Wednesday, September 25, 2013

58. The Luta Armada

Happy September 25th!  Today is a national holiday in Mozambique, and a source of pride for many Mozambicans.  Today marks the 49th anniversary of the first armed conflict (the luta armada) between the people of Mozambique and their Portuguese colonizers.  And while Mozambique would not gain independence for another ten years (in 1975), September 25 is beloved for what it now symbolizes:  the first strike against colonization and the first step towards freedom and independence.  

It's not as simple as all that, of course--the ten-year War for Independence was followed by a 15-year civil war that nearly gutted the newly-developed nation-- but this was the first step that led Mozambique in the direction of autonomy.  Considering how far Mozambique has come since the end of the war, and the progress and development that the country has forged, this first step is a moment worth celebrating.  
September 25 (Revolution Day) is followed quickly in succession by October 4 (Day of Peace and Reconciliation), which means that everybody is in war mode for only about one week.  Soon, everybody will be toasting to Peace, Love, and a Better, Brighter, Future.  

This national holiday, like many others, places special emphasis on theater and public performances.  Most of the town goes to the town square (the praça) to watch speeches, skits, and demonstrations given by school groups and other members of the community.  Theater is performed with gusto, and really demonstrates the love that Mozambicans have for their country and their art.

This was the first performer that I greeted this morning.  He was on his way to the praça to watch his big brother's theater and got to wear the costume for the march.

Cardboard hat and plastic-bag-and-wire headset

Of all the holiday celebrations that I have seen in Mozambique, today's performances were the most sophisticated.  We celebrated at the new praça, which is larger than the original and located on a hill far above the noise of the road.  A temporary stage was set up with tables, logs, and planks, onto which the performers could climb and perform.  The town even managed to secure a microphone and a fuzzy set of speakers.

The English Theater group gave a small performance, along with several groups of dancers from the local primary school.  The very best group, however, was an unexpected one-- a self-formed band of fifteen eighth-grade boys.  Without any help or direction from the teachers, these boys created and acted out their very own play about the first armed conflict.  They wore cardboard hats, paper shoes, and guns made out of sticks, and gave a very funny and very accurate performance about the first skirmish of the Mozambican War for Independence.

Most of these kids were "mine" (students from this year or last year with some English Theater crossovers), and I can tell you that I was proud to the point of tears and hugs.

The crowd gathers around the make-shift stage
The self-made theater group preparing for their show
The Mozambican freedom fighters in paper hats, paper shoes, and boots
So much creativity went into their costumes!  And you can tell that they were enjoying it.

Most of these kids are my English Theater kids, as well, and are about the head to the Big City to put their acting skills to the test.  Posts will come sporadically for the next couple of days, since all of my energy is tied up in preparation.  

Wish the best of luck to these kids-- they are the brilliant and creative stars in this new and developing nation.

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