Samora Machel’s exercise bike

This year Mozambique commemorates the 25th anniversary of the death of its first president, Samora Machel, who was killed, along with 34 others, in a plane crash that many Mozambicans believe was a South African act of sabotage. A giant statue of Machel in his characteristic pose–commanding with his finger pointed rigidly upwards–was unveiled in October at Maputo’s Praça da Independência, and smaller versions are being mounted in all of Mozambique’s provincial capitals. The crowd at the Maputo unveiling was smallish and lifeless and I was disappointed, or maybe I just felt a chill at the presence of Robert Mugabe among the VIPs. In any case, not all the celebrating of Samora has been pomp. A couple of months ago, in a hidden-away gallery space downtown, my friends and I came across a Machel exhibit that put objects from his less-public moments on display. Like this one. I guess he used it a lot, or not at all.

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