Mapiko is a traditional masked dance performed exclusively by the male members of the Makonde community living in northern Mozambique. During the Mozambican War of Independence in the 1960s, this dance became a tool to challenge colonization. His Mapiko dancing skills gave Atanásio Nyusi the opportunity to become a professional dancer and avoid fighting in the civil war that followed independence. In relating his life story, the now legendary dancer also leads us through the history of Mozambique.
Completely concealed except for his fingers and toes and wearing a frightening mask, a man dances to tell the story of Lipanyangule, a mystical figure who eats children. The dance is choreographed by Nyusi, and it communicates not only the ancient legend itself, but also his own history, and that of his people and country. Are the memories in his head real, or are they nightmares? In the sparse but effectively used archive footage, we see flashes of Mozambique’s colonial past, independence struggle and civil war in a dynamic interplay with the dance. As Nyusi shares his story with his son, he offers an in-depth look at the country’s collective memories while working towards leaving his own legacy as an artist.