Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

ED Pfeeee in UK hill Nehanda's head head home

03 Oct 2021 at 07:46hrs | Views
The President of Zimbabweans His Excellence Cde Dr Emerson Dambudzo MNANGAGWA will be gracing the Queen's land in October 2021. There is great excitement amongst Zimbabweans who are hoping to catch a glimpse of their iconic leader.

President MNANGAGWA flies to United Kingdom after he honoured the great Heroin and the first woman Army General by erecting her Statue which presents an imposing presence over Harare. The statue has become a tourist attraction with people of all walks jostle to see the iconic woman Mbuya Charwe Nehanda Nyakasikana Chihera mukuru mwana wa Nyashanu Mhofu yemukono.  The president will be coming in the country which has kept the skull of the Zimbabwe's icon.

Zimbabweans are expecting the president to leave Scotland to England to collect the head of Mbuya Nehanda.  The head of Mbuya Nehanda Nyakasina is  held and displayed in a museum. There are several skeletons in a number of departments for display and research, over 6,000 human remains are in the care of the Museum.

This is an insult to Zimbabweans to live one more day knowing that your icon is displayed in a museum generating funds for those who killed her. A number of Museum galleries and exhibitions include human remains in their displays, alongside explanatory and contextual information.

In an effort to deflect the blows of questions the British government says "The Museum gives careful thought to the reasons for and the circumstances of the display of human remains. Surveys show that most visitors are comfortable with and expect to see human remains as an element of our Museum displays."

The display of Mbuya Nehanda is an insult and many patriotic Zimbabweans are hoping that the president will use his influence and have the head of Mbuya Nehanda and all the skeletons of other heroes like Chingaira sekuru Kaguvi and others.

The British government insists that "The Museum has developed a policy with regard to the human remains in its collection. It follows the recommendations of the code of practice published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in October 2005. The DCMS code of practice was itself developed to provide guidance to museums in relation to the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 2004"
While the Human Tissue Act 2004 gave the Trustees of the British Museum the power to deaccession human remains, the Trustees' primary legal duty is to safeguard the Museum's collection for the benefit of present and future generations. This policy sets out the circumstances in which the Trustees may consider a request for the deaccession and transfer of human remains; and gives guidance on the procedures to be followed by those seeking to submit a claim for the return of human remains in the British Museum collection that are less than one thousand years old to a community of origin.

The policy also outlines the principles governing the respectful and lawful holding, display, study and care of human remains in the British Museum's collection.Zimbabweans have been demanding return of warriors' remains for decades now. Now with the listening president coming the will be going home to receive a proper heroes burial.

Not all of the 6000 remains are African, but some of the African remains have attracted well-directed campaigns. The most prominent of these has involved the long-running call to return to Zimbabwe the skulls of spiritual leader Nehanda Charwe  Chihera Nyakasikana and the other iconic heroes of the First Chimurenga (war) between 1896-7 against Cecil Rhodes' encroaching British South African Company. Nehanda and the other heroes were captured and hanged, and their skulls taken to London as trophies.
The shame which covered the Zimbabweans then still lingers above our dignity.

In 2015, Zimbabwe's then President Mugabe added his voice for their return: "The First Chimurenga leaders, whose heads were decapitated by the colonial occupying force, were then dispatched to England, to signify British victory over, and subjugation of, the local population," Mugabe said, adding: "Surely, keeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity."
Surprisingly The British government returned nearly 5,000 artifacts to Iraq, the office of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi confirmed.

In trying to pacify those clamouring for the return The British Museum said it holds and cares for human remains from around the world. "Representing diverse cultures over thousands of years, this important collection is a unique record of the varied ways different societies have conceived of death and disposed of the remains of the dead."

Since its foundation in 1884 human remains have formed part of the holdings of the Pitt Rivers Museum. These remains originate from different continents and were collected at different points in time. Some of these human tissues, including skin, bone, hair, teeth and nails, have been made or modified into artefacts, such as the well-known shrunken heads (tsantsa) from South America. Many other skeletal remains come from burial contexts.

The most visceral and emotional of the restitution issues and perhaps the most successful to date, are those that involve African human remains – skeletons, skulls, and other body parts.
These human remains ended up in European collections through a number of encounters involving warfare, Egyptian tomb raids, and are grisly reminders of ‘scientific' racism and the creation of human zoos. This last such humiliating spectacle took place as recently as 1958, when people from Congo were put on display for a World Fair event in Brussels, Belgium.

From the display of mummified pharaohs, to others preserved in boxes in basements, museums, universities and other cultural institutions, Western authorities find it increasingly difficult to justify these collections.

As a graphic and grim reminder of eras when Europeans owned and controlled African resources and people, the movement to return human remains and icons has gathered steam.

