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Visualising FRELIMO’s liberated zones

in Mozambique, 1962–1974
Drew A. Thompson
Williams College , Williamstown , MA , USA
Published online: 18 Apr 2013.

To cite this article: Drew A. Thompson (2013) Visualising FRELIMO’s liberated zones in
Mozambique, 1962–1974, Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies, 39:1, 24-50, DOI:

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02533952.2013.774583


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Social Dynamics, 2013
Vol. 39, No. 1, 24–50, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02533952.2013.774583

Visualising FRELIMO’s liberated zones in Mozambique,

Drew A. Thompson*

Williams College, Williamstown, MA, USA

Headquartered in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Front for the Liberation of

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Mozambique (FRELIMO) engaged the Portuguese army from 1962 to 1974 in a

ground war over Mozambique’s independence. At the centre of this military
struggle were the geographical regions of the liberated zones, areas in northern
Mozambique that FRELIMO designated as under its control. In order to make
an exile movement present and real for illiterate populations, FRELIMO trained
a group of its soldiers as photographers, who travelled across Mozambique to
photograph the war. This act of photographing and distributing images had its
political advantages for drawing international aid, but these image-making pro-
cesses also risked disrupting the ethnically diverse coalitions that made up
FRELIMO’s military and popular support. In an effort to address scholarship on
liberation movements in Africa, which has overlooked the importance of pho-
tography, this article considers the technical, technological, and structural mech-
anisms FRELIMO instituted from 1962 to 1974 to facilitate the production and
circulation of photographs of its liberated zones. Reading FRELIMO’s photo-
graphic archive of the liberation struggle against the stories of their producers
and users allows for an understanding of how the visualising of the liberated
zone enabled FRELIMO to situate itself as a national movement with broad
regional and ethnic support inside Mozambique, all the while articulating for
international audiences a multiracial and countrywide war effort. The liberated
zone was not just a physical landmark, but its picturing transformed it into a
visually constituted category for foreign and local populations to identify with
an independent Mozambique under FRELIMO’s control.
Keywords: exile; armed struggle; photography; national identity

A photograph dated 1972, the height of the war in Mozambique, presents a striking
scene, given the time and place. The photograph shows the President of FRELIMO
(Frente da Libertação de Moçambique, or the Front for the Liberation of Mozam-
bique), Samora Machel, and a group of unidentified and unarmed Portuguese sol-
diers (Figure 1), recognisable by their uniforms. Instead of fighting, both sides
calmly face each other. Machel, on the left, seems to be addressing the soldiers
who, rather than behaving as though they are facing an enemy, have their hands
folded either in front or in back of them and who, in turn, appear to be listening.
The FRELIMO archive contains other photographs like this one that show
Portuguese soldiers in the presence of FRELIMO. For example, in one picture

*Email: dat4@williams.edu

Ó 2013 Taylor & Francis

Social Dynamics 25
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Figure 1. FRELIMO photographer, c.1972, Untitled, Location Unknown, Available at the

Centro de Documentação e Formação Fotografica (CDFF), Collection: Guerra Luta Armada.

Figure 2. FRELIMO photographer, c. 1970s, Untitled, Location Unknown, Available at the

Historical Archives of Mozambique, Maputo, Collection: FRELIMO and the Luta Armada.

white Portuguese soldiers sit on the ground in an undisclosed FRELIMO-controlled

area and appear to be reading the books and newspapers they hold (Figure 2). In
another, according to its accompanying text and its reprint, a group of four non-
white soldiers sit at a table as they participate in a press conference (Figure 2a).
FRELIMO used images like these to demonstrate that soldiers from the Portuguese
26 D.A. Thompson
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Figure 2a. FRELIMO photographer, c.1972, “Deserted from Colonial Troops-False”

(translated), Tete, Available at the Historical Archives of Mozambique, Collection:
FRELIMO and the Luta Armada.

army were laying down their arms in protest of the war, and that they were doing
so in areas either under FRELIMO attack or its direct control, what FRELIMO
called the “liberated zones.” It was this kind of visual representation of the
“liberated zones” that was at the centre of a power struggle between colonial
Portuguese authorities and FRELIMO to win the hearts and minds of Mozambi-
Scholarship on liberation movements in Africa has overlooked the importance
of photography, its production and distribution, as a source of study on the liberated
areas in Mozambique. To fill this absence, this article addresses how FRELIMO
arranged from 1962 to 1974 the production and circulation of photographs of its
liberated zones. In the process, the article introduces new analytical spaces from
which to consider how ideas and images of nation came into existence, from which
to evaluate pictures’ effects in achieving Mozambique’s independence, and within
which to more deeply study the racial and ethnic tensions that were at the core of
FRELIMO’s liberation efforts. To those ends, I conceptualise photographs of the
liberated zones as the result of encounters between multiple different actors (Azou-
lay 2010): FRELIMO’s propaganda unit, FRELIMO’s photographers, and the pho-
tographed subjects. Moreover, the photographs and their circulation are also the
result of internal and external debates over race and ethnicity, Portuguese colonial-
ism, and the activities on the warfront.
The rhetoric of the liberated zones was not merely a military strategy on
FRELIMO’s part but also an issue of political necessity. Therefore, I contextualise
the concept of the liberated zone within the debates over racial and ethnic inclusion
that dominated FRELIMO’s formative years. With this understanding of the politi-
cal stakes associated with representing the liberated zones, I then use the operations
of FRELIMO’s propaganda unit to historically trace the development of the sec-
tion’s photography division, which took place in two phases, first between 1962 to
1968 and then 1968 to 1975. This analysis offers insight into how global forces
Social Dynamics 27

and access to technology influenced the types of images printed and their local and
international reception. FRELIMO invited foreign photographers to visit liberated
areas because the international community largely viewed DIP images as propa-
ganda. I address how FRELIMO relied on these visitors to appeal to international
audiences, and I highlight how through captioning and archiving FRELIMO used
the pictures of its own photographers to win support from ethnic groups dispersed
across the northern regions of Mozambique. The practice and circulation of photog-
raphy came with their own set of advantages and unintended consequences for the
promotion of the armed struggle.
The act of photographing and distributing images from different regions was an
attempt by FRELIMO to make an exiled liberation movement present and real
within Mozambique to a largely non-literate population. At its founding in 1962,
FRELIMO’s headquarters were in Dar es Salaam; the organisation also maintained
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military and refugee camps in the southern part of Tanzania. An immediate priority
for FRELIMO was to establish areas in Mozambique under its control. Starting in
1963 but increasingly after 1969, even before independence was a possibility,
FRELIMO trained its soldiers, some of whom had deserted the opposing Portuguese
army, as photographers; the only liberation movement in southern Africa to do so.
These photographers, who included Daniel Maquinasse, Colonel José Soares, Simão
Matias, Artur Torohate, and Carlos Djambo, travelled to areas inside Mozambique
to document land occupation and to capture encounters between FRELIMO leader-
ship and the Portuguese enemy. By moving with their cameras from the battlefield
to individual farmlands and makeshift classrooms, FRELIMO photographers charted
the territorial boundaries of what FRELIMO referred to as the zonas libertadas,
which translates from Portuguese into English as the “liberated zones.” After their
assignments, photographers returned to FRELIMO headquarters, where the Depart-
ment of Information and Propaganda (DIP) printed and distributed films – activities
that played a critical role in FRELIMO’s defense of Mozambique.
The photograph of Machel and the Portuguese speaks directly to both the politi-
cal challenges and consequences that the production and distribution of images
posed to FRELIMO’s armed struggle. While this particular image won FRELIMO
international support, this photograph and others like it risked jeopardising the eth-
nic and regional coalitions that the leadership organised for the purposes of its mili-
tary ground operations. There were factions internal to FRELIMO that wanted to
see Portuguese soldiers dead. The pictured subjects, who were often times
Mozambicans conscripted to fight against FRELIMO, and the featured location in
(Figure 1), suggest that Mozambique’s independence was a struggle to create soli-
darity across great divisions of race, ethnicity, geography, political purpose, and
livelihoods (Mamdani 1996; Coelho 1995). In fact, FRELIMO and its photogra-
phers understood the practice of photography, one also used by the Portuguese, as
creating a type of knowledge that invalidated and displaced Portuguese claims to
racial inclusion and undid colonialism’s damage. Ethnic and racial tensions bedev-
illed FRELIMO. But the work of FRELIMO photographers and the circulation of
their images reveal that the picturing – or what I call the “visualising” – of the
liberated zone facilitated FRELIMO’s efforts to sideline, if only momentarily, inter-
nal divisions and to appeal to different constituencies.
FRELIMO military efforts against the Portuguese were a visible aspect of the
documented war instead of the racial and ethnic tensions not only because of the
context in which photographers worked but also due to the internal politics govern-
28 D.A. Thompson

