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ArribaAbajoIII. Lusophone African and Asian Literature

ArribaAbajo Lusofonia, Africa, and Matters of Languages and Letters
Russell G. Hamilton

Vanderbilt University


Portuguese, like other European languages, has had a paradoxical history in Africa. Starting as early as the fifteenth century, intensifying in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and reaching its peak in the 1950s with the birth of the nationalist/liberation movements in the five colonies, many of the relatively few Africans who had a command of Portuguese also evinced a love/hate relationship with the language of the colonizer. Assimilação, which became official policy in 1926 and in practice allowed relatively small, albeit socially and politically significant, numbers of Africans to become, in effect, black Portuguese, hinged first and foremost on the ability of the «native» to speak, read, and write the language of the colonizer. If historically some Africans flaunted their knowledge of Portuguese, by the 1950s many members of the indigenous intelligentsia, particularly those with anti-colonialist sentiments, were also uncomfortable with their linguistic assimilation; after all, Portuguese was not only an imposed language, it was also often an instrument of repression. As nationalist fever rose, many intellectuals evinced an increasingly nativistic, often nostalgic allegiance to their ancestral languages, even (or perhaps especially) when, as was often the case, Portuguese was the maternal language of these acculturated Africans.109

Beginning in the late nineteenth century Catholic and Protestant missionaries adapted the Portuguese and other Western alphabets to a number of the indigenous languages for the purpose of educating and indoctrinating African children in rural, church-run schools. By and large, however, European settlers and colonial officials scorned and at times suppressed the native tongues. Yet, over nearly five centuries the Portuguese met with quantitatively limited success in imposing their language on the indigenous populations of Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique. In Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé e Principe we might say that the European language took hold in the form of the Portuguese-based Creoles spoken as a first, second, or only language by a majority of the people (in the Cape Verde islands, for example, estimates put the number of people whose maternal and only language is Creole at about seventy percent of the total population). At the time of Angola's and Mozambique's independence only an estimated 25 percent of the African population in both countries spoke anything from rudimentary (the overwhelming majority) to relatively and completely fluent (only about 0.05 per cent) Portuguese. In urban areas, like Luanda and Lourenço Marques (today, Maputo), the language made early and quantitatively impressive inroads, including the indigenous working classes who spoke a kind of «black Portuguese», often ridiculed as pretoguês by settlers and members of the African and mestiço middle classes. Today, as Pepetela, Gabriela Antunes, and Bonavena state in an article titled «A Situação da Língua Portuguesa em Angola e a Literatura», «em Luanda praticamente toda a população fala o Português, excepto alguns refugiados de zonas do interior recentemente imigrados para a cidade...» (12).110

In the 1940s and 1950s, as the winds of political change began to blow across Africa, Portuguese was becoming, ironically, more, rather than less, important among socially conscious black, white, and mestiço intellectuals. Paradoxically, the colonizer's language served as an instrument of politicization and mobilization of the masses. It was Amílcar Cabral who declared that the most worthwhile thing the Portuguese left in Africa was their language. Cabral, the father of Cape Verdean and Guinean independence, was referring, of course, to Portuguese's role as a language that cut across ethno-linguistic   —611→   borders in the liberation movements and in the forging of modern nation-states. But if Portuguese has been the language of politicization, mobilization, and nation-building, it has also been the language of cultural revindication, primarily in the form of literary expression, and especially during the long liberation struggle. This aesthetico-emotional heritage would seem to belie the implicit claim of Portuguese as little more than a basically unemotive lingua franca in Africa.


The long and ambivalent history of the Portuguese language in Africa lies at the heart of lusofonia and the related matter of literary expression. Besides comprising the PALOP (Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa), the five African countries in question also belong to what is commonly called «Os Sete», referring, of course, to the seven nation-states, on three continents, whose official language is Portuguese (although neither Portugal nor Brazil is referred to as a país de lingua official portuguesa). Similar to Anglophone and Francophone, the adjective Lusophone is a fairly neutral term most often used in academic circles to label African literature in Portuguese: i. e., Lusophone African literature. The noun lusofonia, on the other hand, is modeled on francophonie, a word reputedly coined by General Charles de Gaulle and used by the famous Gallic statesman and fervent patriot to identify an ideological, mythic construct shared by diverse human groups and held together by the millennial force of a common language that conveys a historic and, of course, French-dominated macro-culture.

