Angola: Celebrating Angolan Women's Day with poetry

It is March. A month with a feminine complexion and dedicated to every woman in the world. But it is also the month of Angolan women. It belongs to those women who suffer, love and fight with a large smile on their lips and bold eyes. It is the month of the zungueiras‘, hawkers who carry their merchandise on their heads and their babies on their backs. It is the month of the business women who break their way into this chauvinist and implacable society. March – Women. The month of the wives who are belaboured by their souless husbands. March. The month dedicated to these women and every other woman who make Angola a stronger and warmer country.

Angolan Woman's Day is celebrated on March 02, because of the bravery of four women who fought for Angola's Independence. They are Deolinda Rodrigues, Irene Cohen, Engrácia dos Santos and Lucrécia Paim, who were supposedly ambushed by the FNLA (National Liberation Front of Angola), in the northern part of the country. They were captured and killed but their names are still in the Angolan people's memory.

As would be expected, Angolan bloggers have not let the date go unnoticed. In the Conde de Angola [pt] blog, the author depicts Angolan women, starting his narrative with a beautiful poem by Décio Bettencourt Mateus:

“O miúdo nas costas, faminto

O sol queimando

O sol assando

O miúdo nas costas, faminto de alimento

As moscas acariciando-o

E o lixo distraindo-o!

A zungueira zunga, cansada

Na cabeça, o negócio e o sustento

E nos pés empoeirados

O cansaço dos quilómetros galgados

O cansaço da distância percorrida

A zungueira zunga, o miúdo nas costas faminto!”

Este pequeno excerto do poema de Bettencourt retrata o “espírito guerreiro” das mulheres angolanas, também conhecidas por zungueiras. Começo assim o texto desta semana, dedicado a todas as mulheres de Angola, que no passado dia 2 de Março receberam homenagem com a comemoração do Dia da Mulher Angolana… e bem que elas o merecem, são umas autênticas leoas, especialmente as mulheres do pré-guerra. Gordas, magras, altas, baixas, convencem pela conversa transformando um perfume da Avon num perfume Channel. Em média têm sete filhos cada uma, há quem diga que este fenómeno se deva ao facto de só cerca de 6% usarem métodos contraceptivos, o certo é que a programação da TPA (Televisão Pública de Angola) também não ajuda a que este número baixe e por outro lado temos o ego masculino que pode ser rejeitado socialmente senão procriar. Enfim, é tudo a ajudar.

Longe estão os tempos em que o ganha-pão era responsabilidade só dos homens. Agora a sobrevivência passa a ser uma questão de igualdade, mas onde a mulher carrega tudo: carrega a criança às costas, muitas vezes carrega uma às costas e outra dentro da barriga, carrega as robustas cargas para a venda do dia, carrega o sol na cabeça quando sai e retorna com ele, carrega a ingratidão do marido com os copos, carrega as lamentações das crianças, carrega, carrega, carrega…”

“Boy on her back, hungry

Burning sun

Baking sun

Boy on her back, hungry for food

Flies caress him

Garbage distracts him!

The hawker hawks, tired

On her head her business and livelihood

On her dusty feet

Tiredness of kilometers covered

Tiredness of the distance traveled

The hawker hawks, the starving boy on her back!

This small excerpt of Bettencourt's poem portrays the “warrior spirit” of Angolan women, also known as zungueiras. I begin this week's piece of writing with it, dedicated to all Angolan women to whom we paid homage on Angolan Woman's Day last March 2nd… and they well deserve it, they are real lionesses, especially the pre-war period women. Fat, thin, tall, short, their cunning ploys turn an Avon into a Chanel perfume. On average, they have seven children each, some say that this phenomenon is due to the fact that only about 6% of them use contraception. On one hand the programs broadcast by the Public Television of Angola do not help to bring this number down. On the other hand, we have the male's beliefs that without procreating they would be socially rejected. In the end, it all adds up.

Gone are the times in which men were solely responsible for winning the bread. Now the survival becomes a matter of equality, but it is the woman who carries it all: she carries her child on her back, often she carries one on her back and another in her belly, she carries the heavy load of daily products for sale, she carries the sun on her head when she leaves and comes back with it, she carries the ingratitude of man with his bottles at home, she carries her children through the lamentations, carrying on, carrying on, carrying on… “

António Spíndola [pt] shows his opinion about the day, highlighting the importance of the Angolan woman's fight:

“Em Angola as mulheres pretendem chamar a atenção para o seu papel e a sua dignidade, bem como levar a sociedade a ter uma consciência social do valor da pessoa, a perceber o seu papel e contestar e rever preconceitos e limitações que têm sido impostos à mulher. Como mães, esposas, filhas, ou simplesmente como mulheres, elas têm lutado pela sua emancipação, combatendo o analfabetismo e os actos de violência no género e na família. Elas estão, sobretudo, firmemente inseridas no processo de reconciliação e reconstrução nacional”.

“In Angola, women want to draw attention to their role and their dignity, just as they want society to have a social awareness of the value of people, to understand their roles and to review and challenge the prejudices and limitations that have been imposed on women. As mothers, wives, daughters, or simply as women, they have fought for their emancipation, battling illiteracy and gender and family violence. They are, above all, an important part of the process of national reconciliation and reconstruction.”

And to finish this article dedicated to Angolan women, here is a poem from the Universal [pt] blog:

“Aguardo sempre a infinita espera da demora

Como na magia das margens do meu céu

desespera um anjo

Nunca esquecerei o meu gesto de ternura

Sempre dedicado ao meu filho

no longínquo abandonado

Por promessas que nunca serão cumpridas

Nunca esquecerei as esperas

das minhas incontáveis bichas

Filas humanas para conseguir o essencial

de todos os dias

Séculos e séculos desesperados

para me afirmar como mulher

Com dignidade de escrava

habituei-me a suportar

Os desprezos que sobre mim tem lançado

E nesta condição humana provocada

Renasce-me a negra existência

e medito, reafirmo:

Sou negra como o sol castanho

amarelecido das tardes

Como o luar das noites, naturais

Manchada das alvas amarelas do anual


Porque sou bela, como o amanhecer

de todos os dias

Sou negra, digna descendente

da nobreza africana”

“I always wait the infinite wait of delay

as an angel despairs

in the magic borders of my sky

I will never forget my deed of tenderness

always dedicated to my son

far away abandoned

by promises that will never be fulfilled

I will never forget the waits

of my endless queues

Human queues to get the essentials

of every day

Despondent centuries and centuries

to assert myself as a woman

With the dignity of a slave

I became used to bearing

The contempt at me launched

And in this provoked human condition

In me the black existence is reborn

and meditating, I reafirm:

I am black as the brownish sun

of afternoons turned yellow

As the moonlight of natural nights

Stained by the yellow dawn of the yearly


Because I am as pretty as the sun-rise

of every day

I am a black, dignified descendant

of the African nobility”

Photo of an Angolan woman called Eurídice, by Flickr user ccarriconde published on Global Voices with permission.

Originally written in Portuguese, translation into English by Paula Góes.


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