This letter exchanged between an important member of Quitonganha’s royal family, in 1801, with a representative of the Portuguese colonial administration, is a fragment of the valuable letters sent by Sultanates located in Northern Mozambique, Tanzania and the Indian Ocean to Portuguese colonial authorities. This letter is a rare example of document produced by an African woman in the North of Mozambique, at the beginning of the nineteenth-century.

This letter by Mamungui Momade, “mother” of the Sheik of Quitangonha, to the capitão-mor of Baneanes, is a copy, translated into Portuguese, of a set of eleven letters exchanged between Isidro de Almeida Sousa e Sá, Captain-general of Mozambique, Narcy Ranechor, Capitão-mor of Baneanes, Tawakali Hija, Sheik of Quitangonha, and other members of the Sultanate’s royal family. This set of documents is an example of the rich letter exchange in Arabic writing (using the alphabet called Ajami) between Sultanates on the region and Portuguese colonial authorities. The letter reports that Tawakali Hija had murdered the prince of Matibane, probably in 1795, and, since then, established a bellicose relation with the Portuguese. In 1801, the peace was reestablished, and letters of negotiation were exchanged between the Sheik and the Captain-general. One of the conditions set by Isidro de Almeida to stop the conflicts was to oblige Tawakali Hija to travel to Mozambique Island where he would receive official pardon. Mamungui Momade interfered with these negotiations and asked for the Sheik not to be betrayed by the Portuguese. The Portuguese term mãe (“mother”) seems to be used here to translate the original term Piamwene. The latter term was used to defined powerful women, with political and spiritual functions in the Sultanates of this the region.

Author: Matheus Serva Pereira.

D. Garcia informs his Portuguese homologue about the missionary work, his royal marriage with queen Izabel and his mother’s Christian burial. The King of Kongo also appeals to the Portuguese prince for sending him priests to continue father’s Luigi work and expresses great catholic engagement and knowledge in his political discourse.

Author: Thiago Sapede.

Full transcript: SAPEDE, Thiago C. Le roi et le temps, le Kongo et le monde. Une histoire globale des transformations politiques du Royaume du Kongo (1780-1860), thèse de doctorat en Histoire, Paris, EHESS, 2020, pp. 155-156; 266-268.

This document is a request for a passport signed by Sobachande Sauchande, in 1810. This is one example of documents produced by the baneanes merchants in connection with the Portuguese colonial administration at Mozambique Island. The set of passport requests located by the INDICO team at Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino suggests the importance of such writings to the trading routes between Indians merchants and African kingdoms in Mozambique.

Between the second half of 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century, every merchant established at Mozambique Island had to request licenses and passports from the Portuguese administration to be able to travel and make business in Portuguese colonial territories. The most common requests were made by the so-called baneanes, a term used in Portuguese documentation to encompass the various Hindu and Jaina Indian trader. The baneanes intended to travel in small boats with the objective of extracting wood, of buying food provisions, or just “making business” with African kingdoms located, mostly, in Northern and Central Mozambique. Sobachande Sauchande was one of the most important baneane merchants of this period. In this document, Sauchande requests permission to send a large vessel to make commerce in Quelimane Port; he listed a crew of thirty-seven people. The signature of this same trader also appears in many other requests and documents produced by the baneane community at Mozambique Island. The large number of baneane travel requests to call at Portuguese ports in Mozambique, and to trade with African Kingdoms indicates the growing importance of paper documents to regulate commerce and trade relationships between different people and groups in the region.

Author: Matheus Serva Pereira.

This permit granted to a prominent baneane merchant of Mozambique Island, Sobachande Sauchande, by the Governor and General-Capitan of Mozambique, Francisco de Paula de Albuquerque, suggests traders in East Africa produced, requested, and probably also archived Portuguese administrative documentation related to commerce and mobility. To be in possession of such documents was necessary for guaranteeing and making possible long-distance trades with other European ports and with African kingdoms.

The Portuguese administration maintained a conflictual relationship with the baneane merchants that dominated the Mozambican commercial routes during the eighteenth century. The baneanes controlled the small-trade commerce with African kingdoms in Central Mozambique and Afro-Islamic kingdoms on the Eastern African coast, as well asthe long-distance trading routes in the Indian Ocean. During the eighteenth century, the transportation of enslaved Africans between Mozambique and America, especially Brazil, could result in financial losses for the slave traders. This occurred because, among other reasons, Brazilian slave-traders familiar with the Atlantic slave-trade routes were not able to compete with the commodities traded by the baneanes, especially cheaper and better-quality fabrics from Indian. However, the permit granted in 1806 to Sobachande Sauchande by the Governor and General-Capitan of Mozambique to sail “with a shipment of negroes” to the Cape of Good Hope and from there to any Portuguese port or friendly nation, signals a new moment in the baneanes activities in this African region. Between the end of the eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century, the Atlantic slave trade route from Africa to Brazil slowly shifted from West Africa to Mozambique. Then, the dominant influence of baneanes in the Mozambique economy was threatened by merchants coming from Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Bahia in Brazil. It was in this context that Sobachande Sauchande, one of the most important baneane merchants in Mozambique, used his influence to obtain a document that gave him permission to become a slave-trader and enter the prosperous commerce in African enslaves, between Mozambique and Brazil.

