Antique Furnishings

Mozambique Clay Water Jug

It’s just a Mozambique Clay Water Jug and not valuable or of great age but like some items on the Antiques Road Show it’s the story and provenance around it that matters- my wife took it out of a box the other day and we decided not to keep it so it’s for sale. Refer photo.

We bought it in Mozambique in the early 1980’s. We were living in Swaziland a neighbouring Country – Mozambique had become independent from Portugal in 1975 but then descended into a civil war that lasted until 1992. Frelimo were the ultimate victors (aided by Russian and Cuban support) – Lourenco Marques the capital had been renamed Maputo.

Our connection was via a friend who had worked at Swaziland Irrigation Scheme with us and who had left and joined FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation) and been posted to Maputo to advise on agricultural cultivation.

We had to get approval from SIS, well there was a war still on, to go and my wife and I decided we would leave the kids with friends as we had no idea of what the trip might be and despite a number of people we knew in our area who had had houses there but not been back as their houses had been taken over by the locals so we had no current information on what to expect. Anyway it was only for 3 days!

We arrived at the Swazi border post and were the only persons going through – then onto the Mozambique Border post. No English spoken but we managed to guess what was required on the forms and went to our waiting Ford Capri (remember them?). We were then tapped on the window by a uniformed official who by a matter of sign language and gestures asked/informed us we had a passenger to take though to Maputo. A middle aged gentleman got in the back seat – many smiles and handshakes and off we went. There was only one road if you could call it that – it consisted of two concrete strips on which you navigated your tyres and hoped like hell there was no rocks, trees, wildlife in the intervening bit.

We had proceeded about 30 odd kilometres when we came to a check point – it was in the middle of absolutely no-where and there was a single infantry man with an automatic rifle and three oil drums across which was slung a single bamboo pole. My wife and I were totally nonplussed but our man in the back seat wound down his window spoke and the pole was lifted and through we went to eventually arrive in the main street of Maputo. Our passenger indicated we should stop and out he got – many effusive handshakes and we guessed our way to Jim’s house.

Maputo at that time despite 6 years of independence might be best compared to a large school where overnight the Teachers, Admin staff and the Caretaker had packed up and gone. Frelimo was still fighting up North so a Government of some sort was in control. There were still Russian troops there and the United Nations and the likes of FAO were the stopgap to get things underway again. The classic was down at the wharf there were many many (100’s of) brand new buses shipped in as donations from Europe – red, green, blue, yellow, many sizes and all now covered in a good layer of dust. There were no buses on the streets as there were few passengers, little fuel and not many places to go – the population had dwindled as many had left as no jobs and gone back to their villages, roads (those that were open) were getting potholed and not being repaired and food was the priority not a flash bus trip. If you saw a crowd it would be a food queue.

We went onto the Greenpeace ship which had been moored at the port for some months awaiting (I think that was the reason but now cannot be sure) approval from the Government of Namibia which was around the other side of Africa to take Educational books for the Namibian people! Jim had befriended a few of the crew – we met a young Bunny McDiarmid who was on the boat.

Our 3 days extended to 4 and we had a good time but knew there would be anxious faces back at home – we had manged to get a few tins of Cashew nuts, had one feed of Mozambiquan prawns which had been in very short supply and eaten what was described as Goat but Jim suggested due to their absence the day before at the now fairly derelict Yacht Club, could have been Dog.

The trip back sans passenger was uneventful, there was no armed security stop – in fact the drums had gone as well and I had a terrible moment thinking we had taken the wrong road and our fuel was getting low. We made it to the Mozambique border post and went in to do the passport bit when out of the office came our earlier passenger dressed in full Customs uniform – he was the Post Commander! Many more smiles and handshakes and he gave us more tins of cashew nuts.

Oh and as regards the Water cooler bought at a market in Maputo (obviously).