Plants in bloom, deer and squirrels everywhere, and the wild turkeys are in mating season (I think). Every time I see a spectacular tom strutting his stuff, I don’t have a camera… Their gobble is impressive and loud.
In March after popular demand, producer and human rights activist Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre’s production of West Side Story returned to the Artscape. The American musical has been performed in Cape Town before and audiences raved about the brilliant actors, singers, dancers, music, and sets!
The spectacular opera house has an exciting ambiance, including gardens, rehearsal rooms, and a stylish foyer. Over the years, I’ve joined friends there for memorable opera, ballet, musical, and comedy performances! Last night’s brilliant performance didn’t disappoint!
“West Side Story is a musical about cultural differences, racism, forbidden love, revenge, and death.”
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story’s timeless plot is set on the “harsh streets of New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1950s”.
Rival street gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and Caucasian Jets, battle in a turf-war to gain control of the neighborhood. Tensions rise when Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the rival Sharks.
American choreographer Jerome Robbins conceived the story in 1957, and playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the West Side Story book. Renowned composer Leonard Bernstein created the musical score with lyrics written by songwriter Stephen Sondheim.
The 1961 film version of West Side Story “won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best supporting actor and actress, best director, and best cinematographer”. The film also won a Grammy for best soundtrack. It’s undoubtedly one of the best musicals ever written.
South Africa’s Matthew Wild directs the Artscape production with Charl Johan Lingenfelder as musical director and conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Louisa Talbot choreographed the production with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer and dance captain.
In 2018, West Side Story is once again “sweeping Capetonians off their feet”! How could it not with the fabulous Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performing in the pit and an outstanding cast of forty exceptional performers?
Cast of Characters
Lynelle Kenned plays the role of Maria, a hopeless romantic who falls in love with Tony and finds herself at the center of a violent conflict between the Jets and Sharks. Kenned won the Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Among her many talents Kenned is a soprano opera singer with a marvelous voice!
The main character Tony – former Jets leader – is torn between his gang friends and love for Maria. The part is played by talented US actor Kevin Hack who has performed the role almost 400 times. Hack recently completed an international tour playing in the 60th anniversary international tour of German producer Michael Brenner’s production of West Side Story.
“The choreography exudes vibrant waves of emotion from act to act leaving its audience’s heart thumping!”
The actors are multi-talented with impressive accomplishments and careers. The beautiful, strong dancers were magnificent!!! Main characters include:
- Lynelle Kenned – Maria, Bernardo’s sister in love with Tony
- Kevin Hack – Tony, former Jets leader in love with Maria
- Bianca Le Grange – Anita, Jet, Bernardo’s girlfriend, Maria’s friend
- Daniel Mpilo Richards – Bernardo, Shark leader, Maria’s brother, Anita’s boyfriend
- Stephen Jubber – Riff, quick-tempered Jets leader
- Sven-Eric Muller – Diesel, Jets second-in-command
- Craig Urbani – Schrank, police detective
- Richard Lothian – Officer Krupke, beat cop
- James Borthwick – Doc, owner of the store where the Jets hang out
- Clint Lesch – Chino, Jet, Maria’s suitor, and friend of Bernardo
- Logan Timbre – Action, quick-‐tempered member of the Jets
It was an interesting, eclectic crowd attending the performance – an evening of entertainment by extraordinarily talented young artists! Many more than mentioned here helped with production of the musical.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Next weekend Artscape hosts the 19th Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The exciting lineup includes Alistair Izobell, Amanda Black, GrazRoots Project, Blinky Bill, Claire Phillips, Miles Mosley, Nduduzo Makhathini, Mabuta, Louis Moholo, and many more outstanding artists!
You never know what might happen at Cape Town’s Alexander Theatre – that’s the beauty of the place! The Mother City is rich in creativity, energy, and talented artists. Last night’s performance – In Bocca al Lupo – was a phenomenal one-woman show!
Before last night, I hadn’t experienced the art of kamishibai – “a twelfth century Japanese form of storytelling where a storyteller’s tale is presented with the help of cardboard panel illustrations”. In Bocca al Lupo was totally engrossing!
Jemma Kahn studied kamishibai under “veteran Japanese performer Roukda Genji, and the two performed throughout Japan”. In Bocca al Lupo is Jemma’s memoir – or maybe not. I didn’t know about her before last night’s performance, so the story that kept the audience engaged could have been her own, or perhaps it was fictional?
