Old Buildings

I love old buildings. I think they have more character than the new ones. The problem with old buildings, in Mozambique, is not their old age but the sad condition they show.

My son Ti took a few pictures of old buildings in Quelimane, capital of Zambézia. I thought it would be nice to post them here. That’s how they look today, a simple shadow of a past glory, waiting for a recue hand to catapult them into the future.

Where Time Stands Still

No one explains better the many faces of this town than Filipe Branquinho through his camera.

This exhibition, currently showing at Instituto Camões, reveals a face the majority ignores: a beautiful art deco town, decadent, yet still intact, due to the inertia of time: Cineteatro África, WC (2013), Cineteatro África, lavatórios (2013), Cineteatro África, exterior (2013), Palco (2013), Museu (2014), Rádio (2013), Biblioteca (2014) and Cineteatro Scala (2013).

The musical theme is from Ti, so here you have another good reason to show up…

Where I Am

The place where I am right now has very little of Africa. In fact, it’s the result of a meltdown, with the worst of both worlds. In spite of that, it’s one of the best towns in Africa, with all the worries, challenges and niceties of living packed like sardines.

Right now they are destroying a good number of nice family houses to build skyscrapers or whatever. I don’t mind tall buildings, as long as they are confined to a certain space. For the rest, two levels are more than enough. The current tendency here is building to make easy money. The construction fever is slowing down a little bit, with some observers already talking about crisis

The pictures were taken at night, from a 14th floor of a local building. I was there, but they are not mine. I don’t like to be that high. If I were forced to sleep in a place like that, I would have terrible nightmares.

What I enjoy the most around here are the long weekends, when most of the drivers and their families head for the beaches or other places. The town seems to empty and an unusual silence descends over the streets and neighborhoods. It’s when faraway drums pierce the heat of the afternoon or the dark of the night. During two or three days, it is as if by erasing part of one side the other automatically surfaced. Suddenly, I am reminded of where I truly am.

Blue and Green

The place where I live is changing fast. As my life has been changing a lot lately, it feels as if we were changing together. Changes are good to correct what is wrong. I’m trying to change for the better, so why not this town?

Long ago, I wrote about three things that could improve the local urban life. One was already under way (city parks), so I suggested another two. As one of them is being implemented right now (the water front), there’s only one left: Miradouro. The recuperation of Miradouro is about preservation and beauty. It doesn’t seem very expensive to transform Miradouro in a suitable place to be. It’s only a question of improving and maintaining what is already there. The lower part, where the homeless live and gather all sorts of trash, is tricky. Once cleaned, rebuilt and protected, the corridor-like space could be used for small commerce stalls and coffee-esplanades.

But this post is about two new other aspects. The first: it doesn’t look like the new roads are enough to ease the traffic. The only way to solve this question is by removing every possible service (schools, health centers and similar) to the outskirts of the city, where most people live. It doesn’t make sense to have large public schools in the heart of the city, where most of the residents attend private schools. The situation forces the children to walk kilometers and their families to pay for transportation.

The second aspect is park related. Parks are more than green and fun. They are like commas in a sentence, allowing different architectural approaches. If people ignore that aspect, then mistakes occur. There’s a park nearby. It should be used to create a space between tall buildings and villas. When someone lives in a detached house, he expects to look outside and see the blue sky and the green of the trees. The only way to do that is by using parks to separate different concepts. Because someone forgot it, I have to deal, on a daily basis, with one of the many architectural mistakes of this town. Instead of blue and green, I mainly see this absurd.

It’s Not Enough

Maputo is undergoing a major face-lift. It’s on the news. Long ago I wrote about the city parks makeover, guessing that the next move would be the marginal or miradouro. Someone must have read my words because the face-lift is basically about the marginal.

Even though it’s quite nice to see the result of the works, there are already early signs of destruction. As I don’t want to write a manual here, I mention the main problems and a possible solution.

Destruction by people and speeding cars.
Right now it looks like no one will be able to stop vandalism. Someone must pay so that the town keeps a capable maintenance service to repair what is destroyed. If the maintenance is quick and persistent, probably those who destroy will get tired. As a future solution, education is the only option. Children should visit beautiful places of the town and learn what they represent and the importance of keeping them in pristine state.

Barracas and booze.
This is a big one. People seem to go to the beach not to enjoy the sea and the sand but to eat and, mainly, to drink. It a very sad sight and all the rubbish left behind is awful. I don’t even know what to say of the shacks against the perfect horizon. If there’s a solution, probably it’s quite a simple one: “No cooking or selling booze on the beach, except in specific authorized areas.”

There are at least three distinctive architecture tendencies in Maputo: 1) The beautiful colonial buildings, some more in shape than others. 2) The skyscrapers (3 or more stores) from the 50s up to today. 3) New buildings influenced by South African and Chinese design. The multiplication of styles indicates the need of vision and lack of control. I already can see, in a few years, all the Chinese facades of today being redesigned to suit a modern African country.

Best of January 2015

Old pictures.
I don’t know why old pictures look so good in this house. What I know is that I was about to enter into a new pictures phase and that costs me a lot. I went to the place and waited for Ed, the guy supposed to do the printing.

While waiting I asked myself about my priorities now. Given a few minutes of time and my spending decreases to 50%. In fact, I decided against printing 16 new pictures and frame them because I recognized that they would hang in some corner of the house waiting for the right time.

Besides, I’ve been hearing that only one guy in this town prints successfully and, if I have to pay, better pay to the right one.

Before I am in the position of spending more money with pictures, I have a list of other more urgent things to attend:

. new wall-stand for the main tv – done
. painting three areas downstairs – done
. retouching part of the exterior – done
. a new mattress already ordered – done
. new curtains for the living – almost done
. two handmade coffee tables – done
. revamping a third coffee table – done
. finishing a carpentry job – done
. new couch semi-ordered – done
. finally, the pictures – almost done

Only by writing down the above list I was able to see the cleverness of my move. The pictures would cost me a little more than two mattresses, or a little less than the couch, and right now I need cash. I don’t know what to do after completing my home makeover. Probably, I’ll wait for the next one.