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December 05 2013

Five Little-known Energy Resources in Africa

Electricity supply problems are once again news in several African countries with recurring power outages in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Madagascar, to name just a few of those most recently affected.

In Benin, a private Nigerian company supplies much of the country’s electricity.

A report on the Kongossa blog [fr] describes the current situation in Cameroon.:

Malgré des investissements réalisés ces dernières années par la firme américano-camerounaise AES-SONEL chargée de la production, du transport, de la distribution et de la commercialisation de l’énergie électrique, le problème est loin d’être résolu.[..] Si à Douala et Yaoundé, les coupures d’électricité durent en moyenne quatre à six heures, dans d’autres localités des pays, notamment dans les zones rurales, des témoignages concordants rapportent que les coupures d’électricité peuvent durer jusqu’à trois jours d’affilé

Despite investments made these past years by the American-Cameroonian firm AES-SONEL in charge of production, transportation, distribution and sale of electrical energy, the problem is far from being resolved. [...] Power cuts in Douala and Yaoundé last on average four to six hours while in other areas of the country, notably in rural zones, eyewitnesses consistently report that power cuts can last up to three days in a row.

In Côte d’Ivoire, outages are so frequent that they are listed on the Facebook page of an imaginary supervillain, Delestron [a play on words with the French term for outage], created by Ivoirian internet users.

Finally, in Madagascar, many communities are furious with the national electricity company Jirama, accused of frequent failures to meet requirements. For example, in the community of Ambohibao Iavoloha [fr]:

Par exemple, la coupure totale sans avertissement qui a eu lieu entre le 06 et 11 novembre dernier. A partir du 11 au 15 novembre, les habitants ont été confrontés au délestage et l’électricité ne revient que le lendemain vers 2h du matin. Tel est le cas de l’électricité mais la faible pression de l’eau de la Jirama fait aussi grogner les habitants.

For example, the complete loss of power which happened without warning from November 6th to the 11th. From November 11th to the 15th, inhabitants had to put up with controlled outages and electricity was only available around 2am the following day. That is the situation regarding electricity, but the low water pressure from Jirama also gives inhabitants something to grumble about.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst off since only 8.4 percent have access to electricity. However, in light of the growth projected [for Africa], the needs of the continent are certainly going to increase. In 2007, annual energy consumption from primary sources was only 15.4 British thermal units (Btu) per person. By comparison, global energy consumption per person per year was 70.8 Btu while that of Americans was 337.1 Btu (almost 22 times that of the mean in Africa).

However, the African continent is not lacking in natural resources which could meet the energy requirements. Any problems are exacerbated by the global intensification of the race towards energy independence. Many countries are turning to the natural resources of the African continent to supply their energy.

PIDA Africa Electricity Transportation Map

Programs for production and transportation of electricity in Africa by 2040. Map by PIDA, used with their authorisation.

Here are five of the lesser known energy sources  on the African continent:

Heavy Oil of Madagascar

Although Madagascar oil remains relatively unknown internationally-speaking, it has been the object of much speculation. Despite the political crisis, interest in the oil of Madagascar [from overseas] has never lessened. Madagascar news website author Antsa explained [fr] Japan’s interest:

Une délégation japonaise a rencontré les responsables du ministère des Hydrocarbures, à la recherche d'information sur la situation actuelle du secteur des ressources pétrolières, ainsi que des lois et règlementations en vigueur. «Malgré la crise politique, les investisseurs sont restés et d'autres viennent encore pour l'exploration de pétrole. Même s'ils ne sont que dans la phase d'exploration, des avantages sont déjà acquis, à l'exemple de la création d'écoles, d'hôpitaux, l’amélioration et le renforcement de capacité, etc. De plus, le gouvernement ne paie rien, malgré le partage de production», a informé le DG des Hydrocarbures. Notons que trois compagnies pétrolières japonaises ICEP, Jog Meg et Mitsibushi, s'intéressent actuellement à Madagascar.

A Japanese delegation met with representatives from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to find information on the current situation within the petroleum resources sector, as well as on the laws and rules in force. “Despite the political crisis, investors have stayed while others continue to come for the oil exploration. Even if they are only in the exploration phase, some advantages have already been seen, for example, schools and hospitals have been built or expanded, etc. What is more, the government pays nothing, despite sharing production”, stated the Hydrocarbons Manager. Three Japanese petroleum companies – ICEP, Jog Meg and Mitsibushi – are currently interested in Madagascar.

This growing interest from petroleum businesses could however bring risks. Holly Rakotondralambo, Madagascar partner of Friends of the Earth, explained [fr]:

Alors que les prix du pétrole et des métaux sont de plus en plus élevés en raison d’une demande mondiale croissante, les grandes entreprises et les investisseurs se ruent sur Madagascar. Dans un contexte politique très fragile, ce phénomène risque d'exacerber des conflits avec les populations et de dégrader, encore davantage, des écosystèmes très riches déjà en sursis.

Although oil and metal prices are higher because of growing global demand, big business and investors are rushing to Madagascar. In an extremely fragile political context, this phenomenon threatens to worsen conflicts with the people as well as further despoiling rich ecosystems already living on borrowed time.
natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

 
Natural resources of Madagascar and the companies competing to exploit them. Map published by the OMNIS agency on Facebook, used with permission

 

Tar Sands of the Republic of Congo

Tar sand deposits are an important source of synthetic crude oil. However, they are difficult to exploit and controversial because of their environmental impact. Italian company ENI is the first oil company to exploit the African tar sands. In the Congo, ENI collects tar sands 70km from Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, in the Tchikatanga and Tchikatanga-Makola regions. Exploitation of these bitumen-rich sands can be risky, as explained here by the blog Vivement la désintox [fr] [I can’t wait for the detox]:

Exploiter les sables bitumineux est la façon la plus sale, la plus chère et la plus énergivore de produire du pétrole. Extraire 1 baril de pétrole bitumineux nécessite 5 barils d'eau et émet jusqu’à 5 fois plus de gaz à effet de serre que le pétrole conventionnel. L’extraction des sables bitumineux est également synonyme de déforestation et de pollution des eaux. En effet, afin de séparer le pétrole du sable, les compagnies injectent des solvants qui polluent massivement les sols et les rivières.

Exploiting tar sands is the dirtiest, most expensive, most energy-demanding way to produce oil. Extracting one barrel of tar oil takes five barrels of water and releases up to five times more greenhouse gases than normal oil. Extraction of tar sands is also synonymous with deforestation and water pollution. In order to separate the oil from the sand, the companies inject solvents which pollute massively the soil and rivers.

The Windmills of Cape Verde

The Cape Verde islands are the site of the largest windmill farm in Africa. The electricity production equipment on four of the islands could lead to the greatest supply of electricity from wind energy in the world (in proportion to the size of the country), as explained in the following video:

Juan Cole explained the country’s wind energy gamble:

The lack of electricity and its high price have been serious obstacles to economic development and job creation, and thus major reasons for mass emigration of the population. Whereas European wind power often depends on substantial subsidies, the project in Cape Verde is based on strong winds. Electricity generated from wind power is distinctly cheaper than the power sources used hitherto in the islands.

