Cape Verde: A Sensual Feast
For those of you who know Cabo Verde, are familiar of how environmentally adverse these 10 volcanic islands can be – arid, unfertile, poor…. Yet magical mesmerising landscapes. Its people – the most humble, welcoming and genuine warriors I’ve had the privilege to meet, with a charismatic warmth that forever captures the hearts of those who visit and have their senses alert to the beauty of the simple things in life.
In 2007, it became the second African country to graduate from “least developed” category to middle-income, by UN metrics. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies called it “A rare African success”.
Also named again by the UN’s ‘One UN Programme’ in 2010, as an Emerging Nation, Cabo Verde has been a great African example of Good Governance, Sustainable Development, Investment in Human Capital, Social Protection, Transparency, Accountability, and Democracy. And, demonstrated its resilience and determination in the face adversity.
In 2011, the country’s former president Pedro Verona Pires, was awarded the prestigious Mo Ibrahim prize – Good African governance award, principally for leading the country out of poverty and promoting democracy. In further praised to be heaped on the country, the African Development Bank called it ‘A Development Success Story’.
Unlike many African countries, Cabo Verde isn’t rich in natural resources, but has shown how a nation’s resilience and determination in the face adversity can pull itself up, breaking UN rankings and changing perceptions; a great example of grit, unity and unrivalled Leadership.
As an African myself – more of which, later – I can but wish for my country to reach a similar pinnacle of integrity, and I am truly proud to see Cabo Verde leading and thriving – not perfect, yet tangibly so. It really comes down to the basic values of honesty, trust, unity and purpose.
However, my passion for Cabo Verde didn’t start with UN indices though, it goes way back to 1972/73. I was just a little girl when my big cousin took me to a weekend trip from Luanda to N’dalatando (then Salazar) by an enchanted express train. There was a ball she didn’t want to miss…..and little did I know I was about to have my very first magical encounter with Caboverdian music with the greatest, the late Luis Morais and the legendary band – Voz de Cabo Verde.
From that trip, all I can recall is the gigantic ballroom and the stage – there were six or eight men wearing immaculate white jackets, black trousers and shiny black shoes. They had a golden, mirrored sax and were playing the most unforgettable Mornas. It stayed with me, both the music and the magic of it all. I must confess; my standards of ballrooms and parties were ever hardly matched after that!
Morais was touring his (beyond) best seller album, Boas Festas, now part of Caboverdian heritage – a timeless LP, still listened to and enjoyed for more than 50 years. It has an unmeasurable emotional value, not only to Caboverdians, particularly the emigrants, but to all true morna and coladera lovers worldwide, Angolans in special.
But of course in music Luis Morais doesn’t stand alone, there is an array of legends and I specifically have to mention this melting pot of talent: Bana, Ildo Lobo, Tito Paris, Mendes Brothers, Lura, Os Tubarões, Mana Sara (Sara Tavares) , Mayra (Andrade), and Cesaria Évora, The Supreme Diva who in her bare feet took Cabo Verde to the world stages with grace, humility and unparalleled gift!
In her song ‘Carnaval de Sao Vicent’, Cizé, as Évora was endearingly nick-named by Caboverdians, she compares Sao Vicente’s Carnival as a smaller version of the Brazilian. I always thought that was a candid exaggeration of a proud native…. Until I saw it this February – one word: mind-blowing! The vibe, the organisation, the fringe parties, and the main parade….. oh my, was I astounded?! Authentic. Electrifying. Thought provoking themes, presented with creativity and a twist of wittiness. And as Cizé says in her song: “São Vicente é um Brasilinho – cheio de alegria; cheio de côr. – São Vicente is a Little Brazil – full of joy; full of color”. Loved it. Highly recommend it and I no longer need to go to Brazil, at least not for the Carnival.
Another extraordinary encounter that amplified my love for the Caboverdian culture, in this case music, was with the father of my high school sweetheart – ‘nhô Nini Cruz’. He literally collected every LP of Bana over a period of 30/40 years. He truly embodied the soul of a Caboverdian emigrant, and yes – he used to wear the hat, the suit and dual colour shoes. One of the ‘golden generation’!
The love affair between Caboverdians and Angolans dates from as far as I can recall, the 50s – due to the political oppression, lack of resources and poverty, Caboverdians were forced to find a better life mainly, in Portugal, the Netherlands, the US and Angola. With Angola, the courtship never ended. To this day, the two nations continue to nurture a fraternal bound nourished by the profound nostalgia of Caboverdian music and cultural parallels, since both are former Portuguese colonies.
In fact, in 2012, when it proved to be obscenely expensive to take a lifetime family trip back home to Angola, the alternative was without hesitation, Cabo Verde.
Unequivocally, there are no regrets, on the contrary, the affinity deepened – from mouth-watering gastronomy to astonishing landmarks unassumingly blending with its surroundings. Even in its most hostile form, the beauty of it all is breath-taking.
I have been twice, and I know I’ll keep going.
The pictures, I share here were taken on both visits in an attempt at illustrating the beauty of a country I love and feel so connected and compelled to, since childhood – maybe I have a distant relative…. Who knows?!
I know for sure that Cabo Verde is and will continue to be ‘Sabura. povo sabi e morabeza (welcoming, its people – easy going, and full of joy for life).
I know I am not the first, nor will I be the last to fall in love with this magical country.