A young girl in the Quirimbas wearing musiro, which was traditionally applied in patterns that could convey a message, such as whether a woman was married or not. A common sight on local faces, it is also applied all over as a body lotion on special occasions, most notably the wedding night
Mozambique – Fact Check

African women stay beautiful with this one weird trick

Photo by Sergio Agostinelli

Mozambique – Fact Check African women stay beautiful with this one weird trick

A typical sight in northern Mozambique is a beauty mask of musiro (also spelt mussiro, msira or n'siro) worn by women of the Macua people.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

The white paste is made by grinding down wood from the Olax distiflora shrub. It dries when applied and is similar to a clay mask in western beauty treatments, being washed off later with water. However, as well as moisturising and purifying the skin, musira also acts as a sunblock and is often worn all day – and especially during the Muslim religious time of Ramadan.

In days gone by, only unmarried women and girls would wear musiro – it is considered very effective against teenage acne – and the mask therefore came to be considered a sign of youth and beauty. A bride would apply it all over her body on her wedding night but, once married, would not wear it again. However, that practice no longer holds true and it has become so associated with Macua women that they now even apply it as a tribal decoration during events such as dance festivals. The musiro was once applied in patterns that each had a distinct meaning – whether a girl was engaged, for example. These messages are now lost but every region retains its own designs.

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Most of the Portuguese colonialists left Mozambique after the country gained its independence, and their decaying villas, such as this one on Ibo Island, are a common sight. The island's decline started in the 1920s when the district capital was transferred to Port Amelia, now Pemba. Photo by Julian Love / Alamy

Julian Love

Julian Love

Agency
Alamy

Most of the Portuguese colonialists left Mozambique after the country gained its independence, and their decaying villas, such as this one on Ibo Island, are a common sight. The island's decline started in the 1920s when the district capital was transferred to Port Amelia, now Pemba.

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