The Culture in Macau: future perspectives

Jorge Morbey

For reasons of historical importance widely known, Macau has been since the XVI century, the point of convergence and of intimate relationship between the Chinese and the Portuguese, the carriers of their own and different cultural values.

This secular tradition of intimacy between distinct cultures is a solid foundation and a sign of good augury for the intensification of reciprocal understanding of its respective values and can constitute a social lining along which a rich cultural interchange could be promoted whilst sustaining continuity to an edification which could certainly be a precious human heritage. Having thus conceived, neither confining to its regional dimension nor conceding to a vision of western-oriented or eastern-oriented world, Macau assumes, in cultural phraseology, an universal statute without parallel in the modern world.

Since the World Conference on Cultural Politics which took place in Venice, in 1970, the relevant phenomenon in cultural policy has been the expansion of its field of activities, in internal affairs of the states as well as in the international sphere. This tendency has been maintained and further developed after the opening of MUNDIACULT in the city of Mexico in August 1982.

In a World where economic resources are every time more scarce, and where confidence is diminishing alarmingly, the cultural movement has been developing and expanding. The social institutions - the territorial foundation, the defense of class interests, with profit-making motives, etc. -have come to discover a cultural potential in its activities that are taking shape in cultural policies in the society far beyond State politics.

The recent evolution in the world establishes the hope that in a not too distant future priority will be given to Culture, placing it at the centre of life of the nations and of society, as it normally happened in other periods of history of mankind.

The modern world offers a social chart in which again, the cultural rights are in genesis with conflicts and alliances. For this reason the cultural and social activities converge more often.

It is in giving preference to Culture that one can find the principal parameter of the pattern of development when the economy and politics turn to be alarmingly unstable.

It is, again in Culture that one finds the key to change and the principal plain ground for the liberation of man when a widespread desire to recreate the world and to promote the reidentification of human expression in facing the same new world is becoming evident.

The world in which we live weighs between a dream of a new renascence and the nightmare of a war of extermination, or between wise cultural renascence and a military or economic suicide. It is an instinct that the more the peace is threatened the more precious the World appears to be and consequently, more obligation to defend the world of cultural heritage is assumed.

The creation of Instituto Cultural de Macau in 1982, is an expression of understanding by the government of the Territory of its cultural aspects. It translates the obligation of the State to support the formulation and execution of the Cultural Policies of the Territory. Without the preoccupation with economy and cultural statism, the Government of the Territory would appreciate that a Public Institute take upon itself the charge to entertain, encourage and support the cultural incentives of the society in Macau. The existence of Instituto Cultural has been a blessing to the ideas and to the men of ideas towards which it pretends to be an infrastructure and a "pivot" for all the interested groups.

The Instituto Cultural implies dialogue, cooperation, and the privileged reciprocal understanding between the Chinese and the Portuguese of the Territory. Yet it can also be, in a just measure, for both the interested parties, the cultural radio broadcasting for the historically as well as culturally established communities, in this part of the world.

In its fifth year of existence, the Instituto Cultural de Macau could be proud of its work, always attentive to financial and human support whenever is possible.

The future development of the work of ICM depends upon five factors, which I am enumerating briefly, part by part.

The financial resources and its correct administration are decisive factors in the life of any institution.

With a budgetary grant of 5.9 million patacas in 1983, the ICM has to its disposal in 1987 a budget of 36 millions patacas.

However, to appreciate the amount of financial means available is the resultant analysis in terms of its relation to percentage with the General Budget of the Territory.

From 0.42% of OGT in 1983 it progressed to 1.56% in 1987 which is an enviable situation in the world chart where the funds allocated to Culture rarely reach 1%.

Secondly, I refer to installations and equipment. It is that Culture has a problem of accommodation and oxygenation.

And the oxygen of culture are the theatre, cinema, ballet, the musical and singing auditorium, the "ateliers" and the studios for creation in the field of plastic arts and cinema, places for exhibitions and museums, the archives of classified written documentations, sonorous and of images, the libraries, etc. etc.. It is good to retain that these are some of the more significant symbols of development found in countries where Culture has ceased to be elitair.

The same Instituto Cultural cannot be considered to be fully equipped with cultural instruments.

It still lacks physical space. More space for the Culture.

This question is found equated in the ambit of Plano Director de Macau, a concept that aims at the allocation of space for cultural activities all over the city.

In the third place, there is a problem concerning the statute to the persons connected to Culture. It does not deal only to avoid intellectual proletarianization, it concerns to alter the statute relating to the borderline, of intelligence, which deals with the language barrier or any other barrier where it is forced to exercise activities which are not applicable and only seek to guarantee physical survival. It has to conceive a proper statute that permits the intellectuals to exercise their functions in the field of Culture, creating conditions that are practicable in overcoming the existing barriers. Furthermore, it will have to explore the possibilities in the Territory, to promote and help the formation of sino-luso schools in the various fields of arts and culture, thus stimulating an artistic taste for it.

