Moira Forjaz | Zimbabwe
Moira Forjaz was born in Matabele (Bulawayo), Zimbabwe, in 1942. She graduated in Graphic Arts from the School of Arts and Design in Johannesburg. She worked as a photojournalist in Southern Africa since 1975 and as a photographer and documentary filmmaker in Mozambique.
As a photographer, Forjaz learned a lot from great South African photographers, such as Jurgen Schadaberg, David Goldblatt and Sam Haskins; as a film director, she was influenced by Jean Rouch and Jean-Luc Godard.
Moira Forjaz’s documentary photographs can be appreciated as a series of images in their own right, at the same time the images published in the book Mozambique 1975/1985 emerge from a very specific historical context: the ten years of armed struggle against the Portuguese, until the birth in 1975 of the liberation movement Frelimo, led by President Samora Machel, who launched a post-independence project with the aim of transforming society for the benefit of all its citizens.
Colin Darch writes: “These photographs, from that very short window of socialist transformation, can, therefore, be seen in some way as representations of a “revolutionary gaze” focused on specific aspects of the Mozambican experience.” In the themes addressed in Ilha de Moçambique, where Forjaz represents the life of ordinary people, the miners, cotton and music – we partly find the main interests of the research programs conducted by the Centro de Estudos Africanos (CEA), directed by Forjaz’s close friend, Ruth First, until her murder in August 1982. This book represents the tenth anniversary of national independence and the abandonment of the socialist project, presented to the reader with a perspective that helps to understand the dynamics of the political economy and culture of the country as it was inherited from Portuguese colonialism, as well as Frelimo’s struggles for social and economic transformation.
Forjaz’s images tell this story of exploitation and liberation, but not only that, there are in fact collections of photographs on music and the extraordinary heritage of the Ilha de Moçambique, where the lessons of Mozambique’s history are compressed into architecture, cuisine and traditions of a space of just over a square kilometer.
Forjaz’s photography, despite its political character, is far from propagandistic. Forjaz has a keen eye for the humanity of her subjects, that she deeply empathizes both individually and collectively.
About the publications:
Mozambique 1975/1985 by Moira Forjaz – 2016
Moira’s photographs feature striking episodes of colonial history, including the anti-apartheid struggle, the battle for Zimbabwe and the national reconstruction in Mozambique. But what makes this book truly remarkable is that it brings a personal note to historical episodes, adding humour and a human touch. Of particular note are the series on Ilha de Moçambique, miners and cotton, and also the images of Samora Machel addressing a rally. There are touching photographs of Ruth First, Joe Slovo and Graça Machel. Many of the photographs in this book have been printed for the first time as they always existed as negatives, kept in a shoebox, forgotten, until now.
Islanders / Ilhéus by Moira Forjaz – 2018
Islanders / Ilhéus, the third book by Moira Forjaz, is of equal value in photography and literature.
On the setting of Ilha de Moçambique – a small, unique island of great historical and social importance, off the coast of Mozambique’s Nampula province which in 2018 is celebrating its 200th anniversary – the book features the brief memoirs of islanders, recorded in the first person. Uncovering a mystical island world, these stories also reflect Mozambique’s progress from colony to independence.
A reading of history through a personal context is a valuable lesson in the importance of empathy and understanding.
Photographed in the reportage style, Moira Forjaz’s images are honest and fair reflections of the relationships she has built on the island, and also of Ilha de Moçambique’s captivating reality.
The book was launched under a setting sun with an exhibition of the photographs, in a seaside warehouse functioning as a gallery. The book’s surviving islanders were all in attendance, and it was the first opportunity for them to see the book.
Not even an hour-long power failure sent guests home, and once the lights were back on, the evening concluded with a joyous, bright red performance of a tufo dance, a time-honoured tradition of the island.
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southern Africa congratulates Moira Forjaz and all those involved in the project, on a truly remarkable book. A new treasure for the island.
“When an elderly person dies, a library vanishes,” says a Mozambican proverb. Nowhere is this more poignant than in Ilha de Mozambique. There are centuries of history among the island’s coral stone town and macuti (palm leaf) huts, with stories that need to be told, but this time by the people and not by the historians.“My first visit to the Ilha was in 1977 and I fell in love with everything about it; but mostly the light. It was deserted, as most of the Portuguese inhabitants left during the transitional government, and yet magical. I returned many times after the first visit. As a result, my first book, called Muipiti, was published in 1983. Sadly, soon after that, the civil war started. I was no longer able to visit safely. I waited 28 years before I finally did in 2012, and set up home. This time round I became more aware of the people. I wanted to capture their lives and memories, to pay homage to them and give them a name and a voice before it was too late. Through their words and my photographs, I could understand a little about their struggle and their frustrations. The more I got to know them the more determined I became. At first, there were many more women eager to talk about their lives than men. Most of the men were away, working to support the family. Sadly, in some ways quite broken from their hard life. I found the women surprisingly free to talk about their lives, their conquests and their proud seductive powers. The cross mixing of families, sometimes intermarriage for opportunistic economic reasons, kept these families linked and protected. I discovered that black, white and Indian marry and have children. Muslim mothers accept Christian sons-in-law and daughters who convert to Catholicism for opportunistic reasons.” The island people are proud and love their “Ilha” and their way of life and culture. This book shares their passion and is a tribute to Ilha’s special, resilient, warm people.