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Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Travel Diary: Antonio Thompson Gets To Know Guinea-Bissau—the Birthplace of Revolutionary Amílcar Cabral

"Guinea-Bissau represents, to me, the meaning of family and the distance we can travel when kindness is the language spoken."

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, Antonio Thompson links with us again sharing the faces and places he came across in Guinea-Bissau after reconnecting with his homeland Cape Verde for the first time.

During my final few weeks in Cape Verde, I attended a party where, by chance, I met a couple from Guinea-Bissau. I knew this was a good sign: just a few weeks prior, I purchased an inexpensive flight there and planned to stay for just one week. After a great conversation, they promised to put me in touch with someone named Baltazar who lived in Bissau, the capital city.

Up to that point, the most I knew of Guinea-Bissau was its shared history with Cape Verde: both countries were once colonized by Portugal; then led to independence by the revolutionary Amílcar Cabral, who was assassinated in 1973. Going to another country with my still-developing Portuguese and such little background information was exciting, if not naïve. Thus, the idea that someone would help me during my travels there was a relief.


As it later turned out, Baltazar, his wife Janete and their daughter Mila embraced me instantly with a selflessness, generosity, and kindness that one expects to receive from family. Their love for Guinea-Bissau and willingness to teach me all about the country's history, food and diverse ethnic groups and cultures inspired me to extend my trip from one week to one month. During this time, I traveled off the beaten trek, through much of the country's lush, green landscape and across its clay terrain. Most notably, I spent time in Bafatá—the birthplace of Cabral. With its storied past as a major center for commerce and trade, it is today a town whose residents are hopeful that the hollow streets will one day see good fortune and opportunity return.

This trip also coincided with the 2018 midterm election season in the United States—a time fraught with division and debate over borders, "belonging," and identity. As an outsider welcomed so heartily by strangers who brought me into their home to ensure my safety and comfort in an unfamiliar land, Guinea-Bissau represents, to me, the meaning of family and the distance we can travel when kindness is the language spoken.

Here are images of the scenes and wonderful people that I came across in Bissau and Bafatá.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

The Banjaqui family: Janete, Mila, and Baltazar. Through a chance introduction by a brother of Baltazar's in Cape Verde, this family became my family, showing me all over Guinea-Bissau, introducing me to its many customs, rituals, and foods, and reinforcing my hope in the kindness that the world can bring.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Candelária, the center of Roman Catholicism in Guinea-Bissau. Located close to the Port of Bissau by the old city, it also functions as a lighthouse.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

​The town of Bafatá is the birthplace of Amílcar Cabral, the revolutionary of Cape Verdean descent who led Guinea-Bissau to independence. Here is the Port of Bafatá at dusk, where the Rio Geba meets the Rio Colufi.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Old architecture and ruinous structures abound Guinea Bissau, many that are adorned with PAIGC symbolism. PAIGC, a Portuguese acronym that translates to African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, is the political party co-founded by Cabral that led Guinea-Bissau to independence, which is still active today.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Entrance to the old marketplace in Bafatá. Once a vibrant, thriving center for trade, only a handful of merchants keep shop here.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Mr. Braima Fati, who was born and raised in Bafatá, continues to sell clothing and goods in the old marketplace and is one of only a few merchants. "I remember what it was like and I long for those days to return, which is why I continue to work here."

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Palm trees are a major crop in Guinea-Bissau, which grow in abundance on the property of Ms. Suncar Sambu Djata, a lifelong resident of Bafatá, pictured here with her daughter. This enables her to produce palm-derived products, including palm oil and palm wine.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Suncar's daughter Lidia, who tugged at the lanyard on my camera, prompting an impromptu photo shoot. With her bright, beaming smile and infectious laugh, she's a natural in front of the camera.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

The ladies of the Balde family are lifelong residents of Bafatá, and members of the Fula ethnic group, one of the largest in Guinea-Bissau. Pictured here are Djenabu (front) with her daughters Umo Cairo, Tulai, Assimau, and Laba.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

I met Inilza during my first morning breakfast at a bistro in Bissau, where she worked as a waitress, filling in the blanks of my still-imperfect Portuguese with English translations. Kind, helpful, and driven, her dream is to become a judge or lawyer, a goal that fuels a rigorous work and study schedule. She moved to Portugal for a 5-year law program just last month, her first time traveling out of West Africa that's bringing her closer to achieving that goal. "I miss my family terribly, but I know this is what I have to do in order to reach my dreams."

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Soccer is arguably the most popular past time in Guinea-Bissau. Pictured here are Ussumane and Abide—two incredible young soccer players that I met in Bairro D'Ajuda, a neighborhood in Bissau.

Photo by Antonio Thompson.

Roger, Danielson, and Saco: three best friends from Bandim, a neighborhood in central Bissau.

