Why should our creative genius remain idle?

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WHEN the Zimbabwe Heritage Trust (ZHT) hosted over 30 writers on August 18 2016 at Rainbow Towers in Harare, I assumed the workshop specifically meant to sensitise writers on the requirements of the new primary and secondary school curriculum and would turn out to be largely informational.
I was wrong.
It turned out to be one of those soul-searching sessions which most of us would like to go back to, repeatedly, in an attempt to grasp why, educated as we are, we are turning out to be a Nation of under-achievers.
It is undeniable that with over 92 percent literacy rate being achieved within 36 years of its existence, Zimbabwe deserves the bragging rights for hosting one of the most educated populations in Africa.
However, this success story is now being interrogated, ferociously, by the fact that not much has been done so far by the educated folks themselves to solve some of the persistent problems which afflict our Nation.
Here are some of the observations, both formal and informal, made during the said workshop and they are not flattering at all.
As educated folks, we have largely remained workers and not owners of business enterprises, buyers of other people’s commercial products and not producers of them, consumers of other people’s knowledge and not creators of it; we have remained importers and users of other people’s technologies and not inventors of them.
The question is why?
We are a people who wait for other races to produce knowledge for us, other races who struggle day and night wrestling with the elements of nature, trying to understand them in order to master them and use them to their advantage while we enjoy our sleep.
We only wake up late in the day to find out which of those latest inventions by other races should we import and from where?
That is, if we can afford them.
Take for instance, our ‘love affair’ with the Mercedes Benz, that expensive toy which our pampered elites cannot do without.
We love it and worship it and can do anything to buy it, not because it represents a level of technical competence which we should strive to master and possibly surpass to our advantage, but because it gives us a social status above the rest.
Such is the brutal banality of our ambitions!
Just to illustrate our dilemma as a people: Is it not true that we continue to import needles in order to sew our clothes?
Is it not true we cannot even make appropriate dolls for our toddlers and have to import them, that we cannot make bicycles in our own country and that we have to import those made for other regions different from ours because we know no better how to adapt and adjust what we import to suit our needs?
Is it not true that at best we can only assemble cars and not design them and make them; that in fact it never occurs to us that we should produce and use that which is made here, however big or small?
Is it not true that even the capacity for us to imagine ourselves inventing bits and pieces of technology in response to our local needs here in this land of Munhumutapa dwindled to zero a long time ago?
And that the position remains the same 36 years after gaining our independence.
During that time, not even one invention to show the world we are a normal people. Normal in the sense that our ancestors were normal when they designed and built up the Great Zimbabwe.
The question remains: What Zimbabwean inventions, creations, designs, architecture, templates, among other things, have we come up with, something to demonstrate that our creative imagination is now working at full throttle, now that we are free?
When our ancestors were defeated by the British, both in 1893 and in 1896/7, at least the majority of the weapons they used then were designed and made by them.
They lost the wars of the British invasion, but at least, they had the presence of mind to arm themselves with weapons they could produce with their own hands.
And the fact that Britain had to send big army reinforcements together with more maxim guns on two separate occasions during those wars in order to defeat us speaks volumes about how effective those home-made weapons of our ancestors were.
After using Russian and Chinese weapons from 1966 right up to 1979 in order to defeat the same British, is there one good reason why we have not yet invented our own home-grown weapons, as a way of safeguarding our security forever?
While other nations are doing exactly that, our only hope is to import.
In an attempt to understand this creative drought which continues to afflict us as a people here is how one of the presenters at the workshop, Heritage Publishing House Executive Editor Mashingaidze Gomo, underlined the importance of language, the mother tongue, as the foundation of everything, as something that needs to be handled with utmost care, right from childbirth, if we are to produce a creative Nation that looks after its interests:
“The mother tongue is critical heritage that makes all else possible because it is specifically made to make sense of the universe in a self-serving manner already tested by predecessors.
It is the primary repository of communal experience and therefore, software that hands over survival perceptions that cannot be handed over in blood.
It is the handover of culture.
The mother tongue is an inherited point of view/worldview – it means language is not neutral.”
The implications of this statement on educational aspects are too obvious to repeat.
Suffice to say that to impose the use of a foreign language like English on our toddlers is to alienate and displace them from society and from their heritage, from what should be their self-serving and inherited worldview.
The challenge we face here is how to dream big dreams in our languages, how to imagine and create what we need relying on the knowledge and values reposed in our languages, how to chart alternative and viable paths to our development in our own right and not necessarily for and in the interest of other races.
The point here is Zimbabwe has done well to expand our levels of literacy, but those levels are yet to generate real lasting value for the country.
And the reason is breathtakingly simple: Our education and therefore our forms of knowledge are made elsewhere, by others, who happen to be our former masters.
It is the kind of knowledge which we have not sweated for in an intimate and creative manner in order to produce it.
This is why we never regard such knowledge as ours; such knowledge remains associated with whites from elsewhere precisely because we cannot possess knowledge whose process of production we have not experienced or felt at all.
It is knowledge that we receive from others in a mechanical sort of way, borrowed or donated knowledge and not organic enough to unlock our original imagination.
We are taking long to realise that, according to Gomo: “Knowledge is power, knowledge is choice,” and that if we let others produce that knowledge for us, they will produce the kind of knowledge that will benefit them through us.
Our biggest tragedy as a people is lack of a true self-knowledge about ourselves, about our past and about all those wonderful deeds and inventions which our ancestors bequeathed to us from Egypt of the black Pharaohs of north Africa right down to the Great Zimbabwe of southern Africa.
We remain unanchored and directionless, a lost people and this largely explains why Western countries are having a field day manipulating us and exploiting us for their own good at our expense.

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