“While kamishibai may be the device Kahn uses to portray her tales, it’s not the only thing that sets her apart as a master storyteller.”
To summarize simplistically, the memoir begins as the story of a young South African woman who feels like a failure living a boring life. She decides to spice things up and expand her world by embarking on a two-year adventure teaching English in Japan.
“Kahn has the charisma of an old Hollywood starlet. To be a member of her audience is to be in a state of enchantment for a full 80 minutes.”
After living in Japan for several months, Jemma experiences culture shock and ponders its four stages – honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, acceptance – ha ha ha. This is something I can relate to firsthand having traveled abroad extensively on my own!
The romantic concept of living in a foreign country is often deceptive. Jemma does a masterful job of telling her (or someone’s) story of alienation as a foreigner in Japan – an unfamiliar country that in the end, was not for her.
“One’s travels can be rife with anxiety, loneliness, culture shock, and the depression that inevitably comes with isolation.”
Using a series of four “beautifully drawn images displayed on cardboard story panels” Jemma meticulously connects with her audience, drawing them in and leaving them hanging on her every word and description! She adds humor to her stories, even though some of the subjects she discusses aren’t funny.
A multi-talented artist trained in fine art and drama, Kahn created many of the kamishibai panels she uses. Her talented award-winning crew are remarkable:
- Writers – Jemma Kahn and Tertius Kapp
- Director – Jane Taylor
- Sound Design – Charl Johan Lingenfelder
- Lighting Design – Themba Stewart
- Costume Design – Ella Buter
In Bocca al Lupo (into the mouth of the wolf in Italian) follows two of Kahn’s other popular kamishibai shows:
The Epicene Butcher – described as stories that “seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral” toured internationally and was performed 400 times.
Jemma Kahn has “captivated audiences from Cape Town to Edinburgh to Amsterdam with her unique take on the 12th century Japanese art form Kamishibai”.
The phrase “in bocca al lupo” is an Italian idiom used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck before a performance. The standard response is “crepi il lupo” or, more commonly, simply “crepi” (may the wolf die). The Italian expression is similar to the English actor’s idiom “break a leg, reflecting a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person ‘good luck’ before a performance is considered bad luck”.
There are several theories on how the Italian expression originated. For this show, “the phrase illustrates the leaps of faith Jemma took to create her third kamishibai play”.
“The play follows Kahn on her journey to Japan and then Ireland, as she regales her audience with all the things we fail to mention when asked about our travels to another country.”
“Kintsugi is the Japanese art of restoring broken ceramics using lacquer and gold dust to repair cracks, emphasizing and assigning value to the site of repair. In Bocca Al Lupo has a similar effect. Kahn, co-writer Tertius Kapp, and director Jane Taylor expertly curate her story by selecting the cracks as the focal points which form the narrative.”
Although I often find memoirs boring, if In Bocca al Lupo really was one, it was a delightful, thoroughly enjoyed, and well-performer story – a must see in Cape Town!
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the most peaceful, beautiful places on earth. It touches me every time I visit. Fog is back in the Cape, mysteriously draping itself over Table Mountain – yesterday was a great day to see the garden.
It’s hard to say which Kirstenbosch delight is best – fragrant gardens with pristine fynbos, forested areas, dramatic mountain views, gourmet restaurant, exotic birds, stone sculpting, or the gallery of South African artists. It’s a big dose of beautiful!!
I visited the art gallery and especially liked the landscapes of James Yates. The current exhibition – Professional Cape Artists – features paintings, ceramics, and wooden sculpture of popular local masters. The exhibition is on display between 16th February and 11th March.
I hiked a close-in trail, had lunch, and enjoyed the spectacular stone sculptures perfectly placed throughout the grounds. Families were relaxing and picnicking on a lush carpet of grass.
Chemicals aren’t used in Kirstenbosch’s drinking water. It’s “extracted from boreholes that tap deep into the Table Mountain Aquifer 200 ft. below ground level”. The drinking water from the aquifer is of “such high quality it could be bottled”!
Everyone is taking the drought very seriously. It was nice drinking fresh spring water, washing my hands, and flushing the toilet without feeling guilty. Most public toilets in Cape Town have hand sanitizer dispensers. Sink water is turned off.
