The Herald (Harare)

7 September 2009

Zimbabwe: Anthem - Symbol of National Identity

opinion

Harare — THE world over, different countries or nations have different national anthems and national flags. These define their collective identity as a people. There are several interpretations of the term nation.

Wikipedia defines a nation as "a body of people who share a real or imagined common history, culture, language or ethnic origin, who typically inhabit a particular country or territory."

In a way, the major distinguishing features of a nation are common descent, language, history and religion. At times it can also be a product of social construction.

Olley Tsino Maruma, author, film producer, journalist and socio-political commentator had this to say about a national anthem and flag:

"A nation is made up of a myriad of individuals who all have an identity of their own. The national flag is what gives them a single identity -- a national identity. A national anthem is the poem that sums up a nation's values, aims and dreams."

An examination of the Zimbabwean national anthem should obviously begin from realising that it is a piece of nationalist art that transcends partisan boundaries.

Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabwe, which represented the culmination of a long process of consultation and competition ultimately won by the late Professor Solomon Mutswairo, is an example of a work of art.

The writer of Soko Risina Musoro, often quoted by the late national hero and Vice President Simon Vengayi Muzenda, Prof Mutswairo, produced a piece that is replete with imagery and symbolism.

According to Dr Maurice Vambe, Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabweis a work of "great literary imagination" which evokes a sense of national pride.

It reflects the historical realities of the country and the people's aspirations -- present and future. He adds that this "artistic Constitution" is more like a "national wish list" summing up the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.

Shona Version

Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabwe

Simudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe

Yakazvarwa nomoto wechimurenga;

Neropa zhinji ramagamba

Tiidzivirire kumhandu dzose;

Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.

Tarisai Zimbabwe nyika yakashongedzwa

Namakomo, nehova, zvinoyevedza

Mvura ngainaye, minda ipe mbesa

Vashandi vatuswe, ruzhinji rugutswe;

Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.

Mwari ropafadzai nyika yeZimbabwe

Nyika yamadzitateguru edu tose;

Kubva Zambezi kusvika Limpopo,

Navatungamiri vave nenduramo;

Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.

Ndebele Version

Kalibusisiwe Ilizwe leZimbabwe

Phakamisan iflegi yethu yeZimbabwe

Eyazalwa yimpi yenkululeko;

Legaz' elinengi lamaqhawe ethu

Silivikele ezithan izonke;

Kalibusisiwe ilizwe leZimbabwe.

Khangelan' iZimbabwe yon'ihlotshiwe

Ngezintaba lang' miful' ebukekayo,

Izulu kaline, izilimo zande;

Iz' sebenzi zenam', abantu basuthe;

Kalibusisiwe ilizwe leZimbabwe.

Nkosi busis' ilizwe lethu leZimbabwe

Ilizwe labokhokho bethu thina sonke;

Kusuk' eZambezi kusiy' eLimpopo

Abakhokheli babe lobuqotho;

Kalibusisiwe ilizwe leZimbabwe.

English version

Blessed be the Land of Zimbabwe

O lift high the banner, the flag of Zimbabwe

The symbol of freedom proclaiming victory;

We praise our heroes' sacrifice,

And vow to keep our land from foes;

And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

O lovely Zimbabwe, so wonderously adorned

With mountains, and rivers cascading, flowing free;

May rain abound, and fertile fields;

May we be fed, our labour blessed;

And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

O God, we beseech Thee to bless our native land;

The land of our fathers bestowed upon us all;

From Zambezi to Limpopo

May leaders be exemplary;

And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

People need not dig deeper or beyond the personal responses within oneself at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, just before an international game between a Zimbabwean representative side and any other team from outside the country.

Or better still, if you attend a national event like the Independence or Heroes day commemorations and the national anthem is played. Any conscious audience would feel in a particular way when the national anthem is played on such occasions.

This writer remembers his high school days, way back in the eighties, when we used to sing the national anthem (Ishe Komborerai Africa/Nkosi Sikelela iafrika, then). Although it was used by most countries on the continent, it still reminded one of their being part of a nation first, and then that pan African feeling would come out.

Along with the national flag, dress, currency and other cultural traits, the national anthem is a symbol of collective identity. These are the things that identify us as Zimbabweans. They must be valued for being inspirational.

Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabwe exudes images and symbols that capture the lives of the ordinary Zimbabwean person.

Zimbabwe, whose name is derived from the Great Zimbabwe monument was, according to Prof Mutswairo, born out of the Chimurenga -- "yakazvarwa nomoto weChimurenga". Reference therefore, is being made to post-Independence Zimbabwe, which is a product of a protracted struggle.

The Rhodesian flag and anthem had their own value and meaning but for the new Zimbabwe, bringing these would obviously open old wounds and evoke sad memories.

Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabwe exhibits a clear thematic flow from an admiration of Zimbabwe's ecological magnificence, the political history of the country as well as an appeal to the Almighty to bless the country. The beauty of the country is reflected in "yakashongedzwa nemakomo nehova, zvinoyevedza"

The physical geographical features of the country seem to contextualise Zimbabwe in terms of place -- "kubva Zambezi kusvika Limpopo". These are Zimbabwe's northern and southern borders respectively.

The land between the two rivers is Zimbabwe and it has been the source of countless conflicts. Notice the reference to "ropa ramagamba".

Land is a source of wealth and hence becomes central in the communal vision of the people. As a result, the national anthem then becomes the rallying point for the attainment of the people's aspirations and as such is sung at most events where Zimbabweans gather formally.

On most of these occasions, people carry the national flag, which together with the national anthem, symbolise the collective dreams and ambitions of the citizens of the country. Prof Mutswairo also hopes for divine intervention in the blessing of the country's leaders -- "Navatungamiri vave nenduramo".

It also explains why there was an outcry during the 2004 African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia when the wrong national anthem was played.

A national anthem is not informed by racial considerations. At Athens and subsequent Olympic meets, Kirsty Coventry has raised the Zimbabwean flag high and millions of the country's citizens who watched the proceedings from the comfort of their homes, felt with Kirsty as the national anthem was played.

The national flag is not a cloth of convenience but a symbol of the collective identity of a people and hence is respected. The bringing down of a flag, therefore, is symbolic of the end of an era. When the Pioneer Column reached Fort Salisbury, they hoisted the Union Jack, which symbolised British rule.

In 1980 when Zimbabwe attained its Independence, the Union Jack was brought down. This also marked the death of the Rhodesian national anthem whose life had begun with UDI. This paved the way for the hoisting of the Zimbabwean national flag and national anthem, which at first was Ishe Komborerai Africa before the adoption of Ngaikomborerwe Nyika yeZimbabwe .

The national anthem, together with other insignia like the flag and Court of Arms play a very important role in any nation.

Zimbabwe is not an exception and these remain unquestioned symbols of the values of our nation and the unity we would want to achieve is best served when we accept the collective identity rendered to us by these insignia.

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