‘Poetry’ by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau
Amilcar Cabral on a stamp with the flag of Guinea Bissau

January 20th, is the day of Amilcar Cabral, the father of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau independence was murdered.  I would like to celebrate this day of remembrance with a poem written by Amilcar Cabral himself.  He used to sign his poem by the name Larbac, which is an anagram of his last name Cabral.  The current poem is attributed to him… I was unable to find the Portuguese version.  Enjoy this poem by one of Africa’s greatest sons.


… No, Poetry …
Do not hide within the inscrutability of my soul
Do not run away from life itself.
Break the invisible bars of my prison,
Open wide the doors of my being
– Come out…
Come out to struggle (life is a struggle)
The men outside call for you,
And you, Poetry, you are also a Man.
Love everyone’s poetry,
– Love Men
Let your poems flow to every race, to all things.
Merge with me …
Oh Poetry,
Take my arms to embrace the World,
Give me your arms to embrace Life
I am my own Poetry.
Amilcar Cabral Poem, 1946

“Ilha” de Amilcar Cabral / “Island” by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

January 20th, 2013 marks 40 years since the murder of the Father of Bissau-Guinean and Cape-Verdean independence: Amilcar Cabral.  Africa today is still mourning the loss of one of his greatest sons.  I thought it would be nice to publish one his poems.  Yes… Amilcar Cabral was not just an agronomic engineer, or an independentist, or a freedom fighter, he was also a nature lover and a great writer.  Enjoy! One can already guess that the following poem is about the island of Cape Verde. (The English translation was taken from, ”AMILCAR CABRAL, Freedom fighter,1924-1973“, by Carlos Pinto Santos)


Tu vives — mãe adormecida —

nua e esquecida,


batida pelos ventos,

ao som de músicas sem música

das águas que nos prendem…


teus montes e teus vales

não sentiram passar os tempos,

e ficaram no mundo dos teus sonhos

— os sonhos dos teus filhos —

a clamar aos ventos que passam,

e às aves que voam, livres

as tuas ânsias!


colinas sem fim de terra vermelha

— terra bruta —

rochas escarpadas tapando os horizontes

mas aos quatro cantos prendendo as nossas ânsias!



Mother, in your perennial sleep,

You live naked and forgotten

and barren,

thrashed by the winds,

at the sound of songs without music

sung by the waters that confine us…


Your hills and valleys

haven’t felt the passage of time.

They remain in your dreams

– your children’s dreams –

crying out your woes

to the passing winds

and to the carefree birds flying by.

Island :

Red earth shaped like a hill that never ends

– rocky earth –

ragged cliffs blocking all horizons

while tying all our troubles to the winds!


“Regresso” or “Mamãi Velha” by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral was not only an agronomic engineer, or a freedom fighter, or the father of Bissau and Cape-Verde independence, but he was also a poet… like Che Guevarra or Sankara… he was a visionary with a poetic mind.  In the following lines, you will read the poem ‘Regresso‘ also known as ‘Mamãi Velha‘ which was sung by the Cape-Verde singers Cesaria Evora (appeared in album Sao Vicente di Longe (2001)), and Isa Pereira.


Old mama, come and let’s listen
To the beat of the rain against the door
It’s a friendly beat
That pounds in my heart

The rain, our friend, old mama
The rain that hasn’t been falling this way
In a long time I heard that Cidade Velha
The entire island becomes a garden
In just a few days

I heard that the country is covered in green
The most beautiful colour
The colour of hope
That now, the soil really looks like Cape Verde
Peace has now replaced the storm

Come old mama, come
Regain your strengths and come to the door
The rain, our friend, sends its salvation
And can beat in my heart


Mamãi Velha, venha ouvir comigo
o bater da chuva lá no seu portão.
É um bater de amigo
que vibra dentro do meu coração.

A chuva amiga, Mamãi Velha, a chuva
que há tanto tempo não batia assim…
Ouvi dizer que a Cidade Velha,
– a Ilha toda –
em poucos dias já virou jardim…

Dizem que o campo se cobriu de verde,
da côr mais bela, porque é a côr da esp’rança.
Que a terra, agora, é mesmo Cabo Verde,
– É tempestade que virou bonança…

Venha comigo, Mamãi Velha, venha
recobre a força e chegue-se ao portão.
A chuva amiga já falou mantenha
e bate dentro de meu coração.