Traditions and customs of Angola

What traditions and customs are there in Angola?

Angola, a country that was colonized by Portugal, is a nation with promising potential. We present the customs and traditions of Angola.

Food and economy

Food in daily life

More than half of the population is unemployed and it is estimated that 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Hunger is a threat in many areas.

As normal economic activities are impossible in many regions, local eating habits are hardly distinguishable. The coastal population includes a lot of seafood in their diet, pastoralists in the Southwest rely primarily on dairy products and meat, and farmers eat corn, sorghum, cassava, and other agricultural crops.

Especially in urban areas, but also in drier rural areas, collecting water and firewood often takes a long time. Salt is a highly appreciated product in many areas.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Many traditional ceremonies and celebrations have disappeared or are celebrated infrequently. If circumstances allow, at a party or ceremony, roast chicken, soft drinks, and bottled beer are served and consumed in large quantities.

As these items are expensive, most people can only afford local drinks such as corn beer and palm wine.

Basic Economy

The agricultural sector has been neglected by the government. The war has made farming impossible in many areas, and transportation is often a dangerous business.

Although 70 percent of the population farms to support themselves, more than 50 percent of the food supply has to be imported. Farmers plant orchards in which subsistence crops are grown.


In general, dress codes are not strict. In some areas, women are supposed to wear long hem skirts, but this rule is not strictly enforced.

In many communities, people do not look each other in the eye while they speak. Young people are expected to address the elderly in a courteous manner. The ability to speak well is a highly admired trait, in both men and women. In some communities, men do not eat with women and children.


Religious beliefs

Especially in the coastal regions, Christianity goes back a long time. At the end of the 15th century, a Christian church was established in the Kongo region.

It is not clear how many residents are Christian; figures for the Roman Catholic Church range from 38 to 68 percent. Another 15 to 20 percent belong to Protestant denominations, such as the Methodist, Baptist and African churches. For many people there is no contradiction between the Christian faith and aspects of African religions.

Therefore, religious specialists, such as fortune tellers and medicine men, occupy an important place in society. The government, with its socialist outlook, has been in frequent conflict with religious leaders. Because the Roman Catholic Church is highly influential and associated with Portuguese colonialism, relations with that faith have been especially tense.

Since the move towards a more liberal political system, relations with established churches have diminished considerably, although worrying incidents continue to occur. An unknown number of residents do not profess any religion.

Rituals and Holy Places

Due to the war, many religious practices have been discontinued and cultural institutions are no longer in use. Amidst the chaos of war, many once significant places and activities have lost their function. Under the influence of the churches, a number of traditional African religious practices have disappeared.

In the context of war, people try to find new ways to deal with the critical situation. Thus, evil spirits are exorcised in the newly established independent churches, children wear amulets to avoid being forced into the army during raids, and soldiers strictly follow all the rules given to them to make a magic potion against bullets.

Death and the afterlife

In many Angolan societies, funerals are an extremely important event; mourning rituals are often considered essential for the peace of the soul of the deceased. Due to war, there is often no opportunity to perform the proper rituals for the dead.

Although people have sought alternative ways to mourn, victims of war are sometimes left unburied. Aside from the personal trauma this can entail, many people fear that restless spirits will further disrupt social life.

Secular celebrations

On November 11, 1975, Angola became an independent country. This day is celebrated every year. In addition to Christian holidays, a wide range of occasions are commemorated, such as the founding of the MPLA, the start of the armed struggle, and Neto’s anniversary.

Arts and Humanities


Angola has an outstanding literary tradition. An important genre has been political poetry, of which former president Agostinho Neto was an important representative. The arts, relatively uncensored, have been an important way of expressing criticism of the political system.

Oral literature is important in many communities, including mermaids in the Luanda tradition, trickster tales from Ovimbundu, and sand charts and their explanation in the east.

The press has been largely controlled by the MPLA and UNITA. Journalists expressing alternative views have been restrained from exercising their profession: Assassination, censorship and accusations of defamation have been used to suppress an independent press.

Radio is an important source of information, but it has been dominated by warring parties for a long time; although a Catholic radio station, Rádio Ecclésia, has been established.

Graphic arts

Crafts such as woodcarving and pottery are sold in neighboring countries. Luanda has several museums, including the Museum of Anthropology.

Performing arts

Angolan music, with its links to Brazil, has received international attention. The most popular sports among spectators are soccer and basketball.

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