Thursday, October 3, 2013

50. The Galimoto

Made from wire, sticks, and an assortment of recycled items, the galimoto (Chichewa:  Motor car) is an intensely intricate and clever, useful toy.  

To construct a car, boys first collect bottles and cans and bits of wire.  They spend hours twisting, wrapping, and forming wire until they've shaped a car or truck, and then later add the details-- antennae, steering wheels, seats, a truck bed, etc.  Most toy cars have some sort of carrying capacity and will be subsequently used to cart rocks, bricks, or other bits of garbage.  They are all steered by means of a stick tied to the front axle, and are often driven in groups.

I've noticed that the little-little boys will place a bottle at the end of a stick and push that around, since they lack the fine motor skills to actually bend and wrap the wires.   The bigger boys (like Seni and Romao) have all the skills necessary, but are too old for that sort of play.  But somewhere in the middle-- between 12 and 14 years of age-- these boys hit their stride and produce the most amazing and complicated works of child-art that I have ever seen.  

I love toy cars, and they will always be my favorite African toy.  Here are a few cars that I found this week, motoring around Zobue:

A toy car with a waist-level steering wheel
A complicated and highly detailed wire toy truck
A boy gives repairs and modifications 
Two toy cars made with bamboo, bottles, and bits of rubber
Two boys drive together in a pack

The work that goes into building one of these cars-- the materials, the skill, and the long hours spent-- seems to symbolize everything that I've come to love about Mozambique.  I don't just see the bamboo, bottles, and pairs of dirty feet.  I also see creativity, resourcefulness, adaptability, friendship, and patience.  I see potential.  

I see art.

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