Grande Hotel da Beira is probably the most populous and largest occupied building in the world. It is also perhaps the most intriguing landmark of the city, one of the largest in Mozambique. It symbolizes the history of the city and of the country, one of the poorest in the world, ranking very low in human development, inequality, life expectancy and other socio-economic indicators. Grande Hotel was built in the mid-fifties when Mozambique was a Portuguese colony, to show the world the strength and success of the fascist regime installed in Portugal in 1933. It was a place of opulence and was supposed to be one of the most luxurious hotels in Africa, for only wealthy, mostly white people. It was famous all over the world, but it closed for business in 1963 as in its eight years it was never profitable, since very few people could afford to stay in one of the 116 rooms.
During the 16 years-long Mozambican civil war which started in 1976, the building initially served as an army base as well as a prison for political prisoners, and then as a refugee camp. It was only after its abandonment from its original use that the rooms were filled for the first time. Since then, Grande Hotel has become home for the most vulnerable people, in a city which is constantly growing but is not capable of building decent and adequate housing for its population. It is estimated that at present Grande Hotel has about 4000 residents, many of whom are children and teenagers, occupying all the rooms and every section of this dark and humid building, including the stairs, long corridors and basements.
I have lived in Beira since the beginning of 2018, and since October 2020 I started going to Grande Hotel regularly and respectfully. Step by step I was welcomed inside, and many of its inhabitants opened the doors of their homes to me. They shared with me many moments of their daily lives, made up of constant precariousness but they also displayed great strength of spirit, humour and a determination to improve their situation. What follows is the result of this work: my first photo project and a memorable personal experience.
EXHIBITIONS OF THE PROJECT
Milan, 24-27 September 2021 in occasion of the Last20
Beira, Mozambique, 22 March - 29 April 2022
At Camões - Centro Cultural Português in Beira