To know our culture we have to study it

Exhibition on May 7, 2022, EU-Mozambique Cooperation Day

Who says it is Fernando Dava, Historian and Sociocultural Researcher. Dava, who is also President of the Association for the Promotion of the Development of Cultural and Creative Industries, was speaking in an interview with the Cooperation Program between Portuguese-speaking African Countries and Timor-Leste with the European Union, also called PALOP-TL/EU, on the sidelines of the project fair, in Fortaleza de Maputo, as part of the celebrations of Europe Week, on May 7, 2022.

“The country is fraught with challenges in the field of culture, particularly in relation to traditional instruments,” said Dava, who was also Director General of ARPAC for 15 years.

“(…) because we are Mozambicans, we usually say that we know our culture, this is not true (…). I am concerned about the false pride of Mozambicans in relation to the domain of cultural aspects”, he underlined, adding that the debate around the real knowledge of our culture is already old, “the debate is not mine, this is an anthropological debate from the end of the 20th century, Century XIX and that continued until the 60s and continues” until the present day.

In this sense, and aware of the various challenges in the field of culture, Dava decided to embrace the study project of Xigovia, a traditional Mozambican instrument. With funding of 2,000 Euros from PROCULTURA’s Diversity funding instrument, Dava led the study, which started in June 2021 and has now ended. He revealed that he favored the study of this instrument due to the fact that its playing is part of a “secular, if not millenary” tradition.

“We feel that in addition to putting the instruments to play, you have to start talking… the instruments speak and this experience was brought to us (…) by this study we carried out on Xigovia”, he underlined.

Field research was carried out in Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces, southern Mozambique. “(…) In one week, we collected very interesting information, which shows that it is really necessary to deepen the studies of our traditional instruments”, he said.

One of the difficulties encountered during the study was the lack of knowledge about the use of this instrument. “There is an increasing lack of interest on the part of communities for their knowledge, especially by the younger generations…”, he said. This factor conditioned the obtaining of deeper information about the instrument.

Another difficulty had to do with the dating of the use of the instruments. “We had problems in dating the instrument, when will it start to be used in Mozambique. I won’t go into this subject further because it is somewhat associated with Timbila, which already has 400 to 500 years of usage knowledge”, he said.

Dava said he was surprised by some discoveries he considered successful. ”We realized that, after all, it is a very valuable instrument. When we designed the project, we did not have the dimension of grandeur, the wealth from a sociological, political and even instrumental point of view”, he said.

 “The sound of Xigovia played on calm nights, on the plain, can be heard from a distance of seven kilometers… This is impressive. A small instrument can reach this distance”, he revealed.

How did Xigovia come about?

During the research, it was also possible to determine how the use of this instrument came about, with two versions: “One that states that it was the girls who started their nighttime games, then the shepherds would have appropriated themselves to use in pastoralism”, he said.

According to Dava, the shepherds used the instrument to combat loneliness, a call to meals, to go and return to pastoralism. “They also use this instrument to ridicule the elderly. I’m not praising this aspect, but it’s a social occurrence”, said Dava, adding that Xigovia is also used in wedding and other ceremonies.

He challenged Mozambican society to reflect on a series of elements, whether from traditions or deeper knowledge around Xigovia, and added that Mozambican society should make an effort to bring culture and education together. “I’m not saying do new ministries, but I’m saying there’s a mating. Everything we learn in education is always a product of culture and always will be”, he said. The result of this mating, according to Dava, is development.

In terms of the products of the study, Dava said that a video has already been produced which, however, is not yet finished, and a brochure that is complete and only the printing is lacking. He underlined that, although the study was completed, “(…) Our idea is to produce several brochures and, over time, produce a collection on traditional instruments” because “the country needs it, society needs it and the world needs it.”


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