Have you ever sat in the presence of a great man and felt totally at ease? Ever spoken to a person that has travelled the world and felt as though you are talking with a friend? I wonder if you’ve come across a celebrity and though felt totally humbled to be next to this person, been treated as a complete equal while with him? No? Allow me to tell you of my experience of meeting such a person.
Personally I have met a number of famous people through my life. On the whole most of them have been full of their own importance, eager for you to hear of their exploits and haughty of their own success. On occasion I have met people that I consider to be more of a celebrity than perhaps others, and this could be the way such people are viewed by the international scale of A list sliding downwards, but potentially also because celebrities are different all over the world for cultures, creeds and traditions.
So the person of whom I speak, many would not give a moments second consideration for, but on the other hand where I come from the man in a pillar of society, a respected icon, and I discovered a man of warmth, passion and human intellect. I use these three words with special cause as I shall explain in a moment as I equate why I would set this celebrity aside from any of the others that I have met in my time. Some of you may agree with me, others might smack their lips and wonder what I have been drinking, but my reasons for these thoughts are genuine and heartfelt.
So let me introduce this man of which I speak so highly. While attending a function over the weekend I had the chance to sit and listen to the poetry of a man much covered in the media over the years. As I sat here wondering what I could say about a man that has accolades from any number of press agencies around the world, a man who’s won the heart of a nation and become a true representative to the Zimbabwean people, I felt there was nothing I could tell you that you have not already read in some write up here or there. But I was struck by something fundamentally different about this man. Despite who he was, regardless of his success and no matter with how much regard the world hold him in their eye, he is first and foremost a man, a father, a friend and a human.
Albert Nyathi speaks with an undeniable passion when he reads his poetry. To be totally honest I didn’t even know the man did poetry, I’d only heard mention of his name as a singer who has performed at many Zimbabwean functions, but I have since discovered that the man is a national asset for his work in the arts, both written, acted and performed. As I listened to the man give a number of renditions of his word, I was bemused at his over tones and theatrical presentation of his work, and was clearly watching a man who not only loved to perform through his words, but also thrived on the feeling that his words meant something to those sitting around him listening. Even when he was speeding through poems of the native Ndebele tongue, I was struck by a sense of involvement though I knew well I was unsure of what the words meant. As he explained each piece he had written, he took us down a path of adventure, even though we were sitting in a hall hired in the middle of Birmingham, I might as well have been walking a dusty path in rural Gwanda as I listened to him. I smiled, frowned, laughed, cringed, became involved and felt his words evoke emotions within me, especially when he recited his poem My Daughter. The man has a powerful presence in the room, and has mastered his trade well, but these are words you already know. These are things that have been written by every journalist who’s ever written a review on his performance.
So what is it then that made this man so special to me? It was meeting him in person after the performance. The Albert Nyathi that I sat and spoke with was a proud man who loves to tell a story, but is a humble man who has a warmth about him that makes you feel comfortable right there and then sitting chatting with him. I might as well have known the man all my life. He welcomed my questions and responded with truth, discussing his opinion freely and being the type of person that you’d expect to go out with on a Friday night, spend a quality night out with and go home having thoroughly enjoyed yourself in his company. He has a way of being completely attentive to everyone around him without really ignoring you and when he does communicate with you its genuine and real communication, not a prepared mish mash of words to make you feel you are in the presence of a great man.
So when I chose to describe Albert Nyathi as a man of warmth, passion and human intellect, I chose them because in my experience Albert Nyathi shows off everything that is good about Zimbabwe. He shows off a passionate side to his Africanism, that makes you admire where he has got to, the achievements he has made, and the pride he has brought to our nation, without losing any of his charm and humble nature as a Zimbabwean gentleman. He has a warmth that every true Zimbabwean displays and that I have written about before in previous posts on this blog, a nature that makes you feel welcome and cherished in a genuine way while you’re in his presence. And more importantly to me than anything else I could say about the man is that Albert Nyathi remains very much in touch with his place in society and through his intellect and humanism he inspires, touches and builds those around him up. When you leave having met this man, you have a warm glow of satisfaction, a positive feeling of respect for all that is good in this world, and it is his ability to touch your heart in this manner that leaves you satisfied at having spent time with a truly great man.
Zimbabwe is a great nation, and has produced a number of successful exports to the world of celebrity that we know so well, but I take a lot of comfort from the fact that in meeting Albert Nyathi, my pre-conceived notion that he would be like any other celebrity who has reached such high accolades throughout the world was shattered and I stand corrected that even through international success and recognition, Mr Nyathi is still a normal Zimbabwean in every way.