese colonial rule and studied art in South Africa under apartheid. It is no wonder then that colonialism, post-colonialism, and their contemporary repercussions have become underlying issues in Ferreira’s artistic discourse – a discourse that is once again revisited in the exhibition entitled “Carlos Cardoso – straight to the point. ”
Ferreira approaches art instrumentally and through it, offers up a critical interpretation in which she seeks to convey her political stance with works that are both investigative and continually experimental. She has continued to follow the artistic path and investigative approach that she exhibited in former works, namely in the last version of “For Mozambique” and in her recent sculpture entitled “Cape Sonnets” executed as part of a public arts project Utopia and Monument II for the Graz Festival. In this installation she has produced a Radio-Tower in aluminium with megaphones that transmit two militant, politically rousing radio pieces – still occasionally broadcast – in which Carlos Cardoso participated as an actor. Ten years after the journalist’s murder, the sound of his voice - a powerful instrument for conveying a political message and an indisputable weapon for freedom – echo through the halls of the gallery, spreading the compelling message of the man who spearheaded investigative journalism in Mozambique.
Five floor sculptures formally guide us toward the fax machines, thus celebrating the importance of MediaFAX, the publication founded by Carlos Cardoso which, at a time when pluralism in the media was hampered in Mozambique, challenged official media outlets by disseminating impartial information on issues that were considered unassailable and covering stories with truthfulness and accuracy. They are installation sculptures that act as monuments to this alternative form of journalism and therefore to the life and struggle of an intellectual who is a hero to his people and the symbol of political utopia. The show also features photographs of the memorial to the fallen journalist, unveiled in 2010 on the Avenida Mártires da Machava in Maputo.
The reinterpretation of constructivist grammar continues to mark the physical structure of the work and their multi-functionality as conveyors of a message. In the end they hark back to the critical and undeniably political approach the artist uses to create works that spark reflection and make us question our perception of today’s world. The issues Ângela Ferreira deals with are patently contemporary, and even though her work may have sprung out of now-distant times and places, the premises they are based on lead us back to today – to the here and now of the spectator and the artist.
In this exhibition, as in most of the projects Ângela Ferreira has created, the celebration of a historical moment goes far beyond the boundaries of the installation and sculptures themselves. What they do is exude the artist’s depth of thought and her remarkable concern for striking the right balance in her work between criticism and theory.
Carlos Cardoso (1951-2000)
Carlos Cardoso was born in 1951 in the city of Beira, province of Sofala in Mozambique to Portuguese parents who settled in the African country during the colonial era. As a young protester he soon became involved politically and while still a student in South Africa, became a fierce opponent of that country’s apartheid regime, a position that ultimately led to his deportation to Portugal. Upon returning to Mozambique, he began his career as a journalist on the magazine Tempo, the same year that his country gained its independence from Portugal (1975). Despite the fact that he was an active supporter of Frelimo, the Mozambique Liberation Front, he sometimes wrote articles fraught with political militancy and social criticism that displeased the party in power who had him transferred to radio Mozambique, where he at one point acted in radio dramas. However, Cardoso was subsequently appointed as the editor of AIM, the state-run news agency, which had strong ties to the government and the country’s president at the time, Samora Machel. Certain events, such as the death of Machel, were what most likely provoked the hiatus in Cardoso’s journalistic activity. It was during this same period that Cardoso started devoting his time to painting and poetry.
Frelimo subsequently instituted a one-party system. The creation of the Mozambican National Resistance movement, which in turn resulted in a civil war that lasted for 16 years. Hostilities finally ended in 1992 with a peace agreement that provided for a multi-party democracy, recognized Renamo as a political party, and called for a new Constitution. State-run companies were privatized and freedom of expression and the freedom to form political parties became rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The new political climate was encouraging to journalists. Carlos Cardoso and a group of intellectuals founded an independent newspaper, free from government control - MediaFAX (1992). It was the first daily paper to use the fax as a means of disseminating information. The idea of practicing journalism by fax – a medium that was both cheap and efficient – soon sparked a revolution in the Mozambican press and Mediafax became a benchmark publication and an indispensable source of information, not only because it was the country’s first independently-minded newspaper, but also because it reflected the drive, charisma and investigative acumen of Carlos Cardoso , its chief editor.
Post-independence excitement soon died down and MediaFAX became active in criticising the country’s democratization process and the inequalities that were rife in Mozambican society. The professional ethics the paper exhibited, and its analytical and investigative approach were to have a historical , revolutionary impact on the Mozambican press and garner the publication lasting recognition as the paper that spearheaded investigative journalism in the country and exposed the illegal dealings of the government.
Cardoso eventually left Mediafax and set up a new daily paper, Metical, that used both the fax and e-mail as transmission media. Metical was responsible for disclosing corruption, fraud, drug trafficking and money laundering involving prominent Frelimo leaders. At the time of his murder on November 20, 2000, Cardoso was probing into the dealings of the Banco Austral and the Mozambique Central Bank and investigating real estate corruption in Maputo.
Three days after his death, in a special edition, Metical would write “Maputo is in mourning. The Mozambican press that aspires to be honest and active is in mourning. Mozambique’s fragile democracy is in mourning. They’ve murdered Carlos Cardoso. It wasn’t a hold-up. The only thing they intended to steal from him was the very thing he held most dear: his free voice, his desire to play an active role in the life of his country and the happiness of its people.”
That week, the Guardian commented that the best and most highly respected investigative journalist in Mozambique and been brutally murdered and that the country had lost one of its few outspoken, discerning voices – a daring and determined man who ceaselessly defended freedom of speech and the unfettered exchange of information, so that the population could make its own informed decisions; a man who called for an honest leadership and a democracy that promoted equality. With this act, Mozambique saw its image as a model emerging democracy and free African country that insures freedom of speech – crumble. In short, the murder of Metical’s chief editor heralded the lowering of one of the regime’s most revered banners: that of freedom of the press.
with my rage born of pain intact
I dance the warrior’s xigubo in my heart
secretly spelling out an unvanquished utopia.
At night when I lie down in Maputo
I need not pray.
I am already a hero...
(Excerpt from the poem “Cidade 1985," by Carlos Cardoso)