People From The Sea – Strangled



It is April when I cross the longest tapestry of lilac jacarandas that I know to go to the mall. I am attracted by one particular shop with a wide variety of African craftwork. Inside the shop a lady speaking Portuguese helps me. Just a couple of minutes after I recognize her from Maputo.


She presents me to her partner in the shop business and we start to talk. We decide to continue the conversation having tea at a sunny esplanada filled with the usual big city noises. She tells me that her family had to leave Maputo because they felt “strangled”. I have to know her story!


She is in her thirties, short, agile, with the skin of a girl. Her voice is profound and attractive, a plus in the art of selling. She revels that in the nineties her family was living comfortably. She had a craft shop and her husband worked under contract with local and foreign companies. “Since 2000, it started to feel like we had a rope around our necks. One by one, our businesses failed. We couldn’t untie the knot and our survival was in question.” She explains they tried all the possible options to the last resort.


“Let me guess!” I interrupt her. “You rented your apartment!”


She gestures in agreement and adds: “The problem was that we lived in my father-in-law house and, even so, the money from the rent wasn’t enough. That’s when we decided to move to Johannesburg. It hasn’t been easy but we don’t feel strangled any longer…”


The wind is getting colder, announcing the end of the afternoon. While back home in April it is still hot, here winter is already reigning. I walk with her to the shop. Her name could be Magda, Sara or any other of the so many forced to leave Mozambique due to economical difficulties. I leave her at the door. From the inside, her partner makes a friendly sign toward me. The shop looks cozy and more tempting than the perspective of the street.


Outside the lilac flowers are resplendent under the city lights. They look to me like a magical carpet ready to fly me away. I sigh because I miss home. Nothing serious… Tomorrow I shall be back!