Portrait of Silva Porto published in Silva Pôrto e a Travessia do Continente Africano (Lisbon, 1938), based on a photograph taken in 1852, currently at the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa


This research will complement our focus on the Ndembu chiefdoms and their networks with a case study of the Luso-African archival and writing practices adopted in hinterland Angola. The study will consider the complex and varied archives of the emblematic trader and sertanejo António da Silva Porto (1817-1890), a prolific writer, traveller, and influential protagonist in central Angola during most of the nineteenth century. In Angola and West Central Africa, Silva Porto’s life and travels were deeply entangled with African systems and cultures, during a period that preceded the consolidation of effective colonial occupation. In Portugal, he came to be seen as a herald of Portuguese late imperial expansionism, mainly thanks to Paiva Couceiro, Luciano Cordeiro and the Geographical Society of Lisbon, and despite his relationship with the metropole becoming very bitter over time. In this study, we will address this complex Luso-African duplicity by exploring the record-keeping and writing practices of this sertanejo. We intend to investigate Silva Porto’s extensive African writings, especially the set of volumes which make up his journal and which provides a long-term African-rooted perspective on everyday social and cultural life. Now held by institutions in Portugal, this archive can be conceived as potential evidence of intercultural archival practices in central Angola. We will therefore question its epistemological status as an African archive, by examining the contingencies of its production and circulation.


Researchers Ana Rita Amaral and Ricardo Roque are involved in this work.

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