Being back in Mozambique for the first time since 2010 provides an interesting mixture of recognition, nostalgia and learning about the many changes the country has gone through in the last 9 years. I am fortunate to be here for one month for a pilot study on maritime museums and how these institutions can increase their role and relevance for their maritime communities. This collaborative project with Daniel Inoque of the Instituto Superior de Artes e Cultura has led us to research the Museu das Pescas in Maputo and the Museu da Marinha on Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique). The first museum was opened in 2014 and shows the traditional fishing culture of the Mozambican coast in a modern building while the naval museum has been open since 1969 and forms part of a museum complex with the Palacio de São Paulo and the Museum of Sacred Art, located in a monumental building.
Apart from the challenge of speaking Portuguese the entire day, which I love but at times requires the patience of my colleagues, there are so many other aspects of the research that are not strictly speaking ‘research activities’ but nonetheless are necessary to make the research happen. While I was aware of this from my own PhD research in Kenya and Uganda, I still underestimated the time we are spending in meetings, making phone calls and negotiating administrative and infrastructural issues. As an early career researcher this is a useful lesson to be reminded of and hopefully the connections made and network built over these few weeks will be the foundations of future research in Mozambique on maritime cultural heritage.
The research so far, and the meetings with the fishing community of Costa do Sol in Maputo in particular, has been rewarding and insightful. The Conselho Comunitário de Pesca (CCP) or the Community Council of Fisheries is an active organisation at Costa do Sol, a neighbourhood known as Bairro dos Pescadores, where, unsurprisingly, the majority of people lives from artisanal (or small-scale) fishing. The president and secretary of the CCP helped us to invite different people to talk to about their perspective on fishing culture, their lives and current issues and challenges in their community and we conducted a number of interviews, returning another day for a group meeting. The different people we spoke to were keen to get across the importance of knowledge about different types of fish and preservation of the maritime ecosystem in Maputo Bay. While they showed pride in the boats they built, owned and maintained, the increase in the number of fishermen and the decrease of the average daily catch led our participants to conclude that they wanted a better life for their children outside of the fishing industry. They generally found that many Mozambicans and visitors were unaware of the hardships of fishing life.
In the Baixa of Maputo the Museu das Pescas is still developing its vision and direction for the future. The current indoor and outdoor exhibitions focus mainly on the material culture of the artisanal fishing industry but museum staff expressed plans to broaden its remit to include more of Mozambique’s diverse maritime heritage. We discussed how such an expansion could include the ideas of fishing communities, could be used to give visibility to the challenges of the fishing communities along the Mozambican coast and allow them to feel pride and ownership of their knowledge and skills.
The research continues this week in Mozambique Island, a UNESCO world heritage site in the north of Mozambique where centuries of global trade, occupation, resistance and renewal have led to a unique architectural mixture, with many different aspects of maritime cultural heritage to be considered. More on that in the next blog! Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome, just email me on Rosalie.Hans@nottingham.ac.uk!