Saturday, February 27, 2010

Angolan Stamps: Telling the Story of the Nation

More than just gummed paper used to confirm postal payment, Angola's postage stamps tell a story about the nation's politics, nation, and culture.  During the 140 years since the first Angolan stamp appeared, the message that the subsequent Angolan governments have wanted to send through the stamps has changed through the transition from monarchy through to empire, to a focus on the heroes, diversity and beauty of an independent and resurging Angolan nation.

The first Angolan stamps were issued in July 1870 displaying a crown, when Angola was a colony of Portugal, which was still a monarchy.   After the fall of the monarchy in 1910, most Angolan stamps showed the head of reigining king, starting with Luis, then Carlos and then Manoel II.

The subsequent political tranistion to independence in 1975, produced stamps that showed the leaders of the revolution and depictions of the struggle for freedom during the civil war.

Rising from a need to satisfy stamp collectors, an increasing number of Angolan stamp issues from the 1990s onward were aimed at supplying specialist collectors.  Some of these stamps showed the unusual birds, moths, butterflies and animals of the nation as well as the celebration of the national arts and crafts that are unique to the land.  (Adapted from the Sonangol 2009 Universo magazine)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Golf in Angola?

Yes, there is 18 hole golf course located about 15 km south from Luanda (the only one in the country). Far from being a indicator of broad national progress, this course is managed by one of the oil exploration companies and used mainly by expatriate employees of all industries.  Even with a small, emerging middle and upper Angolan social class who are exploring this sport, this luxury is beyond the interest and economic capabilities of 95% of all Angolans.

The course is still very basic and located amid Luanda's dry and hot climate.  This dictates that most of the putting greens are packed dirt. The club house is very simple, a 20 foot shipping container.

Course rates are affordable, comparatively speaking; the green fee is 2000 Kz  (USD$22) and caddy fee 1500 Kz (USD$15)!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Angolan Seafood Resources = Great Food!

After oil and diamond mining, the fisheries industry is the third most important sector in the country. Along the entire 1650 kilometer coastline, a rich fishery exists. Since ancient times, fishing has been important right up to colonial times when Angola was one of the biggest producers and exporters in the region.

Although the majority of fish is harvested by industrial and semi-industrial fleets using nets and trawling methods, there is also a large 'hand-labor' fishing industry estimated to employ around 25000 fishermen using 3000-4500 "chatas", or small motorised or un-motorised boats.

Main fishing resources include sardinellas, horse mackerels, sardines, dentex, shrimps, crabs, lobster and other valued tropical bottom species. Since Angolan seafood is abundant and very good, the Angolan coast is a special place to purchase fresh shrimp or lobster right off the fisherman's boat.
Shrimp is one of my favorite seafoods and Angolan shrimp stew (bobo de camarão) is one of the typical seafood dish made with shrimps, cassava (manioc), dendê (palm) oil and coconut milk.

Check out the recipe for bobo de camarao here....  If you make it the recipe the Angola way, beware, it is a little spicy with the peppers and chilies!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Angola's Language Diversity

Though Portuguese is the official language of Angola, as with other African countries, there are many other indigenous languages spoken in the country.  The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), the linguistic division of Wycliffe Bible Translators, has identified some 36 indigenous languages throughout the nation of Angola.  See the map below for a listing of some of the most prominent language groupings:

Concerning our ministry work in these languages, the whole Bible is now available in 12 languages in Angola. The New Testament is available in 3 languages and parts of the Bible are currently being translated in 18 language.  The task is yet to be completed as nine languages spoken/people groups do not yet have a Bible in their own language.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Old Man of Angola's Deserts

When the Austrian naturalist Dr Frederic Welwitsch was on a botanical expedition near Cabo Negro in Angola in 1859, he spotted a most peculiar looking plant inhabiting an elevated sandy Plateau.

The same plant was also found 500 miles south in Nambia the following year.  The locals in Angola called the plant Tumboa, but the accepted name has come to be Welwitschia mirabilis.

