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Domi Chirongo


Domi Chirongo

Chirongo was born in 1975. In his childhood, he travelled widely in Mozambique. He has a degree in Psychology and Pedagogy, studying Public Health at post-graduate level. He is author of the novel, XIDAMBANE ­ Um Pequeno Africano Vítima das cheias. He is a member of the National Syndicate of Journalists (SNJ) and of the Institute of Social Communication of Southern Africa (MISA­ MOÇAMBIQUE).

Translated from the Portuguese by Robert Henson


 Warning Shots
Robert Henson

It was a few days on from 24th December, the big family celebration! It was night-time. My father had gone to a party fraternity. My two eldest brothers had gone to a banga*. At home were my mother, my other two older brothers and I. Outside, everything was tranquil.

The city was calm and peaceful. Cold for a tropical climate. There were no traffic lights -because there was not enough traffic to justify them. There were no taxis and very few machimbombos*. The tallest block of flats was four storeys high. It was some distance from the centre of town. I don’t recall that any streets had brothels. There was no university. As for escalators, nobody had ever thought of them. Nobody had even heard that mobile phones existed. Computers were out of the question. There was no television and we didn’t listen to the radio much.

We knew about the war from those who survived, from our dead who were brought back to us, and and the rest who looked worse for wear. There were also those who were captured and sentenced before us in public. That usually ended in several live beatings, after their outpourings of repentance and remorse. I don’t remember anyone who had been lynched in public. I do recall, however, worse scenarios; boys forced to maintain sexual relations with their parents. Fathers forced to beat their own sons. People’s lips being slit, allegedly so they could laugh forever. Mothers forced to cut off their brothers’ noses and ears. Others were subjugated to more complex procedures such as having their arms and legs cut off.

It was all because of the war. A war that had other causes!

In this respect it was easy for me to fabricate repentance. To describe a dream. I don’t know what for; I never got to see an execution by firing squad. Maybe because I was a child! I never asked my parents either. Nor anyone else. I don’t think it was a big thing for me. Of the people I knew back then I don’t remember anybody my age who had seen an execution. However, we used to talk about this and much more all the time.

News was passed on by word of mouth in the city. This was how we knew who was Minister for Justice, of the Interior, Education and Culture, and all the rest. This was how we knew the story of the snake man. This was how we came to be familiar with various other local tales. This was also how we missed many international and national events. One day I will take stock of what has been lost!

As I was saying, night had already fallen. Some of our immediate family were at home. We were barely hours away from entering the New Year when the sound of shooting burst on our eardrums. We’d never experienced anything like it.

The noises were loud, melancholic and purposeless. You couldn’t hear the sound of grenades around our blocks. Nor far from them either. I believe it was the sound of muzzle loaders from those Russian films interspersed with the Makarov. Ah! The AKM was definitely there. My favourite weapon! – My father showed me how to use it before I was 10 years old. I went on to like it, although I’ve never shot anybody.

That day I wanted to get out the AKM, which my father kept hidden in the wardrobe. But I wasn’t in charge of operations. And it wasn’t a serious situation, either.

We remained calm, as my father had drilled us. My brothers started to give orders to my mother and I. I remember we had been told of the reputation that the rebels would like to have; not that of a group of bandits, as they were commonly perceived in town. My brothers had learned a lot from the outpourings of repentance and remorse at the time of the public sentencing. I understood there and then that this knowledge didn’t come from school, from Church or from Initiation Rites either.

In a short space of time we came up with an emergency plan in case we were captured. I don’t remember having ever had such a clear and concise lesson in my whole life. That day we didn’t cry. We were steadfast and determined to live. The screams and shots carried on into the small hours. Nobody touched the food laid out for the feast. Nobody played on our batuques, marimbas* and guitars.

It was dawn before our brothers and my father came home. They were all really cheerful. Happy New Year! The government had authorised the use of some fireworks for the New Year celebrations; we just did not know.


*Uma banga - a term for dinner party; "banga" itself means style, for people who like to dress well in shiny shoes for example.
*Machimbombos – minibuses for transportation of goods and people within the city
*Batuques, Marimbas – traditional instruments of the percussion family



African Potato

I feel my throat
& I cannot
this drug.

they say
I have
moon sickness.
says he can
cure everything.
but the ones
before me
haven't come back.
the medicine man
said they got better
but no one knows
if they actually died.

meanwhile the West
there is progress, they say.
when we poor die.
this is our tragic logic
that’s the way of the




Robert Henson
is completing his BA French & Hispanic Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He spent a one-year placement at the Instituto de Gastronomía in the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador and his literary interests include the contemporary Francophone, Hispanic and Lusophone novel.
    Ritual poético                

A white handkerchief, perhaps similar in colour to a peace dove. Two clay pots, one sheltering corn flour and the other snuggling the most delicious feijoada the universe has ever produced. In one corner, a blood-coloured capulana. A mortar pounded by the pestle. A sieve applauding the act. Shellfish adorning the smell of the sea, remembering the origin of the inspiration...and the discovery of the heavenly powers! To the side, appears a mixing bowl, not knowing what to do. In it lies a catana ready to feel the moan of a wild hen which stutters when she clucks in front of the girl decorated with flowers. Serene outside yet restless inside! This interior that impregnates the body and infects the offspring! Oh girl of that faraway sea, girl vaccinated with the cuts of a blade. These cuts that are introduced, black powder equal to ground coal. Meanwhile the flaming candle casts its light over the scene culminating in a hot bath of medicinal plants. This bath preceded by another of kid’s blood for when the mind goes on holiday. O my reader! Conches favour other dances. Sometimes for war, others for pleasure but all lively enough to be merry! Differently from the charms that we only dispatch for real dangers and in succession to lesions and sticks. The breaths that are not feverish, the song of black cats on the roofs of the neighbourhood, the alcoholic drink that consumes the conscience, the tobacco that emigrates without a passport and so many other knickknacks that make up the whole scenario where the worship and veneration of spirits purify the soul, appease the restrained spirit, expulse the evil spirits from the mind and protect the body. It is the festa of liberation! Festa of the return to the good life. Festa of prevention and responsibility. Festa of family harmony where everything is allowed and nothing is tempting.

Feijoada – a traditional stew made from beans, beef and pork meat. There are many different versions.
Capulana – a traditional sarong
Catana – a knife similar to a machete

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