Do we ever really know who we come from? Who are the people who came before us, and who helped to make us into who we are without knowing it? This memory work can be even more difficult if our ancestry is from another country, which is the case with my Portguese lineage on my father’s side. The lack of information kept me from getting a clear idea of my ancestors, so I decided to piece them together myself.

Using a computer program often utilized by the police to make identity sketches of suspects, I proceeded to create false portraits of my family from my memory. If you look at them closely, you will notice that they have been superimposed over pictures of episodes in Portuguese history. The colonial conflict with Mozambique marks my grandfather Manuel’s face, military manoeuvres on 25 de Abril Bridge the face of João. Women workers weaving rattan cane, soldiers from the First World War, a soccer team, a bourgeois family portrait, ravaged landscapes: appearing just beneath the surface, these scenes extend my family’s roots into the history of a nation. If my portrait, by contrast, resembles a virgin expanse, it is so that their lives and their world will root my belonging and take me beyond it.