Zimbabwean Musician Proposes New Public Holiday – Ancestors Day
Zimbabwean musician Diana Samkange Mangwenya has stirred up a debate after her call for the establishment of an Ancestors Day national public holiday. Mangwenya represents the Hweva Association, which has petitioned Parliament for the holiday to celebrate and restore local culture.
The Hweva Association has submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation, lobbying the government to recognize and declare Ancestors Day as a public holiday on the national calendar. The proposed month for the holiday is August.
Advocating for Traditional Culture and Spirituality Recovery and Renewal
The Herald reports that according to a statement by Diana Samkange Mangwenya, the Hweva Association’s representative, they are working to advance the movement for traditional culture and spirituality recovery and renewal. “We have several strategic pillars we are focusing on as an association, and one of them is advocating for the setting aside of Ancestors Day on our national calendar,” she said.
The association believes the day will serve to venerate and remember the forebearers whose traditions and culture is acknowledged in the Preamble to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
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Neglect of the Ancestors
Samkange says that Zimbabwe experienced a number of attempts to repair cultural and spiritual damage caused by colonialism. However, the country has yet to evolve a coherent spiritual recovery and revival mechanism. The ancestors’ major complaint is that they have been neglected by their progeny, and the country has failed to recognize them as the owners and custodians of the land.
The association is convinced that Zimbabweans need a reawakening of traditional spiritual consciousness. “We need to reconstruct our past, reinterpret our present, and launch out to recover our lost spiritual values and virtues,” said Samkange.
Request for Recognition of Traditional Religion and Spirituality
Samkange said their request is not unprecedented, as other jurisdictions, including the People’s Republic of Benin, officially recognize traditional religion in their Constitution, granting it a national public holiday.
“Africans are first and foremost members of traditional religion before any other religion (we are born into it, not converted into it),” she said. “Long before Christianity and Islam became religions that intertwined with the State, indigenous people worshipped God through veneration of ancestors specific to their Kingdoms or Chiefdoms, making religion a department of their governance system.”
Pre-colonial Africa’s Real Public Authority
Samkange said in pre-colonial Africa, real public authority lay with ritual experts who mediated between the visible and invisible worlds, explaining why the institution of traditional leadership was specifically recognized in sections of the Constitution and had a whole Act of Parliament attributed to it.
The Hweva Association’s request for the establishment of Ancestors Day as a national public holiday has sparked controversy. While the association is advocating for the promotion and preservation of cultural values and practices, some are concerned about the holiday’s impact on the economy. However, the proposal is still under consideration by the government.