Let us begin the culture walk

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LAST week I made a business telephone call to the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture.
I was answered by a very pleasant voice, “Ministry of Sport, can I help you?”
The answer sent a chill down my spine.
I flashed back to a discussion that I had with colleagues from the heritage sector when the then Department of Sport, Arts and Culture got elevated to a full Ministry last year.
There was palpable happiness among this group.
I cautioned that all would be well as long as the Ministry does not become just a Ministry of Sport.
Poor receptionist, she has offended without intending to.
I have great faith in the abilities of the Ministry’s technical base to ensure that my fears remain just that.
The Ministry of Culture, if I may use the receptionist’s licence to shorten names, has come at an opportune time for Zimbabwe.
We have a nation still celebrating the July 31 elections.
We have heard loud yearnings for a return to yesteryear prosperity.
There have been yearnings for the breadbasket status to return.
Economists, politicians and prophets are predicting the good times to roll again. Some are crying for a return to our Zimbabwean hunhu, values.
Others yearn for times when we were reputed to be the most skilled and hard-working workers.
Yet many more just hope to sit and relax, miracle oil by their side, awaiting fulfillment of prophecies.
These calls come at a time the nation is at a culture cross roads, with probability of taking the wrong turn very high.
Last week The Patriot took us on a journey through the fading Njelele heritage. For over a thousand years, our prosperity was underpinned by a culture and spirituality centred at Great Zimbabwe and Matonjeni.
We had abundant cereals, cattle, wildlife and mineral resources.
Our cultural acts were inspired by this reality.
Today, all this has changed.
All change traceable back to the tripod; bible, school and the whiteman.
It is a tripod that is also known as Christianity, Education and Civilisation.
All fashioned against hunhu hwedu.
Christianity is the new spirituality.
A spirituality underpinned by all, but African culture.
Jewish, Arabic, Roman, Greek and other cultures all find expression in Christianity.
To prosper, Christianity had to support the destruction of the African spiritual identity.
Today this is mission accomplished.
Most of us today, at the very least, are Christians during the day and traditionalists only on some nights.
Education has been a weapon of Christianity against hunhu hwedu.
It is no wonder that the Christian priest, Mufundisi, was inseparable from the schoolteacher in the early days.
The curriculum has been designed primarily to make us lose faith in hunhu hwedu. Civilisation has crudely been reduced in meaning to mean shedding off one’s Africanness, hunhu.
To do that is to be educated, to be Christian, to be modern and progressive.
No nation can prosper in cultural confusion.
History does not lie; it is the same story in China, Japan, France, Russia, and India. I have always felt we need a Cultural Revolution to move forward.
Not the Chinese version.
In China, especially between 1965-8, Chairman Mao felt the need to reassert Chinese revolutionary identity.
This resulted in vigorous push for a return to the basic principles of the Chinese revolution.
Chairman Mao was concerned about the impact newfound values of an emerging Chinese bourgeois would have on values and principles of the revolution.
In practice, however, the Chinese Cultural Revolution became a decade-long ruthless crusade not just against capitalism, but also against traditional and cultural elements of Chinese society.
Can our Ministry of Culture spearhead a Zimbabwean version of the Cultural Revolution?
Can the Ministry superintend a cultural revolution driven by a need to reassert our identity, hunhu hwedu?
An identity based on our history, culture and struggles, Zvimurenga, all of which are underpinned by a strong spiritual component.
Can our culture and spirituality one day take centre stage at national events?
We are tired of seeing African spirituality being reduced to entertainment acts.
Can our culture come to dominate our national calendar?
Can we take the right way at the culture cross roads?
We are culturally a sick nation.
We celebrate being unAfrican as a measure of progress.
Our food, accents, hairstyles, mannerisms and dislike for mother tongue and history speak volumes about a people at war with their own identity, kutiza mimvuri yedu.
We are a people desperate to become white.
Spiritually we are the late Biggie Tembo’s gunda musaira rinenge hwiza; yesterday kwaMuponda, today kwaTB Joshua, tomorrow kwaMakandiwa following day kwaMagaya and back to Makandiwa day after.
We left Mwari and shrines at Great Zimbabwe and Matonjeni and flocked to established churches at their various missions kunopinda svondo.
We sought education, whiteman’s civilisation and spiritual salvation at these mission stations.
Soon we realised that established churches offered education and socialisation but not spiritual salvation.
Some sought it from traditional spirituality, but surreptitiously and at night.
Others found this spiritual salvation in Pentecostalism.
Pentecostalism, which took root in the early 20th century in this country under the AFM banner, was responsive to local agendas and managed to fill the gap created by a weakened Mwari religion.
We only managed to appeal to Mwari religion when we needed Murenga’s spiritual help to liberate the country during the First and Second Chimurenga.
As a liberated people we have forgotten about Murenga.
The Ministry of Culture has an unenviable task.
They need to bring back to its roots a nation that has lost much of its rich and diverse cultural heritage.
While the indigenisation and empowerment crusade has focused on the economy, real progress cannot be achieved before we indigenise our way of life.
We need to liberate our thinking and make it African again. We need freedom from a mental block that sees Western culture as civilisation’s alpha and omega.
Real empowerment should be preceded by respect for national pride and identity.

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