Literature of Cape Verde

Cape Verdean literature, a product of the liberalization of education in the mid-19th century, emerges from a generation of intellectuals, mainly writers, who begin to assert their presence in Cape Verde in the 19th century with the poetic production of Eugènio Tavares (1867-1930). This poet was born and raised in Brava, immersed in an unusual intellectual environment, and had as his master the folk philosopher José Rodrigues Aleixo, who lived isolated on Aguada beach (infested by Eugênio for amorous reasons), and also followed excellent pedagogues, first in a private school and then in various private courses.

The Claridade movement (1936-1937 and 1947-1960) has so far marked a vigorous Cape Verdean intellectualism, thanks to nine issues of an irregular yet profoundly capable magazine that defined a new personality assumed by the Cape Verdeans. Manuel Lopes from São Vicente (1907-2005), Baltazar Lopes da Silva from São Nicolau (1907-1989), and Jorge Barbosa from Santiago (1902-1971), the mentors of this truly autonomous movement, asserted without hesitation the importance of the Creole language in the matrix of Cape Verde’s uniqueness. They reinforced this initiative with works aimed at instilling in generations of students the awareness of Creole specificity, deeply rooted since the 16th century, marking a decisive point in Cape Verde’s cultural history. The magazine was called Claridade – Revista de Arte e Letras (Magazine of Art and Literature), with a subtitle fully justified by the diversity of topics covered: poetry, narrative, storytelling, novel, literary criticism, music and dance, painting and drawing, history and geography, and even sociological analysis.

Baltasar Lopes da Silva was born in the village of Caleijao on the island of São Nicolau, Cape Verde, on April 23, 1907. He attended the Ribeira Brava Seminary and later went to Portugal, where he studied at the University of Lisbon. During his time in Lisbon, Baltasar Lopes studied under some of the greatest writers and authors of Portuguese culture, including Vitorino Nemesio and Luis da Camara Reis. Graduating in law and romantic philology, he was one of the top students at the university. He then returned to Cape Verde and taught at the Gil Eanes High School in Mindelo, São Vicente Island, for several years; he also served as the school’s rector. He returned to Portugal again and studied in Leiria for a brief period. During the political difficulties of that time in Portugal, he returned to Cape Verde, where he continued his education and advocacy work. He spent his final days in Lisbon, where he was transferred for the treatment of a cerebrovascular disease and passed away shortly after, on May 28, 1989.


Baltasar Lopes, along with the collaboration of other writers such as Manuel Lopes, Manuel Ferreira, Antonio Aurelio Gonçalves, Francisco José Tenreiro, Jorge Barbosa, and Daniel Filipe, founded the Cape Verdean magazine Claridade in 1936. Claridade published essays, poems, and stories. Its contributors wrote about the problems of their society, such as drought, hunger, and emigration, which helped shed light on the study of Cape Verdean reality, particularly concerning the most disadvantaged social groups. In 1947, Lopes published his first book, the novel “Chiquinho.” “Chiquinho” vividly depicts the customs, people, landscapes, and social issues of Cape Verde at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a mature novel about the Cape Verdean people and the journey that many Cape Verdeans had to undertake to achieve a better life: emigration.

Jorge Vera-Cruz Barbosa (Praia, Cape Verde, May 22, 1902 – Cova da Piedade/Almada, January 6, 1971) was a Cape Verdean writer. Born on the island of Santiago, he received his primary education between Lisbon and Praia. At the age of eighteen, he began working at the customs office in São Vicente. He retired to the island of Sal in 1967. In 1970, already weakened, he moved to Lisbon, where he passed away. He contributed to various Portuguese and Cape Verdean magazines and newspapers, as well as the Portuguese-Brazilian magazine Atlantico. With the publication of his first book, “Arquipélago,” in 1935, he became a milestone in the birth of Cape Verdean poetry, and for this reason, he is considered the pioneer of modern Cape Verdean poetry, where social and political issues became some of the writer’s main themes. Jorge Barbosa also wrote “Ambiente” (1941), “Caderno de um Ilhéu” (1955, Camilo Pessanha Prize), and, previously banned but more recently published, “Meio Milénio,” “Júbilo,” and “Panfletário.” One of his poems, “Preludio,” is included in the CD “Poesias de Cabo Verde” alongside seven poems by Sebastiao da Gama, by Afonso Dias.


Following the Claridade generation, another wave of writers and thinkers emerged who sought to break with the conciliatory style of the movement, among whom stand out Amilcar Cabral, the great leader of the independence movement (PAIGC), and Corsino Fortes. More recently, a new range of writers, storytellers, and poets has emerged, including Germano Almeida, Germano Lima, Daniel Pereira, Vera Duarte, Mario Lúcio Sousa, Ludgero Correia, and many others, who are part of a large group of compatriots that confirm Cape Verde as a nation of many heirs to those who embarked on the writing adventure just over a century ago. Armènio Vieira, recently awarded the Camões Prize, is a poet who draws inspiration from European literature and follows an autonomous direction within the generally nationalist current of Cape Verdean literature, asserting a growing pluralism.

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