Mozambican women in battle and the construction of a colonial liberation heroine

Learn more about the action of Mozambican women in the armed conflict against Portuguese colonialism and the trajectory of Josina Machel as a heroic figure of the country's independence.

Estudar, Produzir, Combater: tarefas prioritárias do militante da Frelimo (1975) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Mozambique and Frelimo: study, produce, fight

A Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Frelimo) was founded on June 25, 1962, in Tanzania, with the union of three nationalist organizations. Frelimo began the armed struggle against Portuguese colonial rule on September 25, 1964, in northern Mozambique. 

Alexandre Langa, Mozambican marrabenta singer, celebrates the independence in "The Defeat of the Colonialists 2".

Estudar, Produzir, Combater: tarefas prioritárias do militante da Frelimo, Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp., 1975, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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The country gained independence on June 25, 1975. Women participated actively in the fighting fronts, even taking up arms. Reference to the first groups of Mozambican women who organized themselves to support Frelimo dates back to the 1960s. They were active in mobilization work, such as that carried out by the Women's League of Mozambique (LIFEMO), and in guerrilla advances, such as that promoted by the Women's Detachment (DF).

Estudar, Produzir, Combater: tarefas prioritárias do militante da Frelimo (1975) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The poster carries the slogan "Study, Produce, Fight" and shows us who does what in this process.

The woman leads literacy, political education. The man commands agricultural work, the handling of the land. The two, arms in hand, participate together in the liberation struggle.

The man's face towards the woman conveys to us that he expects her to be by his side, that he counts on this woman in the process of building the Mozambican nation.

Estudar, Produzir, Combater: tarefas prioritárias do militante da Frelimo, Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp., 1975, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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         Frelimo has two central historical male leaders. Eduardo Mondlane (1920-1969) and Samora Machel (1933-1986). Machel declared several times that "The liberation of the woman is, in the first place, the task of the woman herself. There was the understanding that there should be simultaneous liberation from colonial rule and the fight for women's emancipation. 

Comunicado conjunto Frelimo e Partido Comunista Brasileiro produzido por conta da visita de Luiz Carlos Prestes a Moçambique (1977) by Frelimo e PCB. Direitos: Fundo Luiz Carlos Prestes, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Brazil in Mozambique, Mozambique in Brazil

The clandestine and global nature of the struggles for the construction of African nations resulted in a dispersion of people and documents. The documents produced by Frelimo found very different paths to be incorporated into the archival collections

Comunicado conjunto Frelimo e Partido Comunista Brasileiro produzido por conta da visita de Luiz Carlos Prestes a Moçambique (1977) by Frelimo e PCB. Direitos: Fundo Luiz Carlos Prestes, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

These documents are stored in the Edgard Leuenrouth Archive, located at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) in Campinas (AEL-Unicamp).

In the first Simba newspaper we received a letter from Frelimo

Brazil's interest in the liberation struggles in Africa, and specifically in Mozambique, was sparked by the Brazilian left's desire to participate in an ongoing revolution.

Colonialismo, descolonização e racismo, Jornal Sinba, nº 01, p. 07., 1977-07, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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2. descolonização e racismo 2, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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The Brazilian black movement directed its gaze internationally toward the struggles for colonial liberation and against Apartheid. 

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The film 25 is another important example of the Brazil-Mozambique connections. The film portrays the immediate moment of Mozambican independence after the liberation struggle and was directed by Brazilians José Celso Martinez Corrêa and Celso Luccas.

Josina Machel: trajetória e vida (1975) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-UnicampGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Who was Josina Machel, anyway?

Josina Muthemba was born on August 10, 1945, in Inhambane province, southern Mozambique. At the age of 11 she went to study in Maputo, then Lourenço Marques, the country's capital.

Josina Machel: trajetória e vida (1975) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-UnicampGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne


As a teenager, she joined a Frelimo cell, the Núcleo dos Estudantes Secundários Africanos de Moçambique (NESAM).

Josina Machel: trajetória e vida, Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp, 1975, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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In 1963 she tried to go to the Frelimo headquarters in Tanzania, but was captured by the Portuguese political police. She was imprisoned in Maputo for two years. In 1965, at the age of 20, Josina managed to reach Dar es Salaam. That same year, the first detachment of Mozambican women guerrillas began its training. It was created by women who wanted to participate in the liberation struggle through weapons.

Josina Machel: trajetória e vida, Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp, 1975, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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In 1967, Frelimo absorbed the initiative, promoted the foundation of the Women's Detachment (DF), and started to offer military training and political instruction to the guerrillas of the movement.

Josina Machel: trajetória e vida (1975) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-UnicampGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Still in 1967, Josina Muthemba joined the DF and quickly took a leading role in the organization. In 1969, at the age of 24, she became DF coordinator, married Samora Machel, had a son, and adopted the surname Machel.

During this period she also held the positions of head of the Social Affairs Section and the Women's Section in Frelimo's Foreign Affairs Department. 

