Africa has a rich and complex history, but there is widespread ignorance of this heritage. A celebrated British historian once said there was only the history of Europeans in Africa. The reality is that the African story has been treated as an afterthought, an asterisk, and largely (or principally) told by her former conquerors.
“Perhaps in the future there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none, or very little: there is only the history of Europe in Africa. The rest is largely darkness,” stated Hugh Trevor-Roper in 1963.
But as journalist and author Basil Davidson confuted, the continent had its own history, it had its own cultures, it had its own nations. And now, so many years later and as the continent and Africans in the diaspora continue to debate its core values through ubiquitous movements such as the #BlackLivesMatter, history has potent lessons to teach us.
A new Zimbabwean podcast has joined the pantheon of retelling personal stories of African liberation, suffering, perseverance, and triumphs with a distinct mission to reframe African history through an African lens. Vernacularly titled the inaugural NGANO Audio Series, it is a clarion call to remember as it showcases Zimbabweans on the continent and in the diaspora before, during and after the liberation of the Southern African country.
Historically, African tribes and communities have passed down and taught their history orally, as narratives and parables defined in Shona as “ngano”.
Produced by afrOURban – a collective of artists, architects, and people who document African culture and African cities through the work they do – the podcast is hosted by Zimbabwean-born Rungano Muzondo and Kholisile Dhliwayo.
A brainchild of the “Born Free” generation (children born in the years right after independence in 1980), this series documents the experiences of the generation that lived through the liberation of Zimbabwe. Through their personal stories, this series, enriches a collective understanding of the times, building a more complete picture of what it felt like to live during this significant period of history.
Whether it’s Professor Norman Nyazema dissecting the evolution of the political and economic philosophy of socialism in an African context, and the cognitive dissonance of socialism vs capitalism that occurred, or the charismatic Christina “Kichi” Chima discussing her childhood experiences as a first-generation immigrant and her family’s privilege in Harare, each episode highlights a chapter in a historical narrative that includes bondage, oppression, liberty, and perseverance.
To say the podcast stands out is an understatement. At its best, it helps us understand and interpret our complex world by illuminating history and influencing attitudes. That becomes a challenge when we must examine our darkest episodes. Any society scarred by war, genocide, displacement, or slavery must decide what to remember and how to remember. Individual memory is one thing, but collective memory stretches across generations and helps define a nation’s character.
“There’s no value in just looking in the past if it’s not feeding into how we can adjust ourselves now in the present to affect the future, otherwise we’re just looking back and otherwise it’s just a story,” says Rungano Muzondo on the introductory episode.
NGANO Audio Series takes an unflinching look at the travails and triumphs of Africans in Zimbabwe and plays a critical role in constructing collective memory—in this case turning the country’s gaze toward a history it might otherwise choose to forget.
NGANO Audio Series is available here and on all major streaming platforms.