The culture of São Tomé e Príncipe

A blend of the continents

São Tomé e Príncipe has grown from colonial influences, with agricultural outposts and slave trade being the main businesses, in the first centuries after its colonization in late 15th century. Large agricultural companies, so called Roças, were constructed all over the islands, cultivating sugar cane, coffee and cocoa. With the exception of a two year ocupation by the Netherlands, São Tomé e Príncipe was a Portuguese colony untill 1975, when it gained independence peacefully. Our tradition and culture is based on the mix of trade and agriculture, seafaring and fishing, slavery and independence, cultures and influences from Portugal, Africa, Brasil and Europe.

Cultures grown from Nature

The most important places to feel the culture of São Tomé e Príncipe are the Roças. Dozens of these agricultural outposts are located allover the islands. Some of these Roças are small jungle farms, others are small cities sometimes reminding of European castles amidst the rainforest. The larger Roças usually had their own port, plus most of them an own railway network. Names such as the Coffee Mountain (Monte Café) or the Golden River (Rio d’Ouro, today Agostinho Neto) give an idea of the profits earned.

Roça Monte Café: High in the mountain, still surrounded by coffee and cocoa plantations. Roça Água Izé: Still producing and exporting tons of cocoa for superb chocolates sold allover Europe and the UK. Roça Agostinho Neto: Famous for its castle like former hospital overlooking the roça. Formerly linked by railroad to Fernão Dias, today an independence fight heritage site. Roça Sundy: The place where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was first scientifically proven, during a solar eclipse.

Recomended books and music related to São Tomé e Príncipe

Selected reading and listening

Sodade, by Cesária Evora
(ASIN: B009Y1L6RC)

“If you will write me, I’ll write you. If you will forget me, I’ll forget you. Till the day you’ll be back.” One of the most famous songs of World Music Star Cesária Evora, from Cape Verde, singing about the slave- or contract- workers leaving her country to work at 5,000km away São Tomé plantations. Part of Miss Perfumado CD.

Equator, by Miguel Sousa Tavares
(ISBN: 978-0747596622)

Contemporary fiction contrasting the life of Luis Bernardo, a member of Lisbon high society and new Governor São Tomé e Príncipe, with those of local Roça owners, slave workers and English led struggle to end such slave labour. Perfect look into São Tomé’s lifestyle in the early 20th century.

Boleia, by Kalu Mendes

Contemporary music album by São Tomé e Príncipe’s star, including songs in Portuguese and local language such as Semeio-se o Vento, Seguro Morreu o Velho, Lyon Katadéla, Boleia and Bolila. Diverse, dancable and perfect music for a good time. Don’t forget to look out for one of his life sessions in São Tomé.

Truely unique. Truely local.

Festivals and dances in São Tomé e Príncipe

Grown from the mixed traditions of our country, local cultures, festivals and dances have emerged. The following events are famous for São Tomé e Príncipe. Auto de Floripes theatral carnaval dance: A long lasting parade, usually in Santo Antonio, during August, dating back to Portuguese influences and dealing with cultural fights inside Europe in the Middle Ages. Tchiloli is a masked theatral performance, uniquely mixing African culture with colonial influences. The origin of Tchiloli date back to a fight of Charlemagne in Germany, blended with stories of love, infidelity and tragedy. Dança do Congo is yet another unique event, to be seen for example on Neves city’s party, with masked dancers parading the streets, some of them on dizzying stilts. Bulaué dance as well as Cape Verdian dances of farm workers add to the diversity of Santomean culture.

A warm welcome for every visitor:

São Tomé e Príncipe Restaurants

On a veranda next to the Ocean, international food and drinks, served in stylish environment.

Right within the old town, next to Taxi square and Ministry of Culture, serving Pizza and international food.

Rustic restaurant within the festival grounds, serving local dishes, grilled fish, meat and breadfruit.

French inspired upmarket cuisine, inside the hotel, Saturdays with life music at the beach.

Hidden in a backyard, close to the Fort, serving local dishes with a premium touch.

At São Tomé’s airport bay, on a huge veranda high above the Ocean. Local dishes with a view.

Upmarket modern cuisine, with a touch of local spices at the hotel’s colonial buildings.

Modern interpreted Santomean cuisine, served on tropical veranda, decorated with local art.

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