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Africa Unit 10

Popular Expressions of Nationalism in Zimbabwe

Name: Shingi Mavima

College: Michigan State University

Discipline: African American and African Studies

Module Title: “Popular Expressions of Nationalism in Zimbabwe”

Narrative Description of the Module: Contemporary discourse surrounding nationalism in Africa focuses overwhelmingly on the political leaders, their apparent tyranny and the resulting failure of their nation states. This not only robs the communities of Africa, in their endless diversity and individuality- of due agency, but also plays into long-held reductionist understandings of Africa and its nations.

Using Zimbabwe as a site of analysis, this module demonstrates how the people of Zimbabwe, in their different communities, have expressed their sense of national identity with an emphasis on the colonial and post-colonial eras. Various popular expressions will be studied: including larger phenomena by which people organize themselves such as religion, unions, militancy and political parties (macro-expressions), as well as the more specific expressions employ from within or outside the lenses of these organized spaces, and these include music, theatre, literature, protest (micro-expressions)

We will begin by defining “popular expressions” for the purposes of the module. This will be an interactive exercise in which the students debate what is and what isn’t, and ultimately define the operational understanding of popular expressions.

We then proceed with a look at pre-colonial Zimbabwe, shedding light on the Mutapa and Rozvi Empires, as well as the Mfecane disturbances that shaped notions of identity in the region before the advent of European colonialism

Thereafter, students will learn about early colonialism in what became Rhodesia, placing particular emphasis on how Africans mobilized in resistance through Ethiopianism, the rise of trade unions, Pan-African songs and other expressions.

The following section focuses on the mid 20th century era, beginning with the Second World War through to the rise of the African nationalist movements in what was then Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe). The sessions will be taught through the lens of novels, competitive traditional dance, football fandom, and music, as well as through political and military organizing.

Students will then proceed to learn about the advent of independence in Zimbabwe, and the ways in which the masses not only celebrated, but asserted their hopes and dreams for the new nation. We will see this through song, film, theatre and other media.

Students will round up the module by learning about contemporary expressions of nationalism in a world- Zimbabwe not sparing- increasingly divided on the continued utility of “the nation.” We will look at how different groups are expressing their imaginary of the nation as it is and it should be. Sometimes the notions are in tandem with each other, and times they are in conflict.

Ultimately, students will be asked to find one popular expression of their national/community identity and be asked to present on its significance to the rest of the groups.

Educational Objectives of the Module
  1. Introduce students to popular cultural expressions in Zimbabwean society
  2. Disrupt elitist, top-down understandings of African politics
  3. Learn about the colonial and post-colonial African condition- through the lens of Zimbabwe
  4. Dispel Eurocentric and/or prejudiced narratives about the African continent
  5. Cultivate appreciation of different forms of cultural identity expression.
Detailed outline of main themes (with accompanying content notes) to be included in the Lectures/Discussions Used to Implement the Module
  1. Discuss the notion of popular expressions of identity. After defining nationalism, engage students on what constitutes a popular expression (scope, range, relevance etc.)
    1. Show and Discuss “This is America” by Childish Gambino (YouTube) and Introduce pre-colonial Zimbabwe (Lecture)
    2. Situating Zimbabwe
      1. 16th Century Map of the Mutapa Empire
      2. The Matabeleland Kingdom (Immediate pre-colonial era)
      3. Contemporary Southern Africa
      4. Present-Day Zimbabwe
    3. Watch “Who Built Great Zimbabwe- And Why?” (YouTube)
    4. Read: “Black Panther's Mythical Home May Not Be So Mythical After All” (NPR)
  2. Discuss stereotypes of Africa that students routinely encounter, their origins and validity.
    1. Read “How to Write about Africa”
    2. Watch: “Daily Show- Spot the Africa” (Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah)
    3. Watch: “African Men: Hollywood Stereotypes” (YouTube)
  3. Introduce Zimbabwe’s colonial conquest (lecture)
    1. The First Chimurenga/Umvukela
      1. Introduce the Nehanda/Chaminuka/Kaguvi (Shona spiritual Leaders)-led insurgence. (See Mlambo’s A History of Zimbabwe, p36-51; Mavima’s “Stories of the Struggle” in The Journal of Pan-African Studies, p154- 155).
    2. Listen to “Ishe Komborera Africa
  4. Discuss the Africans’ role in World War 2, and the resulting criticisms of the Western world’s racial politics:
    1. Read: “The African Claims” by African National Congress (S. Africa) (1 Group)
    2. Read: “Did World War II Launch the Civil Rights Movement?” (Group 2)
  5. Lecture on the advent of African Literature in Zimbabwe, and the significance thereof.
    1. Reference Mavima’s “Stories of the Struggle” in The Journal of Pan-African Studies
  6. Introduce Final Assignment: 700- 1000 word essay on a popular expression of nationalism (or another group identity), focusing on its nature, origins, and significance. The paper is due at the last class meeting, where each student will present on their chosen cultural expression (see #10)
  7. Discuss the advent of the nationalist organizations and the armed struggle.
    1. Watch: Flame (Film- YouTube)
  8. Discuss popular expressions of nationalism in independent Zimbabwe
    1. Watch “Zvikomborero” by Ilanga (music video on YouTube)
  9. Introduce expressions of counter-nationalism/post-nationalism in Zimbabwe
    1. Watch Pastor Evan’s “This Flag” (poem/speech YouTube)
    2. “#ThisFlag Or #OurFlag? The Digital Fray For Zimbabwe’s Soul.”
  10. Student Presentations (5-10 minutes): Each student to present their choice of popular expression and explain to the class:
    1. What it is
    2. What is the context out of which it grew
    3. How effective it was as a form of expression (Did it capture the sentiment? Did it reach the appropriate audience?)

