Applying the concept of canon to lusophone African literatures: The case of Angola and "Yaka"

  • Noemi Alfieri Universidade Nova de Lisboa


The essay will consider some of the main problems related to the application of the Literary Canon to African Literatures in Portuguese Language and will focus on the particular case of the debate on the novel Yaka, written by Pepetela.

Cosmological and political differences from Europe, social identity and ethnical variety are the main fields which need to be explored, aiming to go through the cultural contrasts that stand on the core of Africa and to allow the European reader to have the tools to understand the message of the written text properly.

A short presentation of the Angolan Literature, with its linguistic plurality, will show how it has been used as a mirror of society and as a vehicle of the freedom utopias which held to the composition of a new nation after Independence: from Cordeiro da Matta to Raul David, from Luandino Vieira to Pepetela.

The considerations on the case of Yaka – and on the observation of the Angolan Literary Critic Luís Kandjimbo on the novel and its supposed “coloniality” -, will be useful tools to disclose the possible distortions of the message of literary works.

Kandjimbo appeals to the ontological specificity of the Angolan literary production and to its extended oral component to propose an alternative Canon to the European one, that on his own opinion uses the platonic heritage to create a totalitarian education on the basis on social reproduction. He opposes the model of a “cultural reproduction”, legitimated by the endogenous character of Angolan literature. Following this model, the Canon shall include all the writers (black, white and mixed ones) representing intrinsic factors and features historically related to the Angolan population and community.


This argument, satisfactory on its essence, is then forcedly applied to the novel object of our interest: charged with the supposed demystification of Mutu-ya-Kevela, historical personality well-known for the struggle against colonialism, Yaka is presented as alien to real Angola. An attentive analysis of the singular narrative focus of the text will soon demonstrate the strong satirical purpose of the writer in representing the deep dissatisfaction of the white component of the country, no more recognized as Portuguese by the central authority, but still dealing with the complications related to define themselves as Angolan. We are lead to think that the condemnation of Kandjimbo (a brilliant critic who demonstrates in different occasions to know how to deal with complex logical and philosophical matters) is related to ideological or political issues.

    Several relevant questions arise from this very example. As the diffusion of art isn’t, nowadays, neither limited to a single country nor to a specific continent, are the readers able to grasp the deepest meaning of every single novel? Can we detect the eventual deformations on the perception of each identity concept?

Author Biography

Noemi Alfieri, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Phd Student at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa


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How to Cite
Alfieri, N. (2016). Applying the concept of canon to lusophone African literatures: The case of Angola and "Yaka". RiCOGNIZIONI. Rivista Di Lingue E Letterature Straniere E Culture Moderne, 3(5), 113-121.