Antonio Thompson is a Harlem-based artist and photographer, with a passion for storytelling. His mission is to humanize unseen people and places. Follow him on Instagram: @antonio.thompson.

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Listen to Samthing Soweto’s Album ‘Isiphithiphithi’

Samthing Soweto's highly anticipated album is finally here.

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Isiphithiphithi by Samthing Soweto is finally here.

The South African artist's project consists of 12 songs and features Makhafula Vilakazi, Shasha, Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa and Mlindo The Vocalist.

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South African Telenovela 'The River' has Been Nominated for an International Emmy

This is the popular telenovela's first International Emmy nomination.

One of South Africa's beloved telenovelas, The River, has received its first ever International Emmy nomination in the category of "Best Telenovela", according to IOL. The River will go up against other telenovelas from Columbia, Argentina as well as Portugal. The 47th installment of the International Emmy Awards will take place on November 25th of this year and will be held at the Hilton in New York.

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Photo (c) John Liebenberg

'Stolen Moments' Uncovers the Namibian Music That Apartheid Tried to Erase

The photo exhibition, showing at the Brunei Gallery in London, highlights artists from Namibia's underground scene between 1950-1980, a time of immense musical suppression prior to its independence.

Before its independence in 1990, a whole generation of Namibians were made to believe that their county had no real musical legacy. Popular productions by Namibian artists from previous eras were systematically concealed from the masses for nearly 30 years, under the apartheid regime—which extended to the country from South Africa following German colonization—depriving many Namibians of the opportunity to connect with their own musical heritage.

"Stolen Moments: Namibian Music Untold," a new exhibit currently showing at London's Brunei Museum at SOAS University of London, seeks to revive the musical Namibian musical traditions that the apartheid regime attempted to erase.

"Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country," said the exhibit's curator Aino Moongo in a statement of purpose on SOAS' site. "Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country's former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country's musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

The 'Stolen Moments" project began in 2010 in an effort to champion Namibia's unsung musical innovators. For the collection, Moongo and Assistant Curator, Siegrun Salmanian—along with a group of international scholars, artists, photographers and filmmakers—curated a large-scale photo exhibit that also features a 120-minute video projection, focusing on the dance styles of the era, along with listening stations, a sound installation that features "100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses," and displays of record covers and memorabilia from the period between 1950-1980.

The musicians highlighted, produced work that spanned a number of genres—a marker of the country's vast and eclectic underground scene. Artists like the saxophonist Leyden Naftali who led a band inspired by the sounds of ragtime, and the psychedelic rock and funk of the Ugly Creatures are explored through the exhibition, which also centers bands and artists such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto and more.

"There are many reasons why you've never heard this music before," Moongo continues. "It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs


Photo (c) John Liebenberg

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"Stolen Moments" is now showing at the Brunei Gallery in London and runs through Sept 21.

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Foul Language and Depictions of Rape Spur a Book Recall Campaign in Kenya

Kenya's Top Book seller pulls a South African book for youth due to foul language.

A main book supplier in Kenya, Text Book Centre, has announced that they would not stock a book due to its "vulgar and foul language." The book, Blood Ties, was written by South African author Zimkhitha Mlanzeli. The banning comes just after a video went viral in Kenya of a school child having a verbal outburst peppered with strong language. As reported by BBC, the removal was sparked by parents showing outrage after excerpts from the book were shared on twitter. These excerpts contained use of the f-word as well as a description of a rape scene.

As per their statement, the Text Book Centre claims they believe in "upholding high moral standards and raising generations of responsible citizens who are not only educated but ethical." The Kenyan publisher, StoryMoja, has defended the book in a statement of their own. They argue that the book is part of a new series showcasing books that deal with "contemporary societal issues" and that this particular book is a fictional story that grapples with the negative repercussions of peer pressure. "In actual fact, the book guides readers on the steps to take should they find themselves in a similar situation and underscores the sensitivity with which victims of sexual abuse should be treated." The statement also highlights the fact that the publishers had listed Blood Ties for readers in high school or above.


The discrepancy is that some schools have recommended the book as a reader – meaning for younger children aged 12 or 13 – though it has not been approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curricular Development (KICD), the entity in charge of managing texts used in schools. In a tweet, the KICD claimed that the book was not approved and that some teachers may be recommending texts without ensuring they were endorsed by the KICD. The dispute is sparking debate as to what should be taught in Kenyan schools.

As of late this morning, StoryMoja is in the process of recalling all copies of the book from stores and schools across Kenya. In a tweet they claim that it is because they have determined the language used in the book is the issue and not the subject matter.

Censorship is always a contested topic, just last month we reported on Nigerian authorities censoring a music video for "threatening security." Also, Kenya's censorship tactics have been in the global eye since a refusal to screen the film Rafiki for its homosexual heroines despite being lauded at international film festivals.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans on Twitter:





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