An independent kingdom of runaway slaves founded in the late 16th century Brazil, Angola Janga was a beacon of freedom in a land plagued with oppression. In stark black ink and chiaroscuro panel compositions, D’Salete brings history to life.
Weighing in at 428 pages, the hefty tome seethes with historical detail which serves as an anchor to the fictionalized narrative that spans decades ... so much detail of how the escaped slaves lived has been lost to history. So, it’s thrilling to see D’Salete re-imagine and reclaim that history in these pages ... There’s a stripe of magical realism and dreamlike ideation running through D’Salete’s work that’s exciting to encounter because it imparts a transcendent context to the stories he’s telling ... Angola Janga gives readers access to a vital living history that centers resistance alongside the stories of black suffering we’re so used to.
... impressively comprehensive ... builds seamlessly on the earlier book, further exploring how a yearning for freedom combined with inhospitable local terrain encouraged countless slaves to head for the hills — and allowed some to evade recapture there ... only partially satisfying... though he establishes these characters fairly well, D'Salete relates their adventures in an impressionistic style that can be tough to decode. Often, he'll depict important incidents as choppy closeups split between several panels. It can be hard to tell what's going on and, since he follows some characters from childhood through adulthood, just who is whom. He certainly captures the terror and torment of the ex-slaves' continual battles for freedom, but his people and their stories feel scanty ... And yet, while it leaves the reader wanting, this weakness also serves to dramatize just how tragically fragmentary our information about the mocambos is. It may be that a graphic novel like this one is uniquely able to evoke history's gaping lack. D'Salete's approach emphasizes that although the historical record has plenty to say about the Portuguese colonists' campaign against Palmares, it tells little about what life was like there.
... has the blunt visual power of black and white woodcuts. While D'Salete stays inside the lines of his rectangular panels and gutters, the energy of his images—the angled perspectives, the chiseled details, the abrupt close-ups, the streaked strokes of his shading—are a match for his equally powerful subject matter ... D'Salate wisely avoids captioned narration, limiting words to brief dialog and allowing the language of images to communicate the bulk of his story ... Though 426 pages long, Angola Janga can be opened at random, and a viewer will be rewarded by some visual element that D'Salete has carefully crafted into his artwork. He approaches his history with a similar narrative exuberance, crafting characters and events to fit the massive gaps left by colonial documents.