Of all the European colonizing peoples the French were perhaps the most ardent assimilationists in carrying out their «civilizing mission» in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa. In his book Mission to Civilize: The French Way, Mort Rosenblum writes: «Today a subtly structured empire, as rewarding as any in history, maintains France as a world power, perhaps the only cultural superpower, one that is based firmly and squarely on illusion. Freed of its colonies, it is master. Having killed hundreds of thousands in colonial wars, France is a Third World symbol of liberty, equality, and brotherhood» (4). To paraphrase one reviewer of Rosenblum's book, the French may have lost their colonies, but they retained their empire.111

No sooner had political independence come to Africa than neo-colonialism became a buzzword for these fragile, often unstable Third World countries' economic and political dependence on the former metrópoles. Africans and other Third World peoples, although they may desperately need and openly welcome developmental aid from abroad, may also fear economic exploitation and resent political meddling on the part of their former colonial masters. They are also wary of social, psychological, and cultural neo-colonialism, with all that such implies in aesthetic and emotional-ideological terms.

The Portuguese-speaking world has not attained the stature of a cultural superpower. First of all, the Portuguese language lacks the projection and prestige of French, which, although lately overtaken and surpassed by English as an international language, is historically the quintessential world language of culture and diplomacy. Its lesser international status notwithstanding, Portuguese does possess a «grand tradition», to say nothing of around 170 million speakers (granted, some are only nominally speakers of Portuguese) on five continents. Since independence, any number of Portuguese politicians, writers, and intellectuals seem to aspire to see their tiny nation at the center of a Lusophone cultural power, if not superpower. Since Lisbon lost its African colonies there has been a proliferation of official and semi-official organizations established to promote the Portuguese language and the culture of the Portuguese-speaking world.

Among the initiatives taken by one such organization, namely the Lisbon-based Instituto de Cultura e Língua Portuguesa (ICALP), is «Projecto Africa». With respect to this project to promote Portuguese-language instruction in the PALOP, undertaken between 1987 and 1989, Fernando Cristovão, ICALP's director, wrote eloquently that «a África lusófona é para nós, simultaneamente, uma parte de nós próprios e uma promissora realidade autónoma e soberana» (7). That the project to train Portuguese teachers in the former colonies was especially intensive in Guinea-Bissau may be due, in part, to the perceived encroachments of French on the tiny enclave sandwiched between the larger Francophone countries of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea.112

A measure of protectiveness, and maybe even defensiveness, has attended some recent efforts to enhance Portuguese's status as a multinational and international language. In November of 1989 the Sociedade de Língua Portuguesa   —612→   held, in Lisbon, a colloquium entitled «Lingua Portuguesa-Que Futuro?» The opening session dealt with «O Idioma Português nos Outros Países de Língua Portuguesa». Lindley Cintra, an eminent Portuguese linguist and one of the participants in the colloquium, declared that the ultimate defense against the eventual demise of the Portuguese language was Brazil. Agostinho da Silva, another prominent attendee, endorsed Cintra's statement with the avowal that «[n]unca sinto que a lingua portuguesa esteja em perigo quando estou no Brasil».113 And speaking of Brazil as a bulwark of the Portuguese language, nearly simultaneously with the Lisbon colloquium, the heads of state of «Os Sete» were gathering (José Eduardo dos Santos, Angola's President, could not attend, but sent a representative) in São Luís de Maranhão, the hometown of José Sarney, then President of Brazil. The occasion for this meeting was the establishment of the Instituto Internacional da Língua Portuguesa, whose stated purpose is to divulge and strengthen the common language in the seven countries and to develop among them cultural, educational, scientific, and technological exchange.

At that historic summit in Brazil, Mário Soares, Portugal's president, emerged as one of the most fervent advocates of the idea of a common, unifying language and the political imperative of enhancing Portuguese's presence in Asia (Macau, Goa, as well as East Timor) and especially in Africa. In fact, one of the most important questions posed at the colloquium was «does Portuguese have a future in Africa?»

Mário Soares may not be the Portuguese counterpart of Charles de Gaulle, but if he did not coin the word, he has used lusofonia in several of his public pronouncements, including a message sent to the assemblage of the Primeiro Congresso de Escritores de Língua Portuguesa, held in Lisbon in March of 1989. Soares assured the attendees that «o mundo da lusofonia, que contará na entrada do século XXI com mais de duzentos milhões de seres humanos, constitui hoje uma realidade poderosa que temos de saber afirmar e conferir o peso a que tem direito nos organismos e instituições internacionais» (5). The President's unabashed use of «o mundo da lusofonia» prefaces his allusions to the Portuguese-speaking community's power and rights. We might well infer from Mário Soares's words that he may indeed see himself as titular head of a cultural superpower in the making.

