Exhibit offers glimpse of life without energy in Mozambique

  • Research from the University of Sheffield informs design of British Academy exhibit
  • Installation and soundscape offers insight into life in urban Mozambique
  • Most city dwellers in Mozambique lack reliable energy sources, making survival in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai more difficult

Sacks of charcoal in Mozambique

Visitors to the British Academy’s Summer Showcase will be offered an insight into what life is like for people living without reliable access to energy in Mozambique, highlighting their vulnerability following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai in March and Cyclone Kenneth in April.

Professor Vanesa Castán Broto and her team from the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute have designed an installation and soundscape that evokes the sounds of everyday life in a Maputo home and underscores people’s reliance on charcoal as the main source of fuel.

The exhibit is one of 15 humanities and social sciences research projects chosen by the British Academy for its annual Summer Showcase, a free festival of ideas for curious minds, to take place on 21-22 June 2019.

At least 23 million people in Mozambique lack access to electricity, with many more dependent on firewood and charcoal for cooking. Precarious access to services exacerbates people’s vulnerability to disasters – with over three million people estimated to be facing extreme deprivation following Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. Access to energy for services such as cooking, heat and communication are crucial to ensure people’s survival in the aftermath of disasters.

The distribution of electricity in Mozambique’s capital city Maputo is uneven and varies across neighborhoods. Those who lack appliances and cook with charcoal, mostly women and children, spend a disproportionate amount of time on household tasks, missing out on opportunities for personal and professional development, and to participate in political and decision-making processes.

People living with unreliable access to energy also have some of the lowest carbon emissions per capita in the world. The average per capita emissions for Mozambique in 2013 were 32 times less than the global average.

Professor Vanesa Castán Broto from the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute said: “This exhibit is designed to offer people an insight into the daily lives of people living without access to basic services on the front line of the climate crisis.

“While industrialised nations like the UK bear the responsibility for climate breakdown, the impacts are often suffered by those who still lack access to energy, as seen by the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai.

“Without access to energy and communication technologies, it’s even more difficult for people to respond to, anticipate and survive disasters.

“World leaders must recognise the injustices embedded in the global energy system and directly address fundamental inequalities by ensuring everyone has access to energy.”

The British Academy Summer Showcase is free to attend, and open 10am-4pm on Friday 21 and 11am-5pm on Saturday 22 June 2019. There will also be a Summer Showcase late-night view on Friday 21 June 2019 (6.30-9pm), offering evening visitors the chance to enjoy exclusive talks and performances over a drink at the bar.

Meanwhile, hundreds of young students will enjoy a free Summer Showcase Schools Day on 21 June 2019, featuring interactive activities, talks and performance. The day will be curated by broadcaster Dan Snow, who will be welcoming special guests to join him in conversation, including the author, presenter and research scientist Professor Lewis Dartnell, archaeologist and broadcaster Raksha Dave, and historian Professor Sarah Churchwell.

Additional information

Details of the British Academy's Summer Showcase.

The University of Sheffield

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