In these spell things, it is sometimes better not to move.
Dombe Grande is a land of powerful sorcerers, you can hear it there. Yes, there are known sorcerers in the neighborhoods of the village; and yes, there are people who come from all sides to visit them to ask for protection, blessings and personal miracles. And also to put a big eye on the other. But neither I nor anyone else knows these things. Much less in daylight.
The label is there, printed, and is part of the collective imagination, not only in the province of Benguela, but throughout the country. However, Dombe Grande is more than stories of kimbandas and healers. About 60 km from the capital of the province, the small town is a land of contrasts that lend it a strange beauty, in what "strange" is good. The road that connects Benguela to the communal headquarters crosses a rough and semi-arid landscape, announcing the Namibe desert, which is beginning to take shape here. Dry, light-brown, sand-brown land, shaped by wind-bitten hills. Giant sky reminiscent of inhospitable land.
As we go along, something changes. We enter the Coporolo valley, a river that has long been giving headaches to the inhabitants of the region, with its seasonal floods. But water is life. And what a life! The banks of the river are a true semi-oasis in the semi-desert. Palm trees, banana trees and lush vegetation of all kinds hide unexpected river beaches with great natural and historical value. On the Coporolo bed, the Portuguese caravans headed towards Quilengues, Cubango and Caconda, now municipalities in Huila, ascended towards the interior.
Passing the bridge over the river, we enter the communal headquarters of Dombe Grande. We receive humble houses that outline the simple design of this small place.Although the village is not very old, its people date back to times before the arrival of the Bantus. They are generically known as Mundombes and played an unparalleled moment in our history.
Tradition tells that, in the hills of Dombe Grande, the peoples of the region defeated the Jagas, warriors from Central Africa who, in the 16th century, spread terror across what is now Angola. After wiping out the almighty Kingdom of Congo, the Jagas advanced southwards. Upon reaching the hills of Dombe Grande, they were finally defeated by the Mundombe, who put an end to the invaders' reign of terror. History still runs word of mouth among the elders.
However, during the centuries that followed, the Mundombe failed to resist the greatest threat of all: slavery. The fate of thousands of people was tragic, but their scoring has gone far ... far!
Several historians say that the Mundombe or “Ndombe” gave the name to a strong tradition that still celebrates the African heritage (amazing!) In the unsuspected Uruguay.
Candombe, as it is called, is a rhythm based on drumming that originated in the slaves who arrived in the Rio del Plata region from the 15th century. Today, it is an artistic expression and affirmation of the Afro-descendent community of the small South American country that knows that its “candombe” is connected by an umbilical cord to the “Dombe Grande de Angola”.
History almost unknown among us, but celebrated with pomp and circumstance in Uruguay, which managed to have candombe declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.
From unknown memories to scars from the past, today the Dombe Grande lives, sadly, in the shadow of a giant sweet lump, the deactivated Sugar 4 de Fevereiro. Created in the 1950s, this must-visit place was one of the key points in the production of sugar consumed throughout Angola in the following decades.
It was the largest sugar bowl in the country. And since the 1980s, it has been a sleeping giant waiting to define its future - whether it will produce sugar again, or whether its land will produce citrus fruits, or soybeans, or other types of agricultural products.
In addition to the river, the Açucareira, and the arts of healers and sorcerers (in case you are interested), the village of Dombe Grande is a strategic point for reaching practically deserted beaches on the Benguela coast. One of the most beautiful is the Cuio beach, which Rede Angola has visited in a previous itinerary. Nearby is also the Parque da Chimalavera, in recovery, on the road between Benguela and Dombe Grande.
The light of this place is incredible, illuminates and removes the shadows. Go without fear and discover a landscape of contrasts. From the river and the sea. What was and what is. From myth and reality.