#Imagine Zimbabwe, through the lens of Andrea

Andrea
Her days at Mt. Pleasant Nursery school in a newly independent and de-segregated Zimbabwe – don’t we all look happy for the promise of this new country? I am in the back row on the right.

My name is Andrea and I am a graduate student at the University of Bradford pursuing a Master’s degree in African Peace and Conflict Studies.

I read Aleksandra’s essay on imagining peace in Poland and I wish that I, too, had a glass of wine while writing this one! Instead, I have a hot cup of English Breakfast tea. Generations of my family were born and raised in southern Africa where daily life was imbued with many lingering English colonial traditions – drinking extravagant amounts of tea being one of them. Being a Zimbabwean with naturalized US citizenship, I sometimes jokingly tell people that I am African American. As I bear an obviously white complexion, black Americans especially seem to enjoy this joke, at least they let me believe that they do. Once, a fellow caucasian pondered a reply that would convey a touch of confusion but be delicate enough not to offend: “oh, I thought you looked more Italian,” he said. Occasionally, this conversation serves as a revelation that white people live in Africa. Perhaps the thought is that they all just packed up and left as the dominoes of independence tumbled over the continent, or that they had never been there at all. In fact, of the 275,000 or so white Rhodesians living in the country just before Zimbabwean independence in 1980, about half decided to try life elsewhere rather than take their chances in the new majority-ruled nation. This “Rhodie” exodus gave rise to many bumper stickers bearing the phrase “Rhodesians never die, they just inhabit the world.” My parents and all of my relatives stayed, at least for a short time, trading the moniker “Rhodie” for “Zimbo.”

Andrea photo2

I was born just after Zimbabwean independence in a capital city that still bore the name Salisbury and grew up believing that Rhodesia had been a paradise, as that is the literal refrain I heard from my parents over subsequent years. This understanding was reinforced through the “when we” tales at the annual Rhodesians World Wide reunions we attended after immigrating to the United States (see the demographically specific “White People in Zimbabwe” Wikipedia page for elaboration on the “whenwes”). It was only during a summer break in university while reading Nelson Mandela’s book “A Long Walk To Freedom” that I had the revelation that Rhodesia was a paradise for the white people. Zimbabwe, though thirty four years independent, is still one of the youngest countries on the continent and is working through some growing pains. Unfortunately, in fits and spurts these adolescent tantrums have manifested themselves in violence, land seizures, displaced people, economic implosion, and a general uncertainty for the future.

I think that anyone who has visited or lived in Zimbabwe would agree that it has all the makings of a paradise. The land is stunning and compelling, stirring even the most non-sentimental heart. I think of Victoria Falls (its local name, Mosi oa Tunya, is much more evocative, meaning “the smoke that thunders”), the mist over the mountains of Nyanga, the massive ancient stone towers of Great Zimbabwe, the petrified trees rising from Lake Kariba, and the people who inhabit this incredible land. My hope for Zimbabwe is that it is realized as a paradise for all who live there, including the animals, which have also suffered the consequences of political and economic turmoil. My hope is that the past is not forgotten but that people focus more on the possibilities of the future, as they did at independence. An article written in 1975 in National Geographic magazine closes with the sentence, “may black hand clasp white in friendship and give Rhodesia peace to match the beauty of the land.” Substitute Zimbabwe for Rhodesia, and the sentiment still carries today.

***

Andrea and I are course mates in African Politics. I had wanted her to write about the US but she chose Zimbabwe, the country of her birth. Her decision definitely spoke a lot to me. In recent times Africa as a continent has been labelled so many names like the dark continent and all. Many Africans are not so proud to be associated with her; I wrote a post on The Americanah but Andrea went against the crowd and popular opinion.

N/B I’m sorry for the delays in the post. This series may just be coming to an end soon. I’m still expecting a few more entries. But i’m sure you’ve been enjoying each post.

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#Imagine Japan, through the lens of Natsu

Natsu

My name is Natsu. I was raised in Japan, but born in Australia. I left Australia at the age of 7, and lived in Japan ever since, so probably I have lost most of my Aussi­ness (except love for vegimite A MUST for breakfast). In my short time in Australia, I did not face many occasions that made me think about the relation of my two home countries, but there was one when I was 5 years old, which has been a kind of a trigger in making me take the path on studying Peace Studies now.

