I’m exploring Maputo on foot with no particular itinerary in mind. Lately, I’ve been visiting galleries and learning about Mozambican artists and photographers. The heat is daunting, and there have been several big storms – the air feels liquid! Communicating with Maputo taxi drivers is challenging. Walking is the best way to experience the city, despite sidewalks with huge potholes and uneven pavement and heavy, erratic traffic.
Maputo tours are expensive and there’s a hierarchy of who leads which ones. I appreciate the knowledge and experience local tour guides share, but the barrage of oft forgotten information for someone who has traveled for such a long time is too much. It’s easier giving it a go on my own, and the outings are never boring.
Nii Obodai Photographer
Nii Obodai exhibit – Paradox of Paradise – is showing at the French Cultural Center. Obodai is from Ghana but lives part-time in Maputo. The exhibition “explores his relationship with the environment as a mythological, living space bound by oral and historical stories”.
Obodai’s photography studies the “complex relationships between urban and rural culture”.
Obodai’s work has been exhibited at festivals in Ethiopia and Mali, the Guggenheim in New York City, French Alliance in Accra, Ghana, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Moesegaard Museum Aarhus, Denmark.
Adiodato Gomes Photographer
Adiodato Gomes exhibition – Psychedelic, Beyond Hairstyle norms – was on display at Maputo’s Fundação Fernando Leite Couto (FLLC) Gallery last year. It’s appearing at 16 Neto gallery through March 5, 2018.
Gomes is a “passionate Mozambican photographer”. Another Gomes exhibit, Luvano, contains “a set of studio photographs depicting a pregnant woman”. Multiculturalism is the goal of his exhibition and “sensitizing society to the need to value life while emphasizing the role of the arts in this process”.
Gomes exhibition, Luvano, contains “a set of studio photographs depicting a pregnant woman”.
The exhibit includes 17 photographs of model Thobile Magagula. In the exhibit, Gomes used paint to “enhance appreciation of the female body”. He named the project Luvano, after her son.
Paulo Alexandre Photographer
Paulo Alexandre’s works are on display at the Fernando Leite Couto Foundation Gallery. His photography emphasizes fashion and corporate advertising.
Alexandre is also involved in digital printing, travel photography, and documentaries featuring subjects like the Amazon River, Gorongosa National Park, and Monte Binga, Mozambique’s highest point near the Zimbabwe border. He published several photography books, including Photar Moçambique.
Filipe Branquinho Photographer, Visual Artist
In November 2017, Filipe Branquinho opened an exhibition – Botânica – at the Fernando Leite Couto Foundation. The show “singles out the emotions, colors, and shades that pass through the seasons from earth to sky”. I regret not seeing his exhibit.
Branquinho represents the seasons with “trees, birds in flight, and the creeping along of snakes and pangolins“.
Filipe Branquinho was born in Maputo, where he lives and works. He grew up during Mozambique’s Civil War in an “environment closely linked to the worlds of journalism and arts”. Branquinho became involved in photography through contact with well-known Mozambican photographers, photojournalists, and authors, Ricardo Rangel, Kok Nam, and José Cabral.
“A self-taught photographer, Branquinho studied architecture at Eduardo Mondlane University Maputo and the State University of Londrina, Brazil. A multi-talented artist, Branquinho paints, draws, and illustrates.”
One of his long-term projects, Occupations, is a “fresco seen through the everyday environments of working people”. Branquinho composed the photos to show “how people work, where they work, and that they work with dignity.”
Roberto Carneiro de Alcáçovas de Sousa Chichorro Artist
Roberto Chichorro “devoted himself to paintings expressing childhood stories and the worlds of wonder, terror, witchcraft, animals, music, and laughter”.
Chichorro’s paintings portray “armed struggle during Mozambican Civil War, social repression between the 1940s and the 1970s, and the color and liveliness of African people”.
Chichorro’s paintings portray “the color and liveliness of Africans”.
Chichorro’s works are in several institutions, including the Museums of Contemporary Art in Lisbon and Luanda. He illustrated several books, including one for Mozambican poet, journalist, and activist José Craveirinha.
Malangatana Valente Ngwenya Painter, Poet
Malangatana Valente Ngwenya is known as “Mozambique’s greatest painter”. Born in a small rural town in the south, Malangatana moved to Maputo at the age of 12 where he met biologist and amateur painter Augusto Cabral and architect Pancho Guedes. The two were instrumental in Ngwenya’s education and career.
At the age of 25, Malangatana had his first solo exhibition – Juizo Final (Final Judgment) – depicting the “brutality of life under Portuguese colonial rule” and Mozambique’s political turmoil. After elections in 1994, his work depicted a “more hopeful phase of Mozambican history”.
Malangatana was imprisoned for 18 months for supporting the independence struggle as a member of the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo).
Malangatana’s artistic works can be found in exhibits in Portugal, India, Chile, France, London, Brazil, and the USA. Malangatana was “awarded the Nachingwea Medal for his Contribution to Mozambican Culture”.
In 1997, he was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace. Malangatana played a role in the establishment of Mozambique’s cultural institutions, including the National Museum of Art, Centre for Cultural Studies, and Centre for the Arts. In 2011, he died in Portugal.
After elections in 1994, Malangatana’s work began depicting a “more hopeful phase of Mozambican history”.
Kok Nam Photojournalist
Kok Nam was a humanist. He’s considered the father of Mozambican photojournalism. Nam was known as “the eye of Mozambique and a creator of the Mozambican nation”. He came from the Chinese province of Canton. During his career, he covered the Civil War and worked for several newspapers, including The African Voice and Savana News.
Kok Nam died in 2012 at 72. Mozambican Minister of Culture Armando Artur “sought the image of a giant baobab tree in the center of the country to characterize Nam as one of the great men of Mozambican arts and culture”.
Naguib Elias Abdula Painter and Muralist
Naguib Elias Abdula is one of Mozambique’s most renowned artists. He was a painter and muralist during the 1970s, “a decade of revolutions, heroes, and change”. His work has been exhibited at the United Nations Headquarters and the Vatican.
“Naguib’s entrance into the art world was a result of the political and social changes of 1974. Historical moments inspired artists and helped change centuries-old colonial oppression in Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, São Tomé, and Guinea-Bissau.”
Naguib Abdula remembers, “The civil war was very violent for me, because we were confined and didn’t understand what war was and what was happening.”
When independence came, Naguib “went out into the streets to create paintings and murals”. He remembers that the country “had an illiteracy rate of around 97 percent, and communication was often through drawings”.
Known as the “poet of Mozambique,” José Craveirinha encouraged Naguib to become an artist. As a “newborn Mozambican nation was still overcoming its armed struggle for national liberation.”
In 1976, Portuguese colonial forces led by Samora Moisés Machel returned to fight what became the 16-year war, also known as “Mozambique’s Invisible Civil War”. The “conflict between the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the National Mozambican Resistance (RENAMO) plunged the country into social and economic chaos driving thousands of people towards famine and death”.