poema

Image credit: Cristiano Mangovo.

by Agostinho Neto

December, 1949

When the Gods found out that she existed on Earth they were filled with jealousy and rage, because those that knew her no longer thought about Gods anymore…

So they tied her up and took her to the top of the Monte da Morte, where they execute the noblest victims of the wrath of the Gods, the most dangerous rivals of their glory…

They tied her to a granite boulder with steel chains as thick as the palm tree trunk, and released above her the sacred vulture that served against the accused, to devour her heart and empty her eyes… those eyes that had taken from the cult of the Gods the sunlight and all light…

No one could climb the Monte or break the steel chains as thick as palm tree trunk, because the jealousy of the Gods had unleashed their fiercest rage…

For a long time the black vulture flew above the rocks and I, on the plateau, impotently watched, full of fear and confusion the slow circular flight that was tightening and lowering… until the black vulture got ahead of itself and disappeared from my sight. 

So I fell to the ground, and held my head in my arms so as to not hear her screams; but she did not scream, because she was braver than the vulture and all of the Gods…


Editor’s Note: The story of the Casa dos Estudantes do Império

Mensagem was a monthly news bulletin created in 1948 by the student association: Casa dos Estudantes do Império (CEI), (House of Students from the Empire) in Lisbon, Portugal. The circular mainly relayed the different activities happening in the house, opinion pieces on lectures and independent works created by the members.

The CEI was founded under Portuguese Prime Minister António Salazar’s authoritarian rule, in 1944, to essentially control students arriving from the colonies to study, by inspiring Portuguese nationalism and solidifying imperial mentalities. At first, students who lived in the house were mostly white Africans from Angola and Mozambique primarily and black students were often turned away.

As more and more black Africans and figures of resistance passed through its doors throughout the years, including Antonio Agostinho, author of the story above, Amilcar Cabral, Lucio Lara and several others, the general attitudes of the house shifted. It’s members became fiercely critical of the colonial systems overseas as well as the fascist ‘Estado Novo’ in Portugal.

Members of the CEI in 1964, featuring Antonio Agostinho Neto (middle row, fourth from left)

The house evolved from its original purpose to become the Portuguese birthplace of African nationalism.

It not only inspired the desire to understand and validate the original cultures of the colonised countries, but became the place where future political African leaders and liberation advocates from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome, would systematically meet to debate and discuss matters relating to imperialist exploitation and above all, liberation for their brothers and sisters. 

The house closed its doors in 1965.

(1949-1952), “Mensagem”, nº 11, Ano II, Maio de 1949 – Dezembro de 1949, Fundação Mário Soares / Associação Casa dos Estudantes do Império, Disponível HTTP: http://www.casacomum.org/cc/visualizador?pasta=11124.001.005 (2020-6-7)

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