Angolan Wine Industry during Colonial Period

Introduction

The slave trade greatly affected the wine industry during the colonial era in various African countries. The arrival of foreigners in various African countries led to a cultural transformation in their societies due to the development of intercultural communities. For instance, in Angola, the new settlers comprised the Portuguese as well as the Brazilians.

These foreign colonizers came from entirely different cultures, especially in the case of alcoholic beverages. The Portuguese valued grape wine and Portuguese brandy, while the Brazilians relished cane brandy. All these varieties of drinks contrasted with local beverages previously produced by the local people. Additionally, the interactions between the colonialists and the local African people led to many socioeconomic transformations in the society.

Hence, the trajectory of the African wine industry has a similar pathway to that of economic changes due to community. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the wine history of African countries through and after the colonial era. Furthermore, the article also evaluates the significance of the cultural continuity of African societies by assessing their wine traditions throughout history.

The Colonial Influence on African Wine Industry

During the trans-Atlantic slave trade era, wine and other alcoholic beverages became major sources of imports in western Africa to acquire exportable captives. During the colonial era, approximately 5-10% of the wine was imported into West Africa in those regions where the potential slaves were highly populated.[1] For instance, in Luanda—a Portuguese colony in Angola—the imported liquor was of higher quantity, which contributed to the trade of slaves from this region.

In 1951, with the advent of the New State regime (Estado Novo) extended to the colony, Angola became a province of Portugal (Ultramarine Province), called the Província Ultramarina de Angola.

It is estimated that between 1719 and 1830, Luanda port town had shipped approximately 1.2 million slaves, which were traded through wine importation money.[2] The alcohol and wine importation affected the slave trade in Western African countries, but it also led to a significant transition in the alcohol consumption patterns of the people in those areas.

The introduction of foreign beverages like wine in countries such as Algeria changed African countries’ culture and economies. For example, the emergence of Benguela was highly influenced by alcohol consumption patterns and the development of a drinking culture.

Angola’s early intersection with Europeans

In 1617, Manuel Cerveira Pereira led about 250 men to Cattle Bay, where they found the port town of Benguela through the south of the Katumbela River.[3] Subsequently, Pereira and his people started creating the Kingdom of Benguela, which enabled central Angola to be recognized as the Portuguese region. Here, they could access the highly populated African regions to conduct their trade.

Like in Luanda, the Portuguese interacted with local folks already familiar with local intoxicating beverages, which made their wine marketable. The readily available wine motivated the local people to engage in trade with the Portuguese due to their intoxicating feelings.

When Pereira and his people arrived in Cattle Bay, the Umbundu community in central Angola could identify various local alcoholic beverages like ‘Mingundi,’ a fermented mixture of honey and water – frequently consumed by local people. Consequently, the Portuguese saw a trade opportunity as their wine could be marketed to these people.

Mingundi was among the best drinks to be locally produced.[4] Moreover, the local people also enjoyed locally manufactured beer produced from sorghum and millet- the two highly produced grains in central Angola. Most reports of Ovimbundu in the 18th century included the tales of Mingundi, which were primarily mentioned in oral tradition.[5]

Similarly, another alcoholic beverage was purely produced from sorghum, and it was known as Hella. It was smooth and highly appreciated by Africans during the 1700s.[6] Another beverage called ‘Ochasa’ was made from a combination of agricultural traditions and apiculture in central Angola.

Palm wine was unavailable in this region even though an English sailor known as Andrew Battel had witnessed the thriving trees in the coastal lowlands. However, the lack of wine could not stop the people of central Angola from enjoying their local and traditional drinks.

All traditional alcoholic beverages in central Angola had one similarity: low alcoholic content. However, this feature was utilized to mark the significance of various rituals and cultural activities, which united communities in West Central Africa. For example, in 1785,  the death of the chief in Kilenges in the south of Caconda led to the Intambi, where the people drank their alcoholic beverages to mourn and recognize the accomplishments of the deceased chief.[7]

Similarly, many traditions reveal that the drinks had made the people set aside their differences and join hands together as a community to mourn their loss. Furthermore, in the 18th century, when a highlander woman wanted to tie the knot with her partner, a feast was created, and drinks like Mingundi would be supplied to all the guests.[8]

Therefore, the African people were already used to consuming alcoholic beverages during their sad & happy occasions. It can be concluded that alcoholic beverages had deep roots in their culture and society.

