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Lost in Light is a videoblog about small gauge filmmaking featuring weekly posts of home movies, work by artists, articles by preservationists and film scholars, video tutorials and other film gems.

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Luanda, Angola, 1955


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[UPDATED 7-19-2007] From contributor Mack Lundy of Virginia, USA:

December 1955 Elisabethville, Belgian Congo; Luanda, Angola; Leopoldville, Belgian Congo

In December 1955, Edward T. Wailes, the U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, traveled to Belgian Congo, Northern Rhodesia, and Angola. The scenes in this movie do not include the trip to Northern Rhodesia. The reason for the trip is lost in time but it was memorable for my mother because he invited the wives of embassy personnel to travel along. My father would have been on the trip anyway as he was a member of the flight crew. We kids remained in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother has one vivid memory that remains to this day. She is prone to motion sickness and at one stop she bolted from the plane ahead of the ambassador, a breach of protocol. She figured that would be better
than the alternative.

Several weeks after Lost in Light put this movie on their site, my mother found several pages she wrote during the trip. I transcribed the pages and they appear below in italics. My comments are in brackets.

Mon. 12 [December, 1955] On route to Elizabethville [Lubumbashi]

7:00 A.M. We took off from Jan Smuts airport [now O.R. Tambo International Airport (2006) and before that Johannesburg International Airport (1994)] at 4 A.M. I think everyone is too excited to be sleepy. We are having coffee & coffee cake (which I made) now & taste mighty good. Lavern & myself are sitting in the African Room it has huge pictures of natives and animals on the walls. The room was original planned for the VIP but the seats are as hard as rocks and not reclining – so the Ambassador & Mrs. Wails & Frenchie

[Mrs. Mills, wife of Major Mills, the assistant Air Attache] are in the other room that is much more roomy & has four comfortable seats. Once the plane is the air, we can walk around the plane. We should land around eleven.

Elizabethville – 4:00 P.M.

We were met by the Consul general & wife – Mr. & Mrs. Murdock – I had met them in Pretoria. They are the only Americans here, even have a local girl as secretary. We were taken to the hotel and what a riot, no one at the desk spoke English and none of us spoke French but finally Mr. Murdock came and got every thing cleared up. We all had lunch together and then went sight-seeing. It’s a funny little town looks like a western town, dirt streets and small shops. Every one seems to be driving a new two-tone car. Tonight we are going to cocktails at the Murdocks.

[The movie opens with people leaving the aircraft. The woman in the blue dress coming down the steps is my mother. Fortunately, this was not one of the times she was airsick. The sign on the steps is for Sabena Airlines, the national airline of the Congo. I’m inclined to place the scenes of people disembarking from the aircraft and the three women walking down the covered sidewalk in Elisabethville.]

On route to Luanda, Portguese [sic] East Africa, Tues. 13

Another long flight – will take us about seven hours to get to Luanda. Have just finished playing scrabble with Frenchie. We will have lunch on the plane today. We are flying over beautiful country. Lots of water & trees – so different from [South] Africa.

Afternoon in Luanda

It really pays to travel with the Ambassador. We are getting deluxe treatment. All the big wheels met the plane and the consul General had arrangements made for sight-seeing tours. One of the local employees, who speaks very good English took the Mills, Windslows & us on a drive up to a huge fort [Fortaleza de São Pedro da Barra] and a drive around the beach and to the market. Tonight we are invited to the Consul General house for dinner. It’s quite funny, we aren’t ask if we would like to go. They just say a car will pick us up at seven. The people here are very nice, in fact I think this will be my favorite stop. It isn’t too hot but very humid and my hair is a mess. Pete [my father, Mack Lundy Jr.] is taking a nap.

[I believe that the Luanda scenes begin with the people getting in the automobile. The man who turns and waves at the camera is Major Mills and this matches my mother’s comments above. There is a long pan around the edge of the bay. What you are seeing is the water side of the Avenida Marginal. You can see a distinctive, long building with a rounded section on the right end. I used Google Earth and Google image search and identified it as the Banco Nacional de Angola. Note the eroded hill side in the background. If you look at the same scene now it is built up and you can hardly tell there is a higher elevation.]

Wed. Luanda 14th

We had a grand time this morning. Went in a native canoe to a little island to swim. It was a beautiful beach and the water was very calm (Atlantic Ocean). I got a real good sun tan now. The natives look & dress different here. Everything is very expensive here. Have bought nothing so far.

[Two women are coming down steps in bathing suits. The one in the back is my mother. It looks like they are about to go out on the canoe mentioned above. The cut to the next scene of the people in the canoe is abrupt but it could be part of the same outing. Since this is the last day in Luanda it is likely that the scenes on a beach with Angolan fishing family residence is the same day.]

Thurs Eve. Leopoldville, Belgian Congo [Leopoldville is now Kinshasa]

Arrived here around eleven. Have already been sight-seeing, to a party, and seeing what the natives have to sell. Every night they put their things out on the side walks – ivory and wood carvings.

[The scene shifts from a beach in Luanda to streets in Leopoldville. It is a bit jarring to see a street vendor selling ivory but interesting since my parents still have one of carvings you see here.]

Rode the ferry across the Congo River to braz [braz, this is most likely the first four letters of Brazzaville which is in the Congo and across the river from Kinshasa]

[The last scenes in this movie show the ferry leaving Leopoldville. This area has deteriorated a great deal since this movie was made. I wasn’t able to use Google Earth to find the ferry departure point.]

See our File Directory for a link to full resolution MPEG-2s of these scenes and more from the Lundy home movie footage, available at the Internet Archive. For more from this collection of home movies from African and elsewhere, go here here, and here. More to come.

Music: Django Ue

Comments

Comment from bjornthegreat
Time: May 14, 2007, -5

Indeed it looks a lot like Luanda, but though I’ve lived there for three years it’s changed a lot since the mid-fifties and it took me some time to identify it. Nevertheless, incredibly fun to see what things were like in Africa some time ago – will surely post a link!

Pingback from Lost in Light » Leaving South Africa
Time: May 18, 2007, -5

[…] Visit our file directory for a link to high-quality footage of the entire trip, plus more home movies from life back in the States. More of Mack’s Africa footage here, here, and here. […]

Pingback from Lost in Light » Cape Town, 1954
Time: May 27, 2007, -5

[…] Visit the File Directory page for a link to a high-quality version of the original home movie on the Internet Archive. More footage from the Lundy home movie collection here, here, here, and here. […]

Comment from naresh kumar
Time: July 29, 2007, -5

i love Luanda, Angola.
its good country place.