a living fossil

More and more material is emerging on the Angolan elections. I’ve got some of my own thoughts published here with Open Democracy, where editor, David Hayes, makes contributing to the site a real pleasure. If you want to read more, you can also take a look at this report by Paula Roque who works at the ISS here in Johannesburg. Paula was in Angola during the elections on September 5 and 6. I was not.

And for those of you who are interested, I was told by a South African plant expert I met recently (at a very good party) that there have been sightings of 3000-year-old welwitchia, although he was only confident to confirm that this extraordinary plant only seen in Angola and Namibia does regularly live for up to 1000 years. The one pictured here is 1500 years old, or was when the photograph was taken. If you’re confused, read my piece in Open Democracy. It explains everything…


2 thoughts on “a living fossil

  1. Very much appreciated your piece on openDemocracy, Lara, and followed your link to the ISS article too (though I lost myself somewhat in the detail there). (That’s another reason I read unstrung every day: to keep myself informed about an area – both geographical and intellectual – that otherwise I (shamefully) would probably know nothing about.) I may just be naively imagining it, but the Angolan elections seem to share an amorphous yet definite kinship to the 2000 Bush-Gore farrago: a picture of what the US would look like with all the accreted and eliding layers of hyper-reality stripped off.

    What’s your opinion of Ryszard Kapuściński ? I’ve just started reading his Shadow of the Sun, and it’s compelling but uncomfortable (as opposed to disturbing), and I’m trying to work out if the uncomfortableness is mine or Kapuściński’s.

    Love the welwitchia, both the name and the fact of it. There’s a great genre story in there somewhere…

  2. Robert, thank you for your interest. I think you are right about the US elections, and I have mentioned it in several interviews I’ve done. I was in two minds whether to bring it up in the Open Democracy piece, and in the end decided against it. But I think my general feeling is we face a crisis in democracies the world over – and Angola has more excuses than the bloody Americans.

    Kapuscinski’s a tricky one. In many ways I love him, but I think Shadow of the Sun is the least impressive of his works. There is a large sway of thought in parts of Africa – voiced most clearly by the Kenyan writer Binyavinga Wainaina – that Kapuscinski’s work was fundamentally racist. Í don’t think I agree, but I think do accept that Shadow of the Sun has some glaring generalisations about ‘Africanness’ whatever that’s supposed to be. I’ve written a blog on Kapuscinksi in my unstrung original. If you click on it on the right there, and then search Kapusckinski you should find it.

    Regarding Angola though, and what I wrote, just remember it’s only my work. There are others who disagree and are much more optimistic about the state of affairs in that country. I added an Angolan blog to my list yesterday – Reflectir sobre Angola – written by Carlos Figuereido, who has criticised very strongly some of the things I’ve said about Angola in particular that ethnicity has a role in politics there. I think it does, he disagrees. He is an Angolan; I’m but a mere visitor. If you don’t read Portuguese, you will miss out on his thoughts. But his general point, I think I can say, is that I am too negative about Angola and am very mistaken to think that the Bakongo-ness of Mfulumpinga Lando Victor played a role in his murder in 2004; and the Bakongoness of Miala (former head of intelligence in Angola) played a role in his imprisonment last year. This is all complex. I’m not of the view that insiders know best – I know plenty of British people whose understanding of British politics is, IMHO, fundamentally flawed – however, in the case of Angola I am always keen to gain the views of Angolans. If they don’t like my work, and think I’m wrong, I worry. Sleepless nights being but the tip of the iceberg…

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