Until recently, for fear of offending citizens of its former colonies, no liberal Portuguese politician, and certainly not a socialist like Mário Soares, would have uttered lusofonia as a positive term. Perhaps a kind of glasnost has allowed for the term's legitimacy, if not its complete acceptance. Pires Laranjeira, aware of the term's lingering negative connotations, posed the question «A Lusofonia já Existe?» as the title of one of three short essays published under the general heading of «Língua Portuguesa -Um Elo de Ligação entre Que e Quem?» Laranjeira, in an apparent attempt to defuse the issue, provides an answer for his rhetorical question: «Pode ser neocolonialismo, mas se eu falo com um brasileiro e me entendo (porque falamos a mesma língua), a lusofonia existe, assim chamada, porque historicamente foi a língua portuguesa de Portugal que se emancipou primeiro». (11)

Rather than a historical accident, as Laranjeira suggests (he points out that if Galician had prevailed in the western Iberian Peninsula instead of Portuguese we might be talking today about galegofonia), the spirit of lusofonia, if not the term itself, may indeed be gaining acceptance, especially in the PALOP, because of more immediate, strategic reasons. To draw a parallel with French-speaking Africa, it is worth considering Lilyan Kesteloot's defense of Leopold Senghor's embrace of francophonie. According to Kesteloot, Senghor adopted francophonie as a strategy designed to give colonial Senegal status as a French satellite, similar to Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland, and to accord legitimacy to Francophone African literature (52-53). In assessing the famed poet-president's apparent contradictory cultural dualism, Kesteloot writes that «[s]trange as it may seem, Senghor never seems to have experienced negritude and francophonie in terms of alienation, or even in opposition to each other. So incomprehensible is this to his contemporaries that he has been accused of either assimilation or hypocrisy, depending upon whether he was being considered a victim or an accomplice in the process of cultural alienation». (53) Kesteloot goes on to refer to, and implicitly defend, «the comfortable ease that Senghor maintains between his African roots and his love of the French language...» (53).

Despite their obvious similarities, francophonie and lusofonia are not, of course, exact cultural and ideological analogues. Nor can Lusophone African cultural nationalism, in any of its forms, including Lusophone negritude itself, be compared with the Francophone variety as propounded by Senghor. And certainly we would be hard put to identify a Lusophone African   —613→   counterpart of Leopold Senghor. On the other hand, although there are no prominent advocates of lusofonia from Lusophone Africa, in recent times several of these countries' writers and intellectuals have made pronouncements on the Portuguese language and its affective, emotive significance to the evolving national cultures of the PALOP.

José Luandino Vieira, Angola's, and perhaps all of Lusophone Africa's, most celebrated writer of prose fiction, declared in an interview that the Portuguese language was «um troféu de guerra». Luandino apologized to his Portuguese interviewer for his spoils-of-war metaphor as he went on to explain that «morreram angolanos na guerrilha por estarem a ensinar a língua portuguesa. E, se calhar, ensinamos muitos mais angolanos a ler e escrever a língua portuguesa do que o estado colonial durante os anos em que infelizmente nos dominou» (9). The appropriation of the language of the colonizer, as a liberating act in the Caliban sense of using a counter discourse, characterized cultural revindication during the liberation struggle. For many writers and intellectuals in this post-independence era, claiming Portuguese as their own has taken on new meaning.

Cape Verde's language situation is especially illustrative with regard to this new sense of the PALOP's claims on Portuguese. Since independence a most articulate defender of creole as the national language of Cape Verde (meaning that it is spoken, in a variety of dialects, throughout the archipelago) has been Manuel Veiga. Veiga, from the leeward island of Santiago, earned a degree in applied linguistics in Paris and, in 1980, published his Diskrison Strutural di Lingua Kabuverdianu, a study written about and in an orthographically standardized Cape Verdean creole based on the Santiago dialect. In the book's preface Veiga writes (in Portuguese) that «se queremos desenvolver a nossa língua temos que servir-nos dela. Utilizando o português teríamos, com certeza um público muito mais vasto, mas isto apenas para a informação. O uso do crioulo, pelo contrário, não só reforça a sua prática, mas contribui para uma maior afirmação do seu valor» (20-21). Since he wrote those words Veiga appears to have modified his views somewhat on the Portuguese language's essentially informational and communicational status for Cape Verdean society. In «As 'matenhas' de Cabo Verde», sent by Veiga to JL, in his newly-assumed capacity as the journal's correspondent in Cape Verde, the linguist states that «entendo, também, que o melhor instrumento para nós partilharmos com os portugueses o universo cabo-verdiano é igualmente a língua de Camões, a 'pátria' de Fernando Pessoa, a qual, hoje, reclamamos, a título de co-propriedade» (31).114


