A reader of this blog suggested I add some pictures of new buildings in Luanda to balance out those of Sambizanga, and show people the ‘other side’ of this (partially) changing city. So I have. But before you look at these pictures, think about this a little. I would love to take lots of pictures of the new buildings in Luanda. Some, I think, are incredibly impressive. Some are even verging on stunning. Some are plain ugly. But that is neither here nor there if the only aim is to record their existence and record change. Taking pictures here is very difficult. The other day a friend of mine, an Angolan woman, was stopped by police for taking pictures of some older buildings in downtown Luanda. In the end, the only way she managed to keep her camera and the photos was when her aunt turned up and paid the coppers $50. Another friend of mine – a while back – was taken to the police station for taking snaps in Luanda. He wasn’t snapping the palace, or the police, or the presidential guard – just a hotel (a rather ugly one at that). In contrast to this, if you go into places like Sambizanga, people leave you to click away. You won’t be arrested or bribed. OK, you might be mugged, but this might happen in any city when you’re carrying a camera so it’s hardy peculiar to Luanda. If the authorities here really want people to see the good side of things here, they should allow us to examine them in our own way, and snap them too. Unfortunately, and particularly if you are foreign (like me), you are much more likely to be accused of spying. Flattering, maybe, but incorrect.
Anyway, enough of that. Here are some pictures. This building is very close to where I live. It was built by Angolans and Chinese. Unlike the employees of Casais (the brutal Portuguese company who tried to destroy our house), the men who built this building were provided with hard hats and boots.
That blue and white vehicle below is known as a kandongueiro and is what most Angolans rely on for transport. It costs 50 kwanzas a hop, more or less. That’s about 70 cents. They can be a wee bit hairy but on the whole – inside the city – they are pretty reliable (a lot more so than your average London bus). But you need bendy legs and a hard arse if you’re going a long way. Always guaranteed good conversation (again, a lot more so than your average London bus).
Just to come back to Casais again: they are destroying another building on the Marginale. Just like the exploited employees they have doing work next door to us, their men on the Marginale do not wear boots and protective helmets. They work in dangerous conditions with no protection. Does anyone think Casais would be allowed to get away with this in Portugal?
Cranes are everywhere. From my bedroom window, I can see four huge cranes. Building building building. This is one of the cranes I can see. It’s helping to build a(nother) hotel. When I lived here before in 1999/2000, street kids used to sniff petrol on this very same spot. Not any more they don’t. Now they go around the corner, just up the road from the Hugo Boss shop. ‘Men here spend more money on clothes because they are more vain than women and they have all the money.’ That’s what I was told. Who knows if it’s true.
Finally, look at this. Can you see?
Yup. That’s Nike. Nike goes artisan goes global. I couldn’t resist buying it. It cost about $3. It’s brilliant. ‘My uncle makes them,’ said the young man who sold it to me. I’m not sure I believe him. But whoever is making them is very clever. How did Nike come up with that horrible tick? And why do people love it so much?