"Like Leaves Fallen by Wind": Landscape, Memory, and Post-Conflict Restoration in Mozambique, 1992–2002

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Abstract: In post-conflict Gorongosa, central Mozambique, history was a frequent and contentious topic. Regulo Becane Cale Sadjunjira’s narrative reflected the sentiments of many of Vunduzi’s residents who felt that the conflict between Renamo and Frelimo had caused a rupture with past ways of life. During the war people were forced into the bush, to live like animals. Consequently, in the present they were ignoring the customary “rules and prohibitions” (mutemo y mukho) through which their ancestors humanized themselves and the wild landscapes of Gorongosa. That societies in Mozambique had survived intact enough to begin reconstruction was a testament to the resilience of the Mozambican people. By the time of my fieldwork in 2001–2002, Gorongosans had achieved a reorganization of their livelihoods that was by all accounts remarkable. To what, however, can we attribute this resilience? How do people restore or reconstruct livelihoods and environments after large-scale disasters? The central thesis of this paper is that memory practices structure, and are structured by, people’s creative coping strategies in the restoration of livelihoods and landscapes in Gorongosa, as well as in other post-conflict/post-disaster situations throughout Africa and the world. Rituals were particularly important to this process because of the way they (often) evoke enduring, collective ideals (Rappaport 1999: 27). Finally, local memories were transformed through articulation, or “friction,” with global practices and ideals, most notably in the process of Gorongosa National Park’s restoration, not just through the practical reworking of internal contradictions (Sahlins 1985, Tsing 2004).