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First Impression: Kenrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterlfy”

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‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ album cover.

Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ was released a week early a couple days ago. I finally managed to give it a listen for the first time last night. I started listening to it at around 10pm. I was still listening to it when I fell asleep sometime after 2am. A whole 4 hours later. I listened to a couple more times when I got up in the morning and have been listening to it most of today. That I gave it a couple of spins on first contact is testament of how immersive the listening experience has been so far. So is the fact that I have voraciously read up on anything related to the album in between listens. That I am sitting here writing about it also speaks to how much the album has hijacked my attention and titillated my curiosity. However, this is not a review per se. But more an attempt to unpack and process some of the initial feelings I had listening to the album in the last 24 hours.

This is one is going to be a doozy.

Even after the repeated rotation I can’t seem to make up my mind (yet) how I feel about this album. I know it is special and I really appreciate its musicality. I just can’t figure out if I love it. But I do know I want to love it, badly. I am also sure that is it a great piece of art. It’s cinematic in its scope and shares the same unfathomable complexity of some of the books I have felt compelled to re-read. ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is a demanding and at times challenging listen. And I can’t stop listening to it. And therein lays its genius and appeal for me. With each listen I find myself trying to dig deeper so I can catch every reference, idea and emotion. I’m still hearing new stuff and I’m sure I’ll continue to discover new things weeks from now. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an album to contemplate and examine as much as it is a groovy album with beautiful musicality. And for me that was as intriguing as it was contradictory. Which I suspect is what Kendrick was trying to go for, especially when you consider the album title itself.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a really evocative title. Not just for an album, but any work of art. Period. The writer in me loves the contradictory nature of that statement. There is so much imagery packed into it. The title seems more literary than anything, and the album seems to fall into this discussion of life and the ills of both success and blackness. Kendrick himself has alluded to it being a play on ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ a novel by Harper Lee that deals with racial inequality and is considered a modern American classic. Kendrick himself has stated that he believes ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ will be taught in university course in the future. No pressure there, I guess.

‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is an album that is as multi-layered as it is richly textured. Musically, contextually and lyrically. It is as colourful as it is monochromatic. It hijacks your attention 80 minutes at a time. Sonically I love the direction that Kendrick went on this album. I found the jazzy and funk influences refreshing. Although from the get go I did pick a sombre and at times melancholic vibe which is an interesting juxtaposition to the funky beats. There are also parts of the album where Hip Hop meets neo soul. And even some spoken word. Admittedly these parts can feel a bit pretentious, if not cheesy. And I can see that putting of those who want that hip-hip, it don’t stop.  But in the bigger picture of the album, it works. T

Contextually and lyrically ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is a lot to process. Even as a black person I found the ‘politics of blackness’ of it confrontational and overwhelming in parts. Although I suspect that might have to do with different nuances of my personal African experience and the wider African-American experience. Kendrick though makes a strong case for the universality of the broader black experience with his comparisons of the Xhosa-Zulu conflict with that of the Blood and Crips gangs of LA in the fantastically belligerent ‘The Blacker The Berry’ which had been released as a single prior to the album release. The ‘politics of blackness” is not the entire focus of the album though. Throughout the album you are can pick up more universal themes like dealing with societal pressure, being lost  and consumed by the situation you’ve been put into, finding yourself and achieving self-fulfilment. Like I said before, this is a layered album. And I am looking forwarding to peeling back those layers over the next couple of weeks.

The highlights so far….

‘Alright’ is the early stand out track for me. Mostly because it has such a positive vibe to it. ‘How Much Does A Dollar Cost?’ is also such an introspective song and resonates the most of all the songs on the album. Finally the interview with Tupac and the explanation of the title knocked me off my feet.

Consider this butterfly pimped.

One more thing ….

‘This dick ain’t freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee …..’

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Culture Vulture

 

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The Makings Of A Man: 31 Things The Last Year Taught Me

 

On the eve of my 31st birthday I caught myself devouring a shawarma wrap with such unthinking and savage dexterity that I actually had to take a pause and reflect on life itself. And in the middle of that pause all the ambivalence I had been nursing about turning 31 dissipated. In its place was a renewed enthusiasm. Suddenly celebrating my last calendar birthday (Apparently it’s a thing.) didn’t seem so frivolous.

