Connecting the world through the Oceans: Portugal Pavilion celebrates 500 years of First World Circumnavigation

Portugal celebrated the 500th anniversary of the First World Circumnavigation at Expo 2020 Dubai, with the inauguration of an urban art sculpture and a powerful message on ocean conservation. The ceremony was held this Sunday, 24 October, outside the Portugal Pavilion.


The Portugal Pavilion unveiled a street art sculpture, titled “Magellanic Penguins”, in tribute to the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led the nautical expedition that was completed by the Spaniard Juan Sebastián Elcano, and would become the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe (1519-1522).


Signed by Portuguese artist Bordalo II, the installation is made entirely from ocean plastics – collected from the seas of the countries covered by the circumnavigation – to highlight the escalating plastic waste crisis and the global threat to our planet’s marine life. The art piece is a call to action, especially for younger generations, to ensure a more sustainable relationship with the ocean and its ecosystems.

“These are all high-density, end-of-life plastics, which can eventually be recycled if they go to the right place, something that often doesn’t happen,” said the 33-year-old artist, in an interview with Lusa.


And what is needed to fight climate change, after all? “I think we need to talk less and do more,” he replied. “I think it’s a big mistake for big corporations to pass on this idea that it solely depends on us, common citizens, and not on them”, while “they can continue to manufacture cars, to package products and to incentivize production of ‘fast fashion’, for example, as if it were something perfectly normal, when it only encourages consumption”, but it is people who have to make “the right choices to change the world”, said Bordalo II.


The ceremony was attended by the Secretary of State for Internationalisation Affairs, Eurico Brilhante Dias; Portugal’s Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 Dubai, Luís Castro Henriques; and President of the Mission Structure for the Commemorations of the 500th Anniversary of Circumnavigation, José Marques, as well as the artist Bordalo II.


Eurico Brilhante Dias said that it is “Portugal’s contribution to raise awareness about the oceans, a topic that is very dear to us”, then, “it is a part of our post-Expo legacy because this intervention will remain here in the United Arab Emirates and it is Portugal’s offer” to the country, he added.


The inaugural event also featured traditional dance and musical performances by Pauliteiros of Miranda do Douro (a Portuguese traditional stick dance) and the musical duo Luísa Amaro and Gonçalo Lopes, on the Portuguese guitar.

The Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency (AICEP) launched this initiative in partnership with the Mission Structure for the Commemorations of the 500th Anniversary of Circumnavigation, a government entity, to highlight the cultural, scientific, and technological legacy of Magellan’s historic journey.


The event also coincides with the annual United Nations Day – an opportunity to showcase Portugal’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals at Expo 2020 Dubai.


Speaking to Lusa, the president of the Mission Structure, José Marques, said that “it is precisely this with an extraordinary artistic piece of Portuguese creativity by our artist Bordalo II that we are valuing the ocean”, from which “all cultural and economic currents have developed […] Today is an opportunity with a very special symbolism, we are in Dubai, we are in the Portugal Pavilion and here we are celebrating a feat, a feat that is a milestone in the history of Humanity, the first integral global vision of the world, a world mainly formed by ocean”, added José Marques.