I'm embarking on a 54-week project wherein I study one Africa country each week. No rules or limits on what I study or seek to learn, just trying my best to learn more about each country. I feel that in African studies the focus is usually placed on certain countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc) or certain events (colonialism, the Rwandan genocide, apartheid, etc), so that people interested in Africa might know a lot about a specific region or time, but not have thorough knowledge of the continent. I am hoping to remedy this situation, that I have at least found in myself, by means of this project.
Cape Verde, a group of small islands, located 500 km off the coast of Senegal, is sizzling up this week. (Literally, I got to try some Cape Verdean cuisine this week while I coincidentally was in Portugal! Although, I think it was just Portuguese food labeled as Cape Verdean to give it a flare, so I'm taking it all with a grain of salt).
The flag is made up of 10 stars, which represent each of the main islands. The blue represents the ocean, the white is symbolic of the road to construction, and the red shows the effort of the people. These islands are located in the southernmost part of the Macaronesia area, being the only fully sovereign state in this area, as the other islands are part of Spain or Portugal. Most people live in Praia on the island Santiago, which holds about 40% of the entire population. One of the main islands, Santo Luzia, has no permanent population, yet is still considered a main islands. (There is a nature reserve though!)
Even though far off the coast of Africa, Cape Verde is still affected by the Harmattan winds of the Sahel. The winds make the eastern islands dry and desert-like. The other islands are still dry, but more mountainous and fertile. The arable land only makes up 10% of the country and when rain does come, it's usually in the shape of violent storms that wash away the top soil. The islands have the perfect weather for creating hurricanes, cool wine and warm water, and some of the most violent hurricanes are created in these surrounding waters.
A former Portuguese colony and a large area during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, there were diverse cultures and peoples coming to Cape Verde. From this, Cape Verdeans developed their own racial identity and their own language. About 80% of the population is of Creole ethnicity, with small portions being Portuguese or of African descent. There were a lot of troubles with standardizing the language because it changed so much from island to island. Almost everyone speaks Cape Verde Creole, but the official language is Portuguese.
The two things that drew me into Cape Verde this week were the music and the Jewish history on the island. Self-claimed, Cape Verde says it's home to a greater number of musicians per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world. Being a main location during the transatlantic slave trade, Cape Verde developed a rich history of cultures, many who brought their musical styles along with them, such as Batuque, Morna, and Funana, becoming the music of the islands today.
And some more pop music to bide us over:
If you're into exploring some more music from the islands, the 10th annual Kriol Jazz Festival will take place in April of 2018! Who knows, we might bump into each other :P
Interestingly, Cape Verde is the only African nation (maybe even the only nation? Looking at you Barby at Georgraphy Now to check this and let me know), where more people live outside the country as opposed to in it. There are communities in the U.S. that have a larger Cape Verdean community than some of the islands. If that doesn't explain how large the diaspora is, around 10% of the GDP is from remittances. Before independence in 1975, Cape Verdeans had Portugeuese passports, so it’s hard to know just how large the diaspora is around the world.
But, back to music. This is an example of music from the Cape Verdean diaspora, from a Paris based MC group:
I throughly enjoyed studying Cape Verde's culture & history a bit. I was hoping to get my hands on some translations of Eugénio Tavare or of Baltasar Lopes da Silva's works, but was unable to find anything in a language that I can read. Hopefully I will stumble upon something in the future!