Capturing Love In Mozambique

Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
While working on a new youth-focused magazine in Mozambique, the Swiss photographer Flurina Rothenberger decided to start taking photos of young couples in the southeast African country.

"Love, of course, belongs to a basic issue this young generation engages with," says the 38-year-old photographer. "The fundamental subjects such as education, job, money and love are often very tightly linked. Photographing and interviewing couples reveals many distinctive aspects of a specific society and culture. At the same time it is a subject every audience can globally relate to and it holds a very entertaining side too."

Approaching strangers in the street, she was struck by how open many of the couples were.

"It was very interesting since I've worked and stayed in several different African countries. How open the topics of love, sex and relationships are addressed varies strongly. Ultimately this depends on the individual person you're talking to, but there is a general social code. Normally I wouldn't ask a couple I have just met to kiss for the camera without explaining the idea first. Here, this was no issue at all, which surprised me."

Accompanying the images are short interviews about love and relationships, conducted by Mozambican journalist Mahiriri Ossuka. Rothenberger found the responses to be very revealing about the society.

"Jealousy is a big issue and social media strongly plays into that. Be it that he's annoyed that she doesn't pick up the phone because she's too busy chatting with her friends on WhatsApp or she is intrigued by the fact that he doesn't block his ex-girlfriends on Facebook."

She was also surprised by the dynamics found within the relationships.

"In nearly all interviews, it was clear that both consider the man as being in charge of the companionship, even if never explicitly pronounced. It's revealing not only in terms of what goes on between two individual beings, but also about a general movement inside a society. Companionship it seems, just like so many other subjects here, has its feet rooted in tradition and its arms stretched in the spirit of the time."
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Interviews by Mahiriri Ossuka
Photographs by Flurina Rothenberger
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Gavas, 23, hairdresser, and Awi, 18, student

How do you define love?
Gavas: To me love is to have someone who does no harm to you. Someone who understands you in all aspects. In money and health matters, among other things. Someone that really gets you.

What challenges do young couples face?
Gavas: There are many young boys who don’t take girls seriously. Most of them just want to have sex with any good looking girl and nothing more. They bring up promises of marriage or another commitment. The girl is flattered, and gets into him only to be dumped the very next moment. It’s really not nice. I think that among the young couples there isn’t that much understanding and friendship. I find sex is important but a relationship is more than just sex.

Awi: I think that misunderstandings are the most crucial cause of unhappiness in a young love relationship. Some women let their friends influence what they feel for their boyfriends by spreading rumours.

Any plans for the future?
Awi: To continue my studies, at least manage to get a university degree and some day have a family.
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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Beto, 27, member of Quissanga District Secretariat, and Nea, 26, marine biologist

How did you meet?
Nea: We met as children in 1996 at primary school, chatting, playing and doing our homework. Along the years our friendship grew stronger as did our mutual circle of friends. At some point we started hanging out together after school. Rumours spread – that he liked me and he heard rumours that I liked him.

Beto: It was September 25th in 2004, eight years after we had gotten to know each other, that I found the courage to confess my love to her. She laughed and said she’d give me feedback later. We continued chatting about other things. One hour later, while walking, she popped up the good news that she felt the same way.

What are the major challenges you have faced?
Beto: It was difficult because we were young and it took some time until our parents accepted. We kept on until the engagement and religious marriage soon after. We had to live at her parents' place after marriage and were dependent of others with everything. Our child was born and we were still just students without employment. So we were literally depending on our parents and relatives for every basic need.

What do you like to do together?
Beto: We're mostly at the beach. We like to count the waves. We enjoy the landscape and chat.
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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Rafael, 28, accountant, and Nilce, 20, student

When did you meet?
Nilce: I’ve known him since 2003 when I moved to this hood. In 2009 he moved to another town, Maputo, but when he came back in 2014 he asked if I could walk him around town. We went for dinner and since that night, we just stayed together.

Rafael: I was friends with her sister on Facebook and she gave me her number. I contacted her and asked if she would walk me around town and she accepted.

What are the major challenges for young couples?
Nilce: Most men don’t respect their partners. They want to go out with every woman.

Rafael: One thing which damages the relationship is the economic power. Most young people don’t have money and men easily loose their girlfriends to any man who is more powerful economically because he can sustain her luxury and fancy needs.

