The impartation of unhu in pre-colonial Africa and Zimbabwe

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The earlier chapter reviewed related literature. This chapter presents the theoretical framework that binds this research together and provides a full picture of the unhu concept in literature (de Vos, Strydom, Fouche and Delport, 2011). The study utilises Afrocentricity as a literary theory in discussing the promotion of unhu through Shona literature as it was formulated from the study of African literatures basing on the African cultural assumptions, expectations and functions (Furusa, 2002). The theory “insists upon our own historical, political, social and cultural matrix to interpret and translate our lives in order that our rich African legacy may be handed down for future generations” and offers insights into the “significance of self-naming, and by extension self-definition, through literary works for the integrity and survival of African people” (Hudson-Weems, 2004: xx; 19). Such a theory best suits this study which assesses the extent to which Shona literature is promoting the African legacy. Literature must be seen promoting unhu which is paramount to the African culture. The current research is heavily guided by this theory in investigating how Shona teachers and pupils in Zimbabwean secondary schools appreciate the role of Shona literature in promoting unhu, examine the portrayal of unhu principles in different novels and evaluate whether or not literature under study promotes unhu. Judgement on the contribution of different authors’ works of art towards the promotion of unhu is guided by the standard of good literature provided by the theory.
Unhu is a cultural concept which encompasses the social, political, economic and religious values of the Shona people. The exposition of the concept through Afrocentricity clarifies the most cherished values of the Shona culture under scrutiny in this study and provides adequate knowledge of different African cultural aspects under study, hence, making it clear why the African theory of literature becomes the informing theory to this study. The discussion of the different virtues of unhu as postulated by the theory, helps in evaluating whether these are portrayed positively or negatively, hence, assisting in judging the contribution of the different texts towards the promotion of unhu


This study is informed by Afrocentricity – an African centered theory which was philosophically developed by Molefe Kete Asante in the 1980s. This becomes the best theory to study the promotion of African culture as “theories that are essential and adequate for interpreting African experiences are found in African culture and history” (Furusa, 2002: 53). This is the theory that sensitises Africans of their rightful place in the world (Mazama, 2003) and has freed African literature from the European criticism, restoring dignity and autonomy in the writing and criticism of African literature. Thus, Afrocentricity, best suits to be the informing theory in evaluating African/Zimbabwean literature.
Afrocentricity is explained as “a consciousness, quality of thought, mode of analysis and an actionable perspective where Africans seek, from agency, to assert subject place within the context of African history [and culture]” Asante (2007: 16). It is an approach that grounds Africans within their context. Developed from “two words, African and centre, meaning that it’s an African view that defines Africans as a people using a truly and original African centre” (Asante, 2009: 1; 2015; Gondo and Mudzanire, 2013). Afrocentricity as a theory gives emphasis to “the centrality of the African, that is, black ideals and values as experienced in the highest forms of African culture…” It therefore, purports that these ideals and values of Africa should be positively portrayed and preserved through literature. The current study therefore, examines the extent to which selected Shona authors have promoted the black ideals and values through their novels.
It emphasises the “centrality of African people and phenomenon” while paying particular attention to the self-definition of Africans and everything that is African, the production of African literatures included (Tembo, 2012). In fact, it is a “pan-African idea of change which provides the proper education of children and the essence of an African cultural revival and survival” (Asante, 1995: 1). In Hudson-Weems’ (2004:15) words, “Molefe Kete Asante gave us Afrocentricity, to help us relocate ourselves from the margins of European experiences to the centrality of our own…” It therefore, celebrates African literature that restores, educates and perpetuates the African way of living. It is therefore expected that in a school situation, literature selected for study should be educating the African way of living in order to promote unhu.
Furusa (2002) regards this literary theory as “part of the African worldview and philosophy of life” as it describes the production of African literature within the unhu philosophy, hence best qualifies in exploring the portrayal of the African philosophy of life in Shona literature. As it stresses the commemoration of African culture and heritage through literature, this makes it very important to the current study which examines the promotion of African culture (unhu) through Shona literature.
The main tenets of Afrocentricity will be briefly discussed before clarifying the relevance of the theory to the study

