The ghosts of reconciliation

by Mia Couto

Poorest nation, richest nation (Issue III+IV/2018)


And ghosts have played a singular role in events of the recent past: During the civil war between 1977 to 1993, a million people were killed in Mozambique. The line between friend and foe was not clear and many families had members fighting on both sides. But there was a purification ritual, part of the traditional religion here, that helped locals to deal with the crimes committed during this time.

Men who may have taken part in war crimes returned to their villages. It was believed that when they did these terrible things, the men were not themselves: They had been possessed by ghosts. The spirits were driven out of the humans and community life could go on. On a local scale, this purification ritual really worked in the villages because people believed in it. But we still need to find something similarly useful at the national level. I believe that literature can also help with this; Through our stories we invite people to deal consciously with those traumatic times.



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