5 Cultural Suggestions — Namalimba Coelho
Every week, UMBIGO invites two people to share their 5 cultural suggestions. What can we do at home? From a book to a podcast, album or film: here are recommendations from artists, curators, gallery owners, cultural activists, friends.
We will share the recipe for what makes us better, and we remain united and positive.
Taking into account that the online world has no borders, and the planet is round, I propose to go beyond the Westernism of the cultural suggestions shared here, celebrating my Angolanity with some references that I consider worthy to be explored:
José Luandino Vieira
A masterpiece by the writer José Luandino Vieira, who has just reached the age of 85, Luuanda is a book of three short stories, published in 1963: Vavó Xíxi e seu Neto Zeca Santos, A Estória do Ladrão e do Papagaio e A Estória da Galinha e do Ovo. This historical book breaks with the Portuguese norm in Angolan literature, since the stories portray the cultural representation of the social and intergenerational, human and urban daily life of the Musseques of Luanda during the colonial era. More than reporting the behaviours and ideas, this book gives voice to Angolans, mixing Portuguese with countless words and expressions in Kimbundu, portraying the daily life of the people, beliefs and teachings, where the elders are seen as wise and the youngest as those who are still learning. It speaks of the issue of hunger, repression, unemployment, and the differences between social classes, until then segregated from literature.
The three stories are not to be missed, although I prefer Estória da Galinha e do Ovo, which narrates the dispute between two neighbors – nga Bina and nga Zefa – for the possession of an egg laid by the hen Cabíri, who belongs to nga Zefa, in nga Bina’s backyard, who is pregnant and has her husband in prison. The egg is claimed by both, affirming that they have a right over it. The conflict is resolved by two children – Beto and Xico – who, by imitating the cackling of a rooster, make the hen run away from the hands of the police, who had been called in to intervene, but who wanted to benefit from the whole situation. After that, nga Zefa decides to give up the egg and offers it to nga Bina.
Winner of several prizes, this small but giant book stirred a huge controversy and retaliation at the time it was published. Master Luandino deserves a bow for all his acts of bravery and historical achievements throughout his life and work.
Sambizanga – A Tribute to Sarah Maldoror
Sambizanga is an iconic 1972 film by director Maldoror, born in Guadalupe. This filmmaker of blackness, an anti-colonial militant, was one of the first women to make a feature film in an African country. Sarah died on April 13, 2020, in Paris, victim of coronavirus, at 91.
The film portrays the story of Domingos Xavier, an Angolan revolutionary activist, an inhabitant of Sambizanga (Luanda’s popular district). He was arrested by the PIDE, interrogated and tortured to death, suspected of belonging to the national liberation movement, which was at the origin of the events that took place on February 4, 1961 in Angola. The film is told from the point of view of Maria, Domingos’ wife, who travels through the city’s jails in something like a pilgrimage, in search of her missing husband, without imagining that he was already dead. Following the previous suggestion, this film is inspired by Luandino Vieira’s novel A Vida Verdadeira de Domingos Xavier.
Film online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJoYNJMVMr8
ANGOLA: 27th MAY 1977
Tens of thousands of Angolans (between 30.000 and 80.000) were violently tortured, sent to concentration camps and shot, without trial, dumped in mass graves or into the sea in the massacre after the alleged coup attempt that took place on this date. The victims were not only those people, but all those who, directly or indirectly, like me, suffered the consequences of this event, which changed the lives of thousands of families, mainly orphans, some having lost both their father and mother. The past has amputated us, but we are the present. After 43 years of shock, silence and indignation, the story must be told urgently, the truth must be ascertained, and the memory of the victims cannot but be honoured. Reconciliation in Angolan society is only possible with the recognition of the massacre, followed by a request for an official pardon from the Angolan government, the issuing of death certificates, and the construction of a memorial in honour of the victims. And that, in the future, the new generations will grow up knowing this historical fact, including it in school textbooks that tell the history of Angola. One year ago, in the exhibition Fronteiras Invisíveis, where I was curator (organized as part of ArcoLisboa2019), I challenged the artist Francisco Vidal to create a work/poster allusive to the 27th of May, where I had as a caption the phrase of Nina Simone that refers to this theme: “There is no excuse for the young people not knowing who the heroes and heroines are or were”. Memory being the conscience inculcated in time, the recovery of this event in the history of Angola is decisive for its national reconciliation.
