Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Angola - About

We are back to Africa with Angola.  It's a major oil producer, but one of the world's poorest countries.  Most people live on less than $1US per day.

There are over 90 different ethnic groups in Angola and many languages, most of which are a Bantu derivative.  The official national language is Portuguese, but that's not the only hold-over from the nearly four centuries-long Portuguese colonization (with a slight break in there for some Dutch rulers).  Many food habits rotated between Angola, Portugal and Brazil.  Capoeira, a popular fighting dance, flowed between Brazil and Angola.  It was meant to teach martial arts while looking like a native dance.

Angloa is known for it's beautiful traditional art including wood carvings, ceramics and masks.

The country's official name is the Republic of Angola (República de Angola).  It's been known as Angola since at least 1571 when the name Reino de Angola was found on Paulo Dias de Novais's charter.  The name derives from ngola, the title held by the kings of Ndongo.

In my research I learned about Queen Nzinga Mbande.  There are some questions around her rise to power, including accusations of murdering both her brother and her nephew.  My favorite story of her is from her pre-Queen days.  Her brother, the king, sent her to parlay with the Portuguese governor because the Portuguese were kidnapping many of the locals.  The governor had a chair and left a mat for Nzinga to sit upon, which is where a subordinate would sit.  Nzinga ordered one of her servants to get down on his hands and knees so that she could sit upon his back during the meeting, thus restoring her position.  She was successful at negotiating a peace treaty, but the Portuguese were not successful at honoring it.  In 1626 Nzinga was forced to flee to neighboring Matamba where she took over as queen.  She welcomed escaped slaves and Portuguese-trained African soldiers to join her army.  Under her rule, Matamba was equal in power to the Portuguese colony.

From the 1500's through to 1865, many people were kidnapped from Angola and sold as slaves.  In 1961, violence broke out as the people of Angola tried to overturn their Portuguese rulers.  The war raged on until 1975 when independence was granted.

Unfortunately, there had been three freedom fighting groups and when Angola was returned to the people. all three groups wanted to be in charge.  So thus started a 25 year civil war.  1991 saw ceasefire and 1992 had general elections.  But, Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA was not elected and decided that elections weren't such a great idea after all.  Fighting continued until Savimbi's death in 2002.

Spicy foods are very popular, specifically peri peri sauces.  This sauce is from the Swahili word from pepper.  Red palm oil is also popular.  On various other blogs, I've read the plight of people attempting to locate some red palm oil, but as luck would have it, I've got some in my pantry.  It was at whole foods and I'd never heard of it before, so I grabbed some.  I've used it mostly when making bitter greens, which adds some great flavor to them, but Angolas use it a bit like olive oil or butter. Popular vegetables include sweet potato, okra, potatoes and onions.  Chicken, fish and beans are popular proteins.


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