Sunday, December 4, 2016

MYANMAR: THE FOOD


Ah, the holidays are upon us. Unfortunately, it’s not one of my favorite times of the year. If it were less about presents and more about just getting together to eat, drink, play cards, and watch movies, I’d be much happier. The commercialism gets me down, especially since it’s been hard on us for much of the past decade. And anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck knows this all too well. We’re a little better off this year, but it’s still stressful. As long as there’s (spiked) eggnog and (spiked) mint hot chocolate, I’ll get through this.

This might have been good if it were more done. Otherwise, it was pretty good. I might try to make this as a bread.
But today, we’re escaping all of that. We’re heading someplace warm and eating their food: we’re making Burmese food. I started off my day with Sanwin Makin, or Burmese Semolina Cake. Now, I typically have never roasted sesame seeds, even when a recipe calls for it, but in this case, I did. I put about 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds in my small skillet and once they started to smoke just a little, I put them in a ramekin to cool and set them off to the side. (I forgot all I had was black sesame seeds—hope that’s ok.) In a medium bowl, I measured out about 400 mL of coconut cream and mixed in an equal amount of water. Instead of using semolina (because I couldn’t find it), I went with a substitute of spelt flour, which is an ancient form of wheat. I measured out 1 c of spelt flour and put it in a large saucepan and then slowly added in my diluted coconut cream to it along with 1 c of sugar. I brought this mixture to a boil, slowly stirring in 4 oz of butter until it thickened. Adding in a pinch of salt and a ½ tsp of ground cardamom, I stirred this until everything was mixed well before taking it off the heat. At this point, I separated 3 eggs into two bowls: the yolks in one bowl, the whites in the other. I beat in the egg yolks into my mixture. Then I tried to beat my egg whites until they were stiff but gave up after about 8 or 9 minutes when I realized nothing was really happening. So I folded them into the mixture as they were. Unfortunately, I ruined the one sheetcake pan I had doing something that was completely not-cake-related with it. (It was a cheap pan anyway.) So instead of a square 9” pan, I used a round springform one instead. I sprinkled my toasted sesame seeds on top of the smoothed out batter. I baked this in a 325ºF oven for about an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes, and it still needed more time (the recipe said 45-60 min). I even allowed it to cool thoroughly before cutting it, but the inside was still mushy. Now to be fair, I had to put a silicone baking pan around my springform pan since I didn’t trust it wouldn’t leak. And I know that probably had a lot to do with it. But the flavor was good, especially the part with the toasted sesame seeds on it. 

Warm and cuddly. Perfect for winter.
To go with this, I made one of my favorite drinks: Lahpatyei Gyo, or Burmese Milky Tea. I had this in a Burmese restaurant and thought it was absolutely wonderful. I heated up 3 c of water until it was boiling, then cut off the heat and threw in 3 black tea bags and let it steep. While that was steeping, I heated up 4 oz of evaporated milk with 2 oz of water in a large mug. In the mugs I was serving this in, I poured a tsp of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of the mug. Then I filled the mug halfway with tea, then added in some of the evaporated milk mixture, then adding in more tea and more milk. I stirred it up before serving. This was clearly the best part of the meal. It was exactly what I was wanting. And now that I know how to make this myself, I’m going to make it ALL. THE. TIME. 

This was really pretty good. I look forward to eating this for lunch tomorrow.
The main dish today was Fried Pork with Garlic Curry. I cut my pork loin into small, diced pieces and set it off to the side in a large skillet (or you can use a wok if you have one—I don’t have one yet). Then I blended my garlic, onions, and ginger together until it was a paste consistency (I used my blender for this). I tried to squeeze out as much of the liquid as I could into the skillet with my pork. To this, I also added in a little vinegar (I used rice vinegar), chili powder, salt, and some vegetable oil (I couldn’t find peanut oil in anything smaller than a gallon). I cooked it on high heat for a few minutes. Then I lowered my heat and let it simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally so it didn’t stick and the pork got tender. In another smaller skillet, I heated up the rest of the sesame oil and stirred in my ginger-garlic-onion paste with some turmeric and let it cook down for about 10 minutes. I added it to the pork mixture and stirred. This part was good. I enjoyed the subtle flavors, and the garlic curry wasn’t overpowering at all. Partly because I didn’t actually make it with 3 onions and 20 cloves of garlic. (That’ll do it.)

