Monday, December 29, 2008

Midwifery in Mozambique

From YouTube: "Original PBS airdate: Tuesday, July 15, 2008. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's deadliest place to give birth. Each year over a quarter of a million women die in childbirth in the region. But Mozambique is combating high maternal death rates by implementing unconventional programs. In 2004, Mozambique introduced a new health care initiative to train midwives in emergency obstetric care in an attempt to guarantee access to quality medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. The film "Birth of a Surgeon" follows Emilia Cumbane, one of the first midwives-in-training. She performs cesareans and hysterectomies in makeshift operating rooms in rural Mozambique. The film captures one woman's story on the frontlines of improving maternal mortality but it also demonstrates how low-cost, community-based health initiatives are changing the face of public health in Africa."

My thoughts: I would really like to see the whole film, but the PBS site doesn't load very well. A good point is brought up about midwifery: in the United States it would be unthinkable to have anyone but a doctor perform a surgery of any kind. But in Africa, the ratio of doctors to people doesn't allow for such strict ideas about medical care. I'm not sure what the number is now, but at one point while I was in Mozambique, there were around 500 doctors in the entire country, to serve a population of 10 million people. And of course most of the doctors were centered in Maputo or Beira. So to say that only doctors should be able to perform cesarean sections doesn't seem as reasonable.

It would seem part of the solution would be to train more doctors- however, a medical degree is expensive and prestigious and how likely would it be that once a Mozambican became a doctor they would choose to live and serve in a rural area? They would almost have to work in Maputo just to pay for their education. It actually makes a lot of sense to train midwives to perform cesarean sections. There are more midwives in the country, they already know a lot about childbirth and they are likely to stay in their communities once they are trained.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Homemade Footballs

This video is really funny. In Mozambique, I always saw kids playing with homemade footballs. I think usually they were just made out of old plastic bags; there wasn't actually an excess of condoms in Monapo. But I imagine in Southern Mozambique, closer to Maputo, this could be a viable option for improved footballs. Enjoy:

This South African advertisement has a different take on homemade balls. (Click to englarge and read) This special plastic bag was an insert in a South African newspaper. It was used to bring to light that many youth in SA use plastic bags instead of actual footballs.

But the advertisement presents this fact as shameful. It never really occurred to me to say shame when I saw kids in Mozambique making their own toys. Besides balls, they could make kites, toys cars, they played games with bottle caps. I felt like they were much more creative and crafty than American kids.

But the advertisement points out that children with real athletic talent may never have the opportunity to become stars because they will never play the game with a real ball, with shoes, on a field with grass. Different sets of eyes can find different symbolism in the same image.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I just finished up a group project concerning FGC in Mali. I feel like, since starting school, I've made a 90 degree change in my attitude about how FGC should be dealt with. Upon hearing about FGC, most Western women are usually outraged that this happens at all. Most feel immediate eradication is imperative, without exception.

But with that outrage we bring a lot of cultural baggage. For example: many of us think that loss of sexual pleasure would be devastating, we see FGC as violence against women driven mainly by men, we see it as mutilation. But we don't see that, for African women, loss of orgasm isn't nearly as devastating as never marrying or social ostracism, or that mothers and grandmothers (not men) do this to their daughters because they love them, or that some cultures might see certain Western norms, such as plastic surgery, as mutilation. Look at how the WHO presents FGC in it's latest document. A weeping women. Insisting on using FGM. By using such emotion in the discourse, the WHO risks alienating the very women it seeks to protect. Are all circumcised women mutilated? If they don't see themselves as mutilated, what right does the WHO have to say they are?

This is an interesting video-clip, interviewing a traditional cutter in Ethiopia. She lays out the reasons why she believes FGC cannot stop. There seems to be a pervasive idea in countries that perform FGC that the clitoris is poisonous to infants and men. I wonder what these women think happens to Western infants? It is possible that they don't realize Western women aren't circumcised.

