African liberation movement posters exhibited at UC Santa Cruz

The exhibition could be summed up by one featured image: a larger-than-life-sized portrait of a young Nelson Mandela, on a blazing yellow background, under the headline "The struggle is my life."

"A Luta Continúa: African Liberation Movement Posters," the current exhibition at the McHenry Library of the University of California, Santa Cruz, uses period posters and music to document the struggles of African nations in achieving independence. The exhibition, which is open to the public and runs through September 30, also includes related pamphlets, flyers, and books from the library collections.

The phrase "A Luta Continúa" means "The Struggle Continues" in Portuguese. It was an expression commonly chanted at political gatherings, initially in Portuguese-speaking Africa, but later spreading to other African nations and used internationally by liberation-support communities.

Posters on loan from the collection of David H. Anthony III, associate professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, form the core of the "A Luta Continúa." Anthony began his collection while a graduate student in the late 1970s, and continued adding pieces during periods of travel and residence in Africa, Europe, and America. He has also provided extensive exhibition notes and captions.

"These posters can been seen as nostalgic and as glorifying violence," said Anthony. "But in the context of the African liberation movement, they are reminders that armed struggle was a last resort, turned to only after years of fruitless efforts at negotiation."

The exhibition includes imagery from liberation movements in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. One of the highlights is a rare poster from the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, a group maintaining a small but strong following in South Africa. There is also a vibrantly colored poster announcing a fundraiser for Radio Freedom, the underground voice of the African National Congress, which began broadcasting in 1967.

The musical portion of "A Luta Continúa," set up on a listening station at the exhibition, was inspired by Radio Freedom's format. Beginning with the sign on for Radio Freedom, the recording includes a 1977 interview with South African activist Steve Biko; an audio documentary on songs of liberation; and freedom songs from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

"The struggles represented in this exhibition are not ancient history," said Anthony, noting recent violence over land reform in Zimbabwe. "This exhibition is about history in our lifetimes. Some of the initial fights may be over, but African nations are still struggling over issues of land, political voice, health care, and jobs."