I realise that this could be the most meaningful year of my life yet. In the bigger scheme of things 31 has its place. It’s a year-long step into the thirties. 52 more weeks away from the glorious twenties and one more step into the rest of my life.

Starring down at what was left of that shawarma I realised I have so much to be thankful for. I am eating. I am here. Not everyone made it this far. These years are blessings.

My twenties were all over the place. It was a decade of constantly moving between cities, countries and continents. My twenties were all about risky behaviour, confident assertions, and delusions of having it all figured out by 30. It was the decade of were trial and error was my modus operundi.

Not so much with my thirties.

Being just one year in, I can already tell that the thirties will be very different. My thirties are going to be the decade of negotiating my most precious resource, my time. It is going to be the decade of deciding what to ignore and what to peer into. My thirties are going to be about appreciating the deliciousness of slowing down and turning inward. This next decade will be about which parts of me get refined and which get sacrificed among the embers.

The way 30 delightfully whizzed past me, I can tell that my entire thirties could end up as a breathless blur. Like the gap of white space between a before and after photo between the twenties and forties. And this only serves to encourage me to live each day to the fullest and to create memories with the people that matter.

And to think it took me eating a shawarma wrap to finally embrace becoming a thirty something. I know. I am a weirdo, and I am so random, but I actually cool with that. I like the person I am becoming. I like the person I have grown into. Even if it’s not every one’s cup of tea.

Life is crazy and beautiful like that.

It’s become something of a tradition since I started this blog to share some of the lessons I learned during the year. I always try to do this around the time of my birthday. And this year is no different. So …

Here are the 31 things I learned in the last year.

 

  1. Becoming a writer was the easy part. Staying a writer, much harder
  2. Time has a great way of revealing intentions, the truth and character. Trust time. Time always does its work.
  3. You can’t learn if you aren’t willing to listen.
  4. You will have bad times , but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.
  5.  The internet is always in a constant state of either making you feel better or worse about your life. Just depends on the day. Also, The Humans Of New York Facebook page just might be my favourite on all the internets.
  6. Happiness depends on knowing when to be kind to yourself. Purpose, on when to be tough on yourself.
  7. There is a vast difference between advancement and culture. You can be advanced and modern without losing your culture.
  8. You don’t get to chase a new dream and keep your old life. When it’s time to dream be brave enough to leave behind the things you must.
  9. I still don’t understand how one would sip from one’s cup til it runneth over. Regardless Jay Z is still the King of the double entendre and metonym.
  10. Conversations that unlock a picnic in our minds, a paradise for our souls to meet. Delicate sips of an intoxicating essence. That.
  11. Understanding that acceptance is a form of understanding is one the greatest of understandings to understand.
  12. I have been supporting Manchester United for twenty one years now. And until David Moyes happened I had no idea what heartbreak really felt like.
  13. I love the smell of rain. Only a few things are more soothing than the soft thrum of raindrops falling outside my window.
  14. The harder we try to escape who truly are, the further we get from lives of meaning.
  15. The man who knows “how” will always have a job, the man who also knows “why” will always be his boss.
  16. Sam Smith is a really soulful dude. You actually feel his voice before you hear it. Also, ‘Latch’ (Acoustic version) makes you want to never fall in love, but fall in love at the same time.
  17. The ability to say NO out of respect for your well-being is a priceless life skill. When you can do it with ease, you avoid so much torment.
  18. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass. (See, it’s a thing.)
  19. The only thing that keeps me sane is reading and all these attempts at trying to nurture my own intellectual development.
  20. Most people will hardly understand what you’re trying to do until it’s done.
  21. Victory introduces you to the world, but defeat introduces the world to you.
  22. Life is a language we will never be fluent in. But that shouldn’t stop us from learning it even with all the mistakes it may come with.
  23. In solitude and silence many questions are answered.
  24. There is eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.
  25. The difference between success and failure is just a decision to keep trying.
  26. “Apologies” and “Thank You’s” are the best way to create a conversation on your terms.
  27.  There is no easy way out for big problems; but there is always a way out
  28. Experience is what you get just after you need it.
  29. ‘Bae’ is such a beautifully ambiguous word. And even though I have used  fleek’ on occasion, I am still not entirely sure if I use it correctly.
  30. There is no such thing as life that’s better than yours. No. Such. Thing.
  31.  Do you. Always.

