Angola is a large, southwestern land with a population of 24.3 million people. This vast country is home to a wide variety of landscapes–boasting semi-desert shores, rugged southern highlands, bustling northern cities and a thinly populated rainforest interior. Although Angola is one of the major producers of oil in Africa, it still bears the scars of a 27-year civil war that devastated the country after its independence.
The official language of Angola is Portuguese, but many Angolans speak Bantu languages along with Umbundu, Kimbundu and Kikongo. Angolan culture is a mixture of Portuguese and African traditions and music has a central role in Angolan life. The drum is often highlighted in Angolan music. Other noteworthy instruments are the mpungu, a trumpet, and the hungu and mbulumbumba, types of gourd resonated with a musical bow. Sadly, the civil unrest and resulting poverty that has ravaged Angola has provided little opportunities for musical professionals. In fact, the Ministry of Culture has had tight-fisted control over Angola’s production of commercial music since the country’s independence. However, despite these barriers, the informal sectors of musical expression have blossomed and flourished in Angola. Contemporary Angolan music weaves traditional African sounds with influences from Brazil, Cuba, the Caribbean and the United States.
Angola is home to many species of fauna customarily found in Africa’s savanna lands, such as lions, elephants, and zebras, along with a rich variety of birds and reptiles. Until the late 1800s, portions of northern Angola were blanketed by a lush rainforest. However, much of this rainforest has been drastically diminished by logging, agriculture and subsequent desertification. The country’s climate has a considerable dry season and its land is frequently afflicted by droughts, particularly in the south. As such, Two-thirds of Angola is now covered by savanna (scattered trees and grasslands) and deep deposits of infertile sands. Its biodiversity has been gravely threatened. Additionally, because of Angola’s inadequate infrastructure and swelling population, food and potable water are scarce, particularly in rural areas.
Angola has suffered a long history of political unrest. After Portuguese colonial masters withdrew from Angola in 1975, rival independence movements fought for power up until 2002. Decades-long separatist conflicts still simmer in Angola. Abuses against civilians have been alleged by human rights groups. Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been in power in Angola since 1979. President dos Santos has a strict control over all aspects of political life in Angola.
The internet has become the primary medium for expression in Angola and in 2014, there were 4.3 million internet users. However, In 2015, President dos Santos called for stricter regulation of social media to crack down on political activism and dissent. Radio is now the most influential form of media outside the capital of Angola, but, the state controls all media nationwide. The state-run Radio Nacional de Angola (“RNA”) is the only radio station that offers programs in indigenous languages. Although RNA is the only broadcaster that has almost national coverage, private stations operate in cities and the Angolan constitution provides for the freedom of expression.
Coming soon… “Natureza” by Banda Progresso, brought to you by the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project.