The 25th of April is the ANZAC day in Australia, and at school, we have events in the memory of the fallen at war. Old soldiers would come to talk of their war experiences. I remember sitting in the assembly hall with all my other kindy mates, listening, intrigued by the horrific events that the old man talked about, and whispering excitedly about how evil this enemy was. It was almost like sitting watching a movie, until I heard him name the terrible, evil enemy, the Japanese. I remember looking up from my whispered conversation, and looking at the man. I was shocked, never knowing that there was a war between my two beloved countries, and more so with the hate pulsing out of the man as he spoke about the Japanese, Us. I realized, ignorant as I was, that the memories, suffering and the hurt of war will never fade from this man nor from others, and in that sense, war has never ended.

Living in Japan, I feel that the war is increasingly becoming mere dates and names on history Textbooks, something that is disconnected, something that has ended in 1945. That war, which the Japanese had started and lost, is not something we are proud of, a topic that raises tension between our neighboring countries and even within, a memory we do not know how to face. It is so much easier to look away, wishing for the memories to just disappear. But, that hate and hurt in the voice of that old soldier reminds me that the memories will never disappear.

I don’t believe that the Japanese must bow down forever. During these almost 70 years, Japan has apologized, and is seeking reconciliation (whether that has been enough or not is another problem).  But, I believe that the attempts to face and embrace the memories of that war of within and that of the outside has not being enough. How? I still have no answer. I cannot even imagine what ‘facing’ or ‘embracing’ really means. I just feel this strong need for change.

I love Japan, it is my home. It is one of the safest countries. There would be bending machines with beer on the corner of a quiet street, and as far as the ones I know, they have always being standing there peacefully without being harmed.  The people I know are loving and polite, hardworking and caring (sometimes too much perhaps). And because I love Japan, I imagine a country ‘facing’ and ‘embracing’ the memories of that war, not only for what had happened, but for the future too.

#Imagine the United States, through the lens of Ross

Ross

-Imagine a World with No Fear of War-

Ross Wood is from the state of Virginia in the United States. Over the last five years he has spent time working in support of marginalized people in Morocco, Israel, Kenya, and South Sudan. Most recently he served as the Area Coordinator of the Yida Refugee Camp on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Currently, Ross is pursuing a Master’s degree in Conflict, Security, and Development at the University of Bradford’s Peace Studies Center as a Rotary Peace Fellow.

 In the winter of 1963 my grandma begged my granddad to move away from their life-long home in Columbia, South Carolina. My grandma was terrified that the eastern seaboard of the United States would be the first place to be hit once nuclear war broke out, and she wanted to give her two children a chance to live in the mid-West of the country where she thought bombs could not reach. My granddad, not wanting to leave his home, tried to soothe my grandma’s fears to no avail. Finally, as my grandma was packing suitcases to make ready for the trip to South Dakota (or so the story goes), they came to an agreement. My granddad hired a crew of five men to construct a solid concrete bomb shelter that sat fifteen feet underneath the foundations of their house.

 Beyond being afraid of mushroom clouds and nuclear winter, my grandma was afraid of what such a devastating explosion on American soil, no matter which city it obliterated, would do to the collective psyche of her community. She envisioned a scenario in which her Sunday tennis partners would transform from sweet, chatty ladies into hardened survivalists that would not hesitate to seize the safety of a known bomb shelter by force. With that grim thought in mind, my grandma insisted that the work crew dig in secret. She made sure that the entrance to the shelter was out of sight from the neighbors. Once the shelter was complete, she would stock it during the cover of night with enough canned goods to last four adults for a year.

 The bomb shelter became my grandparent’s greatest shared secret. No one, not even their two children, knew of its existence until November 9, 1986 when the Berlin Wall fell.

 From the perspective of a civilian living in the United States, fear and uncertainty characterized the state of global security during the period before the end of the Cold War. Civilians trembled at the thought of a powerful enemy with the ability to take out entire cities with the push of a button. Growing out of that fear, global security issues were considered in terms of the Cold War. The drug trade was thought to fund communism, and so the United States presented itself as justified in intervening in Latin America to stop narcotics trafficking. Civil wars in Africa and East Asia were deemed “proxy” wars and warranted intervention as remote Cold War battlegrounds. Put simply, before the end of the Cold War a fear of communism was a clear point of focus for the imaginings, both hopeful and terrible, of Americans.

Now that the Cold War is over, my grandma no longer trembles at the thought of a looming nuclear blast. The future that she hoped for, one in which the Cold War ended without a shot fired, went from an imagining to a reality. New fears, though, have materialized in the wake of that war. As for me, I imagine a world in which there is no fear of war. I hope that my imagining, like my grandma’s, will some day become a reality.

