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Staying true to oneself

Having travelled to a few places across the globe, I have come to realise how little I know about where I come from, who I am and what actually defines me as a being. The most awkward moment is when you are attending an international event and you are asked to wear your national attire. As a young Zimbabwean, I struggle to find anything that highlights my being without any attenuation.

Global Citizenship with Gilmore Tee

Tariro NeGitare uses her music to tell and share her stories as a Zimbabwean
Tariro NeGitare uses her music to tell and share her stories as a Zimbabwean

I then question myself if our teachers and those before us spent so much time in educating us that at the end of it all we uneducated ourselves on who we are. It becomes really complex when you begin to scratch around for your identity and actually can’t find anything that symbolises or represents you.

I see the trend of not being proud of the little things that make us Zimbabwean existing amongst my fellow youths.

A vivid incident is when I was in Harare and I asked a fellow country man for a place I could buy isitshwala/sadza/pap and the gentleman said, “Eish, I don’t know. I haven’t had sadza for a while; rather I do not eat sadza.” I was left dazed to what this gentleman was talking about and the fact that he prided himself in that fact.

Sometimes we pride ourselves in things that just fly by and we actually look at those as “cooler” things.

Occasionally, it saddens me to see this notion happening over and over again amongst ourselves. This is why I strongly believe that as a young person, your parents should allow you to explore the outside world or you should travel to other places that are not where you were born or grew up.

Travelling has made me appreciate that I can be so much more than I actually thought about myself. It has made me realise the importance of appreciating myself, the unique place I come from and other people with their backgrounds. Seeing a young person from Senegal being able to tell you about their language, culture, food and kind of dressing, made me crave to know more about whom I am and what makes me.

It hit me hard when I was in West Africa and people kept calling me Toubard. At first I thought, seeing my name was English, it was hard to pronounce my name in a Francophone influenced environment. In my little head, I concluded that this was my new nickname, which probably was close to my name. Little did I know that Toubarb, meant “white man”. My skin colour definitely was not of a white man neither was the texture of my hair. When I asked for further clarifications on why I suddenly was known as the “white man” the response was, “The way you dress, what you eat and your habits, are of a white person.”

This newly-found definition of me haunted me for days. I later realised that I never had so much to show or share about where I came from. In many cases, I spoke of the city lights, cars, suburbs and the limited things I grew up with and around. It made me want to know even more about where I came from so I am able to share with outside people. It made me realise that things such as sharing a calabash of mahewu, is something we ought to be proud of as Zimbabweans. We can tell our stories in so many ways. I listen to musicians such as Tariro NeGitare and sincerely wish that more of such songs that highlight the Zimbabwean life could be exported and get people to hear us. The beauty of art, whether we share the same language or not, can still allow us to share our stories and experiences.

Now I fasttrack to the incident of the man who does not eat isitshwala and I shake my head robustly to the thought of such imprudence. We ought to learn more about ourselves, be able to share about who we are when an opportunity arises and above all, celebrate our uniqueness. It is the only way the world can start looking at us and say, WOW.

Gilmore Tee is a social entrepreneur, global citizen, curator, publicist and host, who works within the Zimbabwean creative industry, with a strong bias towards fashion. He is the founder of Hunnar Management Agency. Visit website: or Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: Gilmore Tee.

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