It was almost good. I'll have to watch it or amend it a bit.
I served the curry dish on top of coconut rice. This was pretty easy to make. I made this like I do when I made regular steamed rice. I mixed 1 c of rice with 2 c of coconut milk and 1 tsp of salt. I brought this all to a boil, then turned my heat down and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft. However, I must’ve bumped the knob and turned the heat up more because the bottom started to burn. But when I tasted it, there were pieces of rice that tasted like it was still uncooked. The flavor was great, but the texture of not being done was a turn off. The parts that were done went really well with the pork and garlic curry. 

Who doesn't love ending a meal with some tea and cake?
Heading into the winter season, this past week has been rough with sick kids. Last week, my son had some kind of allergic skin reaction, and now my daughter’s seasonal allergies are flaring up. So, this was probably one of the few meals that I ate by myself because neither kid felt quite up to eating curry. My husband came in and sampled everything, and pretty much agreed with me, except he thinks the tea needs way more sugar (which it doesn’t). But that’s how things go sometimes.

Up next: Namibia

MYANMAR: MUSIC AND DANCE


Myanmar’s music, like its art, is influenced mainly by China and Thailand. For the most part, their music is based on the melody rather than the harmony. Most of their music is based on a 4/4 time signature and variations (2/4, 8/16). Apparently, in Orthodox Theravada Buddhism, they see music as not having a moral characteristic (um, ok…? I mean, I saw some things when I was a music major, but still.). Even though they are a Buddhist country, they evidently ignored this part because they continued to make music (thankfully). Different ethnic groups, like the Mon, certainly had their own styles and variations as well. 

 
Burmese classical music is generally divided into two types: indoor music and outdoor music. There’s also cat music, where you just stand in the doorway, not really sure if you’re going in or out. (Just kidding, I made that up.) Indoor music is more like chamber music, generally led by a female singer with accompaniment. Outdoor music is music of the court, typically used for ceremonial purposes. 


Mahagita music is essentially a collection of classical songs. It’s divided into a number of categories, depending on what kind of song it’s about: royal court songs, songs for worshiping spirits, songs for sorrow, etc. Folk traditions use music in a variety of situations. Some are used in religious festivals, and some are tied in with theatre, dance, and the arts. Folk music is performed by a folk ensemble, which is generally comprised of a various number of drums, gongs, and other percussive instruments. 

Representing the underground punk music scene
Rock music was introduced in the 1960s and became popular during the 1980s. Punk, metal, and other genres gained popularity on an underground level. Hip-hop music was introduced during the late 1990s and grew a following across the country among the youth. 


One musician I came across is Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein. Her music almost had a pop/rock quality to it with acoustic piano on a few of her songs. I kind of liked it. There’s something about it that reminds me of some late 1990s rock music. The sound quality on Spotify wasn’t all that great for some reason, but it sounded like she had that same closed-throat vocal style that Shakira has. 


I came across the music of rocker Lay Phyu. He has a nice rock sound to his music, bordering on metal at times. I suppose I’d probably categorize it as metal. It reminds me of Metallica or Guns N Roses at times. Even though he’ll still mix in some traditional instruments and acoustic guitar into the mix. I like it. 


And thanks to Anthony Bourdain for helping these guys out, the Burmese band Side Effect got some major love from the US. They were even invited to perform at SWSX a few years ago. I can see why. They’re really pretty good. 


Hip-hop is definitely a growing trend in Myanmar today, especially among the youth. And for the most part, it tends to be an American-influenced style of hip-hop. Some hip-hop artists mixed it with some pop for more of a chance at commercial success. Probably one artist I came across who demonstrates this well is Yan Yan Chan. Another is the up-and-coming one is J-Me. You can tell both guys have studied their craft and have listened to a lot of American hip-hop. I also listened to Kyaw Pha and Ye Lay, who perform in the same style, except Ye Lay tends to be a little slower (at least based on the three songs I heard from him).

Up next: the food

Thursday, December 1, 2016

MYANMAR: ART AND LITERATURE


Myanmar’s neighbors had quite a lot to do with Myanmar’s arts with China, India, and Thailand contributing the most influence. Much of their early arts were tied to Buddhism (and some to Hindu) with images, sculptures, and scenes of Buddha and other key figures. However, the people here developed their own stylistic variations from that of China and Thailand, for example. 

 
There are ten key traditional arts in Burmese art. These ten arts were mainly handicrafts and sculpting: stone carving, masonry, turnery (a type of wood carving where the wood turns on a spindle), stucco relief, painting, goldsmith, lacquerware, woodcarving, bronze casting, and blacksmith. There are actually other arts that were practiced in Myanmar that are not included in those ten, which include textile arts (tapestry making and silk weaving), pottery, gold leaf making, and engraving (especially on gems).