#Imagine Nigeria, through the lens of Ogenna

Ogenna

Hi. Ogenna here but I refer to myself as Sunshine, not because I’m yellow, but because I’m hoping to touch the entire world before I burn out.
You know stars don’t fade away, they do the afore mentioned.
Model, Student Engineer (I mean there are student doctors), Part time mother to my brothers, Writer and last but most important Dreamer.
Nigerian. African.

Blank slate.
That’s all I want really.
Hope.
That’s all I have truly.
Faith in the unfaithful.
That’s my mantra
Peace.
That’s what I dream of daily.
Chanting prayers like a war cry.
Like a little child waiting on Santa’s delivery.
I wait for the world to become one.

Back it up, let’s start from the top.
Let’s imagine this.
Zoom out of your map, way further, further out.
Do you see any borders ?
No ? I don’t too.
So why are we killing our brothers ?
Because I was under the impression that he who shares land with another,
They become one, just like the land they live on and toil on.
So tell me, why. Are. We. Killing. Our. Brothers ?

Let’s cut out religion
Cut out the fear of hell or heaven.
Do we have to choose ?
Muslim ? Christian ? Buddhist ? The rest ?
Let’s paint a picture and blur out the edges.
Cloudy. No hard lines to separate us.
No paper in the form of spiritual books to sway us.
Let’s imagine a world where there’s no divide.
You can say it’s just imagination.
But the earth was built out of nothing.

Black and white.
Imagine if there was no black or white.
And the whole world was grey.
If there was no Nigerian, American, Somalian, Pakistani, oh. The list is endless.
Picture if we were all grey.
With no colors to separate us.
We wouldn’t have to put our hands up all the time.
We would actually breathe.

This list is endless.
The hopes are rising.
You say I’m a dreamer.
You say I’m just a little girl.
But I’m an African little girl.
A Nigerian, an Igbo.
Would you like to hear some Igbo ?
It beats you asking me to “speak some African” when you see I’m black.
Tell me the capital of Africa.
I’ll wait. No answer ?
AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY.
Read a book. Educate yourself.

I’m coming down home.
So I don’t have to “Raise my hands” every time I wear a hoodie.
So I can run in the cold and not be termed “man on the run”
I’m coming home so “I can breathe”
But I’m home now.
And Mr police officer stops me to ask “anything for the boys”
The sales girl gives me a blank stare when I ask “why’s petrol so expensive”
The NEPA officials laugh when I say “there’s been a blackout”
I’m home and I drive like a drunken man to avoid these pot holes in my road.
How am I supposed to maintain a vehicle on these roads ?
I’ll buy another then.
But when I’m done with petrol for my generator.
“Something for Mr Police officer and his boys”
“Buying goods that are imported but could have been made here in my home”
“When I am done providing basic amenities the government should provide with my tax”
“When I’m done providing my tax”
What will I have left ?
Then I’m home and these explosions are going off in my head.
But they’re not in my head.
They’re here. In churches. In Mosques.
Why are these places running red with our blood ?
Shouldn’t they be the sanctuary we seek ?
Shouldn’t they be the getaway when we want to get away ?
Between the government and the BH boys,
My country slowly becomes uninhabitable.
Is this where I’m coming home to ?
Where I can’t even call their names for fear of the next explosion tearing me apart ?
Where my voice can’t be heard over the screams of my people.
Where my tears can’t be seen through their blood.
Shall I hang in the air now as the obodo oyibo isn’t good but ala nna’m is horrible ?
Where racism rules the former and tribalism, corruption and you name it rules the other.

I want to imagine a Nigeria without boundaries.
I want to imagine my baby girl happy as she used to be.
I want to imagine our baby girl prosperous.
Because Nigeria is our girl.
Our baby girl.
And we must come together as a family to protect her.
We must hold hands together and stand at her boundary and keep her safe from them who seek to destroy her.
Regardless of color, tribe, religion, language.
In our diversity we must become one.
I imagine.
A beautiful Nigeria.

Ogenna.
Sunshine.

***

I have known Ogenna all her life, she inspires me a whole lot. I doubt if she know’s what an amazing talent she’s got. The world hasn’t scratched her surface yet. I am a dreamer too and someday we’ll behold the Nigeria of our dreams. By the way I’m blessed to have her as a Sister. Loads of love

N/B Obodo oyibo – Is an Ibo word for The White Man’s land

Ala nna’m – Is an Ibo word for my father’s land