The use of alcoholic beverages became a long-lasting tradition by the Africans. Hence, the local people took advantage of any occasion to drink alcohol. For instance, they would celebrate warriors’ return after a long time. Moreover, any social event like marriages, funerals, or any ritual was an opportunity for people to express their delight through their drinks.

Hence, the drinking culture marked the socialization aspects of the communities. When the Europeans first invaded the African countries intending to colonize them, the level by which the people consumed alcohol amazed them. In most countries like central Angola, consumption was limited by production. Therefore, the low supply compared to the high demands led to the Europeans identifying a business opportunity.

Consequently, they supplied unlimited amounts of wines to the thirsty Africans, which led to the acquisition of more slaves. All in all, the Africans had created a demand for wine and alcoholic beverages, and the Europeans embraced the business opportunity with both hands to supply refined, high alcoholic stuff to Africans.

After the arrival of Pereira and his group of men in Cattle Bay, they began exporting captives for the purpose of military actions and commercial relations in other regions almost immediately. By 1618, it was confirmed that one vessel had left the Benguela region full of enslaved people. Later on, about 350 vessels had already transported the slaves by the end of that year.[9]

This made the export of slaves from Benguela to various European countries to become a routine activity. In 1641, the Dutch occupied Benguela to meet their need for slaves. This act enhanced the slave export business in Cattle Bay and Benguela, which affected the economy of the two regions. During the 18th century, Benguela became a significant Atlantic slaving region due to the gradual growth of the number of slaves dispatched from the region.[10]

Hence, the high volume of slave trade made Benguela a significant supplier in central Angola. The acquisition of goods, including during colonialism, required exchange to take place. Therefore, alcohol products were imported in a sustained manner for a long duration. For instance, in Cattle Bay, about 10% of the slave exports out of the region were accounted for by alcoholic beverage exchange.[11]

The amount of imported wine and booze in Benguela’s slave trade was highly recognized. Therefore, the importation of booze was critical for the continued slave trade. Moreover, the continuous demand for alcohol by local people also rendered this business venture a success. The Europeans provided what the local people lacked and desired, enabling them to continue their business. In the 1610s, a relationship between imported wine and alcohol and slave trade was formulated.[12]

The more the wine could be imported to African regions, the more the Europeans could acquire slaves to export. Consequently, the importation of wines and alcoholic beverages led to the emergence of Atlantic drinking in Benguela and influenced the consumption patterns of the local people and the neighbouring African communities.

The arrival of Pereira in Benguela marked a vivid transformation in foreign political power and it enabled the emergence of a new and different culture in central Angola. For instance, the inbound foreigners came from cultures where grape wine was preferred more than other alcoholic drinks.

Therefore, the colonial administration established in Benguela started charging import tax on grape wine due to its high demands, and the finances could be used to fund their expenses. The first shipment of Vinho (wine) had shown that wine transportation was fortified to withstand the long journey. In 1621, a new tax was introduced to the wine being offloaded in Cattle Bay, which would help deal with fortifying costs.[13]

The increase in taxes suggests that the demand for grape wine increased in Benguela to satisfy the needs of Portuguese expatriates who had occupied the region. The primary reason behind increased imports of these wines was that they were highly preferred to local beverages.

By the mid-17th century, more foreigners joined the population of Portuguese expatriates in Benguela. Even though the town was small, it was highly occupied by people from Brazil in addition to the Portuguese. The Brazilian expatriates also came with alcohol preferences, which were also met by the grape wine.

Besides the grape wine, sugar cane brandy arrived in Cattle Bay in 1648 from Brazil. Furthermore, an equally satisfying brandy made from grapes—that was commonly known as Portuguese Brandy—arrived in the region. In the second half of the 1960s, the cane brandy had gained significant popularity among the Brazilian-born and the Brazilianite Portuguese population in Benguela, who had made it their choice of drink. It is because the transported slaves in Brazil would produce the beverage, which would then be transported to them.

The transportation distance to central Angola was shorter, which rendered the trade of cane brandy cheaper than Portuguese brandy or grape wine. The preference was taken advantage of in 1696 because it contributed to a tremendous amount of alcohol being delivered at Cattle Bay.[14] The grape wine being imported from Portugal turned into a luxury product due to its high taxation prices.

