Friday, October 29, 2010

Angolan Humor 1

Like other cultures, Angolan humor is often tied to the farcical events of everyday life.  See an example of a daily comic page from Journal de Angola, a daily Angolan newspaper.

"Sir, is this in a hurry?"   

                                 "No, I have only waited here three hours!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Report: Angola Poverty Level Drops

(ANGOP) The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Angola, Koen Vanormelingen, said last week in Luanda that poverty levels decreased in Angola, measured in monetary income, from 63% in 2002 to 38% in 2009. At a press conference held by agencies of the UN System in Angola,  Vanomelingen said that the country is headed toward a secure way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), given the advances in the past decades, such as peace and the consolidation and economic growth and social development.

In a previous UN report in June, some other impressive figures emerged: malnutrition dropped from 35% in 2002 to 23% in 2010, school enrolment has surged to 76%, and gender parity is close to being achieved in schools, with 98 girls with every 100 boys.

The attraction of considerable foreign investments, the progress on the rehabilitation of socio-economic structures and the expansion of national health network in infrastructures and staffs considered the basis for these economic and social advances.

Contary to the UN's report findings, other resident aid agencies and economists in in Angola have considered that the recent statistical drop in poverty is only within the confines of the major Angolan cities.  From their observations, the rural areas are still suffering; Angola has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. A rival United Nations agency, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), also issued its annual Human Development Report stating that still one out of four Angolan children dies before the age of five. This is the same as in Sierra Leone, yet the Angolan GDP per capita exceeds $ 6,000, which is more than eight times higher than in Sierra Leone, with a GDP per capita of roughly $ 750.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

African Folklore: Why Hippos Don't Eat Fish

When God was giving each animal a place in the world, the pair of hippos begged to be allowed to live in the cool water which they so dearly loved.

God looked at them, and was doubtful about letting them live in the water: their mouths were so large, their teeth so long and sharp, and their sizeand their appetiteswere so big, He was afraid that they would eat up all the fish. Besides, He had already granted the place to another predator - the crocodile. He couldn't have two kinds of large, hungry animals living in the rivers. So God refused the hippos' request, and told them that they could live out on the open plains.

At this news, the two hippos began to weep and wail, making the most awful noise. They pleaded and pleaded with God, who finally gave in. But He made the hippos promise that if they lived in the rivers, they must never harm a single fish. They were to eat grass instead. The Hippos promised solemnly, and rushed to the river, grunting with delight.

And to this day, hippos always scatter their dung on the river bank, so God can see that it contains no fish bones. And you can still hear them laughing with joy that they were allowed to live in the rivers after all. ( From: When the Hippos was Hairy and Other Tales from Africa: Nick Greaves) 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Undeniable Impact on Angola; Mission Schools and Stations

An important part of Angola's history includes the existence and impact of evangelical missions. The influence of Protestant missionary schools is evident considering that many of the Angolans who are currently leaders in government and business today were in fact educated in Protestant schools. In fact, the three leaders of the political movements that emerged at the end of colonialism: António Agostinho Neto who was head of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and current President of Angola; Holden Roberto of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA); and Jonas Savimbi who was the head of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), were all Protestant School products.

Of crucial importance in this history was the Dondi Mission, established by the Congregational Church near the current city of Huambo at the beginning of the 19th century.  Dondi was the only mission in the nation at that time that provided high school level education and full medical services for Angolan indigenas, the local African population that were considered beyond civilization and denied much of the state-sanctioned social services that were available to Europeans and to the people of mixed race (meticos).

Dondi was located in Angola’s fertile central plateau of Huambo, which had long been the nation’s breadbasket as well as a retreat for wealthy Portuguese settlers fleeing the humidity and congestion of Luanda. The main city in the province, known as Nova Lisboa, under the Portuguese, was also a bustling commercial center that relied on its status as an important stop on the Benguela Railway. The Dondi Mission's approach to work with the local Angolan population immediately drew criticism from the mostly Catholic Portuguese settler community. Most questionable, in the eyes of the Portuguese settlers, was the fact that the missionaries’ primary goal was to convert indigenas who occupied the lowest rung of the colonial hierarchy. Dondi missionaries aggressively reached out to these local African villages and rather than speaking in Portuguese, worked to communicate with Africans win their local languages. They published bibles and flyers in Umbundu and taught Angolans to become pastors so that they could minister to local populations and convert their own communities.

In 1975, the upon the beginning of the civil war, the Dondi Mission was evacuated and henceforth was destroyed during the many years of civil war.  At this time, many groups within the United Church of Canada are organizing a campaign to rebuild the Dondi mission and continue its impact on the nation.  (info from Kate Burlingham: "In the Image of God": Missionaries and the Mapping of Angolan Politics)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Truly a Hard Life

(Submission by Nicolas Cominellis, visiting doctor to CEML Hospital) "A short time ago in the hospital, I was talking with a 35-year old Angolan lady who 10 years earlier lost her left leg to a land mine. Angola was once home to the highest per capita concentration of land mines in the world! During the recent war years, this lady lost 8 of her 10 children to fever and diarrhea. No one knows her own diagnosis for sure because medical care facilities from her district are sparse. Without the support of her husband, who was lost to combat during the civil war, she somehow managed to escape starvation. Then a few days ago this remarkable lady fell, could not get up and was brought to the CEML Hospital with pain in her only remaining right leg. Check out the X-ray below!"