ing pictures’ circulations. The photograph of Machel and the Portuguese troops that
opened this article included the caption “Capturados soldados portugueses em
Namitil,” which translates from Portuguese into English as “Captured Portuguese
Soldiers in Namitil,” and the date May 1974. However, a careful study of Mozambi-
can Revolution, a news bulletin published by FRELIMO, dated June 1972 (Fig-
ure 3), in which this exact photograph was published, reveals that the picture was
not from Namitil but instead from two years earlier. Once printed and published by
the DIP, photographs of liberated zones travelled by way of single prints, posters,
and propaganda bulletins distributed throughout Mozambique and even to audiences
in Europe and North America. FRELIMO actively strategised on the selection of its
photographers, their assignments, and image distribution. FRELIMO photographer
Simão Matias understood his work as a photographer as that of a photojournalist,
and he situated his images as illustrations of FRELIMO’s war against the
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Portuguese. In an interview 10 years after Mozambique’s independence, Matias

explained (Naroromele 1985, 3), “The [FRELIMO] photographer want[ed] to be in
the center, he want[ed] to be in several locations, doing reports [… FRELIMO was]
sending photographs all over the world, where it was necessary to make [audiences]
understand the objectives of our struggle.” In the process of their circulation and
appropriation, DIP images acquired a range of stamps and labels, such as the pho-
tographer’s name, accession codes, dates, and names of people and locations photo-
graphed. FRELIMO photographs were more than instruments of power; they
constituted the very ways in which involved populations experienced the struggle.
Despite their historical significance, DIP images at present lack the necessary
contextual information to trace their circulation trajectories and various appropria-
tions. Thus, I triangulate the dates and context for the production of FRELIMO
photographs of the liberated zones according to the activities of FRELIMO’s pro-
paganda unit, photographers’ experiences, and the publication of images. On the
one hand, this approach reveals the provenance of each photograph, the types of
images produced, and the different people and locations featured. On the
other hand, addressing the “mislabelling” of pictures introduces issues about the
knowledge production processes happening around the visualisation of the

Figure 3. FRELIMO, 1972: “The President of FRELIMO with Portuguese prisoners and
deserters in liberated Mozambique,” Mozambican Revolution, June, No. 51, p. 20, Available
through JSTOR’s Aluka Project.
Social Dynamics 29

liberated zones, their symbolic meanings, and the political stakes (Hayes, Silves-
ter, and Hartmann 2002; Edwards 2001; Coelho 1995). The “naming” and “logis-
tical” processes associated with visualising the liberated zones presented
themselves as important venues through which FRELIMO and populations in
Mozambique encountered and negotiated the racial and ethnic tensions that dis-
rupted organisational efforts to achieve Mozambique’s independence. The liberated
zone was a physical location inside Mozambique where an exiled movement,
FRELIMO supporters from the international community, and populations native to
Mozambique converged. The discursive and visual rhetoric of the liberated zones
highlight how FRELIMO situated its war effort before international audiences as
non-racial and effective while presenting its leadership before audiences inside
Mozambique as having regional and ethnic support.
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The liberated zone and racial discourse

The liberated zone was not merely a territorial marker. In fact, its conceptualisa-
tion and picturing was a response to divisions within FRELIMO that extended
geographically, ideologically, and along class lines and that contributed to the
discourses on race and ethnicity that dominated FRELIMO during its formation.
FRELIMO’s leadership comprised of individuals from Mozambique’s different
ethnic groups. At its creation, FRELIMO included members of the National
Democratic Union of Mozambique, who came from southern and central
Mozambique; the Mozambique National Union, based in Kenya and with popular
support from Tanzanian and Mozambican Makondes; and the National Union for
Mozambican Independence, which was based in Malawi and drew support from
Mozambique’s Tete province. The appointment of Dr. Eduardo Mondlane as
FRELIMO’s president served to unify these groups beyond their specific regional,
cultural, and ideological loyalties. Nevertheless, immediately following his
appointment, Mondlane faced accusations from factions internal to FRELIMO that
he was both a “moderate” and “sell-out” because of his willingness to accept mil-
itary, financial, and material support from solidarity groups in the West and
FRELIMO’s partnership with Cold War powers China and the Soviet Union
(Shubin 2008). The factions also used Mondlane’s origins from southern
Mozambique to claim that FRELIMO had a fighting force from northern
Mozambique but its leadership mainly hailed from the south.
FRELIMO conceptualised the liberated zones as a critical dimension of its efforts
to define the enemy against which it was fighting. From FRELIMO’s founding, Pres-
ident Dr. Eduardo Mondlane proclaimed the armed struggle was against Western
imperialism and not the Portuguese people. In 1968 at a meeting of FRELIMO lead-
ership, Mondlane adopted an official policy of granting Portuguese soldiers clem-
ency. He offered (1970, 191) the following explanation for this decision:

Prisoners of war have a political importance for [FRELIMO]. […] Through them, we
can obtain information on the enemy. We should re-educate them as much as possible,
and, according to our interests, eventually let them free. We may also use prisoners as
hostages to be exchanged for our comrades who may be in Portuguese colonial pris-
ons. In this way, we would be showing to the world that we are fighting against
Portuguese colonialism and not against the Portuguese people.
30 D.A. Thompson

