1. The Ruin
One of the first houses you notice when you pass through the bairro of Areal in Ilha de Moçambique, whether you are walking by foot inside the bairro or driving on the street dividing Areal and Litine, is a quite remarkable ruin of an old house still partly covered by terracotta roof tiles, hovering above the rest of the corrugated iron or macuti roofs.
The house has 55 cm thick stone and lime construction walls, and through the two central living rooms, according to the classic plan type of the area, there is access to a veranda covering a large broken cistern and steps leading into a little garden courtyard with charming trees.
In later years, the backyard has been made smaller as the annex house at the back has grown to accommodate more people of the family of 20 which bought the house after independence. The ruin suggests another time, when life in Areal, which is among the neighbourhoods situated higher in the landscape, was fresh and with green trees, when the house had indoor toilet and bathroom facilities. Water came from a cistern collecting water from the tiled and well ventilated roof, and part of the house not yet become a heap of coral stone rubble, where now a temporary bathroom of rice sack sheets is installed.
The house was built in 1914, according to Molde Andigg, senior resident of the neighbouring bairro, and considered one of the people who best knows the history of Ilha. It was built by a Portugese called Florentino Lopez Nogueira who was a lawyer and secretary in the colonial adminitstration. When he was old, he moved to Marangonha and in the end lived in the town centre. He had a daughter who married an African, Molde explains. Now nobody from the family is left in Ilha.
2. Orchestra Bambi
In the 1940s and 50s, the house belonged to a Chinese merchant living on the mainland called Masaa. He had an African wife and their daughter moved to Macau. He rented the house to a man from Quelimane as a place to have parties. “It was the dance club where everybody went, people from all the bairros, from 9 o clock at night until til morning. Everyone were together in the club, including the white people, nobody had problems with that.” The stars of the club was the Orchestra Bambi. They had percussion, concertina, and were a lot of fun. Dancing wasn’t prohibited, but you had to dress well. There was no restaurant or real bar, just music, which was enough to make a party. People brought wine themselves. The Portuguese administration, however, didn’t like “brincadeira”, in this context meaning people not taking things seriously and carrying out all the necessary paperwork, and since the club wasn’t leaglized with the authorities, after 5 years the government closed it down. In 1951 the chief of police came and announced the end of the dance club.
As Molde is talking to me about the interesting ruin, his face lights up whne he remembers the music. “There was a gramophone there, and we played music from the radio or live music like the Orchestra Bambi. We had records from Brazil called JV1, JV2, with songs and rumba.” Rumba was the great hit, and Molde starts to sing a song
“Scandalosa – um dia uma velha là em Cuba dansava a rumba, dizeram qu’era scandalosa. Scandalosa – dansei, mas nenhum m’incomoda a rumba por ser maliciosa. Scandalosa – …………. a minha vida deliciosa……”
3. The cyclone
Muzé Ibraimo is now the owner of the house. He bought it in the 1980s, and had never dreamt that such a good house could collapse. He thought he had a place secured for his family for the rest of their time. Still during one cyclone, on the side of the house which is not supported by the cistern, the foundation was partly washed out, and two rooms in the house collapsed, leaving it open to the elements and the ceramic Marseilles roofing tiles falling down. Repair works needed to put the large walls and tile roof in order, is beyond the capabilities of his family. Muzé is from a family which used to be relatively wealthy in the bairro, but as employment oportunities have been reduced to almost none, it is difficult for him to take care of the large family.
In those times after the war when the house was a dance club, there were more than 100 shops in Ilha. Life was good. Then the port moved to Nacala, and slowly the businesses and the shops moved. Muzé used to have plenty of work at the port, which in the 1980s closed completely. He could bring home money every day, a situation which is long gone. Today he is waiting for his children to get an new oportunity in a different world and is the owner of a ruin which could be an intriguing frame for a small neighbourhood museum…. We could play rumba and the recording of Molde’s singing. The history of the swinging 50´s in Ilha would be an interesting addition to the folklore which currently shapes the image of the southern part of Ilha.