I’ve been focusing a lot on the contemporary cultural output from Mozambique, but there’s a wealth of traditional art, dance, and music too. One really neat dance is Tufo – a women’s dance in the north of the country that may have originally been Muslim but has spread in popularity. It involves not just singing and dancing (and backing with traditional instruments), but jump rope as part of it.

Another great video is this short doc on interpreting Tufo in arts festivals as part of active arts and culture, and how it influences and is influenced by other artistic inspiration, and not just a historical or anthropological artifact.

MOZAMBIQUE: A Short History of Mozambique by Malyn Newitt

While I’m trying to prioritize reading books by authors from that country about that country, I ordered Malyn Newitt’s A Short History of Mozambique – probably one of the most extensive book on Mozambique in English. I was hoping to get a grand shape of the country’s history and this book definitely delivered – from pre-colonial trade along the Indian Ocean, to the waves of Portuguese colonization, independence and civil war, and a look at the politics and economy of Mozambique today, including nuanced look at the “foreign aid trap” and the current situation as of 2017.

This history is very focused on the political structure and power shifts through Mozambique’s history, and a narrative forms about Mozambique returning to pre-independence colonial economic and political structures, especially as the colonial handoff from Portugal was abrupt and without a chance to build much in terms of lasting institutions. The importance of regional politics, instead of the ethnic, is a big factor in how Mozambique developed – the waterways and connections between the resources of the interior and the coastal ports meant that Mozambique developed more like “slices of a cake” instead of a unified north-south country. The regional divide continues today, with the capital deep in the south often seen as disconnected from the rest of the country, particularly the rural and northern parts.

The downside with this book is that, while the author is one of the foremost academics on Portuguese Africa, you can tell it was written by a white English man looking in. It’s so heavily focused on the holders and structures of power that there is very little space dedicated to the people, their voices and culture. The construction of rail between British colonies into Mozambique in takes up many more pages than the war for independence from Portugal, and quotes from other academics outnumber quotes by actual Mozambicans by a significant margin. Still, A Short History of Mozambique did give me a good view of the long curve of the country’s history, and is definitely a great starting point.

MOZAMBIQUE: Soccer – from Leipzig to Portugal

Soccer (football, I know!) is Mozambique’s favourite sport, and while they have their own national league and play internationally, I found a couple of stories that really stuck with me about Mozambique’s international football connections.

Apparently there is a dedicated fan club in Mozambique to one Germany football club – RB Leipzig. Founded by an East German ex-pat, the club is mainly made up of Mozambicans who worked in East Germany as part of Communist-era work exchanges. However, while they love their footie, they are also protesting to get wages still owed to them even today from their East German employment.

Mozambique has also produced players that have gone to play abroad, especially for Portugal – the most famous being Eusebio. He started playing on the Portuguese national team before Mozambique gained independence, and has been a sports hero in both countries. However, since he left to play for the colonial power, there are some very differing opinions if he really counts as “a Mozambican footie player”. I’d recommend comparing this boldly titled opinion piece “Eusebio is not African, and a more complicated essay on Eusebio’s background and experiences with racism in soccer, “Eusébio, A Life in the Shadows of the Colonial Past“.

MOZAMBIQUE: The Sleepwalking Land (2007)

Source: IMDB

The Sleepwalking Land, based off the novel by Mozambican author Mia Couto, is set in the midst of the post-colonial civil war, telling the story of a young boy and an old man wandering through the war-torn countryside, eventually looking for the young boy’s family. The story runs parallel with a story-within-a-story of a young man who loses his village in the war but finds love, and where that love will take him.

It’s a beautiful movie, albeit with one scene that is so shockingly out of place it knocks you a bit off-kilter. However, as the movie progresses, magical realist elements take over, and leads to an ending that is neat, sad, but hopeful – though if you see the magical realism as a metaphor or a vision just in the heads of those hopelessly lost, doubly sad.

