Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Vanhu Vekwedu Vanotya Mwari (Our People Are God-Fearing): The Valorisation of Zimbabwe in Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave's Wenyasha ndeWenyasha

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Vanhu Vekwedu Vanotya Mwari (Our People Are God-Fearing): The Valorisation of Zimbabwe in Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave's Wenyasha ndeWenyasha

Article excerpt

Introduction

The "Zimbabwean crisis", that is, socio-economic and political challenges between 2000 and 2008, witnessed a marked rise in the movement of citizens out of the country into neighbouring countries and beyond. This "Zimbabwean Exodus" instigated considerable soul searching by the nation's creative artists. Gospel musicians and church leaders were actively involved in this process. At the height of the "crisis," the image of Zimbabwe suffered significantly. Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans came to signify suffering and hopelessness for many, and many holders of Zimbabwean passports endured humiliation at the hands of hostile citizens in Southern Africa and beyond (Chidori 2013). However, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, a gospel musician adopted a "proudly Zimbabwean" posture in her album, "Wenyasha ndeWenyasha" (2012) wherein she celebrates Zimbabweanness, critiques the Diaspora and challenges the negative portrayals of Zimbabwe. And therefore, she effectively becomes Zimbabwe's ambassador, using her Pentecostal identity to construct a new and empowering image of the nation to confirm Bakare's (1997) contention that music plays an important role in Africa.

Hence, in that context, this article describes Zvakavapano-Mashavave's reconstruction of Zimbabwe to suggest that she succeeded in projecting a liberating and proud image of Zimbabwe. And furthermore, as some critics (cf Palmberg 2004) charge that gospel music is apolitical, we argue that gospel music has always had a distinctively political role in Zimbabwe, and contextually, Rwafa, Viriri and Vambe (2013) have also suggested that Zvakavapano- Mashavave's gospel music is associated with liberation theology as Magosvongwe (2008) discusses her approach in relation to the themes of emancipation and empowerment. And while we appreciate such insights, we proceed to highlight aspects of Zvakavapano-Mashavave's social location that enable her to articulate nationalist sentiments and contend that she has succeeded in challenging the negative portrayals of Zimbabwe and in turn has advanced national pride and identity, as we also draw attention to some of contestable assertions she presents.

Pride Lost, Pride Regained: Setting the Scene

Zvakavapano-Mashavave is not the first Zimbabwean artist to extol the country. In the 1980s, the fervour associated with independence saw many musicians celebrating the country. Paul Matavire's hit song, "Mwari Wakada Zimbabwe" (God Loved Zimbabwe) projected Zimbabwe in idyllic terms. Another musical group, the Children of Nandi, also had a popular song, "Meet Me in Zimbabwe" which topped the charts in 1986. These songs portrayed Zimbabwe positively, suggesting that God had favoured the nation, and in particular, Matavire described the popular tourist resorts, such as the Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe, Matobo National Park (Matopos) and others as he conceded that he had no choice but to celebrate Zimbabwe, since it was natural for one to be proud of his/her identity. And thus, Matavire appealed to the Shona philosophy that every drum proclaims its greatness whenever it is beaten, thus, "chagara chinoti pangu pangu, pangu pa Zimbabwe." (When one is faced with competition or adversary, one promotes his/her own interests or priorities).

The first two decades (1980-2000) generally went fairly well for the fledging nation. Zimbabwe attained rapid progress in social service delivery, uplifting the lives of the black majority. It became the pride of many in the region, with Zimbabweans being associated with educational advancement. The country's manufacturing sector was expanding and many people from neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Malawi and Zambia came to buy basic foodstuffs in Zimbabwe. Some Mozambicans also came to seek employment as casual labourers. The country's international image was a positive one: the policy of national reconciliation was recognised as a master-stroke that created racial harmony. This was well before the notion of South Africa as a "rainbow nation" became fashionable. …

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