Mozambique has been blighted by years of civil war, deprivation and natural disasters since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 but the East African country is finally attaining some degree of prosperity, with a booming tourism industry and high annual growth. The Portuguese first established a foothold on the shores of what is now Mozambique in around 1500, displacing the Arab and Swahili settlements which had existed there for centuries. They extended their control over the inland region over the course of the next few centuries, amalgamating the diverse ethnic groups which existed in the inland area.
In the 1960s the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) began a guerrilla war against the Portuguese colonisers which would last for much of the next decade, eventually winning independence in 1974 following a military coup in Portugal. After the initial optimism of independence a civil war broke out between the Frelimo and the Renamo movement, which was sponsored by the white rule governments of Rhodesia and South Africa. This would continue until 1992, devastating Mozambique’s economy and leaving about a million people dead and many more displaced.
Mozambique’s culture is a distinctive mixture of the traditional practices of the indigenous ethnic groups of the country, especially the Bantu, who make the majority of the population, and the influence the Portuguese. Portuguese is still widely spoken in Mozambique and the art, literature and cinema of the country are often filtered through a Portuguese lens.
The most important literary export from Mozambique is Mia Couto, who has developed a global audience for his Magical Realist tales of life in Mozambique, many of which focus on the conflict which has defined the country for much of the late 20th century. His most celebrated works are Sleepwalking Land, Under the Frangipani and The Last Flight of the Flamingo. Several other writers have based their novels in Mozambique, these include British writer Lisa St. Aubin De Teran with Mozambique Mysteries and Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, who has based a whole series of novels in the country, including The Fury in the Fire, Secrets in the Fire and Playing with Fire. One of his Mozambique novels has been adapted into the film Nelio's Story, whilst Mia Couto’s Sleepwalking Land has also been adapted by director Teresa Prata.