I don't want anyone to mistake my beliefs: I think FGC should end and that we should do everything to stop it. But we must be careful in how we approach such an ancient and complicated tradition. Slowly, slowly. The project I just finished wrote up a plan to teach hygiene, not even mentioning FGC. The idea is that slowly, communities will piece together germ theory, wounds, the wounds created by FGC, the fevers and infections experienced by young girls. Slowly, one day, they will realize FGC is not more hygienic. It is not mandated by Islam, it does not increase anyone's pleasure. The clitoris is not poisonous. Slowly, slowly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maisha iko sawa na Trust

A Trust condom ad from's worth watching!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Losing the innocence, but not the privilege

I found these on Sociological Images, which is a very cool blog by the way. It isn't really necessary for me to talk much about the problem with the ads; far fewer people read my blogs than Socio.Images anyway. But it deserved a posting anyway. It proves again that Africa is so distorted in the minds of Westerners(this time a French ad agency), there are many people who wouldn't see what's wrong with the ad even if it were told to them. The skulls and bones are of popular children's cartoon characters. Click on the ads to enlarge.

But who are the real cartoons here? While Hello Kitty is brought into real life by her death, the African and Indian servants in the backround couldn't be less real had they been drawn with magic markers. When will we finally understand colonialism wasn't romantic or sexy or rebellious? Why would participating in the old system make teens look rebellious? And what's with snotty teens wielding guns anyway?

Friday, November 14, 2008

ESHTI Photography Club

A friend of mine, who still works in Mozambique, has a photography club with her students. Here is my favorite photo, by Vilma:

Quatro obras de Deus a serem conservadas

You can see all the students' work at ESHTI Photography Club. Please leave comments for the students.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"I Love You" by Rogerio Manjate

This 3 minute film won the Africa in Motion Film Competition. They took it off YouTube for some reason, which is too bad, because it is essentially a PSA, in addition to being art. It should be shown all over Africa, for free. Watch it here. .
Here's a summary of the story:

You see a young boy watching a beautiful young woman as she is getting dressed for work. It becomes clear from her clothes that she is a sex-worker. The little boy carries her high-heeled shoes for her and helps her walk through the muddy streets of their bairro. As he sets them down for her to step into, you see him place something in one of the shoes. It appears to be a note, a love letter perhaps? She crosses the street and then notices something in the shoe. She takes it out and holds it up. It's a condom, it says "I Love You" in English. She smiles and waves at the boy. The boy could be her little brother, or just a neighborhood kid who keeps her company. Either way the message is clear, he loves her and he wants her to protect herself.

It is amazing how much can be told without words. The lack of dialogue actually makes the film stronger, more universal. It could be shown all over Africa. As long as people know "I Love You" means Eu te amo or J'taime or Ninakupenda, they will understand.

I think the story takes place in Maputo, but I'm not entirely sure. Manjate is from Mozambique.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cold War Shivers: McCain, Renamo and Mozambique

I just read an article about McCain's voting record in reference to Renamo activities in the 1980's. He voted not to confirm an ambassador to Mozambique, as that would be recognizing the legitimacy of a Marxist government. It's not surprising, but it is ironic. As the article points out, it was Palin who brought up "pal-ing around with terrorists" as a campaign topic. And if Renamo wasn't a domestic terrorist origanization (in the 1980's), who was? Take that Hannity!

AllAfrica.Com this is where I first found the story

HuffintonPost.Com AllAfrica sites the HuffingtonPost as the first to break it

Monday, October 13, 2008


So, as a spin-off of MTV's miserable show Super Sweet 16, they have created Exiled. I'm not sure if Sweet 16 is still producing new episodes, but if they are it's a big slap in the face of all Americans during our Super Sweet Economic Crisis. Exiled seems like a good idea: take these spoiled brats away from their enabling parents and show them what life is like outside their bubble of wealth.

But after watching an episode, I'm not so sure America(or the World) needs this show right now. It pains me that being sent to Kenya or Thailand or India is presented as punishment - these are amazing places. Even the name "Exiled" has a negative connotation.The editing doesn't help: when the brats are shown their traditional bedrooms and bathrooms, there are horror-movie sound effects, with no reguard to the fact that real families live there and are proud of their houses. I imagine if the host families ever see finished episodes, they would be insulted by the presentation of their homes as something to fear.

These beautiful places are essentially being used as spoiled-child re-hab. And what does that do for our image abroad? We are sending them our worst in the hopes that the outside will have some cathartic effect on their spoiled souls. Meanwhile, we are showing a whole community that Americans are weak, lazy, unpleasant creatures. How could this be a good thing?

