On-line version ISSN 2309-9585
Print version ISSN 0259-0190
THOMPSON, Drew A.. Constructing a history of independent Mozambique, 1974-1982: a study in photography. Kronos [online]. 2013, vol.39, n.1, pp.158-184. ISSN 2309-9585.
The taking and publication of photographs played an important role in Mozambique's independence and in the years after 1975. As settlers departed Mozambique in the wake of riots and the Portuguese handover of power, the newly independent government, Frelimo, assumed control of abandoned commercial studios and other photographic equipment. Frelimo used legal and technical distinctions to create a group of photographers who traveled with and photographed its leader President Machel, while the other photographers, lumped under the heading 'commercial', were responsible for studio portraits also known as headshots. In one respect, press photographs allowed Frelimo to document and transmit its political ideologies to public audiences. In another respect, commercial studio portraits, which individuals carried on identification cards in their wallets, permitted Frelimo to categorise populations as employed versus unemployed or as possible enemies of the state. These contrasting forms of image making illuminate the reality that Frelimo supplemented the 'more positive' political power represented through press photographs of President Machel with 'more negative' forces of self-identification and public shaming. This article uses photographs and oral histories with photographers, journalists and government leaders to explore the inter-relationship between press and commercial photography from 1974 to 1982, a time of transition for the Frelimo government from a liberation movement into a political party. By exploring the uneasy and tenuous relationship that ensued between institutions and technologies that supported photography's practice in Mozambique, this article considers how Frelimo's control over photography - and photographers' own compliance - impacted on the historical and visual representation of Mozambique's independence.