What is a hero?

Heroes Day is upon us once again. A day meant to honour the men and women who died fighting for an independent Zimbabwe, it serves as one of the reminders of a long and painful liberation struggle.

I hear stories of young men and women, still in school uniforms, leaving their institutions of learning to run into the bushes and pick up arms. Of ordinary citizens, teachers and nurses and farmers, who sheltered guerrilla fighters on the run from Rhodesian forces. Of those who crossed the border into foreign countries to train and learn. The image of Heroes Acre comes to mind, the statue of three soldiers standing in proud defiance, weapons and flag in hand, ready to give it all to free their people.

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Tanya’s Nefertari

Nefertari means “beautiful companion”. An Egyptian queen and wife of Ramses the Great, Nefertari is celebrated for her beauty and style. She’s a fitting inspiration for Tanyaradzwa Mushayi, who has always had a fascination with Kemet and ancient history. “I thought why not mix my Shona name with my obsession with Kemet.” So she married the two names together, and the Tanya Nefertari brand came into being.

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Driving down Samora

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 →

Tapiwa and a side of poetry

His story begins in his childhood. Thanks to a father who instilled an appetite for books, Tapiwa Mugabe read voraciously from a young age.  “(It was) mostly silly stories that barely made sense, and fantasy stories with heroes and animals,” says Tapiwa, laughing at the literature of his childhood. As much as tales that were once so fascinating seem trivial now, this early introduction fostered the wordsmith within Tapiwa, culminating in the publication of an anthology of poems in 2014. Continue reading →

To Acie Lumumba:

Dear Mr. Lumumba,

I debated on whether or not to write this letter. Most people have written you off as a non-entity, and in fact your celebrity has diminished over the past few weeks. Still, I think it’s important to let you know how I feel. As someone claiming to stand for and represent young Zimbabweans, it’s only fair that I, as a young Zimbabwean, give my opinion.

Unlike many, many, many people, I think you have potential. In a political sphere dominated by people aged 50 and over, it’s refreshing to have someone closer to my age and experiences. However, I understand why you rub people the wrong way. You’ve rubbed me the wrong way. You proclaim yourself as the “political maverick of this generation” – a  bold statement that makes you come across as vain. You’re pompous. You’re condescending. You’re arrogant. Cockiness and confidence in politics is not a bad thing, but the truth is that you haven’t done anything to back up your claims. Learn to humble yourself. The title ‘political maverick’ is not given or taken, it is earned. 

Talk less, listen more. I was one of many people that tuned into that disaster of an interview with Ruvheneko on ZiFM. You were unwilling to engage on even the smallest things – I remember Ruvheneko asking you a series of true/false questions, with you insisting on replying yes or no. It seems small and inconsequential, but how can you even begin to start talking about the big things when you can’t even engage with other people on the little things? How do you expect to win us over when you talk down to people, instead of conversing with them?

It’s understandable to have such a reaction when you feel as if you’re being attacked – I too respond defensively when asked personal questions. However, I’m not the politician here, you are. You can’t keep losing your cool when someone asks you pointed questions. Bear in mind, these are the questions we’ve also asked ourselves about you and your intentions. Don’t be afraid to answer tough questions, and learn to maintain your professionalism when answering.

You started a political party, even though you previously insisted that you wouldn’t. Good for you. I don’t know anything about this new party, and to be honest I don’t really care that much. Living in Zimbabwe has taught me not to raise my hopes too high, to resign myself to a cycle of dashed dreams and despondency. However, I will congratulate you for what you’re trying to do. Just do it right.

Zimbabwean youth are some of the most disadvantaged people in our country. We make up over a third of the population, yet we have nothing to aspire to. No jobs. No future, at least not in Zimbabwe. A life of hollow promises and frustration, watching the best days of our lives wasting away because of a system that’s failing us. If you’re that concerned about us and our future, then put aside your ego and focus on the people you claim to fight for. So stop talking. Start doing. I’m one of the few people that actually believes that you could make a change, but you will not achieve anything if you don’t change yourself.

I don’t expect a response to this letter. I don’t want one. I wanted to tell you how I feel, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ll leave you with this: do better Mr. Lumumba. Be better.

Regards,

A tired, frustrated, Zimbabwean youth.

 

Tara and her art

Her room is immaculate, save for the papers and notebooks on the desk.  The chime of a dream catcher on the wall is interrupted as Tara closes the window and sits down, cross-legged, on her bed.  Some of her drawings are up on the cupboard, with a gemstone chart stuck on her door.  Looking at it, I can identify some of the stones on her windowsill. A tinge of citrus lingers in the air, and Tara moves to tidy her bed, which she thinks is less than presentable.

“Art is the only thing I focused on.”

 

Tara the Artist

Tara paintingTara Dena Jack is an artist.  She always has been.  From her days in nursery school, to high school at Hellenic, and now studying towards her Bachelor of Fine Art.  That she was meant to be an artist, Tara never doubted that.  “It (art) has always been a strong point, since I’m not really academic.” Tara points to the paintings stacked on top of her bookcase as proof.  Even when she’s meant to be studying, her fingers itch for pen and paper and Tara draws instead.  “Art is an outlet for me.”

As happy as she is with her degree and career path, art wasn’t always her  first choice.  For a time, music held sway.  “I started music when I was 4 or 5, and I started playing the clarinet when I was 14, so in Form Two,” Tara says as she adjusts her legs to get more comfortable.  “I also taught myself basic piano, so I can play a few tunes.”  When it came down to choose between art and music, the decision boiled down to what gave Tara more creative license.  Art it was.

 

“I can express myself more with art. Art is more liberating.”

2016-06-03 (2)What of her art itself?  Tara scrolls through her Instagram and flips through her book of doodles as she talks about her style and what she’s created.  I notice a lot of pencil work and inking, but not much in the form of paintings.  A slight frown on her mouth as she readjusts her seating again and ties up her hair.  “With painting, I don’t have a style that I’ve developed.  With my pencil work, it’s more detailed.  I like stuff like pencil work and pen work, stuff that you can control.”  Her pencil work is stunning. Images of skulls and candles flit across her phone screen.   Tara’s proud of her pieces, but she admits that her work is dark. “In O Level, I did kitsch, still-life, like ‘pretty pretty girly stuff’.  But I find skulls more interesting. You think about a painting of a skull more than just a painting of a flower.”

 

“I always try incorporate a hidden meaning in my art.”

 

Tara fiddles with her hairbands as she talks about her plans for the future.  She wants to get her art out there for people to see – something she hasn’t been doing.  She thinks back to her art teachers in high school and how they’ve shaped her life so far, and continue to play a role in deciding her future.  “Most of my role models are my art teachers.  They see what I’m capable of, they’re more confident in my abilities than I am.”  It was Greg Shaw, her high school art teacher and artist in Harare, who pushed Tara to develop her skills as an artist.  It was her O Level art teacher who convinced Tara to study Fine Art at Rhodes University.  Their influence has motivated Tara to pay it forward and become an art teacher and artist.

 

Tara the Zimbabwean

Would she work in Zimbabwe?  Tara pauses, and takes a breath before responding. “I’m drawn to political stuff.” She tilts her head in inference.  “Political stuff that I wouldn’t be able to do that. And I can’t do kitsch stuff either.”  I ask her the question again.  She looks up, frowns and responds, “I don’t know.”

To see more of Tara’s work, check out her Instagram.

All the art pieces in this story are property of Tara Dena Jack. 

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