Friday, November 13, 2009

Two days ago, my class met on campus for our first seminar since returning from Mozambique. We all had giant smiles on our faces. Although we, at times, got frustrated and annoyed with each other during the trip (C’mon…Is it possible not to after spending 14 consecutive days together?), upon returning, there was definitely a different element of understanding among us. We all experienced a closeness classmates and faculty members in regular school settings just do not get. Our initial discussion was based on the best parts of the trip and areas that could use improvement. As we continued to talk, however, the discussion turned toward an even more meaningful reflection as we tried thinking of ways to present our experience to individuals outside of our class at Wayne State and to the greater Detroit community. As we discovered, this was a pretty difficult task. How does one (actually, how do more than a dozen people) capture and present such an experience to accurately and fully portray what we learned and saw? Personally, since returning from Mozambique, not a day has gone by without individual reflections of all I observed. In fact, I think it’d be impossible for anyone who went not to think – almost on a constant basis – about the experience and ponder what to do with the information gathered.

So, the task for this week is to do just that…begin analyzing what we studied in Mozambique. The undertaking is to reflect on the group project based on Culture & Religion and relate it to an overall perspective of the theme of democracy in Mozambique.

My group had the opportunity to meet with several influential people within cultural and religious groups. These included, among others, an evangelical pastor; Nazareth, a traditional healer; Dr. Cabula, another traditional healer; Zionist church members; Dinis Matsolo, Reverend of the Methodist Church; Bishop Sengulane of the Anglican Church. Each individual, unsurprisingly, contributed different perspectives on religion, culture and democracy. Overall themes, however, were apparent. It appeared the formal, institutional religions did not officially recognize or support any particular party, although they all claimed to encourage electoral participation and voting. As Bishop Sengulane put it, “Good Anglicans must be good citizens, and good citizens must vote.” The evangelical pastor, in fact, said he routinely encourages political participation in his messages to his congregation each week.

When visiting those who exercise traditional practices, however, support undoubtedly leaned toward the ruling party. Traditional healer, Dr. Capula, for example, recalled tragic memories from the civil war and how he still relates horrific events to the opposition party. When speaking with Zionist church members who performed spiritual and cleansing rituals, each individual’s support for Frelimo was also clear. The group members proudly held up their ink-covered fingers to display the importance of voting for the ruling party, which served as their savior during colonization. Below are images from our experience with these members:

Members also felt the current government was providing enough support, as they were affiliated with the Council of Churches run through it. Regardless of all the different beliefs we heard, each individual said he or she prays for spiritual guidance in who to support and vote for, displaying that religion and politics are, indeed, intertwined.
"A picture is worth a thousand words."

As I search for ways to capture my recent experience in Africa, this adage most accurately describes what I feel will best represent what I saw, learned, and most vividly remember.

October 22, 2009 - Johannesburg, South Africa: Before embarking on our journey to Mozambique, the group got a taste of South Africa. We took a tour with a memorable guide, who showed us parts of the City, including its downtown, SOWETO (South Western Townships), apartheid museum, one of Nelson Mandela’s homes, the Hector Peterson memorial, and new city developments, such as the 2010 World Cup stadium. This was clearly an ambitious agenda for a single day, one that opened my eyes to a completely different world.

October 23, 2009 – Maputo, Mozambique: The following day, Dr. Reid and Michael greeted us in style. The group had an amazing seafood lunch at Costa Do Sol, overlooking Maputo’s beautiful coast. But, perhaps, what was most exciting was the drive itself from the airport to the restaurant. Energy was running high on our bus, as we all immediately recognized how much culture and character Maputo has.

After lunch, we immediately hit the ground running. First thing on the agenda? Meeting former Mozambican president, Joaquim Chissano. Although this is something we all knew would happen, I don’t think we all really understood how much of a unique, amazing, inspiring opportunity this was until the moment he entered the conference room. Chissano gave us a background on Mozambique and its long history as well as an explanation of the progress the country has made. He patiently answered our questions ranging from topics such as democracy to health care to religion to education.

