Did the Portuguese Spice Boys discover Australia?

Nagasaki School Scenes of traders at Nagasaki late 18th–early 19th century, Nagasaki, Japan, pair of hand scrolls (e maki): ink, colour and gold on paper; box: wood, paper and ink, scroll (a) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; (b) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; box 12.0 x 19.5 x 39.5 cm, M.J.M. Carter AO Collection through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2014, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 20144P11 (a-c)

Nagasaki School Scenes of traders at Nagasaki late 18th–early 19th century, Nagasaki, Japan, pair of hand scrolls (e maki): ink, colour and gold on paper; box: wood, paper and ink, scroll (a) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; (b) 34.0 x 652.0 cm; box 12.0 x 19.5 x 39.5 cm, M.J.M. Carter AO Collection through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2014, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 20144P11 (a-c)

If anyone is in Adelaide this weekend it’s your last chance to see the Treasure Ships: Art In The Age of Spices exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. More than 300 exhibits are on display, and much of the focus is on Portugal’s “golden age of discoveries”. After Sunday the exhibits will go to the Art Gallery of Western Australia, where they will be on display from October 10 to January 31, 2016. Some of the highlights of the exhibition are covered in a previous post here.

Portugal’s history is fascinating – it’s said to have had the first global empire in history – but because it’s “golden age” was relatively short and its influence waned after the 16th Century, not much is known about it by the population at large today. I’ve got some great books on the topic …

Portugal books

I haven’t actually started reading A.R. Disney’s two-volume A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, but when I have 60-plus free days to spare, I will. I am currently reading Nigel Cliff’s The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages Of Vasco Da Gama, but because of other time pressures it’s been a start-stop-go-back-and-start-again affair. Vasco’s ships never seem to leave the port! However, for an easy yet highly entertaining introduction to Portugal’s greatest historical hits, I would strongly recommend Martin Page’s The First Global Village. Page is a writer and journalist first and foremost rather than a historian, so he knows how to make his history sizzle. Some of the really dry historians should take note!

Why the fascination with spices?

Often when I sprinkle pepper on my food, I think of Vasco Da Gama. We take pepper and other spices for granted so much nowadays. So what was the big deal with spices in the spice age? Much of it, of course, was to do with trying to preserve meat, or to disguise the fact that it was rotting, on long sea journeys, but in the press release to the exhibition, co-curator James Bennett says the pre-refrigeration need for spices “takes little account of the complex reasons the condiments of luxury and status were so avidly sought”.

I asked his fellow curator, Russell Kelty, what were the other complex reasons.

“The most common assumption is that spices were used to preserve food but in fact Europe’s fascination and desire for spices was linked partially to the prestige associated with these luxury condiments which were transported vast distances over land and sea, prior to the establishment of maritime routes by the Portuguese, and as a result were extremely expensive,” Kelty says. “Spices were also connected to notions that illness was caused bodily imbalance in hot and cold humours which could be alleviated by certain spices. As with any commodity the more scarce and difficult to obtain the prestige it accumulates.”

India, Portrait of D. Francisco de Almeida, 16th century, Goa, oil and tempera on wood, 183.0 x 98.0 cm National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), Lisbon MNAA Inv 2145 Pint

India, Portrait of D. Francisco de Almeida, 16th century, Goa, oil and tempera on wood, 183.0 x 98.0 cm. National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), Lisbon
MNAA Inv 2145 Pint. 

 

(The image above is from the exhibition; it’s a portrait of an explorer I haven’t really heard much about, Francisco de Almeida. Wikipedia has this to say about him: Dom Francisco de Almeida, also known as “the Great Dom Francisco” (ca. 1450 – March 1, 1510), was a Portuguese nobleman, soldier and explorer. He distinguished himself as a counsellor to King John II of Portugal and later in the wars against the Moors and in the conquest of Granada in 1492. In 1503 he was appointed as the first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of India (Estado da Índia). Almeida is credited with establishing Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean, with his victory at the naval Battle of Diu in 1509. Before Almeida could return to Portugal, he lost his life in 1510.)

The Australian Connection

beyond cap“Treasure Ships also examines the impact of the Age of Spices on the ‘discovery’ of the Australian continent”, says the exhibition’s media release. So what can we glean from the exhibition about Portuguese relations with Australia? There are some historians who believe that the Portuguese secretly knew a lot more about Australia than was officially revealed. (For example, Peter Trickett and his book Beyond Capricorn).

I was curious to know if the Treasure Ships exhibition added anything to that debate. Here’s  Russell Kelty view.

