Maputo Art & Architecture Tour | 3 hours

  • 3 Hours
  • Availability : Everyday
  • Min Age: 6


Maputo Art & Architecture Tour it’s a tour for those who are most interested in art and architecture the best option is the Art & architecture walking tour, where we can see the best of Maputo’s art and architecture – from Art deco buildings to the ones of Pancho Guedes; from chairs and planes made out of guns and bullets by Gonçalo Mabunda to the artesans in FEIMA.   

Departure & Return Location

  • Natural history Museum

Departure Time

  • Between 7:00 to 16:00 (Everyday)

Price Includes

  • Bottle of Water
  • City Map

Maputo Art & Architecture Tour

Guided tour

Maputo is a fascinating city. Because of its seaside location you can enjoy spectacular views. There are many attractive cafés and restaurants. History is still much in evidence if you look closely, from the times when the Lourenço Marques was little more than a small village and the times when it was the capital of Portuguese Mozambique with buildings from the best architects of Portugal, up to the independence and modern day development. Perhaps its main attraction lies in the fact that it is so accessible. People living here are friendly and easy-going, security is good and there are many details to discover both architecturally and in terms of art. Maputo is a treasure trove of Art Deco of the 1930’s and 40’s and modernist architecture of the 50’s and 60’s in a tropicalized version only to be found here and in Angola. There were also extraordinary talents; star-architect “Pancho” Guedes and painter – genius Malangatana. Present day artists like Gonçalo Mabunda and architects like José Forjaz also deserve mention amongst others.

So if you are more interested in art and architecture the best option is the Art & architecture walking tour, where we can see the best of Maputo’s art and architecture – from Art deco buildings to the ones of Pancho Guedes; from chairs and planes made out of guns and bullets by Gonçalo Mabunda and murals by Malangatana to the artisans in FEIMA.

Featured artists and architects

1- Pancho Guedes

Amancio d’Alpoim Miranda Guedes (Pancho Guedes), was born in 1925 and had come to Mozambique when he was 7 years old. He was educated in South Africa (this was normal for the white Mozambicans of the time) and therefore had much more exposure and more international contacts than the other architects educated in and coming from Portugal at the time. He had actually first wanted to become a painter but was persuaded by his parents to take up the more sensible profession of an architect. He did, however, continue to paint and design sculptures. He was endowed with an enormous certainty and charisma. He communicated well, could inspire, not only promoting his own work but also listening and discovering talents in others. His work was the most fashionable architecture to be had in Mozambique in the 1950s and 1960s. His nonconformist attitude, his personality, his international outlook but also the fact that he was of noble birth helped creating his prestige. And his English helped with the many businessmen working here. His new buildings were often the object of discussion. He constructed most of his buildings in Mozambique. Later as the head of the faculty at the University of Witwatersrand In Johannesburg form 1975-1990, Guedes was capable of discovering talents and fostering them gently. He brought ideas, new winds into the heads of his students, giving them self-confidence, encouraging them to go their own way, seeing talents they themselves had no yet realized. He encouraged creativity and imagination and going against too easily accepted certainties.

Malangatana said Pancho Guedes was the only Mozambican architect who succeeded in relating architecture to the local culture by including sculptural elements and geometric designs linked to the tattoos characteristic of African mythology. He was also concerned with the plight of African population, writing articles about the deplorable hygienic condition in the “cidade de caniço” and working for mission churches, which had little money. His architecture is easily recognizable by the strange chimneys but also sometimes by his typical pebbled walls and the rectangular ‘boxes” with circular holes on all four sides mostly holding lamps. He drove around visiting the building sites in a glamorous gold-colored open-top MG sported car.

Pancho was an active member of team 10. He took up ideas from Horta, Gaudi, Wright, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, and other, who were opposed to the rationalist dogmas of modernism. Expressionism, surrealism and Dada influenced him. Guedes looked towards alternatives to modernism and propagated a stylistic diversity, which could include local context and regional elements. So in a way he was already a post-modernist while his colleagues from Portugal were still looking for an opportunity for at last experiment the modernist tendencies repressed by the regime in Portugal. He could also be classified as the protagonist of the expressionist, baroque and organic side of Modernism, which did exist even though it was in a minority position. In his own “stiloguedes” of the 1950’s ornaments returns to architecture in order to add a symbolic dimension. His much-criticized eclecticism was for him a way of learning architecture’s many languages. Guedes opened his architecture to African culture and thereby put into question Eurocentric certainties of modernism. It is not by chance that Guedes himself classified his work in 2 styles or types. He postulated, “I claim for architects to have the same rights and freedom painters and poets have had for so long”.

He remained practically unknown in Portugal and his international renown was short-lived. One of his problems was that he built most of his work in a forgotten east African port town –Lourenço Marques. Recently, Guedes was discovered, mainly in two exhibitions, one in the Swiss Architecture Museum, in Basel Switzerland in 2007, the other in Lisbon, Museu Berardo in 2009.

Guedes, although arguably a genius, was of course not perfect. Some of his houses were difficult to live in – sometimes form and idea came before practicality. He was very self-confidant and could sometimes be patronizing. Although he was very critical to the colonial regime; he was also no friend of the liberation movement.

