Nzango Artist Residency

Based in Mozambique 🇲🇿


Interview with crab pickers, Mangrove of Memba


Isufo José Fernão and Castro Fernando

How long have you been picking crab?
I started in 1993, I learned from my older brothers. They stopped doing it and I took over, now I’m the only one who catches crabs. I don’t know how to do anything other than pick crabs, I live and survive off it, from food to buying a cell phone and other material goods.
Did your parents also pick crab?
No, just the older brothers.
And who taught you?
My father doesn’t know about crab picking, but he told me that I could pick crab to make a rail.
So how did you learn if your father didn’t do it?
I learned on my own, it was through God’s grace that I learned.
Did you go with people or did you start doing it on your own?
Who taught you how to build this crab-catching weapon?
My father made it and some friends also made it for me.
So your father didn’t catch crabs but he knew how to make the gun?
I don’t know how he came up with it.
Has there been any change from before to now? Are there fewer crabs than before?
When I started picking crab, I didn’t use the bag I have now. The bag we used was the briefcase we carried to school. Back then we caught more than we do now. Before we could catch between 10 kg and 15 kg and now between 5 kg and 7 kg a day. So there’s a shortage of crab.
Do you have a strategy for catching more?
The crabs now know that they’re valuable, so they’re more and more elusive. Before, we didn’t need to use such a big slingshot/weapon, the small slingshot/weapon was enough to catch the crab. But now we need a big one, because the crabs are moving a long way away.
Do you talk to crabs?


Do you usually keep quiet so they don’t hear you?
Yes, we keep quiet.
Who did your brothers learn from?
We don’t know.
How do you find out that there’s a crab there?
The crab comes here from the high seas because it feeds in the mangrove swamp. After feeding, the crab tends to make a hole and from this hole we discover that there is a crab here.
Haven’t you ever had an accident when you put your hand in a hole and got bitten inside?
Of course we get bitten. When we put our hand in and the crab finds out that someone is disturbing my habitat, it bites.
So you work around the risk of being bitten?


Are you prepared to be bitten?
We are aware that where we come in, we run the risk of being bitten, but we need what’s there.
How long does it take for a crab wound to heal?
It can take a week, or 4-5 days.
Do you take medicinal treatment?
If it’s a big wound, we go to a health center, get vaccinations and take paracetamol.
In this mangrove space, do a lot of people come here?
Yes, there are a lot of people who come here.
Do they come from another area or are they locals?
Some are locals and others are from 13 km away, but they take advantage of our coast here.
I heard him and he was back there manifesting and you were singing inside his heart. When you’re happy, how do you express your joy?
When we leave home, the first thing we do when we get here is pray and invoke Allah (God). After asking Allah (God) for his blessing, we start doing our work. Everything we manage to do is thanks to Allah (God). Depending on the amount, we thank Allah (God). When we finish and when we start, we thank Allah (God). Because everything depends on God.
Have you ever had problems with the weather: because it rains a lot or doesn’t rain, you can’t hunt the crab?
In dry weather, it’s difficult to extract a lot of crab. In rainy weather there are more crabs because they come here from the high seas to take refuge because it’s so cold there. So here they look for somewhere warm.