By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda
I have been swept off my feet with amusement, mirth and surprise by the chihuta phenomena. Zimbabweans embraced Chihuta in its total being and it has acquired all the symbolism and even a deeper life of its own. If zvihuta chaizvo izvo knew what is being said and done in their name some would roll down laughing, others will skip a meal and others will huddle to a corner to analyse, reflect and define a course of action. Zvihuta have just brought us together as a people, as a collective rolling with laughter, still struggling to survive and huddled in corners to find solutions.
With the economic meltdown, Chihuta opened other doors to continue the conversation. The floodgates opened with the banning and unbanning of any domestication of zvihuta and their production for commercial purposes. This published decision naturally created an opportunity to discuss about the macro economic situation of the country, lack of business opportunities, jobs, stifling of small-scale business and innovations. Chihuta phenomenon gave the platform for discussing corruption and the ever elusive call out on the diamond money and employment creation. Chihuta therefore offered a platform for discourse on the same issue beyond the traditional political and partisan posturing and civil society language. It created new language.
Well, following the meme and images created overnight as it were, Chihuta became a brand synonymous with local products and innovation, competing with external big business. You could find the chihuta brand competing with twitter, “chihutter”, naturally a tasty ‘chihuta slice”, a clear message to those selling chickens, KFCs etc. A Chihuta burger poster, really saying we can be creative with how to package business rezvihuta. I was fascinated by the multiple ways in which each part of the bird is said to have a commercial value from dzondora, feathers and musoro wezvihuta and how its drum-steak is said to be tastier than other birds with sadza or rice. A clear sales and marketing pitch and angle embedded in the sublimal messages. Who knows, one can build on some of these creative ideas born out of the collective brainstorm of a nation.
Fascinating equally and challenging is how the Chihuta phenomena has given some convergence on various forms of communications and media, to pass some core messages. Creative arts and citizens journalism emerged to challenge and drown the usual dry personality centred power politics on the Zimbabwe social media on national issues. In-fact I followed more the Zvihuta commentary than workers’s day message, as these were also workers with key messages. I could relate with fellow Zimbabweans of all class and character through their own way of expression, a single word, a joke, a twisted version of existing tsumo and madimikira, a song, a picture and a cartoon. I loved most is the constructive positive warmth of chihuta phenomena. I love the Chihuta t-shirts I saw. I can do with a designer chihuta handbag!
Lastly, I just enjoyed the positive energy around zvihuta. A joyfulness, love and all. Anyone and everyone can relate with them. It is either because in real life it is that little bird that people used to see and chase, it’s the bird now they are keeping muchirugu chavo, or it is because Chihuta is just so much associated with other birds like huku, njiva, chikwari, or horwe. It is a living creature which is part of our natural identity as people are part of nature. Chihuta is not owned and controlled by one person, and so the same with this chihuta phenomena.
Those who feel fatigue of this Chihuta phenomena will have to be patient and possibly be converted. This chihuta phenomena has now rapidly moved from social media to our daily spaces of social engagement, at the kombi rank, kumisika, at the workplace, signatures in love tweets, or simple tokens of appreciation and gifts between families. Check people’s phone books, and you will see Chihuta-wangu and a chihuta profile picture. Chihuta is here to stay. I love my country, Zimbabwe Chihuta changu!