“Treasure ships does not touch on the Portuguese ‘discovery’ of Australia  – which I agree was highly likely –  as the exhibition is about art and cultural exchange. There is no evidence of any kind of aesthetic impact by the Portuguese on Indigenous Australian art, as was the case with Makassan trepang fishermen whose visits had a profound impact on northern Australian coastal Aboriginal cultures. The catalogue does briefly discuss [Malaysian-Portuguese cartographer Emanuel Godinho de Eredia (1563-1623)] Eredia’s belief in the existence of ‘New South India; (p.186).”

To see a summary of all the arguments about whether or not the Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover Australia, go here.

The Treasure Ships exhibition images here have been supplied courtesy of the Media section of the Art Gallery of South Australia and may not to be distributed to any other party. 

Balkan Club meets Brazil as Romanian pop stars Andra and Naguale go to Rio de Janeiro

The Lisbon-Bucharest divide

The Lisbon-Bucharest divide

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is not much connection between the Romanian and Portuguese languages. For one thing, Bucharest and Lisbon are more than 3800 kilometres apart, and if you were to make that road journey (pictured), you would hear many different languages along the route. I have been fortunate enough to have done summer language courses in both countries – in Portugal in 2011 and Romania in 2013. Of the two, the latter language was definitely new to me, so I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Whenever I was asked a question by my Romanian teacher, if I couldn’t say a word in Romanian, I would say it in Portuguese (in my peculiar gringo Porto-Romanian accent), and often the answer would prove to be spot on. So if you are reasonably fluent in one of those languages, you should be comfortable holidaying in places where the other is spoken.

Even so, I was surprised to find that doing very well on the Romanian music charts at the moment is Falava, a song in Portuguese and English by Romanian singer Andra and a band by the name of Naguale. It’s catchy and has got a sort of Turkish/Arabic/Ottoman snake charmer cum bellydance-type feel to it (my belly gyrated while playing it). As a bonus, the video features colourful exotic scenes from Rio de Janeiro, including street life, mouth-watering tropical fruits and the obligatory long-legged beauties in skimpy costumes wiggling their bits (it’s a bit in your face at times).

Andra certainly sounds comfortable in the Portuguese language, and the radio studio version below shows this is so with live performances too.

The lyrics to the song can be found here.

Andra is very popular in Romania. Here’s her big summer hit from 2013, Inevitabil va fi bine (Inevitably everything will be fine) … happy memories for me!

BUFFED BODY ALERT!

I don’t know much about Naguale, but according to the band/musician’s Facebook page it’s a (one-man?) band led by Bucharest-based Ovidiu Baciu and the music genre is “Balkan Club”. Here he teams up with a couple of other heavy-hitters on the Romanian music scene, Glance and Elena Gheorghe. In this video, the naked flesh on display is of the big and buffed blokey type. There are subtitles in English.

Three of the best Italian songs – as chosen by an Italian, so don’t blame me haha

I haven’t played or listened to an Italian music for a while, so I asked an Italian friend to nominate his three favourite songs. This is what he came up with:

1. Caruso by the late Lucio Dalla

2. Vivo per lei by Andrea Bocelli (shown here with translations in Romanian, and there is some dispute in the comments on YouTube whether it’s actually Laura Pausini singing with him or someone else).

3. A far l’amore comincia tu  by Raffaella Carra

If anyone would like to nominate their favourite songs in my five Romance languages, please do!

When the push comes to the shove, what kind of constipation would you prefer?

Beware false friends. These are words that look very similar in two different languages but have different meanings.

When a Portuguese friend of mine first arrived in Australia she had absolutely no knowledge of English (and even now she cannot distinguish between “shits“, “shirts” and “sheets“), she was feeling ill so she went to a doctor complaining of “constipacão“. She was very happy to be given medication for this, but could not understand why for the next few days she did not get better – and she kept having to run to the loo.

What went wrong? Well, while “constipacão” does indeed mean “constipated” in Portuguese as in English, it has another meaning in popular usage in Portuguese, hence the false friend:

  • constipacão a common cold
  • pegar uma constipacãoto catch a cold
  • constipado 1. constipated; 2. suffering from a cold
  • constipar1. to constipate, cause a constipation; 2. to catch a cold.

My friend had the flu, and she had been given laxatives.

cold-156666_1280If in doubt, a safer word to use in Portuguese for a cold is resfriado (related to frio, which means cold in temperature, and resfriar, to cool again)

  • peguei um resfriado I caught a cold
  • ele está resfriado – he has a cold

Resfriado can also mean chilled, iced or frozen, while resfriamento is the act or process of cooling: hence coluna de resfriamento, a cooling tower.

I suppose in a future post I will have to study constipation in the other Romance languages.

Liviu Teodorescu’s body parts

CAT MUSIC Romania is on my Facebook feed (here’s the link if you want it on yours) and I like to keep an eye on the new releases for something interesting. This one by Liviu Teodorescu caught my attention. The title is In Braţele Tale. If you don’t know Romanian can you guess what it means? (Answer below).

