Sunday, September 01, 2013

Great Zimbabwe Reflection

Located just outside the town of Masvingo, situated in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe, close to the Chimanimani Mountains and the Chipinge District, Great Zim was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country's Iron Age. It was also the seat of power for the monarch.

Visiting Great Zimbabwe twice, once overnight, was certainly a highlight of my trip to this country which takes its name from this civilization characterized by stone structures. What's unique about the stone structures is their close resemblance architecturally to the actual landscape of the country which is characterized by huge boulders or rocks, some mountains spread across a vast plain empty except for these huge rocks sculptures dotting the landscape.

It is almost a still life.

One also sees echoes of the artistry of Great Zim in the modern buildings in the capital, Harare, whether that is at the airport or an office building, the" National Heroes Acre" which honors the freedom fighters or even in the flag which has pictured the sacred bird, which was found in Great Zim, several, several also stolen. The flag also has stripes, which one could interpret as bricks, the kind used to build the great walls of the enclosure.

I have never been to a country before with such close connections to its past. I didn't meet anyone, whether he or she was a public servant or passenger in a local cab called a combe, who did not know his history and feel proud to be Zimbabwean.

The stones are not cemented or mortared. They are placed one on top of the other fitted just so to create these massive structures, castles, buildings, walls, and enclosures taking up miles and miles. The Europeans systematically destroyed all evidence of domestic life purposely in the areas where one could have seen how the king's servants lived. They also destroyed much of the outer wall for a golf course, yet, despite its absence, there is enough present to give one a sense of the majesty of the place. There is also a museum where one can see what the structure looked liked from models. One can also measure the various archeological and historic periods here as well.

In Great Zimbabwe there were lots of caves, places where people held rituals. The people whose ancestors lived here, still share its legacy as guides and as a living museum within a village which is a part of the National Park. I visited a traditional healer there. The traditional healers are also a part of daily Zimbabwean life, and were called on to bless the upcoming elections. They prayed, I was told, for peace.

My guide, the lead archeologist for Great Zim--I just lucked up the morning I visited (smile), Munyaradzi Elton Sagiya, told me that the government closed entrances to caves which they felt precarious to prevent injury. However, he told me stories of people who live here who would come here for rituals and go deep into the caves. It is still a sacred site where rituals are practiced. We saw evidence of this in a smaller open cave along our incline. There were earthen bowls and pestles and other materials suggesting an offering. Entering the cave Sagiya clapped his hands as he said a prayer.

Great Zimbabwe is certainly a mathematical and design wonder of the world, which Cecil Rhodes, the former colonizer of this nation, tried unsuccessfully to create a fiction which credited its creation to Europeans.

Standing on the king's balcony overlooking his kingdom which was militarily and spiritually fortified was one of the highlights of the journey, and certainly worth the climb up the often narrow stairs and over the huge rocks to the top (smile).

Great Zimbabwe