top of page

Welcome to the Sing My Sister Web Documentary 

About this Web Documentary

This website will take you on a musical odyssey into Mozambique. It will introduce you to some musical genres from across Mozambique and to some of the inspiring women behind them. It will also introduce you to the men and women behind the films, and to the ideas behind the research, production and exhibition of the series.  


In 1975 the new, independent republic of Mozambique was born, ending over four hundred years of colonial rule. In a country with two thousand miles of coastline stretching from Tanzania in the north to South Africa in the south, there were over forty spoken languages and so the languages of music and moving image were used to foster a new sense of national unity. Art, music, film and creative expression were celebrated and valued as tools of the revolution. A film institute was established soon after Independence with the motto ‘Mozambican stories, for Mozambicans, by Mozambicans’ and with much of the nation illiterate and speaking different languages, the stories found to be most welcome, were those told through music and dance.  One film that harnessed this new vision was by the young Mozambican director José Cardoso. It was called ‘Sing My Brother – Help Me to Sing’ (1981) and introduced the viewer to the music, dance and home environment of some of the performers of the first National Festival of Culture. The Speak My Sister series is a contemporary, response to this film. Following the decolonial legacy of Mozambique’s National Film Institute it revisits the all-but-forgotten dream of autonomous film production and training. Forty years on from the release of the revolutionary and ground-breaking film "Sing My Brother - Help Me to Sing", this web documentary brings the stories of Mozambicans from across social, linguistic and cultural divides together in dialogue with one another; the rural and the urban, the young and the old, the intellectuals and the labourers, the men and the women.

Produced as the practical element of a doctoral research project conducted in Mozambique between February and September 2018, this web documentary is the result of a partnership between Karen Boswall of the University of Sussex (Media Practice and Anthropology) and staff and students of the Higher Institute of Art and Culture (ISArC) in Maputo, Mozambique. Thirty young Mozambican men and women took part, all united by their passion for the moving image. They come from different parts of the country, living in the capital Maputo as the first graduate students of a state-sponsored degree programme in cinema and audio visual production. The series of ethnographic musical portraits presented here came in response to the theme of the 10th National Festival of Arts and Culture: "Culture, promoting Women, Identity and Sustainable Development". 

Following an intense period of training in ethnographic and ethnomusicological research and film production, six short musical video portraits were researched, shot and edited over five months using the basic filming kits available to the students and a small expenses budget of 5,000 MZM (approx £50, €60, $70) per film. The diversity in the series represents the diversity in the university and portrays Mozambican women from the north, centre and south of the country who are transforming their world through song and dance. In July 2018 the festival took place in the northern province of Niassa and the films were screened in pop-up cinemas in the festival sites of Niassa's capital Lichinga, the lakeside town of Metangula and the rural village of Lipende. In southern Mozambique the films were screened in urban and rural screenings in the capital Maputo and in urban and rural neighbourhood screenings, including in the historical Bairro Mafalala and in the village of Nwajohane, in the province of Gaza. The behind the scenes films take you behind the camera and the projector and explore the stories behind the stories of the production and exhibition of this series, the first, we hope, of many.

Enjoy the journey

Karen Boswall 2021

screening lipende.png

About the authour

Karen Boswall is a filmmaker, ethnomusicologist and visual anthropologist. She lived and worked in Mozambique as a musician, journalist and documentary filmmaker between 1990 and 2007. Her award-winning films and radio  documentaries explore the spiritual, cultural and environmental worlds of individuals and communities through their music and dance practices. Her films include individually authored and collaborative productions from Nicaragua (1984), UK (1986), Iraq (1993), Cuba (1995), Mozambique (1997-2018), Jordan (2014), Nepal (2016) and Brazil (2019).  She has taught Visual Anthropology and Film and Television at the University of Kent (2008–2009), Canterbury Christ Church University (2010–2014), Manchester Metropolitan University (2015-2016) and the University of Sussex (2017 – 2019). She conducted her doctoral research in collaborative music research and film production in Mozambique and continues to use collaborative and decolonial audio-visual methodologies to support those working on improving their access to basic human rights in Mozambique, especially women and girls.  

bottom of page