MEMORY AND IDENTITY IN FORT S. SEBASTIÃO AND FERNÃO DIAS, SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE

João Sarmento
Geography Department University of Minho
Centre for Geographical Studies, University of Lisbon

j.sarmento@geografia.uminho.pt

This paper attempts to unpack meanings related with two stone monuments – a Fort built in colonial times and a memorial built in a postcolonial context – and with the geographical, economical and political contexts in which São Tomé and Príncipe is presently living. I analyse in detail the sixteenth century built São Sebastião Fort, in São Tomé city, providing an extensive descriptive view/visit/stroll of the National Museum established there in 1976. I argue here for a centrality of the Fort as a material site that can critically contribute to the dynamics of São Tomean identity. I then discuss how under the rational of modernisation, progress, creative destruction and gusts of neo-colonialism that destabilise landscape and public memory, one of the most significant monuments of the independence struggle – Fernão Dias Monument – was recently demolished. The destruction of this monument and the hypothetical construction of a new one highlight the complicated and entangled nature of memory, where the commemoration of the past has been silenced and is hostage of the inevitable and relentless pace of the neoliberal project. My aim in presenting these stories is to sketch connections between places, to unravel some of the interpretation and representation performances of the past and explain how the construction of multiple temporalities and spatialities is inscribed in a colonial present, but open to postcolonial critique and acts of remembrance, and possible de-colonisation projects.

The materials collected for the construction of this chapter derive from archival work in Lisbon (mainly the National Archive of the Torre do Tombo – ANTT) and STP (mainly the Historical Archive of STP), and especially from fieldwork in São Tomé in early 2010, which included various performative perspectives on Fort São Sebastião and the National Museum, visits to Fernão Dias Plantation and Monument, informal interviews with various people, and visits to other key sites.

Keywords: postcolonialism, heritage, identity, Fort Sebastião, Fernão Dias

Biography note: Professor Auxiliar no Departamento de Geografia da Universidade do Minho e Investigador no Centro de Estudos Geográficos da Universidade de Lisboa. Doutorou-se em Geografia na Universidade de Cork, Irlanda (2001) e os seus interesses de investigação estão ligados à Geografia cultural, às Geografias Pós-coloniais, ao Turismo, Património, Memória e Identidade, sobretudo em África e no Irão. Recentemente publicou o livro Fortifications, Post-colonialism and Power. Ruins and Imperial Legacies. (2011, Londres: Ashgate).

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