The Potential of Solar Energy in Benin

With energy consumption growing rapidly in Benin, (and estimated to grow by 11% in future years by the state Electrical Energy Company), lack of investment in the sector coupled with losses during distribution and transportation (of around 18-30%) are the main reasons of the current necessity for controlled outages. Leomick Sinsin, a blogger from Benin, described the potential advantages of investing in photovoltaic energy [fr] in his country:

Avec un rayonnement variant de 3 à 6 kWh par m² selon la position géographique, le principal atout d’une installation solaire en Afrique est sa capacité à fournir suffisamment de puissance pour répondre aux besoins quotidiens. D’autre part, l’avantage d’un système solaire est la décentralisation du système de production. Quand l’on connait la vétusté des infrastructures existantes, nul ne saurait contredire le bien fondé d’un système où le site de production juxtaposerait le point de consommation. Le bon exemple est la maison isolée avec des modules surplombant la toiture. [..] Le dernier argument et pas des moindres est le travail d’efficacité énergétique qu’ impose une installation solaire. Un système solaire est une énergie intermittente qui dépend de plusieurs paramètres comme la météo, la qualité de l’installation etc. De ce fait, la consommation implique un recours vers des appareils sobres et peu énergivores. Nous réduisons ainsi le niveau de consommation tout en préservant le même niveau d’utilité.

With power varying from 3 to 6 kWh/m2 depending on geographical position, the main advantage of solar installations in Africa is their capacity to provide enough power to answer daily needs. Another advantage of solar power systems is decentralisation of production. Knowing the antiquity of the existing infrastructure, no-one could be against starting a system where the production site is beside the point of use. A good example is a remote house with panels on the roof. [...] Last but not least, the work towards energy efficiency that a solar installation imposes. Solar power gives intermittent energy which depends on several parameters such as the weather, quality of the installation, etc. As a result, its usage implies a move towards energy-saving equipment. In this way the level of consumption can be reduced while keeping the same degree of usability.

Geothermic energy from the Rift Valley

Recently, several energy companies have stressed the importance of geothermic energy as both a response to the energy needs for countries within the Horn of Africa [Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia] and the Rift Valley as well as an integral part of the program for “green growth”. SciDev.Net reported that Djibouti could become a major player [fr] in geothermic energy:

Le potentiel d'énergie géothermique de la région du Lac Assal de ce pays, qui se trouve dans la vallée du Rift, est à l'étude [..] La production d'énergie sur le lac Assal pourrait commencer en 2018 pour un coût de US$ 240 millions, générant 40 à 60 mégawatts. La BAD recommande que les partenariats entre les secteurs public et privé développent ces projets d'énergie en raison de leurs coûts élevés.

The potential of geothermic energy in the Lake Assal region of this country in the Rift Valley is being studied [...] Energy production around Lake Assal could start in 2018 for a cost of 240 million US Dollars, generating 40 to 60 megawatts. The BAD recommend that public and private sector partnerships develop these energy projects due to their high cost.

G. Pourtier added that Ethiopia is also starting to explore thermal energy [fr]:

Située à 200 km au sud d'Addis-Abeba, la capitale éthiopienne, la nouvelle centrale produira d'abord 20 MW à partir de 2015, puis 500 MW en 2018 et enfin 1 GW quelques années plus tard [..]. La surface acquise par Reykjavik Geothermal en Éthiopie couvre 6500 km2, dont 200 km2 ont déjà été identifiés et où la température s'élève à 350°C.

Located 200 km south of Addis Abbaba, the Ethiopian capital, the new power station will start producing 20 MW from 2015, then 500 MW in 2018 and finally 1 GW several years later [...] The area acquired by Reykjavik Geothermal covers 6500 km2, of which 200 km2 have already been identified as having temperatures reaching 350°C.

October 11 2013

Re-Imagining Lusophony and Decolonizing the Mind

The Fourth International Congress in Cultural Studies – Colonialisms, Post-colonialisms and Lusophonies has a call for paper submissions open until October 15, 2013:

To demystify, to dehierarchize, to establish a policy of difference, to allow a multiplicity of voices, to constitute so many projects of possible modernities/rationalities within post-modernity, to mobilize, to re-politicize, to imagine other political, social and economical models, this is the task (utopian, of course) that is, for us, essential in the re-imagining of Lusophony.

(…)

A postcolonial reflection in a Lusophone context cannot avoid the exercise of criticism to the old dichotomies of periphery/center, cosmopolitanism/rurality, civilized/savage, black/white, north/south, in a context of cultural globalization, transformed by new and revolutionary communication phenomena, which have also globalized marginality.

The congress will take place from April 28 to 30, 2014, in the city of Aveiro, Portugal.

April 04 2013

In Global Downturn, Sustainable Development Begins at Home

Global Voices bloggers have been commissioned to liveblog the OECD Global Forum on Development in Paris on April 4-5, 2013. Leading up to the meeting, our team is submitting posts about development issues that help serve as weekly online discussion topics on their website (#OECDgfd)

Thatched roof Mali

Preparing a new thatched roof in Mali. Photo by Jean-Marc Desfilhes on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As Western economies struggle with rising debt and unemployment, their approach to development and cooperation with low-income countries and emerging markets has taken a twist. It is becoming more clear that sustainable development should not be based on external wealth or redistribution, but must instead be generated at home.

Foreign investment and remittances have long been identified as a crucial source of revenue for poor populations in countries like Mali or Cape Verde. Entire villages have been built out of remittances in Mali, for instance, mainly from immigrants to France. However, this does not mean that these countries are being helped to develop sustainably.

For most African countries, the positive ability to attract capital is often negated by lenient fiscal policies towards foreign investors that strip countries of public revenues to build up their economies. This trend seems was still on the rise worldwide in 2007 according to an OECD report “Tax Effects on Foreign Direct Investments”.

A report by Matthew Martin and Nils Bhinda from Development Finance International shows that in Tanzania, for instance, the influx of private capital from global mining companies increased the volume of gold and diamonds sales. However, this failed to produce the expected social benefits, such as increased government revenues or public investment in social infrastructure. In fact, various tax exemptions and fiscal incentives ended up costing Tanzania $140 million USD from 2005-2008.

Remittances: Money at what cost?

A  growing number of poor households worldwide are subsisting on remittances, according to the World Bank. Still the question remains: can these seemingly successful flows of migrants and money secure sustainable development and reduce poverty in the most affected countries?

Remittances from abroad to Mali amounted %3.7 of the countries GDP for the year 2005-2006, and according to some estimates remittances significantly decreased the number of poor in Mali and also reduced inequality. Cape Verde is another nation that has seemingly benefited from emigration as the country with the highest per capita remittances of any African country. With remittances amounting to 8% of the country's GDP, it has even overcome the challenge of establishing banking institutions for the poor on its many islands thanks to financial capital from migrants in Portugal, Brazil and the USA.

