Angola: Nationalist Narratives and Alternative Histories

  • Jeremy Ball Dickinson College
  • Claudia Gastrow University of Johannesburg


It has been over forty years since Angolan independence and yet Angolans have not
had many public opportunities to reflect on the past. The end of the country’s civil
war was accompanied by a peace agreement that granted a blanket amnesty to all
those involved in the conflict. Unlike in South Africa or Rwanda, there have been
few officially enacted spaces for ordinary citizens to recount their experiences, nor
legal opportunities to seek reparation. State-sanctioned narratives play down divisions
among Angolan nationalists before and after independence. Public commemoration
avoids seemingly ‘contentious’ issues such as the civil war and tends to focus
on military victories over colonialism and foreign interventions. Much of this
memory landscape attempts to enforce a hegemonic vision of the past that reinforces
the primary position of the ruling MPLA’s (Popular Movement for the Liberation of
Angola) centrality as the only legitimate ruler of Angola. It also seeks to locate politics
in officially sanctioned arenas of action. Nevertheless, there has been increasing
questioning of MPLA narratives seen in everyday attempts to reclaim and rethink
controversial events and leaders, and a pushing against arguments that the political is
defined by parties and mass organisations.