The bright pink walls of Elinga Theatre in Luanda, Angola, face imminent destruction to make way for a building development. Photo published on Facebook by Sou Contra a Demolição do Elinga Teatro
There are many casualties in the rapid expansion of Luanda
, the capital of Angola and now one of the most expensive cities in the world. One may soon be the Elinga Theatre. Its loss would deprive Luanda of a historical landmark and a social space that, according to our Observer, bridges the country's political and socioeconomic divides.
It used to be that Luandans could drink an after-work beer and gaze from the Elinga Theatre's open windows at the blue waters of the Bay of Luanda. But now, the view is blocked by a construction project that may soon engulf the very theatre if building goes ahead on Elipark
, a new development that would include luxury apartments, restaurants and a massive parking lot. Angola’s oil and diamonds are fuelling a real-estate and construction boom and a growing divide
between the have-lots and the have-nots.
Elinga is more than a theatre
-- it is a cultural and communal space that hosts a bar, free concerts and an art gallery. It’s also a living witness of Angola’s troubled past. Portuguese colonists built it as a school in the 1800s. Many of its students went on to become major political figures during Angola’s fight for independence and brutal civil war, which lasted between 1975 and 2002. Elinga survived the war years. After becoming a theatre in 1988, it served as a cultural anchor
for the city and launch pad for the careers of many of Angola’s best-known performers and artists.
Our Observer says that members of the regime and the opposition manage to mingle at the Elinga, despite the bruises of a war so recently finished. In 1981, the Elinga Theatre was declared a cultural heritage site by the Angolan government as a monument to the country’s colonial history. But in 2012, that status was revoked by the culture minister. Soon after, the construction project was announced.
The culture minister declassified Elinga Theatre as a historical building in 2012. Photo: http://centralangola7311.net.
Fans of Elinga were outraged. One architect drew up an alternative plan, but it was ignored. Since then, community members have created several Facebook groups and websites
, organised online petitions
and lectures on the importance of the theatre.