The one thing I like about the show is that there is time for the host-siblings to vent. They are allowed to force the brat to work and do chores and they can criticize when it's due. "Don't be lazy" seems to be the general idea. So, maybe when the spoiled audience sees that other cultures have no tolerance for diva-like behavior, they will think a little bit. But probably not. I really wonder how they find the host-families and what they tell them about what they've signed up for? It seems like they already know to expect the brats will be brats. But is that because they expect all us Americans to behave this way?

The show's creators are using someone from the developing world, their home, community and culture to "teach" something to spoiled American teenagers. But in doing so they are completely disrespecting that culture. The teens shriek and squirm at the most basic of chores, like taking care of and slaughtering animals for food. Just where did they think fried chicken came from? It's not a cultural exchange; it's force-feeding teenage audiences old stereotypes of the third world: bugs, strange food, scary toilets. All for entertainment. MTV doesn't really believe the teens will change in just a week, does it? They're just one more thing to sell. Maybe MTV needs to Exile itself.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Macua Vocabulary

This is it! This is all the Macua I know/remember. If you know any other words, please, please make a comment and tell me! Make sure you see the previous post with an explanation about the Macua language. Also, here is a link to the only decent site I have found about Macua.

How are you?: E'hale

Fine, and you: Salama, kahiki nhuyo?

Where are you going?: Munrowa vai?
I'm going....I'm going home: Kinrowa...Kinrowani

Come here and eat this: Karibu

What do you want?: Munpela exeni?
I want...: Kinpela ....

Yes: Ayo
No: N'rare

Thank you: koxukuru, koxukurela, asante(very formal)

I love you: kin'nizi velia, cozivelianiwe, otsivelia

I'm happy: Murima okichela

Beautiful woman: Muthiana orera
My wife: Mwaraka
I'm not your wife: N'kihiyo amwaraninyo

My: aka(at the end of subject)
Your: ninyo(same)

Mozambique Island: Omuhipiti

Monkey: Kole
Lion: Havara
Rabbit: Namarokolo
Crocodile: Egonha
White person: Egunha

Foot: Enau
Hand: Ekatha
Heart: Murima

Red: y(i)oxeria
Blue: yopipela
Green: yoripelela
Yellow: safarao
Black: yoripa
White: yotela

Who are we?: Napani?
Where are we?: Inri vai?
Where are we going?: Ninrowa vai?

About the Macua Language

Macua is the largest African language spoken in Mozambique. The Macua people are the largest single ethnic group in the country and yet, I can find very little information about the language online. So, I'm going to post every single word I know in Macua as reference for anyone who needs it. I got this information in Monapo, Nampula province, but Macua has many variations depending on the region. It is spoken in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa and Zambezia provinces, and I'm sure there are differences in all these regions.

Macua is a Bantu language with some Arabic influence, like Swahili. I'm not sure if the Arab traders that came to Mozambique Island were true Arabic speakers, or if Macua's Arabic words came to it via Swahili. Swahili, unlike what it says in some literature about Mozambican languages, is not really spoken frequently in Mozambique. Only in the very far north, in northern Cabo Delgado, closest to Tanzania. But there are similarities in northern coastal culture in Mozambique and Swahili culture, especially among Kimwani speakers.

There is also considerable Portuguese influence on the language. My guess is that things that came after the Portuguese needed names in Macua, so they simply Bantu-cized the word. Example: Ephao (the H is an aspiration) for bread. In Portuguese bread is Pão.

A note about spelling: Almost every Macua I met had great difficulty spelling the Macua words I was asking for. Even the word Macua can also be spelled Makua or Emakhuwa. Missionaries seem to be the only people putting Macua down on paper for the sake of translating the Bible. Mozambicans do not learn their native languages in school because it is so important for them to learn Portuguese. So, rarely is their literacy applied to their first language. There is a debate about whether or not Macua should reflect Portuguese usage of letters, or if the phonetic alphabet should be used instead.