Today, Burmese artists span an array of artistic styles and mediums. Even in their abstract art, more often than not, there seems to be a tie back to their own culture in some way. Many art students study in art schools and art departments throughout Myanmar, while others may choose to travel abroad. Some artists, like Po Po are self-taught (some people are always looking out for Po Po). Some artists like Aung Myint and Aye Ko have had exhibitions across the world.
 
"What is Peace?" by Aye Ko -- it reminds me of that Microsoft Paint program.
Literature in Myanmar is mainly written in Burmese. Early literature was mainly centered around Buddhism. The Jataka Tales are one of the major early works. Orthodox Buddhism forbids fiction (this was new to me), so literature tended to be written as non-fiction. Poetry has long been a popular literary form.


Since the British came, novels became popular along with short stories. However, novels are scrutinized and tend to be harder to publish due to censorship issues coupled with the fact that many people can’t afford to buy novels. Those may be some reasons why many writers choose to write short stories instead. Another niche many writers have gone into is translations. Western novels are quite popular, and thanks to the efforts of the translators, these novels are made available in Burmese. (However, there may be some issues with Myanmar not signing the Universal Copyright Convention Agreement, which leads them to not paying royalties to the original authors. I tried to find this information expressly written elsewhere, but I didn’t do an extensive search, so help me out with this part.)



There have been several women who have risen to notoriety. Two of these writers include Kyaw Ma Ma Lay and Khin Myo Chit. Other writers worth mentioning include Thein Pe Myint, Mya Than Tint, Kyi Aye, San San Nweh, and Khin Hnin Yu.

Up next: music and dance

Sunday, November 27, 2016

MYANMAR: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


After we moved to the neighborhood we live in now, I noticed the population here is fairly divided between working class whites, blacks, and Hispanics. However, there is one group I’ve noticed growing over the past 5-6 years: Burmese. My kids’ doctor’s office has signs in English, Spanish, and Burmese. There are car dealerships whose signs are written in Burmese. There is at least one restaurant I’ve come across serving Burmese food – where I first tasted Burmese tea! According to the refugee report by the Indiana State Department of Health, Burmese refugees have made up nearly 80% of the refugees coming into Indiana since 2007 with the majority settling in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.


Ok, so let’s talk about the name. Because what’s in a name anyway? I grew up calling this country Burma. It was pretty easy to pronounce. The name Burma was derived from the term “Bamar,” which was the term for the casual form of their country name, named after one of the larger ethnic groups. Officially, they called their country Myanmar, which was the formal form. There are several ways I’ve seen it pronounced, but I think it’s pronounced “MEE-an-mar” by the BBC and “MYAN-mah” by the locals (both of which are different than how I’ve always pronounced it as “MY-an-mar”). On the surface, it doesn’t seem that big of a deal to change their name, but because it was forced by a military government at the time, there are some ill feelings by some, and there are some who still refuse to recognize it.



Myanmar is located in Southeast Asia. It shares a small border with Bangladesh to the west, a larger one with India to the west, China to the northeast, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the southeast. It also has a significant shoreline along the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Myanmar is subject to annual monsoons and experiences rainy and dry seasons. Plus, there are regions of the country that receive more rain than others. 

Burmese Independence
There is evidence showing that people moved into this area roughly 750,000 years ago. There were also many developments in their communities throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages, adapting technologies and cultural habits from nearby India and Thailand along the way. City-states began popping up, and quite a few changes took place between 1000-1500. Certain city-states grew, like Pagan (yes, it’s actually the name of the city), and eventually grew into the Pagan Kingdom (which sounds like an evangelical’s worst nightmare). As the Khmer Empire grew, these two would be the major empires in this area of the world until the Pagans fell to the Mongols. Buddhism was introduced and spread across the area. There were some efforts aimed at unification during the 1600s, mainly orchestrated by the Taungoo Empire. However, the 1700s and 1800s brought a series of wars between Myanmar and its neighbors (along with fighting the British and French to add variety). Concerned about the formation of French Indochina, the British took control of Myanmar. As the British East India Company spread its holdings across Myanmar, Indians began pouring into the country as well. There was a general disrespect for Burmese culture, which led to resentment and conflicts. Buddhist monks became the face of the resistance movement. Just before WWII, they began looking at independence, but then Japan occupied the country during the war. They did gain their independence in 1948 and renamed themselves the Union of Burma. Statesman U Thant served as the third Secretary General to the UN for ten years. However, in 1962, Myanmar was taken over by a military coup d’état, turning it into a Soviet-influenced form of socialism. For almost the next 30 years, there would be numerous demonstrations and protests throughout the country, some ending in violence. In 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi won 80% of the seats, but the military refused to budge like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed. She was placed under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years (she was released in 2010), gaining notoriety as a political prisoner. Her party won the 2015 elections, and she’s won numerous peace and freedom awards.
 
