A reading of Amílcar Cabral’s agronomic writings exposes substrata of a syntax for liberation later performed in guerrilla language and the struggle against Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. This visual and sonic reading explores the definitions of soil and erosion that Cabral developed as an agronomist, as well as his reports on colonial land exploitation and analysis of the trade economy, to unearth his double agency as a state soil scientist and as a ‘seeder’ of African liberation. Cabral understood agronomy not merely as a discipline combining geology, soil science, agriculture, biology and economics but as a means to gain materialist and situated knowledge about peoples’ lived conditions under colonialism. The scientific data he generated during his work as an agronomist, along with his poetry, were critical to his theoretical arguments in which he denounced the injustices perpetrated on colonised land, and it later informed his warfare strategies.
Cabral used his role as an agronomist for the Portuguese colonial government subversively to further anti-colonial struggle. Cabral’s process of decolonisation was understood as a project of soil reclamation and national reconstruction in the postcolony. His agency as an agronaut ventures through soil cosmologies, mesologies, meteorisations, ‘atmos-lithos’ conflict zones, celluloid compost, violence of imperial consumption — the sugar question. Humble derives from Humus.
Performative lecture by Filipa César with sound by Jin Mustafa and images from Sana na N’Hada and Flora Gomes, 1974, Cape Verde.