Xistopedia

PROJECT@X - Up This River

PROJECT@X - Up This River
craft+design
“Working in this context and coming into contact with people is very different to being in the classroom and even helps us define what we are looking for in the future.”

Wood, linen, burel, leather and, of course, a lot of work and creativity gave rise to a new boat, a hood, bags, graphic supports and... new ideas.

During one week, 25 students and 8 teachers from the Design Degree course at the DeCA-UA - Department of Communication and Art of the University of Aveiro settled down in the Aldeia do Xisto of Janeiro de Cima to bring to light the projects thought out and worked on during the school year, with the Aldeias do Xisto. The Project@X - Up This River residency, which took place from 15 to 22 July, encompassed the themes of water, nature and the dark sky and, in addition to teachers and students, called upon the experience and wisdom of the village residents, especially in the areas of carpentry and weaving. The result of all the effrort made was presented on 21 July, at the village’s Casa do Lagar, and gave rise to an exhibition that will be open until the end of August.

 


“ADXTUR’s mission is to generate attractiveness for its area. To do so in the current conditions requires inviting and gathering new actors so that, together with the villages and their communities, we can find new ways of activating the capacities and competencies that the villages still have. Essentially, we assume that the villages are a school and we try to stimulate the relationship between this knowledge and scientific, technical and artistic knowledge” - contextualised Rui Simão, the coordinator of ADXTUR.
 

“This project started some time ago and this was a very busy week”, explains Professor Nuno Dias, who coordinated most of the work. In April, the students visited Janeiro de Cima and were challenged to produce projects inspired by this Aldeia do Xisto, seeking to strengthen the community’s relationship with the river, the night and nature. It was some of these ideas that came to life in the workshops of the PROJECT@X residence. Over the days, the work was developed on “three very specific fronts”. In the Casa das Tecedeiras (Weaving House), “a great space with excellent conditions”, the leather and textile workshops were run, “which ended up becoming one”. Here, Professor José Leite “laid the groundwork”, seeking to encourage and explore the relationship between classroom learning and working in the real world.

It was from this workshop, undertaken by Débora, Liliana and Maria, that a new hood and a set of leather, linen and woollen bags came into being, with the active lives of visitors to the Aldeias do Xisto in mind. The creation and execution of the pieces, combining different materials, provided new experiences for everyone. The weaver Rosa, who followed the whole process, was no exception. “I really enjoyed this week. I did things I ‘ve never done before and learned a lot”, she tells us without hesitation.

At the Casa do Lagar, Débora and Liliana tried on the hood and were “proud” of the results of their work.

 

“We did tests first. Then we started thinking that we could put one thing and another together. The teacher didn’t tell us anything anymore, he let us flow”, Débora tells us, her feet already dipped in the Zêzere. And so it was that the week, besides being a lot of work, provided everyone with time to relax too. The river, which borders Janeiro de Cima, was a favourite destinations as a place to relax, escape the heat and absorb yet more inspiration.

Janeiro de Cima gets a new boat

It was also the River Zêzere that, on the last day, received a gift that, given the tradition of the village, ended up gaining the most prominence. A team of students, led by Professor Paulo Bago d’Uva, a specialist in Naval Design, developeda contemporary interpretation of the traditional Barca, which was given the name “Janeiro de Cima”.

It was in the carpentry workshop of Acácio Costa Gaspar, who provided support and shared knowledge, that the boat took shape. “Everything went very well. The project is very well thought out and very well executed. I think people will really like it”, he says. The same can be said of the Leather and Textile Workshops, where the pieces turned out “very well”. “Mr. Acácio” also expressed his availability to continue collaborating in this and other initiatives. “They are an asset for Janeiro de Cima”, he argues.

 

“It was a great challenge”, confesses Nuno Dias, satisfied that they had achieved their objective, which required working through the night, until almost the last moment.

