For the second year in a row, The Mercer Group has confirmed that the world’s most expensive city to live in is Luanda in Angola. What the report didn’t make clear was that the city was also one of the most savagely segregated cities in terms of wealth: a tiny native elite and foreign nationals working in oil, sitting atop a mountain of desperate poverty.
I’ve worked in Angola a couple of times and was always shocked at the disparity. I had, until I looked back at these images, forgotten spending an hour watching Dasilio and his mate fruitlessly begging rich Luandans for small change. I had forgotten the smell inside the tent of Bule’s eye, hanging by a thread, rotten and useless in his head. I had forgotten Engracia sitting in the ruins of her home, destroyed illegally by property developers. I had forgotten the harsh light and the long shadows. Shame on me for forgetting.
My few good memories come, as they often do, by listening to the music on the streets. A decade ago I discovered the delightfully named Bonga via a very talkative taxi driver in the city. That led me in search of saudade – a very difficult Portuguese word that translates roughly as a longing for something lost: a melancholy. You can hear it in the husky Morna of Cesária Évora and you can certainly hear it in the Fado of Carlos do Carmo. You can hear it on the breaking Atlantic waves whispering along the shore of the Marginal where both the rich and poor promenade – but for different reasons…
Here are some images.