Luanda is a city still broken in many ways by years of war, but it’s also busy trying to mend itself. While this is probably evident internally too — in business and bureaucratic affairs — I’m going to stick to the external aspects that I see on a daily basis: poverty, overcrowding, people disfigured by landmines or disease, run-down infrastructure, and reconstruction efforts.
The situation is well illustrated on my usual route to the supermarket, so I shot this video to share it with you. I’m still in point-n-shoot mode with my new Flip and I admit that I need to work on my skills as a videographer. There are also a couple of points where the picture’s a bit wobbly. Sorry about that but I have to be careful where I point my lens and often have to drop the camera below the window when there are police around.
Anyway, to the video. There’s no audio commentary (something else I should work on perhaps), so here’s a summary of what to watch out for.
- I enjoy watching the street scenes as we drive down major commercial roads. There are people and traffic everywhere you look. You’ll notice the little blue and white minibuses ferrying people around, usually dented and with mismatched wheels, and often spewing black smoke from their exhausts. You’ll also see some of the small private shops. These single storey concrete shacks have their signs and pictures of what they sell hand-painted on the walls.
- general traffic congestion
- Sagrada Familia. This is the largest Catholic church in the city and is sited on a large roundabout, so there’s always a lot of traffic around. You’ll see some people congregating outside. This is not usual on a weekday so there must’ve been a special service taking place. Sagrada Familia is the name of the church and it’s also what people call the surrounding area.
- Military Hospital. The large compound is bordered by a wall covered in slogans and murals depicting Angola’s past conflicts in their War of Independence (from Portugal) and subsequent Civil War. Along with the sometimes violent images you’ll see factions and political parties like MPLA listed, and other slogans such as “Repression of the Heroes of the Underground” and “Victory or Death!”
- As we approach Jumbo (the supermarket) we pass another large and busy roundabout with police officers controlling traffic flow. You’ll also see some young lads selling Popcorn as they weave around the gridlocked traffic. For many in Luanda hawking the oddest of wares in heavy and dangerous traffic is the only employment available.
- (On the way back now) The service road outside Jumbo is particularly bad, rutted and with large potholes. Look out for the two open sewer covers. We’ve managed to avoid hitting them so far but I wouldn’t want to come down here after dark.
- The next scene shows a bus terminus and the usual volume of people and traffic milling around. You’ll also see one of the city’s many reconstruction projects. The economy is growing quickly and there is significant investment going into rebuilding and improving the roads.
- Our car was stopped in a traffic jam and this beggar woman was right there, sitting on the pavement and holding out her hand while several passed by either not noticing or ignoring her. I think she and the disabled man on the invalid cycle behind might be a couple, or a double act.
- As we near the Embassy compound we drive down The Marginal (the road along the seafront). This is a focal point for the reconstruction efforts as the authorities try to prettify the skyline, construct new office blocks and improve traffic flow.
I’ll do better (and shorter) next time.