Because of such statistics, many international development institutions have attempted to design development policies based on remittance flows, by trying to convert this “subsistence” money into capital for infrastructure. There are some caveats to consider though.

Despite the growth of remittance flows, one should keep in mind that the very concept of remittances originates from a major outcome of global poverty: economic migration. Those who choose to leave their country are often exposed to risks and dangers during the transition (illegal border transfer, human traffickers, social and cultural isolation).

Moreover, remittances from migrants are highly dependent on the economic growth of the host countries. When unemployment in host countries rises, it frequently affects the type of labor available to most immigrants, putting both them and families back home at further risk of precariousness.

Finally, the peer-to-peer nature of remittances is both a blessing and a curse. As Hein de Haas writes in an article for Third World Quarterly in 2005:

The much-celebrated micro-level at which remittances are transferred is not only their strength, but also their main weakness, since this also implies that individual migrants are generally not able to remove general development constraints.

Because of the lack of incentives for locally-produced added value, it appears that remittances based on value created abroad can never be the sole base of a sustainable development strategy for low income countries.

Good measures for sustainable development

There are some measures that can be implemented to support foreign direct investment and remittances towards a more sustainable world.

First, transparency and accountability. With respect to foreign investments, governments should offer proper projections of the benefits for public finance, or projects should not be allowed to take place. Financial policies should encourage a permanent check and balance system for both private and public flows with an obligation of transparency for the source of the revenues and their further use. Transparency, in the form of regular and mandatory publications to civil society should be mandatory.

Low income countries often resort to the setting up Industrial Free Zones (IZF) to spur industrialization and create jobs in strategic locations with mineral resources. The creation of these zones have often led to economic and social instability through a constant race to lower costs, geographical mobility and low-quality production. Therefore if a government chooses to implement an IZF, it should also plan for a rapid conversion of labor and production capacity to evolve with markets.

This concept is all the more important because so far there has been no concerted effort to integrate local products of low income countries and services in global trade. Inter-regional trade should remain the main goal because it provides geographical proximity and reduces vulnerability to the whims of highly mobile multinational companies.

With respect to migration and remittances, a drawback of global inequality is the tendency of qualified students from low income countries to remain in richer countries to pursue careers, a phenomenon also known as the “brain drain“. As the recession takes its toll on employment in Western countries, a “reverse brain drain” effect has emerged for Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco and other countries where there are competitive salaries and working conditions.

It would make sense for policymakers worldwide to start to embrace a simple idiom to ensure sustainable development: the creation of wealth through added value and redistribution must start at home. Policies based on short term incentives, social inequities or external wealth injection might spur growth temporarily, but it is doubtful that they will sustain poverty reduction in the long run.

December 31 2012

From Indigenous Protests to Online Preaching, Portuguese Language Countries in 2012

Every year, as the last days of the calendar approach, we select a few glimpses of citizen media from the action and imagination of the Portuguese-speaking online world.

Mainstream media often fails to provide broader and deeper coverage of social, cultural, political and environmental issues occurring in any of the eight lusophone countries. But citizen media from this vast linguistic region that spreads across the globe, has been there to fill some of the gaps and to fuel public awareness.

Such has been the case of the coverage of development policies adopted by the Brazilian government, and the consequences that directly affected river-dwellers, ‘caboclos' and indigenous communities across the country, and particularly in the Amazon. The construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the Xingu river, has perhaps become one of the strongest causes at the national level and beyond borders. In October, Sany Kalapalo, a young indigenous and a Xingu activist, told us how she makes use of the Internet as a tool to disclose indigenous culture and to mobilize people towards her campaign to protect the Volta Grande do Xingu region in the state of Pará.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá quickly spread from the village of Pyelito Key/Mbarakay, in the town of Iguatemi, State of Mato Grosso do Sul, to a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the indigenous rights for their lands.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá triggered a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the Indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá and their cause.

Photo of 5,000 crosses planted in Brasilia. Image from the Facebook page of Itiban Comic Shop

Throughout the year, a series of articles on Brazilian migration has taken us in journeys we don't embark upon through mainstream media.

From a “Dekasegibridge-blogger in Japan for the Brazilian community after the earthquake, to the 93 year-old Syrian migrant living in the state of São Paulo, passing through the history of the “Brazilebanese“, or Brazilians from Lebanon, and other stories. Brazilian immigration policy itself faces new challenges. In December, immigrant associations in Sao Paulo organized a rally demanding more rights with regard to the law of the country. Brazilian emigration too has been under debate, particularly through the lens of how Brazilian women are seen abroad, after highly criticized statements from the President of the Portuguese Bar Association at the end of the year, who said that what Brazil exports the most to Portugal is prostitutes.

To calm down the waters surrounding that debate, and bringing a bit of music to the mix, something that Brazilians have also exported this year was Michel Telo's hit ‘Oh if I Catch You' song, whose official video on YouTube has already reached an impressive 470 million visits. Although Telo's major worldwide success didn't reach the numbers of Gangnam style, it did indeed spark a global phenomenon of “Telobalization” at the beginning of the year, with the appropriation of the song for new versions in dozens of different languages. It also attracted some critics due to the arguable quality of Telo's work, and whether or not it should represent Brazilian culture abroad.

On culture and literacy, we highlight the Bicicloteca, a bicycle that carries a small library and free solar-powered internet access to the homeless of the city of São Paulo, and a creative writing competition promoted by the young Cape Verdean journalist Odair Varela on his blog over the course of seven weeks.

Platforms for civic participation

Interesting initiatives for civic participation that bridge the offline and the online worlds arose in Mozambique in 2012.

Up North, in Cabo Delgado, an "open terrace" hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country.

In the Northern region of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado, an “open terrace” hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country. Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook

The People's Wall of Maputo, an authentic ”offline Facebook wall” in the extensive outer wall of @Verdade newspaper's building, allows for any citizen to express his or her complaints in a public and open way. Messages are later transcribed to @Verdade's media outlets, such as their print newspaper but also Facebook page and website.

A local diving school in Tofo, Bitonga Divers, has been raising awareness on the need to defend marine life against overfishing at one of Mozambique's most important tourist beaches.

Whereas in Guinea Bissau, where there is a huge Internet accessibility gap, a digital inclusion project called CENATIC - a computer center featured by Rising Voices in April - unfortunately had to shut down at the end of the year due to the high costs to support it. CENATIC was launched by a local NGO and aimed at providing more affordable access and support to individuals and organizations interested in exploring how a better connection can benefit their work.

From Sao Tome and Principe, STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins)

In December Global Voices interviewed STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins), from Sao Tome and Principe, an online community radio that plays an important role uniting the diaspora.

The future awaits

In the political arenas, 2012 was a year of presidential and parliamentary elections in East Timor, municipal elections in Brazil and local elections in Cape Verde. In Angola, Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected after 33 years in power. The country's complex path of development through the lens of citizen media is summarized in a separate post, Year of Change in Angola, But Everything Stays the Same.

