Because we are not in our country, we could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised.No Violet Bulawayo, Zimbabwean Author
Thinking of Home, for me, is an exercise of coming to terms with my own humanity. My life story and my relationship with my country is, in the African tradition, the continuation of the story of those that came before. In Bantu culture, the individual belongs to the collective as much as they do to themselves. This is part of my identity I have only recently come to fully appreciate. ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’, is a Zulu saying which translates in English to mean – ‘A person is a person through other people’. Therefore, my story is simply a branch part of the great baobab tree that narrates my forebears and my people.
I was born in the early 90s in a small North London hospital to Zimbabwean immigrants. As a child of the diaspora, yearning to feel more connected to my Home was a need I felt before I even knew how to express it. In my adult life I am in many ways still this child. Remaining connected to Home through music, language, culture, literature is a necessity. My parents were born in Apartheid Rhodesia, their story emanates from the struggle of black emancipation. Their love-story of guerrilla war comrades entails loss and sacrifice that permeates through the years. As a child of comrades you inherit in equal parts pain and promise, a profound sense of power and pride that paradoxically renders all your achievements to ultimately pale in comparison.
As I write of Home, we are on the eve of the 36th Anniversary of Independence. 18th April – Independence Day is for Zimbabweans, like many other Africans, an opportunity to celebrate freedom from the shackles of colonialism and a moment to reflect on how far we have progressed in attaining the goals of the liberation struggle. The latter exercise is all too often a painful one, conjuring a collective sense of disappointment. We have clearly not fully realised emancipation as Zimbabweans, three decades apart a distinct yet persistent suffering endures. The images of the Rhodesian police savaging black Africans with German shepherds are not dissimilar from the brutal beatings civilians and members of opposition parties are subjected to today. Quite often I associate Home with hollow futility and helplessness. There is an overwhelming dearth of appalling statistics on poverty, unemployment, gender inequality and sexual abuse, access to education. These statistics manifest into tangible evils, all stemming from the failure to lead our country to a better tomorrow. In the minds of many my Home conjures a carousel of news reports of deranged despots, scrambles for farmland and economic free-fall. The humanity and dignity of Zimbabweans is relegated to a secondary notion hovering somewhere in the ether.
Our leaders do not lead, so our children are lost
Our leaders do not have the answers, so our children are visionless
Our leaders do not have values, so our children have no legacy
Our leaders have no ideas, so our children cannot live
We are free but still in shackles
So often I find myself yearning for a Home that may no longer exist. I return Home for holidays to find that we have taken a few steps forward only to take several steps backwards. I return to familiar places like a ghost lingering in haunts now out of grasp. I return to find people whom I loved either changed or gone further than where I can reach them.
This is not a piece on how best to tackle the challenges of nation-building. This is more an expression of my enduring belief that that our collective humanity as Zimbabweans shall eventually prevail. I am conscious as I sit in comforts of the cushy diaspora, of the inherent hypocrisy of how easy is it for me to write in favour of optimism. I remain positive because as much as there is suffering there is always hope. My Home is abundant; our resources are glorious and warm, our soil is red as though tinged with the blood of those who laid down their lives in the hope of the possibility to realise a better tomorrow. What a miracle that we are still standing in spite of all the strife. There is a quiet resilience and enduring dignity among my people. Are we not a people of small miracles? How could we not derive pride from our mere existence in the face of overbearing clouds of uncertainty, violence and turmoil.
I want my Home to be a home again for all. I know that while my Home may seem worlds apart from where I am, I keep it close to my heart. Each day I am the new storyteller in my lineage fulfilling the story of my parents; to leave Home and return. I want to return Home not as a hollow shadow of my former self but as a child of the soil, determined to complete my branch of the narrative with compassion, love and dignity. I am one Zimbabwean with a single story and experience. I am also reflected in and a reflection of 14 million others who share our Homeland and heritage. My hope is that aside from the tangible real-life ways in which we should map out pragmatic programs to face the socio-economic challenges we can approach it with a sense of togetherness and integrity.
If my father and mother, a world away from Home, could find a love that has endured decades and the remnants of the horrors of civil war – there remains promise for the singular and collective.
Tonderai Regina Mudambo
Tonderai is sometimes a lover, sometimes a fighter. Her repertoire consists of gangster-rap, african-literature and throwing shade. Most likely to be found roaming the streets of London with her camera, notebook and side-eye at the ready. Approach with caution, or chocolate.
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