Did you work out the song title? Some clues:

  • In English we have the word embrace
  • Portuguese has abraços (“hugs”, a common term of endearment)
  • French has les bras (arms)
  • Spanish likewise has los brazos
  • And in Italian if you welcome someone with open arms you do it a braccia aperte.

So In Braţele Tale means In Your Arms. The singular noun is braţ.

Which reminded me of this great song from Bere Gratis

See also Cheers to Bere Gratis – music to slurp a free beer to.

I don’t know much about Liviu Teodorescu except that rose to fame playing a singer in a Romanian TV series, Pariu cu viațaso let’s see some more of him….

Here he is a recent release with Robert Toma and ADDA, Tot ce mi-a ramas (All I Have Left).

 

The language of money, from a woman’s point of view. Have a cake and eat it too

Australian Womens Weekly magazine page layout

My pride and joy!

Earlier this year I edited an 180-page financial guide for (Australian) women, the second edition of How Busy Women Get Rich (it’s aimed at inspiring people who are generally too busy with their everyday lives to think about their finances). It felt a little odd being a man editing a financial guide for women, but our company had just started using a new computer system, none of the otherwise very capable freelance editors had been trained on it yet, so someone in-house had to do it, and the finger was pointed at me. I had been in the finance press for 14 years previously, and had been chief sub-editor of the inaugural edition of the magazine last year, so I guess it was a logical choice. Still, the last thing I wanted to be perceived as was a man telling women what to do; so I took on the role as the mere host of a party, and invited as many inspirational women as I could to be the party guests and made sure there were great female journalists on hand to take note of the conversations. It isn’t a dubious get-rich-quick magazine, but more about how to enrich your life on many levels – having the courage to follow your passions, doing what you love, and so on. It was the first time I had edited a magazine and I really enjoyed it. Thankfully it is selling well.

I have always been aware of issues of prejudice, equality/inequality and justice/injustice in the world, but I must say that the months I spent focusing on the major news issues that affect women today were an eye-opener and pretty galling too. Take, for example, the gender pay gap – the difference between what men and women get paid. In Australia, for example, official figures out earlier this year showed that a man’s average weekly wage is approximately $1587 and a woman’s is $1289. In Australia in 2014, government figures showed, a woman would have to work an extra 66 days a year to get what men get paid. Sixty-six days! That’s thirty-three weekends the woman has to work while the man lazes at home! Needless to say, if I were a woman I’d be pretty pissed off.

Throughout my career in journalism, I have had some great male mentors, but most of my role models have been women, and the vast majority of my current colleagues are women – writers, sub-editors, and magazine designers.They were a great source of advice and help to me during the editing process. After the magazine came out I had to thank them in the best way I could – a caramel mud cake decked out in the colours and imagery of the magazine cover. It looks pretty garish but it was yummy. Hail to all women out there! Cheers (normal Romance language service will be resumed shortly).

"How Busy Women Get Thanked" - with a caramel mud cake using the magazine cover theme.

“How Busy Women Get Thanked” – written on white chocolate (the sign did not last very long).

 

Great Portuguese artworks feature in exhibition at two Australian museums

Japan, Dutch trading ship in Japanese waters, c.1870 four-panel screen, opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper, 67.5 x 138.0 x 11.0 cm, Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth  2006.004

Japan, Dutch trading ship in Japanese waters, c.1870 four-panel screen, opaque watercolour, ink and gold on paper, 67.5 x 138.0 x 11.0 cm, Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth 2006.004

Unusually for Australia, there is a great museum exhibition on at the moment that focuses largely on Portugal’s “golden age of discoveries”. It’s the Treasure Ships: Art In The Age of Spices exhibition currently on at the Art Gallery of South Australia until August 30, and then at the Art Gallery of Western Australia from October 10 to January 31, 2016. As well as the Portuguese component, the 300-odd pieces in the exhibition – which examines the interaction between Europe and Asia from the 16th to the 19th centuries – come from private and public collections in India, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and the US.

I have always been interested in the Portuguese maritime exploits. When I was a young boy growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, we would often go to Mombasa on the coast for our family holidays, and visited Fort Jesus regularly. My dad would relate the story of the famous siege of the fort, and how the Portuguese bravely held out for months in the hope of a relief party arriving, but finally surrendered – only for relief to arrive the very next day. To me it all sounded heroic and tragic. But if you read the brief account of the siege here you will see that my dad was exaggerating as usual, and relief actually arrived a week after the surrender. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I’ve also been to the maritime museum (Museu de Marinha) in Belem, Lisbon – a fabulous place (both the museum and Belem as a whole), for anyone who is interested in this period of history.

