Pepetela is the nom de plume and nom de guerre of Artur Carlos Maurício Pestana. Born in Benguela in 1941, he went to Portugal in 1958 to study engineering. Four years later he went to France and then to Algeria, where he studied sociology and was involved in founding the Centre of Angolan Studies.
In the late 1960s he was sent to the Cabinda front and took part in the guerrilla war against the colonial army. He was a member of the first MPLA delegation to fly into Angola at the end of the war for independence.
Among other responsibilities, Pepetela has been Deputy Minister of Education and a leading member of the Angolan Writers' Union.
Pepetela is the author of many novels including Yaka (1984), which won Angola's National Literature Prize in 1986. The novels Yaka and Mayombe (1980) are also published in Heinemann's African Writers Series. O Desejo de Kianda (The Return of the Water Spirit) was first published in 1995.
In 1997 Pepetela was awarded the Camões Prize, which is the most prestigious literary award in the Portuguese-speaking world.