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Totems And The Art of Shona Praise Poetry – The Lost Language Of Our Ancestors

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Monkeys are amazing creatures, swinging our way with messages of intelligence, intensity and involvement. They are as playful as they are entertaining. Monkeys also have a strong capacity for compassion, understanding and bonding. Monkeys are also one of the many totem animals among the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

A bit of background…

In Shona culture, totems (mutupo) are usually names of animals which the individual is likened to in terms of character and personality. A totem originates from one individual (the ancestor) and is passed on to the descendants of the individual. Totems are often used to praise a person for their good deeds, to seek the favour from someone who is at higher position or to address kings and chiefs.

According to Alec J.C. Pongweni author of Shona Praise Poetry As Role Negotiation:

Shona praise poetry has its origins in the totemic system. In the totemic system a clan associates itself with an animal, for example, Shumba – Lion, Soko – Monkey, Mhofu – Beast, etc. This animal is chosen because of certain admirable characteristics of appearance, demeanour and hunting tactics or the manner in which it feeds.

The members of the clan are supposed to emulate these traits.

The praise poem (detembo) is derived from the characteristics of the totem animal as well as those presented by the clan. These could be their famous victories, failures which cast them to the ground, their struggles for recognition, their idiosyncrasies, favourite food, and many other traits.

The praise poem (detembo) is basically a song of flattery recited as a reward for socially commendable acts. Praise poems (detembo) serve to build confidence and self esteem for the individuals being praised, creating a sense of worth and identity in a person.

Totems and praise poems are two different things. A totem (mutupo)  is used to address its bearer. A praise poem (detembo) is used to thank the bearer of the totem. According to Pongweni, young children are not supposed to be thanked by their praise poems; they are thanked by their totems only. Praise poems are for grownups, especially those who are married. Girls are never thanked by their fathers praise poems; they are thanked only by their totems. If they grow up they will be thanked by their husbands praise poems, if they are married. The boys also will be thanked by their praise poems if they marry a wife.

Learning the praise poetry for my totem…

For the better part of this year I have been trying to get members of my extended family to teach me how to recite the Shona praise poetry (detembo) for my totem Soko, the monkey. Finding someone to teach me this detembo proved to be more difficult than I had initially anticipated.  For starters many members of my family are spread not only across Zimbabwe, but across the world. And despite the ubiquity of technology in our lives which has made it easier to stay in touch with my aunts and uncles both in the rural areas and in Diaspora I was still unable to make any headway. No one seemed to know the proper detembo for our totem Soko.

When I had initially taken my parents to task as part of the research for my book they confessed to only having a vague idea on how to recite the praise poetry for my totem Soko (the monkey). My parents and everyone else I asked kept referring to my late great aunt (my paternal grandfather’s sister) who from all accounts was a renowned reciter of the praise poetry of our clan. However, in a complete betray of the oral traditions that are deeply ingrained in our Shona culture no one I had access to had learned this most fascinating form of verbal artistry from her. This didn’t sit well with me. And the more I thought about this the more obsessed I became with learning the detembo for Soko, if only for posterity’s sake.  Surely someone in our clan who I might not be immediately related to would know. They had to.

To be fair, I did learn a thing or two that I hadn’t known before. One uncle shared with me an anecdote about how our totem, the monkey taught the white men how to sit on chairs. The white men he said to me, learned how to sit on chairs by watching and copying how the monkeys sat on branches. Because of this people who had the monkey as their totem were revered for their ingenuity amongst other traits. However, he couldn’t quite remember whether this anecdote was actually part of the detembo or if it was just a story he had been told when he was younger.

 

All this happened at the top of the year and between then and as recently as this past weekend I hardly made any further progress in my quest. In fact I had put the whole thing at the back of my mind.

That was until I finally caught a break from the most unlikely of sources, the ordination ceremony of a Catholic priest. My mother, a staunch catholic attended the ordination ceremony of a priest from our local parish. To those unfamiliar with ordination ceremonies (like I was), they are basically the Priesthoods equivalent of a marriage ceremony. In this case the priest is marrying the ‘church’. Anyway as part of the celebrations the parish women decided to recite the detembo for the priest in question. And as luck would have it this particular priest was a Soko.