Cartaz comemorativo do primeiro aniversário da morte da camarada Josina Machel, Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp., 1971-04-07, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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Josina Machel died on April 7, 1971, in a hospital in Tanzania, suffering from a serious illness. The date of her death marks Mozambican Women's Day. After the founding of the Mozambican Women's Organization (OMM) in March 1973, she was successively honored as the "top leader" of Frelimo's main women's representative body. 

As moçambicanas em luta (1975) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The poster reinforces Josina Machel as a model of "work for the revolution and for the emancipation of women". Contradictorily, the Mozambican Women's Anthem points to women's participation in liberation not through arms, but as "she who produces and feeds the fighters".

         Choir of the Popular Liberation Forces of Mozambique sings the "Hymn of Mozambican Women" (1975).  

Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane: fundador da Frelimo e herói nacional by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Onde te encontrar
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The construction of heroes and heroines

Individuals who had founded Frelimo, participated intensely in the armed liberation struggle and died before the independence are today considered Mozambican national heroes.

 Josina Machel and Eduardo Mondlane are two of the most important examples of this process of heroicizing the past.

The construction of heroes and heroines

The images on the poster reinforce what is represented in the poem "Where to find you?", written by Samora Machel for Josina Machel.

 "Where to Find You?" pays homage to Josina and, at the same time, incorporates her life trajectory in the construction of the symbols of the Mozambican nation and of what the revolutionary struggle against colonialism was supposed to promote: the formation of a new people, the independent Mozambican people. 

But what were to be the characteristics of this new people? And, furthermore, what kind of Mozambican women were being imagined in the immediate post-independence period?

Discurso de Samora Moisés Machel, em 1973, durante a I Conferência Nacional da Mulher Moçambicana, p. 41 (1979) by Frelimo. Direitos: Coleção CPDS, AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Para um aniversário
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The male imaginings of the Mozambican woman

Discurso de Samora Moisés Machel, em 1973, durante a I Conferência Nacional da Mulher Moçambicana, p. 41, Frelimo. Direitos: Coleção CPDS, AEL-Unicamp., 1979, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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After independence, Frelimo began a series of propagandist publications that aimed to disseminate the foundations of the movement's thinking. The image on the cover refers to the tools necessary for liberation: guns and books, both of which could be handled by women's hands. An association between literacy and liberation was established. The hands that have shot are the hands that should now write the decolonized future.  

Discurso de Samora Moisés Machel, em 1973, durante a I Conferência Nacional da Mulher Moçambicana, p. 41 (1979) by Frelimo. Direitos: Coleção CPDS, AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

The male imaginings of the Mozambican woman

However, if, on one hand, the "liberation of women" was understood as a condition for the victory of the Mozambican revolution, on the other hand, it was to be controlled by the mainly male Frelimo leadership.

Discurso de Samora Moisés Machel, em 1973, durante a I Conferência Nacional da Mulher Moçambicana, p. 41, Frelimo. Direitos: Coleção CPDS, AEL-Unicamp., 1979, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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In this sense, the emancipation process of Mozambican women should be in accordance with the internal political and moral precepts of the movement. The "emancipated woman" would only be born within Frelimo, leaving little room for the existence of a multiplicity of experiences and voices of womanhood.

Capa - A Mulher é um Elemento Transformador da SociedadeGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Mozambican women nation-building

With the end of the armed struggle, the achievement of independence, and the III Congress of Frelimo (1977), the movement assumed a monopoly of power in the country. 

Página 18 de A Mulher é um Elemento Transformador da SociedadeGeledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Mozambican women nation-building

Despite the advances after 1975, the post-colonial future did not come immediately with victory against the colonial oppressor. 

Página 18 de A Mulher é um Elemento Transformador da Sociedade, From the collection of: Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne
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The struggle against colonialism was accompanied by the struggle against systems and practices that reserve women a subordinate place in society. The defense of national liberation and of a post-colonial world invariably went through - and still goes through - the continuation of the struggle for women's emancipation, including within Frelimo itself. 

Cartaz comemorativo do primeiro aniversário da morte da camarada Josina Machel (1971-04-07) by Frelimo. Direitos: Fundo PCB, Acervo AEL-Unicamp.Geledés Instituto da Mulher Negra | Rede de Historiadores Negros | Acervo Cultne

Josina tu não morreste
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Josina you did not die

Credits: Story

Curadoria coletiva e textos: Francisco Phelipe, Cunha Paz, Jéssica Rosa, Matheus Serva Pereira, Patrícia Oliveira.
Pesquisa: Castorina Augusta Madureira de Camargo, Francisco Phelipe, Cunha Paz, Jéssica Rosa, Maria Dutra de Lima, Marina Rebelo, Matheus Serva Pereira, Patrícia Oliveira
Consultoria: Catarina Casemiro, Isabel Casemiro, 
Edição de Vídeos: Asfilofio Filho
Revisão técnica e coordenação: Matheus Serva Pereira 
Administração e edição: Natália de Sena Carneiro


Colaboração / Apoio / Agradecimentos:
Amauri Mendes Pereira, Arquivo Edgard Leuenroth (AEL-Unicamp), Cultne, Cris Pereira, Dom Filó, Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa (ICS-ULisboa),Rede de Historiadoras Negras e Historiadores Negros.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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