Nacala is a rather quiet place on most mornings before 5:00, and amongst the wider world as well. We are nobody next to Tokyo or Paris, by far. However it may as well be my African New York.
By approximately 6:30, the town comes alive. Teeming with roosters, scrawny street dogs, Mozambican water-carriers, 4x4s, cranes, and villagers on their way to various points of irrigation and fishing it is crawling with excitement. My relative absence in the fashion of ink and digital press is not for lack of wanting – things have been busy here.
I took a week-long sabbatical to South Africa at the end of May to gather my bearings and in the meantime was offered a job in social responsibility. This is new and also, not so new as I was volunteering my time with health initiatives in the area when my research was becoming stale. The state of affairs is quickly going to become a source of panic and chaos as fodder for electronic epistles so this is a quick note to bring my readers up to speed and in the meantime, wrestle with some good tunes.
My entrance into the private sector will be tempered by educational and health campaigns that I can lead and manage so research can be put into practice. Cheers to new beginnings.
Among Giants – the backdrop of cranes that tower above me is not new anymore. (Can you spot me in the photo?) The job certainly will be though.
You shall be hearing from me soon. As I am now surrounded on many sides by Africans from Botswana, Malawai, South Africa and Mozambicans of course – snippets of new languages will be entering my lexicon. Today is straight from the mouths of the Afrikaaners I speak to often – since I am new at this it doesn’t apply to me but to most people I see every day in this teeming mini-metropolis. Hulle is moeg gewerk – They are fed up/tired of working.
Soon folks. Soon – in the meantime, I am breathing easy. Happy to begin again. Mozambique awaits.
Dude feminism is apparently a mantra. Who knew? We are constantly finding more fights to fight and this is no different –
I came across an article today that lambasted the anti-slavery campaigns that feature celebrities saying slogans like Real Men Don’t Buy Girls. This is not new. J. Timberlake and Sean Penn have been supporting campaigns such as these for a while now, but the argument itself fueled something in my sense of justice.
This wasn’t because the author thinks trafficking is okay. He knows it is not. It goes beyond mere description of how men worldwide are still an active part of abuse against the female. J.A. McCarroll seem to think the root of the problem is that the campaign language advised that the real men here simply re-instate the age old power framework that privileges the male and the ‘masculine mystique.’
After hearing this argument a few times I wonder if perhaps we are missing the point. Living in Mozambique has caused me to go back a few steps in my lines of thinking. Maybe there is space for reinventing language and old notions of the patriarchy but I think we need to begin with some basics. The actual process of change… it takes a while.
In many African countries, the men simply treat women as disposable objects – the average amount of children a man has numbers around five. The high end of this spectrum is around 12 children in this country. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they could afford to pay for food, clothes and medicine for these 12 kids. But they can’t.
The women take care of these kids alone. Of course I could discuss how this occurs – lack of education is just one problem. I would rather talk about how it just needs to be a part of a different fight. It is more important than the dude feminist fight.
McCarroll talks about how the Real Men Don’t Buy Girlsmarketing justifies a masculine mystique, despite it being “a kinder, gentler version. By flattering men’s strength and asking them to use it to protect women, we once again place men in the driver’s seat of culture.” Well, McCarroll, is it possible that we may want to begin with stopping a cycle of violence before we go on to newer issues? It isn’t over until it is over.
I think it is worth showing that men still run the African world. While some nations have made some serious progress for women, such as Ghana and South Africa, there are many who are still struggling with literacy, job creation, sustainability, and equal opportunity.
In the same vein, I would like to ask a new question about the so-called privileged world where we have the time to talk about such complex issues. Is it really men who reinstate old notions of women and patriarchal dominance? I think we have enough on our hands when it comes to how women portray women. Take a look at the TIME cover.
In the same week Lupita Nyong’o graces People as the most beautiful in the world, a pop star is given to us on a silver platter as the most influential. While it is lovely that two black women are on the front covers of important American media magazines, I wonder if what we deem as influential is more about “showing off.”
Who runs the Western world? According to major media reports, it may be Beyoncé . There is something very wrong about this, as National Public Radio subtly suggests, in their treatment of Beyoncé and simultaneous assertion of the importance of Nyong’o. Nyong’o is graceful, intelligent and she looks beyond looks. Knowles? I’m not so sure if she is much more than a (very) good looking face.
I champion the idea that women can begin to assert their equality but can we do so without shaking our short miniskirt into a zoomed-in lens and writing songs about how ‘Pretty hurts’ ? The idea of the female body as beautiful (and generally worth equal to the same) is as old as the notion of cavemen throwing them over shoulders – these are the ideas that continue to suppress progression for both sexes. I know that pop stars have their own ways of showing so-called leadership but …seems lacking.
The video depicts a load of anorexic ladies running in a global pageant but the only thing that comes close to resolving this issue of the pressures of beauty is in the statement “My aspiration in life would be… to be happy.” Although somehow she doesn’t seem quite to believe herself as her fake smile radiates the question.