Uppatasanti Pagoda, Naypyidaw
The capital city is Naypyidaw, sometimes spelled Naypyitaw. Officially, it’s written as Nay Pyi Taw. It literally means “seat of the king” or more broadly, “royal capital.” As a capital city, it’s fairly young; the capital was moved to Naypyidaw in 2005 perhaps because it’s more centrally located (even though it may be just a guess). Previously, the capital was in Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon (this name change happened when the country name changed). Today, the city has a number of shopping centers, museums, entertainment options, parks and gardens as well as schools and universities, and public transportation. 

Jade from Myanmar
Myanmar’s lack of up-to-date infrastructure, lack of educated workers, and inflation contribute to it being one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Energy shortages are common, and the country relies on help from its neighbors and foreign investment. Rice cultivation is their top agricultural product, but they’re also among the largest producers of opium. Many gems and precious stones, like jade, rubies, pearls, and sapphires, come from Myanmar. However, the working conditions are so appalling that some companies won’t accept gems from Myanmar (it’s nice to see they might have an inkling of human feelings, but not quite enough to hold them accountable or help in other ways). Tourism has grown some in recent years, but it’s pretty limited to just the big cities. Good luck getting around the country with sub-par infrastructure and police/military check point inspections. 


Although there are several religions present in Myanmar, Buddhism is by far the largest, with nearly 88% of the population. And within Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism is the most common. A smaller following of Christians and Muslims are also found in Myanmar. Other religions, like Hinduism and Judaism and others, are represented in the larger cities. 


Myanmar is a multi-ethnic country, and because of that, there are multiple languages spoken here. It’s estimated that nearly a hundred languages are spoken here, although there may be many that are only spoken by a dwindling number of people, if not bordering on extinction. The official language is Burmese, a language that is related to Chinese and Tibetan. Other minority languages include Shan, Karen, Kachin, Chin, and Mon-Khmer. English is the most common second language. 

World's Largest Book
If you’ve ever traveled outside of the United States, one thing you’ll notice is that everything is measured in the metric system. Most of the world uses this system except for three countries: the US, Liberia, and Myanmar. So, you know, we’re not the only ones holding out on metrics (but, why???). And no matter which system you measure it, Myanmar is home to the world’s largest book: Located in Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, it has 1460 pages and 730 leaves where each page is about 3 ½ ft wide by 5 ft tall by 5 inches thick! You know, just some light reading.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, November 20, 2016

MOZAMBIQUE: THE FOOD


Well, it’s been an emotional week. First, my son turned 8 years old yesterday, and we are always grateful since we almost lost him 7 years ago. Who would’ve thought seven years later, we’d be going to the Internet Cat Video Fest together? Second, the election has got me in such turmoil as to the divide and culture war we’re going through. I have my fears for the safety of whole populations of people in this country, my husband and kids included. I have my fears that we’ll encompass parts of our history that should have long been left in the history books. But we shouldn’t be silent. We have to stand up and educate. This is why we study history, so we don’t repeat the bad parts and build upon the good. This is the whole point of why I started this blog back in 2012 – because I felt the need to focus on the idea that countries are comprised of people and their arts, not governments and economies. And in that spirit, let’s talk about one of my favorite things: food.

Such a versatile bread. I may make it into mini sandwiches or something.
The bread today is Pão Moçambicano. This bread is a pretty basic bread recipe that can actually be used for a variety of purposes. I believe it has its roots in Portuguese cuisine. To begin, I mixed together a packet of dry yeast, 4 c of flour, 1 tsp salt, and enough water to bring it altogether as a sticky dough (about 2 c). (I read that there was an option to add in some vinegar, but since Mozambicans don’t really add that in, I left it out.) Once I worked my dough so that it was elastic and not too sticky, I covered it and let it rest for about an hour. Then I kneaded it a little more and let it rest for another half hour. At this time, I divided it into small balls, about the size of golf balls or so, and laid them out on a baking sheet. I took a knife and scored in a slit in the top and sprinkled it with flour. After doing this, I let it sit for another 15-20 minutes before putting it into an oven set at 425ºF for about 20-22 minutes, or until they were golden. I really liked these rolls. The outsides were crusty but the insides were soft and the crumb was fairly dense. It would be for soup or for a dip or spread. I thought they were wonderful.

