University At Sea travel blog

Train Station

Grapes at the market

Woman at the market

Low tide

Bench made from weapons.

Man/soldier made from weapons with Cathedral in background.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maputo, Mozambique

Our first stop today was at the Railroad Station, considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, built by Gustave Eiffel, one and the same as the Eiffel Tower, and celebrating its 100 hundredth anniversary. Inside were two engines from the very first runs to two different cities.

Next we went to a fortress which guarded the city and was at the center of development. Inside the fort were canons, historical friezes, statues of heroes; and a short distance outside the fort a statue of Samora Machel, Mozambique’s first president who died in a plane crash in 1986, and whose widow married Nelson Mandela. We learned about Mozambique’s early history of settlement by the Portuguese, its fight for independence, government under a Communist regime, and now a capitalist government. Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, is an important port, exporting coal, cotton, sugar, chrome, sisal, copra and hardwood, mostly to China It has a huge dam that supplies electricity to nearby countries. And the other sad statistic: 12.5% of Mozambique has AIDS. It is one of the poorest populations in the world, with inadequate education and health facilities, especially in rural areas.

We walked through an indoor market with lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, and general merchandise. One item that’s different from other markets we’ve been to is cashews; I bought a large bag for $4.00 US. The local currency is Mozambique Meticals, but the merchants were willing to take our dollars and give us change in dollars. Some places will take dollars but give change in the local currency.

Our next stop was to the Museum of Natural History where African animals, fish and birds are displayed. There is also an Ocelcanto, a fish that was believed to be extinct, but has recently resurfaced. I copied the name from the showcase and everything was in Portuguese, the official language; however there are about 16 different languages that are spoken. In the courtyard, we met Sue, a museum docent who rode with us and pointed out the different styles of buildings and who they are or were used by and who designed them. There are still remnants of the Communist influence with cement block buildings among the art deco styles and the ornate Portuguese designs.

Then it was a rather long ride to a seaside restaurant for a plate of seafood and French fries. There was a piece of local fish, calamari, and very large shrimp with shells and heads. This must be a popular tourist place because other groups from the ship were here also, that meant we’d have a long wait being served and it was.

Next we went to the National Arts Museum, especially to see the works of Mozambique’s most famous artist, Malangatana. Born in 1936, he had his first solo exhibition in 1953, at the age of 25. His early works explore broad universal themes of violence and resistance to violence, capturing both the hardship of human life and its heroic aspects. He paints with dark, vivid colors, with dark outlines and exaggerated features. Other artists in the gallery seemed to use a similar style of dark, bold colors. It was unusual to see one painting with lighter pastel colors; it looked like it didn’t belong there. There were a number of wood sculptures with the same dramatic features. In 1963, Malangatana’s poetry was published in the journal Black Orpheus, and a year later he was detained in jail for 18 months after joining a nationalist group. His present work is of a less political nature. Outside the main gallery were paintings by school children, very fresh and refreshing to see.

A short distance from the Art Museum was the Franco Mozambican Cultural Center that had sculptures made from discarded guns, ammunition and weapons. It was an imaginative use of those materials, and the triggers still moved on the guns.

Thus ended our day in Mozambique as we head to Madagascar, but to the opposite end this time.

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