Nzango Artist Residency

Based in Mozambique 🇲🇿


Interview with Clay Block Artisans

What are they doing?
They’re putting wood here [traditional kiln] so that this block gets reddish. When it’s ready, these blocks are well heated, and he can use them to make the house.
What kind of bricks are those?
This type of block is made from clay, the clay you see there. Using it like this [raw], the house won’t last very long. That’s why they use this wood to burn the block and make it reddish. Then, in the event of a storm or rain, the house won’t fall down.
Are there blocks inside the oven too?
Yes, yes. They’re just blocks. They put clay in them so that when the fire heats up the block, it will last.
And how do you get the block out of the kiln afterwards?
Then they break the clay here [destroy the kiln].
And how many blocks are in there?
8 thousand.
And how do they distribute them? Whose blocks are they?
They sell them to the community, those who want to build houses come and buy them here. Each block costs 15 meticais.
How do they know who owns each block? How many blocks are there for each person? How do you distribute these blocks?
This kiln is owned by just one person. So that person decides who they want to sell to.
And everyone is working for that person?
Exactly. That’s how they do it in town.
How long does this process take before the blocks are ready?
A week.
After they take the bricks out, after a week, do you keep the kiln or do you destroy it?
It’s destroyed. Once the firewood is laid, the job is done. It’s only after a week that they come to destroy and remove the blocks. Because it’s a lot of work to make these blocks and find firewood.
And where do they find this wood?
They usually find it deep down [in the forest]. But they buy this wood.
And how much is it?
400 meticais.
A van full?
And how many vans do you need?
In relation to the firewood you had, has it decreased or is it the same as before? Did you have more wood before, or was it the same amount? Or is it harder to collect firewood now?

A long time ago I had more firewood, now it’s difficult.

The place where he used to bring firewood no longer has any.

Don’t these gentlemen sing when they do this work? To celebrate that the bricks came out well?

When they’re doing this work they sing because it’s a moment of happiness.
What does the music say?
It’s Sangoma [Healer]. It’s saying that we have to welcome the guest with great happiness because you can take us much further.
So you’ve just invented this song?
No, it’s an old Nguny song, as you saw there [in the community], it’s an old song. It’s just that they’ve always sung it, as it’s a deep-rooted thing, and no one from their generation forgets it.
So it’s a song they sing when they receive guests?

So it’s a song they sing when they receive guests?