23. The Washing-Up Phantom, Bairro Litine

Behind the “The Mosque of the Comorians” in the middle of Litine, is a house which is striking in its elaborate window sills and facade design. It conveys the curious feeling you have to get used to in Ilha, of a house displaying the shell of a dried out plaster cast with no inside and full of cracks, because the substances which should be giving it life, have vanished. Inside, however, a big family is living and trying to keep the walls together and a roof over their head, but the life which is being lived, is something completely different from what once created the house. Inside the old walls, a new house of cement blocks is also growing, replacing the old one as it slowly collapses.

The house which belongs to the Kanarere family, was built by a man named Alvaro Pereira de Lima who was a misto with a Portuguese father. He was an employee in the big store Mercantil near the park in front of the secondary school in Ilha, which used to sell everything and supply the garrison in the fort. Probably the house was constructed in 1942-43, a strong house constructed with imported cement floor. Molde Andigg, my local historian explains that Mercantil sold cement, so the employee would have access to good quality cement. The walls, however, are originally constructed in a solid pau a pique construction, with a vertical core of mangrove (laca laca) and lot of lime and coral stones.

2. The house of women

In 1964, Mariamo Kanarere bought the house, because by this time she had too many children to keep living in her father’s house in Bairro Macaripe. Today she claims her 12 daughters with their children and grandchildren, are all living in the house. The house now has 5 bedrooms and a room in the annex in the backyard. It is a house of women, who all live without the fathers of their children. This is quite common in Ilha. The women may continue having a relationship with the fathers of their children, but they also have other women in other houses where they stay more of the time. The houses traditionally belong to women, and especially men share their time between different houses and move often.

Mariamo first bought a house near the road when she wanted to be the head of her own household, but because she did not have an agreement with the neighbourhood secretary, someone else who wanted to pay more, came and bought the house as well. While she was crying about the lost house and waiting for her money back, an uncle who was in charge of Alvaro de LIma’a house came to her, and she decided to buy the house in Litine.

3. The phantom

There was, however a belief that the house in Litine was haunted because it was so big and beautiful. The house had a pump drawing water directly from the well into the bathroom inside the house and a false ceiling of fine wood where you did not see the beams of the roof. You can still see the nicely finished remains from the original roof construction jutting out through the facades. There might be a demon living in such a house, people believed, and would be reluctant to buy it. Mariamo Kanarere, however, went to Nacala, where Alvaro de Lima’s wife Alicia now lived in a big house, after his mother and sister in Ilha had died, and with her they went to the municipal council in Ilha and organized all the documentation for the house which still is hers until today. She paid 50 Escudos for the house at that time, she claims.

The first day Mariamo and her family of women moved into the house, they had refreshments, did the dishes after eating and left them to dry. When returning some hours later, the dishes had been moved, and nobody had seen anyone taking them outside. This type of phantom or demon, which magically move things, are quite common in Ilha. There are stories of bags of rice having moved magically from the market to someone’s house, from goods moved magically from the customs house to a man’s shop in the middle of the night, for example. People believe there being no doubt that it was caused by the demon, when nobody was seen moving the things. Since nobody saw the big fortress in Ilha being constructed, it was also believed until recently, that it was constructed one night by a demon. The people with demons often also seem to have cats around, according to stories I have heard so far. This demon continued in the Kanarere house for a whole week, without anyone being able to explain the washing-up phantom. In order to get rid of the demon, Mariamo had to call curandeiros, the local witch doctors, to break the spell. This helped, and until today there was no new phantom in the house.

4. The spirit of the house

Currently the spirit of the house is under threat by gravity and water infiltration, not by phantoms. Mariamo has replaced one wall at a time inside the house, as they have collapsed over time. The facades are generally still standing, but water is coming in on one side due to the bad state of the roof. A new roof of macuti with all the bamboo and everything needed, is beyond the means of the Kanarere family. They try to patch up the roof as much as possible with macarasse leaves when they can. The lady of the house would not like the house to lose its original structure. She is proud of the house and would like it to keep the facade with beautiful doors and windows towards the street, which is still noticed by passers-by, who complement her on her house.

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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
This entry was posted in Architecture, History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 23. The Washing-Up Phantom, Bairro Litine

  1. Maurizio says:

    You have a nice way to describe the architecture, really. Tchau Silje.

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