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Fare thee well, Dr Oliver Mtukudzi

So rare is their type! So few and far between. They have that, that special thingi…which, while you can’t quite put your finger on, yet you can never mistake it, in the way they carry themselves and in the unique deodorant they leave in your soul. Their effortless charm and super-human appeal seems to grow on the ground they walk on, on the hem of their garments and straps of their shoelaces.  In the very air they breathe and the water they drink, there appears to be some anointed glow of grace.  Yet try as you may to walk in their shoes and step on their footprint, to drink from the same cup or to cough their cough, you can never duplicate their authentic persona and deeply enchanting humane appeal. It is just theirs and theirs alone. 

MATHABELAZITHA/THE ANVIL BY ZIFISO MASIYE

Many will agree with me, you didn’t quite have to know Adam Ndlovu, Nelson Mandela or Oliver Mtukudzi (and I refuse that it had anything to do with their undeniable respective stardom, per se — for so many we know are superstars too) — but none, without your permission, ever had that uncanny habit to imprint so indelible a signature in your heart even if your paths in life hardly crossed.  Such are the select, soft, emotional leaders of society. Fare thee well Dr Mtukudzi.  Such are hewed of the purest cloth of angels.

If they too, had tears to cry, or a Twitter and Facebook account to post… If they had an archived selfie with him or a doek to dorn, today the silent spirits of Dande, Guruuswa and Kasimbwi would rise and speak — the guitar that made Tuku, the mic he so beautifully sang and coughed into, the multiple stage floors his dazzling feet pranced on, home and away and the very plates he ate madora from — they would each serenade us with tearful albums of their inspired and life-changing experiences of the Oliver Mtukudzi they knew.  Clearly, there is nothing the man touched in his life that was left unaffected in deep, telling ways.  The songs he didn’t sing must mourn the loss of being left unsung.

I am livid. The mood is tense in the house.  We have turned everything up-side down, you would think my home is one of those shutdown after-party looted shops of Nkulumane-Nketa.  Why? I too need to produce my Tuku V11. My treasure, the “snap” I got Mrs Mtukudzi to shoot of her iconic husband and I that enthralling night in Dar es Salaam, somehow can’t be found.  I’m certain this is valid enough reason and grounds of divorce!

For, like everyone out there, as this fellow bids the world farewell, something deep inside of my humanity wants to grab hold of those hair-breath moments and spaces, however tiny, that I had the blessing to ever share with him.  Like many I feel this inexplicable, compelling desire, in whatever way, to touch and rekindle the oliver mtukudzi inside of me.

A man must have lived a wholesome, fulfilled and fulfilling life, he must have lived the life God intended for him, when, on his death, the world around and beyond him freezes and seeks to find in themselves pieces of his version, snippets of his vision and purls of his purpose.

As a person, I do not know Oliver Mtukudzi as one whose death could draw tears from as grown a stranger as I.  I have not heard any of the teary words of Daisy or Selmor or indeed any of the Mtukudzi clan.  But every tributary of tweets, posts, renditions, doeks and orbituaries from near and afar has rendered me, personally bereaved and unplugged involuntary flows of tears from mine eyes.  It is neither his person, nor his exciting music.

It is his symbolic, emotional connection to the world and the seamless potential for a different world that the idea of Mtukudzi ignites in me and that draws out my tears. Oliver Mtukudzi’s simple, grounded deportment, his peaceable sincerity and velvet smooth quality of being — is a loud slap on the face of a crude, profanely vengeful, callous, selfish and vainglorious world. 

My daughter’s view is less generous and more unforgiving of the orgy of selfie archives and doeks.  As she reckons, when the saint passes by, all the devil’s angels queue up for a selfie!

She thinks, at many levels Zimbabweans are a hurting lot, that our souls are bitter and deeply drenched in hate, anger and socially destructive negativity. She thinks we all need saving . . . that our injured personalities and our burdened, sinking souls clutch at every straw of glory and goodness to squeeze some measure of transient  solace.  Zinanzile thinks our society suffers a deeply dysfunctional psychological complex of self-worth deficit and ordinary social malcontents and “pombiyadonhas” routinely feel a compelling need to seek vicarious social validation in the hard earned fame of superstar personalities. I found some of her thoughts quite provoking in my sincere mourning, but she and I agreed on a few underlying points: The rare likes of Oliver Mtukudzi are like that one dazzling light that overwhelms the consuming darkness of our hearts.

As he departs our mortal world and flashes of his worldview, his selfless ways, his disarming humility, the wise counsel of his lyrics and all the beautiful things that, though we all wish to be, we are often an antithesis of, Dr Oliver Mtukudzi holds up a mirror to us individually and collectively.
  Looking into his mirror of us, we feel fondly stupid, we behold our own vanity and self-glory — we are shamed by own indecent selfishness and pride, by the injustices of our conduct to our fellowmen . . . we are smitten by his sincere love and loyalty to his natural habitat, his Dande roots and his authentic culture and we are embarrassed by our own bleached souls and profane worship of alien habits faked cultures.  In the mirror he holds up to us our abandoned children, neglected elders, our abused women and wives, our impoverished citizens and the jealousies, innuendos, egos and self-doubt that defines and consumes us . . . all come alive and indict and punish us!

The only true way any of us can make true our tears would be to cast away the demons of our fear, our anger, our bitterness and divisions at personal, at family, at community and at national level. To yield ourselves and embrace our ubuntu, seek each other and pursue dialogue, love, peace and sustainable human dignity and justice.

Tuku’s mirror image of humility must always remind us, “Chibharanzi Chinobhadara!” Go well, NZOU!

Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere  on social media as Balancing Rocks.

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