17 September marks National Heroes’ Day in Angola, in memory of its first president Agostinho Neto‘s whose birthday was on that day in Kaxicane. To join in the celebration, I publish here one of his poems, ‘Western Civilization‘. Sad how these words still ring true to factory workers, plantation workers, miners, sweatshop workers, etc, around the world to this day. Enjoy ‘Civilização Ocidental‘ by Agostinho Neto!
Latas pregadas em paus fixados na terra fazem a casa
Os farrapos completam a paisagem íntima
O sol atravessando as frestas acorda o seu habitante
Depois as doze horas de trabalho Escravo
Britar pedra acarretar pedra britar pedra acarretar pedra ao sol à chuva britar pedra acarretar pedra
A velhice vem cedo Uma esteira nas noites escuras
basta para ele morrer grato e de fome.
Sheets of tin nailed to posts driven in the ground make up the house.
Some rags complete the intimate landscape.
The sun slanting through cracks welcomes the owner
after twelve hours of slave labour.
breaking rock shifting rock breaking rock shifting rock fair weather wet weather breaking rock shifting rock
Today, I would like to share a poem by one of Angola’s most prolific writer and its first president, Agostinho Neto. This poem, “Havemos de Voltar” / “We Shall Return“, speaks to all people, and all times.
Back when this was written from his prison cell in Lisbon, the poem symbolized the return of lost sons, of exiles, of freedom fighters, and the return to their homeland, their loved ones, and the re-attribution of their resources back to them. Today, the message means pretty much the same: a return to liberty (African countries’ freedom from the oppressors), economic freedom (FCFA, the slave currency), and even freedom to all immigrants around the globe who run away from their country because of poverty, war, etc. So to all those seeking a return to peace, to love, a return home, here is Agostinho Neto‘s message.
Havemos de voltar
Às casas, às nossas lavras às praias, aos nossos campos havemos de voltar
ÀS nossas terras vermelhas do café brancas de algodão verdes dos milharais havemos de voltar
Às nossas minas de diamantes ouro, cobre, de petróleo havemos de voltar
Aos nossos rios, nossos lagos às montanhas, às florestas havemos de voltar
À frescura da mulemba às nossas tradições aos ritmos e às fogueiras havemos de voltar
À marimba e ao quissange ao nosso carnaval havemos de voltar
À bela pátria angolana nossa terra, nossa mãe havemos de voltar
Havemos de voltar À Angola libertada Angola independente
We shall return
To the houses, to our crops, to the beaches, to our fields we shall return
To our lands Red with coffee White with cotton Green with maize fields we shall return
To our mines of diamonds Gold, copper, oil we shall return
To our rivers, our lakes our mountains, our forests we will return
To the shade of the mulemba To our traditions To the rhythms and bonfires we shall return
To the marimba and the quissange to our carnival we shall return
To our beautiful Angolan homeland our land, our mother we shall return
We shall return to liberated Angola independent Angola.
From Sacred Hope – Poems by Agostinho Neto, published by the Angolan Writers Union, 1986, sponsored by the National Bank of Angola. Translated to English by Marga Holness.
Today is Angola’s National Heroes’ Day commemorating Angolan heroes, and is a celebration of the life of one of their heroes, President Agostinho Neto who was born on this special day. To mark this day, and to celebrate in style, I propose yet another poem from Angola’s greatest poet, President Neto himself. Enjoy! (I translated from Portuguese to English so it might not be the greatest… if you have a better translation, feel free to share).
Noite by Agostinho Neto – Translation by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com
Eu vivo nos bairros escuros do mundo sem luz nem vida.
Vou pelas ruas às apalpadelas encostado aos meus informes sonhos tropeçando na escravidão ao meu desejo de ser.
São bairros de escravos mundos de miséria bairros escuros.
Onde as vontades se diluíram e os homens se confundiram com as coisas.
Ando aos trambolhões pelas ruas sem luz desconhecidas pejadas de mística e terror de braço dado com fantasmas.
Também a noite é escura.
I live in the dark quarters of the world without light and life.
I fumbled through the streets leaning on my dreams stumbling on slavery to my desire to be.
Slave quarters worlds of misery dark quarters.
Where the wills were diluted and the men were confused with things.
I walk in unknown streets without tripping Streets soaked in with mystical light and the terror arm of ghosts.
Angolans are marking this Monday the National Heroes’ Day, in homage to the country’s first president, the late Dr. Agostinho Neto, who was born on 17 September 1922 in Kaxicane locality. Celebrate with me Angola’s National Heroes’ Day by enjoying a poem by Angola’s greatest poet, and its first president.
Criar criar criar no espírito criar no músculo
criar no nervo criar no homem criar na massa criar criar com os olhos secos Criar criar sobre a profanação da floresta sobre a floresta impúdica do chicote criar sobre o perfume dos troncos serrados criar criar com os olhos secos Criar criar gargalhadas sobre o escárneo da palmatória coragem nas pontas das botas do roceiro força no esfrangalhado das portas violentadas firmeza no vermelho sangue da insegurança criar criar com os olhos secos
Criar criar estrelas sobre o camartelo guerreiro paz sobre o choro das crianças paz sobre o suor sobre a lágrima do contrato paz sobre o ódio criar criar paz com os olhos secos Criar criar criar liberdade nas estradas escravas algemas de amor nos caminhos paganizados do amor sons festivos sobre o balanceio dos corpos em forcas simuladas criar criar amor com os olhos secos.
Create create create in mind create in muscle
create in nerve create in man create in the masses create create with dry eyes Create create over the profanation of the forest over the shameless fortress of the whip create over the scent of sawn trunks
create create with dry eyes Create create laughter over the scorn of the palmatoria courage in the tips of the planter’s boots strength in the splintering of battered-in doors firmness in the red blood of insecurity create create with dry eyes Create create stars over the warrior’s sledge-hammer peace over children’s weeping peace over the sweat the tears of forced labour peace over hatred create create peace with dry eyes
Create create create freedom on slave highways manacles of love on the paganised
paths of love festive sounds over bodies swinging on simulated gallows create create love with dry eyes.
In remembrance of Agostinho Neto (Sept. 17 1922 – Sept. 10th 1979), great leader and first president of Angola, I will leave you with a poem written by the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe in honor of Agostinho Neto. Enjoy!!!
Agostinho, were you no more
Than the middle one favored by fortune
In children’s riddle; Kwame
Striding ahead to accost
Demons; behind you a laggard third
As yet unnamed, of twisted fingers?
No! Your secure strides
Were hard earned. Your feet
Learned their fierce balance
In violent slopes of humiliation;
Your delicate hands, patiently
Groomed for finest incisions,
Were commandeered brusquely to kill,
Your gentle voice to battle-cry.
Perhaps your family and friends
Knew a merry flash cracking the gloom
We see in pictures but I prefer
And will keep that sorrowful legend.
For I have seen how
Half a millennium of alien rape
And murder can stamp a smile
On the vacant face of the fool,
The sinister grin of Africa’s idiot-kings
Who oversee in obscene palaces of gold
The butchery of their own people.
Neto, I sing your passing, I,
Timid requisitioner of your vast
Armory’s most congenial supply.
What shall I sing? A dirge answering
The gloom? No, I will sing tearful songs
Of joy; I will celebrate
The man who rode a trinity
Of awesome fates to the cause
Of our trampled race!
Thou Healer, Soldier and Poet!