Mozambique market

Photo Essay: Carrying the Groceries in Mozambique

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Central Market; Maputo, Mozambique

If you go to the Central Market in Maputo, Mozambique, you’ll find lots of fresh fish and colorful fruits and vegetables – some of which you won’t be able to identify.

What you won’t find are any shopping carts.

In Mozambique and many other African countries, it’s customary for women to carry their groceries and other items in bags atop their heads.  Some of the loads can be quite heavy.  In fact, African women are known to effortlessly carry loads up to a fifth of their own body weight.  And it’s not just strength — good balance and posture are key factors, too.  I was amazed that I never saw anyone actually spill anything.

It’s believed the custom started because women needed to use their arms to push aside tree branches or hike across difficult terrain. Research done 25 years ago suggested that the technique of hauling items on the head was significantly more efficient than carrying them by hand or in a backpack.  More recent research, however, indicates that head-hauling is no more efficient than other methods and actually leads to neck pain.

Pain in the neck or not, it seems to work pretty well for women in Africa.  They have great posture.  And they don’t have to worry about those annoying shopping cart wheels that never seem to go in the right direction.

Copyright © Dan Fellner 2012