'Our heritage is our future'

LONDON - I have a heart for Africa because when you “run to another man’s land” for bread and lose everything you hold dear you are often left with no choice but to return to the “Bethel”.

I left Africa thinking everything Western was superior. That the least of Western culture was the best of Zimbabwean culture. So I got myself sucked into the English culture head on! My view then was that the English were superior. They could do everything better! Suffice it to say this was the error that has brought me to this place and thus influences my decisions daily and my input into who I have become.

You see, I have learnt that without a heritage you have no inheritance. As a child of Africa I was too keen to discard my heritage in order to embrace another man’s not knowing that the reason he was superior in my sight was because he had held on very tightly to his heritage thus he had an inheritance.

To be restored to my heritage, I must begin to honour my heritage and in order to do that I must challenge myself to understand and master it.

The value of what I hold as a child of Africa will only be known to me if I seek understanding.

It is a great Africa that was, before the colonial masters. Africans were great people before white rule and it took us a long time to realise that the white man had taken both our land and identity.

The Romans understood that in order to conquer “a people” you had to strip them of their heritage and cultural references and entice and force them to embrace Roman culture. This is something their predecessors had failed to do, hence the great Roman Empire.

Regardless of where you lived in the world, if Roman rule was in force the subjects would discard their heritage and yearn and long to be Roman. For to be Roman was deemed superior.

The point I am trying to make with all this is that the Great Western Empire followed the Roman model that is why we have no real understanding of what it means to be African. All my reference points are big houses built by our colonial masters, afternoon tea, Western dress, food and the maruzevha that for me were synonymous with poverty and not the authentic way of life for the African.

As Africans we have our own definition of marriage and family and our own ways of survival.

What happenned to that identity? Why have we as Africans failed to match the Indians and the Japanese who have managed to hold onto to key elements of their heritage.

The Japanese have their Kimono and in the latest Vogue (fashion magazine) they brought out some awesome modernised version of the Kimono. Their stuff is exquisite and has captured the imagination of their own people. A Kimono is more costly to buy than the Western dress.

The rich and the wealthy adorn themselves in kimonos. To be authentic Japanese is to wear the kimono, eat noodles with chopsticks etc. To be a classy, affluent Indian is to be adorned in the national dress of that country. To be Western too is to be dressed in Dior, Chanel etc. To be adorned in the finest of Western dress is to be English/European.

How can we as Africans, interpret our heritage to the western world? Do we still know who we are? Are we willing to go the extra mile and really dig from within and so that we can become the David who slays the big giant Goliath? We have to cling to heritage because it is both our past and future.

This article has been adapted from one originally written by Pamela Samasuwo-Nyawiri for her blog Closet Shenanigans.

*Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

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