CDA – Companhia de Discos de Angola / Estúdios Norte
In the late 1960s, Sebastião Coelho (journalist, radio broadcaster, music publisher and historian of Angolan popular music) created a radio and music label in Luanda, whose cultural and musical legacy deserves to be remembered, since it is at the root of the production of several discographies of artists and musical groups from the 1960s and 1970s, allowing to make a historical reconstruction of Angola’s musical past. More than a family legacy, this collection, composed by a hundred records released, is a tribute to Angolan popular music (and not only that) and a precious recollection – not only for the richness and diversity of the sounds that convey the rhythmic of the time, but also for the values and tradition revealed by the lyrics of the songs, some sung in national languages, and, of course, without ever forgetting the iconic aesthetics of the artworks that constitute their visual identity. CDA produced three iconic moments of the revolutionary discography, with the album Angola ano 1 by Carlos Lamartine, which went down in history as one of the most important discographic references of the protest song period, along with the emblematic LP Mutudi uá ufolo, a widow of the independence, by David Zé, and the album Independência by Alberto Teta Lando. The first instrumental record of the Angolan discography was recorded in 1975 at “Estúdios Norte” by Conjunto Merengue. Ngola Ritmos, Rui Mingas, Prado Paim, Nito Nunes, among others, are also part of this era, which we can remember in the musical selection I compiled on my YouTube channel:
Albinism and the Theatre Group that gives it a voice: ‘Excesso de Cor’
Since my childhood in Luanda I have followed this subject, having the privilege of being close to movements and initiatives that give it a voice. On June 13, we celebrate the International Albinism Awareness Day, to fight prejudice and demystify this genetic issue, which causes the total absence of pigmentation, making the bearer have very clear skin, eyes and hair. This makes the person extremely vulnerable. Besides a low visual acuity, the skin is deeply sensitive to the sun rays and is subject to skin cancer. There is also prejudice, social exclusion and superstition. The problems are accentuated in groups of albinos who do not have access to schooling, intellectual development, community and family support, and who live in poverty. About 1 in 18.000 people in the world have a type of albinism, which affects 1 in every 4.000 Africans. They are attacked, mutilated or killed by wizards and healers, as these people believe that their organs have magical powers, being sold for 550 euros. These atrocities have reached the north of Mozambique and several albino women are raped for believing they cure HIV. The country where these rituals are criminalised is rare. In Angola, albinos are banished from transportation and public places; at school they are segregated by teachers and colleagues; in the labour market they are forbidden to occupy certain positions; they are also refused hospital care, and some parents reject the paternity of albino children.
All initiatives are crucial to demystify albinism, and the theatre group Excesso De Cor does so on stage, where young albino actors are protagonists, who use the art of acting as a means of social intervention to fight prejudice, discrimination and superstition. In their plays, and in the web series they have just released, they tell real stories, lived in daily life, exposing social situations of stigma and superstition to which they are subjected, satirizing myths such as “albinos don’t die” or “they can’t marry each other”.
Link for the web series Excesso de Cor: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=2rPQNAZfprU
Namalimba Coelho (Luanda, 1976) completed a master’s degree and specialization in the area of Human Rights in Paris (Université Paris Nanterre and Université Panthéon-Sorbonne / Center Malher), and collaborated on projects linked to the United Nations and the International Criminal Courts. In 2003, she returned to Lisbon and exchanged law manuals for communication in the area of culture and the arts. Among the projects and institutions with which she collaborated, the Bienal Experimenta Design stands out; Gulbenkian Jazz Festival in August; Moda Lisboa – Lisbon Fashion Week; Ellipse Foundation; Temps D’Images – Visual and Performing Arts Festival; Fuso – Annual Lisbon International Video Art; Leal Rios Foundation; Uma Lulik Gallery; Macau Arts Festival; Platform / Gallery of Urban Art Underdogs; Imminent Festival, among other projects curated by Vhils; and exhibitions by African and Diaspora artists held in Lisbon, Luanda, Macau and Paris. As a press officer at the Berardo Collection Museum, since 2007, she has communicated more than a hundred exhibitions by national and international artists. She curated two individual exhibitions by the artist Francisco Vidal, within the scope of the ArcoLisboa2019 Art Fair and AKAA Paris2019, under the acronym N̶A̶M̶ x N̶o̶n̶ A̶l̶i̶g̶n̶e̶d̶ M̶o̶v̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶, which corresponds to the first three letters of its name, and which it uses as a poetic weapon of words, as a manifesto / critical and reflective attitude towards contemporary society.