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Culture & People


Mozambican culture have survived decades of colonialism which had a deep effect on the Mozambican people. There is a national performing arts company called the Nambu Productions as well as a national dance company, both of which perform contemporary productions based on traditional forms. The FRELIMO Government also established a National Institute of Culture that collects and preserves traditional music, crafts, stories and myths.

Mozambique's traditional medicine is an important segment of their culture. The traditional healers known as curandeiros are highly in demand.


Literary production has been limited because of poverty and a low literacy rate. There is a strong oral tradition of storytelling, and many of the country's contemporary writers draw on that tradition. Literary writing has historically been tied to resistance to Portuguese colonialism and for this reason was largely censored before independence. Writers such as Luis Bernardo Honwana were imprisoned for their work. Honwana is also a documentary film-maker but is best known for the book We Killed Mangy-Dog, which combines personal and cultural autobiography. Virtually all the poets and writers use the colonial Portuguese language as their medium.

The poet Jose Craveirinha sees Portuguese, particularly with the infusion of local African words, as an important part of the nation's cultural heritage and is a proponent of retaining it as the national language. Because of a lack of education and other disadvantages, women have been under-represented in the literary realm. One exception is Noemia De Sousa, who is known as the mother of Mozambican writers. When she began writing in the 1950s and 1960s, she was the only mestiça writing in Portuguese in Africa. She takes on the subject of African women and their work and has become a voice for the women of her country.

Visual Arts

Mozambique is known for the traditional sculpture and wood carving produced by the Makonde people in the north. Using hardwoods (primarily mahogany, ebony, and ironwood), the Makonde fashion masks and sculptures known as "family trees," large depictions of various figures that tell stories of generations. Mozambique also has produced several well known contemporary artists, including Malangatana Goenha Valente, whose large canvases depict conflict between colonial culture and native culture. Two contemporary sculptors are Nkatunga and Chissano.

Performing Arts

The country has a long musical tradition. Song serves several purposes, including religious expression, the relating of current events, and making fun of neighbours. It is customary for musicians to make their own instruments. Drums have wooden bases covered with stretched animal skins. Wind instruments known as lupembe, used by the Makonde tribe, are made from animal horns, wood, or gourds. The marimba, a kind of xylophone that has been adopted in Western music, originated in Mozambique, where it is popular with the Chopi in the south. Chopi musicians also use the mbira, strips of metal attached to a hollow box and plucked with the fingers. The musical style is similar to West Indian calypso and reggae. A contemporary form of music called marrabenta has developed in the cities and draws on traditional complex rhythms.

There are elaborate, well-developed traditions of dance throughout the country. Dances often have religious significance. The Chopi perform a hunting dance in which they dress in lion skins and monkey tails, carry spears and swords, and act out battles. Makua men in the north dance on two-foot-tall stilts, hopping around the village for hours, bedecked in colourful outfits and masks. On Moçambique Island, a form of dance practised by women combines complex steps and rope jumping.

Storytelling is another traditional art form. The national culture is rich in tales, proverbs, myths, and jokes that have been passed down from generation to generation.





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