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Fulfilling her purpose - Interview with Dudu Manhenga
Varaidzo Tagwireyi,
December 01, 2011

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Dudu ManhengaIt is a great pleasure and privilege to watch a person fulfilling their purpose. I'm sure anyone who has watched a performance by Dudu Manhenge, can attest to this. In recent years Dudu has traveled the world with her music, flying the Zimbabwean flag high. It is no surprise then that Dudu was recently voted amongst the top 4 non-diplomats making outstanding contributions to diplomacy in Zimbabwe. The Bulawayo native does not just think of herself as a musician, but as a creative entrepreneur and a communicator, and after meeting her, it is clear to see that she has a whole lot going for her, besides music. Through this interview you will also learn that Dudu is especially passionate about women's issues.

Describe yourself and where you come from.
I'm a very passionate person. I'm a mother of four lovely, lovely children, who just give me so much joy. And I'm married to the most humble man on earth. I'm a Christian. I'm a dreamer and I'm a very persistent person. I come from Bulawayo. I come from a family where there was lots of violence, but where I also saw a woman rise. I grew up in a very traditional set-up. Traditional in terms of religion, but I was also exposed to Christianity at school, and every Sunday my mother would say "Endai kuChechi". Most of my choices that I've made about my life, it's because of my background. Listen

How did you decide on music? Describe that journey.
I think music decided on me. By the time I was in junior choir, a teacher had already spotted talent in me, and he got me to conduct the choir. When I went into high school, I just joined in there, and by the time I was in Form 2 I was part of the leadership. It so happened that my high school was located next to Amakhosi Theatre. I would pass by there singing at the top of my voice, hoping that some day somebody would say "Hey! You sing well! Come here!" And one day somebody did that. Handsome Maphisa; he heard me, and he said, "You are going to be a great voice in Africa". He started giving me music of the Letta Mbulus, the Dorothy Radebes, the Dorothy Masukas, and Miriam Makeba, and said, "Listen to this stuff!" And I listened, and my heart would leap out. Listen

When I finished my ‘A' levels, everybody had all these academic dreams for me. A few weeks before that, I had come to Harare for a workshop that was conducted by Busi Ncube. I met this young man who said "I think you need to come to Harare, there are greater opportunities here, than in Bulawayo." And so I applied at the [Zimbabwe] College of Music. I actually handed my paper in on the day of the deadline, and I went back to Bulawayo. I got a call from this young man. He calls me and says, "Guess what? You've been admitted to the College of Music!" So I told my mum, I think this thing is calling me. I'm going to study music. I'm on scholarship and everything will be taken care of. And I would do gigs and perform during the night and wake up early in the morning and write my homework, and then go to school, and pay my fees. And when I was still at College of Music I got a break and I started working with Oliver [Mtukudzi], who took me on tour. So my first £800 that I made, I took it home, and I gave it to my mother. And she was convinced that this thing had possibilities. I'm proud to say it's been upward from then. And I believe that this industry is my calling, not just a job.

You speak of music as being your purpose. What does purpose mean to you?
I think purpose stabilizes you like an oak tree, or like a baobab tree. It takes a year and a half for a baobab tree to sprout, and then when it stands, it stands! Purpose says to you; when you know your destination you know what to pack. So most people don't think of their destination. They think of just moving, day to day, but they don't look at the final picture, and mapping your way towards that. People do not take time out to think about where they finally want to be. You know, it gets me so mad. You see that this person is taking out a half-baked cake, and they're putting it out there and they've not thought it through. Then what? Listen

One of my dreams is that I want to be a diplomat. I want to be planted in another country to progress the agenda of my people. So now that I know this is my final goal, what do I do? I engage myself with things to do with women, because women are the majority of the people. So if you were to ask me to talk about issues to do with women, I can go on any platform and speak about women. And because I speak about women, I know how to speak about their children, and because I know how to speak about these women and their children, I know how to speak about their partners.

What do you think about the current situation of women and their potential?
Where we are now as women, we are like a lion cub, which was adopted and raised with dogs, and he grows up all his days barking. One day, he goes to the drinking hole, looks at his reflection, and suddenly sees this mane. And says "Hang on! I'm different." Suddenly some lions come in to attack the animals. And then from the other side, he sees that these guys are identical to the reflection he just saw, and then he sees this big one roar. Suddenly, something inside him jumps out! And that's how women are.

I think information is not going out there. And women are also the highest pushers of patriarchy; we do not show each other what the possibilities are. We grow up with mothers who are raising us the same way that they were raised, to be at home. But then these mothers do not then tell us about our great-grandmothers who, when granddad died, she decided to take on cattle rearing and she became the biggest farmer in that area. To awaken in us, that hunger, to see what the possibilities are.

Also just the possibilities of saying "I can be an engineer!" [or] "I can be a pilot!" besides even thinking of the different professions . . . I can be that mother who, though I'm at home, I can nurture them with milk and with information, because I've read.

And most of the time we blame men about how they turn out . . . but we raise the men! We teach them how to use the loo; we teach them how to lower the seat. Therefore, later on when they are married, these shouldn't be issues at all. So, that's how central I think women are, because the seed may determine what kind of fruit comes out, but the ground in which the seed is planted determines how well the seed will grow, and how fast it germinates. So we the women become the soil, because the word of God says that, "Every seed shall give after it's own kind." And as women do not recognize that.

There seems to be a large, growing gap between the women in power and disempowered women, who seem to have been left behind? How do you think this gap can be bridged?
Nothing happened without being deliberately planned out. I think the womenfolk need to be deliberate about how they are going to bridge the gap, because the gap is just too big. There are things that by now we should be saying, it ended with the previous generation, and we are fighting different battles now. The women, the ones left behind, should be inspired enough to say how do I get to that space, because nothing comes from wishing and wishing about it. The women who are up ahead should be saying, who is this woman in the middle that I can take and put under my wing, so that she is in the position to take the woman behind her, and we build. Listen

What are your views on domestic violence?
Our culture somehow has a lot of blame for domestic violence. For example, in Ndebele, a child is called umntwana, the mother is collectively called abesintwana, meaning those that are like children. So what it means is that when a man married a wife, and they have children, he has got two levels of children in the house. The underlying thing is that the same way that I treat umntwana, is the same way I will treat abesintwana. So once in a while, to keep children on track, we pull out the rod, and therefore men do not feel that it's wrong to pull out the rod once in a while, because they are keeping them in check. And I guess its time we took education to the men, because we've been teaching the women, who have got very difficult positions and cannot negotiate. And I think lots and lots of women are in difficult positions because they do not have negotiating power. Women are poor, generally. Therefore when you are poor, you will stoop to any standard to be able to survive, because you don't want to slap the hand that feeds you. It's difficult for them to expect any better. They are just happy that they have food; they have shelter, and have what seems like protection.

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