Monday, September 26, 2011

The Simples/Complicado Dichotomy

Miss Angola won Miss Universe 2011 because she was found to be simples, while Miss France has shown herself to be complicada.

An interesting concept in Lusophone Africa is the
simples/complicado dichotomy.

Simples is one of the highest compliments one can receive, while in English, to be called simple is an insult. It means you are either simple-minded or live a simple and boring life. To call someone´s house simple may be an underhanded way of saying it is small or sparsely decorated. But in (African) Portuguese, to call a person simples is saying that person is nice, or pleasant or best of all -not complicado.

Complicado can certainly mean complicated in the way English speakers use it. But it has this whole other meaning too. In English, someone who is complicated might be emotionally complicated, have baggage from past relationships, have mood swings that are difficult to predict and understand. Complicado can mean all of these things, but it can also have a vague meaning that someone is just difficult to get along with. A situation that is complicado can be complex to resolve or it can be simply a pain to deal with. At worst, to be complicado means that you like confusão.

can be translated as confusion, but that does not capture the nature of it. It is closer to chaos, pandemonium or drama. A person who is complicado might like creating confusão in their life or in the lives of others. For example, if a candongueiro hits your car and you get out and to yell at the driver he might say something like "Stop creating confusão." You see how that is different from confusion? Everyone would know why you were yelling. No one would be confused about that. But to make a scene about it, to heighten the tension, that would be creating confusão.

Other examples of
confusão might include a mess of papers on your desk, a cat fight, a traffic jam or politics. Portuguese is amazing.

Mercado Roque Santeiro was probably a lot of confusão.

Related Posts:

Updated: Angola-Mozambique Tão Bem Palavras

Mozambique Fashion Week 2010

Once again, I am a year late posting about Mozambique Fashion Week 2009! These are the campaign posters from 2010, last year I posted about the 2009 campaign! They used the same ad agency both years - DDB Mozambique. I love the batik theme.

Related Posts:

Mozambique Fashion Week 2009
All Fashion Posts

Friday, September 23, 2011

Os Mercados Perdidos: Kinaxixi e Roque Santeiro

Mercado Kinaxixi

The Kinaxixi Market was built in the 1950´s and grew to be considered by some the heart of the city. The independence leader and first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto even wrote a poem about sitting in the praça at sunset, watching people come and go. In the picture above you can see a large monument, which was to the Rainha Ginga, an important woman in Angolan history.

After the war ended in 2002, the market was in poor condition. At some point in 2003, the vendors were told to leave and the market was closed. People were told the building would be rehabilitated, which it badly needed. But it never reopened. In 2008 the entire praça was razed, including the monument to Rainha Ginga.

As you can see from the above sign that says "Breve Aqui" or "Here Soon" the plan is to convert the space, so central to the city, into a twin-towered high rise shopping center and hotel.

Roque Santeiro

Roque Santeiro was once the largest open air market in Africa. It appeared in the 1980´s in an area near the port called Sambizanga. It was famous
for its criminal activity and low prices, and known for being a place where one could find anything from used clothing and produce to contraband items. It is probable that many items sold there had been siphoned off from containers in the port. In 2008, Roque Santeiro met the same fate as Kinaxixi and the entire market was destroyed.

I once imagined, mistakenly, that Luanda would be very similar to Maputo and might have a historic and vibrant central market place. I am still curious as to where the original market in Luanda might have been - Kinaxixi and Roque Santeiro were both fairly new constructions for a city established in the 1500´s.

When I arrive here, learned that there is no central market in Luanda. The market closures were very controversial. Kinaxixi was an especially painful place for people to see destroyed. Both the wealthy and poor shopped there, had memories there.

Officially, the markets were simply "moved" to new locations, outside the city. But it is not realistic to think that these new markets are being used by the same people who worked and shopped at Kinaxixi and Roque Santeiro.Luanda has horrendous traffic issues and trying to move people anywhere, without providing them with a real public transportation system, is misguided at best.

So, what have been the consequences of removing central market places from the city center?

Zungueiras. Zungueira is the word for women who sell goods on the street. You see young men doing the same, but you mostly hear about zungueiras. Of course zungueiras existed before the markets were closed. In many African cities, people walk around selling goods. They are often called hawkers in English. Luanda is
overflowing with hawkers. They walk in and out of lanes of stalled traffic selling - just like Roque Santeiro - anything you could imagine. Cashews, beer, adaptors, phone chargers, maps, school books, soap, wood carvings. Tyree actually saw a man with a toilet seat in one hand and a laminated copy of the Mona Lisa in the other. Outside our neighborhood grocery store, Martal, ladies sit changing money and selling produce, which usually looks better than what is being sold inside. As there is no market for them to have a stall, the sidewalk is their market. Zungueiras often have children with them, crawling on the ground, between pedestrians.

Zungueiras are officially breaking the law. On most days they are ignored by the police. But every once and a while the police decide to make a raid and pick a random group of women to harass. You sometimes see a crowd of zungueiras frantically running down the street, balancing their goods on their heads, trying to outrun the police behind them.

The market closures seem to be part of a bigger scheme in Luanda. Someone has a vision for this city and that vision includes luxury shopping centers and high rise apartment buildings, not market places or street vendors. If they have to move around large masses of poor people to realize this vision, well, they´ve built new markets and new houses for them outside the city, haven´t they? Nevermind that people who live in the city don´t necessarily want to go live and work on the edges of Luanda, on the edge of society, on the edge of the economy.

