Angola, is a country in Southern Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean and Luanda is its capital city. The exclave province of Cabinda has borders with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Portuguese were present in some – mostly coastal – points of the territory of what is now Angola, from the 16th to the 19th century, interacting in diverse ways with the peoples who lived there. In the 19th century, they slowly and hesitantly began to establish themselves in the interior. Angola as a Portuguese colony encompassing the present territory was not established before the end of the 19th century, and “effective occupation”, as required by the Berlin Conference (1884) was achieved only by the 1920s after the Mbunda resistance and abduction of their King, Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova. Independence was achieved in 1975, after a protracted liberation war. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002. Despite the civil war, areas such as Baixa de Cassanje continue a lineage of kings which have included the former King Kambamba Kulaxingo and current King Dianhenga Aspirante Mjinji Kulaxingo. The country has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy has on average grown at a double-digit pace since the 1990s, especially since the end of the civil war. In spite of this, standards of living remain low for the majority of the population, and life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Angola are among the worst in the world. Angola is considered to be economically disparate, with the majority of the nation’s wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population.
The art of Angola derives from centuries of tradition and cultural rituals. The most famous symbols are wooden masks and sculptures, which are not only merely aesthetic creations, but play an important role in rituals that celebrate the passage from childhood to adulthood, the birth and the death, the new harvest, the hunting season, etc. The use of ceremonial masks is always accompanied with music and storytelling. In producing masks and other items, each ethno-linguistic group has distinct styles, working in wood, ivory, bronze, malachite and ceramic. According to Angolan tradition, the little wooden statues contain supernatural powers. A curious tradition is the basket (ngombo), used by the ethnic group Lunda-Tchokwe, containing different wooden statues. The priest (nganga) retrieves the statues from the basket and is able to foretell the future according to the symbols each statue represent.
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