The alcohol import tax introduced in 1696 remained unchanged until the 1770s.[15] During this period, the import tax duties on the cane brandy, grape wine, and Portuguese brandy were “collected by the local representatives of merchant capitalists in Portugal,” who had acquired offloading rights in Cattle Bay because alcohol was demanded in high volumes by the Portuguese Crown at fixed costs.

In 1764, these taxes brought a huge amount of revenue to Benguela.[16] However, these sums were still not as high as the ones acquired from the Rio de Janeiro shipments of cane brandy. This rule was changed in 1771, when the Governor of Angola, Sousa Coutinho, declared the taxes would be “directly collected by the colonial civil servants” with a reduction of the previously set tariffs to be levied on alcohol.[17]

The tax duty on cane brandy was reduced significantly, and so was the duty on grape wine and Portuguese brandy. This scenario led to the decline of the previously collected revenues from the alcohol products in Benguela. Since the colonial administration was lowly funded in Benguela, the sums collected were barely insignificant.

Nevertheless, the colonial administration was not the only entity responsible for collecting import tax on alcohol in Cattle Bay. The Municipal Council of Benguela had also started to collect taxes on imported alcohol to finance their operations in the town. Nonetheless, the taxes on alcohol imports remained a significant source of revenue for the administration in Benguela. Most of the transformations happening in the region could trace their origin to the importation of grape wine.

The availability of Vinho in Cattle Bay led to the growth and development of taverns – i.e., the local bars. The foreign settlers in the region would enjoy their wine and alcoholic drinks and later go to the taverns for the night. In parallel, the inn-keeping business in Benguela also started gaining popularity, and the drinking establishments supported it in the regions.

Since the highest population of black people in Benguela was comprised of slaves than the free folks, the tavern business was maintained by the urban and developed regions. Nevertheless, the Africans had gradually adopted the drinking patterns of the white people. Some people enjoyed drinking in the comfort of their homes, while others preferred doing it at the taverns. Similar to Luanda, the establishments in Benguela marked the community spaces where the economic, social, and colour barriers in a slaving society were overlooked during the drinking activities.

Consequently, this environment led to the development of a multicultural urban population where people could socialize and get entertained. By the late 1700s, significant transformation in Benguela could be noted, but the adoption of the Atlantic creole drinking culture was highly recognized.[18]

Benguela’s multicultural population could not consume the full amount of alcohol delivered in Cattle Bay. As a result, a considerable amount of booze was transported to the interior for various purposes. The taverns also facilitated the supply of imported alcohol to the interior locations. Furthermore, the establishments were rarely set in the main colonial centers, but they were accessible inland.

Meeting the rise in Atlantic demand for enslaved labor, the dealers relied on the army to capture the high population in the central Angolan highlands. The individuals helping to acquire slaves were appreciated by a non-stop supply of wine and alcoholic beverages. The demand could not be met with the supply of the caravans that transported the acquired slaves.

Cane brandy, for example, was transported as a parcel present for the rulers and colonial officers. The primary objective of awarding these gifts was to motivate the rulers to continue the supply of slaves. As a result, the act of gift-giving further improved the slave trade in Benguela due to the connections and relationships formed by the suppliers from both sides.

Additionally, imported alcohol was transported to the coast by paying wages to Africans already serving in various colonial enterprises. Some of the African workers were paid partially with the cane brandy. This motivated most Africans to be part of the region’s labor supply.

Nevertheless, the working Africans were not the only locals who would access the imported alcohol. The Portuguese authorities rewarded the African political leaders with imported alcohol because they could provide the required labor to work in various business ventures. A tremendous amount of Vinho was allocated to these political leaders, which led to the development of a relationship between the foreign and local authorities.

The lack of booze would cause conflict, chaos, and violence. The workers would consume the Portuguese brandy and wine stored in the unlocked stores in Benguela, which would lead to violence as people tried to acquire vast amounts of wine.[19] Therefore, the imported wines during the Atlantic slave trade period would reach the Benguela interiors through various methods.

Conclusion

The intersection of colonialism on wine in African countries like Angola led to significant changes in socioeconomic relationships and the cultures of the African people. Many varieties of intoxicating beverages were always available to the Africans, even before the colonial era. They would manufacture alcohol from fermented water and honey as well as from sorghum and barley.

However, these locally produced drinks lacked high alcoholic content. When the European colonizers entered Africa, they introduced new beverages like grape wine, which contained higher quality and satisfaction. These alcoholic drinks would be utilized for consumption and slave trading to develop peaceful relationships between the foreign authorities and the local leaders.

