Western Civilization

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The themes dominating Neto's poetry are quite indicative of the fact that the veracity and practice of luso-tropicalism, the idea that the Portuguese went to Africa to civilize and christianize Africans, and the notion that the assimilation project was a widespread one, were more myth than reality. The poems included in Sacred Hope illustrate well the oppression, apartheid, (un)civilization, and (un)Christianity brought to Africa by the Portuguese. The poem which in its English translation is called "Western civilization" ("Civilização ocidental"), constitutes a good example of that so-called civilization and Christianity brought to Angola (and other parts of Africa) by the Portuguese colonizers. The title of the poem might lead some readers to believe that what is to come is an apology for Western civilization and culture and for its good deeds in Africa. It could be suggested that such readers have fallen into what can be described as the "Eurocentric trap" -- that is, they went into the reading of the poem with the preconceived idea that Western colonizers did indeed go to Africa to civilize Africans. These readers will only be disappointed and even confused for what is to be painted in the poem is not civilization but rather (un)civilization. The poem's title is in fact highly ironic: it is used by the poet to make the reader reflect about the true nature of Western civilization, see its many (un)civilized sites and make him/her question the motives behind the colonial enterprise. For example, in this poem, the houses of Angolans are described as "Tins fixed to stakes / driven in the earth" whose "intimate landscape" is "complet[ed] by rugs" (18). And these "houses" are full of "cracks" through which the sun enters just to awake its "inhabitant," who is tired from "twelve hours of slave / labour" (18). The poet then proceeds to describe the endless hard work performed by the Angolan: "Breaking stones / carrying stones / breaking stones /...
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