Two women walk in front of a mural with traditional images depicting the culture and history of the Mafalala district of Maputo on April 21, 2022.

  • Three years ago, a group of students and professionals opened a museum in the most famous area of ​​Maputo to preserve their culture.
  • The rough district of Mafalala has spawned the counties of two Mozambican presidents, Zamora Mashel and Joaquim Chisan, as well as the legendary footballer.
  • Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Turn the corner in the coastal capital of Mozambique, Maputo, and the horizon will disappear. Colonial Portuguese buildings and mid-century Art Nouveau houses give way to a maze of cut-out alleys filled with huts with tin roofs.

This is Mafalala, the most famous area of ​​Maputo – a place listed in directories as the cradle of Mozambican culture after independence.

But because it is a harsh area in one of the world’s poorest countries, residents are struggling to benefit from the heritage of their community.

Three years ago, a group of students and professionals decided to change this by opening a museum to preserve the history and culture of the area.

Ivan Larangeira, director of the Mafalala Museum, said:

We usually say that Mafalala is the capital of Maputo.

“It’s the heart and soul of the city.”

The mustard-yellow building stands out among a sea of ​​tin roofs.

Most young people in Mafalala survive day by day, hoping for informal work, unable to make full use of their heritage and creativity.

However, the district has released two Mozambican presidents, Zamora Machel and Joaquim Chisano, legendary footballer Eusebio da Silva Ferreira and poet Jose Craveyrinha.

Since the 19th century, Mafalala has attracted workers from rural Mozambique who are attracted by cheap rent and short trips to the city center.

30 languages ​​of Mozambique are spoken here, the district is a center of cultural diversity.

Pubs face mosques and evangelical churches, between walls of concrete blocks covered with colorful frescoes.

Tourists can go hiking and try local cuisine, but they are rare.

Rich heritage

“There’s something special about Mafalala, and that’s why it’s a historic place,” Larangeira said, next to black-and-white photos of some of the country’s greatest former leaders on the back wall.

“Mafalala is a neighborhood that is actually a living museum.”

On the dusty streets, signs list some local attractions. Machel’s house. Homeland of Eusebius. And a tribute to the poetry of Craveirinha, which captured the spirit of this place.

But many houses of famous figures of the district have collapsed, or are now inhabited by new residents.

It was in the alleys of Mafalala that the revolutionary mood against the Portuguese colonizers rose and was nurtured, leading to the decade-long war that paved the way for independence in 1975.

Since then, revolutionaries have led the country, but the liberation euphoria has died down.

Now young barefoot players are beating swords on the sand in front of the imposing graffiti of Eusebio.

Returning to the museum, Larangeira, who has worked for the past 15 years to preserve the history of the area, explains the exhibits.

A young woman examines several photos inside

A young woman examines several photographs at the Mafalala Museum in the Mafalala district of Maputo on April 29, 2022.

One is a handmade guitar made from a tin box, with strings made from the spokes of a motorcycle. It was previously used by performers of the popular national dance genre “Marabenta”.

There are traditional costumes as well as rags of soccer ball, like the one used by Eusebio, who catapulted the Portuguese team to world fame in the 1960s.

But it is not only the collections that are on display that are important here. The museum is also a cultural and educational center for the youth of the district.

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Music is a big part of the culture of the district.

“Mafalala was the birthplace of musical creativity,” said rapper Danilo Malele, known by the stage name “Cloro”. He wrote a song about the area called “The Myth Show”.

Poverty hinders the musical potential of the district, he said. Musicians “don’t worry about music” and “start and then leave because they have other priorities”.

Jamal Age agrees. The 28-year-old boasts that he is the best dancer in Mafalala, at least when it comes to break dancing. But he says there is no future.

Age said:

We love our culture, be it dancing, singing, music. But the problem is that we don’t have enough money to fund these arts.

When he’s not dancing and recording his performances on city rooftops, he makes sofas in a workshop on the street.

Now the gentrification is approaching, which threatens to displace residents on the outskirts of the city.

Just a few blocks away are some of Mafalala’s most luxurious villas and trendiest terraces – part of a grand renovation of the old city center where emigrants and a wealthy elite now live.

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