Vasco Cabra has been called the first Guinean intellectual. He was a poet and political prisoner, a leader of the PAIGC ( African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde ) and a freedom fighter in the war for independence, an economic minister and Vice- President of the new nation, and the founder of the National Union of Writers in Guinea-Bissau. He was a member of the Youth Unitary Movement in Portugal, which opposed the fascist dictatorship, and as a result of his involvement was arrested and imprisoned. Vasco Cabral's earliest poems, striking in their determination to end Portugese domination over Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde, date back to 1951, though all came to published in 1981. He became a man of letters and was a follower of the political leader Amilcar Cabral who he was jailed with. Amilcar Cabral was dedicated to uniting different kingdoms ( and therefore different ethnic groups) , percieving that this would eliminate the ills of Guinean society - what he called the " Portugese economic infrastructure", which had its foundation in the exploitation, and division of dominated people. His ability to integrate with Guineans and Cape Verdeans in one single anti colonial movement and maintain unity was pretty impressive.
Vasco passed away in Bissau at the age of 79 in time to see that the anti-colonial endeavors he had followed, had become part of the process where old empires kept falling and did not retain their power.
That afternoon I left and you remained,
we felt, us two, the saudade's sorrow.
I suffered the bloody truth of your tears.
You're not my only happiness, amor,
I left you there for love of Humankind
but, seeing your tears, my heart took upon the pain
you bore, and ached bitterly at your moans,
so yes,its why I left you and remained.
Believe I never left, that you gave me
the gift of yourself; then the pain and grief
will be no more than nightmares, quickly gone.
Believe I never will forget your love,
and, if I am the one your love burns for,
carry the hope that one day I'll return.
Naquela tarde em que eu paeri e tu ficaste
sentimos, fundo, os dois a magoa da saudade.
Por ver-te as lagrimas sangrarem de verdade
sofri na alma um amargor quando choraste.
Ao despedir-me eu trouxe a dor que tu levaste!
Nem so o teu amor me traz a felicidade.
Quando parti foi por amar a Humanidade
Sim! foi por isso que eu parti e tu ficaste!
Mas se pensares que eu nao parti e a mim te deste
sera a dor e a tristeza de perder-me
unicamente um pesadelo que tiveste.
Mas se jamais do teu amor posso esquecer-me
e se fui eu aquele a quem tu mais quiseste
que eu conserve em ti a esperanca de rever-me!
poems from Guinea-Bissau
The Heaventree Press
A further book is
Vasco Cabral - A luta e a minha primavera: poemas
( Oeiras: Africa Editora), 1981.
More on Amilcar Cabral here