Filed under: *Travel Diary
got in at 4 in the morning after eating the most unbelievable fish i’ve ever had in a neighborhood just off the beach called kianda with a group of guys from the elinga theater. raul, a local celebrity and actor in the company suggested we all go there after seeing a show that the alliance francaise put on – a bizarre pastiche of french and portuguese with two buffoonish white guys dressed like waiting for godot sort of clowns in black suits, white make up and floppy hats who go off into the jungle and encounter some dark voodoo-like african shenanigans. i don’t speak french-portuguese and couldn’t totally follow the storyline, but the place was absolutely packed and the audience went nuts at the end, clapping and whistling and when one of the performers started singing at the curtain call, everyone joined in. what seemed kind of offensive and neo-colonial to me didn’t seem to make any difference to anyone else. just the public event in a positive space with a creative aim seemed to be enough. it seemed like that was the most important thing – the event. everything else was secondary. later on in the evening, talking with raul, he talked a bunch about the war. about how they all grew up in it. how he was in the military and kind of lost his shit and found himself wandering around luanda not sure what to do with himself and a friend said hey, let’s go to this theater, elinga. he went and his heart leapt. they put him on stage playing a soldier, holding a gun and were all impressed with his expressive nature. his conviction. and that was the beginning of his theater career. he went on to tell stories of working with kids accused of witchcraft and doing all sorts of projects and playing bad-guys on angolan soap operas. when i talked to him later he said the thing about the show that night that was beautiful is that it was positive, creative and not destructive. and that’s what’s amazing. all the rest of the neo-colonial stuff takes a back seat to that…
earlier that evening katia lopes – frank plant’s friend – met us at a gallery in a hotel on rua reina ginga where a dutch photographer was showing his photo series of photographs of street scenes from different cities around africa, china and europe. talking with him for a while, i also got a strange feeling about how he talked about cities. how the value of the cities depended on how they fit into his project. someone told him about how beautiful huambo was and he said it was too bad that he didn’t go there because it sounded like it would fit perfectly into his work. which for me was a really really weird way to talk about a place. jim also called it a neo-colonial european artistic take on the world, and i agree. again, maybe the most important thing right now as peace is settling in and people are struggling with crazy inequities and the really tough infrastructural issues facing the country, it’s just important to have people coming in showing work, exchanging, getting artists and people from angola out into the world and getting the world here. getting people here excited about where they live and their potential for creating their own work and motivating the scene to develop and keep producing. i mean, in both the theater and the gallery, there were people with phat tv cameras filming and interviewing folks. generating a buzz, i guess. capitalizing on the events. enjoying the event.
it makes me think a lot about our work here. what we want to do. why am i making this film. and in what ways am i perpetuating neo-colonial positions and assumptions and in what ways i can subvert that – in myself. it is tricky territory just by the fact that i have an american passport, a camera and a personal agenda…
random thoughts and things:
raul is a celebrity here. people in kianda recognized him. he lives in a musseques.
last night we stayed in the spare office of afrika grupperna where erika lives. she’s absolutely wonderful and we have been totally blessed. between meeting her and meeting sissi and tiago from mama africa filmes and being in touch with jimbo and the guys from elinga, not to mention katia – we have been blessed so far.
elinga – a theater/bar that’s been standing since 1982 offering alternative culture and expression all through the war and now into this transition period into peace. it is in this old defunct space just behind the huge banks and is in danger of being ripped down. the theater is actually outdoors with a roof over it. from the internet: ‘I’d say to take a look at the Elinga Teatro. This is an art gallery theatre where lost of artist display their exhibits. The exciting part is that you can join them for a drink on Friday, Saturday & Sunday during the day and watch as they’re working. The gallery is on largo Tristao de Cunhu 15 street.”
katia lopes is a beautiful, smart and kind woman. friend of franks. architect. really cool. super engaged. lived most of her life out of angola. moved back 2 years ago. adjusting to life.
made contacts in benguela who we meet on friday or saturday:
gil – from adra
manuel domingoes – translater, ex military, guide, contact from jeremy ball
joaquim freiras – jimbos friend and producer
filomena – a woman who worked at elinga teatro who has a house where we’ll stay
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