Veteran talk show host Rebbeca Chisamba says Zimbabweans must take pride in their own culture and stop promoting western cultural values.
Chisamba (RC), who hosts a popular talk show in Shona, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that she gets worried when she sees young people using skin lightening creams in a bid to change their complexion.
She also spoke against the promotion of western dishes ahead of local food. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Mai Chisamba, welcome.
RC: Thank you for having me Trevor.
TN: I am so very glad you have been able to come. I am looking forward to this conversation.
RC: I am also glad and I am looking forward to this conversation.
TN: This is my problem. I am embarrassed to confess that my Shona is actually better than my Ndebele. So I will mix the two…
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RC: You will mix the two.
TN: Yes, I will mix the two.
RC: That is fine. As long as we understand each other that is key.
TN: You are happy with that?
RC: Not a problem at all. It is very well.
TN: Mai Chisamba I am your son-in-law.
RC: That is correct.
TN: So you are comfortable taking to your son-in-law in this kind of setting?
RC: If we are at work, as we are, we will have to just get on with it. What else can we do!
RC: This is the profession we both chose. However, when we are done you will pass through home and chop some firewood!
TN: So Mama, you have been given a national mandate? Will you help us understand what this national mandate involves?
RC: My mandate, the job that I was given, let me take you back a little, I am from the teaching profession and I was a teacher before, however, I then went to learn about radio broadcasting.
That is when the ZBC discovered me while I was at school learning broadcasting.
When I got there, I was told by the head at that time not to speak in English on air but only Shona, as they wanted me to do the job of giving exposition on issues of relationships and culture and how to have respect for our culture.
So I was to allow people to say their relationship issues no matter how bad they are so they can be addressed and advised and corrected where necessary.
I was at first upset Trevor, because I felt they thought I did not know how to speak English!
RC: Anyway, when people had finished work that day I went to my boss’ office and told him that I was a teacher in my own right.
TN: I can speak English.
RC: I told him I could do English programmes, if they wanted they could let me try. He then said we have given you a platform but not in English, but only Shona air.
So, I then told my brother Lemuel Tsikirai that I was going to quit!
TN: May his soul rest in peace.
RC: Indeed. So I told him that I was quitting and he said to me my sister go and make Shona interesting, go and make all the 16 languages of Zimbabwe known.
When you are able to do this, you will really enjoy it.
So indeed I have come to enjoy it.
I enjoy it as I am invited to see all kinds of families and people across the country as a woman, talking to people who talk Ndebele or Shona.
I highlight these two languages because they are the two main languages, speaking even the other languages other than these two.
There is nothing as wonderful as being Ndebele, there is as nothing as wonderful as being Shona.
TN: There is nothing as wonderful as being a black person.
RC: Indeed that is correct.
There is nothing as wonderful as being a black person. We need to be proud of who we are.
TN: Yes, being proud of what we are.
RC: I want to also highlight those young people these days who use skin lighting treatments to try and make themselves look white like white people.
Trevor, we have had white people who we have known and grown up with, have you ever seen a white person decide to darken their skin like us?
So why do we as black people want to look white?
Our dark skin is beautiful.
Those who are born with fairer black skin it is fine, those born with darker skin it is fine as well, but being Ndebele or being Shona that is what we are.
TN: Why is it we as black people want to look white?
RC: Our mindset was affected.
We used to think our children who are growing up right now are the ones who do not want to be proud of who they are and have lost their identity.
My heart bleeds for our children as I say in my programmes, that we are being overrun by other nations’ cultures in Africa.
We seem not to have our own identity.
TN: We do not have our own cultural identity any longer?
RC: We do not, but the truth is we have our Ndebele culture, we have our Shona culture, we just look down upon them.
A Nigerian comes along and we embrace their culture, but we also have our own tribes and identity, our own chiefs?
TN: Why is this so?
RC: It is just because we do not respect our customs.
If we come and say let us do our own things culturally, for instance if we prepare a meal of the madora (worms), in no time people will gravitate more to beef or chicken…
TN: One will ask if there are prawns being served?
RC: Exactly. If you look, however, at what a prawn looks like and what a madora looks like which is the one that is more frightening in appearance?!
RC: This is because it comes from the ocean and from abroad.
These same people overseas eat things like frogs and are proud of it.
