Approaching the Macuti House: Identity and heritage conservation in Ilha de Moçambique

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    Abstrakt

    Ilha de Moçambique was the historical capital of the Portuguese colony of Mozambique, until it moved to Lourenço Marques (Maputo) in 1898. Vasco da Gama had landed on Ilha 400 years earlier, a fort and a harbour town developed, booming and decaying at various times related mainly to the ebb and flow of trade acrosss the Indian Ocean. Today the regional port is in Nacala, provincial capital is Nampula, and the only economic future for Ilha, currently a small sleepy city of ca 18.000 people on the island and 45.000 in the municipal district, seems to be tourism development.

    The little island's physical structure is clearly divided between the old colonial settlement to the north and what used to be the "bairros de macuti" to the south, where freed slaves and Macua people from the continent could settle on rented land and build houses normally with palm frond roofs called macuti.

    In 1991 Ilha was listed as UNESCO World Heritage. Conservation efforts and art historical research had focused on the colonial settlement and a Portuguese history of an empire which was finally gone in 1975. The whole island, however, is listed, and this paper and my ongoing PhD research, regards the search for a strategy to intervene in the "macuti neighbourhoods", conserve the built environment and improve living conditions for the generally poor population living in crowded conditions with lack of suitable urban infrastructure.

    The macuti house, a type of semi-urban Swahili one story house built of mangrove, stones, earth and lime, covered by a generous macuti roof, is the focus of attention. Generally the "palhota" with plant material roof carries the stigma of a poor man's hut which the colonial government forced on the "indigenous" population. After independence, construction in sand cement blocks with zink sheet roofs like in most African urban areas, is preferred.

    However, increased attention on the macuti house and the particular way it was developed in urban Ilha, offers a way to question the identity of the city, its relationship to a wider Swahili building culture and its particuar development due to being situated in a Macua region of a Portuguese colony, with large numbers of Arab and especially Indian settlers and craftsmen due to the Indian Ocean trade. The political leadership in Maputo don't always know how to place Ilha and its colonial history in their efforts to strengthen "Moçambicanidade", an official cultural policy of strengthening a national identity. Now parts of "the community" in Ilha with cultural links northwards, may see new tourism routes along old trading routes and a new academic interest in the Indian Ocean as a cultural space, as an opportunity to redefine themselves and take charge of "their" heritage.

    All the while growing speculation in historic properties, the island appearing as an architectural playground with little government control for investors, is threatening the historic substance of the city.
    OriginalsprogEngelsk
    Publikationsdato16 okt. 2011
    Antal sider7
    StatusUdgivet - 16 okt. 2011
    BegivenhedGlobal City - Local Identity: Symposium on Urban Development and Cultural Identity in East Africa - Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, United Republic of
    Varighed: 14 okt. 201116 okt. 2011

    Konference

    KonferenceGlobal City - Local Identity
    LandTanzania, United Republic of
    ByDar-es-Salaam
    Periode14/10/201116/10/2011

    Kunstnerisk udviklingsvirksomhed (KUV)

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