The statue of the First Chimurenga heroine Mbuya Nehanda will have to be redone to capture the image that has been in existence in the national psyche, backed by contemporary photographs, since her hanging in March 1898, President Mnangagwa has declared.
This follows the President’s visit to Nyati Gallery near Snake Park earlier this month, where he was presented with a youthful version of Mbuya Nehanda by sculptor David Mutasa, who has been tasked with making a statue of the iconic spirit medium.
However, the youthful portrayal of the heroine in the statue was contrary to the older image that Zimbabweans had become accustomed to through archival memory, leading to public outrage.
Speaking to Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) yesterday, Deputy Chief Secretary-Presidential Communications, Mr George Charamba said the President had disapproved of the statue and ordered the artist to go back to the drawing board.
“When you have that kind of artistic production, there are key features which must ensure that onlookers immediately connect with. One key feature has to do with the physical appearance of the real life figure you are talking about,” said Mr Charamba. “So the President immediately reacted. He wanted to understand why artistically, VaMutasa has decided to make (Mbuya) Nehanda look a lot more youthful. Then it emerged that VaMutasa had done something that approximated Nehanda in life. But the authorities at the National Museums and Monuments had a different view. They thought the artistic production must convey and communicate vigour, permanence, youthfulness of the spirit which Nehanda incarnates or personifies.”
Authorities at the National Museums and Monuments then suggested that Mbuya Nehanda be made a lot younger to suggest that buoyancy which they wanted to communicate to the onlooker, said Mr Charamba.
“The President didn’t agree, and as it turns out that youthful face of Nehanda should be put away and we will have a Nehanda who is closer to how the good lady looked in real life, which means a lot more wrinkled, well past middle age, and of course showing the strains and stresses of captivity,” added Mr Charamba.
The First Chimurenga war heroine’s monumental statue is being erected at the intersection of Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way.
Indeed, Mbuya Nehanda, the paragon of virtue and epitome of Zimbabweans’ struggle to unshackle the fetters of colonialism and slavery did not die in vain, for her bones arose to inspire her people to independence and freedom.
As the struggle for total liberation against the erstwhile coloniser, who comes in many disguises takes another dimension, the story of Nehanda Nyakasikana (Charwe) will continue to be told from generation to generation, hence the decision to immortalise her in a monument, considering that the spirit of struggle against colonial subjugation remains intact.