National Geographic : 1964 Aug
MOZAMBIQUE Land of the Good People ARTICLE AND PHOTOGRAPHS By VOLKMAR WENTZEL National Geographic Foreign Staff C RASHING CHORDS from 24 marimbas set the hun dreds of dancers into wild, abandoned motion. \ar riors in lion skins ornamented with monkey tails leaped high, arms outflung. Girls whirled grass skirts and their only other attire, strings of beads (left). Dust rose in the brassy African sky and settled on muscular bodies glistening with sweat. I stood near the dancers on a high bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean beach where, 466 years ago, Vasco da Gama and his weary sailors landed in what is now Mozambique, Portuguese East Africa. Battling fierce storms, the explorers had rounded the Cape of Good Hope in their search for a sea route to India. Dancers and musicians were Chopis, a tribe scattered throughout the Zandamela area, about 135 miles northeast of Mozambique's capital, Lourenco Marques. Their an cestors had so impressed the Portuguese seafarers that in January, 1498, one of them wrote in his journal: "We discovered a small river and anchored near the coast . . . We went close in shore in our boats, and saw a crowd of Negroes.... The chief said that we were welcome to anything in his country of which we stood in need.... We called the country Terra da Boa Gente"-Land of the Good People. Chopi elders, I learned as I watched the dancing, still cherish the legend of Da Gama and his crew. "They came on ships like the one on the money," said Chopi chief's daughter, in beads and raffia skirt, dances between lines of warriors in battle dress under the hot sun of Mozambique. Despite the nationalist ferment that sweeps other parts of Africa, Portugal holds fast to this huge land, which could easily contain the state of Texas.