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Culture & People


Portugal has been present in Angola for 400 years, occupied the territory in the 19th and early 20th century, and ruled over it for about 50 years. As a consequence, both countries share cultural aspects: language (Portuguese) and main religion (Roman Catholic Christianity). Of course, the "substrate" of Angolan culture is African, mostly Bantu, while Portuguese culture has been imported. The diverse ethnic communities – the Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Bakongo, Chokwe and others – maintain to varying degrees their own cultural traits, traditions and languages, but in the cities, where slightly more than half of the population now lives, a mixed culture has been emerging since colonial times – in Luanda since its foundation in the 16th century. In this urban culture, the Portuguese heritage has become more and more dominant. An African influence is evident in music and dance, and is moulding the way in which Portuguese is spoken, but is almost disappearing from the vocabulary. This process is well reflected in contemporary Angolan literature, especially in the works of Pepetela ans Ana Paula Ribeiro Tavares.


Common characteristics found in buildings and homes throughout Angola are evidence of the influence which has its origin in the 15th Century, when Diogo Cao caravels docked in the Kingdom of the Kongo. Missionaries, carpenters, and masons were among the first settlers during the time of the Portuguese arrival to the region. The colonists replicated the Portuguese style of architecture in all the forts, churches, buildings and homes they built. These structures were composed of stone, iron and wood and were built to survive the sometimes harsh coastal weather.

The historic buildings that still stand today give testimony to beautiful Angolan architectural design and carpentry work. This style remains popular as many of the new buildings reflect the same historic designs.


Angola has an outstanding literary tradition. Literature helped to focus anti-colonial resistance and played an important role in the independence struggle. An important genre has been political poetry, of which the former President Agostinho Neto was a significant representative. His works centred on themes of freedom and have been translated into many languages. The arts, relatively free from censorship, have been an important way to express criticism of the political system. Oral literature is important in many communities, including mermaids in Luandan lore, Ovimbundu trickster tales, and sand graphs and their explication in the east.

Post-independence literature, however, has been limited by censorship and ongoing political strife. The press has been largely controlled by the MPLA and UNITA. Journalists who express alternative views have been curbed in the exercise of their profession. Murder, censorship, and accusations of defamation have been used to suppress an independent press. Radio constitutes an important source of information, but has been dominated by belligerent parties for a long time; although, a Catholic radio station, Rádio Ecclésia, has been established.

Visual Arts

Crafts such as wood carving and pottery are sold in neighbouring countries. Luanda has a number of museums, including the Museum of Anthropology.

The traditional arts of Angola have played an important part in cultural rituals marking such passages as birth or death, childhood to adulthood, and the harvest and hunting seasons.

In producing masks and other items from bronze, ivory, wood, malachite, or ceramics, each ethno linguistic group has distinct styles. For example, the ritual masks created by the Luanda-Chokwe represent such figures from their mythology as Princess Lweji and Prince Tschibinda-Ilunga. The use of these ceremonial masks is always accompanied with music and storytelling, both of which have developed in important ways.

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