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By Rob Staeger

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It looks peaceful in its symmetry, as if it is pondering the deep mysteries of life. Traditional Angolan musical instruments are varied. They include shaking instruments like saxi (gourds filled with seeds, similar to maracas) and drums such as ngoma (bongos) or mpwita, a friction drum with a wooden rod inside. Wind instruments include the vandumbu, a soft wooden trumpet, and the mjemboerose, made from an antelope horn. Stringed instruments range from the hungu, a bowstring that makes music when tapped, to a threestringed violin called the kakocha.

Nonetheless, the Angolan government is trying to strengthen the agricultural sector. The Ministry of Agriculture is permitting farmers to purchase land and encouraging them to plant such crops as cassava, sugar, beans, millet, palm oil, timber, and tobacco. In addition, the government is taking steps to rehabilitate Angola’s coffee industry. New laws have been passed to encourage foreign investment, allowing foreign companies to operate coffee plantations in Angola. Garimpeiros, or “diamond seekers,” sift for alluvial diamonds in the waters of one of Angola’s rivers.

Created from wood, bronze, ivory, or ceramic, masks are an important part of cultural rituals. Some of these rituals occur each year, like the celebration of the harvest. Others mark a change in a person’s life, such as passage from childhood to adulthood or from life into death. Dance is another important part of these rituals. In fact, one of the world’s most famous dances may have been based on an Angolan prayer ritual. Samba has its roots in the Angolan word kuzamba (to pray). Brazilian plantation owners may have seen slaves actively praying and mistaken it for a dance.

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