03 August 2020

An Untold Story From the Mozambican War of Independence

03 August 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Combining pictures of its architecture with archival materials belonging to the Portuguese Secret Police who inhabited it, Amilton Neves focuses on Vila Algarve and its role during the time that saw Mozambique fight for its freedom.

Mozambique’s decade-long struggle for independence from Portugal resulted in more than 50,000 civilian deaths. The European colonial power desperately struggled to hold on to a territory rich in natural gas, coal, gemstones, graphite and gold as well as the fourth largest coastline on the continent. As with many of the African wars for independence, Portugal went to extraordinary lengths to maintain its power for as long as possible, committing horrendous acts to attempt to suppress the revolutionary guerrilla movement - FRELIMO.

Some of the worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the war were PIDE - the Portuguese Secret Police. Within colonial Mozambique, they were headquartered in an ornate residential building near the centre of the city named Vila Algarve. The building served not only as an administrative post but also the principal location where PIDE officers would torture and commit horrendous acts in attempts to gain confessions or other sensitive information on FRELIMOs independence activities from civilians. Testimonies from survivors detail the depraved acts committed as the Portuguese struggled to maintain control over the Mozambican territory. The story of Vila Algarve shows the dark capacities of man to go to extraordinary lengths to dehumanize their fellow man in their attempt to maintain power and control.

Since independence in 1975, the building has sat vacant and gradually become dilapidated save the striking colours contained in the tin-glazed painted ceramic tile azulejos decorating the exterior.

Words and Pictures by Amilton Neves Cuna.


Amilton Neves Cuna is a professional photographer and visual anthropologist from Maputo, Mozambique who examines contemporary societal issues using storytelling and documentary techniques. His work focus on addressing perceptions of individuals who find themselves at the margins of society through narratives of empowerment while preserving often forgotten aspects of our modern history. After Mozambique experienced two deadly cyclones only a month apart in 2019, he also began to explore the effects of climate change. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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