“MAIWE, atsemura hosho!”
I heard the expression shouted in the street as I drove past in Mbare.
I could not stop marveling at its richness and creativity.
The expression kept ringing in my ears long after it had been shouted.
I had never heard it before and had no one to ask what it meant.
I could only assume someone had messed big time, had spoiled good times.
Still I would take caution before using it, unless I am absolutely sure.
There is always the temptation to pick an expression and trumpet it even when it means the opposite of what is intended.
As was the case when one political commentator, Pedzisayi must have been the name, recently accused ZANU PF of seeking to plunge Zimbabwe into the Stone Age through uncontrolled accumulation of wealth by a few in a sea of poverty.
Clearly the political commentator dozed off during history lessons on the Stone Age, assuming he studied any history at all.
Alternatively he picked the expression off the street and never bothered to unpack it.
For if the commentator was yearning for an era of socialist cohesion and sustainability then it is to the so-called Stone Age that he must look up to.
In Zimbabwe the Stone Age is a now disused term to refer to both the communities and the period prior to the first century AD.
It is a term that reflects obsession with identifying a people on the basis of an aspect of their technology or raw materials.
A today’s equivalent would be like calling our era the Water Age or the Solar Age or the Portland Age or the Coal Age or the Gun Age.
Many would disagree with such characterisation because there is more to us than use of such resources and products.
The communities the analyst derisively calls Stone Age had a much more diverse technology and socio-economic-cultural and spiritual wellbeing.
These people are Khoisan communities whose main economic activities were hunting, gathering and pastoralism.
Their technology was based on exploitation of renewable and naturally occurring resources.
These included rock shelters for accommodation and stone/wood/bark/bone for manufacture of tools, clothing and ornaments.
Their clothing ornaments, backed tools, beads, chalcedony and mats are well represented in the archaeological record and in our museums.
Tools manufactured during that era include knives, scrappers, digging implements, containers, baskets and pots.
Clothing included skirts, wrappers and blankets.
In short they had a functional manufacturing industry that satisfied the community’s needs.
They did not indulge in expensive and unsustainable imports of second-hand Japanese cars and tooth picks.
If ZANU PF is inspired by this economic ancestry and seeks to ensure we manufacture more and import less, I see no reason to ridicule them.
Khoisan communities in the pre-Christian era were renowned for their ability to adapt to the environment and its resource base.
This adaptation enabled them to subsist sustainably in environments like the Matopos for over 20 000 years.
For example, in hunting there was a strategy to balance the exploitation of big and small game through alternating trapping and hunting.
Scheduling hunting activities allowed for time for gathering of plants and fruits.
In the last 2 000 (or 150) years of modernity (iron use, guns and Bibles) we have seen decimation of these resources and upsurge climate change induced famine.
The environment is worse off today than in the analyst’s Stone Age.
If a political party can bring back a semblance of this sustainable environmental exploitation then it deserves our notice and encouragement.
The Khoisan had a tight spiritual existence in which a sophisticated religious practice helped them cope with their environmental existence.
This religion we can infer from some of their implements, their abundant rock art and ethnographic studies of surviving San communities.
Trance, a dance induced state of the mind in which the human spirit travelled the jungle and advised the community accordingly, was a key component of this religion.
This religion was the basis of socio-political organisation that served them well for over 20 000 years.
Just over 100 years ago we exchanged traditional religion for the Bible.
The result has been loss of minds and wealth.
Can anyone reverse that?
I am gleeful with expectation.
The Stone Age is a term that can be misleading, especially when used recklessly to imply a linear historical advancement of human society.
There are many things we need to reclaim from our past if we are to get back on the development path.
The Khoisan of two to 20 000 thousand years ago (analyst’s Stone Age) had a more advanced understanding of their economy, religion and environment than we possess today.
Could it be “Analyst atsemura hosho?”
“MAIWE, atsemura hosho!”