Mozam­bique and me

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - ANNE JOSEPH

IT ALL be­gan with the medals. I had al­ways known that my pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Joseph Lazarus, had been a pho­tog­ra­pher in Lis­bon. But that was all. My fa­ther had spent his early years grow­ing up there un­til he was 11. The pre­ma­ture loss of both his par­ents and the on­set of war brought him back to the UK where he was then adopted by his un­cle and aunt and be­came a brother to his two older cousins.

When I in­ter­viewed my fa­ther about his child­hood in Por­tu­gal, in April 2013, he pro­duced the only ev­i­dence he had of that time — none of which I had seen be­fore: a dusty, plas­tic bag of fam­ily pho­tos, a few let­ters writ­ten to him by his fa­ther and his un­cle Mau­rice and a box of medals. In­side were two sets of heavy, cer­e­mo­nial-look­ing col­lar chains, each dom­i­nated by a red sword cen­tre­piece sur­rounded by green lau­rels with what ap­peared to be a motto, Cien­cias, Le­tras, E Artes en­graved around the sword’s tip. On the lid was an in­scrip­tion in Por­tuguese, dated 1930 and signed by the then Pres­i­dent of Por­tu­gal, Os­car Car­mona. Dad did not know the medals’ ori­gin, nor had he ever thought — or wanted — to find out.

But I was in­trigued and even more so once the ci­ta­tions were trans­lated. The medals, known as Or­dem Mil­i­tar Sant’Iago da Es­pada (Or­der of St. James of the Sword) are an of­fi­cial honour given by the Pres­i­dent of Por­tu­gal for out­stand­ing artis­tic, in­tel­lec­tual or sci­en­tific merit. It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary rev­e­la­tion. Both men had re­ceived the Or­der, which ac­counted for the two chains, in recog­ni­tion for their work as pho­tog­ra­phers for the Por­tuguese royal house­hold and then later, for the Repub­lic.

I thought lit­tle more about the broth­ers un­til Fe­bru­ary 2015 when, in a mo­ment of bore­dom, I made a ran­dom Google search for J & M Lazarus, their trade sig­na­ture. It was only then that I dis­cov­ered that they had lived and worked in Africa, in Lourenço Mar­ques (present day Maputo), be­tween 1899 and 1908, as well as op­er­at­ing a stu­dio in Beira, a coastal town in cen­tral Mozam­bique.

One link led to a blog writ­ten by An­to­nio Botelho de Melo, a Ma­puto­born banker with a par­tic­u­lar in­ter- est in the his­tory of Mozam­bique. When I emailed him, his re­sponse was im­me­di­ate. “Your grand­fa­ther and great un­cle are kind of celebrities in my lit­tle world…They cap­tured the city at a time of ma­jor growth and eco­nomic ex­pan­sion, as well as pro­vid­ing a unique in­sight into the colo­nial ex­pe­ri­ence in Mozam­bique.” Their work, he wrote, “is among the very best vis­ual record pro­duced at the time.”

This vis­ual record was ac­com­pa­nied by an evoca­tive com­men­tary, writ­ten by the broth­ers in an in­tro­duc­tion to the sec­ond edi­tion of their al­bum, A Sou­venir of

Lourenço Mar­ques in 1901. “Lourenço Mar­ques is un­ques­tion­ably the most pic­turesque place in South Africa and one that no trav­eler to the Cape should fail to visit,” they wrote. “The old-time al­most ro­man­tic as­pect of the town, …[its] many palm trees sway­ing to the will of the wind with dig­ni­fied con­de­scen­sion… the strange cos­tumes of the cos­mopoli­tan peo­ples who make up the pop­u­la­tion and the …build­ings…[which are] ori­en­tal in ar­chi­tec­ture. Within the last five years [it] has merged from the chrysalis state of prim­i­tive­ness into a busy con­stantly im­prov­ing town.”

The broth­ers were born in Sun­der­land in the 1870s. The fam­ily left for South Africa, some­time in 1880s. By the 1890s, Joseph and Mau­rice owned a stu­dio in Bar­ber­ton, a town in the Mpumalanga province. Their route to Lourenço Mar­ques might have been in­flu­enced by the Transvaal rail­way line, which had opened in 1895 — the con­struc­tion of which they had doc­u­mented — con­nect­ing Pre­to­ria with south­ern Mozam­bique. In Lourenço Mar­ques, the af­flu­ent, in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal of colo­nial, pre-in­de­pen­dence Mozam­bique, the broth­ers es­tab­lished one of the first — and most suc­cess­ful — com­mer­cial houses of pho­tog­ra­phy.

From Mozam­bique, they moved to Lis­bon and in the sum­mer of 2015, I trav­elled there with Jake, my then 19-year-old son.

Lis­bon would have been an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for the broth­ers from Africa. They wit­nessed the fall of the monar­chy, the chaos and un­cer­tainty of the First Repub­lic and the dic­ta­tor­ship of An­tónio Oliveira Salazar.

They lived here un­til their deaths — Joseph in 1940 and Mau­rice in 1949 — both are buried in Lis­bon’s Jewish ceme­tery. Their stu­dio, Pho­tographia In­gleza de J& M Lazarus, was on Rua Ivens, 53-59 in Chi­ado — the heart of bustling, down­town com­mer­cial Lis­bon. As prom­i­nent stu­dio pho­tog­ra­phers they pro­duced high quality por­traits for lead­ing fig­ures, later branch­ing out into sell­ing pho­to­graphic equip­ment and frames. They were also con­trib­u­tors to sev­eral news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines. Nowa­days, their for­mer stu­dio is a Le­vis cloth­ing store.

“Although there were hun­dreds of pho­to­graphic houses in 1910/20s Lis­bon, only a few had the pres­ti­gious con­nec­tions that the Lazarus broth­ers had,” ex­plained Bruno Saraiva, part re­searcher, part

The medals came from the pres­i­dent of Por­tu­gal

The Maputo street where the broth­ers had their stu­dio taken c1900 with (inset) the same street in 2016; Joseph Lazarus with his medal (be­low)

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