The New York Times, November 28, 1886:|
ANGOLA AND ITS TOWNS
CONVICT LIFE SEEN THERE AND PORTUGUESE NEGLECT
Picturesque Features of the Country--
Going Ashore and Looking About--People in Better Health
St. Paul de Loanda [Luanda], South Angola, Aug. 30.--At last we are in the capital of Angola, the southernmost limit of our African cruise, and beyond all question one of the most striking places... For one thing, it appears that the richer and more respectable society of the town is composed exclusively of convicts, and as our Captain tells me that the "convict ladies" do not associate with the rest of the population, I presume that I shall have to commit a peculiarly aggravated theft or burglary in order to secure admission to any decent local drawing room, and to be put in irons immediately previous to my introduction.
But my chief interest in this district at present is in connection with the famous "transcontinental railroad" which is to strike inland up the Bengo Valley from Loanda, follow Cameron's route to the Upper Congo, and cut out the Congo International Association by drawing away the traffic which was to flow down the long expected railway between Vivi and Stanley Pool. Col. Davenport, the head of the works, told me today that his engineers would return this evening from surveying the first 40 miles of track, and that further operations are to be commenced as soon as possible...
The seaboard of Angola, along which we have been slowly working our way for several days past, represents the third of the four progressive stages through which the southwestern coast of Africa passes as it trends southward from the Bight of Biafra to Cape Colony.
In the first of these sections--that bounded on the north by Germany's new settlement upon the Cameroons River, and on the south by the Sette Camma--the great equatorial forest is still paramount upon a soil fed into rank and unnatural luxuriance by the torrent rains of the tropics, and as far as the eye can reach, the whole landscape is one dark, impenetrable mass of bristling tree tops.
Between the mouth of the Sette Camma and that of the Congo this dense wooding concentrated itself along the banks of the rivers, while the open country presents the appearance of a vast natural park, consisting of undulating slopes clothed with a brownish grass, and dotted with clumps of trees.
To the south of the Congo these clumps become smaller and less frequent, while the sandy soil which has supplanted the deep, soft clay of the equatorial seaboard gives place in its turn to a rocky surface, rising at times into bold, uneven bluffs of considerable height, such as those Aravat Hills behind Kinsembo.
The tenth parallel of south latitude--which falls not far below St. Paul de Loanda--marks the southern limit of the oil palm, and thenceforth the growing bareness of the country progresses with ever increasing rapidity until it culminates at length in the savage desolation of the great Kalahari Desert and of the new German colony at Angra Pequena, where the flag of the Fatherland waves in triumph over a cheerful perspective of sun-scorched rocks and barren sands.
But despite its growing dreariness the coast of Angola contains more than one spot which, however uninteresting to a trader, would be of priceless value in the eyes of an artist. From the crest of the rocky ridge behind Musserah (a tiny trading station between Ambrizette and Kinsembo) there stands boldly up against the sky a very curious natural pillar of pink granite nearly 60 feet in height, and balanced upon such a slender foundation--the earth having gradually crumbled away from beneath it--that it looks as if the touch of a finger would suffice to send it thundering down into the valley beneath...
Between this ridge and the lower one that flanks it lies a deep, narrow valley which no white woman was formerly allowed to enter, the gloomy superstition of the natives dreading some mysterious evil from her presence. Times are changed since then, and a European lady may now be carried in a hammock from Musserah to Kinsembo, right through this ill-omened gorge...
Not less pictuesque is Kinsembo [Kisembo] itself, the glistening white buildings of which, perched on the flat top of a reddish brown bluff with rounded sides, are irresistably suggestive of sugar ornaments upon an enormous plum cake... were the shock of civilized warfare ever to disturb this remote corner of the earth Todleben himself could find no better site for a sea-fronting fort...
At the opposite extremity of the same charming little bay... stand three or four of those long, low-roofed, one-storied, brilliantly white houses which stud the whole African seaboard from the Senegal to the Kwanza [River, also spelled Cuanza, Coanza, Quanza, or Kuanza]. Several others dapple with a row of white spots the gray uplands in the background, while five or six more are scattered along the wide, tawny sand beach like the toys of some infant giant. High over all, upon the summit of the headland, flutters jauntily that historical flag beneath which for centuries the foulest and bloodiest of all abuses has been supported by the weakest and worst of all Governments; for this is the Portuguese town of Ambriz, the most considerable of the Angola ports after St. Paul de Loanda itself.
...the Captain and I went ashore in the steam launch at 5:30 in the morning... Our clothes... were suddenly spattered with a perfect rain of half liquid soot from the engine... "You look like a literary man now, and no mistake," remarked the Captain...
As we neared the shore, signs of Portuguese neglect and disorder began to show themselves on every side... The sole visible token of care was the broad, smooth, rock-cut road leading up from the shore to the town overhead, a great improvement upon the steep, slippery, breakneck footpath of which some traces are still to be seen among the flanking rocks.
The first man whom we met was of course a Scotchman--there being little doubt that, if the North Pole is ever reached, a Scotchman will be found, settled there, and doing a thriving business, too...
We went forward into the town. It appeared to consist of three or four perfectly straight and immensely wide streets, planted along either side with various kinds of African trees, the glossy leaves of which looked strangely out of place amid the ankle-deep dust over which even the heavy bullock wagons passed as noiselessly as shadows. The houses were all of one type, which I had already seen in Northern India often enough to recognize it at a glance, viz., a long, one-storied, white building, forming one side of a vast hollow square, the other three being formed by the sheds, outhouses, and servants' quarters, and the wide courtyard in the centre being known as the "compound." But the arrangement which in British India is perfectly simple and harmless has in this land of slave trading a grim suggestiveness of the cooping up of "black ivory" for transmisson across the sea, Ambriz having been formerly one of the most notorious slave stations on the whole southeastern coast.
See also: Congo News - Zambia News|
Namibia News - Botswana News
All of Angola is
one time zone at GMT+1,
with no Daylight Savings time.
Angola scores low on human development indexes despite using its large oil reserves to rebuild since the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002.
Fighting between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), led by Jose Eduardo DOS SANTOS, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas SAVIMBI, followed independence from Portugal in 1975. Peace seemed imminent in 1992 when Angola held national elections, but fighting picked up again in 1993. Up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost - and 4 million people displaced - during the more than a quarter century of fighting.
SAVIMBI's death in 2002 ended UNITA's insurgency and cemented the MPLA's hold on power. DOS SANTOS stepped down from the presidency in 2017, having led the country since 1979. He pushed through a new constitution in 2010. Joao LOURENCO was elected president in August 2017 and became president of the MPLA in September 2018.
CIA World Factbook: Angola
Area of Angola:
1,246,700 sq km
slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Population of Angola:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Angola:
Portuguese official, Bantu
and other African languages
Luanda Weather Forecast & Current Conditions
Angola Reference Articles and Links
Wikipedia: Angola - History of Angola
LOC: Angola Country Study
BBC Country Profile: Angola
UN Map of Angola
Maps of Angola
Historic Maps of Africa
1885 Map of Africa
Angola Embassy, Washington D.C.
US Embassy, Luanda, Angola
Governments on the WWW links
Angola News Websites
ANGOP Angola Press Agency
Jornal de Angola in Portuguese
Radio Nacional in Portuguese
Televisao Publica in Portuguese
ABYZ: Angola News Links