André Luis

André led us through many places while talking about his life, like a true storyteller. If we were to reflect on one thing he said, that would be our past: “A person who doesn’t know their past is a person who lives outside of time”.

For those who don’t know you, how would you define yourself? Who is André?

I turned 33 ten years ago. I’m the youngest child in the family, with two more sisters. My mother is from Lisbon, and my father is from Madeira Island, but I was born in Faro.
I’ve done a lot of things – I worked in a youth association, I’ve tried to work as well in Archeology, Arts, I worked with the Municipality of Faro on some projects, like Farrobinhas (a set of books for children), I wrote scripts for some short movies. Also, I participated in some youth exchanges in Spain and Bulgaria. At the same time, I had the chance to be a mentor for some Erasmus people from Belarus and Greece.

I really understood what youth exchanges are about when I was in Valenzuela de Calatrava, a small town in Spain with around 800 inhabitants. I remember that everything that happened to me there – I lost my wallet, broke my glasses – was totally crazy, but I didn’t care. And that’s when I understood that these youth exchanges are not about the material things, but about how you can engage and connect with other people.

I came to Faro, I quit the job that I had at that time, and I decided to go to Lisbon 5 years ago and start from zero. My first job in Lisbon was in a restaurant. I did this for a while, but I really wanted to work in my field – cultural heritage. Then, I got a job in the oldest operating bookshop in the world, called Bertrand, in the Chiado neighborhood. I tried working at a call center, but that was not really my thing. I also helped an association, probably the oldest one in Lisbon, which was founded more than 100 years ago. I made activity plans for them. When you don’t feel related to a place and it’s hard to connect with people because of the lack of time or other reasons, you find that possibility in an association. For me, it’s like a fast time machine that helps you create your own network.

Then, I applied for a job in one of the biggest cultural management companies in Portugal, Signinum. My first job was to distribute flyers, and after 15 days, I made a business plan and sent it to the administration. They promoted me as project coordinator. We reopened a church – Santa Cruz do Castelo – that had been closed for 50 years, and a tower as well – Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge – the highest historical tower in Lisbon. There’s this trinity that makes things work – the tourist, the heritage, and the community –, and that’s what we were trying to achieve.

Afterward, I had a project with the Lisbon Cathedral. I was in charge of the cultural plan, and the promotion, along with other companies and agencies. Everything was going well and I thought that my job was done there, so I returned to Faro. Here, I started creating my own projects.

What are you doing at the moment?

Now, I’m trying to apply the knowledge I gained in Lisbon here. I’m working on a project where I developed the concept of green culture. This is important not only for an economical ecosystem but also for a social one. Day by day, you understand that all things are transversal, and the solution is transversal as well. The project is about connecting tourism with writing.

Besides that, I’m writing a book that I started last year. Actually, I finished the first draft a few days ago. It’s a fantasy book called “Myth”, and it’s about a kid who finds a book that contains some mysteries of Lisbon waiting to be solved.

Tell us about a challenging project that you had to work on.

It was a short movie – Último Silêncio (2021) about domestic violence. The project was initiated by ARS Algarve (Regional Health Administration). For me, as a writer, it was difficult to write, because I had to create some characters I disagreed with, and build a situation of violence.

As for my perspective on domestic violence, I think there’s a problem even if you’ve got one single case. There’s no standard that we can apply and say “Ok if there’s one case, it’s fine. If there are plenty, that’s when we have a problem”.

Where does this fascination for heritage come from?

I come from a generation that witnessed a world without and with the Internet. The Internet was like a myth. Back when I was a kid, the library was where the museum is today, and my mother would often leave me there to spend time. So, I started to make all kinds of childish research. Gradually, I developed this need for culture, in general, not only heritage. In my opinion, heritage without culture is nothing; it needs a context, a story.

Why should we care about our heritage?

Learning from the past is the best way to have a better future. The more you learn from your past, the freer you will be. It’s a process. Recently, I watched a TV debate, at the end of which, they said “Ok, so we have 30 seconds left to talk about culture. Who wants to talk about culture?”. For me, this was very sad. A person who doesn’t know their past is a person who lives outside of time.

Tell us about André the writer.

Fiction was always present in my life. When I was a kid, I used to write stories. I’m not only part of the Internet generation, but also part of the generation that had a tree house. My friends and I used to spend time there and create all kinds of stories. The stories that I wrote as a kid were part of the process that brought me where I am today. Now, I have an idea for a theatre play. It’s the first time that I’m doing this, although it had been on my mind for several years.

As for my other projects, O discurso (2017) is an adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s speech to modern times. It was not very hard to write it, since today we’re dealing with the same problems. 2DTO (2020) was a supernatural thriller. It ran in a lot of places, including the USA, India. Actually, in the USA it even received a prize.

What do you consider to be the greatest heritage of Faro?

Ria Formosa, the Old Town.

What is the place in Faro you are most connected to? Why?

Ludo. It’s a big green park in Montenegro, the place where I am from. My father created a scouts’ group called 166, and when I was 13-14 years old, we used to camp in Ludo, and explore all the surroundings.

What is the first thing on your mind when you think about Faro?

Faro gives you an ineffable feeling. I knew a guy who went from city to city to play the guitar. He used to spend one day in a city and then go to some other place. I approached him and he told me that he had been in Faro for one week, and he couldn’t tell me why he was still here. So, this made me believe that Faro has this esoteric energy.

What would be the soundtrack of your life story?

You have your roots, but your seeds can be taken away wherever by the wind. Only the wind will choose. It’s very important to feel that you have a place to go back to and feel safe, but it’s also very important (and it’s something that people of Faro sometimes need to do) to travel a little bit more. It’s like in the allegory of Plato – if you live in a cave, you become the size of the cave, right? And it’s very important to travel, and go with the wind. So, I will say Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the wind.

© Photos by Beatrice Dragusanu