I travelled to Maputo, Mozambique last weekend for Festival Azgo. The event is part of the Igoda Music Festivals Circuit, a collection of music festivals in Southern Africa that aims to unite Africans through music, food and art. I travelled to Maputo in my visibly queer body and its implications, only to be pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome. This is my bit of gratitude.
On arrival, I was welcomed to Maputo with a distinct sense of familiarity with how spaces at the outskirts of cities back home looked. But even in that familiarity, I knew I was miles away from home. The closer I got to the city centre, the less familiar it felt. It was as if Maputo had a rapid urban boom post independence, which came to a sudden halt in the late seventies. The towering statues of the late Samora Machel all over the city told me that there’s a desperate nostalgia of what used to be, but also a particular craving for development and economic growth.
Our cab driver, Frank, told us that the mother of his child lives and works in South Africa and that he too would one day like to move over, because there are very few employment opportunities in Mozambique. Frank was not the first local to say this. The dream for most working Mozambicans is to emigrate to South Africa. Well-off locals bring their children to school or university here; they come here for serious medical procedures – South Africa seems to be the standard of success for other Africans.
On this Africa Day, it’s important for us to take care and be mindful of one another. Injustices are unravelling and become more and more pervasive, so it’s vital that we take note of them and confront them so that we can one day look back and be grateful for how far we’ve come. Mozambicans and other Africans leave their own homes to find success in South Africa and we have let our differences fester and turn into a very specific xenophobia. South Africans have the responsibility to receive fellow Africans with wide-open arms, to condemn afrophobia and to be grateful for how we have historically been a very diverse unit.
It then becomes a lot easier to enjoy festivals such as Azgo. It becomes less daunting to travel to another African nation as a black queer girl, whose issues and challenges are also very different and very specific.
Africa Day means unity with a deliberate attempt to understand the differences that make us so unique to the rest of the world. Africans have made massive contributions to the world, which have gone largely ignored. It’s important for us to be louder and prouder with our Africanness. It gives me hope to have travelled to Maputo in my visibly queer body and its implications and have felt so safe. I am grateful to be an African in an ever-changing and ever-growing Africa.
by Neo Baepi