I liked this, although I spent most of my dinner time trying to figure out if it was clams or oysters that pearls come from.
The main dish for today is called Matata. I started this out by sautéing some diced onion in a little olive oil in a pot. Once they started to turn translucent, I added in two cans of chopped clams, ¼ c of peanut butter, a large handful of finely crushed peanuts, 1 can of diced tomatoes, some salt, black pepper, and a couple shakes of crushed red pepper. I let this simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, before throwing in some spinach leaves (I used a 12-oz bag of frozen spinach this time). I covered this and let it cook until the leaves were wilted and could easily be stirred into the stew. I served this on steamed white rice that got burnt on the bottom. (Burning it is optional.) I thought this was really good. The original recipe called for 4 cups of clams, but I only used a little less than 1 cup. I was debating about adding in a third can of clams, but I’m glad that I only kept with the two. Otherwise, I think it would’ve been too much. Plus, I wanted to take some in my lunch tomorrow, and I didn’t want to get called out for violating the universal “don’t warm up seafood in the microwaves at work.”

I think this was clearly the winner of the evening.
To go with this, I made Salada Pera de Abacate. This easy salad consisted of placing sliced tomatoes and avocados on top of a bed of lettuce. Then I drizzled some lemon herb salad dressing on top of it. To make this easy salad dressing, I mixed together some olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and some minced garlic. After stirring it up, I poured it on top of the salad. My son, who is normally a picky eater, loved this salad. But he’s always been a salad eater and loves avocado. I’m glad, though. I really liked the subtle lemon flavor on the tomato and avocado. I would definitely do this one again.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It was healthy, flavorful, and thankfully, there are still leftovers.
As we move into the belly of the holidays with Thanksgiving this week, it makes me contemplate what I’m thankful for. I’m certainly thankful we all seem to be in good health. I have a job I like; I just got a copy of the Hamilton cast recording; I also just downloaded A Tribe Called Quest’s new album; I’m gonna make a jump on Christmas shopping this week; I know I’m loved by a few. And the weather finally turned colder, which I was unprepared to see arrive so abruptly. So, I’ll leave you with the final verse of Bob Dylan’s song, “Mozambique”:
            And when it’s time for leaving Mozambique
            To say goodbye to sand and sea
            You turn around to take a final peek
            And you see why it’s so unique to be
            Among the lovely people living free
            Upon the beach of sunny Mozambique.

Up next: Myanmar

MOZAMBIQUE: MUSIC AND DANCE


The music of Mozambique comes from a variety of influences and has influenced other styles as well. Much of what has become their traditional music is a combination of African and Portuguese musical styles and instruments. And because of its Portuguese ties, the music of Brazil also shares some commonalities (along with Cuba as well).


As they gained their independence, they began to move away from European-influenced styles to more African influences, especially those from eastern and southern Africa. One style that is well known from Mozambique is called marrabenta. This type of dance music originated in the urban areas. Marrabenta songs are generally thought to be love songs, and although the word itself is from Portuguese, the lyrics are typically in local languages. One musician, Fany Pfumo, lived in South Africa for many years and introduced kwela music into marrabenta. 


Timbila music, originating from the Chopi tribes of Inhambane Provice, is characterized by an instrument called the mbila (the plural of this is timbila). The mbila is related to a xylophone, and ensembles typically consist of ten xylophones. A leader improvises a melody line over a contrapuntal second line. 


Pandza music became more popular during more recent years. As a mix of various urban styles like marrabenta, ragga, and hip-hop, it tends to be more popular among the youth. The lyrics mainly talks about social problems and daily life and is generally sung in either Portuguese or Shangaan (a language spoken in/near Maputo, a dialect of Tsonga). 


Like many other areas of Africa, dances are often intertwined with the musical styles performed. In Mozambique, these dances tend to have intricate moves and are performed for a variety of reasons, mainly for rituals or retelling an event. For the most part, both male and female dancers wear colorful outfits and/or masks during the dance. A few of the more commonly known dances are the marrabenta dance, the nhau dance, the mapik dance, and the xigubo dance.  


I found several groups and musicians on Spotify. The first one I listened to is Rosália Mboa. Her music falls into the pandza category, but it stays a little more on the traditional style than other musicians. I like her music, and I especially like the mix of high and medium guitar sounds. She generally sings in her local language, although I can’t be for certain what it is. 