2- José Forjaz

Another great architect of Mozambique. He was born in 1936 in Coimbra, Portugal. As a young man he worked as a draughtsman both with the rigorous, dry, rational Fernando Mesquita as well as with exuberant imaginative and playful Pancho Guedes. He went on to study architecture in Portugal and returned after independence –in 1975 he was one of only a few architects left in the country. Through his work as a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, designing post-independence public and later private buildings and as the dean of the architecture faculty in Maputo, he can be credited –next to others– with providing continuity of modern architecture in Mozambique after independence so that even today a taste for quality architecture adapted to the local circumstances persist.

3- Malangatana

Malangatana Valente Ngwenya was one of the greatest Mozambican artists. He was a painter but also made sculptures, poems and music. He had an irresistible and generous personality, which, coupled with his genius, was in a way similar to that of architect Pancho Guedes. It is therefore not by chance that Guedes gave him a space to work, a living allowance; bought his paintings and helped him to become a professional and establish first contacts abroad –they were soul mates. Malangatana was born in 1936 in Matalana near Marracuene. He went to school of the Swiss Mission for three years. Then at the age of 12 he moved to Lourenço Marques to look for work and pursued various activities until he became a waiter in a club, which gave allowed him to recommence school in the evenings. Augusto Cabral, a member of the club gave him painting materials.

In 1958 he became member of the artist association “Núcleo de arte” and was coached by the painter Zé Júlio. Malangatana lived in the house of Pancho Guedes (also a member) from 1959 and took part in a first (collective) exhibition. Guedes gave him a monthly allowance and encouraged him to develop his own style. 1961 saw his first solo exhibition –he was 25 at the time. Exhibitions in Cape Town, London, Paris, Nigeria and the US followed. He published a poem in the Nigerian Magazine “Black Orpheus”. Malangatana was in prison twice during colonial times (for a total of 18 months) because of his adherence to Front of Liberation. He was extremely prolific and after a difficult period, which included re-education in Nampula, he also had great success after independence. He died in 2011. Malangatana was a controversial figure in African Intellectual circles. He was criticized for his proximity with whites and for catering to their demands. Also he spoke about his experiences with the spirits and religious practices and how these influenced his paintings.

The tour takes approximately 3h during which we visit the following places:

1- Natural history Museum (starting point):

Located in the Praça Travessia do Zambeze, the museum used to be called Museu Álvaro de Castro and was built in 1931–1933 in neo–Manueline (a kind of Portuguese gothic style) by the municipal engineer António Ribeiro de Mendonça. The original idea had been to build a school. Worth mentioning are the collection of elephant fetuses aged 1 month to 20 months and realistic wildlife scenes (e.g. lioness tearing a zebra carcass), both are to be found in the big room downstairs. Taxidermist Peão Lopes made them, and nowadays they seem a bit dusty and not the state of the art. The elephant fetuses are said to be the result of land clearance south of Maputo in the early 20th century during which around 2000 elephants were killed. There are also two rooms of traditional African art. Around the building, there are the annexes, built by architect João José Tinoco, in 1965. They are decorated with two mural paintings by Malangatana, one was painted in 1977/79 in two phases and depicts the fight of man in nature; the other was painted in 1989. In the workshop annex (onto which the first mural is painted) is the atelier of famous Makonde pottery artist Reinata Sadimba who works here weekdays. It is one of the most exciting and authentic experiences in Maputo to see her at work. The prime minister of the time Pascoal Mocumbi and many others invited her to come to Maputo and work in the Museum.

2- Josina Machel secondary school:

The high school was previously called Liceu Salazar (for the boys) and Dona Ana Costa Portugal (for the girl) and used to have a stone statue of the dictator in its courtyard; which was damaged by an explosion and had to be replaced in 1964 by a bronze version. Planned by architect Costa e Silva as a flagship school essentially for the white population of Mozambique. This was the largest school project ever in Portugal or its colonies and included a huge assembly hall, physics and chemistry labs and even a swimming pool. Although monumental in appearance it is actually modernist in style and set the standard for years to come in terms of adaptation to local climatic conditions. Apart from the shading galleries on both sides of the classrooms and beta windows allowing for cross-ventilation, it has covered walkways protecting against sun and rain and if you look at the roof you can see that it is made of two layers with ventilation slats in between. In the reception area, there is still the original armchairs and on the billboard behind glass, there are two photos of Josina Machel (first wife of Samora Machel, the first president –she died during the liberation war). On the side facing the Rua das Lusíadas we can see murals of Malangatana, which, sadly, are much deteriorated.

3- Synagogue:

The Jewish Synagogue was designed in 1926 by Couto Martins of the Public Works Department in the Portuguese Baroque revival style; the constructor was Raimundo Moreira. The congregation was founded in 1899 by Reverend Dr. Joseph Herman Hertz who stayed in Lourenço Marques for a week on his way into exile to Durban from Johannesburg where president Kruger had made him leave because of his pro-British opinions. During his brief stay, he forged consensus in the community that there had to be a cemetery, a synagogue and a Jewish education. When the synagogue was built, there were actually only 30 Jews in Lourenço Marques who came from Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Easter European nations. By 1942 due to take refuge from Central and Eastern Europe, the Jewish population reached its peak with around 500 members.