All the pieces were made to measure "Now, with the moulds, it will be easier to replicate the results“, he adds, noting that the team has also started building a second called "Janeiro de Baixo”. “The boat is in the water and we are very happy with the response. It is very easy to handle. It was a success”, he says.

And it was. Already the sun was slipping away when the Barca stopped and returned to firm ground. During the afternoon, kids and grown-ups took turns going up and down that stretch of river, confirming how easy it is to handle.

 


The new Barca was also approved by the boatmen Paulo and Eduardo, who have long since lost count of the times and people they have carried up and down the river. “It’s very good. I didn’t think it would turn out like this, it has exceeded my expectations”, says Paulo. After trying it, Eduardo agrees. “It was very good. It’s very easy to handle”, he considers, adding that, in his opinion, “it’s easier with a pole than with oars”.
 

“They must come back”. This is what Américo Dias, a resident of Janeiro de Cima, tells usimmediately when asked about the teachers and students’ residency. “If we want the Village to keep up with the 21st century, there needs to be innovation and evolution”, he says. Américo praises all the work done. “The boat is nicely balanced and I really liked the idea of connecting Janeiro de Cima to Janeiro de Baixo, because there has always been a connection between the two banks of the river”, he says. The other works also deserve to be highlighted, because “they integrate well with their surroundings”. He even says that the flora map is so well designed that it perfectly justifies its production and sale to the public. One notices, he says, “a different look. They have seen things that we no longer see”.

After the maiden voyage on 22 July 2019, the new Barca returned to the shipyards to prepare for the summer season on the river, where, on 4 August, it joined the traditional boats for the now customary skill test, an initiative included in the Janeiro de Cima Walk programme.

Pedro Almeida was responsible for the graphic workshop “A Little Above”, where a portfolio of ideas also related to the Barca and the map of Janeiro de Cima was worked on. This resulted in graphic objects that gathered curiosities about this place and its customs and habits. The herbarium and the flora map are two examples.

 

“We reached the end with very satisfactory results”, concludes Nuno Dias. The professor also highlighted that the group has left with new ideas. “One idea leads to another and we are already thinking about a more elegant way of transporting the boat or having painting workshops”, he explains.

“They treated us as if we were from here”

The conclusion is consensual. “It was a very productive week” say João, Corina, Verónica, Maria, Sérgio and, again, Débora and Liliana, almost in unison. Everyone also agrees on the importance of working in the specific space that the project provides. “Working within such a context and making contact with people is very different from being in the classroom” and even helps them to define a little better what they are looking for in the future. They think that, in a future experience, there are edges that can be smoothed out, but, on balance everything is more than positive. “The limitations end up being a challenge that we have overcome and that is also good”, they point out. In addition to learning, they highlight the interaction with the community as a high point. “They treated us as if we were from here and we felt very good”. So much so that some even considered extending their stay, but the desire to return home eventually spoke louder.

The exchange of ideas and knowledge between those who come and those who are here, young and old, is an experience also valued by the villagers who share their way of life. "Everything went very well and the people of the village enjoy hosting these initiatives”, stated Sónia Latado, from the Parish Council.

 


Besides the appeal and incentive for creativity, combining the modern and the traditional and promoting joint and intergenerational learning, this type of initiative also reinforces the union of the local community, putting everyone to work towards a common goal that benefits everyone.

The results of this week’s work gave rise to an exhibition, which is open in the Casa do Lagar, in Janeiro de Cima, until 31 August.

Activities such as Project@X - Up this River also reinforce the Aldeias do Xisto as a brand-destination that, over the past few years, and based on tourism, experimentation and knowledge, have managed to position the unique area as part of the Central Region and the country. They have done so by always seeking what is most distinctive and genuine in the landscape and in their communities, attracting investment and opening the door to projects that experiment starting from the essence of these places. The relationship with nature, with the land and with the people has been the guiding principle of this activity, which seeks to revitalise the area based on its cultural uniqueness.

Text: Andreia Gonçalves

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