My opinion is this: It wouldn't make sense to spell Shona or Makonde using the Portuguese system because those languages overlap with English-speaking countries (Zimbabwe and Tanzania). That would make spelling difficult for speakers of those languages whose spelling system was dependent on English. BUT, Macua is really only spoken within Mozambican borders, so why not let Macua spelling ride on Portuguese spelling? It would make it easier for the students who have just learned to read and write in Portuguese. Unlike English, Portuguese has an efficient and phonetic spelling system. Macua is a much easier word to write than Emakhuwa. The letters K and W don't exist in Portuguese, so a student would have to learn more letters than they learned in school, taking away the motivation to try to spell out their thoughts in their first language.

For more about Mozambican Languages, please look at my page, not Wikipedia's. Wikipedia's information on the subject is way off-base.

Please look at my next post for Macua vocabulary.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Saharan Vibe and Luso-Africa

Saharan Vibe is a blog by someone devoted to informing people about each individual country in Africa. The amount of time and effort that has gone into the blog is incredible. Please take a look!

There are five Portuguese speaking countries within the African continent:




Cabo Verde

São Tomé e Príncipe

Click on Moçambique, Angola and SãoTomé for pictures and extensive information about history and culture from Saharan Vibe's archives. Hopefully, there will be posts about Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau soon.

Luso-Africa makes up a large portion of the Portuguese speaking world. These countries are part of the CPLP, to which all Portuguese-speaking countries belong. Along with a language, these countries share a history of colonization by Portugal (however bitter it may have been) a priceless musical traditional and artistic exchange. Along with cultural and national identity, people from Portugal to India share a common sense of culture within the Lusophone world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Capitães de Abril

I just finished watching Capitaes de Abril (2000) about the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Lisbon. It was a little long and would only be interesting to those who like Portuguese history- or Luso-African history - like me. The film placed the colonial wars in Mozambique and Angola at the center of the revolution; the opening scenes were gory shots of villages destroyed by war. The wars in Africa seem to the Portuguese what Vietnam was to Americans. Young men who didn't necessarily believe in keeping the colonies, went sent off to a far away place with the real possibility of dying. What's remarkable about the events of April 24, 1974, is that they were almost entirely peaceful. Soldiers placed flowers in their guns to prove their intent to keep peace. Of course the success of the army's ousting of the fascist dictatorship meant the colonial wars were soon over. While the Portuguese in Lisbon crowded the streets with joy, thousands and thousands of Portuguese from the colonies were not so overjoyed. Overnight, their way of life was over. Many of them had never even been to Portugal. This event is extremely important to the histories of Mozambique and Angola. For them, it meant independence- although not a peaceful one. Both countries soon fell into civil wars.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Last of the African Kings by Maryse Conde

I just recently finished "The Last of the African Kings" by Maryse Conde. I picked it up because it addresses a topic which interests me: what is the relationship of African-Americans to the African Diaspora elsewhere? In this story, the king of Benin is exiled in Martinique and leaves behind a child. The child is well aware of his father's heritage, he is expected to be royal, but can't get up the energy to be anything but a loafer(Conde's words, not mine). All his descendants fall into the same trap. Spero, the last in this royal line, marries an African-American from Charleston who seems attracted only to her husband's ancestry. Conde seems to criticize those American who cling too tightly to Africa. Spero scoffs at his wife's back-to-Africa tendancies and their daughter's flight to Benin is viewed as a tragedy, even though she's there for a good cause. Conde has been compared to V.S. Naipul for her criticism of the former colonies and her lack of condemnation of the colonizers. The King, of course, hates the French for taking away his kingdom and denying him a proper funeral in Benin. But the descriptions of his desired funeral include salves, wives and concumbines being buried alive to join him in death. Not a positive picture of African royalty. It didn't answer all the questions I had on the topic, but it was one author's vision and it was interesting.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Effects of Amarula on Animals

When I was in Mozambique I was introduced to Amarula, a South African liqueur. I loved it so much we even served it at my wedding! As my friends know, I love all things sweet and plentiful. On South African Airways they give you these tiny bottles and a plastic liqueur glass with ice. As much as you want.

There is an elephant on the bottle and a little story about how the Marula fruit is the favored delicacy of elephants. And I had heard that they prefer it fermented. Here's proof, courtesy of YouTube:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Implosão do Quatro Estações

March 31, 2007 the "Four Seasons" Hotel that never was, was imploded. The hotel's history is as ugly as the cement monster that overshadowed Maputo's marginal for over 30 years.

