The writer was honoured this Saturday afternoon at the Maputo Book Fair. In his speech, Mia Couto expressed his wish that the event organised by the City Council would benefit young artists, who often have no support to create.
Literature is a place of encounters. According to Mia Couto, it is in the art of the word that this line of sewing of times and differences between people is established. Therefore, a writer never presents himself alone. On the contrary, “The writer is made from others, he is made from that seam, that meeting point that makes him be, at the same time, himself and so many other people, so many other stories, so many other voices and so many other silences”.
In a speech that oscillated between the poetic and the philosophical, well in keeping with the characteristics of his works, Mia said that he does not see the Maputo City Council’s tribute as a gesture intended for himself, “but for all those who made me who I am. Some of them are here. Therefore, I have to share this merit with my family, first of all, with my friends, with my fellow writers and fellow biologists, who help me to be who I am”. And he added: “We are only who we are if we are available to listen to others”.
In his speech, the writer did not forget his birthplace. “I am not from this city, I am from Cidade da Beira. As you know, that is my founding territory. Maputo City welcomed me when I was 17 years old and it is as if this city had adopted me.”
Adopted or not, Mia Couto has lived in the country’s capital for 51 years, which allows him to analyse the reductive tendencies of local residents. “We think that the city ends there, where the periphery begins, but this city has two cities, almost like all cities in the world, and there is a great risk that the other city, which begins on the other side, on that other border, will become invisible. But we have to know that there are thousands of people who cross that border, from the outskirts to the city centre, as if they were emigrants, because they do not find in that other place where they live a way to survive with a job or a place to make themselves exist”. Mia said, without ceasing to include himself among the residents who think in this way: “I myself have evaluated the work of Mr President of the Municipal Council for this small territory, and I forget that Maputo is much larger, that this Municipal Council must also deal with this other territory which, for many Maputans, is a place not visible”.
In the writer’s opinion, Maputo has a cultural vivacity that few cities possess. For this reason too, “A festival like this, a book fair like this, should help to make visible those who live in the shadows, who make culture, who make art. There are hundreds of young people who have no support from anyone, but who do not give up fighting, doing. Because they cannot cross their arms. People in culture, unfortunately, cannot go on strike, because that would be like giving up our very existence”.
Without ceasing to refer to the precursor of Mozambican poetry, Mia Couto emphasised that “Rui de Noronha’s work tells us that literature is a producer of eternity. That is why Rui, because of the words he made, is here and has overcome the barrier of time”.
At the tribute session, the writer was accompanied by his wife Patrícia, his brother Fernando, his children Madyo, Luciana and Rita, and his grandchildren. Thanking them for contributing to the person he is, he warned: “These relatives of mine who are here are few. They told me I had to bring some. But the Coutos are many. I am saying this almost as a warning, because my friend Ungulani ba ka Khosa told me that he had created this literary name because, Ungulani ba ka Khosa means diminish the Khosas. I think we need to take heed and perhaps adopt the expression Ungulani ba ka Couto, because the Coutos are already too many”.