I grew up in Zimbabwe. I’m not from any part of it though. I grew up everywhere. And because I was growing, I got assimilated into different cultures altogether. When I was 15, I was transferred to a boarding school in the depth of the Midlands, a rural to urban set up. My aunt stayed in the township centre and the school I was attending was a few kilometers from her. From her house you would cross the road and just like that, you would be on the rural side of the town. However, the rural was far more bigger than the center itself, and the bulk of the locals would travel for shopping or to access facilities there.
It seems in all this moving around the country that I did, I was very much used to always meeting people from different backgrounds and learning about them too. It’s not until I visited the capital that I came face to face with the demand for me to be a certain unique person. Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Venda or English. I couldn’t relate. I was born a Manyika from the Manicaland, raised by one standard, that is the ability to adapt. When I was 9 my grade 3 teacher said he was going to turn me into a fluent Ndebele speaker, that he did. And when the time arrived for me to begin Venda lessons, I moved again. This time to Bulawayo, the Ndebele capital of the Matebeleland province. Classroom and playground activities were a walk in the park since I spoke the language of my soon to be people.
The one challenge I had though was that I had been taught to not speak vernacular during school times until it was during a language lesson. Even then adjusting became hard. Especially now, with Shona being my first language followed by English, I am embarrassed to say I think in English, then I translate everything from thereon. When faced with the challenge to speak in my native languages (both Shona and ndebele), I find refuge in English. It’s sad to me that there both equally as good, but it’s a borrowed language which seems to take precedence above them all.
Had it not been for my high school Shona teacher who encouraged me to sit for those exams, I probably wouldn’t have. Moreover, my appreciation of the language would have been nothing to write home about.
Why am I explaining all this? Let me explain. We are not born racist or tribalistic. We learn these things. We aren’t born superior or inferior, this too I’m afraid we are taught. But ask yourself out of your friends, what is the stereotype of each one of them, and does it hold true for your friend? Or its different because of the attachment you have? Perhaps it was never true. So would you still hold a stranger by those same rumors?
Cultural misappropriation became a thing for me the moment I have the words a superior race and… Being used loosely to define it. There are so many things that could divide us, but Meghan Trainor sang, what makes us all the same is that we all are so different. Think about it…