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On the Ground in Angola's Capital

For many Angolans, the “face” of the government is its capital projects. Here, visitors to Luanda’s National Military Museum are greeted by a Soviet-era gate. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

Commissioned during the civil war, the gate’s mosaics give the army an illusion of grandeur. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

This government billboard is advertising “New residential zones all over the country.” Variations of these project hopeful messages over the city. Few in Angola see actual results. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

The billboard doesn’t lie, the perfect neighborhood is real. Hundreds of these identical homes line parallel streets in a newly-built division of Kilamba, a government-led resettlement project outside of the city center. It’s like an Angolan version of Levittown, but few can afford the entry fees. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

A worker walks towards the memorial to Agostinho Neto, Angola’s first president. Halted for several years, North Korean contractors ultimately finished the project. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

This faded billboard marks the entrance to Kilamba and advertises the China International Fund Limited, the general contractor behind the planned city. CIF works exclusively in African countries and enjoys close access to heads of state. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

Hundreds of Toyota Land Cruisers await new drivers in Luanda. They are a favorite of police officers and members of Parliament. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

Offroaders are imperative for leaving the city. This pock-marked highway near Cacuso, in Malanje, is just a few years old. Land mines, remnants of the civil war, likely hide in the brush just meters from the road. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

The sign reads “De-mined Area.” Much of Angola’s de-mining is financed privately, either by NGOs, foreign governments, or oil companies. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

Taking pictures of government buildings and uniformed officials is illegal, so I hid under a tree’s cover to take this picture of Angola’s new Assembleia Nacional. The building, a gift from the Chinese, joins a handful of Chinese-constructed buildings notorious for their poor construction. Image by Daniel Black. Angola, 2015.

Today’s Angola is governed by the MPLA (People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and its longtime leader, President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, who has held the office for 35 years. Longevity brings experience and has made Dos Santos adept at projecting a strong public image for his party.

This slideshow presents a few ways that Angolans and tourists alike come in contact with the government’s public face.