Contextual Essay

Since the end of the terrifying civil war in Angola in 2002, Angola has wanted to renew its ties with the rest of the Lusophone world. At the time, Angolan exports consisted mainly of just crude oil produced in the country. After independence from Portugal in 1975, fighting broke out between MPLA, a Marxist-Leninist party lead by Edward Dos Santos and UNITA, an anti-communist party lead by Jonas Savimbi. After several peace accords had been reached and then broken in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the MPLA took up social-democracy, signed a ceasefire and tried to unite with UNITA, but after a fair election UNITA lost and started the war again. After Savimbi was killed by MPLA forces, a ceasefire was signed in 2002 ending the war. Finally, in 2008, the first presidential elections were held in over sixteen years[1].

As time has passed, and Angola catches up to the rest of Africa and its Lusophone connections, it has started to explore what its cultural identity is and how it relates to the cultures of Brazil and Portugal especially. Being that both Brazil and Portugal speak Portuguese, it is easy to see why Angola is reaching for connections in those areas. The particular areas that I will be looking at are those pertaining to fashion and music and how it is pushing Luanda, Angola’s capital, to be a rising star in Africa as a bustling cultural hub. In my opinion, fashion and music are gateways to see how people and cultures view themselves in the world as well as how they perceive aspirations of wealth. I will specifically be contextualizing how Luanda has experienced growth, perception of themselves and wealth through the experiences of “suitcase traders” that travel from Luanda to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Brazilian soap opera Windeck, that persuades these women to be in their occupation, and the culture surrounding Kuduro music.

“Suitcase traders,” as they are called are women from Luanda that fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil to buy suitcases full of garments that will then be sold back in markets in Luanda[2]. Sao Paulo is one of the fashion capitols of the world, and although it is not as prosperous as Paris in the fashion industry, Sao Paulo is the destination of choice because of its mixed ethnicities and Portuguese language. Sao Paulo has the fifth largest fashion week in the world behind Paris, New York, Milan and London, making it a perfect destination for the latest fashions and the best prices. Many of these women also travel to China for better prices on clothes as well as furniture but I will not be looking into that. My primary documents that I have found that relate to the suitcase traders as well as the importance of Sao Paulo to the Angolan fashion scene are all interviews mostly in the form of YouTube videos. Although YouTube is not as scholarly as some might think, it has been an excellent resource for finding all I need to know about fashion in Sao Paulo.

            The glue that sticks all these pieces together that I mentioned in my intro is Windeck and Brazilian soap operas. Windeck has been one of the most popular TV series in Angola since 2012. All the popular shows in Angola are based on soap operas from Brazil that found huge success in Angola. Windeck is a show about beauty and the difficult life’s and power struggles of an Angolan lifestyle magazine called DIVO. DIVO is a real magazine that features fashion and lifestyle articles much like Vouge Magazine, except it is more focused on the Lusophone world, as its headquarters are in Portugal. DIVO features many Latin American, African and Portuguese models, ways of life and fashions from the Lusophone world[3]. The show Windeck is particularly popular in Angola because of its long run time of over so many years, starting in 2012. In the show, one can see the chase to be the best of the best, “the hustle,” and Angolan relationship with wealth and power. Another aspect of the show that is particularly interesting is the ties to Latin America. In the first episode, one of the characters flies from Mexico to Luanda to meet her sister who is a photographer for DIVO. Fashion is a main component to this series, not only is DIVO involved, but many of the characters make references to designers like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, both very sought-after brands if you are to show off that you are rich[4]. The mix of International brands and how they are worn is increasingly interesting as you get further into the series. I chose to look into Windeck as opposed to Brazilian soap operas because Windeck is already the cultural combination of Brazil, Portugal and Angola. Although it would be nice to look at other shows, I feel it is unnecessary to do so with a show that is so rich in information about the specific topic I am discussing. Furthermore, this show inspired more than just fashion and good looks. Rapper Cabo Snoop made a song about the Show called Windeck and was one of the first of its kind.

