Viriato da Cruz

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Viriato Clemente da Cruz (25 March 1928 – 13 June 1973) was an Angolan poet and politician, who was born in Kikuvo, Porto Amboim, Portuguese Angola, and died in Beijing, People's Republic of China. He is considered one of the most important Angolan poets of his time. He wrote poems in Portuguese and Angolan languages. He took part in the fight to free Angola from Portuguese rule.

Political work[edit]

Cruz was educated in Luanda, the capital of Angola, which was then ruled by Portugal. Between 1948 and 1952, Viriato da Cruz involved himself in Luanda's political and literary spheres, becoming part of the Association of the Native Sons of Angola.[1] In 1948, he helped found the Movement of the New Intellectuals of Angola.

On September 30, 1957, Viriato da Cruz left for Lisbon, with the hopes of recruiting advice and support from the Partido Comunista Portugués (PCP). His call for help went unanswered by the PCP.[2]

He was, however, successful in encouraging opposition to the colonial system among Angolans living in Lisbon. Afterwards, Viriato da Cruz went to Paris to link up with other Angolan and African immigrants. Among them was Mário Pinto de Andrade, another Angolan poet and politician, who helped with his political ideas. An important result of this meeting was the creation of the Anticolonial Movement, a unitarian and anticolonial collective consisting of all of the African nationalists in Europe, and the first of its kind.[3] In 1956, Viriato da Cruz, as well as de Andrarde helped create the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA—from the Portuguese name Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola).

The MPLA was not in Angola at this time, but was first in Conakry (the capital of Guinea) and then later in Leopoldville, Congo (now Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC). Cruz became secretary-general of the MPLA. After some time he and others did not agree with the party leadership, in particular with president Agostinho Neto, and this led to fighting in the streets of Leopoldville.

Exiled in China[edit]

In the 1960s, following the fighting in the MPLA, Viriato da Cruz went to Beijing, China, where he was well known as having helped create the MPLA. At first, the Chinese government welcomed him; they wanted him to help them bring Maoist socialism to Africa.

However, Cruz's ideas were not the same as those of the Maoists. He believed that stronger countries could not impose a socialist revolution on other places, and he would not change his ideas. This was counter to the Maoist idea of world revolution. Cruz wanted to leave China and return to Africa, but the Chinese government would not allow him to go.

Last years[edit]

The last years of his life were unhappy and difficult. Cruz was weak and without much food, and he died on 13 June 1973. His body was taken away in a military vehicle and was buried without ceremony.

Poetry work[edit]

In 1961, Casa dos Estudantes do Império published all of Viriato da Cruz's poetic writings in the collection Poemas.[4] Among these poems, "Namoro" (Courtship), "Sô Santo" (Holy One) and "Makézu" (Kola Nut) are well-known.

In poems such as "Mamãe negra (Canto de esperança)", Viriato da Cruz explore themes of black African identity, and the symbol of "Mother Africa".[5]

Further reading[edit]

  • Edmundo Rocha, Francisco Soares, Moisés Fernandes (eds.), Viriato da Cruz: O homem e o mito, Lisbon: Prefácio & Luanda: Chá de Caxinde, 2008.
  • W. Martin James, "Cruz, Viriato Clemente da (25 March 1928-13 June 1973)", Historical Dictionary of Angola, Scarecrow Press, 2011; pp. 73–74.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku; Gates, Henry Louis (2012-01-01). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. ISBN 9780195382075. 
  2. ^ Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku; Gates, Henry Louis (2012-01-01). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. ISBN 9780195382075. 
  3. ^ Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku; Gates, Henry Louis (2012-01-01). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. ISBN 9780195382075. 
  4. ^ Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku; Gates, Henry Louis (2012-01-01). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. ISBN 9780195382075. 
  5. ^ Gérard, Albert S. (1986-01-01). European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 9630538334.