Things got even better when the Priests father, in effort to make sure that the detembo was recited accurately gave each the women (my mother included) printed copies of the detembo to recite. And that is how I came to be in possession of a written copy of the detembo for my totem Soko.

But wait, it gets better …

There is more…

According to Shona oral traditions, the adoption of totemism is associated with the earliest known ancestor of the Shona people, Mambiri . He chose the Soko (Monkey) totem to guard against incestuous behaviour and also for the social identity of his followers. This took place in a mythical place called Guruuswa, which was located somewhere north of the Zambezi River in southern Tanganyika. As the early Shona grew in number and marriage became difficulty, due to the fact that they practiced the custom of exogamy (marrying only outside one’s clan), there was need to adopt a second totem. The Shava/Mhofu (Eland) totem was therefore adopted so as to enable intermarriage between members of the two totems to take place. In contemporary Shona society there are at least 25 identifiable totems (mitupo).

By that account, that actually makes my totem Soko, the monkey one of the originals.

This is also something that is detailed in the praise poetry for my totem which I have  shared below in both its original Shona form as well as an accompanying English version.

 

Soko

Ewoi Soko,

Vhudzijena, Mukanya

Hekanhi Mbereka

Makwiramiti, mahomu-homu

Vanopona nekuba

Vanamushamba negore

Makumbo mana muswe weshanu

Hekani Soko yangu yiyi

Vakaera mutupo umwe nashe

Vana VaPfumojena

Vakabva Guruuswa

Soko Mbire yaSvosve

Vanobva Hwedza

Vapfuri vemhangura

VekuMatonjeni vanaisi vemvura

Zvaitwa matarira vari mumabwe

Mhanimani tonodya, svosve tichobovera

Maita zvenyu rudzi rukuru

Matangakugara

Vakawana ushe neuchenjeri

Vakufamba hujeukidza kwandabva

Pagerwe rinongova jemedzanwa

Kugara hukwenya-kwenya

Vari mawere maramba kurimba

Vamazvikongonyadza kufamba hukanyaira

Zvibwezvitedza, zvinotedzera vari kure

Asi vari padyo vachitamba nazvo

Zvaitwa mukanya rudzi rusina chiramwa

Maita vari Makoromokwa, Mugarandaguta

Aiwa zvaonekwa Vhudzijena

 

Translated into English

Thank you Soko

White-hair, The Pompous one

Thank you Bearer of Children

The Tree-climber, one-who-always-barks

Those who survive by stealing

Those who bath only once in a year

Those who have four legs, the tail being the fifth

Thank you very much my dear Soko

Those who have the same totem as the chief

The descendants of Pfumojena

Those who came from Guruuswa

Soko Mbire of Svosve

Those who come from Hwedza

The iron-smelters

The rain-makers of Matojeni

A good service has been done the alert one, those in the rocks

We eat centipedes, we throw ants into our mouths

Thank you for the good service, great lineage

The original inhabitants

Those who obtained chieftainship through shrewdness and diplomacy

The one who constantly looks back when moving

Wherever they settle there is quarreling and crying

When seated you are constantly scratching your body

Those always on the cliffs, who refused to till the land

The pompous one who walks proudly

The Slippery-rocks that are slippery to those come from afar

But is friendly to those in the vicinity

It has been done, a lineage that does not refuse to perform a task no matter how it is treated

Those on the steep rocks and cliffs, one-who-rests-only-when-he-is-full

Indeed your kindness has been seen, White-hair

 

From the English version of the poem, the praises “White hair”, “Bearer of children”, “Those who have four legs, the tail being the fifth”, for instance, makes reference to the behaviour of the animal totem. However, praises like “Those who have the same totem as the chief”, “Those who come from Guruuswa”, “The descendants of Pfumojena”, “The rain-makers of Matonjeni”, “Those who come from Hwedza”, “The Iron-smelters”, refer to the history and the professions of the long departed ancestors of the clan.

