Carving a Life: The Political Economy of Woodcarver Livelihoods in Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique

Vincent Rich
2 Declaration I have read and understood regulation 17.9 of the Regulations for students of the School of Oriental and African Studies concerning plagiarism. I undertake that all the material presented for examination is my own work and has not been written for me, in whole or in part by any other person. I also undertake that any quotation or paraphrase from the published or unpublished work of another person has been duly acknowledged in the work which I present for examination.
more » ... _________________ Date_________________ I am indebted to all my informants for their comments and observations, many of which are reproduced here, and who freely gave their time. This thesis is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Mwanga who sadly did not live to see its completion. 6 Abstract This thesis looks at how the livelihood trajectories of the Makonde woodcarvers currently living and working in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique can be conceptualised and interpreted. In particular, it examines the commodification of Makonde woodcarving which began during colonialism and has accelerated due to the growth of tourism and other export markets in Cabo Delgado since Independence. While these markets have offered opportunities for a few carvers, most appear to have faced economic marginalisation and growing poverty. The range of livelihood trajectories the carvers have faced is, however, only partially revealed using conventional frameworks such as Global Value Chain analysis and Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches. Political economy, in contrast, offers both a more relevant set of questions to ask and the means of investigating these. Underpinning this thesis is a longitudinal study encompassing three periods of fieldwork in northern Mozambique between 2005 and 2010 which together generated a unique and rich set of data. The geographic foci of the field research, Pemba and Mueda district, are both recognised centres of carving activity. Following initial enumeration, field research (in 2005) incorporated a quantitative survey of carver households and group discussions conducted with carving associations; a follow-up visit in 2010 involved the collection of life stories from a selected sub-set of carvers. These life stories, together with the longitudinal nature of the fieldwork itself, allowed me to explore longer-term changes in carver lives and carver social networks. It is clear that despite their apparent homogeneity, the Makonde woodcarvers of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique have faced a variety of livelihood trajectories as artists and artisans. Most, however, find themselves embedded within historically-contingent networks of survival. This questions the hope (or expectation) that livelihood diversification, within the context of the growing commodification of African arts and crafts, can meaningfully contribute to poverty reduction or to accumulation. 7
doi:10.25501/soas.00013825 fatcat:4fo23krwtbcipkiykz5drxqsxe