When I first visited Mozambique Island fifteen or so years ago, the colonial Portuguese Saint Sebastian fort contained piles of rusting cannonballs interspersed with patches of weeds. The coffins in the small chapel at the water’s edge still contained bones. The lid of one of the coffins was partially removed and we spotted a femur. Maybe it wasn’t original, but it was there. Now, nothing that can be hauled off remains. Back then, no one regulated who entered. But enough damage was caused, so action was taken and now the UNESCO heritage site can supposedly only be entered after buying a ticket at the nearby museum.
In 2010 we entered the fort, tickets in hand, and explored unattended. There were no other visitors walking the grounds. No plaques with explanations of its history as the capital of the Swahili coast centuries past. It is at peace.
I come from a family that enjoys randomly bursting into song. In high school I used to sing in the racquetball courts with a friend because the acoustics were angelic. When we enter rooms designed to amplify a voice, I can’t help but to try it out. In the fort, a chapel with a vaulted ceiling and a lone window pointing to the sky sits empty. Whatever chapel-related items that it might have contained have long since disappeared. The acoustics, however, remain. Until the fort falls into the sea, the acoustics will not be plundered. When we discovered this room, we had to sing. I wonder when the last time was that someone graced that hall with music.
In my fantastical dreams, Yo-Yo Ma brings his cello and sits in the hall in a lone chair. Twenty foreign guests who have paid $50,000 a piece sit interspersed with twenty school children from the Island. Yo-Yo Ma plays and the guests sit in rapture. The concert benefits the rehabilitation of the fort and, in turn, the citizens who benefit from the tourism industry it generates. It is a part of Mozambican history – African history – that must be preserved.
I wanted to post a short clip of us singing in the chapel, but I’m not willing to pay $60 to WordPress for that honor. So, I posted it on youtube. Click here to see it. Below are some slightly-dated pictures of the Fort.
And, on this Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I want to say I am so grateful for parents who taught me and my siblings to sing and also taught us about The Reason to sing. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15