And there you have it, I finally know the praise poetry for my totem. In the process I have learned a little bit more about the history of my ancestors. Something I am sure was always part of the motivation behind the use of praise poetry.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Excitable Cells and Endocrine Systems

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My Alma Mater La Trobe University’s Institute for Molecular Science: A state-of-the-art facility for molecular science, biotechnology and nanotechnology research. (Photo credit : La Trobe University)

I have got a story to tell. Many years ago during my second year of university one of the units I was studying was a subject called Excitable Cells and Endocrine Systems. It was a deeply fascinating and engaging subject. The unit basically dealt with intricacies and different functionalities of the many individual and functional systems of the human body. It also touched on the relationship between those systems and the different chemicals found in the human body. Excitable Cells and Endocrine Systems helped foster an appreciation in me of the amazing integrated functioning of the human body. Despite all these fascinating aspects that is not why this particular unit left an indelible mark on my mind. The reason I remember it so much even after all these years is because this was the first and only time in my life I got pulled up on plagiarism charges. And yes I was very much guilty of the intellectual crime I stood accused of.

Having left it till the very last minute to research, let alone write up my major assignment for that unit I took the easy route and basically googled my assignment. Even worse still I then went out on to just copy and paste what I had googled. I made no effort to alter it in any way. I reasoned that because I was copying and pasting from different sources I was doing ‘research’. I was lying to myself. What I was doing was plagiarism. I was stealing other people’s intellectual property and unashamedly presenting it as my own. In case you live under a rock and are not aware this is unacceptable in both academic circles in most endeavours that entail intellectual property. If you are going to use someone’s intellectual property at the very least you have to credit your source. I didn’t do that either.

Besides my outright laziness and procrastination one of the other reasons I had no qualms was because of the educational system and learning culture I was raised in. High school education in Zimbabwe, long regarded as one of the ‘best’ systems in Africa was examination/test focused. To my knowledge that is still the case even today. Everything you did and all that you learned was with a singular focus in mind, excelling in your final exams. It was as simple as that. Homework, coursework, sport and other extracurricular activities counting for nothing when it came to assessing your development as a student. The only measure of how “educated’ you were was centred on testing your academic knowledge. Any other skills that did not lie in academia were irrelevant to that assessment.

As such like most students I learned to cram what I was taught. That was a guaranteed way of excelling during exams. There was no focus on independent cognitive development and my mental faculties were hardly stimulated. Even with subjects like English Literature you got higher marks for quoting a Shakespeare soliloquy verbatim than for actually displaying any understanding of what the premise of the play was. Luckily I was an avid reader of all kinds of books outside of school so my minder often got a chance to wander outside of the confines of the classroom. But even then I often got chided for wasting valuable study reading on things I wouldn’t be tested on during exams. Anyway suffice to say I quickly figured out how to be a straight A student. By replicating what I was taught word for word on the exam pad. This is what I was taught was ‘intelligence’ and academic excellence. It is no wonder then that I didn’t think twice about plagiarising. In my naive mind my high school teacher had just been replaced by that know it all Professor Google.

Old habits die hard. It took me well into my second year of university to adjust the way I learned things. And it was only after I got summoned by the university disciplinary committee that I saw the light. That hearing doubled as both a warning and an education on why plagiarism is not OK. The year was 2005 and all the software that picks up plagiarism that is now readily available online wasn’t as prevalent. At my university only the lectures had access to it. So there I found myself sitting across the room for a panel of white male professors and one female lecturer my assignment projected on the wall behind them with all the plagiarised content circled in red. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Looking at the stern face of these esteemed academics that were set to decide my fate I feared the worst. Surely I would be kicked out of university and put on the next plane home because of my plagiarising ways. Oh the shame.

As I later found out that was my imagination running wild. The worst that could have happened was getting an automatic fail for the unit. And I managed to escape even that. But still I had gotten the message loud and clear. Plagiarism. Not OK. At the end I got away with slap on the wrist and got a fail mark for the assignment only. The irony of that whole situation is that my ability to cram served me well come the exam as I went on to ace that and the practical component of my assessment. I avoided failing the unit altogether. Everything worked out in the end. I passed the unit, stayed in university and learned one of the most important lessons I have ever learned in my life. I eventually adapted my learning philosophy accordingly and this has over the years translated into the way I present information I have learned.

The more I have written the more I have wanted to read. And at times the lines seem blurred as to what words are mine and what words belong to others. On pondering further about this I have slowly started to have a more nuanced understanding of intellectual property. All creative’s on the most part are intellectual property developers. We are often inspired by other people’s intellectual property and most times we use that as a foundation to develop our own. Creativity does not exist in a vacuum. It is in fact a beautiful ecosystem in which we all inspire each other to ‘create’ something of our own. That something though is hardly ever created from nothing. There is a caveat to all this though. Each and every one of us has a story. A story that is unique to us. Our unique experiences are not something we can ever be accused of plagiarising.

