Culture week, African values and Covid- 19 challenges.

Every year the country celebrates our African Culture and the month of May has been slated for the important commemorations. The important Africa Day commemorations sum up the celebration of our unique culture which is bestowed with rich entitlements and provisions passed from generations to generations through the socialization process.

Culture week celebrations in Zimbabwe are spearheaded by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe so far this year, they have among other things, hosted a televised culture week concert as restrictions caused by the Covid- 19 lockdown remain in place. In the previous years, the culture week culminated into activities from the community level, school level, district, up to the national level which have been limited this year due to the lockdown.

This year’s Culture Week is running under the theme Zimbabwe at 40, celebrating our cultural diversity and heritage. According to a statement by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, the culture week was established to promote cultural diversity by showing different types of expression and it is centred on the International Day of Cultural Diversity which was set for May 21 annually.

Celebrating our culture has been met with mixed reactions in the past. There have been calls for a national dress that we can all use and be identified with. Designs have been sampled, and types of Zimbabwean national dress have been put to the fore. Whether it is due to the fact that we identify more with foreign cultures than our own, or what, we have been unable to completely identify with our Zimbabwean cultural dress. Probably the best has been to adopt the African attires generated mainly form the West Africans.

However a recent wedding in the outskirts of Mutare stole the limelight when the bridesmaid all featured dressed in traditional Shangani attire known as Xibhelani, worn byShangani women. Tsonga females wear these for traditional functions and sometimes they do so for identity purposes. Traditional dress is now common among school learners as they are exposed to annual traditional dance competitions. Learners in Zimbabwe are exposed to our traditional dances which run for two years and this has given all learners across the country an opportunity to have a dance with all Zimbabwean cultural dances and dress and thumps up to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for this intiative. This has been significant in ensuring that a Manyika learner is exposed to the Amabhiza dance which is synonymous with the Matebeles.

Through cultural relativism, we are still expected to perform some simple cultural activities that will show that we conform to the norms and values of our communities. This, however, has been very difficult for traditional communities against a background of the recent restrictions caused by the Corona Virus. During this culture week l had to travel to a place in the Mutasa area. Despite the provisions to observe social distancing and to appear in public wearing a face mask, it has been very difficult for the rural folk to adhere to these mandatory provisions. One person argued that like the coming of HIV/ AIDS, rural communities are still skeptical about covid- 19. The handshake is still the symbol of offering condolences. This shows the inevitable situation citizens are still exposed to as they try to strike a balance on cultural expectations and health restrictions.

Some rural communities are in compliance, for example another visit to attend a funeral in Makoni South revealed that families were using the Chigubhu gear system to sanitize hands, for example after using the toilets, or upon entering a homestead. Under this system, a plastic container is strategically placed on wooden handles, while a string is connected to a stick which people stamp on to pour some water onto the hands without touching the bottle. Some schools are reportedly going to use the same system especially those in rural areas which will be strategically placed at the entrance of every classroom.

As week get to the close of the culture week, and as we celebrate our cultural diversity, it remains important to observe the dynamic process that our culture inevitably has to go through. The need to identify with our African culture and heritage as espoused by the founding fathers of our continent cannot be underscored. It is important to preserve our culture in a way that also helps us to maintain good and healthy habits. Noting the current covid 19 lockdown restrictions which are upon us, it takes individual will power to play a part in fighting the spreading of the diseases. Should be made towards ensuring that myths about the disease are quashed, and all communities are well informed on how the disease can spread. Containing the disease will help us to live another day to celebrate our cultures.

Aimbirwe Yesu Kristo

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