São Tomé and Príncipe Culture and Economy

São Tomé and Príncipe Culture and Economy


At the time of independence in 1975, plantation agriculture was largely nationalized; a period of planned economy followed which, instead of relieving the country from the condition of poverty in which it lay, led to a decline in production. In the eighties and nineties of the twentieth century, also thanks to the help of the IMF and the World Bank, the country attempted to restore its economy, privatizing many plantations and creating a free zone to encourage foreign investments. The growth of GNP between 2006 and 2007 was high and the discovery of offshore hydrocarbon fields attracted foreign capital; inflation and unemployment remain very high; in 2008 the per capita income it stood at US $ 1,101. § Agriculture employs about one third of the active population: the main products are cocoa, coconut and oil palm nuts, cassava and copra. § The islanders are also engaged in fishing, the greatest proceeds of which derive from the sale of licenses to foreign fleets, and, however, to a very limited extent, from the breeding of livestock. § The presence of industry is essentially limited to the processing of agricultural products. § The trade balance presents a deficit situation, while foreign indebtedness is strong: most of the development plans were financed with the use of loans granted by the IBRD, the African Development Bank and other international financial institutions. Exports consist mainly of cocoa, followed by copra and coconuts, while imports consist mainly of cereals and other foodstuffs. The importance of the private sector in exporting has been growing and has benefited from the significant simplification of trade procedures. § The lines of communication are very limited; the capital is the main port and airport center of the country. § The enhancement of tourism resources presents considerable economic potential, for the purpose of which infrastructural improvements and incentive campaigns have been undertaken.


According to allunitconverters, indigenous architecture includes small raised wooden houses surrounded by small gardens (kintéh); such houses are widespread both in the countryside and in urban areas. Huts and canopies of all kinds are mounted around the main structure. Plantation workers are usually housed in large concrete shacks and houses known as sanzalas, over which the large houses of the plantation administrators loom. The diet is based on tropical fruits, legume bananas and bananas, while fish is the most common source of protein. The vegetables are cooked in palm oil. Since the days of colonialism, foods originating from other countries have become part of the diet of the residents: rice and wheat flour are the main ingredients of those who live in the city. Usually only one hot meal is cooked a day, before sunset; breakfast consists of reheated food from the night before or tea and bread; we eat around the hearth, which in many homes is set up in a structure, made of wood or branches, separated from the central body. In the’ island of São Tomé is still alive a very particular form of theatrical representation, unique in the continent. Is called Tchiloli and takes its cue from the story of the murder of the nephew of the Duke of Mantua, Valdevinos, and the trial of his murderer. The tradition dates back to the 16th century, and the narration takes place in Old Portuguese and Forro (name that the residents give to their Creole-Portuguese language). The actors are all men, everyone always plays the same part wearing colorful costumes inspired by court clothes (frock coats, jackets with gold buttons, wigs): the various scenes are interspersed with music made with drums, flutes and other African instruments accompanying the dance of the actors. The performance lasts five hours or even more. The dance is affected not only by influences from other African countries (Congo, Angola), but also by the rhythms of Portuguese-speaking countries (Cape Verde, Brazil). Particularly lively is the Danço Congo, similar to the samba; other popular dances, with enthralling rhythms, are the bulaué and the puita.


The Creole society, strongly mixed, has an interesting archaic folkloric literature, such as the chiloli, theatrical representations deriving from the Portuguese autos of the Charlemagne cycle, adapted to the rhythms of Africa. In the second half of the century. XIX there appears a literature written in Portuguese, with the poems of Francisco Stockler (ca. 1839-1884), tinged with sarcasm, and the posthumous Versos (1916) of C. da Costa Allegre (1864-1890), which express the bitterness of those who experience the difficulty of living in a white society and a frustrating racial conscience. In the first half of the century. XX João dos Santos Lima (1897-1967) creates light-hearted and elegant songs in Creole and Marcelo Veiga (1892-1976) is a prelude to the themes of Négritude in his anti-racist and anti-colonial protest verses. Among the best known writers, the poet and essayist Francisco J. Tenreiro (1921-1963), who sings the values ​​of his own rediscovered black identity, the poetesses Alda do Espirito Santo (b.1926) and Manuela Margarido (1926-2007) and the poet Thomás Medeiros (b. 1931) who, through love for the motherland Africa, express a fervor of struggle and a yearning for freedom. The poetic flowering seems to end after independence, a period in which the theme of national reconstruction prevails. However, some exceptions should be noted: the poets Leoter de Meneses, Ana Maria de Deus Lima (b. 1958) and Carlos Espírito Santo (b. 1952) who opted for Creole. Among the prose writers we mention Mario Domingues, Alves Preto and the Portuguese Sum Marky and Fernando Reis.

São Tomé and Príncipe Culture