Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute

Tulane University

Ned Sublette's Report from Mbanza-Kongo

January 16th, 2013

The Stone Center had the pleasure of welcoming author Ned Sublette to present a lecture on “Kongo Belief Past and Present” in which he shared stories and videos from his trip to the region in the summer of 2012. With support of a Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion, Sublette traveled to Angola to research the roots of the Kongo cultures he has written about in his books on Cuba and New Orleans.

Sublette explained, “Kongo culture became different traditions everywhere it went, but it forms one of the fundamental cultural webs of our hemisphere… the musical culture of the Americas has a musical DNA that is heavily Kongo up and down.”

Syncretism between Catholicism and African religion happened first in Kongo, with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century, and continued to evolve in the New World, to which thousands of Kongo people were forcibly displaced through the slave trade. Sublette explained the importance of Kongo concepts such as the kalunga line, which separates the world of the living from the world of dead, and showed videos of contemporary music traditions in Angola to demonstrate their visible and audible links to those found in the Americas. To hear more about this, we highly recommend his podcast on the topic at Afropop:

Hip Deep Angola Part 3: A Spiritual Journey to Mbanza-Kongo
http://www.afropop.org/wp/6180/hip-deep-angola-part-3-a-spiritual-journey-to-mbanza-kongo/

While in Angola, Sublette worked closely with Cuban-born Dr. Bárbaro Martínez Ruiz, professor of art and art history at Stanford. According to Sublette, Dr. Martínez’s forthcoming book, Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign, “promises a major step forward in our understanding of, among other things, the relationship of Africa to Afro-Cuba. He’s revolutionizing our knowledge about basic issues of Kongo culture and its connection to the diaspora.”

Read a transcript of Ned Sublette’s interview with Dr. Martínez here:
http://www.afropop.org/wp/6186/hip-deep-interview-barbaro-martinez-ruiz/

Listen to other episodes of Hip Deep Angola here:

Part 1: Music and Nation in Luanda
http://soundcloud.com/afropop-worldwide/hip-deep-angola-part-1-music

Part 2: 21st Century Urban Angola: Kizomba, Kuduro, Afro-House, and Beyond
http://soundcloud.com/afropop-worldwide/hip-deep-angola-part-2-kuduro

Part 4: The Cuban Intervention in Angola
https://soundcloud.com/afropop-worldwide/hip-deep-angola-4