Ver Angola


Historic cinema in Moçâmedes remains abandoned, but rehabilitation is coming soon

The iconic Cine-Estúdio do Namibe, known as “the spaceship”, never premiered a film and was abandoned for almost half a century, a destiny that the provincial government wants to change with the rehabilitation of this heritage, recently classified.

: Ampe Rogério/Lusa
Ampe Rogério/Lusa  

The construction of the work by architect Botelho Vasconcelos, from Atelier Boper, began in 1974, but was never finished, overtaken by the upheavals of the history of Angola, which gained independence in 1975 and was confronted soon after with a long civil war that lasted three decades.

The old cinema has seen the city and the country change, surviving gun violence, vandalism and neglect.

Moçâmedes already had two cinemas – the Cineteatro Moçâmedes and the Cinema Impala – when Gaspar Madeira and his partners at Cine Moçâmedes decided to invite the architect Botelho Vasconcelos for a new and revolutionary project.

"They thought that this city deserved to have an ex-libris in a noble area that was this", describes the son and heir, Ildeberto Madeira, to the Lusa agency, showing the wide avenue of Moçâmedes where the building was erected, where the main buildings are located of the administration.

Inspired by the modernist architecture of the Brazilian Óscar Niemeyer, Botelho Vasconcelos designed a bold building with rounded lines, a mixture of a space capsule and a mushroom, prepared to receive 400 spectators, whose project also included a restaurant and a shopping gallery, but it remained to be completed.

Part of the heritage disappeared, however, including technical infrastructure and aluminum doors that were already in place, and Ildeberto Madeira fears for the future of the building, saying that there have been "conversations" without reaching any conclusion about "what will be done".

Criticizing the authorities "who were never interested" in the project, the sociologist and historian, who has a profound knowledge of the city where he was born and to which he returned after graduating in Social Sciences in Brussels, recalls that cinema attracted "crowds" and regrets that the habit became lost, with the rooms transformed into places of worship.

Museum or exhibition hall are some of the ideas that you have heard about, but with which you do not agree, defending that the building should maintain the use for which it was conceived, hosting cinema and other shows.

For the time being, the Cine-Studio remains unused, despite its recent classification as historical and cultural heritage having contributed to safeguarding the building, which should be rehabilitated soon, as assumed by an official from the Provincial Government of Namibe.

Speaking to Lusa, the deputy governor's advisor for Technical Services and Infrastructure, Deonilde Pombal, guaranteed that the building will be completed and recovered by the consortium Toyota Tsusho Corporation and TOA Corporation, which is developing the integrated development project Bay of Moçâmedes, within the scope of its social responsibility program.

The mega-project, worth 600 million dollars, will mobilize 1,000 workers, and foresees the construction of a mineral terminal and the expansion of the commercial port's container terminal, among other works.

Deonilde Pombal guaranteed that the building will maintain the original structure, having already sent to the contractor all the plans, sections and original drawings to be able to elaborate and approve the project and start the work, for the time being without a date to start.

"As the basin project lasts for three years and has already started, we expect it to be completed within this period", she said.

To avoid further damage to the property, the provincial government had the site cleaned, which was graffitied and "turned into a spa", and placed a security team 24 hours a day to control access and keep the space clean.

In the decree that classifies the Cine-Estúdio as national historical-cultural heritage, dated 2 August, the building stands out as one of the most representative creations of "Tropical Modernism", existing throughout Angola, allowing to understand the typological evolution of the movie theaters, since its inception, from the 1930s.

The classification was made recognizing the need to promote its recognition as an important place of memory of the city of Moçâmedes.

As for future use, Deonilde Pombal underlined that it will maintain the functions with which it was initially conceived, and could function as a cinema or multipurpose room.

Recently, the site hosted an exhibition commemorating the centenary of Agostinho Neto, the first Angolan President, as part of the National Culture Festival.


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