The tenets of Afrocentricity

The theory repositions Africans who have been alienated from their culture by Europeans who imposed their culture to Africans using a variety of means and institutions including education (in formal schools), religion (in synagogues/churches), medicine (hospitals built to replace traditional healers), science and technology (industries and factories built to replace indigenous knowledge systems and technologies) (Mawere, 2014: 26).
During colonialism, African indigenous cultural values, beliefs and practices that did not conform to European norms were considered odious and repugnant, hence, replaced with ‘civilised customs’ (Ivy Goduka 2000 cited in Mawere, 2014). In order to retain their [Africans] original position, “Afrocentricity seeks ‘space’, ‘voice’ and ‘authority’ for African people in every discussion on the African experience in history” (Gwekwerere 2013: 26). The theory puts Africa at the centre stage on everything regarding their lives. It encourages African people to view the world through their culture. To be seen, heard and recognised in things that define them as a people. In Asante’s (2007: 29-30) view, “Afrocentricity seeks to address the world order by repositioning the African person and the African reality from the margins of European thought, attitude and doctrines to a centered, therefore positively located place within the realm of science and culture”. The role of African/Shona literature therefore is to provide the right face of those “African cultures and indigenous knowledges which were despised and relegated as superstitious, primitive, irrational and unscientific” (Mawere, 2014: 26) so as to reposition, reclaim, rename and redefine Africans (Hudson-Weems, 2007).
Afrocentricity denounces oppression of Africans, a practice which Goduka (2000) cited in Mawere, 2014: 25) views as a “complex and profoundly far-reaching de-humanising process that the world has ever experienced before on a large scale”. It therefore, sensitises Africans in and outside Africa to fight slavery, exploitation and colonialism (Gudhlanga, 2016). Mawere and Mubaya (2014) also feel that Africans should be aware of the polished approach to oppression, ‘globalisation’ which the West and Americas are capitalising on to impose their ‘nefarious’ values – culture-wise or otherwise on Africa and other so-called ‘subaltern’ world societies. In a study which discusses the promotion of unhu in schools, this principle informs how Shona literature is fighting the effects of slavery, exploitation and colonialism among Africans. It views Africans as key players in the fight for historical restoration and development. Asante (2007: 17) argues that “African people must be viewed and view themselves as agents rather than spectators to historical revolution and change”. They should actively participate in the reconstruction of their own history. In fact, Africans should take centre stage in the revolution for identity freedom. This can be achieved through literary works.
Just like Africana Womanism, another African-centred theory, Afrocentricity “reflects the co-existence of men and women in a concerted struggle for the survival of their entire family/community” (Hudson-Weems, 2004: 1). It respects their gender roles as equally important for the continued existence of the African society. This is also expressed by Asante (2007: 48 cited in Gudhlanga, 2016) who says “when the Afrocentric speaks of ‘all African experiences’ this is not a statement that is to be taken as representing a patriarchal point of view… Women are not relegated to some second tier realm as they have been in western thought, the reason for this stems from the idea that men and women derive from the same cosmological source in Africa. The linguistic fact that African languages do not distinguish between the pronouns ‘he’ and ’she’ as is done in western languages suggest an entirely different conception of the place of women and men in the community. This tenet is very relevant to this study in assessing whether men and women are equally portrayed by the selected authors so as to promote culture.
Afrocentricity advocates for the understanding, recognition, proper presentation, promotion and preservation of the African culture. It explains fully the concept of ‘Africanness’; unhu which this study argues should be promoted through the teaching of Shona literature in schools. Unhu is that which defines an African, hunopa umunhu kumunhu [it gives humanness to Africans] (Tatira, 2013). This implies that a complete African being is identified by his/her culture. The unhu concept is at the centre of Afrocentricity which thrives to define Africa from an African perspective through any means that can positively portray its unhu (culture), literature included (Asante, 2009). In Wiredu’s (2004: 16) words, the theory is meant to ‘facilitate the organising of past, present, and future philosophical articulations and practices by and in the interests of African-descended peoples’. The application of Afrocentric views to literature produces works of art with the African world-view unhu. Hence, Afrocentricity becomes the informing theory to this study which examines the contribution of Shona literature in promoting culture as both Shona literature and Afrocentricity are aspects of the African culture.
