by Tafadzwa Zimoyo, Kundai Marunya and Talent Gore
Today marks Africa Day, a day when countries on the continent celebrate their unity in various aspects. Zimbabwe has harmoniously worked with other African countries in different fields through political, economic, social and religious interactions.
There are many Africans who live in the country while a number of Zimbabweans are abroad in various countries on the continent.
These interactions have led to exchange and sharing of lifestyles and social activities.
The Saturday Herald Lifestyle takes a look at the social interactions that have enhanced unity between Zimbabwe and other African countries as well as events that have been lined up to celebrate Africa Day. Lifestyle tastes and preferences have also shaped relations among Africans.
African dressing styles
The power of the African culture has allowed it to influence patterns of life all over the continent and the world as a whole. There are certain styles we spot that, despite their possibly ambiguous origins, have a distinctly African influence.
From traditional attire to modernised African-inspired dashikis and dresses, the various print designs and range of African textiles have an influence on the fashion industry.
While other countries have been celebrating their traditional dress from time immemorial, Zimbabwe, despite its rich culture, has been having a hard time coming up with a clearly-defined national dress.
Zimbabwe has been influenced by most African cultures to the extent that we have adopted the way Nigerians dress as our own and termed it ‘African attire’.
African fashion consists of vibrant colours, with prominent, and at times, clashing prints with tribal-like patterns. One of the most predominant fabrics in Africa used to create traditional printed clothing is Ankara and it is mainly from West Africa.
Local designer Joyleen Chengeta said African fashion styles are diverse.
“One cannot underestimate the importance and the extent and the enormous variety and beauty of examples of fashion in Africa and especially those that utilise African-print cloth,” she said.
“It is really a West and Central African cloth. There are tens of thousands of patterns and men and women have it tailored into unique fashions for themselves across the continent.”
She also explained the origin of African textiles.
“One of the things that differentiates African prints from other textiles in Africa is that they are factory manufactured,” said Chengeta.
“They are a special category of manufactured cotton textiles. Their origins are actually traceable to the painted and block printed cottons that were produced in India for the Indian Ocean trade as early as the 4th century. By the 11th century, these block printed cloths from India had inspired the development of hand printed wax-resist batiks in Java. So they are commercially manufactured batiks in essence.”
Headwraps are another style trait popular among different cultures in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole. However, the style was certainly a customary tradition among African women.
Headwraps were often symbolic of royalty and also used to discern age, religion and marital status.
Traditional dressing showcases in the country exhibit various origins of tribes in Zimbabwe. At cultural events like the ongoing Culture Week, performing artistes and some delegates wear traditional outfits. The traditional dressing styles have influenced modern-day outfits in terms of colour and design. It is the same with many other African countries
During cultural events and festivals, you will see South Africans from all backgrounds proudly wearing ethnic outfits. Zulus, Xhosas, Swazis, Vendas and Sothos will be wearing cultural outfits on these occasions. The same happens in Namibia where Wambo, Herero and Damara Nama tribes have their own cultural costumes.
It is amazing to watch this influence as the world seems to have suddenly realised the beauty of African fashion. It is now a strong part of global pop culture and provides more opportunities for African designers to shine internationally.
The migration of Africans from one African country to another has introduced a range of different African traditional dishes to the world.
In Zimbabwe, our staple food is sadza. Sadza is served with relish that can be any kind of vegetable stew or meat. The staple is part of many traditional foods in the country.
There are many Africans based in the country who love these traditional dishes. They have fallen in love with the country’s cuisine and choose Zimbabwean food whenever they go out to eat.
As Africans we truly enjoy our traditional food and Zimbabweans have also become fond of other African countries’ traditional dishes.
Nigerian food has proved to be the most popular with Zimbabweans and a number of Nigerian Restaurants have opened in the country.
Sea food, which makes most of Mozambican dishes, is also popular with locals at upmarket restaurants.
West African countries have made their mark with popular restaurants in Zimbabwe.
These restaurants are viewed as more cosmopolitan and sophisticated.
One of such restaurants in Harare belongs to Nigerian couple Bisola and Ike Akinsaya. They serve popular Nigerian dishes like jollof rice, sautéed gizzards and suya.
“I have always been proud to be identified as African, especially Nigerian. I wanted to create something to showcase what we do and give people a platform to have taste of Nigerian food here in Zimbabwe,” said Bisola Akinsaya.
“It became clear to me that we needed to do something for the Nigerians in Zimbabwe and other African nationals.
“Most Zimbabweans who visit our restaurant usually order jollof rice with chicken and garri. They really seem to enjoy it and we have so many visitors who come to our restaurant.”
She added: “More and more Zimbabwean restaurant owners are saying ‘this is for us or we want to learn about the Nigerian culture particularly the food’.
“We recently started preparing Zimbabwean food as well because my fellow Nigerians and Congolese who frequent this place love local food, so we serve both Zimbabwean and Nigerian food.”
Influence of African music
According to Webster’s New World dictionary, music is “the art of combining tones to form expressive composition; any rhythmic sequence of pleasing sounds”.
It is an art that helps people find themselves, an aide that helps them sail through hard times and express their different situation.
Our music as country has been influenced by many sounds from different nations.
Talk of kanindo which gave birth to careers of musicians such as Moses Rwizi. The Malawian sound is also one of the major influences of sungura music.
