“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories...” ― Amílcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea: Selected Texts
Image via Nos Genti.
Amílcar Cabral—writer, political leader, and anti-colonial proponent—was born 91 years ago, today, in Guinea-Bissau. Cabral, often called the Che Guevara of Guinea-Biassau, was the founder and a leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Cabral was assassinated on January 20, 1973, a mere eight months before Guinea-Bissau declared its independence from Portugal. According to the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Cabral was assassinated by fellow PAIGC members. Inocêncio Kani, a former PAIGC navy commander, guerrilla war veteran, and disgruntled rival, shot Cabral in the liver before a burst of bullets from a machine gun aimed at Cabral’s head killed him instantly. It is reported that Kani worked with the Portuguese government to arrest Cabral and place him under the government’s custody, but the plan went awry. The government and Kani were unable to stop Cabral, however, as his half-brother, Luis, became the leader of the Guinea-Bissau branch of the PAIGC and eventually, the president of Guinea-Bissau.
Image via Portentroda Africa.
Not only was Cabral a guerrilla leader, he was also an agronomist who used his knowledge of agriculture to teach his troops to live off the land. His troops used his teachings to educate local farmers of better techniques that would yield a greater harvest, thus feeding not only their families, but the PAIGC soldiers as well. The soldiers would till the land when they were not fighting for their country’s independence. This unique insight allowed the fighters to garner a good relationship with the local population.
Cabral was influenced by Marxism and attempted to articulate ways in which mechanization of production, agricultural policies and land ownership impacted life in the colonies. His theoretical work breaks down the structures of imperial economic control in an attempt to better the lives of the colonized working class.
Image via Canarias Semanal.
Cabral’s legacy continues to resonate today. Earlier this year, the city of Brockton, Massachusetts held a cultural exchange, “Remembering Amilcar Cabral”, calling him “one of the greatest modern theoreticians of the African revolution.” Many murals pepper the streets of Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and even Portugal. A mural on the Amilcar Cabral Avenue in Sacavém, outside of Lisbon, Portugal, was painted as part of the “40 years, 40 murals” initiative to mark the 40th anniversary of Freedom Day—a holiday that commemorates the bloodless military coup that brought democracy to Portugal.
In Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau, the hometown of Cabral, a museum is being built to honor his legacy. Cabral’s childhood home is being renovated, with the help of UNESCO, a $15,000 project.
Amilcar Cabral's childhood home in the small town of Bafata, Guinea-Bissau, is being turned into a museum with help from Unesco. Photograph by Mirva Lempiainen. Image via PassBlue.
The interior of the Cabral house, which includes dozens of photos of the hero, who was killed in 1973, less than a year before his country gained independence from Portugal. Photograph by Mirva Lempiainen. Image via PassBlue.
The recreated Catholic altar in the Cabral house and a bedroom behind the curtain. Photograph by Mirva Lempiainen. Image via PassBlue.
Mural on a side street in Praia, Cape Verde. Image via The Learning Curve.
Mural on Amilcar Cabral Avenue on the outskirts of Lisbon. Image via Red Angola.
Juan Orrantia is a documentary arts photographer whoia focused on Cabral in a 2013 documentary project called, Holding Amilcar. Orrantia photographed the monuments and citizens of Guinea-Bissau as they reminded him, or embodied, the revolutionary leader. For a Warscapes article, Orrantia chose this image of the statue of Cabral (as pictured in the feature image) which overlooks the docks of Pidjiguti in the capital Bissau, where the workers’ massacre that ignited the 1959 revolution occurred.
Cabral’s statue “seem[s] to hold on to his words, like those gently but vehemently pronounced in one of his well-known speeches given at the funeral of Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah. Speaking of the cancer of betrayal, Cabral recalled that it was only Africa, for its own sake, that would rehabilitate itself from its colonial past and through history.” In an interview with Africa Is a Country, Orrantia told why he chose to document life in Guinea-Bissau: "as a Columbian it is a clear place where my own history intersects with the continent in contemporary issues", contemporary issues meaning the drug business. He was also interested in Cabral, who he called "a veryimportant thinker."
"Le Cancer de la Trahison" (The Cancer of Betrayal) was Cabral’s last public speech in Conakry. Here, Cabral denounced the “cancer of betrayal” that eats up African movements. Cabral stated, “We are not crying for Africa betrayed. We are mourning, yes, of hatred towards those who were able to betray Nkrumah to serve the ignoble imperialism.” Listen to the speech in its entirety below:
The Heart of Amilcar Cabral, a film documenting Cabral’s life and achievements, features interviews with his second wife, Ana, and his daughter, Iva, Dr. Noam Chomsky, actors Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, and many other historians, artists, and professors. Below is a five-minute clip of the film:
Megan Krementowski an intern at Warscapes. She is an English and Journalism major at the University of Connecticut.
Asiya Haouchine is an intern at Warscapes. She is an English and Journalism major at the University of Connecticut.