Ilha de Moçambique investigates 221-year old ‘Slave Wreck’


(2015-05-29) The director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Lonnie Bunch, visits the Mozambique Island, Nampula province, northern Mozambique, from today. Bunch wants to trace the point of origin of the slave ship ‘Sao Jose’, which travelled from Mozambique Island to Brazil, when it sank off the coast of Cape Town, in 1794.

The ‘Slave Wrecks Project’

In 2013, the ‘Slave Wrecks Project’ confirmed that a shipwreck off the coast of South Africa was a ship with 200 African slaves from Mozambique; all the crew managed to reach land with 250 African slaves who survived.

To follow this story, a team from the US TV channel “CBS News” is on the island to capture images for one of the most popular news programmes n the United States, “60 Minutes”. The shooting is done together with Mozambican researchers and community leaders about the importance of preserving the cultural heritage. It is taking place on the Island of Mozambique and in Mossuril.

The project ‘African Slave Wrecks’ develops field research to locate, document and preserve the remains of shipwrecks from the period of the international slave trade, contributing to the implementation of a cultural resource management programme that will preserve and protect this irreplaceable heritage, increasingly threatened.

This project falls within the framework of the existing cooperation between the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) in Mozambique, and George Washington University, in the US. The realisation of this project was also made possible through ‘US Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation – AFCP’, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution, UEM, Ocean Revolution and the Bitonga Divers.

The lauching of their stay in ‘Ilha will take place today, friday, from 16h. The event will be attended by the Governor of Nampula, Victor Borges, the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Afro-American Culture, Lonnie Bunch, the representative of UNESCO in Mozambique, Moussa-elkadhum Djafar, the President of Ilha de Moçambique’s Municipal Council, Saíde Abdul Remane Amur Gimba, the Mozambican Director of Cultural Heritage, Solange Macamo, representing the Ministry of Culture, the Ilha de Moçambique Administrator, Antonio Saul, the Head of the Section of Archaeology at the University Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), Hilário Madiquida, the archaeologist, Professor, Member of the Mozambican National Cultural Heritage Council, Ricardo Teixeira Duarte and other guests.


The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history, and culture. It is expected to open in 2016.

Learn about Ilha’s special guest: Mr. Lonnie Bunch

Lonnie G. Bunch III (born 1952) is an American educator and historian. Bunch has spent the last 30 years in the museum field, and is regarded as one of the nation’s leading history and museum professionals. Bunch left his position as director of the Chicago Historical Society to become the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

He graduated from Belleville High School in 1970. Bunch attended Howard University but transferred to American University, where he earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in American history and African history.

Bunch started working at the Smithsonian Institution when he was still working on his Ph.D. After graduating, he started working as a history professor at the University of Maryland. In 1983 he became the first curator at the California African American Museum.

He worked at the National Museum of American History from 1989 until 1994 serving as a curator. He proceeded to become Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the museum, before leaving in 2000 to become the president of one of the nation’s oldest museums in history the Chicago Historical Society from 2001-2005.

In 2005, Bunch was named the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

He served on the Commission for the Preservation of the White House during the George W. Bush administration. And later reappointed by President Obama in 2005.

Photo: / Sections of a Slave Ship

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