Much of the African claim to Portuguese as more than a lingua franca revolves around the question of literature. Thus it comes as no surprise that Manuel Veiga, in the above-quoted statement, evokes the names of Camões and Fernando Pessoa as markers of the Portuguese language's historic grandeur. What may come as something of a surprise is Veiga's assertion that Cape Verdeans have co-property rights to the language and, by extension, to those paragons of Portuguese literature.

To put matters into historical perspective, during the liberation struggle, the majority of socially conscious Lusophone African writers, even those who embraced the most romantic form of cultural revindication or spoke out with the most militant protest poetry, did not renounce Portuguese as the language of African nationalist, literary expression. What many did do, however, was apply a kind of political litmus test to those who would presume to be or whom others would characterize as writers of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Principe, Angola, and Mozambique. In the last decade and a half there has been a more inclusionary attitude, particularly among those who came of age after independence, with respect to who should be considered a Lusophone African writer. (It might strain the limits of inclusion, however, to count Camões and Fernando Pessoa among Lusophone African writers).

The situation is still in a state of flux as those with the power to set or at least influence the limits of national literary canons jockey for position and search for answers. One of the key questions has been whether it is possible to have an authentic Cape Verdean, Guinean, São Tomense, Angolan, or Mozambican literature in Portuguese; given the fact that such national literatures already exist, the answer, at least for the time being, would seem to be an unequivocal «yes». The acceptance of Portuguese as the principal mode of expression for the national literatures of the PALOP has thus given rise to the increasing avowals, in the 1980s, of co-ownership of that language and the resulting accommodation of the PALOP under the umbrella of lusofonia.


The principal saving graces of this accommodation are that, remembering Luandino's spoils-of-war metaphor, the language was won with sacrifice and that its appropriation has involved inscribing it with cultural marks that turn it into five uniquely African modes of expression. The gradual and inevitable moving away from urgent cultural revindication, racial essentialism, and political tendentiousness that heretofore set ideological standards for inclusion and exclusion have afforded post-independence writers increasingly greater latitude in their use of language.

In sum, today there seems to a growing belief among African writers that they have so changed and enriched English, French, and Portuguese that these languages are now as much African as they are European. Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, the Kenyan novelist and playwright, wrote in his Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature: «If in these essays I criticize the Afro-European (or Euro-African) choice of linguistic praxis, it is not to take away from the talent and genius of those who have written in English, French or Portuguese. On the contrary, I am lamenting a neo-colonial situation which has meant the European bourgeosie once again stealing our talents and geniuses as they have stolen our economies. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Europe stole art treasures from Africa to decorate their houses and museums. In the twentieth century Europe is stealing the treasures of the mind to enrich their languages and cultures...» (xii). Although Ngugi, who has pledged henceforth to produce literature only in his native Gikuyu, overstates his case, there is ample evidence to support the contention that Lusophone Africa has contributed to the enrichment of an expanded corpus of Afro-Luso-Brazilian literature, as well as to the international projection of the Portuguese language.115 But perhaps more important in the politics of language, at least in Lusophone Africa, is, starting in the 1980s, the propensity toward thematic and aesthetic flexibility that younger writers, and even some influential older ones, have evinced.

This post-independence flexibility has opened the door to even greater rhetorical experimentation than characterized the late colonial period, during which some writers consciously distorted the language of the colonizer in aesthetic acts of cultural resistance. José Craveirinha comes immediately to mind with respect to an all-out, but well-crafted, assault on the language of Lusophone Africa's acculturated poetic discourse. Craveirinha's use of bold, sometimes surrealistic imagery in pre-independence poems like «Quero ser Tambor», «Hino à Minha Terra», and «Lustro à Cidade» has influenced a whole new generation of Mozambican poets.

