Erecting Statues More Important And Should Be Applauded: Mavaza
26 May 2021
Share
Dr Masimba Mavaza

By Dr Masimba Mavaza | Zimbabweans received the unveiling of the great statue of Mbuya Nehanda the first ever recorded Woman army commander after Deborah of the bible. Many were elated and praised His Excellency, the president for bestowing this honour on the heroine and commander and a great spiritual guide ever to grace Zimbabwe.


However there were pockets of professional opposing figures like Hopeless Chin’ono and some social media misfits who took turns to criticise the erection of Mbuya Nehanda’s statue. Besides the confused Chin’ono the former minister of Information Prof Jonathan Moyo posted again criticising the decision to erect the statue. Jonathan Moyo can be excused he is always opposing anything as long as it is done in the new dispensation. As for Hopewell Chin’ono we all know he is singing for his supper.


To understand the culture of erecting statues let us first understand what a statue is.

Statue definition is – a three-dimensional representation usually of a person, animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting. It is the likeness of a living being sculptured or modeled in some solid substance, as marble, bronze, or wax; an image; as, a statue of Hercules, or of a lion.


A statue is a sculpture representing one or more people or animals, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger.
Statues have been produced in many cultures from from prehistory to the present; the oldest known statue dating to about 30,000 years ago. The world’s tallest statue is over 500 feet. Many statues are built on commission to commemorate a historical event, or the life of an influential person. Many statues are intended as public art, exhibited outdoors or in public buildings. Some statues gain fame in their own right, separate from the person or concept they represent, as with the Statue of Liberty.

Statues can teach us about history, but they do not convey some immutable truth from the past. Instead, they are symbolic of the fixed ideas of a specific community regarding its past, as captured at a particular point in time. They commemorate individuals and celebrate a romanticized vision of the past. They provide neither context nor an explanation of events but they carry history and honour.
Amid a country full of idiots who are hell-bent on tearing down statues in a cathartic frenzy, it is worth sparing a moment to reflect on why we erected those statues in the first place. While those who are short minded think that a monument’s primary purpose is to glorify great dead person, the reality is that they were meant to be symbols of hope and progress. 

World over nations have expressed their gratitude to the heroes by curving their immortality in a statue. The common question we get from those who love opposing is:What purpose do statues serve? This question came to the fore when Zimbabwe announced plans for a memorial commemorating the great medium and army commander in her own right Chihera Charwe Nyakasikana Nehanda the great.

Many detractors raised blocking unhelpful statements like the government had not consulted members of the Mazoe community and the Nehanda family before publicising them.

This was merely the latest in a succession of recent episodes that have fuelled debates over the purpose of public monuments in society.


One may want to doubt the importance of a statue he must learn from the past few years have seen ongoing campaigns in the US to have Civil War statues commemorating Confederate figures removed from public spaces. Counter-campaigners have sought to maintain those statues as they are. What these episodes all have in common is that, within each, monuments have become lightning rods for wider conflicts between competing visions of history. It shows further that there is great honour in a statue. It becomes a symbol of gratefulness and seed meant to have an eternity effect on the generations to come.

These issues do little to alter the central point; that Zimbabwe, as we know and love it, would not exist without Mbuya Nehanda Chihera mukuru and her great leadership. All they do is suggest that the decision to focus so exclusively on Nehanda was a deliberate one. 


Nehanda was ultimately chosen because she was a great canvas on which to project Zimbabwean values. She was a commander and a medium pushing the boundaries of knowledge and courage to her army. She went on to lead the second Chimurenga from the grave. And above all she was a woman from humble origins whose meritocratic success captured the hopes and aspirations of a society oppressed and raised under fear. It took the Nehanda courage to raise a successful rebellion called the second Chimurenga. No amount of money can stop the bestowing of such an honour.


