Nine Questions for ...

Rita Soares on Luanda: “Too Loud, Too Full, Too Much”

privatCopyright: Marco Rohrbacher
Shacks and high-rises: Angola’s capital city Luanda (Photo: Marco Rohrbacher)

4 January 2012

Oil and diamond deposits in the region have turned Angola’s capital city of Luanda into a booming economic metropolis. The inhabitants escape from the weekend construction noise to the more serene outskirts. Rita Soares reports on life in the world’s most expensive city.

What are the people in Luanda concerned most about right now?

The construction sites. We are experiencing a construction boom here right now – yesterday nothing was there and the next day there’s already a new skyscraper. More and more of the green is disappearing and there is sadly not very much of it in Angola in the first place.

What do the people in Luanda love most of all?

Music. Every weekend you hear loud music everywhere, in houses, discotheques and on the streets. Angolans also love to dance – for us, music and dance belong together. We’ve got the kizomba, a dance for partners, similar to the lambada. Right now, the kuduro is very popular. It translates as “hard bottom” and that’s what the dance looks like: you move like a robot, with jerky motions, but it still has its own swing. The dance is spreading here like a virus – regardless of social class, from street kids to state ministers, everyone loves the kuduro.

What is your own favourite place in Luanda?

My mother’s house in the neighbourhood of Benfica, in the south of Luanda. It is wonderfully quiet there, like in a village. Luanda was originally built for less than a million inhabitants and we now have between six and seven million inhabitants. The city is simply too loud, too full, there are too many people, too many cars, too much rubbish, too much noise. If you live outside the city centre like my mother and have a garden, it is so lovely to come home in the evening. This peace, this quiet – I love it.

Copyright: private
Soares, the nature lover: “We Angolans just blossom in greenery.” (Photo: private)
What cultural highlight should visitors to Luanda be sure not to miss?

They should get out of the city by all means and get to know what’s outside of it, because Luanda is only a small part of Angola. The real beauty of Angola can be seen by driving to the provinces, for example to Benguela, Huambo. The most beautiful thing is the route there. By all means take a car so you can see something. Sadly there are people who were born in Luanda and never saw a single province.

Who comes to the Goethe-Institut?

Young people in particular – young, creative people. They come to us because through us and with us they have new opportunities to live out their creativity. They see a chance with us that they’ve never had before.

Why do Angolans learn German?

We’ve had our first German course here at the institute for one year; before the German embassy held German courses. Our course participants can be divided into two groups: one is very young people who want to study in Germany, the other is people aged between 30 and 55 who have a partner in Germany. They learn German here because of the law on spousal unification that has existed for a few years, according to which one must prove basic knowledge of German if one wishes to join one’s partner in Germany.

What do you look forward to most when you come to Germany?

To nature, for example in autumn when the leaves fall. And I love drives in the countryside, although one really needn’t fly to Germany for that – it’s enough to drive to Namibia or South Africa. Many Angolans have this need for greenery, we just blossom.

What German book are people in Luanda familiar with?

Most are not familiar with a specific book. But when I say I work for the Goethe-Institut, everyone knows that it is named for the famous German poet.

What Angolan book should we be reading?

All of the books by Pepetela, the most successful Angolan writer. He just published a new novel a few weeks ago.

Sabine Willig asked the questions.

Rita Soares, 33, spent her childhood and young adulthood in Germany. Following her Abitur she returned to Luanda, where she worked for the German embassy. She is presently working on her Master’s degree in Project Management. She is responsible for the cultural programme at the Goethe-Institut Angola, which was newly established in 2009.

Angola on the move: Reports, background information and interviews about the topic can be found in the new issue of the Goethe-Magazine (to the PDF). Title: Luanda leuchtet!

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