By the end of November, São Tomé and Principe plunged into a political crisis, and in Guinea Bissau another military coup d'etat toppled the government in April 2012. A post from October reads:

While the international institutions express “concern” and conduct meetings, the people of Guinea-Bissau have little outlet for their fears and frustrations.

In Portugal, there were plenty of protests and two general strikes against the austerity measures in the European economic crisis scenario which develops into harder life conditions for the general population. The most participated demonstration took place in September under the motto “Screw Troika! We Want Our Lives”.

Among the multiplicity of conventional uses of digital platforms for activism, one of the most curious characters that caught our attention early in the year is in fact a 75 year old priest and writer called Mário Pais de Oliveira. He religiously uses social networks to share his very particular - and disruptive - thoughts on current events, and has hundreds of videos on Youtube and thousands of friends on Facebook. We finish this roundup of the year with a simple quote from one of his subversive homilies. Whatever 2013 brings:

We must come up with new ways to transform society

October 21 2012

Cape Verde: A Short Documentary

"Cabo Verde" by Felix de Rosen

Short documentary “Cabo Verde” by Felix de Rosen, with footage from Sao Vicente, Praia, and Santo Antao. Music by Cordas do Sol

(more…)

September 28 2012

Cape Verde: Blogging for Soul Healing, Facebook as a Catwalk

Capeverdean blogger Jorge from Diário de um Thug notes [pt] that the country's blogs are dying everyday. Should Facebook be blamed?

for the ones who enjoy writing, that problem is not an issue. Writing is an act of mourning and of memory healing; a soul cure has many more advantages than a vanity parade on Facebook. I see this media as a big catwalk…

August 31 2012

Portuguese, a Global Language?

A community page on Facebook, Língua Portuguesa: Uma Língua Global? (Portuguese Language: A Global Language?) [pt], provides a diversity of materials to promote the debate about the expansion of Portuguese language and its consequences. Several critical issues on the policies of this language of around 200 million speakers are addressed, such as minority languages, multilinguism and linguistic colonialism.

August 27 2012

Cape Verde: “A Real Hell for Stray Animals”

Cape Verde: white beaches, beautiful sea and luxuriant vegetation: a paradise for humans but a real hell for stray animals.

The alert (with photos) comes from the International Organization for Animal Protection. Brazilian journalist Natalia Cesana writes [pt] about it and gives more background [pt] in the blog of the news agency for animal rights, ANDA.

March 31 2012

Brazil: “Kilombos”, Stories of Slaves Bridging Three Continents

A few days after the Brazilian government suspended for five months the reinstatement of ownership requested by the Brazilian Navy of the land of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos in Bahia - one of the oldest communities of slave descendents in Brazil, inhabited by around 75 families [pt] -, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Lisbon, the international conference “The Passage of the Quilombos: from Africa to Brazil and the return to origins” [pt] was held at the beginning of March.

This meeting saw the release of the documentary Kilombos, produced by the Portuguese journalist Paulo Nuno Vicente, and described [pt] by him on the website ‘Buala' as “a rescue film about the Quilombos of Brazil”, which “transports us through the oral history of the African roots of the Quilombo communities, showing the intersection of these roots with contemporary cultural practices”.

O sentido de pertença a uma identidade extravasa a fronteira do medo. Ser quilombola é estar para lá do lugar. Uma imagem perdura para lá do que representa. «Kilombos» é uma tentativa de cartografia antropológica para os antagonismos do Brasil contemporâneo, metonímia oral do globalizante e do ancestral em fluxo.

The sense of belonging to an identity breaks down the barriers put up by fear. Being ‘Quilombola' goes beyond place. An image lasts beyond that which it represents. ‘Kilombos' is an attempt to trace an anthropological cartography of the frictions within contemporary Brazil, that is to say, of globalising forces on the one hand, and ancestral traditions in flux on the other.
31,3% dos Escravos Africanos foram levados para o Brasil. Foto de Hollywoodsmille78 no Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

31.3% of African slaves were transported to Brazil. Photo by Hollywoodsmille78 on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The documentary, filmed mainly in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, but also in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau, forms part of a triannual project [pt] promoted by the Portuguese NGO Instituto Marquês Vale de Flor (IMVF), in partnership with local organisations:

A escolha destes três países reside no seu passado histórico comum. Os navios que transportavam a mão-de-obra escrava vinda da costa africana rumo ao Brasil fazia a sua primeira paragem em Cabo-Verde. Esta rota marítima, que ligou os três territórios há mais de quatro séculos, deixou marcas ainda hoje visíveis.

Estes navios não transportavam para o Brasil apenas homens e mulheres africanos, transportavam igualmente tradições, crenças e costumes, ainda hoje respeitados e praticados nos três países.

The choice of these three countries lies in their common historical past. The ships which transported the slave labour force from the African coast to Brazil used to make their first stopover in Cape Verde. This maritime route which linked the three territories more than four centuries ago has left marks which are still visible today.

These ships didn't just transport African men and women to Brazil. They also transported traditions, beliefs and customs, which are still respected and practised in our three countries to this day.

Since Cape Verde was populated by Portuguese settlers in the second half of the 15th century, the islands have served as “a turntable for the slave trade between Africa and America”, says José Semedo, from Praia, in an interview [pt] for the documentary ‘Kilombos'.

“According to data from that time, half of the African slaves who arrived in Maranhão between 1774 and 1799 were taken from Guinea-Bissau”, notes [pt] Eduardo Mello, from the blog Jovens Diplomatas (Young Diplomats), in a text which gives his impressions on the return of the Quilombolas to their origins in Cacheu three centuries later, funded now by the IMVF project.

Quilombo Santa Joana - interview with João Baptista. Image captured from the documentary 'Kilombos'.

Quilombo Santa Joana - interview with João Baptista. Image captured from the documentary Kilombos.

“We witness and suffer the black holocaust”, comments [pt] Mello on the celebration at Cacheu, in which a play was staged depicting the trafficking of slaves in the 17th century, protagonised by descendants of African slaves themselves, the members of Quilombo communities in Maranhão - “in the horror of the ships, about to transform America and Brazil, they sang. They wept”:

Perto da sagrada Floresta de Cobiana, uma multidão celebra o reencontro com os retornados, que a cada frase, receita, som ou expressão, redescobrem origens e destinos. Hoje, a cidade está decorada com instrumentos musicais, artesanato, frutas, e histórias em comum. O cuxá, prato maranhense, é idêntico ao “baguitche” guineense – mas a etnia mandinga sempre chamou de cuxá mesmo.

A noite começa a banhar em prata o caudaloso Rio Cacheu. As apresentações das etnias guineenses misturam-se às dos quilombolas brasileiros, à voz de Eneida Marta, e aos discursos. (…)

Os grupos cantam, dançam, sobem em árvores, celebram o estranhamento de parentes separados pelos séculos. A matriz é guineense, mas muito mudou: nosso canto não é da e pra terra, é de procissão; o compasso marcado de cada etnia mestiçou-se, no Brasil, com a percussão de inúmeros outros povos do continente africano, no caldeirão dos entrudos (ou “N’tturudu”, como se diz aqui).