Asante emphasises placing African perspectives at the centre stage in all issues pertaining the African lives; cultural, social, political and economic (Asante, 2015). Applied in literature, it stresses the need for African literature to necessitate the restoration and continued existence of African culture. Afrocentricity thus becomes the best theory to explain the promotion of Shona culture. The aspect of ‘Africanness’/unhu embraced in the theory gives the study a proper location enabling the examination of selected literature from an indigenous standpoint. It is then expected that this study exposes the strengths and weaknesses of different Shona prose texts that recurrently appear in the school syllabus giving an opportunity for curriculum planners to really scrutinise literary works prescribed for pupils if unhu is to be promoted in schools.
Gwekwerere (2013: 27) observes that Afrocentricity “places emphasis on the collective interests of African people in culture and civilisation building and in their transactions with other members of the human family”. Afrocentricity embraces the argument that to define African people through literature, African interests embraced in their culture must remain the reference point for the writing of any information about African people (Keto, 1994). The theory asserts that African literature should be rooted in the history and culture of the people for these carry the cultural labels that give identity to African literature. Magosvongwe (2003) feels that this revolution towards the making of our own history should be taken as an opportunity for Africans to re-learn their culture. In this case literature becomes a reservoir of the society’s livelihood constructed to re-educate the community of their history and culture. Guided by this assertion, the study then anticipates that Shona literature that qualifies to promote the unhu philosophy should carry the undiluted traditions of the Shona society.
The theory advocates for the recognition of all that is African from “a black perspective” as opposed to a “white perspective” (Asante, 2009). Universal features designed by Europeans were used to measure the value of African ideas and beliefs. In fact the Europeans “used their cultural values as a yardstick to measure cultures of other societies resulting in their labelling of Africans as savages, blacks, … inferior, useless, irrational and illogical” (Mawere, 2014: 27). Afrocentricity therefore urges “the interpretation of the experiences of African people in literature and its criticism on the basis of critical tools developed from the point of grounding in African history and culture…. this will liberate and utilize the[ir] energies and achieve the transformation they desire” (Gwekwerere, 2013: 26). Hudson-Weems (2004: xx) defends the use of African-centred paradigms when she argues that the creation of our own paradigms and theoretical frameworks for assessing our works … which are our true mission, also makes possible for better monitoring interpretations of our works in an effort to keep them both authentic and accurate in order to maintain their originality in meaning and value.
African scholars are encouraged to form their own tools of analysing literature different from those of other cultures as literary theories exist and function within a framework of culture (Furusa, 2002). The development of African instruments of defining literature means the development of the self-image, the self-concept (Magosvongwe, 2013). The real transformation and function of African literature will be achieved.
Afrocentricity holds seven core-cultural African characteristics which are pertinent in the restoration of the African dignity namely, “the centrality of the community, respect for tradition, a high level of spirituality and ethical concern, harmony with nature, the sociality of selfhood, veneration of the ancestors and the unity of being” (Mazama, 2003:9 cited in Gudhlanga, 2016). These features are important in this study as they inform the expectations of Africans in literary works that can restore their identity. This calls for the selection of culturally rich literature for study in Zimbabwe, “a melting pot of many cultures and people of different ethnic backgrounds (Thondhlana, 2014: 1) in order to restore identity in children

