Stories within Stories

November 26, 2017

 – Memoirs of Africa – 

I’m from a family of explorers.

It’s been like that for centuries. My great grandmother was born in the hot sun of Africa in a place with a different name now than what was back then, where the troubles of the world didn’t reach besides a note on the local newspaper.

I’ve never been to Africa, and I am today, the first generation of my family to have never explored the deep savannahs, travelled with old tribes and speak their native languages.

I’ve grown listening to stories on Sundays, around the family table, a costume that endured no matter the place. And from time to time I can close my eyes and travel through memories stolen from a scene. I can feel the sun burn my face and the soft touch of a white linen dress, while Fred Astaire echoed through the rooms reaching the porch and fade into the vast barren land.

How simpler life must have been. Those long balmy nights over cigarettes and port wine, surrounded by books, records and old letters recited every night in a seemingly social life.

I often find myself drifting through memories of that time, like a part of me wants to belong to a time and place not my own. I go through old photographs and find evanesce notations on the back, unravelling stories I do not yet comprehend. Clippings left inside a worn out book, forgotten love letters and trifles of an unpretentious way of life. Narratives of Africa, my Africa. In a black and white canvas, like stories within stories.


I look at my watch, hours gone by and outside the dim light sets in, like it does everyday. An ocean apart, a century in between.


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  • Reply Juliana November 27, 2017 at 08:06

    I have just discovered your lovely blog. Your writing is equisite and you photos beautiful! I’ve begun to go back and read your older entries and I eagerly await new ones.

    • Reply Ana Zilhão November 27, 2017 at 13:17

      Thank you so much Juliana! Its so good knowing that your words don’t get lost in the void of the web! I loved your website as well! Keep it up 🙂

  • Reply Patrícia Zilhão November 27, 2017 at 10:51

    Lovely portrait. Took me on a voyage I’ve been eager to walk. Thank you. <3

    • Reply Ana Zilhão November 27, 2017 at 13:16

      No thank you! For always reading me, and being my truest supporter <3

  • Reply Ruth Miranda November 27, 2017 at 11:09

    You have no idea how much this post has resonated with me! My maternal side of the family were all military men, and as such, plenty held high position in government within the colonies. Some in Africa, and when Mouzinho captured Gungunhana one of my ancestors was there, and part of that family lived for long in Lourenço Marques, but they were my granfather’s nephews and nieces. As for my own grandfather, he was born to one of the former governors of Macao, and during the ealry thirties, he was stationed there with one of his brothers. My grandad’s house was filled with furniture and art and delicate oranaments he brought from Macao, and I have always, always felt as if I don’t really belong here and in this time, but rather in Macao in the late twenties. This is very hard to explain, I am so much of an orietalist when it comes to style, be it decor or fashion, and am intrigued by the idea of the opium dens and the ladies with their long cigarette holders and their lipstck, I am intrigued by the photographs of the parties in the boat that took my grandfather to Macao, the photos of his time there, the memory of things he used to tell me. I am intrigued, and part of me feels as if I was once there, I belonged there, as if I was reborn into this body, this person I am today, but once upon a time I was someone else, and I traveled there, and to Hong KOng too, and I was one of those women, with their long cigarette holders and their opium daze and their red, red lipstick.
    I got married in a red chinese dress, by the way.

    • Reply Ana Zilhão November 27, 2017 at 13:15

      So lovely! I loved reading you! I don’t have much history in the oriental part, I believe my grandfather, but on my fathers side did service in India, but other than that, it was all Africa! 🙂

      • Reply Ruth Miranda November 27, 2017 at 15:17

        my paternal grandfather was in Africa, and so was my father, but he was there during the war so his memories were not pretty ones. with me it is always China, it is always Macao, but I am aware that I have a highly romanticised idea of it all. One day I will write a book featuring those times, I already tried but it’s very hard to come by the historical information and background needed for it to work.

        • Reply Ana Zilhão November 28, 2017 at 21:45

          For me its different, like you regarding China. Life in Africa was, for my family, times of glamour and peace, of discoveries and excess in a way. They’ve settled in the African Planalt, Angola mainly, but also South Africa and other countries. My great grandfather was a historian of cultures, and from my grandfathers side, they where one of the first colonists in the region. They deeply respected the local culture, and what they’ve witnessed there was nothing but a loving community where africans and europeans learned from each other. It was very sad to know that a lot of it was ruined by the war, and above all sad to see how it all turned out. But this is a very sensible topic, which I differ myself from talking 🙂

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