EDITION: (Catalogue) Câmara Municipal de Guimarães / A Oficina CIPRL     DATE: June 2009 

We all have a fixed idea about King Dom Afonso Henriques. Nowadays this figure is projected onto an image
among thousands of others that penetrate our gaze, evoking a moment of narrative contact resulting from the
impact of countless oral forms used to express that idea. In general the events that make up these narratives have
an immense symbolic charge, shown as a means of interaction among individuals in wide space of cultural
diversity who act in a cohesive group. The different mechanisms of transmitting culture and information set off
by the media stimulate a new reality that takes on essential importance for the understanding of the current
process of symbolic proliferation. Within a logic of representation, brought about starting from the symbology of
this national figure, the idea of King Dom Afonso Henriques has been altered, identified and re-inscribed in new
forms of expression, which have been shared and extended over time. Through implicit agreements and
consensuses on the several different forms then found to project the identity of this figure, there is a materializing
of reconstructions through models of images that have introduced permanent physical and physiognomical
alterations to the first versions that are known. The same thing takes place with the narrative excesses of his
story, which is also our history. These adaptations show an interesting wealth and poetic potential, providing a
series of new symbolic solution that are updated according to a culture’s demands, circumstances and needs for
survival, within a constant search for identity. The changes in the different representations of King Dom Afonso
Henriques, as well as the altered narratives about his life, show that successive journeys through time were
established from parts of his story which were at the origin of the fixing of those moments. The different
materials and supports used give an idea of freedom and of multiplicity about cultural practices suiting an
unaware interest for adequation, from the many solicitations and utilities to be satisfied. In each alteration made
about King Dom Afonso Henriques one detects a compromise solution circumscribed to a time of its own, which
intends to achieve a representation capable of serving an imaginary need for consolidation within a process of
permanent re-structuring.

When we approached the first contacts for this exhibition in order to gather together all the material we are now
presenting we were far from anticipating the quantity and variety of materials that had King Dom Afonso
Henriques as the main subject. The aesthetic solutions contained in each of the documents and objects
discovered showed us a creative impulse that denounces a will to permanently renew the image of this singular
and unique figure in the historical references of our country. These adaptations made from successive images are
exhibited in their extent and in the period of time to which each of the elements that make them up transport us.
One feels the predominance of a collective imagination in the several different objects and documents exhibited,
due to the flexibility of the representations made, with one feeling a need for collective affirmation, which never
stopped having a real interest in this peculiar figure who was the catalyst for a feeling of the wonderful, which is
clearly expressed in the different roles played at the most important moments of his existence.

Currently the structuring of the person of King Dom Afonso Henriques has to be learned as a multidisciplinary
and diversified elaboration of sensibilities, shown in the choice of the material selected, projecting into them new
interpretations and meanings about the historical events. The countless fragmentary forms of capturing his
image enrich and add meanings to all the elements that have been associated to him throughout time and which,
albeit seeming contradictory, do not question any of his previous references. Time provokes a horizontality on the
historical view and the moments considered to be crucial are no longer defined events following a logic of truth,
but rather take on a curious symbology of collective use and of aggregating force. The body that has been
attributed to this king is being transformed into an image in dispute with so many other possible representations
in order to take on an increasingly real, and thus more efficient, dimension in his heroic and mythical definition.

This exhibition intends to bring together for the first time a set of iconographic information about the figure of
King Dom Afonso Henriques, which should interact with the images that have already been fixed and bring
about new points of contact and understanding on each of the objects selected to be a part of it. The aim is to
stimulate a multidisciplinary view of the diversity of the material set out and to promote dialogues between each
of the thematic nuclei presented. The quantity and multiplicity of appropriations that have been carried out in
relation to this king circumscribe this showing to a small sample of everything that has been produced and
divulged over the last six hundred years; thus could never be considered as a final and definitive representation of
all its symbolic and iconic charge, and is therefore proposed as a possible journey among so many others that one
could undertake.

Through the presentation of the great many objects/documents exhibited we wish to be able to allow the
establishing of relationships and to provide an open gaze that is susceptible to being continued in the future
through new forms of organization and structuring of exhibitions. This significant moment, which is determined
by the architecture of the exhibition, based around seven major thematic nuclei - The Face of the King; The
King’s Sword; The Soares dos Reis Statue; The Officializing of the New Image; New State and the Image of the
Founder; “King Dom Afonso Henriques” Trade Mark; Passions and Affections - intends to create balances among
the different material exhibited and the most determining moments in his iconographic history. Collectors and
the population of Guimaraëns have enthusiastically and interestedly collaborated in an intensive process of
research, uniting their efforts, without which this exhibition would never have taken place. Acknowledgement
that the legacy of King Dom Afonso Henriques is edified by people and by all the manipulations and
appropriations operated by them for centuries after his death has established the essential characteristics of the
construction of this useful exhibition space. ‘Useful’ here means the possibility of being able to contribute with
something important for other people. The quantity of objects/documents exhibited her amplifies the above-
mentioned field of utility, increasing informal relationships in society and thus enriching the community
organizations through the strengthening of links between individuals.

One may also consider that this exhibition is full of social meaning in the sense that in the different materials
exhibited one may detect a shared consciousness, a creating of links with the other. The rite is the spatial,
temporal, intellectual and sensorial device that may reinforce and recall these links. As this is an eminently social
activity, the King Dom Afonso Henriques exhibition might consolidate the symbolic links of mutual recognition,
just as is seen in the processes of ritualizing.

The stories told by the materials only gain meaning when they are kept to a Portuguese level, and in this case a
local one. This exhibition is a moment for the building of a plural and open space, a place where the public
sphere may be expressed. The structure of this space makes it thus in its very aim.