This trip I’m exploring Claremont – a leafy suburban neighborhood 6 miles south of Cape Town. Although nothing beats the energy and excitement of Cape Town, I wanted to experience a new area.
My B&B is between Claremont and Rondebosch, both are growing suburban areas surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and Cape Dutch architecture. The University of Cape Town is nearby. It’s quite a change from the daily city chaos in Maputo!
I recently wrote a blog post about Barrio Mafalala, a Maputo neighborhood of “zinc, wooden houses, and unpaved streets”. Mafalala emerged in the 20th century and has great historical importance – before and after Mozambique gained independence.
Mafalala’s population consists of immigrants from all over Mozambique. Within the dense, diverse barrio, each group maintains a distinct “neighborhood” identity. The neighborhoods represent the:
- Major ethnic groups throughout Mozambique
- Smaller regional categories within each ethnic group
Local languages are the standard, meaning that “not everyone within the country can communicate with each other”.
Historically, Mozambique experienced eras of Bantu, Swahili, and Portuguese rule. Portugal was the first European power to colonize the African continent. The Portuguese ruled Mozambique from 1498 to 1974. In Mozambique, colonization clearly didn’t unite the indigenous people.
Mozambique’s fight for independence followed by a long civil war resulted in ethnic groups identifying within themselves, not as part of a united country.
Even though Portuguese is Mozambique’s official language, it’s only spoken by about a quarter of the population, often as a second language. Mozambique’s language differences combined with poor transportation between regions helped create limited communication and a lack of national identity within the country.
Mozambique’s primary ethnic groups include:
- Makua / Lomwe
- Tsonga / Shangaan
- European / Mestiço
- South Asian – Indian and Chinese
The Makua are the largest ethnic group in Mozambique. They’re dominant in northern Mozambique, southern Tanzania, and the Republic of the Congo. There are “various dialects among the Makua, all traceable to one language spoken over 1,000 years ago”. Many Makua speak Portuguese.
The Lomwe and Makua are related. Together they make up almost forty percent of Mozambique’s population. The Lomwe practice a form of “body modification called scarification”, where they “scar symbolic designs into their bodies”. The Lomwe’s ancient practice of scarification is dying out in Mozambique but gaining popularity in the modern world of body art in the U.S. and other countries.
Traditionally the Tsonga are farmers. Their culture and economy focus on “pastoralism and mixed agriculture” with cassava as the main crop. Polygamy is prevalent in Tsonga culture, and the ruling king holds absolute authority over his people.
Swahili dealt mainly in African ivory, gold, slaves, and Asian cloth and beads.
They have a matrilineal society where women control the children and inheritances. Men move into women’s villages and homes. The Makonde are master carvers and sell their carvings throughout East Africa.
Most Shona live in Zimbabwe, but some make their home in Mozambique’s Zambezi Valley, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia. Over a thousand years ago, Shona ancestors built “great stone cities in Africa”.
Sena resisted Portuguese Colonialism and played an active role in Mozambique’s independence movement. They’re farmers who keep cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs and grow cotton, maize, mangoes, and sugar cane. They’re skilled musicians and practice “Kulowa Kufa where women marry another man or brother of a deceased husband”.
Story telling plays a big role in Ndau life, including folktales and stories told through ceramic sculpture images. Zechariah Njobo is a popular Ndau sculptor from Zimbabwe known for his carvings of animal-like birds, owls, and elephants.
The Yao people in Mozambique live in small villages between the Ruvuma and Lugenda Rivers. A “head man, chosen through matrilineal succession, leads each village”. The Yao maintain an agricultural society, “using slash-and-burn techniques for growing their staple crops – maize and sorghum”.
The Yao have lived in the northwestern Mozambique’s Niassa Province for hundreds of years. When Arabs first arrived in Africa, they traded with the Yao in exchange for clothes and guns. Their involvement in trade made them one of the richest and most influential groups in Southern Africa.
The Swahili people are more numerous in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Zanzibar Archipelago, but some live in northern Mozambique. They speak Swahili, follow Islam, and wear traditional Islamic dress.
Unlike most Africans who are rural farmers with their own indigenous religions, Swahili are also urban dwellers with a literate Muslim civilization. Swahili merchants live in elaborately designed and furnished houses. Unlike merchants, Swahili farmers and fishermen live in coastal villages where they build towns around a central mosque attended by the men (women are not allowed to enter mosques).
