Visual arts
Public debate
French language
Graphic novel
Digital creation
Street Arts / Circus / Puppetry

Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota looks back at the France-Portugal 2022 Season

Our desire is to instilling a Europe of Culture, openness and sharing.

Opened in February 2022, the France-Portugal 2022 Season, implemented by the Institut français for the French part, comes to an end. Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, Président of the Season, looks back to the past 9 months. 

Published on 25/10/2022

5 min

Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota
Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota © VBerlanda

The France-Portugal Season began in February 2022 and ends this October. It has dealt with several themes such as gender equality, parity, sustainable development, the ocean, diversity and inclusion. What was behind these choices? Do you think they are essential today? 

It is indeed important to remember that this France-Portugal 2022 Season was not only the desire to celebrate the arts, science and cultures of our two countries but also, and this was my dearest wish, to embrace all the themes you mentioned. In my opinion, this is more of a necessity than a choice, because we must listen to and address the issues of our respective societies that carry within them the new struggles of our time: the environment, youth, the question of inclusion, the question of gender and intersectionality. Thus, through two years and nine months of preparation, we have worked to ensure that the projects advocated by this Season between two countries embrace all of these issues by expressing their singularities and their ways of inhabiting the world.

Our desire is even broader: that of instilling, through the collaboration of two European countries with regard to their respective histories, a Europe of Culture, openness and sharing. This is a strong commitment, in a context of crisis, of war at the gates of Europe and of withdrawal. In the face of these emergencies, we wanted to propose a creative and positive vision of the world.  

This is why the France-Portugal 2022 Season had to support all innovations - whether they be in thought, science or business - and be a powerful catalyst in a combined process of reflection and creation. It was therefore very important to me that we could present a large number of specific projects: the Forum on Equality in Angers and Guimarães (to be held on 18, 19 and 20 October 2022), the forum on the Oceans, new scientific collaborations, festivals and shows with young French and Portuguese artists, bi-national scientific collaborations, celebrations, calls for creation...

We were lucky enough to experience a very rich opening weekend of the Season (February 2022) with ambassador artists like the great pianist Maria João Pires and the fado singers Carminho and Camané. That same weekend, the Théâtre de la Ville and the Théâtre du Châtelet joined forces to bring together the young Portuguese music scene, surprising us with the groups Sopa de Pedra, João Berhan and Luca Argel. Since that opening weekend, almost 400 projects have been presented, creating new friendships and lasting collaborations. All this was (and still is) an ode to the diversity so necessary to understand the world we live in.

Very soon, at the end of October, we will celebrate the closing of the Season in Lisbon with artists from both countries. 


What was your role as president of the France-Portugal Season? 

First of all, I would like to say that I am very happy to have been appointed by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture of both countries. It is an exceptional honour to be appointed by two governments. I am fortunate as president to have an extraordinary team with Manuela and Júdice and Victoire di Rosa as general curators. Their work and their willingness to co-construct a programme and follow the notion of "two countries, one team", which is fundamental to me, has allowed this Season to run smoothly. We must imagine the Season as a celebration of friends, the place where we meet for the future and where the collective is the primary strength. 

Thus, my role as president is first and foremost to build bridges, new channels between two countries that I know well and their respective structures in order to forge links of friendship and dialogue that can be the driving force behind future creations and partnerships. Talk of the collective is more than just empty words. Being part of a collective today is not such an easy thing, especially after a pandemic that has locked us all in, often in a very solitary way. Once again, it is a necessity. 

Recovering the taste for being together was also the goal of this season. And this role could only be fulfilled thanks to Manuela Júdice and Victoire di Rosa as well as the Institut français, the Camões and the GEPAC, whose dynamism and extraordinary work reflect the quality and the great and beautiful diversity of the projects created in Portugal and France. 

The role of the curators in this respect is eminently creative, in that they must make the link and invent with each partner the specific modalities and projects which, taken together, have formed the identity, vitality and personality of this Season.   

It is rare to be able to celebrate two cultures at the same time.

You are French, but your mother is of Portuguese origin, what is your link with Portugal? Does this Season have a particular emotional resonance for you because of your origins? 

Of course. It is rare to be able to celebrate two cultures at the same time. More than that, it is rare to be able to connect them in a palpable way and to celebrate a cultural and creative friendship with such strength and possibility. People who are bi-nationals or who have lived in several countries know what blossoms inside them, the habits and customs of the lives and cultures they have lived with, the different ways of doing things, consuming, loving, speaking... This dual culture is an opportunity, and this Season wanted to share this opportunity to give rise to a dynamic that expands, spreads, radiates and awakens.

My link with Portugal is very strong and always has been. My Portuguese mother Teresa Mota, who was exiled to France in 1962, was a great lover of this country and its culture; my French father Richard Demarcy was in love with Portugal and its history. They have passed on to me, each in their own way, their taste for these two cultures, their passions, their ways of doing things and approach to life. More than that, they have intertwined and enriched the two heritages of France and Portugal in theatre and literature, in music and art. Now I have the chance to do this in my own way as president of this Season and to seek to share it with as many people as possible.


Portugal and France have a shared history, is this past important to you during this Season? 

The most important thing, I think, is the shared history that we hope to create. What legacy does the past give us and where is it leading us? 

Portugal has been out of a dictatorship for less than 50 years. Most of the great anti-fascist artists who fled this dictatorship came to Paris to create. This was the case of the illustrious Portuguese singers of the 60s and 70s such as José Mario Branco, Sergio Godinho and José Afonso. What is less known is that Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré and Georges Brassens all had a great influence on these Portuguese artists. 

At the same time, the Portuguese diaspora that came to France, whether intellectual or not, has had a very important role in the construction of France. It has shaped France. More recently, we have seen a large number of French people moving to Portugal. There is a constant flow between our two countries, a flow of people, ideas, knowledge, science and art.

This Season is the result of this friendship and these legacies. It is also a way of giving this friendship a more contemporary component, for a better and creative future. A Europe that defends a new humanism for the 21st century.

This Season has not come to a close. For we have forged unbreakable links between institutions and people, new friendships.

What is your assessment of this Season? 

I have several assessments. This Season was a true success on all levels. We proposed new bi-national programmes, supported Portuguese artists who had never been to France and vice versa, saw an astonishing number of new creations, allowed venues to collaborate that had never met or spoken to each other... Thus, we succeeded in creating links, friendships and new ways of working, which was one of the great ambitions of this Season. We have shown that collective efforts between two countries can achieve extraordinary things. 

Secondly, the themes that we have advocated for throughout the Season are, as we have seen, more essential than ever. Whether we are talking about inclusion or the environment, creations or open-mindedness, we must continue to defend these causes, whatever the difficulties. During the France-Portugal 2022 Season, the war in Ukraine broke out, and we see a rejection of the Other that is more and more pronounced in certain regions of the world. It seems to me that this Season has shown through its work and its projects that it is important to keep a positive vision of the world and its populations. 

Finally, my main conclusion is undoubtedly this: This Season has not come to a close. For we have forged unbreakable links between institutions and people, new friendships. This Franco-Portuguese and Luso-French Season has put down lasting roots thanks to the great work done by the teams. A season of two countries who are part of a Europe that is open to the world. 

There will be a follow-up season, I promise, offering hope to the youth of both countries as well as the Europe of Culture. We must obviously do this modestly in view of the difficult context of 2022 - the war in Ukraine as well as other crises around the world - and in order to affirm our commitment to fraternity and solidarity. 

L'institut français, LAB