“My view is that we have as an African people to be independent. Africa is too much of a beggar and will never be a respected people when we are beggars – and the danger is that he who pays the piper will call the tune, and I don’t think it’s fair for Africa to be dancing to somebody’s tune when we have got our own drums. Let’s beat our own drums and dance to our music. And then we are going to take our rightful position in the community of nations.”Pathisa Nyathi
Pathisa Nyathi is the founder of Amagugu International Heritage Centre in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A writer, author and publisher, the former Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union is an art, culture and heritage protagonist who is very unapologetic about his Afrocentric views and perspectives.
I met Pathisa Nyathi for the first time at his centre during a media tour organized by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) for the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo. A few days later, I ran into him at the expo grounds and with the help of my good friend and ace photographer, Steven Chikosi, we quickly set up an interview on the spot…
I am Pathisa Nyathi from Zimbabwe, based in Bulawayo. I am an art, culture and heritage person, and I run Amagugu International Heritage Centre. I have had interest in African thoughts in particular that which we share with people in Nigeria, Mali, Gabon, Kenya Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa. In other words, going beyond our colour; what is it that characterizes us as Africans? Is it being resident on the African continent? Or there is more to it? For me, I think it is much more than being resident on the African continent. But it is a certain worldview, a certain cosmology; our ideas about the world, ideas about society.
I am a writer, to my credit more than 30 books. I’m a publisher, I’ve published several books – most of them being mine. I’m a researcher and writer at the same time, concentrating in particular on history, culture, the arts and heritage. I have attended many conferences. I have been to Oxford to give papers. Last year, I was in Brazil, Sao Paolo. I’ve been to Rome, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and many countries. Now, I think my thrust mainly is bringing out African thought. I’m very Afrocentric. In my approach, I am not apologetic at all, because my drive is that let those who write stories about Africa be Afrocentric. What I don’t like is for us to be a people in relation to other people overbearing us. But we think we should be a people in reference to our selves. Let African people take the centre-stage and begin to understand their world from their own perspective.
Recently I appeared on BBC and when I got to London I did – I was invited to do some Facebook interview, one hour and it was very popular with thousands upon thousands of reviews by the end of that interview, people from as far field as United States, Nigeria, Ghana and other places in the world. So in a nutshell that’s me pushing the African agenda – that let the African be centred and begin to understand the world from his perspective. Rather than saying it’s all superstition, it’s all demonic, it’s all… something that has been demonized. I think this is a giant continent with a people that are in the process of reawakening – and that is going to happen much sooner than some of us think.
I think I as an individual have always been an arts, culture and heritage person. While I was in school I was involved in theatre, drama, as an actor, as a director; and I’ve belong to several institutions, writers’ bodies. One time I was Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union which was the first in the post-Independence period. I still remember our conversations with people from Nigeria, from Ghana… So I think from that time, I’ve always been interested in arts and culture and heritage. Then I think all that remained was an opportunity where the spark will ignite into a conflagration – and that came about when I participated as Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Writers’ Union at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair which brought together many African writers. Then I remember coming into contact with South African publishers and they were showing me magazines showing their artifacts, their crafts and I got excited about that. I think from there, I said I was going to build a centre that was going to showcase, that was going to preserve our heritage, something that was going to promote our heritage, document our heritage, so that people begin to appreciate; not from a heritage that is looked down upon, but a heritage that is a source of pride, a source of identity. So indeed about 2012, I started building the centre from my meagre resources.
My view is that we have as an African people to be independent. Africa is too much of a beggar and will never be a respected people when we are beggars – and the danger is that he who pays the piper will call the tune, and I don’t think it’s fair for Africa to be dancing to somebody’s tune when we have got our own drums. Let’s beat our own drums and dance to our music. And then we are going to take our rightful position in the community of nations. We have got the intelligence, we know what slavery did to us. We know what colonialism did to us. It has injured, shattered our egos. It has shattered our positive image to a point where we have no confidence in ourselves. And a people with no confidence in themselves, I’m afraid, are a people doomed. They are a people lacking seriously in motivation. They will never be creative. They will never be innovative. They cannot stand against the machinations of other peoples of this world. And yet Africa precisely needs that kind of cadre, and I must say that cadre is not going to be the political leadership.
My view is that you need a completely different kind of cadre. The politician was right in perpetrating the political struggle for independence, but we need now to use that independence to push forward towards a better state, which is liberation of the mind. As I have often said, it’s very easy to fire a few shots and get rid of our colonizers which we did. But removing them from the mind is quite a big challenge, and you need a different cadre who himself is already liberated mentally to drive them out.
We are not saying we will drive them out of the continent. That’s not what we are saying. I’ll give you an example. I was talking to a lady who is writing on the Big 5 – the animals. Then I said but the story, the narrative that you are giving us is the narrative that is Eurocentric – knowledge of the Big 5 that is known to the people of Europe. But why are you not given us a fresh narrative? Africans have their own narratives about the same animals. The tragedy in Africa – and Africa will see one day what I’m saying, what we have as these writers, whether they are writing about wildlife, they are writing about the environment in general, these are people with a background of a material world, a physical world. But that’s not the reality of the African world.
…to be continued…