Sadly, similar cases as these are all too common within CEML's rural outreach area of southern Angola. The Hospital is aiming to expand its medical services to meet the great exent of these needs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Angola's Passion for Fashion

After many years of isolation by the civil war, the Angolan fashion industry and its designers are now emerging and is winning plaudits for its fusion of African and interational style.  There was certainly no shortage of interest in Angolan's designs during Angolan's Fashion week in June 2010. There were eight Angolan designers altogether, including designers from Portugal, Brazil and the UK were present with an interest in the emerging designs.

Lucrécia Moreira, one of Angola's top designers states," Urban Angolans are characterized as very good consumers of fashion. This can be seen by walking down any street; they all like to dress well and look good. You can see all the new boutiques opening in Luanda – this is a big industry. When the Hugo Boss store opened a few years back, it made the most sales on its opening night of any Hugo Boss store in the world, which gives you an indication of the appetite people here have for fashion in Angola.”

Moreira’s work is a fusion of influences. She likes to use traditional African fabrics, patterns and colours with European flourishes to create a modern style but one with its roots in tradition. Explaining her style, Moreira said: “The education that we had during the long years of Portuguese colonisation did not allow us to interpret our own culture, so Angolans were not used to wearing African clothes.

“But through travelling around the continent I started to see that people in other African countries used African-style clothes and identified themselves as Africans through their clothes. It was from there that I started to create African fashion."

Ginga Neto, as pictured at left, has a Luanda boutique, Mahinda Prestige, that is becoming a fashion landmark. It is one of the few shops in the country where you can buy Angolan designed and produced clothes. The big attraction this season is Ginga’s new Jeanswear Collection, the first Angolan denim range, which comes with unique symbols of Chokwe sand paintings on the pockets. (Adapted from Sonangol Universo Magazine September 2010)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Rise of the 'Rural Mercedes': the Bicycle

Transport and development go hand-in-hand. In Angola's burgeoning rural economy and society, virtually everything traded must be transported, and almost everyone needs wheels to develope social structures.  The rise of bicycle use in rural Angolan areas represents simple, affordable transportion which can generate wealth, as well as saving lots of time and back-breaking work.  Most importantly, this rise has occurred due to widespread war damage and devastation that has left many secondary roads decrepit and rivers uncrossable by 4 X 4 vehicles swept away by floods.

Bicycle use is also widespread amongst NGO and relief agencies trying to reach remote populations overcome with logistical difficulties in efforts to bring aid and medical relief.  Recently, MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) an international medical response organization, used bicyles to reach many remote villages in the remote northern parts of Angola; in regions where many of the paths are not big enough for a car. As well, the roads are suspected of being mined so access is often only on foot or by bicycle. MSF frequently uses bicycles in Malange to do vaccinations in communities without access by road.
Bicycles are now being used as a useful tool in Angola to present the Gospel and build up church congregations. Angola, much like many other parts of Africa presents a unique challenge to Christian pastors and evangelists. Due to the high illiteracy rate among the Angolan population, often the gospel has to be spread orally. However, communities are far-flung which means that great distances have to be covered in the quest to spread the gospel. In addition to this, the terrain is frequently inhospitable and unforgiving, making the lack of a properly developed transport infrastructure more sorely felt.  Since most rural Angolan pastors are very poor, the bicycle is the most practical and affordable answer to these financial and logistical challenges. A bicycle can go where a 4 X 4 cannot go.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Bid to Halt Polio in Angola

(BBC News - Oct 1, 2010)  A mass polio immunisation campaign is starting in Angola in a bid to vaccinate all children under five.

The campaign is part of a series of programmes aimed at stopping a polio outbreak that has paralysed 24 children this year alone. Over 7 million vaccine doses are set to be delivered.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) says previous attempts to stop the virus circulating failed because too few children were vaccinated.

This outbreak in Angola started in 2007 and the WHO now considers it the greatest risk to Africa's polio eradication efforts.

Polio is a highly infectious virus which mainly infects young children. It is transmitted through contaminated food and water and once it enters the intestine it multiplies and can spread into the nervous system. "The good news is that we know this outbreak could be stopped very rapidly”  Oliver Rosenbauer,  Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

In the worst cases, polio causes paralysis which is often permanent. Current vaccines are highly effective in protecting children against infection. This outbreak, despite previous vaccination campaigns, has now spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus can only be stopped if all children receive the vaccine. The WHO estimates that in some areas of Angola more than a third of at risk children have not been immunised. Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesperson for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at the WHO said: "Children across Angola, and indeed Africa, will continue to be paralysed by this awful virus, and it's completely needless because it could so easily be prevented.