Mozambique in retrospect

Back from Mozambique a few weeks and already I’m taking for granted the luxuries that excited me on arrival: hot water in every tap, 24/7 electricity and water supply, central heating, fast internet, cheese, chocolate, brown bread, dustless sealed roads, flat pavements to walk on, stationery and tea/coffee supplies at the office….  cycling again!

Too many to choose from

I’ve felt so-called ‘reverse culture shock’ many times before…. especially obvious things like bewilderment in the supermarket at having to choose from a ridiculous number of varieties of butter, bread and loo paper, the outrageous price of apples and public transport, and the paralysing range of entertainment choices in London.

Everything packaged - I prefer the street market for fruit & veg

I observe other startling differences.  Here in London the absence of colleagues from work in January is explained by colds and flu, but the much more frequent absences in Moz are usually hospital visits for themselves or to see sick family members, or to attend funerals – almost all a result of HIV/AIDS.

HIV prevalence among the 15-49 age group currently ranges from 25% in southern Gaza province to 3.7% in northern Niassa province, with women having higher incidence than men.  Nationally in Mozambique, one in every 7 couples has one or both partners infected.  Mother-to-child infection rates are also high, but decreasing now that preventive medicines are better distributed.

HIV education nailed to a tree

That means pretty well everyone in the country is HIV affected even if not actually infected.  There are many child headed households, where both parents have died and grandparents (if still living) are too poor and/or infirm to support their grandchildren.

Murals on HIV abound

The NGO I worked with in Chimoio (Manica province) is one of many that try to support such people, often with only Christian spirituality, when all hope for the patient’s recovery has gone.  Otherwise tireless NGO volunteers provide moral and practical/material support for the families or in the orphanages, though the government’s policy is de-institutionalisation and support for foster care, as well as de-stigmatisation.  The latter remains a huge problem, despite the high prevalence.

The bad news is that institutional funding for these NGOs has dwindled since the 2008 recession and donors now seem to be turning their attention to apparently more trendy issues like climate change and recycling.

The first anniversary of the death of Mozambique’s most celebrated artist Malangatana Ngwenya (see my blog of 28 Jan 2011) happened on 5 Jan 2012.  He had exhibitions throughout the world and was honoured with countless awards and decorations.  None of this went to his head, and he continued promoting creativity through working with children and young people at his (as yet unfinished) cultural centre in his home area.

Ngwenya means crocodile

Malangatana once said he did not fear death, but only wished for his work to be preserved and live on as a testament to his country’s ravaged history of conflict. Sadly, this does not seem to be happening according to his family members….  I had actually noticed that his murals looked dirty and chipped and some paintings not well framed and protected.  I’d also seen the works of famous sculptors left exposed to the elements….

Damp is creeping up into this mural by Malangatana

Mould (lower left) on this sculpture by Alberto Chissano






So preserving the national heritage may be a luxury Mozambique claims it cannot afford when it comes to prioritising government spending.  But one observes no hesitation in awarding luxury 4WD vehicles to new parliamentarians who seldom leave the capital, when it’s known that at least one provincial health service does not own a single ambulance.  Same old, same old……


Malangatana statue – weeds and cracks abound

For me one of the thrills of returning to London was the public library.  I had heard that libraries were becoming irrelevant, with many flagged for closure because of the internet, so I expected my local library to have become a mere shell of its former being.

I can borrow piles of books!

Not a bit of it!  Reference library: full of people reading and studying (and I had a browse through all the latest magazines), all the computer terminals occupied.  Children’s library: full of kids and carers.  Lending library: full of people borrowing books (as well as CDs and DVDs)…. so what’s all the talk about?  I borrowed a pile of books.

On another upbeat note, one VSO colleague from London met the love of her life a few weeks after arrival in Moz, got married and is now expecting their first baby.  The Mozambican dad-to-be is getting a taste of real winter weather in Yorkshire!  After the birth they will go back and live in Maputo, after a big party in the north.

So I’m enjoying the UK creature comforts, but noticing the gloomy black or grey coats and jackets that most people wear (including me).  I’m missing the bright blue Moz sky and ocean, the colourful capolana cloth, the music and dance, the 2M beer, even the old-man’s- head rock formation in Chimoio.


The eternal old man sleeps in the Chimoio plain

It’s another era now.  The reality is London snow, not beaches and mangoes!

Westminster in the February snow

Not cycling weather

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Mozambique in retrospect

  1. News from Urban TapestryKirsteen says:

    Yes, I know what you mean about too much choice I get confused at the supermarket each week! There’s a lot to be said for a ration box of basics – perhaps this is what Tesco’s is comming to. Even better is the organic veggie bag for those lucky enough to be on a supply route, no choice just what’s available that season which leaves it to our imagination as to how to cook it.

    As for colour, perhaps we should get out of our northern grey world, maybe we would be less gloomy. Anyway, Im glad your back and look forward to seeing you soon. Best wishes for your reimersion into the world of work at Amnesty. xKirsteen

  2. Frida says:

    thanks Pru, inspiring and interesting reflection, as always! and wishing you strength for this period of re-adaptation. love Frida

    • prumoz says:

      Hi Frida
      Thanks, I keep thinking I need to go back where things seem lighter even if tougher. So many ppl seem quite depressed here in the rich world, powerless and hopeless to help themselves. What’s so different in Africa? I guess it’s social issues here, more like material issues there. What’s new? 😦

  3. Carol says:

    Hi Pru,
    Loved your take on MOzambique, London and life.
    Carol in Vientiane

    • Marie-Jo says:

      Hello Pru
      Je te souhaite un bon retour à Londres où le climat t’a réservé une belle surprise !
      Mais rien d’étonnant puisque c’est l’hiver. C’est beau non ?
      Bon courage pour te remettre “dans le bain” ! bizzzzzzz mjo

      • prumoz says:

        Merci Marie Jo ca prend un peu de temps, surtout arriver en janvier avec le temps qu’il fait. J’espere que tout va bien chez toi. C’est incroyable comment le temps a file ces derniers 20 ans!! je t’embrasse

    • prumoz says:

      Thanks Carol Hope we can skype soon. I hope to see you in UK this year!! will you be coming? love P xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.