MOZAMBIQUE: Piri piri sauce

Piri piri sauce originated in Portuguese Africa – Mozambique and Angola both lay claim – and I’m so excited to try this; I love spicy food! Piri piri (also known as African Bird’s Eye) is a moderately spicy pepper – it’s not to be confused with Thai chilies (also called Bird’s Eye), which are sharper and stronger. In Mozambique, piri piri sauce is often used as a marinade for grilled shrimp or chicken – which is what I’m going try.

Finding piri piri peppers in Ottawa was a challenge – I went to a few African groceries around town and came up empty handed – no fresh, no dried, no pickled. However, I was in Bottega (an Italian grocery, of all places) and I found not just preserved piri piri peppers but a powdered seasoning too!

From the various recipes I’ve found online, Mozambican piri piri sauce tends to involve peppers, lemon juice, and garlic – it all sounds pretty good to me.

The powdered seasoning is actually from a South African company, Cape Herb & Spice, but it has the same ingredients, including piri piri peppers, garlic, and lemon.

For the homemade sauce, the best (and spiciest) recipe I could find in English was from Getaway Magazine, also from SA, based off of trips to the markets in Maputo. I had a bit of a challenge figuring out what a “tot” was for measurement (it’s 2 tbsp), and I may have popped a few more chilies than called for into the sauce (I mean it, I love spicy food). Added it all to a jar, gave it a good shake and wow, this looks fantastic – the fresh lemon juice and the garlic add flavour to the peppers, and I’ve made it gloriously hot.

I’m going to get a couple chicken breasts and try both out – I’ll use the powder as a rub for one and use the sauce as a marinade for the other and grill them both up.

Oh man, these turned out amazing. The rub (left) was gloriously spicy – I broke a sweat. The marinade had a good muscle of heat as well, and was distinctly citrusy and acidic. Both were delicious and both versions are going to find a permanent home in my kitchen.

MOZAMBIQUE: Marrabenta

Marrabenta is a dance-folk musical style that arose in Mozambique in the 30s and 40s, and has evolved as a mix of African rhythms and Portuguese folk. There’s some great compilations online – it has a long history and influences Mozambican music today.

I’ve been playing these playlists in the background while I work – it’s a great tonic for a cold, grey snowy day.

MOZAMBIQUE: The problem with donating your clothes

A really interesting video from Mozambican Youtuber Yara Mel on the problem with fast fashion, especially with the literal tonnes of donated clothes that are shipped from countries like Canada (specifically!) and the economic and environmental effects on the places they end up – like Mozambique.

MOZAMBIQUE: Why is it in the Commonwealth?

An interesting question came up as I was reading more about Mozambique – it’s a member of the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Why? The OIC makes sense – about 20% of Mozambicans are Muslim, but the other two are confusing – Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, not a British one, and French isn’t spoken there.

I dug a little, and I found a really good answer on the History Stack Exchange that gives a summary of why Mozambique joined the Commonwealth in 1995 – the first country with no direct ties to Britain to do so. The full answer has a lot of rich detail, but there were a few main reasons why that I’ll summarize here:

  • In the early 90s, Mozambique had just signed a peace agreement to end its civil war (which had run from around the start of independence from Portugal in the 70s), and at the same time, lost the support that had been coming from the Soviet Union. Joining the Commonwealth would help build connections with other countries, raise Mozambique’s profile, and give access to institutions that would help with development.
  • Mozambique is surrounded by English-speaking Commonwealth countries that it trades with (and even drives on the left like them).
  • Mozambique was also highly opposed to apartheid South Africa, and had worked with the Commonwealth to pressure South Africa to end it – including taking part in sanctions.
  • There also may have been an element that aligning to a different European country would be a poke in the eye to its former colonizer Portugal.

Mozambique is also an observer of La Francophonie, largely due to its strong trading connections with French-speaking Madagascar, and likely that membership opens up similar access to connections, diplomacy, and institutions.