Moreover, they also affected the economy due to the high taxes imposed on various imported wine products, which led to collecting high revenues for various operations by Municipalities and other authorities.

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Angola’s Glossary of Dates

1617– The arrival of Manuel Cerveira Pereira and his men arrived in Cattle Bay, which marked the beginning of a change in Benguela.

1610s – A relationship between wine importation and export of slaves was formulated. The more the wine was imported, the more slaves could be exported to Europe.

1621 – a new tax was introduced to govern the wine offloaded in Cattle Bay, which would also help deal with fortifying costs.

1641– The transportation of slaves became popular, and by the end of the year, about 350 vessels had transported slaves out of Benguela.

1960s – Due to high costs on wine because of high taxes, new alcoholic beverages like cane brandy were imported. It gained popularity because it was cheap and highly accessible.

1696-1770s – The high taxes imposed on wine importation remained unchanged, which made affording the beverage a challenging venture.

1771– The tax collection rules were changed by Sousa Coutinho, Angola’s then-governor, which led to a reduction of taxes on import tariffs on wine. These steps led to changes in the drinking culture in Angola, from local beers to grape wine and cane brandy.

 Reference

[1] Abbink, Jon. “Competing Practices of Drinking and Power: Alcoholic” Hegemonism” in Southern Ethiopia.” Northeast African Studies 4, no. 3 (1997): 7-22.

[2] Ibid., 1

[3] Curto, José C. Alcohol under the Context of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The Case of Benguela and its Hinterland (Angola) . No. 201. Editions of the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, 2011.

[4] Curto, José C. Alcohol under the Context of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The Case of Benguela and its Hinterland (Angola) . No. 201. Editions of the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, 2011.

[5] Estermann, C. “The Ovimbundu of Angola. By Wilfrid D. Hambly. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. 1934. Publication 329. Anthropological Series, Vol. xxi, No. 2. Pp. 362. Illustr. 1 map.” Africa 8, no. 3 (1935): 391-393.

[6] Hancock, David. “Commerce and conversation in the eighteenth-century Atlantic: the invention of Madeira wine.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29, no. 2 (1998): 197-219.

[7] Ibid., 2

[8] Ibid., 3

[9] Curto, José C. Alcohol under the Context of the Atlantic Slave Trade. The Case of Benguela and its Hinterland (Angola). No. 201. Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2011.

[10] Eltis, David, Paul E. Lovejoy, David Richardson, Robin Law, and Silke Strickrodt. “Slave-trading ports: Towards an Atlantic-wide perspective, 1676–1832.” In Ports of the Slave Trade (Bights of Benin and Biafra), Papers from a Conference of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling June, pp. 12-34. 1988.

[11] Ibid., 4

[12] Eltis, David, Paul E. Lovejoy, David Richardson, Robin Law, and Silke Strickrodt. “Slave-trading ports: Towards an Atlantic-wide perspective, 1676–1832.” In Ports of the Slave Trade (Bights of Benin and Biafra), Papers from a Conference of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling June, pp. 12-34. 1988.

[13] Eltis, David, Paul E. Lovejoy, David Richardson, Robin Law, and Silke Strickrodt. “Slave-trading ports: Towards an Atlantic-wide perspective, 1676–1832.” In Ports of the Slave Trade (Bights of Benin and Biafra), Papers from a Conference of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling June, pp. 12-34. 1988.

[14] Pirio, Gregory Roger. “Commerce, industry and empire: the making of modern Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique, 1890-1914.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1982.

[15] Curto, José C. “The legal portugueses slave trade from Benguela, Angola, 1730-1828: a quantitative re-appraisal.” África 16-17 (1994): 101-116.

[16] Hancock, David. “Commerce and conversation in the eighteenth-century Atlantic: the invention of Madeira wine.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29, no. 2 (1998): 197-219.

[17] Hancock, David. “Commerce and conversation in the eighteenth-century Atlantic: the invention of Madeira wine.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29, no. 2 (1998): 197-219.

[18] Curto, José C. “The legal portugueses lave trade from Benguela, Angola, 1730-1828: a quantitative re-appraisal.” África 16-17 (1994): 101-116.

[19] Pirio, Gregory Roger. “Commerce, industry and empire: the making of modern Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique, 1890-1914.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1982.

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