Portugal, Salver 1520–40, silver gilt, 46.5 cm (diameter).  National Museum Machado de Castro, Coimbra  MNMC 6092A

Portugal, Salver 1520–40, silver gilt, 46.5 cm (diameter). National Museum Machado de Castro, Coimbra MNMC 6092A

I asked one of the curators of Treasure Ships: Art In The Age of Spices, Russell Kelty, which Portuguese museums and institutions had contributed.

“The gallery worked closely with the Australian Embassy in Lisbon as well as the Secretary of Culture and three Portuguese institutions: The National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), in Lisbon; the National Museum/Museu Nacional Machado de Castro, in Coimbra; and the Museu do Oriente / Fundaҫão Oriente, in Lisbon,” Russell said. “It became apparent that to fully contextualise this age which was initiated by Portuguese mercantile and ecclesiastical expansion into Asia, the great collections of Portugal would be integral. As far as we know, this is the first exhibition in Australia to highlight those collections.”

Portugal, Reliquary cross of St Francis Xavier  first half 17th century, silver, 36.0 x 18.5 cm  National Museum Machado de Castro, Coimbra  MNMC 6210

Portugal, Reliquary cross of St Francis Xavier first half 17th century, silver, 36.0 x 18.5 cm. National Museum Machado de Castro, Coimbra
MNMC 6210

Asked to nominate the highlights of the exhibition from the point of view of anyone who is interested in Portuguese culture in particular, Russell said: “There is one designated national treasure from Portugal, the silver gilt Salver, which portrays the opulence of the early 16th century when spices provided great wealth for the Portuguese. Also there is a silver crab and cross (pictured right), which elucidates missionary activities in Asia, particularly the Jesuits and Francis Xavier, known as the ‘Apostle of the East’ who travelled throughout Asia and even to Japan to convert.”

A lot of work goes into curating an exhibition of this nature. Russell said his own involvement took two to three years of research and travel, and five years for co-curator James Bennett.

We’ll have a look at other aspects of the exhibition in another post soon.

The images here have been supplied courtesy of the Media section of the Art Gallery of South Australia and may not to be distributed to any other party. Please respect the copyright restrictions. 

 

Vale young Brazilian singer Cristiano Araújo

Popular Brazilian singer Cristiano Araújo, 29, and his girlfriend died after a car crash in the early hours of Wednesday morning this week in the state of Goiás. He had been touring and was due to appear at a festival in the north-eastern city of Fortaleza this weekend. His death shocked Brazil, as he was seen to be one of the stars of his generation and was also popular with the Brazilian and Latino community in the United States too. As the video clip (below) shows, his concerts certainly don’t lack visual spectacle.

Like Michel Teló, who had a massive hit worldwide with Ai, se eu te pego!, Araújo’s musical style is heavily influenced by sertanejo, the “country” music of the north-east. Here, in a different style though, is another of Araújo’s recent big hits, Caso Indefinido (Undefined Case).

 

Trying to get back into the groove

Hi, apologies for not having posted much recently. Work has kept me incredibly busy since January (extra projects on top of my normal job and another deadline is looming). I have hardly had time to think about Romance languages, and am really missing them. In the past couple of days I have been having cravings to listen to the music of Delia and her ilk again. The Romanian top 100 airplay chart website that I relied on for much of the past couple of years has gone offline, so instead I am using this blog site as a reference, but it has only the top 40 (often the songs that don’t make the top 40 are more interesting than those that do). The site also has a lot more English tracks on it, but never mind.

So here’s what quickly caught my ear…

This is not Delia, but it could easily be… It’s a Moldovan singer, Nicoleta Nuca. She’s at No.16.

I also like this by Dan Bittman, the lead singer of Holograf (and before that IRIS), who is wrestling with angels and demons. He’s at No.6 but I think was at No.1 not so long ago. I particularly like the guitar licks around the 2.50 minute mark.

And now for Delia, at No.14 with this…

Now here are some live performances of the above…

I hope to catch up with some French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish music soon. To all the people whose blogs I follow, I hope you are well :)

 

Eurovision 2015: you win some, you lose some

The Eurovision 2015 semifinals have been held and what’s the news for my Romance language favourites?

GOOD NEWS: In semi-final one, Romania’s Voltaj got the nod to appear in the final. Here is their semifinal appearance. This song gives me goosebumps.

Great too, to see Razvan Schinteie, the boy who stars in the short film screened behind Voltaj, waving from the audience at the end. Good to see he made it safe and sound to Vienna! (In the film, he sets off on a little boat by himself going up the Danube in search of his “lost” parents, despite not knowing their address – more about that story here).

BAD NEWS: In semi-final two poor old Portugal got dumped again; pity – Leonor Andrade sang more powerfully than I expected compared to the recorded version, and unlike some Portuguese entries in previous years, I like this song. And good on Portugal for having the guts to sing in the native language.

The final will be a marathon with 27 countries participating, including Australia! How will Romance language contenders France, Spain and Italy fare?