Sunday, August 24, 2008

Capitães de Abril

I just finished watching Capitaes de Abril (2000) about the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Lisbon. It was a little long and would only be interesting to those who like Portuguese history- or Luso-African history - like me. The film placed the colonial wars in Mozambique and Angola at the center of the revolution; the opening scenes were gory shots of villages destroyed by war. The wars in Africa seem to the Portuguese what Vietnam was to Americans. Young men who didn't necessarily believe in keeping the colonies, went sent off to a far away place with the real possibility of dying. What's remarkable about the events of April 24, 1974, is that they were almost entirely peaceful. Soldiers placed flowers in their guns to prove their intent to keep peace. Of course the success of the army's ousting of the fascist dictatorship meant the colonial wars were soon over. While the Portuguese in Lisbon crowded the streets with joy, thousands and thousands of Portuguese from the colonies were not so overjoyed. Overnight, their way of life was over. Many of them had never even been to Portugal. This event is extremely important to the histories of Mozambique and Angola. For them, it meant independence- although not a peaceful one. Both countries soon fell into civil wars.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Last of the African Kings by Maryse Conde

I just recently finished "The Last of the African Kings" by Maryse Conde. I picked it up because it addresses a topic which interests me: what is the relationship of African-Americans to the African Diaspora elsewhere? In this story, the king of Benin is exiled in Martinique and leaves behind a child. The child is well aware of his father's heritage, he is expected to be royal, but can't get up the energy to be anything but a loafer(Conde's words, not mine). All his descendants fall into the same trap. Spero, the last in this royal line, marries an African-American from Charleston who seems attracted only to her husband's ancestry. Conde seems to criticize those American who cling too tightly to Africa. Spero scoffs at his wife's back-to-Africa tendancies and their daughter's flight to Benin is viewed as a tragedy, even though she's there for a good cause. Conde has been compared to V.S. Naipul for her criticism of the former colonies and her lack of condemnation of the colonizers. The King, of course, hates the French for taking away his kingdom and denying him a proper funeral in Benin. But the descriptions of his desired funeral include salves, wives and concumbines being buried alive to join him in death. Not a positive picture of African royalty. It didn't answer all the questions I had on the topic, but it was one author's vision and it was interesting.