Posted in Culture

From Luanda to Maputo

ColonialAfricaFunny things happen when you catch up on old BBC podcasts.  Sometimes you make connections you might not have made otherwise.

That’s what happened to me this week.  First came a programme on the elections in Angola, and on the opening of the refurbished marginal in Luanda.  I’d never heard the word “marginal” (not pronounced the Portuguese way, anyway, and clearly relating to a geographic feature) before but quickly figured out that it was the waterfront, in this case now a rather posh one.

Then a couple of days later, my ears perked up when the word marginal came up again.  This time we were in Maputo/Mozambique. We’d gone from one side of the continent to the other.  From the Atlantic  to the Indian Ocean.  And yet the same Portuguese word was being used.

Here’s where the funny connection happened.  I remember being at Humboldt university in Berlin/Germany, talking with two students.  One from Angola, the other – you guessed it – from Mozambique.  And the language they were speaking to each other – Portuguese.  Because both countries used to be Portuguese colonies.  This was the mid 90s, and those students had come to what at the time they arrived was East Berlin.   Back then, all three countries had socialist governments, hence the partnerships between universities.

It struck me then and it struck me again now: the decisions people make, that governments make, affect us in so many ways, even years later!  Countries colonising other countries, and current political systems, led to an Angolan student and a student from Mozambique speaking to each other in Portuguese at a university in Germany!  Pretty crazy!

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