Luís Carlos Patraquim, Hélder Muteia, Mia Couto, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, Armando Artur, and Eduardo White are among those poets and fiction writers, born between 1953 and 1964, who cultivate a new Mozambican nativism, but one whose appeal is international in scope. The telluric bent of their writing, replete with a tropical sensualism, reflects the liberation of the language of artistic expression. In the poetry of Patraquim, Muteia, Artur, and White the Indian Ocean, which forms Mozambique's eastern border, has become something of a nature icon. Experiments with language, including a reincorporation of traditional orature into writing, have produced, in effect, an iconography that transforms the totemic elements borrowed from the indigenous cultures.

Angola mirrors Mozambique with respect to new literary discourses, from the poetry of David Mestre, Arlindo Barbeitos, Jofre Rocha, Manuel Rui, and Rui Duarte de Carvalho, among those born in the 1940s, to that of Bonavena, Rui Augusto, José Luís Mendonça, Paula Tavares, and Ana de Santana, all born in the 1950s and 1960s. These younger poets, in particular, have broken the rules of traditional acculturation and political tendentiousness to cultivate, like their Mozambican counterparts, a kind of tropical sensualism.

Angola excels, quantitatively and qualitatively, in prose fiction, especially in the forging of a new language in the crucible of standard Portuguese, colloquial Angolan Portuguese (flavored as the latter is by so-called black Portuguese), and the imposing presence of indigenous languages like Kimbundu and Umbundu. In the 1960s Luandino first brought this language melange to artistic fruition with his collections of short fiction. Luandino is one of a formidable group of Angolan writers, including Manuel Rui, Uanhenga Xitu, Boaventura Cardoso, and Pepetela, who have moved into the mainstream of Portuguese-language writing.

Contemporary Lusophone Africa's most prolific novelist, in a 1988 interview titled «Pepetela e a guerrilha da escrita», characterizes Angola's culture as mestiça. In Pepetela's words, «[h]á uma herança européia -maioritariamente portuguesa- que se entrelaça com a africana e mesmo dentro desta há várias culturas. A cultura   —615→   angolana é, ou tende a ser, uma síntese não monolítica desta diversidade cultural»(7). True to his characterization of Angolan culture, Pepetela's works, especially his novels O Cão e os Caluandas and the soon-to-be published Lueji, are temporal and spatial remythifications in which the indigenous and the European are fused.

From its crystallization in the mid-1930s, Cape Verde's intellectual elite has had cultural, biological, and linguistic mestiçagem at the heart of its creole ethos. During the sixties and seventies, a group of young Cape Verdean writers and intellectuals challenged their elders' claim of island culture as an amalgam of the African and the European, but more the latter than the former. Even as these «Young Turks» cultivated black essentialism and called for a closer approximation to the African continent, they never completely disassociated themselves from the archipelago's time-honored creole ideology.

Under the banner of their «Pro-Culture Movement» a group of Cape Verdean writers, most in their twenties and thirties, led by the poet José Luis Hopffer Almada, came together, in the 1980s, to restate the creole ethos from the perspective of a younger, more cosmopolitan generation. And Manuel Veiga, in his aforementioned report on the founding of the Instituto Internacional de Língua Portuguesa, makes some informative observations with respect to bilingualism, diglossia, and literary expression in Cape Verde. If around thirty percent of the population are bilingual, meaning they are fluent in both Portuguese and creole, the majority of Cape Verdeans are diglossic. According to Veiga many diglossic speakers often do not know where the frontier exists between the two languages; thus, when these Cape Verdeans believe they are speaking Portuguese (because the occasion may call for the use of that language), they are in reality speaking a variant of creole. The conscious blurring of the frontier between the two languages has long had interesting, sometimes controversial implications for Cape Verdean literary expression. To put it succinctly, there have been those who favor creole-language literature for Cape Verde and those who believe that Cape Verdean Portuguese not only adequately captures the flavor of their cultural reality, its use also assures that the work in question will have a potentially wider readership.

