Samora Machel Avenue has to be the longest road I’ve ever driven. It cuts through suburbs, the hustle and bustle of Harare’s central business district, branching off into its many little tributaries that run through the city. It is long, straight, rarely bends, and serves as an artery to the capital city’s daily pulse. Continue reading →
36 years ago, Southern Rhodesia was wiped from existence and Zimbabwe was born. Great pomp and ceremony ensued as the populace celebrated the end of a long guerrilla and the establishment of majority rule. Bob Marley even wrote a song for us, and he came down and performed, free of charge, at the official Independence Day celebrations:
In 2016, things are different. Zimbabweans are scattered across the globe. Many people have left for their studies or employment. There is a generation of people with Zimbabwean heritage who have not set foot in the country. And for a born-free generation, navigating their Zimbabwean identity is a chore in itself. Four such Zimbabweans, all studying at Rhodes University in South Africa, speak of what it means to be Zimbabwean, 36 years after Independence.
“Being Zimbabwean in 2016 comes with many arduous challenges and a lot of hard work in the quest to get opportunity and recognition necessary for the meaningful success in the global village we live in today.
As a young Zimbabwean, I find it hard to break barriers no matter how good I am – barriers that, if broken, will propel my career to dizzy heights. This is largely due to negative political connotations that come with being from Zimbabwe.”
“Being a Zimbabwean youth is tough. Particularly a patriotic youth. You yourself fail to explain where you draw your strong allegiance to the country from.
It’s quite an amazing phenomenon really. I can rave and curse about the situation in Zimbabwe but dare someone else do it. So what does it mean to be a Zimbabwean in 2016, 36 years after independence? It’s a myriad of emotions. Love. Hate. Love. Hate even more.”
“My Zimbabwean identity means being resilient in the face of all adversities and having faith and hope as strong a mustard seed.”
“I like that Zimbabweans, we’re peaceful people. Yeah our country’s messed up, but we’re survivors. It hasn’t broken us. If you’re outside of the country, you know you’re not alone. You’ve got a community of Zimbabweans there with you.”
Zimbabwean Identity, 36 years on
So what does it mean to be a young Zimbabwean in 2016? There isn’t a straightforward answer to that. There’s a constant tug of war in establishing your identity. Inheriting the past, surviving the present, building for the future – often times, it can be suffocating to live such an existence. Nevertheless, for many of the young Zimbabweans out there, their national heritage and identity is a badge they wear with pride.
Simudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe
Yakazvarwa nomoto wechimurenga;
Neropa zhinji ramagamba
Tiidzivirire kumhandu dzose;
Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.
Phakamisan iflegi yethu yeZimbabwe
Eyazalwa yimpi yenkululeko;
Legaz’ elinengi lamaqhawe ethu
Silivikele ezithan izonke;
Kalibusisiwe ilizwe leZimbabwe.
Harare, nicknamed the Sunshine City, is a city whose beauty is often overlooked. When you’re on the ground, you never get a full view of the city and its skyline. Instead, you experience the pothole-riddled roads, the constant throb of noise and traffic, and ever-present malfunctioning traffic light. Whilst this Harare has its own chaotic glory, it’s refreshing to see a side of the Sunshine City that is not always celebrated or represented.
A View from the Top
It was from the 12th floor of the Causeway Building that I had the chance to see the view. Overlooking Simon Muzenda Street (previously Fourth Street), it was a harmonious union of an ocean of sky and cloud with man-made blocks. From the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Dominican Convent High School, to the Mukwati Building and St. George’s College peeking out in the distance, it was a picture that I’d never seen before.
The CBD at Dusk
The city landscape changed as the sun gave way to night, its orange tinge still visible on the horizon. Buildings and landmarks that I walked past without so much as an afterthought looked completely different to me in the dusk light.
It is not often that positive images of Harare and Zimbabwe in general are promoted. There are beautiful pictures of jacarandas crowning Harare’s roads with a regal purple. Images of Harare on the ground, the people and cars that populate the concrete space. If you’re lucky, you stumble upon the odd photo of the Reserve Bank or some other well-known building. Standing on the window ledge of Causeway Building’s 12th floor, it was a gratifying and humbling experience.
My city may be clogged with traffic, its road riddled with potholes, the streets full of pedestrian power, and the air tinged with the smell of smoke (a gift from the kombis), but I love Harare in all its perfect imperfection. The Sunshine City is my home, forever and always.
Silence. That’s all you hear as you stand there, above the valley but not quite at the top of the mountain. For the first few minutes, it’s maddening. No cars. No music. No loud conversations. Just you and the valley.
Honde Valley is a slither of land near the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border. Cloudless skies with a yellow sun illuminates the valley, and if you squint, you can see the border. The mountains, already gargantuan in size, look even bigger, their sharp peaks grazing the endless the endless blue above.
Then the weather turns. Fog crawls up from below, until the whole valley disappears under the mist. The temperature drops, and when it starts to rain, the lush green Earth gets brown and soggy, making it a nightmare for drivers trying to hillstart. But even then, with the cold and the damp, the Valley is still beautiful.
Honde Valley wouldn’t be what it is without the mountains that encircle the community. The mountains themselves are as diverse and interesting as the trees and shrubs that dot the valley in the summer.
Honde Valley is a haven of peace and serenity. From vast green forests, to small tea and coffee plantations, it’s not just a static valley of trees and rocks, but a bustling environment of animals, vegetation and people living and working with and for each other. Now, it seems that it may very well become a bona fide tourism destination. There are already a few resorts and B&Bs, with a clear view of Mtarazi Falls, Honde Valley’s claim to fame.
The houses in the area also have their own story to tell, from the traditional huts with thatched roofs, the rundown shacks, to the modern homes equipped with TV, fridges, and electricity. There are even ruins of an ancient storehouse, just behind my grandmother’s house. It’s nothing more than a large trench lined with granite stones similar to the ones at Great Zimbabwe. But those ruins are a piece of our history, a look, however tiny, into the life and times of Zimbabweans before the advent of colonialism and modern technology.
From tombstones and engravings, to the little sculptures and giant statues hewn from granite, the sculptures in Warren Park have it all. Under the shadow of the National Sports Stadium, the sculpture spot is almost a blink-and-miss area, especially when whizzing by in a car or kombi. However, the men and women, the artists who carve beauty from rock have created a mini haven. Sculpting has always been an integral component of local art, and the sculpture gardens in Warren Park contribute in their own small way to Zimbabwean culture.
The Big Ones