Elizabeth Duve Dziva
According to Sarah Anderson, old places have a soul hence worth persistent efforts to be preserved and conserved. Basically, conservation and preservation refer to the safeguarding of something valuable. Consequently, before we venture into what has been done and what needs be done in safeguarding Great Zimbabwe National monument, it is crucial that we explore the values attached to it.
We respect what we value and what we value shapes us. The iconic Great Zimbabwe, a testament of great prosperity and intelligence, located at the heart of Southern Africa is a simmering pot of values and infinite benefits not only to Zimbabweans but to the world at large. These include the educational and historical values.
The world heritage site is a major research centre pregnant with rich and relevant information for intellectuals from various academic arenas, archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, linguists, geologists among many.
Furthermore, the monument has an economic value as it generates income in various currencies for the nation through tourism. Its absolute and outstanding aesthetic value is the secret behind the irresistible magnetic force to people from different walks of life. Above all, the ancient capital carries untold spiritual value to all those who identify themselves with and still observe it. Historically, Great Zimbabwe was a major religious centre and is still a shrine and sacred place to those who choose to observe cultural rubrics and tradition.
Back then, situational and calendric rituals like rainmaking ceremonies were conducted at the site, which might as well explain why droughts were rare that they were used for relative dating, referred to as “Gore rezhara huru” because famines and droughts were uncommon. Not only are the dry stone walls a symbol of spirituality but innumerable other aspects which were found in and around the monument like the soapstone birds, the zoomorphic pot and even the not so popularly known spring within the monument , fondly known as “chisikana”.
Many a times, the walls have fallen, could this be the wrath of the long gone ancestors? A sign of their displeasure over the desecration of a once vibrant worshipping centre which has been turned into a plain playing park. In a way, all other values attached to the monument have overridden the spiritual value.
All the same surveyors, archaeologists and stone masons from National Museums and monuments of Zimbabwe in collaboration with international organizations like UNESCO have tirelessly worked towards the restoration of the monument with the most recent work being done in 2018 in collaboration with the University of Cape Town (South Africa).
In 2018, the United States government, through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, availed US$475 000 for the preservation of Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site.
However, the painful truth which is avoided and not easily accepted by those involved is that all these relentless effort are aimed at preserving all other values except the spiritual value yet according to history, religion was one important factor which contributed towards the rise and growth of Great Zimbabwe. The bitter pill is that the influential custodians of Great Zimbabwe are academic and not religious practitioners.
There is need to raise public awareness about saving heritage for mankind and vow to preserve every aspect of heritage, the priceless treasure left behind by those who went before us. Genuine efforts can influence descendants for generations. On 28 August 1963 in Washington DC, Martin Luther delivered his famous speech titled “I have a dream” in which he was expressing his vision, not as an individual but for the whole American race. Fortunately, he dreamt of what came to be as one day in American history a black man sat on the throne. As Africans, as Zimbabweans, it’s important for us to dare to dream, of a day when we are all going to be proud of our brand, of our culture and to walk out talk of being true and patriotic Africans, branded “proudly Zimbabwean”. What we choose to save is what we choose to say about ourselves
Elizabeth Duve Dziva is an Archaeological and Cultural Heritage practitioner, the views in this article are solely those of the author in her own capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org