ZUSAA Calls for Artists to Promote Tolerance

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwe-United States Alumni Association (ZUSAA), which brings together Zimbabweans who have either lived, studied or participated in exchange programmes to the US and now resident in Zimbabwe, has called for support of programmes that use arts and culture to promote healing and tolerance in the country.

ZUSAA, which was established in 2009, currently has a membership of over a 1,000 alumni who have skills in different sectors ranging from business, government, non-profit organizations, trade unions, arts and culture among many other professions.

According to the ZUSAA National Coordinator, Michael Mabwe, the organization was formed to ensure that the skills and expertise of Zimbabweans who have been to the US are used for national development.

“We realized that after benefiting from rare experiences abroad, there was a need to continue with some of the concepts learned while in the US. Hence, the need for a platform which brings these leaders together and use their collective effort to give back to the various sectors in Zimbabwe,” said Mabwe, who is also a beneficiary of the US’s International Visitors’ Program on Promoting Tolerance through the Arts.

Mabwe, who is also a renowned human rights poet, said that artists have a big role to play in the national life of Zimbabwe.

“We want to see artists engaging more with the national question, particularly around promoting healing because as artists, they’re soul of the nation. With their art work – if done above political lines – artists can play a major role in diffusing tension that is currently being experienced locally. We want artists to be ambassadors of peace who in their collective effort can help spearhead an effective peace campaign,” he said.

Mabwe added that it is important for artists in the country to collaborate with the Organ on National Healing as well as the Church and Civil Society Forum to promote national healing.

“If the country is bleeding, there can be no development that can take place. Therefore, it means that we cannot improve the lives and livelihoods of our people. Political parties must put the needs of the general populace first before their narrow political ends,” said Mabwe.

“People limit the idea of national healing to political violence yet there are a number of sectors in our society that need  healing, apart from politics. From our industry, our education sector, our tourism, our politics among others, there is a need for healing to take place so that Zimbabwe can reclaim its status as a peaceful, and progressive country amongst the global family,” he said.

Mabwe said that ZUSAA will continue to contribute to different national processes by utilizing the broad skills base within its membership.

What Obama Means to Africa

Nothing could be more symbolic of Africa’s support for US President-elect Barack Obama than Kenya’s declaration of Nov. 5 as a national holiday in recognition of Obama’s ascendancy to power. But, if Africans expect Obama to dish out handouts, as some commentators in the continent have intimated, then they are clearly mistaken.

From the far flung villages of Kenya (the homeland of Obama’s father) to the cash strapped streets of Zimbabwe, Obama’s electoral victory wafted through the continent like a breath of fresh air, ushering in a new dialogue about identity, democracy and politics.

Because Obama is African by ancestry, it was always predictable that Africans would greatly celebrate his electoral win. However, it is nothing short of foolhardiness for African people to expect Obama to work miracles that will resolve the continent’s ills.

If anything, for Africa, Obama’s win must be strictly seen for what is: it’s merely symbolic. And in politics symbols do matter. Continue reading

How to Spot Opportunity in Crisis

Personal crises (endless in scope) are part of the embroidery that make up the quilt called life. While you are caught up within the jaws of crisis your attention diminishes and you perceive life through dark-coloured lens that speak of only hopelessness and despair.  

A personal crisis usually entails circumstances that may be outside the scope of your usual lifestyle or normal existence.  

The crisis – whatever it maybe – usually hijacks your ability to appreciate the greater whole, sucking you into a paralysis of over-analysing your predicament.  

It entwines you into an endless spiral that makes you over-estimate the scope of the crisis.  It literally leads your into a dark hole filled with scorpions of thought that sting you without any show of mercy. 

But in that moment of crisis-induced blindeness, opportunity awaits like the proverbial light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

First, you have to thoroughly accept that you are in a crisis, because denial only helps the setback to dig its claws into your being, denying you the opportunity to renew and revive. 

Acceptance may seem like a sign of defeat at first sight but in reality surrender – even during wartime – carries with it a sigh of relief and the chance to begin again. 

During that stage, it’s necessary to appreciate the fact that there’s nothing unique about your situation in the greater scheme of things.  

Almost all personal setbacks have been endured by someone, somewhere, in the history of human existence.  

If, for some reason, you blame yourself for the crisis, it is necessary to forgive yourself. Self forgiveness opens new channels that will help you to deal with the situation in a more mature manner.

If you stay bitter with yourself, you only help to make the pain grow, debilitating your chances to spot the opportunity to recover. 

Indeed, a personal crisis can offer you an opportunity to assess your values, allowing you to have a second chance in life. In order to capture the opportunity that resides within a personal crisis, you have to be proactive rather than reactive.

Being reactive will exagerrate the situation in your imagination, and weaken your ability to rise up again. 

The fact that you are alive, in itself, must be the greatest signal that there is still hope, and by being proactive, you will be able to find that special light and spark again. In effect, a personal crisis can help to give you a clear perspective about who you are.

For example, it can reveal your tenacity to survive against the odds. Thinking of a crisis in this manner can make you grow spiritually and mentally, and in the process, make you strong enough to be able to confront future setbacks. You also have to understand the power of time.

While you are in the midst of a crisis, time may seem stalled. But, thats a mere gimmick . It’s an illusion that the crisis creates in your being. The fact is time will move on.

And as the world has known since time immemorial, the passage of time is perhaps the greatest healer of any wound, physical and otherwise. 

So accept that time will change, and in its stride, you will be able to find the beauty of life, once again. In addition, while in the grips of a crisis, you have to look deep down to one of the most fundamental of human qualities – choice.

No matter what will have happened, the choice remains in your hands to either crumble or recover in the face of the crisis.  

Being humble can also be a power tool in your hands. Humility will help you to listen to the advice of people around you, if there are any.

It’s important to stress that humility in no way means submission to the crisis. Rather, being humble in a crisis will help you to commit to the most menial of tasks that can prove the key cornerstones of your recovery.

It allows you to learn new ways that will make you whole again. Humility is also a way towards inner peace, a way of quietening the demons that will be replete in the personal crisis. 

Talking of demons, when you are blinded by a personal crisis, it can help to look outside yourself to a Higher Power.  

The world is full of examples of people that looked to a Higher Power during times of crisis and came out better than before. Looking to a power outside yourself will not cost you anything but it can help you to better understand yourself, opening new insights into becoming a better you.  

Whether you believe it or not, personal crisis can transform you into a better and stronger person that will have a greater appreciation of life, including people undergoing excruciating experiences in their own lives. 

As psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross succinctly puts it:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”