Conceição Lima is a Santomean poet and journalist. She was born Maria da Conceição Costa de Deus Lima on 8 December 1961 in Santana, on the island of São Tomé, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa, where she attended primary and secondary school. She embraced anti-colonial ideals even before the independence of the country. In that respect, she was influenced by ‘underground’ literature, which she read through her interaction with Alda do Espírito Santo (1926-2010), a tutelar figure of the Santomean political and cultural circles. She began writing poetry at a very young age, and in 1979 participated in the 6th Conference of Afro-Asian Writers, which took place in Luanda.
In the early 1980s, she went to Portugal to study journalism. Returning to São Tomé, she worked for two newspapers: Revolução and Notícias. From 1985 to 1988, she was head of the Programmes and Transmissions department of Rádio Nacional, as well as head of the radio station's Technical Office of Information. Lima was also foreign correspondent for the LUSA News Agency, the biggest Portuguese-language news agency.
In 1988, she moved to the United Kingdom where she began a long career with the BBC, and later, joined the staff of their London editorial office. In the first half of the 1990s she worked as correspondent for the Portuguese daily newspaper Público and for France Internationale radio. In 1991 and 1992 Lima was hired by TOKTEN (Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals, promoted by the United Nations Development Programme), where she was responsible for training journalists and media staff in São Tomé and Príncipe. This experience encouraged her to found the periodical O País Hoje in 1993, closed down a few years later due to lack of funding.
From 1995 to 2008 she was a BBC reporter and producer of shows and TV series on such diverse political, social and cultural topics as the struggle against poverty, women and development, and oil and geo-politics in the Gulf of Guinea. During her stay in London, she was awarded a BA in Portuguese, Brazilian and African Studies by King’s College London, and an MA in African Studies by the School of Oriental and African Studies. In 2005 she produced a TV series on the 30th anniversary of the independence of Angola, which assessed the impact of the 2002 Peace Agreement on Angolan society. During her career as a journalist she interviewed Heads of State and government leaders as well as intellectuals, artists and community leaders from the Portuguese-speaking African countries.
Prior to the publication in 2004 of her first book, O Útero da Casa, Lima's work was published in anthologies and literary journals. It was followed in 2006 by A Dolorosa Raiz do Micondó. Both books are manifestations of a poetic work deeply affected by the history of São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as by dialogue with canonical Santomean writers such as Francisco José Tenreiro and Alda do Espírito Santo.
Colonization, slavery and the plurality of Santomean identity are themes which are evoked in her poetry as pillars of collective memory, and interwoven with personal memories.
The legacy and re-reading of Pan-Africanism and négritude are displayed in recurring references to the link between the islands and the continent, and by the dedication of several poems to leaders of anti-colonial movements, such as Amílcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba and Nkwame Nkrumah, as can be seen in her most recent book, O País de Akendenguê (2011). Lima's poetry has been disseminated and translated in several countries, and she has been invited to international book fairs and conferences, where she represents the literature of São Tomé and Príncipe.
In 2009 she returned to São Tomé and Príncipe, where she founded and ran the TV show Em Directo, devoted to political debate and broadcast on TVS, the Santomean public television service. The most-watched TV broadcast in the country, the programme was recognized as an important catalyst for democratic debate in São Tomé. In December 2010, however, Lima's contract was not renewed, and the programme was cancelled by decision of the government, resulting in protests by Santomean journalists. Aoani d’Alva, a Santomean journalist residing in Angola, and later Reporters Without Borders, circulated a petition expressing international solidarity with Lima and appealing for press freedom in São Tomé. This occurred within the context of widespread pressure and interference of political power in the media.
Since then, Lima has worked as a freelance reporter, writing regularly for the online magazine Téla Nón and for Revista África 21 (Angola). In 2013 she ran a new TV show, Cartas na mesa, devoted to political debate.
Compiled by Jessica Falconi (Lisbon)
O Útero da Casa (Lisbon: Caminho, 2004)
A Dolorosa Raiz do Micondó (Lisbon: Caminho, 2006)
Augusto, Ana Paula Baptista Monteiro Canhoto: ‘Na rota da identidade e da alteridade nas obras O útero da casa e A dolorosa raiz do Micondó de Conceição Lima e na Assomada nocturna (poema de N'Zé di Sant'y Águ) de José Luís Hopffer C. Almada’ ([Master’s Dissertation] Lisbon, UAB, 2007)
Falconi, Jessica: ‘A língua de Conceição Lima: um novo país da palavra’ in Literaturas Insulares: Leituras e Escritas de Cabo Verde e São Tomé e Príncipe, ed. by Margarida Calafate Ribeiro and Silvio Renato Jorge (Porto: Afrontamento, 2011, pp. 185-196)
—: ‘Entre a Casa e a Praça: Língua, Memória e Identidade na poesia de Conceição Lima’ (Teia Literária 3, 2009, pp. 125-139)
Hamilton, Russell: ‘Conceição Lima, Poet of São Tomé e Príncipe’ (Research in African Literatures 2.38, 2007, pp. 194-198)
Mata, Inocência: Polifonias Insulares: Cultura e Literatura de São Tomé e Príncipe (Lisbon: Colibri, 2010)
Tutikian, Jane ‘O poema porta aberta tocha acesa de Conceição Lima’ (Abril 5.9, November 2012, pp. 79-92)