It is so easy to focus our attention on the bad in Zimbabwe. So much of the news pouring out of one of the finest nations I know, is pure evil. On the face of it, Zimbabwe has the worst reputation for a failed economy, political corruption, human rights abuses, and a host of other problems. It is a country struggling to survive with a window of opportunity that is always half closed as the people of Zimbabwe are the ones that suffer daily as a result of international failure to face the problem head on.
It is little wonder when you talk to almost anyone from Zimbabwe that one of the first things that we tend to talk about is the state of our home land. As a Zimbabwean myself, I am often asked the deep probing questions that leave you discussing the failure of Zimbabwe’s politicians to be upstanding, proud leaders of their people. Very often I find that I dodge the questions by saying I am South African, just to avoid yet another depressing conversation about one man and his honcho’s greed.
Allow me to pose a question then. I know that it is the job of the news to follow politics, and to find out about the state of play in a country. Yes the media must concentrate their attention on news worthy stories and things that matter, but I am often left wondering about the good things that happen in a country. What about the good that comes out of the harsh realities of living in such difficult conditions? Ok yes, I am not advocating that Zimbabweans are lying about the conditions that they have to endure in living within the failed state. But I have to be honest when I say that I feel that as Zimbabweans we are perhaps blinded by the ills of our nation to see the beauty of our country, its people and the things that come out of Zimbabwe. What about the good of Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwean art is just one thing that springs to mind. Our stone carvers are second to none in the word in my opinion. Yet we forget about the humble stone carver. I look at the cloth that traditional Zimbabwean dresses are made from and I am often amazed at the colours, patterns and designs that appear. Some Zimbabwean Tie and Die artists produce truly amazing works of art. It’s a fact that many international art dealers return year on year to Zimbabwe to buy cheap art products and return to New York, Sydney, London, Milan and other cities all around the world where these works are sold for considerably more than they were bought for. I have been into these stores of international art. I can quite comfortably say that when put up against art from other African countries, Zimbabwean art stands out from the crowd. Yet we forget this, and are shy to admit it publicly. It is easier to talk about the difficulties of finding work than seeing the potential that Zimbabwean art presents to us to open the doors of discovery and new conversation.
I know for a fact that we come from one of the most amazing countries on this planet in terms of scenery. Yes there are countries all over the world that have places that are breath taking and beautiful, butZimbabwe… As a country the whole nation is breathtaking and beautiful. Ok yes I am biased as it is the place of my birth, but in reality Zimbabwe is so much more than that. It is one of the last remaining places on earth that you can see a White Rhino running wild. It has some of the greatest numbers of wildlife on the African continent. Elephants, leopards, gazelle. Its open savannah is home to some of the most incredible creatures that god chose to create. And they all call Zimbabwe home. But it is not only the wild life that you can go on about. From the highlands to the valleys there is always something of beauty found nowhere else in the world that you can stop and stare at. Victoria Falls, the Save River, The Limpopo, Hwange Game Reserve, Mutusodona Mountains, Lake Kariba, Matopos Hills, Chimanimani, Mazvikadei, Honde Valley, Great Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, the mighty Zambizi. I could go on and on listing sights and places of majesty, adventure and heart stopping beauty. Admittedly this is one of the things that you frequently hear Zimbabwean’s talking about, but it’s not something you see in the press or talked about by the media very often, and I think it is a shame that some of the most spectacular landscape in the world isn’t talked about more often.
The average Zimbabwean is a good person. A great friend, a hard worker, someone determined to be the best that they can be in life. Most of them just want a chance to live and be happy, put food on the table, pay their bills, drive a car, and be able to go watch a movie when they want too. They are normal people just like you and me. They read the newspaper, complain about the weather, worry about their children, moan at the bank rates and get on with life. I love Zimbabwean people. They are passionate, funny, easy to please, and willing to give everything they have to treat you well as a guest. I challenge anyone to visit a Zimbabwean village, even in these tough times and get a more heart warming and genuine welcome anywhere else in the world. Show me any place on earth where the people will go without just to ensure that their guest is well fed, well looked after and treated with respect and reverence. This is probably their short coming as a people. They are more concerned with making their elders, guests and leaders feel respected and important than taking the bull by the horns and getting rid of the rot that erodes their country from within.
Show me a British kid who given a box full of fencing wire would create a BMW. Or any European child who given a plastic packet creates a football to kick around a dusty pitch after school. I admire the way that Zimbabwean’s take their lot and learn to live with it. They create a lifestyle for themselves in any given situation. This I believe comes from being forced for so many years to live without. Watching through the wires from within their tribal trust lands, Zimbabwean children learnt skills that modern society could never dream to posses. A generation of people that now live under a tyrant who is not interested in sharing his power with his people, leaders who rise up and are corrupted and warped by the riches and power that comes with being elected into the halls of power within Zimbabwe, and an international community that far too easily turns its back on its responsibilities of demanding for free, fair and equal democracy throughout the world.
We as Zimbabwean people are frequently guilty of selling Zimbabwe short. Yes the country faces a whole dynamic that is unheard of in any other nation in the modern world. Yes we face challenges that no other community has ever had to face as a creed of people. I believe that is all the more reason for us to present a united front. It is time to call endlessly and incessantly for change. Daily we should be forming alliances with each other. Networking and meeting with like minded people, who are passionate about all things good in Zimbabwe. Let us begin to take pride in our nation. Let’s start to talk up the good points of Zimbabwe. I am proud to say I have been to the villages and eaten sadza and lacto, and enjoyed it. I’ve had a braii on the banks of Lake Kariba and eaten fresh bream I caught that afternoon. I am proud to say I am a supporter of Dynamos football team, even though I am from Mashonaland. I’ve watched Lions hunting and enjoyed seeing elephants up close. I love the tie and die print I have hanging on my wall in my office. These are the good things that I remember from Zimbabwe. These are the things that I want to be talking about when I speak with Zimbabweans. Our country is a great place. Our people are beautiful people, and we should be so damn proud to be Zimbabwean. I really believe that we should begin to set aside our differences, and unite as a nation, as a people and make every effort to give Zimbabwe a good name once more. Let’s be an African leader among nations, not an African disaster. Let’s have a reason to shout loudly that we are Zimbabwean and not quietly avoid conversation by saying we are South African. Zimbabwe. Let’s be proud to say that name.