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Africa Day and Culture Week: Is Mat’land Leveraging Them For Regional Development?

Culture must be the centre pivot where the people of Matabeleland find ways to heal their many scars. Image by Clayton Moyo

BY THABANI H. MOYO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAY 28, 2021

People’s culture is meaningless unless it plays a full part in their political, economic, religious and social development, writes Thabani H. Moyo.

BULAWAYO (The Citizen Bulletin) — This installation has been motivated by the commemoration of Africa Day on the 25th of May and the Culture Week which ran from the 21st to the 25th of May.

We seek to put these celebrations into perspective and examine why they are so important to the people of Matabeleland.

To begin with, it is important to understand that these celebrations are rooted in the Cultural Charter for Africa which was adopted by African Heads of states in Port Louis, Mauritius in 1976 and The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001.

Today, African States might celebrate their recognition within the global space but we ask, are all communities within the African space free and recognised?

Are all minority communities free from domination by ‘supper’ cultures?

Has Matabeleland as a region been freed from the clutches of political, economic and cultural manipulation?    

The Cultural Charter for Africa (1976) and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural diversity (2001) affirmed that culture is at the centre of each and every community and society’s development. Culture encompasses language, beliefs, and heritage materials, intellectual, and emotional features of a society.

It is for this reason that Matabeleland as a region and a distinctive society must utilise these celebrations to enforce its cultural tenets. Before celebrating ourselves as Africans and Zimbabweans, it's important for the Matabeleland region to grasp that it's a unique territory with exclusive aspirations.

It is only then that the region can be integrated within a greater cultural unity which transcends ethnic, national and regional divergences on the basis of a shared vision. Otherwise, the region risks losing its identity through a cultural, political and economic system that seeks to elevate and impose ‘super cultures’ on others.

We do not in any way dispute that the 21st Century has brought about technological developments that have made the region to be part of the global village. Globalisation has its challenges but still, our people must make sure that Matabeleland charts its own course towards its desired goal.

The future of Matabeleland in terms of culture and arts must not be left to ‘outsiders.’

People’s culture is meaningless unless it plays a full part in the people’s political, economic, religious and social development.

Culture must be the centre pivot where the people of Matabeleland find ways to heal their many scars. Culture and its arts must be a uniting force.

It defines Matabeleland as a society and as a people and it must be the pride of the region. Above all culture must be the ultimate thing that everyone in the region must stand up to defend and die for. Culture is the soul of society.

Through Culture Week and Africa Day celebrations, the dignity of Matabeleland men and women must be reinforced.

With each passing celebration, the region must emerge strong.

Different communities and cultures must be bold and come out to celebrate their languages, food, regalia, games, customs, beliefs, literature and many more activities that form the cultural basket. It is through celebrating who we are that we will be able to express ourselves freely without limitations.

Democracy can be entrenched fully when people express themselves through cultural and artistic activities.

A community that cannot speak its language freely, sing its songs with joy, dance its dances with aplomb, pour its heart out through telling its own undiluted stories has not achieved its independence.

We cannot have an Africa we desire or a Zimbabwe we want if we don’t have a Matabeleland we want. Therefore, it’s our view that Culture Week celebrations should present a moment to promote the Matabeleland cultural heritage through preservation, restoration and rehabilitation.

It is an opportunity to combat and eliminate alienation and exclusion and cultural oppression within our communities.

No girl, boy, woman and man, rural or urban, must be ashamed of their culture and who they are because they will be ashamed of their identity.

Everyone must be bold to express themselves through their cultural ways and beliefs. Development strategies in Matabeleland must be carried out within the culture of the region. It is the culture of the land that must lead and everything else must follow.

It is disheartening to note how ‘developmental projects’ in the region have ignored beliefs and the culture of our people.
This shows how much respect has been lost for the region. Culture must be the foothold of peace and good governance. It must be the source for promoting human rights, social cohesion and human development within the region. To realise the Matabeleland we want, our cultural leaders, activists, associations, designers, local governments, private sector and artists need to demand accountability when it comes to the observance of the regional culture.

There is a need to be bold to achieve regional goals. Political expediency must be guarded against in this regard. Our leadership tradition must make sure that they serve the people first before a manipulative political enclave that is manipulating culture to achieve its political ends.  It is people and their culture first before political power.