Cartaz da Exposição Colonial, Porto, 1934; (c)n.d.

1st Portuguese Colonial Exhibition

16 June 2021

#Inthisday 16 June 1934 inaugurated the 1st Portuguese Colonial Exhibition in Porto, curated by Henrique Galvão, a military man who would become a prominent opponent of Salazarism.

The Dictatorship and the New State configure the Colonial Empire in the political and administrative centralization of the Colonial Act, in the discrimination established by the various Indigenous Statutes, in forced labor and exploitation of African labor and, finally, in propaganda.

The Colonial Exhibition of Porto is a moment of great imperial exacerbation, an exemplary case of the colonial propaganda of the Estado Novo, but also the view of European colonialism on colonized peoples.

Following the model of colonial exhibitions organized by other colonizing powers, the still young Portuguese dictatorship intended to make its work known in African lands and show the world that Portugal was not a small country.

In addition to replicas of monuments, commercial stands, the staging of “local reality”, the restitution of native villages and “typical” activities and many other attractions, what stood out were the so-called “human zoos” in which men, women and children, from the various colonies, were exposed in their “habitats” to the eyes of thousands of Portuguese for whom the Empire, despite the propaganda, was still a distant and strange world.

The Colonial Exhibition of Porto allowed the colonizer and the “civilized” to contemplate the “indigenous”, the “uncivilized”, the “savage”. Basically, to admire the “historical function of owning and colonizing overseas domains and civilizing indigenous populations”, as expressed in the Colonial Act.

After the 25th of April 1974, the colonial war and Portuguese colonialism came to an end and the independence of Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde was achieved.

On the 3rd floor of the long-term exhibition at the Aljube Museum, you can learn about the history of anticolonial resistance and the struggle of the liberation movements.

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