The next one I listened to is Lizha James. I really liked what I heard here. She utilizes quite a bit more ragga into her music and sings primarily in Portuguese (although there are a couple tracks with English titles and mostly English lyrics). DJ Junior, MC Roger, Denny Og, and DJ Ardiles are others whose music falls into the same category. They tend to switch languages from using local languages to Portuguese or English.


If you’re a fan of reggae, dancehall, or even reggaeton, I think you’d like Ziqo. Ziqo has some good beat in a mellow, smooth voice. I listened to an album with him and Denny Og, who I think kind of reminds me of Beeny Man or sometimes Don Omar at times. His rough, raspy voice makes him almost the DMX of Mozambique. But the music is catchy and has a good beat. I could beat that in my car.


Stewart Sukuma is a good example of marrabenta music. When I listened to his music, it reminded me of something I’d hear on a Brazilian samba album or maybe an MPB album (Musica Popular Brasileiro – Popular Brazilian Music). I liked what I heard, even though it still totally reminded me of Brazil. But be prepared before you watch the video above -- if you're like me, you'll need a tissue. Chico Antônio’s music was a little softer in style, not quite as “in your face.” He also performs marrabenta music. It definitely gave me that impression he’s probably been performing for longer than I’ve been alive perhaps. 


Another marrabenta group is Mingas. It sounds like the type of music you would put on when you want to relax at the end of the day with a glass of wine and just chill. The music seems a bit slower than compared with pandza. 


When I listened to Ghorwane, I was torn between what I was listening to. On one hand, I recognized that distinctive African guitar riff, but then it was interrupted with what I identify as a Latin horn line. But this is what I love about music – merging styles we typically identify with a particular style of music. They also utilize the rhythm section quite a bit, too – and that’s always a plus.

Up next: the food

Thursday, November 17, 2016

MOZAMBIQUE: ART AND LITERATURE


Wood carving is one art form going back centuries, and it’s used for a variety of purposes. Of all the ethnic groups on Mozambique, the Makonde are probably the most known for their intricate skills in wood carving. There are three main items that are carved from wood. Like other areas of Africa, wooden masks are common here, too. These elaborately decorated masks are often used in ceremonial functions. Different styles of masks represent a number of things, and the paint used comes from natural sources.

 
Another common form of wood carving is in the form of evil spirits called shetani. These shetani (which is based on Swahili and Arabic words and related to the word Satan) are generally carved out of dark ebony wood and resembles some kind of swoopy animal-human hybrid. Many of these sculptures are tall and may contain symbols carved into them as well. 


They also had totem-like sculptures, similar to those of the native people of the Pacific Northwest of the US, Alaska, and Canada. Known as ujamaa, these sculptures contain faces that are carved into it and are often referred to as “family trees” because each face is tied to a story from generations on back.



Art has long been an instrument for describing the oppression during the last few decades of colonialism. After the country gained its independence, art continued to document the struggles to stand on their own and the trials and tribulations of civil war. Common themes included not only the civil war and political changes, but the economic depravities, starvation, and societal changes that took place because of all of this. It's not all bad, though. There are many painting celebrating their country, traditions, and culture. Two of the most well-known artists from Mozambique are Malangatana Ngwenya (painter, poet) and Alberto Chissano (sculptor).
 
Malangatana Ngwenya
Literature in Mozambique is primarily written in Portuguese, although there might be some literature written in other languages. There’s not a lot of information on literature written during the early colonial days. And I’m guessing not many of the indigenous languages had a written language. They are only written in Roman letters today because of the European influence in studying their languages. During the colonial period, the Mozambicans began to write about their oppression and struggles for independence. Politics and Mozambican/African identity are also common themes as well.
 
Mia Couto
One of the most famous writers from Mozambique is Mia Couto. A biologist by profession, Couto has won several awards and his works have been translated into a dozen languages. What’s surprising to some who analyze his works is that he breaks the mold of identity: a white man with a feminine name who is African.



Other writers of note include Paulina Chiziane (novels, short stories), José Craveirinha (poet, short stories, journalism), Lília Momplé (short stories), Eduardo Mondlane (academic, politician), Luis Bernardo Honwana (short stories), Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa (short stories, founder of magazine Charrua), Lina Magaia (journalist, novelist), Amélia Muge (lyricist, poet), Noémia de Sousa (poet), Marcelino dos Santos (poet), and Glória de Sant’Anna (poet).

Up next: music and dance