Singing Angola’s Hope
Two days ago, Jiseon was kind enough to invite me to this special event held at Inter-burgo Hotel right here in Korea. Unfortunately, my lack of thinking left me an hour late to the event because I had not realized there were TWO Inter-burgo Hotels. Needless to say I was verklempt as I arrived, frazzled from rushing over and jumping into a cab after my hour-long bus ride to the wrong hotel.
My brain couldn’t register fast enough that Koreans were speaking to me in Spanish and I had to remind myself that Jiseon had mentioned that a lot of her faculty from the university she works in would be there. The Centro Cultural Español was also in the hotel, so there were various Spanish speakers regardless of the fact that the event was about Angola’s ex-president’s poetry officially being translated into Korean.
It was such a fun night, chatting with people in both English and Spanish, and the usual beginner sentences I know in Korean. I met the most fascinating people – a high school student (sipping some wine btw) who had traveled alone through Turkey, and other various countries, who was just there to talk to foreigners and practice his English and Spanish. And I said to him, “Umm shouldn’t you be at home studying for the most important day of your life tomorrow?!”. The university entrance exam, aka most important day of their life that the rest of the student body in Korea has the day off or starts school late. With such swag, this kid is like “No, I’m not gonna take it (insert twinkle in eye), I am going to UCLA next year”. So of course I was like “Woooow, did you get in?”. His reply? “No, but I plan to, I am a song writer and composer, I’ve been in a band and I know a staff member at UCLA”. Daaaaaang.
I’m interested in visiting the Centro Cultural Español again. It officially opened in August, 2001, having 3 lecture rooms, a library, and the gallery. The cultural center hosts the Spanish test carried out by Cervantes Institute in Spain, DELE, and conducts various cultural activities The library in the center is open to the public, and some profits of the center go to cultural activities.
António Agostinho Neto
The event was put together by the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Angola in Korea, the Embassy of Angola (Inter-burgo Group), and the Centro Cultural Español. It aimed to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the first and late Angolan President António Agostinho Neto. The book “Sagrada Esperança” was translated by the department of foreign studies from Hankuk de Seul University and it was released 1000 copies for the Korean public. To give you a taste of his poetry, this is taken from a review of his English translated book, Sacred Hope:
By 1955 Neto had become politically prominent at the head of a movement representing young people throughout the Portuguese colonies. He was rewarded with two and a half years in prison and was released only due to international pressure on Portugal’s fascist Government. In 1958 he finally qualified as a doctor and returned to Angola the following year to start practising medicine – and also to dedicate himself to the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), whose leader he became in 1962 after a further two years in prison.
By then his poetry had become inseparably tied up with the liberation movement. One of his MPLA colleagues later wrote: ‘The slim volume of Agostinho Neto’s poetry gave us the opportunity to see the close relationship between the people and the poet. Poetry of consequence. On its arrival in Luanda, almost the entire edition was absorbed by the population living in the musseques in a single afternoon. When the police came to seize the book, there was not one copy left . . . His poetry became a banner, red as acacias’.
Neto’s Marxism shows through most in his sense that Angola’s, and beyond it Africa’s, liberation was historically inevitable. He it was who coined the phrase ‘Victory is Certain’, since adopted by other revolutionary movements around the world. And that belief resounds from some of his greatest lines, written from a jail cell in 1960:
Here in prison
rage contained in my breast
I patiently wait
for the clouds to gather
blown by the wind of History
can stop the rain.
I wish I could read the poems fully in English, but as of right now I could only find them in Portuguese.