Gilberto Gil had tears in his eyes, the photos of the moment do not deceive. On the piano, Júlio Resende played "Cálice", while the audience sang the lyrics, softly - "Father, take this chalice away from me, Father...". - Music that took us back 50 years to 1973, when it was composed by Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque to denounce the oppression of the dictatorship experienced by the Brazilian people at the time.
It didn't take long for the audience in the NOVA parish hall, which was packed with political and cultural personalities, from the Brazilian ambassador, Raimundo Carreiro Silva, to the Minister of Culture, Pedro Adão e Silva, as well as the mayor of Almada, Inês de Medeiros, the singer and composer Sérgio Godinho, the fado singers Ana Moura and Samuel Úria, among others, to stand up and applaud in unison.
In the early afternoon, the 31st of October 2023 would always be remembered as "a unique day for NOVA", as the Rector, João Sàágua, would point out when presenting the highest academic honour, a university can bestow. In the case of Gilberto Gil - composer, writer, former Brazilian Minister of Culture and current member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters - it is also a tribute to the fundamental values of art and citizenship.
"Through art, Gilberto Gil represents for us the values of creative energy, healthy joy, cosmic harmony and a deep understanding of humanity. Through citizenship, he represents the values of freedom, diversity, equality and democracy. Essential values in today's society, with all the challenges it faces," said NOVA's Rector in his speech, which you can read in full here. "In the year in which NOVA celebrates its 50th anniversary, we also wanted to honour, through Gilberto Gil, the culture expressed in Portuguese and the presence of the Portuguese language in the world".
Clara Rowland, Pro-Rector for Culture at NOVA, and Manuel Pedro Ferreira, Professor of Music at NOVA, after a biographical sketch of the laureate, gave a reflection on the word in Gil's work and its most musical aspects - which you can read in full here.
"He is at once one who comes from the land (in his inaugural speech as Minister of Culture in 2003, he defined himself as "an artist born from the most generous soil of our popular culture") and one who receives the impulse, or the arsenal of instruments, from the land itself," stressed the Vice Rector of Culture.
"I accept this honour as a gesture of love", returned Gilberto Gil, who also thanked NOVA for the gesture towards a "singer of the simple, the subtle, perhaps the beautiful, sometimes harassed and frightened by the horrors of a treacherous world". "This is a world", he reiterated, "that I must also tell in my corner", said the 81-year-old prize-winner, a leading figure in tropicalism, Minister of Culture in Brazil between 2003 and 2008, member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters - and now Doctor Honoris Causa of NOVA University in Lisbon. A ceremony that you can review here, from the 22nd minute onwards.