Welcome to the 6th installation of #musicamondays & #MUSICMONDAYS, which features music from around the world. Each song is selected to start your week off with a new energy and new country(ies) to explore! You’re welcome 😉
Perhaps what Harlem is to New York City or, say, Rocinha is to Rio de Janeiro, Mafalala is to Maputo. The neighborhood predates the colonial era, but was defined by its colonial era evolution. In separating the natives (read: Africans) from the Europeans (read: Portuguese), the town of Lourenco Marques – common day Maputo – had a variety of Jim Crow or apartheid-like racial boundaries. One being that the Africans were not allowed in the center city – near the train station and seaport – without proof of employment in those areas. It goes without saying that Africans most certainly were not allowed to live in that area, but they needed to be close enough to work in these hubs. Bordering neighborhoods like Mafalala were just a stone’s throw from the Portuguese part of town, but a world apart.
While these barriers kept Africans out of the city center, it didn’t do much to keep Whites out of the ‘hood. So, Mafalala (like Chamanculo and other surrounding areas) became home to many mulattos – people of mixed race who often had access to educational and financial resources from their White parentage. Many were conceived in Mafalala between White fathers and African mothers (often ‘working girls’) after nights in the underground marrabenta bars. Mafalala bears its very name from the Portuguese mispronunciation of an indigenous word for a kind of folk dance, properly pronounced Um-faah-la-la.
Where conflict and cultures converge something new will always emerge. Such is the case in Mafalala. Word has it that as the city’s demand for English and French speaking workers increased, the Portuguese decided to expand their workforce by importing Africans from neighboring Comoros and Zanzibar. With them, these people brought a strong connection to Islam, which is still visible today, and the Arabic (and its Kiswahili derivative) language. It is said that over 60 percent of the neighborhood’s residents identify as Muslim and Mafalala is home to countless mosques and masjids. Imagine the trickery needed to hide a mosque from the eyes of the intolerant and bigoted colonial masters. Simply surviving was a defiant act of resistance.
In addition to the foreign residents, Mafalala is home to many internal migrants. Macua speakers from the north and Ronga speakers from the south find themselves next door neighbors in this enclave – and apparently it’s been that way for generations. Whether it be the draw of jobs in the city center, refuge from anti-colonial fighting in the interior, safety from starvation and poverty during the civil war, Mafalala has been home to many passersby with a diversity of reasons for coming. Even, poet Noemi de Sousa and ex-Presidents Samora Machel and Joaquim Chissano rested their heads there for a time.
Today, this part of town is part of legend and lure. It is still home to many working poor and tough guys. Like in Rocinha and (what remains of) Harlem, many of it’s residents are still fighting to overcome historic external barriers, as well as just beginning to break some of the negative, self-induced behaviors that have held them back. Like any modern community, Mafalala is made up of lots of sub-communities and ethnic groups, the boundaries of which have always been in flux. Whether they arrived in the 15th century or just yesterday, the people of Mafalala help color a part of the city that deserves more kudos for its cultural contributions and recognition for it’s sheer existence after eras of extreme change.
Without further ado, the many faces and facets of Mafalala:
To learn more about the Mafalala Walking Tour and the Association of young people who run it, check out http://www.iverca.org
Every once in a while I like to live the glamorous life. I emerge from behind the screen, out of the shadows of my EMUs, and over the bridge into D.C. proper. Often, this inclination is met with ill-fated results, but I’ve got a mean case of revolving door, selective memory.
Nevertheless, Delhi left me with lots of fine jewelry and the stamina for a demanding social life. With Delhi behind me, though, I have no good place to use these gifts. So, last week my desperation led me to search “fashion” in D.C. on eventbrite. The event I selected was D.C. Fashion Week’s International Couture Collections show and, let’s just say, it turned out to be such a hot mess that I decided to rush back home, cozy up on my couch with a tall glass of Voga Pinot Grigio, and get these fingers tickling my keyboard.
D.C. is not Delhi and I mean that in the most insulting way to the District. Delhi has its flaws, but fashion is not one of them. Only the top hotels are venues for showings and only the top designers get to show. Apparently, in D.C. there was an open call for whoever just happened to wear clothes on a daily basis. First, the show opened with the models just walking down the runway in black clothes. They didn’t announce their names or tell us why we were subjected to a runway walk without a purpose. Were these black clothes those of any particular designer? No, sir. They appeared to be the models’ own. First problem identified. “A fashion show with no fashions!” I didn’t sign up for this!
