Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Pedro Rosa Mendes, Portugal

"With each millimetre of soil I am confronted with the last moment of my life. As far as the eye can see. That’s why they only drive me around at night. To protect me. It’s supposed to suit me. Now it is night, and abundantly so. I only move around at night. My fear has gone, deserted me. It has become part of the terrain. There is no solidarity. Nothing. Nothing for me to embrace. That can be deadly. The earth, the streets, the savannah, the land: fear is like a map that we are forced to cling to.”

Freelance journalist and writer. Pedro Rosa Mendes was born in 1968 in Cernache do Bonjardim, Portugal. After studying jurisprudence at the University of Coimbra, he began to work as a journalist for the leading daily Público, mainly reporting on cultural events and foreign affairs. He has reported from a diverse number of countries, including Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe, Angola, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. Rosa Mendes was twice awarded the Feature of the Year Prize in Portugal for reportage, and in 2000 he was honoured with the Lisbon Press Club's Bordalo, the most prestigious award for Portuguese journalists.

In 1999 Pedro Rosa Mendes completed his first book Baía dos Tigres (Publicações Dom Quixote, 1999) which describes a three and a half month journey from Angola to Mozambique, and depicts the destruction and degradation created by the civil wars, particularly in Angola. It is a landscape where more mines can be found than human beings, where the political relations of the parties in conflict are driven by rage. Shortly after its publication in Portuguese, the book won the award for best novel by the Portuguese Pen Club, and was subsequently translated into thirteen languages. In 2001, Baía dos Tigres was among the five finalists of the prestigious Prix Astrolabe Étonnant Voyageurs in Saint Malo.

Rosa Mendes has collaborated with several artists in a range of projects. He contributed five short stories to O Melhor Café, a photography book by the distinguished Portuguese photographer Alfredo Cunha (Contexto, 1996). In November 2002, Pedro Rosa Mendes co-authored a book together with French illustrator Alain Corbel on civil society organizations in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, and Cape-Verde, entitled Ilhas de Fogo. One year later, in 2003, Pedro Rosa Mendes published the novel Atlântico, with pictures by the prominent photographer João Francisco Vilhena. Recently, Rosa Mendes published a collection of his writings about East Timor entitled Madre Cacau, which, like Ilhas de Fogo, is illustrated by Alain Corbel.

Pedro Rosa Mendes now works as a freelance journalist. Over the course of the last two years, he has travelled extensively throughout the Western African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau in preparation for a new book. Rosa Mendes is also among the contributors to a collection of essays about the psychosocial effects of work in settings where war and violence are everyday occurrences, which will be published in mid 2005.

Rosa Mendes contributes articles and essays to a variety of publications including Lettre International (Berlin), El País Semanal (Madrid), Terra Negra (Brussels), and Grand Street (New York). Some of his works have been translated into English, German, Spanish and French. Besides his native language, Rosa Mendes also speaks fluent French, English and Spanish.

Pedro Rosa Mendes has two daughters and currently lives in Lisbon.

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"I am quite tired of this kind of globalisation approach to journalism and the formatted news that we are fed every day by the mainstream media. I think one of the first things for literary reportage should be to go into the field and to try to get the other side of the story. Reportage should give a fresh vision of a topic. "Anne Nivat (jury member 2005 & 2006)