By Sofia Jesus

I have always been attracted to words. The spoken. The unspoken. The whispered. The silenced. The written with ink. And the written with light. Today, I pick the latter.

Macau 5.0, by Macau-based Portuguese photojournalist Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro, is a collection of around 300 photos of Macau, taken by the author over the last five years. As many as the ones he has lived in the city.

The book was published last year, but only now I had a chance to read it. And my first inexplicable feeling was of homesickness.

As I went through its 150 pages or so, I found myself missing the alleys and the rooftops and the stairs. The tai chi chuan and the mahjong and the orchids. The Opera and the sidewalks and the stray cats. The smell of incense and of medicines and of spices. The smiles and the fortune telling and the river that is sea that is river.

The book made me travel. Not to the past. But to the future. A foggy future I cannot describe, but in which I would be somewhere else — or someone else — aching with saudade — oh, that stubborn, untranslatable word.

In Lobo Pinheiro’s official website, the book is described as a work that documents contemporary Macau, “an anthropological and social summary of the territory’s last five years”. It may be. But for me it stroke me as something much more personal, as if someone had stolen my memories, zoomed them in and out, perfected the frame and the grain, and ironed them in a black and white paper.

Perhaps it is just the effect eternity has on you. Like the one shared by 87-year old Ms Chan Iok Lin (pictured here) — “a beer a day keeps the doctor away,” the caption tells us.

In the book’s preface, Portuguese writer José Luís Peixoto says “Gonçalo has somewhat transformed into Macau”. And he adds: “In the same way, as it has always done over the centuries, I don’t find it hard to believe that a little bit of Macau has transformed into who Gonçalo is.” And into all the city’s readers, I would add.

And that is what a good book is all about. Whether written with ink. Or with light.


Macau 5.0

Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro

Author’s edition (trilingual)