What I did sign up for was the show of the featured designer Menouba. She hails from Algeria and her clothing is an Arab-French fusion of well embroidered jackets and aladina pants. And while it’s not the very best I’ve ever seen, I was definitely impressed with the intricacy and the tailored fit of her jackets. The Menouba show was followed by a Pakistani-American designer and a lady from D.C. Sequins and polyester heavy, none of their clothes were altered to fit the models. I could go on and on, but just watching them made me feel itchy. In sum, their shows were so disappointing I didn’t bother to take photos. Second problem identified.
Before an intermission – yes, chile an intermission at a fashion show – the host decided to do interviews with the designers. (Q: Where they do that at? A: D.C., baby) So, he calls out the designer for Menouba from the back to ask about her inspiration and her design process. At the I-N-T-E-R-N-A-T-I-O-N-A-L show you’d think they would have realized that she does not speak English! No, no – the host just decided to speak slower. Whhhaaat iissss yoouurrrrrr iiiinnssspppiiirraaaattttttiiioooonnnn? #shamefaced A very sweet young lady went on the stage to serve as a French interpreter and that just saved the whole travesty.
Post intermission, there was yet again another real foreign designer followed by two other eye sores. I don’t personally like to wear alpaca wool, but I could see why the Peruvian Varignia Garcia featured it in her fall/winter collection. So, before I even get into the clothes, let’s just discuss how the lovely folks at D.C. Fashion week spelled the poor girl’s name wrong all up and through the show.
Garcia’s designs were bohemian and warm. I could have done without the matching purses, but she produced a line with an identity and I can roll with the Peruvian punches. You know that I love a good warm scarf and I could imagine curling up with one and a tall glass of pisco! She was dishing the goods in the outerwear department. I don’t remember the sequence exactly, but I believe she was followed by a Nigerian designer and Rikaoto. I dont know… why waste time or energy on things that don’t matter?
I could talk about the two sisters who sang an Adele medley duet, but just quit in the middle with no coordination. One of the girls was on the Voice last season, she said. In fact, they were both pretty girls with nice voices and cute shapes, but limited lung capacity to actually carry any Adele song. They will be brilliant models or rocket scientists one day – or whatever they aspire to be – after they stop singing at fashion shows in D.C.
My last and final critique rests with the fact that the host transformed into a designer and released his line, Corjor International – apparently an odd acronym combining the first letters of his three sons’ names. (There was nothing international here, by the way.) All I know is that I saw a lot of men walking around in their underwear. This girl hasn’t seen her man in almost six months, so part of me was happy – very, very happy. The other part was confused – very, very confused. Since when are sheer pants on a man a wearable piece? Third problem identified. Oh, there clearly were no buyers present.
This dude used his paternity to create an underwear line called “Magnum.” Sigh. The rest of the men’s wear was clearly a mix of original pieces with others made by established designers. It remains unclear what was designed and what was store bought. Yet, another design faux pas brought to the fore. But, the women’s line showed some potential with interestingly light fabrics on non-traditional sized models.
All in all, my companion and I decided that the next time we’re heading to a fashion week event in America it’s New York City or bust! I really wish the Fashion Queens had a chance to see D.C.’s efforts and rule it ratchet. But, in their absence, I take it upon myself to declare that this was one of the most hilarious nights out I’ve had in a long time. I’m sad to say it was at a lot of other people’s expense, but such is life. If it doesn’t involve Capitol File, the Corcoran, the Lisner, the Smithsonian, or some element of the U.S. government…. you won’t catch me at anybody’s fashion event in D.C. ever again. Problems solved.
International designers I love:
Tufi Duek – Brazil
House of Masaba – India (and West Indian)
Gauri & Nainika – India
Aschobi – Sierra Leone/ Paris (See if you can spot me in the 2012 audience!)
Fasting has a way of resurrecting old foodgasms. I find myself thinking about iftar very early on in the day. Often I oscillate between wondering how I can avoid spending my whole paycheck on a fancy dinner and wondering how fast I can make microwaveable oatmeal. But there are glimpses in the middle of great food experiences of yesteryear, which then lead me to wonder where I should go to break my fast. There are many places to choose from, but I’m drawn to locales where the food is delicious, the prices are decent, and the portion sizes are disciplined.
Today’s musing led me to list my favorite restaurants from around the world. I’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible of all my travels but, so as not to taint your experience in any way and also not to get too hungry too early in my fast, I’ll give you recommendations and reviews from others. Happy global hunger hunting!
Barbados: 10 Best says “Chefette is a small fast food chain, and there are 14 locations all over the island. It’s not particularly fast, but the prices are reasonable and the food is quite good. Tasty chicken and chips is the staple offering, but the “broasted” chicken sandwich and the various rotis are also satisfying. Several locations have drive-throughs and playgrounds for the kids, and some also serve pizza, barbecue or ice cream.”
