Angola // 54-project
I'm embarking on a 54-week project wherein I study one Africa country each week. No rules or limits on what I study or seek to learn, just trying my best to learn more about each country. I feel that in African studies the focus is usually placed on certain countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc) or certain events (colonialism, the Rwandan genocide, apartheid, etc), so that people interested in Africa might know a lot about a specific region or time, but not have thorough knowledge of the continent. I am hoping to remedy this situation, that I have at least found in myself, by means of this project.
Ah, here we are at week two, only three weeks late! Not off to a good start here, am I? At least this project wasn't a New Year's Resolution ;)
This week I focused on Angola. I've focused more on present day Angola, rather than going through the history of their thirteen years of anti-colonial war (1961-1974), followed by 27 years of civil war (1975-2002). But, while we are talking about Angola's past, it is helpful (when looking at present day Angola) to mention how long Angola was under colonial rule. Portuguese explorers first came in 1482 and not long after started using the area as a place to gather slaves to send to Brazil. Angola had one of the longest colonial experiences in the world, culminating in the brutal Angolan War of Independence, which only stopped due to a putsch, which occurred in Lisbon.
One interesting aspect of Angola is the popularity of Titica, one of the most famous Angolan musicians who is an openly transgender woman from Luanda (the capital).
"The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, religion, disability, language, or social status, but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. The constitution does not specifically address sexual orientation or gender identity...
The constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination but does not specifically address sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the law does not criminalize sexual relationships between persons of the same sex. Sections of the 1886 penal code could be viewed as criminalizing homosexual activity, but they are no longer used by the judicial system. The constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, however. Local and international NGOs reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals faced discrimination and harassment, but reports of violence against the LGBTI community based on sexual orientation were rare. The government, through its health agencies, instituted a series of initiatives to decrease discrimination against LGBTI individuals. For example, the National Institute to Fight HIV/AIDS worked with local NGOs and LGBTI activists to promote antidiscriminatory practices by health practitioners and communities across the country.
Discrimination against LGBTI individuals often went unreported. LGBTI individuals asserted that sometimes police refused to register their grievances. A police commander in Luanda stated police have the obligation to record all reports of discrimination and recommended LGBTI persons report improper behavior by police officers to the national police headquarters. In 2014 a group of LGBTI individuals formed the first openly gay association in civil society. The association was created to help LGBTI youth facing harassment or social alienation..."
Here's a good article from Africa's A Country talking about the music scene of Angola.
If you're curious as to what the most intimidating/possibly badass (depending on your viewpoint??) flag in the world is, look no further than Angola. In case you didn't see the thumbnail image or just need to review:
Yes friends, that is a cog wheel and machete on a black and red background. The symbol is said to be inspired by industrial and agricultural workers using the hammer and sickle. Yellow symbolizes the country's mineral wealth and the red and black stand for 'Freedom or Death'. The flag was adopted in 1975, after 493 years of Portuguese invasion. Okay, yeah, I think we can all accept the world's most intimidating flag after hearing those numbers.
Changing the subject to the linguistic front, Angola is an interesting case study in colonial languages. Often we see in African nations the official language being the language of the former colonizer, but usually the people within the country do not learn this language fully or learn it at all, especially when moving away from urban areas. In Angola, Portuguese is the sole official language: according to the internet (ahh, THE internet!), most Angolans actually do speak Portuguese. As of three years ago, about 3/4ths of the population used Portuguese. Continuing the sociolinguistics of Angola, all languages of Angola are recognized as national languages, with six of those being designated as literary languages and 14 used on national radio programming. (I am very interested in further researching the sociolinguistic situation of Angola, how it's developed into what it is today, and how all languages being national languages actually plays out into every day life, i.e. what does that guarantee? Are these guarantees met?)
And, now seems to be a good time to give a plug to an organization I've been working with, Wikitongues:
And as we are discussing language, for this weeks reading I chose another novel, one that the author calls his most autobiographical. I read Bom Dia Camaradas by Ondjaki. (Good Morning Comrades in English). A short novel, it's packed with wit and unexpected viewpoints of the effect of civil war on children. The narrator is a 12-year old boy, curious with questions about the world around him in comparison to outside of his homeland. I personally enjoyed the novel primarily because of the viewpoint we were given: lighthearted, with comical passages, yet underneath the innocence of the young boy, we were able to get a glimpse of the struggles that Angolans faced during the 90s. A passage that captured me: "I'd noticed in all the studio art tests since grade four that everybody drew things connected to the war: three people had drawn AK-47s, two had drawn Soviet tanks, other Makarovs.... It was normal to draw weapons."
Today, usually anything we hear of Angola revolves around oil or the government, which in this case, pretty much go hand in hand. President José Eduardo dos Santos has been in office for 38 years and his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, is infamous for the fortune that she has accrued during her lifetime. Elections are scheduled for August this year, so we will see soon whether or not Santos steps down as he says he will.
Well, that's it for this week. Next week: Benin! (And hopefully in a true week!)