Rescue oral tradition in Mozambique


This was one of the objectives of the “Traditional Tales on Radio for Children” project, which took place between May and December 2021, during one of the Covid-19 waves in Mozambique, but which was not enough to stop the determination of Isabel Jorge, producer theater, and Eliana N’Zualo, writer, to materialize an old idea of ​​partnership in the area of ​​culture.

“As a writer and multidisciplinary artist, in conversation with actress and producer Isabel Jorge, who has been working with theater for many years and is part of the Mbeu Theater Company, we always talked about children’s literature (…) I have a children’s book and the Isabel works precisely with children’s theater”, said N’Zualo, adding that “there was always this interest in doing some kind of collaboration”.

The great opportunity arose when PROCULTURA, a program financed by the European Union and co-financed by Camões, I.P., within the scope of the Program of Portuguese Speaking African Countries and Timor-Leste with the European Union (PALOP-TL/EU), launched funding opportunities for projects in the cultural area. “I think it was Isabel who contacted me and said: look, we have this fund here and we’ve already talked several times about a collaboration, how about we think about a project, because we already have this interest in the Children’s public (…)”, revealed N’ Zualo in an interview with the Program of Portuguese-Speaking African Countries and Timor-Leste with the European Union (PALOP-TL/EU), on May 7th, in the Maputo Fortress, on the sidelines of the celebrations of the Cooperation Day between the EU and Mozambique.

With a funding of 10,000 Euros, Eliana and Isabel conceived the project with the purpose of “facilitating access to literature, whether through theater or writing, in order to rescue the oral tradition, taking advantage of the potential of radio, to bring children’s tales to children.”

One of the major challenges faced by the project was the fact that it took place in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. After this was approved, the harsh reality came. How to materialize it in the midst of various restrictions imposed in the wake of the pandemic? “Fortunately, as it’s a project that doesn’t involve much physical contact, since it’s on the radio, it was more or less easy to adapt”, said N’Zualo, indicating that the “embarrassment was more during the recording, when we had to gather the artists.”

The project had two phases: the first was more of research and selection of traditional tales, transforming them into scripts, then translating them from Portuguese into Xichangana, Emakua and Lomué. The second consisted of recording these tales. “This was the big challenge, getting the actors together in the studio and observing the physical distance so we could rehearse, record (…)”, he said, adding that a total of 16 actors and actresses were involved in the process, including sound technicians. The later phase involved community radio stations that were paid to “make space in their programming schedules for these stories.”

Regarding the project’s impact, N’Zualo was cautious, indicating that she was suspicious to speak out on the subject, but believes it was a success. “I’m too suspicious to speak. I would say the impact is positive, but there is still a lot to be done.”

She appealed to entities in good faith to continue to subsidize the content so that children continue to have access to the recordings. He also asked for support from entities in good faith for the continuation of the research with a view to rescuing traditional tales so that “we can record many more, translate into other Bantu languages ​​because, in fact, many children do not have access to children’s literature.”

“What we did, I consider a success, but I still have the notion that it is little and we need to do much more”, he underlined.

For the future, N’Zualo hopes that more national entities, including companies, will embrace this type of initiative because “artists have a lot of ideas and a lot of desire to work (…)”

“We cannot just rely on our international cooperation partners,” she said.

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