Ibo Island, once the capitol of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, has a rich history as a flourishing centre of trade for the Arabs, the Indians and the Portuguese. Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1807 but continued to thrive in eastern Africa. In the 19th century approximately 1 million slaves were transported from Mozambique (many through Ibo), and the Portuguese slavery (although abolished in 1869) was not effectively suppressed until the beginning of the 20th century. Mozambique acquired independence in 1975, suffering a civil war from 1977 to 1992 where fighting ceased, holding their first multi-party elections in 1994.
Ibo Island stands as a testament to this history: the beautiful ruins of a rich regime of exploitation, the oppressors having abandoned their dynasty, leaving the inhabitants to survive on their own in a globalised world that insists on western systems established through centuries. It is much like someone changing the world of a severely narrow sighted man who, originally having arranged the world in a way that did not deem narrow sightedness as a handicap, suddenly lives in a world where glasses are necessary to survive, and then abandoning him with the materials to make his glasses but letting him know that the recipe for making them can only be found on the other side of the globe. He stands, blind, in world built by making him weak, posing demands that he does not have the tools to live up to.
But the island is now, after 40 years, slowly beginning to be rebuilt.
While viewing these pictures imagine, if you will, a warm ocean breeze, the feeling of skin, taught from sun and water, the smell of salt, the rustle of palm tree leaves.
It is difficult to come up with a generic definition of childhood – it looks so different depending on who you are and where you reside in the world. Most would agree that childhood is a time where you feel comfortable sitting on the floor with your legs crossed. Most would agree that childhood is a time where one often does not understand the rules of the game, does not have a clear sense of the upcoming future; of what the other will do in the next moment or what is expected of him/her in this particular situation. Most would agree that childhood is a time where learning (in every sense of the word) is central.
Most would agree that childhood ought not be a time filled with hunger or fear or loneliness.
Thank God for Iris International in Pemba who restore childhood for so many: orphanage for approx. 100 kids, free schooling and feeding program for almost 5000.
I love airports, the gate area in particular. It holds a certain oxymoronic feel: ‘resigned anticipation’ or ‘serene excitement’. It is as though the air is filled with the prospect of upcoming experiences, of adventures, or perhaps the joy of reunification, and at the same time, the hard uncomfortable rows of chairs draw me in and instil within me a sense of submissive longanimity, as if one could wait endlessly.
This oxymoronic sense seems in my experience confined to airports. Other transition rooms generally seem to produce a thorough sense of impatience. The entrance room of our house, for instance, where either we as parents fret and urge and coax and beseech the kids (who often seem to develop an unfathomable slowness in this particular room) in order to get them out the door in time (whether it be for school or football practice or visiting grandparents). Alternatively, it is them, the kids, who impatiently trot about in the small room, like racehorses in their boxes eager to be let loose, waiting for us to get ready to leave, and gallop away the instant the door is opened. But not in the gate at the airports. Here they surrender to the waiting despite the obvious excitement and anticipation. And wait we did in airports as eventless and dull as Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam.
Finally, after 26 hours of travel, stepping out onto the runway tarmac at Pemba, Mozambique, as dusk was falling, we were greeted by a warm breeze carrying the smell of saltwater. The first leg of our trip had commenced.