4- Núcleo De Arte:

Artists association, school for many Mozambican artists. There is a really nice gallery and ateliers of the artists working there. The artists are always happy to let people see them working on their paintings and sculptures. Eugenio Mucavele, always calm and concentrated, is one of the most if not the most experienced artist we always meet when we go to Núcleo.

5- Vila Algarve:

Built-in 1934 by architect Augusto da Silva Pinto and engineer Alfredo F. Soares in the “português suave” style for Joé dos Santos Rutino who was a photographer and had a stationary shop but more lucratively also held the lottery concession. He came from the Algarve region in Portugal. The elaborate hand-painted tiles (azulejos) were produced by the Aleluia Company. In 1952 the Portuguese Secret Police PIDE took over the building; the basement was the interrogation chamber called Kula, which in Shangaan means, “where one of us is eaten up”. Franciso Langa or “Chico Feio” was the main torturer here. Langa suffered a violent death after independence in 1975 –he was cut to pieces in his house.

6- Greek Orthodox Church:

Architect Evan Lembros built it in the 1950s. Inside it is covered with frescoes by Helen Lieros from Zimbabwe, who was invited to do so by cathedral custodian and Greek Honorary Consul George Tsihlakis in 1995. They were painted over a span of 8 years –free of charge.

7- Wedding palace:

The Palácio de Casamentos, the marriage palace was built in 1931-1934 by Agapus Nicolau and Nicolas Kassimatis as the “ateneu Grego”, the community center of the Greek colony. It was open to all, one of the favorite events being its well-known dance matinees. Inside it is possible to see how civil marriages are performed with style and singing. There are a few high-quality artworks, a huge painting by Malangatana of 1979/80, ”the long passage towards marriage”, a carved pillar by Alberto Chissano and in the basement two painted concrete reliefs.

8- Tilândia:

A small but very interesting gallery always with new paintings, sculptures, etc from different artists.

9- The dragon:

Was built by Pancho Guedes in 1951. There is a mosaic of a dragon in the space underneath the apartments. Also pebbled outer wall.

10- Twin buildings:

Was built by Pancho Guedes in 1952 a little bit in the style of Catalan architect Gaudi.

11- Polana Hotel:

Was commissioned by the Delagoa Bay Lands Syndicate, whose local representative was Leo Cohen. The building was completed in 1922. It is said to have been designed by Sir Herbert Baker (who also designed the Union Buildings in Pretoria), but the responsible architect was actually Walter Reid, the contractor was Hugh Le May. Polana was the name of the African Chief who had lived near the site, whose lands had been sold to Sommerschield without compensation and whose descendants were finally evicted from the area in 1946. The tramway at that time came up to the hotel. There were tennis courts and a golf course (the golf club had been laid out in 1914 in the area where the “lemon squeezer” church is today). The hope was that Maputo would become the preferred holiday destination for wealthy people from Transvaal. Prior to independence around a million tourists came to Lourenço Marques from South Africa alone every year. They came for the Latin atmosphere, the fado, the nightlife, the beaches, the Portuguese wines, the good beer, the famous shrimps and also for big-game hunting further north. At the time the Polana was one of the most modern hotels in the hemisphere and seemed quite out of place in the still rather backward Lourenço Marques. In 1936 the hotel was sold to I. W. Schlesinger. His son, in turn, sold it to a Portuguese group in 1963. The hotel was a center of espionage during the Second World War. Portugal was neutral and it was here that spies both of the Axis and Allies met with their sources. The British spy Malcolm Muggeridge was pitched against Italian Consul Umberto Campani and Lutpold Werz of the German Consulate. This was supplying information to German submarines lying in wait in the waters between Mozambique and Madagascar, preying on allied ships supplying the battle theaters of Russia, Egypt and India.

12- Prometeus building:

Pancho Guedes built it in 1951 in what he terms as in his own “stiloguedes” style and he was immensely proud of it. He said it was inspired by the art of Picasso. Others say it is uninhabitable –and indeed it has since been much changed. It used to be to top-heavy in appearance standing on central pillars until the parking space below the building was filled in.

13- Lemon squeezer:

The lemon squeezer or Polana Church was built in 1962 by Nuno Craveiro Lopes (son of the former Portuguese president). There is a miniature replica in the garden on the corner. It is also impressive inside. Sociedad Mauméjean Hermanos in Madrid produced the stained glass. It is commonly called lemon squeezer or inverted flower because of its shape.

14- FEIMA:

Handicraft market with nice restaurants. This is the ideal place to buy souvenirs to take back home. From fridge magnets to capulanas.

• Morning and afternoon half-day tours available;
• We are also happy to design a tailored art and architecture tour to cover all your needs;
• Optional extension may include lunch and transport for the last part of the tour;
• English and Portuguese – speaking guides.

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