Sunday, 30 December 2018

Maputo - the people in the street


Maputo was the final stop on my recent tour of Mozambique. Regular readers will know that my favourite activity when traveling is to wander the streets observing every day life whilst meeting and photographing local people. Maputo is a great city in which to do all of those things. This post introduces some of the many people I met there.

Mafalala is one of the city's best known areas. Close to the centre it was built to accommodate African workers who were denied the right to live in the central area during the colonial period despite working there every day. The neighbourhood was to become an important centre of resistance to colonial rule. Despite being one of Maputo's poorest neighbourhoods it has  a strong reputation for art, music and dance. This can be seen in the many murals that add colour to the streets. It is also the birthplace of football legend Eusebio and of Samora Machel, Mozambique's first president after independence.

The people are friendly, welcoming to visitors and happy to talk about their lives if interest is shown. I visited twice during my few days in the city. On the first occasion I met Amina in the street opposite a small mosque. She was sitting under an umbrella, taking shelter from the extreme heat and waiting for customers to purchase fruit from her stall. I was surprised to hear that she is 85 years old. She seemed much younger and this must have shown in my expression as she produced her ID card and asked me to look at the date of birth. She was indeed 85. She said that it was difficult to make money here but that her son works in London and is able to help her from time to time.

Amina, a youthful 85, Mafalala
Shop worker and impressive biscuit collection, Mafalala
Mafalala has several shops including a long established general store. I went in to buy some water and noticed that as well as local products there were some very familiar items on sale including Ovaltine and Milo. People who know me will not be surprised to know that I also noticed a very fine selection of biscuits including Oreos, Romany Creams and a brand called Boudoir. I've not tried Boudoir before but they looked interesting. I asked one of the staff if I could take his picture. A little shy he wanted me to obtain the agreement of the owner first. Agreement secured he happily posed in front of those biscuits.

Many children play in the streets of Mafalala. Some of them asked me to photograph them. This happens a lot when traveling in some parts of the world. In India and the Philippines I was pursued by children wanting just one more picture sir. The poses the children assume are pretty much the same everywhere doubtless influenced by music videos and youtube. One small group waiting outside a shop were enjoying loud music coming from a nearby house. The resulting picture is perhaps my favourite of my time in Mozambique.

Friends, Mafalala
Waiting for the shop to open, Mafalala
Alberto, street tailor
Away from Mafalala, I noticed a line of three tailors working under the veranda of a now closed cafe. Tailors fascinate me. Despite the worldwide mass production of clothing, it is still possible to see them working in the street in many places. Theirs is a portable skill with relatively few requirements for establishing a business. I was able to speak to them through a guide who told me that they had moved to Maputo from Nampula in the north in search of a better life. As I was about to leave, a woman called to me and invited me to photograph her. She was also from Nampula and was cooking a regional meat and rice dish to sell to hungry workers.

Preparing traditional Nampula dishes
Maputo has numerous markets, all of them good places to see every day life. The pictures below are from different mercados across the city. The young woman holding her baby was selling vegetables at a large market on the outskirts of Maputo. The very stylish young man in the long coat has a stall in the huge Xipamanine market. At Xipamanine, after seeing my camera, several people came forward to ask me to take their picture whilst others wanted a selfie with me. I am often surprised at how many people are interested in being photographed. Despite the widespread ownership of mobile phones, there is still something special about standing in front of a real camera.

Will you take us to Brazil?
The markets also provided moments of comedy. Some of the female vendors enjoyed teasing me. One group asked if I could take them to Brazil in return for a photograph whilst three very confident women said I could photograph them if I first agreed to marry one of them! When I suggested I take a picture and then come back when I'd decided who to marry they were not impressed saying they'd been caught out like that before. Others were less forward including a woman sewing bags for storing vegetables. She indicated that it was fine to take her picture but preferred to look down rather than at the camera. Some gentle teasing from her friends eventually persuaded her to look up but I really like the series I took with eyes downcast and a smile playing on her face. Another woman, Amalia, involved in the same type of work, looked directly at the camera allowing me to capture her kind expression.

Vegetable vendor and child
Vegetable vendor, Xipamanine
Pretending to be shy, Xipamanine
Amalia, Xipamanine
Chamanculo is a short drive from Mafalala. The two have much in common with many difficult social issues including poor housing and sanitation. The warmth of the people is similar too and many of them called out hola or boa tarde as I passed by. I noticed Felix, Nelson and Milton sitting on the external counter of a closed shop. They wanted to know where I was from and if I like football - the two questions I was most asked in Mozambique. They told me they like English football but were keen supporters of Barcelona and Juventus. As with several other people I met, they asked for a picture with me and my guide before we parted. The little boy in the red t-shirt stood and watched my exchange with the three young men. As I was about to move on, he approached me and asked very politely please sir, one picture?. Who could say no?

Felix, Nelson and Milton, Chamanculo
Please sir, one picture, Chamanculo
Maputo is a seaside city and has some beautiful beaches overlooking the Indian Ocean. Early in the morning on certain days of the week, followers of the Zion churches gather on the beach to pray and to perform rituals which encompass both Christianity and traditional beliefs. On the morning I visited a young priest was also present, he is pictured below.

Church of Zion priest
Prayers by the sea
I spent just three days in Mozambique's capital city. I could happily have stayed longer. I hope to return one day to revisit Mafalala, Chamanculo and Xipamanine and to meet more people of magnificent Maputo. In the meantime, some more pictures...

Nelson, shoeshine, Downtown
Five minutes rest, Xipamanine
Idalia in pink

You can see more pictures of Mozambique here.

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