According to Allen and Barbara Isaacman (1983, 86), this debate over the “enemy”
was “extremely important as it required FRELIMO to grapple with issues of racial
and class antagonisms and permitted the war to be seen in broader anti-imperialist
terms.” But the visualisation of these exchanges, which often took place within
FRELIMO-controlled liberated areas and/or military bases, created complications
for its political organisation, especially since factions inside FRELIMO deemed
Mondlane’s strategy as counter to their agendas. Tied to questions of clemency for
Portuguese soldiers were also ethnic divisions that risked alienating FRELIMO’s
core constituencies. A member of FRELIMO propaganda unit (Paul Silveira, inter-
view, June 2010) said at one moment tensions reached the point where even blacks
affiliated with the struggle without “tattoos,” which were the facial markings that
distinguished the Makondes, were discriminated against and even shot at in Cabo
Delgado over confusion as to who the “enemy” was. Also, tensions between the
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Macua and the Makonde populations resulted in FRELIMO shifting its military
strategy away from northern Mozambique, the provinces of Niassa and Nampula, to
Tete and Zambezia in the central parts of the country (Henriksen 1983). Throughout
the struggle, Mondlane and later Samora Machel found themselves having to ensure
that FRELIMO’s leadership reflected the diverse populations inside Mozambique
while addressing the claims made by FRELIMO deserters to the Portuguese army.
Besides serving as the backdrop for the dismantling of Portuguese colonialism,
FRELIMO leadership envisioned liberated zones as sites of political experimenta-
tion and social development. As part of this war effort against Western imperialist
systems, Mondlane expressed opposition not only to the exploitation permitted by
forced labour under the Portuguese administration but also to the abuse that hap-
pened with traditional African hierarchies of chieftaincy and gender. This concept
of the liberated area represented a space inside Mozambique, the first of which were
in Cabo Delgado and later spread to other parts of Mozambique’s northern prov-
inces, freed of Portuguese rule and a space removed from traditional African ruling
systems. Within areas under FRELIMO control in Mozambique, FRELIMO formed
cooperative partnerships with populations of different ethnicities. The agricultural
production of these regions, which included groundnuts and maize, fed other
regions and the exporting of goods allowed FRELIMO to purchase soap and clothes
(Munslow 1983). In return for food and shelter for troops, FRELIMO armed local
populations and permitted them to own lands, often used for military operations
against the Portuguese. Interaction between visiting troops, who came from all over
Mozambique, and local populations proved significant as there were exchanges
about how other regions responded to daily life challenges, war, and the environ-
ment. In addition to donating military weapons, FRELIMO built clinics for medical
treatment, basic schools for training in literacy, and military training facilities. Local
populations elected their own representatives who interacted with FRELIMO leader-
ship and transmitted FRELIMO’s political ideologies and news on the war’s
advancement. In effect these areas were, according to FRELIMO propaganda, labo-
ratories and models for a post-independent Mozambique. Portuguese military incur-
sion of these regions may have directly challenged FRELIMO’s efforts to liberate
parts of Mozambique, but the war also raised the symbolic and political significance
of the liberated zones.
Social Dynamics 31

Winning support and the Portuguese propaganda war

The Portuguese military took its fight against FRELIMO directly to the liberated
areas to counter FRELIMO’s claims to independence and to dismantle its popular
support and the socio-political infrastructures it developed.1 As part of its counter-
insurgency and psychological action campaign, the Portuguese military drafted Afri-
can soldiers from Mozambique and airdropped pamphlets and posters across the
liberated areas. This propaganda served to stir possible ethnic tensions between pop-
ulations, to illustrate the Portuguese military’s local connections, and to circulate a
multiracial image of its policies and war effort (Alpers 1974). Part of the propa-
ganda’s messaging entailed creating an image of what it would be like to live in
areas under Portuguese rule and what one would receive in return for deserting
FRELIMO. Posters featuring brown, grey, yellow, and beige hands jointly pulling
at the corners of a Portuguese flag with the text “Mozambique is only Mozambique
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because of Portugal” (Figure 4) or locked fists of white and black figures with the
text “We are all Portuguese” promoted the Portuguese as racially inclusive, as evi-
dent from the multicolour hands in each image that reflected all the different popu-
lations that made up the Portuguese overseas provinces.2 In an attempt to win over
African populations in its colonies, the Portuguese distributed a cartoon of a
Portuguese soldier standing before a bare-chested black figure pointing off to the
side (Figure 5). The printed text on the flyer translated from Portuguese to English
reads, “Present yourself and inform where the guerillas have their weapons. You
will be treated well. You will be compensated.” The sketch image, above the text
where the black figure pointed, possibly showed African populations assisting
Portuguese troops in locating FRELIMO combatants. Another piece of propaganda
(Figure 6) distributed specifically in Mozambique included a cartoon caricature of
an emaciated, unshaven African man standing before a Portuguese soldier. The
accompanying text (to the left) reads, “Present yourself to the troops…” Below the
text and picture is another picture of the same man clothed, shaven, and sitting
before food and drink with the text, “…And you will live like a man.” The underly-
ing premise of this poster was that the Portuguese, not FRELIMO, provided the
necessities to live a civilised life.

Figure 4. Unknown author, c. 1963, Mozambique is only Mozambique because of Portugal

(Translated from Portuguese), Image from the Report of the Mission to Mozambique of
Architect Mário de Oliveira, 1963, Available at IPAD Archive, Lisbon, Portugal.
32 D.A. Thompson
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Figure 5. “Present Yourself,” Portuguese propaganda from the Psychological Action

Campaign (Monteiro and Farinha 1990, 186).

The camera, the photographer, the photographed subjects, and the prints them-
selves were all witnesses to and accomplices in Portuguese efforts to craft dis-
courses around race that furthered its war against FRELIMO. Portuguese military
strategy involved drafting local populations to fight in the Portuguese army. This
tactic served to ease public dissent in Portugal over the war and also to minimise
the armed struggle’s racial dimensions of whites fighting blacks (Henriksen 1978,
1983). I read an image from the Portuguese military’s propaganda unit (as denoted
by the stamp on the print’s backside) (Figure 7) in conversation with the propa-
ganda discussed above (Figures 4–6) as reflective of photography’s role in orches-
trating the ties between the Portuguese and local populations as well as its efforts to
demonstrate Portugal’s attempts to Africanise the military. At the centre of the
image stands a bare-chested old man. The man wears a lip ring traditionally worn
by populations of Makonde descent that lived in Cabo Delgado, which suggests that
the photograph was taken somewhere in Cabo Delgado and that the man was Mak-
onde. Similar to the figure depicted in (Figure 5), the photographed man’s hand
position could be taken to indicate that he was explaining to the Portuguese troops
FRELIMO soldiers’ whereabouts. The soldiers’ varied locations within the frame
Social Dynamics 33
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Figure 6. “Aliciamento a Apresentação em Angola e Moçambique,” Portuguese

propaganda from the Psychological Action Campaign (Monteiro and Farinha 1990, 184).

couple with the position of their weapons suggest that the soldiers came upon the
man as they patrolled the area. The juxtaposition of the half-clothed man not just
with the group of soldiers but in particular the black soldier (front right) is striking.
Although standing away from the Makonde man, the black soldier leans forward
with his ear very clearly in the top-right hand corner of the image, situating him as
the translator for the other soldiers and the old man. But he also seems to be posi-
tioned next to his white counterparts as an equal, accentuated perhaps by the simi-
larity in the fatigues that the soldiers wear in the image. The FRELIMO
photographers that I researched and interviewed explained how they found them-
selves operating to varying degrees within the colonial system depicted in Figure 7,
as photographer, member of the Portuguese army, or as a suspected FRELIMO
sympathiser. Over the war’s course, FRELIMO officials constantly expanded its
limited press operations – a decision that would directly engage FRELIMO in a
visual war with the Portuguese over Mozambique’s independence. And it was the
very image presented in Figure 7 that FRELIMO photographers would deconstruct
and reorder under FRELIMO’s direction.
34 D.A. Thompson
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Figure 7. Bureau of Military Affairs for the Portuguese Army in Mozambique, c. early
1970s, Untitled, Location Unknown, Available at CDFF, Collection: Guerra Luta Armada.

