Feliciano J. R. Cangüe is the author of the blog Hukalilile (Don't cry for me, Angola). An involuntary contributor to Global Voices, he is one of the many bloggers who are assisting this journalist by writing snapshots of Angolan society and sharing them with readers.
Feliciano is the first of several Angolan bloggers who will features in a series of interviews to be published on GV. The professor, an engineer who splits his time between Angola and Brazil, gave frank answers to our questions.
What inspired you to start a blog?
I would like to begin by thanking Global Voices for giving me this space and the opportunity that comes along with it.
Various factors led me to start a blog. At one time I had thought of becoming a journalist. I couldn’t make that dream come true, but I saw blogging as a way of providing a kind of civic journalism, or, more accurately, grassroots journalism, based on inclusiveness, which would add to the information disseminated to the public. This made my blog more popular, especially when the news outlet Club-K began to reproduce many of my articles. This is definitely one way of breaking the monotony of the official press in Angola, which is either completely one-sided or biased by the agendas of the most powerful media companies.
Besides, at the time when I decided to start a blog, there were few personal websites based in Angola; there were many gaps that needed to be filled. I needed my own personal Ipiranga where I could protest, raising a “cry for freedom” by putting forward my own ideas, and thus help to improve society. Ultimately, I am part of that society. I believed that Angola would cry for me if its son gave up the fight.
[Translation note: It was on the banks of the Ipiranga River that the Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro declared “Independência ou Morte” (Independence or Death). Brazil became independent shortly afterwards. See this link]
How long have you had your blog?
Since early 2007.
Were you already familiar with running personal websites?
No, these were uncharted waters for me, but now I can do it in my sleep.
How do you see the blogosphere?
To paraphrase some thinker or other, I would say that traditional media is too good to be true. The blogosphere, on the other hand, is too true to be good. It is indeed an inexhaustible alternative source of information which has the potential to change our world for the better. Vox populi vox dei [“the voice of the people is the voice of God”].
Do you think that blogs might be considered weapons of protest? Why?
We Angolans have a fear of the word “weapon”, and our government has a fear of the word “protest”. To take one example, Yoani Sánchez has managed to make her blog, Generaciony Y, into a veritable sub-machine gun of protest against the Cuban government. She is always trying to scratch the surface of the current political system and show us the filth that lies beneath – what she sees as the injustices and restrictions on freedom that affect her fellow countrymen and -women. Her protests have led to her being awarded countless prizes. To my mind, blogs are real tools for social justice, harmony and peace. They have emerged in order to destroy established systems.
Name one or two blogs that have had an influence on you.
What do you think of the Angolan blogosphere? Do Angolans use blogs as weapons for debate? Do you think they are effective?
Generally speaking, blogs about Angola are still few in number. You couldn't compare us to the Argentine blogosphere, which numbers more than 260,000 blogs, mostly driven by people under 20.
As far as organization goes, it will be some before we can hold a bloggers’ conference like Blogama in Morocco, Bloguvianos in Bolivia, or the like. Nevertheless, we are beginning to make our mark, and this must not go unnoticed. Recently the Jornal de Angola publicly saluted and recognized the power of blogs in Angola. Unfortunately there are many factors which hamper the development of blogs from Angola, particularly poor internet access and the high cost of computers. People prioritize matters of survival; new technologies come second. In spite of this, the long-drawn-out troubles that the country has experienced, beginning with the effects of the Inquisition and 500 years of Portuguese rule, then 14 years of the war for independence, and finally 30 years of civil war, it’s no surprise that a culture of free expression is not part of our everyday lives. Against this backdrop, being a blogger is an almost Herculean feat.
In practice there are a few blogs, such as Alto Hama, that act like fire extinguishers at the heart of the fire. Some people try out the extinguishers for themselves, and others admire them. The crucial thing here is that lots of people are now putting themselves forward, and many of them have sound ideas and an excellent sense of where we should be going. These days, for instance, we have blogs that deal with covering G8 summits as an Angolan journalist.
As for the second part of the question, few Angolans use blogs as direct weapons for debate. Generally speaking, those who do this live outside the country. Others do it by subtle suggestion. They keep their cards close to their chest, using parables and debating situations in other countries, or attributing ideas to “vague entities”, as [Brazilian business commentator] Max Gehringer suggests. Often this requires the reader to be more attentive, like a wine connoisseur ascertaining whether his glass contains wine or gall.
What is your view of this new Angola, pressing for change?
All I know is that the country is going to adopt a constitution for a parliamentary-presidential system. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Whatever happens, if we had a culture of change, if new faces and young people had the opportunity to replace the old ones, I believe that we would soon have a country with a new beat, instead of the same old dirge of “once a minister, always a minister; even after death, always a minister.”
If the country made a priority of investing in education rather than vanity projects, perhaps we would soon be able to escape from the pit in which we find ourselves at present. We can't change the country with the people of today if we cling to the mentality of yesteryear.
What was the defining moment of the last decade in Angola for you?
The defining moment happened this year, in 2009, when the creation of six public universities was announced, adding to the one university that exists at present to make a total of seven.