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Born Free?

I am a “Born Free”, which means I was born after Zimbabwean Independence in April 1980. Unlike my parents I have never known what it is like to have my movements within my homeland or my dress code in Town dictated by my race. I didn’t think it was a big deal that I could go to any school for which I passed the entrance exam and the neighbourhood we lived in depended solely on my parents’ willingness and ability to buy a house. More importantly, I took everything Zimbabwean for granted and joined my peers in celebrating all things Western at the expense of anything Zimbabwean.

The further afield one’s clothes/ music / TV show came from, the better. If it was American it had to be good. Why listen to Paul Matavire when you could be bumping to Mase or Destiny’s Child? I am often ashamed when I think of the disdain with which I treated anything “local” in favour of anything from anywhere else.

It’s one thing to be imprisoned and know it, and another thing entirely to be oblivious to the shackles that limit your worldview. Slowly and steadily I have been unpacking what being Zimbabwean means to me. When I proclaim that I am “proudly Zimbo” or that “I rep 263”, what does it mean in the real world? What am I proud of and what am I claiming to represent? Is it Vic Falls or Great Zimbabwe or the world’s second largest platinum deposit that I am referring to? Is it the Shona language (sadly I didn’t think Ndebele was worth learning when I was younger) or our customs like “kuperekwa” after a wedding (when a new bride is taken to her groom’s family for the first time)?

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To say that this is one of the most uncomfortable conversations I have had with myself is a gross understatement. In all honesty I am nowhere close to coming to a conclusion, and am not even sure I am asking myself the right questions. There’s so much I don’t know about Zimbabwe’s history or our traditions, both current and those that have fallen away.

Is this what freedom is, though? Not knowing the details of your own history and customs and showing little to no interest at all? I’ll never forget when I was in my teens and I spouted some fact about an American celebrity. My father made some comment about how I knew more about that person who didn’t even know I existed than I did about my own relatives. Pretty sure I rolled my eyes at him, but that interaction haunts me to this day. He was so right – being an expert on things American was far more attractive to me than knowing the details of the First Chimurenga War or understanding the intricate rules governing blood relations in Shona culture (who gets what title and why).

I wish I had a reason for feeling the way I did, but I don’t. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that local was not lekker and was to be avoided at all costs. Vacations overseas held a lot more cred than going to the rural areas. After all, how can one compare Disney Land with kumusha (the village) with a straight face?

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So what now? More hard questions for myself around certain behaviours and belief systems will be the first step. There’s no point in dealing with the fruit without first acknowledging and understanding the roots. The journey to fully understanding what “proudly Zimbo” means in my world will take a while, but I’m glad that I have finally been brave enough to admit that maybe I wasn’t so born free after all.

Repping 263,


Source: – www.mirizhonga.blogspot.com.au

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Nigel Mugamu is extremely passionate about the use of tech in Africa, travel, wine, Man Utd, current affairs and Zimbabwe.

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