The DIP’s early years: imaging political alliances (1962–1968)

The photographic section responsible for picturing FRELIMO’s liberated zones
developed out of the need to respond to Portuguese propaganda and to mobilise
populations inside Mozambique. The DIP’s direction and activities were not
removed from the politics internal to FRELIMO or the other liberation efforts hap-
pening in southern Africa, the very conditions and constituencies the rhetoric of the
liberated zone was intended to address. At first seeking to reach foreign English-
speaking audiences, the DIP, under the stewardship of Jorge Rebelo, relied on many
of FRELIMO’s solidarity members from Europe and North America to translate
materials and to type pamphlets and newsletters. Over the course of the DIP’s initial
years operating (1962–1968), Tanzania’s president Julius Nyerere permitted other
southern Africa liberation movements besides FRELIMO, including the African
National Congress (ANC), the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO),
and the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), to operate military bases
in Tanzania. Nyerere also successfully won a bid to headquarter the Organisation of
African Unity’s Liberation Committee in Dar es Salaam, through which the People’s
Republic of China and the Soviet Union funnelled military and financial support to
these groups. The DIP’s origins from exile made FRELIMO vulnerable to criticism
from internal factions that were adverse to foreign involvement in the organisation’s
affairs, but the DIP’s political alliances also placed FRELIMO in a position to
refashion its image before multiple constituencies. The very groups and their spe-
cific interests that provided the training and materials from which the DIP expanded
gravitated to the liberated zones as subject-matter for image making.
The photographing of the liberated zones developed alongside of FRELIMO
military reconnaissance inside Mozambique. Ambassador Peter Odalla, a former
member of FRELIMO’s defence arm, recounted the capturing of Daniel Maquin-
asse, a Mozambican soldier in the Portuguese army. Although Maquinasse would
Social Dynamics 35

go on to become a FRELIMO photographer during the armed struggle, at the time

of his capture, Odalla (Peter Odalla, interview, December 2010) remembered that
the Defence Department acquired his camera and that on other missions collected
propaganda distributed by the Portuguese. Areas inside Mozambique were not
always accessible due to Portuguese bombings. Thus, high-ranking FRELIMO offi-
cials like Jorge Rebelo and the representative for external affairs, Alberto Chissano,
took photographs at FRELIMO camps in southern Tanzania (Rodrigues 1984).
“Sometimes I myself would go there [to photograph],” said Rebelo (Jorge Rebelo,
interview, July 2008). “I had a very small Olympus, which I used to take photo-
graphs. It was good because it could take seven photos at a time, very small, but
when enlarged the quality was good” (ibid.). After returning from visits to liberated
areas as well as base camps in Tanzania, FRELIMO officials developed their films
at Dar es Salaam’s Asian-owned photography studios (Paul Silveira, interview, June
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2010). The Algerian Press Agency also produced photographs of FRELIMO mili-
tary training operations in Algeria.
In its first years, the DIP outsourced the photographing, developing, and printing
of images to its allies. Posters printed by Tanzanian studios and photographs from
the Algerian Press Agency worked to draw connections between FRELIMO’s lead-
ership, its soldiers, and the war happening in Mozambique. Mondlane himself was
aware of the risk associated with circulating pictures of FRELIMO representatives
travelling abroad to places like the United Nations in New York and those that
showed officials in restaurants in Dar es Salaam with diplomats, journalists, and
government leaders (Opello 1975). First, these types of photographs depicted a hier-
archy between FRELIMO’s leadership and the soldiers and populations on the war’s
frontlines. Secondly, such photographs distanced the photographed leadership from
the ongoing military and political activities happening in Mozambique. Perhaps in
response, photographs printed by Tanzanian commercial studios in Dar es Salaam
featured FRELIMO’s leadership. One image pictured then President Mondlane next
to Uria Simango, FRELIMO’s Vice President, and Marcelino dos Santos, Secretary
for Foreign Affairs, while another was the studio portrait of President Eduardo
Mondlane.3 According to Rebelo (interview, July 2008), the DIP distributed photo-
graphs of Mondlane and later Samora Machel throughout the liberated zones in
these early years, “so that people would associate the message with the leader” and
“to recognize the leader” in times of struggle. While the liberated zone was the
intended audience as well as a widely desired subject matter for DIP photographs,
many of the photographers, who were not affiliated with FRELIMO, never saw
these actual locations inside Mozambique. Furthermore, at the time, FRELIMO
lacked the technical capacity to produce its own images. Pictures of students groups
preparing to travel to Algeria for military training (Figure 8), armed soldiers
performing military drills (Figure 9), and portraits of FRELIMO leadership were
stand-ins for the liberated zones.
The DIP’s diminished capacity and foreign dependency resulted in manufactured
images having a global and not local circulation. Increasingly after 1962, Algiers
developed into a distribution centre for FRELIMO propaganda, as José Oscar
Monteiro, a FRELIMO ex-combatant, opened a political office there. He used Alge-
rian commercial studios to reprint DIP photographs for publication in newspapers
and to produce a FRELIMO bulletin distributed in Europe and North Africa. From
1962 until 1968, Algeria was a transit point for FRELIMO officials travelling from
Europe to Tanzania, and vice versa. Because international law prevented President
36 D.A. Thompson
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Figure 8. Unknown photographer, October 7, 1963, “Meeting in Arnautoglou Hall,

Goodbye of the Second Group for Algeria, Meeting Presided by President Mondlane,” Dar
es Salaam, Tanzania, Available at the Historical Archives of Mozambique, Maputo,
Collection: FRELIMO and the Luta Armada.

Figure 9. Photographer unknown, Untitled (included a stamp from FRELIMO’s Algeria

Press Unit on left bottom), Location Unknown, Available at the Historical Archives of
Mozambique, Collection: FRELIMO and the Luta Armada.

Nyerere from distributing military weapons to exiled groups, whose members were
considered “refugees” in Tanzania, FRELIMO sent members to Algeria for military
training. Additionally, Tanzania did not recognise FRELIMO members’ Portuguese
passports. In Algeria, FRELIMO members acquired Algerian passports before head-
ing onwards to Dar es Salaam. Ambassador Valeriano Ferrão, a FRELIMO soldier
and secondary school teacher who travelled through Algeria upon his return from
FRELIMO-sponsored studies in Europe, said that it was symbolic for members to
Social Dynamics 37

travel via Algeria (Valeriano Ferrão, interview, April 2010). Algeria’s own history
was a model for FRELIMO, since Algeria achieved independence in 1962. In the
years afterwards, Algeria offered FRELIMO military and financial support in addi-
tion to hosting conferences, which permitted FRELIMO to form alliances with
North African governments. But the journey through Algeria was also of political
necessity. Ferrão stated (ibid.), “I couldn’t go there [Tanzania] with [a Portuguese]
passport. [It would have been] politically bad for FRELIMO itself. Meaning that if
I came there [with the Portuguese passport], [it would have represented that] finally
Portuguese fighters and Portuguese citizens [joined FRELIMO].” Any allusions to
connections between the Portuguese and FRELIMO would have disrupted
FRELIMO’s fragile coalitions, some of which advocated for the killing of the
Portuguese and were suspicious of FRELIMO’s exiled leadership. In turn, the trans-
portation of 8  11 inch untitled pictures in members’ suitcases, such as Figures 8
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and 9, was attached to FRELIMO’s efforts to evade the legal limitations of