            Kuduro is the last cultural element that I will be looking into. Cabo Snoop was one of the first to make it popular in 2012 with his hit song “Windeck[5].” Kuduro is extremely important to my research because it is the other economic powerhouse that Angola is using to diversify its economy. Kuduro started in the 1990’s and was used by the MPLA in its 2012 election campaign to gain national support[6]. Angola has not had many other things to export other than oil and diamonds for a long time, but the government has seen the power that Kuduro brings with it into Angola. Therefore, it is a rapidly growing genre that is being financially supported with equipment by the government in some instances and is now listened to across the Lusophone world. The genre is essentially afrobeat electronic dance music mixed with Portuguese and Caribbean samples. Post-independence, the rise of the genre has given Angolan youth to aspire to be something great and with that comes aspirations of wealth and being included in the greater world of hip-hop[7]. Another reason that Kuduro is important to Angola is because of the freedom it brings to the people. It is Afro dance music; when a country all listened to more or less the same genre, there is a specific freedom of expression, both verbal and physical, that is achieved that is unique and powerful[8]. I will be looking at artists Cabo Snoop, DJ Znobia and Buraka Som Sistema. These are three of the most influential artists of this genre that exemplify getting out of a hard place. By 2002, artists like these had released songs that essentially joked about how difficult it is to live in Angola at the time, but by using their fast beats and uplifting lyrics, they also helped shape a hopeful outlook on their future[9]. Between their lyrics, beats and music videos, Kuduro expresses the aspirations of wealth, self-worth and cultural identity as Angola has come out of one of the most brutal civil wars in contemporary history.  

            In conclusion, looking at Angolan culture from these perspectives and how they relate back to Brazil and the Lusophone world will help me better understand Latin America’s greater connection to the world. Fashion and music are both extremely important factors when considering a people’s relationship to other cultures around the world because of the fact that we live in a multiethnic, transnational world. From that we find transnational cultures like that of Angola who see Brazil and Portugal and want a part in their unique expressions of culture. I will not be focusing much if any attention to Portugal because it is not as intrinsically linked to fashion, music and the soap operas as Angola and Brazil. Sources from across genres help get a clear picture and representation of how the Angolan people have taken the reigns of its own economic and cultural progression by blending Brazilian culture into what they already know. For the suitcase traders, they play a crucial role in this development because Luanda has had no infrastructure surrounding fashion and clothes except from them. This fact makes the women who choose this occupation have huge burdens of picking the right clothes to wear so that they can actually profit and become successful people.                 

List of Primary Sources

AFRO STREAM. WINDECK EP01 – THE EDGE OF BLACK BEAUTY, SEDUCTION, REVENGE AND POWER ✊🏾😍😜 – FULL EPISODE, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEh2dVrTGp8.

“Angola Profile – Timeline.” BBC News, March 7, 2018, sec. Africa. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13037271.

“Angola’s ‘Suitcase Traders.’” BBC News. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/business-41285456.

Chris Klemens. Buraka Som Sistema – Sound of Kuduro, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CkXhtw7UNk.

Chris Klemens. Buraka Som Sistema – Hangover (BaBaBa), 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOMe-8Tf1Y0.

Chris Klemens. Dj Znobia – Bebe, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLgJxovjPdM.

Chris Klemens. Cabo Snoop – Prakatatumba (Official Music Video), 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j3Hr3wgLnA.

 Chris Klemens. Cabo Snoop – Windeck (Official Music Video), 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcJr-3XDx5s.

CGTN America. Design Focus on Foreign Consumers in Sao Paulo Fashion Week, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_CmVyQjpLU.

“DIVO.” Accessed May 2, 2021. https://www.divo.fashion/


[1] “Angola Profile – Timeline,” BBC News, March 7, 2018, sec. Africa, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13037271.

[2] Léa Barreau-Tran, “Les Courbes de Son Monde : Mobilités d’une Commerçante Angolaise Dans La Périphérie Globale,” Recherches Féministes 30, no. 1 (n.d.): 200.

[3] “DIVO,” accessed May 2, 2021, https://www.divo.fashion/.

[4] AFRO STREAM, WINDECK EP01 – THE EDGE OF BLACK BEAUTY, SEDUCTION, REVENGE AND POWER ✊🏾😍😜 – FULL EPISODE, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEh2dVrTGp8.

[5] Chris Klemens, Cabo Snoop – Windeck (Official Music Video), 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcJr-3XDx5s.

[6] Marissa J. Moorman, “Anatomy of Kuduro: Articulating the Angolan Body Politic after the War,” African Studies Review 57, no. 3 (2014): 21–40.

[7] Quentin Williams, “Lusophone Hip-Hop: ‘Who We Are’ and ‘Where We Are’: Identity, Urban Culture and Belonging, Edited by Rosana Martins and Massimo Canevacci,” Anthropological Forum 29 (December 17, 2018): 1–3, https://doi.org/10.1080/00664677.2018.1558627.

[8] Moorman, “Anatomy of Kuduro.”

[9] Moorman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s