The resurgence of far-right racist violence in Portugal1 serves as a stark reminder of the living legacies of the historical convergence of the Estado Novo fascist regime in Portugal (1933–1974) and the brutal denouement of Portuguese colonialism.2 The anticolonial and antifascist struggles against Portugal by Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé offer crucial lessons for today.
For the “Fascisms” special issue of Critical Ethnic Studies, we asked Sónia Vaz Borges and Filipa César to share some of their collaborative work on the political education initiatives and films of the PAIGC (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde / African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde). The PAIGC was founded in the mid-1950s and engaged in eleven years of armed struggle for national liberation against Portuguese colonial rule and counterinsurgency from 1963 until 1974. The PAIGC and PAIGC leader Amílcar Cabral were vital not only for achieving independence from Portugal but as influential examples in the movement for global decolonization more broadly.3
An indispensable yet still relatively underappreciated feature of PAIGC organizing was its political education initiatives, including the documentary films and mobile screening programs of such Guinean filmmakers as Sana na N’Hada and Flora Gomes. In 1967, Cabral sent N’Hada, Gomes, José Bolama Cubumba, and Josefina Lopes Crato to study revolutionary filmmaking with Santiago Álvarez at the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos in Havana as part of a larger training program Cuba launched in support of the PAIGC liberation struggle.4 In 2011, N’Hada first met Filipa César and showed her the remnants of the PAIGC cinematic archive—canisters of film, much of it unedited or unfinished, in various states of erosion—that survived the 1998–1999 civil war in Guinea-Bissau.5
César and Sónia Vaz Borges have been instrumental in bringing attention to the political education endeavors, film production, and everyday politics of the liberation struggle in Guinea-Bissau. In addition to César’s remarkable work as a filmmaker, artist, and writer, she began collaborating with the National Film and Audiovisual Institute in Bissau and the Institute Arsenal for Film and Video Art in Berlin to transfer and digitize the PAIGC archive. During this process, César notes, “We stopped calling it an archive and instead a collective milieu, an assemblage of shrapnel. To deal with the shrapnel of colonialism means to deal with all the violence that comes through it; it means embracing the conflicts related with a permanent ‘decolonization of thinking’ as a condition and as a never-accomplishable task.”6 At the end of 2014, in part reenacting the PAIGC mobile political education programs of the early 1970s, César, N’Hada, the radio broadcaster Aissatu Seidi, and a small crew toured Guinea-Bissau for four weeks with a portable screening unit, publicly exhibiting selections of images and sound from the PAIGC collection and inviting the audience to collectively discuss this history and its ongoing relevance in their lives. Vaz Borges’s important 2019 book Militant Education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness: The PAIGC Education in Guinea Bissau 1963–1978 brings long-overdue critical attention to the PAIGC political education programs.7 Vaz Borges’s scholarship has been key for moving analysis of the PAIGC from the usual focus on Cabral to thinking with the everyday people who collectively waged the struggle for liberation and for developing a more substantive understanding of what she calls “militant education.”
Included here as examples of political education documents are links to selections from several films by Vaz Borges and César. These projects assemble recovered archival fragments from the work of Sana na N’Hada and Flora Gomes for the PAIGC but also serve as their own critical practice and pedagogic reflection on the history and ongoing significance of the PAIGC liberation struggle. The following essay by Vaz Borges and César was originally commissioned and published in German in conjunction with the exhibition Education Shock, curated by Tom Holert at HWK (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in Berlin in 2021.8
For an account of recent racist right-wing violence and attacks against the antiracist activist Mamadou Ba in Portugal, see “Urgent Solidarity Call to Support Portuguese Anti-racist Activists,” September 3, 2020, https://
www .enar -eu .org /Urgent -solidarity -call -to -support -Portuguese -anti -racist -activists, and Mia Alberti, “Portugal Records Surge in Racist Violence as Far Right Rises,” The Guardian, September 28, 2020, https:// www .theguardian .com /world /2020 /sep /28 /portugal -sees -surge -in -racist -violence -as -far -right -rises.
Rui Lopes and Víctor Barros, “Amílcar Cabral and the Liberation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde: International, Transnational, and Global Dimensions,” International History Review 42, no. 6 (2020): 1230–37; Branwen Gruffydd Jones, “Race, Culture and Liberation: African Anticolonial Thought and Practice in the Time of Decolonisation,” International History Review 42, no. 6 (2020): 1238–56; Luís Nuno Rodrigues, “The International Dimensions of the Portuguese Colonial Crisis,” in The Ends of European Colonial Empires: Cases and Comparisons, ed. Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and António Costa Pinto (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015): 243–67.
Aurora Almada e Santos and Víctor Barros, “Introduction: Amílcar Cabral and the Idea of Anticolonial Revolution,” Lusotopie 19 (2020): 9–35; Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr., eds., Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral (Dakar, Senegal: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2013).
On the crucial role that Cuba played in supporting the PAIGC and other liberation struggles on the African continent, see Catarina Laranjeiro, “The Cuban Revolution and the Liberation Struggle in Guinea-Bissau: Images, Imaginings, Expectations, and Experiences,” International History Review 42, no. 6 (2020): 1319–38, and Kali Argyriadis, Giulia Bonacci, and Adrien Delmas, eds., Cuba and Africa, 1959–1994: Writing an Alternative Atlantic History (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2020). Audiences not familiar with the PAIGC films may nonetheless recall sequences shot by Sana na N’Hada included in Chris Marker’s acclaimed experimental documentary San Soleil (Paris: Argos Films, 1983). N’Hada and Flora Gomes became leading figures in Guinean cinema. N’Hada and Gomes subsequently codirected the films O Regresso de Amílcar Cabral (Guinea-Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual, 1976), and Anos no Oça Luta (Guinea-Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual, 1978). N’Hada also directed the documentaries Les Jours d’Ancono (Guinea-Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual, 1978), Fanado (Guinea-Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual, 1984), and Os Escultores de Espíritos (Portugal and Guinea-Bissau: Lx Films, 2015) and the fiction films Xime (Netherlands, Guinea-Bissau, France, and Senegal: Molenwiek Film BV, Arco-Íris, Les Matins Films, Cap Vert, 1994; selected for the Cannes Film Festival), Bissau d’Isabel (Portugal and Guinea-Bissau: Lx Films, 2005), and Kadjike (Portugal and Guinea-Bissau: Lx Films, 2013). Flora Gomes directed the first feature film produced in Guinea, Mortu Nega (Guinea-Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual, 1988), and the feature films Udju Azul di Yonta (Portugal and Guinea-Bissau: Paulo De Sousa, 1992) and Po di Sangui (France: Films sans Frontières, 1996) and codirected the 2007 documentary As duas faces da Guerra (Portugal: Midas Films) with Diana Andringa.
Filipa César, “A Grin without Marker,” L’Internationale Online, February 16, 2016, https://
www .internationaleonline .org /research /decolonising _practices /59 _a _grin _without _marker /. In subsequent writing, César has also analyzed the significance and radical materialism of Cabral’s anticolonial agronomy and its connection to political education. See the brilliant essay Filipa César, “Meteorisations: Reading Amílcar Cabral’s Agronomy of Liberation,” Third Text 32, nos. 2–3 (2018): 254–272.
César, “Grin without Marker,” 68.
Sónia Vaz Borges, Militant Education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness: The PAIGC Education in Guinea Bissau 1963–1978 (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2019).
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, “Education Shock: Learning, Politics and Architecture in the 1960s and 1970s,” May 2021, https://
www .hkw .de /en /programm /projekte /2021 /bildungsschock /bildungsschock _start .php.