Interview with José Luís Fortunato de Mendonça

In the framework of the Biennale of Luanda 2021, discover our special interview with José Luís Fortunato de Mendonça, Angolan journalist and poet.

1. Could you tell us about your work as a journalist?

I started publishing chronicles in a newspaper created at the Salvador Correia high school in 1973 in Luanda. Later, I was a contributor to the Jornal de Angola, publishing articles and caricatures, because I am also an amateur designer.  In the 1980s, I was a member of the Jornal de Angola, as Head of the editorial and culture area. In the late 1980s, I worked for UNICEF Angola as an Information Assistant. In 2008, I joined diplomacy and went to Paris to work at the Representation of Angola at UNESCO, as press attaché, a position I left in 2021 to direct the newspaper CULTURA in Luanda. I am retired, but I continue to work with a Portuguese language program at TPA (Public Television of Angola)  and interviews in various agencies. This year, I received the "SADC Journalism Award" in the Press category. Already in 2005, I have been awarded the "CNN-  Multichoice Journalism Award" in the same category.

The media can and should spread peace, giving room for everyone to speak
José Luís Fortunato de Mendonça

2. Do you consider that the press and the media have a responsibility in promoting the culture of peace?

The greatest responsibility. The conflict in Rwanda began with a radio show that fueled hatred between Hutus and Tutsis. The media can and should spread peace, giving room for everyone to speak, without exclusion of parts and that these parts differ, with urbanism, respect and civility.

3. Angola won the 1st place in the 2021 of SADC Journalism Award, in the press category, with an article of its own entitled "The syndrome of cultural isolation among the nations of Southern Africa". What does this victory mean to you?

Generally in Africa, more than in other latitudes, what dominates is the discourse and will of politicians. Intellectuals have little voice and decisive participation in large areas of regional or pan-African development because they are not heard, are not invited to African Union summits or other forums. When you win a regional prize, in any area, the public wakes up to know the work of the winner.  If my article on the cultural invisibility of our countries in Southern Africa is read by our leaders at SADC that would be my biggest prize. Because I raise a very topical  and  pertinent question. We Africans cannot continue with our backs turned to each other.

4. In addition to being a journalist, teacher, writer, you are also a poet and won the Prize of Poetry Sagrada Esperança in 1981, and the Sonangol Great Prize of Literature in 1989. Do you think artists also have a role to play in the culture of peace?

A relevant role. Our world is a very dangerous place to live. Building the foundations of peace is every artist's duty. My greatest concern has been with the education of children and young people. Therefore, I am a teacher and have developed  projects related to primary school and education in general in communities. We artists should devote more time to interacting with children, and forging playful activities that teach them respect for others, respect for difference and the environment.

5. What advice would you give to young Africans who would like to become a journalist?

Journalism is one of the most dangerous professions on the planet. Even so, it attracts many young people, due to the challenge of communicating. This is an innate tendency of the human being since the times of caves. Young aspiring journalists must first master the language of work. Secondly, they must have a solid General Culture. One of the elements of this General Culture is the knowledge of the General History of Africa, the History of its countries, a little philosophy, geography and science. In a few years, the aspiring journalist must be a person adecemed to knowledge, to publish journalistic pieces of universal quality. For this, you must read a lot, from novels, short stories, newspapers, magazines, to see educational films and participate in debates on various topics. And above all, to be a humanist, dominating the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of the Cultural Renaissance and other universal norms.

About José Luís Fortunato de Mendonça