Under the MoonLight

In this series of work I go back to my childhood. I wanted to make my memories of the past real again. I wanted them to be as real as right now, to try and keep them alive. By making these images depicting these moments, I felt as if the past could become more tangible, as if I could hold my memories in my own two hands. And through my fond remembering I could not only recapture my memories but also I could change them, improve them, and immortalize them in golden light.

The series is divided into a set of stories:

  • Dancing
  • Basketball
  • A mother who loved reading
  • Family Reunion
  • Tennis and Golf – and the players who felt out-of-place
  • Practicing Musicians
  • Mothers and Children
  • Love Stories
  • Back from Boarding School…

Our nights were odd. The electricity, provided by a local public generator, went off around eight or nine pm and after that the light of the evening was provided only by the moon. And so our memories were made dimmer or brighter with the waxing and waning of the moon.This was back in 1980, until around 1986, in a town called Guro Sede – ManicaProvince, Central Mozambique. We lived in a place called Serras Pires, an upper area, previously owned by a Portuguese business man named Serras Pires. My father had been offered a position at the local Executive Council there, so we all went with him. My years in Guro, as I recall them now, are some of the most evocative, particularly our nights under the moonlight – where our fun turned into nostalgia. Oh ‘Que Saudades!’ I miss everything. And it seems to me that time will never offer anything like it again. Perhaps something better lies ahead but for now I’ll continue to draw out the light from the past.

I remember a neighbour – a former professional basketball player who had seven daughters, in the process of trying to have a son. His lot of daughters were the neighbourhood attraction and the yard of their home was always crammed with kids from the area.In this series I bring back memories of them in the hope of sharing the warmth and joy of the times we congregated in this happy backyard. From the outside “Under the Moonlight” is cast in black and white but on the inside, a world of vibrant warmth and colour glows.For the most part, neighbourhood relations were friendly. We were there for each other. Even at school, you would be sure to be supported by your neighbourhood team if a bully ever approached you.

Back then, there was no TV signal in the town. The national television network only covered the two major cities, Maputo and Beira. So we had to entertain ourselves. With our inventions of performance and play we found ourselves blissfully lost in the laughter of the warm night.Sometimes whilst caught up in the evening’s play, we would be interrupted – by parents complaining of noise or insisting on our bed times to ready us for school the following day. On the nights we were enraptured in a game of basketball, parents knew that the best way to put us to bed was by taking away the ball. In an effort to lure it back from them, we would send one of the cute little kids to go to them and cry for the ball… In some of my other images, I depict mothers reading their books or work notes, trying to get a moment to concentrate in the midst of their children’s constant longing for attention. When their children played together, they had a quick moment to have for themselves. When I revisit this time, lost in nostalgia I’m warmed by these memories. I feel like a child again in a place where we treasured the moonlight.

Whenever I draw, a new memory emerges from the endless stream of the past waiting to be illuminated.These days it seems that the moon doesn’t cast the same light. Undoubtedly not the same light cast in my drawings of old love – of boys sent with messages and letters of love; of rendezvous under the moonlight; of neighbours sitting on the walls between their yards chatting, laughing, falling in love. But it was a time not only of love. Mozambique was at war, as the Rhodesian War ended the Frelimo and Renamo one begun. During the former, I remember – even though I was very young at the time – we left our houses early in the evening to head for the large flat rocks on which we would lay, there we hid under blanks, lying flat and undetected, as bombs dropped nearby.Fortunately during the Frelimo and Renamo Wars our town was never attacked. We were protected there, there we felt safe. We felt far from the gunshots that we heard in the distance. They assured us that our village was at peace. And our experience of those wars was limited to supply shortages to the village, when cars were attacked on their way into town. But neighbours we knew lost loved ones in those attacks. My uncle was in one of those cars. He went missing for weeks. One day his car was found, bent in the middle of the road and we were riddled with anguish, certain he had been captured by the Renamo forces. But weeks later, bless God, he appeared, thin and dirty. He’d escaped the attack and walked through the bushes until he arrived in town that day.It was drawing up the past that led me back to these memories. Memories now embalmed in the chalk of an image – an image to share with strangers in a different place, in a different time. Nostalgia – the time we long for.

Through this body of work I not only pay tribute to these memories, but also to the people who made them possible – to my mother, and all the mothers of the village, and the fathers too, for the world they made for their children, a world that through these images, I’ll never forget.