In his practice Araújo focuses on the colonial history of Portugal. Originally at the forefront of colonisation in the 16th and 17th century – a result of the country’s leading role in the discovery of the Americas – its influence rapidly waned from 1800 onwards. However, as part of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ (1881–1914) by the various European powers, Portugal managed to consolidate its holdings in Africa during the latter part of the 19th Century.
Araújo’s sculpture Ethos (2016) features photographs of European heads of state slicing through a table. Tables – along with their domestic, private significance – form the centrepiece for negotiations, where treaties are drawn up and the destinies of entire nations decided. The works suggest a parallel with the way the colonial powers divided the African continent at the Berlin Conference of 1884–5, which marked the climax of the European competition for territory in Africa.
Portugal’s colonial history is also referenced by Araújo in his series of sculptural dining tables Botânica (2012–2014). Here he juxtaposes photographs of botanical species from the tropical gardens of Lisbon – originally called the Colonial Garden – with archive photographs produced during the period of African colonisation. Additionally, Botânica’s ‘forest of images’, lock natural and human species in the same systematic, hierarchical visual violent regime of the colonial gaze.
The sculpture Infinity Memory (2016) – shown with Ethos – comprises a display table with several slim drawers that visitors can pull out to examine pages from a 19th century photo album.