For centuries, the Swahili People were merchants in the ancient commerce between the interior of Africa and the countries of the Indian Ocean. Swahili identity is unique, but not always the same. The Swahili have “never formed a single ‘polity’ but are a cluster of groups each with its own occupation, way of life, and ranked position”. These Swahili groups include descendants of the original merchants:
- Arab rulers of the 18th century Sultanate of Zanzibar from Oman
- Arab colonists from the 19th and 20th centuries
The Chopi of Mozambique are related to the Tonga. Their symbol is the elephant. Traditionally they lived in the southern Zavala district in Inhambane Province. Mozambique’s civil war and droughts greatly reduced the number of Chopi. Many moved to cities far away from their family and homelands.
UNESCO describes Chopi music as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.
Chopi were part of the Sofala and Gaza Empire founded by the Nguni traditional ruler Chief Nxamba. Mbila and timbila (plural of mbila) are musical instruments similar to large xylophones. They’re traditional Chopi instruments that have flourished in Africa. The sound they produce is a combination of xylophone, horns, rattles, and flute. These musical instruments are an iconic symbol representing all of Mozambique.
In August an annual Timbila festival takes place in the Zavala District’s beach town of Tofo, a UNESCO world heritage site. The festival is “supported by the Gil Vicente live music venue and the One Ocean New Year’s Music festival “. The festival opens and closes with the region’s traditional music.
The Ngoni can be traced back to South Africa’s Zulus who moved north following social reorganization in their home region. They practice an ethnic religion deeply rooted in their identity, including superstitions, ancestor worship, and witchcraft.
European, European-Descendant, Mestiço Population
The European and European-descendant population of Mozambique is a big “part of the country’s demographics”. Portugal left a strong colonial legacy in Mozambique, and Portuguese is the official language. Many British and Portuguese left the country after Mozambique gained independence in 1975, but a small number remained, along with a larger mestiço population of mixed African and Portuguese heritage.
South Asian – Indian and Chinese
India’s links with Mozambique go back “over half a millennium”. Indian Muslim traders from Malabar “plied the Indian Ocean trade routes”. Vasco da Gama found Hindu traders in Mozambique during his first visit in 1499. The Portuguese were the first to engage in the transatlantic slave trade in the 16th century. By the 1800s, Indian merchants cooperating with Portuguese shippers became active in the slave trade.
Chinese people began settling in Mozambique in the 1870s. Portuguese colonialists went to China and “recruited Chinese carpenters and unskilled laborers in Macao to work on railway construction”. Asian migration “halted in 1899 due to an outbreak of plague, blamed on Indians”. Many Asians started as carpenters but moved into shopkeeping. They established community associations and educated their children in Chinese-language schools.
Tribalism in Africa
Tribalism in Africa is a heady subject – at least for me. I’ve traveled throughout the African continent for many years. During each trip I learn more about the countries, their history, strengths, contributions, and economic / social issues. Tribalism is something I’ve just started learning about. It’s a fascinating subject, especially in Mozambique – a unique, complex, and enthralling country!
Back to Cape Town
I’m happy to be returning to Cape Town tomorrow! In Africa, it’s the closest thing to home for me, and there will be people to visit and interesting things to do.
I’ve spent most of my time in Mozambique exploring Maputo, a busy, interesting African city. After touring isolated Seychelles, Durban, and South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal beaches, it was fun to be in a large, vibrant city again. There’s lots of history and culture in Maputo, and the diverse population is fascinating. I’ve enjoyed my time here, and after a month gained an understanding of Mozambique’s history, culture, and people.
People come to Mozambique to visit its islands and archipelagos – Bazaruto and Quirimbas – known for their coral reefs and marine life. Since I’m leaving Mozambique this week, I decided to take a day tour of Inhaca Island, about 20 miles from Maputo.
Getting to Inhaca can be complicated. There are three ways to do it – ferry, plane, or boat, and all three are subject to cancellation, depending on the weather. The flight takes 15 minutes, the ferry (if it’s running that day) takes several hours. Boat options range from small crowded refugee-like vessels to wooden dhows and luxury yachts.
I decided to go with Maputo Yachting’s comfortable catamaran. The day trip was reasonably priced, and I only had to get to Porto de Pesca with a swim suit, hat, and sunscreen – no connections, transfers, or other complications.
