Beautiful Zimbabwe,  the colours of spring In spring trees shed old leaves for soft fresh ones magnificent with their various colours of red, yellow, green, orange and rustic brown
In spring trees shed old leaves for soft fresh ones magnificent with their various colours of red, yellow, green, orange and rustic brown

In spring trees shed old leaves for soft fresh ones magnificent with their various colours of red, yellow, green, orange and rustic brown

Sekai Nzenza On Wednesday

THIS time last year, I was driving to the village with my cousin Piri as usual. As we were heading towards the Hwedza Mountains at sunset. I said to her, “Have you ever been to Victoria Falls?” Piri shook her head to say she had not been to Victoria Falls. “And have you been to Great Zimbabwe?” She shook her head again, her eyes focused on the road ahead, resting a big bottle of beer comfortably between her legs.I teased her some more, deliberately. “Have you been to Mana Pools? Hwange Safari Lodge? Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands? Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River? Matopos in Bulawayo?” She shook her head again and said nothing, clearly showing that she had no interest in all these places that I was talking about.

I stopped the car on a high plateau. The sun was a big red ball surrounded by red, yellow, orange and streaks of blue and purple clouds. I got out of the car and took a couple of pictures with my iPhone. Piri stayed in the car, listening to music. I felt the cool breeze and gazed at the silent valleys, the colours, blue orange sky and the peaceful slow pace of everything.

Spring of the soft fresh leaves we call pfumvudza was here and the trees looked magnificent with their various colours of red, yellow, green, orange and rustic brown. During this time of the year, I drive to the village slowly, looking at the changing colours of spring.

I told Piri to stop and look at the amazing changing colours of the sunset. Piri yawned, and then burped loudly.

“Where is it beautiful? Kunaka pai?” Piri asked, with this big frown on her face. I said, “Because you have not been to these places I mentioned, you cannot fully appreciate Zimbabwe’s beauty. But most Westerners do. Why else do you think we were colonised? The land, the rivers, the animals, the mountains, the minerals, everything brought the Europeans here. And as for our weather, what can I say? Ndingati chiiko? We are blessed to be born here.” Piri looked at me and laughed with some slight tone of sarcasm.

“You and Reuben. You are mad. Munopenga chete,” she said. Reuben is my cousin, the one who has finally returned home from Australia, leaving his wife and children back there. Piri said, “You run away from this country to seek a better Western lifestyle, education, jobs, good money and nice clothes, nice everything. Then you come back here after many years and say Zimbabwe is beautiful. Was it not beautiful when you left it? Where is it beautiful now? There is poverty and hunger everywhere.

“Nzara yega yega. If I was educated, would I still be here? No. I would be in England or America or even Australia too, choosing to eat raw vegetables because I am sick of meat. You ask me if I have seen Victoria Falls. Have you seen this, have you seen that? Where would I have seen what? What for?”

I did not respond. What else could I say? We drove in silence for a while. We still had another 20km to get to the village. Then Piri put on the voice and tone of an evangelical preacher. Pointing to some deserted villages and lonely graves on the outskirts of the village compounds, she said.

“There is nothing beautiful about disappearing villages Sis.” She pointed to the scrubby bushes, thorns and anthills. Dry, bare and barren. Along one side of the road we noticed that a fire had just ravaged the trees and grass, leaving the ground covered with black ash and burnt pink mushuku leaves. It looked desolate.

I did not want to see the silent sadness of lonely village ruins. No. I was in the mood for Spring. I kept gazing everywhere, looking at pfumvudza, and the blossoming fresh leaves of our Zimbabwe spring after a spell of rain that came here few days ago.

Bumharutsva is what the elders call the rain that comes during this time of the year in September or October. Sometimes they called it Gukurahundi, the rain that takes away the rusks and empty shells of millet and sorghum after the harvest. After the rains, the trees suddenly came to life, celebrating the new season of heat, waiting for the cicadas to sing louder and ask the rain to come early.

When I see the colours of the pfumvudza, I long for the freedom that it brought when we were young, growing up in the village. This was the season of playing and swimming. There was no hard work to be done in the fields. We were free to roam the mountains, the forests and the hills looking for wild fruits.

At night, while the adults talked to the ancestors during dry season ceremonies, we children played games like chinungu, gwendere gwendere, jejejeje jerekuje, chidhange chidhange, dzwitswi, vasikana iwe, pfukumbwe, zvirahwe, tsoro, mapere, pada, nhodo and many others whose English names we never had.

While I buried myself in memories of the past gone by, Piri continued her meaningless humming. Within half an hour or a bit more, the sun was gone and we arrived in the village.

The following day, I woke up to the familiar sounds of birds celebrating the sunrise.

I took a walk up the hill and sat on the rocks near the homestead.

It is the beginning of October and we are still in the dry season. The smell of the veldt fires from last night is everywhere. Smoke shoots up to the sky from the scattered village huts below. Then it spreads out like a thin cloud to join the mist from the valley. I sit here and wait to see the sun rise over the Mbire Mountains.

The morning birds greet each other and there is the odd distant rooster’s cry. I hear baboons fighting high up in the Mbire mountains further down the Save River. I listen to the wind. It comes from down below and blows over the granite rocks. The big trees that used to shield this place from the wind are gone. When Mbuya, Sekuru Dhikisoni and the rest of the extended family were settled here by the Southern Rhodesia government in the 1930s, this was virgin land.

Lions, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, wildebeests, elands, kudus, impalas and rhinos roamed these mountains and valleys. Sekuru Dhikisoni and his brothers used to hunt and shoot elands, wild pigs and bucks up in the Hwedza mountains and in the Save river basin. Those big animals are gone now. Some were hunted and eaten as game meat.

The rest were all rounded up and taken to the game parks. All that is left in these hills are baboons, rabbits, snakes, birds, squirrels, skunks and all kinds of butterflies and insects. People still slash and burn in the dry season. Every night I see fire burning on the mountains and in the valleys. When the fire burns the trees and grass it moves fast, burning everything. There are burnt axe-mutilated tree trunks everywhere. Black soot and white ash blowing in the cold early morning wind. The winter rains came, leaving the burnt grass thirsting for more.

But village life continues. People gather almost every day for various meetings: kurova guva — the ceremony bringing the deceased spirits back home, burial society meetings, political meetings, funerals, donor food distributions, community development meetings and occasionally, roora, the bride price ceremony.

Down at the village project borehole, Piri and the other women are already watering the Simukai Project garden before it gets too hot. There is loud laughter, chikwee, as they normally do when they catch up on village gossip.

This time of the year Zimbabwe is dry but beautiful. We celebrate the changing of seasons, the new tender leaves of spring, the feel of love and laughter, the joy of seeing another spring and the hopeful expectation of abundant rains.

Sekai Nzenza is a writer and cultural critic.

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