Why can we also not be proud of our own indigenous delicacies?
Like madora or any fly or grasshoppers?
We are not saying people should go back to the days of Mbuya Nehanda, no.
However, as we go through our lives we must not reduce our culture to what happens during quizzes when they say dead languages and people will say Latin for instance, we do not want one day for our own languages to be known as dead languages!
In our duty as the older generation we would have failed if it gets to that. Ndebele must be admired.
When you hear Ndebele people talking you are fascinated by how they talk, in their cliques, there is no one on earth like them.
If you hear Shona people talking and conversing, there is no one on earth like them.
They talk in all their dialects all day proudly.
So where have we gone wrong to be proud of our own culture?
Trevor I am someone who likes football, so I watch all those famous footballers play the game like Ronaldo or Messi.
When it is time for interviews they do not speak in English for the most part, they talk in their own language of Portuguese or Spanish.
It is us who do not speak our own language and this is what affected us through colonisation, because we feel that if we are well versed in English it means we are very learned.
We do not know that someone who is educated can also be proudly Ndebele.
You know even how your surname is pronounced ‘Ncube’, it is so unique.
My maiden name is Tsikirai, my married name is Chisamba, these are our names.
If we respect them we will see they are unique and important.
The white man really affected our thinking, to see everything in a white man’s way.
TN: So on to your mandate, are you seeing any progress? Are you winning?
RC: Oh very much so. In the beginning I felt like I was the only one in the field, however if you listen and see now what is sung by those musicians such as Jah Prayzah and the like they are respecting their culture and holding it in high esteem.
Singing songs in Shona and Ndebele you see.
This in itself is proof of our progress. We see them taking up these things even on social media like on TikTok.
TN: On the internet?
RC: Yes on the internet and the like.
This shows people are happy with promoting their culture.
Our culture must not die. Our uniqueness must not die.
Trevor I once talked about how as Ndebele people for example we do not hold in high esteem our traditional dishes, we do not as Shona people hold in esteem our traditional dishes.
Right now, if I asked for us to go and eat at a restaurant we will be proud to go and eat Nigerian food, but we are not in Lagos.
If I said let us go and eat Chinese food we would proudly go out and eat Chinese food.
If we then say let us go and eat a Ndebele dish or a Shona dish we would go to a dirty place with poor hygiene who are not properly licenced because we have no respect for our traditional dishes.
The hotels, however, are trying, but only on particular days will they have traditional dishes. One day only? Why is that?
TN: So what do we do?
RC: What we are doing right now in discussing, it is actually a way of doing something about it because we are sowing a seed which will have an effect and germinate and grow.
If you for example decide to bring a traditional meal for lunch to work you cannot expect to be laughed at.
If you want to eat a traditional dish from your tribe then it should be so. If it is madora or the like.
I will keep mentioning the madora!
You must not bring such dishes clandestinely, worrying about what your subordinates or colleagues will say.
TN: Will I not be ridiculed?
RC: Why do we look at the food we eat as evidence that we are struggling or something? If we take leftover sadza from dinner the previous evening we see it is something impossible?
Whatever it may be let us be proud of our culture and let us be proud of who we are.
Did we not see our forefathers and grandparents build huts with straw roofs? Right now even our huts are being modified with proper thatching and this is what we are doing.
If you go to places like Greystone Park and those kinds of places you see thatched housing.
TN: Even some hotels use thatched roofing?
RC: You see now. This is why I am saying we are making progress Trevor, because these are our own traditions and customs which we have always had.
TN: Tell me, is it possible that perhaps, I mean you and I are bringing awareness, people are seeing the Ndebele and Shona languages are coming up, even Venda, Manyika and all the others.
- What about in schools? Teaching Ndebele?
- This is an idea I have had for a long time.
- Why don’t we have for example for one to pass their Grade 7 or something one must have at least two national languages?
RC: You have hit the nail on the head! Our various national leaders should look to esteem our national languages.
You find right now a child in school who passes Ndebele or Shona as subjects is not really seen to have passed well.
We will say there is a need for that child to have passed English. Why is that the case when we have our own language?
The talk right now is that our country belongs to us as Zimbabweans?
It is built by the indigenous people of the land as is said by our president.
- “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. The conversations are to you by Heart and Soul Broadcasting Services