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  • Lorraine Johnson

[89] The Many Colors

It was July 1992 when Samsão Damangani sat down with me in the urban sprawl of Maputo City. He was 78 at the time, an old man—he proclaimed—with deep lines on his face telling of stories gone by. His eyes spoke his eagerness to speak, as he longed to spend his remaining days telling his children, his grandchildren and others about his past—how he, his parents and grandparents lived.

When Samsão was young, he had heard of far-away places like America, with everyone wanting to get one of those "American haircuts." Americans were magicians, he said, because they had gone to talk with God and came back. It was only years later that he learned that magical journey was in fact a trip to the Moon. He too had magical stories from his village—like when you see someone coming and then suddenly disappear, becoming a snake.

To know the many colors of the culture of Mozambique—those were the stories Samsão wanted to tell along his waning but hope-filled days—if someone was there and truly wanted to lend an ear.

And so I leaned back into my chair and into the telling of stories long gone—melodically told as the beat of an African drum—while the cars whisked by outside his window on the tarred and bustling street below.


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