Ironically the top ace in the genre Alick Macheso is of Malawian descent and so are celebrated other local musicians that include Freddy ‘Kapfupi’ Manjalima, Josphat Somanje and Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria.
Malawi’s influences are also evident with the Chewa language often fused in many genres, mostly sungura.
Rhumba music which originates from Central Africa, especially Democratic Republic of Congo has had a major influence on local music.
Some Congolese chanters were incorporated into local bands to bring the rhumba feel to local music. The most popular are Jonasi Kasamba who is part of Macheso’s Ochestra Mberikwazvo band and Shiga Shiga (real name Gift Katulika) who worked with the late Tongai Moyo for a long time and has been part of many local bands.
Rhumba music’s influence goes far beyond chanters, with the sound influencing the founding of local bands like BV Labien Musica and Best of All Musica. Other local musicians that get influence from rhumba include Juntal of the “Mutupo” fame and Madiz.
Going to West Africa, Nigeria has been one of our biggest music influences of this decade.
Naija music has grown on the global market, with musicians including Davido, Patoranking, Mr Eazi and Yemi Alade among others earning international recognition.
Local musicians have adopted the trend, with musicians such as EXQ, Sebastian Magacha, Simba Tags, and The New Guy leading the bandwagon.
Collaborations with the trending Naija artistes has also been instrumental in assisting local musicians break onto the global stage.
A good example is that of Jah Prayzah who, through collaborations, has found himself winning continental awards and sharing world class stages with top ranked African brothers and sisters.
It is through these collaborations that many Zimbabweans have become even more acquainted with Naija music; thus more and more West African musicians dominating our entertainment calendars and receiving bumper crowds when the musicians come here for performances.
Sharing African love in Zimbabwe
Most foreigners have hailed Zimbabweans for its hospitality and Africans from outside the country who have started businesses here are happy with the social relations.
There are many shops in the CBD, especially the downtown area, that are owned by foreigners — mainly Nigerians and Ghanaians — which have created employment for Zimbabweans.
Mangoni Muloi, a Zambian national, said being an African means different things to people of different nations.
“It is good to be African and as a continent we should speak with one voice. I have been living in the country (Zimbabwe) for the past eight years. I have a shop where I sell ‘chitenge’ materials. Zimbabwe is a peaceful country. In some African countries they chase you away and they do not give you platforms to express your culture. We are just one family and I am pleased Zimbabweans treat all other Africans like their brothers and sisters,” he said.
Harare-based Congolese rhumba musician Pitshou Lumiere of Diamond Musica band said he is glad to work in Zimbabwe.
“I have been in this country for so many years and I have good working relationships with many stakeholders in the music industry. We hold shows every week where we meet rhumba fans from different countries.
The environment in Zimbabwe is good and peaceful. We have collaborated with the late Oliver Mtukudzi and Suluman Chimbetu. Zimbabwe is full of love,” said Pitshou.
Celebrating Africa Day
Zimbabweans and all Africans in the country will be celebrating Africa Day in many ways.
Last night saw local embassies which include Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Algeria, Botswana, Zambia jointly hosting Africa Day celebrations at Rainbow Towers. Culture and tradition was the theme of the night.
The event also saw locally based music group, which comprises of artists from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, performing their “Lovely Zimbabwe” song. The song is about the beauty of Zimbabwe with its riches and tourist destinations. The team also involves performers from beyond Africa.
In an interview, the project founder member Abraham Matuka said they were happy to be part of the celebrations.
He said Africa should be united and this can be achieved through music and art.
“We are celebrating Africa Day through music using the impact of multi-lingual approach as we express the way Africa is known in bringing celebration through music,” he said.
There are many other local events that have been organised to celebrate Africa Day and people from various backgrounds are expected to attend.
Celebrating oneness this Africa Day, the first ever Mitambo Festival at Belgravia Sports Club will drown urbanites with nostalgia.
It will serve as a reminder of the unity we used to have, giving people a chance to reconnect with their urban roots while promoting hunhu/Ubuntu.
Organiser Junior Bakasa of OV Events said “We realised the need for a unique recreational activity.”
Another event moulded around post-colonial urban traditions is the Braai Out at Kingfisher Park in Emerald Hill.
With a backdrop of good music from Gemma Griffits, Judgement Yard, DJ Ashstyles, Merciless Zimbabwe and a host of other DJs, the family event gives people a platform to interact in a relaxed environment.
Theatre in The Park will also have a special Africa Day event, screening movies that once caught the eye of the nation.
Dubbed “Cinema in The Park Retrospect”, the event will feature trailers of the films “Neria”, “The Two Leaders I Know”, “Cook Off” and “The Letter” among others. The event will also screen two short films “Freedom” and “The Collector” courtesy of the Zimbabwe Film Festival Trust (ZIFFT).
“Pan Africanism is the reason why we decided to select this portfolio of Zimbabwean films. We believe that this is the primary role of Cinema in the Park. Film is a powerful tool and this event is meant to celebrate Zimbabwean films since Zimbabwe does not have a cinema that dedicated to screening its own film productions,” TITP director Daves Guzha explained.
There will be several other Africa Day events dotted around the country as people take time off their busy schedules to celebrate unity with fellow Africans.