Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reading the World: 6. Angola

Credit: Angolan contemporary artist: Atonio Ole
As I read, I jot down observations and questions, or I research current headlines written about the country at hand. Caught up in the charm of Ondjaki's The Whistler, I did not stop to write anything. The pleasure of the language was enough.

However, at a loss to write something about The Whistler looking at headlines helped provide a touch of context:

Angola Prison and the Shadow of Slavery

The New Yorker-Aug 19, 2015
Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick's photographs from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, which were taken between 1980 and ...

Voice of America-Aug 14, 2015
JOHANNESBURG—. In the last decade, the nation of Angola has pulled off what some experts consider an economic miracle, transforming ...

Inonge Wina commends Angola

Zambia Daily Mail-Aug 20, 2015
VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina has commended the Angolan government for putting in place a successful social protection system that ...

Angola regime rules in apartheid style - activist

News24-Aug 16, 2015
Johannesburg - From beating women to unleashing dogs on protesters, Angola's government runs the oil-rich nation with an apartheid-style ...

Clearly, Angola has been immersed in volatile change--growth and loss--over recent decades. Further digging brought me to an article about Angolan art by Joanne Thomas in USAToday:
"Contemporary life in Angola is hard. According to World Factbook, the nation has the lowest life expectancy in the world at 38.2, and 40.5 percent of the population live below the poverty line. These impoverished conditions, in conjunction with prolonged civil unrest, have marred the continuation of cultural traditions. Celebrations and traditional ceremonies, for example, were largely interrupted or discontinued during the civil war."
Thomas' objective was to explore Angolan art--previously ignored and forgotten. To have a hopeful, gentle book like The Whistler emerge is remarkable. For me, as I continue to think about the book itself, what matters more is that beautiful art is present and emerging from Angola. The Whistler underscores the importance of art in all its forms for all cultures.

In trying to match an appropriate image with this blog post, I fell into a blog called Angola Rising: Dialogue of Ministry in Angola; A Land Rising from Past Challenges. Specifically, I focused on a post about emerging Angolan art.

In it, Angolan artist Antonio Ole says, “The world is in transition. And during transitions there tend to be artistic explosions, explosions of creativity. Right now, everyone should be alert. Interpreting the world is part of what we artists do.”

My take away from the experience of reading The Whistler is that it exposed me to art as language, as a way for human beings to evidence that art emerges, can still live, even without the nourishment I (blindly) assume all art comes from.

Ole goes on to say, “I feel very inspired by this positive energy. Development is not only about education and health; it is also about the evolution of a cultural identity."

The Whistler, and in a bigger sense the blossoming of art in Angola, gives me a new lens to view...and think about...the world, yes. But it also gives me a new lens to think about me and my place in the world.

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