Zimbabweans know that it was “an augury of the future of these great lands, our very commander was one who fought her way to success through spiritual and physical efforts, by the sword and by the spear but persevering dignity. Her life is a noble example to the people of Zimbabwe who lived under institutions which freely open the door of fame and power to all who display courage and ability.” 
That is why we erect statues, not to glorify the dead, but to inspire the living. “sentiment about great events and great men to whom the country owes much is but the spark which fires men to similar achievement.” 


Perhaps one of the reasons the opposition and Hopeless are so determined to tear down everything to do with statues is because they no longer believe that such inspiration is necessary. Identity politics teaches that your race, gender and class determine your life virtually without your input; the individual and their endeavour count for naught. 
Circumstances certainly play their role, but they do not determine our fate. Giving in to predestination eliminates all purpose in human life. 
Zimbabweans are not quite the monument builders. We have always put up commemorating statues some representing many in one.


The arguments being spread around by those who are not appreciating the honour bestowed upon Nehanda comes across as borderline silly, but it is never just about Nehanda or dwelling on the past. It is about the great society that is being constructed where Nehanda had tread. As that society faces new challenges, maybe we need some inspiration. 
statues should be preserved because they teach people about the past. But is viewing a statue actually an effective way of learning about history?

An insightful way of understanding the erection of statutes is to examine the attitudes of past societies to their public monuments. Developments in 19th-century Europe, in particular, have the potential to unlock a fresh vantage point onto this contemporary issue. In that era, many political communities pursued state-building programmes that involved appropriating history to serve interests in the present. Nations devoted substantial energy and resources to commemorating heroes from the past in monumental form.


These monuments continue to shape the fabric of European cities. The gilded bronze statue of Joan of Arc installed in Paris’ Place des Pyramides in 1874, for example, remains a familiar sight in the French capital. Every summer, Joan greets the Tour de France as its riders circle the city’s historic heart during the final stage of the race. The statue of Richard I erected outside London’s Palace of Westminster in 1860 still stands proudly outside the home of Parliament. Richard’s unyielding bronze gaze has watched over defining events in the past 150 years. The fate of the grand statue of Frederick the Great erected on Berlin’s Unter den Linden in 1839 has been intertwined with the history of the city. During the Second World War, the monument was encased in protective cement.


 
The ways in which monuments were used in 19th-century Belgium aptly illustrate wider European trends and attitudes in that era.


In contrast to more venerable nations such as England and France, Belgian state-builders could not point to continuity through long-standing institutions and structures that had existed for centuries.. As a result, the ideas and aspirations which shaped their efforts came into focus more clearly through statues than in other states.


 
Seeking to use the past to stimulate feelings of communal solidarity, Zimbabwean political elites have commissioned – and provided substantial levels of funding for – scores of new monuments for the nation.


Zimbabwe’s government has signalled its intention to carry out ‘a national task’ by sponsoring the creation of new statues ‘to honour the memory of the Zimbabweans who had contributed to the glory of their country’.


This wave of Zimbabwean statuomania is not just about conveying an interpretation of the past. It is one element of a programme intended to mediate the relationship between the past and the present.
We must remember that the history of every people is written in its monuments. They reveal, without diminishment or partiality, their mores, their beliefs, their institutions. This is true for all eras and applicable to all countries, and will particularly be confirmed in Zimbabwe.


This rather self-conscious effort to assert that Zimbabwean monuments are impartial serves to confirm that precisely our heritage is contained in the monument.


The statues do not simply convey neutral, incontrovertible information about the past puts the past in a pushing position pushing us into our future. Again they present a particular view of history, one which had it that while Zimbabwean nationhood had only become a political reality in 1980.
Mbuya Nehanda’s statue will be an impulse that will be shaped the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of the Nation.


Those who will visited the capital will be able to see a tangible version of this history, cast in bronze and carved in stone.


So it is unpatriotic to criticise the honour bestowed on Charwe Chihera Nyakasikana Nehanda.

[email protected]