In the fourth place I refer to the subjects connected to cultural heritage.

The Cultural Heritage in its broadest sense, comprises two universes: the material heritage and the immaterial one.

Starting with the latter, it is worth referring to the explosive demographic growth of Macau, at the start of the 4th decade of the century, which brought about the great migratory influx of temporary and permanent natives from the mainland and simultaneously the exits to different countries - Portugal, Brasil, Canada, U. S. A., Australia, etc. of a significant number of Macanese families, heirs to the portuguese cultural monuments during the centuries raised in Macau and here enriched by cultural values of Chinese and Malays.

It can be said that up till the 3rd decade, there existed in Macau a biological society, culturally cross-bred, whose cultural source was essentially of portuguese origin which moved in dynamic sedimentation of cultural values here recreated, and where the influence of Chinese culture was notorious. This "Macanese Society" corresponded in civic terms to "Christian city". The weakening of this "Macanese Society" in numerical terms was due to a greater part by the emigration of its components and the rapid growth of the native population of Chinese culture which provoked the unavoidable diminishing percentage of "Macanese Society" in the total structure of the population, and naturally the decline or precisely the extinction of its own cultural creations.

This has happened, for example, in the realm of the language, with the progressive decline of "lingua di Macau" the "patois", to-day practically extinct, which from a linguistic point of view can be classified as a dialect born with the advent of the portuguese in the XVI and XVII century, enriched by vocabulary and grammar derived from cantonese.

In the same manner, the popular music expressed by the same "patois" has practically disappeared.

Other cultural elements, however, have been able to survive through usages, customs and traditions mostly notable in the religion and the traditional cuisine of Macau.

In the domain of material heritage there is the city, considerably extended.

In the sense of possessing large palaces, castles or religious temples, Macau is not so important, compared with the cities of China or Europe. Yet the city exhibits characteristics without parallel in this part of the World which were derived from the refined mediterranean atmosphere built along the centuries, which reflects the simple life of the people who were, at that time, building it, mainly attested by the simplicity of the materials used for its construction.

I refer to the city of the XVII century, that was confined to the limits of walls and fortresses-practically nothing remains. But the deciding factor in establishing the architectonic heritage of Macau should remain in a complex whole, and not in the individual values of its integrated parts. I feel that its preservation in the future lies fundamentally in the just equilibrium between tradition and modernity or, in a more concrete form, between the pressure of investment in immovable property and the replies of the collective group responsible for the town planning that have to give to investors the alternative terms for the occupancy of classified structures.

I think Macau has only to gain with the preservation of what is remaining of the mediterranean city that constitutes namely in terms of Tourism, an unique example in this part of the World.

In the meantime, that the preparation for the future in terms of conservation of cultural heritage has to be taken up as soon as possible by the creation of economic and financial conditions that would permit its conservation and reutilization through an autonomous body, in form of a Foundation, by making alteration in the legislation in force, modifying the actual situation in order to diminish the heavy load that classified structures cast on its owners, turning them out to be somewhat undesirable and controversial in the real estate market of Macau. The fifth and last place I would like to mention the modifications that need to be introduced in terms of redefining the established institution of the Instituto Cultural de Macau by ways of alterations in legislative and administrative infrastructures. After the signing of the Joint Declaration of the future of Macau, between the Governments of the People's Republic of China and of Portugal, every future construction has to obey to the spirit of the letter, whatever it contains, in all areas of life in the Territory.

In the area of Culture, considering Macau's characteristics as a secular gateway for communication between China and the West, we commend a Foundation that provides jurisdiction to generate and administrate with necessary means the cultural development of the Territory, preserving its characteristics as point of convergence and broadcasting station of Portuguese and Chinese cultures.

To conclude I refer to some areas of high priority concerning cooperation and interchange between Macau and the mainland.

I was on a visit to the People's Republic of China, from 12th to 22th of March of this year at the invitation of the National Commission for Education. During that period I had the opportunity to visit and exchange ideas with responsible persons of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Universities and other cultural and scientific institutions, writers, researchers etc.

It was clear for me during the visit, that we have a long way to go in the cultural exchange of Macau with the mainland and I am trying to enumerate some of the features.

The increase in exchange of species of documents, bibliographical and iconographical, between the archives and National Museums of the mainland and of Macau (and via this the archives and national museums of Portugal) has in sight the mutual enrichment of respective assets being referred to as the history of relations of China with the outside world, and, particularly, the History of Macau, and the portuguese presence in this part of the world, as well as the set-up in Macau of an important historical research centre open to researchers from all over the world.

