First things first: I go and meet the big boss (community leader) and from there I have good guidance on what I’m doing in that community. I meet the crafters who are usually elders and with them I have the most fun, investigating all about the culture, the art and crafts.
We walk around sometimes for many kilometers, discovering or recognizing raw materials to work with. I learn so much about my culture, and discovering artifacts that you don’t see any more in the market.
My commitment is to bring these back, to preserve our culture and celebrate them for the beautiful pieces of art that they are.
Our work strategy is to join with the communities and use the raw materials easily available. For now, we are working with two different communities for fiber weaving in Chigubo district (inland, Gaza province) around Banhine National Park and in Linga-Linga on the coast of Inhambane bay.
Women wake up in the early mornings, before sunrise and go to the bush for their raw materials for craft production.
Some women have to walk many kilometers for these materials, even coming back home the next day because of the distances in the forest. We use palm fibers, wood, natural dyes, leather and steel accessories to produce our products. We source 90% of the raw materials in Mozambique mainly from the communities.
Marcia is a sincere environmentalist. She participates in all trainings, making sure that good harvesting practices are followed. Two or three times a year she goes to the field herself with the ladies for the harvest of the raw materials.
Modern urban society might think it knows best, but people in the communities definitely know better how to live in, depend on, and take care of nature. Knowledge about materials and resources is generations-deep. We must learn from rural people how to live ecologically and respect the natural landscapes around us.
On invitation from MAKOBO, I worked with women and men in the refugee camp for a month, using our local resources to create products and income for their families. Dathonga and KHETHU financed my expenses and key materials like dyes and leather.
Thanks to my amazing husband: before I left home, he said “We need to talk, just you and me.” We sat and he said, “Baby, you know where you are going? I’m sure you do, but I know how sensitive you are, and how you will be crying all day. That does not work if you want to help the people there. The stories coming from there are horrible and there is nothing you can do except listen to the ones that matter. If you try to help everyone, you will go crazy. Please go and do your job, help who you can, and come back to us safe.” That talk was the best I could have had before leaving. It made me stronger and gave me the power to help, even when crying while working.
My days in Cabo Delgado were emotionally hard, accumulating the horror and trauma of the people I met. Just days after my arrival in Cabo Delgado, a catastrophe happened in Palma. Many lives were lost and many more people arrived at the camp we were working in, fleeing their homes and leaving everything behind. It was the saddest and most shocking week in my life. But, we had to focus on our objectives – otherwise I would have come home incapable of finishing my work.
Even though we were in so much pain, we all did our best to follow the program that brought us together to help the people who lost everything including family and children in this war.
The 25 de Junho Camp in Metuge District where we work has 25 000 people, and 50% are children. Conditions are extreme and resources are minimal.
The kids don’t go to school because the neighboring schools are already too full. They have been deprived of a normal childhood because they lost their parents and family. The situation is tragic. While I was there, MAKOBO and KHETHU organized two amazing things for these children: a football league and an art and crafts workshop. The league was a success: 6 adolescents teams and 4 children’s teams were created. The European clubs Benfica and Barcelona have donated equipment for 2 teams so far. These initiatives make a big difference for the adolescents who are in the highest risk group in this war. They now have something to engage in, rather than sitting all day every day with nothing to do.
Art and crafts workshop: we had 100 kids participating for 5 days of art and crafts. Aged 4 to 14, the kids drew pictures of their sad memories of the war. These drawings shocked us: knives, helicopters, soldiers, basucas, blood, real sadness. But the kids were amazing and resilient, and did beautiful work and art. MAKOBO and KHETHU are working to continue this program – please contact them if you would like to help with what they are doing.