We're always looking for ways to keep our children exposed to and engaged in African culture. There is so much out there and so many talented teachers but I'd never found anyone nearby who catered specifically to children of Zimbabwean heritage. Until now...
Zimbabwe Kids Summer Camp! This season of corona virus brought the most talented, beautiful and inspiring young Zimbabwean artists right into my home. We are on day four of the five day camp. Nyasha - my youngest, and the one with the least memories of physically being in Zimbabwe, is not just loving the camp but she's seeing reflections of herself and her own family on zoom.
In the morning we have an hour online live and then we have activities to do together that fill up the rest of our day. We've done potato prints and watched a video of sadza batik. We've learned our numbers in Shona up to ten and then played pada (hopscotch). Nyasha wakes up singing camp songs and at night is delightfully terrified of the Ngano of the day by Anesu Ndoro- because, as my son says "someone always gets eaten in these Zimbabwean stories".
There are other kids with Gogos, Sekurus, Tetes and Maininis and Maigurus. We even have a cousin's first cousin in the camp. The students all have meaningful names that they are encouraged to translate proudly. There is an "Angel" Malaika, a "We are well loved" Tadiwa, a "God is with us" Munesu, an "Amazing Gift" Chishamiso, a "We Have Been Brought Happiness" Tadiwa, and my own "God's Grace" Nyashadzamwari. Names that sound like hers, instructors with her mother's accent. I see her heart filled with the message "this is my reflection and it is beautiful".
When I was a little girl in Zimbabwe, I had one book from with a black female protagonist who didn't live in a rural area. The book was about a girl celebrating her birthday at church. She looked like me but she was different. She had a grandma, I had a Mbuya; I didn't know what a pocketbook was, I had a handbag; I didn't eat candy like she did, I ate sweets. She was almost like me but not quite. In my books where the characters looked like me the story lines never quite fit into the world I lived in. So, when we received our featured book for Zimbabwe Kids camp, "Thoko Muka". The first few pages almost made me cry. Thoko is just like my little girl with no need for cultural translations. She's an African girl, living in the diaspora, eating porridge and dovi while thinking of a far away Gogo who loves her. As soon as we started reading Nyasha snuggled up to me and smiled saying, "Thoko has a Gogo and her mommy has your same haircut". Sometimes happiness is a small space where you can rest from needing cultural explanations.
The songs, the ngano, the dancing and the art would've been more than enough but today the children's guest speaker was our national treasure, Thomas Mapfumo! YES!! Thomas Mapfumo who patiently and thoughtfully listened to and answered all of the children's questions.
I am so grateful to Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa, who is now lovingly known as Aunty Tanya in my house, for answering the call to provide cultural enrichment for our children. We are so sad camp will end tomorrow, as we love our instructors and new friends, but we are excited about the all classes and camps Zimbabwe Kids will have in the future.
Yesterday we learned about our ancestors, tomorrow we will learn about our totems, and forever my little girl and I will have memories of her first stay at home camp that took her all the way to Zimbabwe.