Photobook of Portugal  
 
2 May 2018
Dedicated to my loving wife, Lila



The latest addition to Günther Komnick’s lush visual engagement with people and places is this photographic foray into the rich and resplendent land of Portugal, hovering on the end of the Iberian Peninsula, gazing for centuries over the sea.
    Komnick has chosen some of the most evocative and meaningful sites in Lisbon and surrounds, locales that speak of the impact this small country has had on the world. Western expansion throughout the world could not have happened without Portugal’s shipbuilding and navigational knowledge and skills, plus the daring and bravery of its sailors. Their endeavours took them to the Far East, as far as Goa, Macao and Japan, around the Cape of Good Hope, and up along the Mozambique coast, up to Mombasa. In Mombasa they were said to have encountered the Arab sailors, who showed them the way to India.
    Spice and religious fervour were in great part responsible for the Portuguese voyages, which then effectively became expeditions of discovery for Europe. Venetian domination of the spice trade irked the rulers of Portugal, ever more determined to find a way to the East. The search for the legendary Christian, Prester John, said to be in Ethiopia, was another justification for the voyages, fulfilling Portugal’s Christian duty to spread the Christian faith.
    Among the photos we see images of a more recent Portugal, the Portugal of the Estado Novo, dictator Antonio Salazar’s stated mission to unite Portugal ever more closely to her vast empire, with the Portuguese language and culture being the binding force. The "Lusophone” world is much more pervasive and enriching than one might imagine, with vast tracts of Africa and Brazil being Portuguese speaking. Portuguese is still preserved as an official language in the Special Administrative Region of Macao, on the south China coast.
Portugal played a pivotal role during World War II by remaining neutral, thereby offering thousands of refugees the hope for a better life by being allowed to use Lisbon and Sintra as a base while their visas came through for the United States and other destinations. The belatedly recognised hero of Portugal’s service to the oppressed of Europe is Artides de Sousa Mendes, who, as consul for Portugal in Bordeaux, issued visas to thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in German occupied Europe. When he was honoured by the Yad Vashem in Israel as being "righteous among nations”, decades after the war, did Portugal finally acknowledge his role.
    Being a maritime country, Portugal was destined to look to the lands beyond the sea and this is reflected in the images Komnick shares with us – the ethnic mix of people from Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola and East Timor who all share a common "Lusitanian” identity; Lusitania being the name the Romans gave to this province of their vast empire.
    Savour this wonderful photographic tribute to a land that has done so much to cultivate the knowledge of the world that we enjoy today.
Dr Wilhelm Snyman, Auckland, New Zealand, 2018