Reclaiming intellectual space…keeping the country’s history alive

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THE year 2017 saw the rolling out of a new education curriculum, replacing the one which was designed in a way that left students knowing more about the West, rather than the Zimbabwean and African story.
The education sector churned out pupils who idolised and knew much about Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin.
Little was learnt on local and African heroes such as Chaminuka, Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Lobengula, Mzilikazi and other local heroes.
As a result, local heroes have lost their place in the country’s discourse.
The ‘new’ generations are disconnected from these all-important heroes who are the DNA and an integral part of our nation.
However, the updated curriculum has ensured that the country’s history now comes first.
As the year started, through this column we called on seasoned and upcoming writers to commit pen to paper and write stories that celebrate our country and heroes.
This was so because the commendable efforts in the education sector needed to be supported with relevant literature.
Writing space had been invaded by whites, especially die hard Rhodesians who are still in denial and will not accept that the owners of the land reclaimed their country.
In recent times young writers have been enticed by white publishers to tell a story that supports the whiteman’s version of historical and current events.
This has to be corrected.
There is an African proverb which says, ‘Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.’
This serves as a reminder to Africans that until they tell their stories and glorify their achievements, praise their heroes and heroines, only the distorted tale by whites will carry the day.
It is the rich African history whites want blacks to forget.
It is the African heroes and heroines whites do not want celebrated.
However, the power is in the hands of Africans.
Until they make that conscious decision to celebrate themselves, their history will soon be forgotten.
One way of ensuring history is not lost is documenting past events for future generations.
It is refreshing to note that under this column a number of books written by local and African writers were reviewed.
These books spoke on issues that celebrate being African and how Africa has to search for home-grown solutions to solve problems it is facing.
The message was clear; Africans should not rely and depend on whites for assistance.
The book Fifty Years of African Independence Personal Reflections drawn on a lecture given by Thandika Mkandawire at the fifth anniversary of the OAU now African Union (AU) in 2013 at the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan African studies at the University of Dar Es Salaam, notes that the obvious challenge to every African leader after independence was keeping the new nation together.
Issa G Shivji in his Book: Fight My Beloved Continent: New Democracy in Africa highlighted the atrocities the African has been subjected to by the white man and the need to fight for total emancipation.
The journal titled African Journal of Political Economy: Africa’s International Relations edited by P Anyang’ Nyong’o carries papers interrogating issues of how Africa can utilise its position in the world and leverage its resources for its development.
Part of the foreword reads, “(the journal is ) a critique of development co-operation as it is practised today with respect to Africa; the African crisis itself as it expresses itself in both the economic and political spheres; issues of peace and security; the implications of the changing global order.”
Professor Arthur Mutambara penned his book In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream: An Autobiography of Thought Leadership (Volume 1) which deals with the author’s formative years and early professional career during his sojourn in the big wide world.
The move by Prof Mutambara is a step in the right direction as calls for notable figures in the society to write about their experiences are being heeded.
Having been subjected to a scenario where writers were rewarded for painting a gloomy picture of Africa, while those that celebrated being African where shunned, it is good to note local writers are speaking up against such practices.
In his book Death of the Commissar journalist-cum-writer Tichaona Zindoga spoke against the issue.
Social issues affecting African societies were also tackled by numerous writers.
In her book, Highway Queen, Virginia Phiri explored the hurdles that women and mothers in general go through in their quest to get the best for their children and spouses.
In the book Striving To Go Forward (The Spirit and Hope of Africa) by Ellen Miyona Mudzimu, the author is inspired by the works of her late father Silas German Mudzimu.
As has become the norm in the local book industry the annual Book Fair was held.
A two-day conference was convened marking the beginning of the Fair.
The conference ran under the theme; ‘Making the Book Pay.’
Writers sought to find ways to curb book piracy among other challenges affecting the book industry.
The proliferation of book street vendors is worrisome.
Most books on the streets are photocopies.
Writers and publishers are losing out.
Day two ran under the sub-theme: ‘Creating the Africa We Want Through Reading (Africa Agenda 2063)’.
The journey started by Africa’s founding fathers in 1963 with the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU) still continues.
Their efforts did not go to waste as the continent continues to celebrate their work and soldiers on in achieving their dreams.
It is this ‘dream’ local writers intend to help push.
For long, these men (founding fathers) who are the face of Africa, the spirit of Africa have not been celebrated.
It is sad to note that not much has been written from an African perspective.
As 2017 comes to an end, it is hoped more local writers will take up the challenge to support the education sector in keeping the country’s history alive.

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