The Mbuya Nehanda statue project is essentially about remembering and paying respects, as a nation, as a people, to an ancestor whose contribution to our unfolding history deserves recognition.
Of course there are many such personalities in this country’s history but we have to start somewhere.
Nehanda is a spirit who operates through mediums.
There are known mediums of Nehanda before Nyakasikana inasmuch as there are some after her. Currently there are several claimants, dotted around the country.
The fact that we have a medium through whom we then interact and get guidance from Nehanda the spirit means that the spirit has personified itself through its medium.
We can represent the spirit through its medium. The medium is our means to the spirit.
If we therefore want to respect the spirit and to immortalize it through honoring by way of erecting a statue, we represent the spirit through its medium.
Statues are commonplace throughout the world world, including the Christian world. Zimbabwe a few years ago erected the statue of Father Zimbabwe (Joshua Nkomo), South Africa and Mozambique erected statues of their former departed leaders, Nelson Mandela and Samora Machel.
The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe and North America erect numerous statues of various persons regarded as significant contributors to their national histories.
They are recognizing the contributions of these people. They are celebrating them as distinguished departed citizens. They are not idols.
They have not turned them into Gods. They have made monuments out of their stories. The same applies in our case.
Mbuya Nehanda is not being turned into a God because of the statue.
As Zimbabweans, the statement we are making is that we’re thankful to Mbuya Nehanda for the courage and sacrifices she made through her spiritual leadership of the First Chimurenga and we want present and future generations to to remember those contributions and be inspired by them as they also become citizens who contribute to the common good.
It will be remembered that the Second Chimurenga that finally delivered independence and sovereignty to Zimbabweans was directly inspired by the First Chimurenga, in particular Mbuya Nehanda’s prophetic ‘my boned shall rise’ declaration just before she was hanged by the colonial administration for her role in that early struggle against our conquest by the British.
The statue is being erected by the people of Zimbabwe.
Whilst our appreciation of exactly how Mbuya Nehanda looked like is limited because there probably is only one photograph of her, there still is need for some degree of consensus on the image of her, notwithstanding the limitations related to this issue.
The opinions of the people matter.
The statue project commenced after relevant and appropriate procedures and protocols had been followed.
*Gibson Mahachi is director of the National Monuments and Museums of Zimbabwe