I’m exploring areas of Maputo on foot with no particular area or itinerary in mind. Lately, I’ve been learning about Mozambican artists and photographers and visiting galleries. The heat is daunting, and there have been several big storms – the air feels liquid! Communicating with Maputo taxi drivers is difficult, so walking is the best way to experience the city despite heavy erratic traffic and sidewalks with huge potholes and uneven pavement.
Maputo tours are expensive and there’s a hierarchy of who leads which ones. Although I appreciate the knowledge and experience local tour guides share, the barrage of 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 have never been boring.
Nii Obodai Photographer
Nii Obodai’s exhibit – Paradox of Paradise – is showing at the French Cultural Center. Obodai is from Ghana but lives part-time in Maputo. In his words, this exhibition “explores his relationship with the environment as a living and mythological space bound by oral and historical stories”. Obodai’s photography studies the “aspects of complex relationships between urban and rural culture”.
Obodai’s work has been exhibited at festivals in Ethiopia and Mali, the Guggenheim Museum 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 and is appearing at 16 Neto gallery through March 5, 2018.
Gomes is a “passionate Mozambican photographer”. Another Gomes exhibition, Luvano, contains “a set of studio photographs depicting a pregnant woman”. The goal of this exhibition is “sensitizing society to the need to value life and multiculturalism, emphasizing the role of the arts in this process”.
The exhibit includes 17 photographs of a single model, Thobile Magagula. In this exhibit, Gomes used body paint to “enhance appreciation of the female body”. He named the project Luvano after the model’s 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 has also been involved in digital printing, documentaries, and travel photography, with subjects like Monte Binga Mt., Mozambique’s highest point near the Zimbabwe border, the Amazon River, and Gorongosa National Park. He has published several highly praised photography books, including Photar Moçambique.
Filipe Branquinho Photographer, Visual Artist
In November 2017, Filipe Branquinho opened a one-man exhibition called Botânica at the Fernando Leite Couto Foundation. The show “singles out emotions and the colors and shades that pass through the seasons from earth to sky”. He represented the seasons by “trees, the flight of birds, and the creeping along of snakes and pangolins“. Regret that I wasn’t able to see his exhibit.
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”. He became involved in photography through contact with well-known Mozambican authors, photographers, and photojournalists like Ricardo Rangel, Kok Nam, and José Cabral.
“A self-taught photographer, Branquinho studied architecture at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo and the State University of Londrina, Brazil. A multi-talented artist, he paints, draws, and illustrates.”
One of his long-term projects, Occupations, is a “fresco seen through the prism of working people and their environments”. 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, his memories, and the worlds of wonder, terror, witchcraft, animals, music, and laughter”.
Chichorro’s paintings portray “the armed struggle during Mozambique’s Revolution, social repression between the 1940s and the early 1970s, and 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 well-known Mozambican poet, journalist, and activist José Craveirinha.
Malangatana Valente Ngwenya Painter, Poet
Malangatana Valente Ngwenya is known as “Mozambique’s greatest painter”. He was 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 25, Malangatana had his first solo exhibition entitled Juizo Final (Final Judgment), depicting the “brutality of life under Portuguese colonial rule” and political turmoil in Mozambique. After multiparty elections in 1994, Malangatana’s work began depicting 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. He was “awarded the Nachingwea Medal for his Contribution to Mozambican Culture”.
In 1997 Malangatana was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace. He helped establish Mozambique’s cultural institutions, including the National Museum of Art, Centre for Cultural Studies, and Centre for the Arts. He died in Portugal in 2011.
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”. Nam 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 the age of 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 changed the centuries-old drama of 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 murals and paintings”. He remembers that the country “had an illiteracy rate of around 97 percent, and that communication was often through drawings”.
José Craveirinha, known as the “poet of Mozambique”, encouraged Naguib to become an artist. At the time, 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. 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”.