Elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage

    Patuá Theatre

    Patuá is a language system that was formed by Portuguese immigrants to Macao along the past four centuries. The Portuguese who set sail from Europe to explore the sea trade routes, navigating around Africa and past India and Malacca to reach Macao, married local women from places along their route, introducing a population of mixed heritage to Macao which gradually formed the Macanese community. The language they used for daily communication, known as Patuá, is a creole based on Portuguese vocabulary and integrating Malay, Cantonese, English and Spanish.

    The most important element of theatre is language, and Patuá theatre is a full expression of the unique characteristics of the Patuá language. Its artistic expression on stage is a demonstration of the colourful mixture that resulted from the combination of linguistic forms and structures from several languages, together with cultural affectations and intonations. It is a theatrical culture specialising in comedies that ridicule, satirise and lampoon current affairs and prevailing social issues. It is at once ‘unorthodox’ and intrinsically local. Patuá theatre is a favourite pastime for a great many Macanese and Macao Chinese. It also marks a point of articulation, particularly of sentiment, between the Macanese and their homeland, Macao.

    Today, the Patuá language is gradually fading from memory. Most of the new generation of Macanese do not speak the language, once so popular within the Macanese community of old. It is now an endangered language. Undeniably, it is an important basis for the study of Macanese anthropology and culture. Patuá theatre helps call attention to Macanese culture through artistic expression.


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