Reading in an article that 10 Guinness World Records were achieved in New York City in 2021 impresses us.
But what if we told you that in Almada, in the little Cacilhas, there are three Records?
And they are all concentrated in the hands of the same person: Eduardo Diniz Henriques.
But let’s go in order and begin to get to know Eduardo and his story more closely.
Born in Coimbra, he arrived in Lisbon as a child; and today he tells us a story worthy of a book.
He leaves for military service with the air force and thus arrives in Mozambique. Contact with Africa marks him forever.
He begins to talk about those lands, its people, the years of work that are linked to those lands and what comes out is an evident love for Africa and a nostalgia for those lands that still accompanies him. His regret, he says, is not having stayed there.
It is in Mozambique that Eduardo decides to embark and begin his life at sea. Initially as a “Load Controller” and later as a “Navigation Pilot”. In the meantime, he studies sailing and becomes a pilot (the one who helps the captain in port waters in docking or departure maneuvers). He will devote about fifteen years of his life to work on ships.
When he talks to us about those years, he does it with enthusiasm. Basically he comes from a land of navigators. And Eduardo does not forget it. And he carries this historical and cultural heritage with pride.
He alternates his story with Portuguese history, remembers the places where the Lusitanian people docked many centuries ago and when he himself was able to visit them.
Somehow having lived by sea, having crossed those places, allowed him to understand the difficulties that his ancestors had experienced before him.
And he begins to tell us about when for work, on a ship, the Induna (which, he explains, in the Zulu language means “the one who commands”) made trips lasting three days between Durban and Cape Town. He explains that during those trips he had understood the difficulties that the navigators before him had encountered in the passage of the Cape of Good Hope. The currents that meet and collide between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean create terrible storms.
And he, just like in an adventure book, went through those storms, working at that time as a second pilot.
He tells us about that experience with many small details, drawing a path through an imaginary line on the table. And his gaze lights up when he talks about how he survived the storm and the vision of a huge rock rising from the sea. “I understood what the Portuguese sailors felt and why they thought that great monsters inhabited those waters” – he tells us.
And it is from these experiences linked to the sea and its many adventures that the passion for the nautical world comes, and two activities that, he tells us, are interconnected: the collection of nautical art objects and the creation of huge paintings decorated with coins of all the world.
The first passion was born out of a pride: in the years 76/77 he worked on a refrigeration ship in Holland and found, in a Dutch port, various nautical objects and parts of Portuguese ships. And then he told himself that it wasn’t fair for him, a Portuguese, to watch while other countries bought and exhibited parts of his country’s history.
And after that he had begun to buy pieces of ancient ships, some even very rare, and to collect them. His dream would be to be able to buy a villa in Malaga that he has visited and which is full of nautical objects. A real treasure. Today he resells some, it has become his job. But the few customers are foreigners.
And foreigners are also those who are usually interested in his great passion, the one that has earned him three world records: the creation of paintings with coins from all over the world.
The creation of these paintings, often of enormous dimensions, involves a whole rather complicated procedure. Once he had the idea of the subject, linked to the theme of Portuguese maritime expansion, he realizes the drawing on a sheet in order to create the measures to scale. Then he chooses the coins, because they must be suitable for the measures to be achieved, and counts how many coins will be needed to make the picture.
At that point he moves on to drawing and painting and, finally, to the patient application of coins, to which a piece of double-sided tape is applied. And in the end, he tops it all off with a clear coat.
Obviously everything is prepared with care, even the color to be used as the basis of the design, which must highlight the color of the coins, and the coins themselves, which are sometimes new (lighter and brighter), sometimes older but polished and other ancient and unpolished, to create different variations and intensities of colors.
The preparation of a painting, depending on the size, can take around six months.
Incredible, for examples, it is the painting Brasil with 17,630 coins, half Brazilian and half Portuguese
But how did this idea come about? Why this theme and why coins?
Eduardo tells us that he had been dedicating himself for some time to the collection of coins and therefore had many. Some bought, others exchanged at fairs of antiques for other items.
He had thought of doing something with it and then he had linked the idea of coins to the idea of luck, and what greater luck than that of the great Portuguese maritime history?
Eduardo does not hide the fact that behind this idea there is also a lot of bitterness. Today when we talk about Portugal, we often talk about a small poor country. It seems that it is almost difficult to remember the glorious era of this country. And Eduardo says he is very disappointed with the attitude of the Portuguese people themselves who often seem resigned to this idea of their own country and who do nothing to show to the world a different reality.
Eduardo is very fierce and defends his freedom of expression and is keen to emphasize that April 25 (1974, the end of the dictatorship Ed.) from a certain point of view was the 25 “of the misfortune” because many things have changed, the country has forgotten its glory and its past.
And it is precisely that glory that Eduardo wants to rediscover through his works.
The first painting he had no more: during an exhibition at the Lusophone university it was purchased by the rector. It represented the Adamastor monster, that of Luis Vaz de Camões’ Lusiades, all made with Portuguese coins.
But there are three other paintings that have earned him the titles of Guinness World Records, in order:
– The painting Bandeira (Flag) made with 19,045 coins
In the center, the map of Portugal. Below the words LUSITANIA, PORTUGAL, PATRIA, FAITH IN GOD. On the bottom the Portuguese flag.
– The painting Portuguese Empire, with 37,121 coins and five meters in length made with coins from all former Portuguese colonies
– The painting Europe, 8 meters 40 and 183 cm high, 67,567 coins of different values and metals.
Now such large paintings he does not make any more, because they require a large financial investment. Then he creates smaller paintings, with the insertion of some coins.
There remains the project of a last work that he was unable to create and of which he shows us the drawings: a 20 meter long painting in which Brazil and the Castle of São Jorge were to be represented and for which 150,000 coins would be needed.
Eduardo’s dream would have been to be able to exhibit these works, including his paintings, but also nativity scenes, nautical objects and clocks made with coins, in a museum space.
Eduardo is combative and has really tried everything: he wrote to the newspapers, to the President of the European Bank and the Portuguese one, to all the institutions linked to culture, but until now his dream was not realized.
Some foreigners visit him from time to time, a Canadian journalist has even dedicated an article to him. But his works continue to be piled up in his atelier.
Today, at the age of 76, he tells us that he does not already expect to realize this dream, but he says it with evident regret and sadness.
He also proudly shows a letter from José Hermano Saraiva, to whom he had sent a small book, in which the historical popularizer promises to keep this book in his library, and another letter from Pope John Paul II who thanks him for the book he had donated. Even Pope Francis wrote to him, he tells us.
We leave with one last question: his dream.
And Eduardo gives us perhaps the only answer that a man with a thousand adventures like him could give us: “To win the lottery to be able to build a museum in which to leave my works to all those who want to see them and then buy a small boat and go around the world”.
Will he succeed? We can only imagine what other adventures he will then have to tell us.
If you want to visit Eduardo’s atelier in Cacilhas, it is in Rua Elias Garcia, 34