Portuguese citizenship and the political implications of affiliations with the
Portuguese enemy.
With foreign technical support came another set of geographical assumptions
and political implications that did not coalesce with FRELIMO’s political agendas
and the armed struggle it sought to fight. In one instance, Monteiro spoke with an
Algerian newspaper for misattributing a picture to Angola’s liberation struggle when
it showed FRELIMO’s activities in Mozambique. Monteiro prefaced his remarks to
the editor by expressing his solidarity with other African movements, but then
stated (José Oscar Monteiro, interview, July 2008), “It is not very good when
Mozambican pictures come with another caption saying it is Angola.” The editor
responded (ibid.), “We are all Africans, Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa, so
what does [your statement] mean?” When I asked about FRELIMO’s connection
with other African liberation organisations headquartered in Tanzania, the DIP’s
director Rebelo (interview, July 2008) stated, “Mozambique was very different
[from other movements]. We were already engaged in an armed struggle and most
of the others [African liberation movements] were organizing themselves […] We
would produce our materials and each of them would produce theirs.” In seeing
itself as separate from the other sub-Saharan African liberation movements – not
only in terms of the struggle’s more advanced state, but also differences in political
ideologies and military strategies – FRELIMO was faced in the coming years with
the challenge of crafting from exile a discursive and visual language that sought to
distinguish itself and its activities.4

Resetting DIP’s agenda at the 1968 Second Congress

Controversy surrounded the meeting of FRELIMO leadership at the 1968 Second
Congress, bringing into relief the tensions marring the war’s military advance-
ments and FRELIMO’s limited political gains within the liberated areas. To
the displeasure of FRELIMO’s Cabo Delgado provincial secretary, Lazaro
Nkavandame, Mondlane decided to host the meeting inside Mozambique in the
Niassa province and not in Tanzania. Historical and official FRELIMO narratives
accuse Nkavandame of trying to make the gathering a referendum on Mondlane’s
leadership and as an attempt to break Cabo Delgado away from FRELIMO’s
control (Henriksen 1983; Munslow 1983; Newitt 1995). In order to do so,
Nkavandame needed the support of the Makondes, an ethnic majority in southern
38 D.A. Thompson

Tanzania and northern Mozambique. Mondlane’s decision only exacerbated

tensions after student riots erupted at the FRELIMO headquarters over the leader-
ship’s decision to deploy students on military missions and not to send them to
study abroad as students claimed was promised.
DIP’s operations factored prominently in the 1968 Second Congress. In fact,
procedural documents from the proceedings acknowledged populations living in the
liberated areas as targeted audiences separate from the international community.
Before announcing DIP reforms, officials (FRELIMO 1968, np) wrote, “It may be
superfluous to say that, without the services of information, publicity, and propa-
ganda, it will be difficult for the popular masses of various parts of our country to
closely accompany the unfolding of the liberation struggle.” Therefore, the aim of
propaganda directed at local populations inside Mozambique was to, “mobilize and
win for our side [FRELIMO] the populations and hundreds of Mozambicans that
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were in the military service of the enemy, and to provoke the escape of dozens of
Portuguese soldiers and to create contradictions in the enemy’s heart” (FRELIMO
1968, np). To facilitate outreach to populations in Mozambique, FRELIMO leader-
ship recommended the expansion of the DIP’s workforce and increased production
of publications in local languages.
Following the Second Congress, liberated zones were not only intended to serve
as audiences for produced images. These areas inside Mozambique would act as
new contact sites between FRELIMO leadership, its war effort, and the international
community. José Oscar Monteiro, FRELIMO’s Algeria representative, explained
(interview, 2008) that there was a point before the Second Congress where
FRELIMO could not print images anywhere but in internal publications. He stated
(ibid..), “We could send a picture. [But,] you know no major newspaper [would]
publish something sent by FRELIMO […] They [didn’t] want to be publishing
something that looks like propaganda.” In addition to opening offices for FRELIMO
political representatives across Europe and Africa, leadership authorised interna-
tional journalists friendly to FRELIMO’s mission to accompany officials on visits
to liberated areas in Mozambique. As was evident from the response Monteiro
received from the Algerian editor for having mislabelled the printed image Angola
and not Mozambique, pictures of military training and FRELIMO leaders that fre-
quently circulated between 1962 and 1968 could not themselves establish the spe-
cific meanings DIP officials wanted. FRELIMO’s decision to invite foreign
journalists like British scholar and activist Basil Davidson to visit areas under its
control was symptomatic of an attempt to create a new body of knowledge (and
images) through Western structures of journalism deemed on the world stage more
“credible” than the systems FRELIMO had in place. But in doing so, FRELIMO
situated the liberated zones and their representations at the centre of power struggles
happening around its own internal divisions, southern Africa’s independence move-
ments, and the Cold War.

Mondlane’s assassination and the depiction of Cold War Politics

The reforms the DIP underwent as a result of FRELIMO’s 1968 Second Congress
did little to prevent FRELIMO soldiers from abandoning the movement for either
the Portuguese military or other opposition groups. In fact, tensions came to a head
on February 4, 1969, when a mail bomb killed President Dr Eduardo Mondlane.
FRELIMO officials blamed Portugal for the death and also launched accusations
Social Dynamics 39

against Lazaro Nkavandame, who had previously been expelled for his ambitions to
replace Mondlane at the Second Congress and for fuelling tensions between
FRELIMO and Makonde populations in Cabo Delgado. In response, FRELIMO’s
leadership committee appointed Uria Simango (Vice-President under Mondlane),
Marcelino dos Santos (Secretary of Foreign Affairs) and Samora Machel (Defence
Minister) as co-presidents. Not only were racial questions and ethnic tensions possi-
bly to blame for Mondlane’s death, but also they would worsen with the appoint-
ment of these individuals. Internal FRELIMO factions once again characterised
both Dos Santos and Machel’s leadership appointments as a southern plot to take
over FRELIMO. To complicate matters, each of these leaders held different opin-
ions on FRELIMO’s relationship to China and the Soviet Union. Simango advo-
cated for FRELIMO’s alliance with China, and Dos Santos with the Soviets.
Machel remained neutral. The diplomatic benefits of these relationships were at risk
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with the co-presidents’ varying support for the Cold War powers, which also had
their own competing agendas for helping FRELIMO.5
Despite these internal upheavals, the 1968 DIP reforms did offer FRELIMO a
platform from which it could use photography to address accusations harmful to its
reputation and to reaffirm its political alliances. In 1969, a FRELIMO solidarity
member trained FRELIMO soldiers as photographers, which, combined with contri-
butions of Soviet cameras and Japanese films, enabled the DIP to send its photogra-
phers to take pictures in the liberated areas of northern Mozambique. Additionally,
the construction of darkroom facilities at FRELIMO’s Dar es Salaam headquarters
and its military base Nachingwea allowed FRELIMO to photograph military and
political activities and to implement an internal network for the circulation of
images. In the wake of political turmoil that threatened FRELIMO’s legitimacy, the
DIP was able to demonstrate its territorial presence and popular support through
staged contact with populations in liberated areas of Mozambique. For example, in
late 1969, after his expulsion from FRELIMO under suspicions of conspiring to kill
Mondlane, Simango published (1969) a document titled “The Gloomy Situation in
FRELIMO,” which said “strong feeling[s], of sectarianism, regionalism, and tribal-
ism” (np) dominated FRELIMO to the point where FRELIMO members feared their
comrades more than the Portuguese.6 Director Rebelo (interview, 2008) said it was
urgent that they respond to Simango’s claims regarding ethnic division, and
FRELIMO did so by removing Simango’s image from publications since he “repre-
sented a way of thinking, some ideas which [were] completely opposite ours.” The
staging of contact between leadership and military soldiers with local populations in
liberated areas of Mozambique was critical to reaffirm FRELIMO’s influence
amongst populations that contested its authority. Rebelo remarked (interview, July
2008), “When [photographers] accompanied the president [and other officials], their
main job was to show the different activities which Samora was involved in. If he
had a meeting with people, they would photograph the meeting. If he was visiting a
project, this is what they would do.” An untitled image (Figure 10) from the libera-
tion struggle archive featured the high-ranking military official Alberto Chipande,
who was credited with firing the first gunshot of the armed struggle, receiving a
melon from an elderly woman, whose lip ring suggests that she was Makonde.
Alberto Chipande himself was also Makonde. The focal point of the photograph is
the exchange of the melon, a source of nourishment. The coming together of the
hands of FRELIMO with local populations can be read as a symbol of cooperation
and interdependency, the convergence of an exile movement with populations inside
40 D.A. Thompson
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Figure 10. FRELIMO photographer, After 1969, Untitled, Location Unknown, Available at
the Centro de Documentação e Formação Fotografica (CDFF), Maputo, Mozambique,
Collection: Guerra Luta Armada.

