What I Learned From "Zenzele: A Letter To My Daughter"
by Anjali Patel
Zenzele－ A Letter for My Daughter is a beautifully composed book by J. Nozipo Maraire that incorporates aspects of tradition, history, and personal experience. The book is primarily a long letter that the author wrote for her daughter. However, her daughter is not the only one who can learn from the work. The book consists of several excerpts of the author’s personal experiences with family and how they have molded her into appreciating other angles of life. The book also mentions the tremendous amount of hardships Zimbabwe has faced due to colonialism. Here are three important lessons and pieces of information I have learned from the book:
Ignorance will always be alive:
“They are testimony to an appalling ignorance of African civilization. Nothing more.” Here, J. Nozipo Maraire is referring to a personal encounter with derogatory people. Unfortunately, many individuals will experience ignorant comments and disrespectful attitudes towards their culture and lifestyle. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that although what others say can come off as rude or offensive, their intentions may not necessarily be bad. While this does not justify their words or actions, it may provide an explanation as to why they may think or say such things.
Africa has been taken advantage of:
Africa is a massive continent with over 50 countries. Customs, lifestyles, and languages obviously vary depending on what country one is in. The West often views Africa as if it is one country and it is often associated with common stereotypes and misconceptions. Nations from Africa have not only suffered due to the way they are perceived but also because of the way the countries’ cultures have been a profitable endeavor for Western inhabitants. As Maraire mentions, “The West has appropriated the richest store of African art and civilization. The gigantic museum－palaces of the West spawn room after room full of our most bizarre masks, our most elaborate jewelry, our most majestic statues of Egyptian kings and queens, our pottery, and even our grades.” One can quickly realize that for much of its history, the West has degraded Africans while profiting from their rich cultural practices. This has placed a major impediment on Africa’s path to improvement.
Balance is vital:
Throughout the letter, the author emphasizes to remain humble and not get too caught up with the finer things in life. This is essential advice for maintaining authentic satisfaction and happiness. Keeping a balance between your feelings and thoughts is also necessary to ensure that one does not overindulge. Maraire states, “To love is a beautiful, mysterious event; do not miss it. Be neither too cautious nor too absorbed. Too many of us reason with our hearts and experience with our heads” in order to explain how engaging in these activities add more to one’s life and only makes the person human. However, it is crucial to be alert of personal needs, desires, and actions.
All together, the book offers not only insight into relationships, but information about historical time eras, and fundamental life lessons as well. While there is so much more to learn from this book, these were just three uniquely expressed concepts that stood out. Reading Zenzele－ A Letter for My Daughter will not disappoint.