Day Trip Catamaran Umoja
The day didn’t disappoint! Catamaran Umoja (meaning unity in Swahili) was fantastic, and the interesting people onboard were easy to talk with and fun. Although slightly overcast, the day was pleasant. A day of full-on sun would have been uncomfortable.
The European Captain – Wilhelm – was from Norway. Two of his friends – Norwegian and Dutch – joined the outing and helped with various tasks. In addition to the captain and his friends, there were two other crew members.
It was a fast-moving day. Passengers included three young Mozambican women – twin sisters with a friend, German, Portuguese, and Belgian couples, and me. Except for the Germans, everyone was living in Maputo. The group was great company, and if I weren’t leaving Maputo in a few days, I would enjoy spending more time with them.
One woman is an artist collaborating with a local Mozambican sculptor – Lorenzo – to create a relief-like mural. Her husband works with African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and had been on a project in Ethiopia, where they lived for several years. They talked about Ethiopian life and politics.
Ethiopia is in political turmoil. The government imposed a six-month “state of emergency” after prolonged anti-government protests and the resignation of the Prime Minister. Ongoing demonstrations prompted the release of political prisoners and have raised serious concerns about Ethiopia’s stability.
After listening to Europeans living in Maputo, I’ve learned that many have traveled extensively throughout the continent and accept Africa’s abundant difficulties and inequities. Despite often-disturbing realities, they do what they can to make a positive difference and enjoy the excitement and unknowns that come with living in Africa. It surprised me to hear Norwegians talk about the “boredom” of living in their country, rated as one of the most desirable places in the world.
A Dutch member of the group was married to a lovely African woman, and they have several children. A creative director, he told me about some of the successful performances he’s directed.
People I’ve met in Maputo were regular visitors to Mali. They’re sad the country is no longer safe for travelers. Al-Qaeda and armed Islamist groups have taken control of parts of the country “imposing Sharia (Islamic law) by threatening villagers, recruiting children, destroying schools, and beating villagers who engage in forbidden practices”.
The conversations were interesting, and I was glad to meet other people who share my fascination with Africa – but I’m digressing, so let’s go back to the boat trip…. As the wind picked up, we hoisted a sail and glided to our first stop, Portuguese Island (Inhaca).
Uninhabited Portuguese Island is less than 2 hours sail from Maputo at the end of Maputo Bay. At one time, the desert island was a leper colony. Now, it’s part of the Inhaca Marine Reserve. The narrow island is 4 miles long with low vegetation.
My hat blew off on the boat and is now somewhere beneath the sea, so instead of hiking with little sun protection, I opted to swim. The boat didn’t have equipment, so there was no snorkeling – never forget to ask enough questions in Maputo!
There’s a kiosk on the beach for cruise ship guests. Although a ship anchored nearby, few people came ashore, and there were no beach umbrellas or chairs. I talked to local vendors and almost bought another capulana (sarong), but came to my senses after thinking about an already bulging suitcase. I bought the only hat available – a baseball cap locally made with colorful Mozambican fabric – not much sun protection, but a fabulous memento.
Mozambique’s archipelagos are home to the only viable population of dugongs on Africa’s east coast.
Swimming in the Indian Ocean is heaven, and we watched small pods of dolphins who came near us playing close to shore. I swam back to the boat, but others took the dingy.
We enjoyed lunch aboard Umoja, including the best bruschetta I’ve eaten prepared by Michael, a chef and friend of the captain. The meal was a delicious curry served with salad and rice.
After lunch we continued to Inhaca – pronounced “In-ya-ca”. Populated by locals, the island has a few rustic restaurants and pristine forest and wildlife areas. I noticed several large, interesting birds but couldn’t get good photos. White herons with gangling long legs and necks were all over the trees. After months of travel, I’m burnt out on photos and have used some media shots in this post.
We walked the island, enjoyed craft displays, and stopped for a cold drink at a pub. Much to my dismay, during our hike a huge sea-bird flying overhead pooped on me ; ( ! My companions assured me it was a sign of good luck – not sure about that…
Inhaca Island is popular for water sports. Locals and tourists enjoy diving, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing, and fishing. If you don’t have your own equipment, it’s difficult finding rentals. We didn’t explore the “wilder side” of Inhaca, a popular dive site known for “crashing surf and deep blue sea”.
