Mozambique journalists advocate more art in the media

February 2004 -

Newspapers in Mozambique scarcely print news about art. Culture is also sporadic on the radio. A group of journalists therefore decided to promote art in the media. They discuss one another's work, organize cultural events, and dream of their own art magazine. They have already been successful. Noticias, Mozambique's largest newspaper, recently launched a weekly art section.

The journalist network, called Cooperative de Artes e Letras (COOPAL), has a small office in Maputo. This office was made available free of charge by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It primarily serves as a meeting location. 'We don't even have a telephone, and we pay most expenses ourselves,' says Agusto Rodrigues, a journalist with Rádio Moçambique who was one of the founders of COOPAL. 'But that does not stop us. We meet once each week to discuss plans and to tell one another about the reporting we have done. We exchange contacts and information. We also critique one another's work. We learn from this. We want to improve our skills as art journalists.'

Another objective is to acquire more media attention for art. The eight journalists currently participating in the network have also carefully acquired some success. Mozambique's primary newspaper, Noticias, launched the first edition of a flashy-styled art section in its Wednesday edition in mid-2003. The section consists of no less than eight pages. 'Until then, all we had was the daily culture page, but that was not nearly enough,' according to Gil Filipe, who joined Noticias' four-headed art editorial staff in 1977. 'The art section is a significant improvement.' There is more than enough to report on in the area of art, the journalists say, but art is underappreciated not only by the media, but by the entire Mozambique society. 'Politicians are not sensitive to culture,' says Agusto Rodrigues. 'They do not take it seriously. Despite the fact that there is much talent, there is no cultural industry in Mozambique.'

The journalist network, which was established two years ago, also wants to change that. COOPAL is primarily known in Mozambique thanks to the annual cultural event that it organizes, called 'Sons da Escrita', which means the Sounds of Writing. This event includes theater performances, works of art, a book fair and seminars, for example regarding the identity of Mozambique culture. In December the journalists organized an ode to Justino Chemane, the composer of Mozambique's first national anthem who was wounded during a traffic accident. 'This country has the bad habit of waiting to recognize artists until after they have died,' according to Gil Filipe. 'We did not want that to happen to Justino Chemane.'

The journalists have yet to achieve their greatest dream: an art magazine. They already compiled a pilot issue, titled Culturando. 'An Italian organization offered one-time funding so that we could show what we have in mind,' says Gil Filipe. 'It is expensive, but we still believe that we should continue. We believe that there is a potential market. Information is vital and specific information is essential. Culture is about how we define ourselves. People who do not know who they are, are not alive. If it is up to us, Mozambique will have its first art magazine before the end of the year.'