ILHA DE MOÇAMBIQUE: THINKING OCEANICALLY / PENSANDO A PARTIR DO OCEANO


From 12 to 14 June 2019 Oceanic Humanities for the Global South and partners, Maputo-based Kaleidoscopio hosted the workshop ‘Ilha de Moçambique: Thinking Oceanically / Pensando a Partir do Oceano.’ Based on Ilha de Moçambique in the northern province of Nampula, participants who spanned art history, literary and cultural studies and archeology had an opportunity to engage the island as site to think oceanically from. While setting broader questions of the global and oceanic South in circulation the workshop concerned with comparative conversations between different islands and oceans, between the sea and the land, between material culture and new materialisms. The workshop asked how the Oceanic Humanities for the Global South project could understand our location differently in relation to new ways of thinking oceanically across the South, and how can we convene a globally-oriented set of questions around a rich engagement with the local? The papers brought wider questions pertaining to the oceanic humanities into conversation with Ilha de Moçambique and its specialist researchers. Participants working directly on Ilha and Mozambique had the opportunity to situate that work in a global context through comparative links with other island or oceanic contexts, including the Caribbean, India and South Africa; participants coming from those places were encouraged to make links between their research and this small global island.

On Thursday 13th Oceanic Humanities masters student, Anézia Asse gave a PechaKucha style presentation on her research on critical readings of maritime archeology on the coast of Ilha de Mozambique. Fulbright Scholar Diogo Viegas de Oliveira presented ‘Excavations on the Northern Coast of Mozambique: Lingering Questions Surrounding Swahili traders and the Sea’ which reflected on oceanic thinking in relation to an archeological site, a stone structure identified in a July 2018 survey, at Cabaceira Pequana in the north of Mozambique Island. His key question was: why did the Swahili’s shift toward the ocean: was it an intensification of trade, the influence of Islam, the development of new fishing and maritime technologies? He was followed by Oceanic Humanities researcher Charne Lavery who presented ‘Writing Southern Islands and Slave Shipwrecks’, thinking through the São José Paquete d’Africa slave ship from Mozambique Island that was wrecked just off the coast of Cape Town on its way to the slave markets in Brazil in 1794. Lavery read ‘No Return’, a textual representation of the slave wreck which included a commissioned poem by Cape Town poet Diana Ferrus, alongside the collection ‘Imprendehora’ by Yvette Christiansë in order to explore southern connections and flows. Phindi Mnyaka, Oceanic Humanities researcher and University of the Western Cape history lecturer, presented ‘Ship story’, an experimental biography of a ship named Lady Kennaway. Mnyaka’s poem creatively gestured to the ambiguities that can be opened up in the study of colonialism by way of oceanic thinking.


Archeologist Ricardo Teixeira Duarte, professor at the Eduardo Mondlane University, who is active on Mozambique Island presented an extensive archeological overview: ‘Mozambique Island: An Indian Ocean Harbour Through the Centuries’. His historical presentation was followed by Canadian marine biologist Nakia Cullain. Her paper, ‘Assessing the Marine Biodiversity of Zavora, Mozambique: Evidence of a Critical Site and the Urgent Need for Protection’ offered a reflection on the research of Zavora Marine Lab (Imanja Research and Marine Conservation) which focuses on manta rays, humpback whales, nudibranchs and reef colonization through investigations of the marine life and coastal ecosystems of Zavora Bay. Jonathan Cane, postdoctoral fellow in Oceanic Humanities presented ‘Concrete, Palms and the Search for Third Materials’. His paper was a proposal for further research that intends to use oceanic thinking as a way to breakdown the established urban binaries on the island that sets the ‘informal’ Macuti Town in opposition to the ‘formal’ Stone Town.

Saarah Jappie, lecturer of history at University of Witwatersrand presented ‘Jagged Edges and Submerged Stories: Ilha de Moçambique and South Sulawesi in Parallel’. Rufus Maculuve, co-founder of Kaleidoscopio and lecturer at the Instituto Superior de Artes e Cultura presented ‘Soundscapes of Omuhipiti’. His proposed research was focussed on the Indian Ocean’s effect on sound signatures generated by humans, through oceanic mobility of people, music and musical instruments. Recording soundscapes on Ilha — or Omuhipiti, an older ‘native’ name for the island — Maculuve suggested one has the feeling of being surrounded by water, which her argued plays a major role on the fluidity of the sounds, depending on location, time of the day or tide, different sounds can be heard. Kaleidoscopio colleagues, Décio Muianga and Euclides Gonçalves presented ‘Northern Mozambique: Pottery and Coastal Dynamics in the Indian Ocean’.

Following the seminar sessions the participants were guided on a tour of the Macuti Town with local guides and then viewed a Sufi Maulidi performance arranged by Rufus Maculuve.



On Friday 14th Oceanic Humanities partner Rimli Bhattacharya presented ‘Pressure. In the Hold’. Through a discussion of a scene from Kumar Shahani’s film ’Bamboo Flute’ Bhattacharya asked what happens when speech is no longer possible but consciousness is acute. Ilha-based archeologist Crimildo Chambe presented ‘Importância de Arqueologia de Salvaguarda na Ilha de Moçambique’. Anézia Asse presented work from her research which seeks to engage literary studies with her experience as a maritime archeologist working on Ilha de Moçambique. Her paper, ‘Ilha de Moçambique and Mia Couto’s O Outro pé da Sereia’ discussed the biography of the wrecked Portuguese ship Nossa Senhora da Ajuda.

Mona Webber, Oceanic Humanities partner, professor of Marine Biology and James S. Moss Solomon Snr. Chair in Environmental Management at the University of the West Indies presented ‘Ocean Connectivity: Sargassum, the New Invader from the Sea’. Her discussion of connectivity and invasions from the ocean in the context of the Caribbean linked human and marine biology, particularly Lionfish and Sargassum seaweed invasions of the Caribbean. Webber explained that recent ‘Sargassum episodes’ bring with them plastics, they disrupt tourism and reek ecological havoc and ned to be read within larger global circuit of connectivity and invasion. Justine Wintjes from the KwaZulu-Natal Museum used the opportunity to reflect what it would mean to explore the large collection of the museum oceanically. ‘The Museum and the Sea: Indian Ocean Ship-wrecks at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum’ proposed biographies of object types or specific objects, in order to reveal historical particularities that open insight beyond the well-known broader histories. Pedrito Cambrão’s paper ‘Underwater Heritage: (Re)building History, Promoting Tourism’ reflected on the importance of the underwater archaeological heritage in the reconstruction of the history of trans-oceanic trade in the Indian Ocean and in the promotion of tourism in the Island of Mozambique.


Yvette Christiansë, Ann Whitney Olin Foundation Chair of Africana Studies and Professor of English Literature at Barnard College in New York, offered a moving set of closing remarks which drew on her poetry and her thinking about water. Isabel Hofmeyr, Professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand closed the workshop after which participants had opportunities to tour the Fort of São Sebastião with Yolanda Teixeira Duarte, to swim, snorkel, dive and explore the island.