From its high-end galleries to its mixed-use workspaces, its decked out restaurants to its traditional markets, and even in the building exteriors themselves, Maputo, Mozambique features a vibrant, organic art scene. Here are some of its must-sees.
I recently took a tri-city trip to Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Maputo, Mozambique (with a stop off on safari just outside South Africa’s Krueger National Park). By far, Maputo was my favorite city stop.
The city doesn’t have a massively developed tourist scene, and I think this works in its favor. On the ground there, one can find beautiful hotels, excellent seafood, locals ready to party, and plenty of people eager to show you around, making it a welcoming place for newcomers. But my favorite experience in Maputo was the organic, vibrant, always-on and seemingly-everywhere art scene. Between that, the warm people, and all the Portuguese speakers (Mozambique is a Lusophone country), there was plenty there to make a Newarker feel right at home. Some highlights from my unofficial art crawl:
Reinata is a well-respected sculptor, and we were lucky to find her and her niece in her workspace while ambling around the neighborhood. Her work will be shown at the city’s Natural History Museum. I picked up one of the less expensive pieces, a bronze head that cost $30 USD. Her large sculptures cost a couple hundred and up.
Maputo is a coastal city – right on the shore of the Indian Ocean – so expect to find some of the tastiest fresh seafood imaginable: fish, oysters, mussels, squid, and crab are all on the menu. It took a while to figure out that serving up great fare is the primary raison d’etre for Dhow Cafe, because the seaside restaurant is also a beautiful art gallery and furniture showroom. Our group was one of the few diners when we walked in around noon. When we left, the restaurant was buzzing with patrons.
We met their current curator as she was working on the museum’s centennial celebration. Her primary goal is to preserve Mozambique’s great art, and a tour of the current exhibition illustrates why this is such an urgent project. From the wooden furniture to the life-sized sculptures to the photography, the museum displayed Mozambican handiwork in its full glory.
Maputo features lots of beautiful art deco architecture, old Hollwood-style hotels with seascape vistas, and traditional markets of the kind you’d find in towns within countries all over Africa. Even where the sidewalks are gapped and the buildings are crumbled, its lush and colorful vibe retains its charm.