Angola’s first shopping mall opened three days ago. It’s a good hour’s drive from the city centre, taking into account traffic jams, lakes and dissolving tarmac. You can buy beautiful chocolates, very good wine, healthy oat bars, natural shampoo, baby clothes, cakes, watches, handbags, Diesel jeans, and cinema tickets. There are eight cinema screens. I was given a sneak preview and a very nice man gave me six free tickets to the cinema which I promptly gave away to another very nice man. It’s not that I don’t want to go to the cinema – I do – but I have to use the tickets before Wednesday and I know that’s not going to happen. I was also given a large and probably expensive Belgian chocolate by another very nice man who still hadn’t decided what price he was going to charge. I drank a good coffee, ate a chocolate cake and then drank an orange juice. Foolishly, and bizarrely, I didn’t test the loos.
I gazed at this for a long time.
Belas Shopping is all about freedom – the freedom to shop every day. I felt free to interview people, until a burly security guard arrived and began interrogating me. What was I doing? What did I think I was doing? What was I asking people? Did I have authority? Did I have identity? Who was I? These were all good questions: I had spent the previous two hours, sliding around the shiny floors, gazing through polished windows, asking myself very similar things. But security man didn’t want an exchange of ideas. He asked me to hand over my identity. I became confused and he got very cross, and the two young men I was interviewing grew rather anxious and disappeared. We were left waving microphone at walkie-talkie and walkie-talkie at microphone until he got bored and walked away too.