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  • Conceição Lima, Poet of São Tomé e Príncipe
  • Russell G. Hamilton

Maria da Conceição de Deus Lima, who most often goes by her authorial name Conceição Lima, was born in 1961 on the island of São Tomé, situated in the Gulf of Guinea, some 170 miles from mainland Africa. A citizen of the small two-island nation of São Tomé e Príncipe, Conceição Lima has emerged in the postcolonial period as one of lusophone Africa's foremost contemporary poets. She began writing poems in her teens. As a matter of fact, in 1979, when she was only 19 years old, Conceição Lima traveled to Angola where, in Luanda, she participated in the 6th Conference of Afro-Asian Writers. She recited some of her poems and was probably the youngest among the many participants. Lima herself has referred to this recital as the first youthful phase of her emergence as a poet.

What might be termed Conceição Lima's second youthful phase began when she first had poems published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Her premiere as a poet of national recognition occurred in 1984 when Conceição Lima was among five São-Tomeans, who reached adulthood after independence and contributed to a caderno (notebook) that is an anthology consisting of thirteen poems. Among the total of six São-Tomeans who have poems in the anthology, the only one not a member of the then youngest postcolonial generation is Alda Espírito Santo. Born in 1926, Espírito Santo emerged as a published poet in the 1950s, and over the decades has come to be much admired for her verse. The above-cited notebook anthology, titled A Descoberta das Descobertas ou as Descobertas da Descoberta (The Discovery of the Discoveries or the Discoveries of the Discovery), was organized by Frederico Gustavo dos Anjos, two of whose poems are also included in the volume. The first poem printed in the anthology is by none other than Conceição Lima, identified by her nickname "Ção." The title of "Ção"'s introductory poem is "Descoberta" (Discovery). In a second caderno, this one being not an anthology, but an analytical study titled As Descobertas da Descoberta ou a Dimensão de uma [End Page 194] Mensagem Poética (The Discoveries of the Discovery or the Dimension of a Poetic Message), published in 1985, Frederico Gustavo dos Anjos makes the following pertinent statements with respect to Conceição Lima's poem "Descoberta":

"Descoberta" representa o resultado da visão objectiva que permite considerar de maneira justa e não por mero acaso os altos e baixos de toda uma situação conflituosa, mas objectiva, gerada por contradições sociais que não podem ser ignoradas. Então a 'Descoberta' faz o balanço das esperanças e dos feitos , dos sonhos e das possibilidades, do real e do ideal. E é Conceição Lima quem faz (pretende?) a constatação colectiva. Colectiva quererá dizer já de todos?

"Discovery" represents the result of the objective vision that permits us to consider in a just manner and not merely because of the highs and lows of a conflictive, but objective situation engendered by social contradictions that cannot be ignored. "Descoberta" thus takes account of the hopes and actions, of the dreams and possibilities, of the actual and the ideal. And it is Conceição Lima who makes (seeks to make?) a collective confirmation. (Does collective already include all?)


Augusto dos Anjos's foregoing observations implicitly affirm that in the sphere of a then emerging postcolonial literature Conceição Lima herself was in fact a revelation, or, indeed, a "discovery." In that early postcolonial period Lima's personal, but also essentially collective, poetic voice expressed a sense of the revolutionary idealism that characterizes many of the literary works produced by young, emerging writers.

During the ensuing years since Conceição Lima's first lyrical works appeared in print, she has continued to cultivate in her poetry, albeit with what might be termed decreasing idealistic patriotism, a "São-Tomeanness," at times provocative, in the most positive sense of the word, and always aesthetically engaging. Over...


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