Sunday, February 6, 2011

A walk tour with Jane Flood and Walter Tembe


“This is LM radio”…those words used to come whispering out of my old valve radio way back in the early ‘70’s while I was growing up.


Now, 40 years later, my wife and I are walking the streets of Maputo with the inimitable Jane Flood and her colleague Walter Tembe.
Both of these people are intensely passionate about the artists and the architecture of Maputo and as a result their tours take tourists “behind the scenes” and into the streets and avenues that would not normally be found on a regular visit.


It is specifically the work of Pancho Guedes and his protégé, Valente Malangatana, (who died in January, 2011) that are of intense interest to both of them.

Almost every block has a building or a mural by one or both of these artists and Jane and Walter seem to know a story behind each one!

Like many big cities, the older building are being replaced by new modern edifices, often without any thought to preserving the history and culture of the city.





The stunning murals by both artists are looking very weather-beaten and will need to be restored in order to keep them for future generations of tourists and locals.(Not to mention the students of both art and architecture, like Walter, who would like to see these preserved.)




A tour with Jane is certainly an eye-opener to a past that was exciting and vibrant.


We left Jane to visit the new craft market has been established a block away from the Polana Serena Hotel. This venue has been established to bring all the local traders into one space and away from the many hotels and shops in the city.


Aside from perusing the plethora of stalls, we also had a most enjoyable vegetarian lunch at a traditional Mozambican restaurant adjacent to the market.


Our lunch, which was ordered for us by an English-speaking stallholder that Carolyn had befriended, consisted of 3 bean-based dishes.
Mucapata: puree of Soloco beans, rice and coconut milk
Feijao Nhemba: Cowpeas, bean sauce, with prawns and coconut milk
Nhamgana: Cowpea leaves done in peanut milk
Our very own “taste of Maputo” meal!


PLEASE SUPPORT THE LOCAL CRAFT MAKERS! When visiting Maputo buy from those who actually make the souvenir you want to purchase...why buy mass produced imported rubbish when you can get really good “one-off” pieces from the locals!
With this in mind we paid a visit to the Associação Núcleo de Arte, an important cultural and artists' centre in Maputo.It is the oldest collective of artists in Mozambique and many of their works have found their way into collections both locally and internationally.(The fact that all the prices are all in $’s was a good sign for the artists)



The beaches along this coast might not be what you would find in either Zanzibar or Mauritius but that does not stop the locals from utilizing the beach for a variety of activities.
From drumming circles to baptisms and even wedding take place on this stretch of coastline.
And not only one wedding at a time, oh no, multiple wedding parties can be found on the beach or in the water while the attending entourage shouts encouragement from the surf line.
I was told that the locals have two wedding ceremonies. The first is the “official” civil wedding that is then followed by the more relaxed and more religious beach ceremony.


Aside from the craft market, the Central Market is definitely worth a visit. Here you will find a veritable smorgasbord of stalls selling prawns, fish, cashew nuts (which seem to be on sale everywhere), vegetables and crafts.
It was here that I bought a wooden skeleton, which I was told to hang from my rear-view mirror… “If it rattles, it means that you are driving too fast and the sound reminds you of your mortality” said the stallholder who sold it to me.
Is that true, I don’t really know, but it is a good tale!   
There is a South African connection with a memorial garden dedicated to Louis Trichardt, an early explorer who regularly traveled to Maputo.

 We decided to take the passenger ferry to Catembe to have a look at the Maputo skyline from the opposite side of the estuary…and what a skyline it is! The urban sprawl was in stark contrast to Catembe and the people who live there.




When in Maputo, eat where the locals eat and we paid a visit to the Fish Market…



We made our choice of mud crab, prawns (again) and whole rock cod at the stallholders and then they are prepared on site and served piping hot at your table. The experience and the food are recommended.
Be prepared to be hassled by wandering traders while waiting for your meal, but they handled our rejection without becoming too insistent. I did buy a wood carving which was so reasonably priced that I did not even haggle.



There are multitudes of taxis available, but for something different try a “Tuk-tuk” for a more leisurely view of the city.

If you are a tourist that likes late nights (or early mornings) then Maputo is certainly the place for you!
The city reminds me of a mixture of Cuban architecture and the Mediterranean coastline where evenings only begin with dinner after nine and the clubs seem to do their best business after midnight.


The local railway station, known as the CFM (Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique) was designed and built in Paris in 1910 by Gustave Eiffel and shipped to Maputo and rebuilt on its current site.

On the roundabout in front of the station stands a monument dedicated to Mozambican soldiers who fought in World War One. The sculpture is of a woman who, according to legend, killed a cobra, which had been terrorizing local people.
The cobra died in a pot of boiling porridge, which the woman was carrying on her head.



The Natural History Museum is well worth a visit (free entrance on a Sunday) and boasts a set of Elephant foetuses that offer a timeline of the entire gestation period (22 months) of this African pachyderm. 
Given the amount of rebuilding currently been undertaken and the imminent arrival of International 5 star hotels, Maputo seems to be pulling itself up by the proverbial bootstraps and will soon regain its rightful place as a foremost tourist destination on this continent we call home.





1time airlines has recently started flying from O.R.T International Airport to Maputo return 5 times a week, which means that an International and affordable destination is less than an hour away.



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