Image credit: Uanhenga Xito by Cristiano Mangovo.
Look my love at these savannas
in them a dark green
Look and listen to life
over the immense sensation
of being us
Look my love
and finally release
the call of certainty
because there’s no crime
in a cry for life
or a love that’s assumed.
Look my love at these savannas
the grassland of pregnant earth
from satiated mouths.
Look my love listen
this immense sensation
of being Us.
Editor’s note: Benguela, the city of ruby acacias
Costa Andrade’s first collection of poetry, titled terra de acaçias rubras and published by Casa dos Estudantes do Imperio in 1961, features this poem ‘confiança’. In it he references the Angolan city of Benguela; a place known as ‘the city of ruby acacias’ due to the abundance of acacia trees that grow there, flowering an orange-red hue in the summer months. This plant, native to Africa and Australia, usually erupts in a yellow flower, only known to provide a ruby colour in certain locations in Angola, the other one being the city of Moçâmedes in the province of Namibe.
Costa Andrade, also writing under aliases Angolano de Andrade, Nando Angola, Africano Paiva, and several others, references in ‘confiança’ the anharas (pronounced ‘an-YAH-ɾaʒ’); an Umbundu word loosely translated in English as savanna or tropical grassland, also abundantly present in Angola.
After much deliberation and consultation on the internet, the term anhara was finally translated to me by my Angolan mother (the eldest of the five sisters in the image on our About page), who told me of a nursery rhyme in Umbundu she can still record today. The song talks of an enslaved grandmother taking her family to run away into the ‘anhala’ to hide from their enslavers and live a life of freedom.
My research took this further, and led me to an extraordinary PhD thesis in linguistics, by Teresa Manuela Camacha José da Costa at NOVA University Lisbon. In it she proposes a dictionary of Umbundismos, explaining how the impact of the Portuguese language on local languages in Angola, and particularly Umbundu, created linguistic interferences. These are defined as code mixing (a practice I and my first-generation siblings and cousins are intimately familiar with), and relates to the mixing of two or more languages that happens mostly in speech; she designates these in her argument as ‘umbundization’ and ‘portugizing’.
In her thesis she quotes some thirty or so of these lexemes directly from Angolan literature, using examples of well-known writers such as Pepetela; but the bulk of this proposed dictionary, which includes at least one hundred other words, is quoted directly from observed speech.
One of these examples, anhara, described as a noun, and originating from the Umbundu word, anhala, holds a specific meaning: it references, and I’m translating from da Costa’s thesis, ‘an open and naturally deforested and humid plain, with low growing vegetation’. In my translation of ‘confiança’, I’ve chosen to translate this into the word ‘savanna’.
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