There are many myths about the war in Angola—one of the most complex and protracted ever fought in Africa. Alongside its local ‘raisons d’être’, the war in Angola also unfolded as a proxy Cold War, mobilised by external interferences, secret partnerships and undeclared political and economic agendas, manifesting in various deceptions, from the violation of international agreements to illegal operations, secret funding and the provision of arms. It was a war of subterfuge; a fiction woven of half-truths and cover-ups. I first read about Angola in Another Day of Life, Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book about events leading to Angola’s independence and subsequent civil war. This was during the mid-eighties, a time when South Africa was experiencing increasing mobilisation against the forces of the apartheid government, which was also fighting a war in Angola. Until then, in my imagination, Angola had been an abstract place. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was simply ‘The Border’, a secret location where brothers and boyfriends were sent as part of their military service. And although tales about Russians and Cubans and the Cold War began to emerge, it remained, for me, a place of myth. In 2007 I went to Luanda for the first time. Five years had passed since the war had ended and I was interested in exploring the social and spatial demographics of the city in the aftermath. During my time there, a second project began to suggest itself—one that would shift my attention away from the urban manifestation of aftermath to the ‘space’ of war itself. Photographically, these works explore how past trauma manifests itself in the landscape of the present—both forensically and symbolically. We live in a present space, but one that—as Jill Bennett notes in A Concept of Prepossession—‘bears the marks (indelible and ephemeral) of its history. And as much as we occupy places, they have the capacity to pre-occupy us.’
Framing by Jean-Pierre Gapihan, Paris.