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U.S Based Zimbabwean Author Urges Africans to Write Own History to Preserve Their Culture

  • Blessing  Zulu

Prof. Chikowero and Dr Thomas Mapfumo

Prof. Chikowero and Dr Thomas Mapfumo

Zimbabwean-born professor of African History at the University of California Santa Barbara, Mhoze Chikowero who has authored a book, “African Music, Power and Being, Colonial Zimbabwe,” has urged Zimbabweans to write books to preserve their history and culture.

Professor Chikowero though says trying to break into an industry dominated by established authors mostly from developed nations has challenges but must not discourage Africans to write their own history.

Chikowero says his book is about the history of Zimbabwe.

“It’s not just a book about music,” Chikowero says. “It’s more of a history through music. As a historian I’m interested in archives, I’m interested in sources, I’m interested in how we can use indigenous knowledge systems to write history, and this is a good example of that.”

In this new history of music in Zimbabwe, Chikowero deftly uses African sources to interrogate the copious colonial archive, reading it as a confessional voice along and against the grain to write a complex history of music, colonialism, and African self-liberation.

Mhoze Chikowero

Mhoze Chikowero

Chikowero's book begins in the 1890s with missionary crusades against African performative cultures and African students being inducted into mission bands, which contextualize the music of segregated urban and mining company dance halls in the 1930s, and he builds genealogies of the Chimurenga music later popularized by guerrilla artists like Dorothy Masuku, Zexie Manatsa, Thomas Mapfumo, and others in the 1970s.

Chikowero shows how Africans deployed their music and indigenous knowledge systems to fight for their freedom from British colonial domination and to assert their cultural sovereignty.

An internationally known performer, music educator, ethnomusicologist and bandleader, Tendai Muparutsa, says Chikowero’s book is, "A worthy contribution to African history, ethnomusicology, music, and dance married together with the powerful institutions of African colonialism and missionary work."

Who is Mhoze Chikowore?

Chikowero is an Associate Professor of African History at the University of California Santa Barbara and an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Visiting Research Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. He attained his undergraduate B.A. degree in Economic History at the University of Zimbabwe (2001) and his Masters (2004) and Ph.D. at Dalhousie University (Canada) in 2008.

Before he joined the University of California, he spent time as a post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University (2009). Chikowero researches African music and politics; and technologies of state-making (including broadcasting and energy).

He has worked with Zimbabwean and African artistes for years. His articles on music and politics, electrification, and broadcasting have appeared in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa and in a number of edited volumes.

He is currently writing two books, The Politics of State (Un)making: Music, Media and Power in Post-colonial Zimbabwe, and Tools of Empire, Technologies of Self-liberation: Radio Broadcasting in Colonial Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Chikowero also works with the Mbira Centre as a research consultant.