Southwest ethnic groups of Angola

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Sep 02, 2019    Joan Riera

The South of Angola is marked by 3 geographical areas: rainy plateau of Lubango (center), Namibe desert (southwest), and savannas of Cubango (southeast). In each of these regions, human societies adapted to the environment developed over millennia. The first inhabitants who developed their culture in the southern lands were from the Khoi or Khoisán group (commonly known as Bushmen) of short stature and copper skin organized in bands (mobile groups of 2-3 families) and dedicated to hunting and gathering. After living isolated from other human groups towards the S-XVI, Bantu groups originating in the Central African region (now Cameroon-Congo) began to arrive following the rivers. This is the Herero group, organized in classical tribes that occupied the best pastures for their cattle. This forced the Khoisánidos groups to move to more remote and desert areas in order to maintain their collecting lifestyle. The last great human migration before the arrival of the Europeans happened in the S-XVIII when 2 other Bantu groups, the Nyaneca-Humbe and the Ovambo began to populate the fertile plateau of Lubango and the great savannas of the southeast. These villages, all and being marked by a semi-nomadic economy based on livestock, developed a form of itinerant agriculture that allowed them to complement their diet and develop more sophisticated social structures that allowed developing small kingdoms in this region. In the middle of the S-XIX, the first Portuguese settlers arrived in southern Angola, first settling in the fertile lands of the Lubango plateau and then expanding throughout the territory. European penetration and military violence against the peoples who opposed resistance profoundly marked the economic and cultural landscape of the Angolan south. Some Bantu groups, as the Khoisán peoples did in the past, took refuge in the most inhospitable areas (mountains and desert) to avoid assimilation or slavery and others adopted the forms of the new dominant human group, the Portuguese farmers who controlled the region until 1975. The Angolan civil war (1975-2005) affected relatively little to the underdeveloped south but deeply marked the oldest culture in the region, the Khoisán. This was due to the fact that men of this ethnic group were mass recruited as traders by the South African army fighting the Angolan communist movements. At the end of the war, they returned to their villages and the Angolan communist government accused them of collaborationists and they were banished (once again) and they are still a marginalized people who live as an outcast in their own territory.

Other Bantu cultural groups have preferred to continue maintaining their pastoral lifestyle despite the economic and cultural pressure exerted by the central government and international business groups (schools, roads, missionaries, agricultural plans, train tracks, mining, etc. .) so that they fully join Angolan society and abandon their traditional culture considered as backward. This is a reality common to all tribal peoples of the world. The future of these last traditional groups of Angola will depend in their measure on the sensitivities of the new generations of Angolan politicians, the pressure of international lobbies that collaborate with the indigenous causes and the tribal peoples themselves that have survived droughts, invasions, colonization , and the longest war in Africa.