MOZAMBIQUE: Malangatana

Malangatana was one of Mozambique’s greatest modern artists – his work has been shown internationally and just – wow! Modernism meets Goya meets traditional Mozambican motifs and political history.

The Fountain of Blood Source: Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago put on last year a really impressive show of his early works, chronicling his development of an artist in the late colonial period, his imprisonment, and his work leading up to Mozambique’s independence.

PIDE’s Punishment Room Source: Art Institute of Chicago

He continued to create until his death in 2011 and there’s so many incredible pieces – I’m so glad I learned about him, there’s so much to take in. Much is deeply political, as he was connected to FRELIMO and the leftist revolutionaries.

The Witch Doctor, or The Purification of the Child Source: Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago also presented a really interesting livestream discussing Malangatana’s work and their exhibit recently. They go into a lot of details of his life and art, and have excerpts from interviews with him as he discusses his work. (The talk starts at the 5 minute mark, and Malangatana’s own words are at 11:30.)

And a great little clip of the artist and his studio from 2001 – Malangatana was multitalented, with his first prominence coming from poetry rather than painting, and clearly also a skilled musician.

MOZAMBIQUE: Matapa with xima

Matapa is a dish that is truly quintessentially Mozambican – it’s a thick stew of cassava leaves with ground peanuts and coconut milk. A lot of recipes suggest using spinach or collared greens if you can’t find cassava leaves, but there are a lot of African grocery stores here in Ottawa – I found frozen chopped cassava leaves at Africa World Market in Vanier.

The recipe varies with different sources – I based it off a combo of this recipe at Big Girls Small Kitchen and the notes and video from Mozambique Experience. Most recipes include shellfish, but they’re not mandatory (and I’m allergic, which settles it). I added some tomatoes, based off the matapa I saw in videos actually being made in Mozambique, and used a generous hand with the garlic.

To go with the matapa, I made xima! This side dish goes by a million different names in sub-Saharan Africa – ugali, pap, ogi, akamu, and many more listed here, but xima seems to be just used in Mozambique. It’s fine ground corn meal boiled to a paste, and is meant to be a bland “supportive” starchy side for a more flavourful dish like a stew. It needs to be a very fine ground corn meal – I picked up a bag of flour specifically milled for this purpose at the same grocery. I halved the recipe from whats4eats – basically 2:1 water to corn, stir like hell.

The matapa turned out tasty – cassava leaves have a green vegetal flavour that’s distinct from kale or spinach, and the tomatoes tempered the richness of the peanuts and coconut milk. I made sure to try eating it the right way – using my fingers to get both xima and matapa. It worked pretty well, though since I used my right hand (I’m lefthanded) and didn’t wait for it to cool, I may have been a bit graceless.

MOZAMBIQUE: Market and markets

A little slice of life from a market in Maputo. Maputo is a pretty wealthy city, as some of the shots show, but there’s also a large informal economy and markets like that hint at the wealth disparity (even more so outside of the big cities).

I was reading an older Guardian article, linked here, about how the discovery of oil and gas has boosted Mozambique’s economy, but not much has trickled down. This seems like Mozambique is the perfect example of the struggles countries face in decolonization – a revolution, followed by a civil war and a non-democratic government, some loosening up post-Cold War but high amounts of corruption and poverty, even if things are generally trending upwards.

This month: MOZAMBIQUE

It’s cold and snowy here in Ottawa, so I’m glad my random country generator popped up another warm place (to be fair, most countries are warmer than Canada in winter). This month’s country I’m going to be learning about is Mozambique!

So what do I know about Mozambique off the bat? Very, very little, unfortunately. It’s flag has always stuck out to me for having an AK-47 on it, and when crossed with a hoe, seems to imply a revolutionary history, but apart from that, my knowledge is really lacking.

Well, to start my education on Mozambique, I looked up a little background on its flag – it’s origins are from the flag of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), the Marxist nationalist movement that overthrew the Portuguese colonial government in the 70s. FRELIMO was then the ruling party, and remains the dominant political party in Mozambique.

However, it seems that there was a lot of debate back in 2005 around changing the flag, especially with pushback to the AK-47, and that while motions were made to pick a new flag, nothing has come from it.