I grew up in Harare formerly known Salisbury which is the capital city of Zimbabwe formerly known as Rhodesia in the surburbs of Hatfield then Avondale West. Life was lovely. I went to good schools and lived in lovely houses with my sweet parents and paternal grandparents for 5 years.
The schools I went to had rules against speaking Shona which is one of the Zimbabwe veneculars on school grounds. The only time we spoke venec (slang for venecular) was outside of school. Most of my age mates continued to speak English outside of school because speaking venec was looked down upon. We also were influenced by the American programmes we watched.
I wasn’t fluent at Shona and Ndebele but I liked speaking them because my parents encouraged it. My father was raised in England before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. My father’s family moved back to Zimbabwe after independence. So my father instilled a sense of pride in our Zimbabweaness. He wasn’t fluent at Shona and my mum who is Ndebele actually taught us.
Unfortunately being surrounded by friends who didn’t like to speak Shona my skills were not sharpened. I then moved to England after my father passed away. I completed my high school education and degree in England. My mother ensured that we spoke Shona at home even though it wasn’t fluent but she wanted to make sure we didn’t forget it. In England I met friends from other countries who had a strong sense of pride in their language and culture. I desperately longed for this also but had not had the opportunity.
In my quest to find my identity I suffered as an imposter of other cultures and languages. I tried to learn Patwa (Jamaican), Pigeon English (Ghanaian & Nigerian), I
Lingala (Congo) and Hindi. All my efforts to adopt these cultures were fruitless because they were not mine.
Finally it hit me that I was searching for identity but not truly embracing mine. That is when I started learning about my culture as a half Ndebele and half Shona Zimbabwean who’s totem is Lion from Masvingo formerly known as Fort Victoria. I started reading books and asking questions. What I found out about my heritage as a Zimbabwean was exciting.
Zimbabwe is a country full of richness of culture, and history. One of the interesting aspects I learnt is Zimbabwe has 16 official languages (to date 2021) and at least 5 Shona dialects. This information inspired me to create the cartoon Ndawana and Friends. I wanted to share the delicious information I had learnt about our beautiful Zimbabwe.
The Ndawana and Friends project is broken down into the cartoon which can be found on YouTube
Let’s Learn Basic Kalanga, Shona and Ndebele books which can be found at our website www.ndawana.com and a Saturday Chitima-Isitimela show on our Facebook page
(were different guests get interviewed as we share of respective Zimbabwean experiences.
Most people do not like and are not proud of our languages but if we are not then who do we expect to be? As Zimbabweans it’s our duty to learn and preserve our languages. The most internationally spoken language English is used worldwide because it’s being preserved by being taught at schools and being enforced as the acceptable form. We have to know that our languages are acceptable also.
Sure, you are never going to use the venecs at work but they are our languages. We should jealously love, guard and protect them.