2. A mudhut in a warehouse, a kiosk on a staircase

Since the whole of Ilha de Moçambique is UNESCO World Heritage, one is theoretically not supposed to build new structures without permission from the conservation authorities. Space on the island is precious, both in the old stone buildings of what was previously the Portuguese trading settlement, and in the rest of the town. Many of the stone buildings are squatted, which can be a big problem for the degrading built heritage. Squatters use what they can find, be it old wooden doors for firewood if there is nothing else available. Some of the stone buildings are therefore closed off, to prevent further degradation. The macuti neighbourhoods where most of the population lives, are probably the most dense square meters in the whole of Mozambique, one house accommodating many families in an economy based on letting and subletting. Here there is simply no space to build, building regulation and property limits belonging to another stratosphere.

Some find an old trading warehouse which is empty and erect a mud house inside. In this particular case it seems like the hut builder is taking care of the property and awaiting action by the owners – the descendants of the great Portuguese trading firm which once was one of the great economic powers in Ilha. Since then the building has been nationalised at independence, abandoned and then later again made available to the trading house heirs, who would like the building to be restored and used for something which could dignify their name.

Some manage to find an empty corner on the staircase leading down to the lower lying macuti neighbourhoods and erect a small structure of cement blocks for trading purposes. This is a perfect spot for selling, since the whole neighbourhood passes through one of the staircases to enter their home, which is built in the cavity left by the extraction of coral stone for construction in the northern part of Ilha. The roads are on the level of the stone town, meaning you are looking down upon a sea of roofs when driving past some of the neighbourhoods in the macuti area. This sea of roofs used to be made of macuti, the palm leaf construction, but like the man building this kiosk, more and more people are choosing corrugated sheets for their roofs.

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About Silje

Architect and PhD Candidate based in Copenhagen, Denmark, but working mainly with heritage conservation and urban development in Ilha de Moçambique 2011-13. You can contact me on macutiblog at gmail dot com
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One Response to 2. A mudhut in a warehouse, a kiosk on a staircase

  1. Pingback: Macuti | Hotel Universo

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