Remembering a Traumatic Past The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Zimbabwe

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Yemurai Chikwangura-Gwatirisa


This article analyses the narratives of Gukurahundi , how they are perceived as forms of collective memory culture, how they help to explain personal experiences shared by victims of the 1980s genocide in Zimbabwe, and how these experiences become memory. The Gukurahundi genocide shows that not only do individuals remember, but that remembering can be a collective endeavour. While individual memory is usually bound to the short time span of a human life and disappears with the death of a particular individual, intergenerational and collective cultural memory, on the other hand, is of longer term and is supported by institutions, monuments and rites. This article acknowledges different types of memories and dwells not only on the collective and cultural memory that honours and praises the heroic deeds of Zimbabwe, but also on the painful collective memories of perpetration or guilt. It highlights the importance of documenting events that happened during Gukurahundi. In Zimbabwe, there is state owned documentation and other documentation, which, in this paper, would be referred to as counter archives. The types of documentation can be regarded as a way that Zimbabweans, especially the Ndebele ethnic group, remember or memorialise the past.

Article Details

How to Cite
Chikwangura-Gwatirisa, Y. (2023). Remembering a Traumatic Past: The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Zimbabwe. NAWA Journal of Language and Communication, 16(2), 2–30.
Author Biography

Yemurai Chikwangura-Gwatirisa, Botho University

Dr Yemurai Gwatirisa is an adjunct lecturer of German in the Department of Education and Language Skills at Botho University in Gaborone, Botswana. She holds a Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of Nairobi (Kenya), and a Double-Master Degree in German-Mediavistics from the Universities of Bremen (Germany) and Porto (Portugal). She also holds a BA Special Honours Degree in English (UZ) as well as a BA Degree in English, German and Religious Studies (University of Zimbabwe, UZ). She completed a post-doctoral fellowship on the Zimbabwean memory culture with Rhine-Westphalia Technical University of Aachen (RWTH) in Aachen, Germany. Her research interests are in memory culture, cross- and intercultural studies, the teaching of German as a foreign language, gender and literary studies. She is a co-author of a textbook for German language learners in Africa called Und jetzt WIR. Her work has been published in journals such as iudicium Verlag GmbH, eDUSA Deutschunterricht im Südlichen Afrika, Weidler Buchverlag Berlin, Peter Lang Verlag, Springer Nature and Journal of African Indigenous Languages and Literature, Weaver Press among others.


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