Author: Matheus Serva Pereira.

This letter by the Sultan of Anjuane, in 1808, to a representative of the Portuguese colonial administration is an example of correspondence exchanged between sultans and sheiks from the archipelago of Comoro and Portuguese authorities. The letters roduyced by African Islamic kingdoms from Northern Mozambique, Tanzania and Comoro Islands are important to understand the changes in Portuguese colonial power during the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Between the sixteenth- and the nineteenth-century, European presence in East Africa was marked different political and economic relationships with African kingdoms on the continent and on the islands of the Indian ocean. Important ports located in the Islamic kingdoms of the Comoro archipelago were used by Indian and European merchants in Indian Ocean because of their privileged location. The Portuguese colonial administration in Mozambique Island tried to establish political alliances with different kingdoms in that archipelago, such as Quirimbas and Anjoane. The idiom used in the correspondence (normally, either Portuguese or KiswahilI) between these kingdoms and the Portuguese authorities changed over the year; it also depended on the Sultan or sheik and his ability to trust on his interpreters. The displaed letter is written in Portuguese and signed by Sultan Alaui ibn Hussein Ibrahim ibn Sultan, “King” of Anjoane. The Arabic alphabet is used and the document shows the distinguished royal stamp, symbol of the kingdom. The Islamic kingdoms from Comoro Islands and East Africa normally used these stamps as an insignia of power and as way to certify the authenticity of the letters and the author.

Author: Matheus Serva Pereira.

The sheiks from Sultanate of Quitangonha established a regular exchange of correspondences with the Portuguese colonial administration in Mozambique Island. In the beginning of nineteenth century, the relation between the Sultanate and Portuguese power has change, and the idiom used. This letter, written in Portuguese, in 1810, by the sheik Safar Salimo, about a military action to help the Portuguese on the continent cost in front of Mozambique Island, indicates some aspects of the changes during this period.

Between 1795 and 1801, the Sultanate of Quitangonha, governed by sheik Tawakali Hija stablished a bellicose relation within the Portuguese. After the peace arrangements made between Hija and the Governor of Mozambique, and the death of Hija in 1804, a new sheik has emerged with the Portuguese support. During the eighteenth century, the letters we found at the AHU between Quitangonha’s sheiks and Governors of Mozambique were, majority, Portuguese translated copies originally written, probably, in Ajami, African language written in Arabic alphabet. At the beginning of nineteenth century, we started to found letters made by Quitangonha’s sheiks, such Sanfar Salimo, signed in Portuguese and Arabic, but written only in Portuguese. After the peace between the Sultanate of Quitangonha and the colonial Portuguese administration, during some years, it seems that the Portuguese became to be used as a written common language in official correspondence. This does not mean Quitangonha’s subservience to colonial power. In the letter written by Safar Salimo, in 1810, to António Manoel de Mello Castro e Mendonça, Governor and Capitan-General of Mozambique, the sheik complains the lack of confidence by “people of Monssuril” because of his presence in the region. According Salimo, this was not justified since the Sultanate of Quitangonha were supporting the Portuguese against possible attacks by the Maconde kingdoms.

Author: Matheus Serva Pereira.

In 1815, a group of thirteen “kings of the kingdoms of Timor island” files a collective petition letter (representação) to the then prince regent of Portugal, D. João. They plead with the king not to appoint again Vitorino Freire Cunha Gusmão (a former governor of Timor) to the governorship. The rejection of this governor is based on complaints about constant abuses of power during his first tenure, and on the fear that, in case he returns to Timor, he will seek revenge on those “vassals” who protested and criticized his misbehaviours. This representação is one of a few surviving examples of the active engagement of Timorese kings and queens in writing practices within the petitionary political culture of the empire’s Ancien Regime.

Author: Ricardo Roque

This request for “assimilation” reveals the Africans’ use of writing and paper bureaucracies to deal with and to manage the Portuguese twentieth-century policies of “assimilation” . The document displayed here was produced by an employee of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA), a major recruiting agency for Mozambican migrant workers to South African mines, with a view to get official confirmation of their “assimilated” status and therefore improve his position as a worker.

