Blessed with two amazing homelands

2011-04-23 12:23

I came to South Africa from London in 1992 to meet my biological father for the first time.
I moved back just after the 1994 election when my father asked me to come back home.

My mother left South Africa in 1969 when I was three and went to Zambia with me and my older sister.

She moved to Zimbabwe in 1970 to start a new life, got married there and I was raised in Zimbabwe. I speak Shona, Zulu, English and not so great Xhosa.

My favourite place in SA is KwaZulu-Natal. It’s just so majestic and when you travel through the Valley of a Thousand Hills you understand why the British came and never wanted to leave.

The thing I’ve come to love about SA is the celebration of diversity and that the country is big enough for you to find your niche. You can create your own space and find your own voice.

The thing I can’t get used to here is the violence and misogyny towards women and girls.
And the levels of poverty are unacceptable for a country as wealthy as this.
I make films about poverty and women and children, and have been doing so for 11 years.
And every time I go back to places where I’ve filmed over the years I am appalled by the fact that nothing has changed.

The film industry in SA is young and promising and I know that had I been living in another country, I probably wouldn’t be as successful as I am.
The only problem I have with the film industry here is that we have not been able to create audiences for our work.

And when you apply for funding, as a filmmaker there is always the pressure of making a film that’s going to appeal to an international audience.

I think that’s wrong. We need to make films for ourselves and, if they are great, they will appeal internationally.

We shouldn’t have American stars attached to our films. Zhang Yimou is one of the best filmmakers in the world, as is Deepa Mehta, and neither of them ever use foreign actors in their films.

In Zimbabwe I was an actress.
The film environment there was vibrant in the 80s and then it died.

There was no funding to support the industry. Also Zimbabwe’s politics are averse to any media that is not pro-government, so independent artists can’t work in that environment.

South Africa has taught me to embrace a lot of things:
human rights, gay rights, children’s rights, and it has honed my perspective on gender, race, class and poverty, and also honed my desire to keep fighting against injustice in my work.

In SA you are always in proximity to people who are fighting injustice and it rubs off.

I’d like South Africans to know that Zimbabweans are really hard-working and earnest. Zimbabwe took me in from the age of three and made me feel Zimbabwean.

I never felt like I didn’t belong there.

I have a better relationship with my Zimbabwean family than I do with my biological South African family.

If I could take a South African to Zimbabwe, I’d take them to Mbare township.

It is the oldest township in Zimbabwe and was called Harare township when I was growing up, and it was a place of strong political activism.

Then I’d take them to the village of Chipinge in the Eastern Highlands, where the Sitholes come from.

The food I miss the most is madhumbe, which is from the potato family, and ishwa, which are flying white ants that you just fry as is without oil.
I’m most proud of the education I received in Zimbabwe, and also the political education I got from growing up there during the Cold War.

Zimbabwe gave me a sense of self.

They are quietly proud people.

My greatest hope for SA lies in the constitution, the diversity of the people, and the multiparty system.
God help us if we go the way of Zimbabwe.

I’m also inspired by the fact that in SA people have a voice and have the space to say what they think.

My favourite South African is my friend Michael Sachs.

He taught me so much about the political history of this country and the importance of redressing the imbalances of the past.

I would get irritated by poor service or the way people pronounced things and he contextualised the evils of apartheid and taught me the importance of being part of a movement.

I have never had any problems making friends here; South Africans have always seen me as a South African.

I just don’t get why South Africans put margarine and salt in pap.
Pap is pap and should be eaten plain.

The rudest thing I heard was when I first came here and I’d hear people using the word ‘darkie’ so freely.

I really couldn’t wrap my head around it; I thought it was so rude. I just couldn’t deal with it.

The thing that infuriates me about South Africans is that they are so ignorant about other Africans, and they are extremely arrogant and defensive about any criticism.

I just want to say: “Get over yourself.”

I would like to live in Zimbabwe for a couple of years because I want my daughter to understand a big part of who I am.

I ’d advise anyone thinking of moving here to be open, to embrace SA’s history and complexity, and that the country is about more than Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
I’d advise them to understand how wounded people have been and not to see SA as a dollar sign as a lot of economic migrants do.

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