Near the sacred Cobiana Forest, a crowd celebrates being reunited with the returnees, who with each phrase, recipe, sound or expression, rediscover origins and destinations. Today, the city is decorated with musical instruments, handicrafts, fruit, and common stories. The ‘cuxá' dish from Maranhão is identical to the Guinean ‘baguitche' - although the Mandinga tribe have always called it ‘cuxá'.

Nightfall begins to bathe the fast-flowing River Cacheu in silver light. The performances of the Guineans merge with those of the Brazilian Quilombolas, the voice of Eneida Marta, and the speeches. (…)

The groups sing, dance, climb trees, celebrate the strangeness of discovering relatives separated by the centuries. The matrix is Guinean, but a lot has changed: our songs are not for and about the earth, they are processional; the beat kept by each ethnic group has intermixed in Brazil with the percussion of numerous other peoples of the African continent, in the cauldron of the carnival-goers (or “N’tturudu”, as they say here).

“The history of the Quilombos is one of liberty and dignity”

Screenshot of the documentary Kilombos.

Screenshot of the documentary Kilombos.

As Mello says, “a lot has changed” in the identity of this culture which, in the words [pt] of the producer of ‘Kilombos', “crosses borders and brings continents closer together”. However, and returning to the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article, the current struggle of the Quilombolas has shown that there is also a certain continuity in the violation of the human rights of these communities, such as the right to land.

Alan Tygel, from Vírus Planetário [Planetary Virus], draws a historical parallel, and speaks of “modern practices” [pt] which transport us once again on a journey between times and territories:

O sol já vai se pondo, e os escravos aproveitam o fim de tarde na senzala para descansar da jornada extenuante. O trabalho no engenho de cana é duro. Açoitados, acorrentados, longe da terra natal, separados de suas famílias, os negros ainda assim jogam capoeira e cultuam seus orixás. Nesse mesmo dia, houve duas fugas na fazenda: Zé Preto tentou sair por trás das amendoeiras de baixo. Almeida, o capitão-do-mato, não teve muita dificuldade: o negro não tinha mais forças, fugiu por desespero. As chibatadas que levou ali mesmo, no mato, foram suficientes para encerrar seu sofrimento e levá-lo para a outra vida. Gangá não teve a mesma sorte: foi para o tronco, e deve ficar lá por dias. Para todo mundo saber o que acontece com escravo fujão.

Num lugar não muito distante dali, cerca de 300 anos depois, a situação não mudou muito. Para os moradores do Quilombo Rio dos Macacos, foi como se a escravidão tivesse acabado e depois voltado. Alguns ainda possuem fotos de seus bisavós vestidos com trapos trabalhando na fazenda. Os mais idosos se lembram do jongo, da capoeira e do samba-de-roda na comunidade. Da época em que eram felizes, na sua roça, com seu pescado, sua dança e sua religião. Há cerca de 30 anos, voltaram a ser cativos.

The sun is now setting, and the slaves make the most of the end of the evening to rest from the day's exhaustion in the slave quarters. Work in the cane mill is hard. Whipped, shackled, far from their homeland, separated from their families, the slaves still practise capoeira and worship their gods. On that same day, two people had escaped from the farm: Zé Preto tried to sneak out behind the lower almond grove. Almeida, the person charged with recapturing escapees, did not have much difficulty in apprehending him: the slave was exhausted, he had fled out of desperation. The lashes which he received right there, in the forest, were sufficient to put an end to his suffering and dispatch him to another life. Gangá was not so lucky: he was sent to the trunk, and had to stay there for several days. So that everybody would know what happens to a slave who tries to escape.

In a place not far from there, around 300 years later, the situation is not much changed. For the inhabitants of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos, it is as if slavery had been abolished only to return once again. Some of them still possess photos of their great-grandparents dressed in rags at work on the farm. The eldest remember the jongo, the capoeira and the Samba de Roda in the community, at a time when they were happy, in their countryside, with their fish, their dancing and their religion. Around 30 years ago, they became captives once again.

A petition [pt] remains in circulation calling for ownership of the Quilombo Rio dos Macacos to remain with the Quilombolas, who have received a guarantee for now that they will not be expelled in the next four months, during which time the Incra [pt] (National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform) must conclude a Tecnical Report of Identification and Delimitation with the intention of determining for how long the land has been occupied.

February 22 2012

Cape Verde: Imagery from Carnival's Celebrations

The Great Adventure of Cape Verde's blog has posted a series of photos and one short clip featuring Carnival's celebrations.

December 31 2011

Online Highlights from the Portuguese-Speaking World in 2011

2011 has been another year in which bloggers and activists from a number of Portuguese-speaking countries have come together to report, translate and promote blogs and citizen media from all over the world. This article selects the highlights in the coverage of Lusophone countries on Global Voices over the last year.

Portuguese language and culture

In February we covered several blogs that gave voice to their love of the Portuguese language, paying tribute to the great variety of dialects spoken by more than 200 million people worldwide.

Hau nia lian, hau nia rain (A minha língua, a minha terra). Foto de Sapo Noticias Timor Leste (domínio público)

Hau nia lian, hau nia rain (My language, my country). Photo by Sapo Noticias Timor Leste (public domain)

In May the newspaper @Verdade, our partner in Mozambique, described Portuguese as a language that is bound up in what it means to be Mozambican.

In its coverage of Timor Leste, Global Voices examined the role of languages in asserting the identity of a country which has 16 national languages and dozens of dialects. Some blogs on Cape Verde also suggested that there are “distinct social functions” for both the language spoken by the people, Crioulo, and the official language, Portuguese.

Online demonstrations brought a more political dimension to bear on this issue, with heated reactions to the proposal for Equatorial Guinea to become a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, despite having a poor track record on human rights.

Brazil: Paths towards Development

In spite of the current global crisis, Brazil is experiencing a period of economic optimism fuelled by domestic consumption. In order to maintain this growth, ongoing development policy in the country has been putting pressure on the environment and human rights.

O custo social da expansão de biocombustível: a comunidade indígena Guarani Kaoiwa de Laranjeira Nhanderu foram expulsos de suas terras há 14 meses atrás para dar lugar as plantações de cana.Foto de Annabel Symington, direitos Demotix (21/10/10).

The social cost of the rising demand for biofuels: the indigenous Guarani Kaoiwa community of Laranjeira Nhanderu were expelled from their lands 14 months ago to make way for sugarcane plantations. Photo by Annabel Symington, copyright Demotix (10/21/10).

The Amazon rainforest is seen as potential land for agriculture and as a source of raw materials and energy. Brazil's new forestry code, which regulates the use of the country's forests, has led to concerns and public demonstrations against the encouragement of farming and deforestation. “Green” agribusiness focused on biofuels and the replacement of felled trees with eucalyptus plantations have been shown to be unsustainable practices in both social and environmental terms. The dispute for land provoked by agribusiness led to the killing of activists and indigenous leaders during 2011. Yet Brazil is persisting in exporting its agribusiness model to other countries, such as Mozambique, regardless.

