What did I learn: MOZAMBIQUE

Niassa Reserve – Source: Suem Travels

This month I had picked a country that I really genuinely knew nothing about – before this month I probably couldn’t have named the official language of Mozambique or anything else about it; I had no contact or reference apart from the trivia that it has an AK-47 on its flag. Writing down what I know about a country at the start of the month really highlights how little we (as white Canadians) know about or interact with the Global South. I’m sure when I have an European country (spoiler – next month!) I’ll be starting from a much deeper base of knowledge than I did for Mozambique. I guess that’s why I’m doing this project – there’s so much around the world I have no idea about, and even a month of scratching the surface feels really enriching.

So what did I learn about Mozambique this month?

Well, I learned about Mozambique’s history and their colonial relationship, how the civil war of the 80s still affects culture (both movies I watched were set in it), and a bit on how Mozambique navigates its situation as an extremely poor post-colonial country – particularly through forging relationships internationally (first the East Bloc, then the Commonwealth, and now China).

I tried to experience as many things that were BY Mozambicans, not just about them. This took a bit of digging (language being a big barrier), but I got to experience some amazing visual art, poetry, literature, and music – particularly music! Mozambique has some amazing music, there’s so many unique styles that originate there – Marrabenta, Pandza, Bondoro, traditional dances like Tufo, and it’s the origin of some really talented musicians.

The absolute best thing I learned this month was how to make absolutely killer Mozambican piri piri sauce – I used up the jar I made and I’m going to make more. I’ve used it as chicken marinade, pierogi dipping sauce, Sriracha replacement, and a pasta booster – it’s my new staple.

MOZAMBIQUE: The Train of Salt and Sugar (2016)

The Mozambican Civil War unsurprisingly lives heavily for artists from there, even today. The Train of Salt and Sugar is set in the late 80s and follows a train of civilians under military guard as they try to take salt into Malawi to trade for sugar to be sold back in Mozambique, despite being under attack by guerrilla fighters. It’s a tense movie, with the futility and randomness of war highlighted again and again – and even more so when you realize the harrowing journey was only one half, they’ll have to return back the same way.

MOZAMBIQUE: The First Wife by Paulina Chiziane

For reading more about Mozambique this month, I picked up a copy of book by Paulina Chiziane, the first woman to publish a novel in that country. Her writings are heavily focused on social issues, gender, and feminism, and this delivers with The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy.

Set in present-day Mozambique, The First Wife follows Rami, the wife of a police chief, who discovers that her husband has been having affairs with not one, but four other women. Rami is unsurprisingly distressed, but in a very patriarchal society, her options are limited and she doesn’t want to lose her husband. She reaches out to the other women and effectively unionizes them into a traditional polygamous marriage to force the husband into line – with all the accompanying emotional turmoil.

It’s a wonderfully challenging book – the feelings of betrayal, guilt, jealousy, and second-guessing, as well as triumph and love, are richly rendered. It’s a feminist novel, but from an African feminist perspective, not a Western one. It’s about a woman moving inside and fighting against her societal structures, and has deep things to say about betrayal, relationships, post-colonial tradition, and solidarity between women.

MOZAMBIQUE: Mozambican Radio

Maputo at sunset. Source: Dana Tours

Back to Radio Garden for some live Mozambican radio! I really enjoyed listening to these stations this month:

Rádio Moçambique EP Nampula – Part of Rádio Moçambique’s national network of stations, this station up in Nampula in the north broadcasts in both Portuguese and Makhuwa – a local Bantu language (as an aside, here’s the shame of how Eurocentric education is in Canada – there are more speakers of Makhuwa than Finnish and I’m only just learning about it.) Nampula has shown up a lot this month for a lot of artistic and musical output, and this radio station seems to be on the same wavelength – more music than some of the other stations, and it seems to be majority Mozambican music! Listen live here.

LM Radio – This radio station has a really interesting history – ostensibly it’s an English-language station in Maputo, but it’s less a Mozambican station and more of a South African one. LM Radio was originally started in the 30s and through the mid 20th century served as independent music radio for South Africans, outside of the state-controlled radio inside the country. After Mozambican independence, LM was shut down in 1975. It was revived in 2010 and is broadcast both in Mozambique and South Africa – it mainly plays oldies (or at least in time slots I’m listening to) and runs news reports from BBC Africa. Listen live here.

Radio Cidade 97.9 – A Maputo-based radio station with a huge variety of content – depending on the time of day there’s jazz, hip hop, dance, religious music, news, talk radio – including educational and relationship programming, most of it aimed towards youth and young adults. Much is lost on me since I don’t speak Portuguese, but I’ve caught a big variety of music depending on the time of day. Listen live here.

MOZAMBIQUE: Albinism / Aly Faque

I found an interesting (and saddening) article about the status of those living with albinism in Mozambique. Albinism happens in all parts of the world, but it is the most prevalent is southern Africa – apparently as common as 1 in 1000 people, while in the US and Europe, it shows up only 1 in 20,000 people.

Apart from the obvious dangers from the climate, there are strong negative beliefs and prejudices about albinism (as in other parts of Africa) which often lead to violence or trafficking (including the belief that albino body parts may be lucky or charmed). I encourage you to read the article at Equal Times.

However, there are several Mozambicans living with albinism who have been spearheading activism to protect and support themselves and to fight discrimination. Among these is musician Aly Faque, who has gained widespread fame in Mozambique.

As a baby, Faque was taken away from his mother and abandoned by the father on the streets. He was later rescued by his grandfather who raised him. It is through art and music that he speaks out against prejudice and spreads a message of respect and tolerance. One of his most famous songs is called Kinachukuru which means ‘I am grateful’ in Makhuwa, one of the main languages of northern Mozambique. In the song, Aly laments his father’s rejection and the poverty he endured as a child. “This song reveals my childhood and the story of my family.”

Living with Albinism in Mozambique – Equal Times

MOZAMBIQUE: Poetry and short stories

Words without Borders is a fantastic organization that focuses on sharing and translating literary works from all around the world. They’ve published some English translations of poems and short stories from Mozambican writers – I wanted to share a few that I really enjoyed:

Most of these were translated by Sandra Tamele, who has written about Mozambican poetry, and founded Editora 30.09, a publishing house in Maputo that specializes in translated works, including many audiobooks – since there are many different languages spoken in Mozambique, as well as significant parts of the population that struggle with literacy – with a goal of sharing diverse literary voices and experiences with the Mozambican public.

MOZAMBIQUE: Mixtapes

Some great playlists of Mozambican music put together by SoundGoods – there’s a huge variety of styles and artists here if you’re looking for a good jam.

Maning Nice Mixtape – full track list here. This is a heavy club mix – Pandza, Afro House, and Bondoro.

MOZ Songs Mixtape – full track list here. A really good variety of styles; Marrabenta, dancehall, house, and other upbeat dance songs.

This last mix from Wired for Sound is much more folk based, with traditional tunes, jazz, and great vocals from a huge variety of artists. Wired for Sound is a project to bring mobile recording studios all around Mozambique, as professional recording is hard outside of major cities. Full track list here.