What is my point? I am not entirely sure. Sometimes I just want to write and share my story which is what I did in a long winded way today. In all honesty I just felt compelled to write about that one time I thought I was going to get kicked out of university. Make of this what you will. Or even let my intellectual property inspire you in some way to develop your own

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Why I Am Retiring The Mad Scientist…

You may have noticed that the header/blog title of this blog has changed recently from ‘The Mad Scientist’ to ‘Moonwalking With My Muse’. If you hadn’t noticed oh well, now you know. From day one when I set up this space it was mainly a space I wanted to use to share my random thoughts as well as a platform for me to reignite my passion for the art of writing. The story I have never told is that of how this blog initially came to be called ‘The Mad Scientist’. That is a story I will briefly touch on today.

‘The Mad Scientist’ was always the name of this blog. Initially and for a long time before I actually wrote anything down the idea was to call this blog ‘Thinkermode’. I know. Very creative of me. Thing is though during its inception that was basically the premise of the blog. For me to share my thoughts. But when I set out to write the first draft of my first ever blog I had the first of many flirtations with my muse and in a flash of inspiration I changed my mind and opted for the ‘Mad Scientist’, a moniker which spoke to my unease at referring to myself as a writer at the time. One of the reasons I hadn’t written in so long was because I had boxed myself into the narrow definition of just being a scientist. I had allowed my university qualification in Biotechnology to limit who I could be or what I could do. I was a scientist. I had no business writing or being creative in the ‘I am a creative’ sense at all.

So when I finally worked up the courage to pick up the pen again for the first time since I had begun studying for my degree it was this reasoning that was pivotal in me subsequently calling this blog ‘The Mad Scientist’. At the time I fancied myself quite the revolutionary for ‘daring’ to write at all. Little did I know that I was not the first science profession to have such a Eureka moment and dabble in the art of writing. There have been many before me and it turns out I am not so revolutionary after all. I am just a passionate human being doing one of the many things he loves.

During the life of the blog It has been many things to me. But most importantly and what I have enjoyed the most during the time I have written on this blog has been the many times I have danced with my muse within the margins of the blank page. I have never once discussed or written about anything remotely scientific. Quite the opposite. This was a space I escaped from being a scientist from. If anything this space became the gym in which I initially stretched and over the long term eventually worked out my creative muscles. It is a place I often retreated to nostalgia in a quest to find myself within myself and it is in those moments that I moonwalked with my muse.
The things I have written about have been varied and over that period my perception of what a writer is and who qualifies as one has evolved as well. The way I see it a writer is basically anyone who writes consistently and coherently. Looking back that is what this blog has really been about and I no longer feel an unease at calling myself a writer. And that is why I am retiring ‘The Mad Scientist’. From now on this writer will be moonwalking with his muse …

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Wise Words from A Decent Man: ‘Africans need to travel, in Africa.’

The words below are some of the most inspiring words I have read all week. The author is Zimbabwean entrepreneur Dr Strive Masiyiwa, the Founder and CEO of The Econet Wireless Group. The Econet Wireless Group is a global telecommunications group with operations, investments and offices in more than 15 different countries (in Africa, Europe, USA, Latin America and Asia-Pacific). Over the last couple of months Dr Strive Masiyiwa has been sharing the story of how he came to be where is today over a series of Facebook posts. This has steadily become of my favourite things on my Facebook timeline. In his post he shares both spiritual and business advice to his followers and the post below is one of his latest post. After reading this I felt compelled to share to share this with readers of this blog who might not be on Facebook or who might not be following Dr Strive Masiyiwa.

IT’S TIME TO VISIT AFRICA by Dr Strive Masiyiwa

Africa _strive

Years ago, when I first visited Washington DC, I was amazed to see that the vast majority of the tourists wondering around the city, with such excitement, were actually Americans from other cities and states within America. It really made me to yearn to see the same in Africa.

I would love to see a day, and I know it will come, when Africa’s tourism is driven by Africans from other African countries. This is not to say, I do not want to see tourists from other parts of the world; I do, because tourism is great for any economy.

Africans need to travel, in Africa.