Bazaruto Archipelago National Park was established to protect habitats and marine fauna.
Warm water currents in Mozambique Channel between Africa and Madagascar, encourage diverse marine life, including sea turtles, dolphins, endangered dugongs, manta rays, and whales. I’ve heard that dive sites on Santa Maria Reef include mesmerizing underwater caves and shipwrecks.
Deep-water habitats in the Channel include mangroves, coral reefs, sandy beach, rocky shorelines, and sea grass beds. Five different types of threatened marine turtles nest along the Chanel, where they’ve remained safe and protected for years.
Vilanculos District is the gateway to Bazaruto Archipelago – a chain of four islands, Bazaruto, Benguerra, Santa Isobel, and Santa Carolina. Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) protects the area’s marine life.
The Vahoka people occupy Bazaruto Archipelago’s islands. Vahoka speak their mother tongue, Chihoca, and live in seven villages throughout the islands.
These are the seasons on the archipelago:
- December to March – hot, humid, rain, cyclones
- September to November – dry days, cool nights
- June to August – fresh, dry, clear days, cool nights
- April to May – dry, clear skies, no rain
The Port of Pemba in northern Mozambique is the access point for Quirimbas Archipelago with 12 islands and 20 coralline outcrops. Pemba is the capital of Cabo Delgado Province. There are remote lodges on the archipelago, but getting to them is costly and difficult. Local tour operators are more than willing to handle the logistics and plan pricey all-inclusive luxury holidays.
Pemba’s coral reefs are near the shore and “protrude into the Bay of Pemba.” It’s the starting point for Quirimbas National Park which is inhabited by endangered dolphins, whales, and dugongs. I would love to spend time exploring Quirimbas, but it’s beyond my budget as a solo traveler!
Trip Back and Sand Bank Rescue
I wanted to keep swimming, but the others thought we should go back. We said goodbye to Inhaca and headed back to Maputo. Tropical storms develop quickly, and thunderstorms with lightning, wind, and heavy rain were on the way.
As if our day hadn’t been indulgent enough, pastries were waiting for us on the boat! Some in the group sang their humorous versions of African and German songs. The only song left uncovered was Whiskey Leave Me Alone! The warm sun and swaying catamaran made us feel sleepy, and several fell asleep on the deck.
About an hour into the trip back, the captain received a distress call from a boat stuck in a sand bank closer to Maputo. The passengers – 80 Mozambicans on a “drinks included” trip – were celebrating a birthday and partying all day. With everyone’s agreement, the captain proceeded to their rescue.
Getting stuck in a sand bank isn’t unusual in Maputo Bay. When it happens, boats have to wait until the tide rises to get free, and this can involve as long as a six-hour wait! Sharing Umoja with the boisterous group was fun but certainly a roust from our peaceful sail. We partied with them – they brought their own bass-heavy music – and made it back to the port at about 7:30 pm.
Our late arrival provided an unexpected surprise – beautiful views of Maputo city lights along the skyline! Clouds hid the sunset, but vivid scarlet pink streamed across the city skyline – a perfect ending to an idyllic day!
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 a few galleries. The heat is daunting, and there have been several big storms – the air almost feels liquid! Communicating with taxi drivers here is difficult, so walking is the best way to experience the city despite heavy erratic traffic, sidewalks with 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. From Ghana, Obodai lives part-time in Maputo. In his words, this exhibition “explores my relationship with the environment as a living and mythological space bound by oral and historical stories”. His 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, 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 known as a “passionate Mozambican photographer”. Another exhibition, Luvano, contains “a set of studio photographs depicting a pregnant woman”. The goal of his 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, 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 also paints, draws, and illustrates.”
One of his long-term projects, Occupations, is a “fresco seen through the prism of its working people and their environments”. Branquinho carefully composed the photos to show “how people work, where they work, and that they work with a lot of 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 also portray “the armed struggle during Mozambique’s Revolution, social repression between the 1940s and the early 1970s, and the color and liveliness of Africans”.
His 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 became instrumental in his education and career as an artist.
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.
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 a raft of 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 do murals and paintings”. He remembers that the country “had an illiteracy rate of around 97 percent, and 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’s (FRELIMO) army and the National Mozambican Resistance (RENAMO) plunged the country into social and economic chaos driving thousands of people towards famine and death”.