The culture of Mozambique is in large part derived from its history of Bantu, Swahili, and Portuguese rule, and has expanded since independence in 1975. The majority of its inhabitants are black Africans.
The Makonde are renowned for their wood carving and elaborate masks that are commonly used in ritual dances. There are two different kinds of wood carvings. Shetani (evil spirits), which are mostly carved in heavy ebony, tall, and elegantly curved with symbols and nonrepresentational faces. The ujamaa are totem-type carvings which illustrate lifelike faces of people and various figures. These sculptures are usually referred to as “family trees” because they tell stories of many generations.
During the last years of the colonial period, Mozambican art reflected the oppression by the colonial power, and became symbol of the resistance. After independence in 1975, the modern art came into a new phase. The two best known and most influential contemporary Mozambican artists are the painter Malangatana Ngwenya and the sculptor Alberto Chissano. Also a lot of the post-independence art during the 1980s and 1990s reflect the political struggle, civil war, suffering, starvation, and struggle.
The native folk music of Mozambique has been highly influenced by Portuguese forms. The most popular style of modern dance music is marrabenta. Mozambican music also influenced another Lusophone music in Brazil, like maxixe (its name derived from Maxixe in Mozambique), and Cuban music like Mozambique.
Culture was an integral part of the struggle for independence, which began in 1964. Leaders of the independence movement used cultural solidarity to gain support from the common people, while the Portuguese colonialists promoted their own culture. By the time independence came in 1975, Mozambican bands had abandoned their previous attempts at European-style music, and began forging new forms based out of local folk styles and the new African popular music coming from Zaire, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.
Traditional clothing such as Capulans or headscarves are still worn but most people wear Western style of clothing.
Mozambican cuisine is rich and varied, reflecting both its traditional roots as well as outside influences. Flavourful spicy stews eaten with rice or steamed cormeal dough are common. Like most African nations, fish is also a key part of the national diet, and can be incorporated into a number of dishes, fresh, smoked or dried. Like its African neighbors, Mozambique is also blessed with a wide variety of fruits, including citrus produce, (such as oranges and grapefruits), bananas, mangoes and coconuts which are enjoyed throughout the nation.
Mozambique is a multilingual country. A number of Bantu languages are indigenous to Mozambique. Portuguese, inherited from the colonial period (see: Portuguese Mozambique), is the official language, and Mozambique is a full member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. Ethnologue lists 43 languages spoken in the country. According to INE – Mozambique’s National Institute for Statistics – Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in Mozambique: 39.6% of the national population and 72.4% of people living in urban areas are fluent in the language. Other widely spoken languages include Swahili, Makhuwa, Sena, Ndau, and Shangaan (Tsonga). Other indigenous languages of Mozambique include Lomwe, Makonde, Chopi, Chuwabu, Ronga, Kimwani, Zulu, and Tswa.
Small communities of Arabs, Chinese, and Indians speak their own languages (Indians from Portuguese India speak any of the Portuguese Creoles of their origin) aside from Portuguese as their second language.
Literary production has been limited because of poverty and a low literacy rate. There is a strong oral tradition of storytelling, and many of the country’s contemporary writers draw on that tradition. Literary writing has historically been tied to resistance to Portuguese colonialism and for this reason was largely censored before independence. Writers such as Luis Bernardo Honwana were imprisoned for their work. Honwana is also a documentary filmmaker but is best known for the book We Killed Mangy-Dog, which combines personal and cultural autobiography. Virtually all the poets and writers use the colonial Portuguese language as their medium. The poet Jose Craveirinha sees Portuguese, particularly with the infusion of local African words, as an important part of the nation’s cultural heritage and is a proponent of retaining it as the national language. Because of a lack of education and other disadvantages, women have been underrepresented in the literary realm. One exception is Noemia De Sousa, who is known as the mother of Mozambican writers. When she began writing in the 1950s and 1960s, she was the only mestiça writing in Portuguese in Africa. She takes on the subject of African women and their work and has become a voice for the women of her country.
All the main cities are located on the coast. Maputo was constructed on a European model and has wide streets, public gardens, and paved sidewalks inlaid with mosaic tiles. The city has two parts: the older residential area on a cliff overlooking the harbor and the newer industrial area below, where the factories, port facilities, and most office buildings are located. In the 1950s, the Portuguese architect Amancio d’Alpoim Guedes designed many of the city’s office and apartment buildings, which combine shapes and symbols from traditional African art with a modern sensibility.
The oldest surviving settlement is Moçambique Island in the north. The Arab architecture of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, including coral-block mosques and houses, is still standing. Fort Saint Sebastian, a huge stone fort built by the Portuguese in 1507, is another physical testament to the island’s history. The fort has been preserved as a museum. The town continues to thrive with large Asian and Muslim populations.
Football (Portuguese: futebol) is the most popular sport in Mozambique.
The major holidays are New Year’s Day on 1 January, Heroes’ Day on 3 February, Women’s Day on 7 April, Workers’ Day on 1 May, Independence Day on 25 June, the Anniversary of the End of Armed Struggle on 7 September, the Anniversary of the Opening of Armed Struggle on 25 September, and Family Day on 25 December.