Roteiro: Fradique & Ery Claver

Realização: Fradique (Mário Bastos) 

Dir. de Fotografia: Ery Claver

Produção:  Jorge Cohen


A vida de um edifício deteriorado no centro de Luanda aos olhos de Matacedo - um solitário e antigo guarda de segurança que trabalhou durante 20 anos para uma família que decidiu abandonar o edifício sem avisá-lo.

“Today, Luanda is a city haunted by its colonial past. Key to this is perhaps the disjunction between the functions that underlie the forms in the times of their construction and the functions that are given to those forms now.

“Most dwellings in Luanda were built for colonial clerks, mostly the Portuguese that were working in Angola as part of the economy of services that supported the primary sector. Those people formed a young demographic, most of them as young couples, or unmarried men and women. The housing in the “urban consolidated nucleus” was meant to reflect this demographic.

Entire families, sometimes including as many as three generations, occupied apartments meant for far smaller households. Those new dwellers brought the styles of life they were used to in the musseques to these places, modes of living that were at odds with the ethics of those for whom those places had been built. The open corridors that modernist architects had imagined would solely be used as passages from the building galleries to the apartments, to provide air circulation, were transformed into common yards, where neighbours would cook, and sometimes raise domestic animals.

Those verandahs, designed to allow sunlight to enter the room, were often transformed into extra rooms, covered by walls, sometimes made of bricks and cement, or in some cases by wood and corrugated tin. In almost every terrace full-blown apartments were built using the same kind of materials. The cubicles in the large corridors, and in the galleries of the buildings, to be used by janitors to store their maintenance materials were transformed into minuscule apartments, often shared by a few people. When the elevators stopped working, since the technicians were among those half million people who left the country, people used the shafts as garbage bins. When the garbage invariably piled up to the higher floors of those buildings, dwellers cleaned it up and cemented the shafts altogether. Today, only a handful of the buildings in downtown Luanda have functioning elevators.

What made things worse was that from 1975, the year of independence, to roughly 1990, Luanda added very little new construction. The exception is maybe the few hundred buildings constructed by the Cubans; although they slightly increased the city’s housing stock, they did nothing to improve life in the city, since those buildings did not have amenities (such as running water), and were built in neighbourhoods worst affected by lack of urban infrastructure (including sewage and draining systems). Moreover, during this period Luanda’s population was increasing. First, since the high natural birth rate had doubled its population around this period; second, the demise of agricultural production, and, more importantly, the civil war, brought millions of people to Luanda.

These factors together progressively worsened living conditions in Luanda. Buildings are physical structures meant to support a certain weight during a certain period of time. However, the excess weight to which those apartment buildings were subjected took a heavy toll on them. Moreover, there was also the general breakdown of an already weak infrastructural network, without which those buildings could not “function” the way they were designed. Most of them, for instance, have no running water. Dwellers do two things to access water: they can pay one of thousands of homeless boys to haul buckets of water to their houses; or, if they have money, they can install a cistern downstairs linked to a motor-pump to bring water to their taps. Needless to say, water leaking from the walls and ceiling is not conducive to the conservation of these buildings, in so far as it has raised the levels of humidity, which has corroded the cores of their foundations. Distribution of electricity has also been problematic, which has driven dwellers to seek different solutions, all of them, again, threatening the integrity of these buildings.

Candles, and especially oil lamps, used during the frequent power outages have put many buildings in danger of fire. More recently, since the population in general has become more affluent, people have taken recourse to the use of powerful generators, whose intense vibration is certainly the cause for some fissures that have crept up the walls of these buildings.”

“(…)by the end of the 1990s, vast areas of Luanda were in virtual and technical collapse. The main cause for such a state of affairs was the social and moral collapse that affected every aspect of national life, for those were also the years not only of the brutal civil war but also of the corruption that pervaded every sphere of national life. Things would change by the end of that decade as the civil war was about to terminate, and the Angolan state had more resources available for other areas of public life. The regeneration of the city of Luanda became one of the national priorities. But a major question had risen as to what do: repair the colonial city or build a new capital? The answer would be found in the middle: oil money trickling in allowed the state to expand the city beyond the limits imposed by colonial urban designers. We have seen that until 1975 Luanda had been planned around a radio-centric structure, in the middle of which was the cement city, or the consolidated urban nucleolus, surrounded by the musseques, where the vast majority of the African population dwelled. Until 1995, this dual structure remained unaltered, with the difference being that the population of Luanda grew disproportionally, from about 700,000 in 1975 to more than 5,000,000 in 2000, a growth rate of almost 615 percent. By the end of the 1990s, however, Luanda’s urban plan would no longer revolve around the axis cement city-musseques, and would open a new area for expansion: Luanda Sul (South Luanda).”

In Refracted governmentality: space, politics and social structure in contemporary Luanda by António Tomás