The Ghanian writer Kofi Opoku, says:

“Do not say that your mother’s stew is the best in the world, if you have never left your village”.

We need to see more and more Africans, of all ages, traveling in Africa, as tourists. I would like to see more exchange programs between African countries for students, at all levels.

Someone once asked me, if I would like to see a certain movie, and I said yes, but when he asked me to go to the cinema with him, I replied by saying, ” it is worth seeing, but not worth paying to see!” For many of us, visiting other parts of Africa, is something we do as part of our work, but to plan a voluntary visit to an African country using one’s own money? Well that is something that Europeans, Americans, and now increasingly Chinese and others do, because they have money… Right? Wrong!!!
………….I have met taxi drivers in London who visit Africa on holiday!

Almost every day of the week, I meet investors and business associates who are keen to invest in Africa. They are either looking for partners who know Africa, or to hire professionals who also know Africa.

The truth of the matter is such people are not as many as one might think. It is a really small pool for a continent as large and diverse as ours.

As a young African, your success and prosperity over the next few years, will depend to a great extent on how well, you know other African countries, other than your own country.

Such knowledge does not come embedded in your brain, it comes only through reading about African countries, listening to news about Africa, and traveling in Africa.

Seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world today, are African. If you want to be part of this growing prosperity, now is the time to really determine in your heart to become a true expert of Africa. Even if you do not have money yet to visit African countries, there are many things you can do every day to improve your knowledge. One of them is to read news from other African countries on the Internet. Everyday, I read Online news from different African countries.
Its time to visit Africa.
The End
The reason this resonated so much with me is because this is something that has been on my mind for a while now. I have long wanted get to know the continent better but I have always found one excuse and it hasn’t happened yet. So much for being a Pan Africanist. Reading this resuscitated that ambition for me again. Mostly because I have found more practical reasons to travel the continent than just tickling my fancy. One of my biggest qualms has been that flights between countries within Africa are prohibitively expensive as compared to flights say to Europe. It is more expensive to fly from Joburg to Mombasa than it is to fly from Joburg to Prague. (Even though I have never been to Prague) But in all honesty that is just an excuse because in all honesty I could probably take a bus to Mombasa if I wanted to. Yes, it would be a very long trip but I could never take the bus to Prague so… Even without looking as far afield as Mombasa they are places much closer to home than I can start with. For example my parents home is a 30 minute drive from the Mozambican border. Despite this I have never ever been to Mozambique. Ever. Maybe that is where I need to start my African safari.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Finding My Way Home

home

During my run this morning it dawned on me (see what I did there?) that I have been home for eighteen months now. That is the longest I have lived in Zimbabwe since I was nineteen. Before that I lived in Cape Town for a little over two years, and before Cape Town I called Australia home for seven years. That means I have lived all but the last year of my twenties outside of Zimbabwe’s borders. That is a long time to be away from your family and the place that you grew up. A place you have called home for most of your life. Because of this the museum of my life’s memories is divided into two main sections. My childhood can be found under the Zimbabwe section, and my adult life would almost entirely fall under the Diaspora section. Who I am as an adult at times feels so far removed from who I was as a kid. I often wonder how different of a person I would have turned out to be if I had never left Zimbabwe. I imagine that I would probably be married and have a kid or two by now just like nearly all my friends who stayed behind.

My childhood memories are exclusively Zimbabwean and that is the Zimbabwe I have held onto even in adulthood when it was a land far far way. But that is not the Zimbabwe that I returned to. The Zimbabwe I returned to was a completely different place from that of my childhood. I wasn’t so naive as to expect not to see changes given that I had been away for long. And maybe I should have been naive because on my return the infrastructure looked either the same or in a worse state that I remembered. During my hiatus from the Motherland it seems to have stagnated. On my return I remember experiencing a mild culture shock. The people had changed. Not just they were older but it was the change in their attitude and general outlook on life that struck me. Their natural optimism had been drained out of them and most seemed resigned to accepting that as a nation we were going nowhere fast. This was not the Zimbabwe I remembered. The Zimbabwe of my childhood. All this made it difficult for me to not only find my way home but also to feel like I belonged there. I felt like an outsider, a stranger in my own country. And that I wasn’t prepared for.

About a year ago I wrote about how even though I am a Zimbabwean, I still call Australia home. This was my attempt to try and confront and deal with my culture shock as well as an attempt to redefine what home meant to me. In that blog I sort to deconstruct my own preconceived and limited understanding of what home was to me. I accepted that I belong and understand many worlds, that home for me at the time was more of a transient concept. I decided that ‘home’ for me would be me being comfortable in my own skin. So wherever I was as long I was assured of who I was as a person I was ‘home’. Once I decided that I began to study myself by looking back at all the experiences I have been privileged enough to have. And during that time I have tried to reflect that in my writing in the hope that it would provide a map for anyone else who might be trying to find their way home.

As often happens during my runs whilst chasing the rising sun I slipped into a reflective trance again this morning. This is what happens on the days I am not running with my muse. It’s just me, my thoughts and the open road. Pure bliss. I have only ever found such serenity and clarity of thought between the margins of the blank page. This morning I found myself reminiscing over the last eighteen months. The highlights of the last eighteen months are that I got to exercise my democratic right to vote for the very first time in my life, I also managed to tick bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge of my bucket list and I more recently I had a fulfilling HIFA week which stands as one of the best festivals I have ever attended. All this has gone a long way in making me see a different side of Zimbabwe that I never got to experience as a kid. I finally have some adult memories in the Zimbabwe section of my memories museum!

This past December we had a family reunion. This was the first time my extended family was together in the same place in over a decade. With people dotted all over the globe chasing a myriad of hopes and dreams it has been next to impossible to bring us all together in one. Whilst we have seen each other intermittently over the years we have not been all in the same place at once. People have wed and some have passed on and still we could not all be brought together by these events. So it was a blessing that everyone made an effort to pitch up this December. And boy was it a special and memorable experience. We laughed, danced, ate, drank and we got to know each other again. I feel like we now understand and accept each other for who we really are now and not the people we were ten years ago. We have all had different experience over the last year but despite that bond that we have as a family seems as strong as it’s ever been. And our family at large is better for the collective experiences we have had. And that is a beautiful thing.
After eighteen months I feel I have a more nuanced understanding of what life in Zimbabwe is like in the present day. I have taken off my nostalgia goggles that made me look at Zimbabwe with an idealised romanticism that was so far removed from the realities of present day Zimbabwe. When I lived abroad I remembered only the Zimbabwe of the late 80’s and the 90’s. And because of that I have had to learn to love Zimbabwe again as an adult for different reasons than I did as a kid. I now view it through the eyes of a man who has seen a bit more of the world. I appreciate its unique beauty and I see its great potential. Zimbabwe is a nation that is flawed but stitched together with good intentions. We are nation of survivors and the most innovative of entrepreneurs. Despite all our challenges we are a proud nation but more importantly we are still a happy nation.

Being Zimbabwean has always been and will always be my heritage. My roots will always be here. No matter how far beyond its borders I venture out again it will always be home. It will always welcome me, one of its many ‘prodigal sons’ back no matter how long I have been gone for. After eighteen months back home I no longer feel the need to validate my Zimbabweaness to myself or anyone else for that matter. I am Zimbabwean. I will always be Zimbabwean. No one can ever take that away from me. I used to feel what I call ‘Diaspora guilt’. That because I wasn’t there when Zimbabwe experienced its most trying times I was less Zimbabwean. That my Zimbabwean experience wasn’t as authentic as that of those who stayed behind and kept this country going. That was foolish of me.

I am just as Zimbabwean as those who stayed behind. Whether I was in Melbourne or Cape Town I was representing you. I was offering up a more positive narrative than that which the world had come to associate Zimbabwe with. And for that I am just as ‘authentically’ Zimbabwean as you are. Wherever I go in the world I will always be that Zim guy, and that makes me proud. Already to many of the friends I have made from all over the world I will be one of the first few things they think of whenever Zimbabwe pops up on their radar. And I am proud of that because in my own small way I have put my country on the map. That has been my contribution to this great nation so far. In conversation with so many others who have lived in the Diaspora I have picked up a very encouraging trend. All of us want to use our Diasporan experience as a springboard for us to make this country a better than it ever was. For my part over the next couple of blogs I intend to share some of the lessons I have picked from living abroad for so long in the hope that sharing my experiences will encourage all of us at home and abroad to contribute to this great country in our own different ways.

 
 

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