Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2000

Department

History

Language

English

Publication Title

Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies

Abstract

In 1992, the Municipal Government of Bailundu, in the center of the Angolan Highlands, declared "Bailundu Day" to commemorate the ascension of a nineteenth century Umbundu king, Ekwikwi II, on July 25, 1876. Ekwikwi, who reigned until 1893, is remembered in Umbundu oral tradition as one of the great leaders of pre-colonial Angola. He is accredited for ending internecine fighting, and, through skillful diplomacy, checking Portuguese military and political encroachment. Ekwikwi is perhaps best known, however, as ruling during a period of unprecedented economic prosperity. As late as 1956, Ovimbundu remembered the 1880s and 1890s as a time when they had more "clothes" than they did at any time since. The source of the prosperity was rubber, and specifically "second class" root rubber. Ovimbundu traders bought rubber from their neighbors, primarily Ganguelas, who lived in the savannas to the east and south of the highland. They then carried the rubber to the coast, along the old slave road, and traded with dozens of Portuguese merchant houses in Benguela and Catumbela. Ovimbundu traders realized the lion's share of rubber profits - more than either Portuguese traders or peasant producers.

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