An artistic house for the people

tanja Wessels, Alice Kok
圖 photos Eduardo martins
The founders of “Casa do Povo” want to transform Coloane into an artistic village
Casa do Povo (People’s House) is the new cultural project of Mica Costa-Grande, Sofia Salgado and Eloi Scarva. The new art gallery, located in the heart of Coloane village, opened on Saturday July 1, with two initiatives: the launch of a poetry book Pedaços de Espelhos e Anúbis by Carlos Santos and a photography exhibition - Recent Works - by Carlos Malvas.
 
“We want to transform the village, with its many visitors, into something interesting, and the village of Coloane has great potential to be an art village in the South of China,” says photographer Mica Costa-Grande, founder of Gallery Casa do Povo, together with his wife Sofia Salgado, who coordinates events, and sculptor Eloi Scarva, who is also the couple’s son.
 
“This is the first seed. We have several. Over time the others will appear, such as the studio space, here in Hac Sa, and partnerships with local hotels for artistic promotions. Basically it is transforming this into an arts village with three major focuses: literature, photography and sculpture, but with an emphasis on photography,” Costa-Grande adds.
 
The gallery is located on Travessa da Pipa in Coloane, near São Francisco Xavier church and Nga Tim Cafe restaurant. 
 
“We want to integrate international and little known local photographers such as Carlos Malvas, who has been in Macau for 30 years photographing the chaos, absurdity and comedy that is life on the streets of Macau. It is surprising, because he is a great photographer who has never shown his work. This is the first time,” explains Mica.
 
The gallery is open to creative proposals of all ages: “We have our program, which is like Swiss cheese, it has huge holes, so there have to be proposals. We listen to everyone, we receive everyone, and then we are very demanding. This is the case of Carlos Malvas: we believe that there are people who don’t promote themselves and are therefore unknown, people who work hard but don’t have time to promote themselves. It’s these kind of people we’re looking for.”
 
There are also plans for a second Casa do Povo in Hac Sa: “It was an old stable, there was an organization that promoted equestrian activities and it stood empty for 30 years. We have recovered the space. It is unusual in Macau, we have outdoor space, ateliers and huge studios, and we want to boost the educational aspect here, linked to the arts. We want to promote workshops or offices and complement some of the higher education courses in Macau. Our courses, will be taught by highly practical people working in artistic areas and who, over weekends and after work, can convey their knowledge as professionals, not as academics,” Costa-Grande explains.
 
The Hac Sa space is due to open in September: “We want to bring people from various age groups together, from the oldest person who doesn’t know how to use a computer to children,” he continues.
 
The Coloane and Hac Sa artistic and cultural dynamism projects are being self funded, without any subsidies: “This is all self-investment. We work directly with the artists, they provide the works and we exhibit them, we carry the expenses arising from an open space, the mounting of the exhibition. But for now, it’s all our own, completely private. From the removal of garbage, to the installation of air conditioners: we built and transformed the space to be livable. Everything is done by friends and us, it is a business of family and friends,” says Mica.
 
Year of the Rooster
 
Three years ago, Mica and Sofia began the Anno project, providing large blank sculptures representing the animal of the current Chinese Lunar Year to local artists to decorate.  The sculptures are then placed around the city for locals and tourists to enjoy.  This year’s project “Anno Gallus 2017” (Year of the Rooster 2017), was scheduled for March, however it had to be postponed. It is now scheduled to be inaugurated on September 29, with the exhibition of the sculptures remaining until November 26. 
 
“It will happen this year, but outside the time we usually organize it, because we couldn’t finance the project within that timeframe,” says Mica.
 
The withdrawal of sponsorship from Sands China - which financed the three previous editions - delayed the opening of the initiative at the start of the Lunar New Year. The organizers were only recently able to secure “minimal” support from the Cultural Institute, which covers production of the 25 Rooster sculptures, which will be handed over to 25 local artists, says the organizer. 
 
They are continuing to negotiate with other institutions to raise sponsorship to cover other expenses, such as transportation and logistics to position the works in different locations around the city.
 
 
Carlos Malvas
 
The inaugural exhibition at Casa do Povo is by local amateur photographer Carlos Malvas, who has been living in Macau since 1991.  Street photography is a hobby for him and this is his first exhibition, but clearly he has a great eye for catching interesting and amusing moments.
 
“Street photography is not so easy because you have no control over the actors, the scenery, the lights, the weather. The main goal is not to make beautiful pictures, but to capture a moment, some emotion; the picture must convey some emotion like fun, or sadness, or some mystery,” he explains.
 
And while there is certainly no shortage of people doing quirky things around town, the trick is to capture natural moments without people realizing they are being photographed.
 
“The challenge is to get photos without interfering. You need to be quiet and subtle, but not sneaky. Walk very naturally, never make eye contact,” suggests Carlos.  
 
“One technique is to blend in, so it’s good to go to places where there are many people, especially tourist spots.  Everyone has a camera in those places so you really are invisible!” he laughs.