Excerpt from SLU Fellows paper:
Every black Zimbabweans have a family mutupo. The closest English word that describes it is a family totem. This is usually an animal connected to one’s family name that should never be killed or eaten by that family. The mutupo emerged as a way of identifying family clans and avoiding incest. This is because one is not allowed to marry a person with the same mutupo. As a child, I never questioned this tradition and I embraced it to the extent that I could. Recently, I have begun to wonder if it conflicts with Christianity and why it is still relevant today. Despite all of this I accept my family mutupo which is a Baboon or monkey. During important family gatherings, whenever somebody is thanking my father, the baboon/monkey is referred to. I thought it would be interesting to add imagery of these animals in my work as a way of referencing the generational cycle that has occurred between my grandfather, my father and I. One thing we all have in common is our mutupo.
As I visually researched baboons and monkeys, I soon began to think of the Zimbabwean Shona childhood stories that I had heard. The most common ones involved an older Baboon character that was not very smart, and a youthful conniving hare. These stories had been handed down to me orally; however, I lamented the fact that as a child I never had a chance to read about them in text books. Nor were they discussed in my literature classes in high school. I know that I will not be able to hand down these stories to my children because I only vaguely remember a couple of them.