Two years ago, under a TEDx logo fashioned from coconut and banana leaves, the very first TEDx event in Mozambique – TEDxChicuque – took place. At times, organizer Dhairya Pujara was afraid that this groundbreaking event would never take place, but in the end, it reached beyond all expectations.
“My interest in TED begun when I saw Sir Ken Robinson’s talk in 2009 online while in India,” he told TEDx. “In 2012, I organized the first-ever TEDx conference at Drexel University in Philadelphia [and] in October 2012, I came to Mozambique to work in the rural healthcare system.
“My aim in organizing this event was to highlight the fact that [we in Mozambique] don’t have to look up to the Western world or other big countries for inspiring stories,” Pujara said. “Already, in Mozambique, our fellow citizens are solving real problems and are amazing storytellers. I wanted to explore the most unexplored resource in this country – people.”
During preparations, worries arose when the TEDxChicuque TEDx in a Box – a kit that provides developing communities all the resources they need to organize a TEDx event – including a projector, subtitled TED Talks, a PA system, and a DVD player – went missing on its way from New York to Mozambique.
“After months of trying to clear it from the customs, we found out that, unfortunately, the box was stolen,” said Pujara. But all hope was not lost. “If you want to do something, just the will to do it is enough to make it happen,” he told TEDx. “We found a local studio who sponsored a projector, microphones and sound system. [A] local restaurant helped sponsoring cookies for the participants and one more local businessman to supported our event by sponsoring bottled water.”
When the event day finally came, sixty participants looked on as three different speakers brought to light stories of the Mozambique they knew and wanted to grow – stories of invention, creativity, and new ideas.
The first, Mr. Anibal, a craftsman and carpenter who had spent 32 years teaching local youth trade skills before creating an invention of his own, spoke on the reality of the aphorism, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Pressed for funds to pay for his handicapped son’s medical needs, Anibal created a tool to process the Cassava root into pantry flour, a staple of the Mozambique diet.
He created the machine out of scrap metal and old car parts, and – eventually – won the praise of the Mozambique Ministry of Science and Technology, which provided him the funding to develop this machine further – with better quality parts. He has now expanded his machine to process peanuts, corn, and sugarcane and he is currently working on setting a machine to operate on the back of an ATV bike, so he can travel over the rough terrains that lead to the most rural parts of Mozambique that could benefit from this tool.
Other speakers followed, including Magafusso, a painter who became famous in Mozambique for his paintings made during the Mozambique civil war, and Miguel Rungo, who spoke to his personal experience of Mozambique’s transition from war to peace. Miguel was born during the civil war, and was only 15 years old when the war ended. He explained that when he first heard the country was in peace, he didn’t understand what this meant, because since the day he was born, the country was at war. He had little to no exposure to the world outside Mozambique and had no reference to understand “peace.”
“TEDxChicuque brought together people to get engaged in conversation and talk about problems which make them uncomfortable otherwise,” Pujara said. “At the break of our first session, when we opened up the option for the audience to come and talk to Anibal about his machines and invention, almost everyone in the audience gathered around him with curiosity to know more and learn something new,” he said. “It was an amazing feeling.”
“We had no budget for this event and the TEDx box was [lost] at customs. We were worried about how would we pull of this event and whether people would show up for this event at all, because they don’t know TED or TEDx here. But the last few days of visiting schools, universities, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and a few other organizations explaining TED, made everything possible.
“If you want to do something, just the will to do it is enough to make it happen is the biggest takeaway for me, my organizing team and the audience for the first-ever TEDx in Mozambique.”
This post originally appeared on the TEDx Tumblr in January 2013.