Exhibition Opening
Aqui Ninguém Fica Mal Sozinho, by Bianca Stanea
Curation Assistant: Beatriz Duarte
21st December, 18:00
Free entry

Intimate portrait of the traditional Portuguese ways of living in the middle of a city that is drastically changing. In a landscape of cranes, construction sites and emerging new businesses, there are hidden gems in which life seems to have a different way of flowing.

‘Ilhas’ are typical neighbourhoods from Porto that increased in number during the industrialisation of the city in the 19th century. This type of housing organisation involves small living spaces, with a common outdoor area and one single door that allows access from the street. Each house would have 15m2 and consist of a small room, a tiny room and kitchen. Sanitary facilities were usually common to all homes and were located on the street background.

While their structure was many times considered unsanitary and even clandestine, they changed the morphology of the city and the way in which local communities were formed. Because they are most of the times hidden in the backyard of a main house (the house of the owner), it is very easy to pass by without noticing them. There are around 957 ‘ilhas’ in Porto with approximately 10.000 inhabitants.

“Ilha” in Portuguese means island and it is a relevant descriptive metaphor since these neighbourhoods are islands of traditional values in an ever changing urban environment. We found a certain longing for the past, mixed with gratitude for the simple joys of life and anger towards the uncertainty of the future. The people are proud nevertheless and resourceful. They speak openly about the problems that they have and celebrate life with every occasion they find. There is no shame in their discourse, only certain regrets about how it could have been better. The proximity with each other made them altruistic, but also led to neighbourly arguments. At the end of the day, they have each other’s backs and live in well-defined communities.

By replacing statistics and numbers with stories and faces, the identity of these places can be preserved as a collection of audiovisual memories. This exhibition is just the first chapter of an ongoing research project that aims to involve the remaining inhabitants of the ‘ilhas’ into several upcoming cultural events and to open a discussion about more sustainable ways of doing tourism and habitation issues.

This research was possible with the kindness and openness of the locals of Porto that welcomed me into their homes and lives and shared their memories.

Bianca Stânea is a Romanian theatre director who worked for several cultural projects in Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Braga and Porto. Her biggest interests are documentary and immersive theatre as ways of capturing reality and expressing certain nostalgia of urban decay.

The project is one of the selected projects by the i-Portunus initiative, funded by the Creative Europe Programme.