Interview with Monique Widmer and Gilda Barbosa, museum founders and
friends from Fogo.
LEAP IN TIME. TIME HISTORY.
According to Monique and Gilda "every piece, no matter how small it is, has its own history". Twenty years ago, they founded "Casa da Memória", a cultural centre and museum in the historic centre of São Filipe on Fogo. Monique and Gilda are retired social workers and met through international charities many decades ago. Two strong women with an exciting story are making history to their life's work. Monique is originally from Switzerland and came to Cape Verde for work reasons after a few years in Portugal; Gilda comes from a long-established Cape Verdean family from Fogo.
vista verde tours: "Casa da Memória" celebrates its 20th anniversary this year - congratulations. Since 20 years, Monique has been looking after, collecting, researching and archiving her exhibits in São Filipe on Fogo in order to make them accessible to the public - how did you get the idea to create "Casa da Memória"?
Monique: We can't say exactly when we had the idea for Casa da Memória. The house where Casa da Memória and the library are located belonged to Gilda's family, the Barbosa family. I bought the house with the intention of creating a public, cultural space. The idea developed further when we found some exciting everyday objects that were about to be forgotten. After many and long conversations, it was clear that these things should be remembered, so the idea of creating the House of Memories was born.
vista verde tours: With this initiative you have paved new paths and you have worked together with strong people. What contents and values play a particular role here, has there been a change throughout time?
Gilda: With simple everyday objects, but also with documents about the history of the Cape Verde islands, and - of course - with the focus on Fogo. Casa da Memória does not only target foreign visitors, but also locals, thus history is preserved and kept alive. Our aim is to ensure that history will not be forgotten. Through our collection, it also remains more alive for younger generations. It is of high importance to us to preserve the cultural heritage.
vista verde tours: You create space for experiences in the museum to make everyday culture tangible. What are the medium- or long term goals of this project? Have you already been able to achieve some of these goals?
Monique: Not only furniture and everyday objects are in Casa da Memória, but there are also many old documents and books. Gilda's family is a very well-read family, so some old treasures have been preserved here. However, these individual items are not open to the public, but can be seen upon request. We achieved one main goal in 2015 after photographing and cataloguing over 700 items.
vista verde tours: Which treasures can be seen in Casa da Memória, where do these "treasures" come from? Is there anything you are particularly proud of? Are there any absolute "highlights"?
Monique: With the support of the American ambassadors, we were able to open a library here in the rooms of Casa da Memória. Here you can find books, articles and photos about Cape Verde, especially Fogo of course, but also books that were published by Cape Verdean writers. That makes us very proud! Unfortunately, there is – until today – only little reading material existing on the history of this archipelago.
vista verde tours: Museums and exhibitions are open meeting places. In addition to the exhibits small events have always taken place. What happened here and what was the intention?
Monique: Casa da Memória has always hosted cinema evenings, exhibitions, book presentations or readings. Cinema evenings, for example, are no longer relevant. Nowadays, people prefer to watch a movie at home, and no longer go out to see a movie and discuss it afterwards. However, precisely these discussions between young and old after such a movie were always very enriching.
vista verde tours: The museum is constantly changing, concepts and resources are changing, public relations are taking place on new channels. How has Casa da Memória changed over the last 20 years?
Gilda: Casa da Memória has grown steadily over the last 20 years. It started with the idea of exhibiting a few things. Over time, more and more objects have been added. Some, of course, had to be repaired and restored.
Now we have to enter the digital age. The first step has already been accomplished with a new website (https://gersonbsemedo.wixsite.com/my-site-9). The next goal is to create an online library. We are working on this, but it will take a little more time.
There are no favorite pieces in Casa da Memória. It is mainly the memories that the individual pieces evoke. The saddles, when there were no cars here and people only travelled by horse or mule. The slate board that reminds us of our own school days; the crockery that comes from many different countries or the old coins. The wardrobe trunk that was needed on long sea voyages. Each of these small pieces has its own story to tell.
vista verde tours: Museum work means engagement, research, mediation, education, presentation - your work in the museum is multi-faceted and colourful. What are your best memories here from the last 20 years?
Gilda: The best memories we have of Casa da Memória are the encounters and conversations with the guests. Over the years about 30,000 guests have visited Casa da Memória. It is important for us that it is not just a rigid exhibition, but that the guests experience history - that history remains alive.Casa da Memória is not a museum in the true sense of the word, it is a private initiative, and we want to keep it that way in the future.
CASA DA MEMÓRIA Opening hours
C.P. 17 Mi - Do - Fr
Ilha do Fogo 10h00 - 12h00
Cidade de São Filipe https://gersonbsemedo.wixsite.com/my-site-9
Many thanks to Helga, Monique and Gilda for this interview, which was conducted on Creolo by our colleague Helga Amado Alves on May 5th 2021 in São Filipe on Fogo.