Angolans are very proud of the wonderful plant, and in many ways the welwitschia could be considered the national plant of Angola.   The welwitschia, being a strong, long-living plant of ancient origins is considered such a national cultural emblem that children are taught about the plant in school.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Angola: Fisherman's Paradise!

For fly fishermen, Angola is the final frontier of fishing with unchartered waters waiting to be discovered.  Fish such as tarpon (as pictured at left), dorado, Atlantic threadfin and Crevalle jack can all be found in abundance in Angola's estuaries, and in weights and sizes rarely seen elsewhere.

Part of the reason for the attraction to Angola is that the war kept fishing levels down and allowed the seas and rivers to restock. The current boom is in inshore fly fishing, particularly on the River Kwanza and on the River Longa, which joins the ocean at its base.  Here coastal fish enter the estuaries at different times of the year creating an angling paradise where record weights are regularly recorded.

Tarpon, known in angling terms as a prize catch, are regularly caught in Angola at lengths of two meters long and weighing hundreds of pounds.  During the months between November and February, the large tarpon swim as 80km upstream the River Kwanza to grow to abnormally large sizes.

Additionally at the lower reaches of the rivers, abundant number of dorado, as pictured at left, are found among the large drifiting islands of grass and weeds in the river mouth.  Dorado, a favorite among anglers because of their playful acrobatics and neon coloring, are regularly hooked at weights of more than 20 kgs.

At present, government protection programs are in place to protect this sport fishing and ecotourism resource.  These programs protect from over-fishing, the removal of mangroves and stop poaching and polluting of this economic, environmental and tourism resource that can provide a significant economic income for the country.  (Adapted from Sonangol, Universo Magazine 2009)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Angola's Oil Wealth

Angola is sub-Saharan Africa's second largest oil producer behind Nigeria and offshore Angola is recognised as a world-class area for oil exploration and production.

Producing almost 2 million barrels of oil per day, Angola is the biggest supplier of oil to China and the sixth biggest to the United States. Oil accounts for about 90 percent of Angola's exports accounting for 40% of GDP and 80% of government revenues.
Oil was first discovered in Angola in 1955, but production did not really start to climb until the discovery of oil offshore Cabinda in the 1960s. Now, many of Angola's remaining offshore oil blocks are being auctioned to the world's superpowers who are in need of the oil supplies.
Have a look at the Economist Magazine's recently written article, "Oil, Glorious Oil", describing Angola's oil wealth here....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Angola's Tribes: The Beautiful Himba People

The Himba are tribe of about 20,000 to 50,000 nomadic pastoralists who inhabit the southwest Angola and the northern parts of neighboring Namibia to the south.  The Himba have clung to their traditions and the beautiful Himba women are noted for their intricate hairstyles and traditional jewellery.

The Himba adult women color their skin twice a day with a mixture of ground red ochre, sap, butter, and fat, and rub this all over their skin and hair.  This protects their skin from the sun and also gives the appearance of a rich red color. 

Single Himba boys and men wear their hair in braids sweeping backwards from the crown of the head, while married men tie their hair in a turban-like fashion with wood shavings mixed into it.

The Himba men and women wear few clothes apart from a loin cloth or goat skinned mini-skirt due to tradition and the intense heat in their region.

The Himba are a cattle-based pastoralist culture, although they also have sheep and goats, measuring wealth in cattle, and paying for their wives with them.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Life After Being on the World Stage

Now that the African Cup of Nations has concluded in Angola, the country seeks to use its moment on the world stage as motivation to drive its future.  The government used the tournament to showcase the billions of dollars it spent in developing the country's infrastructure; new schools and hospitals, new roads, railways, hotels, upgraded airports and new Chinese-built stadia. 

Even in spite of an ambush on the Togolese national football squad by Cabindan terrorists just days before the African Cup of Nations football championship opened, the tournament continued in a show of defiance by the excitement of the Angolan people.  No doubt, the Angola could suffer an international loss of respect because of this continuing safety issue, but overall its shows that after 27 years of civil war Angola is moving ahead and opening up to allow for easier entry and travel for tourists and visitors to the country. 

Check out this recent BBC article on Angola's future after the event: Angola rebranded: Oil, landmines… and football?