My Years in Angola (1950-1970)
Andries Peter van der Graaf
In the '50s, business with Nestlé was developing very well, for which we held the monopoly. At first condensed milk was the main product, then milk powder replaced it, as well as all sorts of baby food. We were not able to remain sole agent, in part as a result of pressure exerted by C.U.F. (Companhia União Fabril) on S.P.L. (Sociedade Produtos Lacteos).
S.P.L. (Sociedade Produtos Lacteos)
For many years it was only possible to import milk products from Portugal (significantly more expensive than Dutch milk powder, for example) as no import licenses were issued for foreign milk. Later on, this situation changed. Only in later years was fresh milk available in the cities, and also sterilized milk, mainly from Cela.
Cela, Angola c. 1960
Cela is a colony for white Portuguese settlers, situated in a highly fertile area of Central Angola, along the Cuvo River, most probably formerly a river bed.
A lot of money was squandered in Cela because things were done in a disorganized fashion (land planning took place when work had been on-going for over ten years, thousands of head of cattle were imported from Denmark and which were unable to adapt to the climate, colonists were recruited in Portugal more on the basis of connections than suitability). Still, it was an interesting project, to which we also contributed a good deal. One big client was the colonists' Cooperative, though unfortunately they were always short of cash, and couldn't pay their debts.
Cooperation is not a strong point in the Portuguese. They are too individualistic for that, they say so themselves. The only Cooperative with which we had no financial problems was one in which the members were mostly Germans. Here and there in Angola there were some groups of Germans, among them the Mannhardt brothers, for example in Calulu, where they very successfully grew coffee.
A.P. van der Graaf visiting a coffee plantation
Kees, Betty and Joyce with Dutch Padre
Sometimes missionaries came to buy goods from us and I was invited by them to come and have a look at their mission services. These were at Dondi, some 80 miles from Nova Lisboa. It was a Protestant mission, "Congregational", American and Canadian. This was a big mission, providing teaching in a number of subjects including agriculture and other trades, as well as providing medical care, including a leper colony. It covered a large area, many brick buildings in which the various services, hospitals and workshops were housed.
Dondi Mission, Angola
Means School, Dondi, 1950's
What I remember best is the choir singing led by one of the American missionaries. The Bantu have an exceptional sensitivity to sound and rhythm, and the choir master had, I thought, brought them to a high level of performance.
Listen here to Angolan Umbundu music
See here ruins of Dondi mission (Images of Angola - Noel Henderson-James, 2011)
... to be continued...
Andries Pieter van der Graaf
Translated by Elizabeth Davies (van der Graaf) 2012
The memoir of Andries Pieter van der Graaf is in two parts: Part 1 (written in English) starts in 1909 with his birth, and provides a vivid description of his early life in Krimpen aan de Lek, a small community near Rotterdam; of the effects of the Depression on the family; and of his experiences during the war. In Part 2 (written in Dutch, translation into English provided), he takes us from his first day in Angola, through his years learning how to run a Dutch trading company in Angola in colonial times, to his fascination with Angola and its peoples.
Read post # 1: My Years in Angola (1950-1970) here
Many thanks to Elizabeth Davies (van der Graaf) and her family for allowing me to adapt the text and to illustrate it by using photos from the family's collection.
Muito agradeço a Elizabeth Davies e sua família que autorizaram gentilmente a edição do texto para publicação neste blog e disponibilizaram fotografias do espólio do autor.
Images and Photos:
Nestlé: Leite Condensado
S.P.L.: Restos de Colecção
Means School, Dondi: Nancy Henderson-James
Angolan Umbundu Music: Nancy Henderson-James