This wonderfully crude whiteprint map of Maputo is a fascinating, and likely unique, artefact of the early Mozambican independence era of the late 1970s. It showcases the national capital shortly after Mozambique had gained its independence in 1975, following the Mozambican War of Independence (1961-74) (called in Portuguese: Guerra do Ultramar), and just around the beginning of the horrific Mozambican Civil War (1977-92).
Maputo, known in Portuguese colonial times as Lourenço Marques, was originally founded as a fort in 1781, with town forming around it from 1850. Located upon a stellar natural harbour by Delgoa Bay, and connected by railway to Pretoria from 1894, Lourenço Marques was made the capital of Portuguese Mozambique in 1898.
By the 1930s, Lourenço Marques was one of the most modern and sophisticated cities an all Africa, boasting grand Art Deco buildings, modern infrastructure, and services, as well as thriving business and cultural sectors. However, prosperity was very unevenly allocated, as the Portuguese enforced an Apartheid-like system, that saw the city’s Black majority live as second-class citizens, in relative poverty, causing much discontent, which was mirrored across Mozambique.
Matters came to a head when various Mozambican indigenous groups rebelled against over four centuries of Portuguese rule. While Maputo was never directly involved in the war that ensued, the exodus of skilled European workers upon Mozambican independence, in 1975, left many of the capital’s businesses and infrastructure in a ruined state. Lourenço Marques was renamed ‘Maputo’ in 1976.
The FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique / Liberation Front of Mozambique) party, which assumed control over Mozambique, reoriented the country towards China and Warsaw Pact and imposed socialist command economic policies with disastrous results. This helped to fuel a civil war from 1977 that flooded Maputo with refugees.
The present map seems to have been hastily made, perhaps by civic authorities, in the improvised whiteprint method, perhaps in 1976-7, before the Maputo’s formal printing infrastructure was restored. It shows the well-ordered grid of streets and squares, as originally designed by the Portuguese in the late 19th century, with the city rising upon a bluff over the port, which is connected to the interior by railway lines.
Interestingly, the map shows that that most of the former Portuguese colonial street names have since been replaced with the names of African and international Socialist / Communist luminaries. These new names include the Avenidas Vladimir I. Lenin, Karl Marx, Salvador Allende, Mao Teo Tung, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Min, Kenneth Kaunda, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, as well as Edouard Mondlane and Samora Machel (the founders of FRELIMO). Today, while Mozambique is still ruled by FRELIMO, the party had opened the country to a free-market economy and international trade, such that one is greeted by the site of avowedly capitalist billboards posted above Avenida Lenin!
The map shows Maputo’s incipient suburbs, which have since grown dramatically. In 1980, greater Maputo recorded a population of 770,000, while today it has over 3 million residents.
Today, Maputo is experiencing something of renaissance, with high economic growth allowing an increasing number of people to join the middle class, while seeing the gentrification of formerly run-down neighborhoods.
The map is certainly an extremely rare, if not unique, survivor, as only a handful would have been made, while almost all would have quickly perished.
References: N/A – Seemingly Unrecorded.