Ver Angola


Angolan Yara Monteiro challenges Portugal and Angola to talk about the past and mourn

Portuguese-Angolan writer Yara Monteiro considers that Portugal and Angola need to talk about colonialism and war to mourn that past and also urged Argentina to look at its Afro-descendant history.


The author of “This lady hits hard!” and “Memories, appearances and arrhythmias” revisited its roots and presented a portrait of a post-colonial and post-war Angola, in which memory plays a fundamental role, during a conversation session at the Buenos Aires Book Fair, where Lisbon is the guest city of honor.

Starting from her novel “Essa dama bat bué!”, Yara Monteiro spoke about the slavery suffered by her ancestors, she spoke about independence, the diaspora, miscegenation and the way in which all of this continues to mark her life – and that of everyone else who had similar experiences – today.

“There is a large community of the Angolan diaspora that grew up in silence. I grew up in silence, there was no talk of war, I grew up with the idea of ​​a mystical, paradisiacal Angola, but my generation is destroying many myths: the myth that there is no racism in Portugal, the myth of the good colonizer, the myth of equality”, he stated.

This silence began to become noisy when Yara Monteiro, much younger, went to her grandfather's archive and talked to her grandmother: “That was when I discovered painful truths from the past”.

“But it is an important process of catharsis to move forward in life. It is important to revisit family stories, stories from memory”, argued the author, who used her family's historical material as inspiration for the novel.

Yara Monteiro recalled how the civil war in Angola pitted brothers fighting against brothers, neighbors killing neighbors, an ideological war, based on color, that pitted blacks, whites and mestizos, and that “was very violent”.

“It is a story that needs to be revisited because mourning needs to be done so that we can move forward hand in hand. Angola has many tensions related to color, in Portugal there is the idea that we were good colonizers”, stated the writer, defending the need to talk about these aspects and dismantle these myths.

Monteiro admits that it is complicated, because it is a subject that “changes the national identity of a country and generates a defensive position”.

“We have to start from a well-intentioned position: we are going to carry out a healing process. If we don’t talk, it’s like having an elephant in the room.”

Then turning to Argentines, she suggested that they read her book because the country “also has an Afro-descendant community”.

“There is the myth that there are no black people in Argentina, but Argentina also has a culture of slaves and we must look at its History and compare it with that of Portugal and ask 'what have we done with the Afro-descendant History of our country and our city? ?'”, he defended.

Yara Monteiro clarified that her book is not a pamphlet and that her only intention was to tell her story, through the story of the protagonist – Vitória – which is the story of her entire generation, who was “forced to abandon her country and coming to Portugal”.

The book only becomes activist because it talks about the silences in society, racism and inclusion, she said.

“I feel like a hostage, because the social concept of identity is a prison, a stereotype. I am constantly asked whether I am Portuguese or Angolan, whether I am white or black, but identity is like a boat that drops anchor. I set my anchor in Angola and I set my anchor in Portugal,” she said.

Yara Monteiro refuses the idea of ​​identity as “a box”, because this conception leaves out a lot, and uses as an example her curly hair, which she sometimes straightens, which leads others to ask her if she does it to look white.

“When they ask ‘where are you from?’ I answer ‘I’m from where I am’. I live in the countryside, in Alentejo. I also feel like I'm from Alentejo. If we want to be independent, we cannot be hostage to an identity,” she said.

“The problem of minorities is universal. Why do art and literature talk about this? Because it is what worries us, disturbs us and what we need to process. I process it through writing”, added the writer.

Yara Monteiro was born in Angola and moved to Portugal when she was two years old, so she has no memory of the war, but she claims that it is a memory that belongs to her, that it was inherited, because her family lived through it.

“I'll give you an example: in my family nothing goes to waste, because we might need it. This is a result of the scarcity we experienced during war. I do the same because I inherited the scarcity of my family's life. This is traumatizing,” she confessed.


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