Angola. A nation with a special place in my heart, but a nation I do not know. I have a whole side of the family that still calls it home. I am in touch with some of them through Facebook mostly. But I have not as yet had the opportunity to visit this country on the southwestern coast of Africa. It’s on my bucket list. My parents took 4 year old me and what possessions they could ship out and left in 1975 due to Angola’s on-going struggle for independence from the colonial rule of Portugal. The latter nation too is near and dear to my heart. My father’s side of the family is Portuguese. My mother’s side is a mix of Portuguese and Angolan. Some of my mother’s side of the family decided to remain despite the war. Others, like us, opted to leave. But whereas I have been to Portugal numerous times since emigrating to the US in 1978, I cannot say the same for Angola. After independence from Portugal, Angola entered a tumultuous period of civil war that lasted until 2002. It wasn’t prudent to return. In the years since, my parents have returned to see once again the nation of their memories, the nation that they and all their friends and family who knew it, who lived there prior to the war referred to always with such wistfulness. Angola was always talked about with fondness, for being what sounded to me, when listening to the adults converse, like a paradise. They lamented so much what they lost. I was too young when we left to have any lasting meaningful memories of my birth country. Pictures and stories are my means to learn what I can. From what I have seen, Angola has breathtakingly natural beauty. It still embraces the Christian faith, predominantly Catholic, that was brought to its shores by colonialism. The official language remains Portuguese. The architecture of its government buildings, churches and other public structures is decidedly of the Portuguese colonial style. Where such structures have been maintained, it is almost as if the war never happened. Unfortunately, as my parents witnessed on their return visits, there are visible scars and deterioration serving as testimonies to the war. There is also much poverty to be seen, despite the nation being rich in natural resources and considered to be among the fastest-growing economies of the world. Prior to 1975, Angola was a breadbasket for southern Africa and a leading exporter of bananas, coffee and sisal. The almost three decade long civil war left the countryside riddled with landmines, ruining its fertile farmlands. The standard of living is quite low for all but a small percentage of the population. Agriculture can improve the lives of rural Angolans, but for this to happen the land must be cleared of landmines. The goal of a land-mine free Angola is reachable. It can happen within the next ten years. One way to help the people of Angola without stepping foot on its soil is to support the work of removing these devices. The HALO Trust is working valiantly to do so. This article explains their mission in Angola: https://www.halotrust.org/media-centre/news/angolas-difficult-journey-to-recovery/
I pray for this land, its people and its future. I pray for wise and just leaders, continued peace and a more equitable sharing of its prosperity. I am encouraged to see signs of improvements, such as this: http://qz.com/691237/could-angolas-first-banana-exports-in-40-years-save-its-economy/
And I hold out hope for more good things to come.
All pictures in this gallery come from various Angolan boards on Pinterest. Only one has the photographer identified: Kostadin Luchansky of http://www.angolaimagebank.com