So I have a problem with making fashion out of dead legends. I am sure you have all seen bags and T –shirts bearing the images of greats like Steve Biko and Martin Luther King Jnr. I often cringe to think that these men, who fought for the emancipation of their people, now find themselves pasted onto brightly coloured garb, forming a part of popular culture.
Okay, so I think it’s important for young people to be conscious of the past, to be able to identify with the efforts of predecessors who have paved the way for a better today. But I am not so sure if a T-shirt will achieve this. What about a visit to a museum or a look through a history book?
Oh, but you will tell me that young people don’t have time for that, that between Face Book and their i-pods, there is simply no time for that. So how exactly does regalia ensure that these people are conscious of who these heroes are? I
tend to feel that all these artefacts are commercial gimmicks that ensure that ordinary people feed into the capitalist machine. In a world where everything and everyone famous is patented, it’s not hard to see how all these products largely serve the interests of a few. So we think its cool and conscious to buy something that says Kenyatta on it, or to cruise around wearing something emblazoned with Saartie Baartman’s derriere when all it usually is some company churning out mass-produced goods for the health of their pockets and not history.
I do agree that these products make young people more curious about the past, but it’s saying something if they are not made aware of history within the school setting, or at home.
I remember that when I was in high school – at a private school – we were never taught
Zimbabwean liberation war history because our school believed it was time to bury the hatchet between blacks and whites, the two main race groups in our school. And so instead, we learnt about Chinese feudalism, the Egyptian pyramids, 18th Century England and everything else that took us away from the gory details of Rhodesian history. I believe that was the wrong way to go about things.
Imagine if German kids weren’t taught about Nazism. It’s an ugly horrible shameful past, but one that must be confronted and accepted. It is what happened, and this can never change.
And it still saddens me to think that many young people, like I once did, go to school in Zimbabwe and know zip about their own culture and history. Sadly, T-shirts, caps and bags aren’t the real solution to unlocking one’s history.
It is a far more intricate process of unravelling the hidden layers of self.