The mbira, a traditional Zimbabwean instrument and genre of music, is believed to connect the living world with the spirit world, with mbira players facilitating this sacred link. One such musician owes his success to an origin story as mystical and weighted with meaning as the music he plays.
Traditional spiritualists say Zimbabwe’s current problems are due to the government’s failure to recognize their work and to honor ancestral spirits who helped the country win liberation. They are seeking government funding, saying it would help rectify this oversight and lead to economic recovery.
When colonialist Cecil John Rhodes died, he asked to be buried in Zimbabwe’s sacred Matobo Hills. His gravesite has long been a popular and lucrative tourist destination. As the threat of COVID-19 has shuttered the site and killed the nation’s tourism industry, local people are renewing the debate over whether the polarizing politician deserves to stay.
Although hundreds of thousands of women are involved in Zimbabwe’s mining industry, traditional beliefs that women bring bad luck often prevent some from thriving in the field. Many female miners are pushing back, saying that their participation is necessary for economic growth, but others say it isn’t worth the effort.
Polygamy has long been practiced in Zimbabwe’s rural areas, but it’s becoming more common in urban areas, too. In this story, women and men in polygamous marriages speak about the dynamics of this evolving practice.
Local authors as well as researchers on literacy trends say that Zimbabwe’s reading culture is in decline, citing accessibility and the rising prices of physical books. A new group of authors is eschewing traditional publishing and finding readers where they are – on social media.
Tradition holds that playing the mbira can summon the spirits of dead ancestors - and that women should not play the instrument. But several women in Zimbabwe are redefining the instrument and the music, composing songs with political and social messages.