'the Forgotten Souls': Questioning the Masculinity of Zimbabwe History.

Topics: Zimbabwe, History, Gender Pages: 9 (3254 words) Published: September 18, 2013

Paper presented at OTAZI conference on documentation and memorisation of dark histories, Bulawayo, 7-8 December 2012. Prisca Nyaude
Research and Public Archives section, National Archives of Zimbabwe. E-mail: priscamarova@gmail.com. And
Brenda Mamvura
Records Management Services section, National Archives of Zimbabwe. E-mail: bmamvu@yahoo.com

This presentation seeks to highlight gender imbalances in the depiction of women in Zimbabwean history. It defines the concept of dark history in respect of women’s participation in shaping Zimbabwean’s past. It gives an overview of women’s under-representation in historical documentation in the pre-colonial and colonial phases. It illustrates the social, political and economic impact of this marginalisation on the lives of women. Research findings to support the assertion of underrepresentation of women in historical documentation are presented. The paper concludes by highlighting strategies that can be used to plug gender imbalances’ in Zimbabwean history. It is thus recommended that active involvement and empowerment of women through acknowledging their existence in all critical spheres of life would consequently create a gender balanced history and move away from the excessively masculine dimension. -------------------------------------------------

Key words: gender imbalances, marginalisation, dark history. Introduction.
Women are the forgotten souls of Zimbabwean historical documentation as highlighted in gender imbalances in the depiction of women in history. Zimbabwean history is excessively masculine. It is a result of the cultural background which is patriarchal, over emphasising the dominant role of men in all spheres of social life. It can be posited that there is a gross under-representation of women in traditional history. This imbalance is remarkably apparent in historical documentation where people hear of the great Munhumutapa founder of the Mutapa, Lobengula, Mzilikazi the mighty Ndebele kings and Chaminuka the great diviner. The question left on everyone’s lips is where are the women , what has been their contribution in all this? There is a dark cloud shrouding women’s participation in Zimbabwe past. It can be postulated that through Mbuya Nehanda women’s role in patriotic history was highlighted. However Diana Jeater (1993) argues that women’s place in patriotic history is as victims rather than as agents, even Mbuya Nehanda the spirit medium heroine of 1896 is depicted as a victim rather than as an agent. Thus the need to document the dark history of women’s participation not as victims but as shapers of history. Definition of dark history.

Dark history can be generally defined as silenced, undocumented or history lacking enlightenment. Collins dictionary (2002) defines it as concealed or secret; lacking clarity or having insufficient information. Thus dark history refers to history that has not been codified, bringing it out in the open, making people aware of its existence. Hence women’s history in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial is concealed, not fully documented like that of their counterparts’ men. To support this argument Zinsser (1993) posits that women were not viewed as an integral part of the historical record. The vast majority remained silent and invisible; their history subsumed under general descriptions of men’s lives. The gender imbalance in depiction of women in history is not confined to developing countries alone , even extra ordinary figures like the queens of 16th century Europe or the 19th century reformers in the United States, active agents in their own right fared no better (Zinsser:1993). Forgotten souls in the pre-colonial period....

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