History & Culture

The first Portuguese explorers in Mozambique, led by Vasco de Gama, landed at Sofala in 1502. The Portuguese took a keen interest in the abundant resources and quickly set up trading posts. The first significant ports were Fort Ilha de Mozambique and the fort of Sofala. The Portuguese stayed and later amassed more land for themselves; they spread inward and built more settlements and trading posts. In 1884, at the Berlin Conference, Portugal gained an official stake of the region but failed to bring the entire area under subjugation. There were pockets of uprisings as some local tribes and chieftains put up resistance.

As control weakened, large tracts of land were leased out to private companies who ran agricultural estates and exploited the locals to work on these farms. For decades there was discontent among the locals. The first organised military uprising took place in 1964; this was led by the FRELIMO Party, a united front which eventually took down the Portuguese. This war lasted until the seventies. Mozambique became independent in June of 1975, but sadly internal conflict erupted into a civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992.

In 1994, Mozambique became a democratic country and, after peaceful elections, they started to rebuild and move forward.  Over twenty years later Mozambique has seen marked development, but many historical monuments remain and serve as reminders of the various groups who played a part in the country’s past.  
Mozambique is a country which carries multiple races and cultural groups. These include African tribes descended from the Bantu, Indians, Europeans and Arabs. Each group claims a part in the history of the nation, and they have co-existed for hundreds of years. As a result, there is a mesh of cultures evident in the language, dress and food common to Mozambique. Natives are the majority group and their influence is very strong. Indian and Swahili influence is also noteworthy. For example, the condiments favoured by the Indian community have been incorporated in the local cuisine. 

Due to the diverse tribes spread across the country traditional practices differ from place to place. It has been noted that even inheritance cultures differ, with a mixture of patrilineal and matrilineal systems being practised.  The distinctiveness of the tribes is beautifully displayed when travelling amongst the different rural regions.

 A few things do bring people together. For instance, the Chopi dance is the national dance, its performers wear colourful costumes and it always mesmerises those who see it. The Chopi ethnic group is just one of many, and so there are many other tribal dances. Some visitors may be privileged to see locals perform their unique traditional dances and songs. Other popular means of cultural expression can be seen in the architecture and crafts.

The Makua people are well known for excellent basketry and elegant sculptures. The Makonde people make ivory carvings as well as the unique ‘mapico’ masks. In the Niassa province, they make distinct musical instruments which are used in cultural songs and dances.

Portugal's colonial power has also left a marked influence: Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique today. Some Portuguese dishes are very popular, and there are many common dining practices borrowed from that culture. For example, dinner is served formally at the table, with cutlery.