France: Creperie Framboise in Paris really got me to appreciate crepes for their decadence. Before this they were just thin pancakes with nutella inside: -_- (boring face). After Framboise, I see crepes and I smile.
L’escale Caraibe on Rue de Guerre was a delightful treat for me, someone who believes I know Caribbean food. Trying the cuisine of Martinique & Guadeloupe was a culinary pleasure of awesome proportions. Yum Yum!
India: Sancho’s is in Mumbai, and here’s what the good folks at Zomato have to say: “Bandra rather Mumbai has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, but not an overwhelming amount, fading in comparison to the number of Chinese, Sports Bars and Sea Food institutions in town. Broadly speaking, Sancho’s falls firmly in the “Awesome” category. More specifically, the food is “Delicious,” albeit generally a bit too hyped given the prices.”
Netherlands: Mashua in Amsterdam has me reeling from great cocktails to Quinoa Risotto. Oy vey! Gianguido says, “It is Peruvian fusion food. The menu is quite short, which I actually like it. Ample choice of whine.. which I also like 🙂 I went for Ceviche as starter… it was nicely prepared with all the whistles and bells…. I could feel a bit too much the lemon for my personal taste, but over all well done. My main course was a great boneless chicken leg prepared with cumin crust/sauce with wild spinach and young potatoes. it was really delish!” Need I say more?
United States: The Corson Building in Seattle is exactly how I’d want to run a restaurant, if ever I wanted to run a restaurant. Read up for yourself. And here’s what 50 Shades of Delicious has got to say…
Social consciousness disclaimer: Everything I’ve had to say about Trayvon Martin trial/fiasco has already been said.
Ana Hudson is a twenty something from East Orange, NJ. Over six months ago, she joined her boyfriend in Montreal and added a new element to their otherwise long-distance relationship. She’s found herself exploring friendships, relationships, the French language, Canadian and Haitian cultures (the beau’s family is from Haiti). What a journey!
It has been a year and a month that I’ve dated my boyfriend. He lives outside of Montreal, Quebec, Canada in a small town named Mascouche. This is a completely French Canadian town. Let me tell you, French Canadians refuse to speak any English if at all possible. It’s mind boggling because I think to myself, ‘how can we communicate properly when you don’t meet me in the middle?’ I always start with ‘bonjour, hi’ to ensure they understand I speak English. But that does not always work well.
I have had a few very short and bland conversations in English. Maybe they’re just as embarrassed in their English as I am with my French? Either way, I wish they would take the same approach as I do when it comes to these awkward moments. “Just Do It!” as Nike would say.
French isn’t the only language I’m learning to navigate. I have also found myself losing my swag in English! French is now my second language. So, I have moments of translation in my head that seem to be simultaneous with my speech. But, it’s not an easy task. Recently, I was explaining what a certain car looks like to my mom. All I kept saying was, “une voiture est…voiture, voiture mommy, oh mon dieu je ne sais pas avec moi!!” My poor mom on the other line took pity on me. “I understand Ana, the voiture.” Voiture just means car.
Beyond the language of speech there is the language of love. Being in a relationship outside of the US of A is difficult. The cost of traveling back and forth gets expensive. The time spent apart is daunting, not to mention trying to incorporate socializing with family so that time together is substantive. It feels like everyone needs to meet your partner to confirm that you’re not dating a ghost! What about when it’s time for the relationship to grow beyond the two of you? What about the pitter patter of little feet? Oh my lawd!! A relationship of only one year can shift gears as if it’s been 5. The strain of traveling and considering the absence makes the relationship move even faster. But, if it’s definitely something worth it, you have to believe that it will work out for the best. C’est la vie!
And what happens to life back home? All the faces and places that you left behind? I always feel tense once I’m back in the tri-state. I miss the conveniences of downtown Newark, route 280, family, friends and the Parkway. Did I mention how much I miss the English language?
Long distance, transnational relationships are all about balancing love and loneliness. There is part of you that feels free – on your own, taking a leap of faith. Doing what some others from home wouldn’t attempt to do. There is the other part that is learning a new language and culture all at the same time. In the midst of it all there’s a frustrating acceptance to achieve, to feel you belong not just in your relationship, but also within the larger culture that is most familiar to your partner.
Relationships are a balancing act and I have no magic formula. Between English, French, love and pommes frites, I am enjoying the journey. But, there are moments when I look around and realize that I am far away from where I’m started. Most of the time, I think that’s not such a bad thing.