Poesia Negra

Image credit: Rafaela Ricardo.

Poesia Negra in the Portuguese language: Introduction, by Mario Pinto de Andrade


For a full characterisation of authentic Poesia Negra, much is missing: the problem goes beyond the literary domain and requires ample support from all of the human sciences. We will state now, somewhat vaguely, that the true Poesia Negra is a product of the indigenous negro from Africa. 

We see Poesia Negra mainly in songs, in the oral histories of families or tribes, in legends…

Folkloric poetry, resulting from a rhythmic experience of verse and popular music, represents in our case the repository of ancient black African traditions. Traditional black poetry cannot be understood if it is not integrated into the social frameworks in which the black man has moved. We see Poesia Negra mainly in songs, in the oral histories of families or tribes, in legends, in praises of ancestors and chiefs, in familial and social codes, in religious beliefs and interpretations of the phenomena of nature, in common aspirations, in everything that is a manifestation of the faithful and spontaneous ‘black soul’. This literary heritage of Black Africa, guarded in ‘human archives’ (almost always in the oldest of the collective) can only be sufficiently intuited in its native linguistic form.

Under European impositions, ‘black art’ is threatened. The transpositions of black folklore into European languages, made by lovers of ‘things from Africa’, in addition to signifying a loss of original authenticity, do not satisfactorily safeguard the expressions of the life of the black community. Today, black westernised men that have not lost all contact with this cultural heritage must revive the black African folk arts. We, therefore, agree with Cheikh Anta Diop that an ‘African Renaissance’ can only be founded in the progressive development of the native languages. In this respect, we can already highlight with great joy, the path traced by some French-speaking black poets and South Africans who have continued the black traditions; some writing in the French using parts of the ‘African soul’, and others even in the Bantu languages. Here is a new characteristic feature of Poesia Negra, the closest to ancient purity. Demonstrated by Poemas Africanos by Keita Fodeba and Cantos para Naett by Leopold Senghor.

Leia o texto em português.

Editor’s Note: Poesia Negra as a literary theme

Poesia negra as a literary theme emerged around 1925 in the Antilles and represents a synthesis of cultural and artistic traditions to create a new type of poetry.

Poesia negra de expressão portuguesa (1953) brings together the first collection of poems from Portuguese-speaking Africa (3), and presents a uniquely anti-colonial Portuguese-speaking African literary tradition.

Adapting traditional oral rhythms and onomatopoeic sounds into literary forms, the notebook represents in poetic form, a collective reality, and identity, for Portuguese-speaking Africans. 

Throughout the 1950’s, although only an estimated 25% of Africans spoke Portuguese, and most anti-colonialists expressed discomfort with their language assimilation, Portuguese had become, inevitably yet paradoxically, an instrument of politicisation and mobilisation of the masses.

The bond between literature and ideology became omnipresent. Journals like Mensagem regularly published the work of Noémia de Sousa, Mario Pinto de Andrade, and Agostinho Neto who worked tirelessly as poets and intellectuals, and as journalists and politicians.

Mario Pinto de Andrade

Poesia negra de expressão portuguesa is just one example of a collection of this type, marked by the quality, style, and language in the poems, but also for being the first of its kind in the Portuguese-speaking African world.

(1953), “”Poesia Negra de Expressão Portuguesa (Cadernos de Poesia)””, Fundação Mário Soares / Arquivo Mário Pinto de Andrade, Disponível HTTP: http://hdl.handle.net/11002/fms_dc_83530 (2020-5-16)

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