alda do espírito santo (1926-2010)

Alda Neves da Graça do Espírito Santo (30 April 1926 – 9 March 2010), known as Alda do Espírito Santo or Alda Graça, was a poet from São Tomé e Príncipe. Regarded widely as the “mother of the nation,” a poet and revolutionary—she was involved in the successful campaign seeking the nation’s independence in 1975.

In 1948, Alda de Graça began studying in Lisbon to become a teacher. While in Portugal, she would meet African students from other Portuguese colonies and join a Casa dos Estudantes do Império. She founded Centro de Estudos Africanos with other students, including Mário Pinto de Andrade, Agostinho Neto, Noémia de Sousa, Marcelino dos Santos, and Amilcar Cabral.

After returning to her islands in 1953, she worked as a teacher and was active in nationalist political work. Alda’s verses were considered “subversive and dangerous” by the Portuguese colonial authorities and she was imprisoned and tortured after protesting a 1953 massacre. After independence in 1975, she held several high offices of the government, including Minister of Education and Culture and Minister of Information and Culture. Upon her death in 2010, the government of São Tomé e Príncipe declared five days of national mourning.

my humble translation of one of her poems below:

“No mesmo lado da canoa”

(translated from Portuguese)

I am here, yes, brother

in the unrelenting mournings

where we gamble

life from our children

I am here, yes, my brother

on the same side of the canoe.


1: Fenske, Elfi Kürten (research, selection and organization). “Alda Espírito Santo - poet from the middle of the world”. Delphi Cultural Temple, July 2015.

2: Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, “#100AFRICANWOMENWRITERS: 3. ALDA DO ESPÍRITO SANTO”. bookshy, February 2017.

3: Diana Andringa, “Alda Espírito Santo (1926-2010)”. Caminhos da Memória [Paths of Memory], Thursday, 11 March 2010.

Using Format