The hotel was in the process of construction in 1974, when the Portuguese finally surrendered Mozambique to FRELIMO. The war of independence had been going on since 1964, but the fighting never reached Maputo, then called Lourenço Marques. The fact that someone was even thinking about building a five-star hotel 10 years into a war says a lot. They must have really believed Mozambique would remain part of Portugal forever.

When FRELIMO entered the city, there was a lot of fear among the Portuguese population. The Portuguese were told they could stay in Mozambique and help build a new country, but they would have to make concessions. For example, they would have to become Mozambicans and give up their Portuguese citizenship and passports. Some stayed, many left.

When the Portuguese left, many expressed their resentment over the end of colonialism by destroying property. They were told by FRELIMO they could not leave the country with more the 20 kilos of possessions. Of the things they could never have taken with them anyway, cattle, mansions, crops, many were slaughtered, burned and destroyed so that no one else could benefit from them.

This is how the Four Seasons ended up with concrete down its elevator shafts and plumbing. The owners ensured that no one would ever be able to use the building for anything that would benefit FRELIMO or Mozambicans. And so from 1974 to 2007 the empty, incomplete hotel stood as an gray reminder of colonialism's ugly end in the country. Resentment, curses, indignation over losing what was never really theirs. I hope it all dissapeared in the dust.

Most in Mozambique woke up early to watch the implosion. They were happy to see it go.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Headstrong Historian

The Headstrong Historian by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (read the story)

This new short story was published in The New Yorker in the June 23rd issue. The story starts with the marriage of a Nigerian woman, Nwamgba, shortly before the arrival of the British- not to Nigeria, but to her own village and therefore the only world that matters to her. When her husband dies she sends her only son, Anikwenwa, to Catholic school so that he can learn English and one day defend his mother's rights against his scheming uncles. What actually happens is his cultural conversion, which pains her even more.

Anikwenwa's success in his new culture makes me wonder if the first Africans to adapt to their colonizers' language and culture weren't the ones whose children are well off even now. In my time in Monapo, I met some Mozambicans who worked in the banks or government offices, who were somewhat more educated and spoke better Portuguese. I wonder if they are in the positions they are in because at a very early age they excelled in school. Or was it that two or three generations ago their ancestors saw the advantages assimilation carried and were the first to press their children into school? Can their current success be attributed to their grandparents' decisions to learn Portuguese and work within the system?

As in this story, were the parents and grandparents saddened by the unexpected loss of the old culture?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mozambicans leave South Africa after Violence

BBC reports tens of thousands of Mozambicans flee SA

This is such a disturbing story! The last week in May, violence erupted in all over South Africa against foreigners. Not foreign tourists, but the many Africans who have come to SA to work. It would be as if Americans took their anti-immigration sentiments too far and began to burn Mexican families' houses and loot their stores and restaurants. Or even kill.

A large portion of these immigrants are Mozambican. There are also many from Zimbabwe, as that country becomes more and more desperate. I knew Mozambicans who regularly went to South Africa to work in the mines. My host-mother's husband was rarely at home in Boane because he worked in a mine in SA. In the two years I knew this family, I saw the fruits of his labor. Their house slowly filled with better furniture, electricity, a much needed new latrine. The southern part of Mozambique is actually much better developed than the north because of its proximity to SA.

I am disspointed. I always marveled at the cultural connection the Shangaan people of Mozambique felt they shared with the Zulu of South Africa. They shared music, a similar language, an entangled history. But it seems that connection was weaker on the SA end.

The one bright spot on this terrible story is that the Mozambican government has tried to be there for its people. The BBC reports that buses to Maputo were provided for Mozambicans trying to flee SA. They have provided food and shelter in Maputo for those waiting to go home or waiting to see if they can return to SA.

The fact the Thabo Mbeki has taken so long to send in SA's army, or that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has done nothing to provide for his fleeing citizens, only highlights the fact that Mozambique is truly emerging into a better state.

The June 9th issue of The New Yorker Magazine reports:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Maputo: W Magazine, March 2007

Read my own comments on this article under COMMENTS. For my very different view on Maputo, go to:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Olha o meu sitio de Moçambique!

Hi! I have moved the blog to a real website with photos, information and links to other sites about Mozambique and Africa. Please visit: