Mozambique (Port. República de Moçambique)
- Andrew Tracey
(Port. República de Moçambique)
Country in south-east Africa. It has an area of 799,380 km² and a population of 19·56 million (UN est. 2000, before severe floods of Feb 2000). After about four centuries of Arab influence and settlement on coastal islands such as Moçambique and Ibo, the first Portuguese, Pero da Covilhã, reached Moçambique Island and Sofala in 1489. Rapid settlement followed, and within a century most of the coastline had been colonized. In 1752 the General Government of Mozambique was created. The main areas of development were Moçambique Island, the lower Zambezi and Manica highlands, and the coastal area from Inhambane southwards. Except for the Tete area in the Zambezi valley, however, Portuguese rule was finally established in the interior only in the early 20th century (the final campaign was in 1912). Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) became the capital in 1897. Mozambique became independent in June 1975.
The Zambezi valley divides the primarily matrilineal peoples of the north from the patrilineal peoples of the south; it also marks the approximate southern limit of Swahili or Arab influence, which was manifested in trade and the introduction of slavery and Islam. The north is inhabited by the Swahili, whose territory extends along the coast into Tanzania; the Makonde, who are also divided between Tanzania and Mozambique and who are noted for their rich sculptural tradition, their masked dances, and other cultural features more typical of Central than East African peoples (...