The Archipelago of Desire, Aperture
On the remote island of São Vicente, in the archipelagos of Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa, there is a rock referred to as Quel Pedra, or “that stone.” According to a local legend, anyone who sits on the stone instantly becomes gay. Such legends have lead to the discrimination against individuals who don’t conform to heteronormative gender roles, but on São Vicente a more inclusive perspective has developed.
When the Portuguese artist Pauliana Valente Pimentel traveled to São Vicente in 2014 as an artist-in-residence for the Cape Verde International Photo Festival, she was inspired by photographs of the island’s first gay pride parade the previous year. Once on the island, she befriended a group of young gay men and trans women, ages seventeen to twenty-five, and began to document their lives. In Quel Pedra (2016), her new series featured in the Novo Banco Photo prize exhibition at the Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon, Valente Pimentel portrays a distinctive community with insight and intimacy. When I visited the exhibition recently, which included the work of her fellow prize nominees Félix Mula and Mónica de Miranda, I was struck by Valente Pimentel’s candid view of young people experimenting with gender and sexuality.