Manuel Veiga is himself the author of Oju d'Agu (The Wellspring), a novel in Cape Verdean creole written with a slightly modified version of the International Phonetic Alphabet.116 It goes without saying that linguistically as well as sociolinguistically there is a closer relationship between a Portuguese-based creole and Portuguese than there is between the latter and indigenous African languages. Nevertheless, Veiga's views on Cape Verdean creole's synergistic coexistence with Portuguese is applicable, at least in political and cultural terms, to the perhaps more symbiotic language situation in the other Lusophone African countries. Basically, Veiga, calling on his training as a linguist, gives a unique twist to what might be termed a Lusophone African accommodation with Portuguese, especially in the literary realm. The linguist, who, we must keep in mind, is also the author of a novel in creole, states, in «Um Espaço Necessário para a Língua Portuguesa», that at the moment Portuguese is the «suporte mais representativo da produção literária caboverdiana...» (17). He suggests, of course, that in the future the situation might change and creole may become the principal language of Cape Verdean literary production. The unique twist that Veiga gives to his accommodationist views emerges in the position he takes in the above-mentioned article. According to Veiga, when Cape Verdean authors use creole to mold, sculpt, and lend ethnocentric feeling to dialogue they in no way compromise the integrity of their Portuguese-language narrative. On the other hand, this integrity does not apply -and here we remember Veiga's implicit condemnation of a diglossia that obliterates the frontier between the two languages- when writers, consciously or unconsciously, mix Portuguese structure with that of creole.

What is unique about Veiga's position is that he does not advocate total separation of the languages, which has been customary among many language purists in all of the PALOP. Instead of language purity, Veiga seeks to set the terms by which Cape Verdean creole and Portuguese should interact on an aesthetic and cultural plane. To a greater or lesser degree, setting the terms by which European, African, and creole languages relate to each other and how literary expression is deemed an authentic expression of a national group preoccupy writers and intellectuals in all five Lusophone African countries.


Among Africans and Africanists everywhere the debate over language and its relevance to literature continues unabated. Penina Muhando Mlama, a Tanzanian who writes in Kiswahili,   —616→   which is, of course, his country's national (in the true sense of the word) language, contributes some pertinent comments to the ongoing debate. In his «Creating in the Mother-Tongue: The Challenges to the African Writer Today», Mlama states that «many African governments do not have the political courage to resolve the question of indigenous languages and instead promote the assumed neutrality of English, French, or Portuguese in the name of national unity, which often does not exist in any case» (6). Because Mlama mentions Portuguese, he presumably includes one or more of the Lusophone African countries among those where no effort is made to resolve the question of indigenous languages. Mlama goes on to state, in fact, that «[f]orces of such governments have often been quick to brand writers who have written in their mother-tongues as 'tribal' and 'anti-national unity'» (6). Without acting as apologists for Lusophone Africa, we can state, categorically, that efforts are underway in those countries to resolve the question -if resolve means to standardize the alphabets and grammars of several indigenous languages and creoles and use them for instruction in the beginning grades.

Certainly, no official forces that we know of have attached the labels of «tribal» and «antinational unity» to those who write in indigenous African or creole languages in the PALOP. Perhaps there is no need for such nationalistic vigilance because so little literature is written in languages other than Portuguese. However, works in languages like Angola's Kimbundu, Mozambique's Sironga, and the creoles of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé e Príncipe are increasing in number and are bound to increase at a greater rate in the future, even as Portuguese becomes more established as the language of the five national literatures of the PALOP.

Mlama also makes mention of the role of multinationals in book production in Africa, a role, which he claims, favors works written in international languages. He is, of course, correct in his observation that the «choice to write in an African language is often a choice for obscurity and a renunciation of the international limelight that writing in English, French, or Portuguese could offer a writer» (7). If Mlama is suggesting, however, that for an Angolan or Mozambican, for example, to write in Portuguese is tantamount to selling out, then he misses the point. Throughout his article Mlama refers to English, French, and Portuguese as foreign languages; in most Lusophone African circles, Portuguese is rarely labeled as such. Many Lusophone African authors may indeed write with an international readership in mind, but most do not feel that they are using a foreign language. And this idea of legitimate co-ownership of an originally European language is undoubtedly a function of the uniqueness of the PALOP, especially in contrast with those countries, like Tanzania, where most citizens, including writers and intellectuals, speak an indigenous African language as their mother tongue.

Lusofonia, then, whether in terms of economic exploitation or cultural dominance, seems to be a moot point. The more pertinent point, with respect to language and letters, is that at this juncture most Lusophone African writers and intellectuals have gone beyond being resigned to their dependency on Portuguese; they have, in fact, replaced accommodation with an acceptance of the place of the former colonial language in their own political sovereignty and cultural autonomy.


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_____. Oju d'Agu. Praia: Instituto Caboverdiano do Livro, 1987.

_____. «As 'Mantenhas' de Cabo Verde». Jornal de Letras, Artes e Idéias (4 a 10 de Julho de 1989): 31.

_____. «Um Espaço Necessário para a Língua Portuguesa». Jornal de Letras, Artes e Idéias (26 de Setembro a 2 de Outubro de 1989): 17.

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