Am I happy?
If her aspiration in life is to be happy and ‘pretty’ isn’t enough then what is? Her magazine cover has drawn a lot of criticism because of its full-length bikini shot in a sheer not-so-cover up. If she wants to tell us women are independent and strong, and they are beyond ‘pretty’ why does it seem like the messages are so mixed up?
If the driver’s seat of the world could be run by a woman, shouldn’t we be thinking about what we are dealing with, mind and soul rather than how she looks while she’s waving from the front seat?
The scent of coffee drifts across my nose from the remnants of the last 30-minute café siesta; it reminds me of how the morning sweeps across us so quickly. What seem just a few minutes are actually three hours and two cups of coffee later. Legs crossed in lotus position at my desk, I am the picture of anti-professionalism, but then again the door is closed.
Just over two years ago, I stepped onto the great continent that is Africa for the first time. As I relish what it felt to step onto that soil and smell the dusty air, I am overcome with peace. The fragrance of clean earth and salt in the wind prickled against your skin when you stepped into Madagascar. What is fast everywhere else was slow and tranquil. It was good.
Within the usual cogs of life’s blood and the ticking time bomb that is industry here. Life here in Mozambique is dangerous and charming all at once – a manifestation of the typical stereotypes and surprises combined with foreign investment and strange expatriates. Getting caught inside the insanity is part of the fun. There is more to African states outside of what I see here.
That is what Madagascar was to me – it was just more.
My recent work with a local health and agriculture NGO is opening my eyes to the pitfalls of organizing African projects. It is possible for things to go well – but often one must expect they will go wrong. Yesterday’s meeting happened over an hour after it was planned and the main contact performed a no-show (there are still no messages on my cell phone from this person). Frustrating yes, but I learn. May be motivated to do more in fact, from my experience.
My partner-in-crime, D, lived in Madagascar twice in his life, for approximately 3 years. The way he tells it, it is the dream. He isn’t far off. You may have some of the usual irritations like the inconvenience of the power shutting down and lack of public transport, but this is tempered by the local restaurants which don’t serve food with European pricetags, the thriving expatriate community, and the wonders of the surf.
Tea Time in Fort Dauphin
The latter is one of the most important. Mozambique shares some of this pride in its sand and sea, but there are few waves and seemingly fewer expatriates in this part of town. On Sunday, a short church service was followed by work (it doesn’t stop even for holidays here sadly) but the office was left early to share a celebration in the middle of Nacala-a-Velha where we laughed about the days gone by while the rain drizzled off the rooftop of a Portuguese restaurant, chilled wine in hand.
It is easy to take much here for granted. In fact, some aspects of this sub – Saharan region (if one considers Mozambique part of this cluster) is 100 percent convenience – laundry washed, full dinners cooked, and water bottles delivered to your door with a can of mosquito repellent. Perhaps an ideal living standard doesn’t include that last one but it is fairly necessary if you want to enjoy the gorgeous twilight as the sun descends on the sleepy villages.
Hobbies here include scuba, snorkel and laughter by the ocean, of course. One of the favourite spots in Nacala Porto is along the shore where I capture scenes of children playing next to groups of boys casting their fishing nets. Events and people here are shaped by moments much simpler than mine and they are happy.
Running through the bright greens of the bush
In St. Luce, Madagascar the pictures were the same – humbled lives driving boats around corners, fishing along streams and carrying all their belongings across roads and through bushes.
Sunburnt and Surfin’ Africa
So, as I reminisce about the Isle that is Madagascar from the wonderful day I was first brought to Africa, I cannot help but wonder:
How can my life ever be the same after this? Some might say that life is difficult here but how else could I really appreciate when everything falls into place perfectly? No – nothing goes to plan here but then, life goes. Life adapts. You adapt. I do too.
Truly I am dealing with the harsh realities of racism, abject poverty, polychromatic visions of time (which means some don’t even really believe in time as much of anything except a number to point to) and a lack of understanding about littering and toilet usage but that’s not important, really! It is a small price to pay when I can see so much more that is humble and beautiful.
Even then, when I do go home, when I speak to my family on the phone, when I eat brie, goat’s cheese and fresh fruit, well… it doesn’t get much better than that. It is so rare these days.
What is rare is special.
As I said, how can I see what perfection is? How can I appreciate it until I first go through the challenges of adjusting to an existence rife with challenges? I think we were brought on this Earth to go through trials in order to see the good. La vie belle would lack that je-ne-sais-quoi that is impossible to deny.
First in Fort Dauphin, I was introduced to a world so unlike my own and I fell in love with the people, the place and the mystery of Africa. Now, Nacala. It is not a coincidence that a certain fellow who first showed me the unusual complexity of Madagascar is the one who also gives me so much joy now. I am so thankful for day number one with this guy and certainly for today.