Untold Stories With Tendayi
Back home, we believe in the spirit of the village and it is indeed true that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ This is our way of life. Our culture and the children belong to both the nuclear and extended family. They are all responsible for helping to raise the children. In our culture, the family consists of the parents, grandparents, tribal village, the extended family (maternal and paternal relations) and the children include brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces. This is true for most of the African cultures and we all supported each other, thriving and passing on cultural traditions from generation to generation. We also have a Totem system and all that belong to the same totem clan are considered family. Examples of Totem clans are Lion (Shumba), Eland (Mhoru), Elephant (Nzou), Monkey (Shoko) and Heart (Moyo). This also means that those who belong to the same Totem clan cannot intermarry.
We have lost the village. Today’s society, especially here in England has left parents, especially mothers raising children in isolation. The spirit of the village is lost. And the young generation is suffering. This is the main reason we set up our community organisation called ZIWO – Zimbabwe Women’s Organisation. This is for Zimbabweans living in Greater Manchester and aimed at supporting them in all areas of life. We have several projects and partner with other community organisations to support, educate, empower and enrich the lives of our village. We also have statutory partnerships and are grateful for the funding we receive to make our outreach possible. Last September we launched a project called “It takes a village to raise a child.” Based at Manchester Art Gallery, having our Ziwo women sharing their experiences with child services, education, health services as well as our cultural differences was so powerful and at the end, we all agreed that it indeed takes a village and we should come together for this to happen.
The village support is very important during pregnancy and birth. Blood relatives or not; we are one family and the women in the village get together to support the mother-to-be. Catering to her every need, nurturing her through food, herbs, oils, prayers and songs. During labour, when the woman begins to experience her contractions, there is both a power and vulnerability within her. There is a recognition that within this time anything can happen.
The village waits expectantly; in prayer and reflection.
Once the village hears the song ‘Makorokoto’ it is a sign that the birth has been successful and all is well. The celebrations begin. The song ‘Makorokoto’ is a song of praise and joy.
If this is the mother’s first pregnancy, the village tends to and serves the mother for up to 6 months, so she can rest and fully recover whilst adapting to motherhood. If this is not the first child for the mother, she will be served and tended to for 2 months.
The concept of the village, its traditions, rituals and celebrations are something to be cherished and revered; my hope is we can cultivate the oneness experienced in Mbuya over to the UK.
I am grateful and honoured to be part of this heritage project by the lovely young women at Holding Her Space, who I call my daughters and they call me Mama Tendayi. The work we are all doing is so crucial and our grandchildren and their grandchildren are going to benefit from this.