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fortificações brasileiras

A Região da Cisplatina







World Heritage of Portuguese Origin





Ouadan, Uadem, Audem or Wadan (Ouadane): 



The town was already part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, but the old town hadnt yet been restored. The Portuguese funding was included in an ongoing project of valorisation of the region, adding some other elements (apart from the financial one) to a touristique product.

(Re)Writing the Past

The work weve started in Ouadane already shows us that a Portuguese memory is acknowledged by the populations of the region, even if diffusely associated either with the Spanish, with some kind of Christian community (nazrani) or the mythical Baffour (an ancient Mauritanian population incomprehensible with any Bidan genealogy). There still can be found genealogical links between the Bidan (arabophone population of Mauritania) and a Portuguese past, there are oral traditions that mention this relation, and most probably some archaeological data is still there. The five centuries since the effective meeting of both worlds have obviously confused the memories of the encounter, but the relation, even if at a minimal scale, is still present and in Ouadane it is now "rebuilt."

The reinvention of these memories is as complicated a process as the five hundred year leap leading to the present. Ouadane, due to its particular location as an axis in the transaharan caravan routes, has seen many wars, invasions, different constructions and destructions, but the present concluded a partnership between one of the few Christian communities that passed through town, and this very limited period (the end of the fifteenth, beginning of the sixteenth century 1490-1550) is now significant enough for both parties to rectify this relationship.

The commonly expressed idea is that the Portuguese were the first Westerners to establish commercial ties with Ouadane, and this commercial link is still the most obvious association when describing the Portuguese presence and its most present memory.

Apart from the commercial history of the town, it is also proclaimed an association with renowned religious knowledge (the etymology of the name Ouadane is commonly associated with the Arabic words, wad and din, meaning The River of Knowledge/The Valley of Religion, another version reads a plural conjugation meaning the Two Valleys, the ecological one and the religious one). These aspects find immediate correspondence with a meeting point of numerous people and traditions. The rehabilitation of the old city wall should make sense this way: valorising a past of commercial expertise and of fructuous contacts between north and south, between East and West, and between the Islamized Sahara and Western Europe. This is the aspect we find most significant in the new writing of Ouadanes history, the valorisation of its past as a commercial and intellectual Carrefour, linked with Western Europe. The tourist project of Ouadane is deeply based in this idea, showing a town that isnt only just another Saharan landscape, mainly focused in its sands and sunsets. It is part of a greater project, sponsored by UNESCO, that integrates Ouadane has one of the four Mauritanian ancient caravan and cultural centres.

Forty-four years after independence the country is analyzed by terms well known to the post-colonial area studies, namely the reconstruction of a past that should now integrate foreign/colonial elements. We cant associate the Portuguese settlement in Ouadane with a clearly colonial situation, but we might possibly describe it as some proto-colonial structure, as the aim and kind of fortuitous settlement in the city (or region!) wasnt at all political; what could be significant in the contemporary posture of both countries is: the Portuguese efforts in patrimonializing a small symbol of its presence in the region, and the Mauritanian desire to integrate this past in its history. The renewed expression of this link, which clearly affirms a foreign presence post colonial rewriting of a past where European presence is valorised, and a common present that can be understood as valid, fructuous, and mutually desired.

The eminent Imam of the citys main mosque, himself from the tribe that claims the foundation of the city (Idawalhaj), doesnt have difficulty mentioning the Christian (nazrani) past of the town, or praising the project designed for the ruins of the old town, although criticizes the scale of the operation (in his opinion to small) and the design chosen for the wall (that doesnt exactly correspond to the original one). The Imam, who could possibly come out as one of the most problematic







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