A young man, a stranger, asked me about identity, about my identity as a Zimbabwean. His question made me think…am I Zimbabwean?
The further I travel the more elusive the idea of ‘belonging’ becomes, and the more urgent the need for ‘identity’.
I have to be from somewhere. Can I still be labelled by the country of many names that gave me my childhood and an early, unquestioned sense of belonging?
It’s amongst strangers that it really matters. What is my accent? Why the difference between me and others? The answer that covers the most, and with the most accuracy, is the small sentence: “I am a Zimbabwean.”
I am aren’t I? Well no…not officially. It’s complicated in Zimbabwe.
My belonging is to a remembered place – a country that schooled me in discipline and obedience, where I believed its leaders, and where censorship ensured that it never entered my head to do otherwise.
Today, those first decades of my life continue to bind me to this country of regime change, brainwashing, and dispossession. There is turmoil now, with communities in disarray, and whole systems collapsed beneath the corruption of power and wealth, yet much remains.
Deep in my memory, held together in my sense of self in much the same way that a canvas carries paint, are the rich sounds, the wide views and skies, the wildlife, and the people. It is their print that enables my whole, that links me back to where I began – Zimbabwe.
This is my identity…both stronger and less because of change, but anchored always.
I am Zimbabwean wherever I am.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018