The above picture shows another manifestation of the type of urban planning going on in Luanda today. Most people do not have a car. At any given moment, a major road will have thousands of people walking along the side, on their way to work, or home, or to buy food. Sometimes they have to cross these major roads, but the roads have been built for vehicles, not for pedestrians. Instead of having traffic lights and crosswalks, every few miles there are large pedestrian bridges. People are meant to cross the roads on these bridges. Except no one wants to do this - the bridges are far apart from each other, have numerous flights of stairs. Many people would rather risk being hit by a car than go 20 minutes out of their way to cross the pedestrian bridges. So, what do the police do? They put out rolls of razor wire - just like in war zones - to prevent people from crossing the road.

There is structural violence in the reconstruction. Yes, the war is over, but the city is being rebuilt with hostility towards those people who do not fit a certain vision of Luanda.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Miss Angola wins Miss Universe 2011!

Miss Angola, Leila Lopes, has won the Miss Universe 2011 title. She is the first African winner in the pagent´s history. Miss Lopes is a native of Benguela, a city to the south of Luanda. While I´m not a huge fan of beauty contests, I was really excited for Angola. Her face is already on a huge poster outside the National AIDS Institute. As Miss Universe, she will be required to continue her work in HIV awareness.

I was also excited because Leila is my xará. Xará is Portuguese for "someone with whom you share a name."

Not everyone is happy. Miss France expressed some bitterness, complaining she doesn´t wear enough make-up, usually wears jeans and tried to imply that somehow being in Brazil helped her win (although if there was some sort of bias, wouldn´t Miss Brazil have won instead?) To me, it just sounds like she´s a little more down to earth than some of her competitors.

Parabéns Leila, Parabéns Angola!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


You can feel the Chinese presence everywhere. From Luanda shopping centers to a roadside construction site in the middle of no where, the Chinese are in every corner of Angola.

A worker eats his lunch with chopsticks on a Chinese construction site.

The Chinese and Angolans have an uneasy relationship, navigated between racial, linguistic and cultural barriers.

Luanda has three distinct architectural styles: Colonial Portuguese with tiled roofing and plaster walls, Novo Estado apartment buildings built during the pre-Independence population boom, and post-war Chinese-made high rises.

The Chinese have been welcomed by the government to assist in post-war reconstruction. Luanda´s skyline is filled with cranes erecting tall, modern buildings. Some are being built by the Portuguese and Brazilians. But many new buildings are being constructed by Chinese companies with Chinese laborers. Chinese construction projects and imported products are not known for their high quality.

A poorly photo-shopped sign for a Chinese road project.

The Chinese are not the only Asians to immigrate to Angola. Here, a group from Vietnam at the airport, in Uige, an entire hotel is staffed with Filipinos. But the Chinese are the biggest group, and the most visible. Angolans are not very good at distinguishing the groups, so they are all called "chinêses". A little girl in Uíge once pointed at me and cried "chinesa, chinesa." It is possible that until then, all foreigners she had ever seen had been Chinese.

Please read The New Imperialism: China in Angola. This article explains the situation much better than I could on this blog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ramadaan Mubarak

Nando´s is a popular Mozambican/Portuguese-style chicken chain in South Africa. I saw this advertising campaign at the airport in Johannesburg in August and found it really beautiful.

Ramadaan ended August 30th this year.

Update: The images are now up at Creative Roots, thanks to my recommendation! Creative Roots is a really great design blog that collects advertising and images from all over the world.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sawubona: Fabulous August Cover

Durban: Street Scenes

Durban: Moses Mabhida Stadium

Moses Mabhida Stadium is a new landmark on Durban´s skyline. It was first used during the World Cup in 2010. The stadium is worth a visit, even when there isn´t a game going on. There is a platform for bungee jumping (which we did not do). And there is a cable car that runs along the arch to a viewing platform, where you can see the entire city. Moses Mabhida was an important figure in the ANC, the anti-apartheid movement and party.

The architecture of Durban is interesting. While it would be easy to compare Durban to other beach-cities like Miami or Rio de Janeiro, some of the buildings are brown brick, more like what you might find in Brooklyn. Some of the hotels had more of a tropical-kitch style, which speaks to Durban´s role as a holiday destination for South Africans. The above scene reminded me of old pictures of Las Vegas.

Fun World is a beach-front amusement area. We took the ski-lift ride for the view.

Durban: Victoria Street Market and Street Scenes

The Victoria Street Market is a large, indoor bazaar built in the 1870´s, where you can find spices, bead work, both African and Indian fabrics and jewelry. Durban has the largest Indian community outside of Asia.

Look closely at the spice names.

This might be the place to mention how well we ate in Durban. If I look a little more "healthy" than usual in these photos, it is because I happily ate all the curry, prawns and steak that I could. And, in the strange way that African economies work, while the food in Durban was better quality and more delicious than in Luanda, it was much, much less expensive. Which is to say, food was a BIG part of our trip.

Street scene from inside the market.

Some boys enjoying very old arcade games.

School girls.

A minibus seeks riders.

Tyree is just shocked by all the crazy tabloid headlines around the city.