Saturday, July 23, 2011
Museu da Tentativa
Last week we took a trip to Caxito, about two hours north of Luanda. We visited the Museu da Tentativa. Tentativa was the name of a sugar plantation and the museum held a few artifacts from what life might have been like there about 100 years ago. There weren´t actually very many artifacts. There was a guide at the museum, who was actually very cool and led us through the rooms and told us what he could about the old photographs, tools, plantation uniforms and the history of the place. In some ways I found it strange, this Angolan talking about a colonial plantation in such an objective manner. He didn´t say anything negative about the Portuguese, or about how difficult things must have been for the Angolans forced to work on the plantation. Sugar farming is extremely labor-intensive and dangerous. Fire, machetes and cane presses do not make a safe environment for anyone.
We have plantation museums in the US. While the tours I´ve been on do discuss slavery, and no one tries to excuse it, they also contain a certain amount of nostalgia. An uncomfortable nostalgia. And I have never seen an African-American tour guide working on a plantation museum. I wondered if our tour guide at the Tentativa was holding back what he really thought because he didn´t trust that we would understand. But one had only to look at the pictures on the wall to understand. (I´m sorry the quality is so bad, there was a huge glare.)
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