ALA - African Literature Association

  • Raquel Ribeiro (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Abstract “Memórias, Íntimas: Marcas – a transnational dialogue between Cuba, Angola and South Africa in the aftermath of the Angolan War” Although the civil war afflicting Angola (1975-2002) is widely acknowledged as a critical Cold War engagement, much of its cultural impact remains under-researched. Cuba’s military presence after Angolan independence in 1975, supporting, along with the Soviet Union, the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) against the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), supported by the Apartheid South-African army, transformed the trajectory of the war. Moreover, it fostered an unprecedented cultural encounter between the two countries, played out through novels, testimonies, films, and visual arts over four decades. This paper draws on memory and trauma studies to analyze an unique cultural representation of this encounter, the triangular and transnational dialogue established between three visual artists – a Cuban (Carlos Garaicoa), an Angolan (Fernando Alvim) and a South-African (Gavin Younge) – entitled Memórias, Íntimas, Marcas. The project was mentored by the Angolan Fernando Alvim and it entailed spending 21 days in situ in Cuito Cuanavale in 1997, a city which, between 1987 and 1988, was the site of the bloodiest and longest battle in the history of the African continent (some call it “Black Stalingrad”), opposing the MPLA troops (backed by the Soviets and the Cubans) to UNITA’s (along with the South African army). The three artists (Alvim, Garaicoa and Younge) worked together and developed a series of installations (photography and documents of the devastated city, abandoned and derelict buildings, and installations later developed in/for a gallery). The first exhibition was in Luanda, but the project travelled to South Africa, where it incorporated more research, more collaboration between the artists who lived in residence in Cape Town for two months, where they thus presented another exhibition. The project then travelled to Johannesburg and, after, to Pretoria, at the end of 1998, involving more South African, Angolan and Cuban artists. This paper will focus on the transnational nature of the project, mainly on its first part (Luanda-Cape Town), resorting to Michael Rothberg’s theory of Multidirectional Memory, which aims at challenging the homogenisation of memory (victors vs. losers, powerful vs. voiceless), and explain how the project Memórias, Íntimas, Marcas, which gathers artists from three countries (Angola, Cuba, South Africa) involved in a decade-long bloody and violent conflict such as the Angolan war, managed to put Rothberg’s theory “in practice”. The aim of this paper is to question how culture and art can contribute to issues of reconciliation and politics of memory, especially when “official history” could still not address those issues. In so doing, Memórias, Íntimas, Marcas could be taken as a ground-breaking work in dealing with resentment, trauma, and displacement in post-conflict societies, in order to address “against the grain” (W. Benjamin) the way history is officially told by victors or winners of a conflict. By asking how memories of this exchange inform culture and identity in post-war Angola and Cuba, this paper also aims at questioning how cultural expressions (literature or the visual arts) can contribute to creating a narrative of post-war reconciliation.
Period5 Jun 2015
Event typeConference
LocationBayreuth, GermanyShow on map