Alentejo Litoral is a little bit like Cabo Verde: slow, easy-going, sunny with a lot of beaches. I only lived in Cabo Verde for a year and a half, but it felt like 5 years: it was so different and intense, it is a mix between Africa and Europe. 10 years ago, when we moved to the Alentejo, it wasn’t like it is now: far fewer people lived here, I think people started to get sick of the big cities, and they decided to move here. What I like most is the landscape, the proximity of the ocean, the mountains, the river. I think there is a very nice combination of nature factors around São Luís. I love the ‘Alentejano’ people here, they always smile and make jokes. For instance everybody has a funny nickname here, which describes nicely what I mean. Alentejo is the poorest region of Portugal; unlike the north, where everybody had a small piece of land on which to grow their own food, here only the richer class had big properties, and the people who worked for them didn’t have any land. These people have suffered a lot and they chose this mentality of not making life even more hard than it is already. They chose smiling instead of crying.

I was born and lived in Lisbon, when I started to come to Alentejo quite frequently for holidays and for weekends. After I returned to Portugal from Cabo Verde I decided to move to São Luís, and to do the opposite: live here and spend the weekends in Lisbon. I had imagined living in this area before and so we thought we would give it a try, and now we have been here for ten years already. During this period I almost leave São Luís twice, because it became difficult to work as a freelancer here, but after all I managed to stay and now I can say I am settled here. I moved here because of the quality of life, this place allows me to make music and other things besides being a freelance graphic designer. Imagine this place with theatres, concerts and different kind of cultural activities, that would be the perfect world… That is partly why we created Ateneu do Catorze, to organize happenings from different art forms which we would like to see around here.

I create graphic materials for Rota Vicentina, a project I appreciate a lot. The tourism is growing, but in a controlled way, besides that more and more people move here and buy or rent houses. Rota promotes the country and this region in a balanced and organized way. The places where Rota goes through I enjoy very much, and the people who come here because of it respect nature and take care of the environment.

I was teaching in a music school in Sines, which I loved a lot, now I work for that school as a designer. Actually music is my real passion, graphic design is a commercial activity, an exhaust-pipe: when I’m sick of design, I just do the other things, that inspires me to go back to my work. When I was living in Cabo Verde, I met a 90 years old pianist, she was such a character that I felt I need to make a movie about her life. Dona Tututa was my first and so far only movie, it has been screened in several countries and festivals, and it won the Novos Talentos prize in Odemira Film Festival in 2015 and Best Movie at the Cabo Verde International Film Festival in 2014. I have an ongoing project for JINSP in Odemira and I’m trying to find a way to shoot a documentary in São Luís.

João Veiga

The photos were taken on the river bank of Mira.

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