Coverage of events surrounding the Belo Monte Dam certainly caused the greatest outcry this year, uniting environmentalists, indigenous people and Brazilians living alongside the affected rivers. Protests in the immediate area of the dam and in major cities attracted international attention and challenged the human rights policy of Dilma Rousseff's government. This action did not wane after construction of the plant began, but rather took on different forms, including an Occupy protest by the Tupiniquim people and court cases.

These and related issues have been organised into four special features: Forest Focus: AmazonDossiê Belo Monte [only in pt], Indigenous Rights and Global Development.

Portugal: Crisis, Austerity and Protests

From the “Scraping-by Generation” protest in March to participation in the global protests on 15 October, Portugal has seen its political and economic crisis reach unprecedented proportions in 2011, with the fall of a government and the EU committee coming into the country to effect the financial “rescue” of public debt.

Keep calm and protest. Indignados em frente à Câmara do Porto. Foto da organização do 15 de Outubro.

Keep calm and protest: outraged protesters outside Porto Town Hall. Photo by the protest organisers, 15 October.

Netizens took to social networks to mobilise action against severe austerity measures and to speak out in opposition to the racket conducted by the rating agencies, but also to gain inspiration from other countries, such as Iceland, on other forms of public participation.

Having launched a page devoted to special coverage of the current situation, Europe in Crisis, in September, Global Voices has acted as a bridge between different languages and has facilitated greater dialogue between outraged citizens from European countries that are suffering similar problems.

Angola: 32 Years in Power sparks Protests

In Angola the sense of revolt against the 32-year government led by José Eduardo dos Santos is becoming increasingly palpable in the streets and on the internet. Protests would have begun in March had the government not been successful in pre-empting them.

In September the police used heavy force to break up a protest, resulting in at least 18 protesters receiving prison sentences. Against all expectations, the movement has regrouped, while the number of citizen reporters in the country is also on the increase.

Video uploaded to the post Angola: Videos of Repressed Youth Protest in Luanda

Internet and the digital culture in Brazil

The fruits of increasingly widespread access to the internet in Brazil were borne out in 2011 by many creative, collective and effective examples of action. One such case was the mobilisation of social networks to take down a paedophile blog, and the call put out on Facebook to join in the unique “Different People's Big Barbeque Protest” in an upscale São Paulo neighbourhood.

Cartaz do protesto "Queremos ser Maria Bethania" convocado por Leon Prado no Facebook.

Protest poster which reads "We want to be Maria Bethania", organised by Leon Prado on Facebook.

The online arena has also been the scene for a number of less auspicious episodes related to digital culture. In January the Ministry of Culture announced that it was abandoning Creative Commons licensing on its site, a blatant step backwards in public policy on the internet and copyright. Shortly afterwards, in March, the same ministry allowed the famous signer Maria Bethânia to raise 1.3 million reais tax-free for the creation of a poetry blog, thereby rousing the ire of bloggers, the twitterati and activists involved in the cultural sphere.

Cases of online censorship continue to crop up and, on occasion, overflow into the non-virtual world, with attacks on bloggers who are critical of the authorities.

In December we became aware of renewed death threats made against Ricardo Gama, who blogs against cases of the abuse of power and other irregularities by the Brazilian police. Gama had already been shot in an attack in Rio de Janeiro in March. Towards the end of this year, many were not convinced by the reason of “suicide by hanging” given for the death of Hamilton Alexandre, a controversial blogger from Santa Catarina, and social networks are being used to call for a thorough investigation of the case.

In 2012 we will continue to listen to the stories that are being told by the citizens of the world through the internet, and to amplify them so that they reach a global audience. Our doors are always open to anyone who wants to get involved in what Super magazine earlier this year dubbed “one of the 10 coolest projects on the internet”.

João Miguel Lima collaborated on this post.

December 29 2011

Cape Verde: The Musical Legacy of Cesária Évora

On December 17, Cesária Évora, a musical ambassador of sorts for Cape Verde, left us. There was an abundance of tributes and declarations by her faithful audience, present in almost every corner of the globe. The singer, as well as the music of her country, were the focus of the blogosphere in recent days, and in the twittersphere Évora became a Trending Topic on the day of her death.

Julio de Magalhães, from the blog Do Médio-Oriente e afins (From the Middle East and the like) commented on the departure of the singer and highlights the music of her country:

Foi uma voz de Cabo Verde escutada e aclamada em toda a parte e, de alguma forma, um símbolo nacional. Dotada de um inconfundível instrumento vocal, como aliás grande parte dos cabo-verdianos, apresentou-se nos principais palcos do mundo sempre com extraordinário sucesso.

It was a voice of Cape Verde listened to and acclaimed all over and, in some way, a national symbol. Endowed with an unmistakable vocal instrument, as in fact a large part of Cape Verdeans, she appeared on the biggest stages of the world with extraordinary success.

photo shared by twitpic user @huygui

For Brazilian journalist Mauro Ferreira, of the blog Notas Musicais (Musical Notes) “a sweet voice of deep feeling has been silenced”. On her music, he says:

Voz que destilava a fina melancolia impregnada nas mornas - espécie de samba-canção da terra da intérprete - que entoava em crioulo, um idioma que misturava português, francês e dialetos africanos. Évora também deu voz às coladeiras, outro ritmo cabo-verdiano, mais dançante e próximo da pegada caribenha.

A voice that distilled the fine melancholy infused in mornas - a kind of samba - a song of the land of the performer - which she sang in creole, a language which mixed Portuguese, French and African dialects. Évora also gave voice to coladeiras, other Cape Verdean rhythm, more danceable and closer to a Caribbean step.

The blog Palavras Todas Palavras (Words all Words) commented in retrospective on the success of the album La diva aux pied nus (The Barefoot Diva), recorded in 1988, which alludes to the way she appeared on stage:

O álbum foi aclamado pela crítica, e em 1992 gravou Miss Perfumado, e passou a morar na França. Tornou-se uma estrela internacional aos 47 anos. Em 2004 recebeu um Grammy, de melhor álbum de world music contemporânea. Foi a cantora que recebeu maior reconhecimento internacional na história da música cabo-verdiana.

The album was acclaimed by the critics, and in 1992 she recorded Miss Perfumado, and went to live in France. She became an international star at 47 years of age. In 2004 she received a Grammy, of Best Contemporary World Music Album. She was the singer who received greatest international recognition in the history of Cape Verdean music.

The Portuguese blog Repórter a Solta (Reporter on the Loose) emphasized her great energy on stage based on a report from her shows in London:

Cesária não pára. Desde que, aos 48 anos, começou, em França, a sua carreira internacional, passa a maior parte do ano em tournée pelo mundo. Não está cansada? “É preciso aproveitar, agora que há trabalho”, diz-nos ela, como inconsciente de ser uma estrela mundial, como se vivesse nos tempos miseráveis dos bares do Mindelo. “Enquanto puder, não páro”. Na plateia, (…) são raros os caboverdianos, ou mesmo os espectadores de origem africana. São britânicos na sua maioria, famílias, casais, jovens, de meia-idade, classe média-alta…” Eles não percebem nada do que eu canto”, diz-nos Cesária. “Ninguém entende crioulo. Mas não importa. A música diz tudo. Entendem a música”. (…) Como faz ela aquilo? É um truque? Um sortilégio? Ninguém sabe explicar, mas está lá todo o fascínio de Cabo Verde.

