There is a typewriter at the center of this video. But not any typewriter. It is the third typewriter of Raquel Lima, one with the HCESAR keyboard layout. This layout was created by decree in 1937 under the anti-communist Estado Novo regime. It places some of the most frequently used letters in Portuguese at the center. It is the teclado nacional, the national keyboard. And Raquel Lima then words how to “subvert this machine in order to imprint a different meaning from the one predicted under the fascist rule.” She does not answer this question. But she does explain that in her work she wants to assert herself beyond the literary gesture. Several times in this video, two people stand side by side. One carries the typewriter. The other a machete. And each walks past the other, switching places. History in this video is everywhere. It is architectural. It is in the moss that covers the buildings. The stones that are on the sidewalk. The peeling of paint off metal. And the author is at the center of this history, yet walking away from the two people, one with the typewriter and the one with the machete, endlessly trading places.
To be in silence is not the same as to be silenced. Also, silencing someone is different from remaining silent. From Lima’s point of view, deletion is different from erasure. Deletion is the cancellation of all traces, the vanishing and disappearance of the inscription. Erasure would then be the coexistence of the formerly suppressed inscription along with its newly superimposed correction. Again, to be silenced is not the same as being silent. Speaking out loud about this, in Raquel Lima’s video, we see the sea, rusty boats floating in the sea, vacant houses near to the sea. From these houses on São Tomé e Príncipe, partially with no windows, we can see the sea and the rusty boats just floating in it. These boats do not move at all. There is no human presence. The vacant houses are not properly vacant insofar as at a certain point we notice that there are people living in them. The houses move, when captured by the lens in the camerawork. When it comes to media and seizure, in 1937 the Portuguese New State introduced legislation on the use of typewriters, and published the model of the HCESAR keyboard that should be used across all sectors of society in Portugal and its colonies. Such imposed standardization and bureaucratization of writing brings Lima to the question of how to subvert it from individual and collective perspectives, where both act as agents of identity. Lima’s approach suggests that, as the personal is always political, identity also relates to politics by decolonizing devices, apparatuses, language, and epistemologies. If literary writing is what comes after orature—the “peak of my poetic iceberg,” as the author puts it—then the voice speaking in the video, and the bodies that perform in it, make us think that what is said is as important as what remains unsaid or erased, down in the sea or inside the bodies.
Raquel Lima is a poet, performer, and art-educator. She is currently a PhD candidate in Postcolonial Studies, with a focus on orature, slavery, and Afrodiasporic movements, at the University of Coimbra. Her artistic and literary work has taken her to Europe, South America, and Africa, where she has presented work at FLIP, FLUP Rio, and FOLIO, as well as in her own workshop “Poetry, Race and Gender: For an Intersectional Poetic Writing.” She is a member of the advisory board of the project “(DE)OTHERING: Deconstructing Risk and Otherness” at CES, and the co-founder of the cultural association Pantalassa, the Anti-Racist Nucleus of Coimbra, Yanda Panafrikanu, and the Black Union for the Arts. In 2019 she co-organized the 7th Afroeuropeans Conference “Black In/Visibilities Contested” and published the volume of poetry Ingenuidade Inocência Ignorância (BOCA and Animal Sentimental).
Juliana Spahr is a poet and scholar of 20th-century literature. Her poetry moves between lyricism, explanatory prose, and theoretical discussion. Her most recent book of poetry, That Winter The Wolf Came, addresses questions of global struggles, especially those located at the intersection of ecological and economic catastrophes. She has previously published four collections of poetry and two volumes of prose that might be memoirs. Spahr’s scholarly work focuses on literature’s complicated role in political movements. She is also the author of Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment (Harvard University Press, 2018).
Bruno Ministro is a junior researcher at the Institute for Comparative Literature at the University of Porto, Portugal. He has received a PhD in Materialities of Literature from the University of Coimbra. Since 2017, he has been a co-editor of the PO.EX Digital Archive, hosted by University Fernando Pessoa. In recent years he has participated in several projects and events related to modern and contemporary literature, mainly on the subjects of experimental poetry, electronic literature, and various hybrid genres. His current research concentrates on intermedial poetics and politics, for example at the intersection of literary studies, media studies, and cultural studies.