Cahora & Tete

Facebook  Pinterest  Twitter

Historic art of Tete

Historic art of Tete

Thomas Baines painting ‘Working on a coal seam near Tete’
Thomas Baines painting ‘Working on a coal seam near Tete’


The earliest forms of artistic expression found in Tete province were created 2,000 – 5,000 years ago. Examples of rock art can be seen at Mount Chinkópalé, Tsungoarea of Moatize District – this shows the print of a hand. Others, depicting animal scenes, may be seen in rocky overhangs near Furancungo in the Macanga district, at Samo, at Zangaia (a very prominent upright outcrop) and near Posto de Chiúta on a hill feature known locally as Mount Kaláire. The Chíuta features human and animal figures in vivid ochre colours.

Travellers approaching Tete from Catandica and the south can visit the rock art site near Nhantsana, just 7km before Guru, on the road from Catandica. This art is unusual, for it is painted in white pigment and is therefore quite different from the more commonly seen representations of animals and human figures – the so-called ‘bushman’ art. It is sign-posted, but ask at shops by the roadside at Nhantsana. As with all rock art sites in Mozambique, it is courteous to approach with care since most are associated with local cultural traditions.

The Thomas Baines Portfolio

Mid-19th century explorers have left us a number of remarkable early illustrations of Tete in the 1850s. Most notable is the work of Thomas Baines (1820 – 1875). In 1858 he joined David Livingstone's Zambezi Expedition, as storekeeper and artist. However, like most of the other members of the party, he fell out with Livingstone's brother Charles, who claimed that Baines had been guilty of stealing some of the expedition's sugar stock.

Although others knew that the charge was unjustified, Baines was summarily dismissed and ordered to leave. He left most of his possessions behind in Tete, and he never again saw most of his paintings – fortunately many have survived. Livingstone never once mentioned Baines by name when writing his narrative and refused to acknowledge that Baines had provided most of the illustrations. From Baines we have scenes from Tete and the valley including extraction of coal.

The Augusto de Castilho Portfolio

Augusto de Castilho (1841 -1912) was governor-general of the colony of Mozambique from 1885 to 1889. He was responsible for institutionalising the draconian 1886 head-tax known as “mussoco,” payable in labour, which enabled development of vast coconut and sugar plantations in the lower Zambezi. His most notable achievement was the pacification, in 1888, of the da Cruz warlord dynasty at Massangano, on the Zambezi. In the course of this campaign – known as the Guerras de Zambeze, he organised sketches of several scenes depicting Sena, Massangano, Tete and Boroma, for his memoirs which were published in 1896 – the careful observer will still be able to discern many of the geographic features today.

Read more articles from this issue:
Main menu (Issue 16, March 2014)
Full contents listing
Birds & Birding

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Cahora Bassa & Tete Destination Profile
Cahora Bassa & Tete News