035_G18_Spotlight_Mozambique

Global_18

Spotlight Mozambique Batik paintings at a Maputo market. The market is one of the city’s key attractions for tourists of Mozambique, Swahili women perform complex dances with subtle movements and even add rope skipping to the routine. While retaining a strong belief in traditional religions, the majority, especially in urban areas, are Roman Catholic, as can be expected given the Portuguese suzerainty over the country for such an extended period. Interestingly, Zionism, with an African twist, is the second most popular faith after Catholicism. There are also a number of Protestant sects, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Islam has flourished in the northern-most tip of the country since at least the 12th century. In fact, the name ‘Mozambique’ is believed to have derived from the Swahili Musa al Baig, the title of an Arab or Swahili chief who dominated the Ilha de Mocambique (Mozambique Island). As they had done along the east African coast further north, Arab traders intermarried with local people to produce the Swahili ‘race’ with its distinct culture, alphabet (based largely on Arabic), language and literature. Swahili is the predominant language in this area. Islam, according to some reports, is making strong gains further south in the country. The cities, particularly the capital Maputo, reflect the Portuguese era. Roads are wide and there are jacaranda-covered avenues. Here the Portuguese settlers could live instead of just surviving back in Portugal and they built some magnificent edifices. Restaurants serve classic Portuguese dishes, many of which are based on the rich seafood harvested from the coast. The giant Mozambique prawns, grilled and served with the now world-famous piri-piri sauce, made fortunes for exporters when the Portuguese held sway over the country – and they are still in big demand in South Africa and Portugal. Formal literary and artistic output has been limited, largely because of the war, but several new movements in this direction have started. The distinctive Makonde wood carvings, often composed of sinuous, intricately intertwined scenes from daily life, were once dismissed as ‘native art’ but are now regarded as extraordinary objects of art. Contemporary artists include Malangatana Goenha Valente who works on large canvas to bring to life the often deadly conflict between native and Portuguese cultures. Luis Bernardo Honwana wrote searing depictions of colonial life, in his book We killed Mangy Dog and others. He was an early writer, and important documentary film-maker, who fell foul of strict censorship and was imprisoned. Noemia De Sousa, a mestiça (mixed race) is considered the ‘mother of Mozambican writers’ and a powerful voice for women in the country. But the best known writer to emerge from Mozambique is António Emílio Leite (Mia) Couto who won the US$50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature last year for lifetime achievement. His magic realism work includes the novels Sleepwalking Land and The Last Flight of the Flamingo, as well as a short story collection, Voices Made Night. global second quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 35


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