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Title: Indian Ocean and the exchange of cultures: the case of Mozambique Island
Authors: Donas Botto, Margarida
Salema, Sofia
Issue Date: Jan-2015
Abstract: Portuguese settlement in Mozambique first took place in the early years of 16th century, after Vasco da Gama arrived to the Island of Mozambique in 1498. The Island was already inhabited, and an important trading point of the oriental coast of Africa, cradle of the rich Swahili Culture. Portuguese traders and arabian-swahili population struggled for years for the commercial domain of the island and the coast. In order to assure the domain of the Oriental Coast of Africa, the vice-King of India D. Francisco de Almeida is ordered to build the three fortresses of Sofala, Quiloa and Melinde. Thus protected, and also strengthened by its own complex defensive system, the island of Mozambique flourishes; the small village grows and, in 1818, becomes a town and also the capital of Mozambique until 1898. As a town and capital by its own right, the island of Mozambique still remains, in present times, as a model of the intersection of several cultures, where the Portuguese pattern prevails - in urban planning, in different architectonic models in religious, military and civil buildings, in decoration and building techniques - always with a strong influence of other cultures. The result is an eclectic architecture from 1500 to 19th century, showing undeniable European pattern, with the influence of Swahili and Indian models. The island is quite small – circa three 3 kilometers length for 400 meters wide – and is densely populated: in 1997 the census revealed a population of about 15 000 people, but it is believed to have no less than 18 000. It is connected to the continent by a 3 km bridge built in the 1960’s by the Portuguese. Due to this demographic outburst, the island has several issues: it has no room for agriculture, its natural resources are scarce, and the systems of basic sanitation, power and drinking water supply to the population are insufficient. Yet, as in most Mozambican settlements, traditional ways of life still endure, and the rich and diverse culture of the Island – result of the intersection of several influences – can be seen in numerous aspects of its everyday life. Tufo, the island’s traditional dance, is still practiced in religious celebrations and other events; women use “mussiro” – a white paste made from the stalk of a tree, used to smoothen and soften the skin – and traditional fishing is one of the most lasting ways to provide families livelihood: “dhows” – the beautiful lateen-rigged sailing vessels used in all east coast of Africa – are common in the shores of Muipití (Mozambique Island’s native designation). In architecture, the division between the “stone built town”, and "Macuti town" - the native house built with wattle and daub ("pau-a-pique") and roofs covered with palm leaves show two different realities and construction methods, with a variety of hybrid solutions in both situations. The fusion between a western culture transferred to the middle of Indian ocean and the local Swahili and native tradition, together with a wide combination of influences resulting from the strategic position of Mozambique within the route to India give Muipití an unique atmosphere and character, not to be found alone in its architecture and material remains but also in its customs, traditions and way of living.
Type: lecture
Appears in Collections:ARQ - Comunicações - Em Congressos Científicos Internacionais
CHAIA - Comunicações - Em Congressos Científicos Internacionais

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