A personal reflection as researcher and participant
“Munhu, munhu nekuda kwevanhu”
- I am because we are. Shona Proverb
I am here because of the sacrifices that have been made by my parents, my grandparents and my great-great grandparents and my ancestors. Growing up I always knew that it was not only about me as an individual but it was about us as a collective. While I struggled understanding and pinpointing who and what ‘us’ was, I now know that my purpose is governed by the spirit of Ubuntu. Ubuntu states that all for one and one for all and in recent years it has been the underpinning philosophy of my thoughts and actions. This has been reflected in my quest to build a bridge over the gap that continuously subjects people of African descent to the equivalency of problematic, poor and almost inhumane. Connected to this gap is Chinua Achebe’s words “if you don’t like someone’s story write your own”.
Subjected to feelings of worthlessness, isolation, confusion, hate and pain; I spent my teenage years constantly running and seeking. I was a Zimbabwean girl living in the diaspora seeking for her identity and a place to belong. The search only resulted in self-hate, as the televisions represented people that looked like me as child soldiers, HIV/AIDS sufferers, poor refugees, welfare dependents, gangsters/thugs and ghetto mamas. The representation was on either extremes (1) problematic to society or (2) oversexualised tokensized manifestation of “black” culture.
As I was neither of those two representations, fitting in or belonging became a problem as those I interacted with experienced me with preconceived notions of who I was based on the knowledge they had acquired of people like myself through the media. It was not until my father gifted me ‘Things fall apart’ on my 17th birthday that I began to understand the cause of the plight of my people and elements of my culture that have been concealed. It was then that I decided that instead of running away from the one-dimensional narratives, it was time to face them by creating narratives of my people. After all when writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen. For so long the narratives and stories of people of African descent have been written by everyone else but us, it is only time we took the pen back and begun to write our own story.