Source: Jovens da Banda
Translated by: Mila Stéphanie Malavoloneke
Uíge, one of Angola’s eighteen provinces, located in the northwestern part of the country. The clock marked exactly 15:50 as our reporter showed up on the scene, the local was called: industrial street. Nanizaiawo Morgan was accompanied by his younger cousin, a Uige born himself thus familiar with the area and the youngsters that worked there. Two of which showed up as Nanizaiwao was still trying to park his car, “kota would you like me to give you a shine?“, they asked. Kota, a word borrowed from one of our many bantu languages, is used as a sign of respect to people that are older, in this context it was the term utilized by the kids to ask Nanizaiawo if he was there for a car wash.
“I hastened to say no and told them that I just wanted to have an informal conversation, as I opened the door with my blue notebook and a Bic mechanical pen in hand“, narrated Nanizaiawo, who later explained to them who he was and why he was there, whilst confronted by the faces of skeptical kids, suspecting that he might have been some tax regulator or someone from the police. So they directed him, by the pointing of fingers, towards another young man, one who was in his brown shirt, white shorts and black flip flops, protruding in the glow that he gave to the black Toyota Corolla he was washing. You may think that perhaps he is their leader, but no, do not be fooled, there they have no leader.
“The young man to whom I walked towards is Jeremiah Sebastian or simply ‘Da Pastilha‘, as it is treated by his ‘co-workers‘. Half shy, half afraid, the young man demanded that I presented a document that identified myself and authorized me to ask him questions and take pictures, as I did not have none with me at the time, I had to rely on the prompt intervention of my cousin. Gradually the tension was broken and he managed to drop a smile as he agreed to talk to us“, recalls Nani.
The young man is 20 years old and lives in a neighborhood called “Benvindo” (literal translation reads: welcome) he washes cars since 2001 and says that it is due to the lack of employment and occupation, “I study at night and I need money to buy school supplies and clothes,” says the young student currently doing his 9th grade at Uige Preparatory School.
The more they talked, the more he opens up, others start approaching and more inputs towards the conversation are given. Such as “Da Pastilha“, ten other youngsters work by washing cars on that spot and one of them is João Alves or simply “China“, nickname he earned for having eyes as small as those of our Chinese friends. China is 20 years old and studied his 7th grade at Benvindo District school. He attends classes in the morning which means that he can only start working after midday. Committed, the young boy focuses on his education so that one day he may change his lifestyle and give his future a chance, “I want to be a doctor, kota” he said proudly.
To wash a car like the Toyota we mentioned above, the boys charge 500 Akz, somewhere near to USD$ 5.00, but that includes the external part only. If the customer wishes to wash the interior part as well, including the engine, the price may go as high as Akz 2000 ($USD 20) for light vehicles or 4000 Akz ($USD 40) for 4×4. That Car Wash is a popular space and procured by people from all social levels. Contrary to what one might think, there is nothing to worry with regards to safety. “I wash my car here since 2009 and I never had a problem, I can leave it here and come get it later “said a young man whose car had just being washed. “I rather wash here than go to a conventional service provider to avoid bureaucracy and also the prices there are way higher“, he continued.
But why exactly were the kids suspicious at the beginning of our approach? Do they have problems with the police? Well, believe it or not, they all said no, in fact not even with the public fiscals, “they just do not like when we wash the cars on the road, only here, where we are permitted, but kota, you know, we never know if someone wants to hurt us, there are many of those who are envious” they told Nani while justifying their suspicion.
For customers, the kids ‘service is positive, necessary, “and helps keep our cars clean, they take their time and earn money honestly,” they argue.
At the end of what started off as a cold and tense conversation but resulted in joyful and playful moments, there was still time for our jovens da banda to poke fun at Nanizaiawo’s old cellphone. “ kota you are lying to us…, coming here with this old android of yours, we doubt this interview will be aired anywhere“, said either the boy that was pulling water from a water hole or the other who insistently begged for Nanizaiawo to take a photo of him because as he says: “I like the spotlight and that lady I am after has to see me in a magazine page.”
When it was around 16:30, our reporter and his cousin said their last goodbyes and happily took off but overwhelmed with the joy of knowing that one day they will meet these youngsters again, still in Angola and hopefully find them already living the lifestyle that today they work hard for.
From us, Jovens da Banda, as we say in kikongo, “Lusala kiambote“.
Text in Portuguese written by: Nanizaiawo Morgan