October 24, 2009: Next on the group’s agenda was observing the atmosphere and events taking place in the City, as Election Day was nearing quickly. We visited and interviewed the head of one of a total of seven Frelimo campaign headquarters. Outside, a group of children demonstrated who they wanted to win the election, as they repeatedly sung a memorable tune – “Vota, Vota Guebuza” – and lavished in the camera attention they were getting from our film crew.

October 25, 2009: Sunday was the last day for political parties to host campaign activities in Mozambique. The last two days leading up to the election were meant to give Mozambicans an opportunity to peacefully and clearly reflect on the important decision to be made on Election Day. We visited numerous political rallies, including ones for Frelimo and the newly-formed party, the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM). The one shown here is for Frelimo, where there was a highly energetic and loud crowd of hundreds of party supporters who danced, ate and celebrated what they felt confident would happen soon.

October 26, 2009: Another busy day for our group. First on the agenda was a meeting with the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, which served as a great resource of information and contacts we had the opportunity to make later in our trip. The group also had a meeting with the Community Economic Development (CED) organization, which explained the electoral and counting processes it is heavily involved in. Pictured here is an interview we had with MDM party campaigners, who were all former Renamo party members. We learned more about MDM’s vision for the future, one filled with change, hope and inspiring promises. Professor Krause is showing off his boom mic. skills, as we all simultaneously learned more about the filmmaking process.

October 27, 2009: This day was, undoubtedly, one of the most memorable highlights of my trip. My group traveled further into the countryside to explore traditional religion and healing. On our way, we were fortunate enough to spot Zionist church members performing cleansing rituals on the beach, which members do daily. They invited us to come to their church mass later that week.

As my group ventured further out, we visited two traditional healers, one of whom is shown here – Dr. Capula. He explained the different medicines used to heal people of certain illnesses, to help them find employment as well as to assist single individuals to find partners. According to Dr. Capula, the success rate of these medicines and his performance is 100%. This experience was life changing for me, as I realized such a unique opportunity like this may only come along once in a lifetime.

Here, Dr. Capula poses with my group. He said he would have offered us a goat if he had had more advanced notice of our arrival, which we all thankfully and graciously declined :)

October 28, 2009: This is the day we had all been waiting for: ELECTION DAY! Small groups ventured out to interview prospective voters, many of whom were willing to share their views on each of the political parties. Several people seemed to support MDM, as they appreciated their vision constituting change. Pictured here is one secondary school where voting took place. We even received the opportunity to go inside the polling station and observe the voting process – again, a once in a lifetime, extremely eye-opening opportunity.

Here, the group watches news coverage on the election and observes updates on each party’s progress.

October 29, 2009: Following the elections, the group was able to venture the furthest it had been outside of Maputo. We drove about 3 hours into Gaza Province and visited the town President Chissano had grown up in. Pictured here are children anxiously awaiting our gifts just outside of his former church.

Gaza was yet another eye-opening experience, as I saw Mozambique’s beautiful, vast landscapes with scattered homes built of wood and straw like the one shown here. I had never seen this type of living before. It seems that valuable day trip made us all question what we truly need in life and how grateful we should be for what we have at home.

October 30, 2009: This day, we visited the Zionist church members once again, who displayed rituals they perform for a variety of occasions, such as praying for the sick before they go to the hospital and praying for women during their pregnancies. The rhythm, song and dances we heard and saw were extremely powerful and moving.

October 31, 2009: A free day spent in Kruger National Park.

November 1, 2009: A day get-away to Beline beach.
November 2, 2009: This day was spent finishing up individual projects. I had the opportunity to visit Maputo’s Ministry of Planning and Development, Investment and Promotion Center, Chamber of Commerce, and also got to meet an economics officer from the U.S. Embassy. Sadly, this was also time to say good-bye. The group developed great relationships with our translators and drivers, who played such major roles in making our Mozambican experience so unique.
These pictures and stories only represent a sampling of what I saw, learned, and remember. As one can see, they really are worth a thousand (and more) words.