I have often sat contemplating what it means to be Zimbabwean. My father is Zimbabwean, kumusha kwedu kuBirchenough Bridge close to Buhera. My mother is of European descent (a mix of Norwegian, German, English and Irish). I take great pride in my Zimbabwean heritage. Ndiri Mhofu yomukono no doubt. But is that all it takes to be Zimbabwean? What does it really mean to be Zimbabwean? I will take you on a short journey through my mind and, hopefully, together we can discover the answer to my question.
I guess the most simple answer to this question would be: Someone who resides or was born in the area currently demarcated as Zimbabwe. But this is where my problem begins. I struggle to identify with just an area demarcated on a map. I struggle with this because I know the history. I struggle to understand why we are all so hellbent on fighting over imaginary lines that where drawn on a map by a bunch of European men, most of whom had never even been to Africa; Men who didn’t know whether there were mountains, rivers, lakes or forests underneath the lines they drew. We are stuck today fighting the cause of the so called “white devils,” the colonialists. We have taken the limitations they imposed on us and ran with them. Where they said we stop we still stop. Where they said we can roam we still roam. Passports and IDs determining who and what we are, where we can and can not go. I long for the days when the land didn’t belong to any one group but to all of us. It is this longing that makes me consider myself an African or as I commonly say A Free Can. Freedom inspires ability. But that still leaves us with another question, what does it mean to be African?
Going back to the start
I think the most important weapon a people can have is their history, a knowledge of self. Not to say that you will become what you were, but if you understand where you have come from you will surely have a better understanding of where it is you should be going. The problem with African history is that it seems to only begin when the colonialists started visiting, that they came to a land filled with savages, baboons and gorillas. I laugh every time I hear this narrative because nothing can be further from the truth. We unfortunately don’t have the full story of Africa but luckily we were left many clues. Not by the colonialists, they are the reason we don’t have the full story, but by the former residents of these lands, our ancestors. When you look into the clues you realise that countless African stories were plagiarised and rewritten with european characters taking centre stage.
Before I get into that, I would first like to touch on a subject that bothers me very much; the notion that there weren’t any civilisations in Africa before the colonialists arrived. One of the main reasons for this is that if you don’t write you aren’t civilised. Oral tradition is apparently a lesser form of documentation. Since I was a child I couldn’t understand this. To me it seemed that someone who could remember was surely smarter than one who could write. Surely if you can listen, remember and recite you are way smarter than someone who can read and write. To me it seemed that oral tradition evolved from writing and not the other way around, but maybe that’s a debate for another day. We all carry the history of Africa in our DNA but for much too long we have let other people from far away lands control the narrative. Where they need books and tablets to read all we need to do is feel the sun on our skin, listen to the wind in the leaves and smell the rain coming from hundreds of kilometers away to know that our history is much more important than the textbooks would have us believe.
Many people would have you believe that all Egyptians today look the way they did when they built the pyramids, that they aren’t really African, but this is ridiculous. Many Egyptians today are a dilution by the many European conquerors who could not allow themselves to believe that the most significant ancient civilisation known to us was built by black Africans. Most still struggle to understand that even what is known as the first civilisation, that of Sumeria in Mesopotamia was built by black africans, those who called themselves the Sag-gig-ga. This is not me trying to say one race is better than the other. No, far from it! I am just trying to uncover the truth.
If we all came from Africa why is it so difficult to believe that Africans began civilisation too. A lot of people struggle to grasp history the way it is taught today because we have felt the sun, heard the wind and smelt the rain. We know that there is more to the story, and the most wonderful part about it is that all of our stories as Africans are interconnected.
And so where are we now?
This brings me back to Zimbabwe, the land that was conquered by bibles and guns. When I think of this wonderful country, one of the first things that come to my mind is one of the clues that was left for us by our ancestors, the ancient ruins that are now known as Great Zimbabwe. When they were “discovered” they were thought to be either Atlantis or the palace that Solomon built for the Queen of Sheba but one thing they couldn’t be, was built by Africans. We could get into the issue that Solomon himself was Black but that’s a conversation for another day. Now we all accept that it was built by Zimbaweans or rather the people who inhabited the land that lies between two of Africas great rivers. Noone really knows a lot about these Great ruins so I would like to concentrate on one absolutely fascinating fact. These ruins were built on 31 degrees longitude – the exact same line of longitude where you will find the Great Pyramids of Giza. They are situated on what are known as lay lines which map out all the energy centres of the world.
Not bad for a bunch of savages!
These ruins were not just a residence, they are far more significant than that. They allude to a people who were great thinkers and astronomers, these people knew a lot more about the workings of the universe than the civilised colonialists. And yet we find it so easy to forsake them and glorify the real savages. We find it so easy to forget them and assimilate into these new cultures, religions and traditions. The funny thing is that our African ancestors told the first stories which ended up being documented in the Bible, the Quran and the Torah. Jesus’ two commandments explain ubuntu or hunhu, whichever term we use. Hunhu, so defined, goes beyond the meaning of “dignity,” it transcends humanity. It is not just a term, it is an African philosophy and why wouldn’t it be, Jesus himself was African.
Yet we prefer the European characters to our own. Why wouldn’t we? We have no history of our own, no culture, no language and no religion. We Africans are the lost tribes of Israel, the sons and daughters of the first men, those who were favoured by God. We turned our backs on ourselves and so we are lost.
But that doesn’t mean we are destined not to be found.
We can all feel the strength that courses through our veins, that reminds us that we are the sons and daughters of the first kings and queens, the longing for meaning, that would explain the great pride and happiness we all feel, the belief that we are all more than we have been allowed to believe.
Once again the question begs, what does it mean to be Zimbabwean?
After taking this short journey through my mind I truly hope that you haven’t found any answers but rather more questions. Like the chinese say, “…He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever…” And they probably learned that from an African!
Word is bond.
Peace to the earths and the gods.