jeudi 27 février 2014


What does it mean, Genetic Memory? We inherit genes  from our parents, then learn our culture, our languages. Later on we go  on to live in countries which are not ours, learn languages which are not related to you, these does not seem strange any more. Less attention is paid to the fact that there are historical connections that has been made for you, which you have to become aware of. In my case it is Portugal.
Historic events that connects me to Portugal, will just mention place and year, mainly three and later on when I became aware of this Portuguese presence in my life, I explored it in different corners of the world.
Calicut and Cochin 1495

Malacca 1511 Birmania soon after

Kingston, Jamaica 1655

Portugese Synagogues in 
Amsterdam, London and Kingston as well as Curacao

Siriao, Birmania 1749 (there is an interesting story about a portuguese foot soldier sent from Malacca, who was brutal to the local Mon people, he declared himself King and later on was butchered by the local people who hated him so much!)
It must have been my father who alerted me as a child about Sultan of Ternate, Flores and the Portuguese! 

Later on, I was able to evoke this genetic memory in faraway places ..
Porto Novo, Benin ( Bruce Chatwin has a lovely book called The Viceroy of Ouida, which was later on made into a movie about a Portuguese slave trader from Brasil who lived in Ouida, Benin)
(The Portuguese Fort in Ouidah, which remained  in Portuguese hands until 1961)

Colonia, Uruguay
The Portuguese Museum in Colonia, Uruguay

Saudade do Brasil, entered with the song  Manha da Carnaval, remembered clearly listening to it for the first time  during adolescent years in Melbourne, which led to many visits to Brasil and also an exploration of its music, Porto Alegre and Elis Regina, Salvador do Bahia and Caetano Veloso

It was only in 1994, twenty years ago, one afternoon in Knightsbridge, a song was being played over the radio, Sodade by Cesaria Evora from Cabo Verde! What a great gift it was!
Si bo 'screve' me
'M ta 'screve be
Si bo 'squece me
'M ta 'squece be
Até dia
Qui bo voltà
Sodade sodade
Dess nha terra Sao Nicolau

If you write me letter,...
I will write you back
If you forget me,...
I will forget you...
Until the day...
You come back
the above lyrics are very reminiscent of a poem by Pablo Neruda, If You Forget me..As Luis de Camões wrote, himself an adventurer and a soldier, we spread ourselves with slashes of the sword and of love, therefore achieving the first genetic pool which begun in East Africa and went all the way to Japan.

Os Bayingyis do vale do Mu

Cristao as spoken in Malacca and Macao
Macao and Camilo Pessanha

Maputo and the introduction to  Mia Couto, the poet and writer
(Mia Couto, who won the 2014 Neustadt Prize for Literature.
“Some critics have called Mia Couto ‘the smuggler writer,’ a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem.”)
Kavangos who spoke Portuguese in northern Namibia and of course Peri Peri Chicken in Southern Africa

Of course, there is the Cuba Connection, Cuba a small nation in the Caribbean with a deep love for Africa, that helped the liberation of both Angola and Namibia and 
which maintains a strong presence in Timor Leste where there is a Cuban Medical School and has graduated over 500 local doctors to serve the population. (graduation photo 2012 below)


Why is this?
A sensation of connection with a remembered past and historic past. 

A gentle people who greet you with a smile.

Sonorous language which gave us Pessoa, Pessanha, Saramago (Nobel Prize), indeed Camoes and Os Lusiadas, not to mention the copious literature from Brasil : Amado, Andrade Brothers, Mireilles. I had the chance to meet only one living Brasilian writer, Moacyr Scliar of Porto Alegre.
(the hugely popular Life of Pi was plagiarized from Scliar's novel about a Jewish survivor along with a Jaguar after their shipwreck on their way to Brasil!)

They seem to be very health conscious. The food courts have excellent quality health food (Vitaminos, Sandes, Farm, Prego) and healthier than food courts in many countries especially USA. 

All the MENU come with a salad and Zumo (freshly squeezed or made fruit juice)

Portugal is not an expensive destination, half as expensive as Singapore and one third as expensive as Paris, Bruxelas or Londres with very affordable hotels and public transportation. For the price of a single metro ticket in Paris or London tube, you can travel all the way to Sintra and back from Lisbon!

The best of course are the Portuguese people:
Sweet types from the countryside
Hardy types from Acores
Some colonial types from Africa with frowns on their faces
Lovely mixture of Africans from Angola, Mocambique and Cabo Verde, along with some from Goa and from Timor. and  I can feel Brasil everywhere! The current favorite FADO singer is from Mocambique!

Ethos reflected in FADO, which had influenced the mornas and coladeras of Cabo Verde as well as Musica do Brasil 


As Cesaria would sing:
Bô tém sofride
A mím também tém sofride más quê d'eu
Nos vida é um romance tristo de amor
Hora que tão sofre
O 'ta morre de dor
Nos vida é um romance tristo de amor
Hora que tão sofre
O 'ta morre de dor

Nha vida é um romance sem fim