What are you future plans?
Rafael: I'd like to get a better job to be able to provide for my beloved woman and my family.
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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Filomena, 21, student, and Laton, 22, student

How would you define love?
Laton: Love is understanding. Because besides being boyfriend and girlfriend, we are first of all friends. This is something that binds us together. We fight but there’s something stronger that holds us together. There are moments that I feel I can’t live without her. We communicate a lot and that‘s a thing I like about us.

Filomena: He’s right. We chat a lot to exchange ideas. His opinion matters the most to me.

What are the challenges you face in your relationship?
Filomena: He likes a lot of girls. I have observed many things, I don’t want to go in to details.

Laton: No, that’s not entirely the case. She is probably referring to a time we split up. But I must admit that things got worse when I got my first car. I really got more attention from friends and other women. Filomena used to call and I always told her, 'I’m coming' and never came to her. I was just into enjoying other girls and friends. And then there were these moments when I started waking up to life and realised that it’s really not worth making her suffer for those other girls. In fact, they never cared about me, it was just for fun.

What drives you?
Filomena: I think love drives me to carry on. I really like Laton. Before I had all the reasons not to continue. I love him, even if most of the time he’s annoying.
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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Tuzine, 22, student, and Fátima, 20, student

What was it like when you first met?
Fátima: It was funny to fall in love with Tuzine. I never imagined myself liking someone. I had assisted him with dating other girls in our classroom. How could I possibly fall for someone like him? When I told a friend who was in love with me about Tuzine and me, he was really sad and I felt so bad for a moment.

What are you future plans?
Tuzine: We dream every day. I dream more than she does. It is sad how some love stories of my friends have ended badly. Some are forced to get married, others have speeded up having a baby way too early. And all this makes me wonder what went wrong. So we often say that we‘d like to be a successful love story. The right one. I don’t want us to have babies without being able to take care of them. First, we finish our studies, get a job, build a house, get married and have children.
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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Miss Mamy, 24, student/singer, and AZ, 26, student/musician

How did you meet?
AZ: She had a friend from whom I saw some photos that captured my attention. I got her number and searched for more information about her. I was very curious to meet her. I heard that she‘s a singer. Eventually my friend called me saying that Mamy was interested in exchanging contacts with me. After a month our communication was very active and something really grew in our hearts. It was then that we decided to meet.

What challenges have you faced?
AZ: We face financial difficulties because we are living at my parents’ house and I’m still a student. Thanks to God, my family is not the type of family that allows a person to feel uncomfortable, even if they're an outsider. We are a religious family and all difficulties are not faced alone but together.

Is there something new you'd like to tell one another?
Mamy: I just want to say I love you and I want to stay with you to the end of my life. There’s nothing that will make me leave you. I want to get married with you and have more children. I know that God will protect us and we will manage to stay together. I will always love you. And please kiss me now.

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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Kátia, 19, student, and Wilson, 23, music producer

How did you meet?
Wilson: We started talking over WhatsApp four months ago. Then we met at a party and I was astonished by her looks and proposed that she pretended to be my girlfriend there. After the party we continued intensively chatting and getting to know each other more and more. But she also played the woman’s role of complicating everything in the first place.

Kátia: Of course, when I saw him at the party I also liked him and I already had a crush. But I couldn’t make it easy on him just like that. I made him wait a little bit more.

What would you like to share to one another?
Wilson: I’m very open. I tell her everything and more. I’d like to repeat saying 'I love you'.

Kátia: I just want to say: 'Marry me'.
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Photographed by Flurina Rothenberger
Just Rimbo, 26, student, and Lili, 19, student

How did you meet?
Lili: In 2009, I was selling groceries at the small shop of my father's. He came wanting to buy chewing gum. It was love at first sight.

Just Rimbo: She was seated in this small shop selling something. When we looked at each other we immediately fell in love. The problem was her parents. We started seeing each other and found a way to stay together. After a long struggle with her parents we got married.

What drives you?
Just: I always dreamed of having this type of woman. The way she is and the way she treats me is really different to other women. What makes me conclude that she is eternal to me is the fact that I love her and that I have the privilege of deserving her. Her face makes me crazy. The way she speaks is really soul touching to me and when she looks into my eyes, I feel naked and the happiest man in the world.

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