March 14, 2008

More poems of resistance from Mozambique

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 11:21 pm

Comments on “Catch the fire” and more poems of resistance against colonial oppression and exploitation by Jorge Rebelo

Samora MachelI thought it easy to use by way of introduction the selection of poems of Jorge Rebelo, a movie from our country. The movie Marta and I have just seen again on TV in New York is by South African writer Shawn Slovo: Catch the Fire (released in Spain on 19 January 2007 and in South Africa a bit later).

I was of the opinion that it would be easy to do a page long introduction to again give context to the next poems about the anti colonial struggles and wanted some basic information of the movie that involved protagonists from both Mozambique and South Africa. But it was not to be. On doing a basic search, on Internet, I found this unfortunate plot outline, which included the dreaded word of TERRORISM: “A drama about terrorism in Apartheid-era South Africa, revolving around a policeman (Robbins) and a young man (Luke) who carries out solo attacks against the regime.”

Only when prompted for more did I find that it was “a political thriller: the real-life story of a South African hero’s journey to freedom. In the country’s turbulent and divided times in the 1980s, Patrick Chamusso is an oil refinery foreman and soccer coach who is apolitical – until he and his wife Precious are jailed. Patrick is stunned into action against the country’s oppressive reigning system, even as police Colonel Nic Vos further insinuates himself into the Chamussos’ lives,” written by Focus Features.

Without intending for this introduction to have veered into the field of the celluloid arts, it however does raise the complexity/simplicity of words and their meanings, in different contexts of time and space.

From US Republican presidential candidate John McCain to Fidel Castro, it is universally agreed that nations and countries have the right to national defense and self-determination. Over numerous decades (and as long as there was oppression?) these struggles for national self-determination engulfed various of the world’s peoples from all continents and some of recent times include countries such as Algeria, Mozambique, Mexico, India, Vietnam and many others on their rostrum.

Despite the use of military hardware, etc. it is true to say that these wars were essentially political (including social and cultural organisation and mobilisation) in the process of conscientisation of the oppressed and exploited. This awareness was seen as both a means towards an end and an end in itself, and ingredient without which democracy cannot truly function. The world of ideas – broadly cultural work – has a pride of place in that process.

The systems of oppression and exploitation are often kept in power not solely by means of force or repression, and this was the case in Mozambique as well. All other systems, institutions, agencies, and organisations of state or aligned to it, were used to oppress the majority of indigenous Mozambicans. Simply put, the army, the police, the media (radio and TV, newspapers – it was pre Internet epoch), and the church (read Catholic Church) were in the main opposed to the People.

In this edition of poems, we get to know a bit more of Jorge Rebelo, African liberation fighter who was and is integrally involved in this contestation over ideas and the quest for national liberation. [1]

Our aim is to make accessible these works and seek their joy and significance when reading with the eye of today. What Rebelo writes in 1965, we believe is evergreen:


Mother, it is beautiful to fight for freedom!
In every bullet I shoot there is a message of justice,
and old dreams wake like birds.

In the hours of combat, in the battle front
your image comes close to me.
It is for you too that I fight, Mother.
That you should not have tears
in your eyes.

Today Rebelo remains a principled and humble man fighting for social justice and a rightful place for Mozambique and Africa in the world. Today Rebelo still writes about life and its challenges. The weapons remain ideas and politics but the form of a gun is no longer.His 1975 poem tells us more about the man, even if it was written on the eve of Mozambican liberation.


I would like
to be able
to write a poem
as exalting,
as beatiful, as profound
as the victory of the people.

A poem telling
about the whole struggle, and how
it was waged
and won…….

A poem telling
the reason for our struggle:
the new life we are building,
the pride of being who we are
the radical rejection
of exploitation.

These poems were written originally in Portuguese and copies in their original can be made available on request. The poem Josina, we continue with you refers to Josina Machel (née Muthemba) is Rebelo’s tribute to the first wife of the former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel (in the picture). She died in battle fighting Portuguese oppression on 7 April 1970, a day that is recognised as National Woman’s Day in Mozambique. Rebelo writes of her death:

It was still dawn when you departed.
We had no time to say farewell,
you departed suddenly
like a shooting star.

A gun which stood without owner
a child who cried in the night
were mute witnesses to your absence.
It was still dawn when you departed.

Do we mourn for you? (more…)

A final note:

You can Catch the Fire on DVD but want to advise that, in promoting the movie, media must use their dictionary to the full. It would be wise to include other words and phrases such as solidarity, love and liberation to draw people to the movie. Terrorism is real and does exist, but this movie was not of its ilk.


[1] The poems included in this edition are: Do you know me?, Once Upon a Time (1995), A Poem still to be written (1975), Brother from the West (1972), We are Fighters of FRELIMO (1971), Hearken to the Voice of the People (1971), Josina, we continue with you (1971), The World I Offer You (1967) and Letter from a freedom fighter (1965).


  1. Is there a printed edition of this collection of poems?
    It is something, would love to have.
    Patrick Mac Manus

    Comment by Patrick Mac Manus — August 20, 2008 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Patrick, thank you for your interest. We’ve written to the author and will let you know his answer, which we will also post here.
    In solidarity

    Comment by newritings — August 24, 2008 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

  3. Good day
    I need a printed edition of this collection. How to get it?
    best regards

    Comment by celefium — June 7, 2009 @ 7:23 am | Reply

  4. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab
    inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants
    to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to
    tell someone!

    Comment by homepage — January 12, 2014 @ 10:00 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: