In this place where police collect money from drivers at almost every road block with no receipts for such transactions, where the media insults our intelligence daily with stories that sound like they leaped out of Peter Jackson’s imagination with nothing that tangibly contributes to our lives. National discussions are leading to the death of a culture, it has become a taboo to oppose and more acceptable to be meek about such.
We glare at these incidences from the windows of kombis and pass them by displayed on street corners by newspaper vendors. We contribute to them in restaurants and online media platforms like robots stuck on stupid.
See, there is something terribly wrong with this country. A friend and I walk into a take away joint. He is hungry and would like something to munch on. He orders Sadza and Beans, to which I enquire: ‘Why Sadza and beans?’ ‘What do you mean?’ he asks. ‘We are in Bulawayo so why not Isitshwala and Beans? Why have they written Sadza and Beans?’ I ask again.
‘Ah. Get out of here with your tribalistic talk,’ he retaliates.
My question to him as to everybody else who may play the same card are, how is preserving my language tribalism? How is fighting for the survival of my culture condemned as tribalism?
Besides these food outlets you also have people going to South Africa and then on returning home, try replacing isiNdebele with Zulu or Xhosa or some language they have learnt in the few days they have spent there. You have young rappers who grew up in townships in Bulawayo and claim to represent real hip-hop getting on stage sounding like they have lived their entire lives somewhere in Hillbrow or Soweto or Brooklyn or Compton.
This is where you have to admire people of Shona descent ,because they will gladly pull out a phone and speak in their mother tongue in places where the rest of us try to blend in.
Then you have terms like tribalist tossed around each time you try to address an issue that threatens to tear the nation apart daily. People hide behind terms in an effort not to confront and address our own demons. And one demon that has grown too powerful for its own exorcism is that of this dying culture of amaNdebele.
So, round about the same time we were exiting the fast food joint, a debate was taking place on a national scale on the government’s decision to send people of Shona descent from various parts of Mashonaland to teach ‘IsiNdebele’ in Matabeleland. Their argument is that they have the qualifications.
There are certain aspects of culture that an individual acquires on their own that no amount of teaching can impart. And language is one of a people’s main means of practicing their culture.
So, another friend of mine who is Ndebele was reversing out of a parking lot, me in the passenger seat. Another friend of Shona descent approaches the driver’s side making jokes with my friend. He has seen my friend’s article in the newspaper and is telling my friend that the article was good, but the picture that was used was terrible. Their mood proves they are friends partaking in friendly verbal sparring.
Couldn’t they find a better picture? he asks. We all laugh – except my friend maintains the face of a child who has just seen a syringe. My friend, with a straight face says, ‘Inkosi Ikubusise Mngane wami’ which is translated to ‘God bless you my friend.’ To which his friend says, ‘thank you’, in the manner of gratitude towards a blessing awarded.
A beautiful thing
See, if he had been a part of our culture long enough, he would have recognised the ‘God bless you’ for the sarcasm my friend meant it to be. Instead he perceived it as a blessing which put an awkward ending to the conversation.
My point here is an appeal to all those who recognise culture as a beautiful thing and who realise the need for all cultures in the world to survive and who want to marshal the preservation of a culture by the very people that practise it daily. Be it through language, art, history or education.
Our culture is breathing less with each passing moment that we attempt to fit in to other cultures. This is happening when editors replace Ndebele words with Shona equivalents because they understand those better. It is happening when we are called tribalists because we challenge people to uphold our cultures, when our government is negligent of the many other languages in this country and when musicians record songs in languages they think will guarantee them air play on national radio.
What is a people without a culture? Are they not zombies who are only alive because they are a physical force now, without mind, spirit or the very essence of being? – Articles in partnership with Kalabash Media – for more information from young people in Zimbabwe visit: www.kalabashmedia.comPost published in: Opinions & Analysis