A few months back I attended a black history month symposium that had one of the most candid discussions on our spirituality that I have ever been part of. While the symposium was themed around black health and wellness with a focus on alternative medicines, the elephant in the room was the side discussion on how we are a lost generation out of touch with our roots and spirituality.
One of the panelists Sekuru Jonathan Goredema a traditional healer and cultural practitioner, as he was introducing himself shared on how being a traditional healer was viewed by society as a craft to be embarrassed about, as if he dabbled in some sordid practice. To lighten the conversation, he joked about how the coronavirus had been a blessing in disguise, as it made everyone a traditional healer. The pandemic brought people back to their roots, to trying out traditional remedies for the dreaded corona.
Sekuru Joe hypothesized that some of the problems that are plaguing the nation and individuals stem from how we have neglected the spiritual aspects of our indigenous cultures in favour of adopted western knowledge systems and traditions. He worried that the knowledge he carries would one day be lost to the wind, yet he potentially knew cures to common and chronic ailments people suffer from. He could not even openly make a claim of an ability to heal cancer or chronic illnesses because world standards would immediately classify him as a quack and have him arrested.
Another panelist Sekuru Chamunorwa Mashoko a cultural practitioner also touched on a somewhat similar thread while responding to how we need a mindset shift towards our traditional knowledge systems. He highlighted how we send our kids to school to get an education, we rejoice when they get good grades… but what are they really learning, what are they being top of the class in knowing about?
This rhetorical question had me thinking and questioning. In case you missed the memo back in school I was a straight A student… the only subject I did not get an A was Shona which I got a B – I imagine people would have reacted differently if I had got a B in English instead – Considering that being able to converse in English is regarded by some folk as a measure of intelligence, indigenous languages take a back a seat. Again, one has to ask what are we learning?
Dr Ignatius Tirivangani Mabasa, a renowned author was the keynote speaker at the same symposium. Incidentally, I first got acquainted with Dr I.T. Mabasa through his works in the poetry anthology we had to study for Shona Literature – Tipeiwo Dariro *the one I got my sole B pass in* The world has a way of going a full circle. He shared an interesting perspective about African and Zimbabwean literature which I found mind blowing.
If you will recall from a previous article I shared about the book that introduced me to African Literature…. To be honest before then I never quite liked to read African Literature I found it to be heavy-handed, rigid, difficult, and at times oppressive -like trying to compress our entire history into a hard-hitting grand narrative. Dr IT Mabasa shared his observation on how our first generation of indigenous authors, Patrick Chakaipa, Solomon Mutsvairo, Father Ribeiro were a product of their times, educated by missionaries who were tasked with Native Education by the colonial administration.
Our early writers when they finished their education either became teachers or priests, for example, Father Chakaipa and Father Ribeiro. Their writings served the role of watchdogs for morality and good values. Their bodies of work showcased a certain admiration and veneration of the European lifestyle. Our way of life suddenly aspired to match those standards as those who first held the pen to tell our stories told it from the lens of their education.
In a previous article, I wrote about my visit to Great Zimbabwe – I felt my experience of the ancient ruins was incomplete without a tour guide to explain the significance and put everything into perspective. I can’t just pick up any old book and find the answers as easily as I can find information on the Stone Henge. Interestingly in my quest, I did find an informative text by R. N. Hall originally published in 1905 a difficult read and not too kind to the “native narrative”
And as for our spirituality – we have to find what keeps us grounded, for the longest of time we have let the shadows of others define who we should be and tell us who we are, told our stories for us, but we are awakening. We still have a long way to go – to get to the place where we can make peace with the people we have become.
Week 4 Stories Of Our World WinterABC