At the same time that we increasingly see the advance of new technology which facilitates communication and information, such as smartphones, tablets, Twitter and Facebook, in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the People's Wall has emerged: the extensive outer wall of the building housing newspaper Jornal@Verdade [pt], where the population can write letters and direct reflections to the governing leaders.
It is an original form of communication, whose effectiveness and accessibility are inherent in its very simplicity. In a way, it acts as an authentic “offline Facebook wall”, as conceived of in the blog Menina do Javali:
The idea of the Wall was to create a permanent and offline space for readers to read (simple) and to comment (simple).
So, just a piece of chalk is needed for any citizen to express his or her complaints in a public and open way, whether they are related to education, health, safety, or any other demand directed at public policies or leaders. In this way, there is greater democratisation of the rights of citizens to petition and make demands.
The inspiration came from the project “Before I Die” by Candy Chang, initiated in New Orleans (the USA), which already has international support and has been implemented in numerous cities around the world. It basically involves the transformation of a wall into an immense mural with the phrase “Before I die_____” repeated many times, voluntarily completed by people who, in doing so, share their hopes and dreams in a public place.
The People's Wall of Maputo, officially started on January 20, is already accessible virtually: via the Internet, it is possible to follow many of the messages written in the Cidadão Repórter [Citizen Reporter – pt] section of the newspaper's website. Additionally, the reported issues are classified and organised according to place and date, thereby forming a rich database for potential consultations.
One of the topics frequently raised through the Citizen Reporter platform is police corruption [pt]. On the People's Wall, a citizen addresses his or her message [pt] to the authorities:
Polícia de transito, parem com a corrupcao. Assim, o nosso país ira desenvolver. Como vamos progredir se tiram-nos o pouco que ganhamos no suor do dia a dia.
Many also express concerns related to education, such as the recent imposition of deductions from teacher's salaries for the organisation of a party congress for FRELIMO [Mozambique Liberation Front], the conditions in which children attend class, or the lack of books in schools [pt – all links]:
Disse o magnanimo 1o Presidente da Republica que: Façamos da escola um lugar para o povo tomar o poder, mas se formos a reparar, meus caros senhores, hoje em dia o poder e que esta a tomar o povo, vejamos uma coisa extremamente importante quando falamos concretamente da educação em todas as escolas secundárias do país nao temos os livros do novo curriculum nas nossas bibliotecas, e com tudo isso os futuros deste pais ficam sem foco e sem saber o que estes escritores falam acerca do mundo. Queremos os livros do novo curriculom nas nossas bibliotecas (Escola Secundaria da Polana)
The People's Wall of Maputo is a citizen media incentive which deserves its due attention; it unites the practice of democratic citizenship with public information and better relations between individuals, the place where they live and the community as a whole. Who knows, perhaps it will become international, just like its inspiration.