Cesária does not stop. Since, at age 48, she began her international career in France, she spends the better part of the year on touring the world. Isn't she tired? “One must take full advantage, now that there is work,” she told us, as if unaware of being a world star, as if she still lived in the miserable times of the bars of Mindelo. “As long as I can, I will not stop.” In the audience (…) Cape Verdeans are rare, or even spectators of African origin. The majority are British people, family, couples, young people, of middle age, and upper middle class… “They don't understand anything of what I am singing,” Cesária tells us. “Nobody understands creole. But it doesn't matter. The music says it all. They understand the music”. (…) How does she do it? Is it a trick? A magic trick? Nobody knows how to explain, but there you have the whole fascination with Cape Verde.

Poster in homage to Cesária Évora written in creole distributed all over Lisbon, Portugal

In retrospective, and in a critical tone, anthropologist Miguel Moniz, guest contributor to Southcoasttoday, wrote about the space occupied by the singer on the international scene:

Cesaria Evora left Mindelo, Sao Vicente, to sing the morna on the world's great stages, winning a Grammy and becoming a chevalier in the French Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur along the way. Although she had been performing on and off since the 1950s, it was not until the release of two albums in the 1990s that Cesaria would emerge to international acclaim in the “world music scene,” a ubiquitous though absurd catch-all category that seems to mean “music made by people from some weird place I've never heard of.”

Still on the likely unfamiliarity of the international audience with Cape Verde, the blog Passaport to wrote:

Not too many people know much about (or have even heard of) the tiny, 10-island West African country of Cape Verde. But even though relatively few actually understood her song lyrics, plenty in Europe, Africa, and the rest of the world certainly knew and loved its most famous native daughter. (…) But the lady has left behind a gorgeous legacy (…) that have taught the world about Cape Verde’s distinctive national music, called morna.

The directions of Cape Verdean music

Cesária and Maria de Barros. Photo shared by Maria de Barros on Facebook

And with Cape Verde in focus, a debate has arisen over who will take her place as musical spokesperson of the country.

The current scenario is quite far from that found by Cesária Évora. Attention was drawn to the fact that the majority of representatives of Cape Verdean music of the new generation are “daughters of the diaspora”:

As candidatas à sucessão de Cesária Évora como “a voz de Cabo Verde” são cabo-verdianas nascidas em outras partes do mundo, na maior parte dos casos em Lisboa. Mayra Andrade, a mais bem colocada, nasceu em Cuba e vive em Paris. Se Cesária Évora, falecida no sábado, era, é, “a voz de Cabo Verde” e o maior emblema internacional do país, o desaparecimento físico da diva dos pés descalços deixa vago, de certa forma, o lugar que a filha do Mindelo até aqui ocupava no panorama musical internacional. As candidatas à sucessão são várias e mais ou menos conhecidas, tendo em comum o facto de, ao contrário de Cesária, não terem nascido em Cabo Verde e serem, antes, filhas da diáspora crioula.

Candidates to the succession of Cesária Évora as the “voice of Cape Verde” are Cape Verdeans born in other parts of the world, for the most part in Lisbon. Mayra Andrade, the best placed, was born in Cuba and lives in Paris. If Cesária Évora, who died on Saturday, was the “voice of Cape Verde” and the biggest international symbol of the country, the physical disappearance of the barefoot diva leaves a void, in a way, a place that the daughter of Mindelo occupied in the international musical landscape up until now. The candidates to the succession are numerous and more or less known, having in common the fact that, unlike Cesária, they were not born in Cape Verde, instead being daughters of the creole diaspora.

Among the names cited are Mayra Andrade, Lura, Nancy Vieira, Sara Tavares, Carmen Souza, Maria de Barros, Danae and Isa Pereira. Some were born in Cape Verde, and others were not, some spent time in the country and others have not, and with various musical influences, as the case of Carmen Souza, who mixes Cape Verdean traditions with jazz, or Maria de Barros, with influence of Latin music, principally salsa.

There appears to be an effort to renew Cape Verdean music and make connections with other music, but with strong links to the roots of musical tradition of the country. What is notable is that the doors for Cape Verdean music were opened by Cesária Évora and the strength of her work, that in one form or another appears influential in the work of all of those singers cited above, be it musically, be it by inspiration and love for the country and for its language. And it is hoped they will continue on with her legacy in one way or another.

Whatever the future directions of Cape Verdean music internationally, the presence of Cesária Évora was unique and will always leave Sodade. Tom Devriendt, of the blog Africa is a Country, explains the meaning of one of the most beautiful words of the Portuguese language: “Saudade” (”Sodade” in Creole) - also the title of a song that made her famous throughout the world - and he shares the video for the song “Dor di Sodade” (The Pain of Sodade) from the album “Radio Mindelo” (2009) with old photos of the singer:

One of the many meanings of “Sodade” — that most difficult to translate Creole word — is a feeling of loss.

October 10 2011

Cape Verde: Ibrahim Governance prize goes to ex-President

Twitter users react to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's attribution of this year's Governance Prize to ex-President of Cape Verde Pedro Pires. The $5 million prize dates from 2007 but went unattributed the past two years. Pires is the second “lusophone” politician to win the Prize, after ex-President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano in 2007.

October 03 2011

Cape Verde: Fishing Agreement with European Union

Cape-verdean journalist Odair Varela, on his blog, makes a critical analysis [pt] to the new agreement between Cape Verde's government and the European Union for the exploitation of the country's vast fishing resources.

August 06 2011

Cape Verde: Presidential Candidates on Facebook

A group of Capeverdean citizens called Pioneiros de Cabo Verde have created an event on Facebook for the Presidential Elections that will take place on August 7. The event's page shares the Facebook profiles of the main candidates as well as videos of debates that have taken place during the electoral campaign.

July 04 2011

Cape Verde: Demonstration Against Violence

The organization of a peaceful demonstration against violence in Cape Verde, scheduled for July 5, has already more than 12,000 accepted invitations on Facebook [pt].

June 28 2011

Cape Verde: A Story of Accessibility

Daivarela, on his blog, tells [pt] the story of how a capeverdean journalist, Maria Zinha, has successfully received a diploma in Cinema and Audiovisual, despite the accessibility barriers she constantly faces in the island of Mindelo to do her job, where “stairs are the main difficulty”.

June 09 2011

Cape Verde: Capital City Without Water

Since water stopped running from the taps of the capital city of Cape Verde, Praia, more than two weeks ago due to improvement works, at first, and then to a breakdown at the central distribution point, bloggers have been demonstrating with poems in portuguese and creole, and posting satirical and funny pictures.

