Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 18:50:27 -0500
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: !*500th Anniversary of Portuguese colonialism in Africa
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Vasco da Gama ignored by Mozambicans today
17 January 1998
[publisher's note: I lack the author and source for this document]
According to the diary of the first voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, he landed two exiles at Inhambane in search of victuals. It was the first landing on the east coast of Africa after crossing the Cape. The good reception accorded to his men merited the designation of "terra da boa gente" or land of good people for those Africans. That happened on 10th-11th January. In a lengthy dispatch, a Lisbon daily reported today very frankly the reactions of the local people.
The Portuguese embassy is reported to have commemorated the 500 th anniversary of that date with the celebration of a Mass for the soul of that explorer and his companions, followed by some other cultural and social celebrations, including the inauguration of a library and an exposition sponsored by the Portuguese National Commission for Commemorating Portuguese Discoveries. The celebrations were to be held at the Portuguese Cultural Centre at Inhambane, but the Mozambican authorities are reported to have decided to keep themselves aloof.
Mozambican historian, Antonio Sopa, has termed the event peripherical. He did not see reason for the Mozambicans to be enthusiastic about such commemorations while the historical memories of slavery are still strong. The history needed to be re-evaluated more carefully according to him. In the meantime the politicians are wary of associating themselves with such commemorations. He referred to reactions to such commemorations in India and in Spain. He stated that the Portuguese had nothing new to discover on the African coast. The Arabs and the Chinese had been crossing those waters much earlier. The historian does not favour an uncritical dissassociation of the Mozambican authorities from the events now being commemorated worldwide.
There is little interest in Mozambique in knowing the interpretations of the more recent Portuguese historians. Despite Portuguse efforts to revive language communications with Mozambique along with other former African colonies of that country, and the establishment of a TV channel aimed at these regions just last week, the Mozambicans seem ever more interested in closer academic and economic ties with the English-speaking world.
The Mozambican historians does not appear satisfied with the Portuguese published and distributed bibliographies. He expects more direct debate among historians of both sides. He feels that this sort of open debate is not likely to succeed as yet, because of what he considers an unhealthy social climate prevailing in Mozambique. The portuguese returning to that country are seen as posing as new discoverers and conquerors, and looking upon the Mozambicans as lazy and thieves. The portuguese returning now are also seen as greedy and anxious to make quick buck. A recently publicised video-cassette about Louren=E7o Marques through the official Lisbon-based TV is seen as conveying conflict-suggesting images of that country.
The Mozambican national press seems to reflect its unhappiness with neo-colonial attitudes of the Portuguese returning to that country. A FRELIMO deputy and musician has even produced a CD in which, not only the Portuguese, but all foreigners are seen as "devils" (saithan), who never come to help the Mozambicans, but to help themselves. Incidentally, the extensive report that appeared in a Lisbon daily does not refer to the Indians of Mozambique, but it should be remembered that they too, including many Goans, in the past played the colonial role, drawing upon themselves more direct ire of the African people.