Sekuru Nyamunda: Culture and Tradition

Sekuru’s generation is the generation that had to make sense of what it means to juggle tradition and embrace western education for the sake of improving their livelihood.  When I asked him what traditional elements he remembered or treasured from his childhood, he spoke of muchongoyo, a type of Zimbabwean dance.  Sekuru never took part in the dance, but loved to watch. This dance is not a religious one, but rather it serves as social entertainment after a big harvest from May to November. ( I did not know this before). This dance is very similar to some of the Zulu and Swazi dances since our people groups originally came from the same period.

Muchongoyo was also held to celebrate the young men coming back from working in the mines. I always knew that many young black Zimbabwean men went to South Africa to work in the mines, but I didn’t really know the details surrounding their decisions. According to Sekuru, working in the mine was both a voluntary and prestigious thing to do.

Back then, (during my grandfather’s prime years) people only had the opportunity to receive 5 years of education in my families village. After that, the young men tried to work in the mine for at least one year. If they came back, they often came back with highly prized possessions such as blankets and western clothes. The mine managers tried to limit the working period of each miner to only one man in order to protect them from contracting respiratory diseases. Somehow, my grandfather beat the system and worked in the mines for many years. It brought him so much money that managed to marry more than one wife.

I learnt about some of the spiritual dances that were practiced during Sekuru’s time. For example the Amandlozi and the Amanyanyanga. In these dance people would get possessed, prophecy among other rituals. This was done to appease angry spirits, for good luck and to ask for protection.

While Sekuru was growing up there many American missionary school sprouting and flourishing in Zimbabwe, (then Rhodesia.) Through the American Board of Foreign Missions later the United Church of Christ Sekuru was introduced to kind forms of Western culture. To him, they represented a different form of white person. A white person who cared for blacks and wanted to see their lives improved. They built schools, hospitals and changed lives.

After sometime, the Christian beliefs that Sekuru had adopted began to conflict with some of his traditional ones. He felt convicted to stop responding to the spiritual dances and instead he learnt church hymns.

During the Chimurenga War years, Sekuru was in school. In 1962, he remembers demonstrating against the ban of a black opposition party, ZAPU. As a result of their rebellion, all of the children at the school were beaten up and had their exam dates postponed by a year. He clearly remembers the term used to describe their punishment: RUSTICATED!!

The pursuit of his education thankfully kept him safe during the war, and by 1970 he had become a qualified teacher. He still teaches in Highfield today.

About culture he says, “Culture is dying a natural slow death, but it is till alive…not everything should erode.”

Everything is captured on a video interview which will be uploaded soon.

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