Alterity, and Recharging ‘Othered’ Voices: The Agency of Spirit Possession in Identifying Dead Guerrillas for Reburial as Depicted in Makanda and Vambe’s Ndangariro dzeHondo dzeVachakabvu muZimbabwe (Reflections of War from the Dead in Zimbabwe) Maurice T

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Maurice Taonezvi Vambe

Abstract

After the controversial 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, there was a flurry of claims from children, young adults and some ex-combatants possessed by the spirits of guerrillas who died in Zimbabwe’s Liberation of the 1970s. Some members of political opposition parties in the country dismissed this cultural and spiritual phenomenon as another example of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) party’s gimmick to create new narratives with which to perpetuate the party’s monopoly of power (which began in 1980). Some Christian and Pentecostal churches dismissed the spiritual phenomena as either faked, works of quacks or the doing and manifestation of the handiwork of demonic spirits despite the fact that spirit possession is not new to Shona people. Since time immemorial, spirit possession announced its authority as another way of knowing, explaining and arriving at contested historical and religious truths. The aim of this article is to critically interrogate oral stories narrated by the dead combatants through the agency of spirit possession. I do not focus on the original stories in their oral forms. Instead, I analyse the spiritual voices of dead guerrillas as published narratives contained in the book, Ndangariro dzeHondo dzeVachakabvu muZimbabwe (hereafter, NDDM) or Reflections on War by the Dead in Zimbabwe (Makanda & Vambe, eds, 2015). The main objective of the article is to explore what happens when oral stories drawn from the context of spirit possession are fixed as written narratives. This central objective informs other objectives of the article which are related to the agency of spirit possession in identifying the remains of dead guerrillas for decent reburials. The article argues that the modernity of spirit possession is that it asserts the presence of the departed in human life and that the possessed speak the language of national reconciliation, attack greed, corruption and bemoan the shrinking democratic spaces of freedom in Zimbabwe. Other themes that are voiced through narratives of spirit possession in the book relate to the voices of the forgotten dead combatants: voices viewed in the book as cultural sites of public memory and remembrance. The article asserts that spiritual voices in spirit possession mark the existence of an indigenous knowledge system that can generate political narratives which can be used to counter and alter officially-sanctioned monolithic narratives of war and peace. Furthermore, the possession of children and young adults as represented in the book complicates the very cultural practice normally associated with established adult mediumistic practices built around clan authorities in Zimbabwe.

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How to Cite
Vambe, M. (2016). Alterity, and Recharging ‘Othered’ Voices: The Agency of Spirit Possession in Identifying Dead Guerrillas for Reburial as Depicted in Makanda and Vambe’s Ndangariro dzeHondo dzeVachakabvu muZimbabwe (Reflections of War from the Dead in Zimbabwe) Maurice T. Alternation Journal, (18), 148-173. Retrieved from https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/soa/article/view/1359
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Author Biography

Maurice Taonezvi Vambe, University of South Africa

Vambemt@unisa.ac.za