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Power of religion to influence our tastes

A visit to the barber this week got me thinking. Firstly, there was the young man who was awaiting his turn to sit in Ano the Barber’s chair after me.

State of the Art with Admire Kudita

He was animatedly discussing Zimbabwean politics. He went through a lot of issues. I chose to hold my peace. He spoke of politicians promising to bring bullet trains and other such projects that sound a tad too grand for some but not for me.

I was listening to the music of Sabastian Magacha and Jah Prayzah that was blaring in the background. They have a gospel duet which speaks to a number of pertinent issues I will touch on this week and the one following. Like most people, going to the barber is one of my life’s rituals and it is such a place to observe the culture in microcosm.
Music of the times

In the barber shop, the music always plays at the loudest volume and somehow people seem to hear one another in the cacophony. Today it is a song called Mweya Mutsvene.

The hook is a plea to God to take the singer away in the opening lines which encapsulate the song’s leitmotif, which is the power of Mweya Mutsvene (Holy Spirit). “Mweya mutsvene nditakure ndiende . . .”

What makes the song particularly interesting for me from a cultural point of view is the depiction of a person wrestling dark forces and enlisting through supplication the help of the Holy Spirit. What are those dark forces?
“Tete munoshura kunditumira zvidhoma (Auntie I am shocked, why send goblins to attack me) . . .” As the song plays, one is forced to reflect upon life in Zimbabwe and Africa in general and the extent to which the supernatural meddles with people’s lives.

Fiya pon dem

In Jamaican patois, the phrase above represents a desire for an enemy to be vanquished. As regards the occult, witches and wizards are perhaps one of the reasons Africa may not move ahead no matter how many development conferences are hosted on the continent.

The general thinking appears to be permeated by tales of the macabre and mysterious. Even our politics and revolutionary struggles have supernatural roots (think Mbuya Nehanda or Sundiata). The mystic element continues to hold sway over Africa’s people and references to God are not foreign to the “modern” political arena.

Indeed, the speeches that are made on podiums by politicians are in themselves a reflection of a cultural malady. The natives believe too much in mystic forces.

Religion is touted by many. But it is mostly a strange syncrentic version of Christianity. The reality is that the default setting of most African families is to resort to a “consultation” with a so-called prophet or soothsayer.

Thus, when something tragic happens in a native’s life, it must be an evil force that is conjuring up the mischief.

This matter has riven families apart and more so in a time when people have become lovers of money. Tilda Moyo’s radio show on Star FM is a more eerie version of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, replete with bizarre spine tingling tales of supernatural victims.It is more the case in Harare than in Bulawayo, if I may add, at the risk of being accused of bias!

Europe burned witches

But Europe burned its witches in a certain frenzied epoch. There was found no place for them in society. Between the 16th and 18th century, panic was raised over the threat witches posed to Christian society. But they date back even to Medieval times during which Pope Innocent VIII gave full sanction for the inquisition to weed out the malevolent ones. Britain even enacted the British Witchcraft Act in 1735.

America had the infamous Salem witches trial. Over several years in the West, many were tried and burnt on the stake for the mere suspicion of witchcraft. Suspicion of devil worship and of course the punishment for it differed from country to country. An estimated 60 000 people lost their lives through the witch-hunts in Europe and North America, intriguingly during the time of the Renaissance (or age of enlightenment).

People’s opium?

The music we hear now in Zimbabwe and even by secular musicians such as Winky D’s Ngirozi and Jah Prayzah, is a barometer of the times and a society grappling with several life-threatening issues.

There does seem a slant toward the Gospel and religion. Interestingly, no one is publicly singing praises of his ancestors. They are mostly singing about the Man of Galilee.

How are the people to navigate these choppy waters without some power greater than themselves? People want to escape the reality of their tormented lives. As it is, we are in an age of prophets and devils.

The proliferation of churches is directly proportional to the number of people who are vexxed by all manner of devils. Thus, in several of our towns, one finds that old factory shells have been occupied by charismatic churches.

Yes, they are manufacturing the gospel in there. Every Sunday, if not every other day, thousands throng the churches for a “word of knowledge or a word of revelation”.

Parting shot

It does seem that African society has many miles to go before it can really catch up with the rest of the world in some of the areas we are striving to improve. Since Africa’s children are currently being “cascaded” by demon spirits and families being torn asunder, should we now have our own inquisition of such a matter in order to expurgate our society of the fiends ? Perhaps.

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