Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1999 01:27:06 PDT
From: Claude Marthaler

Subject: "Vasco de Gama"

Dear Redfishes!
Nampula, Mozambique km 96569

Vasco de Gama, after having passed the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 reach a tiny island. He took a rest under a tree called "Kangourou tree" for its unending and strong roots. "Once it is there, you can't move it!" say the locals. The first people Vasco met there were two Arabs, Musse and Ibique - enough in his eyes to name this island "Mozambique".

Vasco sailed back four years later on his way to India and the island soon became a stop over between Lisboa and Goa and Cochin in India. In the forties, the Portuguese built up a huge statue of Vasco in bronze right by the Kangourou tree, but in 1974, as the Frelimo (the mocambican guerilla backed by the Russians) arrived on the island, they did two things: they tried first to steal the sword out of the statue, but infuriated that they couldn't, they unscrewed Vasco from his feet and carried his heavy body with difficulty to the "capitanaria", the port.

Some 15 years later, apart from some exceptions, the same destiny happened to the numerous Lenin, Stalin and Marx statues throughout the Soviet Union. The second thing the guerilla group did was to ban the walking rickshaws on the island, condemning this job as "inhuman". I found Vasco de Gama's remaining dismembered feet, covered with dust, lying close to old abandoned boats and machines - and the last two rickshaws.

Facing poverty and hoping for tourism, some Islanders think about putting Vasco back on his feet, but the operation would be far too expensive. Though Vasco de Gama is dead, the maritime ways he opened and with it, more importantly, the new vision of the world it created, might be far heavier than bronze: like the kangourou-tree: "You can't move it!".

Before the visit of Vasco on the island, Mozambique was already an incredible mixture of population, beliefs, languages, cultures - a true microcosm of humanity. Message: his feet might be cut, but his prints are still there.

The YAK_



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