Angola: Toy Soldiers

Angola: Toy Soldiers

…or trucks. It’s official, I have become an art collector, patron of the art Angola has to offer, if you will (and I will).


Two weekends ago, I went to Porto Amboim. A little south from Luanda, we left early in the morning to try catching the fishermen coming in from sea. We just made it. A friend’s “lady” lives in this fantastically dilapidated port town which once was Angola’s jewel. Now, all we saw were huge empty warehouses, a fish factory with more rust than smell, and a disco “Leite” (Milk) which we had all to ourselves until about 11pm. Think the locals were staying away.


The weekend was filled with fresh grilled fish (bought 10kg worth!), sleeping under a jango (in a tent…with a mattress!), and a short exploratory trip to the waterfalls. Strangely enough, when we left the waterfalls, we all realized we hadn’t actually trekked to see them, but rather made friends with a little Angolan boy and his trucks.


He came around shyly, dragging his pile of tin along a stick with a string loop at the end of it (which helped to drag the trucks). He was sweet, black as soot with a white smile that sucked you in. I fell in love…and after half an hour of talking about his trucks, I decided it was time for me to invest in something completely useless and permanently beautiful.


The negotiations began. The boy, Toní, had never sold anything he created before. He was shocked when I told him I wanted to purchase it, but I explained to him why. Everything was in the “why.” He had made an art piece. He was an artist. The truck had unfathomable details – rearview mirrors, seats for four, wheels on an axel. Did I mention it was made out of tin? Hot dog cans, rubber from shoes (for wheels), metal wire from used electronics, and wooden sticks to hold the wheels together.


He was reticent about giving me a number, so we plopped a 200 kwanza bill on the table ($3) and asked again. After five minutes of hesitating (not knowing whether he should say 200, since he knew that’s what we had, or less, or more) he looked up, and in an inaudible murmur, whispered “200.” We all agreed it was a fair price. What would he do with the money? What was his favorite food? Pasta! Ok, you can eat pasta for a week. Or, he said, I can buy material to make more trucks.


I’m an art collector. My first purchase sits on my night table.

By |2011-10-13T14:04:40+00:00July 10th, 2008|Volunteers for Life|1 Comment

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  1. Maayan July 28, 2008 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    bellisimo. me dio lagrimas en los ojos. de veras bubu….fue tan bello. deberias escribir un libro.

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