Mozambique, a symbolic meaning of extraordinary significance for an organisation

where its fragile coalitions of different races and ethnicities were always in

Figure 11. FRELIMO photographer, after 1969, “The Participation of the People”
(translated text on back), Location Unknown, Available at the CDFF, Collection: Guerra
Luta Armada.
Social Dynamics 41
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Figure 12. FRELIMO photographers, c. early 1970s based on the military weapons shown,
“Anti-Air Sub-machine Gun” (“Metralhadora Anti-Aerea”), Location Unknown, Available at
the Historical Archives of Mozambique, Collection: FRELIMO and the Luta Armada.

The development of photographic facilities at FRELIMO military bases also per-

mitted the documentation of military trainings and the distribution of weapons into
liberated zones, images later circulated internally within the Department of Defence
as well as in the liberated areas. A closer scrutiny of the photographs produced,
such as “Participation of the People” (Figure 11) or “Anti-Air Military Weapons”
(Figure 12), for the actual types of weapons combatants used reveals that
FRELIMO integrated Soviet weapons and Chinese war strategies into its military
missions. For example, “Participation of the People” displays a woman holding a
Russian-made SK carbine rifle. The arming of local populations was part of the
Chinese approach to guerrilla warfare. The image “Anti-Air Military Weapons”
shows officers using a range of Soviet surface-to-air machinery, which was part of
the Soviet strategy to enhance FRELIMO’s war capabilities to include attacks on
Portuguese aircraft.7 These photographs not only demonstrated FRELIMO’s military
capacities but their actual production, and contents were representative of Cold War
partnerships. In turn, photographing in the liberated areas presented FRELIMO with
a visual and diplomatic tool to align the movement with both China and the Soviet
Union while reconciling differences amongst local populations in Mozambique.

Foreigners visit the liberated zones, 1968–1974

Increased foreign involvement in the DIP had another benefit besides equipment: it
allowed FRELIMO to turn DIP photographs, until then perceived widely by the
international press as “propaganda,” into “information” for audiences beyond
Mozambique, Tanzania, and Algeria (Tagg 1988, 118; Sontag 2001, 22–23).
FRELIMO invited journalists from the United States, China, East Germany and
Tanzania, filmmakers, and photographers one these visits. In 1968, trips were under-
taken to Cabo Delgado, a questionable FRELIMO stronghold due to tensions over
Makonde representation in FRELIMO leadership, and to provinces like Niassa and
42 D.A. Thompson

Tete as the war expanded.8 These trips varied in duration and frequency depending
on the season and military intelligence. Accompanying visitors were high-ranking
FRELIMO officials like President Machel and DIP director Jorge Rebelo and an
official FRELIMO photographer.
Foreign and FRELIMO photographers converted the liberated zone into photo-
graphs with different symbolic currencies. Visiting image-makers fortunate to enter
into FRELIMO military bases, generally only the Soviets and Chinese, observed
training operations. FRELIMO photographers pictured these foreign visitors in their
specific capacities as journalists, filmmakers, photographers, doctors, and solidarity
members and not in the position of military fighters. FRELIMO photographer José
Soares pointed out (interview, October 2010) that such representations were signifi-
cant since the military realities and racial tensions made it almost impossible to
show black and white soldiers fighting alongside each other. Populations in the
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liberated areas often confused whites and foreigners as the enemy. FRELIMO pho-
tographers visually blurred the boundaries between visitors and local fighters by

Figure 13. FRELIMO photographer, c. 1971, Photographs from an article titled “Of the
More Beautiful Women Experiences of Our Lives,” Published in Mozambican Revolution
on pages 18–19 (October–December 1971), Available at the Historical Archives of
Mozambique and through JSTOR’s Aluka project.
Social Dynamics 43
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Figure 13a. FRELIMO, 1972, The Chinese Delegation with FRELIMO in Cabo Delgado
(Translated from Portuguese), A Voz da Revolução, 1972, Available at the Historical
Archives of Mozambique, Maputo, Collection: FRELIMO and the Luta Armada.

picturing guests marching in formation with FRELIMO soldiers (Figures 13 and

13a). Foreign visitors photographed the same scenes that FRELIMO photographers
documented, when they were not covering these visits. Anders Johansson was one
of the first foreign visitors to the liberated zones in 1968, and published his images
within the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and in literature printed by
FRELIMO solidarity groups.9 On his second visit to the liberated zones of Cabo
Delgado in 1974, he photographed a male and female soldier dressed in fatigues sit-
ting with a young girl among heavy artillery and missiles (Figure 14). In a similar
photograph labelled “The Participation of the People” (Figure 11), a FRELIMO
photographer standing at a distance has captured the image of four women congre-
gated around another woman dressed in military fatigues with a rifle on her shoul-
ders. Both pictures show local populations armed and illustrate FRELIMO male
and female soldiers talking to ordinary people. Despite these images’ similarities in
terms of their subject-matter and possibly location photographed, the market econ-
omy of international press photography at the time judged Johansson’s image to be
of greater legitimacy. Foreign media markets, which FRELIMO sought to access,
interpreted the photographs of Johansson and other foreign visitors to Mozambique
44 D.A. Thompson
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Figure 14. Anders Johansson, June 1974, Untitled, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, SC-666,
Available at the Historical Archives of Mozambique, Collection: FRELIMO and the Luta

as valid news sources since they were not official members of FRELIMO. Also,
these news outlets perceived such images by Johansson and others as highlighting
the conflict’s humanitarian and not military aspects.
The exchange between foreign visitors and liberated areas in Mozambique
prompted FRELIMO photographers to document the war in different ways.
FRELIMO photographer Simão Matias woke up to discover the Portuguese bomb-
ing the liberated zone in Niassa, where he accompanied the American filmmaker
Robert van Lierop. The film crew started documenting the attack, and Matias
picked up his camera instead of his gun to photograph his fellow soldiers fighting
(Naroromele 1985, 3). Matias recounted (ibid.), “I stayed very impressed, so that,
when I was firing my camera, in the middle of the rumble, the whistles of bullets, I
started to feel equal with good friends, the soldiers of the base that were shooting
their guns.”10 For other FRELIMO photographers, the speed of the war and its
moral urgency was sometimes better met with the gun rather than by their 35-mm
cameras. Soares explained (interview, 2010) how he tried to photograph FRELIMO
combat operations; however, “[the] Portuguese helicopters” frequently came and
forced him to seek shelter. Maquinasse picked up his gun and not the camera in
combat situations to assist fellow soldiers under fire and lost films when his canoe
flipped over during an attack. Photographers sometimes dropped their cameras for
their guns when the convoy they were travelling with faced military attack. As a
result, scenes of military fighting between FRELIMO and the Portuguese were
absent from FRELIMO’s photographic archive. In the absence of these images, DIP
personnel pictured foreign visitors marching side-by-side with FRELIMO soldiers,
speaking to soldiers, and living within liberated Mozambique. Such images allowed
Social Dynamics 45

