Disability is rarely being addressed publicly in Angolan society. There is a certain awareness concerning people with impairments, as Angola went through 40 years of civil war, but there are still some taboos around the questions of disability as a medical condition.
The project Enter My Universe draws attention to difficulties people with disabilities face in Angola, with a special focus on accessibility to cultural life. 40 years of censorship and armed conflict have left countless mine victims across civil society and soldiers with PTSD behind. Despite that, disability and impairment are topics that are still rarely being addressed in Angola, calling for a much-needed public discourse about the matter.
The festival taking place from 12 to 29 October 2023 is an initiative by a group of cultural, Angolan based, institutions (including the newly founded association ANADA - National Association of Artists with Disabilities and Albinism), local artists and activists in cooperation with the European partners in Angola.
Creating Angola's first fully inclusive and accessible art venue
The cultural scene of Angola is, due to the Portuguese language, still quite isolated. It is thus a novelty to engage in a European-Angolan co-production, further more it is the first close collaboration between EUNIC partners. Inclusion is a new idea in Angola, specifically inclusive access to art, both on the side of artists (visibility) and of the public (access to venues). Due to the long period of censorship, there is hardly any public discussion about social problems in Angola, let alone a platform for people who are invisible and marginalized in Angolan society to talk about their challenges and problems.
To guarantee visibility, the inclusive arts festival with workshops, exhibitions, screenings and two policy roundtables will bring together Angolan and European artists to co-create in townships such as the neighbourhood Cazenga and the city centre of Luanda. One of the project’s highlights will be the first ever European-Angolan co-production of a hip hop opera by artists with and without disabilities. The festival aims at tearing down the borders between different universes.
I know of several projects for people living with impairments, but we have never been consulted for any of them. It is what I call ‘Damaismo’ we are good to show up for PR and taking pictures with us, but in legislation nothing changed until now.Ana Paula Cavanha, member of LARDEF - League of Support for the Integration of the Disabled
This project is a premiere to have artists with disabilities being seen on stage, addressing directly potential decision makers, but also expanding the theatre of the Cazenga based art centre ANIM'ART to meet the needs of persons with impairments, creating Angola's first fully inclusive and accessible art venue. All partners are looking into the option of an biennial Enter my Universe.
When preparing the project proposal, the team held two full-day workshops with all participants; the first to define the festivals format, programme, calendar, production schedule and necessities for a detailed budget, discussing offers to conduct construction work at the theatre venue ANIM’ART.
As the team learned that many partners didn’t use appropriate language concerning disability, they agreed to schedule a second workshop prepared by LARDEF and ANADA to teach the group on the use of correct language and the inclusive concept of universal design in architecture, public transport, education, etc. To deepen the understanding of the reality people with disabilities face in Angola, ANADA presented a field study of existing associations advocating for people with disabilities.
The 'No Meo Mundo' festival took place from 12 to 29 October, shining a spotlight on the challenges faced by people with disabilities, with a focus on cultural accessibility. As the first-ever inclusive festival in Angola, it brought together artists of all abilities from Angola, Europe and beyond.
Initiated by the artist Isis Hembe, the festival included exhibitions, round tables, screenings, a circus project, and a unique European-Angolan hip hop opera co-production.