May 19 2011

Cape Verde: Creole and Portuguese Languages, an Unofficial Pair

May 5th was a day to celebrate Portuguese Language and Culture, as established by the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) at the XIV CPLP Council of Ministers held in Cape Verde, in 2009.

The Portuguese language had been brought to the Cape Verdean uninhabited islands, by the first settlers five centuries before, in 1460. Though the Portuguese language is official in the country today, the national language is Cape Verdean Creole, which has nine varieties of Portuguese-based Creole, and these are the mother tongues of the population spread across nine islands that make up the country, independent since 1975.

A recent speech by the Minister of Culture of Cape Verde, Mario Lucio Sousa, in Parliament stated [pt] the need “to make the Cape Verdean language official, as envisaged by the Constitution, pairing with the Portuguese language.”

Anti-drug poem in Creole. Photo by the artist Joel Bergner, coordinator of the Global Mural Project "Action Ashe!" (used with permission)

Anti-drug poem in Creole. Photo by the artist Joel Bergner, coordinator of the Global Mural Project "Action Ashe!" (used with permission)

Language and social spaces

The linguist Manuel Veiga points out the difference between “the linguistic status of the two languages” on the blog Sibila [pt]:

(…) enquanto a Lp [Língua Portuguesa] é língua oficial e do ensino, da literatura, dos mídia e das situações formais de comunicação, o Ccv [Crioulo cabo-verdiano] é língua de comunicação na família, língua das tradições orais, principal suporte musical, numa palavra, língua da oralidade e das situações informais de comunicação.

while the Portuguese language is the official language and the one used for education, literature, media and situations of formal communication, Cape Verdean Creole is the language of family communication, oral tradition, the main musical support, in a word, is the language of orality and of informal situations of communication.

Veiga goes further, mentioning in another article, that the politics of language in education favours the rich, who master the Portuguese language. Despite government efforts to promote Cape Verdean Creole in the country, Veiga says:

Para ter efeitos a longo prazo, uma política de oficialização teria de ser acompanhada por uma vasta implementação de condições estruturais direccionadas para a valorização do estudo e do uso do crioulo em todos os campos sociais.

In order to have long term effects, an official policy would be accompanied by a major implementation of structural conditions directed to enhancing the study and the use of Creole in all social areas.

The social role of Creole [pt] in education, particularly its adoption in primary and secondary schools, and also in religion, is often discussed, as was in the International Mother Language Day on 21 February, when the Comissão Nacional de Cabo-Verde (National Commission of Cape Verde), linked to the Instituto Internacional de Língua Portuguesa (International Portuguese Language Institute), hosted a debate on the issue and ended with a screening of the movie [pt] “Jesus” translated into Cape Verdean Creole.

Screbê Kriolu (Write Creole)

(…) alguns puristas da língua portuguesa começaram a considerar o CCV como meio de comunicação sem regras nem gramática; como mixórdia que não se pode escrever e que não tem importantes letras do alfabeto, como L de lei, R de rei, F de fé. Por tudo isto, o CCV constituía, no dizer deles, um perigo para a unidade do império.

some purists of the Portuguese language began to consider CCV [Cape Verdean Creole] as a means of communication without any rules or grammar, as a mishmash that one can not write and which has no significant letters of the alphabet, as the L of Lei (Law), the R of Rei (King), the F of Fé (faith). For all this, CCV represented, from their point of view, a danger to the unity of the empire.

The above quote is taken from the opening note of the blog KrioLUS [pt], from the University of Cape Verde. A few months before Cape Verde ratified the Reform of the Portuguese Ortography, in 2009, the Unified Alphabet for Cape Verdean Writing (ALUPEC) was adopted, aiming to establish an official standard for the language spoken in the archipelago, despite the variations of each island.

Diglossia: texts in Portuguese and Creole, Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. Photography of Francisco Santos with Creative Commons 3.0

Diglossia: texts in Portuguese and Creole, Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. Photography of Francisco Santos with Creative Commons 3.0

In the comments section of an article on the approval of the ALUPEC [pt], opinions were divided concerning its formalization and implementation. Marta Velozo believed that:

Merecem palmas todas as ações que lutam pela diversidade cultural

All actions that fight for cultural diversity deserve applause

As for Pedro V, “the ALUPEC is an aberration”:

Mostra um complexo do colonizado porque rejeita a origem portuguesa da nossa língua. Qual a necessidade de reinventar um alfabeto se o que utilizamos para escrever a língua portuguesa nos serve perfeitamente?

It shows a complex of the colonized because it rejects the Portuguese origin of our language. What is the need to reinvent an alphabet if the one we use to write the Portuguese language serves us well?

A Cape Verdean blogger, Et, who has maintained the blog Lingua di Kauverdi (Cape Verdean Language) [CCV] since 2008 with extensive documentation, research and learning materials in Creole, advocates [pt] the adoption of ALUPEC and asks:

Como será materializado o desenvolvimento do ensino da Língua Cabo-verdiana em todos os cantos de Cabo Verde? Sem um código (aceitável) convencional, normativo para representar os sons da nossa fala…

How will the development of language teaching in Cape Verdean in every corner of Cape Verde be materialized? Without a conventional (acceptable) code, normative to represent the sounds of our speech …

On the blog Coral Vermelho (Red Coral) [pt], Ondina Ferreira comments on one of the final recommendations from the Encontro de Quadros de origem cabo-verdiana na Diáspora (Summit of Cape Verdean Professionals in the Diaspora), held in Mindelo (island of São Vicente) last month, which claimed that “Creole should be be better and more taken care of”:

Apenas estranhei, e muito, o facto de nessa mesma recomendação para servir aos falantes das ilhas, não se ter acrescentado igualmente a de Cabo Verde cuidar bem e melhor da Língua portuguesa que é também a nossa língua. (…) Ambas definem a nossa identidade cultural mestiça. Ambas são nossas com toda a legitimidade e legalidade. (…) A Língua portuguesa tão nossa como o Crioulo que nela tem origem, tem a idade da nação cabo-verdiana.

I only find strange, very strange, the fact that this same recommendation to better serve the speakers of the islands, doesn't include the Portuguese language which is also our language. (…) Both define our mixed cultural identity. Both are ours, with all  legitimacy and legality. (…) The Portuguese language, as ours as the Creole that has its origin in it, with the same age as the nation of Cape Verde.

While in Cape Verde the mother language(s) are apparently being valued, researchers believe that the opposite is taking place in East Timor - “strugling so that its co-official language, Portuguese, is mastered by a bigger portion of the population” - , as reported [pt] on the blog Observatório dos Países de Língua Oficial Portuguesa (Portuguese Language Countries Watch). In a future post, Global Voices will explore the linguistic diversity of the first nation of the millennium, namely their online representations.

This article was co-written with João Miguel Lima and was proofread by Janet Gunter.

May 03 2011

A Blog on Music in Portuguese and Lusophone Artists

To learn about music in Portuguese or by Lusophone artists, visit Caipirinha Lounge [en, pt], a bilingual blog “born out of a sincere belief that Lusophone music should reach a much larger audience”.

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