This weekend Alcoutim is hosting their 31st fair of handicrafts and ethnography, and from what I have read in al Algarve conmigo excellent post it looks like it is going to be superb. Ethnography is a field-based, personalised and holistic research method used for analysing a culture or society. Over an extensive period of time researchers observe from the point of view of the subject of the study, and whilst their research will include a brief history and environmental analysis, their focus is understanding the social life. It is something that fascinates me, and therefore I am quite disappointed we can’t go. However I do have something that almost makes up for it and that is the Mural de Azulejos on the main road into Alcoutim. You may recall me mentioning it when on our walk the other week. This extraordinary tile mural is a complete ‘ethnographic study’ of Alcoutim in its own right, and a few weeks ago I photographed every single panel. There are 31 in total!
It is not the first time I have photographed them, but it is the first time I have photographed every one and started at the beginning. The study begins with a glimpse of Alcoutim’s history from prehistoric to Roman to the Arab occupation to present day. Alcoutim, once known as Alcoutinium was an important port for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians.
The panels then spring forward to the 20th century, or possibly 21st as the mural was created in 2005. Life in the hills hasn’t changed over the past hundred years apart from the population decline and introduction of the motor vehicle.
I think this must be one of the most aesthetic pleasing ways of presenting research. It is also engaging, albeit I wish there was a notice board or pamphlet which shared a little bit more about the artist and each panel as many are clearly of local characters. I have looked online for more information but far the most I have found is on the town council website. It says “next to the road you will find the tile panels with paintings of everyday scenes of the township, crafts, history, arts and crafts and local characters. These panels are authored by the painter Carlos Luz“. Now that I determined from the plaques at the top of the hill!
We are just over a third of the way through, and interesting only one panel has indicated that Alcoutim is on a large river. Given it was once a major port and fishing would have been an important contribution to food production I found that quite surprising. However then I recalled as I was writing this post that this mural is ethnography not a history study. So perhaps at the time this study was done fishing was rarely observed.
One of the most striking elements is how often a donkey appears. They were once the main form of transport. Now you are lucky if you see one. I wonder if Carlos likes donkeys as if you recall this is not the first time I have come across tile panels in Alcoutim of donkeys.
I’ve shared these in the order they appear from the top of the hill to the bottom. So the final seven are the ones closest to the centre of Alcoutim. These are the ones we usually walk past as they are close to one of the paths down to the Praia Fluvial de Alcoutim. And talking of the river beach if you are fortunate enough to be in Alcoutim this weekend coming, then do go to the fair which is held beside the beach. It begins at 4pm and ends around midnight both days. There will be dancing, concerts and exhibitions. Sounds fun!
If you do go don’t forget to allow time to enjoy the Carlos Luz’s Mural de Azulejos, but if you can’t here’s another glimpse of the mural in situ. Can’t quite photograph the whole mural as it is very large and goes round a bend, but I hope these three photographs give you a feel of its size, its beauty and its location.