Oralities Project 2007 – 2013

The Oralities Project is a Culture Programme 2007-2013 initiative and it involves an international partnership between Évora, Idanha-a-Nova and Mértola (Portugal), Ourense (Spain), Ravenna (Italy), Birgu (Malta ) and Sliven (Bulgaria). This cooperation and cultural exchange programme is based on common aspects of these European communities, highlighting musical tradition in Southern Europe (both traditional and classical) and oral tradition (folktales, folksong-books, short stories & poems and life stories). Between 2008 and 2012 a regular programme has been developed in all partner cities (Music Festivals and Circuits, and ‘Cities of Oral Tradition’ Seminars). As project leader, Évora, has created a Resource Centre of Oral Tradition. This project aims to enhance the common oral heritage of Southern Europe, based on local identity, memories and a cultural matrix going back centuries.

The Spoken Word: exercises in oral transmission
Parish of Penha Garcia, municipality of Idanha-a-Nova – May 2012.
Video works; director – João Tavares; production – Paulo Longo, Eddy Chambino

Even today, oralities are an important aspect in the essential structures of a community. As traditional ways of transmitting knowledge orally are disrupted some of their characteristics can disappear. In the past two decades the borough of Idanha-a-Nova has invested – alone or in partnership – into studying and preserving its oral based cultural tradition.

Three documentaries have been produced. They deal with oral expression in its various forms. The interviews featured focus on some of the last traces of the Portuguese traditional rural society, typically illiterate and used to sharing knowledge mostly orally. Dealing with the complex relationship between writing and speech, these films show how the spoken word, albeit ephemeral, can persist through time by being passed on from generation to generation.

These three films are linked by a common theme and explore three aspects of oral culture within one specific community. The first film approaches the traditional practice of oral recitals by a singer or poet, sometimes accompanied by the percussion instrument known as the adufe. The second film looks more closely at the way in which these songs and drum beats have been passed down through the ages. The third film deals with the mechanisms and challenges associated with transmitting traditional skills, using as a backdrop bread-making in the village oven.


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