Encounters with Angola

Angolan photographer Ngoi Salucombo is part of a growing urban cultural Angolan movement, which includes film-makers, musicians and writers, such as Mário Bastos, Aline Frazão, Kalaf Epalanga and Ondjaki.

A number of these artists have started to make their mark on the South African cultural scene in recent years, especially in Cape Town. With his exhibition ‘And so the struggle goes on – every day..’ Salucombo represents the latest Angolan to show his work in the mother city. His photo exhibition forms part of a week-long ‘Encounters with Angola’, which also includes the presentation of three Angolan documentaries at the Alliance Française in Cape Town, from February 20 to 28.

Like his contemporaries, a cosmopolitan group of 30- and 40-somethings, most of whom grew up in Luanda but spent time abroad for their studies, Salucombo uses the arts to celebrate as well as critique the capital city of Luanda. The exhibition consists of 14 photos Salucombo shot during the past four years as he walked the city.

Using the socialist liberation slogan “A luta continua” –- “the struggle continues,” which is still found on buildings such as the Military Hospital of Luanda, Salucombo shows the contrasts of everyday life in Luanda, a city at the centre of Angola’s post-war growth but where most people’s daily lives have seen little improvement since the end of a decades long war. Among the photos on display is one of bare-foot children walking Luanda’s many untarred roads carrying water on their heads next to a construction site. Another shows a large futuristic rocket shaped building, which cost millions of US dollars to build and holds the remains of the country’s first president Agostinho Neto. It stands in the midst of sprawling. informally built zinc-sheet roofed houses. The photos are accompanied by texts written by Angolan writer Ondjaki who put the distance between the city’s dwellers and its “owners” portrayed by Salucumbo into words.


Along with the exhibition, three internationally acclaimed Angolan documentaries screen at the Alliance Française. The first to be screened at the opening night of the exhibition on Monday, February 20 is ‘Angola Year Zero.’ Co-produced by Salucombo himself, the film sheds light on Angola’s turbulent post-war trajectory. The second, to be shown February 21, was produced by the Angolan film production company Geração 80 and recounts the history of Angola’s independence. The last film on February 23 delves into the Angolan urban music and dance form kuduro which has taken the world by storm.

Although few South Africans seem to know or speak much about Angola, South Africa has longstanding ties to Angola, dating back to the turbulent war years, when the apartheid government supported UNITA forces in their struggle against the MPLA government, which in turn hosted ANC training camps. Nowadays, many South Africans work in Angola’s oil industry and there is a large community of Angolans living in South Africa. For a Cape Town audience, this exhibition should provide insights into contemporary urban life in post-war Angola.


Exhibition venue: Alliance Française, 155 Loop street, Cape Town, February 20 to 28. Entrance free. For more information: http://www.alliance.org.za/pages/branches/cape-town/culture/our-events/rencontres-avec-l-angola-2

For more information about Ngoi Salucombo visit his blog: http://ateliemangueirinhas.blogspot.co.za


Sylvia Croese is a research fellow at the African Centre for Cities and at the Department of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. She works on housing, urban governance, informality, the state and global urban policy.

All photos: Ngoi Salucumbo.


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