An excerpt from an interview the late Prof. Solomon Mutswairo gave in 1998. Makes wonder why these “un-telegenic” so-called nationalist public intellectuals fail to see the hypocrisy and futility of their rhetoric.
Angela A. Williams: Dr Tafataona Mahoso believes that Zimbabweans should begin constructing their own African reality in this post-colonial era. Do you agree, and how does writing poetry in English fit into your belief?
Solomon Mutswairo: Well, there has been a lot of talk about going back to our culture. I have no quarrels with that. There is nothing wrong with going back to one’s culture. But culture is a dynamic force; it is something that grows. We cannot think in terms of going back a hundred years into our culture. I believe since it is dynamic, we should accept that dynamism which seeps into our present society rather than wholly accepting those cultural norms that are no longer timely. So, thinking along those lines, I should like to think that those elements of our culture that are good, acceptable, should be retained. And those which are not will fall apart. Therefore, we will be forging ahead with a new culture, a hybrid kind of culture, which incorporates both the Western and the traditional. I do not believe I could be an advocate for a purely traditional culture in Zimbabwe, because we are now greatly influenced by other cultures, particularly the Western culture, which includes European and American. And American influence is very great, not only in this country but throughout the world, in terms of clothing and food and music and dance and general thinking. So, how are we going to retain purely that which is Zimbabwean? I say that we live in a culture within cultures, a new culture in Zimbabwe that fits our young. This is quite obvious in our music. The most popular music is not quite traditional. More particularly, it is more Western, which means our culture is moving from one phase to another. So, that’s what I believe. Are you going to dictate to the people to accept a particular cultural element, or are the people going to choose? So, what the people want is going to be an established kind of culture. It cannot be dictated. For example, I have never seen Dr Mahoso engaged in the traditional dances although he advocates going back to tradition. And I’ve never seen any of these educated people engaged in our traditional dances. They are like pieces in a museum that they would like to preserve.