Thread of Tenderness, fio de ternura

Fil de tendresse, fio de ternura

February 1st to May 14, 2017

Coisinha fofa da avó, meu torrãozinho de açúcar, meu docinho de mel, carinha mais linda do mundo... “Grandma’s sweet baby, my sugar pie, my honey bunny, the most beautiful baby in the world…” An endless number of tender words that in a grandmother’s heart grow like flowers in a spring garden and help express the deep love she feels for her grandchildren.


The role of grandparents is ever evolving but continues to be a constant through different eras and in all communities. The Centre d’histoire de Montréal presents Thread of Tenderness – Fio de ternura, an exhibition of photographs and personal accounts uniting grandparents and grandchildren through the viewpoints of three Montrealers of Portuguese origin: Joaquina Pires, the exhibition’s curator, photographer Fernando Santos, and videomaker Francisco Peres.

Together, these three insiders have transcribed words, images, and voices that evoke the bonds between the older generation and the young people of their community. In their approach, the factual aspect of history has yielded to an expressive sensibility. The resulting portrait, intimate and specific as it is, has meaning for all of us.

Once upon a time…

At a reading of Emanuel Melo’s short story, Avó Lives Alone, Joaquina Pires was gripped by such a strong emotion that she could not hold back her tears. Troubled by the thought that the elderly in her community might be facing a terrible loneliness, she decided to create this wide-ranging project with her two friends in order to capture looks and attitudes, gestures and words between grandparents and grandchildren.

The personal testimony presented in the exhibition was obtained in a collection process that began back in 2003, the year the Portuguese community of Montreal celebrated the 50th anniversary of its presence in the city. That year, the Centre d’histoire de Montréal paid tribute to the community’s history and the Portuguese identity in an exhibition, Encontros. Now in 2017, with its more emotional content and by the universal nature of its theme, this new exhibition will appeal to Montrealers of all horizons.

Universal links between generations

The older generation understands that the language of tenderness and caresses knows no geographical boundaries. When a large number of Portuguese immigrated to Montreal, distance and isolation might have created an obstacle to the maintenance of their culture and their family bonds. Yet the ties between grandparents and their grandchildren were woven tight as they learned to listen to each other and to know and love each other; words revealing the past solidified the link between the generations. This strong, intimate bond is universal and it endures. The “seeds of tenderness” are sown, creating a rich harvest despite the social changes, including changes in family structure, that are occurring today. Grandparents may face difficulties, but they often replace busy or absent parents, becoming the confidants of their grandchildren and transmitting precious know-how to them. These texts, photographs, and personal accounts bear witness to a reciprocal admiration and love.