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The importance of Afrocentricity

In the Afrocentric theory, the language of literature is described as a fundamental weapon in redefining the people’s identity. Afrocentric scholars believe that the weakening and replacement of African languages with European ones during colonialism had, perennial bearing on the African people’s lives and worldviews… targeting at dominating and at most eliminating other societies’ religio-cultural norms and values, replacing these with Western/European particularities: It is a project whose main objective was to conquer ‘the other’ wholly including his [her] mind and spirit (Mawere, 2014: 25).
Through the use of their own languages, Africans feel that their literature will regain its status as a carrier of unhu (Ngugi, 1981). This theory advocates that cultural issues must be communicated in the mother language for the audience to understand. Chinweizu, Jemie and Madubuike (1980) comment that when an author uses a foreign language in literature, he/she is tempted to either speak to himself/herself or to outside ears who hear and understand him/her (perhaps) while his/her own people wonder what’s going on. This line of thinking encourages one to operate on the assumption that because Shona novels are written in the native language, are carriers of unhu since language has been viewed as the carrier of the moral, ethical and aesthetic values with which people define themselves and their place in the universe (Ngugi, 1981). Hence, the theory assumes that African literature can be best presented through its indigenous languages in order to transmit accurate images of African cultures. To Ngugi (1981), the choice and use of colonial and neo-colonial languages in African literature is total cultural alienation as it only advances foreign cultures. This argument implies that all literature communicated through the medium of a native language perpetuates indigenous cultures. However, it has been argued that not all Shona novels transmit the Shona culture. Hence, this study evaluates the extent to which selected Shona novels are promoters of unhu.
Afrocentricity encourages responsible engagement and sustainable creative practice that leads to the transformation of consciousness. This is the reason why Furusa (2002:
36) speaks against abuse or reckless use of language in literature, emphasising the respect by authors for the “sacredness and spiritual significance” of language which dates from the ancient times. This study therefore, observes that the Afrocentric literary theory calls for the proper use of speech and exercise of self control in language use, meaning writers of literature should adhere to the African speech styles and avoid taboo language such as vulgar in order to produce literature that imparts unhu. Since abuse of language in Shona literature cannot be dismissed, this proposition allows for close examination of language use in Shona prescribed texts.
Apart from respect for language, the theory encourages good selection of words and creativity in literature for realism. Authors of African literary works must select, from their linguistic repertoire, words and images that crystallize spiritual essence of this world, that is, words and images that are not only vehicles of concepts but which also embody African people’s philosophy of life while at the same time expanding it (Furusa, 2002: 37) .
This emphasises the need for African literature to reflect the unhu concept through the use of figurative language (linguistic devices) such as proverbs, idioms and metaphors. Asante (2009) also argues that authors who use irony, sarcasm and other techniques of language to deliver their messages, should maintain persistency and uniformity in doing so. However, with today’s generation which is more conversant with English than Shona, figurative language and complex language techniques can hinder the understanding of the unhu message. This can be worsened by misplacement of the words and images. This study therefore, also considers unhu values communicated in simple Shona.
The quality of language to be used in African literature is also captured by Chinweizu (1980: 247) when they say:
orature, places high value on lucidity, normal syntax and precise and apt imagery…we see no reason why these virtues of orature should be abandoned in literature. These qualities which are mandatory in the auditory medium should be insisted upon in the writer.
This tenet of clarity, commonness and appropriateness of language in literature is accommodated in this study for it enables undemanding consumption of unhu virtues in Shona literature. The theory then becomes relevant to this study which evaluates the extent to which Shona novels respect cultural expectations and can be used to impart unhu in the area of language use.
In the African culture, language acts as a symbol of identity whereby one is identified by the nature of his/her language (Mukusha, 2013). Language used should always pursue unhu. Communications should be done appropriately as guided by the different speech styles in Shona namely; chitorwa, chinyarikani, chiramu, chizukuru, chishamwari/ chisahwira. Language expected to be used in private is different from that used in public. Again, the use of foreign languages before elders and youngsters who do not understand them is regarded as kushaya unhu (lack of unhu). Hence, Afrocentrism expects proper capturing of such matters in literature for generations to benefit. It is expected, therefore, that in a secondary school situation, literature carrying such aspects of verbal communication may be used to train learners proper speaking, hence, promoting the philosophy of unhu.
Advocates of Afrocentricity challenge writers to use forms of writing that are not complex to the readers from different classes of the African society so that they can easily grasp the cultural concepts in the text. Ngugi (1987) is of the opinion that literature with simple plots, clear but strong narrative lines, realism of social and physical detail and that borrows features of oral narratives can be effective in communicating the values of unhu (culture). This proposition takes the oral art forms of writing implored by writers as a plus towards promotion of unhu. However, this study assumes that even modern styles of writing such as in medias res, internal monologue and flashback that do not borrow from orature can be effectively used to teach unhu. The theory therefore, reminds the researcher to assess the contribution of form in understanding the various virtues of unhu in selected texts

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Table of Contents
1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Statement of the problem
1.3 Aim of the study
1.4 Justification/significance of research
1.5 Literature review
1.6 Theoretical framework
1.7 Research methodology
1.8 Scope of study
1.9 Definition of terms
1.10 Conclusion
2.0 Introduction
2.1 The Concept unhu/hunhu
2.2 The impartation of unhu in pre-colonial Africa and Zimbabwe
2.3 African literature and unhu.
2.4 Discipline and morality in schools
2.5 Promotion of unhu in education
2.6 Unhu in other fields
2.7 Conclusion
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Afrocentricity
3.2 The tenets of Afrocentricity
3.3 The importance of Afrocentricity
3.4 Conclusion
4.0 Introduction
4.1 Research approaches
4.2 Mixed method research designs
4.3 Inquiry strategies
4.4 Data collection
4.5 Location of study and sample
4.6 Data analysis
4.7 Validity and reliability
4.8 Conclusion
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Demographic information of teachers
5.2 The teaching of unhu through Shona novels in schools.
5.3 Synopses of selected novels
5.4 Unhu in Pfumo Reropa, Kunyarara Hakusi Kutaura? and Ndafa here?
5.5 The extent to which selected novels portray unhu aspects.
5.6 Parting shot
5.7 Conclusion
6.0 Introduction
6.1 Summary
6.2 Recommendations for future practice
6.3 Recommendations for future research

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