Son Of A Dad: Memoir of An African Father’s Encounter with Ben 10

By Chief K. Masimba Biriwasha |

Time took on wings – as it always does – between the birth of my son, Tadana, and when he turned three. What woke me up with a jolt to this truth was my son’s new-found sense for self-independence, particularly in the sartorial department.

At first, I thought it was some passing childhood fascination at being able to dress self but Tadana grew more insistent every passing day to have his way with clothes.

So I found myself capitulating to his every whim even if it meant that he picked on the same clothes that suited his taste for days in a row. Trying to convince him otherwise elicited readily packaged loud bowls, scowls, shrugs etc.

Truth be told, I was caught unawares most days and Tadana’s sartorial sensibility seemed to grow as fiery as his temper. I soon discovered that dressing a three-year old requires not only patience and skill but an understanding of cartoon characters.

Tadana was quite picky about what he wanted to wear. He even knew what he wanted his mum to buy for him. A cartoon character called Ben 10 made the headlines in our household thanks to Tadana. I swear it dominated half of our conversations for a season. I daresay, Ben 10, infiltrated every part of Tadana’s little imagination that he even imitated the character’s actions such as beating on an invisible watch on his wrist to invoke magic. Ben 10 is of course a 10 year old American boy cartoon character who acquires a watch-like alien device called the Omnitrix (later the Ultimatrix) attached to his wrist that allows him to turn into alien creatures.

As an African father, I felt ashamed somewhat at the lack of locally relevant, magical characters to fire up my child’s imagination. At first, I reacted to my son’s love for Ben 10 with disdain but, of course, I must admit Tadan’s fit of tantrums every time we encountered the character on a shopping errand won the day.

It didn’t help that his little friend at crèche was also a Ben 10 fanatic so my wife and I reluctantly began purchasing the Ben 10 articles much to Tadana’s glee.  While Tadana was happy to flaunt his Ben 10 wear and accessories, I could not help but feel the rankle which continued to rise inside me at the dearth of African based characters to excite my child’s imagination.

As my interest in Ben 10 suddenly grew without me even noticing it, I discovered that there was a whole world of clothes, toys and accessories stocked up in toy shops for this character. From satchels to t-shirts, rulers, pencils to bags – of course made in China – the world of Ben 10 was quite real. I could see why my son was so affected. Ben 10 was driven by a commercial machine but more than that he was a cool character doing all sorts of fancy things that excited a child’s imagination.

Not that I was aversive to Ben 10 – I do appreciate that Tadana is growing up in an connected, highly wired universe and will inevitably be influenced by many things from other parts of the world which are always in his face at literally the click of a button. What worries me though is that he will step onto the stage of the globe without anything that gives him a solid grip of his world.

He is growing up without characters that he can he can celebrate which are influenced by his day-to-day African Zeitgeist. My son’s fascination with Ben 10’s got me thinking that I seriously need to write some highly imaginative, creative children’s book or animated character that is so Africa it will enrapture his universe. What the storyline is I’m yet to find out though.

Arts Journalist Par Excellent, Novell Zwange, Passes Away

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Award-winning Zimbabwean arts journalist, Novell Zwange, 34, who died early Saturday morning of stomach complications will be buried at Mbudzi Cemetery B-section, Harare, on Monday.

According to a family spokesperson, Zwange’s body will go for post-mortem Monday morning, then to his Kuwadzana, before proceeding to the cemetery at 1 pm.

The spokesperson also revealed that Zwange died of abdominal wall hernia. While hernia is in itself not life-threatening, it appears the condition was left until too late, and ended up strangulating that arts journalist’s intestines.

Zwange was a well-respected personality in the local arts industry always willing to share his knowledge and contacts with anyone that approached him. His affability and humble nature endeared him to many in Harare’s fledgling arts circle.

Zwange also had a stint in South Africa that exposed him to a lot of artists in that country. In addition, he did a lot to showcase the South African arts scene through his innumerable writings.

He was also a leading ecological and ethnic-fashion designer and his work with the BlackScissors Ethno Design label which he co-founded managed to get him worldwide acclaim.

“We’ve lost a great, vibrant young journalist to come out of Zimbabwe, it’s real sad because I spoke to him this week and agreed that we are going to meet next week at the Jazz Winter Festival. I don’t have words. He was a humble someone who had the love for local artists. Zimbabwe has lost. I will dedicate my performance at the Festival to him; he was a good friend,” said popular jazz musician, Jeys Marabini.

Zwangendaba was a multi-award-winning artist , whose writings graced several publications including the OpenDemocracy, JIVE magazine, the Daily News, The Zimbabwean, NewsDay, Nordic Africa News, Marimba Media, Artists Initiates among others.

Zwangendaba founded the EthnoDesignProject in 2005 and in 2007 the Project won the Global Young Social Entrepreneurship Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Innovator of the Year 2008 and also being selected among the Top 10 in the YSEI Awards.

He has designed for several commissioned projects, television shows, theatre productions, documentaries and film, renowned personalities and prominent organisations in Zimbabwe and beyond. In the year 2009 he became one of the few designers to selected to showcase at the biggest African showcase, the PanAfrica Cultural Festival held in Algeria