Zimbabweans in Diaspora are eagerly waiting for the president "kuti vapedza ma sports shefu"

In the Institutions such as the Natural History Museum are currently governed by the Human Tissue Act 2004, which empowers them to actively consider requests to change the custody of human body parts that are less than one thousand years old (this still excludes perhaps the most famous forms of human remains taken from Africa in UK collections   

Within the context of the Human Tissue Act, the campaign to return the skulls of Nehenda and the other Chimurenga heroes appears on the brink of success, although Covid-19 has delayed steps to return them.
With the current relaxation of the lockdown, relatives of the national heroes are expected to travel to the Natural History Museum in London to resolve outstanding issues on the return of their skulls and other war trophies, ahead of dignified burials in Zimbabwe.

Most institutions in the UK engage actively in the return of human remains, but stress that there are issues of where, and to whom, they are returned. In some cases, it may not be appropriate, they stress, to return human remains to national collections in their countries of origin, but rather, to the communities for whom the human remains are their ancestors.

Good practice in this area involves working closely with national and local institutions and with local communities in the country of origin to agree the most appropriate resting place for the returned remains
Those who are christians they do understand the importance of repatriating bones of the loved ones. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel take an oath. He had said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place." Exodus 13:15 so Mbuya Nehanda said mapfupa angu achamuka which generation must take these remains back to Zimbabwe if it is not this one. Now that the President is here or will be here Mbuya  Nehanda will be heading home.

The Bible shares a detail about the Israelites made their great departure of Egypt that we might see as minor - that Moses brought the bones of Joseph along with them. In Genesis it is recorded that Joseph knew that God would take his family out of Egypt and asked to be taken with them:
Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, "God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here." So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. Gen. 50:24-26

To us it might seem minor, but this detail adds a remarkable amount of continuity and closure to the greater story of Joseph and the family of Israel in Egypt. Joseph was the first of the family to go down into Egypt, and he was exiled there by his own brothers' hatred. Now, just his own family sent him down there, his family would need to carry him back out again. Or another way of looking at it is that Joseph had brought his whole family down to Egypt to rescue them from famine, and once again he would be with them when God rescued them from oppression.

In his early years,
Mbuya Nehanda was the first woman to be charged of treason. She was the first woman to be hanged for political reasons. Mbuya Nehanda cried out and said my bones will rise again. This statement was the charge given to the freedom fighters hundred years later. During the second Chimurenga war mbuya Nehanda was the guiding spirit and every group of the fighters will sing songs of praising Nehanda. There was a song which became a pushing son. " Tinofa tichienda ku Zimbabwe kudzamara tinosvika kuna Zambezi kudzamara tinosvika ku Zimbabwe. Nehanda komborera vari muZimbabwe neHanda komborera varimumapako Nehanda komborera varimuma pako." Nehanda had dreamed of her bone being a ruler, but this was the reason her bones rose and one would believe that her bones can never experience rest until they are laid to rest. Nehanda lies displayed in a museum and those who  benefitted from her sacrifice dine and wine in the corridors of power. Her risen bones hated hated her so much and abandoning her into bondage, displayed in a museum as a sign of defeat. Humiliated embarrassed and the whole country stripped naked displayed in a museum of the people who killed her. Shame on us Zimbabweans. The silence those in power exhibit is too loud.We have lost our pride we have lost our humanity. We do not feel like we have a part of Nehanda on us. Again shame on us. This shame comes to an end when the President comes to the UK.

The remains of Nehanda Kaguvi and Mhofu Chiwashira Nyathi Chingaira and many others will be restoring our pride. Now we can call our selves Zimbabweans. We must lift our heads from the send with expectations.The late Vice President Muzenda recited a very touching poem on Nehanda.

The colonialists have kept the skulls of Nehanda as a sign of their supremacy. Those who are in power today because of Nehanda are silent. Who will hear the soft plea of Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana. She is crying please take my skull home. How can you dream of prosperity when you lack the audacity to repatriate your heroes remains. Are you with the people.  
We still carry our chests high up because president Mnangagwa is a listening president.
Those who think that it is demonic to repatriate Nehanda please think again. Israel is the most blessed country on earth. They remembered where they came from. Why Zimbabwe why.

 In spite of years of prison and dashed hopes in her own dreams, in faith she interpreted the visions, and his accurate interpretation was why zimbabwe is free. At the end of her life, she had one last "dream" - that God would bring her whole family out of Bondage and into the land he ultimately promised, and God fulfilled that one too. So Nehanda became a symbol of freedom she became a symbol of fighting courage and determination.

In a sense, Nehanda was taken into bondage in her death that was the very beginning of the captivity of the children of Zimbabwe. because for the next hundred years, one of their family was not free to be buried in the land God gave them. Joseph was allowed to bury his father
 when God did come to rescue Israel and they took even Joseph's bones, it showed that not one one person who lived during Nehandas time is still there  today.

Zimbabwe must stand up to be counted. We cannot allow our heroes to be displayed in a museum somewhere.  With our hearts cracking we look forward to the coming of the president  to mend the  broken and stand up and be counted. Uk

Source - Dr Maisimba Mavaza
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.