European late colonialism in Africa was marked by tensional policies of differentiation and incorporation of African populations and by debates about the concession of citizenship to Africans within the European colonial empires. Similarly, racial hierarchies and juridical norms in the Portuguese colonial empire prevented Africans from obtaining a complete Portuguese citizenship. In the twentieth-century, the colonial regime established two legal categories: the so-called indígenas (“natives”) and the assimilados (“assimilated”). These categories were in force between 1917 and 1961. “Assimilated” Africans were legally defined as those who had abandoned their “racial customs”, such as polygamy and local religions. “Assimilation” was also a complex bureaucratic procedure that required the African applicant to fill in a number of paper forms. To obtain “assimilated” status it was necessary to bear proof of reading and writing skills in the Portuguese language. Thus, applications for “assimilated” status were used by Africans to prove their knowledge and skills with the Portuguese language. “Assimilation” was also sought by Africans as a means to escape from certain forms of exploitation, such as forced labour, or abusive taxes, as well as to obtain better salaries.

Author: Matheus Serva Pereira.

Part of a larger inquiry, this document is a typical example of the bureaucratic routines through which colonial officials tried to harness local knowledge to facilitate land administration.

Written in Marathi, using the cursive Modi script, and accompanied by a Portuguese translation, this document contains the information presented by the gaunkars (joint proprietors), nadkarni and kulkarni (provincial and village accountants) of Ponda, in the so-called New Conquests (Novas Conquistas) region of Goa, to a series of questions posed by the colonial authorities. These questions regarded the state of agricultural development and commercial activities in the province. The signatories stated that all suitable lands were under some form of cultivation and suggested the plantation of fruit trees as a means of agricultural improvement, while explaining the role of the province as a passageway in the commercial routes between the coast and the interior.

Author: José Ferreira.

This letter exchanged between Dembo authories in 1913 is a fragment of the valuable archives of Ndembu states or chiefdoms in Angola. D. Sebastião Agombe writes to ask his African interlocutor to “send” him one “letter with a spell” (carta com feitiço). This request suggests African papers in circulation could, sometimes, be understood as agencies of a kind of power that exceeded mere information.

The documentation preserved by the Ndembu (Jindembu) states or chiefdoms in Angola are important testimonies to the centuries-old significance of African practices of archiving. In 1934, Portuguese anthropologist António de Almeida took possession (allegedly “as a loan”) of the State Archive of Dembo Caculo Cacahenda and brought it to Lisboa, for study purposes. This set of more than one thousand manuscripts dating from the seventeenth- to the twentieth-century was rediscovered in the 2000s by researchers of the Tropical Science Research Institute. Along with the authorities of Angola they began a process leading to the classification of the “Ndembu Archives” as Memory of the World by UNESCO. The document exhibited here – a letter exchanged between Dembo authorities in 1913 – is a fragment of this valuable, diverse and complex African archive. In this letter, D. Sebastião Agombe writes his African interlocutor, Dembo Caculo Cacahenda, with a request to “send” him one “letter with a spell” (carta com feitiço). This request suggests African papers in circulation could, sometimes, be understood as agencies of a kind of power that exceeded mere information.

Author: Ricardo Roque.

Full Transcript: Tavares, Ana Paula e Catarina Madeira Santos, Africae Monumenta. A apropriação da escrita pelos africanos. Lisboa: IICT, 2002, p. 353.

In this peace treaty the Portuguese tried to impose heavy conditions to reestablish relations of “alliance and friendship” with Kongo after the recuperation of Luanda from Dutch. This proposition was refused by Garcia II and another text with different conditions would be signed after negotiations in 1651.

Author: Thiago Sapede.

Full transcript: Brásio, António (org), 1965, Monumenta Missionaria Africana. Vol. 10, África Ocidental (1647-1650). Lisboa: Agência Geral do Ultramar, p. 376-378.

Stamped with the personal seal of the desai, the letter is suggestive of the way written documents and petitions were used by different subjects to insert themselves into the networks of patronage and political power of the Portuguese empire.

This letter written by the desai (“lord of the land”) of Bicholim, in what is now the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Goa, to the king of Portugal is an example of the documentary connections between the various polities and military chiefdoms of the western coast of India and the Portuguese imperial authorities. In his letter, Ramagi Sinai Suria Rao, who was then living under Portuguese protection in Goa, refers to the assistance he and his armed retainers had provided to the Estado da Índia in several instances and petitions that his son, Crisnagi Sinai, be given the post of captain of lascars (capitão da companhia dos lascarins) as a reward for these services.

Author: José Ferreira.

This document is part of a set of oaths of allegiance to the Constitutional Charter of 1826 (Carta Constitucional) that were sworn by different individuals, groups, corporations, and institutions in Goa, currently preserved at the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino.

Granted by the emperor of Brazil, D. Pedro I, as a moderate constitution that would provide the basis for the reign of his daughter, D. Maria II, as queen of Portugal, the Carta was briefly in force across the Portuguese empire until the absolutist coup of 1828. Signed by the Maratha officers of the sepoy corps of the province of Sanquelim, probably the remotest and certainly the most unruly area of the territory of Goa, this oath of allegiance is suggestive of the imperial ramifications of the political convulsions that marked the emergence of the Portuguese liberal regime amidst a global “Age of Revolutions”.

Author: José Ferreira.

English EN Portuguese PT