Etelvina has invited me over a few times in the evening to watch movies and music videos. My neighbors and colleagues often set up their TVs and stereos out their porches our little bairro buzzes with everyone’s competing sound systems as soon as the power comes on. Once we watched the American film Blood Diamond with Leondardo DiCaprio. It takes place in Sierra Leone but rumor has it that parts of it were filmed in Mozambique so it’s for sale on every street corner in Maputo and Nampula. It’s a good, certainly picturesque thriller but I couldn’t help cringing at the portrayals of some of the African characters. But by far the biggest movie star is (trashy action hero) Jean-Claude Van Damme. We are actually doing an entertainment unit in it my 9th grade classes, and I’m dealing with a lot of “My favorite film is Van Damme.” It has been a struggle to get the kids to differentiate that he is an actor rather than a whole genre of movies in and of himself. Plus nobody seems to believe me when I say that he is actually not American (I think he is Belgian), and that I had barely even heard of him before moving here.
Another time outside Etelvina’s house, we watched a whole bunch of Mozambican music videos. They were in a whole range of languages—Portuguese, Sena (spoken in the province of Tete), Xangaane (spoken in Maputo and Namaacha, where I was living). I really like a lot of the Mozambican music that I’ve heard—there are engaging hooks and catchy beats that make you want to dance, and some of them shed light into gender roles and issues here. The video for one of my favorite songs depicts the singer in traditional costume—a grass skirt and face paint—bowing at the feet of her ancestors, similarly clad and bearing imposing spears, entreating them for help against her abusive husband. A little over the top, perhaps, but interesting that traditional culture and rituals are being evoked to empower women in a pop song.