Such is the mystery that abounds on Mozambique Island. Its history is well-known, its spot in the pantheon of Important Places assured.
For such a small place, the island occupies an enormous corner within the murky infinitudes of the slave trade. Aside from its physical distance, Ilha feels slightly removed from the mainland as though by choice, to allow the rest of the country to exist without it. The disquieting impression is that of a forced separation, unbound and unbidden by either party.
The traveller, who, it seems, is starting to take on the role of celestial observer, watches from a distance. This approach is the one with which they feel the most comfort. Their position is that of the outsider, a visitor from another realm of understanding; the physical shapes are broadly the same, but the traveller’s history remains incompatible with that of the islanders. There is no dissent, no aggression, no trouble; merely a lack of understanding.
Come midnight, the island becomes still. To its south, closest to the connecting bridge, is where the faintest murmurs emanate. This enclave is where many islanders live, the bearing of their homes dropping below the meridian of the island’s principal arterial path. In the north dwells the history, the fort brooding in the shadows, the lapping of the waves near the shells of the former colonial buildings, home now only to graffiti and the reclamation growths of nature.
The somnambulant yellow lighting, playing off the pitch black of the sky, reflects on the architecture within its reach; the effect is dimly skeletal, as though the island is only beginning to realise it exists somewhere within antiquity.
Soon enough, the traveller completes their circuit. Behind them lies the immaculate church, its gigantic form swallowed and reconditioned as a sinister silhouette by the encroaching blackness, its jagged parapets taking on more void-like forms, rendered all the more brooding by the lack of incumbent detail. Beyond that are the square and its attendant pier, where slumberers seek places to rest and find shelter.
But it is upon the figure that the traveller’s gaze hovers. Around them, the island exhibits neither sound nor hustle not bustle, and the form remains as still as an ancient statue. It is as though they are guarding something; the door behind emanates a powerful, luminous light, dimly numinous but ultimately extinguished by the night’s unending advance. At its core is a shining light; this is what the man watches over, as still and as dignified as an ancient statue. The traveller moves on; this is not their story to tell.