An increase in cooperation related to the study of portuguese in the People's Republic of China and of Pu Tong Hua in Portugal and of both the national languages of the two countries in Macau is to be promoted.

Starting with the actual situation where the portuguese language is dominant by about 3% of the population and the Pu Tong Hua by a percentage not much higher it is understood that priority is given as not to obstruct the future for Macau to the extension of all the degrees and modalities of the study of the respective national languages. I think it will be of great utility that gradually the whole population may be able to learn the Pu Tong Hua and the portuguese language. Through what I refer to in the promotion of culture through readings and libraries, I draw attention to the absolute urgency of the public libraries of Macau being provided with books and other publications edited in the People's Republic of China, gratis, as it is happening with the works edited in Portugal.

Further I would still stress that the promotion of culture through books and other publications, should be considered a great importance in establishing the commercial means necessary for the promotion in Macau of the works edited in the mainland as well as the propagation in the mainland of the works edited in Macau. It is quite clear that the circulation of editions between the mainland and Macau presents some difficulties that need to be overcome in the near future.

Under the circumstances the editions of the mainland are printed in simplified characters whereas those in Macau (likewise in Hong Kong and Taiwan) are still using ancient characters.

This is a barrier that obstructs the flow of ideas between the mainland and Macau which, naturally, will be solved in the panel of reunification of the People's Republic of China.

Whatever the long-term development may be, however, I think that immediate action should be initiated by the edition of identical works issued simultaneously in simplified and ancient characters, with respect to the readers for whom they are meant.

The editorial activities of Instituto Cultural de Macau have been concentrated on the publication of chinese authors in portuguese and vice-versa, always, when possible, in bilingual editions. Moreover, we are engaged in bringing out a Library of Basic Chinese Culture, in portuguese, as well as a Library of Basic Portuguese Culture, in chinese.

Also in the editorial field last April we introduced a Cultural Magazine that issues quarterly an edition in Portuguese, another in Chinese and, yet another in English. We had the opportunity to send invitations to intellectuals, researchers and writers of the People's Republic of China with the objective to share their contributions to the Cultural Magazine, in affirming that it constitutes a point of convergence and a broadcast for world propagation of portuguese and chinese cultures side by side.

In the field of interchange in music, ballet and drama, Macau has practically been overridden by top artists from the mainland.

I feel that the interchange should be extended, in order to have an apprehension, by sending into the mainland the cultural manifestations of Macau. From our point of view, it is important to introduce a quality of change in such a manner that besides normal shows, we could bring forth a scheme for cooperation that manifests itself into the exchange of specialists in the areas - musicians, ballet-dancers, professors - integrated in orchestras, ballet groups and lecturing on various other subjects.

On our part, in Macau, we have a great interest in receiving this type of co-operation on contract basis, to improve our chamber music and our ballet group and for the building up of our future conservatory.

Another area where the interchange and cultural cooperation to preserve the cultural heritage is found to be practically zero concerns the "historical relics" as they are referred to in the mainland. There are on Coloane island some archaeological remains, whose identification requires the assistance of specialists from the mainland.

There are in the mainland, various historical relics of original western culture whose preservation, restoration and reutilization would certainly be a benefit from the cooperation of technicians of the heritage available in Macau.

Without going into too many details, I'll just refer to the islands of Neilingding, on the mouth of the Pearl River, the island of Lambeikou, the isle of Shangchuan, the fortresses of Liampo and Chincheo the isle of Sha Mian, the mission of Zhaoging 82 kilometres west of Canton, on the left bank of River Xijang, the churches of the Dongtang, Nangtang and Beitang in Beijing, the Beijing observatory near the gate of Jianguomen and the cemetery of Chala also in Beijing.

Besides technical cooperation through our specialists in Architectonic Heritage, we can supply documentations, and elaborate monographic studies on these monuments for the understanding and propagation for new generations and for foreigners who visit the People's Republic of China.

It appears to me that the actual situation should be apprehended to allow guidelines for the future where it refers to the questions connected to Culture, in the Territory of Macau. As referred before, we have now at our disposal a precious instrument that constitutes a base for the future construction of Macau: The Joint Declaration on the future of Macau signed by the Prime Ministers of the People's Republic of China and Portugal.

Being indisputably relevant in the bilateral relations between the States of China and Portugal, the Agreement is more expedient to Macau for expressing its own revival on its future course.

It is a new cycle of the History of Macau that is going to start, acknowledging without ambiguity, the absolute sovereignty of the People's Republic of China over the Territory by having solemnly guaranteed free cohabitation and mutual cooperation between the Chinese and Portuguese people.

And so lies before us a great preparatory work for the future, that requires to be taken up as early as possible.

Translated by João Libano

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