The lights come on for “Cabral, the last big man’s moon”


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The lights come on and João Paulo Brito takes to the stage of the Jorge Barbosa National Auditorium in Praia for the rehearsal of the play “Cabral, a última lua de homem grande”, a co-production by the companies Sikinada (Cape Verde) and Teatro Art’Imagem (Portugal).

Bringing Amílcar Cabral – the historic leader of the independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde – to life was already an old idea and he is bringing it to the stage on National Heroes’ Day, a holiday in Cape Verde (and Guinea-Bissau), marking 51 years since he was assassinated in Conakry, in a show adapted from Mário Lúcio Sousa’s novel of the same title (Dom Quixote, 2022).

“Today is the day I’m going to die,” the character cries out, suitcase in hand, through cut-out panels that are shaped like trees, symbolizing Cabral’s basic education (agronomy), the landscapes he travelled through or the different branches of his life, which will be recalled over the course of 75 minutes.

Thus begins a monologue interspersed with multimedia elements – sounds, historical recordings, photos, images projected onto trees – with which Cabral interacts to recall memorable moments, reinforce his thoughts or reflect on himself.

A voice bursts onto the stage from time to time to indicate the time, while Amílcar opens and closes his suitcase, changes his clothes and shaves, reproducing the routines of his last day, as if counting down.

“His life is in that suitcase,” says Elisabete Gonçalves, responsible for the set and costume design, who was inspired by the suitcase exhibited at the Amílcar Cabral House-Museum in Praia to find the most similar model.

The research extended to various pieces of his closet, including the “sumbia”, a traditional headdress that was given by peasants in Oio (Guinea-Bissau) to the independence leader, who has worn it ever since, creating the brand image that endures – and which João Paulo Brito recreates on stage.

“In a monologue you’re more on your own,” but the new show “was a team effort, with various contributions,” says the actor, who welcomes the responsibility of playing an iconic figure and sees it as a challenge.

João Paulo Brito remembers when, in 2018, the ideas came together at a meeting with Mário Lúcio Sousa – who was about to launch the book – and Flávio Hamilton, from the Teatro Art’Imagem (Porto) team and director of the new show.

“If it doesn’t please everyone,” at least “let there be a dialog,” says Flávio Hamilton, noting that the show may surprise, as it “gives access” to a more human side of Amílcar Cabral, in addition to the iconic narrative.

“The journey of the historical figure is there, but it’s probably not the most focused side,” he says, while setting up the steps for one of the show’s moments, alongside João Paulo Brito.

The premiere is scheduled for Saturday at 20:00 (21:00 in Lisbon) at the Jorge Barbosa National Auditorium in Praia, Cape Verde, but Flávio Hamilton hopes to take the co-production elsewhere.

For May, a week is scheduled in Maia, Portugal, home of Art’Imagem, there are also contacts with Guinea-Bissau and the ambition to visit other places in Lusophony.

The show is part of a series of civil society activities included in the commemorations presented by the Amílcar Cabral Foundation in Praia to mark the centenary of the historical figure’s birth (September 12), which is being celebrated this year.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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