The allegory of Angola: Life finds a way, even in a climate of suspicion
As I was walking along the perimeter of a large dumping ground in the center of Luanda, I spotted a ring of rocks delineating what looked like a small garden. The sight filled me with great hope for the future of Angola. This garden had shown me that with the proper nurturing, life could grow despite the most unfavorable conditions. Indeed, despite Angola's 27 years of war, there is fertile ground for rebirth and renewal – given the provision of proper nurture. Smiling in this revelation, I approached the small garden, pulled the digital camera from my bag and snapped a photo.
However, when I returned to the sidewalk, a man asked accusingly, "Are you a journalist? I saw you take a photo." I replied that I was a student and not a journalist. He informed me that it is prohibited to take photographs. Now I've heard that I should not take photographs of government buildings, police officials or sensitive topics, but all photos are forbidden? I didn't push the matter with this insistent gentleman, but thanked him and continued onward before he could ask for a bribe or the camera itself.
The climate of suspicion in Angola is intense. In part, this may be a reaction to a number of recently released searing reports on corruption written by the International Monetary Fund and watchdog groups like Global Witness. However, the effect of decades of war cannot be underestimated. There are those who have not known peace for their entire lives. Suspicion in wartime is a protective safeguard; you never know whose side someone is on.
To a suspicious interview subject, it is a challenge to explain the difference between investigative reporting and academic research. However, I might liken it to the metaphor of the garden: whereas an investigative journalist might be interested in the dirt, I am interested in the opportunities for growth.