Monday, March 21, 2011

Historic City Series: Soyo

Located in the northwest corner of Angola, Soyo is a historic city that well reflects the encounter between peoples of different cultures. It was in this region where the first contacts occurred between the first landed-Europeans and ancient peoples from the Kingdom of Congo in the fifteenth century, precisely at the mouth of the great Zaire or Congo’s river, which traverses the city of Soyo.
Formerly known as Santo António do Zaire, Soyo is a city located in the province of Zaire in Angola and has recently become the largest oil-producing region in the country, with an estimate of 1,200,000 barrels per day.
It was in Soyo at the mouth of the Zaire or Congo’s river, where the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão docked his caravels in 1482, in the fifteenth century, serving King D. João II of Portugal.  He arrived in the territory that today comprises Angola, having found a well-organized administrative region. Thinking he had reached the extreme point of Africa (originally called the “Cape of Storms”, then Cape of Good Hope), Diogo Cão entered the river and reached M'Banza Congo, capital of the ancient Kingdom of Congo, which, like the Soyo watched the arrival of the Portuguese and later the Christian evangelization.

At the time, Soyo was a province of the Kingdom of Congo, which stretched from Gabon to the mouth of the Kwanza River in the present province of Luanda, which was the one that had the greatest influence among the six that constituted that ancient and powerful kingdom. After some initial suspicion, the people of the region received the Europeans, who left there some evidence of their territorial "discoveries".

And the marks of the past are also present at the nearby port in M'Pinda, where a huge cross marks the first Catholic Mass prayed in Angola. At the base of the cross, says: "From the Cross the Light" and "In Memory of the First Baptizes" (where the first inhabitants of Soyo were baptized in 1491, including Mani-Soyo, uncle and representative of King Nzinga Nkuvo from Congo, who was baptized 'Manuel').

At the time, M'Pinda was an important port of Soyo, where the first product trades such as copper and ivory were made, but then was used to trade slaves. It is estimated that more than 60,000 slaves were sent to S. Tomé and Brazil from M'Pinda; trades that would eventually provoke rebellion against the Portuguese colonists.

A gift of nature geographically adjacent to Soyo is the passage of the Zaire River, the second largest in Africa after the Nile; it is also the second in flow and forms the second largest hydrographic basin in the world. At its present flow levels, it is the seventh largest river in the world and the second in extend of water. It is navigable in Angolan territory to the county of Nóqui, about 80 nautical miles from the city of Soyo, along which inhabit small fishing communities.

The province of Zaire, where Soyo is located has six municipalities, about 600 000 inhabitants and borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The climate is tropical humid, suitable for the production of coffee (which is no longer made), cassava, sweet potato, banana, beans, citrus fruits, peanuts and cashews, among others, as part of a subsistence peasant agriculture. (TAAG Austral Magazine)


Andrew Newby said...

Perhaps you may be able to assist me and point me in the right direction. I am a South African documentay maker and I am currently researchin the viability of making a documentary on the history and consequences ofo the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route from Europe to the East. From my research to date, it seems as if the first padrao (stone cross on a pillar) was left near where you are near Soyo. I am planning to make this documentary on a motorcycle, from Angola to Mozambique, using only minimal equipment. My question to you is: the logistics of travelling in northern Angola on a motorcycle - would I be able to reach Soyo from Luanda? Are the roads paved or are they all dirt? If possible, I do not want to enter the DRC and want to stay south of the Congo River. If you could assist me with this information I would be most grateful.
Many thanks
Andrew Newby
FarSide Productions
Cape Town
South Africa

Emperatriz Facchi said...

Are you still interested in making the documentary that you mentioned above? Did you already did it? Maybe you have because it was 4 years back. I would like to know if you succeeded doing it and, of course, to watch it. Thanks.

Empera Facchi