The WITH Coastal Style project, supported by the Rising from the Depths (RftD) Network is researching the role of material heritage amongst women in coastal Katembe district, across the bay from the Mozambican capital city, Maputo. The project focuses on understanding and highlighting the complex relationship between tradition and change in the lives of women in Katembe through the capulana, a cloth worn by women throughout Mozambique. Through discussion about capulana, the project provides a forum for women to discuss wider issues relating to their lives at a time of major infrastructural development around Maputo.
In March 2020 flights were booked, visa applications processed, accommodation arranged. The plan was for the National Museums Scotland (NMS) team (Sarah Worden and John Giblin) to join the team in Maputo (Co-Investigator Valda Marcos, Post Graduate Researchers Emilia Machaieie and Claudio Mondlate, and photographer Yassmin Fortes) for the installation of a temporary exhibition at the Fortress Museum in Maputo, a milestone in the delivery of the project. Just days away from travel the pandemic hit our project plans and everything was put on hold. Challenging as this was, we are delighted to report that on 28th May 2021, over thirteen months later than originally planned the exhibition opened. Sadly the NMS team were still unable to travel to be part of the installation and opening event. As curator of the host venue, Co-Investigator Moises Timba co-ordinated the content, installation and opening of the exhibition with the rest of the Mozambican team.
The exhibition takes as its focus a group of women from Katembe, a coastal fishing community on the South Western side of Maputo Bay who participated in the project research. Proposed urbanization of the Katembe area following the construction of the Maputo-Katembe Bridge in 2019 is likely to impact on the material practices and living traditions of the residents of the small fishing communities in the area. Life by and on the sea, catching, selling and eating fish, is a source of community solidarity that spans generations in Katembe. Through a series of powerful photographs taken among the mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends of Katembe the visitor is introduced to the project, the women, their coastal environment and the role of the cotton printed capulana in their lives as an expression of identity and cultural heritage.
The bi-lingual text panels (Portuguese and English) outlining the research emphasise the collaborative nature of this international project. A personal quote from one of the research participants relating to the significance of the capulana introduces each section panel.
‘I use capulana because I am a Mozambican woman!’
Dona Zena, 22 years, Mahlampfane, Katembe, November 2019
‘Every woman always has to wear a capulana … capulana can be useful in various situations … be it menstruation, pregnancy, carry a baby, go to the market, go to the hospital, in case of accident … ‘
Dona Cristina, 54 years, Guachene, Katembe, November 2019
Collected during the research interviews, these responses are incisive and thought-provoking and, with the images, have been selected to generate discussion and debate concerning the role of material heritage in connecting communities.
Covid restrictions limited the number of invited guests at the opening event, but a range of institutions were represented, including: Eduardo Mondlane University, Director of Culture, Faculty of Art and Social Sciences, CECOMA (Communication centre of UEM), Ministry of Culture and Tourism (National Director of Heritage), UNESCO, Fisheries Museum (Project partner), and ISARC (Higher Institute of Art & Culture, Mozambique). Among the other guests were university assistants and artists based in Maputo. A welcome speech, including a message from Sarah Worden (NMS), was delivered by RftD Network Co-ordinator for Mozambique, Solange Macamo, Lecturer of Archaeology and Heritage Management in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology (UEM).
Following the opening speeches refreshments were served and a lively performance by Sekerekane, a local female dance group. The sound for the event was organized by Julio, a DJ from the School of Communication and Art (ECA) /UEM).
A group of women from the project research group also attended the opening, with transport from Katembe organised by the Fisheries Museum. Project team members Emilia and Claudio were on hand to guide the group through the exhibition in which the women are the ‘stars’, and to record their re-actions to the displays to include in the research. Wearing their matching capulana, the design selected by the group in November 2019, as a thank-you gift to the women for their participation in the project, their presence made a powerful visual statement of the role of the capulana in group identity.
Members of the team have participated in a number of broadcasting events to talk about the project and the exhibition including national Radio station SFM and CECOMA, a centre of communication of UEM who also interviewed others in the project team. Moises Timba also made an appearance on the popular TVM Bom Dia Mocambique programme to talk about the exhibition. Media interest has also included interviews with Yassmin by Mazanga for Radio Mozambique and for Flash radio programme.
We look forward to further project outcomes including the preparation and opening of an itinerant, touring, exhibition in Katembe where the research took place organised by the Fisheries Museum in Maputo, taking the project in a different format to schools and local communities later in the year. You can see more details of the project in the link Rising from the Depths » Women’s Identity, Textiles and Heritage: Coastal Style in Mozambique (WITH Coastal Style)