Popular Culture in Zimbabwe


Popular culture in Zimbabwe brings the vast number of ethnic groups together and helps to form a national identity. There’s no better example of this, than the country’s music. The lyrics of native pop songs are often centred around political protests. The Chimurenga started as a peaceful way to win liberation prior to independence from the Commonwealth in the late 1800s. In modern times, the advent of a genre of reggae called Zimdancehall has taken modern Zimbabwe by storm.

One of the first Zimbabwean singers to make it to the mainstream was Mbuye Stella Chiweshe, who toured around the world in the 1980’s with a sound totally unique to the rest of the world, as it originates from an ancient tribe. The famous mbira singer still occasionally returns home to perform in her motherland. Another famous contemporary singer to have success with a neo-traditional genre was the late American-born Chiwoniso Maraire, whose music is influenced by jazz and soul.

In terms of national literature, the first Shona and Ndebele novels were published in the mid-to-late 1950s. As access to education and literacy has increased, more authors from Zimbabwe have published novels. The principle theme of many novels is the Chimurenga culture of struggling for independence, but authors also touch on ancient folklore, myths and legends.

Mass Media

Social media is growing in popularity in Zimbabwe, but not to the liking of an anti-West government. The high court intervened in January 2019 to restore the country’s internet access after an illegal block denying access to global media. Despite this, Zimbabwean media is slowly progressing into a state of freedom since the strict governance of Robert Mugabe, who shut down Daily News due to criticism of his administration.

Existing independent newspapers have more press freedom since Mugabe resigned from office in 2017. Newspaper sales are in decline as new digital media is developing in popularity. Online newspapers include iHarare.com, The Zimbabwe Daily and Bulawayo24 News.

While national television is broadcast mainly to cities with satellite signals, villages outside of Mutare and Harare rely on state radio for their news. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has five radio stations. Three of which are in different languages – English, Shona and Ndebele – making government information inclusive of the majority of groups.

Clothing and Food

The traditional national dress is a wraparound cloth and head wrap worn by men and women, and earrings and necklaces, but only on special occasions like the Independence Day or Hero’s Day. Otherwise, diverse tribal clothing or western fashions are worn. Zimbabwe may be a hybrid of indigenous cultures, but as a nation, they have adopted some traditional English habits. For example, most people eat a type of porridge in the morning and may even drink tea after dinner.

Many meat dishes are eaten at night, though meat from a tribe’s totem animal is widely avoided. The times at which they eat are connected to the local climate and seasons.

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