Listing of Audio-Visuals Used to Implement the Module (provide electronic links to sites where they can be accessed)

  1. "This is America" by Childish Gambino
  2. "Who Built Great Zimbabwe- And Why?
  3. "Daily Show- Spot the Africa” (Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah)
  4. African Men: Hollywood Stereotypes
  5. Flame
  6. "Zvikomborero" by Ilanga
  7. "This Flag” by Pastor Evan Mawarire

Student Readings (links to sites where readings can be accessed electronically or by purchase)

  1. African National Congress 1943. “Africans’ Claims in South Africa
  2. Dimeo- Ediger, Winona. “Black Panther's Mythical Home May Not Be So Mythical After All” NPR, February 10, 2018.
  3. Mcdermott, Annette. “Did World War II Launch the Civil Rights Movement?” History, May 22, 2018.
Student Evaluation/Testing Regarding the Module
Students will, for the most part, be evaluated based on their attendance and participation in class discussions (60%). The major assignment for the module is a three to four page essay (700 to 1000 words), in which students will write about a popular expression of identity from a community they belong to. In the essay will fundamentally focus on the following:
  1. What the expression is
  2. The context out of which it grew
  3. How effective it was/is as a form of expression (Did it capture the sentiment? Did it reach the appropriate audience?)
The objective of the assignment
  1. Attendance and Participation: 60%
  2. Final Essay: 25%
  3. Final Presentation: 15%
Resources (Bibliography) Used to Develop-Implement the Module
  1. Batts, Callie. “ ‘In good conscience’: Andy Flower, Henry Olonga and the death of democracy in Zimbabwe.” in Forty Years of Sport and Social Change, 1968 2008, ed. Russell Field and Bruce Kidd, 43-56. New York: Routledge, .2015.
  2. Chikowero, Mhoze. African Music, Power, and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe. Indiana University Press, 2015.
  3. Choto, Tafadzwa; Chiweshe, Kudzai Manasa, and Nelson Muparamoto. “Football fandom, ethno-regionalism and rivalry in post-colonial Zimbabwe: case study of Highlanders and Dynamos”, Soccer & Society, (2017).
  4. Coplan, David, and Benetta Jules- Rosette. “'Nkosi Sikelel' IAfrika': Stories of an African Anthem.” Composing Apartheid : Music for and against Apartheid, edited by Grant Olwage, Wits University Press, 2008, pp. 185–208.
  5. Marima, Tendai. “#ThisFlag Or #OurFlag? The Digital Fray For Zimbabwe’s Soul.” The Daily Vox. May 26, 2016.
  6. Mavima, Shingi. “Stories of Struggle: The Intractability of Early African Fiction from Nascent African Nationalism in Rhodesia.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 12 no. 3, November 2018
  7. Mlambo, Alois S. A History of Zimbabwe.New York : Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  8. Raftopoulos, Brian, and A S. Mlambo. Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008. Harare: Weaver Press, 2009
  9. Scarnecchia, Timothy. The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe: Harare and Highfield, 1940-1964. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2008
  10. Zenenga, Praise. “Censorship, Surveillance, and Protest Theater in Zimbabwe.” Theater,vol. 38, no. 3, Fall 2008. pp.66–83.