I used to think that if anything ever happened to me, the first people the Police would speak to would be the minibus taxi drivers on the Claremont-Cape Town route, which I took every day as student to go to University in Rondebosch. They would have been the first and last to see me. That’s the kind of thought that comes to mind when you are a foreign young woman, on your own, travelling daily to and fro in a strange city known as «rape town», in a world whose languages you have yet to master. Yes, I am African, but this is not the Africa I know.

For the Disembodied Territories call, I propose to write a short essay (800-1,000 words) excerpted above: a meditation on navigating an African city I knew little about, as a young university student in a country other than my own. In the beginning, I didn’t  know how to read a post-apartheid city such as Cape Town, and so I navigated the city on the basis of trust. I later realised that I was so evidently foreign, that the naiveté must have protected me. I looked “coloured”, but my Mozambican accent gave me away. I looked at people in the eyes when others would have averted the gaze and/or crossed over to the other side of the street. Nevertheless, being a young woman in a city infamous for high rape statistics, safety was a concern and would later determine how I mapped the city: ensuring I had witnesses.

Maria Gabriela Carrilho Aragão was born, lives and works in Maputo. She holds a degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town, where she was also a Tutor and External Examiner. She is a practicing architect since 2007 and an occasional writer, visual artist andindependent curator, using her skills to help others translate and actualise their own creative visions. In her artistic production, she uses diverse materials, with a preference for collage and drawing with ink on paper, as in her recent illustration series, Tribute to Calvino: TheInvisible Cities (ongoing). She has published illustrations, essays and translations, namely Travessia: Impressões de Viagem / Field Notes (essay, for The Goethe Institut-Johannesburg, The Archive of Forgetfulness, 2021), Maqueleva: Memento Vivere (curatorship, for Fundação Fernando Leite Couto, 2020), Bits of Maputo - Entre Acácias (essays, for Ricardo Pinto Jorge, 2017), How the Attacks Were Planned (illustration, forChimurenga Magazine 16: The Chronic, 2011), among others.