FRELIMO to put forward an argument of alignment and solidarity between FREL-

IMO and the international community, while also creating the perception that there
were areas in Mozambique under FRELIMO’s control that were safe due to the visit
of foreigners.
Foreign visitors to the liberated zones also generated discourses around
FRELIMO’s policies of racial inclusion. Eager to see how people in Mozambique
responded to a white person, an East German journalist remarked how the Makon-
des “reacted as Mozambicans and not as members of a tribe” (FRELIMO 1970,
19). Andrew Jaffee of Newsweek joked with a FRELIMO soldier about walking
faster in order to demonstrate “his racial superiority” (FRELIMO 1972b, 12). The
soldier responded (FRELIMO 1972b, 12), “What is the point of our fighting racism
if we are going to become black racists instead. Our fight is against Portuguese
colonialism.” Canadian activist John Saul (FRELIMO 1972a, 13) expressed appreci-
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ation for being accepted on his visit to Mozambique despite being a white man
from a country that helped to create the perception of FRELIMO as a racist move-
ment. FRELIMO published these testimonies written directly by the visitors to the
liberated areas with photographs by DIP personnel from actual journeys in its press
bulletins A Voz da Revolução (The Voice of the Revolution) and Mozambican Revo-
lution. The picturing of local populations in Mozambique alongside foreigners of
all races and nationalities presented Mozambique under FRELIMO as having tran-
scended the colonial categories of race and as not having any animosity to the
outside world and non-black people.

Seeing the armed struggle from the liberated zones

The DIP was aware that, while images of the liberated zones in Mozambique may
have given authority to the FRELIMO leaderships’ claims of racial equality, these
very images by foreign visitors spoke to local populations’ anxieties about interna-
tional involvement. Photographer José Soares (interview, January 2011) said that
there was real fear inside the liberated areas that after independence FRELIMO
would sell the country to “whites.” Additionally, inside the DIP, there was a growing
concern that images distributed inside Mozambique were too general and did not
illustrate accurately FRELIMO’s political and leadership organisation. The DIP com-
pensated for these concerns in terms of its selection of photographers and their
assignments, the types of images it circulated in Mozambique versus those distributed
to international audiences, and the ways it labelled and archived printed photographs.
FRELIMO had selected photographers who came from the very provinces where
it was seeking to develop its liberated areas. When I asked about the significance of
FRELIMO training and deploying photographers, DIP director Jorge Rebelo said
that necessity and not race was the determinant. He stated (interview, 2008):

During the war, why was Maquinasse, Torohate, and others chosen? It is not because
they were black, because [FRELIMO] didn’t have any problem about colour. If they
were white or yellow, they would be selected the same way […] We had very few
people who were not black in the liberation struggle. You can count on your hands.
Almost all of them were black because they were peasants.

By dismissing race as a criterion for the selection of FRELIMO photographers,

Rebelo raised the possibility of race as a category of identification and exclusion
46 D.A. Thompson

that belonged to a different context, time period, and group of knowledge makers.
By describing photographers as “peasants” – part of the majority of people
FRELIMO represented – Rebelo situated them as having occupied a special position
not only in the liberation struggle but also within the social and cultural hierarchies
of communities inside Mozambique. FRELIMO photographers’ images would have
a value for the organisation’s political agendas and outreach to local populations.
Tied to this issue of FRELIMO’s capacity to internally produce images and dis-
tribute them inside Mozambique was also a matter of visual literacy, the possibility
of changing how people inside liberated areas envisioned FRELIMO and the war.
FRELIMO photographers’ pictures had added currency for the DIP’s principle pub-
lication A Voz da Revolução, which was text heavy. According to Rebelo (ibid.), “If
you produce one paper or magazine only with text especially for people who have
much difficulty in reading, the effect is much less strong than a page of two or
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three photographs, which show us the subject you want to call attention to.” On top
of illiteracy, populations in the liberated zones had cultivated a certain way of
seeing the world around them not only through the bombardment of Portuguese
propaganda (Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7) but also the racial categories used to classify
them. José Oscar Monteiro, the director of the DIP’s political office in Algeria, situ-
ated FRELIMO’s photographs of liberated zone as in opposition to Portuguese
imagery. He stated (interview, 2008), “you can’t see black [in] the iconography by
colonial photographers. [You see] the iconography of a white society. [In]
FRELIMO, we [were] doing photography to document evidence of the struggle,
and using colonial pictures to the opposite end to show discrimination and colonial-
ism.” In this visual context, circulated photographs by FRELIMO of female soldiers
marching with weapons and contact between local populations and FRELIMO lead-
ership were seen by FRELIMO as displacing colonial imagery in order to allow
people to see themselves or, as Rebelo (interview, 2008) stated, “[to recognise] this
is my school, this is my military base, these are the soldiers.”
The archiving of images at the DIP highlight how FRELIMO understood dis-
courses of race and ethnicity functioning around the viewing of photographs pro-
duced internally in liberated areas. The DIP was mindful of which photographers it
sent to specific regions. Paul Silveira, an operator of FRELIMO’s Tanzania printing
press, commented (interview, 2010) that the DIP tried always to send a Makonde,
such as Simão Matias, to photograph in Cabo Delgado, since Makondes were
known to shoot visitors without familiar body markings. The images that resulted
from such assignments had a particularity of individuals and locations that local
populations recognised, but were masked by the DIP’s decision not to classify pho-
tographers accordingly. At the centre of this decision not to label photographs was
a political philosophy that determined the types of photographs distributed and their
intent to foster a sense of collectivity. Rebelo (2008) and Monteiro (2008) argued
that it was not in the interest of the struggle to celebrate the work of one photogra-
pher over another. Monteiro (2008) explained, “We [were] living in an organization
where everyone [was] more or less equal. Then you see a picture which [has] been
made possible by many people. Then you put [the name] Daniel Maquinasse. Then
there was the feeling [of] putting Daniel Maquinasse a bit up.” Rebelo (2008)
framed the question of authorship as an issue of strengthening photographers’ and
audiences’ dependency on FRELIMO in liberated areas. He stated (2008), “Saying
I Rebelo did this would weaken the liberation movement. A photograph, okay it
was taken by a photographer but how did he manage to produce this? It was thanks
Social Dynamics 47

to the liberation struggle, because if there was no struggle he would not be able
Understanding the need not to associate the photographer with the image but
instead FRELIMO, the DIP attempted to mobilise populations across Mozambique
not according to their attachment to a specific location, language, or ethnicity but
instead to the idea of an independent Mozambique under FRELIMO. As Rebelo
remarked, FRELIMO claimed that race was not a prerequisite for membership. But
Silveira’s comments regarding photographers’ assignments considered with the
context under which photographers pictured the Makondes, whose support of
FRELIMO wavered, raises the possibility that local audiences in Mozambique inter-
preted images through the lens of ethnicity and not race (Cahen 1999, 1987).11
FRELIMO photographers’ experiences and my analysis of how their images func-
tioned suggest that populations native to Mozambique retreated back to categories
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of region and ethnicity when they viewed DIP pictures. Populations in Mozam-
bique, specifically the liberated areas, did not identify with FRELIMO for reasons
of its policy of racial inclusion, and FRELIMO was careful not to appeal to this
position when targeting such constituencies. Distributed prints and bulletins served
to create spaces through which local audiences detached themselves from
Portuguese colonialism and even their traditional cultures. The liberated zone as
both rhetoric and representation acted as a category to identify with an independent
Mozambique under FRELIMO.

