Celebrating remnants of Chivanhu 37 years later


WE woke up to overcast and drizzling conditions last Sunday.
Behind my mother’s kitchen vakuwasha were skinning Mbereko.
Mbereko was the last standing matriarch cow in our kraal, having been around for over 15 years during which its direct and indirect offspring had grown to a herd of five.
It has been that long since vakuwasha brought it with the rest of danga as part of lobola payment for my young sister.
And muchembere had, with foresight, named hers Mbereko.
I had taken a retreat to my bedroom to look for warm clothing in view of the ambush weather.
As I rummaged through our suitcase, a newspaper headline caught my attention; it was a story on the upcoming presidential polls in Iran.
The interesting paragraph went: “Also contesting the polls is Ebrahim Raeesi, the chief custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the organisation managing the affairs of the holy shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam, in the city of Mashhad.”
In 2010 I was in Mashhad and witnessed how this tourist city had grown out of Islamic religion and culture.
I had a chuckle as I imagined the same challenge coming from the custodian of Njelele in Matonjeni, the abode of Mwari.
Not that he is a lesser custodian but rather is in a society that derides own culture and religion. Matonjeni is today a forgotten enclave in the Matobo World Heritage landscape, dwarfed by Rhodes’ grave.
I took the time to phone my friend, whose family was also hosting a related function in Maware about 30km east of Unyetu.
Theirs was receipt of danga, including mombe yeumai whereas ours was a mombe yemadiro feast.
She explained how theirs had so far progressed; mukuwasha had announced to the family court that he had brought four beasts; being two cows and an ox as danga and a heifer as mombe yeumai.
He had then been asked for munongedzo and ziso being a goat and a hen respectively.
These, being pre-arranged, were immediately brought inside. He then went outside and, standing in the courtyard, announced the purpose of his coming.
The family dare then went outside and were shown the new herd.
Clapping and ululations followed.
Mukuwasha was then ordered to slaughter the goat and chicken while women of the village finalised lunch preparations.
Men sat inside one of the rondavel kitchens enjoying the special rapoko seven-day brew for the occasion.
I explained to her that for ours the protocols had been much less.
After formal traditional greetings I had explained to the gathering why we had come together.
We were celebrating the unions between our family and the family to which my sister had married into.
By extension were celebrating also the union between our family and our maternal uncles, the family from where my mother had come from.
In both instances mombe yeumai had been integral and on this occasion my mother was slaughtering, in celebration, the original mombe yeumai beast.
With the consent of the elders we then served Chibuku beer and soft drinks as we waited for the lunch feast.
The Unyetu lunch, white sadza and beef, was served without much ado.
The men then had opportunity to formally extend their lunch appreciation in the traditional manner.
A crate each of scuds and soft drinks went round as maseredza nhindi.
I was then asked to give a vote of thanks.
Before I got to it, one of my sisters, a trainee pastor, took to the floor.
She gave a very long sermon on how this occasion linked with Easter Sunday celebration of resurrection.
She was thoroughly enjoying the analogy and the accompanying attention.
I felt for the old men who looked miserable and attentive as they listened to the sermon while staring at the inviting scuds. A long prayer followed and when my turn finally came for the vote of thanks, I was very brief.
The gathering had endured enough suffering.
I invited them for a quick group photo and released them to enjoy the drinks.
Seconds later, the images were in Melbourne, Liverpool, Gaborone and Johannesburg!
I made another call to Maware and was informed they had just finished with masadza.
The sadza had been of rapoko and was served with goat and chicken meat.
Chirango had centred on lunch served in common to select female representatives from the marrying families; from the mukuwasha family it was his tete while from bride’s family it was herself, her aunt (father’s sister), mother and maternal grandmother. They ate from the same dish symbolising profound marital unions. After the meal maseredza nhindi was served and the party was still in progress. I felt envious and could only remark, Wow….remnants of Chikaranga!
After the holidays I met her in Harare and she took me to task on what I had meant with ‘remnants of Chikaranga’.
The answer turned into a discussion on how our culture has been rapidly eroded, especially in the post-independence period.
Religion, marriage customs, funeral rites, entertainment, hairstyles and diet had all taken a battering.
During the First Chimurenga, our traditional religion, Mwari worship, was at the forefront uniting indigenes of the land against Christian colonial invaders.
Chaminuka, Mkwati, Kaguvi and Nehanda are testimony to that.
When the religious rebellion was put down, the colonial Government sought to systematically weaken Mwari worship. In fact, the first Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe were born out of bastardising Mwari worship.
By the outbreak of the Second Chimurenga, Mwari worship had been reduced into shrine worship at an enclave in the Matopo landscape.
Traditional religion, however, got a boost during the 1970s liberation war.
Both in Zambia and Mozambique traditional religion became a rallying point with the spirits of Chaminuka and Nehanda being frequently invoked by the freedom fighters.
But this reverence for culture and traditional religion went up in smoke with the lighting of the Independence Flame at Rufaro stadium in 1980.
Western culture and Christianity became the civil hallmark for the conquering liberation armies.
Resisters like Mbuya Sophia Tsvatayi Muchini paid dearly.
Marriage has transformed from a union between two families to a contract between two individuals; court and Christian wedding ceremonies attest to this. No funeral would be complete without a Christian priest, even when a n’anga is interred, a church priest has to be hired.
Doro remvura ceremony has become a Christianised nyarardzo. The eerie mbira sounds in the village have given way to Western music genres.
Indigenous hairstyles re-invented in the Bob Marley and Rasta movement are frowned at as zvikorobho, mops; except in instances they are spotted by the rich and famous. What is trendy is for sisters to scramble for shavings from Europeans and Indians’ heads.
The average diet has deteriorated into chicken, chips and coke, resulting in many suffering from obese and diabetic conditions. The Maware function is clearly a remnant of a dying Chivanhu.


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