Travel
Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Travel Diary: How Hakeem Adam Fell In Love with Maputo In 10 Days

An OkayAfrica contributor revels in all things art and architecture in Maputo, Mozambique.

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, our Accra-based contributor Hakeem Adam recently ventured to Mozambique for the first time and shares his experiences through stunning images.

Peaceful, calm, clean, positive energy are the words I've been using to describe my time in Maputo, Mozambique to basically anyone that would listen to me. The Portuguese-speaking Southern-African country was the first I have had the pleasure of visiting in that region and the visual, spiritual and mental experience has provided me with a much-needed contrast to my ideas of an African capital city in many ways.

The enchanting city moves at its own pace, a gentle and graceful saunter that calms and relaxes anyone who has become numb to the non-stop barrage of stress that is symptomatic of most capital cities. In Maputo, the air is clean and refreshing and the weather is mostly warm without it being sticky with humidity. Rather, the strong breeze from the Pacific Ocean keeps everything gentle as you get swaddled in Mozambican hospitality.

ColabNowNow, a 10-day artist residency organized by the British Council, #SouthernAfricaArts and Maputo Fast Forward ( a month-long festival centering the arts in Mozambique), was the reason for my being in Mozambique. The program brought together nine artists from West, East, Southern Africa and the UK to work collaboratively towards producing work with a digital focus. This offered me the opportunity to meet and interact with Mozambican artists as well as explore their studios and hubs.

Very quickly, you learn that art is one things that grounds the city of Maputo as the expression of their creativity is woven into the engineering of their daily lives—from the rich and colorful alchemy of European and tropical architecture lending the city an iconic look, to the amorous and ingénue community of artists, activists, curators and researchers who are actively engineering unique ways and spaces for their expression. Indeed, most of the artists we visited had all designed their homes as active exhibition spaces where their work and pieces from other artists in the same community embellish their living and working spaces.

As a visiting artist, Maputo was a much needed breath of the fresh air that is art from a hectic year. The architectural and design landscape of the city, as well as the mind-blowing work that is going on in the arts scene there were the two things that will forever stay with me.

However, my best description of my time there are highlighted by the images I took.


Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Most Mozambicans will tell you that the best place to see Maputo is across the bay in Katembe, a town close to the capital. This beautiful vista does show off the impressive skyline but minimizes the intricate architectural details that make Maputo unique.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

The green, grand Maputo Railway Station is one of the first things you discover when researching Mozambique from outside the country or the Portuguese-speaking world. The neoclassical beaux-arts style edifice is indeed one of the most beautiful train stations in the world with its hypnotic archways and imposing scale.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Most buildings in Maputo are a blissful product of an alchemy between Portuguese architecture and tropical architecture, accented by radiant color, decorated breeze block and ornamental security features.

The Santo António Da Polana Church is another architectural marvel of Maputo, with its design mimicking an inverted flower frozen in fall.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

From within, the church blooms with emotion that suits a sacred space with stained glass windows illuminating the shade of the falling inverted flower.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Katembe is another town close to the capital, but is separated by the ocean by way of the bay of Maputo. This limits movement of the many who journey from Katembe to Maputo for work each day to travel via ferry.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

There is ongoing work on an imposing suspension bridge, now the longest in Africa, which is supposed to decrease the burden of the journey and become a new addition to Maputo's breathtaking skyline.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Butcheca is one of Mozambique's best known visual artists with a very arresting sense of scale and perspectives in his mixed media work. He lives in Katembe in a bespoke house, perfectly sculpted to match his creativity.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Butcheca's house is one of the most awe-inspiring places I visited Mozambique as the entire structure exists to display and service his creativity.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

Botanica is a serene garden restaurant in Maputo. The space hosted the exhibition for the Colab Now Now residency. It one of the many beautiful spaces that show off the work of Mozambican artists.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

DEAL Espaço Criativo (Design, Entertainment, Art and Literature) is a studio and creative hub run by twin sister's Nelly and Nelsa Guambe and Ab Oosterwaal. Like Butcheca's and other Mozambican creative spaces, everything in DEAL is thoughtfully curated to be aesthetically pleasing whilst providing space for artists to create as well.

Photo by Hakeem Adam.

It is very easy to fall in love with the pace of life in Maputo and the many other treasures that make the city sparkle.

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Hakeem Adam is an instinct creative in love with beautiful sentences and the angst of communicating complex ideas in poetry. He frequently expresses this angst in simple sentences on his blog. He also loves to talk about African film and music classics on his platform, Dandano. Keep up with Hakeem on Twitter at @mansah_hakeem.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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