The vision of the armed and sovereign state that FRELIMO pictured through the
liberated zone with the help of DIP photographers and their images would be offi-
cially recognised in 1974 with the signing of the Lusaka Accord.12 This article has
attempted to show the under-tracked racial tensions and experiences that played out
through less visible decisions regarding the DIP’s selection, captioning, and distri-
bution of photographs. Visualising the liberated zone was critical to FRELIMO’s
proclaimed victory over the Portuguese, the viewing of a liberated Mozambique
whether through the camera’s lens or in printed bulletins risked disrupting
FRELIMO’s fragile coalitions and ground war. In trying to articulate visions of
unity across great divides geographically, racially, and ethnically, the circulation of
the liberated zone’s image engendered a sense of nationalism not only predicated
on connections to FRELIMO but also on certain understandings of race (Morier-
Genoud 2012). Local audiences in Mozambique were inclined to recognise photo-
graphs through the pictured individuals and locations, while foreign audiences inter-
preted FRELIMO as a multiracial organisation and its war as against colonialism,
not against the Portuguese. Photographs of the liberated zone helped in FRELIMO’s
efforts to consolidate its regional power and win international support. But this
study of DIP operations demonstrates that this victory came at the expense of fos-
tering a polarised field of vision of black and white, cutting out all the blurred
spaces of the colonial world. This effect would come into sharp relief in 1974 when
riots erupted across Mozambique and Portuguese fled from Mozambique out of fear
of the “racist,” “black-only,” and “communist” FRELIMO (A Tribuna 1974, 1). Pur-
posefully or not, the pictures of the liberated zones accumulated during the armed
struggle would play a critical role in FRELIMO’s claims to power after 1975 not
from in exile but from inside Mozambique.
48 D.A. Thompson

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2010 Bonani Africa Festival of
Photography, 2010 Love and Revolution Conference at the University of Western Cape, and
lastly at the Camps Conference at the University of Western Cape’s Centre for the
Humanities. I would like to thank Mary Jo Arnoldi, Erin Haney, Allen Isaacman, Paolo
Israel, Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, Christian Williams, and the two anonymous peer
readers of this journal article for feedback on earlier versions of this paper. I also extend my
gratitude to the staff of the Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique and the Centro de
Documentação e Formação de Fotografica who helped with the gathering, identification,
and digitising of included images.

1. I credit Ambassador Peter Odalla, Margaret Dickinson, and David Morton for directing
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my attention to this and other propaganda made by the Portuguese military and distrib-
uted in FRELIMO-controlled areas.
2. I viewed the propaganda titled “We are all Portuguese” in Margaret Dickinson’s film
Behind the Lines. I was unable to obtain the actual image. I would also point out that
underlying the messages expressed within the propaganda cited here were claims of ter-
ritory and citizenship where blacks were citizens not of Mozambique but of Portugal
since Mozambique existed because of Portugal and therefore was one and the same with
3. I was unable to locate these specific photographs, but it was through interviews with
Paul Silveira (2010), a worker at the FRELIMO printing press in Tanzania during the
liberation, struggle, and with the DIP director Jorge Rebelo (2008) that I was able to
reconstruct the earlier images produced and circulated within FRELIMO.
4. When asked about African cooperation in 1971 with FRELIMO, Marcelino dos Santos
was rather critical of the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU) and in general Africa’s
involvement in Mozambique. He stated (Schneidman 1978), “We believe that the help
which the OAU has given us so far is very valuable, but it is not nearly sufficient to sat-
isfy the needs of liberation. From a slightly different perspective, isn’t our problem in
Africa today a problem of solidarity? Some African countries have not yet been able to
understand the part they are supposed to play in the process.” FRELIMO’s alignment
with solidarity groups in the West and its adoption of Chinese- and Russian-influenced
socialism can also be read as an active effort to fill the ideological and economic voids
left unfilled by the ideologies of Pan-Africanism and the organisational failings of the
5. The OAU’s Liberation Committee first facilitated interaction between FRELIMO, the
Soviet Union, and China. But, increasingly towards the late 1960s, FRELIMO had direct
contact with the Chinese government, which donated weapons and trained FRELIMO
soldiers. The Soviet Union provided FRELIMO with de facto representation by voting
in its position on the United Nation’s Security Council for African bloc countries before
it directly donated weapons to FRELIMO in the 1970s. The Soviets also maintained
influence in anti-colonial forums that did not include China.
6. In the wake of Mozambique’s independence from Portugal, Uria Simango publically
asked FRELIMO for forgiveness of his transgressions. Nevertheless, FRELIMO secretly
executed him sometime between the late 1970s and early 1980s.
7. The soldier on the left is using the self-loading Soviet PPSH-41 sub-machine gun, which
had high rates of fire and 71 rounds with a magazine drum. The soldier in the centre is
using the Soviet DShk heavy machine gun in anti-aircraft configuration, while the third
soldier (right) carries a Soviet Mosin-Nagant Model 1944.
8. Many delegations visited Cabo Delgado also because of its proximity to Tanzania.
Unlike the Portuguese, FRELIMO did not have at its disposal military transport such as
tanks, trucks, or helicopters, which made trips to Mozambique difficult. This focus on
Cabo Delgado because of proximity as well as the political tensions that dominated the
region was a potential reason for why many of the images within the FRELIMO libera-
tion struggle’s photographic archive are of Cabo Delgado and its populations.
Social Dynamics 49

9. In an interview (2010), Johansson recalled travelling for Dagens Nyheter on the Swedish
Prime Minister’s official visit to Tanzania in 1968. Over the years before then, he had
got to know both Eduardo and Janet Mondlane on their frequent visits to Sweden. While
in Tanzania, he received permission from President Julius Nyerere to cross Tanzania’s
border with Mozambique and to travel to the liberated areas. See “Anders Johansson:
Journalist and Member of the Swedish South Africa Committee – Africa correspondent
of Dagens Nyheter – Regional reporter of Dagens Nyheter.” Interview with Ted
Sellström. Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa. Febru-
ary 10. http://www.liberationafrica.se/intervstories/interviews/johansson_a/?by-name=1.
10. Robert van Lierop’s film A Luta Continua, which Matias referenced here, was one of
the first FRELIMO films that did not stage a Portuguese military attack. Lierop managed
to obtain live footage that he incorporated into the film.
11. And here, I draw from Stuart Hall (1997) and Mahmood Mamdani (1996) to conceptual-
ise ethnicity not only as regional and tribal categories of identification around which
internal factions developed inside FRELIMO.
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12. The signing of the Lusaka Accord marked the transferring of sovereign control of
Mozambique from Portugal to FRELIMO.

Notes on contributor
A PhD candidate in African History at the University of Minnesota, Drew Thompson is the
Charles Gaius Bolin Fellow in History and Art at Williams College. He is in the final stages
of completing a dissertation on the racial politics associated with the practice of photography
in colonial and post-independent Mozambique.

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